Sunday, November 28, 2010

Crossing the Sea

There are strong winds coming from the North Thanksgiving day, we must leave either Tuesday or Wednesday, that is when we met Barry and Sue on Wave glider who were preparing to cross. It is somewhat comfortable sailing with the knowledge that someone else is experiencing the same seas as we are and that if there is an emergency they could witness it and maybe offer help and vice versa.

Tuesday 3 AM both vessels are doing the crossing which was bumpy at first, long and with more heeling than I desired, but, oh well, after a few hours we are used to its awkwardness. Not too many times one gets to cook in a 45 degree angle and that uniqueness factor I secretly looove!

We were doing our last long passage of this voyage and I wondered how I could write about such a meaningful step, we are moving East, our home is actually getting closer not further away, we are sadly closing episodes of a rich and aggressive adventure. Sadly because it was overall amazing and truly sad because when we started we had a year to look forward to new places, new cultures, new foods, sun, water, beaches, palm trees and money to spend and now we are looking at finding work and broke…haha. Not really, we are sooo blessed, we have friends and family we look forward to see, we have a good place to live in, we enjoy the work we do and look forward to it and we feel richest than ever!

Red Tide

 I was thinking that most of the learning was over, but nature managed to throw us a new subject to explore; RED TIDE. What an amazing phenomenon! It is almost unreal.  Like arteries, spreading and interconnecting, moving fast to have the whole harbor covered in red. I expected to see dead fish on shore, but no. Apparently the red tide not always is a maligned event, it all depends on the kind of algae that multiplies and the amount of it. Sometime it could get to such extent that it will kill fish, shellfish and all it could make breathing for human difficult. Ok! But today, that it is not the case and we all, including seagulls, fish and shellfish have survived.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Santa Rosalia

We recognized a couple of boats as we entered the harbor. I called one of them to announce our arrival, not expecting a big cheer, but with the intention to get some information on services around the town; laundry, stores and internet. That is when I met Meri from Hot Spur who came up to my rescue with the info I needed.


There are two, one belongs to Fonatur (government run). It is a modern, new facility and the other is Marina Santa Rosalia, smaller, older docks, run down, but with lots of character given by the people who hangs out in there, the cruisers that come and go and the old building that serves as the club house also known as “The Palapa of knowledge” It was in this marina that we would tide our dinghy to every day to join the crowd at the palapa, do our internet, our showers and to access the town. We met wonderful people, interesting characters, we enjoyed so much being there, it was hard to cut those roots we started growing there.

The Anchorage

It was tight, it took us a long time to find the right spot for Endurance and even then we were forced to move not once, but 4 times; we were too close to other boats, the mine was bringing a large barge and the needed room to move and the last time we have dragged. After all these incidents we felt we deserved tying to the marina dock for a night. Lovely! There is nothing like having abundant amount of power, water, internet access and easy access to solid ground.

The Town

One block to the left and the up is the main street with a plaza, restaurants, pharmacy, Pepe’s Tacos, La Michoacana, The Famous Bakery, The Famous bacon wrapped hotdogs, the clothing store, the other clothing store, the other and the other and the other, the shoe store, the bank, the museum, the movie theater ($3 adults, $1 children.. what a deal!) the fabric store and the bead store (our two favorites),so on.. everything you ask for you will find. The streets are narrow, the buildings are old, but well care for, cute! There is definitely a style, supposedly French. In the early 1900 they developed a great part of the town as they came to run the mine operation. Even Eiffel had his hands in the town designing the church. The future of the town looks promising as the mine has reactivated its operations, maybe we should stay…or maybe not!

The small world this is

We were highly recommended the tacos at “Tacos Poblano” for $14 pesos a taco you get the most amazing “carne asadas” or “al pastor” tacos you will ever have! I could only compare them with the ones we got at the beginning of our trip in Turtle Bay. So similar in falvor, so similar in size, so similar in the level of satisfaction one gets and so similar operation; a mom and her sons. It was so similar that it must have been the same, sure enough, business was not good in Turtle Bay so 4 months ago they decided to move their stand to Santa Rosalia. Life is good to us, it gives us second chances to enjoy these exquisite pleasures! More coincidental than this was that when we were eating our Tacos, this man sitting at a table next to us with his family, asked us if we, by any chance, where in a sailboat? and if we were anchored in Turtle Bay a year ago? Trinidad and Samantha played with his niece at the beach then. What are the odds? Running into the same people who we have barely met and with a tight margin of space from missing each other? What are the odd that they see us in the way in and now in the way out? I entertain the idea that there are more reasons to it? I entertain the idea that we do see people more than once, we just don’t realize it. So here is the moral to the story “smile at everyone, we never know when they will cross our path again” in the same token “look your best”, “don’t say good bye” and “pay your debts”…hehe

Punta Chivato

The morning was calm, it was a beautiful day to head towards to Punta Chivato a point in between Bahia Concepcion and Santa Rosalia. We were encouraged to stop here to collect shells. It is outstanding, not so much for the variety, but for the amount of them and the type that are not easy to find elsewhere. We spent the afternoon filling plastic bags with these natural souvenirs and checking out some million dollar homes built along the shore. Some of which have been abandoned in the construction phase..

What a waste! All that labor all that material, ALL THAT VIEW!

Bahia Concepcion and Mulegé

We made it safe after our 3rd attempt to pass Pulpito. It was a 7 hour sail with no where to stop in between, if the weather got bad again the options were to turn around or just put up with it in misery and fear. After about 3 hours we were already used to the “up and splat” motion, Matt regained the confidence and the ocean looked as if it was going to behave for us. We enter Bahia Concepcion with an incredible amount of relief and excitement to see all the new places.

Today is our 3rd day here, we anchored in Playa El Burro in front of Bertha’s Restaurant where we have found an amazing amount of hospitality and good food! The restaurant is run by Celia, a super friendly, warm and fun lady. She gave us a ride yesterday to the town of Mulegé and today she just lent us her car to go back to town and run important errands. We must be pretty trustworthy individuals! I guess it is one of the perks of traveling with children.

Mulegé is a very cute town, we really enjoyed walking its streets, the town matches our lifestyle; simple, Matt can picture himself and his house here. This town has a lot o character, old buildings, narrow streets, a stone block mission, a lighthouse, taco stands here and there, little markets, a friendly pharmacy, a bank, a bookstore, a little plaza and lots of tourism. Unfortunately, nature has made progress a hard concept. Mulegé had been hit by hurricanes three years in row, this last summer they got a break, but they are still recovering from such tremendous amount of damage. One can clearly see the path of destruction mainly by the river that runs through that carried away homes and its contents with no mercy. I can almost feel the hopeless emotions of the community seeing their beauty and any signs of growth flow down.

Our last day in Bahia Concepcion we moved to Santispac where we would be able to get more water, take a shower and go to their Saturday special night of ribs, DJ and dancing. We couldn’t get any water, the shower was horrible, didn’t make it to the ribs, but manage to dance a few songs. I believe we were the youngest in the crowd.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Leaving Juanico towards Santo Domingo

Another fearful passage, 47 miles to go from one place to the other, 9 or 10 hours should be the most it would take us… or so we thought. A few minutes before 8 AM Matt is putting the dinghy on deck, I am hoisting the anchor, the sun is shining and there is a nice breeze that promises we would have a pleasant sail. The anchor is all the way out, I turned on the motor, circle a couple of times around our friend’s boat “Ulalena” saying goodbye. “Now we are leaving” I announced to them and I headed out of the bay. I had it all planned. Today was Matt’s Birthday and I have been saving a pack of bacon for this occasion, I was going to cook bacon and eggs for brunch and a plate of cereal to start the day. I got as far as the cereal. The swell was getting bigger, the wind was picking up, the white caps were making their way to us and pretty soon we were in the middle of chaos, river rafting would have been a more peaceful adventure for today. It was then that Matt made the wise decision to turn around and find refuge in “Punta Pulpito”. In spite of going South in the right direction with the wind, the sail was uncomfortable. Samantha had to put her face in a bucket a couple of times.

Usually it is best to stay in the cockpit with fresh air if one is seasick, but today I felt it was not safe, Matt needed to focus completely in steering the boat and I certainly didn’t want anyone washed away. We made a comfortable spot in the V-birth. I had Trini on one side and Sami on the other, the computer on my lap and karaoke software going. We sang our first song and Matt called me to give him a hand putting the main sail down. To put the main sail up or down, the boat has to be turned into the wind. I pushed the laptop forward, away from the girls and told them not to touch it until I came back. Matt turned the boat around, I yelled to the girls “hold on tight”!, bang, bang splash, horrible sounds and feeling as the boat seems to be out of control for a second. I felt my head spin, my legs turning jell-o and the panic from down bellow; both girls screaming from the top of their lungs. I knew what happened. I rushed down bellow and find both of them with their hairs flat down over their faces dripping water and sitting on a puddle. They were not hurt, just in shocked. Although, the hatch was closed it was not latched all the way and somehow a wave made its way in. I could almost “cartoonized” the moment in my mind.

The computer had water on top, I don’t know how much went in it and how long it will last, as I am typing I can feel the salt over the keys. As I write, I pray that if it will decease, it will happen slowly, giving me enough time to back up my photos. It is really a terrifying though!

Once we made it back to Pulpito, I took all our linens, clothing and mattress to dry, I looked at the bacon and the eggs and decided that they will taste much better tomorrow. I let dinner take place of brunch.

San Juanico

After spending a night in Salinas we sailed to San Juanico. On the way there we were encountered with an incredible amount of dolphins. I have never seen a pod this big, hundreds of them going in circles, pushing their preys. I felt like in my best years of childhood jumping with excitement upon such a display.

Oh San Juanico! I could stay here for a while! It is a popular cruiser’s destination. It is well protected, the snorkeling is excellent and the hiking fun. Cruisers have built a shrine tree at the beach. Every vessel leaves a mark, some are very creative with theirs, and some may just leave a pair of shorts or a shoe. We made ours with aluminum pieces; abundant material among cruisers, it usually comes in a cylinder shape and its full of bitter, yeasty liquid. (beer cans). We found the shrine of our friends from Tenacious Grace.

I enjoyed so much my alone time here, kayaking in the reefs, being pushed gently over the rocks, taking pictures of the osprey’s nest, the star fish that was left uncovered when the tide went down. I could spend hours and hours just drifting, but it is not all floating and dreaming I also paddled and felt the muscles working,

In my way back to the boat I saw two new vessels coming into the bay, there is always hope it will be someone we know. Sure enough, vessel “Ulalena” with Scott, Terry and dog named Boson. We met them in the marina in San Diego before we left a year ago. The girls enjoyed very much babysitting Boson one morning and an evening having hotdogs with them by a bonfire at the beach. It was nice to see them! We also run into vessel “Just a Minute” Patrick, Laura and Jack; we met them in Tenacatita several moths ago. We spent a few hours here before they had to continue south.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Las Salinas, Isla Carmen

Of all the ghost towns I have seen this is the best set up! Hehe.. It is very interesting abandoned salt mining operation. Today only parts of the original buildings are standing, it almost happens that closing your eyes will take you to the times when the company was making noise, the workers running around, some of them taking a siesta, some visiting the doctors office and others getting in the boats that would take them back home for the weekend burned by the almost criminal sun of June and their skin suffocated by the layers of salt. It must have been miserable. We walked all the way back to what remains of the salt flats, took a few pictures and run back. I felt overwhelmed by the desolation, dryness, the heat and the rusted metal, what is left of the old machinery.

Bye Savannah!

Savannah’s anchor is up, Monica at the helm and Andy at the bow, Savannah is making her turn to head south. Matt hoisted the last 50 feet of anchor chain of Endurance, he secured it, I put the boat in gear, turned up the throttle. Endurance makes her turn to head north. It used to be a decision when we were going south, but today, as we are going north, is an obligation, we must go home. We separated with friends painfully not knowing if it was a forever goodbye or just a long time. Although I certainly hope we see them again, I find myself and my girls being emotionally better prepared for these moments. They were meant to come and go, we were meant to enjoy them and let them continue!... we were meant to have dinners at their boat, eat their fish, drink their wine…haha (Just kidding!)

Are we nuts?

Most cruisers here in Escondido are preparing to go across to the main land and then south or across the Pacific, but not us, we are going the wrong way! Matt wonders what it would be to say “we are going across, we are going to do the Puddle Jump” (the name given to the crossing to the Marquesas) instead of “we are at the end of our voyage, we are heading home” At the same time we are challenged with the opinions that life on land is so much more expensive, that the economy and the way the US is going is so out of control, that there will be hardly no work, that the world is under stress. Life on board is easier, safer and wiser… really? It may be true, it may be not. I believe life balances between the positives and negatives wherever one chooses to live. Traveling is a wonderful thing, but I can’t say it is all bliss, I have had my tears of frustration, of fears and anger as much as laughs of joy, contentment and love; traveling as a family in a boat is amazing, it keeps us close together, but it is the same closeness that suffocates you at times. Visiting new places all the time is fascinating, but constantly moving is a tiring pastime. Not having to get up and work every morning is an enviable situation, but not having the money is limiting and dangerous too. No matter how we put things into consideration for whether to return or not, it is pointless. This is our time to rebuild… it all.

I know Matt and I have different feelings about this, but I am excited to be back home, a large kitchen to cook, a washing machine to keep a clean wardrobe, a shower to get into every morning, a birthday party to go to on weekends, a day of shopping for unessential things, a library day with the girls and so on. I am aware that all these things I can live without, but it’s sure nice to have. Living simple is a skill that I have not achive to master yet! On the other hand, I am sad to end this trip, naturally. It has been so rich in so many ways, especially because of all the people we have met. Would I do it again?

Puerto Escondido

As we are making our ways into the mooring area we spotted a dinghy heading in opposite direction with our friend from Savannah. We met them at the beginning of our cruising life in San Diego. At that point Andy was a few months away from retiring as an underwater video/photographer for the Navy and Monica was about to call it good on her job too. They were going to go sailing several months after us, we were not expecting to see each other for at least 5 years, but.. oh well we changed our plans and now they see us end the trip as we see them start theirs.

There is no town in Escondido, just a marina and a hotel nearby were we will go swimming. There is a well organized Cruisers Club that meets in the marina every day. It seems like a good place to hang out. We stayed longer than expected, partly because of weather and partly because it was comfortable and the kids had other kids to play with.

The highlight of our stay in Escondido was the celebration of Halloween. A potluck and costume contest. Samantha dressed up as an Indian, Trinidad as a Gipsy and I as something like a beer girl from the Alps. We all won a prize and the girls had more candy than a parent should want their kids to have. It was a fun evening!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Agua Verde

Ten days ago we agreed to meet our friend James here, communications are not an easy thing in this part of the planet, in this sort of lifestyle. Agreements are made in advance, plan Bs and Cs and Ds.. and Zs are elaborated in case of weather, rip sales, motor break down, lack of fishing, excess beer, amazing snorkeling, loosing track of time, days of the week etc. So, James who was currently working on his boat in Escondido was going to drive to meet us at the signal; either the satellite signal sent using the “Spot” (a device that sends a signal with our coordinates to a satellite and then this is placed onto our website) or a satellite phone call using the Iridium phone. After 2 trials with the phone and with the feeling that it was not going to work out, we heard the sweetest sound of the horn of a truck coming down the hill. There he was, our friend! “My little buddy” says Trini. So thoughtful, he showed up with Neapolitan ice cream, Nutella and cookies for the kids, all sorts of fruits and veggies, tortillas and beverages for us all. Thank you James!! We had a great time!

James spent one night with us, a full day the next day. We all had such a good time that it is hard to see him go, as always. He is gone in the afternoon, we will do the same the following morning!

I shower dispute

When water is restricted and showering is, at the most, a once a day event, then it takes some planning. We must pick the right time of the day when the water has been warmed by the sun, the wind is not blowing and all the swimming is done. I had done all the calculations in my head, I had it all previously envisioned; I was to fill the solar shower, hang it up in the mast, soaped, shampooed and conditioned my hair, dry, dress and start dinner. It all sounded so cozy. We have a shower in the bathroom, but Matt considers that it is not a good idea, if something goes wrong with the plumbing it would be hard to fix and it could compromise our water reserve. That is why we got not one but two solar showers. So, I told Matt what my plans were that afternoon and he made a face of disapproval, “setting the solar shower is so much work!” he says, “could I dump a bucket of water over you instead?” he adds. “First he takes away my shower at home, then the shower in the head (bathroom of the boat), then the solar and now he wants me to use a bucket?” I thought in fury. “I will do it all myself” I said. As I am setting it up, the girls are arguing and calling me from bellow, they need assistance, Matt is riding the dinghy and I am trying to pick up a slippery and heavy jug to pour the water into the solar shower. I started pouring and the hose came undone so our precious fresh water is shooting out of the bag and going down the open hatches. I am trying to stop it, trying to ignore the screaming children and controlling my feelings of disappointment on my husband for not trying to help me. I couldn’t contain the tears of anger and frustration. Matt must have felt my emotions pretty closely, he cooked dinner that night and offer to help me with the water.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Hook in Isla San Francisco

Apart from being a nice cove to anchor and snorkel, it was a full day of fun for the girls, we had very little involvement in their entertainment. They play for a long time in the luring waters of the salt ponds, splattering and then sitting in them. They found mud puddles as well where they painted beautiful boots on their feet and they did plenty of running around pretending to be Barbie musketeers.

One of the cruising guides we have for the Sea has a nice collection of pictures taken at the different anchorages showing things of interest such as hiking points. The picture of this place is one of a girl in the foreground at the peak of a hiking trail with the bay in the background. I wanted to replicate the scene with myself. I found the hiking trail simple enough to make myself look like a gazelle, I had my hiking shoes and my camera, I was all set. Once I was up, I realized that going down was going to be a rather difficult task, with feelings bordering the state of “panic”, rolling down was not an option, calling for help was too embarrassing to go on with a normal life, scooting down was more likely, but still not as graceful as I would like it. I ended up going down 3 legged (1 arm to hold on, one leg bent and the other reaching the new point down the hill. The worst thing was realizing that the light up there was not quite right and I needed an extra hand to get my picture taken. Since I survived the experience, I can say it was fun!

Touring the Sea with our friends from Imagine

After the goodbye and farewell wishes from and to our friends from Whatcha Gonna Do we set the course to ride out of La Paz channel and into the National Park of Isla Partida a little bit past 1:00 PM. Behind are our friends from vessel Imagine who will be joining us for the next few days in the next few anchorages. The girls are in heaven, after so much time of solitude for the next few days they will have Hollie and Shei all to themselves in amazing anchorages to explore together.

In the way out we were encountered by a beautiful whale shark. All by herself, a giant spotted fish, not a big whale, not a spooky shark, but rather a cute creature. She was beautiful and tolerant of us, the curious cruisers who circled around her to get second looks and better picture shots. I declare myself ignorant of the dangers of being close to them, but the experience was for sure exhilarating and worth the exposure.

It was close to sunset when we dropped our anchor at Caleta Partida, the moon was coming up almost full, the gilrs were sitting in the mast trying to grab it. Matt was making sure the lines are all in place and tight. Imagine was making is entrance to the bay. Different shades of red bounce out of the mountains. The green/blue of the water and my so hopeful and cheerful mood complete the scene. All pieces put together into Art to hang around our walls of immortality or simply put to fill the screen of my D60 Nikon camera. The girls’ plans to get together are quickly landed on hard bottom when we agreed to see each other the next day for breakfast instead.

The next day the energy levels were high, there was no need to push for the chores to be done, the hairs to be combed, the bathing suits to be put on. The girls new there was no time to waste; there were games to play and chats to chat. We dinghied over to Imagine for a nice warm cup of coffee on board. Soon we were all climbing our floating devices to head on to the beach. Shelley on her kayak, Matt on the windsurf, David on the Jet Ski and the rest of the girls in our dinghy with me as the driver.

The day ended with a beautiful sunset and dinner over imagine. The girls were invited to have a sleepover, but only Trinidad was able to take advantage of such generous invitation. Samantha was complaining of a headache that had me a little concerned. Earlier that day she fell down the companion way ( a 3 step ladder that takes you out to the cockpit of the boat), she scratched her back and bump her head, I was afraid the pain was a consequence of the event, but luckily everything was all right the next morning. Shelley and David invited the girls to sail to the next location 3 hours away in their boat. For the first time I realized I enjoyed steering the boat, hoisting the main and throwing fishing line out. For the first time I realized how I could love sailing knowing that nothing could get in the way of me and a book, of a conversation with my husband and a confrontation of my thoughts….Although, I must be honest, my thoughts are not always thoughtful and not always pleasant, realizing that, I started to miss my girls.

The sail was good, the fishing for us unsuccessful, but Imagine had better luck. Matt called David on the radio and this is what David said:

“I could have used your help”

“I just got a shark on the hook and I need it to unhooked it”

“I had to cut the line”

Understandably, he was not about to bring that amount of teeth on board. The girls got to see and live the excitement of it.

Preparing to head North

We spent two days at Marina de la Paz preparing the boat for our voyage North in the Sea. We loaded 100 gallons of fresh water in the tanks, filled 40 gallons of jugs with drinking water, filled the diesel tank, filled the gasoline tank, did two loads of laundry took civilized showers and of course, my favorite; re-provisioned.

Walmart again, scores my shopping. It is hard to make a difference choice when I am so confident that here is where my dollars stretch the longest; nowhere else I have found 1 Lt of orange juice for $7.5 pesos (US$0.60) or the 1 Lt Box milk for $10 pesos (US$0.90). It really makes a difference when I have to buy 15 liters of each.

Although, Walmart was a good provisioning source, a trip to the central market is a must for me. I can almost taste a piece of Tuna rolled with cream cheese, cucumbers, calrose rice, seaweed, soya sauce and pickled ginger; SUSHI!! The market sells a kilo of Tuna for $70 pesos. I GOTTA GET IT! Also, I want to buy some fresh tortillas and a few kilos of green, juicy mangoes.

Also, it is always a good idea to carry pesos of which we have NONE, we have none of the other either… well, a little… I have a few travelers checks left that I must change in Scotia Bank, the only bank that cashes them. In order to cash dollars or checks one must present a passport, they make copies and supposedly they handed back to you, but in this case they forgot and so did I. I made it all the way back to the Marina and the port captain had called to notify that my passport was at the bank. SH….! I was parted in between feelings of anger and relief; we are supposed to be leaving now and walking back to the bank would take me more than one hour R/T. On the other hand, I can’t even imagine what would have happened if I was not notified on time? I could have taken a taxi, but I was saved by the good deed of our friends from vessel “Imagine” who have been very generous with their car.

Finally it all seems to be in place, tanks full, cabinets full, fridge and freezer full and the hammocks with fruits and veggies swinging with apples, mangoes, onions, tomatoes, cabbage and more. It is time to say good bye to our friends and to sail away the comfortable, beautiful and fun city of La Paz.

Swap meet

We arrived just am hour before it started, pulled out things out of the closets, drawers, cubbies and laid it all out. I would say it was successful. We sold items like the one man kayak we barely used, a diving tank we never used, some sophisticated binoculars with built in camera and night vision that never seemed practical enough to use and if they did not come with the boat we would have never had them on board. We managed to pocket some money, but we did make a major purchase to replace the kayak. A windsurf. Matt was an avid windsurfer, but has been seriously deprived from such pleasure for decades. Initially was short of money, then short of space, then short of time and while in Arizona, short of ocean. I felt that if he wanted to relive the excitement, show off and teach his girls, now is the time! Not to mention that the windsurfing board could be used as a paddle board… Hot item at the moment!