Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Cortez Crossing and Santa Rosalía

Joy ride in the Walker Bay in Santa Rosalia Harbor.
“28…30…32…” Clif is reciting the wind readings as I type. The “El Norte” has surely set in. The dock lines, halyards and doorknobs are all banging and rattling out of unison. The distinct whistling through the rigging tells me the wind is sticking around 35 knots. Luckily, we knew this little windstorm was coming through long before it arrived, so we tied up securely to the Marina Fonatour early this morning. Not at hour after we secured the lines, the wind went from 10- 25 knots in about 10 minutes. The north wind of the Sea of Cortez (“El Norte”) has a mind of its own. It whips up the sea into short, steep chop, making it virtually impossible to move anywhere besides directly downwind. We can peek out beyond the harbor embankment and see huge white caps that have been traveling from the top of the Sea, thankful we are inside a little shelter and attached to a dock that survived Hurricane Odile last fall (up to 100 mph winds here in Santa Rosalía).

Young boy in Santa Rosalia watching a palm tree be cut down. One of the favorite shots of the week!
We had a very uneventful crossing culminating two days ago (nothing like the wind we’re experiencing currently). We managed to pick a night that had just enough wind to sail for 6 steady hours, allowing us to attach our wind monitor and relax. In San Carlos, we arranged to cross with another boat, S/V Alma, owned by our new friends Greg and Diane of Quincy, CA, and stayed with a mile or two for the majority of our night on the Sea. VHF radios enabled us to communicate occasionally, until the next day with Alma motored ahead and we chose to sail a little further south to avoid bashing upwind. The crossing from San Carlos to Santa Rosalía took us a total of 16.5 hours, beginning at 10pm and ending the following day at 2:30pm.
Walking the streets of Santa Rosalia.
We reminded by several cruisers in San Carlos, that Santa Rosalía was significantly damaged by Hurricane Odile last October. We were fairly in tune with the Hurricane watch while our boat was in Guaymas on the hard, but it’s a completely different thing to see the outcome months after the fact. One of the two marinas in this little harbor was completely destroyed. There were also many boats attached to that dock that were significantly damaged or lost. Two boats are still among the broken pilings, waiting to be lifted out of the water or salvaged. There’s a pangueros dock, also in ruins, and parts of cement from the ferry dock in the middle of the harbor. The town, originally a French mining town, had many structural relics that didn’t make it through the Hurricane as well. It’s a good reminder to also check the weather and never underestimate the power of the wind. (Which, fortunately for me, I’m petrified of what the wind can do over 20 knots… it’s a positive and negative sailing trait in my opinion).

On the bright side, we’re attached to a dock that has power and water. We can charge up all of our electronics and top of our batteries. I can wash the boat with fresh water (hasn’t happened quite yet, waiting for the weather to die down a bit), and can use as much water as I like to scrub the dishes! It’s also a very short 5-minute walk into a hustling, bustling pure Mexican town. No tourists beside the occasional gringos driving through on Hwy 1, and myself, lugging laundry for 20 minutes to find the cheapest, most authentic lavandería I can find. Santa Rosalía is home to a very famous Mexican bakery, Panadería El Boleo, making fresh pan dulces every day. Little “Cochas” and “Pitahaya” buns (mis favoritas por desayuna) go for 7 pesos. Check out this sweet 90’s Mexican TV footage I found on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zoRD7AnH4uI
You might not understand a word, but about half way through the video, the baker lists off the names of the typical buns--- super helpful for me being a beginning Spanish speaker. Gotta learn my bakery terminology!

Panaderia El Boleo buns... fresh out of the oven!
It’s also fun to go seeking out the best tortillas and best tacos in town. We were recommended by a gringo local to have tacos at “Tacos Paisano,” where the Asada tacos are excellent and go for 20 pesos ($1.50). Two can fill you up--- way to go $3 dinners! Many taco stands, particularly under a roof, allow you to bring in your own cerveza, which is an added bonus. Mucho barato, very cheap.
World Famous.

From Santa Rosalía, we will be heading down into Bahia Concepcion (within the next day or two) to meet up with our friends, Pam, Eric and Andy aboard Emma Bell. We might have Pam aboard a couple nights before Eric and Andy can cross from Guaymas, but we will all be frying fresh fish again soon.

Tacos Paisano with new friends, Greg and Diane.
Going to indulge on as many dock luxuries as possible right, since we’re grounded: hot showers, fresh water usage in general, wifi and battery charging. Clif’s tying off another line to the bow, which is getting the brunt of this wind, so we might not be wondering too far from the boat today… maybe to get another taco or two.


Tacos de Carne Asada
Hiking up the hillside to see the cemetery of Santa Rosalia.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

She's Afloat!

It’s official. Our second season of Sea of Cortez cruising has begun. After six days of hard work in the yard, Sound Discovery is on the water! With her fresh new bottom paint, deck scrub, sails on, teak oiled, and plenty of drinking water, we are all set to roll.

Our first “Put-in” went as smoothly as we hoped it could go. I realized about halfway through the process, that “putting-in” is WAY more stressful than pulling the boat out of the water. This thing has to float again! And who knows what has happened to the shape and soundness of the vessel while she was sitting in 100+ Mexican summer heat all year. To protect the new bottom coat, the painters suggested plastic garbage bags (of which we had two) or bed sheets, which I did have a couple of laying around. It only took a couple minutes of the boat being laid in the water to recognize that bed sheets were are horrible idea. The strips of sheet fused to the final layer of paint and wouldn’t come off the bottom. It took quite some fishing, pulling and prodding with a boat hook to assume that the entire bed sheet was removed from the hull. (You can see the green sheets dangling in between the sling and the boat hull.)

We did have two other leaks once we were set in the water. Both fixed easily with a little work from Clif, while we were attached to the Marina Seca dock. Our prop shaft was leaking pretty severely, but needed just a little tightening. The knot-meter inside the bilge of the boat was also leaking, and the pressure of the water made the piece really difficult to remove. However, all was fixable within 30-45 minutes, and we were off. The engine ran smoothly and soundly (as soundly as our ’78 Westerbeke Diesel can run) while we made our way across the bay leaving Guaymas. We spent our first night afloat at the “Free Docks” (30 pesos/$2 per night) just on the outside entrance of the bay, along with our new Canadian friends aboard S/V Slade Green, who are also seasonal worker in the Inside Passage! The Free-docks are an excellent place to do boat work sans-fresh-water (hoisting Clif up the mast, putting on sails, scrubbing the yard dirt off the decks…etc). What a feeling to finally be afloat and have little to no problems! Needless to say, we toasted our efforts with mimosas, ending our almost-month of sobriety. We toasted to our cleansed livers and once-again-floating home.

Like my bright pink zinc-oxide lips? Gotta love self-timers.

Today, we had our first morning afloat and motored/sailed our way north to San Carlos, a popular Mexican cruising hub. Just 18 miles from Guaymas on the water, it is a small Hurricane-hole/summer-destination for folks that spend a year or more in the Sea of Cortez. It is also a popular spot to haul-out and store boats, because of its proximity to the US.  We were able to sail the last several miles into the bay and make sure everything aboard was ship shape. We even got a good heal and had to strap the new herb-garden in place. I will soon get to use my fresh mint for mojitos, and limonadas. I’m going start infusing my drinking water on the boat to make it taste better—what a genius idea.

Playing with my new 50 mm lens on my Canon Rebel on our first sail.

Our friends Eric and Andy (Eric’s brother) aboard Emma Bell are going to be in the water tomorrow morning, if all goes well, and from there we are headed across the sea. The weather this weekend looks perfect for crossing, light winds across to Bahia Concepcion, where we plan to find those awesome whale sharks we got to swim with last year. Keep an eye on our Inreach Delorme tracker this weekend, it will be moving!

Cheers to our second spring of sunshine and sailing. Let the cruising begin!

This portrait was taken to mimic a similar shot of his dad at the same age!

Just about to set in the water at high tide.

My herb garden is strapped in for the ride to San Carlos... until it finds a better home.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Returning Home: back to life-on-the-hard...

Sound Discovery with a freshly sanded hull!
It's been a little over tens months since we said a rushed goodbye to our little home in Marina Seca Guaymas. We closed the gate behind us, planning on returning 6 months later (after our summer work in Alaska), and like many cruisers who sail seasonally, 6 months turned into 8, 8 turned into 10, and here we are. It's a wonderful thing, coming back to a boat. The excitement of being afloat again has been fueling our hard work these past several days ("hard work"... might be a little bit of an understatement). I forgot how much work we put into the boat before it was hauled out of the water last spring. The same amount of effort, hours, to-do lists, cleaning, scrubbing, assembling everything that was disassembled, is required to ensure a safe departure.

Rudder hug. First photo when we got to the boat.
We drove 25 hours to reach Guaymas from the Bay area (over the period of a week), visiting family and spending "kitty" money along the way. New boat purchases included: an outboard motor for the walker bay, a head rebuild kit (talk about bathroom remodels), new lines, an oven-sized cast iron pan, new sheets, several new dishes, a new swim ladder, a random assemblage of spare parts... etc. We crossed the the border at Nogales with ease, stopping only once to grab lunch at a road-side restaurant. The hustle and bustle of Guaymas was fun to navigate and made for a very exciting experience in Clif's truck. I'm off firm belief that Mexicans may be crazy drivers, but they are very KIND drivers. Maybe it's the Alaskan plates?

Long way down. Taking care while working...
We arrived to a boat very laden with dust, a mixture of dirt and bottom paint being sanded off our hull. The boat is still the same old Sound Discovery, but has required some familiarization. The wood and plastic inside the cabin walls lost all of its moisture over the year and shrunk. One can almost picture the boat exhaling and relaxing into place once it hits the water. A thin dust covered most of the inner cabin (a thicker dust on the outside). I worked room to room the first day, starting from bow to stern, cleaning all surfaces, oiling wood and putting belongings back into place. And so work commenced...

We've taken several breaks driving into town for community festivities. We timed our Guaymas visit just right, arriving the first night of Carnaval (the week leading up to Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday). Parades, music concerts, dancing, eating and vast amounts of confetti are all apart of the celebrations, making the downtown streets of Guaymas an entirely different cultural experience. I dragged Clif down to one of the four (yes, four) parades, which lasted for over three hours. We began to walk against the parade, trying to catch a glimpse of the last float, but the endless groups of dancers proceeded by trucks with generators and loud speakers seemed to continue on forever. It was like American 4th of July on steroids... and salsa. I promptly bought a crown of flowers to wear on my head, hoping it would not make me look even more foreign. From our boat (about a 10 minute drive out of Guaymas) we can hear loud dancing music long into the night, carrying across the bay. Last night I woke up to get a glass of water around 3:50am and the music still continued! Gotta love falling asleep to Mexican horns and drums blasting away.

One of the many Carnaval Dance groups in the parade.
Our boat isn't scheduled to enter the water until Thursday. We are getting the bottom of the boat sanded and painted, as well as getting the rudder touched up-- which all will get done Tuesday or Wednesday. Our friend Eric, captain of our buddy boat, Emma Bell, just arrived with his brother today, so we have company now in our race towards our cruising season.

More soon, from the water, once we finish up at Marina Seca Guaymas!


Friday, January 30, 2015

New Year, New Lines-- Headed back to our little home!

A row of our new, clean, white jib sheets, furling line and reefing lines.
Happy New Year to all of our friends, family and fellow cruisers!

The Sound Discovery blog is back in action after a long 9 month hiatus! Clif and I are headed back down to our lovely Cal 34' after being away from the cruisers life for a little too long. We have had a busy, busy year, moving around the states and the globe. Clif was just commenting to a friend yesterday over the phone, that we have not been in one place for more than a week since the end of September. We've spent a lot of time in our two-man tent and sleeping in backpacker hostel bunk-beds; we even spent a week sleeping in the bed of our Toyota Tacoma.

Red Dog Lady--- making bucks for the cruising kitty!!
Last year I left the blog right when I flew back to Juneau for summer work. Both Clif and I had full time jobs set up for the summer season working May through the end of September. I worked at the Red Dog Saloon (a Juneau staple) as a bar maid, and Clif was able to work again for the Marine Exchange of Alaska. Feeling like we needed a little more land-lubbing time in the Fall, we hopped on our bikes and cycled from Bend, OR to Bodega Bay, CA. After soothing our saddle sores, a product of many miles logged on our bicycles, we flew down to Australia to be real, genuine backpackers.

Turns out... we might be getting a little old for hostel lifestyle. Don't get me wrong-- I don't mind sleeping in a bunk bed one bit-- but we quickly found out that we were on the upper-age bracket of the Aussie backpacker demographic... and we didn't much enjoy listening to European-techno music at 2 am. We did, however, get to surf to our hearts content and volunteer aboard a live-aboard scuba-dive boat. Both activities got us excited to be back aboard our sailboat, seeking out Mexican surfing spots.
Our victory shot after finishing almost 800 miles on our bikes!

We got the opportunity this past month to help crew a 45' Hunter with Clif's parents down in the BVI. We did a little scouting about--- dreaming about bringing our boat to the Caribbean while we explored beautiful beaches and beach bars! We had some great sailing weather, enjoying the tradewinds, on our week long charter through CYOA based out of St. Thomas. I highly recommend doing a charter in the USVI and BVI, especially if you've done some cruising of your own.

So, that gets us to now, late January. We've spent several days boat shopping, repacking the truck, sorting through clothes that we will and won't need in Mexico. Getting ancy to see our Sound Discovery. We finally get to be in one place for a while (well... at least sleeping in the same bed for more than a week). Sound Discovery will be getting new sheets for the v-berth, some new dishes for the galley, several new sets of brilliantly white lines, LED light bulbs to replace in our v-berth and chart table, a service kit for our head and several other items to make our home a little more cozy and liveable. We're also planning on getting a small outboard to attach to the back of our small Walker Bay, which should be living at anchor a little more comfortable.
Clif makes a new friend at the Koala Sanctuary outside of Brisbane.
Clif aboard Island Sister, the 45' Hunter we chartered in BVI.

All that said, we're trying to keep spending budget low this spring, after using quite a bit of money bouncing around Australia and BVI. We're planning on doing seasonal work again this summer, beginning in May, most likely in Southeast Alaska, and just need to stretch out our cash a little bit longer. Good thing tacos in Mexico are cheap! I'm ready for some $1 taco stands and inexpensive margaritas. Can't wait!!

We are planning on driving down to Guaymas (Marina Seca) between February 7th -10th. We are very excited to start working on the boat, getting her in the water again and meeting up with our beloved buddy boaters, Eric and Pam (S/V Emma Bell) whose boat is out of the water directly next to ours in the yard. We hauled out the same day and plan to get back in the water around the same time as well.

Spring Cruising Plans?

Viva la Mexico! Our cruising plans are extremely lax this spring. We have almost no agenda, besides trying to use our surfboard as some point. Both of us would like to explore Southern Mexico, PV and down, as well as visiting some of the beautiful anchorages along the western Sea of Cortez between Concepcion and La Paz. Hopefully our spring will include several longer passages across the Sea of Cortez, as well as visits from state-side friends. Tequila tasting is on Clif's to-do list. I know... rough to-do list, huh?

Communication (How can you get a hold of us):

We are going to be relying heavily on our InReach Delorme. We can text easily from the device and it doesn't cost a fortune. I will not be using my cellphone for anything besides wifi. Email is always a great way to contact us. We both check our email as frequently as possible (which is frequent when we're in a town or city, and NOT frequent when cruising about and anchoring in remote places. Take a look at our Delorme tracker in a couple weeks to see where we are. We will be in the Guaymas/San Carlos area for at least a week prepping the boat for the water and provisioning.

Zines (What is a zine?):

Last spring I sent out a small hand-written booklet with information about our trip, maps, stories, recipes... etc. This little "zine" (tiny magazine) was a fun and easy way to inform friends/family of our plans, while also giving them a neat piece of art to share with others. I'm definitely going to be sending out several "Sound Discovery Sail-zines" this spring, and if you would like to receive one, all you need to do is send me your address. I'm beginning the first one this week, so we can have one to give to cruisers we meet during the first half of our short season.

The next blog post will be sent from Guaymas!! Can't wait to take pictures of our boat and update everyone on how the boat did through the summer/fall seasons on the hard.
Until then,

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Our First Haul-out: Guaymas

Watching Sound Discovery pull out of the water.
I'm posting this from my grandparents home just outside of Phoenix, Arizona: back in the good old U.S. of A. We hoped a ride with a fellow cruiser in his camper van from Guaymas up to Tucson (crossing the border with ease) and then renting a car with Eric and Pam (S/V Emma Bell-- they were also in the camper van) and making our way up to Happy Trails, Surprise, AZ. Clif and I were squeezed into the back seat with a guitar, ukulele, boat fridge (for return), duffel bag of clothes and Ketch-mo, the dog. I don't know how we managed to pack all of our life-belongings [of two couples] in that little car, but we did, and we showed up and my grandparents smelling of boat and covered in dust from the yard. Pam and Eric continued on their way home to California, and we were happy to see family and take showers.

The sun came in through the window this morning after our first night off the boat in quite a long time. It was so quiet. We're so used to hearing the wind, the waves, sounds of the city in Guaymas and sounds of dogs barking in the dry-yard. The Phoenix sun will be a nice transition before heading home to Juneau, where the weather is still deep in winter. yikes. Maybe I'll get some skiing in before the season is over!

I wanted to post the photos from our haul-out, which went very smoothly, and express how much WORK it is to clean and prep the boat for storage. We worked our butts off for a full 7 days washing/drying/folding sails, clothes, lines, cushion covers... you name it. We detached out batteries and stored our solar panels and windvane. I cleaned out every crevasse of the boat that contained food, in hopes of not attracting bugs, and Clif spent hours putting our old Westerbeke engine to bed. We had some long days, which included many quick taco stand runs and hot dog stands (Mexicans love loaded up tacos--- so many toppings you can't fit the bun in your mouth). We were parked in the dry-yard right next to Emma Bell and had company the entire time we cleaned, which was extremely nice, and both said goodbye to our boats in unison as we loaded up the white camper van with all of our things and left the dusty yard.

As sad as we were to leave the boats, we were all ready for a break, happy to think of coming back within the next year and prepping our boats for the water: coming back as more seasoned cruisers. For now we are headed to work---- work work work so we can fund another period of time on the boat, making it farther south.

Until then... I might take a little break from blogging. At least until we start planning for our next sailing adventure. I hope to post a couple photos of home, just for our cruising friends to enjoy (especially the ones still down in Mexico)! I appreciate everyone following the blog and reading my posts. It means a lot to me. I'm hoping to spend some time this summer writing some articles and submitting to different sailing magazines.

Thanks again. Enjoy the photos! If you're in Juneau, we're hoping to give a "Sail Talk" this summer with SEAS (SE Alaska Sailing), and we will let you know when that happens!

Dock time in Guaymas, before haul out.
Emma Bell sailing into Guaymas after a smooth crossing.

Prepping the straps.
Clif, proud to see his boat out of the water.

She's flying!

All set up for the summer time.

Clif working hard in the hot sun and dusty yard. All went well!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Buddy Boating and Bahía Concepción

Clif and I both woke up ten minutes before our alarm went off this morning. The anchorage was quiet, except for the sound of wires and lines clanging inside multiple masts as the boats gently rolled side to side. This bizarre bell chorus, a familiar sound for most mariners, greeted us as we stepped out of the cabin into the night sky. We were giddy and excited to see new stars at a new position in the sky. When was the last time we had been up milling around a 4:00am? We prepped the deck, cleaning up and stowing miscellaneous toys. As we hoisted the anchor, we saw a line of neon green phosphorescence pierce through the water and light the sandy bottom below. All the joys we found in night sailing this past fall we were reliving, remembering how peaceful the water and that stars feel.

Once out of the anchorage, motoring steady alongside our friends Eric and Pam on S/V Emma Bell, we sought out stars to orient ourselves. The big dipper was almost directly in front of us, a view we haven’t seem in quite some time. We’re headed north! “North to Alaska,” Clif said, “By boat, bus, airplane and [for Clif] by boat again.” It’s a little disorienting to feel the north wind in out faces and use the North Star as a navigational tool, but is very exciting. We’re headed north, back home, at least for now.

A First Time for Everything…

This has been a year of firsts. Similar to experiencing your freshmen year of college, away from home, we have been learning something new and valuable everyday. We’re cruising sponges, trying to soak in as many tricks of the trade as possible. At various times during the past six months we’ve gone through exhausting challenges and blissful rewards.

Our first day out of Puerto Escondido, the day after dropping off Jon at the Loreto airport, I was stung (for the first time) by a bee. If there’s anything that could put a damper on Baja/Sea of Cortez cruising, it’s the damn bees. We noticed that half way through the afternoon the amount of bees swarming our boat was increasing. I took to swatting them with my snorkel fin in the cockpit (increased surface area meant stunning more bees). One bee landed on the back of my shoulder, and I, stupidly, screamed and attacked it immediately. For it being my first bee sting, I reacted exactly the same way I would have if I had been five (a normal age for Non-Alaskan kids to experience a bee sting). I hyperventilated for a few seconds, frantically asking Clif to help me, and then proceeded to cry big crocodile tears. It hurt BAD. Clif pulled out the stinger and doctored me up.

It wasn’t five minutes later that Clif was stung… in a less fortunate spot on his body.

Clif and his Yellowtail Amberjack!
The next day, on the beaches of Caleta San Juanico, I stepped barefoot on the dried-up carcass of a dead puffer fish. Yes, the spinney ones… also known as Porcupine Fish. These little buggers blow up and end up floating in with the tide, littering the shoreline with long boney spikes and making most Mexican white sand beaches ever so hazardous for bare feet. The pain of the small puncture wound in the pad of my found was sore for days.

A much happier “first” occurred the morning we sailed north, out of San Juanico. Clif has been dragging a halibut line for months behind out sailing vessel, in hopes of catching us some dinner. He finally had is wish granted with a 10 pound Yellowtail Amber Jack swallowed our hook and ran with it. Fish on! With a little teamwork and some cheering over the VHF radio from Eric on Emma Bell, we managed to gaff a beautiful fish, fillet it and prep it for some tasty ceviche to be had by all! After how many rod hours?? We have been dragging that darn line since Juneau!! Clif was so happy. It was priceless to hear him yell, “Fish IN the boat!” as he flung the silver and yellow fish into our cockpit. We did it! We are official homesteaders: catching our own dinner... and now feel like bad asses. Three nights in a row, Eric, Pam, Clif and I ate the fish we caught from our boats and feasted like cruising kings. Can’t get much better than that.

Our First Real Buddy Boating…
Mango Margaritas on Emma Bell

We arrived in Ensenada, Mexico mid-November, freshly showered and down from San Diego with my Dad onboard. In the customs/immigration office we met several cruisers, but a couple stood out to us: another young couple! We introduced ourselves briefly and continued about our business. That couple was Eric and Pam on S/V Emma Bell, hailing from Ventura, California.

Now, four months after originally crossing paths, we are finally “buddy boating” with them and enjoying the perks of traveling with another couple up the Baja coast. It has been a blast to snorkel, spear fish, beach walk and dine with our new cruising buddies. I know it sounds slightly cheesy, but when you’re traveling around with just your partner in a small living space, it’s a joy to meet new, same-age friends: sharing the wind, water, and the fresh fish catches. We have enjoyed our time traveling with them. They are also hauling their boat out in Guaymas and working seasonally. We plan to meet up sometime next winter, possibly after the holidays, and make our way back down to our boats in Guaymas.

Together we made the passage up to Bahía Concepción in one fell swoop, all 56 long, hot nautical miles. We decided that the Sea of Cortez had grown us all soft to long days at the wheel: with its many beautiful, protected anchorages, all within 5-15 miles of each other. Why push it? However, the coastline up to Concepción is not quite as forgiving, thus requiring us to make a little bit of a push. Clif and I laughed at our exhaustion. We did 40-50 miles everyday in Alaska and Canada! We pulled into Playa Santispac in Bahia Coyote around 6pm (a total 14-hour day), anchoring up next to each other and pulling off our dinghies, ready to get off our boats and enjoy some local cuisine and cold beers.

Everyone knows that finding friends you can travel with is a gift. It’s hard to find people who are amiable, entertaining, flexible, and similarly cost-conscious… (let alone a boat that has the same travel plan as ourselves), but we have lucked out in this last chunk of our journey.

Bahía Life: “No Bad Days in Mulegé”

View of Playa El Burro Anchorage (foreground), and Playa Coyote (behind)
 Bahía Concepción is located right along side Mexican Highway 1, making the many beaches and coves accessible to RVers, kayakers and car campers. The beaches of Bahía Coyote (the most popular cruising grounds in Concepción) are lined with Canadian/American RVs, sprinter vans, motorcycles, tents, palapa roofed houses and huts. The first beach lies 13 miles out of Mulegé, the closest town for reprovisioning, which is an easy hitchhike away with all the resident RV/camper traffic.

Mago's: Local gringo hangout in Mulege (coffee/breakfast/wifi)
Our first evening in the bay, our propane tank ran out. We were hoping to make it to Guaymas, but not quite. We rowed ashore in the morning, carrying our empty tank and a small backpack. Immediately, not a minute after we pulled the Walker Bay up onto the beach, the nicest couple (Bill and Sue) offered us a ride into town and back out again while they did their laundry at the lavandaría. We were able to resupply on fresh fruits and veggies, fill our propane tank and use the internet, all in a matter of hours. We couldn’t thank them enough. I baked them some of Jill’s famous Beer Bread and gave it to them with our “sail-zine” the following morning.

Mulegé is a little green oasis along Hwy 1, attracting many a gringo with its tiny European-like streets and vast palm trees. We had heard great things about Mulegé from a young couple in Cabo that were traveling via motorcycle around Baja. It was perfect for all of our nomadic needs: propane, laundry, fresh groceries, a coffee shop, clean water. If we were zipping around Baja car-camping or like-wise, we could definitely spend some time here. We highly recommend it. While walking around the town we noticed several window decals that said, “No bad days in Mulegé.” Clearly, we have come across a magical spot. The green lush town is a stark contrast to the more common desert scenery… a breath of fresh, humid air… lucky us. No bad days!
My favorite Winnebago on Playa Santispac! I want one!

We hunkered down for the weekend, anchoring off of El Burro Beach along with Eric and Pam, and another small group of young guys on S/V Blue Eyes—hailing from Santa Cruz [Check out their blog here: travelswithsharkie.blogspot.com]. With such a big group cruising group, we’ve taken advantage of sharing dinghy rides, fish, beer and limes. We also frequented “Bertha’s Beach Club,” a Mexican Restaurant on the north end of the beach, for the cold cervezas and a break from the boat.

One flat calm morning, Clif and I ate breakfast early and set off on a hike up above all the Bahía Coyote anchorages. The view allowed us to see the sandy shoals and deep blue sections of every individual anchorage. We could see our little boat from the top of the ridge: a tiny little white speck, safe and snug.

Swimming alongside the Whale Shark in El Burro (Photo courtesy of Eric)
Another great pic of me alongside the whale shark by Eric.
Once back down, we immediately went swimming and heard all the commotion coming from Emma Bell. They had seen whale sharks, several of them, swimming around our boats in the anchorage! We had missed them! But they weren’t far. We spotted some kayakers paddling next to them just outside the cove. All four of us piled in Eric and Pam’s dinghy and slowly putted over to the whale shark. After my experience in La Paz (which was a little terrifying with the high chop and low visibility) I was very confident sliding into the water and finning up next to the giant fish. He was slowly moving along the surface through perfectly clear water. I could see Clif, opposite me with the whale shark in between, keeping up with every turn and dive. We stayed with him for ten or fifteen minutes until he decided to dive deeper, out of our view. I can still see the sunlight passing through the water and rippling over his white spots. With such calm, clear water, we couldn’t have asked for a better interaction. 

(Thank you Eric for the awesome pictures of me snorkeling alongside one of the larger whale sharks! Look how massive that fish is compared to me!)

I chose to swim back to the boat for some exercise and was surprised to find a visitor passing right behind the stern as I approached. A much smaller, juvenile whale shark swam within an arms-length of me, curious about his fellow swimming.

To finish off that spectacular day, Pam and I insisted on a campfire with music and marshmallows. All five boys (Clif, Eric and the boys on S/V Blue Eyes) went ashore to gather some driftwood on the beach, while Pam and I collected instruments and s’more goodies. We all agreed, after the fire was blazing and we had passed around the guitar a view times, that the scene was quite cliché, but there’s a reason clichés and what they are. It was peaceful. I fell asleep in the sand with my head on Clif’s leg, while our new friend Patrick played through as many tunes that came to mind. No cell phones, no speakers: just us and our dinghies on beach. I love campfires… especially the ones that include marshmallows and music.

Gotta love the young cruisers campfire.
I caught dinner.... with a spear!!
I’ve had another “first” here in El Burro! Eric, Pam, Clif and I went out to the southern, rocky point of the anchorage for some spear-fishing and I speared my first fish with a Hawaiian sling pole-spear. I was underwater, in pursuit on a little snapper, when I spotted a medium-sized Triggerfish, just minding his own business behind a rock. I already had the pole-spear ready, and without hesitation, I aimed and let it go. I was shocked when I felt the squirming fish on riggling on the end of the pole. Did I really just spear a fish? Holy crap… what do I do… of wait, I need to breath! While still holding the spear against the rock (nervous the fish could just wriggle off), I came up for air.
“I caught a fish! I caught a fish!” I yelled towards Clif, who was warming up in the dinghy. “What do I do?!” I was slightly struggling with my fingertips putting pressure on the pole spear and my mouth on the surface. Everyone laughed and cheered at my funny, victory swim. Once I knew the fish was hooked, I lifted the spear tip high in the air and finned my way back to the boat.

In less than an hour I had filleted my new catch and thrown the fresh white chunks of meat into a pot of simmering coconut milk. It was my second Triggerfish green vegetable curry, but this dish was much more special. Talk about speedy time from “farm-to-table.”

March 16, 2014

My love/hate relationship with the wind...

Somewhere along the line, I picked up that sailors inherently love the wind. Of course, why not? The wind can take a sailboat thousands of miles without using a drop of fuel or an ounce of human strength (well, I little human strength). The sea breeze is fresh and invigorating, especially when you are clipping right along with full sails. It’s a happy day when we can turn off the drone of the engine and just hear the water passing under the hull.

But occasionally the wind will pick up and slowly get stronger. It takes a little more effort to reign in the power, not put out too much sail. The breeze in your face is not so breezy. It’s more like sticking your face in front of a giant fan: eyes squinting, hair in your face. We can still sail fast, but become much more aware of the power the wind has over us.

And then there are times like this morning.

I went to sleep late after finishing the first book of The Hunger Games trilogy. The wind had picked up a little bit in the afternoon and had continued into the night: nothing substantial, but still windy enough that we had to put things away in the cockpit before falling asleep. I woke around 12:45am and heard the gusts howling down nearby canyons, clearly going to pick up. Clif and I take turns getting up periodically and checking outside, the dinghy, or surroundings… etc. The wind gusts are steadily increasing, pivoting our boat back and forth on the anchor chain. Noises outside make us bolt up and check. I watched the wind meter start reading 25-30 kts on the strong gusts, hoping it will calm down soon, so I can actually sleep tonight. A couple stronger gusts blow around 4am, followed by some loud noises. The dinghy has flipped and the oars are gone. Not only that, the spinnaker pole, which was holding out the dinghy as a “flopper stopper” (to ease the rolling of the boat) completely bent in half.

After putting everything away and getting back into the v-berth, we try and sleep for a tiny amount of time, but I glance out the window and notice a large turquoise gaff-rigged schooner inching closer and closer. It’s not my depth perception, they’re definitely dragging anchor…. And is the boat next to him… and so are we! Hauling up the anchor in 35 kt winds is huge chore (and doing it twice it worse) but we did, trying to avoid boats like bumper cars in a crowding anchorage. Three of the boats didn’t even have owners on board, so they frolicked about the anchorage as they pleased while we moved out of any dangerous path. At one point Clif and I chose to leave the anchorage, hoping to find some nearby shelter (rather than getting rammed by an empty boat) but quickly came back in after reading gusts up to 50 kts in Bahia Coyote. Some folks on the VHF were declaring 60-70 kts in their anchorage. The freak hurricane wind reading came out of nowhere and caused a good 3-4 hours of havoc on the anchorages/beaches of Bahia Coyote. At one point I realize how white I am, not my skin tone, but the salt built up on my skin. The salt spray being blown around by the wind covered everything, including our bodies. Once we settled into a good spot and the wind settled back down to gusts of 30, we were able to take mini fresh-water showers in our head while also observing the damage on the El Burro Beach. A palapa roof was in the water, along with several plastic water tanks, an empty kayak, scattered lawn chairs, and, I’m sure, our oars out there… somewhere. Good thing we have a sail kit!!

Sitting on the bow, lowering the anchor for the last time of the morning, a gust blew the boat hard over as I held on to the pulpit stanchions (with my lifejacket on) and was almost brought to tears by my fear of what these strong winds could do to our little home. I felt so vulnerable. But I couldn’t feel that for long, because Clif was counting on a first mate to help secure us and get the job done well.

I’ve only seen winds above 45 kts three times on the boat, and I don’t care to repeat any on them. But this time was different. We were in a secure anchorage and still faced high winds and obstacles, BIG obstacles—like the shore, and other boats. Thankfully we were awake, alert and ready to move quickly.

We’re going to have to do some serious scavenging in the next couple of days, who knows what we’ll find on the beach… from the sound of chatter on the radio, probably many oars.

March 17, 2014
(Photo courtesy of Pam on S/V Emma Bell)

Now that the wind has come and gone…

… We are planning on taking off from Playa El Burro tomorrow afternoon (Tuesday, the 18th—Happy Birthday Clairen!). We’re in town today grabbing on provisions and preparing for the cross. Forecast winds are light and seas calm as the wind moves around from north to south. Should be a nice night of stars as we (S/V Emma Bell included) make our way to Guaymas. We should arrive early Wednesday morning.

Hopefully my next blog post will show successful photos of Sound Discovery’s hull cleaned and out of the water on the hard! It’ll take us a couple days to pull everything together before pulling in out, but I will update before we leave Guaymas for Phoenix.

Thanks for reading ya’ll! May the winds be gently at your back.

Monday, March 3, 2014

La Paz to Loreto-- Enjoying the Sea...

We’ve made it to Loreto (Puerto Escondido), after a wonderful trip with our friend Jon, from Seattle. We couldn’t have asked for more out of a third crewmember: sailor, cook, fisherman, swimmer and bee-killer extraordinaire (we had several days with quite a few bees.) He’s flying back to Seattle from Loreto and we are moving up the coast and across to Guaymas. Be sure to check out the “Galley Time” page for some fun stories and new cooking adventures from our last two weeks. The following blog post I wrote along the way (sequentially), reading more like my journal. Enjoy. -G
Jon and Clif sitting on the high side.
February 21st, 2014

Ensenada Grande, Isla Partida

I can’t express how good it feels to been moving again. We are sailing, making ground and ready to embark in new cruising grounds. When we arrived to La Paz in December, I was desperate to stop moving. We had been pushing hard down the coast and the thought of being able to sail without needing to conquer 40 miles a day (or even 100 miles in a 24-hour day) gave me such ease. However, Clif and I have both been ready to leave La Paz and start moving towards a new destination.
Nothing beats brushing your teeth on the bow.
Cruising with a destination in mind, rather than returning to the same port, is such a gratifying experience. You cover new miles, see new towns, and have the feeling of accomplishing a goal. True nomads: not just bumming around in a city with a large population of old, retired Americans that haven’t moved their boat in years (No offense to La Paz… we did love your taco stands, bakeries, markets and conveniently cheap buses around Baja Sur.)

 We have had the most perfect two days of sailing and anchoring on Isla Espiritu Santo and Isla Partida: great wind, full sails, and clear skies. The anchorages have been pleasantly calmer than our last visit to the islands. It’s amazing what a good night sleep (in a quiet anchorage) can do to my attitude and outlook on the day. Our boat has shown signs of not been sailed in a month. The salt and sun can negatively affect the lines and sails quickly when the boat is just sitting around at anchor or in a slip. Like our new crew member/guest, Jon, said yesterday, “These boats are meant to be used… and used hard!” Sailboats don’t take well to sitting around. But other than a few stiff lines and a hull in need of cleaning, Sound Discovery is looking pretty good and just as happy as us to be out on the water again. I feel almost guilty that we will have to store her away in a month, out of her natural habitat, drying in the hot sun for the summer. We will do our best to stow the boat in the best possible way to withstand the heat and the dryness.

It’s been fun to have a new friend, Jon (from Seattle) on board. Jon joined us last minute in La Paz, and we were thrilled to bring him aboard. All things are new, and we get a new appreciation for the joys that we have become used to in boat life: such as starry night skies, warm breezes at night, beautiful sunsets and sunrises, and a fun dinghy to sail to shore. We are so lucky to have this time to ourselves; time for Clif and I to just stand on a beach and recognize how happy we are in our lives and in our future ahead. I can’t imagine being with anyone else, and I’m happy we get to build up a little home on this boat. Hopefully, someday we can add a home of our own on land as well (something a little more stable… and immobile). We’ve been having light-hearted chats about where we can own chickens, goats, and a puppy. It’s amazing how “soil-based” your dreams become when you are out on the water. I often dream about hiking through tall spruce trees, smelling the mud and skunk cabbage of Juneau trails. I’m looking forward to indulging in that this spring!

For now, I need to remember to enjoy this incredible place we are exploring, soak up all the sea salt spray and sunshine possible, and really be thankful for my life on the boat. I am so much more aware of how fun and fantastical this journey is, once we are out on the water, anchoring every night. Feels good to be back!

February 24th, 2014

San Evaristo-- A full bottle of SPF 50 Coppertone and one fresh Dorado later…

Giselle twirling with seal pups, Photo courtesy of Jon Hayes
The sun has been hot every day as we’ve been pushing our way north. Somehow, we scored on some southern wind that pushed us lightly away from Isla Partida into new waters. Of course, we had to stop at Los Islotes one more time to play with the sea lion pups! Jon snagged a couple good shots of me imitating their acrobatic spirals underwater (the one shown above was my favorite of the bunch). We used the mooring buoys on the north side of the islets to avoid some southerly wind chop, but chose to keep one person on board at all times to monitor the boat while the others swam.

Isla San Francisco was our next stop, affectionately known as “The Hook” by local cruisers. The water was pristine when we arrived, so much so that we could watch fish swim under and around our boat, spotting their color and size. With the water so inviting, we all jumped in immediately once anchored. Our friends on S/V Pelagia joined us for margaritas in the cockpit after our swim. Hard to beat such a day: sea lions, sailing downwind, swimming/bathing and margaritas?! Jonathan is hooked.
Isla San Francisco, "The Hook"
 The next morning we hiked to the top of the ridge, just south of the anchorage, giving us a spectacular view of the clear water and surrounding vista. When we rowed back to the boat, we watched a seasoned sailor named Steve, on S/V Aurora, troll for bait and toss a hand line off his dinghy in hopes of catching one of the many Dorado that were flying around the anchorage. Steve not only managed to hook into a Dorado, but reel it in and gaff it right in front of the bow of our boat (the three of us cheering him on wildly)! Once the large fish was slapped into the dinghy, he turned at us with a huge grin and said, “Want a fish?”

Steve and his dorado-- just about to bring it into the boat!
Steve ran a line through the gills of the fish and strung it onto one of our stern stanchions. We passed him a couple cold beers, still in awe of his fine fisherman work in his little zodiac. I took a picture of Jon and Clif enjoying some fishing tips from Steve, both faces looking like young kids, so giddy and excited about enjoying such a fine fish. Their excitement just grew and grew as they filleted the fish and chose how to prepare it for dinner.

After sailing into San Evaristo, a small pueblo 9 miles farther north, we grilled some of the fish up as the sun set. Doesn’t get much better!

Next step: catching our own fish!

February 27, 2014

Puerto Los Gatos: Three lobsters later…

Our two days spent in Puerto Los Gatos (about half way between the small towns of San Evaristo and Agua Verde) were marked by incredible meals. We were visited by Manuel, a panguero (skiff fisherman) from the neighboring pueblo, who offered to sell us fish and lobster freshly caught about 100 yards from where our boat was anchored. We indulged twice, buying an enormous crustacean the first evening that obviously belonged to the lobster family, but was called a “cucaracha,” and buying two small lobsters the second, making some mean lobster marinara pasta.

(**If you want to read more about our lobster meals and my first endeavor boiling lobster, check out my “Galley Time” page—recently updated!)

Giselle with a small Pacific lobster.
The "Cucuracha" and Manuel in the background.

Puerto Los Gatos was also home to some amazing red rock/sandstone formations, fun to climb around and excellent for photos. The north wind that threatened us through second-hand weather forecasts never showed up. We had tucked into Los Gatos to escape a wind that never came. More fun for us! Spent an entire day explore the rocks, tide pools and taking a long snorkel out over near-by reef.

 It’s been over a week since I took a fresh water shower, but I’ve gotten exceptionally good at washing my hair, body and face with salt water. I purchased a loofa in La Paz to help suds up our concentrated salt-water body wash, which saves quite s bit of soap. I also learned that rubbing shampoo into my scalp, even if there is not a single sud, still cleans away oil and dirt. I repeatedly scrubbed on deck with a 5-gallon bucket, followed by jumping into the water and rinsing off. Hooray for clean, brush-able hair.
The unbeatable red rock formations were fun to climb in Los Gatos.
February 28, 2014

Bahía San Marte-- New Marine Life Sightings

When the wind calms down and the sun begins to set in a glassy anchorage, your senses are in tune with all the sea life that rises to the surface to enjoy the cool evening air. Standing on the bow of the boat, watching the colors of the red rocks change, we noticed a disturbance on the surface of the water, very close to the boat. It was moving too fast to be a sea turtle, but to slow and large to be a fish. As the wake moved closer to the boat, we saw two beautiful mobula rays (small manta rays) approach and circle the boat, casually flapping their wings in unison.

Several anchorages in a row, we’ve seen schools of silver needlefish spray out of the water being pursued by large, hunting Dorado. We might only see the Dorado jump once or twice, but the fan of silver fish give away his position, and provide nightly entertainment.

March 1, 2014

Agua Verde— hot days, margaritas and fresh goat cheese.

Jon set up the hammock for the afternoon.
If there is one thing I could pick that I loved most about Baja, it would be summed up in two words: queso fresco (fresh cheese). Ever since I walked into a Parisian cheese shop at the ripe age of fourteen, I have loved tasting cheeses. Honestly, if anything gave me away as a “foodie” more than wine, it would be cheese (what a convenient combo.) A trip to a cheese shop in California or Oregon is heavenly, and any opportunity I get to eat fresh cheese curds is much appreciated and enjoyed slowly. Alaska does not lend well to my cheese passion… however, Mexico does. Fresh, squeaky cheese can be found at any small, local market, and most of the time you have to request the amount of cheese you wish to purchase, so that the clerk can cut and bag it up for you to buy.  Agua Verde, our current anchorage, is well know for its goat dairy products, and I was more that excited to get to buy some fresh from the village store.

 “¿Tienes queso fresco de chiva ahoy?” I asked sweetly for the fresh goat cheese. The woman running the store opened a fridge and produced a large block of white cheese probably brought to her that very morning. She sliced me off a piece for taste. The cheese has not even the slightest hint of goat. It was perfect freshly made cheese: squeaky, moist, no alterations… right out of the cheese clothe. I bought a small chunk. The fresh cheese only lasted for a day, so it had to be consumed quickly, but the three of us (Clif, Jon and I) managed. I was the happiest cheese lover in all of Baja.

One of the three mini marts in Agua Verde
Giselle rowing: got to get my workout in somehow...
Clif and I, after already deciding we want to raise goats some day, have now added piglets to our list. We found a group of piglets and their mama not far from the Agua Verde beach and instantly fell in love. It was hard to drag Clif away from their soft pink noses and curly tails. Clif has convinced me that our future home of goats and pigs will not be stinky, but my mother’s voice inside my head tells me that it will. I’m ok with being stinky everyday if I get to milk goats and make fresh goat cheese.

March 3, 2014

Honeymoon Cove, Isla Danzante (South of Loreto)

After a full day of sailing upwind, with less than three tacks, we cruised into the northern most lobe of Honeymoon Cove, just as the Northers began to pick up. Our anchorage, a skinny bight no wider than 100 yards, required us to drop a stern anchor for the first time in our entire voyage. I rowed ashore and hiked the surrounding rocks for some excellent shots of the boat and a little cell phone service. We decided the little sandy beach would be perfect for an evening campfire. I pulled out my secret stash of smores provisions (saved from last summer bonfires in Juneau), and we rowed ashore right as the clouds in the sky were fading to pink. The fire made me thankful for my time in the Baja, and excited for my summer ahead in Juneau; being able to share moments like these with many of my close friends.
There's a reason why they call it Honeymoon...

The weather has become steadily warmer as spring progresses in the Sea. Still, we are aware of making our way north, seeing low lying clouds across to the east, now that the gap between us and the mainland has grown smaller. It’s not very long before we need to be in Guaymas cleaning up our watery home for storage. Our goal is to pick a nice weather window between the 15th and the 20th to make the crossing, and then spend 5-6 days working on the boat before bussing up to Phoenix. We’ve been trying to be creative with our food this trip: using up canned items that can’t stay on the hot boat this summer. Our extra food will have to be given away and all of our storage spaces will have to be cleaned out thoroughly. Sails need to be removed. Lines need to come down. Decks need to be scrubbed and covered…

The beach we had out little marshmellow fire on in Honeymoon Cove.
But that is all a couple weeks away! For now we get to enjoy the sea and soak up the last bits of Mexican sun and salt before whisking away back to work. --G