12/11/2011, Mazatlan to Isabella
Healing and Heeling
December 1 - December 10
I'm kind of stupified realizing so much time has passed without writing in the blog.
That could be a good thing: it may make me think - and write - in shorter clips! And hey, seein' as how today's the shortest day of the year, that could be a doubly good thing.
It's all a bit of a blur... By the time we arrived in Mazatlan in early December, I was having tremendous back pain. I was able to get to a chiropractor and after our first evening in town (Friday for the Mazatlan art walk) I was pretty much on my back, icing it and resting it. Everyone speaks so highly of Mazatlan, I was sad to not feel "up" for more explorations. A sweet city indeed. But I guess I'll have to catch more of it some other time.
We stayed in the Marina Mazatlan long enough for me to feel able-bodied. Four chiropractic visits and enough ice/rest seemed to do the trick. Of course the other factor in successful healing is people, and because we stayed in one place for about a week, we were able to meet quite a few great folks. Their collective energy all added to my plus factors in feeling better.
One fun event at the Marina was a seminar on the El Salvador Cruisers Rally. Listening to the presentations enabled the concept of "heading further south" to gel more in my head. I still have many questions about timing and such, but the folks organizing the rally put a lot of thought and time into the project. It was also great to see so many people from various marinas turn out for the seminar. Wow, so many cruisers in one spot! We ran into some folks we'd met before, who then introduced us to some others they had met along the way.
Funny thing about the internet...you can meet someone for the first time, only to realize you "know" them perhaps better than a lot of people you actually do"know." Que paso? Well, it's the strange gift of the blogosphere. It turns out that at the El Salvador rally, I was introduced to a woman named Kate whose blog I've been following for quite a while. I was looking at her...then I heard her boat name... slowly my brain is putting two and two together... 'wow! It's You!' Suddenly I found myself feeling giddy and nervous, strange considering I don't feel that itchy when meeting so many of the celebs and Forbes 400 types. Thinking about it later, I guessed it's because I've felt so 'close' to Kate through her blog, as we've led somewhat parallel sailing experiences and had some similar reactions. I let her know that her blog sharing had comforted me on many an occasion, and later we were able to visit for a little bit. I'm hoping we'll be in the same anchorage or marina in the future...but I know there will always be the virtual visits!
Another great experience in the Marina Mazatlan was a presentation by the folks on the boat Harmony. Virginia Gleser has written a wonderful book chronicling she and her husband Robert's adventures, and they offered a book signing/discussion session. I loved their background, their stories and their style. Later Paul and I were able to spend a bit more time visiting with them and I realized we had some friends, organizations and places in common. I'll work to close some of those circles in the future, and will also be looking forward to encountering Robert and Virginia down the road. Meantime, Virginia's book kept me company while we cruised to new places...another soothing voice of wisdom sitting with me in the cockpit on some of my watches.
Sailing from Mazatlan, our first leg was to Isla Isabella. Holy smokes, we had such an amazing sail to the island and then a couple of great days at this very very special place. My mantra became: "Christmas Came Early!"!!!
One of our "problems" throughout our travels this time around has been arriving too early to our destination. We keep sailing faster than we intend so we try to slow down, leave later, etc. to avoid the 3 a.m arrivals - which means that we we are stuck sailing around throughout the night, awaiting a sunrise. (I use the term "stuck" somewhat loosely, it's just that you get kind of tired of having to stay awake...the sailing part isn't bad, it's pinching yourself for the up-all-nights that gets a bit tiresome)
We weren't certain about tides and their impact on the ins and outs of the channel in Mazatlan, so we ended up having to leave there about 4 hours earlier than we wanted in order to avoid potential problems with currents and tide depths, etc. Our departure still ended up being interesting as we had to punch through some fair sized waves to make it out to sea. Then there were the obligatory fishing boats - eight of them coming at us ... one additional very, very, verrrry large ship too. Later we found our jib sheets had become cockeyed and we had to re-rig one of them. Crises' all averted...enabling beautiful beam reach sailing at 7++ knots.
We put a reef in our main and partially furled our jib so that we would slow down as we started calculating a midnight (no good!) arrival at Isla Isabella. Next step was changing course to go further out to sea than we needed, more time -killing strategy. Eventually we celebrated the realization that we were back in the Pacific Ocean for the first time in over a year!
Our Pacific sailing yielded a gorgeous sunset. Moonrise was also wonderful. Paul and I decided to eat above decks to enjoy the amazing skies...Natalie Cole was singing Christmas tunes...I delivered the dinner...and in no time the sea performed her magic, and it was dinner with a twist, upside down spaghetti. Zig Zag became official and invaluable crew at that moment, he was the best spaghetti cleaner-upper ever.
From Kate's blog, I copied her idea to try to write more in the log book. (Her idea was actually trying to write something each hour or so, but I was an immediate failure at this.) So, for my 6:30 a.m. Log journal, I wrote "the moon is still so bright in the sky, like a light someone forgot to turn off! At 0600 I could see the island - we're close! A beautiful beautiful sunrise - pastel pinks and blues and golden streaks, with a welcoming committee of boobies and frigates flying overhead. I had the moonbeams on the water behind me and the evolving sunrise in front. YUM!"
So, yes... ok...it's true. The girlie-girl in me likes the above log journal entry a lot better than "Time: Position: Course: Wind Force: Barometer: etc........." But it's still hard to keep track of where and when and what and why even with adjectives. At one point I wrote simply "Whales!!! 2 humpbacks - flukes and blows!" Considering my passion for those critters, it's hard to believe that's all I had to say about their visit!
12/02/2011, Marina Mazatlan
Wow, what a great couple of days we had, setting our own world record! Yes, our OWN world record...this means a whopping 33 hours fully under sail, without running the engine! In the end, the winds -- along with our impatience - conspired to get the better of us. Around 1 a.m., the winds died and kept clocking around part of the dial. Our mainsail was making too much racket...sleeping -- and getting into port to make some business calls-- won priority over sailing the whole Topolobampo to Mazatlan route.
The last two days were just super duper nice, the "what it's all about" kind of sailing, beam reaches almost the entire way down, and both mornings I had exciting marine mammal sitings. Day one, dolphins. Day two....spouts gave way to dorsal fins which then gave way to a HUMPBACK BREACHING! Yowzaa! From our distance it looked like a younger (smaller) whale and a larger one together. We had a brief fluke view too.
The moon and stars put on great shows, I saw many shooting stars on my watch, and phosporescence in the water too.
Leaving Topolobampo was hard, a sailing family pulled into port with a painful medical situation. Several doctor visits later it was determined that the patient was in the midst of dealing with a kidney stone. While the process is totally un-fun, we voiced collective sighs of relief that this situation had occurred when the cruising family was close enough to a port to get the needed medical help. And we had an unexpected bright side to all of this - one of the way-laid crewmembers was a fun and smart seven year old who enjoyed listening to Christmas music and making decorations as much as me and Zig Zag! Hopefully, her Dad is almost done with the ordeal, and we'll meet up with the family and other sailing friends again soon. They have their mast decorated fantabulously for the holidays!
While underway, I had round two of trying out one of my new boat toys, a pressure cooker. Stone Family legends of exploding baby food aside, these days, the pressure cooker is supposed to be every galley's best tool. But, I have to conceed that so far, I haven't been the best at using this miraculous one-pot wonder. Think Oliver: "Please sir, may I have some more?" ... minus the maggots (I hope). Cruel gruel....cruel gruel indeed.
We've been watching a lot of Miss Marple dvd's during this trip. So, as she would say: "Ohh Myyiiiihh, tsk tsk tsk..."
You asked for it, you got it... an album has been uploaded of photos from the trip. I'm having a difficult time with the uploader, so things are not in order and I still can't figure out where some of the images went...pero, si que mejor de nada! Some of you emailed to ask for a look see. Click on the image gallery for the album.
11/29/2011, Marina Palmira Topolobampo
I'm hesitant to post this as I know it is quite long. But, those of you who convinced me to do 'the blog thing' told me that this was something I should do for myself. So, lengthiness be damned..it's a week long trip full of once in a lifetime experiences, many of which I still haven't included!...
Back in the cozy, good ship TugTub, it's hard to imagine where my feet were just 24 hours ago. The words repeating in my head throughout our Copper Canyon journey were: "Magically Delicious"...just like the character in the Frosted Lucky Charms commercial used to sing.
Paul and I were able to briefly experience the highs and the lows of the Copper Canyon. Now that we've been there, we'd love to go back and do a few more of the in-betweens, as well as heighten the highs and deepen the depths. It was not easy or cheap getting there, but it was definitely worth both time and money.
The first leg of the trip was from the boat in Topolobampo to the town of Los Mochis, where we stayed the night so that we'd be ready to board a 6 a.m. train. We also had to board our dog there because the little marina in Topo just didn't have any cruisers or workers hanging out who might be interested in playing with and caring for the scallywag. The marina manager turned us onto a great place to take care of the Zig, but I was still pretty traumatized to leave the doggie with strangers for 5 days. I tried to keep the fear factor in perspective and enjoy the town of Los Mochis. It's a very cool little city with a mix of old and new, we enjoyed a nice walk, hotel and dinner.
My doggie guilt and fear of missing the early train meant little sleep in our hotel, but the journey the next day was so spectacular I didn't feel tired. Pre-dawn darkness and flat beginnings evolved to rays of sunshine breaking across mountains that rose from the lowlands. The Ferrocarril Barrancas Del Cobre "El Chepe" train slowly ascended, winding through tunnels and over bridges, past one jaw-dropping, amazing vista after the next. How can you describe one of the world's greatest canyon country? It was all that. Sky, rock, water, birds, cliffs, trees, people, amazing. The interior of the El Chepe is definitely circa 1960's, and the dining car kind of reminded me of a 1970's Denny's, but the food was decent. Staff aboard the train were all helpful. A funky soundtrack played throughout, initially some great Mexican folk tunes, then occasionally lapsing into very weird Liberace-esque tunes. On the return journey, this particularly icky Liberace-ish portion of the soundtrack seemed endless.
There was an interesting mix of folks aboard, primarily Mexican tourists along with a handful of gringos, and commuters. While we tourists all had our noses pressed against the glass, the commuters pressed their faces to pillows, working to keep their blinds shut and to sleep for some of what would be about 15 hours travel to their destination in Chihuahua.
Both coming and going were spectacular rides, but I'd have to say the way home proved most interesting because of an intense rainfall the previous night. New waterfalls appeared, gushing off cliff faces, and the river had become a surging muddy force. It's power in carving some of the canyon became more obvious with surging waters and boulders running through.
Guides and (K)Nights
Our first night at the top of the canyon we stayed in Creel, we kind of made a mistake on this one, as we needed more time to take advantage of all the adventure trips that radiate out from the town. We just didn't quite realize how much time was involved in getting from point A to point B, and had pre-arranged a stay the very next day at one of the most luxe hotels in the canyon, the Posada Barranca Mirador. In the morning we were lucky, we walked toward Creel's Plaza en route to wait for a bus toward Posada Barranca, but instead of waiting for the bus, one of the local guides offered himself and his truck for hire. He would drive us not only to our next hotel, but also stop along the way at a couple of scenic spots. It was a win-win - we didn't have to wait for the bus and would get to see a few things off the beaten track, and he would have work, at least for half the day. As in almost every place we've been in Mexico over the past year, the tourism factor is: down-down-down - from boom town to ghost town. Because there's so few tourists, it feels good to at least be able to hire some folks along the way who want the work and are fantastically helpful. We hired a lot of drivers and guides during this journey, but I wish I could have hired a permanently attached translator too... I'm frustrated with my very basic Spanish speaking ability.
The luxe hotel was a once in a lifetime cliff-face view, amazing, amazing, amazing. A gorgeous sunset, and at 4:30 a.m. I was awake for an spectacular moonrise, then later the sunrise. During the train ride and in Creel, we met up with a lot of indigenous people, called Raramuri in their language, Tarahumara in Spanish. At every train stop or pause, women with babies sell their beautiful baskets made from pine needles and grasses, children sell bracelets and necklaces, boys and men occasionally hawk geodes and apples and such. Here in Posada Barranca, during the hotel sponsored loop hike, we were able to briefly visit a very small group living on the side of the cliff, and learn more about how they get their water, where and why they live in large groups or small, etc. During our little nature hike we also learned about some of the trees, seeds, teas, birds etc. Paul and I were with a small group of Mexican tourists on this hike, everyone was very patient with our limited Spanish and always so helpful to us and to the guide in translating. Several shared that they had decided - come hell or high-water, often against the advice of family and friends, that they were going to see this place - media fear-feeders and/or narcotraffickers be damned.
A lovely happy hour back in the hotel involved a solo guitar player/singer who played requests. This quickly became an old style sing-along around a roaring fire, and it was great for us to hear the Mexican sing along songs that everyone - except us - knew. Like "New York, New York" except it was "Chihuahua" or "Michoacan".
Flying and Falling
Paul and I plotted our next day's adventure, the zip line! Okay, I'm not usually hot on the zip line thing... I'm not really sure about the relative "green" pros and cons of the industry and usually wouldn't sign up to wait in line versus just go hiking. But here we were, at the top of this amazing canyon...the idea of being able to fly across the peaks just seemed too, too, too well, too magically delicious not to try. Turns out this zip line is about a year old, and it is the third largest in the world! It includes seven different zip lines, plus two long swinging bridges, and then the aerial tram ride back. The cables and rigging were so fantastic, Paul and I admired how rigorous it all was in comparison to the boat. We felt completely safe with all of the gear. No need to worry about hoards of people, there were three of us visitors and three guides. I ended up really loving everything except the initial jump off. In the air, on the cable, I felt completely safe. After the first line, I was able to relax, look left and look right and to even look down ....soaking it all up and pretending I was a bird. But, convincing myself to set the process in motion by actually jumping on the line and off the cliff always took a little bit of extra time. And, for some reason, I was MOST nervous on the swinging bridges...they really get your heart going! All in all, I think the farthest down the earth was from under our feet was about 1500 feet or so. You are really freakin' high! We also enjoyed the aerial tram ride back to base, a fun bit of Swiss Alps type gawking.
But now that we'd explored a smidge of the top of the canyon, we decided we wanted to go to the bottom. After reviewing the options described in the ripped out Copper Canyon section of the Lonely Planet I carried, we decided to try the town of Urique, at the very bottom of one of the tallest canyons in the world. Again, it was a bit of a downer to realize the amount of travel time between point A and point B, but we just HAD to experience this! So, post zip line, we boarded a van to the train. We planned on riding the train for an hour or so, then getting off in a town called Bahuichivo with the hopes of catching a bus that would then descend for approx 3 to 3.5 more hours. Ugghhhh. But, the train was late...an hour or so... getting us uncomfortably close to night time driving down into the canyon. I was not looking forward to that. Then it turned out that because of the train's lateness, we missed the bus. So, once off the train in Bahachuivo we were lucky again to encounter another local person with a truck, a competent guide and driver. We had another negotiation and another win-win - Paul and I needed the ride, and Alberto could use the work.
The personalized drive would take an hour less than the bus, plus I imagined it would be a lot easier on the motion sickness factor than the big bus. From my perspective, the road was one death defying canyon rim and switch back after the next. Our driver and his wife were very sweet and very experienced on the road, so after a bit of time, Paul and my gasps became easier breathing, going with the flow....down....on dirt and gravel...down...down...down... to the bottom.
Urique ('ooreeekay') Okay
Considering the location, Urique is a pretty big town with about 1500 people or so. And, it is super, super gorgeous. Due to my lack of forward-planning and spotty internet connections along the way, I only had half-way made arrangements for a place to stay here. I emailed an inquiry to a Lonely Planet pick, Entre Amigos, received a wonderfully kind response, but then I was never able to get back online to confirm with the folks that we would actually be coming. So, I wasn't sure what to expect...but as with all things here, I felt confident that if Plan A didn't work out, surely another family/business would show up to help us with their Plan B.
The sun was setting as our driver/guide Alberto and his wife dropped us off and drove away for their long journey home - I felt really nervous about them driving the road in the dark, but they explained this was a regular commute for them. They have a new hotel (Jade Hotel) in Cerocahui (the main tourist town 30+ miles near the Bahachuivo train station) and frequently take guests and tourists up and down along the route. We waved goodbye, and Paul booked them for a return journey (yeeeaaah! Avoided the bus again :-)!
I started to think Plan B was getting ready to kick in, as we walked around our Entre Amigos compound and were surrounded by beautiful vegetable gardens and fruit trees, cabins and hostel houses, but no actual people. We were getting hungry, so we stored our gear in an open building and started walking toward town where we had seen a couple of restaurants - our driver Alberto had pointed out one place in particular.
Ahhh the outsiders, how many times can you say hello and good evening to all the folks in a small town ...and hear the chuckles of the kids... oh well. I guess there are worse things than providing folks with a good laugh. The Plaza restaurant was a great locale, and completely without menus, so we listened hard to try to "hear" what the waitress explained was available for dinner. Again, our limited Spanish means we're depending on the kindness of young women like our waitress, who patiently guided us to good selections. Soup for me, quesadillas for Paul. All fresh and delicious, along with home-made Totopos and salsa. Again in very limited Spanish, we met the restaurant owner, who explained he also had a hotel in town, and if we needed to we could stay there. Aha, Plan B! That would be Estrella Del Rio.
Once back at Entre Amigos, we found a light on and ended up rousting a sleeping host. The email I'd received earlier had explained that while the owner Keith was traveling in Oregon, a friend was staying at the compound along with some local staff. The friend was a man I'd initially heard about through other cruisers, Micah True, a.k.a "Caballo Blanco". Indeed, it was Micah who awoke to greet us, explain the ropes and show us to our little cabin. He pointed out key elements...this way to the rustic outhouse, that way to the porcelain toilet outhouse, in the morning a man named Tomas would build a fire to heat water for a shower, etc. I had a thousand questions for Micah, but since we'd woken him I decided to try to hold off. He explained a basic few options for hiking etc the following day, Paul and I found the ping pong table and played a few rounds, enjoyed the candlelight and crickets, stars and fresh air.
Micah turns out to be quite legendary, and a person working to make a great contribution through his time on the planet. Among other things, he's in the midst of organizing his twelfth ultra marathon based in Urique. "Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon Mission Statement: La Paloma de Paz -
We come together in las Barrancas del Cobre to create peace and harmony, sharing with/of all that is provided to us by our Mother Earth." The indigenous people, Raramuri, are famous for their running skills and their ability to maintain their independence and traditions. I'm not very knowledgeable about this, but apparently they're known for being barefoot uber long distance runners, and also for a tradition of running with a small wooden ball kicked in front of them. Both men and women run. Micah explained that last year's utlramarathon yielded about 250 Raramuri people participating, 60 or so Mexican nationals, and about 40 international runners. A movie,a book, and many magazine articles have profiled Micah and some of his colleagues. But Micah works to have both money and attention channeled toward the right people, and seems to maintain a low-profile, feet on the ground approach. Since returning from our journey, I've read a lot more about all of this. The more I read, the more I like.
"Award ceremony: That is when the top 10 Raramuri [Tarahumara runners] will be handed huge cash awards and notice of the award of mixed corn and beans to the various settlements of the top 10 runners. The corn/beans awards at the 2010 race turned out to be the value of 120,000 pounds of corn! The cash awards were over $11,000 dollars. All finishers after the top 10 will be awarded 500 pounds of corn. Any stateside runner that finishes in the winnings will have the opportunity to present his/her prize as "korima" [a gift/sharing] however he/she wants, to be given/shared with the finishing raramuri or towns-people."
Humble Happy Feet
The next morning, Tomas introduced himself and offered up that wood fire and nice hot water. He and Micah described some of the trails and outings that they could help us with. We picked one long trail outing that Micah seemed particularly fond of, and Thomas rushed off to organize the day.
I was a little nervous about selecting the longer hike because, just at this crucial moment, the hiking shoes I'd carried aboard all this time decided to totally blow out. On the zip line I looked down to see one rubber sole completely seperating from the shoe itself. It was "downhill" from there, the other one was starting to self destruct too. I was leaving a trail of black rubber bits where ever I walked. All I had for footwear was the classic boat shoe, the Docksider. What? No arch support and gripping for these rocky trails? Would I survive? Paul and I chuckled, thinking about being in the heartland of the world famous barefoot runners, while I worried about my hiking shoes for a little day hike ....
An hour or so later, a little pickuptruck came to get us, Thomas's nephew at the wheel, along with some friends. We climbed up into the pickup bed, where an extra two carseats were placed in the back. Sweet! A few stops in town along the way - dropping off this person, picking up that person - and we were off! Micah had explained there was a good 6 miles of dirt and gravel road before we would get to the trail head. It was a pretty jarring, but fun, ride, we picked up a Raramuri family - young man and wife and their infant baby - in the midst of walking - to where I'm not sure, definitely not obvious to me. I offered my seat to the woman holding her infant, but she declined and sat atop an extra wheel in the back. I could only imagine that metal rim as being very painful, and was sorry that I couldn't convince her to take the seat.
We arrived at a swinging bridge...no, this was not on the zip line tour... this was the trail head. No one was going to clip me into this bridge and give me a helmet....yeeeikes. Thomas and his nephew ran out on the bridge to start spotting fish. Another man we had picked up along the way would end up spending the day fishing with Thomas' nephew. Maybe the aerial view would help?
Departing the mighty hunters, we walked across the swinging bridge, through a long arroyo, and then up, and up, and up. Three hours later, we'd only gone about two and a half miles. The view was amazing along the way, but it wasn't because we were stopping so often at scenic overlooks that caused our snails pace. I don't think poor Thomas realized how out of shape we were when he agreed to guide us - He might have spent more time sitting and waiting for us to catch up to him than he did actually walking.
The trail was beautifully maintained, but the route was - from my perspective - a pretty dramatic incline. We were huffing and puffing, a very humbling experience as we learned that this path was just one small section of the Ultramarathon. I tried to imagine running up the hills, over the rocks, etc. It's not only a trail, it's a basic route that a lot of people take to get from 'here' to 'there' on horses, donkeys, and on foot. Tomas said he didn't run the marathon, but there he was far, far ahead of us, picking cactus spines for toothpicks, stopping to pray at a rock alter to the Virgin, and explaining 250 year old cactus, plants, birds and animals along the way. Tomas also explained how Micah, "Caballo Blanco", could continue running on this trail all the way to Baltopilas, accomplishing in 7 hours what would take others two or three days to complete. Once again, I was really limited by my crummy Spanish ability. My thousands of questions about nature and man had to stay in my head as I was unable to form anything but the most basic queries.
Eventually we heard a funny sound and looked up to see water. Irrigation! Huh?? We had arrived at Prosper Torres' farm. He was watering grapefruit trees, avocado trees, you name it, Prospero was growing it. Amazing! There were black plastic pipes gravity feeding water in very ingenious ways throughout. And so it was, Thanksgiving Day 2011, Prospero offered us grapefruit, nectarines, avocados, and other bounty from his hard work. Chickens and a rooster walked around, Prospero visited with Tomas while he loaded up cornhusks for animal feed and Paul and I collapsed onto some chairs that Prospero brought out for us to sit on. I could only eat half the grapefruit, it was that big and I was that spent. Eventually Prospero had completed enough of his work to stop and have lunch with Tomas. They invited us to eat too, but we honestly could not - that walk had taken everything out of us, and the grapefruit felt like a full Thanksgiving day meal. I think that this farm was initially supposed to be a little 'pit stop' on our way, but we were so slow that Tomas realized we'd have to head back down before the sun disappeared.
We collected a couple bags of goodies from Prospero for Tomas to take back home, and down we went. If only that trail had been all downhill, but of course it was not. More ups, more downs. It was however more down than up, and so it took us an hour less to get down. By the time we got to the swinging bridge, Tomas' nephew and friend had collected an amazing amount of fish. The friend was stringing them on a long grass, while the nephew finished cleaning each one. Thomas spotted more fish, and challenged his nephew to catch them. So, just when he thought his work was done, he had to run back to the truck, get the net, throw the net, and try to get those fish! We were losing daylight, and the guys were getting cold with their hands in the water, so off we went.
It was a great ride home, we picked up more riders along the way, Tomas and his family and friends and their gringo guests were all very happy. Once dropped off at Entre Amigos, Paul and I summoned the energy to walk back into town for dinner, same lovely Plaza Restaurant, another great meal. Of course, after riding in the back of the truck with all those fish, guess what I asked for - and enjoyed!
Later that night, the stars disappeared and the rain came. It was some pretty hard rain, a great noise on the tin roof. I imagined the road would be too bad for Alberto to come retrieve us, and in the morning the electricity was out. Later, Tomas arrived to build the fire and heat the water, and Maruka, a woman who also helps care for the place, arrived. Tomas showed us more of his amazing vegetable gardens as we waited for our ride. I had missed meeting Maruka the day before, a sign explained she could give cooking lessons - how to make different kinds of tortillas, yogurt, tofu etc. She told me that she'd been in a meeting the previous day, so that's why our paths had not crossed. Next time I'll take some cooking classes (after more Spanish classes!)
Alberto defied gravity and arrived to pick us up despite the rains, and we stopped along the way for breakfast at the Plaza restaurant in town. It turns out that he'd dropped off a couple there who were staying at his hotel and had come down with him in the a.m. to see the road to Urique. Once we were all aboard, we collectively spent the next couple of hours oooooohing and ahhhing as clouds were breaking up and wrapping themselves around the mountains we were driving through. There were three legs to the trip - we changed drivers and cars and switched in and out riders who were going different directions, everyone collectively sighing with contentment and excitement due to our special experience.
En route to the train, Alberto's wife ended up showing us a bit of the historic town of Cerocahui and their hotel, the Jade Hotel. She gathered us all quickly to rush off for the train, and then we waited...and waited...and waited. It was late again. No matter, interesting people to talk with while we waited, enough clothes to keep us warm, little markets for snacks, and a great view of the river and the hills. Eventually, the tardy El Chepe arrived, and off we went for yet another afternoon of magically delicious miradors.
We've been in the Marina Palmira, Topolobampo since Friday afternoon, and I am stuck with an endless loop of Barry Manilow singing Topa, Topolobampo (Copa, Copacabana) in my head. Why Me???!!
I'll write more about the journey in later. Topo is a cute place and everyone's been super nice. We are running off to Los Mochis so that we can board the El Chepe train for the Copper Canyon. Wanted to post our location before we head out, I'm not sure about the computer situation for the next few days. Everyone have a wonderful Thanksgiving, I'm grateful you're in our lives and grateful to have these wonderful days. Enjoy, Salut, Besos!!
Adios for now,
11/18/2011, Bahia de San Ignacio
We had great plans for our trip from Guaymas to Topolobampo. The plan was to go from our anchorage "Catalina Cove" to the Punto Lobos anchorage, about 50 miles.
Next, we were going to the Puerto Yavaros, about 75 miles.
Then we were going to Topolobampo, about 100 more miles.
We were interested in checking out all these spots because so few boaters we know have actually done this route. For some reason, generally most folks go straight from San Carlos to Mazatlan. A few also stop in Topolobampo, but not a lot. Originally we were going to have some guests aboard who were to document this portion of the journey for their work, but a medical situation prevented our guests from making this trip.
We left the Catalina anchorage around 9am after listening to our SSB radio weather on the Sonrisa net and looking over online weather via Passage Weather. Everything looked great, but it was sounding like the wind was planning on going away during the later part of the week. They were predicting max winds of about 23 Knots, then going down down down to about 6 knots max on Friday.
After hearing the weather, we started planning on making less stops so that we could actually take advantage of that thing they call wind. So many of our trips in the Sea of Cortez have been motoring. We love the SailABago, but, after all, there are these things on the SailABago called sails ....
For most of the first ten hours, we motored. Winds were max 5 knots or so. The engine was getting really irritating and I kept thinking about Lynn and Larry Pardey, the grand mentors of sailing. They have cruised around the world so many times with NO engine at all ... should we start thinking more like them? Would the trips be less stressful without worrying about engine systems and such? Or would it be more stressful wondering "when the heck are we going to get there already!"
We motorsailed past our first planned anchorage.
At some point along the way, of course in the middle of the night, the depth sounder started showing freaky shallow areas. We had been cautioned again and again that a lot of people just don't sail this part of the mainland because of shoals that are far off from land. We read and heard to stay at least 5 miles out. But we were farther out than that. It was perplexing. Errrr....Stalagtites and Stalagmites? What the heck was going on? Paul began throwing our hand made plumb line over. Was it going to hit something? No, nothing... Ok, Adrenalin rush is not necessary at 2 am. So, we go further out. Then the same thing keeps happening. Whales under the boat? Schools of fish? Dunno...let's go further out. Finally we're 12 miles out. The depth sounder keeps going wiggy. We decide there ain't no shoaling this far out. The heck with the depth sounder. Argh.
After all the systems that have been fixed and the doubles and triples of everything we have, we realize we have no secondary depth sounder, save for our little hand knotted plumb line. Our fish finder has never worked properly due to some equipment 'upgrades' by an eager young company rep - but turns out old parts don't talk to new parts. The hand held fish finder we looked at before leaving seemed like a silly expense. Darn!
Paul was on watch when it was time for us to make our move toward the second planned anchorage, we had at some point decided that there was open enough access to anchor at Bahia Santa Barbara at night. We wouldn't try Puerto Yavaros at night, but the Bahia Santa Barbara, 10 miles north of Yavaros, would be ok. Poor Paul, turns out a fishing fleet had decided to run their operation just in front of where we needed to go. He tried to make a run-in a few times, but night time fishing boats doing doughnuts with big nets off both sides ... well, pretty scary stuff. So, we sailed in place. Max 1.5 knots. Turned off the motor, just used the main very loosely main and cruised around until the sun rose, thinking we'd go into Yavaros at that time.
Well, what can I say. Once the sun was up it was so nice just quietly cruising along without the motor - we didn't want to stop! Plus, there was that notion that if we DID stop, we'd emerge from Yavaros a few days later and once again, not have wind. We decided to keep going. We knew we'd be arriving at the next place at night again, but we thought we had a plan B.
It was a glorious 24 hours of sailing. A rare occasion with NO engine for 24 hours! We had every sail combination and reefing combo imaginable in use, as the winds went from 0, to 3, to 5, 10, 15, 20 and 25. Even our gennaker was in full use for 2 hours! You more experienced sailors are laughing at me, but for us, this was like WOW! Amazing!
Yes, we had so much fun sailing, that we didn't want to stop. But as the hours and miles wound down, it turns out that our Plan B wasn't going to work...we were seeing more info about shoaling in the area where we thought we'd scout out an anchorage, and with the depth sounder acting flukey - combined with the really crummy super old chart data for this area - we weren't going in there in the dark. And then, the winds and seas had built to the point and at a direction that made it extremely uncomfortable to just hang out for ten hours and wait for sunrise. Duh! We cursed ourselves for not stopping to time the trip better! We had to keep going. Long story short, we basically ended up sailing out into the sea and back, a 60++ mile round trip for no reason other than to keep moving. OK, we also reckoned this was all really good practice. Our earlier foray into the other anchorage, nee fishing area, had also added mileage and time.
In the middle of the night when Paul had to go to the bow to take down the staysail, and it was dark, and winds were gusting to 25, and the waves were coming up toward 5 ft, and I was watching him go up and down, up and down, trying to keep both him and the boat ... I was asking myself "ok what are the rescue procedures...what will you do if he goes overboard...remember the steps?" I had to keep reminding myself "this is good practice...this is good practice...wait, this is really freakin' scary! Lions and tigers and bears! NO...This is good practice....this is good practice." And then the stark realization: "this is nothing compared to what big mother ocean can give you". Uh-oh. Like I was sayin "this is good practice...this is good practice..."
Needless to say, Zig Zag the scallywag was not at all happy during this phase of the journey. We would cuddle up, but we were being thrown around quite a bit with all kinds of loud scary noises. He was having nothing to do with it.
With daylight came the realization that nobody died and nothing broke. NOTHING BROKE! WOW!
We fought our way back to land waiting for the predicted death of the wind...to no avail...We also thought the seas would die as we got in the lee of the land, but they didn't really...eventually settled down quite a bit, but it took getting very close in to land before that happened. So, we Baja Bashed, turned on the engine to get in. We decided to go to an anchorage outside of Topolobampo to rest and get ourselves back together again before navigating into the Topolobampo channel.
The anchorage that was supposed to be calm ended up being hit with quite a wrap around westerly swell, so we were blowing and coasting quite a bit.
Lots of fishermen were out in Pangas were trying to do their jobs. Eventually one panga with 5 guys came up to the boat. Winds and waves were making it difficult to have a relaxed conversation, but we tried to fumble through some interactions despite the panga hitting the boat and our poor Spanish. We asked them how they were doing and what was going on, did they need something, etc. OK, so when the panga guys come up to the boat, usually they're offering fabulous fresh fish or shrimp or lobsters to sell/trade, or they need things like batteries, or maybe some other thingy. But, today's request was quite unusual. When I asked the guys if they needed something, the response was "do you have a packet of cookies? Maybe some coke?". I was stunned -"Cookies? That's what you want, cookies?" One guy finally explained, "well we'll take anything, we're really hungry!" The weather conditions didn't really give me a chance to fumble through my lame Spanish for further inquiries - where had they come from, what were they doing, what had happened etc. I just figured that no one in Mexico had ever asked me for food before. Thus, if these big macho fishing dudes were asking for food, they must REALLY need it. Paul chatted with the guys while I loaded up a care package, and then we gave each other best wishes for safe journeys and good luck, and off they went.
At that anchorage after our little 48 hour cruise, I slept for 12 hours straight, one of my all time records. We awoke to another fabulous sunrise and calm conditions.
In addition to all the remarkable components of this journey, there's one more thing to report. I had a lucky watch schedule - I was able to watch two moonrises and two sunrises. Funny thing, when the moon came up the first night, it actually startled me for a minute. It was this bright orange rectangle that suddenly appeared on the horizon. "huh, wah, where'd that ship come from?" A second of panic, then binoculars in hand...and...oh, duhhhh........