02/01/2013, San Blas Islands
THE SAN BLAS ISLANDS - MOLAS, ULUS AND CHICHA
The San Blas Islands are the home to the KUNAS. The Kuna Indigenous Indians live in 50 communities scattered amongst the mainland of Panama and the San Blas Islands in the archipelago of the Caribbean coast of Panama.
When the Spanish arrived in Panama in the 1,600's, the tribes of the KUNA lived in the mountains. They slowly moved to the coastal areas and the islands to be away from wild animals, insects, other aggressive tribes and the Spanish invaders. Today nearly 60,000 KUNAS live a peaceful life in villages near rivers mostly on islands close to the shore. They are a strong nation of Indigenous people. Their territory is known as Kuna Yala.
Sea whisper has been cruising in the San Blas Islands for nearly 2 months. Fascinating and educational experiences we have had visiting the traditional KUNA villages and their families and learning how they live in nature gathering food each day and preserving the culture of their Ancestors.
SWIMMING, SNORKELING, AND REEF WATCHING
December 11, 2013
After an overnight stop in Portobello we sailed all day to our first tropical island, the Chichime Cays. We've arrived in the San Blas!!!! We have so much to learn about Kuna Yala, the KUNAS and their culture, and the villages and islands where they live. Navigating between the islands can be tricky. Routes have to be well planned out considering winds, weather, tides and currents. Coral can be a killer on the keel! Our friends Barb and Wil are onboard Sea Whisper for the next 2 weeks so it will be a magical time in Kuna Yala paradise for four excited Canadians. We are in awe of the natural beauty; the small palm-treed islands, the white sand and the turquoise waters. We spend our days swimming, and snorkeling in warm protected waters. We soon learned that Kuna Yala has some of the best snorkeling waters in the world. Each day we try to find fish we haven't seen before. In the clear waters, there are Angel fish, Parrot fish
Sergeant majors, Rainbow fish, Barracudas, Rooster fish, Gruppers and many more fish. My most favourite fish that I visited for a long time on a shallow reef was a Lion fish.
When we first arrived the Mola makers soon came alongside Sea Whisper in their dugout canoes to show off their wares.....their marvelous MOLAS. Barb and I invited the KUNAS onboard and soon the cockpit became a sea of MOLAS. There was every design imaginable....birds, fish, marine life and geometric designs. Before long we had our favourites and the bargaining and bartering began! On Christmas Eve I bought 2 Molas from the famous 'Mola Lisa' a well known transvestite in Kuna Yala. Some dollars, a bed sheet, a blanket and a headlamp, for Lisa to sew MOLAS at night, got me two lovely MOLAS! Fair deal we both thought.
There are reefs 7 miles long in San Blas. Moving around the anchorages and Islands in Kuna Yala is a dodgey business. Literally! We move slowly with the aid of GPS, maximum zoom on our electronic charts and most importantly, our eyes. Traveling at midday with the sun high above or behind allows for better visibility of the shallows and reefs. Climbing a little ways up the mast steps is the best means of spotting the reefs. We're getting lots of practice. Touch wood!! We were brave enough to glide Sea Whisper through some very narrow passages to secure a lovely private anchorage with our own Island 'Sugardup' for 6 days at Christmas. The KUNAS brought us lobster on Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day we cooked a chicken with all the trimmings in our little spot in paradise. Life is good.
ABOUT THE KUNAS
The 'Sahila' the Chief. There are 3 Chiefs in each village
Kuna Yala The Islands and mainland the Kunas control. It is a matrilineal society.
The Kunas Very small and muscled.
Women Dress in very colourful cotton clothes with gold earrings, gold rings in their noses, breast plates, beadwork on their arms and legs called 'Unini', orange headscarves and beautiful 'Mola' blouses with spectacular designs. The women control the money and choose their husbands who move into their house with a Machete.
The Sunmaket A chanter /healer who sings sacred songs for spiritual, mental and physical well being.
Villages In every village there are 2 very large huts....one a 'Congreso hut' and the other a 'Chicha' hut.
Kuna Huts Designed with a thatched roof made from palm branches and side walls made from bamboo cane.
Ulus Dugout canoes made in the jungle from a big tree and finished in the village. The Kunas paddle and sail everywhere. Their transportation!
Chicha An alcoholic drink made from fermented sugarcane and coffee and drunk to celebrate spiritual events, anniversaries of Kuna Independence and puberty rites for young girls.
Economy Mostly coconuts and bananas and the MOLAS made by the women
Molas Layers of appliqué cloth hand-stitched into abstract birds, and animals
LIFE IN THE VILLAGE
Log Entry January 20, 2013 Enroute 'Ustupu'
We are traveling with SV Lonely Planet from the Netherlands. USTUPU, the largest village in San Blas is our next anchorage. Three thousand people live in this crowded village. On shore the KUNA huts are jammed together, the KUNA women are making MOLAS and carting around metal pans and straw baskets and the children are running in every direction shouting 'hola, hola 'trying to catch our attention. The Elders are walking slowly in bare feet with their canes to the Congreso. The village scene is colourful, dusty and warm. And an atmosphere imbued with peace and harmony.
We met LENNIE, AN ELDER who spoke English. We had a fine conversation with him as he told us, in broken English, that he had worked in Panama with his forefathers. The next morning I continued my journey into the village. A friendly gentleman called out "Hola" and then "Hello." I stopped and turned. "Buenos Dias," I am Barbara from Canada. "I am BENJAMIN." I guessed that he too was an ELDER of USTUPU. He had nice trousers, a red shirt and bare feet. I looked at his feet as we continued our walk together on the gravel, dirt and tufted spiny grass. "No shoes? I remarked. "I like it like this, number 1!" was his quick answer. "How did you learn to speak English?" I asked.
"I worked in Panama many years ago for the Canal," BENJAMIN said. "And what did you do?" "Cocinar, Cocinar....cook, cook.... for the Americans." "Si, Si and what did you cook for them?" BENNIE, as he liked to be called, responded blatantly "American chow! I laughed out loud. I asked BENNIE when he was born. With his index finger he scratched 78 in the dirt....meaning his age of course. He told me he was a Medicine man in the village. We reached his grass hut. "Would you like to see my house?" I politely responded, "Si, Si." There outside sat his KUNA wife in colourful dress sewing the ubiquitous MOLA. "Come inside, this is my house." He was so proud of his house. I scanned the interior of the one room grass hut.....his 'casa'. Compact dirt floor, 2 hammocks, bamboo rods with clothes draped over, pictures of family hanging in a corner and a couple of tin basins on a wood table. Wow, down to basics I thought.....like camping! I looked around to see a kitchen, 'Cocina'. BENNIE pointed to another little hut outside. Thanking them graciously for their hospitality, I bought a little MOLA and was on my way.
MEETING LENNIE AGAIN
Down the street, I encountered Lennie who was on his way to the Congreso, the gathering place. He greeted me with "Where have you been?" We walked together and he talked to me about the Congress and the men who meet everyday to follow their KUNA traditions. He says he likes it. "I also like to sing," he tells me. "I like to sing also. I sing classical music." "I like to sing Cowboy songs. I have a record to listen to." I didn't expect a Kuna native to talk about Cowboy songs. I chuckled, stopped in my tracks at the village square and asked LENNIE if he could sing me a Cowboy song. "I like The Red River Valley." Could this be 'The Red River Valley' that my father and I used to sing together I thought? LENNIE sang the entire song with a KUNA accent. With tears in my eyes and almost tongue-tied I said "This was one of my father's favourite songs and he would play the violin and we would sing it together." I asked LENNIE to sing it again and together we sang 'The Red River Valley' in the middle of the USTUPU KUNA village. I looked up and a crowd of young people had gathered around us. Precious moments....precious memories.
At dawn the KUNAS launch their dugout canoes, ULUS, and head for the rivers and the mainland to work on their farms and paddle back canoe loads of bananas, coconuts, sugar cane and wood. They also collect water from the river and wash clothes. Near USTUPU Lionel, Wim and Matilda(our Dutch friends) and I took a journey up the SUGANDI river to view the jungle, the rain forest and spot birds and wild life. We soon came to the river banks where the KUNA cemeteries silently graced the landscape. There were many little
thatched roofs and clay graves displaying cooking utensils for the after life.
On January 23 , 2013
The day began with another river excursion to the Mono river. We spotted interesting birds but did not see the rare crocodiles. Paddling up the river we listend to the hush, then the jungle sounds, viewing the textures of vegetation tangled together: the bamboo, banana, coconut trees and the colours of hibiscus cascading over the river banks. The scene is intoxicating. We all express feelings of euphoria. The KUNAS in their ULUS paddle close to us and gesture with their hands to remind us not to us our outboard motor in this almost sacred place. "No lancha de motor." We nod affirmatively and respect the pure and rare beauty.
January 23, 2013
Leaving USTUPU early afternoon we pulled up the anchor and heard a voice "Bar bar a, Bar bar a." Lionel went quickly to the stern and then called, "Barbara, there is someone here to see you." I jumped up on deck. Who could it be? Along side Sea Whisper was an ULU with BENNIE, the ELDER, looking very bedraggled. He was returning from the river in his ULU with bamboo and coconuts. He came to say goodbye to Sea Whisper. Unbelievable, this 78 year old man had paddled up the river at the light of dawn to his farm plot to do a half a day's work and then paddle back home to his village. With his toothless grin he wished us a good voyage on Sea whisper.
Over the many weeks we have humbly watched ULUS paddling against strong currents and the formidable trade winds. We admire the KUNAS stamina, their muscle and the will to embrace each day with an indomitable spirit.
THE CHICHA HUT - Achitupu
It was a party! A KUNA family who came to our boat to demonstrate how to prepare and cook 'Breadfruit' suggested that we go ashore and take part in the 'Chitcha Fiesta'. The KUNAS were celebrating the anniversary of their Independence. Off we went for another KUNA adventure. We soon found the large Chicha hut filled with nearly a hundred women cavorting and dancing. Only women! They had spent several days collecting the cane, pressing the juice and fermenting the 'Chicha' concoction. It was time for the Fiesta! Matilda and I were invited to join in this KUNA ritual. Dim strands of light in the Chitcha hut were laced with cigarette smoke and the air was pungent with the 'Chitcha' as it made the rounds in coconut husk bowls. We danced! The KUNA women made us feel so welcome. The Chitcha hut vibrated with colour, motion and fervor. One Canadian, one Hollander and nearly one hundred Kuna women blending together in the 'Chitcha Fiesta'..
San Ignacio de Tupile
After our Dinghy ride to the Mono River we journeyed to this village. The dock was busy with the arrival of a Columbian freight boat bringing supplies to the KUNAS and of course many were attracted to the non KUNA dinghy arriving as well. There were friendly greetings and we soon asked about a Restaurante. No one on the dock could come up with a name but hand gestures and a few words implied that we could eat at someone's home. We wandered around in the heat of the day. A little impatient, I began to ask people as we passed by. "Dande preudo comprar de Restaurant. After 3 or 4
attempts to locate a restaurant house, a guy finally lead the way to a large grass hut near the edge of the sea. The four of us were invited in. We sat down on plastic chairs in the KUNA hut. Lo and behold 4 dinners appeared in front of us. Fish, rice, lentils and fried banana. The cost? $2.00 each. Traditional, delicious with grand hospitality. Four generations of the family appeared from nearby huts. Matilda bought a MOLA. Another grand Kuna story!
We have shared spectacular anchorages with sailing vessels from many countries of the world in San Blas. It has been a delight to see flags flying from boats of nations around the globe. Before we leave the Kuna Yala and this archipelago of 340 islands in a few weeks we will indulge ourselves in these beautiful islands, the coconut trees, sand beaches, the snorkeling reefs, and the KUNA easy way of life. A journey of a lifetime.
ALL THE BEST...MORE TO COME
Barbara and Lionel
SV Sea Whisper
[email protected] (remember if emailing on this address start a new email)
ADVENTURE # 8 COSTA RICA TO PANAMA
BAHIA DEL COCO - November 17, 2012
After sailing 6 days and nights we arrived at Bahia de Coco in Costa Rica. The feared Gulf of Tehauntapec is behind us and the Gulf of Papagayo did not beat Sea Whisper too badly...25-30 knot winds. The most amazing part of the Papagayo passage was the foamy phosphorescence bubbling everywhere as Sea Whisper sailed hard through the steep dark waves. For a moment we thought we were under 'the 60's black lights!' The mighty waves, the unrelenting wake and the salty spray spewed white fire as far as the eye could see. The night passed and we anchored at first light... almost 1000 miles non stop. We planned to check in but, being a Saturday, the officials were having a day off. We strolled through the streets, ate pizza and gelato. The place felt like an American seaside town with lots of souvenirs, motorized carts, bicycles and English speaking people in the stores. We bought food from the Mercado and buns from a lady on the street. It was time for Sea Whisper to press on.
BAHIA GOLFITO - November 20, 2012
This is a place where it rained cats and dogs! Built by the United Fruit Company, this company town and banana plantation covering thousands of acres was thriving from the 1930's to the 1970's. Cartons of bananas could be picked up floating in the bay when ships were being loaded. The town is set at the bottom of a mountainous jungle. The rain came down the mountain in torrents. Golfito has more rain than anywhere on the Pacific Coast. During torrential downpours we completed official entry and clearance.
BEAT UP BY A FISH
We were lucky to catch an 18 lb. shiny yellow Dorado(Mahi-Mahi) in Panamanian waters. Of course it is when we are sailing. So, with the boat heeling, we landed this guy onto the back deck! He was a golden and shining beauty. Of course I was screaming with excitement as this handsome fish flopped around. Lionel quickly told me I had to put a towel over its eyes and then it would calm down. While I held my grip Lionel was collecting the necessary implements to dissect him. Mr. Dorado kept quivering....and then his long endless tail suddenly stood up and whacked me on the bridge of my nose, my thigh and my back!! I thought my nose was broken. I let out a mega scream in pain, and fearing that this powerful fish would leap back into the water. I hung on for dear life! Lionel came running. We got the towel back over his eyes and I held him down...no way our dinner was going to escape! He finally expired as he turned bluish green. That evening we ate the best fish tacos ever!!!! My nose was still tender...mugged by a fish.
OUR FRIEND DOMINGO
On November 25, 2012 we anchored in Bahia Honda. This large bay was so peaceful and scenic with the kindest wide-smiling Panamanian living in a little grass hut in the jungle with 3 generations of his family. Domingo greeted us in his dugout with a big 'Buenos Dias' and his toothless smile along with one of his granddaughters shortly after we anchored. His gestures were so kind and his words were softly and slowly spoken. We exchanged Spanish, some English, hand gestures and big smiles and had lots of laughs. 'Manana'...he returned with his granddaughter in his Ulu. A beautiful large wooden tray covered with a huge banana leaf presented the fruits and vegetables from his garden. With 'dollars' we purchased avocados, yucca, bananas and peppers. My eyes were glued to the gorgeous wooden tray. Disa could see I was excited about the wooden tray her grandfather had carved. He handed it to me. I loved it instantly. I was brave enough to ask if it could be for sale. Cuanto cuesta esto? Domingo paused for a moment. I wasn't sure if he really wanted to part with it. "Veinte cinco" "Si, si," I enunciated. My new wooden tray is a treasure from Domingo and Bahia Honda.
PANAMA, PANAMA....much more than a canal
About 3 million years ago the land between South America and North America became a bridge. About 40,000 years ago migrants from Asia traveled across the Bering Strait to the Isthmus of Panama, the land that bridges the Americas. Descendants of these humans, over the years, left distinct traces of their cultures. They cultivated corn and beans, and today corn and beans remain the main stay of the Panamanian diet.
Columbus arrived in Panama waters in the early 1500's followed by Balboa and Pedrarias who pillaged and murdered and beheaded Balboa.
PIRATES: Gold and Silver from Peru became a thriving business in the 1500 and 1600's. Sir Francis Drake and Sir Henry Morgan made their fortunes. ARRRRR! In Portobello, where the riches of South and Central America were transported we viewed the forts and the enormous canons and artillery in the harbour where these feared pirates launched their attacks. Today the bold ruins of warfare dominate the entrance to Portobello. We walked about the remains of the 4 forts, their gun wells and canons in bewilderment. We found it hard to imagine this once pillaging, murderous and looting land with tons of gold and silver that was worth millions of pesos. Portobello today is a sleepy little town with a mini market that does laundry and sells gasoline.
ARRIVING IN PANAMA , December 1, 2013
After sailing 2400 nm. from la Paz, Mexico Sea Whisper with her Panamanian flag flying dropped the hook in Bahia del Balboa at the Balboa Yacht club. We soon became familiar with our new landfall as we, firstly, rested up and then de-salted the boat, did the laundry and launched into the clearing-in and cruising permit requirement, with the Immigration officials in this new country. And we were expecting the arrival of our friends from Canada Wil and Barb on December 5th. Making arrangements for our Canal transit was a big item on our list also.
THE PANAMA PEOPLE
Panama was named by Pedrarias Davila. It means Plenty of Fish. There are over 3 million people living in Panama originating from many lands. There are Spanish settlers, Indians from the mountains, West Indians who came to help dig the canal, Europeans, Chinese and East Indians.
CASCO ANTIQUE - The Old Quarter
The first night we arrived we flagged down a taxi to take us to this walled city. It was founded in 1673 on a promontory across from the original city. Now it is a World Heritage site. What an attraction! The balconied narrow streets, old stone 3 and 4 story buildings, red tile roofs, wrought-ironed railings with hot pink and tangerine bougainvillea spilling onto the walk ways, historic squares, churches, ruins and the Presidential Palace captured us with feelings of 'awe'. It is being restored to its Colonial beauty. The view to the city across the bay from 'CASCO ANTIQUE' to the high-rise district of Punta Pacifica was a sight to behold....the old and the new and the beautiful blue Pacific. Breathtaking! When Barb and Wil arrived we visited CASCO ANTIQUE again. They too loved it. The trendy cafes, galleries and specialty shops got to recognize the '4 Canadians' as we touted around our backpacks and cameras in search of a fine café con lache.or a tasty burrito. "Seniorita, usted gustar sombrero?" a young male shop keeper asked us. The 'Dos Barbara's" as we became known, ended up buying dos beautiful straw sombreros! Later we dined on pasta and risotto at a lovely restaurant 'Veggie Moon' a delightful new trendy bistro. After dinner we discovered the Theatro Nacional and viewed an amazing dance festival. CASCO ANTIGUO...is a lovely little place sharing a mixture of Spanish and French Heritage. When we return to Panama we'll go to visit the Golden Altar in Iglesia San Jose where a huge altar was painted black to be concealed from the pirate Sir Henry Morgan.
It wasn't long before we found a taxi driver we liked...Eric, a young guy who had a great smile, nice clean taxi, knew the city well, didn't drive like a mad man and who could cope with our 'bad' Spanish. Eric drove us to the OLD TOWN to do some shopping in Avenida Central. Here we found Panama's merchants selling their products; everything from fabric to boa constrictors. There is a rhythm and vitality on this old-established pedestrian 'strada'. We walk with the crowds of Mestizo, the blended origins of peoples in most of Latin America. At 'Pico, Pico' we meet Ezra, the owner of a huge fabric shop. Ezra takes the order to repair our mizzen sail and the elastic in my bathing suits! We walk through the crowds passing by the vendors, the food stalls, the music, all the colour, the smells, the fever of a big city, the frenzy everywhere you look. It was all there in the blazing Panamanian sun. In a nearby alley, Lionel finds a salon and a guy to cut his hair. 45 minutes later and a lot of fussing from me to make sure he doesn't get scalped, the hairdresser charges $4.00. The best hair cut Lionel has ever had! And then to the Mercado to provision Sea Whisper. We managed to fill our shopping bags with good food despite our challenge reading Spanish labels. So challenging when I got back to the boat I found out that I had bought bird seed instead of quinoa! It makes for a good story. Back to my Spanish lessons.
EL CANAL DE PANAMA
Imagine ships being lifted up 85 ft. gliding through massive locks passing by a rain forest. Before our transit we visited the 'Visitors Centre' at Miraflores locks. Here we learned more about this engineering wonder of the world and how 767 miles of Pacific coastline and 477 miles of Caribbean (Atlantic) coastline have been linked together by what National Geographic claims to be the 5th out of the top 100 places to visit in the world.....The Panama canal.
1850 Panama railway construction began. In 1855 the Panama Railway opened after 10,000 casualties and a cost of 8 million dollars.
1879 A French company started the construction of the Panama Canal. Due to diseases, harsh climate and terrain the project collapsed in 1889 with the loss of 20,000 lives and $205,000,000 US.
1894 Another French company started the canal project but had trouble with funding and went bankrupt.
1903 President Roosevelt of U.S.A. wanted the canal route and signed a treaty involving Panama and Columbia. The canal took 10 years to build with a team of 75,000 men and women at a cost of $400 million dollars.
1914 The Panama Canal opened
Transits to date...850,000 with flags of about70 nations.
Major expansion for a 3rd set of locks currently underway.
The canal is 50 miles long.
Ships are in the canal about 15 hours.
There are 3 sets of lockages: Miraflores, Pedro Miguel and Gatun
Lock chambers are 1000 ft. long and 110 feet wide.
There are 3 types of lockages for vessels under 125 ft. Center, sidewall and alongside an ACP tug.
Small vessels are positioned behind large ships going up and ahead locking down.
Each vessel requires 4 line-handlers, a master and the pilot who is provided by the Panama Canal Authority
SEA WHISPER'S TRANSIT, December 8, 2012
There were procedures and fees to complete prior to the transit. Our Agent, Stanley, handled all the paperwork and ran back and forth to the boat giving us instructions and collecting fees for tolls, pilotage and wharfage. 4 - 125 ft. lines and sufficient fenders were delivered to the boat. Sea Whisper was measured by another official, with a final request "It is your responsibility to provide a very special meal for the Pilot and the line-handlers during the tansit." Lionel responded affirmatively, "Yes, it won't be a problem. My wife likes to cook."
In the morning of December 8th, with everything in order, we were up at the crack of dawn with our friends Barb, Wil, myself and another cruiser, as line-handlers and our competent skipper and master, Lionel. With our fearless pilot Fernando onboard, our capable crew and our lavish lunch we were ready. Let the show begin! Under the Bridge of the Americas to Miraflora Locks Sea Whisper motored. We soon learned that Sea Whisper would be positioned along side an ACP tug. Motoring to the port side of the tug, taking our instructions from Fernando we all took our positions and tied bow, stern and spring lines in place. There was action and excitement from everywhere: the throwing of lines with monkey fists by the men on the canal wall, the cheering and waving from the spectators at the Observation Tower at Miraflora Lock, Sea Whispers bold and big Canadian flag flying so proudly, donkey engines whizzing up and down the tracks, and ships in the canal jockeying into their position. Act 1 was well under way.
SEA WHISPER COMPLETES HER 3rd PANAMA CANAL TRANSIT
After 10 ½ hours locking up a total of 85 feet, sailing 38 nm through Gatun Lake(one of the largest man made lakes in the world) and locking down Sea Whisper powered into the Caribbean. And as a finale to our terrific transit I, and my friend Barb, poured bottles of water from the Pacific into the Atlantic.
We are looking forward, with excitement, to explore the remote archipelago of the San Blas Islands(Kuna Yale) and the Kunas and their villages. Sailing to Cartagena, Columbia will be another cruising destination.
Thank you for your emails and news from home.
Lionel and Barbara,
SV Sea Whisper
LA PAZ TO COSTA RICA - Boatyard to Blue Water and Bunting Board
It is October 18, 2012 and Sea whisper is embarking on her new and next Adventure.....Adventure # 7, which will take her from Mexico to Central America and Panama. We have arrived via airplane and bus from Victoria to La Paz on the Baja Peninsula late at night with 300 lbs. of boat gear. The Security guard of Marina de Palmar directs us to Sea Whisper where she has been stored on dry land for 6 months. We get a steel ladder and with great difficulty start hoisting all the heavy equipment up 12 tall steel steps to the transom.
The next morning the work begins; Lionel meets Antonio, the yard boss and they start going over 'the list'. Antonio is a fine young Mexican who 'runs a tight ship'. He gets the show on the road: fare and epoxy the rudder, repair blisters, install a new drain plug, weld studs onto rudder for zincs, paint hull and water line and fabricate a tower for the new wind generator.
For the next 8 days the Mexican yard crew show up for work with calm enthusiasm in their jeans and work shirts. I can't help but notice their coal black jelled hair, toasty brown wrinkle free skin and big smiles. "Hola, Buenos Dias," they greet us as they begin their work. At 0830 hrs. the sun is already gaining intensity and to our amazement, Carlos, Fernando and Pedro work in the blazing heat with very little sun protection, proper foot wear or safety gear for that matter. This is Mexico!
Lionel is around to oversee the work whilst he, with help from me, begins the inside list: start batteries, reconnect lighting, install serviced steering pump, install new hot water heater, bleed steering system, change all fuel filters, change oil in main engine, generator and transmission, replace high pressure valve in water maker, clean and seal steering dipstick, replace forward shower hose and install new head taps, remove bolts in hull for zincs and rebed, drill and install new zincs, clean and vacuum first layer of dirt, check all lockers and hatches for bugs and weevils, re-organize lockers and drawers and food supplies.
After all this work and the wind generator installed, Sea Whisper was launched with a travel lift on October 27th. The launching went smoothly and now it was time to re-rig her and re-provision her: she had been stripped of her gear and her beauty so we had to put up halyards, sails, running back stays, preventors, dorado vents and all the deck gear and lines. Lionel spent considerable time up the mast in the bosun's chair installing the rigging in place. And then we had to re-provision SeaWhisper as our voyage was 2400 nm with only 2 or 3 short stops. Off to Soriannas, the super Mercado of Mexico to stalk the lockers and larders with enough food for bout 3 weeks..
Despite the work load, we did steal some lovely moments to enjoy the flavours of La Paz....'La Pause' as it is sometimes known. To re-acquaint ourselves with this charming city and its warm and friendly people was a real joy. We walked the Malecon to our favourite Panadaria, Pizza restaurant, Café, Waffle shop and Pescado taco stand. I bought 2 more 'Ibarra' pottery cups (famous potter in La Paz). We had our teeth cleaned, our hair cut and attended a wonderful concert with a mezzo soprano in a lovely church.
Our off-shore journey began on October 30th. We bid farewell to Antonio and the work crew of Marina de Palmar, our friends in La Paz and our good friends Caroline and Kathy from the Maple Bay Yacht Club on the SV Shannon(who surprised us before we left), and began the first leg of the passage....a straight shot to Zihuatenanjo 660 nm south. Now on board and at sea, it was time for the 2 of us to get familiar with: the watch routine, the navigation systems, operating the SSB radio, sailing the boat, weather and wind conditions, following the Cruising Guides....and, as Lionel says, fixing anything that breaks! It feels great to be back onboard Sea Whisper, upon the blue water sailing the high seas.
Historically, a Bunting Board was a slab of wood wedged down the middle of a farmhouse bed so that an unmarried couple who were visiting the farm for an overnight stay, would be separated. Our 'Bunting Board' on Sea Whisper stops us from sliding across the double bed. It helps hold us in place with the lee board on the outside. Basically as we sleep we are snug as bug in a rug or comfy as an egg in an egg carton while at sea. I am grateful for it.
TROPICAL DEPRESSION; The Black Night
After several days at sea one night on my early evening watch I began to see lightning far in the distance. In discussing it with Lionel, he exclaimed, " The lightning is way in the distance and it's way up in the clouds." However, our course didn't allow us to divert from this weather as we were traveling south and the lightning flashes were sparking in the SE and SW horizons. Dusk came as we were clicked off the miles....and then it got dark. Now the lightning flashes appeared much closer and more intense and the sky became ensconced in heavy darkness. Sailing with full main, full jib and the mizzen, Sea Whisper was determined to forge ahead; another 225 nm to Zihuatenanjo. LOG ENTRY 0400 HRS. GPS 19.19.0 N, 105.11.9 W S.O.G. 6.4 C.O.G. 127 Wind ESE 15 kt. I was on watch....and the wind velocity was intensefying rapidly. "Here comes the squall!" I called to Lionel. Flapping sails, flashing lightning, heavy dark clouds, and a torrential downpour. On deck, we scrambled to reduce sail and keep the boat on course. In seconds we were drenched; our life harnesses feeling like the weight of steel armour on top of our sopping clothes. After several anxious moments Sea Whisper was back on course. My watch was over. I peeled off my clothes, towel dried and climbed into my bed with the Bunting Board. I slept. In 3 hours I was back on deck watch. Checked the previous log entry......."Out of the squalls." I carefully watched the course, the AIS and the Radar. Sea Whisper was sailing smoothly with a reef in the main. Suddenly again, the huge sheets of lightning were flashing like strobe lights blinding me, the dark clouds were huge black caves. The demon was back. Another squall. Sea Whisper had sailed into a black hole....a Tropical Depression. The apparent wind was now 35 kts. "Another squall", I yelled, as Lionel scrambled up on deck. Sea Whisper twisted and jerked. As I tried to hand steer, Lionel cranked in the furling jib. Adrenaline was rushing through me as it was almost impossible to see the compass or the windex to steer downwind. The deluge of rain was blinding us and felt like warm pellets of hail on our flesh. Once we got things straightened around we realized Sea Whisper could handle it and had by no means reached her limit; but we were wet and weary. At 0500 hrs. we changed course to find shelter in a little harbour called Cuastacomante also know as the Secret Anchorage. We slept. And in the morning we were ready to head out to sea again.....but first a swim!
Only damage in the storm was a small rip in the mizzen. We will need to repair it but for now the first reefing point covers the rip and we can use the mizzen.
After our swim we sailed to Barra De Navidad. We were in need of a modification to the Tiller Pilot, We hailed a taxi and he drove us to the 'Soldura Grande' (a local welder). You've never seen such a welding shop in your life! A lean-to in someone's back yard. Kids, dogs, scrap metal everywhere, a few onlookers and a couple of welders. In no time a young welder understood Lionel's instructions to reconstruct the bracket and went to work to do the job....with no safety gear of course (the Mexican way).
We arrived in this Pacific Mexico town on November 7th. The Aztecs conquered this town in the 1400's. In the 1500's it became a Port of Call along with Acapulco, for trade with the Phillipines. Now it is a popular tourist destination.
The Cruising Guide said the Mercado is not to be missed. But first...launch the dinghy and head into shore through the surf. Our first surf landing on this voyage...... and it was a doozy. A wave caught the stern and we capsized into the surf with sand and salty water everywhere. Lionel got the worst of it. "Look at you, you ol' salt!" We found some fresh water and rinsed off before heading to the market.
THE MERCADO: It lived up to its reputation. You name it, this market had it all. A feast for the senses: And I had my list. frijoles, pastel, limon, café, pollo, pan, papas, dulce cebolla, aqua. Everything was a unique experience...especially the chicken market where a mother and daughter dissected chicken like no tomorrow! Chicken parts were flying everywhere. We ordered "Dos pollo pechuga por favor." Big friendly smiles, photo shoot and a bag of pounded chicken breasts. Mucho gracias. Mission accomplished.
Back on the boat we pulled up anchor and reset across the bay for a long cool down swim in the water. Divine. And then out to sea for the next leg....250 nm to Huatulco and the beginning of Tehuanepec.
In Huatulco, we did our necessary paperwork for clearance from Mexico with the Port Captain, and met up with our friend Vivien from the SV Lady Ann whom we had met last year in the Sea of Cortez at a music bash on the beaches of San Juanico.
This bay in southern Pacific Mexico is renowned for its fierce offshore winds known as 'Tehuantepecers'. The 260nm passage ends at the Mexican Guatemalan border. It is common to have 50-60 kt winds blow 10-20 days each month. Lionel has crossed Tehuantepec before and realizes that the safe passage through this large bay is to sail close to the beach in 40 - 60 feet of water as there are 15 ft. breaking waves 15-20 miles off shore. Boats have been known to have been swept 200 miles out to sea running a major gale. "Gotta be able to throw a rock to the beach," says Lionel, not wavering from his position having done this passage 4 times. We dutifully did our watch routines and followed our Waypoints close in, knowing that in 36 hours we would be out of the danger of Tehuantepec.
AND THEN SOMETHING WENT WRONG: Lionel came off watch at 0600 hrs. And before climbing into bed, he smelled diesel and did a quick engine check. As soon as he lifted the large floor cover to the main engine we could immediately detect a very pungent odour of diesel. Much to our shock, in checking further, there were about 35 gallons of diesel fuel that had spewed into the bottom of the bilge. Lionel lifted his head and turned to me and uttered 3 words, "This is serious." Nothing to say for the fact that we were in the middle of a critical off-shore passage. I froze, and tried to keep calm. It was like a double edge sword: Tehuantepec... and a fuel leak in the engine! What unlucky odds. Lionel descended into the bowels of the boat's main engine and discovered a pinhole leak in the diesel line. Immediately, 'the engineer' emerged and gathered a multitude of tools and equipment. He opened the floor hatch to the generator and stooped to the generator searching for an answer. If the hose fitting of the generator was the same one as the diesel line of the main engine, he would 'Rob Peter to pay Paul'. Aha, it appeared to be a good possibility. He went to work with his compliment of wrenches and tools. Quickly, back in the main engine cavity, he removed the worn hose and replaced it with the fuel hose from the generator. A good fit! The tiny hose leak was repaired thanks to Lionel's mechanical skills and expertise. At the next port we will try to find the necessary connector to get the generator back up and running.
We are near the Guatemalan border now and have bid farewell to the Sonrisa net, the Southbound net and the Amigo Cruisers' Net where we have checked in twice daily reporting our position and weather conditions as well as getting updated weather forecasts. This is done using the Single Side Band radio. Range is controlled by atmospheric conditions. One after noon when checking in we were talking to a ham operator in Ontario.
ENROUTE TO COSTA RICA
November14th Log entry
200 34.4N 91.21.2W S.0.G. 5.3 C.O.G 123 WIND 0 Sea like glass, stars like diamonds.
Air is sweet, almost fragrant.
On this journey we have had some interesting experiences and have seen a variety of sea life: dolphins by the hundreds leaping around the boat, one whale, many large sea turtles migrating to spawning grounds and incredible seascapes. We are sailing in International waters close to the El Salvador, Nicaraguan and Costa Rican borders. It is so exciting to be on this amazing journey with the best to come...
We are living a dream of sailing Sea Whisper to Panama and the San Blas Islands enroute to the South Pacific. As we go about our daily duties navigating to the southern hemisphere we are reminded of nature and her glorious tribute to the sun, the moon, the sea and the earth. To view a radiant moon in the dark of night, the new dawn on the horizon pouring its light in the sea, the stars in the heavens like an unceasing cast of diamonds; this is joy. "There is one spectacle greater than the sea, that is the sky." Victor Hugo 1802-1885.
We are happy. We are content. On with the dance!
Barbara and Lionel
We can be reached at [email protected] (at sea) [email protected] (on land)
Our new blog site is www.sailblogs.com/member/svseawhisper
We are working on this site and plan to post further Sea Whisper Adventures on the site.
We would love to hear from you. Drop us a line.
B and L
04/06/2012, Mexican Gold Coast to Sea Of Cortez
ADVENTURES OF SEA WHISPER 6
Manzanillo to La Paz
MANZANILLO, ZIPLINES, COLIMA AND THE RUSSIAN BALLET
It took a lot of guts for me to sign up for the X-treme adventure of a Zip Wire ride in the jungle near Manzanillo. Being married to a keen guy who is up for almost anything, I agreed to participate not wanting to miss the action and disappoint him. With some other diehards we set out in a van for Natura Camp Park to test our nerves in this jungle adventure. We geared up with harnesses, head gear and gloves and hiked through the jungle up to head of the wire line. "I want to be first," I demanded the guide so I didn't have wait too long and suffer in silence. Into the rigging I was strapped and hoisted to the ZipLine. Off I flew through the air. What a rush....goodbye to boredom!! And then Lionel was next. He loved the ride and the extraordinary and spectacular views. At the end of the day everyone relived the wild moments and crossed this 'must do' off their bucket list. And now I get to choose a night of culture .... The Russian Ballet. That was the deal that we two made!
The Russian Ballet:
Lionel and I dressed in our 'Ballet Best' and took a taxi to the very special performance of Romeo y Julieta performed by the Russian State Ballet 'Mari El' which is currently celebrating 46 years of producing ballet masterpieces. Forty dancers, spectacular choreography, sets and costumes made for a most enjoyable and memorable evening.
CULTURAL TOUR TO COLIMA
We took a tour to Colima the capitol of the state with the same name, located in the centre west of Mexico. In the historic centre is the Liberty Garden square. We saw the Neoclassical designed Colima cathedral and spent several hours at the Museo Regional de Historia. The archeological pieces were very interesting especially the shaft tomb. The shaft tomb recreated the burial of people and their belongings. In the valley of Colima we enjoyed the rugged mountainous terrain and the dramatic views of the Colima Volcano. The volcano has been active for 5 million years and has erupted more than 40 times since the 16th century. An interesting day visiting local historic landmarks.
SILVERY SEAS, VISAS AND THE GREEN FLASH
On February 26th the Captain and First Mate of Sea Whisper said goodbye to Las Hadas, Manzanillo, Ziplines, Mexican markets, the Russian Ballet and Colima. It was time for Sea Whisper to point north and head back to The Sea of Cortez as the wintertime 'Northers' begin to diminish. Sea whisper made a straight run from Bahia de Manzanillo to Chacala about 200 nm. Watching the sunset is always a high point on any ocean passage. I had a hard time believing there was such a thing as 'the green flash' even though Lionel assured me that this does occur and he had seen it a few times. But after viewing this phenomenon...I'm a believer. Gluing our eyes to the setting sun on the wide horizon of the Pacific it began to change from the normal yellow to a bright orange. As I watched the last glimpse before it sank out of sight...there it was...the 'green flash', a strong green ray shooting out above the sun. The sun had set for another day.
In Chacala, a picturesque anchorage boasting a kilometer of sandy white beach, palm thatched roofs and sunsets in paradise, we enjoyed the easy pace and friendly locals.
Our Immigration papers dictated that we extend our Mexican Visas . So off we went on a 120 km. Mexican bus journey. We ran, walked and hitchhiked as we chased the right bus to take us to the Airport Immigration at Puerto Vallarta. From the window of our bus we scan the landscape: rolling hills, mountains, jungle and fertile farms as Mexicans embark and disembark all along the way. Different scenery from the sea and the waves on Sea Whisper. We try to discern which farm crop is which. The guy behind us tells us they are peppers. Can't grow enough chili peppers in Mexico!
At the Aeropuerto, a friendly Immigration officer stamps our documents and passports and sends us on our way. We jump off a bus at Bucerias to transfer. Charging along the street we hope we have time for a refreshment; but where to find the Panaderia or café. "Senorita, Senorita, dande es bueno café?" A lovely Mexican lady points down the road ahead "Chaney, Chaney, bueno espresso". We found the famous 'Chaney' bakery and indulged ourselves in mocha frappes and almond biscotti just in time to catch the bus to Sea Whisper in Chacala. Mission accomplished. New visas.
SOGGY ROOTS AND WILD CROCODILES
Imagine a jungle tour where you can discover hundreds of species of birds, tiger herons, turtles, iguanas and crocodiles in a lush unique paradise. Rio Tovara near San Blas is a narrow river with lush mangroves and soggy roots that are teeming with wildlife. We meet our guide Alphonso and at 0800 we head out in his panga for the 2 ½ hour ride moving slowly not to disturb the creatures in the murky waters and thick branches and dense roots of the mangroves. Our heads are turning in circles to capture every living creature. Alphonso enlightens us, in Spanish and English, about the wildlife and each time I raise my camera he obliges by stealthily gliding the panga through the river. We enjoy the stillness, the absence of sound as we sit and crouch on the bow of the panga to duck from the overhead branches. Alphonso knows where the crocs hang out. We round a corner creeping along and gawking at every tangled root and branch. Before our eyes, only 10 feet in front of us, a huge croc lies motionless with his slithery powerful body sunning himself in the mushy muddy river. My heart begins to thump. He is close. His eyes watchfully blinking. After admiring this wild creature and capturing one or more shots with the telephoto lens the panga slowly recedes. Soon we arrive at a fresh water spring. In the crystal clear protected waters we dive and cool down. A refreshing finale to our wildlife jungle adventure.
A few kilometers away by foot we explore the town of San Blas which was the Spanish Naval capital on the West Coast in 1768. From here ships departed and returned with explorations.all the way to Alaska. Many of the original buildings including the Church still remain. The garrison on the hill overlooks the town and surrounding country side.
BOOBIES, FRIGATES AND HAMMERHEAD SHARKS
Log Entry March 3, 2012 Enroute Isla Isabel
0610: Depart Ensenada Matanchen, San Blas 21.31.01N, 105.19.13W, S.O.G. 6.0, C.O.G. 293
Wind North 3-5 Knts. Low swell, Fog - ½ mile visibility. Motorsailing with main. Many shrimp boats.
At 1410 hrs. Sea whisper arrives at Isla Isabel, an isolated island in the Pacific Ocean 93nm southwest of Mazatlan. In 2003, after National Park status in 1981, this volcanic island became
a World Heritage Site. Sea Whisper crept slowly into the mid channel of the anchorage between the rocky reefs and detached rocky islands. Our guide book tells us the rocky sea bottom has swallowed many anchors. Yikes! We carefully set Sea Whisper's anchor using a trip line and a bright yellow float should we need to go searching for it. Now we were free to enjoy the epitome of nature, The Galapagos of Mexico: thousands of seabirds hovering above the rocky cliffs, sea waves crashing and rolling rhythmically along the craggy reefs and sightings of humpback whales migrating to warm tropical waters to breed and calf. To say the least: A feast for the senses! We can't wait until morning for our 'National Geographic' expedition!
Early the next day we launch our little dinghy and head for shore. We soon see the frigate birds, the red, brown and most famous blue-footed booby birds, terns, pelicans and gulls.
As we approach, the birds seem to be unafraid. We discover the frigate birds nesting in the lime and guava trees. The fuzzy baby frigate birds are precious looking, as they hover in the nest close to their parents. The mother and father birds share in looking after the baby birds. We walk slowly and enjoy the sights and sounds of the frigates. In the distance we spot a proud male frigate sporting a scarlet gullet seemingly as if he swallowed a giant red balloon. Further up the hill we discover the booby birds; hundreds of male, female and baby boobies. There are blue-footed, red-footed and brown boobies perched in and watching over their nests that are sprawled over the bare rock outcroppings and tufted grass. An interesting study. A gaggle of boobies....I'm not sure.
With the Pacific ocean pounding upon the reefs and rocky shoreline, and the sight of magnificent birds building and protecting their nests that spill all over the rugged rocky landscape of Isla Isabel; along with the gulls, terns and iguanas it is no small wonder that Isla Isabel is a World Heritage site. We are transcended into the world of National Geographic. Another unique Sea of Cortez adventure.
The Fishing Camp. "O this is the place where the fishermen gather." Everywhere there are pangas with fishermen coming and going to and from the active fish camp setting their nets and going about their business of fishing night and day. The camp is a string of beach shacks in an array of bright colours. It's a beehive of sturdy young Mexican men mending nets, cleaning fish, eating finger food on the run, drinking coke, airing out bedding, and standing in packs to share their fishing yarns. With razor sharp fish knives they slice open the huge red snappers and the hammer head sharks. Hoards of pelicans rant over the fish guts. We photograph the catch of the day and speak a few words marveling at their rough and tough existence. This is the fishing camp at Isla Isabel.
MAZATLAN: HISTORY, ARCHITECTURE AND THE MERCADO
Sea Whisper anchored in the old harbor where there are freighters, cruise ships, ferries and commercial traffic coming and going below Cerro Creston where, at the top of the 515 ft. hill, there is one of the highest lighthouses in the world - El Faro. The city of Mazatlan with 500,000 inhabitants lived up to its reputation of interesting history, old world charm and beauty especially in old Mazatlan. This fine city with a history of Spanish explorers, discovery of gold and silver, wars, and the Great depression, is booming. There is lots to see and lots to do. Soon we were walking and riding the public buses to the tree-lined plaza Machado, the Moorish designed basilica with its twin bright yellow spires, the huge Mercado in old town, cafes, restaurants and the theatre. Another highlight was hiking the big hill to the lighthouse and being rewarded with the grand views of the city and the wide open Pacific.
Our Spanish is improving and on our daily rounds to the Mercado Municipal we find it easy- going to buy onions, potatoes, tomatoes, cilantro, garlic, bananas, apples, papaya, etc. Not so easy to find good bread and I haven't mastered the names of all the cheeses. When the vendors see us coming, they recognize us and smile in a helpful way. " El queso por quesadillas?" I ask the senor. With his sharp knife he politely reaches out with samples of queso from big blocks for me to try. "Si, si." Off I go with small blocks of queso in my shopping bag. Lionel and I love shopping at the market however some of the scenery is unexplainable: pigs' heads and feet and cows' heads and brains. We walk by these animal parts quickly and head for the bus with our bags full to Sea Whisper.
In Mazatlan it is International Guitar festival week and we are fortunate to take in two wonderful guitar concerts back to back. One of the concerts de Guitarra was a solo performance by Ioana Gandrabur, a Rumanian Canadian. Blind since birth, she put on a stunning performance at the Teatre Angela Peralta including J.S. Bach and Joaquin Rodeigo. www.ioana bandrabur.com. We chatted with her back stage and invited her to come to Victoria. Our concert week was topped off with a lively dance, song and live music performance by the Expresion Flamenca dance troupe. This outstanding dance troupe is from Sinaloa, the state of Mazatlan.
RESCUE ON THE WATER
One sunny afternoon in the 'Old Harbour' anchorage we were planning a dinghy ride to Stone Beach, the top rated beach in Mazatlan. Suddenly a NW wind came up with gusts to 25 - 30 knots in the anchorage. Sea Whisper was riding comfortably with a small riding sail. Our cruising guide reported that there is a poor holding ground and to take extra care in anchoring. Lionel, checking the boats in the anchorage, shouts out "Northern Sky is dragging and heading for the rocks with no one aboard, we gotta go!" With extreme haste we launched our inflatable, grabbed extra lines and charged through the steep waves toward the Canadian sailing vessel Northern Sky, a 39 ft. Beneteau. Every second counted as she narrowly missed smashing into the red channel marker. We tied our dinghy along the port side and, with great difficulty, we tried to get control of Northern Sky to divert/steer her from the rocks. Lionel jumped onboard and turned the wheel hard over to starboard while I controlled the dinghy. Northern Sky was still in danger. In the 30 knot squalls it was almost impossible to control the drift of the 39 ft. boat with our 10 ft. dinghy. The boat was locked but in a quick search he found the engine key and succeeded in starting the engine. Lionel shouted directions to me to give more power to the inflatable to control Northern Sky. Nervously, I persevered in battling the gusts as the back end of the dinghy was now becoming submerged. Lionel is now on the foredeck pulling up the anchor with the anchor winch. We are slowly motoring back to the anchorage under Northern Sky's own power and I have cut our dinghy loose. We safely re-anchor Northern Sky.
Quick thinking, skill and experience saved the boat. We were praised by the owner and treated to a delicious curry dinner with the Skipper and his wife onboard Northern Sky, with them saying "This is just a fraction of what we owe you!" I am now learning that this is yet another aspect of cruising; keeping watchful eyes at all times in the anchorages.
THIEVES IN THE NIGHT
We are reluctant to tell this news but it's all part of cruising. When we were warned, at our arrival in the old harbor of Mazatlan, that there had been recent boat thefts (in particular outboard motors) we somewhat disregarded the comments and carried on with our day to day cruising life. And then it happened after we arrived back at Sea Whisper after a pleasant Sunday evening in the old town listening to music.
On Sea Whisper we take special care to lift and store our dinghies on deck at night. The large inflatable dinghy with a 25 hp motor was secure in its cradle. After lifting the small dinghy onboard with the 2 hp motor we went to bed. A north west wind was blowing about 10 knots so our aft cabin hatch where we sleep was almost closed. In the morning as Lionel was mopping the dew off the decks he was shocked to find both dinghy motors missing from the dinghies! Both motors had been securely padlocked with heavy duty locks to the dinghies. We imagine that 3 people boarded Sea Whisper in the night and, using bolt cutters, cut the locks. Silent thieves....we heard nothing.
The following hours and days were spent preparing documents and statements and dealing with this whole ordeal with the Office of the Port Captain, the Police and Insurance companies. The Port Captain took it in hand and sent the report throughout the boating community. We spread the news through the cruising community over the cruising nets and word of mouth. Everyone was so concerned and helped spread the word to assist in putting an end to this crime. In hearing the bad news one of our fellow cruisers rigged up his creative alarm system the very next night: a long fishing line, with a bell attachment, leading from the dinghy motor to his cabin where he was sleeping. The theory being that the bell would ring when the thief stumbled on the fishing line. If the bell rang Bert would turn on all the outside lights and start blowing an air horn??!! Answer or anguish! At the end of the day we are happy we slept through the ordeal and we now have 2 new motors for the dinghies. We are especially grateful to the Mazatlan Port Captain, our Insurance Company and the Yamaha dealership for everything they did to help us. Despite the bad luck Mazatlan was a great highlight of our Mexican cruising journey.
BACK IN BAJA
On March 17th Sea Whisper left Mazatlan to sail 200 miles to La Paz. There was very little wind at first and we settled in nicely to our 'watch routine'. I usually do the 2100- 2400 and 0300-0600. The radar and AIS is activated and there is little traffic other than the odd freighter and a few fishing boats. After 28 hours the weather turns ugly....much worse than our forecasts and Grib Files indicated. We now are bashing into 30 knot NW winds and short steep seas. After several more hours of burying Sea Whisper's bow into the heavy seas we made a decision to alter course to de los Muertos, 58 nm south of La Paz. Lionel was on watch for 1800 - 2100. Coming up on deck for my watch at 2100 hrs. I find Lionel sitting in the cockpit, strapped into his life-harness soaking wet from salt spray having just come off the foredeck putting the number one reef in the main, rolling in the furling jib and setting the staysail in a strong offshore wind about 50 miles from our anchorage. Looking like an exhausted puppy, I chastised him for not waking me up to assist on deck. "You need your sleep for your watch," he quipped. Before long we could see the dark outline of land on the Baja peninsula. At 0200, after dropping the sails in the black starry night we entered Bahia de los Muertos. We picked our way carefully to the waypoint amongst several other mast lights, other sailboats and power boats sheltered from the weather. We set the anchor, wrote the log entry and crashed to sleep.
SNORKELING WITH THE SEA LIONS
Never did I think I would be swimming and cavorting with a pack of California Sea Lions. Now that we are back in the Sea of Cortez we took advantage of jumping into the briny deep to play with the sea lions and their pups. We anchored Sea Whisper near Los Islotes between two rocky islets and a reef. The rookery was alive with the sea lions barking, charging, playing and sunning themselves. We were captivated with a mother stretched out in the sun on a slippery rocky edge with her pup suckling on her. With other snorkelers and divers, we jumped in the water with our friends, Kathy and Caroline from Shannon and played with these curious wild animals. It was a little unnerving when an 800 pound bull male swam gracefully right between Lionel and me about one foot from each of us arching his back, and turning right over on his belly upside down underneath us. What a show off!! We say thank you to these graceful creatures for an amazing wildlife experience in the Sea of Cortez.
We've come to the end of our Mexican journey. We've indulged ourselves in this amazing culture; we've sailed Sea Whisper up and down the Sea of Cortez in 'Northers' and flat seas; and the Pacific Mexico coastline. Sea Whisper has been our home since September, 2011. She has given us an opportunity to experience and relish the beauty and rich life here in Mexico while we have worked hard to take good care of her all along the way. Thank you to everyone who helped make this dream come true.
We are now back in La Paz and readying Sea Whisper for drydock and a journey in the future. We hope you will enjoy our last Adventure story. And to sum up Sea Whisper's Mexican voyage:
OUR TOP 20
Swimming and snorkeling in warm water
Hiking volcanic mountains and ridges
Shopping at the Mexican Mercado
Family visits from home
Summer every day
Fish Tacos and Street food
Pacific Ocean passages in the moonlight
Meeting and having fun with other Cruisers
World Heritage Sites, Estuaries and Jungles tours
Music...from the beach... to the street...to the Theatre
Serene and tranquil anchorages
Churches and Basilicas
Quaint fishing Villages
Sunrises, Sunsets and the Green Flash
Espresso Cafes and Mexican torte
Mexican families and their smiling faces
Extraordinary landscapes and Seascapes
Wild life, whales, dolphins, rays, fish, iguanas, and birds
Feeling Relaxed and Happy
MANANA IS THE BUSIEST DAY OF THE WEEK
We're looking forward to seeing you soon.
All the Best and a very Happy Easter from
Barbara and Lionel - Sea Whisper
We fly home on April 16, 2012 to visit family, friends and try and restock the cruising kitty. Most important of all is for Barbara to cure the case all mother's suffer when away from family "Grandchild Withdrawal"
The Adventures will continue starting mid October. Hope everyone has a great summer, stay safe and always put out a little extra anchor chain
02/05/2012, Mexican Gold Coast
ADVENTURES OF SEA WHISPER 5
Banderas Bay to Manzanillo
Sailing into the sunset to Mexico has been an adventurous and enlightening experience; sometimes taking me out of my comfort zone but for the most part loving and living life every day. On a red poppy piece of tile art that I bought at the Salt Spring market last summer it says:
Like a Flame,
Bold like Red,
Live Life Every Day.
In the fall, sailing away from the family, knowing I would not see them for several months, was somewhat disconcerting. So when son John and the family announced they were joining us in Mexico for the Christmas holidays we were thrilled. They arrived ten days before Christmas ready to have some Mexican fun. Our itinerary included days and days of beach activities at quaint Mexican towns such as Sayulita and Punta De Mita and the long endless beaches of Nuevo Vallarta. A day of snorkeling at the National park Las Tres Marietas was a highlight in the crystal clear waters topped off with the thrill of seeing and hearing several Humpback whales spouting and sounding very close to our dinghy.
I thought I was in pretty good shape; but only after, what felt like boot camp everyday: hours of swimming, boogey boarding, catch football, running and walking on the beach with my grandsons did I really feel the fitness or lack of it! No wonder one day I was happy when John said "Mom, you look fit."
Another attraction was the El Salado estuary. Blake and Nolan were eager to spot a crocodile. We did see a small croc and several green iguanas perched high on branches in the mangroves. The Bengal tigers and many beautiful parrots at the wild life preserve at Paradise Village were fascinating creatures too.
No trip to Mexico would be complete without riding the local buses to 'El Centro'. So off we would go to the old town of Puerto Vallarta on the rickety dilapidated blue and white buses. Eager to go shopping at the market in Old Town Blake and Nolan, clutching their pesos, were hoping to find Mexican hats, necklaces and sunglasses. After a few Spanish words, and a little bartering the mission was accomplished. We topped off the evening with dinner at Pippis, a famous Mexican restaurant in the heart of Old Town. There were bowlfuls of Margueritas, cast iron pans of fresh fajitas and tailor made guacamole blended and created at our table. The grand finale was a dazzling performance of the 'Mariachi' band with the participation of the entire crew of Sea Whisper. It was quite the rendition of 'La Bumba'. As the saying goes... we brought the house down!
There was an extreme event for Blake and Nolan on Christmas Eve afternoon. They went parasailing together 1400 ft. up to the sky. Gliding through the blue yonder, they looked like tiny little space men. Back down to sea we all thought they would never wipe the smiles off their happy faces.
On Christmas Eve Sea Whisper's halls were decked with candles, seashells, bells and tiny Mexican dolls.
Our little Christmas tree festooned in an array of seashells, from where else but the Sea of Cortez, took center stage in the main cabin. For dinner there was grilled fresh fish and vegetables with trimmings of guacamole and salsa, and for dessert ice cream, crème caramel, Camie's Almond Roca and chocolates. It was a blessed and holy night with gifts of love, hope, faith and joy.
A WEDDING IN MEXICO
On December 30th we had the pleasure of attending the lovely beach wedding in Puerto Vallarta of our special Blue Water Cruising friends Daragh and Catherine. Guests came all the way from Ireland for this momentous occasion at the Westin Hotel. Lionel and I were honoured to be a part of their wedding day with their dear family. We wish them all the best.
A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE
In December 2009 and January 2010 Lionel and I travelled by air to Mexico. It was my very first visit to this country and maybe Lionel's twentieth. We spent time in Puerto Vallarta and Nuevo Vallarta swimming at the beach , riding the buses to 'EL Centro', strolling on the Malecon and embracing the beauty and culture of this foreign land. We rented a car and explored the seaside towns and villages north and south of Puerto Vallarta: Bucerias, Sayulito, San Fransisco and San Blas to the north and to the south: Chamela, Careyes, Tenacatita, La Manzanilla, Malaque and Barra de Navidad.
Now, Sea Whisper is taking us off shore along the Pacific Mexico coastline and into the popular and remote Bahias and Caletas. How different it feels to be pointing our bow into the coastal towns and viewing the Mexican landscape from a different and new perspective......from Sea Whisper. Everywhere the Mexicans are swimming, fishing and grilling pescados and camerones under palapas and rainbow coloured umbrellas. Each anchorage is a gem of its own.
LET'S BEGIN WITH YELAPA
With my sister Charlotte as our crew onboard, Sea Whisper makes her first stop at this town where the indigenous people date back for centuries. The town is towered by lush green mountain sides. Charlotte and I were up for the hike through the old hillside town and tropical forest to the cascading waterfall with a pool below. We trekked up the hill enjoying the views and vegetation. The waterfall was grand with a thick lush fragrant forest framing it on all sides. Photo shooting the landscape, the pool and the waterfall was very necessary but we decided to take a rain check on a dip in the cool winter pool. Soon from behind us came a voice " I am going to jump in," announced this lovely Mexican young mother. With all her family and us watching she dove in clothes and all and after this brave dunking and catching her breath we heard in English and Spanish "This will bring good luck, energy and good spirits for the New year." It was January 1st. Her audience hailed a loud cheer. Charlotte and I had been upstaged by this beautiful and vivacious woman. We walked down the mountain side and onto the beach for a cold drink and a visit by a very large iguana. Lionel and Charlotte were brave enough to have this creature sit on their head and arms. All in a day in the life of Mexico!
TURNING THE CORNER AROUND CAPE CORRIENTES
Perhaps Charlotte and I should have jumped into the Yelapa mountainside pool for good luck too as the next several hours proved to be difficult with some 'bad' luck aboard Sea Whisper. Cape Corrientes is a very major point sticking out into the Pacific. We had 88 miles to sail in an overnight passage. As we approached the Cape just before dusk in the late afternoon we readied the boat....stowed things away safely, took our 'Sturgeon' (seasick pills) and prepared for the strong North winds and a fast downhill ride. As we rounded the corner in darkness we adjusted our sails in 25 knots of wind. Suddenly Lionel's head collided with a winch handle and his forehead was cut open badly. "Come quick, Lionel's gone down," Charlotte yelled from the cockpit. I charged up the companionway stairs from the galley to find Lionel in a pool of blood. There were some anxious moments that followed attending to the wound and sailing the boat. Charlotte began to take care of Lionel with the First Aid now on deck and I took over Sea Whisper....tightening the preventors, releasing backstays , adjusting the mainsail and the headsail, and navigating the boat on course. Charlotte and I butterflied the open cut as best as we possibly could and we continued our offshore overnight passage to Chamela, the next stop. I took the first watch to 0100 hrs. and believe it or not, Lionel came on deck and insisted to do his watch. Once a sailor, always a sailor! In 30 years of owning Sea whisper this was his very first serious injury. The next morning at Perula, in Bahia Chamela we were happy to reach shore as the cut was still oozing through the butterfly bandages. Armed with our Spanish little phrase book and Lionel's basic Spanish we struck out to find the Medica Clinica. After walking several dusty roads and byways out in the 'sticks'we came to a little garden and a white house. Two lovely young Spanish doctors upon seeing Lionel took charge. Dr Edith went to work and cleaned, drained and sutured the wound with 7 stitches. After one and a half hours Dr. Edith and Lionel emerged from the operating room. Charlotte and I, the boat nurses, drew a deep breath....our faces not so weathered looking. When asked the fee for this medical procedure, Dr. Edith's quick response was "There is no charge, this is a Government clinic". After our Mexican Angel rescued Lionel....what, there is no charge!! A generous donation to the Mexican Clinic seemed a meager offering but she graciously accepted our pesos.
The next day, with Captain Lionel as our quide in the dinghy, Charlotte and I snorkeled around the rocky shores and sandy beaches of Isla Pajarera and Isla Cocines in Bahia Chamela. The snorkeling was fantastic and we felt miles away from civilization.
PACIFIC MEXICAN COASTLINE
Much of the Pacific Mexican coastline is rugged and remote. It is known as COSTALEGRE (happy coast).
However, in Bahia Careyes there are luxurious waterfront homes in exotic and vibrant colours perched on the rocky cliffsides. "We're in Mexico," Lionel would announce. Then he would ask me, "What colour would we paint our house if we had a house in Mexico?" Oh boy, after some thought I came up with Yellow....the colour of the sun! We enjoyed looking at these mansions but couldn't imagine how on Canada's west coast at home the neighbourhood might look with indigo blue, sunflower yellow, flamingo pink, pumpkin orange, lime green and purple!
CRUISING BITS AND BITES
Cruising is an ongoing duty of checking fuel, water, provisions, safely operating your vessel and being responsible for the navigation, checking the weather, etc. Besides all this there is concern for insects, radios, dinghy landings and launchings and of course the weather forecasts.
Early morning dip
Travelling from Las Hadas to Barra de Navidad in very calm seas, I decided to take a swim. In 270 ft. of water I gave instructions to Captain Lionel to stop the boat and turn off the engine. I peeled off my clothes and in a big splash I was overboard. After this lovely early morning dip and approaching the swim ladder to climb back onboard, I got zapped by a jellyfish. Ouch!! The better part of the day was spent swabbing my large welts with cider vinegar. Learning lessons the hard way. Next time it's my lycra suit before I take the plunge.
At Barra de Navidad the laundry was piling up. We discovered Maria. She and her crew came to the boat to pick up dirty laundry. They washed, dried, folded and did a panga delivery back to Sea Whisper. We exchanged a mega bag of clean laundry and big fat Mexican smiles; for 110 pesos. Bless these dear Mexicans!
Cleaning Sea Whisper's bottom
It's not a difficult task to clean the waterline of Sea Whisper. Lionel and I take turns with shrub brushes, flippers and masks. Today, January 31, 2012, however, there was a much bigger task, to shrub barnacles and sea scum off her bottom. Lionel disappeared with mask, fins and snorkel and brushes to begin to demoss the bottom. He returned to the swim grid for a rest after one hour looking exhausted. I tried to revive him with cookies and kisses. I think the two of us will tackle the rest of it 'manana' (tomorrow). Lionel also uses his own air dive tank with a long skinny hose that he has adapted for repairs down deep. And the other method is the muscle of the wonderful Mexican macho men who are very skilled to do all kinds of boat work. Already on this trip they have cleaned Sea Whisper's bottom, changed the zincs and polished all the stainless steel for a very reasonable number of pesos.
Dinghy Landings and launchings
Dumped in Perula:
Landing in the surf in Perula at Bahia Chamela, we watched the waves as we got close to the shore. It appeared to be a easy landing. Charlotte jumped out first on one side, let go and got free. Lionel and I jumped out the other side and curplunk!...only to find ourselves landing on our butts submerged to our necks in salt and sand with the dinghy soon to be on top of us. Scrambling to our feet we righted our little craft and grabbed the bow line before we got trapped in the next wave breaking behind us. Better luck next time. Believe me the surf is a force to be reckoned with. And we have now named our little dinghy 'Sea Whimper'!
Landing in La Manzanilla
Our dinghy surf landings and launches are still pretty dicey. We thought we had it together yesterday as we struck out from Sea Whisper in the AB inflatable to drop me off at the market in La Manzanilla. Carefully watching the surf zone and the wave patterns we approached the shore as Lionel controlled the boat speed to match the waves. On command I jumped overboard trying not to get caught in the next wave behind me. I landed wavering and wobbling up to my waist in the briny ocean....my nice skirt and matching top soaked. Picking my way through the rocks and managing not to tumble with my backpack and VHF handheld radio I was relieved to be on shore. It turned out to be a soggy market morning as I wandered around in a dripping skirt, shirt and underwear! Oh my....the life of a sailor girl.
The great La Manzanilla Manouver:
Well after great attempts to land and launch our inflatable dinghy named 'Sea Whistler', we have a success story. Captain Lionel rigged up a sophisticated pulley, anchor land and launch system for the surf. With four people in the dinghy we struck out at 0800 hrs. for the three mile ride across Bahia Tenacatita. We slowly and cautiously approached the surf eager to execute our surf landing maneuver. While watching the wave sequence, we set an anchor well outside the surf zone. Attached to the anchor rode was a fender with a pulley fastened to it. We passed a long 'clothesline' through the pulley and tied the bow to the knot where the ends of these two lines connected. Hence a 'clothesline"...a loop. In reverse we manouvered our dinghy to the shore keeping tension on the line attached to the bow to hold the bow of the dinghy into the waves. 'Sea Whistler's' motor was tilted up. Ready to disembark (wearing bathing suits this time) with backpacks and rubber dry bags containing camera and laptop we gently slid off the pontoons and landed upright on our feet mid calf. Before the next wave broke on the beach we pulled the dinghy ashore using our 'clothesline' to pull and reset the dinghy back out past the surf zone. Once out of the surf zone in deeper water we tied the loose end of the 'clothesline' to another small anchor and buried it on the beach in the sand. "Yeh, yeh, bravo, Captain Lionel!" And looking up we had an audience....a line of Mexicans grinning at us on the beach. "Bien, Bien!!" Whew, mission accomplished! To our rescue very soon will be new dinghy wheels from Canada. Stay tuned for an update on dinghy landings and launches!
TENACATITA, LA MANZANILLA, MELAQUE, BARRA DE NAVIDAD
These lovely seaside towns are very picturesque. Green lush mountainsides cascade down to the sea with palms and trailing bougainvillea framing the tiendas, public markets, tiny street food vendors, palapa cafes and restaurants. It's always an adventure to go ashore and stroll the beaches and the streets. The sights are amazing. Like the young horse being pulled down the main street of La Manzanilla with a motorized cart, the young Mexican mothers shopping at the tiendas with several 'ninos' clutching her skirt, the fishermen launching their beat up pangas to head out to sea for fish, lobster and octopus.
Our adventures and experiences to remember in La Manzanilla will be our visit to the huge crocodiles at the Crocodile sanctuary at the end of the town. Scary, eerie creatures! Our market visits to buy fish and bird motif rugs with stunning colours from the Hoichol tribes. Our attendance at Sunday's church service in the heart of town with all the Mexican families, nice singing and the childrens'procession. And the yoga class I attended in an open air thatched roof house with lush mountain views and strains of violin music in the distance.
In Bahia Tenacatita we anchored with several other cruisers. In early January we celebrated Lionel's birthday in style with a party on Sea Whisper. With Charlotte and our friends from 'Harmony' we feasted on Paella, drank some nice wine and eat Birthday cake (crepes with chocolate sauce). Hanging out here for a few days we swam to the beach, played Boce Ball, snorkeled around the reefs and socialized with our boat buddies. We toured with our dinghy several miles of the jungle in the 'Estero Verde'. Through the murky waters we stalked through the mangroves moving branches overhead as we sighted egrets, herons and other wildlife from our dinghy. On another morning I lead a yoga class on the sandy beach under the palms. That was fun with six other yogis except for our final 'Savasana' pose when we lie as a corpse and totally relax. I couldn't figure out why everyone was wiggling around. The ants, the ants! We joined forces with the 'Friday Night Raft Up' where all the cruisers raft their dinghys together. Everyone brings an appetizer. Robert, the 'Mayor' of Tenacatita is in charge of the proceedings. He recites stores from Sea Shanties, then we eat and everyone tells their cruising stories depending on the topic of the day. When it came to Charlotte's turn she announced that she had been a cruiser for 8 days! Some of the stories are priceless. Mine for sure........having met my boat and my man on the other side of the world!!
In Barra de Navidad we watched glorious sunsets under palapa roofs, eat delicious fish tacos and awoke each morning to the tinkling bell of El Horno Frances (The French Baker) delivering fresh baked croissants and baguettes to our boat . Doesn't get much better than this!!
In Melaque we provisioned and swam. Charlotte and I one day walked the 2.5 miles along the shore from Melaque to Barra de Navidad. And at the end treated ourselves to almond cakes and latte's at the French Bakery in town. Later on Lionel and I looked up friends from home holidaying in Melaque. These little towns certainly play host to tourists from the north.
And now for one of our top spots: The beautiful resort of Las Hadas was built in 1974 by a Bolvenian tin Baron. It appears like a fairy land sprawling over the northwest hillside of Bahia Manzanillo with its stark white terraced and exotic Moorish architecture displayed against ornate clusters of palms and vibrant bougainvillea. At first glance one feels they have been transcended to a Greek Island. This unique hotel took 10 years to build....a destination for the rich and famous. The characteristics of Moorish architecture are horseshoe arches, interwoven design patterns and the use of the elements of light and water. There are many beautiful courtyards, towers and gallaries at Las Hadas blended into this architectural beauty. The grand courtyard (the Riad) with inlaid stone, and white washed walls features two large goddess statues emblazoned with natural light during the day and illuminated at night. There are water fountains with sculptures of Lions and lovely textured gardens with very interesting water features. The lobby with its marble floor, gracious wicker furniture, Moroccan rugs and 19th century paintings is not to be missed.
The movie 'Ten' with Dudley Moore and Bo Derek was filmed here. One of the memorable scenes in the movie was watching Bo Derek jogging on the beach. Lionel was certain that he saw Bo Derek shuffling down the beach in her walker!! Incidentally, Lionel's first visit to Las Hadas was in 1977 during his first offshore voyage in his sailboat 'Come by Chance'. In 1988 Sea Whisper visited Las Hadas in Bahia Manzanillo, Mexico.
We anchored Sea Whisper out in the bay with the other sailboats. Lionel, Charlotte and I enjoyed the grandeur of Las Hadas. The views to the resort and from the resort are spectacular. Courtesy was given to cruising boats so we swam in the pools and from the beach at the resort. We treated ourselves to one of the finest restaurants (Los Dolphinias)along the shore. Lovely Las Hadas. We will return.
THE SECRET ANCHORAGE - CUASTECOMATE
This adventure story would not be complete without telling you about this little gem of a laidback Mexican fishing village. The lush green hills and crystal clear waters, palapas, rainbow umbrellas and industrious fishermen from the village casting their hand lines for hours into the bay make for an amazing spectacle as Sea Whisper lies at anchor in the warm Mexican sun. And in the evening we eagerly gaze to the western skies to enjoy the breathtaking sunsets. We are loving the snorkeling and watching all the birds here. And up for another adventure, yesterday we walked 2.5 miles from Cuastecomate over the headland to visit our friends in Melaque and go to the Wednesday market. Love those markets.......a bracelet, candied almonds, a big scarf, Mexican CD's, embroidery cotton and goat stew - we were finished for the day.
We would like to wish everyone a very HAPPY NEW YEAR. We miss you all and thank you for keeping in touch with us on our journey. Blessings to everyone.
Barbara and Lionel on Sea Whisper
p.s. drop us a line at [email protected]
12/15/2011, Mexican Gols Coast
ADVENTURES OF SEA WHISPER 4
Santa Rosalia in the Sea of Cortez to La Cruz on the Mexican Riviera
It is November 18, 2011 and we have departed Santa Rosalia, the old French copper mining town. We have made a decision to turn around and begin to head south (back down the sea) as the 'Northers', the strong wintertime blows , are becoming more prevalent. Air temperatures and water temperatures are beginning to cool down. Our 0800 log report: 'Enroute Playa Santispac, Bahia Concepcion, SOG 6.0, COG 134, WIND 0-5, BAR 1010. Clear sunny morning, lots of Pangas out fishing, no slop. Beautiful scenery, a lot cooler 24C.
By mid afternoon the NE wind kicked up to 20 knots and we had a great sail to Santispac in Bahia Concepcion. Temperatures climbed to 32C, so after dropping the hook a refreshing swim to shore was very much enjoyed.
While at Santispac we visited Mulege. It is 14 miles down the road...but you have to hitchhike on Mexico Highway 1. So off we went and were fortunate to get a ride immediately from a nice Canadian couple who were camping at the beach. Mulege is famous for its date palms which make the whole landscape look very green and tropical; a stark contrast to the desert colours of the Sea of Cortez. We walked up the hill to the Mission and enjoyed the lush green vistas along the Rio Santa Rosalia. After a café visit to sample date cinnamon buns it was time to head back to our boat which meant another go round of hitchhiking on Mexican Highway 1. I tried to calm myself by being assured by our guidebook that this is what the cruisers do to get from Santispac to Mulege. But no one picked us up. We took our hats off, then our sunglasses, changed positions, smiled a lot and tried to stage ourselves for a pickup. Forty five minutes later we were still standing on the hot highway. And then in the distance we could see a big bus. The bus, heading for Cabo San Lucas, stopped after our frantic waves. After five minutes the bus full of Mexicans stopped for their supper break at a roadside café. We finally arrived back at Sea Whisper three hours later! No more hitchhiking I hope.
Hike at Playa El Burro: We would not have imagined that there would be so many hiking trails in the Sea of Cortez. After all we are sailing in a huge body of water anchoring at this Punta, Pasada, Playa, Puerto, Bahia or Caleta. However, at nearly every stop, there are rock, goat or just easy meandering trails up the hills to stretch your sea legs. We were in the mood for a hike so we picked the trail behind a white sandy beach in El Burro. Our guide book told us that it was behind Bertha's restaurant and we would see Amerindian petroglyphs. As we approached the bay in our dinghy we could see the switchbacks between the red and brown rocks up the steep hill. We looked for the rock cairns that marked the trailhead. Scrambling up the rocks and tramping through low brush, shrub and cardon cacti we finally spotted a cairn and then another and another. We're on our way. Up up we hiked on the dusty steep goat trial. It was very hot. The odd lizard scurried in front of us. As we climbed we made more cairns on the trail and occasionally turned around to capture the view. The big red rocks along the trail had a high iron content. When we struck them with a smaller rock they resonated like a bell. In almost two hours we reached the top of the last pinnacle of rocks. We rested, drank copias amounts of water, ate date cinnamon buns from Mulege and soaked up the scenery and the beautiful vistas of Bahia Concepcion. Carefully we made our descent picking our way from rock cairn to rock cairn. We stopped to admire and photograph the enormous cactus 'trees'. Near the bottom of the trail we looked for the petroglyphs. No luck. At Bertha's restaurant we treated ourselves to Cabrilla (fish) and chips and cold beer. High 5 - it was a great day.
Sea Whisper sailed south down the coast to anchorages at San Juanico and then to Isla Coronados. Back in Caleta San Juanico we enjoyed its beauty, numerous white sand beaches and rock pinnacles once again. On the north side of the beach at San Juanico there is tree decorated as a 'Cruiser's Shrine'. Names of boats, sailors, crew, dogs and families are carved, painted and crafted on bits of wood, shells, rocks and flotsam dating back to the 1980's. Creativity has ruled at this festive tree and Sea Whisper added to the adornment with a painted wooden hull with her name emblazoned on it using Lionel's router. Of course Lionel had to climb the tree to place Sea Whisper front and center on the Cruiser's Shrine.
At Isla Coronados we were welcomed with turquoise waters, beautiful beaches and a 930 ft. volcano cone. Sea Whisper was the only boat anchored on the south side and the water was like a millpond. Needless to say we swam and floated all day in the crystal shallow waters along the sandspit. Dolphins
in large pods performed for us in the bay and all around our boat. "Awe, oh, wow,"..... these fascinating creatures mesmerized us with their leaping, darting, spouting, tail slapping and cavorting all around Sea Whisper.
The Hike from Hell: The following day we decided to hike the volcano at Isla Coronados. We started early in the morning equipped with water, chocolate and sunscreen. This was yet another time we had difficulty finding the trailhead so we struck out across the 'Lava Fields', as Lionel called them. Small, medium and gigantic boulders scattered in every direction forming mountains of red rock piles. These were no fields, they were 'Lava Canyons'! Every step was a challenge as some loose boulders tippled just when you thought you had a strong foothold. Lionel forged ahead. In his youth he worked for an Exploration company clamouring over the B.C. and Yukon mountain ranges. I am no wimpy hiker but this was beginning to be a nerve-wracking experience. "Wait for me," I yelled from below. And then his voice came back, "You've got the utility knife in the pack haven't you?" He was carrying my pack. Sheepishly I responded, "No I haven't." There was a pregnant pause and then he blurted out, "Well, if someone breaks a leg or an arm it will be a lot easier to make a splint if we have a knife." All I could think of was let me out of this rock pile! After nearly another hour of climbing and sweating in the canyons we finally caught sight of a rock cairn guiding us to the trail. Whew! And then the final ascent...loose gravel all the way up to the volcanic peak. The spectacular views, our bottles of water and the chocolate bars were grand rewards for all our efforts! Sea Whisper looked so tiny anchored way down below us in the bay. At the top we met some hikers from Canada and the U.S. and they gave us instructions of an easier trail to go back. "How did you find the trailhead?" we asked. "Google Earth!," they said. Anyway the down part was much more enjoyable and we cast our eyes on every rock cairn not to lose our way and drift back into the 'Lava Canyons'!
And now to the small fishing village of Aqua Verde. We truly enjoy the anchorages where there is a small village or just an abundance of nature and nothing else. We sailed our little sabot 'Coda' in the beautiful green waters. The surf was strong on the beach but we needed to reprovision at the Tienda in the village. Braving the 2 foot + surf we landed our inflatable dinghy safely on shore thanks to Lionel's ingenuous anchor and retrieval system which resembled an ocean clothes line. The two of us had to be bang on with our timing so that we didn't end up getting soaked or the dinghy capsized. It all went fairly well but a little more practice will make it better!
At the village we connected with the Mexican families again. They were so delighted to see us especially Brian our little guide. This time his father said, "Albahaca para usted?" as he pointed to the large pot of basil in their garden. "Si, si, mucho gracias."
And then, if luck would have it, the fresh tortilla lady was open for business. We ordered 2 dozen tortillas. She said they would be ready in 20 minutes. We sat under the shade of a tree and drank cold cerveza while we waited for the very fresh tortillas from Lolita's kitchen. We came back to her petit house with the dirt yard, sat under the palapa with assorted family members and I watched Lolita make the tortillas. Lionel said, "Did you pick up any tips?" She had little balls of dough, a tiny rolling pin, a small piece of sheet metal to cook them on and a basket with a hand crocheted cloth to keep them warm. Thirty five pesos! Can't say enough "Mucho Gracias's" to these loving and humble Mexicans! With our fresh basil and fresh tortillas we had the best Crostini and fish tortillas ever!
The next morning, Serifino, a local guy from the village picked us up in his panga to take us on a cave expedition. We slowly motored past a mangrove oasis and anchored on a beautiful secluded white sand beach. We walked across sand dunes past a dry lake and hiked up a steep cliff face to a large cave inhabited by natives 400 years ago. We studied the hieroglyphs on the cave walls and walked in the deep dark space while Serifino talked to us in Mexican/English about this historic site. Back in the panga, we ate the delicious bean and fish tortillas that Serifino's wife, Gabriella had made for us. Back on Sea Whisper another panga visited us. Jose was offering colourful placemats with tortugas, hand embroidered by his 80 year old mother. We now have 4 tortugas aboard, Flipper's emblem. Another wonderful day in the Sea of Cortez.
About Sea Whisper: some people have asked about the boat and so we hope the following boat notes are interesting. Sea Whisper is a Frazer 50 ft. ketch. In 1979 Lionel bought the hull and deck which was built in Vancouver by the Dutch De Kleer bros. For the next 33 months, a Spanish father and son shipwright team handcrafted the beautiful interior. "We'll let you do anything that doesn't show," they said to Lionel. So, with Lionel's mechanical skills, he was responsible for everything below the floor boards. Big job! Sea Whisper is 26 tons, has a 9 ft. draft and a beam of 14 ft. She is outfitted for world class cruising with electronics, AIS, auto pilot, self steering, safety gear, life raft, water maker and 6 anchors! She carries 270 gallons of water and 270 gallons of fuel . Sea Whisper carries a 11 ft. inflatable dinghy. She has nearly 105,000 nautical miles under her keel (enjoying her 3rd offshore sailing adventure.) In her lockers you will find more than 40 foreign flags, and spares for the spares since marine parts are hard to come by in mid ocean! My favourite area below decks is the main cabin where there is a lovely teak sole and teak cabinetry, a built in chesterfield, easy chairs and a dropdown dining table. Gracing the walls are art forms of 2 roosters(a Mola), a turtle(mask), seaweed(glass art) and a Vietnemese Buddha( mask). It is a nice and peaceful place to read, write, practice yoga or just visit with my Matey. And in turbulent seas, on our watches, it provides space for the Cargo/safety net we can clutch onto when we traverse the main cabin to retrieve our Safety harnesses hanging from the net. The step down galley is a treat with a decent size fridge and freezer and a 4 burner propane stove. I enjoy cooking and have had fun creating everything from champagne rissoto to homemade/boatmade granola and yoghurt and fresh fish; baked, fried, broiled and sashimied! ....and gallons of salsa and guacamole. I live to eat and my dear husband eats to live so the galley activity is full on much of the time. My least favourite parts are the decks above when Sea Whisper gets crusted with sea salt from our passages. Decks, life lines, hatches, windows, stainless steel railings and sail covers need to be swabbed and scrubbed. It's part of the journey.
Salt Mines: I can't imagine that I would be exploring Salt Mines on my journey to the Sea of Cortez. We have seen salt flats at Isla San Fransisco, San Evaristo, Bahia Salinas and Isla San Jose. One doesn't think too much about the little white grains that make French fries taste so good. The salt mining operation at Bahia Salinas on Isla Carmen was a worldwide operation before it closed down in the 80's. Rusted remains of equipment and crumbled down cement buildings are seen from the shoreline. There was an entire community that supported the families who lived there: a school, church, doctor's office, business offices, housing, drug store and a market. We walked through the acres of abandoned crusty salty earth surrounded by the cactus hills and the sea. As the sun began to set, its fading rays made the crystals of salt look like fields of diamonds. I now have an appreciation for organic sea salt.
La Paz......La Paused! On December 4th we sailed back in to the La Paz harbor and for four days we experienced the La Paz Waltz, where boats danced forwards and backwards on their anchors (two steps forward, two steps back, slow slow , quick quick, turn around). This is when the wind and current move in different directions at the same time. A bit disconcerting when you look for your anchor road and find it's straining underneath the hull of your boat. Even though a strong Northerly was blowing for 4 days we had a wonderful time in charming La Paz strolling along the Malecon, mixing with the friendly Mexicans and meeting up with some of our boat buddies from Victoria.
At Sea December 10, 2011 Enroute La Paz to La Cruz 1000 Departed La Paz
1600 Log entry Latitude 22.35N, Longitude 108.10W, SOG 5.4 COG 132 Winds NNE 10 knots. Wind is dropping. Clear skies. Steady 2 ft. seas.
We were excited about our 370 mile passage across the sea as there was a full moon and the forecast of moderate north winds. As we sailed through a narrow channel we decided to put our fishing line out and low and behold the line took off and we caught a fine fish. Not a Dorado or Skipjack...maybe a Sierra mackerel (as we checked our fish guide book). Lionel took care of the proceedings on the aft deck and pronto Ms. Sierra was filleted and packed into the freezer. We actually caught another bigger fish and then the line snapped. When we brought it in our fancy lure was gone. Now we have steel leaders to try and catch the big guys! The winds picked up and Sea whisper forged ahead towards the Mexican Riviera. The night watches went very smoothly with the glowing full moon, no traffic and 10-15 knot tail winds. On my third night watch I sat in the cockpit savouring the tranquility, watching the moon dancing on the dark seas and listening to the waves gently washing on the hull and the wind brushing against my face. It is almost as if the wind and the waves are whispering in the still of the night. The stars are brilliant and endless. Each moment is magical as I breathe the freshest, purest organic sea air. I wished time could stand still. The word that fills my soul is gratitude. How blessed I am to be here on this journey with my Matey. Landfall, the next morning, was almost 'anti-climatic' after such a euphoric ocean passage.
We are now in Banderas Bay at La Cruz. Sea Whisper no longer looks like a crusty potato chip. She has had a good bath and shrub and her stainless steel has all been polished. She's ready for the festive season. Tomorrow son John and family arrive to celebrate Mexican Christmas with us.
Hope our newsletter finds everyone in good health and looking forward to the Festive Season. To all of you, your families and friends we wish you a blessed and happy holiday. Our love and best wishes from this part of the world as we celebrate together.
Feliz Navidad, Y el Nuevo Ano Feliz
Barbara and Lionel