CETUS TALES

We left Gig Harbor, WA in 2009 and spent 3 winters in the Sea of Cortez then sailed to the Galapagos Islands, French Polynesia up to Hawaii, then to San Francisco Bay. We are once again enjoying the Sea of Cortez as we plan our next adventure.

24 September 2016 | Tigard Oregon
12 September 2016 | Puerto Escondido, BCS, Mexico
25 August 2016 | Puerto Escondido, BCS, Mexico
07 August 2016 | Puerto Escondido
31 July 2016 | Puerto Escondido, BCS, Mexico
28 July 2016 | Puerto Escondido, BCS, Mexico
15 July 2016 | In the Sea of Cortez
11 July 2016 | Marquar anchorage on Isla Carmen
28 June 2016 | Puerto Escondido
22 June 2016 | Puerto Escondido, BCS, Mexico
10 June 2016 | Snoqualmie, WA
09 June 2016 | Rainbow Beach Resort, Inchelium WA
08 June 2016 | The Frank Slide
07 June 2016 | Lethbridge, Alberta
06 June 2016 | Flin Flin, Manitoba
04 June 2016 | Invermay, Saskatchewan
02 June 2016 | Invermay, Saskatchewan
01 June 2016 | Neepawa, Manitoba
31 May 2016 | Nevis, Minnisota
30 May 2016 | Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin

It's raining down in Paradise

28 January 2011 | La Paz
The day our friend Liz arrived, the clouds started coming in, so we haven't been able to do any of the fun "water activities" I had planned. So far our entertainment in town has been centered around eating and drinking with lots of walking thrown in. I have enjoyed playing Scrabble and going over the maps and books she brought down for Greece adventure in June.

So far we haven't had hard rain, just some drops for the last two days, but it brings to mind a song by one of our favorite entertainers, Gary Seiler, titled "It's Raining Down in Paradise". We've got our fingers crossed that the clouds will pass and we'll see the sun before Liz has to leave on Monday.

The Total Eclipse of the Moon

20 December 2010 | La Paz
We're looking forward to celebrating the Winter Solstice by watching the total eclipse of the full moon tonight. The festivities will begin about 11:30 and the whole event will take about 3 hours, but we'll probably call it a night (or morning) right after it is fully darkened. It's exciting to be somewhere that we will have clear skies to see these amazing celestial events -- coming from the Pacific Northwest we were often disappointed when cloud cover would hide everything.

Let it blow, let it blow, let it blow

26 November 2010 | San Evaristo
The winds came up as predicted and we had winds in the 20's with 30+ knot gusts all through the night and it's still quite boisterous today and is expected to continue through the night again settling down by early morning. The anchorage is well protected from the north so we don't get big waves building up, though we do get the wind -- but that is keeping our wind generator turning producing lots of power for us.

A day like this is much like a "snow day" back home -- you can go out and do stuff, but it's also a good excuse to stay cozy inside and read a book or do a fun project or two. I enjoy my occasional "wind days".

Things should settle down tomorrow so we'll take that opportunity to move a little farther south along with our friends on Prairie Oyster who are anchored near by and also heading to La Paz on December 1st. There may be another norther coming along on Monday and Tuesday, so once again we'll get tucked away and prepare for another wind day.

Here come the buffalos!

01 November 2010 | Punta Chivato, Sea of Cortez
When we tucked into this anchorage off Punta Chivato we knew there were some strong North winds predicted and we knew this would be a good place to sit them out -- and it is. When the winds come from the north for a length of time the seas build up quickly in the Sea of Cortez and the waves take on a strange appearance and are often described as buffalo or refrigerators due to the short choppiness that comes about when the 25 knot winds travel hundreds of miles on their trek down the sea..

Tucked in as we are, we can feel the wind (and take advantage of it producing power with our wind generator) but we are protected by the land and just have small wind waves moving by the boat. But a look with the binoculars out to the open Sea shows a whole different pictures with large buffaloes charging south.

Watchin' for water spouts.....

28 September 2010 | Santa Rosalia
Wow! Just saw on a blog for another boat that's in the marina at Santa Rosalia where Cetus is waiting for us that a waterspout passed by! He's got a great picture of it, so check out the sail blog for S/V Third Day

That's one thing Terry and I haven't ever seen in all our years of cruising -- and hope we never do when we're out to sea!

Georgette

21 September 2010
This is Georgette's current position and the map below shows possible paths she could take.

Weather Alert!

21 September 2010
no no Georgette!
This has, thankfully, been a slow storm season in the Eastern Pacific due to the La Nina conditions that have developed. But this morning the latest tropical depression was up graded to a storm, and named Georgette. She could possibly become a hurricane in the next 24 hours.

The thing we dislike most about Georgette, is the display of her possible tracks -- as shown in the map above. Seems she might go straight up the Sea of Cortez! So we will be watching her closely hoping that she dies out early and stays well south, far away from Cetus and all of the other cruising boats in the Sea of Cortez.

Hurricane Frank

25 August 2010
Tropical Storm Frank has upgraded to Hurricane, but is heading away from the Mexican Coast. Still need to keep an eye on him, as they can make wild turns sometimes.....

Weather Watch

23 August 2010
Tropical depression #9 in the Eastern Pacific upgraded to a Tropical Storm becoming the 6th named storm of the season: Frank.

He's the first one to generate coastal warnings in Mexico along the southern mainland coast and we just hope he continues his westward travel and stays well south of the Sea of Cortez -- but we are keeping a close eye on this one.

Click on the hurricane update in our list of links to view info on Frank.

Ess 'uricane weather....

26 June 2010
Keeping an eye on the eye
While we were in Hawaii on our first cruising boat, Cassiopeia, a tall French woman from another cruising boat passed on the warning: "The water it ess too warm -- ess 'uricane weather!"

A couple weeks later Hurricane Iniki paid a visit to the islands and we were luckily one of the boats that survived her wrath. We watched from shore as 8 of the 16 boats anchored off the Mala wharf on Maui were destroyed by the huge hurricane generated swell.

Well, now it is hurricane season in the north Pacific (it actually began May 15th) so we are keeping a close eye on the weather. Chances of one coming up as far as Santa Rosalia are slim -- especially this early in the season, but with Mother Nature you never know....

So we get alerts from the National Weather Service and know when the tropical "waves" turn in to tropical depressions, then on to Tropical Storms where they get a name instead of just a number and finally become a hurricane. So far 4 depressions have become named storms this year and two have graduated to hurricane status: Celia and Darby.

Both these hurricanes have headed west and haven't been a threat to land, and they loose power as they reach cooler waters and then die out. As the water warms they will be able to track further north, so we, too, will head even further north in the sea to stay out of the danger zone.

I've placed a link to the right on Hurricane Updates if you'd like to check out the hurricane information page we like to look at in addition to the email alerts we receive. Or click on the link to the National Weather Service to set up to receive your own email alerts.

Who turned up the heat?

17 June 2010
It's summer in the Sea of Cortez
Since we entered the Sea of Cortez last November, we've been very pleasantly surprised how comfortable the temperature has been.

We'd been told it would be too cold in the winter and then too hot in the summer -- the best months, and when the most boats are here, are between April and June.

Our decision to spend a year in the Sea has so far worked out very well. The winter didn't seem that cold -- especially to our Pacific NW acclimated bodies and it was a rare occasion that I would need to put on a light jacket at night or a pair of socks on a cool morning. I was thrilled with the sunny days that usually weren't too hot for us to walk to town or go hiking in the middle of the day. And even in January the water wasn't too cold for us to swim in when we'd go out to the islands near La Paz.

Since we left the La Paz area at the beginning of March the weather has been continuing on much the same, though we have found a few places up north that the water hasn't warmed enough yet for us to stay in for long.

A few days ago someone threw the switch and the hot days of summer in the Sea have begun.

So far we're able to keep things pretty comfortable aboard Cetus by keeping shades on the portholes, the cockpit covered by the bimini and our new friend Windy (that I introduced a few blog posts ago) is doing her part to keep it comfortable. It's always warmer sitting in a marina and we were very encouraged when a cruiser that has spent the past 3 summers here in the Sea said that if this weather isn't bothering us we should be fine up in the Bay of LA (where we plan to spend most of our time) because it doesn't get much hotter than this up there. We'll see....

So in the meantime, we're adjusting our activity to the increasing heat. We're moving our morning walk up a little earlier because it's now getting warm out there by 7:30 -- and our evening walk is a little later for the same reason. No more going into town in the middle of the day for groceries -- that's now an evening activity.

Terry's still spending time outside throughout the day working on boat projects, but I'm spending the hot sun hours down below in my comfortable little cave working on the computer and other indoor projects.

When we're out at anchor again, we'll spend a lot of time in the water during the day, but for now, while at the dock, we've been enjoying cooling off in the late afternoon with a dip in the lap pool here at the marina before a refreshing shower.

I've also been working on new ways to cook. Nothing heats the boat up more than turning on the stove or oven so I'm experimenting with doing more cooking outside on the BBQ -- things that you usually cook in the oven like bread and pizza. Right now it's not so hot that I can't cook downstairs, but I know there will come a day that I just won't want to add any heat to the cabin.

So, only time will tell if we continue to enjoy our Year in the Sea of Cortez.


Spill Over

24 May 2010 | Puerto Don Juan, Bay of Los Angeles
We've learned a new weather term up here in the Northern Sea: Spill Over

It's what happens when strong winds start blowing on the Pacific Baja Coast and they come rushing across the low parts of the Baja Peninsula toward the Sea of Cortez. Depending on where you are it can result in West or Northwest winds and they can be quite strong because like the Elefantes (which I gather occur when there is calm weather on both sides of the peninsula) they increase in speed as the air cools toward evening and then they gather speed as they rush across the hot dry land. The other day a boat over by BLA Village reported gusts up to 50 knots! There's been a gale blowing on the outside since last Saturday, so lots of spill over right now.

We've been real comfortable here in the protection of Puerto Don Juan and just started getting some stronger winds two days ago -- with occasional gusts into the high 20's.

The boats are starting to work their way north now. We've enjoyed this anchorage for a week, mostly to ourselves, and today there are 5 boats in here. We understand this anchorage can get crowded with up to 30 boats in the summer if some strong winds come up and everyone runs for its protected waters.

Giant Sqid , Whale Sharks and Elefantes!

18 May 2010 | Puerto Don Juan, Bay of Los Angeles
The Northern Sea of Cortez offers some unusual sights and we've experienced two of them in the last couple days: the giant Humbolt Squid and Elefantes. Now the Whale Sharks aren't just up here in the north -- they even have them by La Paz -- but we have yet to see the giant, harmless creatures. They habitate the Bay of LA, so we are bound to see them before the summer is through.

While we were anchored off Bay of LA Village, we would watch the fisherman leave every evening in their pangas with large lights to go out to catch the giant squid. They'd return in the morning and off load their catch into the waiting 40 foot trailers packed with ice. It was amazing to see the huge number of squid the 20 or so fisherman would bring in each day.

Now the Elefantes are another thing we'd read about that are found here in the Bay of LA -- but they aren't animals, its wind. It got it's name because sometimes a long cloud resembling an Elephant's trunk appears before the otherwise unpredicted event. They occur when the cold air of the Pacific is drawn across the low Baja peninsula to the warm Sea of Cortez and usually happens during times of calm winds in the Sea. creating a strong -- up to 40 knot -- west wind.

So we weren't completely taken by surprise yesterday when the nasty Elefante came charging in and luckily we recognized what was happening quickly enough to get out of our western exposed anchorage. We'd gone in the morning to a beautiful island in the heart of the Bay of LA called Isla La Venrana. Winds were predicted to be light from the SE -- a perfect place to be. We did a great hike across the island, did some beachcombing and went for a swim happy to find the water a bit warmer than it had been in San Francisquito where we could only dip in for a minute.

Right after we showered off we felt a small gust of wind from a different direction -- WEST. Could this be the dreaded Elefante? We started getting the boat ready to move, just in case, and the wind just kept building so we hurried to get out of there as quick as we could. In the 15 minutes it took us to start hauling up the anchor the gusts were in the 30's and the short choppy waves were building. By the time we got out of the pass between the islands we were heading into 5 to 6 foot breaking waves and had gusts to 40! So we followed our track back to the anchorage off the village where, though you'd still have wind, you wouldn't have the waves.

So about an hour and a half later we were tucked happily in the same spot we'd left that morning comfortable riding out our 1st Elefante very thankful that it came during daylight hours and while we were on the boat and able to move quickly because it would have been a long uncomfortable night had we had to stay in that exposed anchorage.

Always an adventure!

Brrrrrrrrrr......

13 May 2010 | Bahia San Francisquito
We moved around inside Bahia San Fracisquito today and have had a fun day exploring. We found it was a short hike back to the beach at Santa Teresa where we enjoyed a couple cold sodas in the shade of a palapa. Talked with a few guys that had spent the night in the little cabanas and were off for more adventure -- they're traveling Baja on small quads and having the time of their lives.

Then we came back and walked the beach and found several large whale vertebrae and a weather worn turtle shell. We also spotted a couple Jack rabbits and a coyote. Then it was time for a swim and brrrrrrr was it cold!

Seems Santa Rosalia was quite a turning point, for when we left there we left Baja California Sur (South) and entered Baja California Norte -- and the temperatures both land and sea are considerably cooler. That's precisely why this (and points north) is where we'll spend the hot summer months -- hurricane season -- because the weather should be much more comfortable up here and the hurricanes only strike where the water is warm enough. As we were told by a Frenchwoman in Hawaii just before hurricane Iniki hit, "The water, it ezz too warm -- it is hurricane weather."

The Northers

16 December 2009 | Sea of Cortez
There are two things that keep most people from spending a year in the Sea of Cortez as we are planning to do: Summer and Winter.

Before making our decision to spend our time in this beautiful area we talked to cruising friends that had and got mixed answers. Some said the winter in the Sea was miserable -- too cold and too many Northers.

Northers are the frequent winter winds that can blow down the Sea. They can be strong (15 to 30 knots) and can blow for 3 to 5 days (average) at a time. With a fetch of 600 miles the water can get quite steep and choppy and not a fun place to be. The good news is that they are very well predicted and there are many well protected anchorages that you can tuck into and sit them out.

So far we haven't had any major Northers (knock on teak) and a light short one is just passing (we were in the marina so no problemo). We'll wait a couple days for the seas to settle back down and then head back up to the islands for a bit.

Many also think this area is too cold in the winter, but so far it is just perfect to us: highs in the high 70's and lows in the high 60's. Cold is definitely a relative thing and it seems a lot of us here now are from the Northwest and we're finding this very comfortable -- especially when we look at the weather reports from back home!

Now the summer is another thing. It gets VERY hot here -- plus it is hurricane season. But that's a long way off so we have plenty of time to plan for that!

The BIG SURGE

08 November 2009 | Ensenada
The day we pulled in to this marina a guy warned us the surge would be bad this weekend -- that was our first tip off to the large swell coming this way which prompted us to stay put in the marina. We figured we'd rather be securely tied to a rocking dock than to be in an uncertain anchorage.

So we tied lines at every angle possible to keep Cetus as still as possible and away from the dock so it wouldn't rub through the gel coat. The surge started picking up pretty good yesterday afternoon and we rock and roll a bit and the lines groan, but all in all it hasn't been bad. Still enjoyed a potluck on another boat last night and got a good nights sleep despite the conditions. Don't think that would have been possible in an anchorage because even if a big swell didn't hit, we'd be nervously watching for it.

Things should start subsiding from here on out, so we plan to leave tomorrow with Galetea and make an overnight passage to Bahia San Quitin (about 115 miles south).

Weather to stay or weather to go?

23 September 2009 | Port of San Luis
The sun came out!
"Weather is a crap shoot" our friend Lois, of S/V Blind Faith stated17 years ago when we were in Hawaii. Now, even with all the sophisticated new resources, it really still is.

In addition to the traditional NOAA reports (which many refer to as the "liars club") we have grib files, weather faxes and intenet based weather services such as Passage Weather and Buoy Weather. There's so much you can look at all day! And then go away not having a better clue than when you started. There definitly is such a thing as too much information.

The biggest problem is that marine weather can change unexpectedly when a system either slows down or picks up speed throwing the whole forecast off. It's not a problem when you're just doing a day hop, but when you're going to be out over 24 hours it can make a big difference -- like what happened when we were heading to Crescent City and the big winds and seas started developing about 12 hours before the prediction.

Planning to round Point Conception is a difficult one, because it is known for it's high winds and the recommendation is to round it at night (when the winds are generally lowest). And from San Luis, the closest jumping off place, it is 60 miles to round the point to Cojo anchorage and another 40 if you want to make it all the way to Santa Barbara.

Yesterday it was our intention to leave about midnight and go to the Cojo anchorage. That way we would only have a 6 hour night at sea instead of 12. But, the winds were predicted to be strong through this morning so we changed our plans and now will leave later this afternoon and go all the way to Santa Barbara or even Oxnard (another 30 miles) if we're up to it.

One piece of information that has really helped are the buoy reports -- real time data showing what's happening out there. While in San Francisco I found an ap for my iPhone that gives us the buoy reports, so now we're able to check them anytime I have phone service (which is just about all the time now). We checked them last night for the point and were very glad we stayed put!

Now we'll have another long night at sea, but we are well rested -- this is a great anchorage! And only time will tell if we've made the right decision, because it's always a gamble and you get what you get. But I always keep in mind another thing that Lois would say: "and this too, shall pass".

Fog! Sun!

17 September 2009 | Capitola, California
The weather forecast looked good for leaving Half Moon Bay on Tuesday, September 15th, so we plotted our course for Capitola (just a little past Santa Cruz). We had a friend to meet up with there and they have a seasonal "marina" where they put out about 40 mooring buoys off the town wharf. It looked a little more protected than Santa Cruz, which we remembered from 10 years ago was a pretty rolly anchorage.

We woke to clear skies and began hauling the anchor at 6:15 and by the time we were heading out of the breakwater the fog was rolling in! We spent the next 7 hours motoring in a windless foggy bubble of visibility of about 1/4 mile.

Then about 2 pm the fog lightened giving us nearly a mile of visibility! We still couldn't see land even though we were only 3 miles off shore -- but there was hope! And the wind started coming up gradually -- even more hope!

Finally, at about 2:30 we were sailing along and actually able to see the California Coast for the first time! And we had sun!

We hooked up to our mooring buoy and went to shore and met up with our friend and after visiting his house had a nice dinner on the water at the Paradise Grill. Heading back out to the boat was a bit of a test as the swell had come up and the waves were a bit steep. The worst part was the dinghy dock on the pier -- it was treacherous! It was like walking across the back of a bucking bronco. Once safely back on Cetus we spent a rolly, tho not miserable, night and decided to move on the next day. I just did not want to deal with that dinghy dock again!

So up the next morning to cross the bay to Monterey. Again we had sun! And wind! Hurray! We'll be here in Monterey a few more days -- right now plan to leave on Sunday, Sept. 20th.

Next blog: Stories from the small world department!

Surf's Up!

11 September 2009 | Half Moon Bay
Leaving San Francisco Bay
We had a beautiful morning traveling across San Francisco Bay yesterday -- the city was clearer than we'd ever seen it and it was fun to travel along the waterfront that we'd just walked the lengths of the day before.

There was, however, heavy fog around the Golden Gate Bridge that we were hoping would lift in the hour and a half it would take us to reach it, but no such luck. So armed with our chart plotter and AIS we traveled into the mist and couldn't see the bridge until we were right next to it. We continued to pick our way through the fog all the way to Half Moon Bay. We were just thankful to not have to be traveling in the night -- fog during the day is one thing, but traveling through fog in the night is down right creepy.

The fog lifted just as we entered Half Moon Bay about 3 in the afternoon, and we were happy to drop the hook amongst some other cruising boats in the harbor. It was a beautiful afternoon and evening and a very peaceful night.

Our plan had been to spend the night here and continue on to Capitola in the morning. But the weather forecast has us a bit concerned about the weekend there because a nasty storm in the Gulf of Alaska is sending a bigger than normal NW swell down along the coast. The anchorage off Capitola is open to the sea, so will feel the effects of the increased swell, and since we've never stayed there before (they have mooring buoys available) we weren't sure how rough it might get. So we decided to stay put here where we're protected by a breakwater and know we will be comfortable.

When we looked out at 6 am this morning, we were glad we'd made the decision to stay, as the fog was so thick we couldn't see the breakwater! It is lifting a bit already, but it will be nice to not have to travel through fog again today.



Be careful what you wish for......

09 August 2009 | Crescent City California!
Heidi
We waited in Newport for the forecast to the south of us to change from the light southerly winds to something north or northwest and that finally happened so we left Newport, OR Friday morning bound for either Crescent City, or if conditions were favorable we'd spend an additional night at sea and go to Eureka.

The first day and night were great, even tho the winds were light so we had to keep the engine on to make much progress. We had smooth seas and a big beautiful moon and enjoyed a restful night getting plenty of sleep. The forecast was for the wind to pick up a little the next day, so we were happy to be sailing in light winds by morning. We were hoping that they would pick up to the forecast 15 knots so we could have a nice sail the rest of the way.

Then the forecast changed. Now they were saying 10 to 20 knots with gusts to 25. That would be fine -- Cetus likes good wind for downwind sailing and we were ready. The thing we didn't like was the "dangerous seas" warning they were issuing for small craft. Now we aren't really considered small craft, so usual small craft warnings aren't bad for us, but the dangerous seas got our attention. We knew that would be a result of the "mixed swell" they had in this area (they get a swell from the South as well as from the Northwest making for some choppy seas) with the added wind waves from the increasing winds.

By noon we were sailing along smartly, and keeping a wary eye on the sea state. We'd put up our storm sail up in the morning so we wouldn't have to worry about accidental jibes or dealing with trying to take the mainsail down in heavy winds. We found in the past that it works well for downwind sailing because it doesn't block the wind to the genoa.

By 2 we were having gusts to 33. Again, it wasn't the wind that was bad, but the sea state. They were big, but not dangerous. The only worry was that it would get worse -- because we've been in bigger seas and winds down off Cape Mendocino and know how quickly they can come up. Terry started hand-steering (instead of using the autopilot) so we could surf the waves without getting broadside to them (they weren't big enough to knock us down at all -- but makes for uncomfortable rocking). I would sit looking back at the approaching seas and tell him when it was necessary to turn. I also kept an eye on the chart plotter and other instruments to ensure that we were still on track.

The most difficult part was when we needed to turn into Crescent City. That meant working through the waves putting them at our beam. By this time we had just the storm sail up with the engine running to give the the most control. Now the worry was what were the conditions in the harbor? If it was blowing 30 out here what would we find inside?

Luckily, another cruising couple had left Newport before us and were already in Crescent City. Over the phone they were able to give us the scoop and we happily pulled into the dock with 20 knot gusts and someone to grab our lines!

It was a good day.
Vessel Name: Cetus
Vessel Make/Model: Fantasia 35
Hailing Port: Gig Harbor, WA
Crew: Terry & Heidi Kotas and Street Cat Rosie
About:
TERRY & HEIDI got into sailing together 30+ years ago when they purchased their very first sailboat, a 7 foot long "Sunflower" that they played with and learned enough about sailing to get them hooked. [...]
Extra:
CETUS is the constellation of the whale. When we were purchasing this boat, we knew we wanted to change the name because the owners had had some trouble with customs in Fiji due to another boat by the same name (then Illusion) having done something illigal and the boat name was "flagged" in [...]
Cetus's Photos - Main
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Removing the teak deck, fiberglassing, sanding, painting then putting on the Kiwi Grip
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Troncones, Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo
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travels between Santa Rosalia and La Paz in October and November 2011
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Sailing around Santorini on a crewed catamaran
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Our trip to the old mining town was a real delight
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Packing food and supplies for our 3rd Blue Water cruise
11 Photos
Created 30 May 2009
Bon Voyage and Retirement Celebration at the Gig Harbor Yacht Club May 9, 2009
93 Photos
Created 13 May 2009
Photos showing the tearing out of the old refrigerator and building a new one.
36 Photos
Created 10 April 2009
A collection of pics from our time sailing through these beautiful atolls
18 Photos
Created 8 October 2008
Our first trip to the San Juans in 10 years!
12 Photos
Created 8 October 2008
A few shots of our first cruising boat Cassiopeia in the South Pacific 1992 - 1994
7 Photos
Created 26 August 2008
Cetus in the South Pacific
12 Photos
Created 26 August 2008

The Cetus Crew

Who: Terry & Heidi Kotas and Street Cat Rosie
Port: Gig Harbor, WA

Where in the world are Terry & Heidi?

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