26/05/2010, Los Muertos
I have a few days to get to Cabo so I am day sailing and pausing to enjoy the anchorages if the mood is right. I was going to leave today but it was so nice to slow down and relax. I just stayed. I snorkelled for a couple of hours in the afternoon and speared 4 small fish for supper - they sure looked big under water.
Evening decended slowly and I was almost ecstatic taking in the beauty around me. A gentle surf crashed rhythmically on the beach. I poured a glass of Madiera and then swayed in the hamock enjoying the setting sun and the purple hues on the ocean. I light breeze caressed my salty skin, and I relaxed. Soon the light of the full moon was reflecting off of the wavelets, and I felt at peace. Completely.
During that magical hour, even my lonliness vanished.
25/05/2010, Cerralvo Channel
My first journey alone on the boat went very well. I felt ready to leave La Paz and head down the California Sur peninsula. After helping someone on the dock with a loose refrigeration compressor belt, I headed out a little late. I had mostly good wind and really enjoyed the day.
I fished along the way and caught 2 skipjack. The second one was a little bigger and I struggled to get it to the boat as I was unable to do much to slow the boat down while under sail. While unhooking the fish some blood landed on a stern step and made it very slippery. I imagined slipping off the boat. I knew that I could swim the mile to shore, and the water was quite warm. But where would the boat stop, sails up and autopilot steering a straight heading south? Twas a good reminder to always be cautious. I pulled into Bahia de los Meurtos at dusk and anchored for the night. It is a little easier with help.
23/05/2010, La Paz
(Photo is of a different National car parked at a hotel. Two Officers seem to be awaiting the driver)
La Paz is an easy place to stop. It means 'the Peace'. We have been here a week and the journey will now be very different. Lisa, Katryn, and Zach are in Canada, and I will head for California. The passage ahead is referred to as the Baja bash because it is usually an uphill slog, mostly done by diesel combustion. Wind and wave swell can be strong from the wide open Pacific (also means Peace??) ocean and is usually North-North-West, or to be more blunt, directly against you. San Diego is about 1000 nautical miles from here.
I drove my family in a rental car the 200 km. to the Cabo San Jose airport so they could catch their Westjet flight home. There were two pieces of information that I was fortunate to have for this trip. Someone who came to visit us described being pulled over by the police in their rental vehicle. It had an expensive outcome. I also read an article in a local paper for visitors called the Gringo Gazette of how difficult it is to discourage a system that promotes bribes. Fortunately the article also described the appropriate action to take if you are stopped for a traffic violation...
We crammed the small car with luggage and headed off. It was the first time I had driven this year. I was concentrating fully on driving perfectly. There was a lot to watch out for. I was completely stressed and probably the biggest traffic hazard in La Paz. I was coming to a complete stop at every stop sign. I quickly realized that to everyone else driving, the big red octagonal ALTO means even less then your average yield sign where I come from. It quickly became a terrifying process to be following rules that no one else was. Before we even got out of La Paz, a police pickup truck had me pulled to the side of the road. In little bits of English and Spanish, he informed me that I had failed to yield to a pedestrian. It had happened 4 blocks back. I remember the women standing on the corner and I remember coming to a complete stop. I was watching our eminent rear-ending in the rear view mirror as no one else was expecting me to actually stop at the stop sign, and a vehicle to my right, making a right turn into my direction of travel, without stopping at the 4 way, and crossing to the inside lane, in front of the waiting pedestrian. I guess the tiny green National Car Rental sticker on our car was more visible then all the other traffic violations occurring.
The officer took my Driving License and pulled out a rate chart and pointed to my fine amount, 1125 pesos. It took me a moment to convert the amount. I owed about $95. I was frustrated, I had time though, and knew just a little about the system. We fumbled for a bit and then told him that we wanted to drive to the Police office to pay the fine and get a receipt. I motioned that I would follow him to the police station. Now he hesitated and then returned to his truck. We drove about a block and then he pulled over again. Now he stated that the Officina was closed so we would have to wait until Manyana, which means tomorrow (Sunday?????). I felt really trapped and didn't know what to do. I wanted to go to the office and pay the official fine, probably 15% of what was being required on the street. He then offered that I could just pay a reduced rate but get no receipt. My new fine was 400 pesos. I was pondering this, and the strange closure of the office, and what I should do, and what my kids might be thinking and I realized exactly what was happening. The Officer got a little jumpy as I pondered whether I should just pay him or press to go to the office. I was in the process of asking for a minute to decide what to do when he quite suddenly handed me my driving license and told me no problem. It seems our stalling, and vague understanding of the system made him nervous. The 400 km trip was a beautiful drive, and although very unnerving because I was determined to follow the rules even though this felt unsafe to do, it was uneventful. I was the only vehicle maintaining the speed limit, aside from a few overloaded trucks that were unable to drive the posted limit. Everyone else passed quickly, and often on a hill or corner.
From the closeness of living almost constantly together for the past year, and mostly on a space 38 feet x 22 feet for the last six months, my family and I parted. It is now very quiet, and quite lonely. I look forward to the next (and last) leg of the trip, and I look forward to being with my family again.
When I returned the car I asked the rental agent (Mexican) about my situation with the traffic violation. She admitted it was a bit of a problem. She was embarrassed but honest and I thanked her. She told me they face similiar trouble. Even though I had pre-booked the car, I had to wait an hour for one of the staff to bring it from the airport in La Paz to the downtown location. The agent admitted to me that her staff had been stopped twice on the way over just delivering the car. Can you say target? Visiting on the dock at the marina, a gringo living here told me that it is appropriate to request paying at the office which is open 24 hours. He also said that I can hand over a copy of my ID but withhold official documentation. He said it can be very beneficial to request their badge number and Captains' name. I had to agree with him when he told me that it is quite understandable when you realize that the local police work 12 hour days and get paid about $500 a month.
I have had to be very careful counting change, and I learned the hard way to ask the price first (I couldn't at that point give the meal back). I have been stung when not paying attention, and know that some have taken advantage of my lack of Spanish. But overall, the Mexican people have been very warm, and friendly, and it has been very good to learn a little about a people I knew nothing about.
23/05/2010, Isla San Jose
We have many photos of our boat at anchor but almost none under full sail. I pleaded with Lisa to chase me in the dinghy to get a few pictures of Tenacious Grace in all her glory. Conditions were good and I was thrilled when she took on the brave challenge. My idea of "hot" docking the dinghy to the sailboat and then towing it didn't quite work, but overall it was a great success. Thanks girl.
23/05/2010, 24 54.891
We had an enjoyable time journeying south from Santa Rosilia exploring Islands and anchorages along the way. Spending time with "Liberty" and then "Qualchan" was a treat.
We had explored the ghost town and salt ponds a little at Salinas Bay - Isla Carmen but were barred from seeing more the next day so I was thrilled to find another similiar salt extraction operation that had also been shut down, a little further South on our journey. It was smaller and only had a few crumbling buildings and vehicles, but there was no "caretaker" on Isla San Jose' at Salinas Pt. to impede my goal of a 'soak'.
Even though the evaporation pond was only about 8 inches deep, I was floating in about 4 inches of supersaturated salt water. That was a fun experience. Lisa even braved the sting and got in.
A dinghy trip around the point brought us to a shore reported to occaisionaly have paper nautilous shells. These are actually egg sacs of pellagic octopi that fit on their heads like a hood. Lisa was really hoping to find one of these very fragile treasures. She did. I will add a few more photos to the photo album.
22/05/2010, La Paz, Mexico
My question to you is "to blog or not to blog?" After all, this is sailblogs.com and today is the day I step off the wonderful Seawind catamaran that has been my home for the last 10 months and I once again become a land lubber!
Without waiting for your insightful reply, I will carry on with the blog until there is nothing more to add, no more residual effects still changing who we are as individuals and as a family.
My mind is awhirl as I have one bare foot on the boat and one foot in a pair of hiking boots more suitable to land life. I should be out laying in the sun even though its only 8 in the morning; after all, it's snowing back home. I should be out wandering the streets looking for that last elusive street taco or elotes con crema (basically corn in a cup with mayo, butter, lime, chili and cheese - incredibly delicious and my hips can attest to my infatuation with this culinary delight). And yet, I find myself trying to just breathe. To not think about not sailing Tenacious Grace out of this channel, not snorkeling, not kayaking, not buddy sailing with new friends....okay, now I'm appropriately sad!
My face is set towards my homeland and I eagerly anticipate long hours of coffee/wine visits telling our adventures/ordeals but am stymied at being prepared to sum up in a few scant sentences how we have been changed. Yeah, right! There are no easy answers to the upcoming, anticipated questions; "What was your favorite anchorage? How has this changed you? What was the best part of the whole experience? Would you do it again? Why are you going back to land life? I thought you were going to cruise for two years; why stop after just one?" How can I possibly answer these with any honesty without a month to debrief first?
After all, life on a sailboat is much slower than on land. We travel at an average of eleven kilometers an hour (six miles/hour) and nothing happens quickly. I am awestruck that I can leave Mexico at four in the afternoon and be back in Canada by eight pm! This is so fast! People scurrying, hurrying, intent on their purposes and their quiet lives of desperation (thanks Ralph).
My questions that remain unanswered and avoided due to fear of their answers run more along the line of, "What will I do next? How will I handle settling into a routine? Will I become dull? Will my world be too small to fulfill my wanderlust? Will we dare to risk another adventure? What will life after sailing really be like? Will I miss it so much that I will want to do it again? Could I even admit that if it became my reality?"
And so my mind is being scattered to the four winds and I try in vain to grasp my thoughts before they float away; ineffectually, I might add. All I can do today is put my bare foot in my other hiking boot, strap on my pack, drive to the airport and meet my new life with an open mind.
ps. If you are wondering why I didn't mention any thoughts regarding my wonderful, passionate husband single handing the boat back up the Pacific Ocean to San Diego, it is because I am trying not to think about it. Those thoughts are much too scary at this time in my life. I love him and he is a brave man. I pray for his safety, that he would find rest and that the journey will be all he hopes it to be.