Mi Amigo Diminuto
23 February 2018 | Santa Rosalia, Baja, Mexico
He's not big, but he is big in spunk. There he is in the photos above. In the photo on the right you can see him pretending to fight me; he even got in a kick (see photo here
He is only four years old, but he can count to twenty. You can watch video online of him counting
(with a little help from his grandmother).
Do You Feel Lucky, Punk?
21 February 2018 | Santa Rosalia, Baja, Mexico
Yes, the captain of S/V Ubiquity faced another Dirty Harry moment when he looked at the kayak.
That kayak had transported Ubiquity’s captain and crew from their anchorage to the beach-side restaurant where they had been enjoying margaritas. The captain and crew depended on the kayak to return later to the boat. But the inflatable kayak was now deflated, flat.
The photo above, on left, shows the predicament. The kayak in the foreground looks not seaworthy in its deflated state. S/V Ubiquity in the background appears a long way away.
Knowing that cruisers must depend on their resourcefulness to overcome adversity, the captain opened the kayak’s repair kit and found glue, patches, and instructions. The instructions promised likely success for repairs up to 1/2 inch. The ripped seam on the kayak was open a full 4 inches.
Undaunted, the captain attempted the repair, and pronounced satisfaction with the result (See above photo, right).
Captain and crew now returned to their original intention of walking around the town and seeing the small museum. Before they launched the kayak the captain insisted on margaritas (two for him, one for the crew) to alleviate anxiety about the upcoming test of the repair - paddling the kayak out to S/V Ubiquity at anchor.
Another small point: there was one life jacket for the two paddlers. The captain insisted the crew wear the life jacket, but the crew nonetheless attempted to abandon the kayak trip by soliciting a ride to the sailboat on a ponga.
But the captain would not abide by the crew’s mutiny. It was a Dirty Harry moment, the captain explained. Captain and crew must find out together, paddling the long distance to the sailboat, if feeling lucky (the captain) or not feeling lucky (the crew) was correct.
Do you feel lucky, punk? Do you?
Hail the Hole!
21 February 2018 | Santa Rosalia, Baja, Mexico
Some holes are not welcome, potholes for example.
“Hurricane holes” are welcome to cruisers, especially when high winds are forecast. And so S/V Ubiquity waited at anchor in Puerto Don Juan, shown above, when a gale warning was issued for the northern Sea of Cortez.
The chart above shows what makes a good hurricane hole. You can see on the chart S/V Ubiquity’s track into Puerto Don Juan to the place where she anchored. Once a boat is anchored inside, Puerto Don Juan offers protection from seas entering from any direction. Plus steep hills on the Baja side offer wind protection.
My friends Dave and Rhonda survived a hurricane, undamaged, in Puerto Don Juan on their sister ship to S/V Ubiquity, S/V Swan.
S/V Ubiquity faced nothing so ominous as did S/V Swan. So after a comfortable stay at anchor in Puerto Don Juan, after the strongest winds had abated, S/V Ubiquity thanked Puerto Don Juan for her good shelter and departed.
So for cruisers hurricane holes provide comfort, and sometimes survival.
In The Remote Midriff Islands
14 February 2018 | Isla Partida, near Bahia de Los Angeles
- Now anchored at Isla Partida north (Near Bahia de Los Angeles, not near La Paz), N 28 deg 53.5 min, W 113 deg 2.6 min -
We left San Carlos six days ago headed north, not south like most cruisers. South is towards warm weather and water; north is towards remoteness. We sailed towards Isla Tiburon and the Midriff Islands, at first slowly in light winds, wishing for more wind, and then a brisk sailing wind developed.
But be careful what you wish for: by 2:00 am the winds had increased into the 20's with steep seas for which the Sea of Cortez is notorious, and S/V Ubiquity was then hit by winds gusting into the 30's. I called for my crew, asleep below, to join me, and I struggled to put in a reef with water hitting me on the foredeck, and spray hitting my crew in the cockpit. Not long after getting in the reef conditions moderated, so we could have forgone the reef, but at the moment I felt we needed to prepare for worse or risk loosing control. Those of you who have sailed in such conditions can empathize.
In the morning I thought for a moment that dolphins had joined us, but they were sea lions. These sea lions appear smaller than ours in Oregon, and move gracefully more like dolphins, with a dolphin-like jump out of the water.
Isla Tiburon is the largest island in Mexico, but uninhabited. Arriving at the Los Perros anchorage on the southeast corner of the island we joined several large shrimp boats at the anchorage, anchoring inside of them in shallower water.
The sail around the south of the island the next day was scenic and delightful, anchoring on the west side of the island north of Punta Willard. Fishermen on a ponga visited us, wanting cigarettes and cigars, which we did not have. Instead I gave them a small, focusing LED flashlight, of the type I like and use (I brought some extras to give away). The fishermen offered us either shrimp or scallops, but I responded "Somos vegetarianos". I then asked if I could take their photos instead, and they gladly agreed (see photos above).
We sailed off the anchor Tuesday and after a leisurely sail in light wind reached Isla Partida, a beautiful anchorage. It is remote here. No other boats. Beautiful, large anchorage to ourselves. The waterfowl here are plentiful, and serenade us at night. Some sound like songbirds, others make a "caw" sound, probably the gulls. One bird stayed on the sidedeck of the boat at night; apparently using it as shelter to rest.
Are we really in Mexico? I ask because it rained yesterday and last night, and is now. Not a lot, but light rain, off and on. Here rain is a rarity, and this is the first rain we have seen in Mexico since Ensenada in February 2017, a year ago.
Although in a remote location, we have lots of comforts and technology. I sometimes watch at night episodes of the gold miners TV program I enjoy, which I downloaded for playback later on my iPad. I like my new Kindle reader, and am reading now the war memoirs of a German field marshal. We have printed books, too. We spend quite a bit of time studying guidebooks, charts, and weather. I have downloaded movies I could show on the iPad, with sound coming through the boat's stereo speakers, but so far we have not had time for such urban indulgences.
After doing some boat projects yesterday I kayaked ashore in the afternoon and hiked up to the summit of one of the two peaks forming Isala Partida. There was a cairn and a metal box with a register inside, just like on the many peaks of the mountains of the High Sierra that I have climbed. I signed the summit register. I was the first person to sign the register this year.
The last signature in the summit register was in July 2017. That is how remote it is here.
Cruising Friends - Let’s Celebrate!
10 February 2018 | San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico
It takes only a little excuse for cruisers to celebrate together, typically enjoying happy hour on one of their boats. And the captain and crew of S/V Ubiquity do it too!
You may have gotten the wrong impression from some of my earlier posts, the posts about "eschewing the big happy hour dinghy raft-ups" down south when we choose instead to cruise north into the wilderness of the Midriff Islands. Yes, we are leaving in the morning for the Midriff Islands. But no, we do not eschew happy hours with our fellow cruisers when we get the chance.
See the photo above. We are enjoying happy hour on our friend Chuck's boat with some of our other cruising friends in Marina San Carlos. Do we have an excuse to celebrate? Of course, there is always an excuse ready. Our excuse last evening was to celebrate the imminent departure of S/V Ubiquity.
So thank you friends, fellow cruisers, for your friendship and support in San Carlos. Thank you for your happy hour last evening. Thank you for the light-hearted revelry, and the sometimes more thoughtful discussions of American history. Thank you for your wishes of good luck. The whales and other wildlife, and the wilderness, we hope to see sailing to the Midriff Islands and Bahia de Los Angeles can not replace you. But neither can you replace the whales. So despite that we will miss you and your camaraderie, S/V Ubiquity sails north in the morning.
When we sail north, we celebrate the upcoming adventures, but we also celebrate our cruising friends in San Carlos. And that is a great excuse for happy hour when S/V Ubiquity reaches her first anchorage in the Midriff Islands.
Opulence in San Carlos
09 February 2018 | San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico
San Carlos, Sonora, is a suburb of the working class city of Guaymas. It developed as an upper class resort area for mainly Americans and Canadians. This week I did a tour of homes in the San Carlos area, a tour that displayed well the opulence of the area. Just look at the photo above.
The more opulent housing is mainly waterfront property, or else view property higher up and overlooking the water and the two marinas. If you are interested, I have photos you can see on-line of properties I viewed on the tour.
Do any of you feel distaste for the opulent indulgence? Perhaps sympathy for the working class centered in Guaymas, and perhaps even disapproval of the comparatively wealthy North American interlopers?
If so, not so quick! When was the last time you were helping the poor in Guaymas, because that is exactly what all those people were doing - the hundreds of Americans and Canadians participating in the San Carlos tour of homes.
The tour of homes is an annual event for raising money to send many Mexican children to high school, who would otherwise be too poor to attend (High school education is not publicly funded here). The 430 people on the tour each paid 400 pesos, which goes to funding the children. The people showing their homes freely did so for the cause. And afterwards, at the country club on the golf course, as margaritas were served en masse
, the participants spent money liberally at the auctions also in support of the children's education.
Americans and Canadians, mostly elderly and retired, have organized widely to develop and support charitable causes here to benefit the locals, including education, vocational training, senior care, and a women's shelter.
I admire the many people here who devote countless hours, and money, to helping the less fortunate. I admire their selflessness - even if they live in opulent homes.
Heading North in the Sea of Cortez - Watch the Midriff!
03 February 2018 | San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico
No, not your midriff, but instead the Midriff Islands in the Sea of Cortez. Aptly named, the Midriff Islands cross the Sea about one half to two thirds of the way up from the Sea's entrance, and cruisers seldom visit them because of their remoteness and their cold temperatures and high winds in winter.
John Steinbeck called the Midriff Islands the "Galapagos of Mexico". Imagine over 30 pristine islands with unique and rare marine and desert animals. Envision countless birds, sea lions, mountains, white sand beaches and clear skies perfect for nighttime star gazing.
This region harbors great biodiversity, adapted to the conditions of the Sonoran Desert. Hundreds of thousands of marine birds come here to nest. Half of the world's population of California Brown Pelicans nest in the Midriff Islands. In the surrounding waters are twenty-three species of marine mammals and five species of turtles. Among marine visitors are eight species of whales, including the largest three in the world - Blue, Fin, and Sperm Whales.
As the captain and crew of S/V Ubiquity prepare to say goodbye to the San Carlos area and to resume cruising in the Sea of Cortez, they look forward to seeing the midriff - no, not your midriff, the Midriff Islands! From San Carlos they intend to head north to the Midriffs, cross to the Baja, and continue exploring the Baja in the Bahia de Los Angeles area and southward.
Marco Polo Travels Across Cultures, and Across Generations
01 February 2018 | San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico
No, not Marco Polo the eleventh century explorer, but Marco Polo the iPhone app. Marco Polo the app makes video-texting easy, and I use it now while in Mexico to video-text with my grandkids (actually, my friend Lisa's grandkids, but I've seen them since they were really small so I'm like a grandfather to them). But how does this transcend cultures and generations?
In Mexico, I've been enlisting my Mexican friends to join in with my video-texts to the grandkids, and everyone loves to do it. The culture here is family-oriented, so all I need to do is show a bit of the video clip of Mila (seven years old) counting to ten in Spanish, and the adults fall all over themselves joining in the videos and helping. So the Marco Polo video clips are connecting people across countries, cultures, and generations.
And that's what Marco Polo the explorer did too. So the "app" was "aptly" named!
If you would like to see my friends in Mexico falling all over themselves to "Marco Polo" across countries, cultures, and generations, here are some Marco Polo videos I sent:
Elena instructs Mila on counting to ten in Spanish
Fernando jokes and instructs Mila
Fernando, with the help of Caeser, instructs Buggy
Keman helps Mila with counting, but acts like she does not know how to count.
The Rape of the Sea of Cortez and the Theft of the Water of the West
01 February 2018 | San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico
Until the early 20th century the Colorado River ran free from the Rocky Mountains to the Gulf of California, the Sea of Cortez. The water and the silt deposits from the river nourished one of the largest and lushest estuaries in the world, supporting a large population of plant, bird, aquatic, and terrestrial life. Beaver, deer, coyotes, and even jaguar - the third largest cat in the world (after the lion and tiger) - lived in the delta at the head of the Sea of Cortez.
The diversion of water by dams in the U.S. has today reduced the delta to a remnant of residual wetlands and brackish mudflats. The abundant animals and plants native to the original delta are largely gone. Do not expect to see a jaguar there today.
At one of my many happy hours in Mexico I once had a Mexican man I was talking to, feeling the drink as was I, become incited about the injustice to Mexico brought by American politics - but not the contemporary American politics of President Trump, but rather the injustice of the Mexican-American war that took from Mexico California, Texas, and more. I mollified him by pointing out that my ancestors migrated from Europe to the United States fifty years after the Mexican-American war, so he could not hold me responsible!
But my Mexican drinking friend erred. He cited the wrong injustice. My father worked for years for the Bureau of Reclamation that runs the dams that robbed the water from the Sea of Cortez. But my friend probably did not know of that injustice. And you probably do not either.
If you want to learn about the fascinating history of the development of water resource policy in the American west, read The Cadillac Desert, an excellent polemical book developed later into a PBS documentary series.
For something less intellectual and more entertaining watch the movie Chinatown. You must watch that movie if you have not, if only for the outstanding performances of Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway.
But besides a great entertaining movie, in the background of the movie Chinatown is part of the story of the theft of the water of the west, the theft of the water from California's Owens Valley. That theft denuded the valley and it's agriculture, dried up Owen's Lake and partly dried up Mono Lake, leaving the dried lake beds to cause dust storms to destroy the once pristine air quality. The ranchers of Owens Valley took up arms and dynamited the aqueduct being built to steal their water. But the ranchers were far to weak to resist the thousand-man army sent in by the thief, the City of Los Angeles.
The Mexicans did not know that their natural allies, to fight the theft of the water for the estuary at the head of the Gulf of California, were the Owens Valley ranchers. But even allied with them their power would have been far too weak to stop the rape of the Sea of Cortez.
Sailboat Owners Have Low IQ’s - More Evidence
23 January 2018 | San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico
The evidence is visual, above. There I am lying in the engine compartment, contorted, tormented, inspecting and greasing the steering cables and the idler pulleys. My legs rest on top of the engine and the cockpit sole is above my head. Basically, I am trapped. The last time I did this my crew had to pull on my legs to try to get me back out. This time I managed to wiggle my head into the opening, and do a tricip extension (like the second half of a bar dip) to push myself into freedom. At 70 years old I felt good I could do that; can you other 70 year olds do that?
But the more fundamental point is why did I choose to put myself into that tormented position, chosen at my own free will and at great expense (all the money spent on the boat), anyway?
Do sailboat owners have low IQ's? Q.E.D.
Whether? Depends on Whither the Weather.
23 January 2018 | San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico
Cruising sailors understand the imperative of informing our decisions with study of the up-coming weather. Hence the importance of deciding whether based on whither the weather.
The photos above show Avalon Harbor, Catalina Island, California, which was so serene and calm when we were there in January. But these photos shows the ferocity of strong Santa Ana winds hitting Avalon, sometimes killing people caught in those conditions on their boats.
The same weather phenomenon is happening here, in The Sea, right now, except here we call it not a "Santa Ana" like they do in Southern California, but instead a "Norther". The fierce "Norther" winds, blowing south and raking The Sea right now, originate just like the "Santa Ana" winds from high pressure in the southwestern U.S. plateau region. That high pressure spills into Southern California and the Sea of Cortez, creating Santa Ana's and Norther's.
In both places, boaters must seek shelter. In The Sea cruisers seek shelter behind islands or in bays offering protection from the north. One of my experienced cruising friends, thinking S/V Ubiquity was already cruising again in The Sea, messaged me today, "I see you are having a strong northerly. Where did you seek shelter?" Luckily, I could respond, "In Marina San Carlos", since we had not yet left to resume cruising.
As we come closer to Ubiquity being ready again to cruise, I find myself watching more the weather. Prudence demands such attention this time of year from any sailors heading northward and crossing The Sea.
Prudent sailors understand that whether depends on whither the weather.
Parsimony versus Complexity - Which Fits Reality?
20 January 2018 | San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico
The graphic above I first posted on the web many decades ago (hence the low resolution). Putting aside the issue of explicating male-female differences, for which transgressions I am surely already on the radical feminists' hit list, the issue this graphic raises is timeless and profound - parsimony versus complexity.
Let me explain how I came to this profundity today. I begrudgingly lowered myself into the engine compartment of Ubiquity to investigate the hydraulic oil leak I had observed in the hydraulic autopilot. To my delight I found that the "leak" I had observed was only from grease that had dripped from the hydraulic ram in the hot summer heat. That, plus my misreading the fluid level in the hydraulic reservoir, led me to the false conclusion that I had an hydraulic leak in the ram, the piston that drives the autopilot. I then shirked for a week looking further at the problem.
My investigation today once again affirmed my humanity, that I err. There was no leak at all. Of course, to figure that out I suffered contortions for an hour in the engine compartment, checking and testing, but the end result delighted me. Hurrah for no hydraulic leaks and for our humanity!
Luckily I was an empiricist, not a deductionist like Aristotle. Aristotle proffered that women had fewer teeth than men. But not believing in empiricism he never looked into his wife's mouth to count her teeth and discover his error.
But I did crawl into the engine compartment, endured discomfort for my belief in anti-Aristotelian empiricism, and discovered my error.
So Ubiquity's autopilot is fine.
But what about parsimony versus complexity?
In discomfort today crammed into Ubiquity's engine compartment, I marveled at the Rube Goldberg complexity of the autopilot: I push buttons and the electronics sends electricity to an electric motor; the motor operates a pump, the pump pumps hydraulic fluid, the hydraulic fluid pushes out or brings in an hydraulic ram, the ram connects to the steering quadrant, the steering quadrant turns the rudder shaft, and the rudder shaft turns the rudder.
The complexity sounds like Rube Goldberg, if you know the complexity is there, but most people don't understand enough to know that complexity exists. So maybe Rube Goldberg complexity is always there when you know enough to realize it.
BUT. In science scientists always value PARSIMONY - the simplest explanation is the best. Choose the simplest explanation that fits the evidence!
By the principle of parsimony you can dismiss, for example, most conspiracy theories. Who killed JFK? Oswald, that is the simplest answer that fits the evidence. Of course, sometimes there are real conspiracies, like the assassination of President Lincoln, and the evidence will require a more complex explanation.
And dear reader, for those of you still here with this blog post, how do you explain THIS, this post? Invoke parsimony. After my contortions in the engine compartment today, I mollified myself, and celebrated my glad discoveries about the autopilot, with margaritas at Club de Capitans. You need no more complex explanation.
Coming Back Home, My Way
15 January 2018 | San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico
Many American and Canadian cruisers sail their sailboats down the west coast to Mexico. At some point they may want to come back. Then it gets hard.
Leaving the Pacific Northwest in summer to sail down the west coast you sail with the wind and seas. Coming back up the coast you go against the prevailing wind and seas. It makes all the difference.
If you leave the Northwest for Mexico late in the Fall, like I did, you chance getting caught in southerly weather that prevails in winter, as did I. Then you have to fight your way down the coast. But most cruisers are smarter, leave in summer, and have a comparatively easy sail down the North American west coast.
So how to come back when you want to come back?
There are four options: two non-sailing options and two sailing options.
OPTION 1: The first non-sailing option is the easiest way to get your boat back: Put it on a freighter in La Paz, pay $10,000+, and pick the boat up in Victoria B.C., an easy sail to your final Pacific Northwest destination. Several companies do this and provide excellent service, so for people like me who can afford it, this option could be attractive.
OPTION 2: The second non-sailing option is the most common way sailers get their boats back: Motor into the wind, hugging the coast, seeking protection from the coast wherever you can, motoring at night and when seas are milder. This option appropriately is called the "Baja Bash", and there is a book of that title telling sailors how to do it, and the book is so popular among sailors stranded in Mexico that the book is now in an updated edition.
OPTION 3: The first sailing option is the easiest, and the most impressive to non-sailors: Sail back via Hawaii. What makes this comparatively easy sailing is that you can sail with the prevailing winds to Hawaii, and from Hawaii sail north around the North Pacific High with most of your sailing with the wind (although some sailing to windward will probably be necessary). It's a long sail to Hawaii, and then to the Pacific Northwest, both legs about 3 weeks, but you sail mainly with the wind.
OPTION 4: Hardly anyone ever sails this or understands it, but all cruisers recognize it if you refer to it: the Clipper Ship Route. Despite its shroud of mystery, the concept is simple. As you go west from the North American coast the prevailing winds gradually change direction, veering to become more NE rather than NW. Here's what you do: Sail hard on the wind, which will take you way off the Baja coast hundreds of miles. Your heading should gradually veer and become more northerly. When you think you can go to port tack and lay your objective, tack.
A fifth option is to try to sell your boat in Mexico. That avoids trying to get it back, but probably requires selling the boat for less. In some cases paying for option 1 might be economically better.
Option 1: I think I would feel that I copped out, that I shirked a challenge, if I just put my boat on a freighter.
Option 2: I'm a sailor. I used only 15 gallons of fuel going from Ensenada down the Baja Pennisula and then up the Sea or Cortez to La Paz. So the Bash is not for me.
Option 3: I would like to sail to Hawaii and impress my non-sailing friends, but Hawaii is not a good cruising destination. There is a shortage of anchorages and marinas. The marinas don't want you. It puts me off.
Option 4: No one does this or understands this, which makes it a challenge I want to do. You could use a Clipper Ship Route approach to sail directly to the Pacific Northwest, or to somewhere closer further south. The further north, the further offshore and the longer the time for the passage.
The graphic above shows the idea I currently am favoring. Leave the Cabo area sailing a Clipper Ship Route and go to a port tack to lay Isle Guadalupe. Isle Guadalupe is a remote island about 200 miles south and about 200 miles west of Ensenada. It has few people, lots of Great White Sharks, and one acceptable anchorage. I'm sure I would love the respite there after the difficult passage from Cabo.
From Guadalupe I would hope to pick a weather window to lay Ensenada, or come close, on a port tack. After that I would look forward to stopping at new places on the way north up the U.S. west coast.
That is my current thinking of how to go north in the spring, after cruising more in the Sea of Cortez. If you are a sailor you undoubtedly have opinions about this, so share them with a comment. And non-sailors please comment if inclined too.
Preparing to Further Explore “The Sea”, the Sea sheltered by The Second Longest Pennisula in the World
14 January 2018 | San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico
Cruisers in Mexico just call it "The Sea", and everyone knows you mean the Sea of Cortez. Bordering The Sea on the west is the Baja Pennisula, the second longest pennisula on earth (only the Malay Pennisula is longer), longer than the length of California. And mainland Mexico borders The Sea on the east.
This is a big body of water. It is very narrow (east-west) compared to long (north-south), but looking from one side of The Sea you cannot see to the other side (across the narrow way), and even when crossing the Sea, from the middle you cannot see either side. You are alone, just the water, The Sea, and all of the life found in The Sea, which Jacques Cousteau famously called "the world's aquarium".
So S/V Ubiquity and her crew now prepare to further explore The Sea. In 2017 we sailed up the west side of The Sea, the east coast of Baja, north to Santa Rosalia, and then crossed The Sea to the San Carlos.
Now we aspire to sail further north, further away from populace, from cruisers. The further north the fewer people, boats, and cruisers - especially in the winter when most cruisers head south for the "Mexican Riviera" - Puerto Vallarta, La Cruz, Zihautanejo.
But not S/V Ubiquity and her crew. We head north. Into the feared "northers", the fierce northerly winds that rake The Sea, especially the upper regions, in winter months. We search not for languid water, but for adventure, for solitude, for quiet, for remoteness. We will find it in the upper areas of The Sea, probably alone in our anchorages, solitary, devoid of other cruisers who are enjoying the comparative warmth and the dinghy raft-ups for happy hour.
But we will not be entirely alone. The other cruisers will not be there as we sail further north. We will not raft up for happy hours. The water will not entice us to swim with its warmth. But something else may be there to share our otherwise solidarity hours, the biggest creatures to ever live on the earth.
So instead of sharing our winter happy hours with fellow cruisers in the Mexico Riviera, we hope to share our up-coming happy hours north in The Sea with the blue whale.
The blue whales migrate north in The Sea in the winter months, precisely when most human cruisers migrate to the Mexican Riviera. The blue whales eschew the cruiser happy hour raft-ups down south. But the crew of S/V Ubiquity hopes that the blue whales may sense a kindred spirit, sense our loneliness, and bless us with their visit during our happy hours upcoming in the northerly Sea in winter.
Besides the blue whale, her smaller relative, the sperm whale, also heads north in winter in The Sea, as far north as Bahia de Los Angeles.
So as S/V Ubiquity and her crew assiduously prepare for the demanding journey north in The Sea to Bahia de Los Angeles, and then south along the east coast of Baja, they look forward to happy hours. They expect no fellow cruisers at their happy hours. But they hope for creatures much larger.
She Waited for Me, Again
14 January 2018 | San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico
Above you see her. No, not my crew on the left washing the side decks. Look on the right side: there lies S/V Ubiquity in her berth at Marina San Carlos, just as we left her.
Ubiquity looks good, as she must for what we want to do. We intend to further explore the Sea of Cortez, and then try to sail her back to the Pacific Northwest.
Although more patient and dependable than her human female counterparts, Ubiquity is still demanding. She demands attention, time, work, and expense, manifesting an eerie similarity between nautical and human femininity.
To satisfy those demands my crew and I will spend days of labor, even though we worked hard on the boat in the Spring and in the Fall. My crew cleaning the side decks above is just the start, followed by running lines (jack lines, preventers, running rigging), bending on sails, hoisting sails and inspecting them, replacing some lines, inspecting and tuning the standing rigging, servicing winches, and more. There's mechanical work for me, including replacing some engine parts, inspecting and lubricating steering cables and pulleys, and attempting to fix an hydraulic leak in the hydraulic autopilot. Then there's aesthetic's, including painting, staining, polishing.
Before leaving San Carlos we must provision the boat plentifully for exploring remote parts of the Sea of Cortez, requiring self-sufficiency for extended periods. Only the careless end up anchored at a remote anchorage on a beautiful evening, after a hard day of sailing, but without provisions for a happy hour. So you see, preparation is important.
12 December 2017 | Winnemucca, Nevada
As human beings, abandonment brings bad feelings - grief, betrayal, sadness.
Above you see S/V Ubiquity as we left her in the San Carlos Marina. Were S/V Ubiquity alive she too might feel betrayed, abandoned again in San Carlos.
But were she alive Ubiquity might also find solace in the care her captain and crew lavished on her in the Marina Seca work yard. She could look forward to her captain and crew returning in January, knowing they would pamper her even more. She would know that she will be at her best when she again ventures into the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean. But she is not alive, and knows and feels nothing.
Only her captain and crew are alive and harbor bad feelings about the abandonment. Like other sailors who trust their lives to small sailboats on the world's big oceans, they impart living qualities to their small boat that takes care of them on the big seas. They feel bonds to that boat, without whose protection they would die.
So S/V Ubiquity lies abandoned again. But she has no bad feelings. Her captain and crew do feel badly, the price they pay for being sentient beings capable of emotions, but they will assuage those bad feelings later by lavishing more care on their boat.
The boat will reward the captain and crew for their hard work and attention, not penalize them for their abandonment.
Stahl for All!
03 December 2017 | San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico
A shooting star streaks across the sky, getting our admiration and attention, but then leaves us too soon. And so it was with my friend Sue, Sue Stahl. Sue left us last month. I did not expect it. It shocked me. It seemed so counter to her enthusiasm and perseverance that I knew. But like everyone we know in life, we never know other people entirely.
I of course understood that Sue struggled with her challenges, living with cerebral palsy all of her life. She became a dedicated advocate for those disabled with physical challenges, like her. She ran for the Portland City Commission ("Stahl for All!"). I, my sister, and several other close friends donated to her campaign; we met at McMennimens at Kennedy School, got into the "Stahl for All!" slogan, chanting it in the pub after several pints, and we all committed to contributing to her campaign. She did not win that campaign, but she did chair for years the Portland Disability Commission.
Sue committed herself to help others. In her words: "I deal with ADA issues every day. I'm glad I have the support within the ADA community and within the city to not only help my needs but also help the needs of others who are not able to stand up, speak up, and advocate for themselves."
I first knew Sue when she was an MPA student at Portland State University, taking my classes. After her graduate work I became her mentor and then her friend. Some of you may have met Sue at Leslie's Christmas ships parties, or perhaps at to Channels Edge. I took her sailing on the Columbia several times, and when at the helm she loved surprising us with wild turns. But mostly, as a friend I would meet Sue somewhere to drink a good microbrew and talk.
Sue, you fought so hard during her life, for yourself and then for others. Maybe fighting with CP as you got into your 40's became too hard, and as a friend I must accept that. It hurts that I can not see you again, but I thank you for being my friend, for all of those conversations over a great microbrew. I intend to toast you again at some of those same Portland places where we met, and my toast will be a loud - "Stahl for All!"
If you want to read more about Sue, you can read an article in the Willamette Week
, listen to an interview of her when she was running for Portland Commisisioner
, or look at her Facebook page
A Person of Honor
02 December 2017 | San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico
Nazario above can teach us about living an honorable life. When he died Marina San Carlos paid for his funeral, attended by many who told stories of appreciation about him. The local fishing boat captains divided his ashes, and spread them from their boats in the waters of Bahia San Carlos. Although he was poor and could not read or write, he left an honorable legacy.
I once thought honor not so scarce. As a boy I admired a United States president, John F. Kennedy. And Kennedy promoted the idea of admiring persons of honor in a book he wrote when he was young, Profiles in Courage
Back then the people we thought worthy of admiration were in high places. But today few people in high places seem worthy to me of honor. There are exceptions - perhaps a U.S. senator who votes his conscience against intense political pressure. But instead of profiles in courage, it seems we more commonly see in high places today dishonorable behavior and dearth of principle.
And we common people may not deserve better. When John Kennedy's inaugural address famously exhorted, "...ask what you can do for your country!", people took it seriously. People volunteered for the Peace Corps and other humanitarian causes.
But how many among us will self-sacrifice today? In contrast to sacrifice, public policy discussion focuses on what people can get, like tax cuts or benefit increases, not on what people need to give for a higher good. I never hear political leaders or common people calling for any minor sacrificing for the long-term solvency of our country and the benefit of future generations. Our major political parties and political leaders have turned JFK's question upside down, "Ask not what you can do for your country, ask what your country can do for you." Selfish appeals prevail: Republicans appealing more to wealthier selfishness, Democrats appealing more to middle/lower class selfishness.
Maybe a selfish society without honor deserves leadership without honor. Or maybe we can learn from examples like Nazario.
Nazario was there in May to help haul out S/V Ubiquity at Marina San Carlos. You can see him in this photo
and in this video
: he is the man in the cowboy hat who tosses the line on the boat. He was in his 80's then, but nobody knew his age for sure. He had worked there since before the marina was built, helping on the docks and hauling out boats.
Nazario had a purpose and it gave him honor. The day before he died he helped haul out boats in the marina. When it was cold and even when he was sick, he would wade into the water to do his job. He had little money, but he would buy pastries to give to the other employees, especially the women. He composed songs, but since he could not write he asked his friends at the marina to write down the songs that he created.
Nazario Salazar died in August when I was in Portland, so he was not here to help when I launched S/V Ubiquity after my return. But he was a man of honor, and we know that if he could have been here he would have been here, doing his job, making his contribution, asking not what people can do for him but what he can do for them.
And the people who knew him well do not forget. His photo is prominently displayed in the San Carlos Marina office. People talk of him fondly. Even those like me, who did not know him well, miss him. Because although Nazario had little, died poor, and could not read or write, it uplifts the rest of us to see a person of honor.
Return to Her Natural Element
02 December 2017 | San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico
The dry storage yard at Marina Seca, San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico treated S/V Ubiquity well over the hot Sonoran summer. The facility seems excellently run, with the operations well-coordinated between Marina San Carlos and the on-land work yard and dry storage yard at Marina Seca.
But a sailboat, especially a sailboat like S/V Ubiquity designed to sail across oceans, on land is like a fish out of water. She survived well the maximum 102 temperature recorded inside her during her stay on land, but I am sure she felt delight when her keel descended once again into the seawater at Marina San Carlos.
The photo shows Ubiquity's return to her natural element. The Marina Seca workers haul-out and launch the boats using tractors and hydraulic trailers. The equipment is good and the workers manifest competence and also respect for the boats and the concern of their owners.
You can also see video of Ubiquity's rebirth, her return to her natural element.
Custom Fender Covers from a Great Friend
30 November 2017 | San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico
S/V Ubiquity is ready to splash tomorrow, with fenders deployed sporting new custom fender covers. Notice her name on the fender covers.
Thank you Tammie! My friend Tammie made the custom covers for Ubiquity. What a great friend!
So Ubiquity splashes tomorrow with a new bottom paint job from her captain and crew, and new fender covers from our friend Tammie.
A Labor of Love in Mexico
26 November 2017 | San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico
If you are a sailboat owner and hence have a low IQ (See November 22 post, "Sailboat Owners Have Low IQ's"), then you too might find it a labor of love to paint your boat's bottom.
Although a dirty job, the job offers compensations. Since you care more than anyone about your boat, you know you will do a good job. Your boat takes care of you at sea, probably through gales if you sailed down the Pacific coat, so taking care of her contributes your part to that symbiotic relationship. Even if you can afford to pay others to do it, doing the bottom work on your sailboat feels right to the serious sailor.
But experiencing this labor of love is an accident of history. It could have happened in the past in the United States, before outlawed by environmental regulations. But not today. In the US today laws and rules forbid me from working on the bottom of my boat in a boat yard.
But at Marina Seca, in San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico, where I am working on my boat now, the setup is perfect to enjoy my labor of love. For now. Maybe not in the future. Probably Mexico will become like the United States some day and forbid boat owners from doing bottom work on their sailboats. Love will then become strictly regulated to only the bedroom, never the boatyard.
But I am in Mexico now, so I enjoy this labor of love in the boat yard, not possible in the United States, but possible in Mexico.
Addendum: My cruising friends Sandra and Doug Asbe pointed out that they painted the bottom of their boat after they returned to the US. So there are still boat yards in the US where owners can do bottom work, but there are more restrictions and many boat yards do not allow it.
Un Perro Ferocisimo
24 November 2017 | San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico
Well, maybe not quite ferocisimo. As you can see from the photo, Pinto, the guard dog at Marina Seca (the land storage facility) is old. He moves slowly. But he has been the guard dog here for years, and people honor his long service with affection. I give him a pat and a doggie treat when I enter and leave the area.
The guards tell me that Pinto does not like cats, and does not like pigs (the wild pigs in the hills around here), and that he will chase both of them away. They tell the story of how years ago Pinto was chasing away pigs, and a mama pig turned on him and hurt him seriously. They took Pinto to a vet, and Pinto recovered, but ever since they say when Pinto chases pigs, and one of the pigs turns around as if to run at Pinto, Pinto turns and runs away fast.
So maybe in his younger years Pinto was un perro ferocisimo, but he learned from experience to temper his enthusiasm with prudence.
And so perhaps should it be with sailors. Audacity we need, or we would never sail the oceans in our small boats. But temper that audacity with prudence, and enjoy a long life like Senior Pinto.
Sailboat Owners Have Low IQ's
22 November 2017 | San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico
When I teach the sailing classes for my Sailing in Portland Meetup Group, or for the Fort Vancouver Sail and Power Squadron, I begin the class with a question: "Who owns a sailboat and takes other people sailing". I raise my hand along with several others. Then I say, "Look around, you are looking at the low IQ members of the class". I then ask "Who does not own a sailboat but goes sailing on other people's boats". Most people raise their hands, but not me. I say, "Look around, you are looking at the high IQ members of the class".
The photo above of a sailboat owner after sanding bottom paint on his sailboat confirms this point. The crew (not shown) remained clean while the owner (shown) got filthy, injested toxins, and shortened his life.
Yes, Murphy's Law applies to sailboat owners.
22 November 2017 | San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico
Oscar at Hammerheads is my favorite bartender in San Carlos, and probably a lot of others' favorite too. He always has a smile, shakes your hand, and seems glad to see you. And of course he makes a great margarita.
Oscar is "mi buen amigo", but I have lots of other "amigos" here. People use the word "amigo" freely. Yesterday another driver made room so I could back out my car, and I was his amigo - "Esta bien amigo!" he yelled.
It's easy for me to adopt the amigo spirit here, to greet strangers as amigos. Perhaps that is a gift from Mexico to me. Perhaps I can bring a little of the amigo spirit back from Mexico.
Marina San Carlos
22 November 2017 | San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico
The setup at Marian San Carlos is really excellent. Above you see the view overlooking the marina from our room at Marinaterra Hotel and Spa. Off to the right (out of sight) is the Marina Seca dry storage area and the work yard. You can see a sailboat being towed to Marina Seca after getting pulled from the water.
For under $60 we have a nice hotel room with a beautiful view overlooking the marina, and an easy walk (or very short drive) takes us to the work yard to work on the boat.
After working on the boat and washing up at the hotel (and perhaps working out in the hotel's exercise room) comes the most difficult decision of the day - where to go for hora feliz (happy hour)? Since you can not find a bad margarita in San Carlos, you can not make a bad choice. My choice is usually Hammerheads or Club de Capitanes.
22 November 2017 | San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico
You see the workers above moving S/V Ubiquity from the long-term storage yard at Marina Seca, San Carlos, to the work yard at Marina Seca. While she is in the work yard, Ubiquity's captain and crew have been preparing Ubiquity for going back into the water. Today Ubiquity starts getting new bottom paint.
She Waited for Me
16 November 2017 | San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico
"I shall return."
- General Douglass MacArther, 1942
Like General MacArther fleeing the Philippines to escape the Japanese army, I fled San Carlos in June as the Sonoran heat intensified. Like MacArther, I returned.
And for those of you without faith, see the photo above. Witness that faith exists, as S/V Ubiquity faithfully awaited my return.
Her stainless steel railings do show some corrosion, perhaps from the salt air, and need polishing. But her topsides (the white sides of the hull) still look shiny, as the polishing of her crew had left her. No hurricane had come through the boat yard knocking over boats, as had happened the year before. The one tropical storm last summer did her no damage.
In two days Ubiquity will move from the dry storage area at San Carlos Marina Seca to the work yard, where her captain and crew will lavish attention on her. Ubiquity's faithfulness well receive due reward.
On the Road
16 November 2017 | San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico
"Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road."
- Jack Kerouac, On the Road
Driving from Portland to San Carlos, my crew and I took an eastern route through Idaho, Utah, Arizona, and then into Mexico. We passed through the great American southwest canyon-lands country, as you see in the photo above.
Like Jack Kerouac, who inspired the beat generation, we were "On the Road" again.
But our purpose differed from Kerouac's. Kerouac always lived in the moment; his purpose was now. But Ubiquity's captain and crew were driving to S/V Ubiquity, to service her need for maintenance, to refit her to sail once again "the Sea", the Sea of Cortez, and perhaps safely sail her back to the Pacific Northwest over the biggest ocean in the world.
But to what purpose? No commercial gain. No humanitarian accomplishment. No contribution to philanthropy. The only purpose - to do it, to accomplish it, to face the challenge, to survive, living in the now.
So perhaps Jack Kerouac and the captain and crew of S/V Ubiquity differ not so greatly. Perhaps they share similar goals. Both "On the Road" in their own way, facing day-to-day experiences and challenges, both surviving - until they don't. Both living in the now.
Returning to Mexico - To Work on the Boat (and Drink Margaritas)
12 November 2017 | Portland, Oregon
"If you can't repair it, maybe it shouldn't be on board."
- Lin and Larry Pardey
The photo above shows some supplies I have collected before driving down to Mexico, and attests to the willingness of the captain and crew of S/V Ubiquity to repair the boat.
Our plan: Drive to San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico, where S/V Ubiquity patiently awaits us in Marina Seca, having endured the hot Sonoran summer on the hard. Move the boat to the work yard at Marina Seca, and work on the boat for two weeks, preparing her to splash once again in the water in which she feels at home. The captain and crew drive back to Portland in December for the holidays, then fly back to Mexico in January to finish preparing S/V Ubiquity to continue cruising the Sea of Cortez.
We will reunite with the boat this coming week and begin making up for her neglect. While on the hard we will make some minor repairs on the bottom and apply several coats of anti-fouling paint, plus attend to myriad tasks required to maintain and re-commission a proper sea-going boat.
Our reward for working mornings in the hot Sonoran sun will be margaritas, and sometimes a swim, in the afternoon. Ubiquity will find reward in knowing her crew is bringing her back to condition to once again cruise the Sea of Cortez and then sail again on the biggest ocean in the world, the misnamed Pacific Ocean.
Final Resting Place
07 June 2017 | San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico
The tractor and hydraulic trailer above maneuver S/V Ubiquity into her final resting place. Well, her final resting place for now in the dry storage yard at Marina Seca. For the impending torture of the hot Sonoran summer. For the possible drama of a summer hurricane or tropical storm. For the long wait for her crew to return from the relative comfort of the Portland summer.
So S/V Ubiquity sits now, abandoned by her crew, until her crew returns in November. She took care of her crew, protected them in big seas, rain, high winds, off the Oregon, California, and Baja coasts. And then her crew abandoned her, here.
But the crew did show their appreciation. They carefully prepared her. They polished her, cleaned her, repaired her, made lists of improvements and repairs to do upon their return. So yes the crew abandoned Ubiquity, but not without showing their loyalty for her loyalty.
Making More Friends in San Carlos
07 June 2017 | San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico
Before returning to Portland shortly, I am making more friends in San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico.
On the left above is Carlos. Carlos works at Marina Seca, the dry storage yard for boats, in San Carlos. He and I hit it off because of our shared culinary interests. Leaving the work yard one afternoon, hot after working for hours on the boat, I said goodbye to Carlos, who was manning the entrance gate. While I was eating a chocolate chip cookie an uncharacteristic feeling of self-sacrifice overcame me and I offered Carlos one of the cookies in the package. Carlos ate it showing great appreciation. So I gave him another, and we have remained closely bonded since by our common culinary appreciation.
On the right above is Pinto. Pinto is the guard dog at Marina Seca. But at 16 years old (very old for a dog) Pinto does not do much guarding any more. In the hot Sonoran sun he is content just to lie down and have me pet him.
A Hard Life
02 June 2017 | San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico
Why is it a hard life?
For the boat, S/V Ubiquity: Photo above left shows her in transit to being on the hard at the work yard, Marina Seca. On the right she is on the hard in the work yard. When her crew is through preparing her, she will move to the storage area, where she will remain on the hard through the summer heat and the hurricane season.
For the crew: Four more days of hard work in the Sonoran sun await the crew, preparing the boat for the summer on the hard. But for the crew, they need only work from the early morning until the early afternoon mid-day sun gets too hot for them. The crew can then retire to air-conditioned comfort at the marina hotel, or hora feliz (happy hour), or perhaps to the hotel pool or a nearby beach.
But the boat has no such reprieve, and remains on the hard.
Boat Haul-Out, Mexican Style
02 June 2017 | San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico
The photo above shows S/V Ubiquity being hauled out of the water in Marina San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico. They hauled her out with a tractor and hydraulic trailer, then drove her a mile to storage and work yard facility.
You can see video of Ubiquity being hauled out by the tractor on-line.
P.S. Other Mexican marinas and boat yards use Marine Travelifts to haul boats, as is common in the U.S. But at Marina Seca they have used a tractor and hydraulic trailer for years, and they appear proficient at this method.
Meeting More People on the Bus, Building More Bridges
31 May 2017 | San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico
The local bus running between San Carlos and Guaymus carries all types of locals to and from work, local school kids, and occasional gringos like us.
Today when sitting alone on the bus Leslie had a delightful cross-cultural and cross-generational conversation with a schoolgirl. She approached Leslie tentatively saying she spoke a little English, and asked where Leslie was from. That blossomed into an animated conversation all the way from Guaymus to San Carlos. Maria talked about her school, her plans for the future (She wants to work in tourism), how she had wanted to go the U.S. to work later, but after Trump became President she no longer felt that was something possible for her to do.
Luckily, it is still possible for people like Leslie and Maria, from two different countries, separated by over 50 years of age, to connect, to built bridges making a connection in a short conversation. Some of our politicians may focus on building walls between peoples, but Leslie and Maria sitting on the bus (see photos above) show that it is possible for us to connect with other people, across cultures, across generations, and across the walls others may try to construct.
Some people, including 15 year old schoolgirls, understand the concept of the Family of Man, even when some of our leaders do not.
JJ's Tacos in San Carlos: Who Cares?
31 May 2017 | JJ's Taco House, San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico
JJ's Tacos in San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico is conveniently located near the marina, with a view of the beach, and with lots of seating and great wifi. The variety of tacos probably exceeds what you have seen before and the margaritas are good, although the prices are not low.
But what makes JJ's Tacos stand out is the humor, punctuated by the theme "Who Cares?" See the photos above.
Don't ask for the time when at happy hour...."Who Cares?"
No quiero agua. Quiero cerveza.
31 May 2017 | JJ's Tacos, San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico
Those are the lyrics of a current popular song here in Mexico. I first heard it today drinking a margarita at JJ's Tacos in San Carlos.
If you need a translation: "I don't want water. I want beer". Plus hora feliz (happy hour) typically starts at 2:00 in the afternoon here, about the time it gets too hot for me to keep working on the boat.
So you know why I fit in so easily here, "No quiero agua. Quiero cerveza."
Serenaded on the Bus
24 May 2017 | San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico
Yesterday I took the local bus from San Carlos to Guaymus, a rickety old bus with all the doors and windows open and with all locals on the bus, except for me and my friend Leslie. This guy gets on, drunk I thought, and said something to me about being a gringo and started singing, with intense emotion, loudly, looking at me. I could not understand a word he was singing, and was not sure it was Spanish. The bus driver got irritated at the singing and started yelling "No mas!" (No more!).
Then I said to the guy, "Usted canta muy bien" (You sing really well), which really encouraged the guy and he sang even louder. After the singer got off and another patron entered the bus the driver complained to him about how this guy was singing terribly and he couldn't get him to shut up and then the American said he liked his singing and he sang even louder.
When I got off the bus the driver made an aside comment to me about the bad singing, but with a twinkle in his eye.
Several hours later, late at night, when I stepped on the returning bus I had the same driver. He made a light-hearted comment about the terrible singing earlier, and seemed then to view it and me with good humor.
On the ride back to San Carlos the singer guy got on the bus again. When he saw me he came over to me and started singing really loudly. In truth, his singing was terrible. The other bus patrons laughed and looked at me nervously. I took several photos, which seemed to encourage the singer all the more.
When I reached my destination and was stepping off the bus, I said to the singer, "Me gusta su canto" (I like your singing). The singer beamed. I hoped the bus driver did not hear me.
Superman Teaches Us How to Enjoy Life
21 May 2017 | San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico
When I stopped at Barracuda Bob's Cafe today at Marina San Carlos I met Hiram. He made me laugh. His enthusiasm, jocularity, and good will just made me feel good.
But when I talked with him a little I learned his story was not all as rosy as his persona. He was just able to come back to work and was loving it - loving relating to everyone and spreading his infectious good will and friendliness.
What Hiram had come back from was 2 1/2 years of illness. After we talked a while he showed me his "superman" painting, given to him by a friend to help him in his time of need. Then I saw photos of him in the hospital, and he did not look good, not at all like the photos above.
Here is what Hiram said he had learned from his ordeal: "Sometimes life is bad, sometimes it is worse, sometimes it is good - better enjoy it even if it is bad."
So there was Hiram at Barracuda Bobs, recently recovered and still not feeling perfect, but there he was spreading his infectious good will, friendliness, zest for life, and showing customers his Superman painting.
So learn from Superman: enjoy life to the most whether it is good, bad or worse.
Cruising, Mexican Style
16 May 2017 | Santa Rosalia, Mexico
No, I don't mean "cruising" as in cruising on a sailboat. I mean "cruising" as in the movie American Graffiti.
If you are my age you saw American Graffiti about coming of age in the era of cruising up and down the main streets of the USA. And if you are my age you used to do cruising.
Cruising is alive and well in Mexico, at least in small towns like Santa Rosalia. Santa Rosalia is set up perfectly for cruising. See the Google Earth shot in the bottom part of the above graphic. To cruise you just head west on Avenida Alvaro Obregon (one-way going west) and return east on Avenida Constitucion (one-way going east).
Sitting outdoors at an excellent restaurant last night on Avenida Constitucion, I was able to enjoy excellent margaritas and enchiladas with a perfect view of the passing cruising scene.
In some ways the cruising scene in Santa Rosalia is like I remember in Sacramento in my youth. There are high school age kids driving by, some playing loud music, windows open, looking out at the scene, then coming back around again. Pickups drive by with teenagers in the back. Blue flashing lights on the front of the car, and blue lights around license plates, seem to be in with the kids.
In other ways it is different. First, everyone is behaved. The kids are not yelling loudly at each other or hanging BA's like we did in the 1960's. Second, it is a family affair, because everything social is a family affair in Mexico. Families drive by too, with little kids in the back seat looking out the window. Or a little boy on daddy's lap in the driver's seat steers the car under daddy's supervision (My dad did that with me in the 1950's, but don't try that today in the good old USA, because it is not the good OLD USA anymore).
Watching the Mexican version of cruising last night in downtown Santa Rosalia, the days of cruising in my youth flashed before me, and steering my dad's car sitting on his lap. I ordered a second margarita and watched through the time machine before me, albeit a time machine with a different cultural twist.
The Tenacity of Life
15 May 2017 | Santa Rosalia, Mexico
The tenacity of life first struck me decades ago when rock climbing in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. Belaying on a high rock ledge, I marveled at the small flowers growing from the cracks in the granite.
The photo above shows cactus and shrubs growing out of the rock on a desert island in the Sea of Cortez where it goes months without raining. Yet there is life - the desert plants, the birds, the lizards, and a rodent I saw that looked like a small chipmunk.
And in the Sea of Cortez life's abundance again attests to its tenacity. We've seen the bottlenose dolphin in huge schools, the larger "false killer whale" dolphin, whales, rays jumping at our anchorages, a 5' shark jumping clear of the water, birds of many types, including the graceful pelicans and the incredible frigate bird, a great soaring bird with the highest ratio of wing area to weight of any bird.
At night we have seen bioluminescence surrounding the boat at anchor.
Bees visit us at some anchorages in search of fresh water.
Humans here also attest to life's tenacity, because through cultural evolution we humans have learned to live everywhere, in all environments, dominating our environment and other species.
: You can see a large school of dolphins passing S/V Ubiquity when sailing in the Sea of Cortez
: You can see rays jumping at one of our anchorages in the Sea of Cortez
Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!
13 May 2017 | Santa Rosalia, Mexico
A mayday call declares a life-threatening emergency. That is not a call I want to hear on the marine VHF radio, but I have heard it twice.
The first time was years ago off the Washington coast. A 55 foot motor yacht was on fire and the crew was abandoning ship. We could see the plume of black smoke rising thousands of feet into the air from twenty miles away. Everyone from the distressed boat was picked up by a nearby vessel, plus the USCG was soon on the scene.
The second time was today. We were about twelve miles SSE of Santa Rosalia, and just west of the southern end of Isla San Marcos, in the Sea of Cortez. The mayday call came from the 42' sports fishing motor yacht Free Spirit, whose captain said the boat was sinking. They were taking on water and could not find the source, and were deploying their life raft. He clearly gave the coordinates for his position, which I plotted and saw was about in the middle of the Sea of Cortez, about 46 nm from me in a straight line, further by the shortest feasible route. My VHF communication with him was marginal and I was surprised that I had VHF communication at all for that distance, but I did get clearly his position.
Another sailboat besides S/V Ubiquity heard and communicated with the boat in distress, S/V Fathom. Fathom was a little closer to Free Spirit and had clearer VHF communication with Free Spirit, and Fathom and Ubiquity had good VHF communication.
Our attempts to solicit help on the VHF got no response. I told the Fathom's captain that I would try to alert Mexican authorities and would get back to him, while Fathom set a course for the distressed boat.
Using the HF radio on S/V Ubiquity I was not able to contact anyone locally, so I tried getting help on the Maritime Mobile Service Network
, a U.S. service at 14.3 MHz on the ham bands. I immediately got a contact, and although I could barely hear him he was able to get my full information on the mayday and through the USCG alert the Mexican authorities.
At the same time I tried to contact the port captain of the nearest port, Santa Rosalia, using the weak cell phone signal we had. When that failed, I tried to phone the port captain at Puerto Escondido, to the south, and was able to leave the full information about the mayday with his assistant, who said he would immediately contact the port captain.
I received confirmation from both the Maritime Mobile Service Network and from the Puerto Escondido port captain that the Mexican Navy had been notified and was dispatching a boat to the location.
We did not hear from the boat in distress for an hour, the last communication saying they were deploying the life raft. I thought the boat had likely sunk. Then the captain of Free Spirit came on the VHF again saying they had found and stopped the leak, were trying to pump out the boat, could not start the engine, had deployed the life raft but not abandoned the boat, and did not yet want to cancel the mayday.
After that I heard the Mexican Navy boat on the VHF calling for Free Spirit. I was not able to hear any response from Free Spirit.
I know no more about the final outcome. The likelihood of a good resolution was increased by: the efforts on the distressed boat to save the boat and communicate their distress, the recreational boats relaying the mayday information, the Maritime Mobile Service Network, the port captain's office at Puerto Escondido, and the Mexican Navy.
Postscript on the Final Outcome of the Incident:
I received the following communication from the Maritime Mobile Service Network about the final outcome:
"I just spoke with the Coast Guard Sector San Diego. The lieutenant on duty contacted the Mexican Navy, and the final disposition is that the motor vessel Free Spirit was towed to the Port of San Carlos safely and all persons on board are safe at the port. It looks like a great resolution to a very intense situation."
Postscript 2: On-Line Write-up of this Incident
There is now an on-line write-up of this incident
Chutzpah? Or Dementia?
05 May 2017 | Isle Carmen, Sea of Cortez, Mexico
Meet my Canadian friends Bobbie and Steve, and their two dogs, all in a sailboat currently in San Jose del Cabo.
I met them in Coos Bay in November, when the weather was terrible and blowing a gale almost every day. Leslie and I had been stuck in Newport waiting out the weather, and when we used a short weather window to hop to Coos Bay we found Bobbie, Steve, and the doggies there, where they had been waiting out the weather on the way down the coast from Canada to Mexico.
Leslie and I went to dinner with them in Coos Bay, then later in Crescent City, Santa Barbara, and Ensenada. When my friend Lisa joined me on S/V Ubiquity in Santa Barbara and the two of us had dinner with Bobbie and Steve, our young waitress said "I didn't know old people could have so much fun".
Meet Bobbie (right above), a retired social worker who bought a sailboat and told her husband (Steve) she was going on it to Mexico and he could come or not.
Meet Steve (left above), a retired criminal defense lawyer who defended murderers. He recounts with pride the skill with which he got guilty clients off. You say he should repent for freeing a murderer? Not Steve, and not Bobbie either - they both say he did what was right because "everyone deserves a voice". Steve has had a heart attack, bypass surgery, smokes cigarettes, and still said "yes" to Bobbie - yes, he was in for taking the boat to Mexico.
What makes Bobbie and Steve different than the other cruisers coming down the west coast is that they are not sailors. As Steve says, "We don't know how to sail". I don't think they raised a sail all the way down the west coast to Mexico, and that makes it a lot harder.
So are they crazy? Or are they still grabbing life by the balls late in life.
You decide. Do they have chutzpah or dementia?
I say chutzpah.
Extreme Power - The CDI Gym in La Paz
25 April 2017 | La Paz, Mexico
For a workout I go to the CDI Gym in La Paz (at Moreles near Altamirano). It's a gym focused mainly on free weights and boxing, with a few old strength and cardio machines thrown in. Their motto is "Extreme Power" and it's plastered on posters around the workout area (See photos above).
Don't expect to pay $15 for a day guest pass; 40 pesos ($2.00) get's you in. Don't expect to see cutesy Lycra outfits or Zumba classes; expect to see 20-something guys who are buff and serious - and then, for the past month, there's me.
At almost 70, and the only gringo, I don't quite fit in. But the guys are completely friendly and seem happy to accept me. Maybe it helps that even at 70 I've still got some muscle definition - not like most of the guys there but better than some - that I've been around gyms and can work the free weights, and that I can even kick a little butt with the heavy bags in the boxing area. Or maybe they just accept me because I'm friendly and they are friendly too.
My crew on S/V Ubiquity, Leslie, is female, and she does not like going to that gym so she stays away from the "Extreme Power" scene. I have seen several women in the gym though, and they look like bodybuilders too.
In Mexico, like almost all of the world, the feminist revolution reverberates, and you can read about campaigns here against the traditional machismo culture, and about male self-help groups where Mexican men get together to talk about becoming less macho and nicer towards women.
I personally don't want to go to self-help groups like that and talk about inter-personal relationships; I'd rather put the time into kicking butt with the weights. If I want a relationship I'll nod to one of my fellow buds kicking butt at Extreme Power and maybe do a high-five (Dame cinco).
Then if I still have energy or want to work off some tension, I'll slap the heavy bag around a little. After that, I'll feel great and I'll bet I'll act nicer to everyone than those guys going to the self-help groups who talk about relationships for an hour instead of punching the heavy bag.
P.S. Here is a video showing me working the heavy bag
, and if you want more here is a second video
P.S.S. The "heavy bag" used in boxing is typically 100-200 pounds, and is used for practicing body blows. At my age because of my arthritis I can't hit it with my fists anymore, but I can still beat the cr-- out of it with my elbows, as you can see in the videos above.
Cruise Planning: "¿A Donde?"
17 April 2017 | La Paz, Mexico
You can take a US Power Squadron course on cruise planning, covering topics from anchoring to zincs. But for the crew of S/V Ubiquity cruise planning mainly means, "Where to now?"
The choices include 1) cruising locally out of La Paz, 2) heading further north into the Sea of Cortez, 3) crossing to Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta on mainland Mexico, and 4) sailing to Hawaii following our cruising friends Doug and Sandra.
Since we came here to sail the Sea of Cortez the compelling choice is 2), sailing further north into the Sea, the sea Jacques Cousteau called the "world's aquarium".
Perhaps after cruising further into the Sea, S/V Ubiquity will sail south next season to the southern Mexican Riviera. Perhaps after that Ubiquity's crew will sail to Hawaii. Or perhaps sail the clipper ship route back to the U.S.
Perhaps, quizás. But not now.
Now Ubiquity will sail north further into the Sea. Her crew is preparing her, and she strains at her lines anticipating the upcoming adventure, undaunted by the imminence of the hurricane season, undaunted by the other hazardous winds the up-coming passage may bring - Coromuels, Elefantes, Chubascos.
After cruising north on the Baja side, Ubiquity will sail across the Sea to the mainland side at San Carlos, where she will endure the summer. Her crew, more fragile than Ubiquity, will flee to Portland in June to escape the Mexican summer heat and hurricanes.
The Long Passage, Part 2
07 April 2017 | La Paz, Mexico
My earlier post on "The Long Passage" previewed the 850 nm passage from Ensenada to La Paz, which S/V Ubiquity's crew has now completed. For us that was a long passage because it was longer than any of our prior passages.
So for many cruisers the experience of cruising involves new challenges that push you further than before.
The above graphic shows another long passage, not one S/V Ubiquity is currently doing, but rather a passage that friends, fellow cruisers, are currently doing. The left side of that graphic shows the progress of S/V Leigh Ann, an Alajuela 38 crewed by Doug and Sandra Asbe.
Doug and Sandra were on the same dock as S/V Ubiquity in La Paz, and we shared conversations and a dinner with them. They sailed down the coast from Seattle in 2016 and did the Baja Haha cruise in November, about the time that we were bunkered down in Newport, Oregon, waiting out gales.
For Doug and Sandra S/V Leigh Ann was a new boat for them and their prior sailing background was focused on racing, not cruising. So they took extra crew with them for help sailing down the west coast. Then they spent months sailing the Sea of Cortez. When we met Doug and Sandra they had decided they wanted to sail back to the Seattle region.
Once you have sailed your boat down the west coast to the Sea of Cortez, there are four main options for getting your boat back to the Pacific Northwest: 1) Motor-sail along the coast northbound against the prevailing winds (often called the "Baja Bash"), 2) Sail via Hawaii, 3) Sail via the "Clipper Route" (a far off-shore passage used by the Clipper Ships but seldom done anymore), 4) Ship your boat back via a cargo ship.
By the time we had met Doug and Sandra their confidence in their boat and themselves had grown so that they now felt confident to sail by themselves via route 2), the return via Hawaii. So they now are partway on their Hawaii passage (at the time I write this they are a little further along than shown in the graphic above). So Doug and Sandra are embracing a new challenge, part of the cruising lifestyle for many cruisers.
Looking at the graphic above, you will see to the right of the graphic showing Doug and Sandra's progress a graphic I captured recently showing the wind patterns for the passage. Looking at that graphic shows why it is easier to sail to Hawaii than sail up the west coast: you can sail with the winds rather than against the winds.
The right side of the graphic above is from a web site, Windytv.com, that shows weather forecasts in an intuitive graphic format, and that some of you might enjoy exploring.
The modern electronic tools we have to access current weather information gives modern cruisers an advantage compared to our predecessors. However, long-term cruise planning still depends on information compiled in pilot charts about seasonal weather patterns, which goes back to the work in the mid-1800's of Matthew Fontaine Maury in the U.S. Navy's Depot of Charts and Instruments.*
*For anyone interested, Chapter 15 in Hal Roth's book "Handling Storms at Sea" has a discussion of the development of pilot charts.
Building Bridges: Kids are Kids the World Over
04 April 2017 | La Paz, Mexico
When we visited the small fishing village of San Evaristo
, north of La Paz in the Sea of Cortez, I came prepared to build bridges, not walls.
We had already dropped off at the village restaurant
a package of some extra clothes for people in the village, donated by American cruisers in La Paz. Plus I carried a bag filled with balls of different colors - several big enough to play games like soccer, others smaller for just throwing. I had intended to bring writing tablets and pens, but had learned in La Paz that the school was already well-stocked with writing supplies, and that the kids seemed short on playthings, like balls. So I carried a bag of balls when I entered the school
Cautiously showing my face at the entrance to the one classroom in session, I asked the teacher for permission, which she granted with apparent amusement, perhaps at my halting Spanish ("No quiero molestar, pero .....").
Then I made my mistake. I showed the class the balls I had brought and asked who wanted a ball. All the boys threw their hands in the air, some jumping up and down, and one ran up and grabbed the ball I held - Boys are boys the world over.
Trying to recover from my error, realizing I did not bring enough large balls (the ones the boys seemed most to want) to give to each child, I retrieved the ball from the boy who had taken one from me (after first playing a few kicks of mock soccer with him), and placed the bag with all of the balls on the teacher's desk for her to handle more judiciously.
Then came the second turmoil. It had been my idea to visit the school so that I could give the kids my gifts, and some of the others from my group had joined me. Little did I know that Anne, a sailing instructor at San Juan Sailing who was on S/V Ubiquity's buddy boat, had brought party poppers.
Anne distributed party poppers to the boys. These party poppers have a string, and when you pull it the popper explodes and sends a ribbon of paper into the air. Needless to say, after Anne showed the kids how to explode the poppers, the boys went wild doing it. You can watch a video of the kids with the poppers on-line on my Flickr site
or on my YouTube channel
So those were our efforts to build bridges, not walls, in San Evaristo, Mexico. When I look at the photos of the kids above it reminds me of the Family of Man (See my earlier post on that), the commonality we share across cultures. Yes, kids are kids the world over.
Which Beach is the Most Beautiful?
03 April 2017 | La Paz, Mexico
Since beauty is subjective, in the eye of the beholder, there are answers, but no right answer. Was Nefertiti more beautiful than Cleopatra? Probably some Egyptologists hold ardent opinions, but there is no right answer. And so with beaches.
But the beach in the photo above, on Isle San Francisco in the Sea of Cortez, surely must contend for the most beautiful beach in the world. Because of its crescent shape and emerald waters, the Isle San Francisco beach often appears in travel photos for the Sea of Cortez, and cruisers and even small cruise ships visit her often.
I took the photo above when making a solo hike to the highest point on Isle San Francisco. You can see more photos of the crescent-shaped beach, including some panorama views, and other photos from that hike and elsewhere, on-line
Skeletons Ashore, and Loud Bangs in the Night
02 April 2017 | La Paz, Mexico
Many sailboats have come from U.S. ports to cruise the Sea of Cortez. Some of these cruising boats meet a violent demise. I took the photo above at San Evaristo, a small fishing village north of La Paz. The photo shows the skeleton of one cruising boat that met a violent demise.
A violent demise for a sailboat more often comes from destruction by the shore, not the sea. The sea can be rough, but seldom leads to the loss of a boat. But should a boat end up on the shore, perhaps by bad navigation but more commonly by dragging anchor, loss is likely.
Strong weather and winds usually contribute to dragging anchor and the loss of a boat. The boat above was lost during a summer weather front with recorded winds in La Paz in the mid-30's. You can read about the loss of that boat
, and also the salvaging of some of the boat's valuables
Hurricanes happen here in the summer, but it does not take a hurricane to lead to dragging anchor and the loss of a boat. The force the wind exerts on a boat increases with the square of the wind speed, so any weather phenomenon that increases the wind speed increases greatly the wind force on the boat and the likelihood of dragging anchor.
In the La Paz area local evening Coromuel winds frequently come up to threaten boats at anchor. When on her way to La Paz and anchored at Puerto Balandra, S/V Ubiquity experienced Coromuel winds that went from very light to gusting into the mid-20's for hours during the night.
The San Evaristo anchorage, where the boat above was lost, is known to often have evening catabatic winds that come down from the steep mountains to the west. At anchor there last week, S/V Ubiquity experienced those catabatic winds which came up at night and gusted into the low 30's. A wind of 30 knots exerts a force on a boat almost ten times greater than a wind of 10 knots. S/V Ubiquity's ground tackle held, and the boat did not drag anchor that night. Our friends on a charter boat anchored nearby did drag anchor, but fortunately they had open space to leeward and their anchor reset.
So what about "Loud Bangs in the Night"? About 1:00 a.m. both of Ubiquity's crew were asleep, satisfied that Ubiquity was held well by her ground tackle, and with a GPS anchor alarm set to wake them should the boat drag anchor. Then an incredibly loud bang woke them both up. Her captain immediately realized they had collided with another boat and on the way to the cockpit he ascertained by looking at the GPS display that Ubiquity had not dragged.
When Ubiquity's crew emerged on-deck the catamaran that had dragged onto us was still beside us and her captain yelled over that we had hit him. I said that we had not moved and that his boat was moving. After that the crew of Ubiquity was up for several hours before finally going again to bed about 4:00 a.m.
The captain of the catamaran kayaked over to us in the morning, quite apologetic, having stayed up all night after the 1:00 a.m. impact. We compared damages. His boat had suffered broken fiberglass and cracks in the end of one hull. Ubiquity had streaks of fiberglass resin from the other boat on her hull, but when I polished them off not only was Ubiquity's hull not damaged but neither was her Awlgrip paint job.
Thank you, Pacific Seacraft, for building such strong boats, and thank you, Awlgrip, for making such a hard epoxy paint.
Estamos en La Paz
19 March 2017 | Marina Palmira, La Paz, Mexico
Yes, S/V Ubiquity and her crew have arrived in La Paz. Who would have bet on our success when we were waiting out gales in November in Newport, Oregon?
The photos above show Marina Palmira in La Paz, where S/V Ubiquity arrived yesterday, and a sunrise from one of the anchorages between San Jose del Cabo and La Paz.
Collisions at Sea
15 March 2017 | Puerto Los Cabos Marina, San Jose del Cabo, Mexico
Along with an easy tool to tell us exactly where we are (GPS), modern marine electronics gives us an excellent tool (AIS) to avoid collisions at sea.
Equipped with an inexpensive AIS receiver, available as an added built-in feature in marine VHF radios, you can see where all of the big ships are, and many smaller vessels also. You can set an alarm to warn if another vessel is projected to come within a specific distance of you. If you equip your boat with an AIS transceiver (also called a transponder), then you can broadcast your position so that other vessels can see you on AIS.
The image above shows a screenshot, from Ubiquity's recent passage down Baja, showing the electronic information we get from AIS. We see the location of other vessels, and we can analyze crossing situations resulting in potential collision. This screenshot shows a projected closest point of approach (CPA) to another vessel of under .2 nm, pretty close.
My crew on S/V Ubiquity tends to look at these diagrams and get tense. I say relax. The threatening vessel in the screenshot above is over 50 nm away* and will not be close to S/V Ubiquity for hours. It does not hurt to have advanced warning of a vessel that could later pose a threat, but any worry or course change now is premature. Most likely, the two vessels will end up passing many miles from each other.
If a close vessel appears a possible threat, then that may warrant a course change, or perhaps a VHF call to that vessel, especially at night. Between San Diego and Ensenda I made a VHF DSC call to a cruise ship that passed 1.5 nm from me at night and confirmed that they did see me on AIS and also on radar.
The truth is that the ocean is huge and mainly empty. When sailing 40-100 nm off the Baja coast there was almost never another vessel we could see. The vessels my crew worried about because of the AIS targets passed so far from us to appear quite distant.
Personally, I feel that spending too much time on visual watch-keeping is a waste of time in clear conditions way off-shore. A visual sweep of the horizon every twenty minutes I consider adequate, plus setting an AIS alarm and monitoring AIS targets.
Of course, when closer to the coast, and especially if there is small fishing vessel traffic in restricted visibility, it's different, and can be quite tense, even with radar. But otherwise, relax and note but don't fret about distant AIS targets.
*Coming down the coast of Baja we saw AIS targets far beyond normal VHF AIS range, sometimes beyond 100 nm, which could only result from AIS repeaters installed in the Baja area.
The Definition of Cruising
15 March 2017 | Puerto Los Cabos Marina, San Jose del Cabo, Mexico
"Cruising is working on your boat in exotic locations."
Most cruising sailors have heard this jocular definition of cruising. Unfortunately, it harbors some truth. The boat always wants your time, your work, and your money.
In the photo above I am obviously not enjoying the beautiful view around me at the Bahia Santa Maria anchorage. Rather, I have wiggled my way into the back recesses of the port cockpit locker to work on the boat electrics. My view is the same as it would be at the dock at home. Yes, cruising is working on your boat in exotic locations.
P.S. If you zoom in on the placard shown to the upper left in the photo, you will read "Marriages performed by the captain of this vessel are good for the duration of this voyage only". This is not a USCG required placard.
Craft Breweries - Now In Baja Sur!
15 March 2017 | Puerto Los Cabos Marina, San Jose del Cabo, Mexico
I reported in earlier posts on finding excellent craft breweries in Ensenada, at the northern end of the Baja Peninsula. After visiting Baja Brewing
in San Jose del Cabo I can attest that good craft beers are available also at the southern end of Baja.
Americans have played a role in starting the craft brewing industry in Baja. Baja Brewing and Cerveceria Transpeninsular, for example, were both founded by Americans. So if you view the exporting of American culture as debilitating, here is a counter-example.
Lost Among Leviathans, "The Little Sailboat that Could"
14 March 2017 | Puerto Los Cabos Marina, San Jose del Cabo, Mexico
The photo above shows S/V Ubiquity sandwiched between leviathans at the Puerto Los Cabos Marina, San Jose del Cabo. The leviathans include not only the much larger sailboats surrounding her, but also the huge motor yachts in the distance.
The supersize-me American society has inflated the size of cruising sailboats, often about thirty feet in the 1970's, to sizes that make Ubiquity's thirty-four foot length seem undersized. The large motor yachts in the Puerto Los Cabos Marina testify further to the American taste for aggrandizement.
But does Ubiquity's size make her inadequate? No. Like "The Little Engine that Could" (one of my favorite children's books as a child), S/V Ubiquity has proved her capability, despite her diminutive size.
Also, her smaller size makes Ubiquity easier for her somewhat aged crew (69 year old captain, 70 year old crew) to handle as a sailboat, thus encouraging sailing rather than motoring.
On the Ensenada to Cabo passage Ubiquity motored in light air leaving Ensenada, to make the Bahia Santa Maria anchorage, and to make San Jose del Cabo. When winds became too light to sail in passage, the crew of Ubiquity hove to and went to sleep, awaiting a sailing wind. Ubiquity arrived in San Jose del Cabo with her fuel gauge at three-quarters full, without stopping to refuel at Turtle Bay, and without cluttering her sidedecks with fuel containers (Cluttered sidedecks are not your friend at sea in rougher conditions).
So the captain and crew of Ubiquity thank her for her seaworthiness and small size. She is "The Little Sailboat that Could".
Bahia Santa Maria
10 March 2017 | Bahia Santa Maria, Baja, Mexico
(Photos above show celebrating after arrival in Bahia Santa Maria, the view at the anchorage, and running south off the Baja coast.)
Bahia Santa Maria is a grand bay on the Pacific Ocean, most of the way down the Baja Peninsula. From the anchorage in the northwest corner you see the high peaks of Punta Hughes on the west side, the fish camp with the pongas, the long sandy beach with sand dunes behind to the north, the long isthmus to the west separating Bahia Santa Maria from Bahia Magdalena, and the peaks near Punta Entrada to the south.
I call Bahia Santa Maria grand because of its vast, wilderness feeling. Perhaps when the 150+ boat Baja Haha fleet stops here in the fall it may not have that feeling of wilderness tranquility, but it does with S/V Ubiquity sharing this vast bay with just one other cruising boat and the pongas at the fishing village.
To get here S/V Ubiquity sailed directly from Ensenda, traversing 565 nm over six days and five nights, the longest passage to date for Ubiquity's crew. The first and last days were light wind days, some of which we motor-sailed or motored -- slowly, to conserve fuel. In between were two great sailing days which sandwiched a surprisingly (to Ubiquity's crew) rough seas day. On the rough day we never saw winds into the 30's, and mainly winds were in the mid 20's, but the seas were confused and sometimes boarded Ubiquity's cockpit, soaking my crew three times. I fell down and hurt a finger. I eventually rigged Ubiquity to sail downwind with only the staysail, a configuration I had not used before for running. Running with only the staysail Ubiquity made about four knots and was more comfortable than running with the reefed headsail. But when the confused seas slapped Ubiquity on the side it still sounded like a canon shot when trying to sleep off-watch. I say trying to sleep, because in seas like that it is hard to jam yourself into even a tight quarterberth without rolling.
But the grand bay of Bahia Santa Maria is now healing the wounds of Ubiquity and her crew, preparing them for the last leg south around the end of the Baja Peninsula.
Note: Thanks to my friend Ed for the bottle of French wine, shown in photo above, that we used to celebrate S/V Ubiquity's arrival at Bahia Santa Maria.
The Long Passage
01 March 2017 | Ensenada, Mexico
Now S/V Ubiquity's crew faces the challenge of sailing 700 nautical miles down the coast of the Baja Peninsula, then 150 around the tip and up to La Paz, arriving in time to meet Oregon sailing friends coming to visit in late March.
Our first stop may be at the end of the peninsula at the Puerto Los Cabos Marina in San Jose del Cabo. Cruisers usually stop at anchorages on the way down, typically at Bahia de Tortugas and Bahia Magdalena, as does the Baja Haha. Why not stop? Staying further off-shore (30-100 nm) would keep us away from the local fishing traffic and land effects, and in better winds. Plus we are now a little short of time.
I called this the "long passage" because for the crew of S/V Ubiquity a passage non-stop to San Jose del Cabo would be three times longer in distance than done before. I am hoping for a relaxing passage, with time to read and even try some sextant sights and calculations. Sailing off the Washington coast, very familiar to Ubiquity's crew, there is often the stress of fishing boats, crab pots, and busy shipping lanes, plus sometimes we must beat against the wind and seas. Sailing south well off the Baja coast, we do not expect those stresses.
What impediments to progress might we encounter? Most likely are periods of light winds. My friend Dave Mancini took eight days, sailing a sister ship (of S/V Ubiquity) from Ensenada to Cabo, because of occasional light winds. Sailing off the Washington coast we typically make about 120 nm a day, but in light winds we often motor-sail or motor, which on this longer passage we would do sparingly, if at all. Once we turn north at the end of Baja, the feared "northers" become the most likely impediment. Northers often blow hard in the Sea of Cortez this time of year, creating steep seas and forcing north-bound cruisers to seek shelter.
We have enjoyed greatly our friends on the Marina Coral staff, our Spanish teacher Yolanda, the amenities of Hotel Coral, and our local excursions. However, we must now progress south and S/V Ubiquity expects to depart Ensenda on March 4.
Those interested can follow our progress south on Ubiquity's Mapshare page
26 February 2017 | Ensenada, Mexico
"¡Dame cinco!", "Give me five!", I learned from my Spanish teacher Yolanda in Ensenada. Little did Yolanda know that would lead to my dame-cincoing everyone I could - the waiters, the marina office staff, the reception staff, the security guards, the concierges, the people I meet at the cervecerias, and of course Yolanda. I think some of them are surprised to see this gringo saying "¡Dame cinco!", but almost everyone laughs, and no one has yet turned down giving me a high-five.
So thank you Yolanda, you are my Spanish teacher fabulosa! You are always fun, lively, and teach me a lot. For any other cruisers stopping in Ensenada who want some intense Spanish language instruction, I heartily recommend my teacher, Yolanda Madueño Santiesteban. She is flexible in her scheduling, and was willing to meet us for a daily one-hour lesson for the time that we are in Ensenada. You can contact Yolanda through the staff at Marina Coral, or you can go to her Facebook page
¡Dame cinco, amigos!
More on Craft Breweries in Baja
25 February 2017 | Ensenada, Mexico
Collin Corrigan, the owner of the Cerveceria Transpeninsular
, a craft brewery one block from Marina Coral that we frequent almost daily, explained to us how Ensenada has become a center of craft brewing in Mexico. Collin has led the way for American craft brewers to enter the Mexican brewery industry, further enriching the brewing scene here with the rich rich experience of the American craft brewing industry.
So although Cerveceria Transpeninsular is so conveniently close, we decided we needed to sample more of the local craft breweries. Our friend from Portland, Ed Duenez, who is now retired and lives nearby, joined us.
We went to Baja Brews Colectivo
, where a number of local breweries are represented at a beautiful setting on the ocean.
You can see more photos from Baja Brews Colectivo and from Cerveceria Transpeninsular in the photo gallery
Wine-Tasting in Baja - Fabuloso!
25 February 2017 | Ensenada, Mexico
Wine-tasting in the Guadalupe Valley northeast of Ensenada, we found a concentration of wineries and vineyards. The two wineries we visited rivaled in charm, character, and wines the best wineries we have visited in the States.
We heartily recommend visiting those two wineries, and others in the area too. Las Nubes
commands a grand view, which you can enjoy from the large deck while tasting the excellent wines. At Barón Balché
you can tour the below-ground wine-making facilities, and the tasting room itself is below-ground among the wine barrels.
You can see more photos from the wineries in the photo gallery
The Family of Man
19 February 2017 | Marina Coral, Ensenada, Mexico
I grew up with a humanistic book in my house, "The Family of Man", a book of photographs and poetry based on a photography exhibition.* That book showed the commonality of the human experience across cultures, across countries, across languages, across religions. My parents helped me learn that lesson about the family of man, the commonality of the human experience.
Unfortunately, history shows that leaders who do not understand the family of man can rise to power, sometimes with tragic results.
I thank you, my friends, mis amigos, in Marina Coral, from a different country, culture, and language, for understanding the family of man, for helping me, and for providing a positive example in the spirit of humanism.
*"The Family of Man" opened at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, in January 1955, and has been called "the most successful exhibition of photography ever assembled". The book version is once again in print and available from Amazon.com
Building Bridges, Not Walls
19 February 2017 | Marina Coral, Ensenada, Mexico
The photo above shows my friends at Marina Coral, Ensenada: Jesus "Chewy", Jessica, Juan, myself, Frank. They all worked hard, and encouraged me, to get through my problems with Mexican customs.
Not shown in the photo above: Marco, and the Harbormaster, Fito, who made calls to Mexico City to solve the problem.
At my lowest point in dealing with the customs problem, it looked like I had to leave the country the next day. I empathized then with the immigrants in the United States who the current U.S. government is expelling. I felt their resentment.
My friends above, and the Harbormaster too, came to my aid. The Canadian brokers from whom I bought my boat in 2011 also helped by emailing a critical document.
So with the help of my Marina Coral friends, the Marina Coral Harbormaster Fito, and the Canadian brokers, we saved S/V Ubiquity and her crew from expulsion from Mexico.
Not just that. We built bridges, bridges across cultures, bridges across languages, bridges across countries, bridges that reflect the commonality of human beings, bridges that show the humanity of helping each other. Not walls, but bridges; not anathematizing the others as different and bad, but embracing our communality of humanity.
At Marina Coral, by building bridges across cultures, we created a counter-example to some of the current rhetoric to build walls. Our countries should learn from what we did at Marina Coral. I hope that all of our governments will evolve towards building bridges, not walls.
Thank you Marina Coral - Chewy, Jessica, Juan, Frank, Marco, and especially Harbormaster Fito - for seeing me and my friend Leslie as fellow human beings who you wanted to help, and not as threatening foreigners.
When An Inconvenience Becomes a Blessing
19 February 2017 | Marina Coral, Ensenada, Mexico
The U.S. Coast Guard has authority to board your boat, most commonly to conduct a safety inspection.
Like most boaters, the crew of S/V Ubiquity was not pleased last November when the Coast Guard boat indicated they intended to board as Ubiquity was leaving Humbolt Bay and trying to cross the bar before the ebb tide. The Coast Guard personnel were polite, professional, and efficient. They agreed to let us speed up the boat, while they were conducting their inspection, because of the timing of the bar crossing, and they even gave us some tips about the best course for crossing the bar. So the USCG boarding was not a bad experience, even though it delayed us slightly.
At the time we had no idea that the USCG boarding would later prove a godsend when we entered Mexico. Let me explain.
Going through the Mexican customs process in Ensenada in February, the crew of S/V Ubiquity came across the dreaded (by cruisers) Mexican TIP (Temporary Import Permit) problem that the bureaucratic pathology of the Mexican customs agency has created to torment cruisers. Basically, what it means is that if a prior owner of your boat did not properly do all the required paperwork when exiting Mexico, then you (not the prior owner who erred) can get screwed by the customs agency, including ordering you to leave the country and even impounding your boat.
The friendly, helpful staff at Marina Coral in Ensenada came to our rescue. One of the points the staff wanted to have documented was that the boat had actually left Mexico since 2001, when three owners ago the boat got the TIP, until now in 2017, when I brought the boat into Mexico.
What document could prove to the customs agency that the boat had left Mexico. Not my bill of sale, which even had a location on it. Not the U.S. Power Squadron inspections. Not the receipts for when the boat was hauled out in Portland for bottom work. What document had sufficient gravitas?
Only the United States Coast Guard inspection form had the gravitas necessary to satisfy Mexico customs. So thank you USCG, not for the advice about crossing the Humbolt Bay Bar, not for your politeness, professionalism, and efficiency, but rather for boarding my boat and writing out an inspection form that the Mexican customs agency accepted as sufficient evidence that my boat had left Mexico since 2001.
Micro-Breweries are Alive and Well in Baja! (Real fruit margaritas and daiquiris too)
18 February 2017 | Ensenada, Mexico
Exiting the Marina Coral, we needed to walk only two blocks to find our first micro-brewery. And the beers are good! Not Carta Blanca, Dos Equies, and Pacifico, but rather in-house brewed milk stouts, Belgian stouts, ambers, hefeweizens, and others. Definitely competitive in quality with American micro-breweries.
Prefer Tequila? Then have a margarita at the hotel restaurant or bar. Want a real-fruit margarita or daiquiri? No problem (unlike the United States), get a mango, banana, and other real-fruit margarita or daiquiri. Quality - great. Price - cheap. Service - impeccable.
Mexico - We Made It!
18 February 2017 | Marina Coral, Ensenada, Mexico
S/V Ubiquity and crew finally arrived in Mexico on February 15, after an over-night sail from San Diego to Ensenada.
When we left Portland in October we expected to arrive here sooner, but weather and misfortune delayed us, as earlier blog posts describe. Despite some low points, the sail down the coast to here has been filled with a wide range of gratifying experiences - challenges overcome, people we've met, places we've seen.
Although now in Mexico, we still face a 700 mile passage south along Baja, and then a 100+ mile northbound passage to La Paz, where we intend to meet sailing friends from Portland in late March. We expect a nice run sailing down the Baja coast with the winds, and then hope that the feared "Northers", strong northerly winds common this time of year in the Sea of Cortez, do not impede our progress north to La Paz.
Marina Coral offers a great first stop in Mexico. The marina staff are very friendly, and they offer help with checking in through the Mexican customs. The hotel has a great restaurant and a spa with a well-outfitted exercise room. We strongly recommend Marina Coral to southbound cruisers as a first stop for going through customs, and for a longer stay for cruisers who can afford it. We intend to stay two or more weeks, leaving in time to make, hopefully, our rendezvous with our friends in La Paz.
More photos and stories soon from Ensenada.
(Above photo courtesy of Leslie Sawyer.)
Arcane Nautical Specialties: The Compass Adjuster
14 February 2017 | San Diego, California
The ship's compass is traditionally the most important navigation instrument. Although modern technology like the GPS has reduced reliance on the compass, the compass remains an important instrument for sailors like the crew of S/V Ubiquity.
On Ubiquity the ship's compass and the electronic compasses on-board never exactly read the same. Which is right? I wanted to use the ship's compass to know the exact heading of the ship.
Enter the compass adjuster, an arcane nautical specialist not easy to find. I found Brian Osterberg who runs Baker Marine
in San Diego. He learned the business from his father, took over the business and has been adjusting compasses for over 40 years. Now his son works with him and will in turn take over the business.
Brian Osterberg the compass adjuster has adjusted the compasses on Navy aircraft carriers and countless other Navy and other vessels. But today instead of commanding a 1000 foot Navy aircraft carrier to turn circles so he could do his adjustments, he turned S/V Ubiquity in circles.
What a compass adjuster does is make adjustments to make the compass read as accurately as possible, and then create a deviation table that shows the remaining, uncorrected, compass errors for different compass headings. Using the deviation table one can then adjust the compass reading, or adjust the heading steered, to read or steer exactly the correct magnetic heading.
The composite photo above shows Brian's son (left side) using an instrument on the bow to read the exact heading of the boat based on the position of the sun, which he would then communicate to Brian who was adjusting the compass and creating the deviation table.
On the right side of the above photo is the deviation table for the ship's compass on S/V Ubiquity. On W, NW, and N headings there is no measurable deviation. On NE, E, S and SW headings the deviation is 1-2 degrees E, which means the compass reads 1-2 degrees too high on those headings. With an error of no more than 2 degrees this is a good result, and using the deviation table one can correct the error for greater accuracy.