Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Updates for a New Year

My family (sister, mom and dad) on the way home from the hospital!
We arrived back in La Paz last night from a two week stint up in the states, celebrating Christmas and my Dad's successful heart valve replacement at University of Washington Hospital. We stayed with my grandparents in Mill Creek, WA, just north of Seattle, all five of us. With lots of home cooked meals, Christmas cookies, presents and new hand-sewn stockings (which Clif and I helped complete) we had a very traditional, heart-warming Christmas. I had the pleasure of watching my Dad heal and get better day-by-day, taking him on walks and watching movies while he recovered from his surgery. Clif and I managed to squeeze in a good ice skating session (very festive), and several coffee dates down at the local Starbucks with my grandparents' friends. We came back with more than we left with, which was expected, but the greatest gift of all was getting to take my Dad home from the hospital and celebrate Christmas with him, even in his ox-induced state. ;)

We had a couple hour lay-over on the way back down to Los Cabos in San Diego. We walked over to the closest West Marine and purchased a brand new fridge. For those of you who didn't know, our fridge quit on us somewhere after Campbell River, on Vancouver Island, BC... so it's been a while. We have managed to keep the fridge functional by purchasing ice whenever with purchase groceries, but it has greatly impacted what we cook, when we cook it and what we buy. We had to pay an import fee for the parts, even though we checked it through to Cabo, which halted us for a couple minutes at customs, but besides that, our commute went very smoothly.

New Vinyl Lettering I put on this morning!
Besides the fridge, we got several new exciting additions to the boat. I ordered vinyl lettering for the bow of the boat from Alaska Litho, so we now have our proud name printed on the bow of the boat! We also had some fun little boat cards made up for us to be able to pass out to other crusiers. Boat cards are most definitely "a thing" down here. Clif got a set of boat cards under the Christmas tree last week, so now we can be cool, "official" Mexican cruisers.

Plan for the week...

We're off again to Loreto tomorrow, trying to milk the time we paid for at Marina Palmira in La Paz, where we can leave the boat without worries. Clif's parents are going to be flying down tomorrow and will hopefully get some good weather while we play in the sun and on the water. No boat coming up with us to Loreto yet, it's a bit of a trek, so we are going to save that for later this spring.

After our Loreto vacation, we might spend a little more time in La Paz installing the new fridge and re-provisioning the boat. From there... it's totally open! We might spend some time over on Espiritu Santo, and then possibly cross over on a couple nice days to the mainland, for a different scene.

I'll let you know how our La Paz New Year's celebrations turns out, as well as the exploration on in the Loreto area.


Boat cards... for fun.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Kiteboarding Vacation en La Ventana

Our life in Baja... and on the boat.

Here's to another addition of...
Clif's Notes:

It's been awhile since most of you have heard from me, but then again, I've never been known as much of a writer. First of all... La Ventana is AWESOME!!! We have traveled hard for the last 3 months and aside from a few days or a couple of weeks here and there, our life has been on the run... running from yet another fall in Juneau. Once we arrived in La Paz (with tons of help from family and friends), both of us were a bit lost as to where we would go and what we should do. We had finally made it to the Mexican cruising grounds... now what?! I was a little stressed with where to go, busy working on our broken fridge, and too many other boat projects to list, when Giselle pulled me out of the bilge and told me to open a Tecate con limon. The surprise was that she had already booked, planned and paid for was a week at "Baja Joe's" in La Ventana, with kiting lessons included. We have talked about going to La Ventanat for a couple of years, and with all that is required of the cruising life, I forgot that the whole point of this trip was to be on vacation. As some of you know, Gordon and I started the DYC (Douglas Yacht Club) and got more and more into windsurfing and kiting. I took a few "lessons" while in Juneau but never really got hooked. Ever since Giselle and I met we have talked about taking a vacation to La Ventana to go kiting. After a couple of days there, in perfect 25knt winds, I can honestly say that I'm a kiter! The instruction was great. After 3 days Giselle was getting up and riding on her board. My instructors were encouraging, and after a couple of days convinced me that I was ready to go out on my own. Mind you, that attaching yourself to a truck sized kite is intimidating, even more so when they tell you to do it by yourself, with tons of other learners whizzing around in all directions. After another couple of days...and some epic crashes... I became more comfortable. I started having fun, instead of fighting with a kite, which could kick my ass every time... if I let it. Needless to say, we are both sore and ready for a break from our "vacation," which is perfect, because we are now siting in the airport on our way to Seattle for Christmas.

The best part of the trip to La Ventana, was hearing from other people that Giselle was progressing quickly and seeing her excited about each day that she was out learning. Not only do I have a best buddy to go sailing with, but she was even looking into buying a kiting set up for herself, so that we can go out together once we get a little more comfortable. I had a blast, she had a blast, and we are already talking about our next trip to go kiting more! In fact, our friend Connie has already booked a ticket to come see us. We already booked a few nights in La Ventana while she is down visiting. Giselle and I are looking for any excuse to spend another week in paradise, be it kiting, scuba diving or spearfishing...it's only a few miles away from our home, Sound Discovery, we are just waiting for friends to come enjoy Mexico with us!


Beach (La Playa) in La Ventana.

Setting up kites on la playa en La Ventana.

A kiteboarding bar in on la playa en La Ventana.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Where are we now?!

If you've been watching our delorme tracker, you might have noticed a lack of tracking points in the last week. Our boat is now in a slip for 30 days at Marina Palmira in La Paz. We, however, are 45kms south in Bahia La Ventana, living the kiteboarding dream. We're going to take lessons for a couple days, enjoying some serious water play and exercise off the boat. We took a little local commuter bus for 60 pesos (roughly $5) down to Baja Joe's, a kiteboarding school, hotel/hostel, bar and surf shop. We are staying in a bunk room with a communal kitchen, but low and behold, everyone goes to bed here very early after long days of kiting.

We are headed up to the states on the 19th and will be back to La Paz on the 31st of Dec.

Pura Vida!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Cabo San Lucas to La Paz: A Community of Crusiers

Our Christmas Card shot Dad took in Los Cabos

“Goooood Morning La Paz and Good Morning Cruisers!” is what we heard blaring through VHF channel 22A as we entered the La Paz entrance channel at 8am sharp. A cheery male voice rang out, hailing all yatistas, and hosting the VHF version of “Problem Corner: You’re on the air…” ¡Bienvenidos a la “Cruisers Mecca:” La Paz! After a calm night sail up from Bahía los Muertos, we made it into the bay just in time to hear the entire Cruisers Net, a La Paz yastista community connection, including tides, weather, general announcement, arrivals and departures (I called in an announced that we had arrived from Juneau!), local advice and “swaps and trades.” It was a highly entertaining broadcast: with questions ranging from “What time is women’s dominos this week?” to “Can someone returning to the states bring my grandchildren their Christmas presents?”
(We are definitely the young ones here.)

One of our favorite aspects of cruising is meeting the cruisers themselves. We had interacted with more sailors this side of Cabo San Lucas, than we have the entire journey. So many people from so many walks of life: some with lots of money, some with very little, but everyone making it work and living on their boat. The first couple we met was in San Jose del Cabo, just shortly after my Dad left us, bound back for Seattle. We had a great dinner of tacos and sailing stories with Chris and Alena, off their 34’ Colombia, S/V Green Panther. They started in San Diego, almost around the same time we did, and are planning to cross the Pacific this coming spring. We were rejuvenated and inspired by Chris and Alena’s excitement and enthusiasm about their upcoming “Puddle Jump” and look forward to spending more time with them in La Paz.

In San Jose del Cabo we also caught the bow and stern lines for S/V Mandalay, a big 55’ catch hailing from the Bay area (originally from Seattle). We ended up leapfrogging each other up the coast and enjoying a nice breakfast and morning margarita with them in Bahía de los Muertos. Anthony, the captain of Mandalay, has a wealth of cruising knowledge, especially in the Sea of Cortez, so we followed him (along with Green Panther) up the last stretch of coastline into La Paz on a following current and enjoyed radioing back and forth through the night.

A little about Mexican transportation…

We’ve had a couple of humorous, but enjoyable experiences on the mainland since we’ve slowed down a bit. It was goals of ours to not only explore the Baja coastal waters, but also the land Baja itself! In San Jose del Cabo, we had our first public bus ride into town from the marina, which went very smooth (thanks to a Mexican family waiting at the bus stop with us). The bus pulled up, what looked like a school bus, and up we hopped, depositing 10 pesos each in the driver’s hand. The bus had school bus seats, but they had been rearranged to be facing each other, with polls installed through out, similar to a subway car. We rode the bus with school children, families grocery shopping, hotel workings and not a gringo in site.

Catching a ride back to the marina seemed self-explanatory: just catch the same number of bus at the same stop heading back toward the marina. So, we did just that. We realized that something was wrong maybe about 15 minutes into our bus ride… we were definitely going the wrong way… on a highway. Where were we going? The cable-car-like school bus was crammed with people now. I had a small 3-year old Mexican boy pass out asleep on my shoulder, while his mother next to me watched music videos on her phone, passing the time (as if we were in it for the long haul). This was no quick bus circle. Somehow, we made it onto a bus that went completely out of San Jose del Cabo, almost an hour out of our way. We waited to ask the driver until we were the last of four people on the bus, recognizing that we were probably not headed back to the marina anytime soon. He looked as us, un-phased, pointed to a bus that was passing on the left side and opened the school bus door. We ran across the street, hopped on the same number of bus (Are all these busses labeled #5?… it could quick possibly be so) and rode back the exact same way for another hour, back into town and stopping, finally, at the Puerto Los Cabos Marina.

Needless to say, I got a scoop of ice cream after the whole ordeal.

Our next stop of was anchoring in Los Frailes, a specific anchorage for boats wanting to access the Cabo Pulmo State Park. Cabo Pulmo with well-renowned for excellent snorkeling, diving and kayaking, but requires a little bit of a hike from our quaint beach anchorage. We had to get into Cabo Pulmo village to schedule any scuba diving, so we opted to hitch hike on the one dirt road that connected the coastline. It was hot that day, we were rationing our drinking water, slathering on the sunscreen and hiking with snorkeling gear in tow. You would think… that Clif and I would be the MOST likely to be picked up as hitch hikers. Two young white kids? Clearly, American backpacker types…I was even wearing a skirt. But we watched multiple cars, trucks, jeeps, you name it, go by with just a wave, most of them looked to be Americans on their Mexican road trip getaway.
Clif, face to face with a meandering bull in the raod.
We walked to the first snorkel site, which was a little chilly in these winter temperatures, but fun to finally see some marine life (the dive master in town said the water temp. was around 80 to 81 degrees). We had fun diving and filming some of the fishies with our underwater GoPro camera. No mater how little sea life we saw, it’s still spectacular to swim in clear, turquoise waters.

Go Pro camera fun.

As we walked away, a dark rain cloud set in, we were contemplating finding some shade and trying to wait out the rainstorm, but instead had a young family from Hood River, OR (small world) finish their snorkel outing and ask if we wanted a ride into town! We lucked out. Our way back was a little less hiking. We still had to walk a ways, but had a truck-full of old surfer dudes from California ask if we wanted to climb in the back. Riding in the back of that little white Toyota truck: surfboard strapped on top, empty Pacifico bottles rolling around in the back, the desert mountains racing by and the red dirt kicking up behind us—it was a Mexico Kodak moment for sure. We thanked the guys immensely when they dropped us back off at the beach, just in time to row back to the boat and escape the rainy weather that was really setting in for not just an “afternoon shower.”

We did end up scheduling some scuba dives through a dive shop in Cabo Pulmo, but due to high winds and rain the following day the trip was cancelled. All dressed up in our wetsuits, we ended up snorkeling just near our boat on a little rocky wall area within the Los Frailes Bay. The fish were plentiful, but what was more beautiful was being able to hear the whale sing underwater. We heard big long sighs, singing back and forth, all while we snorkeled and free-dove around the area.

We’re hoping to get back down to Cabo Pulmo, possibly with just backpacks, scuba gear and a tent, and actually get to do some good dives. However, that will most likely be a post-Christmas adventure.

Tah-dah! We took an underwater couples picture... Brownie points!

Snorkel gear around cockpit.
 Back in La Paz…

The weather, both the wind and the chop, has picked up since I opened my computer to write this blog. We heard for the past several days that the weather was going to get nasty for a couple days, so we high tailed it up to La Paz, along with several other sailboats avoiding this weather. I’m glad we did! It looks like not much fun. We are safe and snug, anchored up on a warm boat. I suppose we can take a couple days of winter weather to pay for all the sun we’ve been soaking up. J

Going to stick it our here in La Paz to reprovision, meet new people, and wait out the weather… maybe do a little Christmas shopping before we head back to the states on the 19th.

I saw this at a gringo bar/cafe and instantly loved the mantra.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Baja Sur: Down to Cabo

Baja Sur: A Change in the Weather… and water temperature!

Hello again from the healthy and happy crew of Sound Discovery! We’re getting a little ripe, but managed to take a few dunks in the ocean to clean up along the way. No one has gotten deathly ill from our restaurante adventures in town, although we did invest in a strong anti-diarrheal drug for our first-aid kit. Almost immediately after leaving Bahía Tortugas the weather took a welcoming turn for the better. We’ve had warm sun and following winds every afternoon, with calm mornings. 

You might have noticed that I changed not only the blog image heading, but I also updated the "Schedule" page and the "Galley Time" page. Both of those you can access in the tool bar. If you're interested in reading about our Mexican cooking, check out the galley page after you read the blog.

Our Bahía Tortugas visit ended very comically with a one-armed-man named Pedro. Pedro, we had been told from other yatistas, was a great help, who could always be hailed on VHF 16. Turns out, you don’t need to hail Pedro at all… Pedro hails you. Pedro spends his says on the fuel dock, finding yatistas to “help” ensuring that it is his job to be security for all touristas. Now, Pedro, being a one-armed-man, seems to attract the sympathy of all the aging yachties that come into town, and probably makes out like a bandit in propinas (tips).
Pedro sits up top Enrique's Fuel Dock.
Throughout our day in town, Dad and I had seen Pedro several times, and he seemed to be very attentive to us, also telling us of a big party that was happening that night. Clif, willing to see what Pedro had to offer, allowed him to take us to “the party,” which turned out to be a very empty discoteca (night club) where his friend worked. We thanked him for the advice, and told him we needed to get dinner…. Not drinks. Pedro again said, “Es ok, es ok, I show you…” pointing to his eyes and waving his one arm. He promptly brought us to another friends taco stand, next to the discoteca. Clif and I tried with a little more effort to say “Thank you, but NO thank you,” in Spanish, but the point wasn’t getting across. Pedro insisted that he was our bodyguard for the evening and he would keep up safe and have a good time. And gosh darn it, he better be getting a good tip.

Looking back, I should have told Pedro right off the bat that we didn’t have enough money for a tip… or maybe even that we wouldn’t give him a tip. Upon hearing that, he probably wouldn’t have wasted his time.

But all went well.

Pedro did end up showing us a nice restaurant in a local home, and we did convince him finally that Clif and I did not want to party that night. He walked us back to the dock, received a small tip from me (funny how the word ‘propina’ is one that I remember very clearly form the restaurant business), and we were on our way.

Bahía Tortugas to Bahía Acsunción

What a beautiful, short run we had down to Acsunción! We left around 4am, with a sky full of stars, motoring our way out of the bay. Clif and I watched the stars start to fade as the little bit of sunlight began to hit the glassy calm water that surrounded us. We motored half the day and sailed through the afternoon. Along the way we ran into an abundance of sea life, including leaping sea lions, a whale, some distance off, and an enormous pod of dolphins!! The dolphins were a especially phenomenal. I grabbed the GoPro just in time to catch a great video above and below the water of the dolphins swarming our boat. I can’t wait to put together a little video and post it… maybe in San Jose del Cabo!
Clif and Dad take quick, cold dunk in the ocean!
We also took a little swim for the first time! We “parked” the boat, heaving-to, tossed a lone line off the boat with a buoy attached to the end and put our little swim ladder into the water. After soaping up on deck, we took turns jumping in to rinse off. Because the current was still moving, we had to hold on to the trailing rope, but boy, did it feel good!!

There’s Always Something…

We sailed into Acsunción, just flying into the bay, sailing at 7 knots with an 18-20 knot wind speed. Everything was going smoothly until we started taking the sails down and tried to start up the engine. With a first churn of the key the starter would turn and turn, but the engine wouldn’t start. We kept the main sail up, knowing that this was NOT normal. A second try, still no start-up. A third try… and nothing.

We sailed onto anchor (our very first time of doing do) with great ease. There were several other sailing vessels coming in behind us and must have thought we were total pros. After anchoring up, we tried our best to get the motor running, but she was not a happy camper. It got dark and Clif had exhausted his resources, so we made a wonderful meal of rice, beans, zucchini, and tortillas, washed it down with some box wine and went to bed.

In the morning, we called Jim Betts, a family friend in Juneau who works on Westerbeke Marine diesel engines. He helped out tremendously, giving us a list of steps to walk through to fix the problem. (Thank you, Jim! We will send you some Mexican specialties via snail mail from Cabo). What we mutually decided was that we got bad fuel in Bahía Tortugas. There was some water in the fuel, which ruined our fuel filter. We luckily had a spare one on board, but needed a couple small parts in town. With the help of some local pangeros (fisherman), we found a diesel mechanic in town who could help Clif out—all out of kindness.

Back on the boat, after rowing in and out together from our anchorage (which kind of looks like a clown car with three of us piled in), we finished up the steps and got the motor running!! What a relief to hear the engine turn over and rev up! Oh wonderful little Westerbeke… you brought us this far and have worked so hard… we just need to get to Cabo!

With the engine starting and running smoothly, we enjoyed a round of cervezas on the boat deck. Clif and I rowed back into town to give the mechanics a 6-pack of Tecate beer and pick up a couple more provisions (including ice and some tacos to-go). The surf in the afternoon increased, making our beach landing quite the spectacle in our little dinghy. I jumped off the bow, attempted to jump the surf while pulling in the bowline. Half of me ended up in the water. I laughed, thankful that it was sunny and warm outside, so I would dry out quickly.

A Perfect Day (and Night) of Sailing

I woke up Tuesday morning to an engine running smoothly and happily out of Bahía Acsunsión. We had a good wind right off the bat, allowing us to sail on a beam reach straight in the direction of our destination. It was 110 miles down south to San Juanico, a Baja surfer-stop favorite that we intended to check out. The morning wind grew strong and gusted from 15-25 knots. With one reef in the main sail and a halfway furled jib, we clipped along at a speedy 5.5-7 knots. 7 knots is about as fast as we can sail, no matter what weather, so when we attain that speed, we take advantage of it!

The wind died down around noon, so we took a lunch break (thank you Dad for the yummy quesadillas) and another quick swim in the glassy calm sea, which had been roaring only hours before. I finally washed my hair in the ocean (8 days is pushing it for my long, thick hair), and with a couple washes, I managed to clean up pretty well.

Dad enjoying the high-side during a sail.
At the end of our swim, I was just getting onto the deck, Clif still in the water, when I heard and saw an unusual splash behind the boat’s transom. Clif, also seeing the disturbed water, leaped onto the swim ladder faster than the splash could fade away! Not knowing what the splash was, we declared “swim time” over, cleaned up the cockpit quickly and began to motor on.

The rest of the day and into the partly cloudy evening we sailed downwind. I was glad my Dad got to experience a night out on the open water with a bright Milky Way and the sailing up, no clamoring of the diesel engine to disturb the night air.

Bahía San Juanico

San Juanico is a quiet, “relaxing” little village, as one local told me in a beachside palapa. San Juanico is a coveted surfer destination because of the easy peeling waves that begin almost a half-a-mile offshore and continue over soft sand. We witnessed a handful of SUP (stand-up-paddle) boarders surfing the small waves during our brief stint in town. We rowed ashore onto the sandy, almost empty beach and made our way through the dirt roads of town. We actually managed to find 5 gallons of diesel at a mechanics shop, which was a tad-bit spendy, but worth the pesos in such a small, remote village.

We enjoyed a little Internet access and a couple of shrimp tacos before riding back to the boat in out dinghy. The surf was tempting, but too small for our little fun-board. Yet another reason to invest in an inflatable SUP (on our water toy wish list).

Before we left San Juanico, we did load up on more delicious local tortillas from the grocery store, as well as some new avocados, green peppers, eggs and cheese (pretty standard Mexican groceries).

Through the night, we motored our way 90 miles to Bahía Santa María.

What we are Thankful For…

Since this section of the journey fell over the Thanksgiving holiday, we have had a “thankful” theme in a lot of our conversations. Clif and I are thankful for so many things; the list is endless. Of course, our first and foremost is being thankful for the presence of my Dad as our Baja crewmember. We’ve had some long runs, and he has made our dream of Baja that much more attainable.

Clif snorkeling and spear fishing in Santa Maria Cove.
We spent our Thanksgiving Day at anchor in Bahía Santa María. There were several other sail boats in the anchorage, very similar in size and outfit (we saw lots of monitor wind vanes, dinghies, and surf boards). In fact, we even had a couple from San Clemente come up and wish us a Happy Thanksgiving in their dinghy! Santa María Cove was a real landmark in a warmer, more tropical climate. The land was a bit greener and the water just slightly warmer. The heat of the day made us swim several times around the boat at anchor, and Clif and I even found a spot to go snorkeling for the first time in our journey. It was a perfect, relaxing, day in the water and sun.

In the evening, we made some tequila drinks and talked about what we were most thankful for during this trip. I said that I was thankful for warm, swimmable waters. Clif said he was thankful for not being able to tell what was more beautiful in Mexico: the sunrises or the sunsets. Dad said he was thankful to be with us on the boat.
Other important people we’ve been meaning to thank again and again….

Jim Betts, of Juneau, who has helped us out with our diesel engine both in and out of the U.S. now, via cell conversations. It’s extremely nice to be able to call someone with such experience and work on our own motor.

Ed Page, of the Marine Exchange in Juneau, who gave us our underwater GoPro camera that we are using more and more now that we can dive and swim off the boat!

Fr. Thomas, in Petersberg, who gave us our Walker Bay dinghy and stressed the importance of having a better dinghy for Mexico… you were right! We love it. We were able to snorkel off of it yesterday!

And… especially our friends Dave and Jill, who constantly send us loving text messages via our InReach and make us thankful for our good friends.

The list could go on…

Our Last Leg into Cabo

On our last leg, a long 180-mile stretch of mountainous, non-sheltering Baja coastline, we started asking each other “What will be the first thing you do when we get to Cabo?” My answer: take a shower and wash my hair… at least twice! Do a load of laundry, wash all of our linens and scrub the cockpit clean. After three people bathing/soaping up in the cockpit and then going for a swim, you can only imagine the hair that has accumulated in weird places… mostly my long hair (sorry Clif). Clif’s first thing to do when he gets to Cabo is… absolutely nothing. Probably drink a Tecate, while Dad and I go window shop for inflatable SUP boards.

Our first day out of Santa María we saw a pod of humpback whales hanging out on the surface, fairly close to the boat. One of the humpbacks actually decided to get a better look of our hull, coming up right next to the bow and diving underneath. The water was so clear, we were able to stand up by the mast and watch his massive black body move gracefully under our boat, diving deeper as he passed to the other side.

The reappearance of these humpback whales reminded me of just a short three months ago, sailing through Hobart Bay, two days south of Juneau, swarmed in a sea of humpbacks. At the time, we were thrilled at the prospect of “migrating” with them down the Pacific coast. Now, just two days out of our goal destination, it is a timely gift to see these whales appear once again. We watched several put on a show, not even a quarter of a mile off our port side, slapping their flukes and waving their fins; just as happy as us to be in the warm Baja waters! Seeing the humpbacks again, a whale that will always remind me of home, seems to put this journey in a much larger perspective. Those great, slow mammals make this journey twice every year! We are fortunate enough to get to share it with them, even if just this once.

We took one last dunk in the Baja waters with my Dad, hours before we would arrive in Cabo and he would have to get back on a plane bound for the States. He’s off to Seattle for a larger personal endeavor of another kind. I’m so grateful I got to spend this time with him and that he got to share in our Baja voyage. He made this section of the trip very special to me. 

Checking out the village mapa in San Juanico.

I asked my Dad if he was interested in writing a little blurb for the blog. I’m glad I did!
So here’s another new section of our blog, hopefully one that continues with future visitors…

A Word from the Crew
by Rich Stone
Dad doing the dishes!
What an amazing two weeks aboard the Sound Discovery with Giselle and Clif. I am so fortunate to have been invited onboard for the Baja Run – San Diego to Cabo! I was asked to write a few comments in the blog and am honored to do so. These are a few of my many memories from the adventure along the Baja Pacific.

After I arrived in San Diego the cabbie dropped me about a mile away from the harbor at 10 pm. The driver thought I wanted to go to the Naval Base and the Shore Patrol guarding the entry looked at me with some degree of question. I took this as a good sign for my entry into Mexico thinking I would fit in just fine as an apparent expat. After provisioning the boat and spending a day or so at the Point Loma Marina we set sail out of the San Diego harbor weaving our way around three US Naval destroyers toward the outside waters. It was my first sail offshore and first night at sea (of several) which proved to be one of the highlights of my time aboard the boat.

Orion rising! Starry nights began with colorful deep red and turquoise sunsets resting on dancing sea swells. The constellation Orion and his best friend Sirius divided the night into north and south. The moon was full at the beginning of our voyage and we watched nearly every night as it waned into a thin crescent. Night sails ended in soft colorful sunrises to the east. My watch at the helm left me in awe of the immensity of the ocean and sky. I felt a sense of being very small and very whole at the same time.

Baja coast! As we headed south the coastline was nearly ever present to the east. Thin ribbons of distant arid plateau would drop away from view and then re emerge punctuated by ragged peaks of rust and sage. The bahías and puntas became waypoints and areas of exploration. Sandy beaches provided sanctuary, as well as challenges for accessing small Mexican fishing villages along our way. Unlike Southeast Alaska, the coastline and shallows seemed predictable with safe anchorage. The Walker Bay proved a worthy ships dinghy and provided taxi service back and forth from the fuel dock to anchorage under sail.

Sea and swell! Surprisingly enough I didn’t get seasick! The waters seemed clear and clean for the most part with just enough salt to sting the eyes and straighten the hair. The boat handled very well in waves that at the most were 5 – 6 foot sea swell with 3 – 4 foot chop on top. Our daytime cruises provided opportunity with flapping fluke whales and dancing porpoises, as well as sea lions and other deep sea monsters that visited while swimming during a break along our run in quiet waters. Clif managed to fight off the behemoth, saving his crew before quickly skipping up the boat ladder to the ships gunwale.
Tacos Durados (Fried corn tortilla tacos)
¡Tacos Durados! The cuisine on and off the ship was incredible. After discovering “Dora’s” flour tortillas (the label on the package was a piece of masking tape with her name written in felt marker), we consumed mass quantities of burritos, quesadillas and peanut butter roll ups. We cleaned the eggs with an antibacterial soap solution and had morning scramble hash – with Dora’s tortillas. Tacos Durados was the order of choice at the Mexican village cantinas: And of course Tecate. Tecate silver! Tecate Red! And Tecate TI-Tanium!!! Between one-pot-wonders onboard, and wondering what we were eating on land, we never went hungry. Any challenges to the digestive system were quickly remedied with prescription strength Lomotil. FYI, two tiny pills will be sufficient for pretty much any cure.

Amigos and mates! The people of the villages were very friendly and helpful. Some offered to be tour guides, security guards and escorts to evening social scenes (A tip is always expected). However, the discoteca in Bahía Tortuga started their glitter reeling a little too late for this crew – much to Pedro’s discontent. Even as friendly as the village locals were, the crew of the Sound Discovery twas me best mates. I didn’t realize it in San Diego, but Giselle and Clif had provisioned the boat with ample quantities of trust, respect, competence and, well gosh, I suppose a sailor shouldn’t be saying the word but I’ll say it, love. Tis a great ship, but the crew made it an awesome voyage. Thanks Giselle and Clif, for many amazing memories, most of which, I would need more time and Tecate to pen. I am humbled by your spirit of adventure, your capable hands and curious hearts. I am so grateful for your having me aboard. Safe journeys!
From here... (back to Giselle)

Clif and I will be headed over to the La Paz area very slowly. It's time to relax and know that we don't have to be anywhere anytime soon. What a weird feeling. We've been pushing it for so long, it feels weird to think that we have no agenda; no dates to try and rush towards. We will be flying to Seattle for Christmas, to spend some time with my family, and then will come back down to La Paz and up to Loreto for New Years to see Clif's parents. I updated our schedule page, put a little calendar in there, so you can take a look if you like.
Looking forward to blogging more about swimming, snorkeling, sun-bathing and improving my Spanish!

Dad unties the dinghy for Clif on Enrique's fuel dock in Bahia Tortugas.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Baja Norte: From Bahia Tortugas

Baja Norte, Halfway down the Baja Coastline: ¡Yatistas!

“Even the desert needs rain too,” Clif told me last night while I was starting my shift in the spitting rain. Adorned in full foul-weather gear, including my insulated xtra-tuff boots, I couldn’t help but express to Clif that this was not the Baja experience I had anticipated. Where were the tropical cocktails and the SPF 50? Instead we have multiple pairs fleece socks dangling from the handrails inside a damp cabin.

San Diego to Ensenada

My dad, Rich, joined up in San Diego, a day and a half before our departure, in order to help provision and ready the boat. It’s a quick 60 miles south to Ensenada from San Diego Bay, and a necessary stop for all cruisers, or “yatistas,” as we are called in Spanish, to pass through immigration. We chose to sail and motor over night in order to arrive in Ensenada in the early morning and have the day to clear customs, which turned out to be an excellent idea. Around sunset, leaving San Diego, we crossed the US/Mexican border. We had a small ceremony: raising the Mexican flag while James Taylor crooned from my computer speakers, “Oooh, Mexico. Sounds so simple, I just got to go…” Clifton was grinning ear to ear, and beers all-a-round.

That first night of motoring down the coast was almost as bright as day. We had a nearly full moon and the lights of Tijuana sprawled out, never ending. There was not an unlit section of coastline unti after Ensenada. We arrived at the Port of Ensenada early in the morning, docking the “Cruiser’s Village Marina.” We greeted the old dock-hand with a “Buenos Dias. Como está usted?” Exhilarated to be finally using our Spanish. The marina was incredibly helpful assisted with every step of the immigration process. The assistance included a private ride over to the Customs Office, as well as private instruction on paperwork to fill out and people to pay. The whole process maybe took three hours, tops. Of course, nothing comes free, and when we arrived back at the Marina after a lunch in town, we had to pay $50 USD, just for mooring in the harbor for the day and receiving the customs help.

Ensenada was a bustling tourista town, not only because of the “Puerto de Capítana” (border control for all mariners and yatistas), but also because of the Princess Cruise that rolls in just once a week… and we happen to arrive on that day. The absolute best part about our day in Ensenada was getting to see Clif ease back into his fluent Spanish while conversing with marina employees. Dad and I listened on, thankful to have such an asset on our journey. It just makes it that much less stressful, and much more fun. Throughout the days on the boat, Clif has been helping me practice gaining back my conversational Spanish I had in college. It’s a slow going process, but I have been surprised at the amount of Spanish I can understand just listening. I’m looking forward to practicing down in Cabo and La Paz.
Clif raising the Mexican Flag!

Awesome sunrise outside our first morning out.
Ensenada to San Quintín

Leaving Ensenada, again at night, was a lively sail! We were very much aware that the next fuel stop wouldn’t be until Turtle Bay, a solid 280 plus down the coast, and valued the good wind more than usual. The entire night and next day we sailed, turning only the motor on to skirt our way into the Bahía San Quintín anchorage area at sunset. It was perfect, not to hot, maybe a little surprisingly cold, but we didn’t mind because we were sailing downwind, at 5-6 knots for free! We also had the most magnificent sunrise the morning after we left Ensenada. It very much invigorated us after a long night of watches. Later in the evening, we anchored in the large bay San Quintin, making dinner and actually being about to sit around our dinner table inside the cabin, which I loved. We all got full nights rest, anticipated the long chunk of open water ahead.

Clif and Dad changing the head sail to a larger jib.

San Quintín to Turtle Bay

All the guidebooks suggested making the long crossing from San Quintín to Bahía Tortugas (Turtle Bay) in one fell swoop. The weather reports looked very mellow, making us come to terms with the fact that we would probably have to motor for most of the 180 nautical miles. Leaving San Quintin, we could tell that there was some weather farther out to sea, but it held off for the entire day, staying dry, yet the air thick with dark grey clouds.

As Dad went inside to fall asleep, (Clif already was taking his nap to prepare for his night shift,) I was outside when the rain came… and boy, did it come down. This wasn’t an ordinary tropical squall; this was serious, sideways, spitting, Juneau Fall rain. Yes, somehow all the way down in Baja, we managed to get the Southeast Alaska rain that we haven’t seen our entire journey.

I was drenched in an hour, even with the canvas covering the cockpit. The rain managed to sneak up inside and hit my in the face, no matter what direction the boat was headed. Clif switched with me, giving me a little reprieve for a couple hours. “It’ll pass,” Clif repeated through out the night, but when he woke up from a nap in the morning and peaked his head outside, he saw me, once again, out braving the elements in every layer of rain gear I could manage.

I hope all those little desert plans are just living it up right now!! Drink up, because we are in need for some serious sunshine.

The rain finally gave way in the mid-afternoon, a couple hours out of Turtle Bay. The clouds lifted just in time for us to see the spectacular, rugged coastline appear next to the boat, as if being unveiled by a light, misty gray curtain. The colors of the desert growing more vivid as the sun broke through out rain clouds: vibrant reds of volcanic cones, yellows and browns of the sand and rock, and a hint of sage green from the cacti and succulents along the mountain sides. A baby blue sky peaked out behind us with a turquoise streak running along the horizon line.

“Well, was it worth all the rain?” Clif joked with me, still in my rain gear.
“Yes, I think so,” smiling as I replied, happy to have land and color back in my sight.

Bahia Tortugas, view from our anchorage.
 Marine Life

While there have been no whale sightings thus far down the Baja, we have seen vast amounts of dolphins. Pods of dolphins frequent the boat at least once a day. We stole the idea from another cruising vessel to use our underwater GoPro camera to film the dolphins below the surface of the bow, which resulted in a fun afternoon of photography. Using a spare extendable boat hook, we secured the GoPro with parachute line and duct tape. When the dolphins came to ride the bow wave, I layed down on my stomach, above the anchor box, and attempted to hold the boat hook so the camera would sit right below the surface. The result: some cool, somewhat out-of-focus pictures of our dolphin visitors! What worked even better than photos was video, of which we got a couple. The video is much more clear, but needs some editting. Hopefully, when I’m done editting the video, we can post it on the blog as well. Here are a couple of the good photos from the GoPro of dolphins surfing off our bow...

Never a dull moment…

On our way into Bahía Tortugas, I was sitting down below, typing away at my blog entry, when I realized that my socks were starting to get wet. I looked down from the computer to see a small puddle starting to form above the bilge cover. “Woah, woah, woah…” I said quickly as I jumped up to switch the automatic bilge pump on. I yelled to Clif that we had a problem: the bilge was overflowing. Clif and I quickly switched positions. I drove us into the anchorage area, while Dad and Clif investigated the problem. We had a bilge pump hose that had developed a hole. Thankfully, it was an easy fix. We were also thankful to have some green “Rescue Tape” on board, which made a quick “band-aid” of sorts, allowing us to pull into our anchorage before attended to the hose.

Bahía Tortuga

Bahía Tortuga marks the halfway point down the Baja Pacific coast. It is also the largest fishing village and safe anchorage available to cruisers along the way. It has a population of 1,000, multiple restaurants, marine fuel, and many other yatista amenities. We rowed in for dinner after arriving, only to find the dirt roads turned into vast mud pits from the past two days of solid rain. Dad and Clif slopped their way through the mud up to one of the small little cantinas, luckily finding a bucket of water to wash our feet off with outside the restaurante.

This morning, we were fortunate enough to have a nice breeze that picked up from the south, so we sailed the Walker Bay into the beach for cervezas, groceries, fuel, wifi and exploring in the sun. Pretty easy to get used to sitting near the beach, drinking a Pacifico in the Mexican sunshine.

I'm looking forward to becoming more conversational in Spanish, just from the one day in Bahia Tortugas. The thought of getting more fluent is so exciting!!

One of the local grocery stores in Bahia Tortugas.

Walking through the muddy roads after the rain.

Schedule for the rest of Baja Coast jaunt: 

- Take off from Bahia Tortugas tomorrow morning early (11/24)
- Bahia Ansuncion (11/24-25)
- Bahia San Juanito (11/25-26)
- Bahia Santa Maria (11/26-27)
- Cabo San Lucas (Arriving in between the 29th-30th)
- Dad leaves out of Cabo on Dec. 2nd 

Keep an eye on the tracker. I've been trying to remember to update it every 3-5 hours while we're running and leaving messages every night around 5-5:30 (if you're on the email list). I was lucky to find available wifi here in Bahia Tortugas, but will most likely not have any internet until Cabo San Lucas. I will most definitely write another update from there.

Until then, Hasta luego, amigos!

Clif enjoying the Baja steady rain!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Hello San Diego... Hello Mexican Border!

Sound Discovery (and our Walker Bay) in Oxnard, Channel Islands Marina
It's finally here: the Mexican border is just a short hop and a skip away!

Clif and I arrived into San Diego on Saturday afternoon, bombarded by an overwhelming amount of sail boats just playing around in the bay. There were large, beautiful sailboats racing around buoys, yachts out of a cocktail pleasure crusie, smaller cruisers (like us) making their way into a marina, tiny dinghies tacking back and forth in between boats, and even a huge tanker, slowly inching its way through the chaos-- all sailboats moving out of the shipping lane for the monster to pass by.

San Diego has a great number of marinas, varying in price, size and amenities. We spent a large part of Saturday calling marinas, while under sail, and asking about availability. We finally found a decently priced small marina near the airport, Point Loma Marina, which also happened to have a small "tavern" located at the top of the ramp... how convenient.

Clif and I said goodbye to both his parents and our friend Andy in Oxnard on Wednesday evening. We took off, out of the Channel Islands Marina early before dawn on Thursday morning. We motored and sailed a long 60-mile day to Catalina Island, mooring up in Avalon Beach. Unfortunately, since we got there at night, we were less than exciting about putting the Walker Bay dinghy in the water and going ashore. Dinner and sleep was much more alluring. We took our time in the morning, leaving after it got light, and began motoring towards Oceanside (directly across from Catalina on the mainland, south of LA). The weather had picked up through out the day, which was anticipated. The wind waves and swell were a little too big to be fun. The wind was great for sailing, but out starboard spreader (supporting the shrouds and the mast) was sagging, and we wanted to avoid any more "sag," so we stuck to motoring. After motoring through the slop, tossing around all day, we got into Oceanside before dark.

In Oceanside, I helped hoist Clif up the mast to adjust the spreader, which was an easy fix. I made him hang out there for a bit to do a photo shoot, for your viewing pleasure...

Climbing monkey up the mast...

Thankfully on Saturday the wind and waves calmed down a bit and we were able to sail and motor our way down to San Diego. My Dad flew into San Diego later that evening, meeting us at the Marina! We are not only excited about our long-awaited entrance into Mexico, but also the fact that my dad gets to join us on the whole voyage down the Baja. No doubt we have tons a marine life viewing in store, some good fishing and a little more sunshine.

We spent yesterday running errands and crossing items off of my long Mexico to-do list, including purchasing Mexican fishing licenses, replacing some navigation lights, stocking up on dry goods and sunscreen, and testing out some fun inflatable SUP (Stand-up paddle) boards. No purchases of boards have been made, but we definitely had fun testing them out in the marina.

Xtra-tuffs drying out on the dock in Oxnard.
As far as our schedule goes, we will be leaving this afternoon to exit San Diego and cruise the 65 miles down to Ensenada through the night, arriving there tomorrow morning to do our "yachtistas" border crossing. We will most likely spend a full day in Ensenada making sure we have all of our paper work in order and we are good to go. After there, there's not a whole lot until Cabo, besides some beautiful coastline and small fishing villages. We'd like to enjoy the experience as much as possible, without rushing, but we will be arriving in Cabo San Lucas between Nov. 28 (Thanksgiving) and Dec. 1st. We will keep the tracker going, leaving points every couple of hours and continuing our trend of sending "We're OK!" messages in the early evening (if you're on the email list).

Our Mexican flag is ready to hoist, we're stocked up on rice and beans, and I bought some cheap beach towels... I think we're about ready!