It’s been over 2 months since I posted – and I got entries comin’ out my ears!!! But unfortunately the force of wifi is not with me down here. Uploading pictures is not an option. I debated whether to wait or post this without photos…I will go back and add them when I can – but for now here’s at least one long update. I’ll send a message out to everyone when photos are added, in the event this is just too boring to read without photos (so many good photos!):
Our time in Santa Rosalia was fun and productive despite the extreme heat. We stocked Summer with all the provisions we could get our hands on. Even though there were quite a few stores plus the big Super Ley, there were still things we had trouble finding. We did get a hot tip that one smaller store stocked things from Costco, so we hunted that one down. I never shopped at Costco in the States, but now, finding things like a big block of cheddar cheese that actually has flavor, and Challenge butter, which is nothing but sweet cream and salt, and even canned tuna that contains nothing but tuna and water seems miraculous. It’s sad and scary how hard it is to find food products that don’t contain chemicals, fillers and other nasty, non-real-food-stuff. Mexico has already surpassed the US in obesity rates and I fear in another ten years, the sickness and diseases here will reach epidemic proportions. Unfortunately it isn’t simply a matter of poverty, either, since the ‘real’ food here (meats, chicken, fish, fruits and veggies) are far less expensive than the processed packaged foods and heavily marketed junk foods. People chug down coca cola in vast quantities (floating plastic bottles are evident in even the seemingly most remote locations) – but a bottle of coke cost at least twice as much as the same quantity of Jumex pineapple juice, which contains nothing but pineapple juice (and is ridiculously delicious). Alas – I will refrain from making this a food blog! But for someone as obsessed with food and nutrition as I am, it’s hard not to notice these things and have troubling thoughts and feelings about them…
As will happen from time to time, or rather, frequently, when you’re at the docks, you succumb to what is known as “dock suck” – which can either be staying way longer than you’d planned at the marina, or getting sucked in to talking with folks for hours on end. We were taking a breather after our day of laundry and we got invited over to Scoots for a drink. Eric and Vandy are from the Bay Area and we had fun getting to know them. Turns out they know how to turn vodka into gin (which basically makes them gods). I’m not kidding. Apparently there’s a kit and ingredients for this sort of thing. Seeing as gin is my favorite alcoholic beverage, and they offered me a sample, how could I say no? It was darn tasty!! They brought out snacks and Kris and Kirk from Linger Longer came over and it was a regular party. We had really just planned to be a little social and then get back to our shopping expedition and visit to the ice cream parlor.
It started getting kind of late and I waved off Jonny’s attempts to get me to leave a few times. Finally I realized we were in danger of missing the ice cream store (hey, I have my priorities!). We motivated and got up into town. The store we were told of that sold Costco stuff had just closed, but we managed to make it to Splash in time for a cone. That was a close one.
OK just a little bit more on food…We heard from several people about this ice cream parlor we just ‘had’ to try. Splash was the name and whatever it was called, I’m always down for some ice cream. Turned out to be the best ice cream I’ve had in all of Mexico! Even better than the gelato place in La Paz. I think they made it all there and it was delicious. AND the shop was air-conditioned. Eating a huge waffle cone while sitting under an air conditioner is the ultimate indulgence when it’s 100 + degrees outside. I vowed I would get an ice cream the next day as well -since it was fairly certain I would never see ice cream again. Well, not for 3 or 4 months at any rate.
Unfortunately we had forgotten to have dinner. The ice cream was great, but I was still hungry and we really didn’t want to spend the money to eat out and cooking in this heat is so not going to happen. Right across the street from Splash was the cart selling bacon wrapped hot dogs. I know, gross, right? I NEVER eat hot dogs. Who KNOWS what is in them?!? But this cart is renowned all over town and we’d heard about it several times. And it DID smell good. And I WAS really, really hungry and these were really, really cheap. Yes, I did it. I ate a bacon wrapped hot dog with a variety of trimmings in a nice spongy bun from a street vendor. And I liked it. But I probably wouldn’t do it again. Well, not for 3 or 4 months, at any rate! My food standards continue to plummet.
On our second day at the marina, our water pump finally bit the dust. It has been giving us warnings for some time – the pump would run and run and eventually get enough suction going and start working again, but every time we turned it on it would have to start again. Finally the pump just wouldn’t quit running. It was done, it wasn’t holding suction anymore. Jonny had to tear everything apart and hope we had the parts needed to get the pump working again. That was a perfect day for me to leave the boat and work on blogs before I had to go up to my follow up appointment with the ear doctor.
My doctor visit went well, he put the scope in my ear and the horror show from the last visit was gone. My ear was looking pretty normal. Very relieved about that. A few more days on meds and then I was clear to go under water again. There was no charge for the follow up visit, and Dr. Lopez had some silicone ear plugs I could use for swimming and he had gotten the anti-fungal pills I had wanted in case I had issues with the antibiotics. The pills cost less than $3.00.
I thought I would be clever on my way back and stop and say hi to the good folks at Splash. And maybe pick up a milkshake or something refreshing for midday. They had Frappes on the menu, but unfortunately a frappe here is a coffee drink only (who knew?) and I couldn’t convince the woman to make me a vanilla ice cream one. I was too hot to be difficult, so I just got a lime popsicle instead. It was possibly the best popsicle I ever had. I picked up a sandwich for my hardworking boat mechanic and went to see if we would have running water again.
Luckily we had a kit of spare parts (thanks, Piff!) with just the diaphragm we needed to replace. There was still a bit of work to be done, and since my mechanic works so much better without my well-intentioned assistance, I made myself scarce and went back to the air conditioned office to finish blogging and take care of business ( managed to renew our USCG boat certification documentation online, that was handy, since we may not see wifi again before ours expires).
Our final shopping trip to Ley was in the heat of the day. We took our time walking there and wandered through the ruins of the old mining operation, which is partially turned into a park. All of the machinery and smelters and old structures were fascinating to me. Also the fact we could just wander around (much of it clearly dangerous to climb on or get too close to) with no restrictions was fun (such a non-US thing to be able to do – roam freely, at our will and leisure, responsible for our own safety…). We trudged the last hot few blocks along the dusty highway – and we very much appreciated the air conditioning in the big store. We efficiently loaded our cart with what seemed like a ridiculous amount of stuff (but of course we were following our list with pre-calculated amounts of what we’d need for the next three months). At check out we spent quite a bit more than I’d hoped. I had to pull out the credit card to cover a bit of it. There was some confusion, and the cashier took my wad of cash and immediately gave some it to someone else changing out some other cash drawer and it seemed to me we were being charged too much. But the cashier showed me the receipt with the cash amount and the charge amount. With my cash gone and the language barrier slowing me down, I just accepted what I saw. Later I realized we had lost 200 pesos (about $12) in the transaction – she had miscounted the cash I gave her and even had I pointed that out, it was all disbursed and unavailable to recount anyway! We were very sad about that. Also, after getting everything bagged up and distributed into our bags and back packs, I realized UH OH…I just spent ALL our cash…we have nothing left for the cab ride home!! There was far, far too much to carry. We got a cab anyway and had the guy bring us back to the marina. When we arrived, I ran (with a few bags of groceries) as fast as I could down to the boat to get our cab fare and gave the guy a little extra for having to wait. A jog in that heat was not the most fun I’ve ever had.
I spent considerable time distributing, stowing and preparing our food for storage. Somehow I managed to make (most) of what needed to be refrigerated fit into the refrigerator. This was by far the most packed I’ve had it though. We plugged away at preparing for our departure. Given that we had about a 16 hour journey ahead of us, we planned to leave at midnight – thinking more of a convenient arrival time than anything. Jonny wanted to get in late in the next day so that we wouldn’t be anchoring and trying to sleep in the hottest part of the day. Seemed like a good enough plan. Linger Longer was also planning to depart, but they left in the early evening. We went out to wave them off along with Eric and Vandy. After they left, we got to chatting on the docks and somehow a couple hours went by (dock suck!). It was late and we were not ready to go! We had to cut short what almost turned into a fun party and got back to work.
We readied the boat – which involved getting the dinghy secured on deck, stowing everything safely, taking our shade down, canvas off, topping off the water tanks and giving Summer a final wash down and then giving ourselves a final wash down (goodbye free-wheeling water!). We were pulling out just before 1:00am, and I realized, having been up since 6:30am for a busy nonstop all day, I was actually quite exhausted. Hmmmm, whose idea WAS this??
It was a bit cooler and nice to be out on the water. It had been a very long time since we’d sailed at night. I had to get used to a lot of things again, remembering I couldn’t see the digital compass at night, and that the light in our pedestal compass doesn’t work and our chartplotter, which was bright and easy to ready, is completely inaccurate in Mexico (we mostly use it for speed and distance now, and for entertainment at how often it shows us sailing across land). I got a little panicky until we rigged a headlamp to shine on the pedestal compass and I was able to keep us on course as we got away from land. There wasn’t a lot of wind at first and we motor sailed along fairly comfortably for a few hours.
I was half comatose in the cockpit just before 4:30am, when Jonny put the motor in neutral and said “I think that’s a panga right next to us!” I peered out into the darkness and sure enough, less than 100 feet away was a big dark mass. All of a sudden, Summer slowed waaaaaay down, almost to a halt. Jonny blew the mainsail and we realized that we were caught up in a fishing net from the panga! We tried to free ourselves with the boat hook, and Jonny went up on deck and whistled and yelled to the panga. It was pitch dark, but soon a light came on and a guy woke up. I quickly learned how to say “net” and “rudder” in Spanish (neto y timon) and the panguero understood. He pulled on the net and that brought the nose of the panga right into Summer. Jonny fended off and I shined our bright spotlight down into the water so we could all see what was going on. We were not getting freed. Finally another guy woke up on the panga, annoyed by the lights, and then a third guy crawled out from under the bow (three guys sound asleep on a small, open boat, without a single nav light on…). I somehow made it clear that pulling it was not working and we needed to go backwards – which was dumb, and impossible…but he got the picture and they started up their motor and went forward and around us. The net came free and we popped the motor in gear and got the heck out of there. If Jonny hadn’t instinctively put the motor in neutral at the start, this could have been a much different story – one where we our propeller wound up the fishing net- possibly destroying it along with the fishermans’ livelihood. Also, had we been 60 feet to starboard on our course, we could have crashed right into their boat! All in all we felt very lucky for how it turned out.
After the adrenaline eased up a bit from that incident, the wind picked up and we were able to shut off the motor and have a bit of a nice sail. For a little while anyway. The waves and swell got pretty crazy, coming straight at us and we were bashing hard. The combination of darkness (no horizon in view), my still-healing inner ear trouble, exhaustion and iffy guts from antibiotics was “the perfect storm” as they say…yep, you guessed it – I got horribly seasick for the first time in 9 months. It was quite unpleasant. The boat was pitching around so much that I couldn’t keep going up and down to the head (even from inside the cabin), so I ended up just wedging myself and my water into the head. I spent about 5 hours in there. Jonny was not enjoying himself very much either. I heard him in the cockpit at one point, pleading with (Neptune?) “Pleeeaasseee! Stooooop!”. It was a most uncomfortable trip. He hove-to and was considering that maybe we should just turn around and go back to Santa Rosalia. It would have been a fast, easy sail in the right direction for the weather. As sick as I was, I was horrified at that thought – wasting the progress (25 miles) we’d made, getting sick and still having to do it all over again? And go back to that dirty anchorage with no swimming? No…I was not at all for this plan. I did think maybe we should stay hove-to for a few hours so Jonny could get some sleep. While Jonny agreed we should continue on, he was not about to get any sleep and he went up to get the boat moving again. I went back to continuing to empty my long-since emptied stomach. Very soon afterwards, the swell calmed down a bit and we were able to have a more normal sail. I eventually turned the corner out of sickville and dozed off in the bathroom. In the morning Jonny came to get me up and out of there, thinking I’d be more comfortable in the cockpit. I spent the rest of the day feeling like a large man in heavy boots had kicked me in the stomach all night. This trip was awarded the title of Second Worst Passage Ever (to be reminded of Worst Passage Ever, go back and read the Mag Bay to Cabo entry).
We arrived in San Francisquito Bay in the afternoon. We anchored not far from Linger Longer and did all our chores, got the boat situated and then snoozed. It seemed a bit cooler and the water temps were definitely more refreshing – down to about 86 degrees! It was heavenly. On the second day I went ashore with Kris and we discovered the pretty white sand beach was far prettier from the boats. It was windy, rough water, full of organic debris. We gave it a good try but concluded it was “meh”. We had all had a particularly rolly night and we decided to try the anchorage just south – it seemed to have more protection from the swell. By the time we moved, all the swell had calmed down and Linger Longer decided to stay put. They departed the next day and we spent the rest of the week by ourselves in that anchorage and also moved up to Mujeres just a bit north (I think the whole area is considered Bahia San Francisquito though?). Mujeres was a truly beautiful white sand beach with lovely water, plenty of rays and dolphins and invisible little underwater things that sting you. We’ve gotten the little stings in various places, and I likened them to a bee sting. But, after getting stung twice in one day by bees, I can now safely say bee stings hurt a LOT worse. Bees were an ongoing battle in all three anchorages we had there. My thinking was if we shooed them out and made it a hostile environment, they’d tell their friends and not come back. But, spending an entire day shooing bees out of the cabin is not a sustainable life. They eventually start swarming on something – a wet bathing suit hung on a line, or they try to find the faucets. At first I was having romantic ideas of sharing water with the bees, and when some got on me as I was rinsing off on deck, I thought it would be wonderfully charitable of me to let them drink some water, afterall, what’s a few drops to me? And the poor bees, they are having an awfully hard time these days. The day before we left, my tune changed considerably. I got stung twice for no reason and my delicate fly-swatter turned shoo-er became a battle axe of death. Sorry bees. My patience apparently DOES have a limit. I was very ready to leave SF bay – aside from the bees, I’d had a grasshopper on my pillow, a moth in my toilet and bed, and never-ending flies. I was getting pretty sick of feeling like I was camping and Jonny was having less and less patience for my screams and yells every time some critter surprised me.
On the day we decided to depart, we went ashore just after the morning net (6:30am-ish – where we get weather and hear where everyone else is and what they’re up to). We hiked up to the peak overlooking the anchorage. Jonny said he’d been looking up at it for days and determined the best path, but unfortunately once on shore he just couldn’t see it. I took that to mean he didn’t know where he was going, and when I protested that it didn’t look like a good direction, he suggested maybe I should go wherever I wanted. That sounded like a fine idea, so I made my way up to the peak, in what seemed like a very direct and efficient route. Direct it was, but easy it was not. I was climbing up loose rocks and heaving myself up and over the steep parts. By the time I met up with Jonny at the top, I was red-faced, dripping sweat and not feeling my best. We did get some great views and rested a bit. Jonny informed me that I misinterpreted his words and should have followed him because he in fact had known where he was going all along. Hmmm. At any rate, I was too scared to go down the way I came up, so I followed him back. His route was at least twice as long as mine, and if you subtracted the long, easy parts, probably not much less work. But at least I had someone on the downside to catch me if I fell. All I wanted for the majority of the hike – up and down, was to be neck deep in the water down below. As soon as we got to the beach, I did just that. I find more and more that I’m far happier in and on water than on land.
The cooling off only lasts as long as you are in the water. I was dripping sweat again before we weighed anchor. At least sailing we get a nice breeze. Our trip was relatively painless. We did have a bit of a rough time going through Canal Salsipuedes (which translates to Leave if You Can Channel) – the tides and currents through this somewhat narrow passage can get really crazy in opposition to each other, making big standing waves and weird whirlpools, and then, the wind can just die on you. We made it out OK and avoided hitting the imaginary island that our iPad nav software created (very strange – it showed us crossing over a smooth, egg shaped island – all other islands were mostly in the right place and had detailed coastlines). Not sure what that was all about, but it may have caused a moment of panic in the captain, who assumed that now we could never again trust our one and only accurate navigation program.
We anchored at Isla Partida, which was mostly where it was supposed to be on our chart. A rugged, beach-less black and white sort of island with a nice crescent shaped bay. Dan on Dazzler was the only boat there and we tucked in nearer to the shore. Dan brought us a yellowtail he had just caught as a ‘welcome to the anchorage’ present. What a nice guy! He and Jonny had a lot of fishing to discuss, for sure. We were finishing up a mahi mahi, so I saved the yellowtail to make sushi for lunch the next day.
We had a chubasco predicted for our first night there. It didn’t quite get to chubasco proportions (winds were only in the mid to high 20’s – people call them Chewbacas ), but we had a seriously windy and rainy and rocky night. I stood out in the rain for a bit and it was nice to get chilly. But I was SO tired that I missed most of the lightning show. I was barely functional for whatever it was we had to do at 3:00am. The next day we tried to explore in the dinghy, there was a small sort of beach on the back side of the island, but not really a place you’d want to spend a lot of time. Jonny fished a bit and we were just too sleep-deprived to do much else.
We had an unpredicted chubasco/chewbaca the 2nd night, and got even less sleep. We had to start the motor to relieve the strain on our anchor, as we were being blown right back towards the rocks. Our anchor held like a champ, as it always has so far – but better safe than sorry! The wind and swell were whipping and at one point, during a flash of lightning, I noticed that poor Peugeot was upside down! She had flipped over and I was sure we’d lost the paddles and maybe even had the seat ripped out. After a bit more jostling, she flipped back upright again. After looking hard and waiting for flashes of lightning, I ascertained we did in fact still have both paddles! Miraculous! In the morning we discovered we also still had the t-shirt we keep over the fuel tank (which was strapped in and not lost either) and a nice strap of webbing we use to hang fish on. Amazing! The only loss was a nice stainless knife, and that was a bummer, but we still feel we got away pretty lucky on that whole deal. When you lose or break something here, if you can’t find or fix it, it’s just gone, you live without. Interesting thing to get used to. Instant gratification is such a distant, hazy memory.
When I got up at 2:00 am to batten down the hatches and whatnot, I thought I saw something fly into the cabin. I assumed it was one of the gigantic moths we often see (we call them Mothra) and I tried not to make a big deal of it because I get a lot of grief for being too girly about bugs and such. But when things calmed down a bit and Jonny suggested I could go back to bed if I wanted I said “No! Mothra is down there!”. I had a good look with the lights and didn’t see mothra, so I tried to go to sleep on the pitching and rolling bed. Not long after Jonny came down he yelled and turned on the lights. He thought Mothra was flitting around his head. Turns out we had an adorable black bird in our bed! Poor thing just sat there blinking on the sheets. Jonny carefully grabbed it and set it out in the cockpit. It had probably come in to avoid the storm (which was kind of ironic as we later discovered it was a “storm petrel”), and we didn’t want to throw it back out there, but I didn’t want it in our bed, either. So it had a nice cozy towel to sit on under the dodger. By morning it had flown the coop.
Two sleep deprived nights really diminishes your desire to do much. Luckily, after visiting Dan’s boat, Jonny had inspiration for how to hang my beloved Jungle Hammock in the cockpit. It’s hard to believe it’s taken this long to figure out how to use my hammock, given how much I adore that thing, but better late than never. It’s so comfortable! The day was cloudy and cool all day – it was a very nice change of pace. After a third sleepless night – due to a ‘wind event’ we decided to give up on Isla Partida for the time being.
We tried out a couple anchorages just south of Bahia de los Angeles and ended up spending five days in Quemado, which had a very long, beautiful white sand beach and red hills and mountains surrounding it. Coyotes would often come down and visit the beach and start howling and barking to each other. We were running quite low on fresh food and we knew Bay of LA was just around the corner, but somehow we were in no rush to get there. Bit by bit we kept hearing this and that about what you can get in BLA and it started to gain legendary proportions in my mind. I tried not to get my hopes up too much.
Somewhere in there we began to notice our refrigerator was running pretty much non-stop. In a home, this can be a minor annoyance, but on a boat, this was a critical situation – not just because something was clearly wrong with our fridge and we could lose all our frozen and long term supplies in there, but also because it was sucking our battery bank dry. We can only make so many amps with our solar panels running at full bore, and with the fridge running nonstop we could not keep up with the amps being consumed. We had to turn it off several times a day, which was not boding well for the goods inside. It seemed to get worse and worse. I used our SSB radio Ham email to contact the company we bought the compressor and cold plate from (it’s a Technautics Cool Blue – only installed 14 months ago and one of the most efficient (and expensive) systems out there. We had been pretty much enamored of the system to date. We got immediate response and helpful information. The system was dangerously low in refrigerant, which could only happen if it leaked out somewhere. We examined the system and discovered that a leak appeared to be happening in the connections near the compressor (which is housed under the aft portion of the boat and accessed through a panel at the end of our quarter berth). The leak was not very obvious and we were thinking maybe it had been leaking slowly ever since we installed it? Our new task was to go to BLA and try to find refrigerant and hoses to get it into our system. A few people told us we could probably find it in town. We were holding our breath. We figured we should get in there right away and try to fix this situation. But it was Friday and we realized the weekend might not be the best time to try to find things in town. And besides, Lunasea and Manta showed up at the anchorage and we were looking forward to hanging out with them. We were limping along, turning the fridge on and off and things seemed to be holding their own in there.
In parallel to the fridge issue, I also was suffering from thrush – which is basically a yeast infection in the mouth. Thanks to the antibiotics I took for my ear infection, I was now in excruciating pain inside my entire mouth. I had a bad taste in my mouth for days and white coating on my tongue, but I had assumed maybe I was just detoxing from the antibiotics. It soon became very apparent it was thrush. Thanks to information my Mom sent me via the ham radio email, I was able to identify for sure what was going on and also start taking the pills I had gotten ‘just in case’ I got a yeast infection (I had forgotten all about thrush, which I’ve only had once before). I really only had 2 or 3 days where it was hard to eat and I was in constant pain. Luckily the pills started to do their job and I did not end up with the side effect of liver failure. I was careful not to drink alcohol for the 10 day duration of the pills. I don’t drink much as it is, and often go far longer than 10 days without a drink, but when you CAN’T have a drink, it’s amazing just how badly you want one!
Jonny and Alex got to go fishing together and Naomi and I got to catch up on a lot of backlogged girl talk. We also got to share a great lunch of smoked sierra sandwiches on Naomi’s homemade bread (which I would have enjoyed far more if my mouth had been healed up). She ended up giving me some of her sourdough starter and instructions for making bread. Life will never be the same now – this is some seriously good bread and I have lots of plans to trick it out with all kinds of fancy ingredients (cinnamon raisin? Molasses/walnut? Garlic/onion? Pizza dough?). If I can just avoid killing the sourdough starter… (first day I accidentally spilled Jamaica water into it, but it appears to have survived). We finally got to meet Terry and Dawn on Manta – a huge tri-maran that’s been roaming the sea for many years. They take folks out for trips and are big into Scuba diving. They have lots of great stories (including how they just had a 17 year old kid on board who’d never been in a world without wifi, he was baffled and simply could not get his head around why his phone wouldn’t work).
We enjoyed our weekend, with the dark cloud of “what if we have no fridge for the rest of the summer??” looming over us. Come Monday morning we were ready to get on task and head in to civilization. Stay tuned to hear the tales!