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!
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.
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!
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”.
Bahia de los Muertos 10 November 2017
“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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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!
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?
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.
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!
Hi all, the website has been migrated to a new host as the previous one ran out of space! Who’da thunk it? Anyway, should be transparent to all of you except that maybe Deb had to hold off on posting further until now. Thanks for watching.
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.
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.
“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.
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 .
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.
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.
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.
28 October 2017
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.
30 October 2017
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!
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!
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.
I am so excited. It seems forever ago that we untied the lines in Tacoma. Even longer since we left Colorado and family/friends behind for this journey. We have gone from an idea to a goal and to even living aboard all while enjoying the comforts of being stateside. I have been teased that I may not survive without a Starbucks, but surprisingly while I did enjoy it, it really was more of a special treat to enjoy with friends. I honestly haven’t missed it. Don’t get me wrong, if available, I will be tempted for “old times sake” but I am not dying without it! The excitement of now being in another country by sailboat has taken its place.
Estamos Mexico! We arrived into seaport town of Ensenada or Bahia de los todos Santos after 1730 on Wednesday, 18 October. We hailed three times on the VHF for the Port Authorities to notify them of our arrival. There was no answer. We had our slip assignment from Baha Naval Marina so we docked ourselves, stern in and port tie which is the captain’s favorite and put up our “Q” flag or the yellow flag signaling our “quarantine” until we could be officially checked in. Nothing to do but wait until morning and rules are that no one leaves the vessel until cleared. A young lady from a neighboring boat ran out to help with lines but seeing that we had it under control, smiled and went back to her boat. We noted there were several boats in port, mostly flying Canadian flags. John started speaking to someone toward the end of the dock in a power yacht, meanwhile I had another gentleman walk by and started a pleasant conversation letting me know that he just returned from the grocery and his full back pack was less than $50 and he would be happy to share any information we might need. His strong thick accent was certainly not Canadian. Originally from Stuttgart, Germany, “Ernie” had been living in Canada for several years before making his way down to Mexico in his sailboat. We chatted briefly and I shared that my mom was also German and she hailed from Garmisch Partenkirchen. He knew Garmisch well as he was a hang glider for many years and would often fly from the Wank, one of the bordering mountains of the beautiful city. But this would have been forty years ago. Based on his age, and my age at the time, I had to half wonder if he were one of the hang gliders that I was speaking to when I was up on that mountain as a pre-teen. It is a small world after all. The thought passed as quickly as it came, and Ernie was off to his boat. John returned having met another “John” who said the showers were nice and if we needed a key to shower, he would loan us his. He and his wife were here for a few days and would need some engine repair done. We appreciated his kind offer and we were ready to settle in for our official check in process in the morning.
19 October 2017
Every country seems to have a slight twist on how things are done. When we checked into Canada, only the captain left the ship with the information regarding the boat and the crew. Returning to the US was a similar procedure. Mexico requires the captain and the crew to present at customs. Out of respect for the offices, it is recommended to not show up in a t-shirt and shorts. So John pulled out a business casual shirt and pants from his office days (yes, he still has some!). A sundress and light cover sufficed for me. Some travelers have used “agents” who, for a fee, will assist them in the process. Others simply do the process on their own and some do well while others struggle with the challenges of language and efficiency. We were thrilled to find that Baja Naval provided us the service with Carlos, not an agent, who spoke wonderful English (self taught over a course of three years!). Carlos walked with us over to the Port Captain’s office and translated all of our necessary forms for us to each of the offices. Ensenada is the only city currently that provides all the offices under one building. It only took us three hours! Our biggest snafu at the office was John’s identification. His passport is Jonathan. His driver’s license is John. The USCG documentation lists John. This is No Bueno as far as the Mexican offices go. They pondered, shook their heads, asked others, pondered again while Carlos explained everything as they were determining whether they would let the difference pass. It wasn’t looking hopeful but then Carlos noted something in the paperwork. Fortunately MY name is also on the USCG documentation. And my passport as well as driver’s license match as well as match to the documentation. I was three for three! We were able to pass for that reason only. There would be one more form but as the Port Captain is busy in the mornings, we would need to come back in the afternoon. Carlos said he would be happy to take care of it for us. We used our exit port for the country of Mexico as Ixtapa, however looking at the map afterwards, we should have used a different port. There is a chance that we may need to pay to leave from a more southerly port. Hindsight, and I don’t remember reading this anywhere on the internet or books, is to use the last port you intend to be in before changing countries on your papers. Since we are unsure of where we might be jumping to the next country from, if we used the last available port, we can always clear the country earlier From an earlier port without difficulty. However, if we decide to travel further south in Mexico such as Puerto Chiapas, we may have to pay. That was the port I should have used whether we went there or not. This has yet to be resolved and we can ask in Cabo San Lucas or La Paz.
The “red brick building” as described as the Port Captain’s office looks more white than red to me. It is off the main waterfront but an easy walk.
Back to the boat to get back into some cooler clothes! Shorts and t-shirts! Next up will be the supermarkets for food. We have a choice of three within walking distance. Soriana, Calimax, Mayorista. The two smaller ones seemed to be a little more expensive. The Mayorista was larger and prices seem to be better (cheaper). Again, the biggest challenge is knowing what you want and a) they don’t have it here or b) it’s there but packed slightly differently. Thank goodness for pictures on labels! We again filled two 20L backpack/drybags with food and total expense was approximately $50US.
Lemons, limons, oranges, avocados and a cucumber. The produce is insanely cheap here. At the same time, you need to use it quickly as the heat here tends to speed up the ripening time. C’mon fishy fish! Our plan is to spend two days here, one to clear in to the country and the other is to get a few provisions. The captain and I differ strongly in this area as he is a minimalist and figures everyone has to eat. I, on the other hand, like to make sure we have enough food for 6 weeks or more and then maybe a little more!
Ensenada’s streets, while dusty and hot, are lined with palm trees and flower bushes. Colorful candy to the eye.
Just above the marinas, is a large park which has a water experience along the marina. Every night around nine pm, the music and choreographed light and water show begins. Every night!
The captain is always about “getting business done first”. So, that means, the clearing in process, finding a grocery story (or in our case – three!) and provisioning with needed items and returning them to the boat before we could explore and possibly, just possibly get something to eat….again, anyone who know the machine, affectionately at times but not at others, Captain John is that he begins his work and simply doesn’t stop for breaks until it is done. Poor Tony and I thought we would die of hunger (okay, mild exaggeration) while John was working on a wiring project. Many nights it was 8:30pm before dinner would be made. Now begins a new process for us. Once we had the food back to the boat, before we bring it on the boat, is a ritual all boaters are familiar with- cleaning produces and removing cardboard and labels, transferring foods to our own storage containers. Bugs, specifically cockroaches like to lay their eggs in cardboard and glue of labels. Those pesky, unloved, unwanted creatures are not welcome here! So that took more time. Finally, we were free and could explore a little bit of the town. Everyone is out, “Señor, come eat here, best price, best fish tacos, you like fish tacos? Time to eat, Señora, you look hungry!” See?? Even the sellers could see the look of famish on my face! We stopped at one outdoor bar where “Juan” encouraged us to have a drink, “best margaritas in town” when John asked him where would he (Juan) go for best tacos. Juan pointed us with directions in English, his English was excellent, down the street. So in gratitude, we drank with Juan and would have tacos after. During this time, another patron joined us and his story of being in Ensenada. Soon a much older appearing gentleman showed up with a box around his neck and two silver handles. These would be held by the customer as he increased the voltage until the customer wished or could take it no longer. The blonde guy said it was great for the health, promoted heart health, strengthened muscles and he always felt better afterwards. A third guy came up and held one hand piece and the blonde guys hand while his other hand held the second hand piece, completing the circuit with both of them, allowing the electricity to run up where they were both gritting their teeth and loosing their grip. Do you think there is anything wrong with this picture? Call me crazy, I will stick to my multivitamins.
Okay, with only one margarita which was very strong, we were on our way. Down the street of Miramar. Miramar is a controlled environment. The police of Ensenada are trying to keep the city safe for tourism. They have allowed one street to have the problems contained. Miramar. Sellers of illegal substances can be found here as well as sellers of flesh, including transgender. However, it was this street we were warned of that is also home to a great taco stand. As we were heading off, Juan bounded up behind us, apparently done with his shift. So off we three went, the street darker but busy with people and activity. Our street taco stand was without fuel to run the grill! Fortunately, Juan had a second choice just a block further. I might have been biased by the hunger that consumed me, however those were some of the best street tacos ever!
20 October 2017
Today we are looking for a washing machine. For the boat. Now this maybe where I lose you with this sailboat fantasy. Sure, you have seen the great food photos I posted. You may have even seen my video clips on Facebook showing the dolphin encounters. Did you ever wonder how we washed our clothes? Some of the bigger or newer sailboats may have a washer and dryer on board. We don’t. When in a marina, we have used their laundry facilities. Coin operated washer and dryers. At some point, we may even find that it helps the villagers who offer to do laundry inexpensively. Until then, we have to do it ourselves. By hand. Yes, we were in pursuit of a bucket. For $3.50 we found a lovely grey bucket who will become our new washer. The life lines on the boat will become the new dryer. We also plan find more street tacos. This time at a place called La Guerrerense. Set up on a corners of Alvarado and Lopez Matteos), this stand with it’s five uniformed employees cut and shuck fish, avocado, onions and more, all before your very eyes to make you a fish or ceviche style tostada or other similar meals. The several customers surrounded it with a few sitting on the six chairs close by. This tasty nugget of Mexican culinary has met with many famous chefs, one being Anthony Bourdain. So, of course if it is good enough for him, it is good enough for us. And good it was!
As we continue our walk about, with a large bucket in hand and our bellies full, we have have noted many of the pharmacies have this statue outside their door, promoting the famous “blue pill”. Hmmm……except for the color, and the appropriation of hair above the neck, I would say that the two below are identical, wouldn’t you?
Back to the boat and everything is processed and in order. We sat up on the main coastal walkway to people watch. John and his wife Lynn, are also planning on heading south in their power yacht. Their boat, experiencing some mechanical issues require a part that is difficult to find in any of the local marinas so they are going to drive back to San Diego, see family and take care of some business affairs as well as pick up the much needed part and return in one week. They both seem excited about life and enjoying it on their boat. As our evening began, our last evening in Ensenada, we found that could have maybe enjoyed another day but we we were anxious to move on. We enjoyed everything we saw and everyone we met. We look forward to seeing some of these same people along our journey south.
20-21 October 2017
Bahia Colonet (or on the gps “Colnett”)
Leaving Ensenada in the morning would give us a full day to travel. The winds would be off our starboard and give us a great sail. With our passage down the coast, our winds were inconsistent. We now seem to be enjoying the possibility of more regular and consistent sailing wind. After all, we are a sailboat.
Approximately 65 n.m. south of Ensenada, this landmark looks like a nose on the map. We anchored in where we would describe a nostril being but not near the cut. One of things we are working on is timing. Nothing is more stupid than coming into an unfamiliar place after sundown. Charts can only be so accurate and we have found that the Garmin maps tend to be off. This is a bit disconcerting and makes the need for good visual representation imperative to safely staying afloat. We came in at dusk, arriving with the breakers to Punta Colonet. We can hear the breakers roaring in our ears. The voraciousness of the sound of Niagra Falls comes to mind. The water begins to shallow up to eight or nine feet under the keel. The area is noted for being congested with kelp. Yet the sheer bluffs which are the protection from the wind and surge seem so far away. Darkness fell quickly after we set the anchor in what we deemed to be the best place for us based upon depth (down to six and seven feet now) and placement to the bluffs. The breakers here are violent, loud and constant. It is a recommended anchorage where the hopes of a someday breakwater, marina, and cargo terminal will be built. Perhaps the breakwaters could tame the breakers. However currently it remains a desolate fishing village that few people could be seen. A couple of pangas and surfboards sit on the rocky beach. The anchorage has considerable movement from the surge. Maybe this was just part of a new normal that you don’t have in many places of the PNW. It was around eight pm when I thought food might be good for us. The gimbaled stove was gently rocking with the surge. Japanese chicken curry and pasta. Two pots on the two burner propane stove. I don’t remember where John was when the first wave hit. A phrase that John’s dad uses comes to mind when I think about those first few moments. The gimbaled stove was likely fifty degrees off of its normal position and it was “all assholes and elbows” as everything went flying in our tiny house. Once again, this crazy thought of “what the heck am I doing when I could be home wasting time on the internet?”. We have not internet service at this time. The sliver of a moon providing no real light to speak of is already in the western sky. John is on deck timing the waves and yelling down to hang on. I have the flames out now. Dinner is the last thing on our minds. well not completely last as I am imagining the mess I will be cleaning up. John sees some lights coming from ashore. The fishermen in the village most likely knew that the breaker line was about to change and waited for the their opportunity to help. They began shining their lights on the bluff, making motions towards it. We had to up anchor and move and they were attempting to guide us from on shore. We are so thankful for their good intentions. The challenge is did they realize how the water was becoming more shallow under our keel? Not all sailboats have the same draft. We believe they wanted us to come in further. We motored in approximately one thousand yards and out of the surf. This was enough to make us feel more comfortable with depth and still have less surge. We were still fairly far from the bluffs. I did actually get the meal finished and it was definitely needed and wanted after the pre dinner excitement. I think we most likely fed our stomaches around 9pm and then it would be a poor attempt to sleep without being pitched out of our beds. With the gps and anchor alarm set, the surge continued to test our anchor (a Rocna) and our skills used in setting it.
I am so thankful that the anchor alarm did not go off with any alerts during the night. It did not mean that we had a restful sleep however. It was a pitiful attempt and we were both as tired for it. We would be moving on to San Quintin today and the hope of a better night’s rest. As always, Captain John gives me a time for departure (and allowing myself an hour to wake up, get ready and morning cup of coffee or two) but he begins talk of getting underway within fifteen minutes after I am upright and moving. I need my morning time to wake up. I could wake earlier however, that just means we would have the same situation- only earlier.
21-22 October 2017
We arrived to see the four volcanic cones that signify San Quintin. There are two estuaries which have ever shifting bottom contours and depths. Our anchorage would be off of Play Santa Maria. Our anchorage at San Quintin at night was, well, again rolly. Pronounce that with a long O’ sound. It’s not actually a word but it should be. It should be in every sailing vernacular. The breakers were insane as they skew your perception if you are unfamiliar with the sounds. Violent, thunderous and never ending. At night with the rocking of the boat, the inability to use sight to help determine perception, it feels like you are going to fall off the earth. Again, it sounds like Niagra Falls. During the day, it was a much different picture. We could see the four cones of volcano cones. We could see people on the beach of Playa Santa Maria, playing in the surf with the sounds of kids peals of laughter. Yes the breakers were still loud, but having your sight to place it into perspective makes it much less frightening. The hotel is visible but there doesn’t seem to be much more. There was one other sailboat that came in where we thought it was the shallowest, a part of the ever changing bottom of the estuary. They did not stay long and we did not see them leave or where they went. We still had T-Mobile internet service which seems crazy as there is nothing here. In fact, during our trip along the coast, we have had mostly great service. As we took off this morning, a slow leisurely pace to Punta Baja, we were joined by five or so escorts of dolphins. This experience never gets old, even if these dolphins found the sailboat to slow for their taste. They came up upon our stern, swam along either side and then were gone. Maybe ten minutes of dolphin therapy at most. I’ll take it. We were hoping that Punta Baja will be a little more protected and a little less “rolly”.
The sail started off well but by 1300 the winds cut back to 6kn. The “A” sail wasn’t able to sail full as the winds slacked back even further. For those of you who don’t know what the “A” sail is, it is the asymmetrical sail which you often see in beautiful colors flying in front of the sailboats. We have a luscious bright red and yellow asymmetrical sail. It was new and was part of the suit of sails that Bella Nave came with. While it isn’t what Captain John would have ordered, it is bright and colorful and we love to see it out sailing. If you have a chance and are on the internet/Facebook, check out our friend Tony’s “A” sail. His boat, SV Magic came with a wonderful A sail that he was surprised when he first saw it. Purple with a hummingbird on it! I would have liked that one too!
22-23 October 2017
Punta Baja- we would leave here around noon to pass Sacramento reef in daylight. Sacramento reef is just below the water line and as such is a dangerous area without good sighting and careful navigation. We did NOT, repeat NOT, want to do this one at night. Plus this would include an overnight sail to San Benito Islands. We have tried to split the travel up so it is enjoyable for us. Many sailors will approach this path differently. The Baja-ha-ha, an organized rally out of San Diego, even has sailors who will vary although many will “follow the herd”. This is not meant to be disrespectful or rude. They have large parties, social gatherings, informational seminars and an organized radio contact system. This provides comfort for those new to this as well as providing a social aspect. The Baja-Ha-Ha typically will sail longer legs to get to the end destination of Cabo San Lucas quicker. We have time. Captain John does not have a sense of “follow the herd”.
UFO’s and other surprises of the night.
The names in the story you will read, have not been changed to protect the innocent. In fact, it is only a regret that we do not have photos or video to back this up. I hope that someday, Captain John will find it as amusing as I do when I find myself giggling at the serendipitous times the memory surfaces.
Ahhh, a beautiful night for sailing! It sounded violent with crashes above deck while I was attempting to sleep prior to my shift. Crash! Bang! Boom! I am sure these things as well as the rushing of the water against the hull meant nothing more than we are speeding through the water. Surely, Captain John would come down and ask for help if he needed to go out on the foredeck. ( Or not. As I also came to find out later, that the pinstock came loose on the mast, dropping the whisker pole two- two and half feet. Approximately thirty minutes later, the line used to extend the whisker pole snapped from evident chafing. None of which he came to ask my assistance. I have a reason to be angry as we agreed, no one out on the foredeck alone. If that person were to slip, fall off etc., when the other person would wake up later, there would be too many miles for recovery. However, that is a different story. ) The change of sails is noted and sleep is still difficult to obtain. Eventually I find it. I have barely settled into a comfortable position and sleep when I hear Captain John saying it is now 2200 and ready to start my part of the night. Sadly, in retrospect, I should have stayed awake. For then I could have watched Captain John in his glory, sails full as he sped down wind, surely with a smile on his face…only to have it smacked off by some furiously fast projectile from the sea, flapping as fast as it could and startling him out of his rapturous thoughts before flinging itself on to the cockpit sole and then to the opposite combing before flopping quickly off into the darkness of night, leaving only scales behind. Oh how this story reminds me of the day out in Commencement bay when a bird carrying a large fish, tried to knock me unconscious while I lay basking in the sun’s warmth. He laughed so hard then. Or maybe it was for not waking me while he went out on to the foredeck. I felt this was ocean karma.
The Orionides skies continues to throw shooting stars. We watched one that flew so slowly that you could watch the colors of its burn change as it approached and penetrated the atmosphere. Unlike most which are barely catchable, this one we felt we could almost call someone to let them know it was coming. The beautiful wind that so gloriously carried Captain John was now subsiding as I attempted to guide the boat as much as I know how. It was quickly becoming futile. Finally, Captain came up and we gave in to using engine power. Oh well, it was great while it lasted. He returned to his slumber as I watched for more falling stars, trying to match up constellations with my planisphere and occasionally finding my eyelids had closed on me. What? That is not supposed to happen. He said to wake him short of the San Benito Islands, where we were hoping to make a anchorage. He popped his head up early however, unable to sleep and so it would be that I happily would try to sleep again. I think I could do it this time. And I did. It seemed so short. Before I knew it, it was time to get up and get ready to anchor. The sky to the east had this unusual yellowish pinkish orange hues melding into the black. He assured me that this is normal and this is what “morning” looks like. I commented that it looks just like “evening” and that I like mine happening later.
San Benito West or Benito del Oeste – the island we were hoping to anchor in has a small bay. It is deep and there are numerous fishing boats scattered in it. The surge was pretty strong again and any dingy ride to this remote village would be unpleasant. We could see a church and a school. Imagine living on this little island as a family. We did bring some items to use for trading as we needed. Dang it. San Benito Island Central or Benito del Centro is the smallest of the three an is home to elephant seals and sea lions but not for anchoring. What?! This is where all the Elephant seals are and also not conducive to anchoring? How would I get to see any? We did not head out to Guadalupe Island which was probably a good thing as we did not get a SEAMAR pass in Ensenada. It is similar to a Park’s Pass. Guadalupe Island is a national biosphere and it is required to have a pass. I am running out of opportunities here. This is a big part of my adventure in traveling. People and animals. More often than not, it is of the animals whether on land or in the water. I enjoy social outings but would rather spend time with a few good people than in the presence of huge crowds. Of interesting note as well, the Garmin Mexico charts we returned to San Diego to purchase showed us sailing over land when our depth sounder showed over a hundred feed and missed showing another island that is present. The Navtronix on the iPad however, has been almost on point every time.
Since San Benito did not pan out as we had hoped, we will continue on to Cedros Island. It wasn’t recommended as a stopover in the guidebooks and Cedros Town was hinted at avoiding completely. I think I must have asked at least five times “Is this Cedros?” only as it seems so big. Sitting out in the cockpit, I am sure we were both catching a bit more slip intermittently. Then I vaguely remember hearing Captain John say “dolphins”. Well that helped spark my interest away from sleeping! I grabbed the camera phone and headed towards the bow. They were coming in from all directions again. What started as four – six quickly became twenty four or more, playing a shell game of which dolphin am I as they switch places swiftly and easily. It takes a trained eye to follow a single dolphin. Mine is not trained. Their communication sounds were clearly audible as they spent the next half of an hour playing at our bow. As quick as they arrived, they were gone. Well, now that was dolphin therapy.
We rounded the south end of Cedros, past what is known as the Cedros Island Yacht Club (what appears to be abandoned buildings) and continued motoring the contour of the island for a reasonable anchorage. Some guide books suggest that if good weather to continue on to Turtle Bay rather than stopping here. We chose differently. We have had two nights of poor sleep, and now an overnight too. We really just want some good rest. Captain John needs to do further work on the whisker pole. We are both getting a bit short and crabby. We saw a few shallow areas along rocky beaches where seals and sea lions were hauled out. We travelled further towards Jose’s but the island contour just did not look as protected. I also wanted to be closer to the sea lions. We turned around and went back to the first real bay after CIYC. Shallow and extremely clear blue water. 70 degrees! What?! Could it be? This might be the water we can actually do a saltwater bath in! We set the anchor and took in our surroundings. This huge island. A huge rock out in the ocean. No cell phone service. A few twiggy looking trees interspersed among steep inclines of reddish orange rock. Desolate. The sound of rocks falling as the waves crash upon the rocky beach and quirky pull the rocks away again. On the beach, often in groups, are sea lions. We can hear their endless barks of chatter. Some are deep guttural growls, while others are a higher pitched bark. Occasionally is something that, that just sounds wrong. It sounds like an elephant. Pelicans line the outer pinnacle rocks like sentries while a few float upon the water looking for the next fish. There are seals and sea lions swimming, doing flips, and basking in the water. This feels like a Jacque Cousteau moment. We see the fisherman have been here too, as their floating buoys marking their pots are nearby. Not many, maybe three at most. Their pangas go by in the evening as use line fishing as well. My “patio” oversees the beach and the quietness is broken up by the incessant chatter of sea lions on the beach. I love all their different sounds. I wonder what they are chatting so much about. We have two nights here before moving on. I think I am going to like it.
The heat from the sun baking the island and the northerly wind has increased our cabin temperately substantially. It feels as if the heater has been turned on. We have an invasion of kelp flies evidently. They don’t bite but they are as annoying as anything. They love the light. Tonight is movie night on the boat. We have a movie and popcorn. And kelp flies.
24-25 October 2017
Day one in heaven, or Cedros Island. We slept in late, myself even later. For whatever reason I was awakened around 0130. I saw a panga not far off our bow. Light on but no engine. I thought I would watch awhile and then thoughts of safety crept into my head. John woke up and we had a brief discussion. The fishing pole was still out, we would bring that in. Well, there was not time like the present to try the safety grates he manufactured to fit the companionway. We did not feel unsafe but felt it would be the best thing to do. We do carry safety items to give us some protection such as bear spray, fire extinguisher, and of course a machete and a taser. So back to sleep we went and it truly was the sleep of the dead. 1000 rolled around before I did. I could smell the aroma of coffee calling my name.
On with the swimsuit and off with the kayak. Oh my lovely kayak! How I have missed you. Weather and a surgery kept me from using you as much as I liked, and now we are going to explore the rookeries! Paddling up wind with the hopes of an easy float back was my intention. That and better lighting onto the beach with the sun behind me as I pulled out the 35mm camera. I went as far as I could to keep the boat in sight even if ever so small it was but a speck against the island. Skirting the shore, I was careful to keep a respectful distance. In the PNW, with whale watch etc., you are educated that a safe distance from sea mammals is one hundred yards. Considering there are rookeries with the babies now nearing 3-6 months, that seems fair. Since the protective moms are there, even more fair. We have all had to face a mom like that, in many mammal forms. That fact that these animals weigh in at six hundred pounds up to close to a ton, well that pretty much says that I don’t want to give them any reason to be concerned by my presence! My first group floating in the water with the surge appear to be elephant seals! They have then wrinkles in the neck, the elongated nose and no forehead. The nose or proboscis evidently grows more with age. It would not appear that two males in this group are very old however I did not stop to ask. Next group appears to be Stellar sea lions by coloration. Oh, there are a bunch of little ones! While cute and adorable and I would love to get closer, we know that wherever there are babies, there are mommas. I am a safe range away. Again, that whole protective instinct is real and I am not willing to inflect any reason that they need to afraid of me. Too late. A call out from one of the sea lions caused all of the little sea lions to take to the water where they could be more mobile than on the beach. With that, twenty or more little sea lions waddled and dove in the water while I turned out to sea even more and away from where they were diving in. While I was watching them and paddling away, I did not notice until I turned my head as a sea lion tried to splash me as it surfaced and dove right next to me. Checking me out or a warning, it didn’t matter. These were not the seals I was looking for! I continued my paddle, remaining off shore a reasonable distance and had my camera ready with a telephoto lens. I would love to have a longer telephoto lens but we have what we have. Photos or not, paddling along and having younger seals and sea lions pop up around you to see what you are is rather fun. They do not appear afraid, merely cautious. They spy hop, then stay up and watch, then dive in and swim under the kayak just to pop up and see you from a different angle. Move quickly and the seem to follow you. I paddled back towards the boat and continued up the shore line. Hours passed. I can’t tell you how happy I am that we chose to ignore the guide books and stay here. I thought I should check on the captain and his ongoing projects. While the galley appears to be turned into a workshop again, there are plastic and metal shavings everywhere. The whisker pole is once again functional.
26 October 2017
Our fishing has not gone well to date. We have lost two lures – one to kelp and the other simply went back to the sea the same way it came to us. It was a gift of the sea since we found it attached to our mooring line in Avalon. Captain John decided his fishing knot skills of days past were for trout and not for the fish we were looking for. So he read up on the correct knots. Now we have a choice of these tiny rubbery squid like thingies…. or my new color blasting, wiggly jiggly big eye skirted lures that he is sure will catch a two hundred pound marlin or the like, which would simply be too much for us, our gear, and our freezer storage to handle. I assured him that I researched these and did not just buy them because they were pretty…. So, with the new not and a wildly purple and black skirted lure, we set the line. It wasn’t fifteen minutes when the line started buzzing and spinning off the reel! Is it kelp again? No, this time the kelp was fighting back! Within ten minutes we had the prettiest yellowfin tuna on board. For those of you who fish, you know what has to happen next. For those of you who don’t, well, let’s keep it that way. Quickly Captain John took the task at hand to fillet the fish and hand off to me. Part would become ceviche for tonight and the rest would be frozen into meal sizes. While I continued to do this, things became quiet on deck. Then the whizzing noise again! What? He had thrown the lure out again! Now we had a Pacific Bonita on the line! So he brings that one in. The filleting process begins again. Keep in mind that Captain John has this quirky fastidiousness and has to have a clean boat around him or it drives him nuts. So after the first fish, the boat received a nice rinse down. Now we have fish guts for a second round. Clean and repeat. I am preparing the second fish when once again, I hear the whizzing sound. All I can do is smile, after all, my lure is doing quite well, isn’t it! We stopped after the third fish. One Tuna and two Bonita’s. That will do quite nicely. Now off to Turtle Bay.
Welcome to San Diego! Minimal wind so it was a more of a motor sail again. It seems there is too much or not enough wind. In our case, it was mostly not enough. Our sailboat, with a displacement of 26,500 pounds really sails best around 20kn. However, it has been said that there is no bad day on the boat, just a bad day at work.
When we arrived tonight at approximately 2200, we had to first check in with the Harbor Police to fill out the necessary forms. Boats in the A-9 anchorage are only allowed 30 days and meet certain requirements. They were very polite and very busy on a Wednesday night. When they finally made it to us, they checked for safety equipment (life jackets or PFD’s and fire extinguishers) and to pump our head to see if it worked. Odd. That was the extent of it. It was my understanding they would be looking at more. He mentioned what a beautiful boat we had that many of the boats they board are trash. He used a more colorful acronym. That made me feel a little better as it was not picked up and ready for guests, however brief the visit. Little did I know where the bar was set for what they see. They shared with us that probably the craziest and more common call that they receive is domestic violence! They took our information and bid us a good travel. After we completed business it was off to the free anchorage. Fairly shallow, we had about 6 feet under the keel. What a beautiful city panorama at night. We found a sweet spot, set the ground tackle (mud holding) and couldn’t believe our view.
5 October 2017
Well, well, well. For being allowed thirty days at no charge, a magnificent view of the city, surely there must be a downside? I mean, look at this day/evening and night view of the city! There were very few boats where we were. One sailboat was in the process of being scuttled, usually at night. Hmmm…… Sure that beautiful bay that we sit in, is right next to one of the busiest airports in the country- and it evidently only has one runway. With low clearance, the jet engines are very clearly audible with take-offs and landings. The noise factor is not a large issue as it seems there are very few flights at night, if any at all. Or maybe we are that tired at night! The rolling waves that come from the visiting cruise ships and frequent Coast Guard vessels (we are next to the USCG station) can certainly liven up any afternoon! It is probably the fact that there is little to no room to take a dingy in. There are four-five dingy docks but most are surrounded by dinghies that have been locked to the dock long enough that some are sinking. The others should probably sink. The trip from the anchorage through the rented mooring field (which are typically full and reservations must be made well in advance) is interesting as there are some boats here that have not moved in years and never would move on their own power. Missing masts or bottom growth of six or more inches (making them almost their own artificial reef system) suggest this. As we pulled up to one dock, some guy ran down and asked us to take some water to the sailboat closest to the dock (less than thirty feet away) as they have been trying to coax the male inhabitant off the boat for a few weeks. He has no water on board. They said “you don’t need to talk with him, just give him the water”) and we zipped it over there for him to reach out and take it. He did, nodded and returned inside his boat cabin. His kayak was split in half lengthwise and all but the stern (held by the painter line) was sunk in a shallow ten feet of murky water. I am guessing his head (toilet) doesn’t work either.
Okay, time to get serious. While love helps the trip, it doesn’t fight the hunger. We will need to find a grocery store. Also there are various assorted forms that Mexican Customs are going to require. As we did not have exact dates of entering Mexico, we did not initiate the process online while we were in Washington. It may have helped, it may not. That remains to be seen. The internet is loaded with anecdotal stories of entering or “checking in” to Mexico. Each with enough variance that you almost want to just “wing it”. However , knowing how frustrated John gets with ineffecient processes, I hope that this is one that go does not go poorly. I have experienced Mexico processes and am ready for “mañana”! We do not carry a printer onboard as some other boats do, it is simply one more electrical occasional use apparatus that struggles to survive the saltier climate, let alone keeping it running with the right ink cartridges, the right ink cartridges etc. We have printed off everything we think we need except for the TIP card and the FMM Tourist cards that we will get when we enter Mexico. We have read anywhere from five to twelve copies each of the forms we are to provide. We will keep you posted as to what that exact number is. Then again, it may depend upon how the Mexican Port Captain feels that day. We walked the boardwalk area and past the Maritime museum with the possibility of maybe seeing the Star of India or a Russian submarine. Mickey and his Disney Wonder cruise ship is in today to let off passengers and turn the boat over with supplies and cleaning. Now that is a ship I would go on a cruise with. Then we have the USS Midway, also another opportunity to see a rich piece of history. However, today we must focus on all our tasks. A Mexican Fishing License for each of us. If you have one pole onboard- then EVERYONE must have a license. No questions. You can do this online and print off your receipts, or you can go into the Conapesca office and purchase. We opted to pay our $94 cash in person so we would not have to “print” off something. The Mexican officials evidently have not moved into the technology phase where we can politely hold out our cellphone and have all of our documentation show up on a small screen and is considered adequate.
We found a grocery store in the city, Ralph’s. It is a rather nice if not a bit trendy grocery store. Perhaps a little higher price, or maybe this is typical California price. It is within walking distance. We were able to pack around $100 worth of groceries into our two dry bags that are backpack style. 20L is the exact amount and we found them on Amazon. We are hoping they provide a dry travel on the dingy as we carry cameras and phones and important papers. Who knew they could carry about forty pounds of groceries…or that I could. So far, we have loved them. We logged over six miles walking our errands, and the final portion with a forty pound back pack. Back to city’s dingy docks that have been overrun by derelict dinghies interspersed with an occasional nice dingy that is obviously used for transportation. Guess which one is ours.
6 October 2017
One of the “tourist” options we use to start a trip in these cities is the sightseeing tour busses. For an entire day, you can hop on and hop off at various sites, choosing what you want to visit now or return to later, and also keep an eye out for those services that you might pass (grocery store, postal annex) as well as restaurants. Meanwhile, with a good guide, you can learn something while your ride. We have not been disappointed yet. Today we “hopped on” to see Coronado Island and the infamous Hotel Del Coronado. Before we would arrive there, we would pass the Seaport Village (cute, but more of a “tourist shopping area”, learn about Mr. Horton and how he built San Diego’s history and saved his health. The Gaslamp Quarter looked interesting and certainly the Barrio Logan would be great to come back to if we chose to.
Over the spanning Coronado Bridge. I would see the Naval Station San Diego to my left however the Navy is prolific all through out San Diego. I have vague memories of visiting San Diego as a child and a brother in the Navy. The naval air station consumes almost half of Coronado Island with the naval amphibious base on the other side of the town. Ahh, the Hotel Del Coronado. Certainly as picturesque as any postcard. Beautiful now and I am sure she was quite the exception in her eager years as well. The beach was beautiful, clean and there were many families out enjoying the weather. You cannot beat this weather! We “hopped on” for our return and rambled through Balboa Park, home to San Diego Zoo through Little Italy (okay, now we are starting to think food), through Old Town and past the haunted Whaley house before returning to our start. We were pleased to find that Little Italy wasn’t far from us and why yes, Italian food sounds great for tonight! There were two other sites that we drove past that we plan to return to as we would be doing more walking.
One would be to the Chuck Jones Gallery. This unique gallery owned by the family of Chuck Jones is home to his original works. You may not recognize Chuck Jones by name but you do know his art! Road Runner, Wile E. Coyote and of course, Bugs Bunny! Did you also know that he and Dr. Suess were also very close friends as they collaborated on many projects after they were both in the service. Can you imagine their hand drawings? No computerized, digitized animation ideas. No flash drives to send, instead they wrote letters and mailed their work to become the artists we know them as. We spoke with a very close family friend hosting there and indeed, both men and a few others honored there (Charles Schultz) were extremely creative and talented individuals that thought outside the box. As we meandered back to San Diego Bay, we walked through Little Italy to enjoy a nice dinner. We do treat ourselves occasionally although we are mindful that we could have enough groceries for almost a week on what we pay for an indulgent meal. We are on a very tight budget. Tomorrow will be a boat day- relaxing and any maintenance. And naps.
8 October 2017
I couldn’t wait to come back and see the “kissing statue”, modeled after the famous end of the war photo “Unconditional Surrender”. We found out the the nurse who was swept off her feet by the unknown soldier at that time, has recently passed on. We had lunch at the now famous Kansas City Barbecue where Top Gun’s bar scene was filmed. Food was good but it was more for the reminiscing and ambience.
We walked back through the Seaport and shopping area and just enjoyed the boardwalk. It was much breezier today. Much to our surprise as we returned, one of the sailboats in the anchorage had lost its holding or anchor and made its way into the rocks before the tide went out. If that doesn’t make you check and recheck your anchor, I am not sure what would. It was strange as it was not that windy or more windy than usual.
We are touring the USS Midway today. This is history that you can feel. You can feel it by touch and you can feel it in your heart. As I walk on board, I immediately reflect back to earlier this year when I boarded the USS Michael Murphy, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer in Seattle. I wasn’t just walking on to a US Navy ship. I was entering my son’s world. As a mom, I couldn’t be more proud, or more scared. I have always supported the military. They are asked to live and work under conditions that most of the population would complain and refuse to work under. At the end of their day, which is a misnomer, it never really ends, the pay even with healthcare benefits does not compare to the private sector. They serve for our freedom by giving up their own. And they do it willingly. Today I am now on a retired USN aircraft carrier on the same day that my son goes out to sea on his ship as final preparations for deployment. I have entered another era of young sailors being tasked with the same ideals. It is much larger than the previous ship. We are able to go in to the racks, the galley, the sick bay. My admiration swells.
Still used in the early 1990’s, this beautiful large ship was a floating city. The coordination of efforts to keep that many service personnel and their needs afloat is tremendous. There are hallways everywhere and as one docent who served here said “you knew where you worked, eat, and slept. That’s all you needed to know and all you would get to see.” They have done an amazing job of turning this well know aircraft carrier into a floating museum. From live talks to a fifteen minute feature, to the audio tour, it was four hours well spent. It is hard not to come away with an appreciation.
We have been doing a lot of walking in San Diego. When we are off the boat, we walking over five miles daily. Yesterday we logged eight miles. Our legs are sore and seemingly, this would be an easy few hours on the USS Midway. Not quite. We logged another almost three miles walking in and through all of the areas that the USS Midway offers. We also had the equivalent of fifteen flights of stairs. We have a lot of movement on our sailboat, short steps and distances so it is nice to be able to really stretch our legs.
12 October 2017
John has been having deliveries of items we still need, to a local marina. One of the ladies in the office was most gracious and gave permission as long as we picked up our packages daily as they would arrive. This did not set well with the other lady in the office who scowled every time John came in and initially threatened to send the packages back. We have met a great group of people in the cruising world. I am unsure what might have been her experiences that caused her to have ill will towards other boaters, however working in a marina might not be her cup of tea. I am sure there are those few that always seem to leave a poor impression. I am going to meet John at James and Joseph as we are adding a tool to our cache- a spear gun for fish or lobsters.
We are heading off for Shelter Island to see our friends Julie and Chris from SV Lorien. We thoroughly enjoy their company and the bonus is they have a shower we can use! Hooray! No boat shower for me! If the sea and wind gods are kindly to them, they will be splashing shortly after us and heading the same direction. They are full of fun stories that just when we think they have given us their best, they find more to top off the previous story! I don’t think I have laughed that hard in awhile! A few beers and great stories and then its off to Mitch’s seafood. I have no idea what “poutine” means, but in my world- it was the carbohydrate binge of my week. Colder states version would be Chili Cheese Fries where you have piping hot chili poured over heaps of French fries and then covered with melting cheese. You really don’t know if you should use a fork or your fingers. If you eat it all then you feel that carbohydrate high that makes you want to crawl into the nearest cave and sleep off the winter. Now, same concept but let’s change the chili topped with cheddar cheese to a Jack Cheese sauce or almost gravy. Throw some cooked crab all over the top like a furry hat. Decorate the sides with deep fried cheese curds. I can only say that somebody created the nemesis to all diet plans. Wow.
13 October 2017
John spent the early morning working on emails, contacting marina’s in Ensenada.
Happy 242nd Birthday US Navy! Now, of course I won’t tell my age…(hush people) however, if I were 242 years old and looked as good as you, then I would boast! Fleet Week is starting! Today we had an opportunity to tour the USS Anchorage (LPD-23), a San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock vessel. This mighty ship has the ability to flood the rear portion to allow sea craft to enter as well as air craft and supports the marines to where they need to go. The USS Anchorage recently came in to public notice for relieving the CO and XO of duties. The Navy does maintain holding high ranking officers accountable. It did not detract from our visit, in fact, it simply makes you appreciate even more what our service personnel do to protect our freedom. Not that I am collecting ship visits, however, this did add to my recent USS Midway tour as well as USS Michael Murphy, a DDG-112 Arleigh-Burke guided missile destroyer (Seattle). The USS Michael Murphy was touching as it is the same type ship my son serves on. USS Midway was less personally emotional but still whelming as it serves to remind us where we were as well as what may be in the future. I did not get tearful up while on the USS Anchorage (For my kids reference!) and was able to appreciate it’s massiveness and the job that it does to serve. This wonderful afternoon walk, and add a detour to the postal annex again, made sure we had our six miles in for the day. The tours were free and so was the exercise! Add the sunshine and a sea turtle crossing our path upon our dingy return to the boat, and it was a great day. We did not get any photos of the turtle (but there was two of us who saw it so it counts!) as both of our cellphone batteries were dead. Of course. The turtle not only popped its lovely little head up but it remained up for quite some time, swimming idly towards us! We circled around and came back and it came up again! Of course it would! We had no way to photograph him.
14 October 2017
We dingy’d over to Shelter Island to join our friends from SV Lorien and with the Sea & Air Parade as part of Fleet Week and the Navy 242nd birthday celebration. We saw several airplanes that were difficult for the untrained eye to make out with long time spaces in between. There might have been a better way to each it, but thats what we had. We did sea the LCAC (Landing Craft Air Cushion) vehicles and USS Mobile Bay (CG 53) and the others were just a bit hard to see. With the weather as great as San Diego, it was merely a great way to set in the park and people watch as well as view unusual aircraft. While they would head off to Balboa Park, we would bring our boat over to the yard’s dock and prepare for our final two days including provisioning as well as boat maintenance. Perhaps we will find some jigs or tips for his newest toy- a Hawaiian Sling (spear) which we also picked up at West Marine.
15 October 2017
Capt’n John is a machine. Today we need to grab provisions for our trip to Mexico. We will check in at Ensenada, MX knowing there will also be food there. People have to eat everywhere, right? Everything we have researched, read, heard (how did people survive before the internet?) guides us for preparation. This is tough when you live with a minimalist such as John. Knowing that we can not bring in fresh fruits or vegetables, meats, nuts (possibly) or plants (not that we were going to eat them), we have utilized all of that for meals. We do have a few peppers, half an onion, half a tomato and those will be used during our transit tomorrow. Then we can buy new food! New labels and new kinds! (more on bringing food on to a boat later). Since he is a minimalist and we have to limit what we take in, then what in the heck did we spend $150 at Von’s Grocery on. Canned goods (keep this in mind for the next story), coffee creamer (can’t live without flavoring for the elixir of life), paper products, cheese, etc. Enough food to fill two medium sized dry bag/backpack style and two reusable grocery bags. Now here is where everything becomes a logistical nightmare and why John is a machine. We have ridden our bikes. We had to go to three stores and we didn’t want to walk 30-40 minutes one way, nor did we want to Uber. This is why we chose to keep and carry the bicycles with us. John took the lion’s share as he had both grocery bags balanced on either handlebar as well as his backpack (it surely must have weight 20-30 pounds as did mine). The young baggage clerk was so willing to help however, it is unlikely that he had every seen anyone pack as much as John did into backpacks and bags so methodically that everything fit! I waited outside the grocery while he picked up a filter from Ace Hardware. People would walk by and see the bags, and bikes and several commented on the interesting sight it would make. Indeed, but did anyone offer a ride? Hmmm?? I really should have taken a photo of that extravaganza!
Back at the boat, we unloaded our purchases and began working on the boat preparation. If you remember, Bella Nave had a very nice bath and I cleaned all the stainless around the boat. The saltwater is a harsh environment. Here it is, two weeks later and the rust is already starting to build up on the stanchions and everything that is stainless. So that is where I started again today. All through the cockpit. John began another application of oil to the teak. We have chosen not to varnish as the sun and salt water are so harsh on it as well and we can achieve the look we want with just oiling and protecting the wood. However, now we are at an impasse! I can’t go forward to the bow as he has oiled forward and I can’t walk on the oil or I will track it all over when I wash down the stanchions. He can’t come any further back to finish oiling as I have washed everything down and the wood is wet. Perhaps tomorrow…. wait…tomorrow? Tomorrow morning we leave for Ensenada!
As I prepare dinner, our three smelly and noisy friends have returned. I asked John if they had otherwise I might be fearful that he was talking to the voices in his head. Before he could answer, one of the males started his throaty barking. Our friends from SV Lorien stopped by for a beer as they will be following us in approximately four days. We have really enjoyed getting to know them and have them entertain us with their stories.
16 October 2017
It’s early. Way to early. I saw the flash of light from his watch and knew he had been awake for awhile. I held my breath but I moved. That gave him reason to start talking. In the darkness. Of my sleep. I could pretend to be asleep but I knew it was pointless. He had asked for the alarm to be set at six. So I set it for a quarter until six. It was currently five thirty. In the morning. Before I could roll out and get dressed, he wanted the coffees made before he disconnected the shore power. Before I brushed my teeth, he had the oil and transmission fluids check and engine running. Before I could fill the coffees, and clammer up the companionway, he was chasing off the sea lions and throwing dock lines onto the boat. The sea lions were not happy about being woken and kicked out of their bed either. Especially since they were laying on the dock line. I wasn’t happy they were laying on the dock line. They pooped on the dock, rolled around in it, and rubbed it into the dock lines. (I just know they did it on purpose! Haha!). Now we have horribly smelly lines on the boat. It appears it will be ten hours to Ensenada. Winds will pick up in the afternoon and it should be a nice down wind sail. The sun is just barely deciding to get up this morning too. As we are heading out towards the breakwater, John was charting our course on the chart plotter. Things did not appear to be going well. It appears that in all of his methodical step by step preparation, and quite a bit of his “we don’t need it” attitude, he forgot one little thing. A chip for the chart plotter. A chip of the Mexico maps we would need to be able to effectively plan our waypoints and have the autopilot navigate to. WHAT?!? Whoops. Big whoops. We tossed about several options. Going back to Shelter Island and pay extra to purchase at West Marine and still leave today, but traveling through the night or stay one more night and leave early tomorrow morning. I voted for option two. It would not mean I would get to go back to bed and it would mean another early morning tomorrow. However, we could finish oiling the teak and cleaning the stainless which was still a chore we had to do. So we turned around and made way for the Visitors Dock. We had already been cleared by the Harbor Police when we arrived in San Diego. The police on the dock said to pick a slip and call the office. I left a message on the voicemail of the morning office. We did have an over achiever next to us as he came in with a much older Lancer 25 with a 115hp outboard motor! Hull speed? I guess it truly is just a guideline for him! He seemed like a nice enough fellow, pleasant and nice conversation. However, before he left, his female companion went off on him with a slurry of unkind and colorful adjectives and nouns. I never saw what sparked her tirade and he remained calm throughout her loud scene. She did not leave with him, needless to say. It reminded me of our check in process when the police officer said one of the more frequent calls they receive is domestic violence. Then we met G.G. (she introduced herself upon our arrival) and she wanted to know if there were many available slips. I told her I had just left a message at the office phone number and I truly had no idea. John busied himself with resetting the boat and I prepared the oil. At eight o’clock, I began calling the mooring office again. On the fourth try I was able to speak to a live person. Evidently check in for a slip is not until 1:00pm (it is now 8:30am). If we want to stay in the slip for four hours, it will be an extra night charge! And we would need to move to another slip as this one could take up to a 65 foot boat and we were only 40ft. Yet there is no reservation for this slip tonight. The winds are starting to pick up. She wants us to move to a slip along the other side, almost directly in front of us. Where G.G. has her boat. Her boat has no motor. Her main and halyard sheets were “cut and tied in knots” by someone while she was in the hospital. She is supposed to be in that slip. Oh, and her sailboat is 26ft!! Does any of this make sense to you? She was on the phone to the same person I spoke with, whom she knew by name. John and I had to make a trek to West Marine and shared we would be back and would be happy to make the switch at 1pm. When we arrived back, a friendly police officer arrived (and G.G. was by his side, although he referred to her as Maggie….) to discuss the situation which has now grown to almost six boats being in the wrong slips. It became a shell game and it was obvious that it would be impossible to shuffle everyone, so he made a call to the office and happily, we would all be able to stay in our current slips. By now it is past 1pm. The wind is whipping up to a solid 16-18 kn into the slips, and even a larger sailboat than us had great difficulty coming into the slip due to the wind on their stern, pushing them into the neighboring fishing boat. G.G. was quite happy to remain in her spot and as some sort of appreciation, brought me a beautiful arrangement of flowers- missing the vase but still set in the green styrofoam. Compliments of a wedding that just took place and these were simply tossed in the trash. Thank you. I think. It is more about the gesture which I will take in good faith. We did not get to meet “The Mayor” as he calls himself, of this dock “village”. It would seem he represents himself as the manager to the various characters we met and helps to shuffle them around. Now, let me back up just a moment. We are on a public reserved dock. It costs $1/per foot per night. You are supposed to make reservations to an office that is no where to be seen. You are only allowed, even if you pay, fifteen days out of forty at the dock. During the month of October, it is anticipated that the Ba-ja-ha-ha Cruisers will be using it. There are maybe three other anchorages. Each has a limitation of staying- one is for 72 hours, another is 30 days etc. You are supposed to have working holding tanks (think what you flush out) with no oil residue and working bilges. Safety equipment such as fire extinguisher and life jackets. There was no condition you have to have a working motor or sails, and anything else. So are you getting a picture that this interesting group of people, have figured out the system? I don’t know if we put a crimp in their shell game or helped their game today. We did meet some nice “normal” cruisers today as well. You know, come in for a night or two, pay and leave. It certainly made for an interesting day. We did get the teak all oiled. We did get our maps. We had a great Thai dinner and more laughs with our friends (and used their shower again!). Life is good and we have more stories! What’s another day in the life of a cruiser, right?
17 October 2017
Okay, it is still early. But it isn’t 5:30am early. It is 6am. Still early. Again, before I can roll out of bed and get dressed, two more coffees and the engine is running already. The sun is already rising so we don’t have the contrasting black and orange with a dash of moon and star. This is seeming a deja vu! We pass the submarine dry dock and John notices that it is out. It was in dry dock when we first entered San Diego. With all the wonderful Navy and Coast Guard ships we toured, the air and sea parade, we did not get to see a submarine. John noted that a USCG tugboat was heading out as were four police boats with lights. “Wouldn’t it be great if…” The boats split up and we continued on our way. Then I hear “Deb, get your camera. But keep it low. I will tell you when”. He is beside himself. We are about to pass by a submarine! With a police boat at each quadrant, we maintained our course and waved to the police boat. We really weren’t that far off the submarine and we could see the sailors walking on top. That was insane! His day was made. In fact, it made the delay all worthwhile to him now. We are on our way to Ensenada, Mexico!
We arrived around 5pm. It was a 10-11 hour trip. Immigration has already closed. We have our “Q” flag up and will stay on the boat until morning when we can check in. Bienvenidos a Mexico! Have I really lived on a sailboat for two years? Did I just have a life changing event where I left great friends again to sail down the west coast of the United States? I have to say that it feels very unreal still. Perhaps once we check in to immigration. From the water, the ground in the distance all looks relatively the same. Maybe I am just tired. Buenos noches Amigos!
Santa Catalina, the island of romance, romance, romance, romance. Water all around it, every where… (thank you Four Preps for singing it and to Debi C. for sharing it with me!)
28 September 2017
We left our good friend Tony on Thursday morning. I won’t lie, it was sad leaving. I think Tony was sad to see us go as well. I loved seeing the work progress on SV Magic. Tony felt the progress moved his trip timeline forward notably and it was the momentum we had hoped to provide. It is exciting! Yet I think I am going to miss Tony’s cheery voice and his beautiful sailboat. There were people that we hoped to see while in the area but it just wasn’t going to happen and we hope they understand. We now have a plan for moving southward that is directed by weather. We passed the USS Iowa on our way out, the port, and of course the Angels Gate Lighthouse. Everything we passed coming in two weeks earlier when we arrived. We would not be coming back this way anymore. Deep breath. The breeze picked up to a steady wind and we could see tall ships sailing back and forth as we cut across towards Santa Catalina.
We heard so much about Catalina that we had to go. We heard about it from sailing friends in the PNW. We heard about it from diving friends in California. Although the cold water and mention of dry suits or 7mm or more wetsuits did not sound appealing at all, we might try once anyway. This would be the rest well earned after our “working stay” in L.A. There is a spring in our step again as we excitedly head towards Catalina Island!
The wind picked up to 17kn and on a broad reach. Excellent! With full sails up, main and genoa, SV Bella Nave settled in very nicely. Everything about this sail brought out her marked ability to cut through the waves smoothly and confidently. This was what Passport sailboat owners talk of and what Robert Perry sought to achieve. There was no micromanagement of the sails. This was the best sail yet. We encountered a couple large waves well timed that caught us with our eyes resting in closed fashion because the ride was so smooth. Twenty six miles passed in about four hours. This was a rocket sail! It was fun, it was exhilarating, it was what we were hoping for! We averaged approximately 7.5kn miles/hour. Before long, we saw the outline of Catalina Island and we began dropping sails just as quickly when we saw the harbor patrol boat out in front of the harbor checking every one in and giving directions to their mooring. While reservations are almost required during high season, we are in the off season and didn’t think it would be an issue. It wasn’t.
Avalon is listed as a city but has the feel of a quaint European or Mediterranean town. Everything is clean and spotless. Exquisitely quaint streets filled with golf carts as main transportation, with quirky shops and a small beach that is pristine. There is a beautiful casino, which we learned the definition is actually a place of entertainment as opposed to gambling, and many other buildings with historic value.
The harbor requires use of a mooring that connects to the bow AND the stern, thus all boats face the same direction (in our case, out towards the sea) and stack nicely next to each other. There are 350 moorings. In peak season you will be partying with 349 of your closest friends. Not that we were planning on it, but should you decide you want to go often or leave your boat there, they do have a brokerage for the mooring balls. You can pick one up cheaply for $200K! The mooring they were going to put us on originally is for sale – $250K and that is its reduced price! We saw many sport fishing boats as well as yachts, and a few sailboats. While some may have been grander, even had actual ice makers on board, we were pretty happy with our sailboat. We met our neighbors on the starboard (right) side, Brandon and Mandy who were in a 33ft sport fishing boat. Young and having fun! That’s what Catalina is about. He came over and toured Bella Nave and noted how this boat was ready for some big adventure. John then took a tour of his boat and noted that my lures might be a wee big unless I was planning on catching anything over 400 pounds. We planned for two nights here before moving on to the other side of Catalina but decided on Saturday to stay one more night. John dropped the dingy but rather than loading the outboard on it, everything was so close that he decided to keep his arms moving by rowing.
We explored the town for two days. We walked at least five miles each day as we went from one side of Avalon (Lovers Cove where the submersible tour takes place and many people snorkel, and yes- in 5-7mm full wetsuits!) then up the hill to the private Hamilton Cove gated community. At Lover’s Cove, John jumped in with snorkel and mask and shorts. He wasn’t thrilled but it didn’t kill him either. He assured me that I would not like to follow him in (no wet suit). The fog stayed with us most of the day so our view from the top of the other side was interesting but not entirely photographic. We passed by the zip line and deer feeding under palm trees. Wait, what? Back into town, and we could see a cruise ship had come in with the fog. Celebrity Cruise. Well that adds to the town’s activity level today, doesn’t it!
We took the dingy over to the Aquatic Dive Park boundary where I had a go at snorkeling. In a 5mm shorty wet suit. It takes a couple minutes to recalibrate the coldness that startled every inch of my body. It was tolerable. Not bad actually. I was expecting much worse. I don’t like being cold though. Before I could complain too much, I caught sight of a bright orange fish. Aha! The infamous Garibaldi. State fish. Right there in front of my….wait…there is another! And another. And another. Okay, now I feel like I am snorkeling in a fish bowl with a bunch of gold fish. They don’t seem very afraid but then again, these can be territorial fish. They might be guarding eggs or their territory and they aren’t afraid to take a little nip at you! Best of all, now that my attention was completely diverted to colorful things floating in the water I had forgot that the water was cold and now it seemed, well almost but not quite pleasant. It was a fun 45 minute snorkel. I did however find that hoisting my wet seal like body back into the dingy after the snorkel did not go well. In fact, it did not go at all. I suggested we need a small ladder over the side. He suggested we lose weight and get in better shape. I said again that we would get a small ladder over the side. I should have asked it in the form of a question. I still received “the look”. He rowed over to a dock with a fixed ladder that allowed me to climb and step nicely into our dingy. Saturday we walked around again and in the afternoon took our SCUBA gear over to the Aquatic Dive Park. Adjacent to the casino, the area which was quiet the other day was now amassed with hundreds of seal like humanoids. Students were learning, students were doing open water dives for certification, dry suit divers, recreational divers and even some snorkelers. “Hey, what did you see down there?” “Orange fish!” “If you are lucky, you might see a Black Grouper!” Well then, let’s go see some orange fish. There was some tall kelp to swim through, and it made for some interesting photography as it was something new for us. John moved through the water towards the boundary. Somewhere around 40-50ft we came around a corner of rock and kelp base. These large green opalescent eyes stared back at us. Mouth agape and nonplussed at our appearance was one of the infamous Black Grouper. Well, he really looked more blue to me. He just watched as we slowed to look at him and before we moved on. When you are a 200 pound fish, I guess you can do as you darn well please. Oh yes, and currently a ‘protected species’ so they don’t even bother to move away from you. They know the score! I say they because we rounded yet another corner and there were five more! This brought our total up to six in one location. My perspective was interesting as John moved in closer for a video. The fish in front of him was easily the size of John. Well, maybe a little rounder in the middle. They are a big fish. As we were nearing the end of the dive, John found he was being swarmed by 50-100 fish, Garibaldis (orange fish), calico colored and some other snapper type of fish. All thought he had something to offer in the way of food. He rubbed his fingers together under water and this seemed to create quite a stir but soon they saw through his ruse and moved on. Speaking of moving on, so did we. Our dive was over and tomorrow we would look for quieter waters to anchor and perhaps another dive.
Sunday found us moving on. With the winds pushing into Cat Harbor and Little Harbor on the other side of the island, we opted to stay at Emerald Bay. A few boats were already here, it appeared idyllic. I didn’t want to try the other side if we were only going to come back here anyway. We heard that Indian Rock was a good dive site. We opted for a mooring again as opposed to anchoring. There did not seem to be much for protected shallower anchoring. We set the boat and then prepared to dive again.
We are working on the process to keep equipment at a minimum and support the easiest route off the boat. Rather than a giant stride off the side, we put our BCD in the water and jumped in after in order to put them on. John took a compass heading and showed me and then we descended. Almost immediately I found little black nudibranchs out in the sand! That was quick! My attention was once again easily diverted. However my new dive console of gauges (problem #1 -related to all of our dive computers as well as underwater camera equipment, that were stolen during the break in of our storage unit) was free floating due to my retractable lanyard having broken earlier today (problem #2) and with a little bit of surge, I somehow lost my beloved “Reed’s Rod”. This handy tool has been with me for many years, allowing me to steady myself or my camera safely. Reed’s Rod was designed by our friend and very experienced SCUBA diver. That was terribly frustrating (problem #3). I had a choice to keep up with John or go back and search for my equipment. John moves faster through the water when he doesn’t have a camera (problem #4) and I tend to be slower partially because I have a camera and am looking for things to take photos of. I was able to catch up and let him know that my rod was lost and we continued on looking at orange fish and would circle back around. As we came around, to the sand again, we starting searching for the rod. He a little higher and me a little lower. Some sand was kicking up indicating some activity and there was the coolest, if not most unusual, looking sting ray, a Bat Ray who was looking for food. Of course I would want to have video of this! That’s when it happened. After the video, I looked up and John was no where in site. No bubbles, nothing. I reached for my computer and followed the course as we had discussed before descending. Where is Dory when I need her? I kept moving and it seemed like I should have been to the mooring line and our boat by now. This was so frustrating. I would need to get my bearings which would require me performing a safety stop and a quick surfacing. When I finally reached the surface, I had passed by our boat by almost 50 yards. This is a drag as I am now heading back into some surge in order to get back. I swam back on the surface so that I could search along the surface as well as view the water below me for any sight of John. Sure enough, he was up on the other side of the boat. Needless to say, he was quite upset. I was too, however we express upset very differently. It was a very quiet afternoon as we tasked to put things away but did not speak. We both knew this should not have happened and would not happen again! Communication 101. Our trips have always involved other people and therefore we tended to dive with others. It has been a very long time since we dived with just each other. It may be in the back of your mind as to how this could have happened to John and I. We are not new to diving. He is meticulous about maintaining our equipment and knowledge and we often review everything before as well as after. I have seen this with experienced divers, even instructors, with even far more years or dives under their weight belts. Routine is important but without focused intention, can be a contributing factor to a larger problem. We have seen divers jump in the water with full gear, begin to descend and realize their oxygen tank was not opened, or they forgot weights, or the list can go on. On dive boat trips, there maybe dive masters and boat personnel that set up gear for the divers and the assumption may be that it is “all ready to go”. The first three problems are related to knowing and being comfortable with the equipment before made the dive. I am a conservative diver and I am comfortable knowing where everything is attached and where to find it. A simple thing like the free floating console annoyed me. I felt I was having to always search for it and couldn’t connect it comfortably to my bcd with easy access to monitor during the dive. We can get new retractable lanyards. We can fabricate something to simulate my diving rod. The fourth problem, communication, is applicable to diving but also sailing. That will be our biggest obstacle to overcome. I am choosing to share this as I think some may feel that every day is perfect. There are challenges that will present in cruising and as hard as we try to minimize their potential, they happen. This was just one example. Needless to say it was a quiet night. Except for the surge which caused the boat to heave to and fro – all night.
Monday morning we were off again, this time to either Cat Harbor or Little Harbor depending upon which we found a better holding and protection from surge. We rounded the tip of the island and our first harbor was Cat Harbor. It looked good. Should we go up to Little Harbor and come back if we don’t like it or just anchor here? For the sake of enjoying the down time, we decided to just anchor and stay. Cat Harbor is at the isthmus. We went into “town” of Two Harbors on the other side of the isthmus to find showers and quite a well equipped area with trash (recycling), showers, laundry, small grocery store, restaurant, and beach. Oh, and evidently THIS is the island’s hotspot! Immediately our phones came to life and we were able to update apps while doing laundry. Who knew! In retrospect, I wouldn’t have minded to stay here instead of Emerald Bay except we would have missed out on the diving. We could have stayed happily one more day except our wind patterns suggested the contrary. We met another couple on the dock, heading to their sailboat with Friday, their boat dog. You got it. Friday is such a nice dog! Of course I needed some puppy loving. John tolerates this only because it keeps me from mentioning that “we” should have a dog. This couple moved aboard their boat in 2009 when the stock market fell. An attorney and an engineer, they decided it was time to do something different with how they were living life. It is interesting as this is a common thread woven in to many of the cruisers stories that we have heard. We all returned to our respective boats. They would be staying longer while doing some work being able to utilize the connectivity. Their ultimate plan of travel would be the same as ours.
3 October 2017
Thirteen hours to San Diego Harbor. We were up at 7am and had both the bow and stern anchor up and we moving on by 8am. The winds that we actually had were less than predicted (PredictWind). We used the asymmetrical sail for awhile and that helped with some of the downwind we had but in order to not turn this into another overnight, we gave in and powered up the “iron sail”.
It was around 9pm when we noticed the increase in air traffic. Navy helicopters flying over head. Uh oh. What did John do now. Wait, isn’t there a naval base around here? Why yes, yes there is!
It was eerily quiet leaving the volcanic plug known as Morro Rock and Morro Bay. Just a few slow thudding flaps of the pelicans, the mommy otters have hidden with their babies. The sea foam coming in from the Pacific is tan and brown, and thick like baked meringue. Bella seemingly cuts through it easily, pushing it away long enough for the boat to pass before it begins closing back in. The radar indicated something ahead. We looked and looked again . Nothing appeared on the AIS (commercial and many private ships broadcast on AIS for identification) and that was disconcerting. We continued to look as the radar was inconsistent but trustworthy. At least a few miles off shore, in the morning fog, were five paddle type fishing boats, each with a single fisherman. As they would fall behind and below a wave peak, the radar would lose sight of them but pick them up again when they crested the wave. These guys had to be committed to fishing to be this far offshore and in the fog, in something that is paddled. The fog continued to battle ruling the day. It sneaks closer and then retreats multiple times during the day. It isn’t cold outside and the wind isn’t blowing. It is not that wetness like the earlier passages down, where it rains inside the protective canvas. It’s very quiet except the drone of the motor as we attempt to move closer to our destination. Our next overnight will happen.
I am hoping to have another wonderful dolphin encounter. The whales have now made me a bit nervous as so plentiful and I have heard “the stories” of boats colliding with whales. Neither are happy with the outcome, I might add. No whales that we could hear or see. John always seems to hear them before seeing them. Usually before I do. It was difficult to see with the ever changing fog but finally I heard a splash behind me. John saw it. “Run up to the front!” John orders! Wait, I have to grab my phone (camera), as I trip over my own feet in my haste. John always finds something to adjust, fix, fine tune, you name it. He is more focused on the boat running smoothly. I keep the mantra “it’s a boat” in my head but my heart is in seeing something else alive out here! We had a quick visit of a couple of Dall’s porpoise again. Those are always fun! These did not stay long. Well, not long enough to suit me I guess. A little while later, off in the distance another pod of Pacific White Side dolphin appeared. Again, not close enough to play in the bow wake but at least gave us some pleasure from afar. I am sure the whales were out there somewhere too. Maybe. Unless they don’t like fog either. I wouldn’t blame them.
30-36 hours to Los Angeles. The City of Angels. We just didn’t know that we have to go through hell to get to the angels. The sun tried its darnedest to break through the foggy coating of the day but in the end, it just couldn’t quite do it. When does the fog end?!?! Past Santa Barbara they say. I have to trust that “they” know this area better than I. After all, I grew up in a land locked state. As the day moved on, we planned for our dinner. We eat okay. Nothing fancy but then we never really have unless it was socially with friends. John is quite happy with Ramen. A throw back to my college days that I will pass on unless the moment is right. Nice to know you can still get the same ramen noodles for ten cents a pack. Of course, it is probably that old too and no one would know it. I suspect that twinkles and ramen have much in common in the way of preservatives. Soup and sandwiches are often a meal. We do snack a lot, and I find I am snacking healthier, if you call Brie Cheese healthy. I am like that preschooler with an apple and cheese. Instead of a pasteurized skim mozzarella cheese stick, it is slices of brie on my apple slices.
Normally, I take my “nap” around 2000 (8 pm) until midnight. I often wake at 2300 or 2330 to make hot tea, maybe a snack, and get all bundled up in my “foulies”. Foulies consists of getting dressed as if I were going to go snowmobiling in the mountains. Galoshes, waterproof, insulated bibs, and a waterproof, insulated coat that my mom would have been proud of- covering past the hips. I prefer a head band with ear coverings over a hat. My mittens, however, are painfully inadequate. No, the chemical hand warmers don’t help the mittens from absorbing moisture. That won’t matter tonight. It seems that Mother Nature has different plans for tonight. The wind picked up substantially. We use Predictwind which is mostly accurate. Sailors often use several models to plan their routes with. John is fairly adept at following safe weather guidelines. Wind is normally good for a sailboat. It was coming from the stern and we do not the fore and aft guides for wing on wing set up yet. Not that it would matter, the gusts were upwards of 35kn and not consistent from either side of the stern. The sea state was capricious. The waves were moving with Bella so we had the appearance of “surfing” the waves and moving rather quickly. John hauled in the sail except the main which was reefed, to keep some balance to the boat and the passage. Then we both heard it. I asked out loud, “what was that rumble?”. “Airplanes” he thought out loud but was more like wishful thinking. Before long, the nature of the rumbling became very clear. The older radar system that we have showed a changing glob of blackness that moved to and fro and was not the usual ship pattern! It was HUGE and coming straight for us! Like a ghost, it hovered in front of us, growing larger in size as it approached us until finally it devoured us. An old story recites a young child smiling in a lightning storm. When asked why, the child replied the flash was from God’s camera and the child was smiling for the photo. At this point, if I could have called for Uber or Lyft, I would have! Especially if I knew this would be an eight hour photo shoot that night. Once again, neither of us rested longer than an hour during the entire night, as the cockpit was lit up like daylight every minute or so. The intensity and brightness was literally momentarily blinding. Our pupils couldn’t dilate quickly enough before another crack would light up the sky…..and our cockpit. Old mandates such as staying away from tall objects, stay away from metal buildings, stay away from water during a lightening storm ran through my head with each blast of light. Really? Really? Here I am, surfing 1500ft waters with a 65 foot metal pole and steel cables and bars around me. If this isn’t the biggest test of faith. Off go most of the electronics, everything in to the oven as a faraday cage. While I worried about the lightening, John worried about the winds and the waves. I didn’t have enough worry left over to cover that area. I vaguely recall that he said we had greater risk of [something] than we did of lightening strike. I didn’t hear what that something was as the thunder crack drowned it out. For anything unrelated to lightening, I had the mantra of “trust the boat”. Oddly enough, in spite of my heightened anxiety, the boat took the following seas, and the wind gusts from either side with no apparent pattern, quite well. He managed the traveler and main sail one direction, soon the other, and back again. He made it look rather uncomplicated. This went on for eight hours, covering both of our watches. When things finally settled and he opted to take a quick nap around 0400, I snuck my phone out to capture the night of madness. A photo now seemed pointless. At this point, the less threatening storms seemed to be ahead of us moving inland. Well, and behind us too. The lightening was no longer every one to two minutes an immediately above us. Could a stray strike still be above us? Sure, and that would be an awful ending for what we endured. I felt like I needed something to prove we went through this. I felt like I had lived the intro to Gilligan’s Island!
11 September 2017
I had to laugh when the USCG called out the weather report as “isolated thunderstorms”. I think we found every darn one of them. Once we had cell phone coverage, we were able to see that San Francisco, San Jose, and other areas of California were getting knocked about by unusual high winds and lightening storms that they have not experienced in many, many years. I know that storm(s) well as it was the storm(s) that we experienced through the night! The sea state is gentle now and the sun has taken its rightful place in the sky and doing a fabulous job. We were now past Santa Barbara. Go figure.
I like to imagine that we suffered so much that the dolphins we encountered next were some sore of apology from Mother Nature. Sailing lore has it that having dolphins swim along with your boat is good luck. Bella indeed, was filled with luck as we had these happy creatures entertain us. I am not boasting nor bored when I say there came a point when I no longer took a camera up with me but simply watched them. Then again, maybe I was too tired.
The excitement of the dolphins was enough to take away the stress of the previous night’s storm but not the fatigue. We texted our friend, Tony, to let him know we were on target for a 1600 arrival. He graciously helped us procure a slip in his marina, just a few slips away from his beautiful Hans Christian 39 MKII. He offered to meet us at Port of Call restaurant dock so he could lead us into this menagerie of obfuscated marinas and to our slip and eventual rest. So onward- to the City of Angels!
Click on the Dolphins at the bow for a quick 15 second video!