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

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