The Bay of Virgins on Fatu HIva, Marquesas

15 July 2018 

The Bay of Vierges. Fatu Hiva, Marquesas

We are off to Fatu Hiva!  We have heard many wonderful things about this lush island and have looked forward to visiting it immediately after checking in at Hiva Oa. French Polynesia has been under French influence for a little over one hundred years, and the islands themselves, geographically are younger than the Tuomotos or Societies.  In fact, like Venice, Italy, the French Polynesian islands created by volcanic forces are actually sinking back into the sea and one day will be atolls like the Tuomotos.  These islands receive a fair amount of rain and seem to have an abundance of clear water.  We are told that locals warn to not swim, snorkel or dive the black sand beaches.  I queried this rationale and it appears to be only local concern for not being able to see such things as shark easily in the water.  

We were up at 0630 to release the stern anchor and up the main anchor for our early start to Fatu Hiva; by 0730 or so we were off leaving Hiva Oa in our wake. It will be a beat into the wind (read: uncomfortable and wet sail) as it is  40nm south of us and we will be short hauled as much as possible (pointed into the wind as tight as we can and still maintain forward momentum) as we head into the the Southerlies.  We chose to play by the rules this time by checking into Hiva Oa.  Fatu Hiva is not a port of entry and as US citizens, we need to check into the country before  exploring.  They do not want to have cruisers come in unless they have checked in to the country officially first at either Hiva Oa (Atuona) or Nuku Hiva (Taiohae) Some have chosen to “chance it” and succeeded, others made the same choice with an end result of being asked to leave immediately, and rumor has it that some were even fined! It could leave a passport flagged with repercussions of future travel compromised and not worth the risk for many.   I think we have figured out a “work around” but I am not likely going to post it online. None the less, we followed the rules this time.

Another wonderful sunset, this time in the Bay of Virgins of Fatu Hiva.

It would be a likely six-seven hour sail and anticipating one tack to the island with 15-18kn winds on our port.  It was more like eight hours and variable wind speeds.  Pinched as tight as we could, we still ended up motoring the last hour or so back to the bay. As the sun began to set, the island took on a surreal glow and we arrived.  The lush green Jurassic Park we entered was bathed in the last of the sun’s golden rays.   There are two main villages. The larger is Omoa which reportedly does not have a good overnight anchorage. So we arrived at the smaller village of Hana Vave and the Bay of Virgins.  It is everything out of the Disney’s movie “Moana”.  Beautiful temperature of 74-80 degrees, occasional sprinkles of rain that clear up as quickly as they start, and a light breeze that keeps any little flies or gnats moving along.   The volcanic shores  rise up out of the bay and hold palm trees in their rocky clutches as the hills reach almost directly up to the sky.  It really feels like we are in the Polynesian islands now.  The distant drumming, its unmistakable resonance, called us in from the bay.  There were already twelve other sailboats in the anchorage anchored in anywhere from 30-90ft.  SV Kokopelli, (Brian and Mizzy) who we had met in Hiva Oa were already here!  How could that be?! They left after  us!  John could not figure out how that could be and finally it was answered when he found out they had motored the entire distance.  That helped the sting a bit as I believe he actually lost sleep over it!  They were still experiencing problems with their outboard even after having the mechanics in Hiva Oa boatyard work on it and John told them that once we found a less rolly anchorage, he would work on their outboard.  They have the exact same model as we do. Brian and Mizzy shared with us that there is a local dancing going on this evening and they would come by and pick us up if we would like.  Of course we would! We could make out the faint drumming coming from shore. Light breeze, enough be comfortable and keep bugs away, air temperature neither hot nor cold.  The dingies come up to the quay, and when the tide comes in and can be as much as a meter or more difference. At low tide, it can be a big step in and out of the dingy from the top of the wall. Some use a stern anchor to keep the dingies from knocking about on each other, which is an excellent idea.  We walked up the road and John found a young man who said his name was Cedric. He was heading towards the dancing and could give us directions.  With a little English, he gave John directions and also mentioned his uncle who is a wood carver and we should see his work.  Well! We had heard that Fatu Hiva was noted for their wood carvings!  I wondered how we would find them and little did I know….   We rounded a corner, and over a bridge, open window homes with curtains that were now waving outside in the breeze allowing airflow, the drumming became increasingly louder.  It was dark now and we came past a concrete building (most of the buildings seem to be concrete) which showed a menu.  We were now on a game field, such as soccer, and the very same one we could see from the bay!  We simply made an almost complete loop!  Before us sat families on chairs, on the grass, with little kids running around playing.  We walked through various different groups and settled on the ground of very short sparse grass.  The music began- ukuleles, guitar, and the drums.  Various sized traditional drums, with leather coverings. We were treated to a village display of their two dance troupes.  They have been practicing for a month or more, possible competing with each other or to be competing in Omoa next.  There is a large festival to take place in 2019 and the best of the villages dance troupes will be performing traditional dances in Tahiti. This festival occurs every four years as well as another that happens within the Marquesas itself, inter-island every two years.  

Part of the costumes of flowers and leaves sewn on to tapa cloth.

They wore traditional grass/flower headdresses, tops and skirts as well as the guys having accoutrements on their chest/calves.  All were made from real plants and painstakingly hand sewn on to belts that appeared to be tapa cloth. Tapa is the pounded bark from trees, a similar process to making paper pulp.There was a story teller that began each dance, telling a story in the Marquesan language that was almost as theatrical as the dance itself.  Each group had choreographed their own dances and songs. Families all sat out to watch with little kids running amok, and a few at the sidelines imitating the dancersThey sang and danced to various drums and slack strung guitar/ukulele as we watched for a couple hours before we made our way back to the boats in the bay.  There is a stiff breeze coming through the valley tonight but as I ready myself for bed, I  could still hear occasional hums of drums and singing in the distance..   

 Morning came with the sounds of waves slapping at the boat, birds in the air and baby goats bleeting for their moms on the steep hillsides surrounding the bay.  Again, John needing “John” time to work on their outboard, Mizzy and I took off for the village and to hike the waterfall.  John dropped us off at the quay with the dingy and asked us to estimate our time. Well, 45 minutes up and the same back, and an hour there.  Let’s say three hours.  What we didn’t plan on was that our hike time was shorter than others had reported… and we got lost.   Our intention  was to walk to the waterfall. (Understand that the word “intention”  is often used in cruiser lingo as “plans”  are rarely kept due to repeating changes!)  She had been to the  French Polynesian islands, but not this island, some years earlier and was familiar with some of the flora and fauna pointing it out as we chatted.  We stopped here and there, and met a few people along the way.  A gentleman tending some trees called out to us and asked us if we wanted some fruit.  Well, okay.  Then he asked if we would like to see his carvings, as he is one of the village carvers.  Sure.  He had us focus in on a time, difficult in a language we didn’t quite understand but thought we could make 3:00pm. The residents are a little more friendly here than Hiva Oa with a sing song “Bon Jour” and a smile offered a little more frequently.   Every house seemed to have an assortment of trees, many pomplemousse trees so laden with fruit that several lay on the ground having cracked from the fall, been gnawed by vermin or ants, and in various stages of rotting.  Pomplemousse is most similar to a grapefruit but is reportedly sweeter and often used for trade by the locals with visitors.  It is also only found in these islands and we would not likely find them in the Tuomotos or beyond.  There are also coconut,  lemon, orange, mango, guava, banana, plantain, noni, bread fruit and soursop trees. There is another that is used to make a chutney however, that name escapes me. In fact, there are more that I can’t think of as they did not pass my lips but I know they were discussed. What a wealth of fruit!  We were looking at a tree with the unusual fruit used for chutney when a man come out of his house to show us the fruit we were looking at on his tree, he picked one, peeled it and offered it to us to try.  Then, he began picking several to put in our bags.  We still aren’t quite sure what it was but was very appreciative of his enthusiasm!  Very sweet.  We continued walking, asking directions from everyone we met.  Mizzy reports her French is very rusty and I have none other than basic greetings.  We walked past the post office, the administrative office, copra stations (dried coconut) and up a winding road, crossing a creek (the same creek) at least a couple times.  We continued to ask directions for anyone we met and Mizzy translated.  We soon found ourselves at a gate.  The men behind it understood we were looking for the “cascade” and pointed and directed back across the last bridge we came from. Back to the road, at least it was downhill.  We cross back over the creek and voila! The fork in the road, the rock with all the little rocks (cairns) on it. To the right on the paved road? Or to the left, more or less a rutted roadway.  We took the left, on the rutted roadway when we came to yet another homestead and a few loudly barking dogs. Hmm…Not wanting to chance dogs, we went back to the road and proceeded to walk. Uphill. No, REALLY UPHILL.  While it was paved, it was really uphill, similar to a 45degree angle as it would traverse its way up the mountain and over to Omoa.  We went as far as the first hairpin curve and could see over the valley.  Enough.  We were tired and it would be getting dark even IF we were to find the waterfall.  Walking back into town was MUCH easier as all down hill.  We chatted merrily about all subjects, doing what cruisers do, finding out a lot about each other in a short period of time.  Everyone has a dog….. or three!  Short hair, non descript mutts.  On a line, they are quite noisy as they work their part.  The fortunate ones that aren’t bound by some sort of tether, meandered lazily about, not paying much attention to the humans.  A few cats are seen but not many.  Evidently neither of those two species hunt the black rats that are on the rampant on the island…there are also wild boar but we only saw domestic pigs.  Seems like many families have a pig.  There are free roaming chickens everywhere and occasionally a cow tied up.  After a wonderful walkabout, now an hour or so off target time, and no waterfall, we arrived back to where we thought Temo’s home was.  We yelled “Bon Jour” a few times and soon, Temo appeared at the door.  He has a table on his patio, covered with a colorful cloth. A television plays inside the house.  We enter the patio, leaving our shoes with all the others in front of the step.  He pulls back the cloth and shows us his work. Exquisitely carved wood tikis of different motifs and sizes, turtles, curved bowls- some with lids and some with handles, all wonderfully carved with Marquesan symbols. They are indeed so beautiful however, he had another object that caught my eye- he called it an U’u.  A head knocker. In the form of a weapon that was used by Polynesians in early times.  It had tiki faces carved on both sides as well as various other symbols.  His son, Diego, comes out to help with translation.  A young man in his early twenties, he has studied in France and speaks several languages. He assures us that the carvings are by hand and from wood on the island or the neighboring island.  They aren’t cheap and he isn’t interested in trades necessarily.  These can be sent on to Tahiti and they can make good money.  More and more, trading for money is the practice!  Even US dollars are acceptable.  Five years ago and longer, trading with the locals was a more common practice as they did not have access to things we have become accustomed to given the power of the internet and Amazon.com.  Now that they are becoming more online, access is still difficult but some trading can still be done, typically for alcohol which is very heavily taxed in the islands.  An example would be an inexpensive US wine of $7-10 might be $27 or more here.  One piece of Temo’s stood up for me, and all I could think of was the adage about if you see something you like to get it as you may not see it again.  Fatu Hiva wood carvers are well known for their detail and excellent carving.  I would need to think about this as it was not a small item.  We thanked Temo and Diego, who gave us several pomplemousse and asked to trade for a bottle of wine at least.  I assured them I would return to see the piece again.  Mizzy said they were beautiful but that we would need to return with our husbands. The floor still had the remains of a costume- from last evenings performance.  Indeed, Diego was one of the performers, first group.  He said they did well but they were only practicing and dancing for this island and would be heading to the bigger town of Omoa.  The costumes are all real leaves, picked from the yards and hand sewn onto a bark similar to the Tapas of which they women are known for.   Temo gave us more pomplemousse from his tree and with the promise of a return of wine, we would be back.  John’s mission with the outboard was a success, as expected.  Brian was happy as his motor now no longer died on him. 

Artist/Sculptor Temo and his son Diego

One of the mango seasons is over and another yet to begin, however they have pomplemousse trees everywhere that are bulging with fruit.  The boughs are heavily laden with fruit, fruit that simply falls to the ground to rot as they cannot consume it quickly enough. It seems each yard has at least one tree if not several. Let’s talk about this crazy fruit. The pomplemousse is large and round similar to the North American grapefruit varieties, except it remains greenish with a slight yellowish hue when ripe and ready.  It keeps easily, some say up to two months and others say six weeks.  It’s similar to the grapefruit only much sweeter (as long as you don’t eat the white membrane like a grapefruit).  I have never, and I repeat NEVER have liked grapefruit as much as I have tried to. Watching others spoon into its juiciness could never tempt me. I have tried it with sugar on top, with honey on top, as juice, as a sweetened juice, heck- even as a soda pop!  Nope. Any diet that had grapefruit as a basis was not on my list. “Here, try the pomplemousse”.  “No, I don’t like grapefruit.”  And then…I tried it.  Well now, this is a sweet surprise.  It doesn’t bite at my tongue, make my throat close and want to spit it like a watermelon seed.  It doesn’t leave the sting of antiseptic essence in my mouth.  Why, let me have another spoonful…wait, is that bitter I taste? Hmmm….careful of the membrane surrounding each section.  The skin seems thicker too.  They are large but split in half through the waist, they seem to go down quickly.  John tasted it, wrinkled up his nose and said it would taste better with tequila.  Of course he did.  He then began quickly to assess what alcohols would go with it and that I should extract the juice and try it.  Of course he did.  What I didn’t expect was the satisfying and refreshing vigor it would give in my day.  Or that I would begin to crave it.  I was hooked.  Oh those wicked Polynesians, what have they created?!  Was it the passage with the fruit gone within the first week that left me ravenous for fruit?  Was I dehydrated that I was using the pomplemousse for hydration?  I know the importance of maintaining good hydration even though I am sure I don’t drink near as much water as I should.  Nonetheless, I found myself eating not one, but two (and there was an occasional three!) per day.  Well this is awkward.  John would just stare at me over the glasses on his nose.  In my mind, I was sharing these with my dad who loved fruits of all types, sadly thinking he really would have loved these.

Just a small idea of the fruit market now on SV Bella Nave!

 John is interested in finding the waterfall as is Brian.  Mizzy an I are willing to attempt again, although we are pretty sore from yesterday’s trip.  Lesley and Bob (England) are going to join us today. They too, had traveled from Panama to French Polynesia like Brian and Mizzy.  Bob and Lesley have been living aboard their 34ft yacht for several years now too.  As we walked up the main road, we passed by another older gentleman working on a pipe.  I know this will surprise you…he said he was a carver and asked if we would  like to see his carvings!  We politely said we were heading to the falls but would stop on our return.  He tried to determine a time and John gave him the best we could estimate.  I now know that you don’t look for the carvers, they find you!  We made a lovely trek over the bridge and past the post office and administration building, to the dirt path off of the main cement road to Omoa.  As the road began its 45 degree ascent, the large cairns indicated the dirt path was indeed our path to the waterfall.  The foliage became denser, elephant ear leaves were almost human size.  Banyon trees and others came close together and only the rustle of ferns with occasional bird calls could be heard. Soon, there was the sound of trickling of water and just as soon it became the sound of rushing water signaling our close proximity. Before our eyes, we could see the cascade, water from several hundred feet above us into a pool in front of us.  The majority of the waterfall was surrounded by rocks on all three sides.  We scrambled over the boulders and before we knew it, the guys had quickly doffed their clothes to their swimsuits and dove in.  Brrrr…..it is refreshing, another adjective for cold.  As Bob coined it with his lovely accent – “it’s nutgrabbing”.  I am not sure what that translates into Celsius or Fahrenheit, so you will have to trust me on this one.  We enjoyed a lovely afternoon at the pool, temperature pleasant after a while, noting the back walls.  I had prepared with my swimsuit underneath, as had Mizzy.  Lesley was not going in past her knees no matter how much Bob and Brian goaded her into coming in to see the actual “falls” and “how amazing it was that you just have to come in to see it”.  It was with her final no that she slipped unhurt, but now quite wet higher than her bum.  So much for staying dry.  We eventually we need to work our way back, refreshed and clean of sweat and insect repellant, we would need to re-apply before heading down.  The wooded area was home to some mighty hungry “mozzies” (mosquitos).  

 We travelled the same path past the official building and the post office to the rock of Cairns.  Yes, indeed, we are to go past the parking dogs and continue on for the waterfall.  The trees that appear like hollowed out dugouts, with leaves larger than the elephant ears holding drops of water, vines hanging from the trees.  We could eventually hear the unmistakable sound of water falling.  A small pool set back in the rocks and the water falling high up from the cliff.  Of course we had to get in!  Fresh water, about seventy degrees – refreshing!  We soon reached the road back, passed the copra drying station, and while Mizzy and Brian went off with wine in hand to see Temo’s carvings, John and I visited with another carver.  He too, had lovely wood tiki’s, stone tiki’s and wooden bowls.  Starting to see the theme here.  We told him we would think about it and let him know yet in my mind, it would be Temo’s piece that I would have.  As we left his home, his wife called me back and offered me bread she had made and wrapped.  It was still almost warm.  How sweet! 

Tonight would be a dinner at Poi’s house with his wife doing all the cooking.  Poi is the unofficial “official” of the island.  For $25/per person, his wife would cook a traditional Polynesian dinner.  We were signed up as part of sixteen cruisers that evening, dining on Poisson Cru, fried meat (likely goat), breadfruit, various salads, deviled eggs, and a dessert of fresh fruit of the island served on a large leaf.  Star fruit, papaya, mango, banana, and small red fruit.  Breadfruit is really interesting. A starchy fruit, it has more of a texture of potato, flavor of almost a sweet potato, and is well known for its health benefits and ability to pass as more of a potato than a fruit.  Once a big staple in the Polynesian diet, it had declined during the French colonization as their interest was in coconut or copra as an export.  We made new friends and would be going diving tomorrow with a few of them.  We are the only folks from Mexico departure here, as this group is compromised of those coming from Galapagos and part of a different rally.  We have Polish/Italian, Swiss, English, French represented as well as Bryan and Mizzy/ and ourselves capturing the US division. Of course, our hosts are Marquesan.  Another pleasant evening and it was delightful to meet other cruisers as well.  Quite a nice ice breaker.  Cain and April are traveling on Spirit of Argo, a Peterson 44.  Quinn (their Irish terrier) has a blog about what his crazy owners are doing to him.  You might find it quite entertaining  at www.spiritofargo.com.  We also had an opportunity to get to know Wojtek, Elena, and baby Paul on S/Y Imagine.  While the catamaran is vision, their mission is even more amazing.  Once pro soccer player, an unfortunate circumstance led to his having an AKA or above knee amputation.  His and their experience with this, has led them to turn their catamaran to a sailing prosthetic station where they can actually manufacture prosthesis! They are sailing to those who are less fortunate to offer something that may otherwise never be obtained and change lives.  Absolutely amazing.  Look them up on the web at www.sailing4handicaps.de

The next day we decided to dive the point outside the Bay of Virgins.  Depths were deep along the rocky formation.  We had seven divers and one snorkeler visiting with the hopes of Manta Rays or sharks. We didn’t have anything large or super exciting but we did have two eels, a stingray and lots of colorful fish.  The water was blue and relatively clear.  Coral was alive and vibrant.  Everyone had a good time. Cane and April did not join us as Cane was pretty much under the weather with a head cold and April was certain she had caught whatever Cane had. I gathered up a few things that other documented visitors had taken for trade (information that was as recent as two years and up to 5 years old) and trekked up to Temo and Diego’s home.  Blown glassware, nicer jewelry and some electronics were not as exciting for trade.  Rum, wine, and very good fishing lures and line for Wahoo/Dorado are still preferred.  And of course, cash.  I laughed and said I would see what I could do, as we were careful to not bring too much alcohol in for fear of being taxed as per the “rumor”.  And I was willing to part with one of my larger lures that I was made fun of for the size. I would be back tomorrow.   That evening we had an invitation to join Wojtek and Elayna aboard SV Imagine.   Both the Swiss couples were there as well, lively conversation and the requisite boat tour of their incredible prosthetic building and beautiful boat ensued.  We look forward to diving in the Tuomotos with Wojtek and Elena.

 We are going to leave tomorrow morning so this is my last full day.  It would be my only chance to finalize my trading experience.  I was able to pull together a bottle of wine (Mexican) , a bottle of fruit beer (Belgium), a new and very large lure, approx. 300 yards of used but very good condition heavy duty line, and cash.  This would be it.  I arrived before Diego, so Temo showed me his work area.  A very simple lean to with a bench and his hand tools.  The only electric tool was a polish cloth on a hand drill.  Soon Diego returned and with Diego as our translator, and Temo and I using our best bargaining skills, we sat down with fresh pomplemousse juice and began dealing.  In the end, we both were happy and I would be able to take away an equisite Marquesan carved smaller version of an U’u, two small tikis of rosewood from the next island and two tapas made by his wife.  U’u’s are the “headknockers” or the clubs of ancestral Polynesians used in battle to beat their enemy.  Many early depictions of warriors show them carrying such clubs with a large bifurcated top with points on the end.  Tapas are cloth made from various barks of trees that is repetitively beaten much in the same way that paper is made.  The belts of the headdresses and skirts of the dancers used tapas to sew the leaves on to.  The tapas often made by the women of the village usually contain scenes or symbols from the Marquesan language.  

What a day already!  Oh, and Temo loaded me up with more pomplemousse and a stalk of bananas!  Then, he drove me to the quay!  He waited while I called John and had him pick me up before he left with his truck. Very thoughtful..  My Fatu Hiva experience was complete.  John wanted photos of the breakers and waves in the rocky outcroppings outside of the bay.  I stowed my goodies and we were off again.  No photo could ever show the massive power and energy of the waves that form and and crash against the volcanic walls outside the bay.  Years and years of water carving into the sides, creating blow holes.  We were coming back in with the dingy when it appeared there were some dolphin feeding at the side of the bay.  Except they looked a little different.  As we neared, they heard the sound of our engine and raced toward us!  The rounded faces of False Killer whales, a type of dolphin, and there had to be almost a hundred of them!  Before we knew it we were surrounded by them as they played in the wake of our movement.  I took the GoPro out and held it underwater as John stopped the dingy and began rowing.  I had no idea what kind of footage I might get but was hopeful for anything.  (I was pleasantly surprised and please with some of the footage!)  They stayed for a while and soon bored of us.  Another dingy came out to swim with them and they appeared bored with that too and began to leave the bay.  We started the engine and began our return when all of a sudden we were surrounded again!  They heard the motor and came back to surround us.  This went on for almost thirty minutes before they became bored and John determined we needed to get back to as the sun began to set.  We saw our snorkeler friend, referred to as the Russian.  He had been out snorkeling and saw a hammerhead in the bay!  Could this day be more exciting? I think not!  However, it is time for the adventure to continue and tomorrow will be a big day as we had north again, with southerly winds to take us to  Tahuata!

U’u or Headnocker

Welcome Shellbacks! It’s Landfall in the Marquesas

Welcome Shellbacks!

Tuesday, July 11, 2018 -After the morning came again, we opened our less bleary eyes to the sound of crashing waves on a beach and the fresh morning air.  The humidity is very different than it was in Mexico and we feel, dare I say it for some- moist.  Not wet, not damp.  My skin feels plump and hydrated.  The temperature is neither hot nor cold.  Working our way through morning duties, whoever is not in the head first is in charge of starting the water for coffee.  Thank goodness for creamer as I like my coffee like my days – light and fair. When you don’t have a visual of land, being inside the boat and hearing the crash of waves as well as feeling the swaying, lifting motion as the boat moves in the swell is deceiving.  You feel  like you are seconds away from crashing on the rocks.  Move up to a visual of land, from say the cockpit and you find that you are well off and away from the beach or rocky points.  (Or you should beand if not then you better be taking quick action!).  A small township, a village of houses with a few cars along a road, is set into the hillside stretching down to the beach.  This would be Atuona.  The hills continue almost straight up and very tall into the puffy grey clouds surrounding the invisible tops.  The hint of woodsy and ever so slightly floral scent still graces the air. Everything is lush and vivid green.

Up anchor again, and we are moving into the anchorage of Taahuku Bay.  This is a small bay and there are still thirty some boats in here and the 2018 Puddle Jumpers have already come and gone! I can’t imagine what it looked like with an increase of even fifteen boats!  Coming in here at night would be risky, and in my humble opinion, irresponsible.  Not all boats have stern anchors although most do.  Those that don’t have a stern anchor need wide swing room due to the tidal change and swells and they are currently at the mouth of the entrance.  Wending our way deeper into the shallow bay, through boats and bobbing buoys, we pick out a spot to set our own stern anchor. There are mostly older boats, and from what we are picking up from others talking, several won’t be leaving or haven’t left for a while because of mechanical issues.

We anchored near a lovely Catana catamaran, near the cliffs across the bay from ship dock.  Evidently there is a ship that serves to bring tourists as well as supplies every 3 weeks and a “ghost ship” that brings supplies on an irregular basis but just shows up.  It is very tight in here, and with all the sailboats, I can’t imagine the ship maneuvering in here.  Some of the. Sailboats are aware of the schedule and move during that time only to move back to their spots when the ship leaves.  Well, it isn’t a marina but as always, once settled and it’s off to the races to get work done.  First, we need to check in.

There is always a plethora of discussions at any given time regarding the use of a bond company when visiting the French Polynesian Islands.  If you are an EU citizen, there is no issue for visiting.  If, however, you aren’t, then you have two choices. Use a bond company (which we did) or do it yourself without.  The Latitude 38 which organizes such rallies as the Coho Ho Ho ( Seattle to California), the Baja-Ha-Ha (California to Cabo San Lucas) as well as a few others along the pacific coast, has a loose Puddle Jump rally.  It is through them we learned of these “Bond agents” that we provide their requested paperwork including information of our Long Stay Visa, and $240 +/-.  The bond agent then covers us so we do not have to purchase a one way airline ticket per person, from Tahiti to the US. If you do not use a bond agent, you are required to pay a bond so they can repatriate you (typically $1,000 usd).  This prevents you from becoming a burden on the country resources. If you do this, you will have to present to the bank the day of your departing the country in hopes of getting your bond back IN US DOLLARS as opposed to Pacific Francs which will be useless anywhere else.  Or you can purchase your own airline ticket and provide that information that you are planning on not staying.  Often, if choosing to purchase the airline ticket, a one way refundableticket is purchases at a heavy cost, placed on the credit card until you are ready to exit the country and then cancel the refundable airline ticket back to your card.  We did not want to hassle with the airline ticket, interest on the credit card cancellation, or any other confusion that could potentially pop up. The bond agent also has another lovely feature.  A certificate for duty free fuel. A 30% discount on diesel. As we had to motor some, we needed to refuel and our discounted price was about $4/gallon instead of $5.20 or so. We took on 60 gallons so there was an automatic $70+ savings. We will be able to use this certificate throughout the islands and before we venture off to the next country. We also don’t have the issue of interest during the several months while here or that amount sitting idle on the cards.  As all of our information had been sent to the Bond Agent ( we used Tahiti Crew) and they contracted with Sandra at HIva O’a Yacht services, our check in was extremely fluid and painless.  We radioed in to Sandra who gave us an appointment time. We met her on the dock and she drove us in to Atuona (45-60 minute walk) where we went in to the Gendarmerie (Police) and she translated as well as completed the check in process for us.  A young couple ahead of us were on the “do it yourself” plan and appeared to be struggling a bit more.  We were in and out within 10 minutes.  Sandra is also a resource for other things a cruiser might be interested in.  You can purchase internet time from her and use her lovely benches under a protected awning on an outcropping immediately across from a visible cell tower. She can take your laundry and have it washed/dried/folded and back to you within a day or two for approximately 300pf/kilo.  And if you are interested in island tours, she knows someone who can do that to.  Of course, if you are fluent in French, you can easily find some of these resources yourself.  Most of the reading of other cruisers accounts in Hiva O’a seem to share. The same theme.  This is a place to get your initial check in, necessary re-provisions, fuel and move on. Hiva O’a has a few notable sights that sound interesting. If the roads are passable, then a tour or rental car to the islands tiki which is reported to be the largest in the world.  There is also the burial site of the famed Jacques Brel (who I am not familiar with) and painter Paul Gauguin (who I am familiar with). However, remember what I have said about ‘marina days’?  Once our check in was complete, it is back to the boat and work.  With the rains frequent here, their winter, we can anticipate being able to get much of the salt rinsed off that has accumulated for the past month at sea. (okay, 24 days). We were unable to work on the stainless (which I want to say for the record – is NOT stainless!) rust that was beginning to creep insidiously out from any joint or heavily wave sprayed area.  The cushions were mired in salt water and tiny patches of mold began to appear. We had just made water and could use that as well as the adjunctive rains. Out comes the vinegar and scotch brite pads, denture and tooth brushes, stainless wax and clean cloths.  John took the cushions to shore and used the tap water that is fresh but not potable to clean and rinse out the custom cushions. Various little stuff on the boat, a nice thorough cleaning and vacuuming inside the boat including opening up of all cabinets to allow fresh air throughout, were done. We had sent our laundry off with Sandra who promised to return it on Thursday or Friday.  Tuesday and Thursdays she goes to get the fuel certificates and ours would be ready on Thursday.  Our plan is to fuel up on Friday and leave Saturday.


Wednesday (July 12, 2018) we did more boat work, tidying up, replacing small things and soon John was muttering “Pizza, pizza”.  There is evidently a pizza restaurant/hostel at the beginning of town AND  they have internet!  So off we went.  We were able to hitch a ride into town with Christianne and Feliz.  Christianne’s brother is a doctor, a “female doctor” or a gynecologist but when he is working here, he is the ONLY doctor on the island. They were on their way to the hospital to pick him up.  Her broken English was enough for us to have a bit of conversation for the ten minute drive. We arrived at the hostel around 4:30-5pm.  They do not start serving until 6pm but would allow us to use their internet. Wow.  As slow as the internet is, and it is super slow at 2G (are we spoiled or what?!?), it was a breath of fresh air to catch up with posting photos and messages!  Well, more so for me than for John.  We moved to a table closer into the patio as the rain started in again, a virtual downpour lasting 5-10 minutes. Time passed quickly (or slowly for the internet) and soon we would be ordering a pizza “Royal” and two milk shakes. Our server was apologetic as she only spoke French but we were able to convey our order. I have to say, the vanilla milkshake I had was a piece of heaven!  I could have ordered two more and called it my meal. Cool, refreshing.  The pizza was okay, a soft dough pizza stacked almost an inch high with 4 cheeses!  There was evidence of some whole black olives, canned mushrooms (everything is imported here), and tiny little ham chunks. It was a change from what we have been having and we were only mildly surprised at the $35 bill.  Then the walk back to the marina, in the dark, and in the occasional rain.

Thursday (July 13, 2018) Our new friend on the Catana catamaran was having a problem with a broken hard top and came by to ask if we had any electric/battery drills and bits. It’s John. Of course we do.  John offered to help however the guy was certain he could do it with the right tools, he had the fix until the parts could be sent to him from Catana.  So John loaned him the tools and off he went. We would end up acquiring some of his fresh caught rainwater to use to top off our batteries in lieu of distilled water. We took the day off to go into town and see the cemetery up on the hill where the painter Paul Gauguin and Jacques Brel are buried.  The sweet cemetery is used and it looked as  if some of the adornments were quite recent even if others with crosses and headstones were quite old, in the 1800-1900’s.  The resting places for Gauguin and Brel are simply a part of the mass, with a few fresh (plastic flowers) and trinkets, but not overpowering to the rest of the cemetery. In fact, if you did not know where to look, you could almost miss them.  We chose not to do the exhibits in town, small museums for each as Gauguin was 600CPF and I am not sure what Brel’s were.  We had walked all around the town, then up the hill to the cemetery and back and our calves/feet were tired from not having our usual five mile a day hikes in and around Mexico.  We stopped at a “hardware store” and raised our eyebrows at some prices before going on to the grocery store.  Here too, we saw prices that raised our eyebrows.  650CPF here and 600CPF there, with a 95CPF to $1usd, it was feeling like there was quite a few $6 items!  Everyone runs around with 3-5 baguettes sticking out of their bags so we picked up a few too (and yes, they are yummy) some eggs, a cucumber, cabbage, and tomatoes. We still have quite a bit of food, it’s really the snacks we are looking for.  However, a small snack size bag of Cheetos cheese puffs or doritos – you guessed it – 650 CPF. $6.50! Okay, I guess we will be eating a little healthier! We have heard and read that cholesterol and diabetes are big here. We picked up our tools on the way back to the boat, the gentleman had fixed his issue on his beautiful catamaran and repaid us with a bottle of chardonnay.

 

Friday (July 14, 2018) John used the dingy to haul diesel to and from the dock.  It took 6 trips and he was tired. While he did that, he sent me up to Sandra’s at the point, sign on to her internet and get caught up with the blogs so you all would know where we are, that we are doing fine, and to do what we intended which was share some of the beautiful things we are seeing with you. There is no snorkeling or diving here as there is black sand and according to the guides and the locals, it is dangerous and should not be done. We knew we would have more opportunity as we visit some of the other islands, and especially in the Tuomotos, so don’t be disappointed now.  French Polynesia has some of the best untapped diving in the world.  I have a friend looking into the black sand and what the rationale is for this.

 

Saturday (July 15, 2018) More sprucing up of the teak that was cleaned the other day, oil today.  We have decided once and for all to forgo the water pump for our water. So it came out.  We picked up our laundry today and it is fresh and clean. So nice!  John thinks it was 11kilos or around 23 pounds. Price came out to be $35 and honestly, I could not have done the bedding easily, so I was quite fine with the price. I doubt it would be much less in the states.  John also took a dingy spin with another cruiser we met (SV Kokopelli- Brian and Mizzy) as he was having outboard issues and had hoped that the guys on the dock had fixed his possible carburetor issue.  Today it didn’t seem as successful as yesterday. As the anchorage is super rolly for the past few days, and SV Kokopelli is heading to Fatu Hiva as well, if he is still having issues and the anchorage is calm, John has offered to take a look at it.  It is the same 15hp engine that we have.   This should surprise no one that he is finding more mechanical things to do than what we have…..

Our plans are to leave at sunrise Sunday morning, for the winds are from the E SE and we will be leaving for Fatu Hiva. Fatu Hiva is more remote (read – no internet) and is the southernmost of the Marquesas.  Less than a thousand people live on the island. This is considered a “MUST” stop for all cruisers.  Look it up on the internet.  And look for dinosaurs coming out of the lush green landscape! Waterfalls, white sand (where you can snorkel/dive) and on the cover of many magazines.

Au Revoir!

 

Extra stuff- for those who want a little more than day to day.

It seems very few locals speak English here, but those that do seem to enjoy practicing what they know. We don’t have the “buen dia” from everybody that we meet, the eye contact, or the smiles that we had in Mexico. We also don’t have the “almost free for you today Amigo”.  Sometimes it is hard to hear French and not want to respond in Spanish as we became more accustomed to hearing it.  Perhaps that will change too.  I did pull a couple of basics out from my junior high French.

Is this really “Paradise Lost”?  If so, we are also looking to find some things.

Firstly, a list of what we “lost”.  During the crossing, a sail flogging must have loosened a sheet (line)  enough to catch a dorad (those white or silver periscope looking thingies on the cabin tops- used for air flow into the boat), and when immediately tightened, flung said dorad off into the sea.  This was not noticed until the next morning. A gaff hook (big metal hook to help with catching a fish) on a boat pole that also did duty as part of the brush system for cleaning the boat.  It normally stayed hooked on the railing along the cabin. Again, during one of those crazy nights, how it did it we are not sure, but it too was gifted to Neptune.  Then, one night as John was on watch, he was turning off the hanging Luci light, a delightful invention of a blow up cylinder with a light inside and a tiny solar panel on the outside that recharged it, when he felt something unusual. The on/off button close is close the removable strip that allows you to move and hook the Luci light on to things- turning off the light and the light letting go in the darkness gave another gift to Neptune.  Then, while we were cleaning stainless stanchions around the boat, the two fenders we keep at the bow were hanging over the bow.  Not our normal practice but it wouldn’t hurt I guess, as boats are snugly packed in the anchorage. Again, a monsoon and some swell, and we were minus a fender. A search of the bay and the beach and the port area showed nothing.  As the tide was going out, perhaps our fender was riding the tide.  We even looked at other boats in the hopes that someone might have picked it up and we could plead our case over possession.  Then the credit card. Excuse me? That doesn’t seem like a “boaty” item to lose like the others.  (Actually- credit cards are very necessary in the boating world where everything seems to cost double for having the word “marine” on it!). This time, it was in the pocket of the captain who thought after hauling 12 gerry cans of diesel (6 trips) and he thought he would take a quick “dip in the pool”, forgetting his credit card was there.  Another search of the rocks, the bay, the beach following the tide showed nothing but a very odd fish creature struggling with food- either small shark or stingray wing was flipping and dancing in circles. Credit cards appear to sink in water and we have two for that account, his and mine. We are now down to one.

French Polynesia! or so we thought….. Socorro Islands!

Passage to French Polynesia (or so we thought) with a sail/dive by of Socorro Islands.

Day 0 (2018 May 21)

 

CT 54 Ketch
Dave & Allison

It’s odd to say day zero however, zero is a good descriptor of what happened.  We were up with the final touches on Sunday evening, Today, which should have been day one, is when we have the Port Captain (immigration) board, grant us our zarpe (Mexico exit papers), and we would be on our way.  Our appointment was for 0930.  John was finishing up some tasks while our friends made us breakfast. He would wait for the Port Captain on Bella Nave while I would have a lovely breakfast made by SV Epifania and wait for his call.  At 10am, there was still no Port Captain.  At 1030 there still was no Port Captain, so John went to the marina office.  There was some discussion back and forth, and the marina secretary called over to the port captain’s office.  Between the two offices, it would be a miscommunication that would translate into a one day departure for SV Bella Nave.  Ugh. Seriously?  It is frustrating when you have all the accoutrements of a major passage culminating in a thud of nothing. There is no use fretting as it would not change anything, and we would still have a good weather window by leaving tomorrow.  We had enjoyed dinner aboard with SV Epifania on the previous night (Sunday), a 54ft 1979 CT ketch with an interior so grand, it begs to have Scarlett O’Hara on its grand staircase.  In this case we have Allison, who is a perfect substitute! Our Southern belle hostess and host delighted us with a pasta dish and wine, stories and laughs.  While we would miss our new friends, we are anxious to finally be on this part of the journey.  Meeting other cruisers like Allison and Dave are part of the wonderful experience. To see more of SV Epifania, a 54ft CT Ketch (1979) and also a Robert Perry design as well as our wonderful hosts – Allison and Dave- go to SV Epifania on Facebook and Instagram.

The official “get the heck out of Mexico” or clearing out of Mexico- tarps, stamps and all!
Allison and Dave throwing us our lines! Thank you guys! Wish we could have had a longer goodbye!

 

Day 1 (2018 May 22)

0930- the Port Captain arrived by boat to where Bella Nave was docked.  Small in stature and usual Mexican politeness mixed with formality today. He spoke little but I heard him inquire “Passport?” regarding our boat model to John.  John confirmed that it was.  He boarded and declined our offer of coffee or the cookies we had set out. He was satisfied with a glass of ice water.   He and the boat driver/assistant (dressed in all white) chatted at length in Spanish.  While we are not fluent, it was obviously not business related and we understood enough that they were talking about wives/girlfriends and how long they were dating/married, where each other lived, and all laughter in between.  This added time to the paperwork process and we politely waited.  What could have taken only fifteen minutes was drawn out to forty-five minutes. Finally, it was time for the stamping of the papers.  The Port Captain stamped with his stamps and motioned for our boat stamp to also use. This would be the first time we have officially used ours.  He did not speak any English and his understanding seemed also minimal.  This was new for us as well.  Once the papers were signed and officially stamped, a young woman arrived in an almost hurried fashion.  Pleasant and smiling, something about “Agriculture” and boarding.  She quickly boarded and walked quickly from the companionway to the head and back, less than one minute total and she stepped off, conversed with the Port Captain and I am sure must have signed something. I asked if we may take a photo, since the pomp and circumstance and business appeared to be over.  They patiently stood next to Bella Nave before the Port Captain mentioned leaving. Him? No, us.  “Oh yes, we are leaving within the hour!”  We would return the keys to the marina, drop our final trash, say goodbye to our friends….. and yes, I was hoping to sneak up to the Starbucks, and be at the helm with my final coffee.  He made a stern face and furrowed tiny eyebrows.  Nope, their plan was as follows:  sign the papers, be cleared with Port Captain and Agriculture, we untie the lines AND LEAVE!  NOW! They would watch us leave.  Nowhere did we read that this would happen!  Our friends were not aboard their ketch for us to say “we are being kicked off the dock now” but they did find John as he ran up the dock to return the keys at the marina.  We gave a quick hug and he started up the engine, they undid our lines and threw over the lifelines and we motored out – with the Port Captain, Agriculture, the assistant/boat driver in the Port Captain’s boat just yards off our stern, photographing our leaving!  I would love to know what that was all about.

And just like that, we motored out of Paradise Village and into Banderas Bay.  We planned to meet other new friends from Paradise Village, Nic and Phil, who are aboard Paradigme 2.0 and on their way to Socorro Islands. I had met Phil originally while John was away to San Francisco picking up our visas.  It was 0230 in the morning and so terribly hot still, I had finished putting away our provisions before his return and felt I needed a shower before I could fully sleep well.  The showers were locked and I was frustrated to have made the trek for naught.  On my return, I saw the glow of a computer, the Apple insignia easily recognizable.  Not wanting to startle whoever was onboard as I was coming up, I said “Well, it looks like two of us are still up at this hour!”.  I spoke briefly to Phil that night, who is photographing/videoing/editing the YouTube video for his friend Nic.  Both are from the Quebec area.  We talked briefly of plans and he was thrilled to hear someone else would be visiting the Socorro islands and wanted to share information of dive sights.  Soon after this late night/early morning encounter, we would be conversing a few times with both guys as we did final preparations on Bella Nave.  As they left on Monday, the same day we originally planned to leave, they were a day ahead of us in travel.  Through their iridium and my cell phone while I had service and then through the Iridium only, they conveyed the current sea state and wind conditions they were encountering.  They had light winds in the beginning, motored some and then had a wonderful sail. We were looking forward to the same.

Through the Iridium Go, we were able to maintain contact with Paradigm 2.0.  They were having a lovely sail and heading for San Benedicto of the Socorro Islands.  We shared gps coordinates to meet.  Bella Nave is fully provisioned with fuel and food for us to spend a week or two at Socorro Islands before sailing on to French Polynesia.  Our water line is setting pretty heavy and she isn’t built for speed regardless, the extra weight slows our travel a bit more.  We motored out of Banderas Bay.  We sailed with light winds and did motor some through most of the night and into the next day, there were no whales to be sighted as the humpbacks have migrated north.  We didn’t have the pleasure of dolphins for me to count.  We had a line thrown in the water with a squid like lure that everyone else seems to be raving about.  This was probably the most non-descript beginning of a trip, except I had this unnerving feeling in my gut.  No explanation, everything was going as planned.  For whatever reason, I just couldn’t shake being anxious and having to talk myself through it.  Everything will be fine, we have planned intensely for this day.

 

Day 2 (2018 May 23)

Day 2 found us sailing more and motoring less.  This is a good thing when you are a sailboat!  Our intention is not to motor to the Socorro Islands or to French Polynesia. Captain John follows the weather patterns daily, not only for what is currently happening but also for predicted wind patterns.  We have a couple of primary wind models that we use, PredictWind for offshore and Windy for closer to shore as it takes in to account the land effect on wind.  Both have served us well and it is always a matter of timing, hence the adage “you can have location or time, but you can’t always have both” when having friends visit for sailing. He also pulls down the GRIBS for weather patterns offshore.  The wind is becoming more consistent and we are still trying to figure out a schedule of shifts or “watch” that suits both of our needs.  3 hour shifts never panned out. 6 hour shifts are wonderful for sleep but can be taxing and we never would consider it in rough weather. Perhaps a combination of all of these would be our design. To this writing, we still have not found the perfect combination but I bet we will by the time we get to French Polynesia!

While John was off watch and napping, I was in the cockpit when I noted a rather large airplane off the stern.  It caught my attention as I could see it was flying low and I knew we were far enough off Puerto Vallarta  that a commercial airline would be at a much higher cruising altitude.  This seemed much larger than a private airplane.  I turned my attention back to the instruments in front of me when I heard our VHF calling out in Spanish (there is constant chatter from the Mexican Navy, ships,  fishing vessels in Spanish- late at night they get bored and can be heard whistling or singing on channel 16!) that went something like this…” blah blah blah Bay-ya na-vay”. I second guessed myself that I heard what I thought was our boat name in Spanish.  We have become accustomed to hearing it pronounced correctly in Spanish as opposed to our English version.  When I heard it again, I was sure that I was not hearing things and as I jumped down into the cockpit to head into the navigational area of the boat, it came across in English!  John must have heard it too as he was already with radio in hand and responding.  The Mexican Navy!  They wanted to know our captain’s name, boat registration number, last port of call and our intended designation.  We did NOT tell them Soccoro Islands or Las Isla Revillagigedos as the islands are considered Mexico territory and technically we could not go to the islands as we officially cleared out of Mexico. We told them French Polynesia as this was true.  (It was me however, who just could not stand the thought of being so close, passing so close by to the Socorro Islands and not diving!  After all, we even had the waypoints for the best dive sites given to us from our friends on SV Scuba Ninja, who were so lucky to spend a month out here diving!)  From a diving perspective, Soccoro Islands is “big animal” dives.  There is some macrophotography of little nudibranchs etc. but divers go for the Giant Pacific Manta Rays, the variety of sharks including Galapagos, Silky, and Hammerheads.  Whale shark and Humpback Whales, and even Orca have been encountered there.  Not to mention, playful and inquisitive wild dolphins.  If we didn’t do it now, I can’t imagine when we would ever have a chance again.  Liveaboards are the only way to dive the area if you aren’t on your own boat, and liveaboards can be expensive (but worth it!). The Mexican Navy seemed happy with our answers and flew on their way.  For what it is worth, the largest of the Revillagigedos or Socorros Islands has a naval installation.  Again, I found this very interesting.  I can understand Immigration not allowing me my last Starbucks so I don’t float anything illegal away, or run away and hide in Mexico.  But could they have called out the Mexican Navy for a follow up with the fly by?  Was it just coincidence?  They had our boat name from the first circle around us, I am assuming.  Were they comparing records to see if we gave them different information?   Was I a bit paranoid and it was all just coincidence?  Soon they were gone, my questions unanswered and gone, and only the seagulls were left.  Seagulls that flew awkwardly close, circling several times but never landing, peering in the cockpit and holding our gaze for periods of time that seemed longer than they should.  Were they that brazen? Desperate? Soon, they were off too and we were left with the waves swishing off the side of the boat.  It is very peaceful.  The rocking of the boat does not raise my stomach as it does some.  Instead, I find myself lulled into a peaceful nap with the warmth of the sun gracing my skin, the wave sounds teasing my ears with continuous repetition.  Yawn. I am feeling it again!  The winds are now settling in and we are sailing the dream finally.

Day 3 (2018 May 25)

For whatever reason, it appears the shift in our watches have me seeing sunrises.  I have found that they look much like the sunsets only they happen much earlier in the day.  And they sneak up from behind the wheel.  They are quite lovely but do not quite compare to the sunsets.  The sunsets captured out on the ocean are simply spectacular.  Why are they so different than land? Perhaps more open canvas and it is up to the ever changing clouds that paint a different picture nightly.  Excitement abounds!  I heard some strange noises last night, something I wasn’t accustomed to hearing lately.  The loud exhale was evidence that we had some guests, and in the moonlight (not quite full), I could see sleek black but very large bodies alongside the cockpit.  Were they very large dolphins?  What else could they have been?  One was close enough that I could almost touch with a ten foot arm.  Oh how I wish I had longer arms!  The seagulls still  follow us, still coming in so close it appears they plan to land in the cockpit with us, they search us with their eyes and then take off, only to circle us several times.  With each time, they peer in through the stainless railing, perhaps seeing if we have left yet. The water has become the most perfect and beautiful cobalt blue.  It mirrors the cloudless sky. We have another day of sailing, up wind so it is a bit of a bash.  We have been told by several cruising friends that the diving is amazing and we have seen their videos and know it to be true.  If you have a few minutes at the computer now and have access to Facebook or YouTube, look up  SV Scuba Ninja or SV Liahona.  Both have excellent videos including drone footage of where we are heading.

Day 4 (2018 May 26)

In hopes of catching a tasty Wahoo or a beautiful Dorado, I have our trusty fishing rod and line out. No, per tradition, I did not kiss the lure before throwing it out there.  Maybe that was the problem.  No bites. None.  Well sorta. You see, those seagulls….. yeah, one of them must be a little nearsighted.  Let’s say it is a he.  He saw the lure, went in for the dive, realized at the last second it was fake, tried to pull out of the dive, hit the water in front of the lure, and somehow caught the line instead.  That’s when it started.  I heard the line go zip zip zip…and could see a seagull flapping in the water!  It wouldn’t fly away, and now I would have to pull him through the water, something I am sure is considered to be tortuous like waterboarding, but I had not choice.  I called for John and he jumped up and grabbled the rod and quickly began reeling in the water logged bird.  Not wanting to drown the bird, we didn’t want to lose the lure either. Now, that having been said – we know from friends past experience of catching pelicans this way (we still laugh about the Pelican Whisperer, who caught not one but TWO pelicans in in the same season!) that if you get them on board, likely they will understand you are trying to help (or be so exhausted they sit there) and if you cover their head (which this bird hated) then you can do what you need to do.  The silly gull did attempt to hold on to a a line with his beak but John would still need to do a lot more gull aerobics to get the line unwound from his feathery body.  Eventually, the deed was done, he sat there a moment (the seagull, not John) and then took to flight.  He made three circles around the boat and then flew off into the distance.  He was probably getting a good look at this thing called a boat that carried the thing that ensnared him to make a mental note of not making that mistake again.  Sadly, no fish and no seagull.  I heard they do not taste good anyway.

Still sailing, the islands are off of Mexico, I think our hope of three days was to grand.  SV Paradigme 2.0 is still a day ahead of us but have not reached the island yet.  They are reporting good winds.  We are “beating” into the wind, the boat is pointed into the wind as close as it can go and still keep the sails filled, not flapping wildly, and yet still giving us forward momentum.  Even as we point up towards the island, the currents of the water have us drifting slightly sideways from our direct course.  At some point we may need to tack, backtrack a bit, tack again to be on course with our destination.  John has noticed that our autopilot steering at certain points is jerking in such a way that it causes him concern.  He often heads below, leaving me on watch, so he can “fix” things.  I trust him with all things that are boat related, his ability to assess and diagnose as well as repair, and even underway which always makes me nervous. I have noticed that I still have moments however, where I just want to be off the boat.  I noticed these first when we were leaving Banderas Bay.  Even I can’t describe them, but it was similar to “I just want to get off the boat.  I want to stand on land”. I have no idea where these thoughts came from and found myself having to quiet my mind, redirecting my thoughts and reframing my words. It finally seemed to have passed by today, maybe when we heard from SV Paradigme 2.0 that they had arrived to San Benedicto.  Nic, the captain is a free diver and said the water is pretty amazing.  I can feel the excitement increasing, drowning out any worry of the autopilot and whatever those silly other thoughts were.  One more night passage!  This will have been our longest passage to date.  Four nights.

Day 5 (2018 May 27)

WOW!  Just wow!  John saw it before I did.  His eyesight is more keen than mine and it is a trait I wish I had.  However, when my eyes granted me the image of the difference between land and sea, my excitement grew tenfold!  Out in the middle of miles and miles of ocean.  Amazing variations of blue between the sea and sky, now we have tan and grey.  Slowly, its rounded contours come into focus as the colors change to rust, grey, and black. It is time to start preparing the boat for the motoring in to the anchorage area.  It is late morning.  John is anxious to take apart the autopilot.  I am anxious to get in the water.  We see Paradigme 2.0 anchored.  We tuck in as close as we can, drop anchor in approximately 30ft and Bella settled in nicely. There is some swell but not uncomfortable.  The water is in the 84F degree range. We hail Nic and Phil on the VHF and suggest we are called something else, should the Mexican Navy happen to hear our name and pay us a friendly visit.  John starts processing the problem with the autopilot.  This old volcano system, isolated in the vast blue, sits stoic. The water can be heard crashing behind us as it hits the iron shoal and further inland, a small beach.  Nic has already free dove the point and has seen Manta and shark there.  That is one of the dive sites.  I can’t wait for tomorrow.

Day 6

Day 6- Everyone who knows John often wondered if he would get bored on the boat.  He is a machine of spreadsheets of projects.  His life is about checklists and satisfaction comes from checking things off.  A sailboat is actually therapeutic for him in that there is an endless supply of things that need to be done such as maintenance and upkeep as well as modifications.  Occasionally, there is the “pop quiz” and today’s pop quiz is electronics and sensors. Or known as the autopilot sensor. After he had checked from steerage to electronics, it was the only piece left.  A pod unit.  It would require opening, if for no other reason, to see what or why it failed.

Sometimes he needs his “alone time” to work through these things.  He is mindful that my sitting like a puppy waiting to be played with does not help with his thought process even if my handing him tools does.  I understand this and am thankful for his offer to get off the boat and into the water.  Nic has already free dove some areas and is ready to head back in for some video.  Phil will be the support boat in the dingy.  I would snorkel while Nic free dives.  John had all my  gear ready to go and if that isn’t an invite to get off the boat, I am not sure what is! The guys came by and we were off to the eastern point of the island.  Nic anchored and went in, I shortly after.  Immediately there was a shark below us who meandered off into the midst. I snorkeled closer into the shore line as the swell was pretty strong and there was some current.  Turtle. Fish. Rocks. Further up towards the point- a shadow.  The shadow was coming closer, a horizontal line, not like a diver. Again, like the island that began to form when my sight first allowed it, now my eyes were gifting me with what I longed to see.  I could not believe them at first but soon realized they were not lying to me.  This beautiful and enormous Giant Pacific Manta Ray glided towards and under me. Its underwater flight so graceful as it glided effortlessly below me, in a dance that only it can perform.  Giant Mantas are in a class with Mobula Rays, known as Devil Rays because of the appendages off their face that bring food into their mouths.  I see nothing devilish in appearance of these most gorgeous creatures, instead I see angels in flight, guardians of the deep.  My heart is beating forcefully in my chest and I know the Manta Ray must be able to hear it.  Is it my thrill of seeing it or was it the energy I exerted going up the current in an effort to drift back to the dingy.  I am not sure, for the sight of this Giant Manta has made me forget everything around me. Lost in its dance, I need to sight in the dingy as I do not want to lose my ride back!  I can’t wait to tell John of my prize and hope that his afternoon has been as successful.

John is gifted with anything mechanical.  He reads manuals like others read novels.  He is able to use his mind to construct anything.  Except today.  He has full understanding of our autopilot, down to the tiny pod sealed by the manufacturer and why it doesn’t work.  There is no possible way of fixing it, it simply needs replaced. This sentence carries with it hours of discussing pros and cons to our course.  We have  options. (1) We could continue on to French Polynesia, using the wind vane for downwind sailing, which much of it should be especially after the ITCZ.  Until then, if we did not have the right wind, we would be hand steering again.  In French Polynesia, we would not have the luxury of the autopilot to use while remote island hopping for a few months before finding Tahiti where we would possibly be able obtain parts, if we could even find that specific pod or we would have to locate and have it sent/imported to us.  That holds a large unknown and regulations suggest that any repair part must be done after  you clear out of French Polynesia.  (2) We could go back to Cabo San Lucas where we have an importer already set up to receive things in Mexico, if we can find the pod and order the needed part, refuel and jump off from CSL, almost due southwest to start catching the trade winds. Of course, we would be taking a chance on our weather window closing down as it would now be the first of June  when hurricane season kicks up action.  We would very carefully watch the weather and even make use of  people on land to also watch weather patterns. (3) Of course, we could also set the boat up in a marina of a generally protected area such as Mazatlan for the season. That would be an expensive option and what would we do? Would we come back to the states and work to fill the kitty again, and not melt in the heat of the Mexican summer? We have friends and family who would gladly open their homes to us and we know this and so appreciate it.  Would John stay with the boat, work remotely and I would return to work in the states? What would become of our Long Stay Visas that have an expiry date and we put time and money into obtaining for this season? We can make the best plans but now we have an opportunity to adjust our plans.  There is a saying  “you can’t change the wind, but you can adjust your sails”.  That is what we will do.  Time to adjust our sails and it will be to return to Cabo San Lucas.  Option number one is off the table.

Day 7

Day 7 The swells are increasing on this side of San Benedicto, so we decided to move to the southern anchorage.  Tucked in closely, we are protected from the swell but not the dust blown by the wind. We can feel the grit everywhere.  It is covering the rigging, the boat and finding its way inside open ports and hatches.  However, this side provides an even more spectacular view of the one of the two volcanic cones and places the lava flow to our starboard as we face the island.  Grand, harsh, ominous are all words that flash before me. There is another large privately owned 90 foot boat also diving here.  We anchored well inside of them as is Paradigme 2.0.

Now that we have decided that we will return to Cabo San Lucas for the needed part. John will coordinate with a friend back home to locate and order the part, have it shipped to the importer and delivered to Cabo San Lucas.  For us, it will be approximately two days (two overnights) travel. We will go into the very expensive marina for one night, allowing us to fix the sensor as well as remove the ancient ash and dirt combination from our already salt encrusted rigging and boat, cleaning both inside and out of the boat, laundry, refuel before turning around and heading back out into the anchorage.  Remember, I am not a fan of ‘marina days’ as the workload increases! There is a small force building in the south but it is not projected to be weather issue as of yet.  With our decision made, we can focus on why we wanted to stop here in the first place.  In the back of my mind, I am aware that stopping for a “dive” trip was actually a blessing in disguise, even if it cost us time to continue our journey to French Polynesia.  Still, the Manta are calling me.  Our first dive was less eventful than my snorkel because the water clarity had decreased tremendously. Algae was prominent and filling water space while we looked into the now greenish hue of water.  I am happy with all of our dives, yet I do tend to rate them based on clarity, comfort, and of course what we find in the water.  So while the water wasn’t as clear, we did see a turtle who really was about his business and not hanging out to greet  the newcomers.  There was a few sleeping White Tip Reef shark which are nice but not wanting to interrupt their sleep, we took a few photos and moved on.  There were two large Green Moray Eels sitting nicely in the rocks. These are all the usual suspects we see and I was hoping for more.  There was an octopus- now I am happy.  Octopus, like Giant Pacific Manta Rays are often seen feeding at night.  I am not a fan of night dives.  I have done enough but have grown lazy in the desire to “accumulate dives” that I dive every dive possible.  I dive for my quality and not quantity.  This is not to say others who choose to log as many dives as possible do not end up with quality dives. For me, I prefer my own quality of diving which includes being able to see well.  So to find this octopus feeding out in the open was a quality marker for me. Our dive was closing in to the end, a few other interesting fish, when off in a distance I saw a Manta coming in closer.  Closer, closer then it  veered off into the blue green murky water.  This was not the dive I envisioned to help take John’s mind off the podded sensor and our autopilot.  No matter what he says, I know it is always there  in his mind and he is always turning it over in 3-D and attempting to fix it even silently.

We are enjoying Nic and Phil’s company more and more.  Both are well spoken Quebecois, and we are learning so much more about their culture and them personally. They are intelligent and animated and they make us laugh.  Nic is starting up a YouTube channel and his friend Phil is the talented photojournalist to help with covering the photo aspect.  Phil has never been on a boat before and this shows more courage to me as he has readily jumped onboard and sailed up the coast and off to Socorros with Nic! Phil doesn’t particularly want to get in the water, especially when we come up squealing about all the shark we saw.  He makes excellent support crew!  He patiently waits in the dingy and motors to wherever we are or need.  We get together in the evening and review what photos or video we might have, tell stories and laugh.

Shark shadows

It was around midnight when John awoke and jumped out of bed. The sound of a generator hummed quietly. That’s not a problem.  Except that we don’t have a generator. Our forward head (toilet) in the bow end of the boat was lit up – yet we hadn’t turned on any lights.  He turned on the spreader lights which are located halfway up the mast and light up our deck,  as he jumped on deck and ran to the bow.  We had the large boat’s dingy wrapped around the our bow of our boat and the large boat was only yards from our boat!  Did we drift with an anchor not set?  Did we catch a rock with our chain not allowing our boat to swing freely? Was the large boat in danger of running into our boat? Their underwater lights cast an icy blue glow outlining the shark that were now in feeding on the smaller fish mesmerized by the lights.  He grabbed his mask, snorkel, fins and dive jacket and light.  He had to see if it was an issue with our anchor.  Our hand held gps showed that indeed, our anchor did not drag, nor did we.  If we weren’t held by a rock, then it was the large boat’s length of chain and lack of keel that would allow the large boat to act differently than the two smaller sailboats in this small anchorage. As you read, John gathered his gear and prepared himself to dive into the darker water where our anchor lay…and any shark on the way.  White tip reef shark – remember the sleeping shark?  They sleep during the day and at night their behavior changes to a feeding behavior.  While he was in, I stood on the bow watching the shark shadows move back and forth through the water.  Occasionally one would dart quickly, a little motion as the unsuspecting fish became a meal in the circle of life, then just as quickly return to the easy gliding motion. I wondered what I would do if he were bit.  Soon, I could see him at the swim platform of the other boat as he called out to the captain. The captain had already pulled their dingy in tight but didn’t feel their boat would move any further as John contemplated upping anchor and moving in the dark of night.  By morning, all the boats aligned back up as if nothing ever happened, and john was left with yet another night of broken sleep.

Day 8

Philipe Olivier-Contant
Nic Authier
San Benedicto

Day 8 – we have two dives planned for today.  The Boiler and depending upon current and swell, off the back of the anchorage or back around to where I first snorkeled after arriving.

Everyone who comes here is here to dive The Boiler.  Famed for San Benedicto as a premiere dive site, schooling shark can be seen here as well as the Giant Pacific Manta who come in to the cleaning stations near the rocks.  We rolled in to the water from  the dingy and I could barely contain myself.  Yes, another shark went by below us – furthering Phil’s rationale of why he preferred to remain in the dingy- but there was also a Manta just off our dingy and we were about to meet face to face!  I still had to get my equipment on and the hooks and latches just didn’t want to cooperate as quickly as I so wanted. So eager in my excitement to swim right off.  With GoPro in hand, I shot quick footage and then thought the best of it as it wouldn’t be as good as what I was sure to come.  I quickly erased it to make sure I had room for better footage later.  I would not be disappointed.  Sure, I know the guys were hoping for the Great Hammerhead sharks to come through, and yes, I would be excited too.  As a side note, the rays are considered part of the shark family, so I console myself that I am seeing shark when I see them too. But these Manta, these graceful, sweeping angels of the deep seemed to be called in by the boat engines.  Could a fish be so curious?  It is believed that they may enjoy the bubbles from the diver’s gear but there is something else when this 12-20ft creature glides by so close that it can touch you, looking at you directly with its eyes, studying you unafraid. At one point, we had four of these giants swimming circles around us, allowing us the gift of their presence.  One, appearing to play with John, came straight at him from behind where he was, unware of it, before it swooped straight up and over his head, leaving only a shadow for him to know what had happened.  As many dives require a night diving to see these sensual creatures, here I am, suspended in time and space with their choreographed dance as sunlight cascades around them. At one point, we had four huge Manta Rays circling us like a parade.  Absolutely magical.  For that dive alone, it was well worth stopping off here.  Now the greedy side of me, wishes we had come out here earlier and stay longer.  None the less, I am ecstatic for what I have seen.  We saw more of the usual suspects, including a Galapagos shark.  Our second dive would be off the back of the anchorage when we probably should have gone back to the point.  This dive gave us a few white tip shark and it was obvious the currents had changes for the water now had poorer visibility.  Either dive was not more than 80-90ft.  Nic did not free dive but instead also SCUBA’d with us. We carry enough equipment for four divers and that was a basic premise in planning of this boat.  Besides dive equipment, we also have a compressor.   Nic is a certified instructor and Phil would be our dingy support.    Our evening ritual of watching our video footage on the big flat screen tv and sharing of video and photos, stories and laughs continued that evening.

Nic and Phil only planned to spend a few days here in the Socorros before heading back to Cabo San Lucas and then back up the Sea of Cortez where Paradigme 2.0, a Bavaria 40, would be put up on the hard for the season and they returned to Quebec. We discussed buddy boating back and while we did not feel it would be an issue, it is nice to know there is someone not that far ahead.  We would be hand steering back and would plan for two and a half days travel. We would look forward to seeing them again in Cabo San Lucas.

Glimpses of dolphins and sunsets
Leaving Socorros Islands, heading back to Cabo San Lucas
The brilliance of our final sunset at the island

Paradigme 2.0 will be uploading some very professional video on YouTube.  You may even see us in one of the videos!  They are doing some beautiful videography and I encourage you to look them up.  Facebook, Instagram, and of course- YouTube and Patreon!

 

2018 Pacific Crossing! Woot! Let’s make some noise!!

Could the storms look more magical?
Seriously! These sunsets can’t be made up. Now I know what the famous painters saw.
And just like that. We have crossed to the Southern Hemisphere. 125W was our plan. Not bad at 126W.
We were used to 1-4 flying fish that made their way onto our deck at night. However, we had some crazy waves that broke over the bow and this guy came with one. Squid are crazy looking things. And I am happy to report that our lures look just like him! (or her)

You have a few choices! The longer narrative version or for those who look at something as “TLDR” (Too Long Didn’t Read) theory, the ship’s log is at the end! Enjoy!

Narrative Blog:

We finally left Cabo San Lucas, Mexico to begin our own “Puddle Jump” to French Polynesia and the Marquesas Islands and here it is, middle of June!

With all of the other 2018 Pacific Puddle Jumpers having left in March and April, we plannedon bringing up the rear by leaving in May from Puerto Vallarta. Even back then we had dealt with all the quizzical looks from others when we spoke of our departure date.  “That’s kind of late, isn’t it?  Isn’t that hurricane season? Everyone leaves in the spring, don’t they? Are you going to wait and go next year? “  We realized that our window of weather opportunity was closing with each week, however, our research of weather patterns and discussion with those either lived or sailed with a tremendous understanding of weather in the Pacific, assured us that leaving in the spring was not a guarantee of an easy passage either, that wind patterns such as Highs and Lows really don’t settle in until later months.  With the right amount of diligence it could be done. The ITCZ is a constantly changing band of lack of winds (Doldrums) that could be encountered in March, April or May.  It is really the storms that become hurricanes that we need to watch carefully.  With our paperwork for immigration and the approval of a Long Stay Visa secured a month ago, all that remained was us getting to French Polynesia.  We thought the challenge of our delayed appointments to San Francisco would be our biggest issue.  It would still be May, before the hurricanes really start ripping up the Pacific coast of Central and North America and we could carefully pick our weather window for departure.  We allowed time to spend a few days or a week at the Soccoro Islands, a bucket list item (and it would not disappoint) that was huge on my list.  Finally some worthy diving experiences which in essence was a big reason for being aboard our own sailboat after all. The Revillagigedo (Socorro) Islands would be a teaser of what was to be in our future.  We did not anticipateleaving San Benedicto with the return to Cabo San Lucas.  We did not planon having the autopilot fail. Most of all, we were thankful that it provided the red herring that would lead us to a bigger problem with the masthead pin. Having it fail on a downwind sail , our genoa, would be a huge detriment to our sailing.  We also knew that while we had the initial loss of a month in the islands, that we were not planning on whisking through the islands to get to New Zealand as many others would be doing.  Some planned to spend as little as a few days in each of the archipelagos! This was certainly not our plan. Neither was leaving in the middle of June.  John, the ever supply chain manager, worked his magic and procured the needed parts with shipment to Cabo San Lucas. We found that we had connections through other sailing friends should we need it. We weathered through Hurricane Bud and what our “escape” plan would be if needed. Every day was weather day and every day involved planning and decisions. Every day was a new plan. Plans are merely intentions, ideas made in the sand.

Now we were off!  A hot sunny day in the anchorage of Cabo San Lucas!  We said goodbye to the “boom boom” of the best of 70’s, 80’s, and current rap music aboard the tourist pirate ships, the day trippers, and the jet skis.  We hoisted the sails and turned toward the southwest.  Flying at 6.5-8kn, we were seeking to get west as a soon to be named tropical storm “C” and “D” were starting to form and begin their trek north up the coast.  We were fortunate that Hurricane Bud was downgraded and we didn’t receive more than a fresh water rinse of the boat and rigging.  We were hoping these swirling masses of weather would clean up the scattered winds and give us the southbound winds from their backside to help us fly south until we hit the trades..  We were flying at a 6.5kn on a port tack for the first few days.  The excitement of finally being underway.  John frequently scoffed that Bella Nave could be faster, could be more efficient if we weren’t so “heavy”.  The weight of being fully fueled, fully tanked with water, and the provisions for two months (wisely recommended is 2.5 times the food you would need for the time you are planning on being offshore), had him frequently commenting on the state of the boat’s sailing efficiency.  This is where he and I differ, I prefer to have as much as possible just in case and he is an absolute minimalist. He also eats three times as much and twice as fast. Fuel and water also weigh quite a bit, and although he won’t argue that we “need” the tanks to be full as we take off on this excursion, it doesn’t stop the frequent commenting.  Poor boat. So many expectations.

A few days in, after a couple of days chewing up the miles, over 130 per day, the wind fell.  We were able to set the sail pattern to wing on wing, where one sail leads off to one side of the boat and the other leads off to the other side. From behind or in front, you would see the appearance of two wings.  When the wind shifted direction but still light, we pulled out the A sail.  The A sail stands for asymmetrical sail. A light wind sail, it is similar to the brightly colored spinnakers that often are seen ballooning out in front of sailboats. Ours is red and yellow rectangles. I love the A sail our friend Tony inherited with his sailboat, SV Magic – a striking purple with a large hummingbird! Our A sail is pretty to look at, fun to sail, and very efficient in lighter winds. Sailing is about different sail plans (configurations) similar to the right tool for the right job- or in this case, the right sail for the right wind.  At a few days out and a few hundred miles into our almost 3,000 mile journey, we aren’t close to but we are adjacent to the Socorro islands where we were just a short time ago.  If only we could divert and spend more time there, however, that door has closed and we must continue on. More tropical storms are setting up and we still have an ITCZ to look forward to.

The rich frequent visits of sea life that we were used to in the Bay of Banderas isn’t here.  It wasn’t until four days out or so that we finally had a superpod of dolphins, more than 50 dolphins came up from every angle behind our sailboat, to surf beside us, diving in and around the bow so quickly that it almost appears we would run over one.  Their speed and agility guarantee that that will not happen. Our visit was almost an hour as they appeared to feed while playing off our bow.

We have never quite found a watch schedule that suited our needs.  This would be our test.  Typically watches are divided groups of time where one person is in charge of the boat while the other rests.  Sailing seems to be so easy, you just sit there, right?  Between monitoring the wind and current as well as sea state, managing the sail plan and navigation, watching out for obstructions and looking at future weather, well it isn’t just sitting in the cockpit getting a tan.  In fact, the weather can also have its effect from being hot, windburn, getting splashed as not all cockpit enclosures are the same.  I think you get the idea.  So three hours can seem like an eternity when you are “on watch”.  Three hours seems barely enough time to fall asleep, actually get REM sleep, before being back up on deck.  Then there are the “other” things such as cooking, eating, showers, and of course ‘fixing things’.  We have met others with the same dilemma and they have chosen to lengthen the watches to four, five and even six hours.  We thought we would try a combination of various hour combinations -with five or six hour stretches for sleep, and then dividing up the remainder in three to four hour blocks.  The goal would be to be consistent.  As anyone who has worked a night shift knows, you understand how changing the body’s time clock can be complex as well as challenging.  It is no wonder that we are becoming super tired and find ourselves frequently sleeping throughout the day…

Over the next few days we would be treated to another visit of a superpod of dolphins.  Again feeding, these super quick, extremely agile swimmers cover ground and seem to enjoy all the moments along the way.  We have not seen any other sea life other than an occasional sea gull.  We were fortunate that the wind has picked up, more southerly than we would like, southwest would be preferred.  I had in my mind that patterns of winds during the day and receding at night as it seems the sea’s would lay down.  That, however, is not the case.  The days seem super easy and as soon as darkness falls, let the madness begin.

Fishing has been minimal. We did have a bite and we could see the jump of a fish with a very long projection – a marlin!  It was approximately five or so feet and way more than we could eat and freeze.  We did not attempt to set the hook and thankfully, it coughed up the lure so it was a win-win for both of us.  We are fully stocked with meat and we do not “need” to catch a fish.  We planned to fish responsibly in that we would fish for something tasty but small that we could handle and make into a couple meals without waste.

We are both fastidious about our little floating “tiny house”.  I have made it a matter of personal pride to see that the bed is made every day, that the head (toilet) does not have any smell-able hint of what happens in there, and the rest of the boat is comfortably clean.  I am not opposed to using chemicals that make me feel that I have done my job well.  Especially since Pinol (Mexican version of Pine-sol) now comes in a wonderfully fresh flowery sent.  (Why, they even dressed their bottle so beautifully that after provisioning, John thought I had brought him some sort of juice to drink.  I often wondered if I need an MDS manual aboard!)  We are good about air flow and we are good about closing off that airflow if water may be moving across the cabin top. How many times had we heard stories from friends or read that “someone” (usually the husband) left a hatch open while underway, and then one opportunistic wave crashed into the boat and landed on the bed!  It was only a matter of time.  “Someone” forgot to check all of our hatches, and yes, we took some waves over the bow. Albeit a small hatch, but an open hatch none the less, and now our bed had become, initially unbeknownst to us, a swimming pool.  While bouncing like the original Atari game “Pong” as I moved forward in the boat towards the head, I was thrown into the direction of the bed (a Pullman berth) where I landed squarely in a very cold squishy quilt.  My spirit sank at that moment.  Never mind the fact that we haven’t been sleeping in the bed due to the port tack we were on.  Wait. If we aren’t sleeping in the bed, where are we sleeping? John made himself a nest on the port (left side of the boat) and what used to be my side of the saloon, now became his due to the view to the big screen.  I took the starboard (right) settee.  As we were on a starboard tack for a while, we pulled out the lee cloth so I wouldn’t roll off the settee.  This makes for a bit of a tunnel.  Now, add the fan right above me and I was very quiet about my little oasis!

It is hard to believe that we are two weeks (14 days) into this pacific trek.  We are getting into more of a rhythm and less is getting done. It is impossible to keep up with the stainless steel cleaning.  The Port tack we are currently on, our 6-7nm speed and cutting through waves make the task look unappealing as well as unsafe.  It will have to wait until we either have doldrums or our next port. As two plus meter waves continue to jump over the side and over the boat about every 15 minutes or so, it also seems a useless task at this point.  It is impossible to get a good feel for the wave sets as there is that one odd wave… it happens about every 10-15 minutes, from an odd angle that it literally comes sweeping the stern in a counter rocking position before twisting back countering itself, and haplessly tossing the inhabitants about inside.  This is the wave that we wait for and brace for. The windless days we had in the beginning are no longer.

So what do we do? Besides all the work involved with sailing, and sailing an older boat, we read.  I have currently read eight books and have 2 more left!  We will watch movies, both on the big screen as well as our computers. We are quickly running out of books.  We nap. Working on the computers down below? Blogs? Video? Nope.  We should. It is difficult to be down in the cabin, in rolling seas, looking at a tiny screen when it is so beautiful outside. We spend much time napping or reading.  Cooking is a sport as opposed to an art, and is not looked forward to.  We typically have one larger meal – evening or late afternoon – and snacking the rest of the day.  This really isn’t too much different than what we have become used to since having left Washington.  We chat, and the subject of the future came up. We have been discussing what options might be over the next couple years. Neither of us seem to have an interest in going around the world, yet there are parts of Indonesia/Micronesia that we would like to see and dive.  Do we sail there, see what we want to see, dive what we want to dive and then see if we can work our way back? We have no interest whatsoever in heading north to end up in Alaska to come back down the west coast.  That was not a pleasant run for us.  Do we try the horse latitudes? Again, watching the timing ever so carefully? That route would be 5200 miles. I can’t say that my heart is in that.  We would like to see Chile, Peru, transit the Panama Canal and into the Caribbean waters, but how would we do that and what might that look like? Sailing gives one time to think.

Next up is the crossing of the equator.  This pomp and circumstance event is surrounded by many ways of celebrating, I am not sure if some are just an excuse for hazing on the open sea but there does seem to be a few requirements.  First and foremost is asking Neptune for blessing to become sons and daughters of the sea and the tradition of becoming a “shellback” (think sea turtle) and sharing of a toast with expensive libation.  We planned to use tequila from the country we just came from and wine to symbolize the French who oversee the Polynesian islands.  We planned to swim a lap around the boat- sans clothing.  As far as eating something out of the garbage…..ick.  However, I did happen to save two lovely Starbucks cookies decorated like mermaid tails! Some might consider that garbage but it was something I would put in my mouth!  As it turned out, our crossing would appear right at sundown.  With the sea still full of rolling waves, and good wind, we were making decent, if not great speed.  It would not be safe or prudent to stop for a swim lap around the boat. So the event of stopping would have to be simplified and while our plan was to be somewhat grandiose, we hope that King Neptune would understand.  Watch for a video to come out soon, that will show what we did.  Meanwhile, I did take a selfie- with our GPS showing 0 degrees North and also 0 degrees South.  How crazy is this? I have just crossed the equator. On the Pacific Ocean. On a sailboat. Twenty years ago, if you would have told me that I would be doing this…..

King Neptune must have been okay with our ceremony as he sent a gift.  The next day, rather than seeing the usual flying fish – either in the water by the hundreds of a couple in our drain from the night sailing, John and I were sitting in the cockpit reading.  I looked up and off to the horizon as we were chatting about something when out of the water jumps a Manta Ray.  If it hadn’t cleared the water and waves, I might have second guessed myself. Instead, I knew it immediately but it happened so quickly that I couldn’t direct John to see it. Nor did it repeat itself.

We are about two and a half weeks into this passage.  Nights are still difficult. Everything seems different at night. Sounds are magnified. The waves feel larger. The sea seems more confused.  The days are pleasant, albeit confused seas and huge rolling waves in the cockpit do not seem to be as concerning as opposed to  trying to maneuver below with the boat pitching. For whatever reason, Port tack is more difficult than starboard for me.  John takes the brunt of the sail workload by choice. He straps on the harness to the jacklines and goes out on deck for the mainsail. No one goes out on deck without the other being there, regardless of who is on watch.  And we try not to make big sail plan changes at night but sometimes it happens.   During my watch, I try not to be a chicken little and cry wolf, however the management of sails seems to be brutal and I swear the wind waits until I am on watch as a cruel joke. We have been fortunate that our travel has been well timed with the phases of the moon so we have had great moonlight to travel with.  At night, on watch, the stars! Oh my the stars!  There are more twinkling lights in the sky than you can imagine.  What’s out there?  Who is out there?  Seeing the Southern Cross, seeing the Milky Way so clearly, you feel so small in this world.  The night’s beauty however, is paralleled with the color inspiring palettes of the sunrises, and even more so- the sunsets!  Each one different but each so beautiful.

July 9, 2018 – Day 24. The morning began with banging of sails and booms and rocking of the boat as during the night the wind angle shifted and the wind speed varied between 2kn to gusts of 20kn, but ultimately not enough to move the boat.  While we did not want to motor, if we wanted to get to where we were going and we didn’t want to swim/pull the boat then we would have to.  Ahh, the joys of an old diesel engine.  The revving of the engine sound without human assistance always brings the eyelids to close in the for of ‘what now’ form. It would result in the engine then slowing down and turning off.  No wind, bobbing in a thankfully calmer sea state than previous, the fuel lines are once again a culprit.  New fuel filters in place, and soon we are off again.  I make it sound so easy, but you really don’t want to hear the details. John queried if my fatalistic sense meant that we should not be arriving to our destination after dark.  No wind, engine issues…maybe.  It is never a good idea to enter an unknown anchorage after dark. He felt assured that we would be fine. In the afternoon however, that odd revving sound? Yes, it happened again.  And with another check and another fuel filter added, this time surely, we will make it.  As the night falls on the quiet pacific, we finish our trek with the iron sails. Land Ho! said I to no one around. john was still down working on the engine or something. It was 5:10pm and I could barely make out the shadow of an island against the clouds.  The sun going down made sure that we would have the final inspiration to go on.   It has been a long journey.  I immediately take account of things I could have completed during this 24 day trek across the Pacific Ocean.  Honestly, most days it was all we could do to read a book.  24 days really isn’t that long when you think about it on land. Just over three weeks.  However, in a constantly in motion, rolling either side to side or up and down such as riding a horse, it tends to take some of your energy.  At least it did for me.  I anxiously look forward to the morning, after a restful night’s slumber, to the sight of Hiva O’a and the green spires of the island.  Only 2500nm from Cabo San Lucas, MX and 2800nm from Puerto Vallarta, MX, I like to think that our trip was over 3000 as we initiated from Puerto Vallarta.  Cabo San Lucas was merely a stopover.  An out of the way stopover.

We arrived at night (again, I hate it when we do this practice) and even with his better than most night vision, the anchorage we planned to go in at Hiva O’a was black except for the swinging of anchor lights on top of the mast.  It looked rather like an evening Bob Dillan concert with lighters swaying.  We knew there is a practice of stern anchors and honestly, there were way more masts than we anticipated.  Too big of a risk to go in, So we dug in outside of Atuona in Baie Tahauku.  Yes, it was rolly with swells, however, it was 6-7 uninterrupted hours of sleep and that counted for something.  While my visual acuity was diminished by the darkness, my sense of smell was heightened.  I could smell land, the island, even when I couldn’t make out land lines.  I could hear the breakers crashing, roaring, loud and almost with a bang, however it was the scent of perhaps something burning, like leaves? Woodsy? But it wasn’t pine tree woodsy.  Was there a hint of floral notes?  I spent several minutes taking note of the aroma, the aroma that I would not want to forget.  I couldn’t wait until morning. Wait, I could. If it meant sleep! I have so many thoughts going on, however I think I need a day or two to process everything.

 

Summary list of TOP 3’s

Top 3 things I enjoyed –          1.         Weather.  Regardless of the wind/sea/weather, the attire did not require more than a swimsuit.

  1. Time to read.  At the end of this passage, I will have read 10 books and viewed a PBS mini series on the Viet Nam war.
  2. The colors of the sunset, the ocean, the gentle rocking.

 

Top 3 things I did not enjoy    1.         Attempting to cook  when especially rolly, but those extra weird waves. .

  1. Loud noises, especially at night when John was sleeping
  2. An opportunistic wave that would sneak it and cover areas leaving a wet calling card on my bed

Top 3 things I would haveDone differently

1.         Invested time and effort into making frozen, prepared passage foods maybe

  1. More fans in the boat?
  2. Taken more photos/video

Top 3 things I did not Expect

1.         How many countless stars are out there

  1. To see very little sea life – what a wonderful treat it is when you do
  2. How much we would be “heeling” underway and wonder why I prefer one tack over another.

 

For those who want a “shorter version”

Ships log:

Day 1-Left Cabo San Lucas, Mexico- Here we go- flying at 6.5-8kn! Heading south, after Hurricane Bud but also avoiding Hurricane C.  All of the 2018 Pacific Puddle Jumper have left more than a month ago.

Day2-Still flying at 6.5kn. Woot!

Day 3-Where did the wind go? Wing on Wing and A-sail plans.      Passing Socorro Islands- what a wonderful treat. Deb wishes we had more time there. Light winds, four sail changes by end of 24 hours. Going with A sail tonight. 12 knots true wind, heading of 250 degrees, crew tired but getting into a groove.

Day 4– Superpod (50-75+) of dolphins, wind frustration. A-Sail again and inconsistent winds. Garmin shows us going past some seamount of note.

Day 5– The marlin that would not be caught. Thankfully. 5 ft Marlin jumped and would have been way too much fish for us to handle or eat. Fish responsibly. Are we lucky enough to have wind again? South, not southwest. A-sail and 5-6kn. Deb super tired. (think Zombie) John sleeps during day. Clear, warmer.  Super blue ocean. Cobalt blue. Sailing south and looking at crossing ITCZ around 121 West now.

Day 6– Another superpod of dolphins. No whale sightings. I anticipated patterns of winds dying at night as the sea would lay down. This has not happened.

Day 7-cloudy, had first brief rainstorm and it cooled everything down to about 82degrees F.  Both crew are zombies now, thank God for monitor windvane.  Best crew next to the electric autopilot.  Wind changed last night and did not get good sail combinations for wind and sea state, so not much sleep had by either person.  We fixed that at first light and have been cruising along nicely all day. Super clear blue water, seagulls and a few dolphins.

Day 8– “somebody” forgot to check all the hatches before we took large waves over the bow.  A small hatch, but an opening none the less, allowed our bed to become a swimming pool! On my way forward to the head, bouncing like “Pong” the original Atari video game, my hand landed in a very squishy soaked spot on our bed.  If that doesn’t sink one’s spirits, I’m not sure what would.  Never mind that we haven’t been sleeping in the bed due to the port tack and that it is easier for watch to be closer to the electronics. Sailing wing on wing downwind all day. Heading into a large rain storm.

Day 9– made it past whatever the next named storm was to be. We sailed the outer rain band most of yesterday afternoon, last night and this morning.  Now working south and west in what is to be starting in the doldrums. Problem is we still have 2 meter seas and light wind. Bouncing. Crew is good.

Day 10- Bashing through the waves… still have wind.  We have been sailing close hauled for a day and a half.  Where are those trade winds we were promised.  We did find a good hole to short cut through an ever crazy and changing ITCZ.  Saw some sun for the first time in three days and we “think” the last of the big storms are behind us.

Day 11– What a difference a day makes.  We are in the ITCZ but still have wind.  We are making south as much as we can but have 2.4 knots of current/drift pushing us east.  We decided to take the easting to get south and pick up the south trades when we get there. I think every 10 knots south makes it 1 degree hotter.  93F outside in the shade.  Water temp 84F.  Everything dried out inside and out. Crew showered.  Big gentle rolling seas.  Full sails out and 8.2 knots true wind. Big cottonball clouds sprinkled about. Ghosting along.

Day 12– We had a textbook preventer system set up.  Just not a text book sail change to handle the 38knot storm winds. Lessons learned and will use an acetylene torch to straighten out the bent stanchion.  We started into the ITCZ last night and wind died about 9pm.  we dropped sails and drifted all night and slept.  Ahh sleep.  Today we motored and motor/sailed all day.  Made water, charged batteries, cleaned the inside of the boat.  Made cookies in the GoSun.  John did arts and crafts (boat repair).  A full day of reading.  Plan is to motor through the night and assess weather in the morning. Trying to get through the doldrums and stay south of the. larger dead zone that’s growing behind us.

Day 13-John posting updates daily on Facebook through Iridium.  We are unable to see facebook so we do not know if people are responding to our posts. We are at 6.47n 116.55w.  French Polynesia is 1400 SW in front of us, 1100N, Panama is 1400W. we are on the south edge of the ITCZ.

Day 14– Port tack, more frustrating for Deb, especially with galley on port. Wind and direction correct. 2 meter waves that every 15 minutes or so, rise up and sends  water sweeping over cabin , followed by a stern swaying maneuver. Not fun.  John now having read 2ndbook of Tim Dorsey.  He liked the first better, and quite often refers to it. Since passage started, I have read 8 books. Just finished “And the sea will tell” by Bugliosi.  Take Palmyra off my list of places to visit! Continuing on 6-7kn speed with winds of 12-20kn.

Day 16– Crossing the equator – appears to be right at sundown. Sea is still full with rolling waves, wind and we are making decent speed. This means the event of stopping for usual and customary pomp and circumstance for King Neptune will have to be simplified in spite of best attempts to be grandiose.  Cloudy, several rain showers that were welcomed. Had good wind then not, then wind, then not.

Day 17– A rare occurrence of seeing something other than flying fish, which we have on deck every day, was a jumping Manta Ray, narrowly caught behind us as we were having a conversation and I happened to be looking up from my book. We spend much time napping or reading.  Cooking is a sport as opposed to an art, and is not looked forward to.  We typically have one larger meal – evening or late afternoon – and snacking the rest of the day.  This really isn’t too much different than what we have become used to since having left Washington.  Woot! 786 miles to go. We figure on landfall Sunday.  Total trip is 2603 miles as a crow flies but boats aren’t crows and we have already sailed 2023 miles.  So there are a few zigs and zags in there.  17kn of wind and sunshine.

Day 18– Nights are still difficult.  Pleasant days, albeit confused seas and huge rolling waves in the cockpit do not seem to be as concerning as when trying to maneuver below with the boat pitching.  For whatever reason, Port tack is more difficult than starboard for me.  John takes the brunt of the sail workload,  by choice.  During my watch, I try not to be a chicken little and cry wolf, however the management of sails seems to be physically brutal. We have been discussing what options might be over the next couple years. 4 days to go.  Both are pretty tired today.  Last night had really confused seas.  Oh nd for all our fellow “Cooking on a boat” folks. Shouldn’t count at anchorages any more. Try this for three weeks in 2 meter seas going 6.5 nots.

Day 19– minimal rest, up every hour, boat sounds like it is coming apart, especially at night. We have been fortunate to have most of the moonlight we have had so far.  I have almost exhausted novels brought onboard.  I have now finished “Dead Wake” a historical narrative of the Lusitania sinking.  Typically not in my repertoire of reading, it was well written and I found myself looking forward to picking up the book.  I have saved one for after the crossing- one I have looked forward to since I found it in the La Cruz collection.  A reason for hope- Jane Goodall’s memoir.  Took a good rounding out of galley with a swell that turns the boat every 10 minutes or so.  Pan of rice/corn that I was going to save was the casualty.

Day 20– Finished Vietnam War -10 episode series by Ken Burns. Being on a boat gives lots of time to think. Better nights rest last night.  Best accounts are arrival on Monday or Day 24.  Typical days of Pacific travel from Mexico are day 19-24, so we are average. This will be to Hiva O’a, our check in for French Polynesia and the Marquesas.

Day 21– Spoke to soon. Deep swells engulfing boat in trough, waves crashing into cockpit, running with small amount of jib. We are both giving energy to being extra patient, which makes tolerating this constant pitching and rolling easier as sometimes it is sooo damn frustrating. The days seem so much nicer, even if overcast. The only time the engine is run, is when batteries need some level of charging and solar has not been able to do its job due to cloud cover. Not giving any interest in cooking. Three more days! Woot! Make some noise! Everything seems damp. We have found a few little leaks but also in areas that get pounded by the waves, primarily on the Port side. Do not like surfing down waves with hair on fire at 1am!  For whatever reason the waves get confused at night.  All day they are fine.  Night comes and the idiot zombie waves show up.  Sledge hammer here, plunge anchor in wave there.  Sounds like a boat beat down.  Inside the boat always sounds way worse and since most of the day is spent in the cockpit, it makes sense.  495 miles to go.

Day 22– The only thing consistent about sailing, is there is nothing consistent! The wind, the waves, the current.  Just when you have researched, and even on the move and you have everything dialed in, it changes.  The tack we are on hasn’t changed but the sea state has. The wind has increased, decreased, gusted and stopped, changed angle enough that speed was lost.  There is a constant attempt to “balance the boat” for maximum comfort and speed.  Our spirits are getting better, I think, mostly due to the fact that we are at end, not the beginning of this passage.

Day 23– Less than 200 miles to go.  Doesn’t seem like much. 4 hours if you were driving a car on the highway. By wind and sail however, we are still looking at a day and a half. Still, we are on the final stretch when you consider it has been over 2500 miles!!! It’s hard to fathom.  I did not know how long time would feel at the beginning of this trip.  Excitement can blur the realities of a vision. When everything is settled and things are moving along smoothly, it almost becomes mundane. This mostly due to the lack of sea life we saw. The frustrations of lack of wind, wind direction anticipated, unsettled sea state have now been pushed to the back. We are picking up on our reading of what to expect with arrival and destination. Now, in retrospect, it doesn’t seem like it was that long.  When people would ask how long it would take, I would give the standard 21-30 days. Some have done it in 19 days, others have taken over 30.  In my mind, I settled for the outside time frame so I am okay with 25 days.  I know John would have preferred the 20-21 day frame. I would say that the extra 4 days did not make a difference, however, there were 4 really uncomfortable days that I could have done without.

Day 24– Final day.  We will be seeing land today!  The wind – has died. The sails began to flog in the wee hours.  Batteries need a charge anyway. Making water today to be filled and ready for anchorage. No potable water available in anchorage and no marina to speak of.  Engine revving. Engine issues. No wind and changing not one, but two fuel filters! Really.  Tiny spaces, bobbing like a cork, John is not having fun. He even said so. With different words. Thankfully, he can fix this.  Task completed and we are underway again. A mere few hours later and the engine revs up and dies again. This would be the 2ndof the fuel filters.  Back on track again. 1710. 5:10pm. Land Ho!!!  A faint outline due to the clouds but there are the mounts of Hiva O’a! We will have arrived.

Off the path and……

behind the beauty.

We have been on this sailing journey since August, 2017.  Almost seven full months.  I have had a few texts and emails asking me about the trip thus far. I have had some opportunity to explore these experiences and feelings with a few of the new friends I have met along the way.  While each has a different story, I find comfort that many have felt like I have at some point.  I find it difficult from day to day to solidify where I stand.  Like the water under me, each day, each thought and where I think I stand, is fluid.

“I would love to hear your perspective on how the trip has been compared to what you prepared for or expected.”  Like a huge tree, each leaf represents a thought and they scatter like leaves in a brisk fall wind of my mind. I am sure in a year from now this will look very different.  How do I feel about the boat was prepared for our trip so far? My skills? Living a cruising lifestyle? What would I say versus what John would say? Sitting outside of La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, I can say this – we prepared the boat well for most of the trip and the trip has been better than I imagined AFTER we made it past Santa Barbara and into warmer weather.  My mood is much better in warmer climes. So about the trip so far.  It still has that feeling of being surreal.  People describe cruising as a lifestyle.  I still feel like I am on vacation. More like a sabbatical.  Take my non sailing friends out of the equation, most of my sailing friends have years of experience on me.   I wonder if I will ever feel that level of confidence.  I have to laugh when occasionally I hear someone comment on how much I know about sailing.  I will refer to one of the notable nursing theorists on learning, Patricia Benner and her book ‘From Novice to Expert’, where I would place myself on the continuum of “just breaking even for the employer”.  I had theory before but now I have some application.  Sometimes your action in theory is not the same as you did in application, and you have to come to terms with that.  I still see myself as novice.  I haven’t reached the stage where I instinctively know how to act or can even teach.  I have so much to learn and sometimes it whelms me. I am more uncomfortable with my lack of confidence and yet confidence and ability aren’t always congruent. How long will it take to get there I am not even sure.  A few sailing friends have shared that they still do not feel confident and even dislike the discomforts of some sailing which leaves them feeling as if it impacts their ability.  I do feel I have a better understanding overall of how our boat sails and mostly, trust.  I have a trust in this boat that I did not realize until this trip. I look forward to a greater trust in myself.

I anticipated the sail from Seattle to, let’s say, San Francisco to be more sailing and warmer than what it was.  I thought we would have more consistent wind and have more sailing than we did. It seemed we motored a lot.  The winds were playful. Not consistent. Originally we planned on going further off shore than we did as we planned for 100 miles, however we were usually less than 30 miles offshore. I didn’t realize how many lobster or crab pots we would have to be watching for on the trip down. We settled in to watching our depth and staying just into the ranges of depth that pots shouldn’t be an issue.  Of course I then was thankful that US regulations are brightly colored floats instead of dodging clear soda pop bottles loosely strung as found in Mexican waters.  More than once, I thought I had everything sighted only to sit comfortably and turn to see a view and have a damn bottle go by.  Thank you Poseidon, we never caught any lines as we certainly could have.  I wondered what the trip would have been like had we gone further offshore, such as the 100 miles.  We found a couple of sailboats who did just that and they shared that they had ferocious winds of 30-40nm, 20-30ft seas, and made the entire coast from Canada to Ensenada in seven days! One boat shared that it was the scariest of times.  I no longer wondered if we should have gone offshore further.  I am sure I would have hitch hiked back from Ensenada.

We spent more money than what we would have liked on foulies (heavy waterproof outerwear) and yet I was so thankful we did. We do not have a fully enclosed cockpit.  We have a great dodger, a bimini with a connecting bridge to the dodger, and even some slight “wingurtains” but the rest is open to the night, the waves, the dampness, and the outside temperature.  Coming down the coast we experienced more fog, cold, damp than I thought and was so thankful to be warm.  Now, we have vacuum sealed most of our cold weather gear.  I was very happy to have it and happy to not have to use it now, even though it is taking space and was expensive.  It was more expensive in other ways than we planned as we came down the coast.  The marinas are truly a treat as we try to manage a very tight and limited sailing kitty (budget).  Eating out is easy but can be expensive – even in Mexico. It is easy to talk myself into eating out.  I hoped I would have hit the Mexican border being able to cook up a swarthy 4 course meal while heeling at a 25 degree angle and look like I just stepped off of a Vogue magazine cover.  Well, I can tell you THAT never happened! Neither cooking a great meal OR looking like a Vogue cover girl!  Obviously we spent more in fuel than we planned due to the winds and our time frame. Of course the upgrades or fixes for the boat that weren’t planned are always costly, even with someone who know how to fix things. This boat is solid and strong. A blue water sailboat.  There were a couple things that made me wonder how it was done thirty five years ago on this boat or was it just me being accustomed to the advantages of living on land.  One important item that required a fix was our freezer. It worked great in the PNW, where the boat was in 55 degree water…. Now in 85 degree water, it could barely put a frost on the fish we caught. Boat fixes cost and that bites hard into our sailing kitty. The old adage of a “boat buck” being a $100 or even $1000, or the acronym “BOAT” meaning Bring On Another Thousand rings pretty true.  It is true in the marine world, that add “marine” in the description is akin to adding an extra zero on to any price tag.  So we added a stand alone Engel freezer as well as insulating our current fridge/freezer box to prevent cold loss.  We added more solar as we really have sun now and it makes sense on our boat.  Those two necessary advances bit the kitty again. A different outboard for the dingy.  We wrestled with this expenditure, however in the end, we were able to justify it not just in comfort but safety as well.  In Mexico, we are finding that we need more shade covering for the boat.  That is our next project as well as chaps for the dingy.  I don’t want to live so cheaply that I cannot enjoy things.  Sometimes it is just reframing my thoughts of how I enjoy what I have.  Isn’t that part of what this adventure was about?  Could I have saved more money before leaving? Sure, but how much is enough? One of the biggest surprises was time, in that I really thought I would have a lot more down time. I haven’t really.  The guitar that I thought I would be playing back up for the Avett brothers by now? Not even close.  Those books on my shelf? Still waiting for me to open them.  My Spanish skills? Still only able to order a beer. Great, I don’t drink beer.  No, it seems that during the passage down the coast, if I wasn’t sleeping, then there is always something that needs to be done on or with the boat. My time seemed even more divided.  I am hoping this will align more to my original plans as boat projects lessen.

Here are a few more questions.

“How do you feel about your adventure now as opposed to before you set sail.”  I am still excited but maybe less outwardly so.  I prefer being at anchor for the peacefulness and privacy but being at the dock is often more social.  I love looking at boats and am thrilled to be invited on other boats.  You would think that all sailboats are pretty much the same.  Quite the opposite.  I have had the opportunity to visit other Passport 40’s (same as our sailboat) and to see the differences between the years of design changes as well as customization by owners.  Yet I notice that after a period of a week, I start to get impatient or antsy.  Part of me doesn’t want to rush through this journey but the other part says I am starting to settle in or become sedentary. There are parts of this sweet country (Mexico) where I think I could settle but not right now.  Before I left, it felt as if I was just telling a story to everyone as opposed to now, where I am living the story. It is definitely a lot more work to live the story. I even thought that maybe spending a year in the Sea of Cortez, exploring the pacific coast down through Mexico, Costa Rica etc. would be fun as I don’t anticipate we will ever be this way again like this.  I feel like I missed some of the adventure during the time I returned to see family and yet I would not have traded that time for the world however.  I feel like we spent a lot of on the move and yet at the same time, I did not want to become part of the “rubber band that pulls people back” to La Paz or La Cruz.

“How is your health, mental and physical, then to now?”  Let me start by saying this – no Starbucks!  Well, yes, I have seen a Starbucks in Puerto Vallarta. And there was one minor indiscretion in Cabo San Lucas.  I am sure my daily ‘frothy million calorie hot beverage poorly disguised as a coffee’ habit wasn’t ideal.  I am sure I shed a few pounds simply by removing myself from the country where they line the streets like fire hydrants. So physically, that’s great!  Financially it is superior! What does that do for me mentally might not agree! Seriously however, my eating habits have changed.  I am eating better foods for me, fresher foods and no junk foods to speak of.  Totopos? (Chips) Sure. But only loaded with fresh salsa or guacamole. More fish in my diet, especially if you count coconut shrimp dinners!  My coffee in the morning is harsher but I still use a creamer. We typically eat one large meal a day, preferably around noonish but often around dinner time. I still have my same eating habits in that respect.  It seems to work well with this lifestyle.  If you are underway, three big meals feels like a lot of work.  At anchor, snacking seems to feel better especially in the heat. I feel better about what I am eating and I have to put more effort into cooking.  It is challenging as I don’t have the storage capacity that a house affords you and in the heat, food can go ripe to bad pretty quickly. I want it noted for the record- my chocolate consumption has dramatically declined!  I know, that will shock a few people.  Give this a moment to settle in.  IF  we go to a large market for provisioning, I might sneak a snickers bar into the total purchase. This might happen once every 2-4 weeks! (I usually have to share it with someone who doesn’t like chocolate and that annoys me.)  I, myself, savor every melting bite.  My go to for a chocolate fix is Nutella, which now comes in a 950gm jar, thank you Ferraro!

Physically I feel soft. Less in shape than I ever was really. We walk wherever we go as much as possible.  We actually finally sold the bikes that we didn’t use.  Between my fitbit and my phone app, I usually log walking 5-7.5 miles every couple of days, more if we are anchored, less if on passage.  I need to find a way to do more weight bearing exercises on the boat or with use of resistance bands.  So physically, I feel “soft” but overall fine. I do have a couple of resistance bands on the boat but have yet to use them or turn the boat into my outdoor gym.  I use my kayak when I can.  I will say that I have lost at least 10-15 pounds.

“Is life on the hook what you thought it would be?”  Sort of? It reminds me of how we used to sail on the weekends with the 26 foot sailboat.  A lot of quiet time.  There seems to be more intention with any activity, maybe even more planning.  I think it has been easier for me than it has been for John, who is used to filling up his day with a checklist of things to do.  I am quite content not doing that.  The difference from before, again, is it was short term.  Being on the small sailboat for the weekend, for the week as a vacation was more similar to living on this sailboat at the dock and continuing to work. It was a gentle preparation but in reality, nothing really compares to once you are doing it.

“What do you miss most?” Family and friends without a doubt. The ease of ringing them up, meeting somewhere. I feel like I am missing out on the day to day stuff and when I come back, it will be a lot that I have missed.  Having cell service and access to social media helps heaps, but the cell service along the way has been poor, which makes me appreciate when I do get cell service and even wi-fi.  I miss having a steady income but I don’t miss what it requires to have it.  I think there has to be a balance.

“What do you enjoy the most now on the hook?”  I like the quiet time really.  It has been forever that I made reading an option and look forward to doing that now.  There were always “other things” that I needed to be doing. I enjoy being on the water with the sights and sounds. I enjoy my mornings with coffee and seeing activity in the water. In La Paz, it was the dolphins on their morning feeding ritual. In La Cruz, it was watching for whales.  I do enjoy the nature sounds.  I have enjoyed going on to desolate beaches and always hopeful for finding a sweet shell or a taking a great photo.  I love going into the small towns and exploring as well as people watching.  Many lead very harsh lives and without the comforts of 4G internet, smart phones, or even family having left the village.  I wonder if they truly are the lucky ones.  I enjoy being away from politics.  Doesn’t matter which side. Enough said.

”We are in more contact now than ever before, is that the same with most of your close contacts?”  Time has a way of passing quickly without a calendar or schedule in front of me.  Often, a text from someone is a welcome reminder that I should probably be in better contact.  Some are always in my heart even if I don’t text frequently.  There are a few however, that I am in more contact than ever because of shared interests.

morning landfall at Isla Isabel

“What would you like to have most that you do not have now?”  The winning lottery numbers.  Financial freedom.  Me, and everyone else, right?  I love what I have now, I would love to be able to share more of it with family and friends. And a good chocolate bar.

 

 

 

Let’s get outta here! Left Cabo San Lucas and what did we see?

 

View of SV Bella from the top

 

Bahia Frailes or Bay of Friars. November 7-9, 2017

This is a popular anchorage for those heading towards La Paz from Cabo.  SV Lorien (Chris and Julie) and SV Bella Nave have been partnering along this path since Cabo San Lucas.  They are an easy travel couple and we have shared tons of laughter.  They are in a Garcia 48, a pretty amazing aluminum hull vessel that gives us storage envy.  They are a bit quicker than us so often we are catching up when it comes to an anchorage.  We are fortunate that we have the bay almost to ourselves with exception of another sailboat.  We see a few pangas as there is a marine park called Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park north of us.  At the tip of the cape is a dive site however the water is currently poor with visibility and pretty windy at the point.  A call to the three dive operations confirm that they are not doing dives there for those reasons.  In the national parks like this, you are required to go with a company so we aren’t just putting in like we are able.  That’s disappointing as we haven’t put tanks in since Catalina Island. But that doesn’t stop us from enjoying the fruits of our travel!

The waves were incredible and we rolled around like little pebbles.

It’s a Beach day! Snorkeling!  There is a dive spot noted on the maps however the visibility today appears to be worse than previous day.  We snorkeled along the perimeter and found if you were too close to the edge, the surf would really push through you!  Before you know it, you would be on the rocks and the waves keep bashing you into the rocks. Below the water, it was surge and green visibility.  There were a few eels, Moorish idols and the expected fish.  Some coral is re-growing but it is mostly rocks and sand.

The wanted prize saguaro.
My cohort in crime, Julie
Cactus blooms
We made it!

Chris from S/V Lorien talks about Julie as always accompanying him on his risky adventures but he always offers her an opportunity to opt out.  I wanted to see a perfectly formed saguaro cactus off the pinnacle of the Frailes (Friars) and would have to hike to get there. Using Chris’s MO (Method of Operendi) “Hey Julie, you don’t have to go but I would like to hike up Cerros los Frailes.” It worked and off we went.  That was easy!  We followed what we “thought’ was the trail.  There are a few cairns but it appeared that we had lost site about half way up and were destined to turn this hike into a rock hopping and crawling expedition.  Hmmm….. we split our options and found neither of us had a good trail but neither of us were ready to call the end to this hike.  So up we went, further and further.  Lo and behold, we found a beautiful lookout view….but not the cactus.  It was a photographic dream and not only did I capture her in a few photos but the beautiful bay and our sailboats.  A few of the cacti had blooms even as we were in November.  As we returned, John reminded us that we neglected to tell him where we were going.  Chris smiled and knew that we would be okay.  And the cactus? We obviously didn’t mark our sites well as we hiked far above where the perfect cactus grew!

Like something from the moon, these rocks strewn throughout the sand.

 

Somebody’s lunch.
It’s not that we “have the option”. We made some choices.
SV Bella Nave’s was washed away but this was still cool.
Sea turtle nesting site – protected.

The palapas seem, well a bit lonely.  A few appear to be upside down, and well they just seem somewhat unattended.  A larger shaded palapa rests behind and cordoned off area of several nests.  A park ranger is there and offers quite good information and answering lots of questions.  The fish camp on Bahia Frailes evidently has had a history of not fishing out where they should be, and not removing their trash as they should have been.  As part of their fine, they have to perform community service by cleaning up all the debris (they have backhoes made available to them but we are unsure by who) and will burn off the dried limbs etc.  This area has been hit by two tropical depressions that have brought down the debris from “the hills”.

It is a pretty cool site to look out there at your very own sailboat.

Bahia de los Muertos 10 November 2017

Sunrises and sunsets – the keepers of the gold

“Deb, set the alarm for 4am.”.  So knowing John, I set the alarm for 0345.  He was up at 0330 anyway.  For whatever odd reason, I too, was awake.  At 0300! It was really warm inside, and at some point he mustered his way to bed.  I, however, remained fast asleep from my after dinner nap the previous night on the settee.  0400 didn’t hurt as bad as I anticipated.  So here I am again, making coffee and watching the sun rise at 0500.  We are fast underway as we had planned to not take a beating from the short but steep waves that have picked up several hundred miles of fetch as we did getting to Bahia Frailes.  Today we are heading to Bahia de los Muertos, or Bay of the Dead.  The developers are trying to encourage a new resort here and have changed the name for obvious purposes to “Bahia de los Suenos” or Bay of Dreams.  Frankly, I find the Bay of the Dead far more interesting.  We arrived to find 86 degree water (this is seriously the warmest water we have been in) and we watch the blues change from deep navy to aquamarine and then turquoise.  There are some rocks below and we come to rest in 16 feet under the keel to set the anchor.  SV Lorien is already here even though we left at the same time.  Two other sailboats are here as well.  We don’t recognize them from other ports, however S/V Lorien believed they were at Tortuga Bay.

Bahia de los Muertos

Anchors set, we have a bit of lunch while Chris and Julie swing by on their dingy.  The plan will be 1400 beach day and dinner at the restaurant tonight.  They are off to see what the restaurant is like and we are off to take a nap.  At 1400 Chris and Julie arrive promptly and after a few minutes we decide to take a snorkel off the beach by the northern point.  Chris is able to anchor the dingy in sand and we have much better visibility today.  Another Moorish Idol  YAY!! I do like the mystique of the Moorish Idol.  John and his eagle eyes however, finds the gold nugget.  Seriously, a bright yellow puffer which is the guineafowl puffer in a juvenile stage. Almost like a gold nugget!  Yes, we do like to find unusual fish on our snorkels/dives and this one is a gem.  Of course we have no photography equipment on us.  We find a few green Moray Eels.  The Giant Damsel Fish here are truly giant.  Being that they can be territorial, and having been nipped at by a tiny one who drew blood, I would think twice about this one.  However, these seem more skittish than the little guys.  The coral is starting to regrow.

The nest on the hill
Tiny little skeletons remain.
The one that didn’t make it

We head off to the beach.  This sand is brown but soft and flour like.  The dunes sweep steeply up from the beech and we see a few turtle nests that are surrounded by caution tape and have wire mesh over the top.  One large hole sits way up the steep ridge.  John looks in it and finds that is was a nest.  The dried carcasses of tiny sea turtles that never made it are mummified.  Cracked shell fragments are bleaching in the sun.  This would have been quite the trip for the little sea turtles but more amazingly, the mama turtle who hoisted her 100+ pound body with flippers almost straight up the hill to lay her nest.  She certainly was the most ambitious turtle.  Knowing that they have the most sophisticated GPS system of all, I wonder if her original plan was there and as there have been a couple tropical depressions that may have moved the sand around, made her positioning increasingly more difficult.  After a nice walk, and a few shells I found they were ready to go and back to the boats we went.  Shower and clean up for dinner.

The delightful restaurant.
The crew

The restaurant is quite charming.  Large, open air.  Very Mexicanesque.  The food and company was great and up until halfway through the meal, we were the only patrons in there.  A second set of three men came in, they seemed to have some familiarity with restaurant.  Perhaps someday, this will be “Bahia de los Suenos”.    For what it’s worth, we have crossed the Tropic of Cancer and tomorrow it will be on to Balandra and La Paz!  SV Lorien is off to Cerralvo and will join us at Balandra.  We have so enjoyed traveling with them.

Isla Isabel! You have to see this one!

Isla Isabela National Park, Nayarit MX

A panoramic view of Isla Isabel.

We were looking at sixteen hours of travel.  Keeping in mind what our friend Ivan had said, we would be “walking a leisurely pace” down the coast….. It made sense to leave Mazatlan in the afternoon and to arrive to Isla (Isla Maria Isabela- full name) Isabela around morning in order to anchor in daylight.  Too many accidents have occurred when sailors try to anchor in new locations, in the dark.  The darkness can be very deceiving and there are a noted navigational hazards such as rocks just under the waterline. These can be challenging to see in daylight, let alone at night.  Captain John did the 1900-0000 watch and I relieved him for the 0000-0400.  We had discussed doing longer shifts before, however, we just can’t seem to get complete it.  His watch included sailing most of the way and around 2300 giving in to the engine as there was following seas and less than 5nm of wind that couldn’t make up its mind what direction to come from.  I took over with the engine running at 5.5kn that would make our arrival around 0640.  I remember going to sleep at 0400 as he was awake and could no longer sleep, then being awakened at 0600 to “I have some whales out here frolicking, do you want to meet them?”  Sunrise in the Sea of Cortez.  I could barely see the spouts and the tiny pectoral fins that merrily slapped about.  “There must be four or five of them”.  We hoped they were coming our way but as we sadly realized they weren’t, he noted there were a few way behind where we had just come from.  Ugh.  On to the island.

morning landfall at Isla Isabel
Los Monas

We could see the two large rock fortresses known as Los Monas.  The upcoming sun gave them a slight orange color.  We saw a sailboat anchored behind one and decided that it was too open to the swells and we would look at the other cove or the South Cove near the fishing camp.  As we rounded it, there was another sailboat anchored there.  There were also some swells that crashed violently into the rocky outcroppings that line the cove.  Tucking in as far as we dared, with depths ranging from 10-18 feet, the clear water gave visibility to the large and irregular size rocks below us. Some of the guidebooks have referred to this area as fouled meaning many left anchors and chains remain and new anchors should be wary.  Large rocks that can lodge anchors sometimes fail to release them.  Trip lines and floats marking the actual anchor site are recommended.  This is an excellent reason to not anchor here at night.  We are approximately 40 miles northeast of San Blas, our next stop.  However right now, today, we focus on the island I have been longing to come too, especially since I missed some of the travel from La Paz to Loreto.

South Cove, waves crashing where we are tucked in with SV Bella Nave

We met Christian and Lindsey, he is from Bellingham and she from Montana but guides in Alaska, on an Erickson 35.  Very nice couple, came over to say hello shortly after we anchored.  There really is only room for two boats to snuggle and sit nicely in this water.  We will be neighbors for the day and night.  Christian has been here several times before.  One of the last researchers here that he knew, was studying the Boobies (Bobos) and mating habits.  Apparently the more yellow green feet are a fashion and those females are getting all the attention.  He told us where the trail was.  Captain John suggested going now before he chose to nap and there would lose a few hours.  The dingy came down and off we went.

Boobies!  I have seen other cruisers photos of these unique shoed fowl and wanted my own.

The fishing camp.

We landed at the fishing camp, without mishap, having to row in the last several yards due to shallow rocks.  The beach is small gravel that while annoying in the Keen sandals, isn’t the flour like sand that finds its way into everything, even that that it does not touch.  We anchored the dingy and pulled out the cameras.  Obviously, we didn’t prepare as we should. With the lens cover off and my first attempt, there wasn’t the anticipated shutter release.  The battery was dead. (insert 5 curse words here)  As John always pokes at me that I always have my “phone” with me, I did and it would be my only photos of this island.  I am again, thankful that he switched out our phones so that I would have more room for video and photos.  Up the path we went.

Iguanas of all sizes – this was a smaller guy around 16 inch body.
Another lizard- captivating green.

Jacque Cousteau was lured here several decades ago where he filmed footage of the bird life, relatively free of natural predators due to its isolation.  This volcanic island is known as the “Galapagos of Mexico”.  The island is known for its Frigate rookeries and occasional research station set up in a vacant cement building.  The building they use is vacant now but occasionally houses researchers, students from the Guadalajara University, and regular students.  Resident iguanas of every size imaginable litter the pathway and are found prolifically scattered on the floors, walls and every conceivable warm spot.  Including the trees.  My eyeglasses are for distance and my eyes were struggling adjusting to the constantly changing bright sun to shade.  Numerous times I went to place my foot down only to have the ground rustle and a well camouflaged iguana dart away.  I am not afraid of lizards and thankful they aren’t snakes, but it can be a bit disconcerting that I might step on a tail.  Of course, not all iguanas are on the ground…….

The uninflated gulag sack of the male frigate bird.
Inflated gular sack allows the male to construct a mating noise that a female would find suggestive. Similar to a rapid drum beat.
Awww, but the baby frigate bird….
Who couldn’t love this fuzzy white headed someday thief? This one has a rather cocky expression, don’t you think?

The mighty Frigate bird.  Also known as the man-o-war bird.   Constantly in flight and never diving into water, their incredible wing span of 7.5ft or more while reported as weighing in around 3 pounds, they are one of the most efficient fishers of the sea.  In one of the largest Frigate colonies, they rest in the low-lying tree tops and even on lower driftwoods with their wings outstretched drying themselves.  Their nests overhead show white fuzzy heads sticking out as their eggs have hatched into the babies now watching us.  Both the male and female Frigate stay near the nest and both take over feeding duties.  In fact, they can remain with the young for up to two years teaching them. The male Frigate has a gular pouch (neck sack) that is bright and beautiful red. He inflates it and then beats it with his beak in order to attract a female, a female that is only fertile every other year. The sounds vary from the higher more shrill calls to the mating male whose tenor sounds more like a rapid drum beat as he uses his gular sack.  While several hundreds of males, females and babies sit and look out from nests, even more can be seen in the skies.  Not only do they fish but they will opportunistically feed off of the unguarded booby nests that sit higher in the trail.

I am in love!
These fabulous fashion footed birds with their breathy voice just make you want to croon. Okay, maybe just me.
And the Brown Boobie. Whose feet can come in various shades of green, yellow or chartreuse. Evidently, a study is underway considering that this might be the preferred color of feet for mating. Who knew!
Brown Boobie

Up, up, up we went.  I am not sure if I should be happy that we did not climb the steps to El Cero (lighthouse) in Mazatlan.  We would either have super sore legs or our legs could be stronger.  This path seemingly went straight up.  We did make it to the top, and following what the map below had stated, the trail was often littered with a sitting and occasionally nesting Boobie.  We did not want to disrupt them, leaving their eggs vulnerable to the Frigate birds.  These delightful birds with their beautiful colored webbed feet and speckled attire of feathers also have a sound that made us giggle.  They sound like a whistle that is broken in such a way that a faint high pitch can barely be heard through the breathy-ness.  We stayed to the path but that didn’t stop one blue-footed Boobie from taking issue with the captain.  Scolding him in the way only a Boobie can do, and followed up for several feet chatting at him.  Now we are noticing the coloration of the Boobies.  Their feathers indicate differences as well as their colored feet.  As we peer at the feet of each that we pass, we have only noted a cornflower blue and lime green that sometimes looks more chartreuse.  Obviously, the Blue-footed Boobie speaks for itself.  However the yellow-green foot is actually a Brown Boobie.  Not wanting to intrude more than we have, and keeping an eye out for a reported red footed Boobie, we made our way back down.  This was not any easier than going up as the grasses slid under the weight on our feet. Back at the beginning, we moved through the fishing camp to see the crater to this once volcano and either to the isthmus or to Las Monas.

Welcome to Jurassic Park.  The thick canopy around ten to fifteen feet is thick with limbs and leaves, and the breeze that occasionally flows comfortable, almost, almost has a humid feel to it.  I can imagine in the rainy months that it is like a thick jungle. The paths seem to be fairly well marked.  Either by cairns or by signage, we are able to go to the isthmus, the crater, or Las Monas.  We arrived first at the crater or what might have once been the center to this volcanic island.  The crater water does not appear to be fresh, it doesn’t appear to have much wildlife surrounding or in it.  Perhaps leftover from previous storm season, we decided to take the path around it to Las Monas.  Under a ten foot canopy, it is a caucaphony of sounds, mostly the Frigates.  We did see a red footed bird however it was not a Booby.  There are some loons that also reside here as well.  Up and over, around and under we went.  Little lizards making a getaway sounding like tiny leaves rustling and often difficult to see. I hear Captain John up ahead exclaim something and saw an iguana with a six foot length come out of no where, jump the path, hit the leaves, jump the tree and continued running.  It sounded similar to human feet and grunting.  I think I would have passed out had it ran in front of me. As we continued toward the coastline, the trees thinned and more boobies began appearing in nests along the pathway.  They did not seem to be bothered enough to move, even those nesting right on the pathway, but they all certainly had something to chatter about.  Again, their delightful but funny broken whistle sound.  As we came around to Los Monas, two young Mexican women wearing vests and carrying clipboards stuck a large stick under a Booby.  Indignant, it voiced its complaint but did not leave its nest.  They counted off the eggs, marked it down and went on.  Many nests had a stick with a number nearby.  We met Mabel and spoke briefly, she doesn’t speak English and my Spanish is barely passable.  However, we learned she is a Biology student and they are here for months studying these birds.  They have a tent camp set up with solar.  We sat for a few minutes before continuing our trek back.  My feet will be sore but it was well worth it.  We met another group of people from the now two sailboats anchored near Los Monas.  SV Cinderella is from Seattle on a 37ft Erickson that is all solar powered to be on sustainable energy.  (We did not ask how they did from Seattle through San Francisco!) It is interesting how many people we have met from the Washington area where we were.  All getting away from the rain, no doubt.  The path is well marked, and although the island is less than a mile, we did walk almost five miles with traversing and returning.

Back at the dingy we toured the southern most end of the island, the sea caves and then back around to Los Monas.  We looked upon SV Liohana with flopper stopper envy as their boat sat motionless in the swells.  I mentioned it a couple times to the Captain while we were in Washington.  It didn’t seem like a necessity then…….

Christian and Lindsey (SV Molokai?) came by and asked if we could use some fish.  They were planning on spear fishing and wanted to share as they would have too much for just them.  Happily, we would take any fresh fish they offered.  He returned without a snapper but did manage a nice Trigger fish which he took back to his boat and cleaned and filetted for us! He also shared that they swam with about 3-4 large Manta Ray!  Close enough to touch but the visibility wasn’t great.

The swells are coming in again.  That flopper stopper is sounding like a great idea.

Tomorrow is San Blas!

 

Cabo San Lucas! Land’s End! We made it!

Our last sunset before we would reach Cabo San Lucas. Red Sky at night, sailors delight.

WE MADE IT!!  Okay, we are not exactly concluding our adventure in the rocky fortress of Cabo San Lucas (CSL) but it feels like a place to celebrate.  Except CSL is party central!  Every night on the waterfront is a celebration and this week is no different.  In fact, I think they held the annual Tuna Fishing Tournament in our honor!  (No, they really didn’t…)  I was so hoping to stand up there, photographed with our tuna, however, they might be envious of our forty pounds of prize tuna!  (They would scoff and brush us off the stand as the prize winning tuna was 338# !!).   There were various ways to win portions of the pot each day, however we tip our reel and line to North Star, taking home the ultimate win of $252,425! North Star not only took the top prize but is also noted to be the only two time winner of the tournament. I am still pleased with our tuna though.  See the previous post for that photo!

I would like to think that this serves as our “shakedown cruise” of learning to handle various conditions in this sailboat that we have lovingly called home for the past two years. As Captain Ron says in the movie “It’s time to light the fires and kick the tires.  If it’s going to happen, it will happen out there!”.  Yes, it certainly did “happen out there”!  While there is so much more to learn, we spent time with the sails as well as the “Iron Ginny”.  We did this in day time as well as night time.  We travelled in fog so thick it was hard to tell what time of day it was and in lightening so fierce, that it changed the night sky to daylight.  We did it on short sleep intervals and at times no sleep intervals.  Each day had its marvels and its challenges. I suspect there are a few people out there that did not think we would do it, and more that did not think I could do it.  There were times when I wondered if I could do it or even wanted to do it.  As the days became warmer and the landscape changed, even when the language changed, it felt easier. More comfortable.  Then there were the dolphins.  Sailing lore is that dolphins on your journey assure you of good luck.  It seemed that whether it was whales or dolphins, we were certain to be successful with good fortune as we were accompanied almost daily. Things did break along the way, not work the way we had hoped or intended.  It is similar to life – most of it is good, there just are some storms and sometimes stuff breaks.   You weather the storms and you fix what breaks.  The dolphins did not have anything to do with what broke, but they did remind us daily of what was good about the trip. We have met some great people along the way.  All in all, it has been an interesting two and a half months!  Sometimes it is hard to believe that we have been traveling that long while other times it seems like forever.  Why am I rattling on about this?  Through tired eyes, the last push, having dolphin at our bow in the evening prior – jumping six, eight, even ten feet into the air and entertaining us with flips and pirrouettic twists and causing us to squeal with delight just like the Jacques Cousteau footage, forging through the night, and in the sun’s rising, to see Land’s End over the bow of our very own boat!  We did it.  Two people. Us.  On a sailboat. 2200nm!  Almost the entire North Pacific coastline of the US and now the Baja of Mexico.  No, we are not the first to do this but it is our first time doing this.  This felt like a badge of honor.  In sailors tradition, a tattoo of a sparrow is done at 5,000nm to remind the sailor to find their way home.  It remains to be seen if I acquire that particular badge when the time comes.  Right now I am having a reality check.  I don’t know how many photos I took, as if I had never seen Land’s End, the arch formation, or Cabo San Lucas before.  I have been to Cabo before, though it has been couple decades prior to this visit and a very different type of visit as two single girls traveling on a land adventure.  This was seeing it through new eyes.  Tired eyes. Saged eyes.  Now over the bow of the our sailboat.  We rounded the point and aimed for the IGY Marina.  Anxiously, we looked forward to a slip for a night or two to relax and to cleaning a very salty boat!

WOW! View from our own boat. WE DID IT!
From inside the bay looking out to the Pacific Ocean.
IGY Marina

Welcome to Cabo San Lucas!  Our diesel price dropped back to a more normal $3.50/gallon, but did not include the use of the fuel dock fee (which was slightly less as we were staying in the marina). The marina slip fee was $81/night!  What?!?! Okay, well we need to make the most of our time in the slip as this will not work with our “sailing kitty”.  We were given J11.  J dock, slip 11.  A sixty foot long and thirty foot wide, single slip that gave us so much room that we looked like a small boat swimming in the enormous slip.  Our boat is forty feet in length and around twelve and a half feet beam (width).  We were docked in the middle of four sport fishing boats that were in the neighborhood of a million dollars each.  Hmmm….. okay, we looked a little out of place. (I’m smirking now).  At almost 10:30am it was already hot here.  Hot temperature but also made even hotter as there is no wind or air movement.  Because we are blocked from any potential wind by the sport fishing boats size, even if the wind were to come in the right direction to hit out open hatches, we would still be sweltering.  Sailboats do best when on anchor, they turn into the direction of the wind and allow the hatches to catch the wind to flow freely throughout the length of the boat.  With use of a few strategically placed fans, the boat can be quite comfortable.   Here on the windless dock, I gaze toward the sport fishing boats with their pneumatic closing doors and running air-conditioning with no one inside.  Using the hose on the dock, we start the fresh water rinse and bath of the exterior of the boat.  Salt water crystals begin to dissolve as we spray every possible inch of her.  Then the stainless gets polished of all the tell tale signs of rust beginning from the continual dousing of salty sea water.  It is disheartening to have had everything polished and sparkling less than a week ago only to find it looks like it has never been touched.  It is like laundry.  Never done.  Speaking of laundry, the marina has washer and dryer availability!  Nothing says home comfort like fresh clean sheets.  We really don’t have as much laundry as you might think, especially given that our last coin operated laundry was, wait now, when was it?  I am going to have to think hard about this one as I can’t honestly remember.  San Diego? Well, while I continue to research this, just know that we don’t have to worry about impressing the neighbors, we just have to make sure we don’t smell more than the fish do.  We typically wear the same pair of shorts and shirt for several days unless it is able to stand on its own accord.  Now that the water has warmed up substantially, and we are “cruisers”, when at anchor we do the whole saltwater bath (yes, jump in, jump out, lather up, jump back in) followed with a nice fresh water rinse in the cockpit.  Some people do it with their swimsuits on and others do it the way we are born – without a stitch on.  We have a fresh water hook up/shower in the cockpit of the boat.  As fresh water is a precious commodity, even though we have the capacity to make it, we have learned to use it mindfully.  Raw water with our water maker takes sea water and de-salinates it thereby making it potable and fresh.  For washing, you don’t really have to have fresh water.  Saltwater will do just fine except that your typical bath soap and shampoo may not lather into clouds of suds and bubbles like we are use to.  Whenever possible, the use of  a biodegradable product is always recommended.  Some soaps are even designed for use in saltwater, and will even lather up to almost land life expectations.  Finish off with a fresh water rinse and hang dry.  Voila!  When we are docked at a marina, we will use their shower facilities.  So, within two to three hours, we had the boat all rinsed, boat soap, rinsed again for all the spots and salt crystals to be eradicated.  The stainless was polished all around again, before a Mexican gentleman came by with some general inquiries regarding our boat. His English was very broken as was our Spanish.  Then he offered his and his crew service of cleaning the boats including the stainless.  Umm…okay.  How much?  $45. Seriously.  I understood that loud and clear, without any broken language barrier.  We just spent a few hours, sweating profusely, dancing around each other, in each other’s way, pulling hose, pushing a soap brush, cleaning and polishing stainless.  I would have happily paid that!  Even John would have opened the wallet for that.  Oh well, there is always next time, right?

Pool side at the Grand Solmar- Thank you Dan and Jamie!
Nope, Sunsets never get old. Especially across and infinity pool!

Social media is a double edge sword.  On one hand, it allows you to keep in touch with family and friends on a regular basis , especially with a lifestyle such as ours.   My hat is tipped to those who keep blogs, videos, maintain various and every outlet of social media as it is challenging to find the time to put together classy as well as fun or informative information.  On the other, social media can be a time stealing mechanism that we slowly become lured into its capture of our time.   Through Facebook, a message came from a previous neighbor/friend who had moved to California.  She was with her family and happened to be vacationing in Cabo San Lucas.  We missed meeting up with them in California, but what are the chances now that they would be here?  Now less than half a mile away!  We are both only going to be here one more night and they are in a the Grand Solmar, one of the premiere resorts in CSL.   Once all of our chores were done, we set off to find a chandlery in order to find some line (or rope).  Then we would be off in their direction for some serious pool time.  What a treat!

Ahhh, the chandlery,  I hope John takes this in the spirit that it is intended…to be seriously funny.  The Spanish word for clothes is “Ropa”.  One of the items we needed at the chandlery was line.  Or by another name, rope.  Rope is actually “cuerda” in Spanish.  John is not bilingual and went with the word that made the most sense to him.  “Donde es Ropa?”   followed with “Can I see your Ropa?”  Imagine John in the Mexican chandlery, asking to see the salesperson’s “clothes”!  Fortunately many Spanish speakers in Cabo understand the English words to their trade and the salesman was able to show John the “rope” (or line once it is on the boat).  Cabo is as one Mexican explained to me, an extension of North America and there is little Mexican culture left to be found in CSL.  “When the popular places include a Starbucks, a hot dog stand, and a McDonalds”, it doesn’t seem so culturally different.  Cabo is a mecca for sport fishing.  Incredible resorts line the waterfronts, each bigger, bolder and more beautiful than the previous one.

Having completed our quest and returning empty handed, we walked to the other side of town and up the steep hill to the Grand Solmar fortress.  It is hot. It is dusty. We could have taken a taxi but walking is normal for cruisers.  We texted our friends that we were on our way!  Passing store fronts, we hear the calls of “come in, good price for you today, but it has the volume of passing by someone and saying good day.  There is no harassment. Farmacias and restaurants line the waterfront. Multiple stores selling the same items are on the street behind that.  As most of the stores sell the same items, it becomes almost a bidding war between them.  Some stores are large enough and probably have rent that doesn’t allow them to negotiate.  There is nothing there I can’t live without.  Again, living on a boat changes how you live.  Once I had a house where  I had material things that reminded me of those trips every time I dusted them, now I have little room and if things do set out, have to be affixed while sailing or at least able to safely take a tumble when at anchor.  It was also those items that when it came time to downsize, was difficult to let go but was almost freeing after I had done so.  On a boat, it has to have a use or it will need to be given careful thought if it makes it on there.  That being said, I will have a few items that will remind me of those I love and feel comfortable in my tiny floating home.  One small item, however,  did find its way to its new home on the boat and sits near me as I write.  It makes me happy to gaze upon it.  On the hot dusty walk with the promise of a pool and umbrella drinks at the end, I noted how the sidewalks are clean.  Almost too clean.  Then I see an elderly Mexican gentleman and gentlewoman covered entirely with clothing.  Only their faces and hands are visible. She is sweeping the sidewalk which is barren of anything, she appears to be brushing air.  A large black plastic trash bag lays limp near her broom.  Above her are bushes that overhang the eight foot stone privacy fence marking a resorts property.  Only a few of those errant leaves may have scattered to the sidewalk where she has captured them.  The gentleman is working the gutter with his broom.  Little whisks here and there, again there is nothing but an occasional wafting of dust but nothing more.  We arrived at the top of the cobbled road to fin a beautiful new building just days from opening.  The open vestibule with its polished stone floor and ceiling fans turning for no one yet, seems large and museum like.  The grounds have been manicured and are awaiting approval from guests to be assured that they are arriving at a quality resort.  We move on to the next resort, the Grand Solmar.  Grand is an understatement. Our friend Jamie meets us in the lobby and guides through pool after pool.  These are only a few among the many.  We meet up with Dan and the Jamie’s parents and siblings.  We have heard so many wonderful things about her family and they were very welcoming of us.  Ahh, the pool.  The infinity pool with the million dollar view of the beach, the waves, and yes the soon to be setting sun over the Pacific Ocean.  Pool drinks around and we await the green flash!  We enjoyed several hours with Jamie, Dan, and her family and cannot begin to thank them enough for allowing us to crash their party and give us respite from our work and the heat of the dock.  A perfect way to celebrate- a Welcome Party with endless drinks all around!  As the night wore on, Jamie and her family went off to dinner and we were claimed by some new people in the hot tub.  By eight o’clock, our bodies cried out in fatigue, begging for sleep.

It’s crazy that as soon as the sun goes down, we are ready for bed.  It is almost as if our internal clocks are shut down.  Likewise, when it becomes light, it is difficult to remain asleep.  Trusty me, I will try.  We have afforded ourselves the extravagance of the dock but we need to move out to anchor.  The heat, if for no other reason.  We won’t move far, just to the bay.  Our friends on SV Lorien are coming in behind us by a day or so and will take a slip for a few days while they rinse and recover. We found an initial spot with great 360 degree views  and should be protected.  There was a strange object in the water that we finally snorkeled over after we set anchor.  It appeared to be some sort of post set for pangas or other type boats to moor up.  We upped anchor and relocated a little further away as that would not be a good thing to swing around to.

Life is good on the hook.  The boat swings into any breeze for airflow, and the water is sparkling clear to jump in.  It is only around 16 feet deep where we are at.  The bottom is sand.  SV Lorien is on their way in and we will meet up in a bit.

The next couple days were filled with exploring the beaches by dingy, looking for more great tacos, and story telling.  We had so much to catch up on.  I found a delightful alebrije from Oaxaca!  Of course, it was something the boat needed….. now if I could only convince John that it has a purpose. I have been fortunate to have spent some time in Mexico prior to this experience, and there are certain things that always bring wonderful memories and smiles.  Alelbrijes do that.  These typically wood carved whimsically painted mythical creatures explode with color so vibrant and deep.  A perfect alebrije octopus!  Why, it could not be more perfect for the boat!  Not large in size but giant in color, it would be perfect!  Let the bargaining begin.  I had searched many of the stores on the back streets as well, and this was the only octopus to be found.  It would be the one.  It made sense.  The charming salesman and I would go back and forth, and ended with him speaking to his boss for the final say.  In the end, I had my octopus and he had a sale.

 

A great way to celebrate our “Shakedown” cruise!

CSL is an interesting place.  As one Mexican stated, there is no Mexican culture left when the popular eateries are McDonald’s and Starbucks (yes, both just off of the marinas but on a Main Street). There is a lot of money passing through CSL, sort of a Mexican Las Vegas.  It is busy, busy, busy.  There has been some US media of recent cartel shootings but we were not near any of it and would not anticipate having any issues related to it.  After a couple of days, the traffic, the amount of people gives us the readiness to continue on.  Nice to visit but…. we have many more places to see on this journey!  Next up will be some more remote beaches!

 

Bahia Tortugas to Magdalena Bay- continuing our way!

YAY! Our first Tuna! Welcome aboard! All 20# of your healthy goodness!
One lonely sea lion to bid us farewell from Cedros.

26 October 2017

Ahhh Cedros!  You will always be a little piece of heaven for me.  The quiet peacefulness, your rugged terrain, and all the sea life, including the new life you showed in the rookeries.  During my stay here, I often wondered what it must be like for this island’s inhabitants. What would your life be like, what do you think about during the day, do you ever think of leaving this island with it’s harsh heat and dryness?  Do you know what you are missing in the world but the truth is, are you really missing anything?  Maybe your life is more peaceful without the things that we now feel stressed without.

As a parting gift, the fishing lure that was mocked numerous times for it’s robust size and dazzling eye-candy like colors, and your sea gifted us with three fish to fill our freezer.  You enabled me to experience making my first ceviche which I anxiously awaited doing.  You vindicated my choice of lures. And it was good.

Really?!?! Fog?!?! again?? at least it is warm.

We are off to Bahia Tortugas.  This is in the guidebooks as the last real place to get fuel or groceries until Cabo San Lucas.  It is also a stop over for the Baja-Ha-Ha.  Until the Baja-Ha-Ha, it is rumored that this sleepy fishing village is quiet and uneventful.  Little entertainment is to be found.  We have the “A” sail up for a bit as the waves and the wind are off our starboard stern.  Captain John says things just get better.  After Cedros Island, I am not sure how.  Nearing the entry point to Bahia Tortuga, what do we have here?  It’s late afternoon and we have…fog.  Now this is interesting.  Fog is not, I repeat, NOT my favorite. It is still daylight, and it is, oddly enough, warm out.  This may be doable.  I am not completely miserable as I was in the fog coming down the coast.  With the radar on, we make our entrance and the fog begins to lift.  One other Ketch sits far out in the bay.  We start to the west side of the dock for possible anchorage but decide on the east side of the dock as it seems like it would be less busy.  A few pangas and a large fishing boat bob merrily on their moorings.  All are adorned with fifteen pelicans or more.  The pelicans stand guard, lined up and almost shoulder to shoulder like soldiers all in a row.  Seagulls dot the sky and the water, relegated away from the boats and pelicans it seems.  The only dock, which extends out into the bay stands higher than one would imagine ever needed in this bay.  Fuel can be received a this dock in a med  (mediterranean) mooring style delivery.  It looks, well, a bit sketchy but who am I to say.  They have been doing this for years.  As we are setting the boat up for a short stay, the dingy from the other lone sailboat swings by.  It is one of the Canadian boats from Ensenada! Kirsten and Jerron (liberty taken with spelling of their names) came in this morning.  With a few beers in hand, they pulled up along side Bella and engaged us with various stories that had us wrapped up in laughter.  They had been here since the morning and had also noted the fog’s attempts to envelope the bay. The town is as sleepy and quiet as anticipated based upon their trip to town.  Little boys waving you down, yelling and telling you where to bring your dingy in for them to land you and then for a 1USD (preferably for each kid), will stand guard over your dingy.  All good things to know for the morning.  It’s movie night on Bella.  Popcorn and Captain Ron, always a favorite.

Somewhere out there is a boat. And a fisherman. And a whole lot of hungry birds that sound like a raging beehive.

“Deb! Deb! Come out here, you have to see this!  Come out here!”  Somewhere in the what appeared to be the fisherman’s version of Alfred Hitchcock’s timeless classic “The Birds”.  The fisherman gathering sardines for bait to use with lobster season has all the pelicans and seals for miles around going crazy around his boat.  The buzzing in the air, the squawking and splashing is loud and fills the air.

Captain John and the beached dingy. Pedro is waiting for him.

We dingied to the dock where a couple of young lads, no more than eight or nine years old, begin to beckon us over towards the dock, then point to the beach with infamous two fingers pointing to their eyes and our then to our dingy.  Of course the mom in me wanted to ask why they weren’t in school.  They ran to the beach and as we approached, did not come out completely as described by others. It was a hard landing as the wave threw our dingy onto the beach. Lesson learned.  They took the painter line and said they would watch it  for a dollar and held out their hand.  An older guy came up behind then and asked what we needed. Fuel? Food? Somehow, Pedro became our self proclaimed personal guide.  Maria’s is the eatery right on the beach.  It is also where Enrique could be found. Enrique is The Godfather of fuel to the boaters.  $6.99/gallon. Diesel. What?  Yes, indeed. However, when you are the only game in town and this is the only real fuel stop then you can smile and wait.  They (the customer) will always be back.  As the customer, you suck it up and smile as you hand over your wallet.   We requested forty gallons.  It will be delivered tomorrow morning at 10 am.  Pedro waits quietly on the beach, ready to resume his role as our purser.  Groceries?  Onward we went.  He is a big guy, a quiet fellow who is bereft of of his right arm, some sort of amputation?    It seems he has a fairly defined occupation and he takes it seriously.  His English isn’t what the young kids are but he is able to understand our needs.  In my best attempt to make light conversation, I inadvertently switched the Spanish word for “Hot” with “Spicy” when discussing the air temperature.  This was after I used the word in Spanish for “Be Quiet”. Grocery store- check.  About $30USD. Fresh fruit, vegetables, Lucky Charms, and other necessary items  were purchased for the remainder of the trip to Cabo. John had Pedro find us another liquor store, hoping it might be cheaper.  Again, everything is brought in to this place.  We returned back to boat with our foods to unpack and store.  We broke the first cardinal rule of not bringing stuff onto the boat that had not been washed.  Ugh.  John doesn’t seem to think will be an issue and it frustrates me as I know how he will react (think elephant gun to shoot a pigeon response) if it were to happen.  The fear is cockroaches.  They are prolific in these areas and are boaters nemesis.  They lay their eggs in cardboard and the glue of paper labels on products as well as can hide in leafy parts of fruits/vegetbles.  I immediately prepared the sink with a Clorox/water bath and everything goes in it.  The cardboard didn’t make it off the combing and was quickly stashed in wet Clorox soaked plastic bags.  Which are prolific here as well.  Every time we try to pack our groceries into our “re-useable” backpacks, we receive the oddest looks .

Bay front of Bahia Tortuga

When the boat chore was done, and yes, it is a boat chore, we returned to beach, beached ourselves and this made the kids unhappy.  We did better without their help, sadly.  We weren’t going to need their skills in watching our dingy either. We were going to eat only fifty yards away.  This meant no earned money.  Pedro was there, standing tall as a statue.  Really?  We had been gone at least an hour!  We politely declined his services at this time too, since our eating establishment was fifty yards from the dingy.  We enjoyed a late lunch at Maria’s,  with steak tacos and some sort of “Fish pillow” special.  I didn’t ask, it was healthy and palatable.

He is absolutely beautiful and well kept. And I am pretty sure he knows he is one lucky gato!

Persian, the restaurant cat, was by far one of the most beautiful cats I have seen.  A pale salmon tangerine coloring with pattern similar to a seal point siamese, with eyes bluer than the sea.  He has a thing for straps and found my drybag/pack straps ideal and the warmth of the dry rubbery material to be a wonderful and warm place to nest in spite of the waiter – Victor- insisting that he get off the chair and backpack.  I didn’t mind.  Here we finally had wi-fi which I feverishly put together the previous blog.  Blogging is a bit harder than I anticipated.  I have several things on my “I am going to do when I have so much time on my hands” but it rarely seems that I have that time! I worked on as much as I could as we were meeting Kirsten and Jerron.

The cheeriness of color on homes pop in the tan variations of arid climates.
Now boarded up, this would make a great front for a good old fashioned western movie!
Not all homes are single story. I can’t imagine the dust they have to tolerate.
The side of this fishing store tells you all y ou need to know.
View from a little higher up the hill and the sprawling size of Bahia Tortuga.

We changed to a different place as we thought it was a bar and everyone wanted a different view of the bay,  we had been sitting in the same chairs at Maria’s for quite some time now.  It is, but not open or ready yet, but will be for Baja-Ha-Ha.  Hmmmm….. well okay then. We decided to walk through town and perhaps find another restaurant or even a bar.  This dusty and dry town.  Where it’s sole survival is based upon the fishing markets of Japan and China.  Color can be found in the flowered bushes that seemingly grow vibrantly with little or no water.  Amidst the dust covered vehicles- a car wash is a non existent concept where water is so precious – color can be found on the buildings, the homes, and other places.  The sidewalks or the idea of sidewalks is less of a need as the streets suffice for both vehicles and pedestrians. This is where we learned how quiet the town can be until the Baja-ha-ha’ers get there. After a great attempt that just did not turn out, we returned to our boats. Tomorrow would be fueling and then off again as we make our way down the Baja.

Looking out at the bay and entrance from the “Church of the Sailors”. Long ago, two sailors were rescued by fishermen, the town scraped up the money to help them get home. In repayment, they came back and built a single room church. It is now one, if not the largest, buildings in the town.

28 October 2017

Morning trek to Maria’s. Just me and the birds.

John brought me over  to Maria’s to upload blog and photos around 9am and returned to the boat for fueling.  The panga would bring it out to him. He took on 40 gallons of fuel but would then need to come back to Maria’s, not just to pick me up but to pay for the fuel.  The panga fills up with the amount requested by the sailor. That is what they bring you.  No more, no less.  He would have to wait until Enrique would be available in order to pay. We all know how he feels about waiting.  Welcome to Mexico.  It gives him time to sit back, kick back and have another cervaza.   So…. the 10am refueling has now been delayed halfway through the process.  It would be around 1400 when we would leave instead of the plan of leaving by noon. Once completed and we were on our way back out to Bella, we saw Kirsten and Jerron heading into to town.  They are going to wait until there was more wind in order to conserve fuel.  There is no real wind in forecast.  Once again, the models make predictions.  Outside the bay, wind picked up and we used the A (asymmetrical)  sail again for several hours before going wing and wing.  We had a GREAT sail and winds.

Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up. The camera can see what our retinas are meant to.

30 October 2017

Punta Abreojos.

We sailed well into the darkness before the winds collapsed.  It was a good ride as long as it lasted.  Another night motor. We arrived at Punta Abreojos around 0900.  We set anchor to the east of Bahia Abreojos town.  Many pangas could be seen on the beach as well as floating markers indicating many  lobster traps.  Another great reason to enter in daylight is the maneuvering course lobster pots provide.  You certainly do not want the line to foul your prop or cause loss of their pots potentially holding lobsters. These pots may only be marked by a floating empty coke bottle.  Or a line with a few bottles signifying potential multiple pots.   It is on the edge of a regulated San Ignacio whale preserve lagoon.  Although whales are common out here, we did not see any.  During December through May is courting, mating, birthing, and nursing of the grey whales migration.  Laguna San Ignacio whale park is only a small part of the Vizcaino Biosphere Preserve, and the Bahia Ballena (Bay of Whales) is a UNESCO World Heritage site.  One must be careful to not take their private boat in there as it is protected, requires hiring a licensed park guide and limited time in the park.   We left Punta Abreojos around noonish again, just long enough to get a good nap in for John and I.  I find the name amusing.  Abreojos means “Open Eyes”.  It seems our only reason for being here, was to close ours!  Of course, they mean “Open Eyes” as there are many below water navigational hazards.  Again, another good reason to not enter a new anchorage in the dark.  We took this opportunity for a cat nap as we will have another overnight as we proceed to Magdalena Bay.  The winds were good during the day again but by nightfall, they dropped less than 7-9kn and we were a motor boat once more.  Through the night, it was warm and didn’t seem to be as wet on deck as previously, even though there seem to be more cloud cover.  The night was pretty uneventful.  I have a new shift, from 2200 to 0200.  It seems to be okay.  It was around 1500 when we set anchor in  Man Of War Cove. John and I are joking, okay, it’s really me making the jokes and a dry facial response from him as I remind him that our travel has been just like the movie “Captain Ron”.  We are always going to “Ted’s”.

Caroline Harvey: Captain Ron, I was wondering. Are we going to be going to any more ‘human’ type places?
Captain Ron: Well, you heard of St. Croix?
Caroline Harvey: Yeah.
Captain Ron: We’re going to the island just to the left of it.
Caroline Harvey: What’s it called?
Captain Ron: Ted’s.

We had a late lunch, John thought Kraft Macaroni and Cheese would be good.  I will never turn that down!  As we have some eggs that will need to be eaten soon, that can be our protein even if it is a bright yellow and no other color meal.  Hey- I never said I was a great, not even good, creative cook before I started this adventure.   I started lunch or the macaroni & cheese just before the tuna was caught.  Over the next hour, I spent my time in the galley trying to eat in between rinsing Tuna and packaging for freezing.  Again, sailing for part of trip, wind off of the stern quarter. The famed purple/black lure has taken a beating.  Perhaps poor knockoff quality as imported?  Maybe hard hits from fish?  It’s still hanging in there.  Spanish Mackeral caught, but thrown back in.  Next hit was a 40# yellowfin Tuna. What?!?!  This is getting crazy! 18 frozen packages or 18 meals.  I think we have enough tuna.  We haven’t finished the first yet.  Stop fishing!  Bring that lure back in! ¡No más!

Where the Miramar used to be. The palapa covered front no longer beckons to or welcomes visitors. The infamous whalebones are gone. The town sits silent with little to no movement. They don’t have the the Baja-ha-ha here.
The center of town. But there isn’t much on either side of it.

31 October 2017

Man of War Cove and then to Belcher’s Cove.  In Man of War Cove, we took the dingy down to see what was in this town.  Sadly disappointed, our view from afar was confirmed as we neared it with the dingy.  We did see one or two human forms but other than those, the town could have been a ghost town.  There is an Aduana (customs office) but there were also no vehicles moving either.  The FUBAR which is the power yacht version of the Baja-Ha-Ha reportedly stops here.  The restaurant Miramar looks ghostlike.  It was about 1400 when we decided to pick up anchor and move an hour south along the coast.  It would make our trip an hour shorter to Cabo tomorrow, but it also meant different scenery.  In retrospect, this would have been a more idyllic spot for the entire time spent in that stop.  We had our own private and secluded Mexican beach!

Truly, so beautiful.
Anchored in about 15ft of water in now 82 degree water. Perfect!
The alter at the top of the hill.

Belcher’s Cove.  John has proudly noted he has lost twenty pounds since beginning this trip.  Since our lunches are now frequently grilled or fried tuna and rice, I am sure he will. At       2pm we left for Belcher’s Cove, a few darker colored dolphin started to follow us out but chose not to take chase with our bow.  It was less than an hour motor to this cove. The wind picked up a bit, when we anchored in 10 feet of water and a beautiful serene Mexican beach filled with solitude.  We towed the dingy so it was ready for us to take to the beach.  Such a nice shelling beach.  Recent high water or storm surge had stranded some crabs whose shells have now been bleached in their entirety.  Beautiful, clean and clear sand and water.  On a small bluff overlooking the beach is a small box memorial  with a glass front, a cross and a Mexican prayer candle inside, and obvious offerings of more candles outside, some lying aside, shells lined up between it and the simple wooden cross approximately two feet in front of it. Further down the beach, more whole bleached skeletons of crabs and an occasional snake spines are strewn quite high above the water’s edge. We walked the beach as we did some shelling.  The course brown sand and the moderately warm water was refreshing.  The water occasionally throws itself higher up the beach and twice it came up to steal our dingy.  Thanks to John’s spry old legs he was able to safely reach the dingy before it took off on its own adventure.  While I could have walked and looked forever, there wasn’t much to keep John interested.  He began digging a hole in the sand for his feet and burying them.  I brought back my loot consisting of shells, more shells and a few crab mummies, even a live hermit crab, but none could compare to a fine specimen he had already found.  We dingied back to the boat when I asked if I could be taken back to shore for a few photos as we would be taking off in the morning.  All was well until I saw what appeared to be a recently shed snake skin.  I was pretty much done.  I don’t like snakes.  Once we arrived back to Bella and started the process of unloading the outboard and raising the dingy, we were surrounded by another pod of feeding dolphins surrounding our boat as they moved through the cove.  No photos as once the Captain gets in a process, there is no stopping.  Not even for dolphins which was annoying to me.  So you will have to sit back now, close your eyes and feel slight movement of the water rocking the boat ever so slightly while you hear the forceful exhale of the blowhole so close you could touch it. Now, add some gentle splashes and imagine all those sounds happening in front of you, behind you, and even to your side.  As you open your eyes (abreojos!), you see dark grey arched bodies going up and down, again in front of you, behind you, and on either side of you.  This is peaceful and serene.  I wish I had some video to share.

The perfect spot again.  My lovely dolphins.  The perfect beach, water, shells.  What could possibly make this not perfect?  It is movie night again, and I am thrilled.  Popcorn and a Bond-athon!  Yes, I have James Bond on the boat.  Daniel Craig, the Bond I declared not to love but now find completely irresistible as Bond and was mortified when he was not going to be future Bonds.  The same Bond that when I found out he would return, celebrated with my friends by having MacCallan Scotch and Vesper Martinis.  This just could not get better!  Way off in the distance, slight motor sounds could be heard.  Sport fishing boats settled in for the night and early morning fishing.  So far away, they were barely visible on the horizon.  Only the stillness of the night carried the sound for us to hear.  But wait,  there is another sound.  Sorry for this, but what the hell?  A panga of two fishermen.  They have literally anchored fifteen (yes, you read that correctly) fifteen fracking feet from us!  All of this beautiful shallow water, miles of of water, miles of beach.  The anchor FIFTEEN FEET from us!  Now they have our attention.  They don’t speak to us but settle in for the night.  FOR THE NIGHT!  With their little red anchor light on.  FIFTEEN FEET from us!  John was not happy.  I wasn’t either but wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt that they would only be doing some night fishing, or that we were a wind break for them.  I tried to think of any plausible reason that they would anchor their boat so close to us.  Surely, they knew that we would not be pleased?  We have these wonderful stainless security bars that John had manufactured for the hatches and one for the companionway as well.  All are locked.  It allows air to move freely throughout the boat without having to worry about  unwanted bipeds also moving freely.  We placed those and finished watching Bond when we would decide if we would up anchor and move across the bay.  Ultimately, we decided to make our stand.  Throughout the night, Captain John took note several times if they were still within snoring range.  They were.  Only the winds have shifted. We are no longer bow to the south east but now turned 180 degrees to north west.  So are the fishermen.  Which means our anchor lines are now crossed and there is an opportunity for entanglement.  Again, did they really have to anchor so close?  In the wee hours of the morning, before I was up, the fishermen and taken off. John heard some noise from the motor and that was simply the end of that.  We will never know why.  We now readied the boat and will take off ourselves.  Belcher’s Cove was indeed beautiful and I could spend more time there, but it is not Cedros Island.  It still holds top spot in my memory.  This will be the final transit, through the night again, to make Cabo San Lucas.