Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Years to All

We are still in Bahia Los Frailes, which is about 100 nautical miles south of La Paz. It is a wonderful bay, with a beautiful big beach, snorkeling, hiking, fishing etc. There is a Mexican fish camp on the beach, and an American/Canadian camp just down the beach and in the scrub. We've met a bunch of retirees who spend their winters here as it is such a lovely place. And that is it. Definitely a change from the hell hole that is Cabo.

We discovered that the Campers have a farmers market every Sunday. It is small, and supplies are limited (you have to be fast), but last week we scored some bacon, chicken (yup, from the back of a pick up truck - gotta love Mexico), and lots of fruit and veges. We may never have to leave!

You'll notice that there are no photos accompanying this blog post. Our internet connection won't support doing blog updates (we can barely get email in and out) so we are sending this from our HF (ham) radio. It is basically a dial up connection so pictures are a no no. We'll update the blog with photos when we get to La Paz in a week or two.

We'll be here for at least another 5 or 6 days as there is another "Norther" coming through starting tomorrow. Northers are strong NW winds that blow directly down the Sea. It is virtually impossible to travel north when a Norther is blowing. We spent 1.5 hours in one on the way here, and it was mighty unpleasant. Unfortunately when one blows, it blows for 4-7 days. We'll stay put until this next one blows itself out, then will move north towards La Paz. Nothing like forced relaxation. It feels good to stay in one spot though, after moving for the last 3 months.

We just wanted to wish everyone a very Happy New Year! Please excuse us if we haven't emailed you directly, but we will be thinking of you nonetheless. Have a wonderful evening, and we wish you all the best for 2015!

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Thursday, December 25, 2014

Offshore Update: Merry Christmas!

We just arrived in the crazyness of Cabo. Wow, talk about culture shock. There are about 100 jet skis bombing around us and 50 glass bottomed pangas with red faced (and chested) tourists leaving the beach. We can hear land parties all over the beach, each area trying to be louder than the next. It's very difficult to describe the contrast between here and our last anchorage in nowhere land.
We just hopefully completed our last long passage for a while. It was a bit boisterous last night but otherwise uneventful. I dont think we'll be staying here long but we are at least going to get a good nights rest before moving on.
Merry Christmas to everyone from Cabo!

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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Offshore Update: Merry Christmas Eve

We are currently sailing in light airs just off the bottom tip of Isla Santa Margarita, one of the last big headlands before Cabo on the southern end of Baja. We've had a pretty good sail so far but the winds have just shut off so we will probably have to motor till the sun sets.
Santa has treated us well with the usual dolphins and a small family of Grey whales feeding just off our port side (we had to take evasive action). The weather is wall to wall blue with the usual yellow thing in the sky (for those in the North west, it's called a sun).
This is the first Christmas either of us can remember where we haven't had friends and family around us and with things as remote as they are right now, the sunset will be bitter sweet.
We'll be thinking of everyone tonight and tomorrow no matter what the winds do to keep us busy. When that distant relative (who you don't really like but had to invite to dinner anyway) drinks too much and causes a scene just smile and give thanks that you've got family to share the holidays with. We'd give a bunch to have family around us right now (if only to take over my watch).
Merry Christmas Eve everyone!

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Friday, December 19, 2014

Offshore Update: Great sailing but no engine

We just finished another 140 NM passage from Abreojos to Bahia Santa Maria. We delayed leaving compared to the rest of the group in the hopes of sailing. Wow did we sail! The winds were consistently around 20 knots from behind which is great for our boat but the seas were a bit bigger than expected. Thus we had a bit of a roller coaster ride.
We did make great time though and it was looking like we could sail all the way to Bahia Magdalana getting in just before dusk. Then we turned on the engine this morning to charge the batteries and make some water. About 5 minutes into making water I smelled burning coming form the engine room. We quickly assessed that the raw water pump impeller was burning (given the smoke coming out of the pump) and shut things down. I then spent the next two hours trying to sort out the issue. Imagine being on a roller coaster while trying to thread a needle. Then add to that blistering heat (remember our engine had just caught fire). Some how I didn't die but after completing all the standard troubleshooting tasks we still had no water coming out of the back. Karina some how managed to keep the boat fairly level in the big winds beating back to the bay with out reefing.
We decided that Santa Maria was the best option to anchor under sail (easy big bay) and pulled in with a textbook sailing anchor set.
Now safely at anchor (and not moving) we expanded our troubleshooting tasks and after sucking and blowing on many engine hoses, found an air lock just before the water muffler and fixed the problem.
We plan to rest here for a few days. There is a nice beach where we can get Charlotte to shore without surfing the dinghy and after the excitement of the last 24 hours we feel we deserve a rest.
For those keeping track, Charlotte went on her pee mat in the forward shower after much coaxing last night. Big steps forward for her over the last few days. She may be a real boat dog yet!
All is well.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Offshore Update: The Gary Curse

Well I guess our last post spoke too soon about our pleasant passage to Bahia Ballenas.
In order to set up the story of today let me first tell you two other stories.
As a small child I have a memory of fishing that really stands out. The Peacock and McLoughlin clan headed somewhere to a trout farm where the pond was so full you could grab them with your hand. All us wee kids got little fishing rods and everyone proceeded to catch fish after fish.... Except me. The curse had been cast.
As I grew older (not much bigger) the curse also gained in strength. My first memory of fishing on a sail boat was with the McQueens in Desolation sound. After many years I can still picture this sequence of events: Winnie caught a fish, which was then half eaten by a shark and then the head (with the hook) was grabbed by eagle who then got tangled in the line. The curse was now strong enough to affect anyone close to me.
Fast forward to today... We've been traveling in a caravan of about 10 boats. As dusk approached last night a number of the boats proclaimed proudly that they had paid for their Mexican fishing licences and had caught their weights in various species of tuna. Our boat caught none. This morning, determined to not be outdone, we deployed our line again and waited (with baited breath) for the impending strike. Shortly after our bungie tightened. We caught one!!
Except it was a Turtle?!?!?!?
Oh crap! It was a Turtle!!!! (Karina says sorry Babs)
1 hour later after a major ordeal to get the 50-60 pound turtle on board, perform surgery to remove the barb from his front chest just below his fin and splash him safely back in the water, we watched him swim away and decided we would put the hooks away for now.
No we didn't think to take a picture for those that are asking.
We then caught a crab pot and we haven't seen whales yet. But that is another story.
The good news is that the Gary curse also seems to work for good and not just evil. We've had great luck with people giving us fish and today was no exception. Thanks so much to Scott, Tanya and Josh on Kialoa for the yummy donation of part of their haul to finish the day off on a fantastic note.

Offshore Update: Approaching Bahia Ballenas

Another successful night offshore. We managed to have to motor for only 5 of the last 20 hours despite really light winds. Our umbrella dumpers net has grown and there were 10 boats checking in regularly. Being in the middle of the pack its kind of nice to have "wind finders" all around us.
We are just about to round the reefs and make our final approach to Bahia Ballenas. As the name implies hopefully we will see some whales. We also hope to get Charlotte ashore although last night she took a big step and pee'd on her mat while offshore for the first time. We will probably stay here for one night and then continue on.
All is well

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Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Umbrella Dumpers

The Umbrella Dumpers
As we've been making our way down the coast we've been hooking up with lots of other cruisers who are doing the same thing we are.  Once we got south of San Diego the convoy was big enough that it made sense to start a VHF net and thus "The Umbrella Dumpers" net was born.  The term was coined by Jessie on Red Thread and we feel the name is spot on!  We've all left the pacific northwest and "dumped our umbrellas.
Soon the Umbrella dumpers will spread out in their own directions but here in Turtle bay we've had a blast with great new found friends:
The Red Thread (Jessie and Neil)
Namaste (Cindy, John and Journey)
Kialoa (Scott, Tanya and Josh)
Adagio (Steve, Cathy, Cindy, Kevin)
Tappan Zee (Tom and Annie)
Astraea (Natalie, Nate and Sully)

Special mention goes out to Solastra (Dean and Lynne) who is here with us in spririt.

Buen viento y buena mar!

Real Mexico

Isla Cedros
As a big system was brewing throughout the north pacific, we decided to travel to Bahia Tortuga (Turtle Bay) at a faster pace than initially planned.  We did the trip as a "passage", with a brief stop on Isla San Martin and a short overnight stop (<12 hours) on Isla Cedros. We've included some pictures of the enormous elephant seal on the beach at Isla Cedros - as you can see, we got a bit close. Unfortunately Charlotte's barking (when she finally discovered he was there) caused this guy to boogy back into the water and settle a little further down the beach. Oops.

Surprise Over
For some reason this passage was harder than some of the others we did further north up the coast. Maybe it is just that we are out of practice as we've been enjoying the shorting hops that we did down the California coast. For whatever reason, this one was difficult. It didn't help that I felt pretty seasick for the first 24 hours. I switched up my seasick meds on this trip though (can't think of why now), so I guess I shouldn't have been surprised. I'll be going back to the old standard (scopolamine patch and stugeron) for the next passage!

Our New Dinghy Wheels in Operation
We were pretty happy to arrive in Bahia Tortuga on Wednesday afternoon. We immediately put the dingy in the water and went to shore, keen on using our new dingy wheels on the nice sandy beach by the wharf... Or at least what looked to be a nice sandy beach... It was sand alright, above the waterline - unfortunately there was a whole line of large rocks just below the tide line, that were impossible to see in the murky water close to shore. Needless to say, our first beach landing with the dingy wheels was a disaster! The wheels got stuck on the rocks and we couldn't pull the dingy up at all. Did I mention there is just enough surf to be difficult? Through shear force of will, we somehow got the damn thing up the beach. How we didn't break the wheels off, I'll never know. From speaking to some of the other Cruisers in the bay, we realized we weren't the only ones who'd discovered that "dingy wheels down" while going into the beach at low tide wasn't going to work on this beach!

We were smarter the next day. We rowed into the beach through the mild surf with the dingy wheels up, then pulled the dingy up the beach as far as we could. Gary then lifted the back end of the dingy (thankfully we have a very small, light dingy so this is possible) while I put the wheels down. Then we rolled it up the beach. It worked like a charm and we even looked like we knew what we were doing. At least we learn from experience...

Jerry Cannin It in the Streets of Mexico
Our first land chore was to fill our jerry cans with diesel. We loaded our jerry's onto our cart and set off through the dirt streets of town. While no where close to level, the roads were manageable with the cart. We met about a billion scruffy looking dogs along the way, but happily none seemed agressive towards us or Charlotte. We reached the Pemex gas station and filled up without incident (we even did the whole transaction in Spanish - thank god for our 'Spanish for Cruisers' book!).

Daily work to keep the main street level
Town itself is pretty typical rural Mexico (from our limited experience, anyway). Dirt streets, mostly concrete block houses, few plants (this is desert, afterall), faded names on stores, garbage, street dogs, loud speakers screaming from the top of cars etc. In other words, fantastic. This is the 'real Mexico' we came to see, not the santitized Malecon of Mazatlan or Puerto Vallarta, where gargage cans are a-plenty and everything looks clean and orderly (although that is OK too). Cruise ships certainly don't stop here. We've heard this town described by other cruisers as 'Coyote Ugly' or as 'rough',but I think it has a charm of its own. The people are friendly and they don't hassel you like they do in the touristy parts of Mexico. They say buenos dias, then go about their business. Like other parts of Mexico, they have a wonderful sense of community, as we can hear something going on in town every evening (tonight it's an 81st birthday celebration). It is primarily a fishing village, so there are a ton of pangas booting around the bay, plus a few bigger US charter boats. How the town sustains itself, I'm not sure. But, it is here, and it is welcoming.
Churches always get the best real estate
Wall art at its best
The Best bar in Town
We show up and it rains!
Bahia Tortuga Marina
We've had a pretty relaxing stay so far. We've attended a potluck, hosted a games night and had a dinner party. We've done some reading in the cockpit, and enjoyed the national geographic scene around us. Today we had pelicans dive bombing the boat, dolphins and sea lions circling us and loons serenading us. Not a bad life.

We are also taking this opportunity to teach Charlotte to be a better boat dog. We have only been taking her to shore once a day (around noon) and we've been encouraging her to pee on board in the evening. So far so good - she has peed on her pee mat for the last 2 nights. We haven't had as much luck in the morning, but we're getting there. We'll get her to pee while we are underway yet!

Just Another Day at the Office

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Offshore Update: Arrived in Bahia Tortuga

After a 4 am departure and a pleasant day's sail we've anchored just off the pier at Bahia Tortuga. We managed to land the dinghy only getting a little wet although use of the new wheels we have for Pearl is going to take some practice. Charlotte seemed to have got the message after last night and went at the first opportunity.
We'll be staying here for at least 3 or 4 days perhaps more so there will be time for a proper post with some pictures later this week.

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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Offshore Update: Resting at Cedros Island

After making a quick stop at Isla San Martin to give Charlotte a break from the boat we packed the boat up again and left yesterday afternoon for another offshore passage. All night we had great winds from behind but a large swell from the west tested our metal. Checking in with 6 other boats throughout the passage showed that we weren't the only ones having challenges with the seas. Stories of bumps and bruises were at least offset with equally good stories of great speeds down wind.
I hand steered for a couple of hours for fun at around 3 am getting the boat surfing to 9 knots until Karina informed me that we were going too fast and asked if we should reef. Later she suggested that when she "asked" if we should reef, that was code for "we must" reef. After more than 20 years I am still learning how to communicate with her. At least the good winds allowed us to reach Cedros island before dark.
Arriving here at Cedros Island we quickly took Charlotte to shore expecting her to get down to business immediately after her feet hit the ground. She had other ideas and instead decided to challenge all the rocks to battle. Turns out the "rocks" were elephant seals, sea lions, seals and otters. We almost gave up trying to get her to pee before she finally remembered why she was there and realized we were serious when we said she was going back on the boat now!
Over the past 24 hours we have seen too many dolphins playing in the waves to count. Turtles, weird birds galore and every species of "fur weiner" known to man. We must be in National Geographic land!
Aside from our sacrificial UV strip on our Gib disintegrating, a leak in our watermaker somewhere and Karina battling sea sickness all is well (really!). Our friends from Kialoa gave us a whack of tuna steaks yesterday which we are currently cooking up. We could have also had lobster from the local fisherman for beer and cookies but Karina was too sick to consider eating them so we passed on that. Winds just hit 25 knots here... Guess I should go check the anchor. We look forward to a long rest tomorrow in the protected anchorage of Bahia Tortuga.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Offshore Update: At Isla San Martin

Hi everyone
We had a bit of a rolly night but managed to have just enough wind to sail. While a bit frustrating at times as we wished it would just blow 2 more knots, we are proud to have persevered and sailed most of the night. We are currently traveling in a bit of a convoy with a number of boats headed south spread out over about 30 NM. As we stuck through the tough winds we seemed to have missed a pocket of better winds that a few boats in the lead managed to catch. We have stopped at Isla San Martin for a brief attempt to "Pee" Charlotte. I expect we will continue at least to Isla Cedros in a few hours.
All for now

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Mexico At Last!!

Saying goodbye to Pete and Karene in San Diego
We left San Diego at 3 pm on December 4th, in the company of 4 other boats - s/v Kialoa (Tanya, Scott and Josh from Saltspring Island), s/v Namaste (John, Cindy and Journey from Seattle), s/v The Red Thread (Neil and Jessie from Seattle), and s/v Astraea (Nate, Natalie and Sullie from San Diego). Our friends Dean and Lynn from s/v Solastra (who are waiting for parts and hope to leave next week), as well as our San Diego-based friends Pete and Karene came to see us off the dock.  It was a great send off.  We sailed out of San Diego at a whopping 3 knots in 10 knots of breeze - perfect.  We officially sailed into Mexican waters at 7 pm.  
Crews of s/v Namaste, Solastra, Kialoa and Sea Rover II

After a beautiful night sail with an almost full moon, we arrived in Ensenada harbour.  We docked at the marina at 8am, got cleaned up, then headed over to the immigration/customs building to complete our visas and to obtain our temporary import visa for the boat (good for 10 years).  It was a surprisingly pleasant experience as all the different departments you have to visit are in the same building, so you just have to go from one window to the next. The marina gave us a step-by-step sheet explaining what we had to do, so it all went smoothly - and only took 2 hours!  Surprisingly they didn't want to see any documentation for Charlotte, even though I had the very official looking vet health certificate from the US. I guess I shouldn't complain, as we were worried she would cause us problems.
Raising the flag

We wandered around Ensenada in the afternoon.  It is an interesting place.  A cruise ship was in town so the vendors were out in full force trying to convince you to buy their crap.  We got very good at saying "no, gracias" as we walked the street.  We definitely don't need another T-shirt or shell that says 'Ensenada' on it!  I'm sure we were a disappointment to the vendors.  We lasted an hour before our senses had reached their saturation point (Mexico is loud) and we retreated to the solitude of the boat.  We have to venture back into town today to pick up a few groceries and to buy diesel.  This is our last provisioning stop until Cabo or La Paz, which could be as much as a month away.

We are extremely happy to be in Mexico.  We are still 900 nm from our ultimate destination, La Paz, but we are slowly getting there - one nautical mile at a time!  

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Weird Sightings in America

Self explanatory

You don't see this everyday!

You could lock your bike to this...

... or this.

Hard to describe this - a woven 'rug' in the shape of a fish - from a fish boat.

Good incentive

Only in America

Grisly Halloween

Slightly scary... this was in the middle of no where.

Makes sense.

A novel way to beg for money.

They do love Thanksgiving here...

Not sure what to say about this one..

Last Few Days in America! Last Few Boat Projects Complete!

Tightening pipe fittings
Attaching hoses
We stayed in San Diego a week longer than originally planned with the hope that we'd complete a few projects that have been on our "to do" list for a long, long time.  The big project was finishing the watermaker.  To avoid distractions, we moved to an anchorage in beautiful Glorietta Bay (which turned out to be a distraction in and of itself!).  We spent 3 days connecting hoses, disconnecting hoses, wrapping plumbing parts with plumbers tape (again), connecting hoses, tightening bolts, running more hoses - well, you get the picture.  And then it was done.  We started up the engine (our watermaker pump is engine driven), and lo-and-behold, we made water!  It truly is magic.  All told, our "easy to install" watermaker took us probably 100 hours to install and was anything but easy, but it is done.  And did I mention, it makes water??!!

On top of the engine compartment, installing the panel
Charlotte 'helping' with the install
Hotel del Coronado
In between connecting hoses and tightening bolts, we explored Glorietta Bay and Coronado Island. The highlight was admiring the beautiful Hotel del Coronado, which was built in the 1880s and is a truly stunning building.  Apparently this was the location for the movie 'Some Like it Hot' with Marilyn Monroe.  They turned on the holiday lights on the hotel for the first time while we were anchored in the bay and we had a perfect view of it from our boat.  Truly magical.  We also enjoyed several lovely walks by the beach, as well as a celebration dinner of fried food (it was only supposed to be drinks and appis, but the US portions are so big!).  As we haven't eaten fried food in many months, it was a bit of a shock to the system.  I'm pretty sure we consumed an entire years fat allocation in one sitting.  But it was good...

Hotel del Coronado by night
Beach outside the hotel
The 128 foot 'America'

After 3 days 'working' in Glorietta Bay, we moved back to the La Playa Anchorage we'd stayed at before.  This is the "weekend anchorage" in San Diego and is situated between 8 yacht clubs.  Needless to say, it is usually a gong show, and this weekend was no exception.  Not only were there about 30 boats in the bay (did I mention the anchorage is very small??), one of them was the 128 foot schooner "America", which is a replica of the boat that won the first America's cup back in 1865.  It was beautiful, but took up a fair amount of space.  Watching them anchor was an experience.  The boat doesn't have an anchor fitted on the front (I guess that would spoil the 'old' look) so they had to throw one over the side - without damaging the boat.  The anchor they used was tiny - our anchor (which is albeit, oversized for our boat) was bigger!  Two guys payed out the chain (with their bare hands) while the boat was driven backwards, and you could just see the burns they were getting. Not the best show of seamanship we've seen...

The weekend at La Playa was good.  The weather was hot and sunny, and so we actually enjoyed some down time.  I sat in the hammock a couple of days, and Gary stayed still for a few hours too.  Hopefully we'll get to do more of that when we get to Mexico!

We have spent the last few days back at the Southwestern Yacht club.  We finished up our last few boat projects (installing our dingy wheels, oil change, rig check etc) and have completed all the paperwork necessary to clear out of the USA.  We have 2 days to be out of US waters and hope to leave for Ensenada on Thursday, once the storm that is raging outside (yes, it is actually RAINING right now!!) has passed.

Our access to the internet will be non-existent for the next month until we get to La Paz.  We may try to do a few posts using our HF radio, but the posts will be short and without the usual pictures.  Bare with us.  

We are both excited and nervous about the next stage of our voyage.  We are looking forward to the scenery and wildlife, but are naturally apprehensive about the language barrier we'll be facing.  Neither Gary nor I are 'naturals' when it comes to languages and so I expect we'll spend a great deal of time doing hand signals and feeling generally perplexed when spoken to.  But, that is part of the adventure too.  Hopefully we've retained a bit of Spanish from our year of lessons before the trip... time will tell. 

Stay tuned for our next adventures (and misadventures)...