Maren and Connor are flying into Puerto Vallarta on Feb. 5th. We can't wait to see them! It will be our first reunion of all four of us in over two years. We don't know when or where we'll be able to get together next so we are really excited about this opportunity to meet in Mexico. It should be fun as there are lots of opportunities for sailing, surfing, Stand Up Paddle (SUP), dining out, music, and maybe even a beer can race. After the kids leave, we'll stay in Banderas Bay until we "puddle jump" to French Polynesia in March. This gives us about three weeks to explore the Mexican coastline before the kids arrive and we plan to continue south, primarily in search of places where we can swim and snorkel.
We are always amazed by the amount of sea life in this area. We see whales and dolphins on a daily basis. The fish we see when snorkeling look like first cousins of the fish we see in the Caribbean - same shapes, different colors. Puffer fish are everywhere and instead of hiding like their shy, Carib cousins, they are out in the open and prefer sandy bottoms to rocks or reef. One variety is bright banana-yellow, another is midnight blue with tiny iridescent white spots. There are trigger fish and angel fish, again with different markings than we've seen before. There is a gray, drab looking trigger fish that is used for ceviche. His more colorful Caribbean cousin was also delicious, known locally as "Ole Wife", but fished out years ago. It's nice to see the fish here thriving.
But, in all honesty, nothing compares to the Virgin Islands in terms of water color and clarity. That's because the Virgin Islands are so small and dry that there is little run-off to cloud the water or turn it green with algae. Our charter guests were surprised to see so much cacti in the islands, expecting the tropical lushness associated with islands like Hawaii. But small land masses do not create large clouds. Rainfall in the VI averages about 20 inches a year. Hard on the flora and fauna but perfect for maintaining crystal clear water. Here in Mexico there are lots of rivers and estuaries emptying into the ocean. The water is not clear but it is nutrient-rich supporting large populations of fish. We are looking forward to French Polynesia and snorkeling their legendary waters that (hopefully) will surpass anything we've seen before.
Snorkeling aside, we've enjoyed the bays that we've visited and are surprised by the number of long sand beaches that break up an otherwise rocky coast. Most coastal towns have a long, sand beach lined with thatch 'palapas' selling food and drinks to the beach-going crowd. There is usually a small fleet of 'pangas'(open skiffs) that fish the local waters and their entourage of pelicans. Often there is live music ashore and the instrument that carries farthest over the water is the tuba! It seems that Mexican music was heavily influenced by German immigrants and what we often hear sounds like a fusion of Mariachi and Polka!
Our favorite anchorage so far is Tenacatita. This is large anchorage with an undeveloped beach and access to a mangrove lined estuary that you can explore by dinghy. At the estuary entrance is a small campground frequented by vacationing Mexicans and a palapa serving drinks and their signature dish, rolle de mar - a shrimp wrapped in fish wrapped in bacon, cooked and served in an almond creme sauce.
But what makes Tenacatita really special is the community of cruisers who base there and especially the self-appointed 'mayor'. The Mayor, Robert, and his wife, Ms. Virginia, are classic tie-dyed-in-the-wool California hippies who, in the early '70's, were founding members of the commune, The Farm. The commune began with about 250 like minded hippies in a caravan of about 60 buses traveling cross country in search of a home and settling south of Nashville, TN. The commune was dedicated to subsistence living in harmony with nature and in its hay-day grew to a population of around 3,000. Robert and Virginia returned to California in the early '90's with their six children (the commune did not believe in birth control!). After their youngest left for college, they decided to become sea gypsies, spending winters in Mexico and summers back in California. Virginia has written a book about their lifestyle, "Harmony on the High Seas, When Your Mate Becomes Your Matey".
Robert is tall and lanky with a snowy pony tail and a twinkle in his eye. Virginia is petite with a braid that hangs to her waist. They are both warm, thoughtful, and generous with their knowledge and their time. Each Friday they host the 'Mayor's Raft-Up' as a meet and greet for cruisers passing through the area. Robert anchors his dinghy off a small, secluded beach known as "Good Dog Beach" and we tie alongside forming a circle of dinghies. Everyone brings their own happy hour libations and an appetizer to share with the group. Robert welcomes everyone, introduces himself, and throws out a theme. This weeks theme was "following your bliss". Everyone in turn introduces themselves, tying into the theme, while platters of food are passed around.
When my turn came I told one of my favorite stories - how I had learned to sail in New York Harbor in 1977 and sailed to Antigua in 1978. I camped on the beach at Cinnamon Bay, St. John and fantasized about meeting a handsome charter boat captain and living on a boat in the Virgin Islands. Six years later Bruce sailed into New York Harbor on a schooner and my dream came true - I "followed my bliss".
In addition to the weekly Mayor's Raft-Up, there are daily activities which the Mayor announces every morning on VHF radio. At 1:00 anyone can join Ms. Virginia's swim to the beach - really a swim and chat - accompanied by Robert in their dinghy who guarantees our safety from any pangas that might cross our path. On the beach we have game of boccie ball. While playing boccie, a volleyball net is set up for a not-too-competitive/anyone-from-8-to-80-can-play game. This is followed by yoga under the palms led by a young mother whose children play on the beach while dogs nap under the beached dinghies and everyone else enjoys a cold beer and maybe Mexican Train dominoes at the palapa. By 5:00, when the no--see-ums start to come out, everyone heads for their respective boats.
When we left Tenacatita we said our farewell on the morning radio net, thanking everyone for making 'Camp Tenacatita' so much fun and giving credence to the adage, "It's never too late to have a happy childhood."
Arrived in Punta de Mita on Christmas eve. A St. John boat, Midnight Blue, was anchored there and we looked forward to meeting them. On Christmas morning they toured the anchorage by dinghy wearing Santa hats and delivering Christmas greetings and homemade cookies. We introduced ourselves, quickly realized we had many friends in common, and they invited us to a Christmas dinner (lobster!) with other cruisers. We are so grateful for the easy friendship of cruisers who help to make up for friends and families we've left behind in order to pursue this lifestyle.
Next stop, La Cruz de Huanacaxtle. Huanacaxtle is a local tree and the story goes that a woman was buried beneath the tree and a cross was carved into the trunk. People would say "meet me at the tree with the cross (in Spanish: La Cruz de Huanacaxtle) and hence the name of the town. It is a very charming town, about 6 blocks by 6 blocks. Cobble stone streets and lots of beauganvilla. This is a favorite gringo hangout so there are many businesses and restaurants catering to the ex-pat crowd.
Street tacos are an institution on this coast. A vendor sets up a cart or stall and makes one kind of taco (fish or carne asada). Like the hot dog carts in the states, you get your basic taco and add fixin's - fresh salsas, guacamole, chili sauces, etc. At $1-$2 per taco, it's a real bargain. In La Cruz, this concept was taken to the next level - a large open air restaurant called Tacos on the Street. They serve only one item - carne asada done on the grill - and you order how many tacos, tostadas or quesadillas you want. If you want beer, they leave a bucket of beers on ice at your table and you help yourself. A waitress passes through with a tray of incredibly good flan and you take one if you are so inclined. Every item is about $1-$2 and delicious. They are only open 4 nights a week and are packed. A simple concept that works.
There's lots of live music in La Cruz, as well as one of the best craft and farmers markets I've ever been to, and a fresh fish and seafood market that is open 7 days a week. Then there are the usual cruiser activities - beer can races on Wed. night, Mexican train dominoes, swim club, volleyball, spanish classes, yoga.... it's easy to settle in and never leave. I refer to the lifestyle as summer camp for adults!
But we don't like to stay in marinas and we want to maximize our sailing time in Mexico since we are planning to head out to the Marquesas in March. We are back 'on the road' and cruising south. As we leave Banderas Bay (and Puerta Vallarta) behind, we are also leaving behind high rise condos and air pollution.
After a mellow overnight sail, we are currently in a beautiful quiet anchorage, the air is so fresh, and there are no shore side lights to compete with the stars. Feels so good! We constantly see whales spouting, usually one large plume of water with a smaller plume alongside - a cow and calf swimming in tandem. The weather has been on the cool side at night but the daytime sun is hot and we hope to explore the outlying islands tomorrow and get in some much needed snorkeling. Too much good food and cheap beer and not enough excersise!
Happy New Year - may we all have love, peace,and joy in our lives. Bruce and I are filled with gratitude and send our love to all our friends and family. You are in our thoughts daily and we miss you and look forward to crossing paths again soon!
We arrived in Mazatlan on mainland Mexico after a tortuous sail over from the Baja. Tortuous because, based on forecasts of very light winds, we left at 6:00 pm allowing for a 36 hour passage, and we probably should have left 6 hours later. It was important that we make landfall in daylight as we would be unable to enter the narrow, shallow channel to the marina in the dark. Instead of 7 knots of wind, we had 17. At one point we rolled up the jib, double reefed the main, and we still couldn't slow down enough to avoid arriving in the middle of the night. When we arrived, there were fishing boats everywhere setting out nets and lines. We had heard horror stories about getting fouled up in nets and that long lines could trail a mile and a half behind a boat. So we were pretty frazzled and confused, snapping at each other and trying to figure out what to do. To me it appeared that we were in the middle of a circle of fishing boats. "Let's just get out of here!" was my typically chicken sh*t suggestion. Fortunately sounder minds prevailed and Bruce steered us through to an anchorage behind a small island. It was listed in the guidebook as a day-time
anchorage only but with our wind and sea conditions that night, it was in the lee and a perfect spot for some much needed sleep.
We had been told that we could give Mazatlan a pass as there was nothing special to recommend it. We, however, need to haul and paint the bottom of the boat before heading out to the South Pacific in March and we determined Mazatlan might be the best place to accomplish this. So, instead of hauling at the end of our time in Mexico, we decided to do it now, as Mazatlan is on the way to where we plan to be in the coming months.
I think this is our fifth boat yard experience in the past 13 months! AMARYLLIS in Puerto Rico last November, PUMA in Curacao April, again in the boatyard in San Diego for 6 weeks when we pulled the mast in Sept./Oct., and now in Mazatlan. I'm not kidding when I say Bruce takes me to boat yards instead of resorts! We've been "on the hard" for 9 days and hope to 'splash' day after tomorrow. Three days ago Bruce scavenged a big packing crate and brought it over to the boat and said, "Look, I've got a work bench!" "Oh no," I replied, "now you're never gonna want to leave!" But the last coat of paint is going on this morning (Saturday) which gives Bruce all day Sunday to polish the top sides, and we WILL splash on Monday!
A word about the boat yard. It is run by the government and is fairly new and very clean. The yard appears to be run by three young women, all very competent and friendly. This is the first time I've seen a women running the travel lift. The bathrooms/showers are immaculately clean and look like something you'd find at a fancy resort. There is a large, breezy lounge for boaters to use with a book swap and free wifi. I set up my sewing machine and did a bunch of small projects and also found some good reads.
Our boat, at 22 years, is about the most modern boat in the boat yard. We are surprised at the number of full-keeled boats here. Bruce, whose first two boat were schooners, can't believe that someone would choose such a slow design! When Bruce and I were shopping for a boat we had a few rules:
1. No full keels. It's an ANCIENT design and sooooo SLOW. We don't want to have to wait for 20 knots of wind to leave port (or spend all our money on diesel to get anywhere).
2. No split rigs. Ketch rigs (two masts) are great when you want to reduce the size of your sails to make hoisting sails more manageable. But on the size boat we were looking for - 46 ft. or less - smaller sails are not an issue (Bruce can still hoist a full mainsail) and will only make the boat SLOW.
3. No teak on the outside of the boat. Shiny wood trim makes a boat look great but the reality is that, in the tropics, the sun burns through varnish in about two months. Laying down 3-6 coats of varnish (and sanding between coats) on your hands and knees in the hot sun for 90 ft of cap rail is NOT our idea of a cruising lifestyle. Oh, and no teak decks as they are HOT and need to be replaced after about 10-15 years and with our budget we are only looking at boats older than that. And teak is VERY expensive as most of the world's supply has been used up :(.
So check out our boat. The only thing SLOW about Pacific Hwy is the crew. But, from the looks of the boats in the boat yard, it seems that a lot of people still think a full keel, traditional boat is the way to go.Take a look at our neighbors.
This Choy Lee is a beauty, built in Taiwan back in the 70's or 80's when labor and teak were cheap. This boat says "ROMANCE" - every landlubbers idea of what a sail boat should look like. As you can see, the owners have had canvas covers made to completely cover both wood masts (to protect the varnish) and have also made canvas covers for the cap rail. Because maintaining all that teak is VERY EXPENSIVE! And the full keel makes this sleek looking boat VERY SLOW!
Here's another full-keel boat - very nice looking and also VERY SLOW. The yard workers are replacing the teak deck - a very laborious process that can cost as much as the boat is worth.
But enough about boatyards and boats. What about Mazatlan. Well, it's a CITY with about 500,000 people. The marinas are fairly new and very nice and there is a lot of new construction of condos though much of the retail space is empty. Here's a sign in front of an already out-of-business establishment that sums it up.
A lot of cruisers choose Mazatlan as their base of operation. The weather is just about perfect - warm sunny days and cool nights. There are many American chain stores (Walmart, Home Depot, Auto Zone) to take the mystery out of shopping in a foreign country. There is a great bus system that takes you anywhere for less than a dollar.
The most popular destination is Old Mazatlan and here is an account of my
travels there and my impressions of Mazatlan.The marina is conveniently located on a major bus route so it is easy to hop on a very nice air-conditioned bus that costs about 85 cents. First we drive through the "Golden Zone" which is a strip of high-rise hotels, fast food places like Burger King and Dairy Queen, cheap tourists shops, and Senor Frog Official Stores every 3-5 blocks. What is up with this Senior Frog? It's like the Hard Rock Cafe of Mexico.
Then you drive along the Malecon, which is a walkway along the beach that goes for about 3 miles. This is also a tourist area but the beach is pretty and it's a nice drive. At the end of the beach the bus heads into Old Mazatlan. First you pass the flower district where cut flowers are sold. Then you pass the Shrimp Ladies - about two block of venders with vats of iced shrimp, fresh off the boats, ranging from small to HUGE. Next you are in an area of stores selling all sorts of cheap goods and finally, the end of the bus line, the public market. The public market takes up a square block. One side is butchers and fish sellers. Port, beef, and chicken is cut to order. Everything is FRESH and there are no flies and there is no smell.
On the other side of the market are the fruit and vegetable venders. Everything is very orderly and not at all intimidating to the novice. There are also venders selling liquados, tacos, and sweets.
Continuing on, there is the cathdral (which I did not photograph) and lovely town square surrounded by restaurants and a theater. A group of young people were rehearsing Romeo and Juliet (in Spanish) in the park. I found this hotel in the historical district with a sign saying, "As for me, I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts: Herman Melville, In Mazatlan, March 28-April 16, 1844."
Mazatlan appears to have a thriving economy (a lot based on tourism but it is also a port city) and a strong middle class. Everyone seems to have disposable income for shopping and eating out.
And most Mexicans here are FAT! There are lots of fitness centers - an industry born from people becoming increasingly out of shape! We saw almost no "street people" - something you see lots of in American cities. It could be a cultural thing - perhaps extended famiiles absorb the unemployed and so there is not a 'homeless' problem. There is not an obvious military/police presence like you would expect to see in a Mexican city and everyone seems to feel pretty safe.
So that's my report on Mazatlan. We hope to splash on Monday, spend a day at the dock cleaning all the boatyard dust off the boat, and then take off for points south. We're looking forward to locations that are not so heavily populated and spending time 'on the hook'.
We've spent Thanksgiving weekend (Thurs-Mon) exploring the islands off Las Paz - Espiritu Santos and Isla Partita - part of the National Marine Park. We've read comments from other cruisers who have been around the world and choose Mexico and the Sea of Cortez as their favorite cruising ground. We can see why. The water is warm, we could see the bottom, the anchorages were deserted or shared with one or two other boats. We were able to take hikes, see whales, dolphins, tropical fish, blue footed boobies, and catch the occasional fish for dinner. Paradise!
Tuesday night we left for the mainland - estimating a 40 hour sail. Our destination is Mazatlan and we timed our departure to arrive in daylight but this boat is too fast and we are ahead of schedule. Our first night started with perfect conditions - light air and calm seas and a full moon (in fact I penned this blog by moonlight). Later the wind picked up to about 13-15 knots and we reduced sail to slow the boat down. We don't want to arrive before sunrise on Thursday. Our schedule involves preparing two dinners, breakfast and lunch underway.
I've done a lot of cooking on boats, but mostly at anchor and mostly on catamarans. I'm still getting used to cooking underway on a gimbaled stove on a monohull. My 'refrigerator' is top-opening. This is the most efficient way to keep the cold air inside (as opposed to a more convenient front-opening door). The two hinged lids to the reefer are also my counter-space. This means I need to get everything I need out of the fridge before I start as it's difficult to retrieve a forgotten ingredient once I have converted my 'lid' to a cutting board. The reefer is so deep, I can't reach the bottom without laying across the stove (make sure it's not hot!) and diving down into the nether reaches. Organization of the food is of utmost importance. I've decided that I don't want to put raw meat (frozen or fresh) in the fridge because no matter how well it's packaged, it will sweat/leak something disgusting and require a total cleaning to get rid of the smell. This usually requires totally emptying the fridge and hanging upside down over the opening while swamping out with Clorox without getting asphyxiated in the process. So I've decided to fill my fridge with fresh produce, fruit, cheeses, fully cooked, vacuum packed meats like salami and kielbasa and, of course, beer. Bruce is OK with this. I've provisioned the boat with lots of quality rices and grains, pastas,legumes of every variety, and lots of spices. I buy hard squashes that keep forever. When I do buy a whole chicken, it goes right into the oven. So when I haven't been to market in awhile, it's a lot of beans and rice but our goal is to live simply and this diet should be very heart healthy, right?
We are pretty low on ships stores so yesterday before leaving the anchorage I made a focaccia bread. For dinner I improvised a stew inspired by an African soup I had tasted about 20 years ago. I had one yam left so I peeled it and cubed it and put it in the pressure cooker with a can of tomato sauce, a can of water, half a chopped onion, and cayenne pepper. I brought it up to pressure for 10 minutes, then turned off the stove to let the pressure come down and the yams finish cooking. Then I add about 3 stalks of celery, chopped, and stirred in big spoonful of chunky peanut butter. I had rice already cooked from the night before so it was a quick, easy, one pot meal. Bruce was sitting at the top of the companionway steps keeping me company. He asked what I was making and I lifted the lid to show him and mumbled something about an African stew. He said, "Looks like African Fart Storm to me!" I totally cracked up. "That's the PERFECT name! And tomorrow I'll make Moroccan Fart Storm with chick peas, and then Indian Fart Storm with Red Lentils and Curry!" We're also eating a lot of Mexican style food - homemade salsa, tortillas, beans, and any other ingredients I need to use up. But I've already named this style of cooking "Mexican Train Wreck". It sounds better than "Fart Storm" at cruiser pot lucks.
Bruce says as soon as we get to Mazatlan, he's taking me out to dinner!
I remember as a child going to hear a traveling revival preacher who was speaking at our church. He told a story of a small farming community suffering from drought. Every night the farm families would gather at the church and pray for rain. Then one night the skies opened and only one person was able to leave the church and go home - the little girl who had brought an umbrella. Obviously it was the faith of this one child that had brought the rain. I wanted to be that little girl and this led to years of religious guilt because, if prayers didn't get answered, it was because I didn't have enough faith. But I'll leave the subject of religious guilt to someone else. My story is about fish and beer. Because the other message in that parable is one that every Boy Scout knows, "Be prepared."
When making the decision to sail to Mexico instead of looking for employment, we reassured ourselves that we would be able to live modestly on cheap beer and fish tacos, assuming that Bruce would provide the fish. On the sail down the Baja peninsula we caught a small tuna and a small dorado (mahi) which was perfect for the two of us. We had lots of beer in the reefer and fish was abundant. Everything was going as planned.
Then Bruce snagged a beautiful dorado about 40 inches long. And it was a fighter. Sometimes with dorado, they'll flip on their sides when reeling them in. Once on their sides they are helpless and it makes bringing them in easy. But not this guy. He dove and jumped and fought - a spectacular sight. Bruce worked him for what seemed like an hour while I held the boat at about 1 1/2 knots. But when Bruce finally brought the fish along side, there was no way to get it on board. We didn't have a gaff hook. When Bruce tried to lift him with the fishing pole, the line snapped.
We agreed that such a beautiful fish deserved to live but Bruce didn't want it to happen again. In Cabo San Lucas, the sport fishing capital of Mexico, we looked for a gaff at the local fishing supply store. They had beautiful gaffs at fancy prices. Instead, Bruce bought a large hook for $6.00. He lashed it to our boat hook which attaches to a telescoping aluminum pole.
As we were lazing along in light air towards La Paz, Bruce put out a lure. Remembering the parable about the umbrella, I suggest to Bruce that if he REALLY expects to get a fish, he might want to put his new gaff on deck and also a knife. This advice is ignored.
Another thing I should mention about fishing, it seems you always get a strike at the least opportune time. The first big fish hit when Bruce was on the foredeck hoisting the spinnaker, which he then had to douse and secure and rush aft before all our fishing line spun off the reel. By the time he started reeling in, the fish was about a mile behind the boat! This time, just as he started reeling in, the wind picked up and the wind direction changed. I needed to slow the boat down to about 2 knots and it was a struggle. The auto pilot was useless so I had my hands full steering and easing sails, which were flapping and adding to the noise and chaos. Bruce got the fish alongside and needed the gaff which was in two pieces and stored in two different locations! I scrambled to get it put together and brought it to him but every time I left the helm, the boat would go in irons or tack through the wind. I had no idea how Bruce was going to hold onto the rod and gaff the fish at the same time. The fish still had a lot of fight left and dove under the boat. Cursing, Bruce moved back to the stern. "I'm going to have to bring it in back here," he shouted. I went forward to retrieve the gaff and bring it aft as the boat again went wildly off course. Bruce climbed over the life lines and down onto the small transom. I imagined him falling overboard with the pole and the fish and the gaff and think how I'd really rather be a vegetarian. He gaffs the fish, pulls it up and the lower telescoping section releases. He pulls it in again, and the second telescoping section releases! Bruce finally manages to pull in the fish but there's no room for it on the transom. "Throw it into the cockpit" I shout as I step out of the cockpit and forward onto the settee, now steering with the wheel behind my back. I can hear and feel the fish flopping on the cockpit floor behind me, spraying blood everywhere. "I need a knife!", Bruce shouts. Well, I think to myself, the knife is in the galley where you left it, waiting to be sharpened. Bruce is trying to hold down the fish with his thumb through the poor creature's eye and trying to kill it with the gaff hook. I relent and leave the helm and run down below to fetch the knife. Bruce gets the fish out of the cockpit and alongside where he can cut off the head. He had thrown a bucket of seawater into the cockpit so it is now awash with blood and fish gore (the boat builder didn't put drains where they need to be when the boat is heeled over!). I want to get back on course but, with the wind shift, that would be off the wind and our jib sheet is led inside the shroud for sailing close hauled. I'm afraid that, even with the sail eased and flapping, it will be too much load on the shroud. Bruce is cleaning up his mess. "As soon as you're free, we need to roll up the jib!" I tell him. Turns out he secured the fish by tying it to the jib sheet. "Throw the fish into the galley sink", I suggest. Easier said than done. Bruce manages to get the headless fish into the galley without dribbling blood everywhere and ties it off to the faucet. We get the jib rolled up and are now sailing at 7 knots with only the mainsail. Aurora, a Hyliss 46 that we have been 'racing' all day, catches up to us and calls us on the radio to confirm that the reason for our slow-down was a fish and not an equipment or crew malfunction. "Yeah, it's been like a Chinese fire drill over here", Bruce tells them on the radio. I considered that comment an undeserved insult to the Chinese.
Meanwhile, we are down to our last two beers. "You said in Cabo that we didn't need to buy beer!" Bruce says. This one is my bad. It's my job to keep the boat provisioned. I didn't think we had consumed that much beer on this trip but it has been almost three weeks since we left San Diego and it looks like we're dry. I don't know what throws me into more of a panic - running out of garlic, onions, or beer. Thank goodness we still have lots of garlic and onions. We anchor the boat and I pull the last two beers out of the nether reaches of the reefer and find a bonus third beer.
"Well, that was exciting," says Bruce, now that we are relaxing in a clean cockpit. "Think what we would have missed if we hadn't caught that fish." "What we missed," I reply, "is the best sailing of the whole day - 17 knots of wind on a broad reach." "We should probably give half this fish to Aurora" Bruce says. Aurora lost three expensive lures on the trip down and never caught a dorado. The wives flew back to the States from Cabo so there are two guys 'batching it" on board. "Why don't we invite them over for dinner," I suggest, "and they can bring the beer!" So that's what we do. They bring a boat bag full of beer and a bottle of wine. I make a huge dinner of mahi, potatoes, and Greek salad. We drink the wine. They tell me to keep the beer but I send it back with them because cruisers don't depend on other cruisers for beer.
The anchorage is a bit rolly and we go to bed exhausted. Something is loose and knocking about on the boat. I ignore it and try to go to sleep but it's persistent a getting louder. I pinpoint the sound - it's coming from my closet. I turn on the light to see what's unsecured. "Bruce, guess what's making the noise!" It's a can of beer rolling back and forth across a half case of beer, stowed at the bottom of my clothes locker.
I'd like to end this posting with something we saw printed on a t-shirt in Cabo. "Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he'll hang out on boats and drink beer for the rest of his life!
Our sail from San Diego to Mexico began Monday, October 29th. We've lived on Pacific Hwy, our Davidson 44, since April but this trip will be our 'real' offshore shakedown, Up until now we've sailed the boat only a handful of times with light air and mostly motoring. We have joined a rally of about 145 boats ranging from 28 feet to 85 feet sailing down the 750 mile coast of Baja California. Most have crews of four but a few, including us, have only two souls on board.
The first day the winds were light but on the beam so we reached with our asymmetrical spinnaker and charged to the head of the pack which pleased us. But at night the wind died and we motor-sailed at 5 knots while most of the fleet motored at 6 knots. After 12-15 hours, we were taking up the rear. When the wind filled in behind us we were able to sail and over the next 36 hours passed many of the boats in our division. As we approached the finish line, the boats that were able to sail deeper down wind finished ahead of us. We were a bit disappointed at being bested by, in our opinion, lesser boats (keep in mind that EVERYONE thinks their boat is the best :).
During the 2 1/2 day trip everyone was catching loads of fish! We have never sailed in water so full of marine life with lots of whale sightings and super-pods of dolphins as well as tuna, dorado (mahi), wahoo, and marlin. One boat hauled in 17 yellowtail the first day and there were reports of 40-57 inch dorados. Bruce and I enjoyed fresh-caught seared ahi our first night out and broiled mahi our second night, with fish tacos for lunch the next day.
The first leg of the trip ended in Turtle Bay, 300 miles down the Baja coast. There was a big meet and greet pot luck and fish BBQ on the beach. Bruce and I were still mulling our difficulties sailing dead down wind (DDW). We have a 17 ft. spinnaker pole on board that has probably never been used. What we really needed was a smaller, lighter (and easier to handle) whisker pole and we thought how nice it would be to trade the big pole for a smaller one somewhere down the line. But when.... and where....?
So after the beach party Bruce rigged the big pole so it would ready to use when the second leg of the rally started the next morning. We found it worked great with the chute and we were able to manage it with just the two of us on board. So far so good! After analyzing the shape of the chute for 3 or 4 hours, we tweaked the arrangement and picked up an extra knot and a half of boat speed (fast boat; slow crew - every day we learn more about sailing better and smarter). We cheerfully snapped photos of other boats under sail as we galloped past them! I think we'll keep the big pole. To quote our daughter, Maren, who races on a 40 ft boat in Morro Bay, "We flew the spinnaker and nobody cried!" Now that's success!
On another note, for those not familiar with offshore sailing, we sail around the clock and at night Bruce and I take turns at the helm while the other sleeps. This is not my favorite part of sailing. Some people find lonely night watches mystical and soothing and look forward to it but I get sleepy and bored and I am easily creeped out in the gloom when there is no moon and cloud cover blocks out the stars. In the absolute darkness, everything becomes eerie and strange. Once I thought I saw a ship on fire but it turned out to be a red moon rising behind a rock shaped like a ship. Our third night on this trip I had been on watch for about an hour and it was so black that I couldn't see the water four feet away alongside the boat. The wind picked up and shifted quickly and I struggled to settle the boat onto a new course while monitoring the sails and keeping track of the positions of the 8 or 9 boats sailing nearby. My anxiety level was already high when I started hearing gasping and slapping on the water all around the boat. It sounded like I was sailing through a sea of drowning sailors from some nearby shipwreck of Titanic proportions! The gasping for air and slapping continued for about 30 minutes. I had my hands full trying to steer a new course and couldn't shine a light on the water to check it out. I was relieved when it finally ended. Then I heard a loud barking from a sea lion somewhere behind us. He sounded angry and I imagined him saying, "How rude to sail through our colony when we were all sleeping so peacefully!"
Sunday morning. The weather is getting warmer and the water is getting bluer - more like the Caribbean and what we have been looking forward to after a chilly summer in Morro Bay. We're lazing along at 5 knots with barely any breeze. Most of the fleet is motoring but Pacific Hwy doesn't take much to get her going. We are very happy with our lively new home. Tomorrow morning we'll be at our second stopover where we've been told the water is warm enough to swim in! Oh, and tomorrow is also my birthday! Sweet.