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:]. 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

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Connie Visits and New Crew--- Goodbye La Paz!

For the past couple weeks, Clif and I have been enjoying the changing of seasons: from chilly north winds to hot stagnant days. It seems like in a matter of weeks, La Paz has turned into a hot desert metropolis, rather than a cool cruisers oasis. We’ve heard more and more folks chatting about headed up north, trying to escape the impending spring and summer heat. We, like many, plan to dry dock Sound Discovery up in Guaymas, on the mainland (just a hop, skip and a jump from the Arizona border—300 miles).

We had another crewmember join us last night here in La Paz! Jonathan, from Seattle, who we stayed with in September on our way down the coast, has come to spend two weeks with us cruising up the Sea. Jon sailed his S/V Moment up to Juneau and back to Seattle this past summer. We ran into him as we were crossing the Canadian/US border, waiting on the customs dock in Friday Harbor. He helped us immensely in Seattle when we installed our wind vane and opened his home to us as well. We are excited to have another sailor on board and ready to get out on the water again. You can imagine Clif singing to the tune of Willie Nelson, “On the boat again, just can’t wait to get on the boat again!”

Hiking down the rocky steps to swim.
Clif and I dropped off Connie at the Los Cabos airport on Tuesday morning, after a fun week of playing tourist (in the more traditional sense). Connie and I spent two days in La Paz, laying on the beach and swimming with whale sharks (Yes! That happened!). We rented a car for our first Mexican driving experience… only slightly terrifying, mostly fun… drove down to Cabo Pulmo for a romantic, candle-lit dinner for two at Nancy’s. Throughout the week, Connie and I managed to get in some serious tanning sessions, swam in the Sea, and drank some excellent margaritas. Success! 

At the suggestion of my girlfriend Jill, we sought out a swimming hole in the Sierra de Laguna, a mountainous area just west of Cabo Pulmo. We drove through the small town of Santiago, winding our way over dirt roads in our little red rental car, until we arrived at a small rancho. We paid $6 US dollars for the use of their private desert oasis, Cascada Sol de Mayo (as depicted in the awesome dive shot I got of Clif). The trail to the swimming hole was fairly easy and quick. We were joined by a small classroom group of Mexican schoolboys and their teachers. The water was very cold, much colder than the ocean water in the Sea of Cortez, but the small waterfall feeding the pool was warm (fed by a warm spring up above, highly in the mountains). The whole experience was beautiful, picturesque and very refreshing.

Clif diving into the Sol de Mayo pool oasis!
By this time, Clif had joined up with us on our Baja trek. Clif spent several days helping a couple sail their 45’ Hunter across the Sea of Cortez from San Jose del Cabo to Puerta Vallarta, which was fairly uneventful (the perfect crossing is an uneventful one). He flew back to Cabo San Lucas and managed to hitch a ride up to a town outside of Cabo Pulmo. Through the magic of our InReach satellite tracker texting, we were able to drive and pick him up before he had to hitch hike any farther.

Cabo Pulmo Sunrise! No Photoshop!
Connie’s last full day in Baja was in Cabo San Lucas, enjoying the amenities of a hotel, pool, pool bar and buffet breakfast. We spent some time on the beach, played some ridiculous bar games (I won us some free beers with my movie theme song knowledge) and we pretty much had a blast, having our own personal “Cabo Spring Break” evening—dancing, pina coladas, swim suits… the works. Witnessed some crazy tourists from the Midwest (lots of folks from the Midwest down in Cabo escaping the cold).  It was much more “spring break” this time around, compared to our visit with Dad in December, when we saw a lot of young families for Christmas/Winter break.

So we managed to fit in quite a few activities during our week, and send Connie back to Minnesota with a swimsuit tan line! Thank you Connie for such a fun visit.

Now, back in La Paz, Sound Discovery is preparing to cast off at high slack-tide, around noon, and head out of the La Paz Bay for the last time this spring. Guaymas or bust! We’re going to dink around on the islands, do some snorkel exploration, and hopefully get some sailing in, now that the north winds have finally calmed down. Jon will be with us until March 6th, and will be flying out of Loreto. We will then continue our way up the Sea to Bahía Conceptión, Santa Rosalía, and make the 75 mile cross to Guaymas. In Guaymas, we will prepare the boat to be pulled out of the water and dry docked for the summer. It’s going to be quick a chore cleaning everything out and getting ourselves ready to head back to the states, but will be states-side before the end of March.

I will be back in Juneau of April 4th, just in time for the Alaska Folk Festival, while Clifton will head up to Clear Lake in California to help with some work on their family cabin. March and April are both going to be fun months with lots of adventures. I won’t be updating the blog until Loreto, or possibly Guaymas, but will do my best to wrap up our cruising season with some nice writing. 

Adios, La Paz! It's been real! Until next time...

Looking forward to seeing friends and family soon!
Love, Giselle

Nancy makes the morning Coffee.
View into Nancy's Library

Connie chatting in the morning,

Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Little Haven on the Eastern Cape: Cabo Pulmo

“It’s like a drug,” Libby described to us, as the truck bounced its way along a freshly groomed dirt road. “You can’t live with it, and you can’t live without it.” A CD mix of American and Mexican techno music (her son’s music) trails out the windows behind us. As the sun sets, Libby drives faster; kicking up dust while the color of the sky makes its transition from blue to a light purple. “We got to make it before the sun sets, so you can see the bay.” The windows are blown out on one side of the truck, so I covered myself with our thick, cotton Mexican blanket (newly purchased in La Paz) to keep me warm.

Lord of the Wind Kiting Competition, Los Barriles
We met Libby just the day before. While sitting on the beach in Los Barriles, observing a kite boarding competition (“Lord of the Wind”), we overheard a group chatting about Cabo Pulmo, our intended destination for the week. We introduced ourselves and couldn’t believe our luck. Libby, an American woman, not only had a home in Cabo Pulmo, but raised both of her children there. Seeing our backpacks with snorkel gear attached, she offered us a place to stay that night and a ride to the pueblo (town) mañana after the completion of all the kite boarding events. While Libby wasn’t in Cabo Pulmo full time anymore, her 84-year-old mother, Nancy, still resided there and ran a restaurant.
Clif, Nancy and Libby laugh at the fire place.

Nancy's restaurant prepping for dinner time.
We didn’t pull into the restaurant parking lot until after dark. Even in the dark, the stone work and large arched windows were visible.  We left our backpacks in the bed of the truck and walked it, greeted immediately by Nancy, who was awaiting our arrival. Her silver hair and tan slender body revealed many years of hard work, adapting to the rural Baja life. She held a glass of El Jimador (tequila) on ice and proudly displaced her Sirius XM radio that was provided the mood music for the evening. Frank Sinatra sang “Autumn in New York” while we sat down to a candle lit, wood table. During our drive, Libby had told us of the small stone fireplace that was lit every night, customers or no. The small wood fire gave off most of the light for dining and preparing meals. Without hesitation, or worrying about being cliché, I’ll say: it was magical. I felt transported.

The inside of our palapa-roofed casita at Nancy's.
We ended up staying with Nancy and Libby for three nights, in one of two casitas that Nancy rented out behind the restaurant. We had breakfast each morning, prepared by Nancy, and in the afternoons, we’d help prepare the fire, and enjoy a margarita made with love by Libby, who declared her margaritas the absolute best (and we agreed).

Cabo Pulmo is a national marine park just 60 miles north of Cabo San Lucas, up around the eastern cape of the Baja. The town of less than 100 people, is mainly supported by diving tourism. Cabo Pulmo is home to one of the only hard coral reefs on the west coast. We took four dives during our stay and saw many, many fish. Large schools of fish that were not phased by our presence. We were happy to see coral growing strong and regenerating. We loved our local dive master, Roberto (the best of the best), who took us out to some great spots and made us feel very comfortable on and off the dive panga.
Giselle listens intently to Roberto's description of the next dive site...
A large school of fish loom in front of me, while I swim around with the GoPro.

Clif absorbed himself from time to time in helping Nancy get just a little more power out of her solar panels (cleaning, dusting and trimming back a tree that had started to shade part of the panels). I enjoyed listening to Nancy’s stories about her young days as a musical theatre star in Chicago. “I was always the lead,” she said, “ and I played every part.” If she was cast in a supporting role, she would be convinced it was a mistake by the director: “Directors ALWAYS make mistakes.” Once, she was put in a chorus, she hammed it up so much on stage, stealing the show every night, and the theatre never put her in the chorus again (Well… that’s one way to do it!).

Reluctantly, Libby drove us back on our third day, after we finished diving and took a siesta. She wanted us to stay… and do did we! We chatted about helping her mother with the restaurant and getting our dive masters. It seemed to us the Cabo Pulmo would have a place in our future… maybe not this year, but soon there after. The romance of the little village, living off of well water and solar energy, reminded me of Tenakee (a Mexican version of it, at least). Hikes through the mountains, horseback riding and turquoise water keep many coming back, and some even build their own little casita for a more permanent stay. It would be the perfect place to sit down and write a book… I’ll keep that in the back of my mind.

We took the bus back from Los Barriles to La Paz in the dark: back into the city lights, back to our own bed (which Clif was most excited about). We don’t have too much more time down here before we begin our journey up north to Guaymas and dock the boat for the summer. However, I think we might squeeze in a little visit to Cabo Pulmo for Nancy’s birthday on February 14th, which we heard, should not be missed! Connie will be with us there, and we will get to share our little Baja heaven with her as well: geckos, las cucurachas, bird songs, turquoise waters, beach and all.

Showing off!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

A Week on Isla Espíritu Santo

Mexican “Island Life”: Journey Up Isla Espíritu Santo
An on-going journal of our week out at the Islands.

Quick Note: I did update our schedule page with a calendar and notes for those interested. We will be back states side at the beginning of April and start working in Juneau in May.

A Little Geography to Start You Off…

Caleta Partida (View from our hike)
Our boat has been in La Paz for the past month, on the eastern side of Baja, within Bahía de La Paz. Isla Espíritu Santo lies about 15 miles north of La Paz. It’s comprised of two islands, although a skinny, sandy shoal connects them: Espíritu Santo and Partida. The islands are frequented by many Sea of Cortez cruisers.

Some Unexpected Visitors…
When cruising down the Pacific coast, all that filled our heads was the though of reach Cabo San Lucas. If we reached Cabo, we were footloose and fancy-free. Sea of Cortez was cruiser country. Great sailing, beautiful turquoise anchorages, small Mexican cantinas… right? What we didn’t anticipate (or look into, for that matter) was the amount of North wind the Sea experiences after Dec. 1st. These strong north winds are affectionately called “El Norte,” and can set in for several days at a time, making any passage north, virtually impossible. These north winds force most cruisers south to Puerto Vallarta and beyond. The La Paz marinas are full of sailboats, just enjoying their winter while waiting out the wind.
In one of the many pristine anchorages.

Our trip across to Isla Espíritu Santo was beautiful, the perfect amount of wind. We actually sailed right into our first anchorage until the wind died and we lay suddenly still in the clear calm water. We put away the sails very casually, turned on the motor and found ourselves a nice spot to anchor.

The first night, we fell asleep in a perfectly calm boat. Around midnight, we woke to a bow bashing into large waves: the wind whistling above us. Where were these large wind waves coming from? We were bouncing up and down in the v-berth, when we realized we weren’t experiencing an El Norte, but rather the much talked about south and southwesterly Coromuel Winds that churn up as night in the spring and fall. The whole entire Bay of La Paz had time to build before it hit our anchorage. Clif and I took turns going outside and securing anything that moved or crashed about. We checked our anchor holding constantly until around 4am, when the wind died off and the waves abated. We hoped that the Coromuels wouldn’t be a normal occurrence during our island visit.

Stuck on the Boat…

It is rare that we ever get stuck in a non-inhabited anchorage because of weather. In fact, I can’t remember a when we have been truly stuck. The majority of time we are waiting out bad weather in a port, nestled into a nice comfortable slip, with the ease of coming and going on and off the boat as we please. We had such fabulous weather in Alaska and BC, that we didn’t even run into “weather window” problems until we reached Campbell River, on the inside of Vancouver Island. Sea of Cortez, similar to Southeast Alaska and Coastal BC, has a wide variety of anchorages to explore with few villages or amenities.

Our first day in Bahia San Gabriel, carrying the Walker Bay ashore.
Our second night on the island, to avoid the Coromuels that left us sleepless that first night, we moved north to a smaller cove, less exposed to the south. We anchored in our own private Ensenada de Gallo, just around sunset... just in time to feel the north wind begin to blow. And blow it did. This El Norte was not going to be a smooth ride. Throughout the entire time the wind gusted from 0-40 knots about once a minute. Some of the gusts were smaller than others, but every gust would catch our boat side on, because we were swinging back and forth so heavily on our anchor. The wind funneled through canyons on the island and directed all its force onto our little home. Night two: no sleep. I played Sudoku for three hours in the dead middle of the night, checking our GPS occasionally to make sure we weren’t dragging anchor. There was no sleep for me.

In the morning, we convinced ourselves that the wind had calmed down enough to find a new anchorage, somewhere a little bit more protected. We made for a spot less than 4 nautical miles north, but the strong wind and waves didn’t even allow us around the first exposed point. We were making less than one knot motoring. We had to turn around and go back to our spot. We anchored up in the same spot, hoping for a little relief, and hunkered down.

Being stuck on a boat at anchor is like being weathered out in a small winter cabin. You embrace the small cozy space; find joy in relaxing activities, and nap. Clif and I have passed our time with (and gotten especially good at) Sudoku, Solitaire, cleaning house, reading extensively, practicing ukulele, cooking, washing dishes and planning our next year.

Our third day out on the island was perfect. Early in the morning we plowed our way upwind to a small caleta (cove) that promised shelter from the north winds. Our guidebook warned us that there was only room for one or two boats, so we were shocked to find NO boats anchored in the perfect getaway. Another boat joined us less than an hour later. The wind lay down in the afternoon and we took the opportunity to row ashore and hike up the arroyo (brook or stream… or in most cases like ours, a dry stream bed) of a long canyon. We heard that there was a spectacular view waiting at the top of this hike, although “hike” can be a very relative term in cruising guidebooks. We were bouldering, hoping from rock to rock, using our bodies like we haven’t been for a long time. The view was indeed spectacular, but the heat and the wind at the top of the canyon drove us back down quickly, in time for a cold swim before the sun set.

El Mezteno, view from the beach (Sound Discovery is that white dot on the horizon)

A Word About Desert Hiking…

El Mezteno.
The desert is a prickly place.

While I grew up in Juneau, hiking over streams and fallen mossy logs, I have had experience hiking in hot, dry places. However, none of my Arizona hikes compare to the bush-whacking that ensues on some of these so-called “trails.” Long pants become a must, even with the heat; otherwise, you sacrifice the skin on your ankles and calves. Shoes that are close-toed and strong are a necessity, something I don’t have on the boat. My barefoot gel-soled shoes took three steps off of the beach and were covered in spinney stickers that I could feel protruding through both the bottom and top of my shoe. On our first full day-hike out of Bahía San Garbiel, I had to carry a rock with me to scrap the painfully strong stickers off the sides and soles of my shoes.

Most “trails” listed in the book are dried up creek beds that wind into the mountains. While the scenery is phenomenal, no trail is ever maintained, so we spend time searching for the path of least resistance. The amount of water we’ve consumed during and after these hikes is astonishing… especially when your drinking water is so, well… regulated.

But after all that gripes, a couple cactus battled wounds and a little blood is worth getting to really experience the wilderness. We got to see wild goats climbing the hills yesterday, spooked from our presence, and more picture perfect vistas to count.
View from the top of our canyon/arroyo hike
More Thoughts on Cruising…

As a cruiser I have come to feel once in a while a lack of purpose. I don’t know if it’s just being around a lot of retired Americans or not knowing what is going on elsewhere in the world, but I know, personally, I need more of a purpose than just hanging out. So many people call themselves cruisers, yet they’re living on their boat in a La Paz marina for 8 months out of a year: cozied up to the dock, plugged in with TVs and Internet. Is that really cruising?

When we were coming down the coast, we had such a strong purpose and destination. I always felt like we were on an adventure, making it day by day, slowly further south. Now that we’re in the Sea of Cortez, I feel antsy. I can relax into the retired lifestyle for maybe a day or two, until I get bored stiff and want to see a new place. Because that’s what cruising is about, right? The problem is, constantly moving around at a fast rate is exhausting… exciting, but exhausting. I need a purpose to be on this boat, or I feel as lazy as a sea cucumber. I’ve been excited recently at the planning of making our way north, not only because I get to see Juneau again in April, but because we get to actually start moving again: having a destination and places to see along the way.

Is it because I’m a little too young for the cruising lifestyle? I don’t think so. I think it’s my instinctive nature of being busy. I have been a busy girl and a busy young woman. Maybe it’s a good change for me not to be busy for a while? Clif was certainly not born with the same “keep busy” gene. However, I do think my busy schedule at home keeps my energy up.

If the boat is our mode of travel, we have to find a nice balance between both: exploring and covering new ground, and spending time relaxing: really getting to know a place.

Back in the Blue Sea of Cortez…
I kept this shell... a good find on the playa of San Gabriel.

My absolute favorite part about the Sea of Cortez is the remarkably clear turquoise water. Every anchorage we can watch our anchor drop down, dig into the white sand, and pull the anchor chain perfectly straight. It’s a luxury most Southeast Alaskan boaters couldn’t even imagine. The Isla Espíritu Santo anchorages give new meaning to a Southwestern color scheme. The turquoise water against the pink-orange canyon walls, with bright accents of green cacti and agave plants, make me dream of canvas and oil paints. Oil paints might be the only medium to give this vibrant landscape justice… and maybe Photoshop. Alas, oil paints are not the medium for boat life, but Photoshop most definitely is.

Swimming seems to cure my nautical version of “cabin fever” instantly. I can stick my head in the still water, hearing only the faint sound of popping coral and a panga (fiberglass skiff) passing in the distance. I watch Clif gracefully kick across the sandy bottom beneath me… oblivious of the wind whipping above the water’s surface. This El Norte seems to be sustaining itself very well, more so than usual. Or maybe it’s just felt much more out here than deep in the La Paz Bay.

We did dishes tonight (our fourth day out) while listening to the north wind pick up again: each gust growing stronger and stronger. We shut all of our windows to avoid the sound of rattling outside and inside. Will it ever let up?

We were invited over for snacks on our neighbor’s boat, and asked them (a more experienced cruising couple) about the constant wind. They said, “Out here [Sea of Cortez], when the El Nortes aren’t blowing in, expect a southern wind at night… hands down, year round.” Sounds like it might be a rough ride in March, working our way up to Santa Rosalia and then over to Guaymas.

Bathing in the Sea

We spent our sixth night out in Ensenada Grande, which offers three small anchorages. We picked the smallest of the three, closet to the north to protect us from the availing winds. The wind calmed down in the morning as we sailed north, but picked up heavily once we made it up this far, so we turned in and anchored, hoping for a calm morning to approach Los Islotes, the farthest north islets with a large sea lion rookery.

The water in our anchorage is shallower, therefore, slightly warmer. Clif immediately jumped in after we anchored. However, what was more important to me than swimming was bathing! I’ve learned that taking a quick dunk off the boat does not do much for actually getting my skin clean. A good scrubbing is in order. I situated myself on the bow of the boat with our special seawater soap and new backpackers’ bucket to dip over the side. With the wind blowing in my face, I bravely scrubbed all over my body vigorously with a wet washcloth: a full body exfoliation. I then dosed myself repeatedly, becoming cold enough that my swim would actually feel pleasantly warm… and it worked! All clean. Can’t say that much for my hair. It’s a lost cause as sea. I can brush it every day, but it still will have layered of caked salt, making it even thicker than usual.

New Friends (Marine Life)
Clif meets a new friend!

Sea lion pup playfully slips by my camera.
Our last two days on the island held some pretty magical moments… as far as snorkeling goes. The wind calmed down (finally) which meant we were able to get in the water swimming quite a bit more. We motored the boat up to Los Islotes, two small islets on the north shore of Isla Partida. Los Islotes is famous for its large sea lion rookery, and vast amount of sea lion pups! During the wintertime, many tourists flock to these rocks to snorkel with the sea lion pups, who are friendly and curious. Clif and I swam around with a swarm of four or five pups for over 20 minutes, mimicking their bubble blowing, spins and somersaults under water. The sea lions come straight up to your snorkel mask and stare at you with their wide eyes, looking for a playmate! They also are very well known for nibbling at your fins, trying to attract attention. What an experience! The GoPro photos we took don’t do it justice, but the videos are pretty awesome. I will work on compiling some video footage and making it small and easily accessible.
Showing off for the GoPro.

A great group of pups hang out with Clif and I for a while...
This morning, before leaving our anchorage at Cardoncito on Isla Partida, we swam out to a reef close by. The reef was full of fish, but poor visibility (we had to dive down to really be able to observe the marine life). We didn’t expect to see anything spectacular, and because of the murky visibility, I didn’t bring the GoPro camera. We poked our heads up out of the water to chat, when we started to hear load slaps echoing across the sea surface. This slapping sound belongs to the manta rays, jumping high out of the water and belly flopping hard as they descend. We could see the manta rays very close, thinking it was possibly a cluster of two or three. We put our masks back on and began to ever so slowly fin forward, towards where the rays were jumping, when suddenly, through the murky, plankton filled water, a school of manta rays appeared underneath us. There was not just a couple… there were at least a hundred or more black 2-3 feet long manta rays effortlessly gliding only feet below us. They were layered in a formation that wasn’t phased by our presence. I held Clif’s leg, keeping completely motionless and quiet, watching the creatures pass, so crisp and clear… and SO MANY! They kept coming! How big was this school of rays? Finally, the last of them receded off into the green water beyond. It was incredible. Such a high. I have never seen anything so spectacular in my short snorkeling/diving career. I was so glad that I opted to put on the cold wetsuit this morning and dive in with Clif. I was kicking myself for not having the camera, but honestly, clicking away on the GoPro would have taken away from the mystic moment. It was only less than a minute. The sea is full of such wonders and we have only begun to explore.

A New Home

We motored back to La Paz this afternoon and managed to snag a coveted spot in Marina de La Paz, a harbor right in the heart of downtown La Paz. There is a large cruisers community, morning coffee and cookies at the cruisers club, DVDs to rent and many wonderful Mexican restaurants within easy walking distance. The grocery store is close (what a novelty) and there are excellent showers… and I mean good. You can only imagine how it feels to wash my thick hair in a high-pressure shower after a week at sea. It was divine.

So, now that my hair is washed, I’ve got some limonada in my belly (still going no alcohol for a while), and I’ve updated the blog, I’m ready for an extremely restful nights sleep.

Sunset tonight at Marina de La Paz, the new home for our boat... at least for the next 30 days.