Saturday, October 30, 2010

Playa Bonanza, Isla Espiritu Santo

The crew of “Whatcha Gonna Do” and “Endurance” are heading to the islands! Our destination will be Playa Bonanza; the longest white sandy beach in Isla Espiritu Santo. We planned to spend 2 nights there and to sail back to La Paz to make it on time for a marine swap meet on Sunday morning.

Motor? Sail? Motor/Sail? A constant debate, but as it normally happens, once the sails are up the wind dies or it shifts directions to hit us right on the nose. We motored most of the way, but the frustration of being on a sailboat with unusable sails pushed Matt into a desperate attempt to put do it. I wasn’t sure if we were going backwards or at a ridiculous speed. A good sailor, I have been told, would have continued. I didn’t feel like becoming a good sailor at the moment. The heat and the uneventful passage were responsible for my spoiled behavior. My position was if we can’t enjoy the ride, lets enjoy our destination “hurry up and get there”. Ultimately, it wasn’t my decision, but the captain’s decision. He was wise enough to make it my way.

If Arizona had bordered the Pacific, I would imagine it would be just like this; Sahuaro cactus, choya, rocky, overall brown and red. The view from the boat to the shore is quite bold, but from the shore to the boat it is simply amazing. The color contrast, the clarity of the water, the cloud display and the explosion of red at sunset hour… oof! I am speechless and breathless. I expect to see this in most places of the Sea of Cortez.


We snorkeled, we hiked, we painted shells with the girls, we paddle boarded, we skurfed, we boogie boarded, we swam, we played at the beach, we collected agates, we played dominoes, we had good meals and drinks, but the most memorable experience will be being part of the welcome of the Sabbath, a Jewish tradition, with our friends from Whatcha Gonna Do. Barbara made a delicious meal and with the kids’ assistance she baked 2 loafs of the traditional bread, “Challah”. We all sat down around the table, the men, including Matt, wore the kippah and they performed the customary prayers and blessing in Hebrew. The girls were fascinated. We were honored and grateful.

Two nights turned into 3 and if we didn’t have to sell some things at the swap meet we would have stayed longer. We enjoyed the place and the company greatly.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Personal Relations

My friend is writing an article about relationships on board, I was wondering if patience is one of the topics she will cover. It tends to brittle easily as it just happened in between Matt and I.

- “Are we out of juices?” Matt yells from the salon

- No, they are in there “I yelled back

- “Where?” he asked again as expected

- “In the juice hole, right there, where they’ve always been!” I replied thinking I can’t make it easy for him, he should really know by now.

- “Oh Come on!” probably calling me names in silence

- “There are only a few holes in there, one has milks, the other has juices”

- “Oh, I would have called it the soda hole” he says

- “How many sodas are in there?” I asked sarcastically

- “None, but we used to have it full of them” (he is probably thinking it should be called the “ass….”)

- “May I have some juice too?” knowing that he wants to tell me.. “get it yourself”

- OK

He brought me the juice, I look at him and said:

-“Thank you, you gotta shave”

- You gotta sh…” he replied

Ok, is this a sign of being too close together or too long together? The good thing is that the more it happens, the tougher we get and the easier is to bounce back after silly word exchanges like this.


He did shave… and he looks amazing!

Friends

“Cruising friends are lifelong friends” I was told. I have really no idea, but I am so enchanted by the people we meet and the memories we keep that I can see myself looking for opportunities to meet again. Circumstances and interests will have change, but the intensity of the experience for sure will guarantee and incredible reencounter.

Such was the case with Maggie and Neville from M/V Blue; a wonderful couple we met at the beginning of our trip. They called us on the radio Friday morning and we agreed to get together the next day. We had a fun evening together, we share a little of what we lived and heard a little of what we missed when we left. They are now in their way to Mazatlan and have plans to circumnavigate the world. We will follow their adventure from home. A second surprise, wonderful surprise! was to find a note stacked to our dinghy one afternoon from our great friend James, the one who drew tears the day we split. Not only because he would supply us with all the fish..hehe, but also because he made our trip a much richer experience. We love the guy! We had dinner together at “Tequilas” (good pizza place) and ice cream at “La Michoacana” (our favorite). He spent the night with us and left the next day. We really wanted to kidnap him and take him to the islands, but he said he would come meet us further north in the Sea in 10 days! Yeah!!

The treats of the trade

-“Whatcha Gonna Do, Whatcha Gonna Do… Endurance”
-“Lets go to 18” “18” pip 21, pip 20, pip 19, pip 18..
-“Hey Mike, Are you ready to go?”
- “Stand by for a second…(1 Missisipi, 2… )” We will be ready in 10 minutes”
- “Give us 20”
- “Ok, we will meet you at the dinghy dock”
- “Ok, back to 22”
- “back to 22”

I packed some green apples and salt, “totopos” chips and refried beans with Jalapenos, Oreo cookies and water. The kids put their suits on, grab their masks, boogie board, Matt loads the dinghy and I stuffed my backpack with all the rest and a little of the just in case. We headed then to Tecolote Beach where the kids would run, built, flew a kite and we tasted their famous Margaritas and dug our feet in the sand. We have really enjoyed the company of “Whatcha Gonna Do”. We are anchored next to each other and have been spending several social hours together. Barbara and I have been walking every other morning. It has really been great!.

So back to our trip to the beach, as we were heading back to our boats, Michael suggested we stopped at Marina Costa Baja, the nicest marina I have seen by far, to take some fancy showers. What a great idea!... except for the fact that we are no guests there. Costa Baja Beach Club is simply a magical place to be, perfect for self esteem build-up. The sun disappearing in the horizon turning the water into a master piece of art, the merging illusion of the no-edge-pool water and ocean water, the soft lighting, the music, the decoration, the sitting arrangements and style, it all combined well into feelings of sophistication and relaxation. To top off the scenery we met two wonderful couples who as a sign of admiration for the life we were living invited all of us to a beer at the bar. I love the turns life throws on you! This life is really “The Life”.
Thank you Stacey and Dave for your fun and cheerful spirit!
Thank you Michael, Barbara and kids for the wonderful time we have shared!

Monday, October 18, 2010

The VHF

There are some codes and technical terms used while on a radio conversation, besides keeping it descent these are some examples:

1. The channel of call in La Paz is 22, but you must clear it quickly so after you establish contact with the vessel you are looking for, you must pick the channel you want to use.

We will say things like:
“Do you want to go to 21?”... why would they say no I don’t want to?...mmm… I wonder!
“Let’s go to 18!”… why not 21? Unless it is bussy, I don’t know why the extra finger motion. Some cruisers (including me) pick 68 or more.
“Let’s go to 68 and up” It means you move to 68 and if it is bussy go to 69, 70, 71, one at a time until you find an open channel.

No one normally says:
“let’s go ## and down”
“let’s go (10+1) x 2 + 1 and up”,although, I did try it and the other party got a little confused.

2. One must never reveal embarrassing information on any channel, it is common to have people who were not intended to be on the call switching channels with you to be well informed of everyone’s business. In that respect, it is a horrible idea to ask for advice on how to treat fungal infections…haha.

3. If you want to sell something off your boat, you must know that it is illegal to make money in Mexico being a foreigner so make sure your deals are in “coconuts”

4. There are some terms like “Roger” which means “yes” “I copy that” “I understand” “positive” but be certain not to make mistakes like it happened to Matt.

He called vessel “Avalon”, the captain picks up and Matt says “your name is Mike right?” the man answered “Roger”… silence strikes… “oookay” says Matt unable to determine the answer. He had to continue the conversation avoiding the use of the man’s name. Later that day, they met in person and were able to clarify. His name was ROGER.

Another consideration is to have a reliable VHF, not only to get assistance when needed, but to give information and receive the appropriate feedback. Our radio has been experiencing some issues, where we can’t hear the other party and just today, a man called us about a kayak we have for sale and when we told him the price of $200, the radio went silence… I thought...”Matt tell him 150, quickly 150!” but he called us back right before … It almost cost us $50 dollars!

Clothing overboard

Matt apologized first thing in the morning “sorry, sorry!” he says. I could not figure out what could have gone wrong, it could have not been too serious, because he had a smile on his face. “The bathing suits floated away and under!” he revealed. I had rolled the girls’ and mine on a towel because they were wet and I had to put them in my backpack. He diligently decides to hang the damped towel and anticipating that there would be sand on it, he shook it overboard. Out went the bathing suits flying!. He couldn’t jump overboard on the spot; the current was strong and the latter to get back on board was up. They were moving away quickly and by the time he was in the water only mine was floating, the other two had sunk right in front of his eyes.

I guess the padding on the suits are a good thing to add, not only good for fuller breast and bottom, but also for buoyancy.

The tally of things lost at Sea is the following

6 beach towels
2 bathing suits
1 under pant
221 clothespins
…. and about a year worth of savings. (hehe.. not really!)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Money, money money...its a rich men's world!

Money, or better said, lack of it, is such a discouraging topic, how come we don’t have enough? What happen to all that frugal spending? Eating dollar tacos instead of the fillet mignon? I guess we were not that frugal after all and we could have done better… could we? I guess it is true that the cost of sailing is.. all you have and some. When we started the trip we budgeted generously, but reality stroke and contingencies met us along the way destroying our na├»ve expectations. Today we can only laugh at how little we must live with. The good thing is that we can, we are learning, we are more comfortable with less than we used to. I am trying to shop more wisely and less impulsively, in consequence our food spoilage is less, all I buy, I use! The kids have turned very conscious of the circumstances too, just the other day, Trinidad (5) asked Matt if he could buy her a balloon and Matt said “oh, not right now”, and she replied: “I understand”. Also, I have heard Samantha several times say “that is wasting a whole bunch of money!” I guess, in perspective, it is all good, but I can’t avoid the momentary worries, anxiety and frustration for not having to buy more souvenirs, to take more inland trips, to eat out more often, to be in a marina, to remodel the boat interior, to buy more clothing, to have a bigger yacht and to go back home with more money in the bank.

 
I remember just a few weeks ago I was watching the Suze Orman show, a financial advisor woman who takes calls from people asking if buying, spending on or paying for something is or it is not a good move. I could almost hear her scolding us for taking this trip instead of saving for the kids’ college education, paying insurance, investing in our retirement, all those things disciplined and organized people not like me would do. It depressed me, but then I had to realize that we all have unique goals in life, material and spiritual/emotional goals and I believe we are being faithful to ours and I am sure it will count at the right moment. Of course, living up to your dreams will have a cost as it is with everything, we must pay!

This is how I tricked myself into traveling this way:

 
  • I want to see exotic places, I want to taste foods I have never tasted before, I want to talk to people living differently, I want to be able to say I have done a crazy thing, I want to have unique stories to tell, I want to simplify my life, I want to spend time with my girls with no distractions (what was I thinking?..hehe), I want them to spend time with their dad, I want to see nature, I want to swim in turquoise, crystal blue waters, I want to eat fish, I want to meet other interesting people, I want to travel when I am healthy and when my kids want us around and I want to find inspiration and purpose.
  • If I could leave something to my children that they could take along with them anywhere they go is education and what better education there is than first hand experience. Field trips! One long one!
  • If we plan to spend our money, we certainly don’t want to wait until is too late to rebuild the finances, therefore, the time was now.
  • Work had slowed down, we were living off of our savings, so they question was, do I want to use the savings living the dream or watching it get further away?

 So, back to Suzie, spending the money just made soo much sense! Most times, we have to spend to make a profit! DON’T COME SCOLDING ME AGAIN LADY!

End of the Isolation


We met a family living in the marina with their twin daughters age 7; holly and Shea, just one day older than Samantha! Where have they been all this time?!! It has been great meeting them, the girls are having a great time. There is no enough hours in the day to play!. Yesterday, I saw them last at 10:30 AM and later they showed up to sleep. Well, not that good! Shellie and David, the parents of the girls, were kind enough to let them play on board their boat while we did a major clean up! We had them over for wine in the evening. This morning, first thing they called each other on the radio to execute a major business plan; to set up a lemonade stand. They did quite well! Icy drinks are a highly demanded beverage with this temperature levels, but the main money maker was to see such cute set of girls with a great entrepreneur spirit. They were getting 500% tips. Another good incentive was Shelly’s generous proposition of doing a profit match. I remember my days as a child, it was so easy to make money, if I only would have reinvested the money instead of buying myself those candies! I would be a millionaire today… planning to take a sailing trip...haha.

I have Trinidad next to me at the moment, burning with fever. She has been coughing for a couple of days. The whole time in the South her defenses did amazingly well, but today she was defeated! Sadly, because she wanted to play so badly with her new friends that she was willing to fake her discomfort. I hope the bugs are not moving from body to body so the twins and us remain healthy.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Endurance has arrived

We are taken in a Panga with our backpacks back to Endurance, she is already in the water ready for us to board her. Everything looked as I remembered, except the green stuff on the brass, the white stuff on the walls and the umpleasant smell. OH! Endurance needs some cleaning, but its good to have her back! There was also a little bit of damage,.. I won’t give bad press, because the company will respond.


It is definitely a different experience to be back in Mexico, it feels safe. It feels like a natural place to be in a boat, especially in La Paz. La Paz is a final destination for many cruiser some had planned it that way and some others were surprised by how the time flew and they never moved away. I can’t blame them, it is a beautiful place! Anything and everything one could need can be found here, It is safe, it is clean, it is cheap, it is alive, the locals are polite, the food is excellent, the margaritas are oversized and the sunsets are simply outstanding!

In La Paz

 The flight was wonderful, a very small plane, Samantha and Trinidad sat by themselves and kept each other entertained reading the safety booklet (as if it was the best children story), with colors, singing, gum chewing and a little fighting. The both cheered as the plane departs and lands ignoring the dangers associated with those moments and not noticing that a good number of passengers perform the sing of the cross. Their favorite part was when the cart with the peanuts and tomato juice shows up! The flight was 2 hours long, very comfortable and fun, specially flying over, through or under the thunder heads, It is quite a sight to see a vertical cloud right on the window especially if they have the shape of a teddy bear.

After the normal procedures of arrival we had to decide to rent a car for $30 or pay a Taxi $30, the choice was clear! We got a car for 24 hrs to explore the surroundings of La Paz from a different angle with a view of the ocean from the beach and not of the beach from the ocean. Our main stop was “Balandra” One of the most beautiful places we have seen while sailing, but the worst overnight anchorage. No worries today, we will drive home!



Once in La Paz we had to start the search for a place to stay, as usual. I am in charge of getting the quotes. We stop, I got off the car to run into one of our options and I hear.. “Where are you coming from?” I look up a little disoriented and I see our friend Craig from Journey; a vessel we met in Tenacatita several months ago. It felt good to find a cruising friend, unfortunately, he is only here to put his boat in Yacht Path the day we take ours out. His family is already back home (Seattle, WA) and their cruising is over… for a while. We still managed to spend a little time together and share each other’s stories and we listen to how sailing had impacted their life.

We found a very good hotel in one of the main streets for a very reasonable price and excellent service, “San Bernardino”. We spent 3 nights there until it was time to pick up Endurance.

Mexico City


I would have loved to spend more time discovering the fun, cultural, historic, modern, beautiful parts of this large, large, LARGE city, but the thought was too overwhelming therefore it never happened… we would have spent great part of the day sitting in traffic and paying for it; just not a good idea at this time. We decided to continue the trip to La Paz in the afternoon the same day, but Aeromexico had other plans for us. The plane was oversold and they asked for volunteer to stay overnight with all expenses paid and 4 R/T tickets, good for a year to fly in any equivalent routes. What a bummer, we were the ones!!..hehe … We were soon taken to a 4 star Hotel were we committed the sin of taking, not one, but 3 baths! What a magnificent treat send from heaven!

We sat at the airport for a couple of hours the next day and again they asked for volunteers, only this time they needed just 3, one of us would have had to fly and that was not an option! We boarded as normal individuals, pretending to have a busy schedule.

Time to Fly!

The alarms will go off at any minute…. I wonder if we miss it, no, it will go off soon.. should I try to sleep a little longer?.. pip-pip-pip-pip… it’s time, 4:00 AM! The bus from Golfito to San Jose passes right in front of Land and Sea (the place where we stayed) a few minutes after 5:00 AM. If we are not standing in the specific location or waving in the middle of the road, the driver won’t stop. I know this for past experiences. I was anxious! We stood there under the rain for a little while, but made it all right. It took 7 hours to arrive with a few stops to eat and use the bathrooms in between. It was mostly good with the exception of a little bus sickness… oops! Trinidad could not take it very well. Once we got to the bus terminal we hopped in a taxi to another terminal and then to a second bus that would take us to Alajuela, where the airport is located and where we had reservations for Hotel International. For $50 dollars we got free internet that didn’t work, free breakfast that we couldn’t eat, see-thru towels, sheets that didn’t fit the mattress, a fan missing all its wires and the coldest shower yet! (this last was my fault). I was happy the next morning when the experience was over and we got away with only a $50 dollar expense.


One more day of early rising, 3:30AM, the plane leaves at 7:00 AM. We take the taxi to the airport just a block away, but the taxi still managed to rip us off with a $5 charge. We stepped out of Costa Rican territory at 7:00 AM or technically at the moment of boarding and headed to Mexico City. Here is where a new adventure begins.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Endurance departs


“Endurance, do you copy?” “We are ready for you”… we motor up, next to the big cargo ship “Amazon” Matt put me in charge of throwing the bow line up to the line handlers with instructions that I could not digest well in the short time we had. I threw the line once, twice and again, it felt as if the lines were heavier and heavier and heavier, proportionally direct with my embarrassment and the rolling of my shoulders. There was so much heat in the moods of the people around, it was hectic and stressful as it always been when tying to a dock, but this time with more than one captain giving the instructions. The crane came down, the belt hugged Endurance and the rest we missed. We were pushed into a panga and forced to face away from her. Later that day I went to see how and where she got strapped down and to get the last few pictures from far. That night we saw the Amazon turning away and disappeared in the distance with Endurance on her back. The girls waved as they saw their furry friends go away and Matt and I got overwhelmed with feelings of sadness. Something felt wrong about sending her without us. It sounds ridiculous to me to be giving her life, but the truth is that the bitter feelings are more related to the adventure that is being turned around. What have taken us 8 months to do, will only take 5 days to reverse! We didn’t dwell too long on it, we had a tasty hamburger in front of us to enjoy.