Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year

Well, yet another year has passed and for those who are wondering, yes we are still on the boat and all is well.
We haven't posted much over the past few weeks because of the lack of internet. We will be arriving in La Paz (a major Mexican metropolis) tomorrow where Sea Rover will be based for the next couple of months. Karina and I are both looking forward to the New Year and all the fun it will bring.
Happy New Year to everyone!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Merry Christmas to All!

As this will be the last time we'll have decent internet before Christmas we just wanted to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Our Mexican Christmas tree
Even though we wont be able to phone or skype with anyone over the holidays be assured that we are thinking and missing all the friends and family that we will be without over the holidays.  We'll be back in internet range by the New Year.  Until then Feliz Navidad!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

It's All Good

Despite the short weather windows, we are making our way south and are enjoying our time in the Sea of Cortez. 

Bahia Ramada, just north of Caleta San Juanico
We spent a windy few days in Caleta San Juanico this week, but managed to get off the boat to do a few walks/hikes and to have a great potluck on the beach.  We saw winds in the low 30’s in the anchorage, but Sea Rover’s anchor held us without moving an inch.  We certainly love our 73 lb Rocna anchor!
Anchored in Caleta San Juanico waiting out the wind

Sunset over Loreto from Isla Coronado
The weather Gods gave us a small break today so we were able to leave the anchorage and sail/motor 20 miles south to a beautiful island called Isla Coronado, just off of Loreto.

We sat through a few sprinkles this afternoon (RAIN!!  Aaggghhh) but were rewarded with an absolutely stunning sunset this evening.  A wonderful reward.

They say a picture says a thousand words, so we'll let the following pictures describe our last few weeks.

Dolphins at sunrise; Playa Coyote, Bahia Concepcion
Playa Coyote, Bahia Concepcion
Margie from s/v Dream Catcher, Tanya from s/v Kialoa and Karina enjoying a soak in the hot pools, Conception
Do you think this may be why the bow thruster wasn't working??

"Sporty" sail past Punta Pulpito; winds blowing 25 knots from behind; seas big

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Its all about the weather (and perspective)

Karina says:
Sailing in the Sea of Cortez this year has so far been all about the weather. We've been averaging 1 day of calm weather to 5-6 days of winds greater than 25 knots. Needless to say this has restricted our movements somewhat.
After spending a week being bashed against the dock at the marina in Santa Rosalia, the weather calmed down enough for us to make a run down the coast to a place called Punta Chivato. It is basically just a collection of "gringo" houses on a big, beautiful beach with some protection from the north winds and seas. Despite a forecast of calm seas and no wind, we had a fast, bumpy sail the whole way, much to Gary's delight. Our main reason for stopping in Chivato was that is one of two stops between Santa Rosalia and La Paz (~200nm) where there is cell phone reception, so I could do my weekly work call.
Of course our next weather window looked like it would be Monday morning, during my call. As we didn't want to be stuck at Chivato for the next big Norther, we decided to sail down from Punta Chivato into the more protected Bahia Concepcion last Monday, and do my work call while underway (the cell phone tower was on the way). This sounded like a good plan the day before, but turned out to be a bit of a challenge. There wasn't much wind the morning we motored out of the anchorage, but the seas were pretty big. After realizing there was no way I could be below during the call, I carted my laptop and notes upstairs and did the call from the cockpit while Gary sailed us through the big seas at 2-3 knots. He did his best to make it a comfortable ride, but there was only so much he could do. Somehow I survived without throwing up…
We then spent a lovely week in Bahia Concepcion waiting for the next weather window. We inflated our water toys (SUP and little kayak) and explored the bay (during the morning before the winds picked up). It was even warm enough one day to swim!
The next weather window was, of course, on Monday - calm seas and no wind. Perfect for our next 50nm hop down the coast. Except I needed cell phone coverage for my work call. So instead of heading south with the rest of the boats from the anchorage, we sailed north back up to Punta Chivato and got the hook down just in time for my call. Overall we were OK with this plan as the forecast was still for decent seas on Tuesday…
Gary grumbled all day Monday about the awful motor we were going to have down the coast on Tuesday. Then the cold front that had been predicted came through overnight and created some un-predicted conditions. Instead of the flat seas and no wind we had been expecting, we sailed in 20+ knots of wind and 4-5 foot seas the whole way as we caught the tail end of the front. It was quite a wild ride. It was like being on a drunken sleigh ride while being nipped in the butt by a heard of rabid buffalos. At one point we turned around and noticed a compressed, dark anvil shaped cloud forming a couple of miles behind us. Coming out of the cloud was a tight thread of white water that looked suspiciously like a water spout… And it was heading straight for us. Needless to say we started preparing the boat to get hit by a major squall. We put on our foul weather gear, cleared the cockpit, and furled in the genoa. The winds were hitting about 27 knots and we didn't need the head sail to keep our speed above 6.5 knots! I, of course, wanted to reef the main before the squall hit us, but Gary wanted to leave everything up to see if we could out-run the squall. Despite my better judgement, I agreed and we sped along just in front of the squall for the next hour. Luckily for us the squall lost its energy and dissipated before it completely overwhelmed us. So I guess Gary won that round.
We arrived safely in Caleta San Juanico yesterday afternoon after traveling 55nm in 8.5 hours - an average of about 6.5 knots. A very fast run, especially since we sailed without a head sail for a couple of hours. We'll be here until at least Saturday waiting out the latest Norther. The winds are predicted to hit 38 knots this afternoon - it is currently blowing 25-30 knots in the anchorage. We are glad to be in here and not "out there"…

Gary Says:
I can't believe how fantastic the sailing season has been. Despite being constrained to places with internet so Karina can get paid, we've managed to sail everywhere we've needed to be. I was worried that the weather gods had stopped smiling upon us on Monday when everyone but us left for the next anchorage. In fact my misgivings were unfounded as everyone motored on Monday and we got a great sail (albeit with a water spout chasing us down). Hopefully the next weather window will turn out like all the rest and we will maintain our average boatspeed above 7 knots for the season. Maybe we will get lucky and it will increase to 8 knots!

This message was posted via Ham Radio. Sorry for the lack of pretty pictures... We'll upload them when we get back to internet.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

North - Aborted!

Rob, Deb, Bill, Scott, Gary and Tanya - Guaymas
 Well, we tried to go North.  We really did.  Even though people who’ve been sailing the Sea for years told us not to try at this time of year… It turns out they knew what they were talking about.

It started off so well…  After seeing Rob and Debra’s boat Avant safely put back in the water, and after having a final celebration, our happy group of Greybeard (Bill), Kialoa (Scott and Tanya) and Avant (Rob and Deb) finally split.  Kialoa, Greybeard and Sea Rover headed north, leaving Rob and Deb in Guyamas to finish putting together their “kit boat”.

Bill adjusting something on Greybeard en route to San Carlos
We had a great motor and sail from Guaymas to San Carlos.  The Sea of Cortez welcomed us back with a dolphin and whale show, just to remind us of what we missed over the summer.  After a pleasant afternoon getting the kinks out of the boat (ie, fixing the autopilot, learning the speed gauge wasn't working etc) we arrived in San Carlos (about 15nm north of Gyuamas) just in time for their afternoon blow and got to practice anchoring in tight spaces in 20 knots of wind.  Ah yes, I remember this Fun.  We spent the next day doing boat jobs (cleaning the hull, installing holders for our dingy paddles, sorting out a halyard issue, getting our speed gauge working).  We also met up with Cruising friends Phil and Deb on s/v Coastal Drifter, who were the first other Cruisers we met last year on our way down the coast – we waited out weather together in Port Angeles, Neah Bay, and met for the final time in Astoria.  It was great to catch up and to hear how their first year of Cruising had been.  They are an interesting couple as each year they take a couple of their grandkids sailing for the year with them.  Last year we met Savannah and Sierra, and this year we met Ethan.  He gets to sail to Tahiti with them – lucky kid!

Looking north from Bahia San Pedro
Capture the flag! Tanya and Gary at the top
The group split again the next day, with Kialoa and Sea Rover heading north, leaving Bill in San Carlos waiting for a weather window to cross the Sea.  We had an uneventful motor in calm seas to Bahia San Pedro, which is a lovely little bay about 15nm north of San Carlos.  We took advantage of the calm weather (the anchorage doesn’t have great protection from the N or S) and spent the next day exploring the sea caves outside of the bay, and hiking to the top of one of the mountains to get a view of the coastline.  After 90 minutes of picking our way up through cactus bushes and other equally prickly plants, we made it to the top and were rewarded with a spectacular sight.  You don’t get a sense of all the little indents and fingers along the coast when you are traveling at sea level!

Looking south from Bahia San Pedro
As the weather was still forecast to be calm, we headed out the next afternoon in 10 knots of breeze (from the north) and sailed up another 20 nm up the coast to anchor off a little village in Bahia Colorado.  Our guidebook didn’t have much to say about the bay, but they did show a picture of the bay filled with fish boats.  Usually this means it has some protection from the wind and seas.   As it turned out, it was protected from the wind, but definitely NOT the seas.  This turned out to be the worst anchorage we have ever stayed in!  The swell was horrendous.  The boat rocked back-and-forth, back-and-forth, back-and-forth, all night long. 
BBQing in worst anchorage ever! Still gotta eat.
Things that haven’t moved in 4500nm of travel were knocked loose that night.  For example, the picture over the bed leapt off the wall and tried to de-capitate me, the cutlery in the cutlery drawer spend the night banging to get out, the tools did their best to escape their cabinet (they finally broke free the next day – but that’s another story…).  We finally succumbed to sleeping on the floor crossways in the salon in an effort to rock WITH the waves instead of at right angles to the waves.  Needless to say we were gone by 5am (Kialoa only made it to 4am before they couldn’t take it anymore).

Casualty of the tools escaping while under sail

After our early departure, we headed out into what should have been reasonably calm conditions.  Should have been.  But weren’t.  Kialoa had already turned around and were headed south back to San Carlos by the time we were motoring out of the bay.  We forged ahead though, as Gary really wanted to get up to Tiburon.  We sailed our rhumb line close hauled in about 10 knots of wind for a couple of hours and made good time.  The seas were pretty lumpy, but not unmanageable.  Then, all of sudden the boat heeled over at an alarming angle (!) and we are doing 7.8 knots upwind!  Can anyone say ‘over-powered?’  The wind had jumped up to 15 knots and caught us off guard.  (This is when the tools in the cabinet finally made their break for it).  After reefing the boat and getting things more or less under control we took stock and realized all of a sudden the seas were a LOT bigger than they had been… But still we sailed on.  The wind increased to 16 knots and we reefed again.  The seas got bigger.  

We then started talking options.  We were still about 20 nm away from our destination and could have made it, but it would have been a hard sail.  And there was no guarantee of safe harbour once we got there.  I need access to internet for work on Saturdays and Mondays.  We were pretty confident we’d be able to get internet on Saturday, but given the weather we were seeing starting to set up (ie, a strong Norther being being stirred up by hurricane Sandra), we would have had to be somewhere safe by Saturday night.  Unfortunately the closest safe harbour would not have internet.  So, to ensure that I would be able to make my Monday morning conference calls over the internet, we turned around and started heading south for Santa Rosalia, 64 nm away.  We were going to cross the Sea of Cortez.

At first this seemed like a good decision.  The wind decreased a bit and we sailed along nicely on a beam reach.  Then the wind built, and the seas built, and built, and built.  While a beam reach is a really fast point of sail for us and the boat loves it, it was a really uncomfortable point of sail as the seas were smacking us squarely on the side.  The good news is that the piles of dust we had accumulated while sitting in Guyamas  got washed off, the bad news is that the dust was replaced by salt.  The next 6 hours were interesting as we braced against the violent, steep, choppy seas.  At one point I looked down as a blur went past the companionway.  It was Gary getting thrown from one side of the boat to the other while trying to make lunch.  Luckily he landed on the settee.   We were handling the conditions OK, but were both a little worried about what would happen once we got to the Baja side of the Sea, as conditions were forecast to be worse over there.  And Gary was feeling sea sick (believe it or not, I was actually OK).  As it turned out, the wind and seas calmed down significantly when we were 20 nm from the Baja shore.   Instead of galloping along at 7.5 knots, we started to do a sedate 4-5 knots with the wind and seas more at our back versus the side.  A much more comfortable ride.  It gave us a chance to get some rest (remember, none the night before) and eat some food… All good things. 
Keeping Sea Rover off the docks in Santa Rosalia

We pulled into Santa Rosalia at about 10pm after a very long 95 nm day of sailing.  Of course
Myrtle, our engine, decided to pull her “I don’t like to have water running through my body to cool me” trick when we turned her on just outside the breakwater, which meant we had no engine. Did I mention it is dark?  So, we had a few exciting and tense moments doing donuts outside the harbour with me trying to keep the boat level in the 4 foot swells while Gary was down below pulling off pipes and sucking out salt water with his mouth.  He finally got her to go (magician) and we made a dash into the harbor.  We docked at the marina, and collapsed in exhaustion.  I guess we’ve done our shakedown cruise this year.  We certainly felt shaken and stirred after that one.  And we now have a new list of repairs that need to be done...

We’ll spend the next week or so in Santa Rosalia doing boat jobs and working while we wait for the next weather window to head south.  The wind has already started and so we've had to use every dock line we own to keep our boat off from being squished on the dock.  Once the weather improves, we hope to rendezvous with our sailing buddies again.  Probably some time next week.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Heading North???? Really?

Well, who would have thought that come December we'd still be thinking about going north in the Sea of Cortez.  But its November 24th and that's exactly what we are doing.
The weather has been all messed up this year due to the strong El Nino and while hurricane season is usually over by now we've just watched Tropical storm Rick die out and now Tropical storm Sandra is spinning up, expecting to be a hurricane in the next few days.
While Sandra will be no Patricia (the strongest Hurricane ever recorded) which somehow managed to miss all the big Mexican coastal cities, Sandra will be something for us to watch.  Also, the lull from Rick and Sandra spinning up has made it unusually possible for us to get some Northing under our belt.  As such, north we go.  We hope to make it up to Tiberon, an island about 75 NM north of San Carlos but we'll have to see how the next few days go.  If we cant get any sailing in we might just stay put somewhere or head south or maybe west.  That's the beauty of our plans this season....  We have none.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Season Two Begins!

Sea Rover II gets a new bottom!!
Mid-September marked the beginning of Cruising Season Two for us in the Sea of Cortez.  Gary and our friend Rob on s/v Avant stuffed our Subaru Forester with boat crap and drove to Mexico with the intention of supervising work being done to both our boats, and to get a few boat projects done before the season began.  While it sounded like a good idea at the time, the reality ended up not meeting the expectations…   It turns out that the average temperature in mainland Mexico in mid-September (or at least in Guaymas, where the boat was hauled out) is about 40oC, with 100% humidity.  And did I mention it is still hurricane season then?  Gary and Rob survived one Tropical Depression, with 50+ knot winds and more rain than you can possibly imagine.  Gary spent most of the night going around the yard tightening the stands of all the boats around us, then went and slept in the car.  By then the boat was moving so much on the stands he was afraid to sleep aboard.  But, they survived, as did our boats!  After an unproductive week (for them) sweating and living in McDonalds and Burger King (for the air conditioning), they admitted defeat and came home.  Luckily, the Mexican worker bees fixing our bottom didn’t seem to mind the weather and got most of the job done.  As this wouldn’t have happened if Gary hadn’t been there to harass them, it was a good thing he made the trip.

After a quick trip home to arrange renting out our house, Gary was off to the boat again on October 18th.  He arrived in the evening and was in the water 36 hours later, after a flurry of activity. 
Sea Rover II going back into the water after her "makeover"
Happily, Sea Rover II was no worse for wear after her summer baking in the Mexican sun.  At least the heat took care of the little cockroach problem we developed at the end of last Cruising season!

Having made a 6 month commitment to work for the summer, I joined Gary on the boat on November 3rd.  I was shocked (and pleased!) at the condition of the boat – she was clean, organized, and most of the “put back into the water” boat jobs were done.  There were even flowers on board to welcome me home!   I promptly rewarded his hard work and efforts by catching a terrible cold, which I then shared with him.  Several whiny days later, I am now on the mend.  He is a still a few days behind.
Installing new flexible solar panels on the hard dodger

As neither of us has been particularly healthy the last 2 weeks, we are still in Guaymas.  Despite our crappy health, we’ve been slowly picking away at the boat jobs that need to be done (installing solar panels, working on sewing projects etc) and helping friends get their boat ready for launch. 

The weather has also “turned” in the last week and so we are back into the typical winter “Norther” pattern, where it blows like hell for 3 days, then there are 2-3 days of calm, and then it blows like hell again.  In the two weeks we’ve already weathered two of these, and are in the midst of the third.  Needless to say we won’t be going anywhere any time soon. 

On Saturday we had our first “boat lesson” of the year – always check the tides, even if you don’t think you need to.  You guessed it, we didn’t complete this simple task and ended up going aground on a small underwater knoll when the wind switched direction.  Apparently they have negative tides here…   Of course the “grounding” coincided with a crazy squall (some people are calling it a “Microburst”) that literally came out of nowhere.  One minute there was a stiff breeze out of the south, the next it was blowing 30+ knots consistently from the north.  Unfortunately we were aground broadside to the wind when it hit 46 knots (!!) [about 90km/hr], and so we got heeled waaaay over.  Although this sounds 

Street art from "Day of the Dead" parade
bad, it turned out to be a good thing as the wind actually heeled the boat over enough to push us off the knoll!  Luckily the whole event was over in a matter of minutes and no damage was done.  At least we know that our ground tackle can withstand 45 knots of wind, although I’d rather not put it to the test on a regular basis.   So, not unexpectedly, as this is an El Nino year, it looks like we are going to encounter some “weather” this year.  

Guaymas is a pretty great place to be “stuck” though.  We are currently anchored in the bay off the Marina Fonatur, where we can shower and use the internet.  Our car is parked at the marina, which has been convenient for provisioning with food and water (we can’t run our watermaker in the harbor – too mucky) and for making Home Depot runs.  The town itself is great – we’ve been serenaded daily by several high school marching bands on the promenade (the sound carries really well into the anchorage), and the street food is fantastic.  We can both eat our fill of tacos and ice cream for less than $8!  It is almost cheaper to eat out than to cook for ourselves.

Enjoying the pool at Marina Fonatur Guaymas
We’ve also been reunited with our main group of Cruising friends – Bill on Greybeard, Scott and Tanya on Kialoa, and Rob and Debra on Avant.  So, it has been a fun time. 

But, it is not all play… I’m still working for STEMCELL one day a week and so I’ve been spending time going through data and working out how best to hold conference calls.  This means I need access to the internet on a weekly basis, which will restrict what we do and where we go this year somewhat, but so far so good.  This is another reason to stay here – internet access is easy.

Sunset over Guyamas, from anchor

So, overall we are re-adjusting well to boat life.  We miss Charlotte, but I know she is happier at Fat Camp this year.  Hopefully my parents will survive having her for 6 months!  Fingers crossed.  

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Home for the Summer

For those wondering where we are.  We are back in Vancouver.
We aren't sure what the plan is going forward.  Karina is happily back at work and I am sorting out whether my dog still likes me.
We will post again when we know more
All for now

Saturday, April 18, 2015

So, The Haul Out Didn't Quite Go As Planned....

Heading for the marina...we think

Oh Oh.... this isn't good
They say there are three kinds of sailors: those who have been aground, those who haven't been aground yet, and those who lie. On April 14th, 2015 we firmly moved from category number two to category number one.

We set off from the Fonatur marina on a beautiful, warm sunny morning - there were six of us on board: Gary and myself, Scott and Tanya from s/v Kialoa, and Jim and Tricia from s/v Falcon VII.

We were set to haul-out of the water at the dry storage yard in Guaymas at 10 am, the second boat of the day (our friend Bill on s/v Greybeard was ahead of us).  We transferred Scott and Tanya to Bill's boat, then drifted around the bay while waiting for him to get pulled out of the water.

Finally, at 9:40 am we got the OK from the marina staff to move into the marine slip ways for the haul out.

Guaymas harbour is known for being extremely shallow, which strikes fear into owners of large draft boats like ourselves (we draw 7 feet below waterline). To remove the stress of going into an unknown, very shallow harbour, Gary had helped another couple into the marina a few days before. He took his handheld GPS and plotted a course, as well as used our handheld depth sounder to determine the depth of the channel leading into the marine ways (there are no buoys marking the channel, this being Mexico).  As he read 10 feet all the way in, we were feeling confident that we knew where we were going and all would go smoothly. Famous last words.

As we headed towards the slip way, the guys from the marina talked us in...'go left... now a bit to your right...'. In addition to these instructions, we were supposed to make sure we lined the slip way up with an old house on the shore behind us. As we were getting close to the docks, I looked behind and realized we'd drifted just a tad to the right. As I began to tell Gary to turn to the left...Thump. Bump. Yup, we were aground.


Murray from s/v Ponga helping us to kedge off the reef...
 Did we mention it was a falling tide??

We sprang into action.

Plan A: Gary tried to reverse off the reef using both the engine and the bow thruster. No luck.

Plan B: We radio'd the boat set to haul out after us (s/v Ponga from Victoria, with Marty and Murray on board) and asked if they'd be willing to try to tow us off. They agreed. We threw them a line and with both engines pinned, we tried to pull us off. Again, no luck.

...Then trying to back off the reef...

Plan C: We attached one of our anchors (which was of course nicely packed away in our back lazarette) to a line on a halyard (which we had to re-run up the mast as we'd pulled all of our lines before leaving the Fonatur...lessons for next year - don't pack everything away on the boat until you are out of the water!). Murray from Ponga took the anchor and dropped it several hundred feet off our port side. We then reeled in the line and tried to heel the boat over enough to slide us off the reef. No luck.

... with some help from the Mexican Navy... No luck.
Plan D: Unknown to us, the marina guys had called in the Mexican Navy to give us a hand. The next thing we knew, a large panga with two Navy guys showed up. They picked up Andre and Roberto from the marina (who both speak perfect English, thank god) and came out to help. They attached a line to our back cleat and revved their 90 horsepower engine. Despite creating a lot of impressive wash in the water, we didn't even budge.

Plan E: Wait until high tide and float off the reef.

We lowered our dingy into the water and Gary rowed Jim and Tricia to shore. They were along to help, but we didn't want them to have to wait around for 6 hours while the boat heeled over and came back up again. Overall the day was quite instructive for them as they learned where NOT to go and what NOT to do.

Low tide
Low tide was at 1:20 pm. Happily we only ended up on a 14 degree angle. Apparently the last boat that had gone aground a few days earlier (another BCA boat, s/v Swerver II) heeled over to 45 degrees. So we felt pretty lucky.  We were also happy that the afternoon wind waves weren't that big and so we weren't bounced up and down on the bottom. We just rested sedately on our side and waited to float again.

A look says a thousand words

View of the travel lift from our grounded boat at low tide. So close, yet so far...  we were just 10 feet too far to the right!! 

Sea Rover safely in the marine ways after her ordeal
Finally, at 4:10 pm the reef decided it had had enough of us and let us go. Thankfully we were in the cockpit discussing what we would do when we drifted free and so we were quickly able to turn on the engine and get underway (before we were pushed over to the other side of the channel by the wind and ran aground again). We turned the boat around, got in touch with the marina guys and told them we were coming into the dock. Luckily they were on the dock waiting for us, as the strong cross wind made for a very tricky entry into the marine ways. More hands on deck would have been useful, but we got the lines to the guys and they pulled us in to safety.

As it was too late in the day to haul us out, we stayed in the marine ways overnight. We were then hauled out first thing the next morning (ahead of s/v Kialoa, who were scheduled to be the first boat of the day - sorry Scott and Tanya) without incident.

No damage done, except to our egos. Phew.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Easter in Santa Rosalia

Church designed by Gustav Eiffel (of the tower fame)
Santa Rosalia is an old mining town about midway up the east coast of the Baja peninsula. It is our last stop on the Baja side before we head over to Guaymus to haul the boat out for the summer. The copper mine here operated for about 150 years before shutting down in the mid 1980's. The mining history here is quite rich, as much of the infrastructure is still standing (and, it being Mexico) accessible.

Rock crusher in the processing plant

We toured the mining museum (which is still recovering from losing most of it's roof in Hurricane Odile in September), then walked through the ruins of the old smelting plant. Although definitely a walking safety hazard, you can still get up to the second floor and look around. The old furnaces still stand, as do some of the turbines etc. We had fun trying to figure out the processing process.

The town itself was apparently constructed from BC timber and much of it is still standing. It is certainly the only place we've seen in Mexico where the houses are made of wood. Interestingly, they've made most of the new stucco construction look like wood to match. So, kind of a neat town.

It is definitely NOT a tourist destination. The only gringos here are the Cruisers.

Jesus at the beginning of the procession

We'd been told by other Cruisers that the Easter celebrations on Good Friday were not to be missed. We understood that there would be a parade and that it was quite elaborate. This turned out to be an understatement. Ten Cruisers lined up with about 1000 locals to watch (and participate) in the proceedings.

The judgement of Jesus
Leading Jesus to his fate
Following the crowd 
It started off by Jesus and the three thieves being dragged into the square by several soldiers, while the 'townspeople' watched.

Jesus was then de-robed, whipped, re-robed and dragged down the street, followed by the crowd (us included). The procession proceeded through the town, stopping every couple of blocks so the next part of the story could be played out (all 12 stations). The crowd, full of families, babies, grandmothers, dogs, teenagers etc, all sang between the different acts of the re-enactment as they walked along. This went on for 2 hours while the thousand of us wound our way through town and up the hill to the big cross that overlooks the city. Then, yup, you guessed it, Jesus got nailed (well, tied) to the cross.
The final scene of the re-enactument

 I'm not sure we'd participate in something like this again, but we are certainly glad we did. I gather this is a pretty common Catholic tradition, but it was amazing to see the whole town participate. Quite an experience

Crews of Falcon VII, Avant, Kialoa and Sea Rover II (all BCA members)

The next few days were filled with boat projects, as it is time to start preparing the boat for it's 6 month 'vacation' on the hard in the blistering Mexican summer sunshine. We've been washing canvas, rinsing the boat, oiling all the woodwork, sorting through and cleaning all the cabinets and cupboards. Fun fun.

Mmmmmm, deep fried bacon-wrapped hotdog... 

In between all our boat chores, we did find time to eat some ice cream and try our first deep fried bacon-wrapped hot dog though...mmmmm. Definitely a treat not to be missed.

We'd like to wish everyone a Happy Easter. We will be celebrating with a potluck dinner with all the other Cruisers at the dock tonight, but we'll be thinking of you all.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Heading Further North

Caleta San Juanico
After a slow sail from Isla Coronado, we spent three days in lovely Caleta San Juanico.  This quickly became one of our favourite stops on the trip north. We arrived just before dark, but managed to snag an ideal anchor spot between several rock reefs. At least, it was ideal for the first two days... until a strong west wind threatened to push us into one of the reefs - in the middle of the night. After both lying awake for several hours waiting to hear the crunch of our rudder on the rocks, we decided to up-anchor and move to a deeper, less rock-strewn spot. Still, it was nice while it lasted.

Gary's Birthday dinner - thanks Bill and Phil!

We spent our days snorkeling (which unfortunately wasn't great as the visibility in the water was poor), hiking, and walking the wonderful beaches.

Our stay here coincided with Gary's birthday. After inviting several other Cruisers to help us celebrate, Bill and Phil (both single-handers) took it upon themselves to catch the birthday dinner. Miraculously, they each managed to spear a large parrot fish, so we ate like kings. Gary BBQ'd it with garlic and butter...mmmmm.

Gary's Birthday dinner
He even got a cake...with icing
I even managed to bake a cake (from a box) and make icing (from scratch). For those of you who don't know me well, I don't bake. So, this was a pretty big deal. It was even edible (or at least our guests had no trouble gobbling it up - but then again they are Cruisers...).

Leaving our mark at the Cruisers shrine in San Juanico
Before leaving, we added our contribution to the famous "Cruisers shrine". Basically each visiting boat hangs something or places something under one of the small trees on the beach. Some of the displays are quite elaborate (like the huge carving made in the hillside above the tree - no idea how the people got up there to do the carving). We found things from several other Blue Water Cruising boats, so it was kind of fun to poke around the area. We chose to carve our boat name into a small piece of sandstone and placed it on the ground near the tree. Guess we'll see if we can find it next year.
Heading north early...Sunrise at Punta Pulpito

We reluctantly left San Juanico and had a very boisterous up-wind sail to an anchorage 8 miles north called Punta Pulpito. We had pretty consistent 18 knot winds directly on the nose, so we bashed our way north with a reef in the main and genoa. Not the most comfortable sail of the year, but it certainly was fast!

From looking back at pictures from our sea kayaking trip 13 years ago, we determined that Punta Pulpito was one of our stops, as was Caleta San Juanico. It was certainly different to see it from the perspective of the sailboat this time.

Whale shark (dark lump) and campers - Playa Coyote
After a quick overnight stop, we left at sunrise for a 50 nautical mile day up to Playa Coyote in Bahia Conception. We had pretty much decided to by-pass Bahia Conception this trip as other Cruisers had warned us it would be extremely busy. The week after Easter is a school holiday in Mexico (Semana Santa) and so many families (ie, thousands) descend on the beaches in Bahia Conception for their once a year camping experience. We weren't sure we wanted to experience that after being in such remote places for so long, but then our friends Rob and Deb on s/v Avant told us there were whale sharks in the bay! That clinched it for us (well, for me anyway).

Following a whale shark on the SUP
As it turned out, Bahia Conception was also a highlight of the trip north. When we arrived the beach at Playa Coyote was only about half full of campers, but it was amazing to watch it fill up with tents over the next few days.

The Mexicans take car camping to a whole new level. Each campsite housed several extended families, each of which had tents with full kitchens, eating tents, sleeping tents, port-a-pottie tents etc. Some families had set up hammocks in the palm trees, and most had water toys of some variety. One night they had an impromptu disco on the beach. While we were there, a small tienda (store) popped up on the beach, along with a hot dog stand and beer tent. And the ice cream truck drove by on a regular basis. Although this sounds kind of awful when you try to describe it, it was actually really interesting to watch. It was a total family atmosphere and so the vibe was really good. No one was overly rowdy, everyone just wanted to visit with their extended family and have fun.

Luckily for us, all the activity in the bay didn't affect the whale sharks, at least for the first day and half we were there. We were able to quietly follow them on the paddleboard while they cruised the shoreline. It was pretty amazing to see them just swimming around our boat.

Another unexpected benefit of going into Bahia Conception was that the water temperature was 25oC. Definitely the warmest water we've seen in Mexico. You could easily swim without a wetsuit. We took advantage of this and cleaned the bottom of the hull (Gary) and removed the tar that had been stuck to the side of Sea Rover since California (me). It was nice to spend a few hours in the water.

Mulege - oasis in the middle of the desert
Another highlight of trip to Bahia Conception was spending a day in the tiny town of Mulege.  Mulege is a couple of miles up the Rio (river) Santa Rosalia and so the valley is absolutely filled with palm trees. It is always weird (but welcome) to see palm trees in the middle of the desert.

Our group of Cruisers (5 boats) had made friends with one of the Mexican families camping on the beach and so the father Ceasar) very kindly drove us into town. We spent the afternoon exploring, enjoying tasty fish tacos and visiting the 250 year old mission.  We had an "it's Mexico" experience on the way
250 year old mission in Mulege
home as Ceasar had arranged for someone to take us back to the campsite. Of course when we showed up at the rendezvous spot the guy wasn't ready... then he was busy... then he couldn't do it at all, but he'd arranged for someone else to take us back (or at least this is what we think they were telling us!). After about an hour of waiting, another guy did show up to take us back. But of course the price was 50% higher than what Ceasar had initially negotiated for us.  But, he got us back to the boats in one piece (he drove like a maniac) so we can't really complain.

Although we loved Bahia Conception, the lure of strong south winds convinced us to head further north to our final destination on the Baja side of the Sea of Cortez for this season. We left in the company of another Blue Water Cruising boat, our friends Jim and Tricia from Falcon VII, and had our best sail of the year - a 9 hour spinnaker run almost all the way to Santa Rosalia. Truly fantastic!  We plan to spend Easter weekend in Santa Rosalia before heading across the Sea to our final final destination of Guaymus, where we will haul the boat out of the water for the summer.  More to come!

Chasing down s/v Falcon VII... Best sail of the year - a 9 hour spinnaker run!!