Top Gun and Foreign Policy
12/17/2007, Isla Espiritu Santo, Sea of Cortez
"Hey Maverick, are you going to want to buzz the tower again?" I half expected Andrew to quip as we approached two charter catamarans anchored in Bahia San Gabriel,Isla Espiritu Santo. I deserved the jab given our last anchoring episode. No I thought, we can anchor like regular yates this time. My ego was fully satiated as we had received cheers and applause for sailing off our anchor this morning from a nice couple from San Francisco. I am not sure they realized but, it is only half as hard weigh anchor under sail than to set anchor under sail. Still we enjoyed the applause.
I had met the couple from San Francisco the day before at the impromptu party at the Giggling Marlin. They had started a veterinarian clinic which had blossomed and now afforded them the opportunity to cruise for 6 months out of each year in a nicely fitted Columbia with lots of new kit. During the party they had mentioned several times that they were the boat flying the United Nations flag. Fortunately no one had bitten on this obvious political comment, probably because politics and religion are generally forbidden subjects on boats.
I thought to myself what fair weather citizens we have become. Frankly this is not the first time we have witnessed similar political comments by US yachts in foreign countries. Several times we have seen US yachts either not flying the America flag, flying a very small US flag or like in this instance flying some other flag.
I suspect in some way these boat are trying to show their empathy with the global populist disdain for recent US policy. Okay fair enough, to each his or her own, I do not want to enter this political debate, I will make my political comment at the polls. However I think using the Flag this way often has the opposite effect. Many of the locals you meet and deal with in a cruising yacht especially in developing countries would give their eye-teeth to live in a political and economic system like the US, just ask them. Look at how many Mexicans families pay their life's savings to risk life and limb trying to get across the border. Try explaining to them why you are not flying the Flag on what must be perceived as the ultimate luxury, a private yacht. I suspect they might find your political comment at best confusing and at least hypocritical.
Okay sorry for ranting. This is why wine and blog writing is dangerous. But in all seriousness, if I have only learned one thing from our 3 years cruise to 26 different countries, it is how fortunate it is to be a US citizen or citizen of the other handful of countries with a truly stable democratic political systems. Cisnecito maybe a Spanish name but we are US citizens, she is a US yacht and therefore flies the Stars and Stripes, one inch of length for every foot of waterline consistent with that maritime tradition.
Fun With Other Cruisers
12/15/2007, Los Muertos, Sea of Cortez
We left Los Frailes at 1 AM hoping to make it to La Paz before the heavy northerlies from the high over Salt Lake City wrecked our world and pinned us down somewhere. After beating and motor sailing a few points off dead up wind in heavy chop for seven hours we were getting close to Ensenada Los Muertos which is a good anchorage for heavy northerlies but still 60 miles from La Paz.
At first I wanted to continue so we bore off on port tack to look at the infamous Cerralvo channel east of the anchorage. As we got closer it looked pretty heavy. Of course we can make it a lousy 28 miles through some piss ant little Sea of Cortez channel if we have the will. After all this boat has doubled Cape Agulhas twice, beat 850 miles to New Zealand mostly in a gale, blah....blah...blah. The problem is I do not have the will. I am tired, we have been pushing too hard for too many miles and it has worn me thin. Plus Julie is at home for family reasons, not that Andrew is not excellent crew but not having Julie here saps the fun out of it for me.
In disgust, I whipped the helm around and tacked a back towards the anchorage. Andrew seeing the change in direction and sensing my mood said "yeah whatever you want to do...man." The anchorage was looking pretty full, probably first time cruisers from the Baja Ha Ha rally just down from San Diego with all brand new gear, more hours on their engines than on their sails, completely enclosed dodgers, and freshly fitted boats straight from the States. Okay I know that sounds bitter but I was.
It was windy, so for kicks and giggles I told Andrew to prepare to anchor under sail. Yeah we are a little low on diesel but not enough to warrant anchoring under sail in a windy anchorage loaded with boats but I was irritable and somehow I thought exercising a little seamanship i.e., showing off, might appease my frustration with everything.
We tacked up wind of the anchored fleet and bore off on a broad reach under main only directly toward the center of the anchorage. It was mid morning and everyone in the anchorage was enjoying their coffee, what perfect timing. We blasted down the center of the anchorage weaving in and out of the anchored boats close enough to make some worry and definitely close enough for all to come on deck.
Andrew got the anchor ready to drop in and instant as is required in these situations. In this mood, I would not be happy unless we stuck the hook dead center of all the boats so like I was in my 14 foot Laser and not in a 46 foot 15 ton Swan, I threw the helm over to jibe. Casually so as not to ruin the effect I walked forward and grabbed the mainsheet to pull the boom over. Actually, it was beautiful jibe, as luck would have it. The boom came over and landed softly on the opposite jibe. We kept turning until we headed directly upwind. Then I backed the main until we lost all speed. It seemed like a long time until she stopped but we were dead center of the anchorage and a perfect spot to drop the hook. At of the corner of my eye I could tell we had an audience. I watched the bubbles next to the boat to tell when she has lost all speed and she begins drifting backwards.
Andrew casually standing on the bow dropped the hook and we kept backing the main to keep the her in reverse. Soon we pulled tight on the chain and so we dropped the main which came down with out a hitch. Then surprisingly, Andrew ran aft which I quietly but sternly told him to walk as it was ruining the casualness of our otherwise flawless anchor under sail. He sternly told me that he had oatmeal cookies cooking and my requirement that this whole thing look like an Sunday stroll was endanger of burning them. Oh well so much for subtlety.
Although it was kind of fun I did not feel any better. Shortly after, I heard all the boats in the anchorage organizing an afternoon in the Giggling Marlin Cantina ashore. So I set up Julie's kayak to paddle ashore. I almost broke in to tears pumping up the kayak as I thought to how much Julie loves this kayak and how she cried when we lost her first one in a storm off Mozambique, Africa. Okay I was a little over emotional but that is probably pretty obvious by now.
I paddled ashore leaving Andrew to nap (we had begun sailing at 1 AM), and walked up to the Giggling Marlin. As I walked through the entrance and looked for a spot to sit I was warmly greeted by all of the yates and invited to sit with them. What a surprise it was. They were a really nice group and very interesting. We received several complements on our anchoring job but I was little embarrassed for having pulled such a stunt.
I especially enjoyed the couple off the 65' steel cutter Danzante III. He had been a Professor of Marine Biology at UCLA for 25 plus years and she was a high school Biology teacher. They had done lots of cruising and had run the Berkeley Marine Biology center on Moorea, in the Society Islands which Julie and I had attended a barbecue at when we were anchored in there in Cook's Bay a couple years prior.
Also there was another fun couple from Newport Beach on a sport fisher named Conquest. They were really nice and fun to talk as they had recently come from Newport and stopped at all the places we need to stop going the opposite way. Also it is always nice to get the chance to speak to owners of sport fishing boats as they really know how to fish which might be helpful for our efforts.
I guess we have been kind of isolated for a while so it was really nice to socialize. I wish Julie could have been here as she would have enjoyed these people. Now I am actually sad that the weather is supposed to break on Sunday as I would have like more time with our new friends. Perhaps, our paths will cross again.
Exploration, Climbing, Aussies, and Fish Taster's Plate
12/08/2007, Los Frailes
We had a fun day yesterday. In the morning we did a little dinghy exploration of the point and beach along the bay. We happened on a school of tens of small rays swimming very close together with the tips of their wings breaking the surface.
In the afternoon we climbed up the rocky hill behind Los Frailes point which is about 750 feet high. There is no trail but it is pretty easy to walk up the rocks and through the scrub. It took us about 45 minutes to get to the top. The view on top was really nice. We could see both sides of the point. The picture above is from the top facing north towards Cabo Pulmo. We plan to snorkel the Pulmo reef today.
Around sunset the young Australian couple on the boat next to us ("Shambala") came over for sun-downers and to exchange information. They sailed from Australia through Micronesia, Japan, and Alaska before working there way down the West Coast of North America to Mexico. It was a good time and fun to talk with some other world cruisers.
During our cocktail hour another boat close to us broke out a trumpet and serenaded the anchorage. He was very good and fittingly played "Tequila" for the final encore.
For dinner we did a mixed fish taster's menu with ginger wasabi marinated ahi, teriyaki mahi mahi, and spicy rubbed spotted mackerel. The clear cut winner was the ahi but the sierra was a close second. Of course fresh mahi mahi is no slouch either.
We also enjoyed some margaritas, more of Tom's wine, lively discussions, and the "Ocean Oasis" nature video of Baja California. It was a good day.