27 November 2016 | La Paz, B.C.S. Mexico
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In early November we took a quick trip from San Carlos back to the USA. It's always a bit of a culture-shock to visit the US. The fast paced, over commercialized-everything, media-bombardment, and thousands of choices at stores are a bit overwhelming compared to the laid-back life in Mexico. On the other hand, it gives us the opportunity to visit family and friends, renew our 180-day Mexican Tourist Visa, and stock up on much missed or completely exhausted items from Trader Joe's, as well as boat parts we can't easily get in Mexico.
Since we were just back in Seattle in July for Braden & Molly's wedding (see The Minister & the Mermaid
), technically our 180-Day Mexican Tourists Visas didn't expire until the end of January. However, by the end of January we hope to be somewhere near Manzanillo (Central Mexican Coast), requiring a costly plane ticket to return to the US to renew our Visas. No Bueno. Better to renew them early while we were still in San Carlos, a mere 5 hour drive to Tucson, AZ. To renew a Mexican Tourist Card ("Visa"), you only need to leave Mexico for even a few minutes, then return again. Pretty easy for now, until they build the wall...
Luckily Heidi's parents (Mom Jean and step-dad Pete) live south of Tucson so it was a great chance to visit them. And Heidi's dad Verne planned to drive over from Albuquerque (8 hours away) to visit us as well. Heidi also needed to be in Boston the first weekend in November (brrrrrr!!) for her Neal's Yard Remedies Leaders Summit, so it was the perfect time to take care of multiple things at once.
Originally we'd planned to take the 5-hour bus ride from San Carlos to Tucson, but at the last minute our friends Don & Lisa on s/v Windcharmer
happened to be renting a car and driving up to Tucson for some errands and could drive us up. We pitched in for the cost of the rental car, had a fun road-trip together, and they dropped us off at the front door, win-win!
Annika was able to visit Heidi at the airport for dinner and it was such a joy to catch up and hear about her classes and college life these days.
Kirk stayed with Jean & Pete helping out around the house and yard, while Heidi flew off to Boston the next day. The highlight of her flight to Boston was a two+ hour layover in MSP where our niece Annika is a freshman in college. Thanks so much for making the trek to the airport Anni!
Heidi with some of her Holistic Practitioner colleagues at Neal's Yard Remedies US home office in Cambridge.
Heidi also had a great time at her Neal's Yard Remedies Conference, including a fantastic visit to the NYR US Home Office in Cambridge. She was pleasantly surprised be recognized for having Third Highest Personal Sales in the whole US from August through October. What!?! This earned her a special breakfast with the Director of Product Development from the UK, where Heidi was able to provide customer feedback on products as well as learn about upcoming new product development plans. Wow!! She's even MORE passionate than ever about NYR now (is that possible?) Just wait till you see what Neal's Yard Remedies has in store for you in the next year...more health and wellness goodness!! Heidi is also working hard to earn a trip to the UK in May to visit NYR's Flagship store and Herbal Apothecary in Covent Gardens, their award-winning, sustainable Eco-factory in Peacemarsh, and their Sheepdrove Organic Farm in Dorst, where most of the organic product ingredients are grown. If you're looking for healthy, alternative holiday gifts that your friends and family will love, please check out her NYR website
...all sales will help her reach this goal.
Meanwhile, back in Arizona...
Kirk and Jean graciously helped Heidi with some NYR admin-work, putting together catalogs and samples, so she could mail them out before we headed back to Mexico. Kirk was also provisioning-king, stocking up at Trader Joe's, Costco, and buying various Boat Parts in Tucson's marine chandlery. And he got to spend some good quality time with Heidi's dad Verne. After surviving three strokes last year, Verne is doing remarkably well at age 85, still telling puns and bad jokes when ever he can get away with it! Aaarrgghh!!
Kirk birdwatching with Heidi's dad Verne in Madera Canyon, Arizona. Verne is a Master Naturalist and former National Park Ranger, who knows so much about flora and fauna, it's always fun to go out in the field with him.
We took Verne to visit two of his cousins who lived in a retirement center near by and had a FUN lunch with cousin Ed (95!) A hoot-of-a guy, and former WWII PBM flying-boat pilot, Ed is also a very good and prolific oil painter. What a fun day! We had originally planned to visit visit the Dessert Museum that day, but ran out of time. All too soon Verne had to head back to Albuquerque, so we'll visit the Desert Museum with him the next time we're back in the US. Thanks so much for making the trip over Dad, as always it was great to be with you!
Cousin Ed Huser (95) and Verne Huser (85), with one of Ed's oil paintings in the background.
Heidi went to yoga with Jean (a spry 80 year old who does yoga 3-4 times a week!) Recently back to Arizona for the winter, Jean's schedule is already packed with Holiday Choir practice, volunteering at the local Food Bank, and so much more. She's a great inspiration to us all! Thanks for making time for our visit Mom! :-D We were treated to several delicious meals at Jean & Pete's clubhouse, where Pete also works out at the gym early each morning, while keeping tabs on the upcoming elections...
We voted a month early online (Washington State lets residents living over seas vote online!) but still ended up being in the States on that fateful Election Day.
We had planned to stay at Jean & Pete's through election day to celebrate Hilary's win with them. Boy did that go down wrong!? WTF??? We no longer recognize our home country amidst all the hate and violence perpetrated against Native Americans, Mexicans, people of color, Muslims, LGBTQ friends and family and all the other disenfranchised Americans. So we were wondering if Mexico might slam the door and not let us back in, in retaliation for "The Wall"?!? Luckily that was not the case, and Pete & Jean volunteered to drive us back down to San Carlos the next day. Pete is fluent in Spanish having been a civil engineer in Ecuador in the 1960's, and always enjoys the chance to use his Spanish. It was fun to be back in Mexico with them again.
¡Vamos a Mexico!
To renew our Mexican Tourist Cards (Visas), we had to stop at the Immigration Office 21km south of the border crossing. That was an experience in and of itself. Zero signage at this facility where you can get a Tourist Card, buy Mexican Car Insurance, make photo copts of and/or pay for said Tourists Cards and/or Car Insurance at the Banjercito ("ban-hair-cito", government bank). As we walked into the Immigrations building there were two lines of people, one group filling out Visa forms, and the other group waiting in line with their completed forms. Turns out we had to first walk to the front of the line to pick up the forms, then go to the back of the line to fill the forms out, then get into the second line and wait our turn to go back to the front again. Once at the front of the line our paperwork was stamped, and we were told to go pay at the Banjercito, then come back. As we waited in line at the Banjercito we soon learned that all of their computers had gone down and they had no way to accept payments. Welcome back to Mexico, we felt right at home! So much so in fact, that a guy in line behind us asked us if we were "Cruisers"!? We said," yes, how can you tell?" He said "You guys look really laid back and not phased by this wait." Turns out he was a cruiser too.
Machines finally back online, paid the $400 pesos per person ($20US/ea), back to the Immigrations office to pick up our Mexican Tourist Cards. Phew! The rest of the drive to San Carlos was uneventful and we arrived just before sunset, unloaded the provisions from Trader Joe's, Costco, boat parts, and Neal's Yard Remedies goodies (luckily Jean & Pete have a Toyota Highlander with lots of room!) We then headed off to a FANTABULOUS dinner at the Sunset Grill, with Don & Lisa. Thanks so much Jean & Pete for the hospitality and the drive back to San Carlos! So glad you got to see Due West in full cruise-mode, and see your grand-kitties as well! :-D
Clockwise from bottom left: Jean/Mom, Pete, Don, Kirk, Lisa, dinner at Sunset Grill on Playa Algodones. Who would have guessed when we were anchored off shore two weeks ago that we'd be back here to eat?! FAB place.
We had a fun bon-voyage dinner with our cruising crowd (also at the Sunset Grill because we all love the kitchy-beach ambiance with it's record album placemats, sand floor, adult bar swings, and yummy food! Check out more photos of this cool restaurant in our photo gallery.) We miss our friends Maryalice & Rick, Chris & Liz, Kimi (front) & Trevor, Don (back) & Lisa (not pictured), Boni & John (not pictured) cruising just isn't the same without them! But we hope to all meet up again for the holidays or later this winter-spring. Fair Winds guys! xoxo
Back in San Carlos, the Gatos del Mar were SO happy to see us, and we were grateful to Boni & John, and Don & Lisa for kitty-sitting Tosh & Tikka while we were gone. Winter was in the air in San Carlos, and mornings were in the low 60's, brrrr! (For some of you that might seem balmy, but for us it was COLD!) It was time to move south to La Paz, so we could join in on the Giswold-Family Thanksgiving Extravaganza, family friends from Whidbey Island who winter in Baja. We had been waiting for our weather-window and it finally materialized.
South of San Carlos, while the seas were rough and winds were howling, at least the sunset was beautiful! Check out the video here.
The next day we set sail from Bahia San Carlos at 1645 hours (4:45pm) across the Sea of Cortez towards La Paz. It ended up being a 34-hour non-stop passage to Bahia Bonanza on Isla Espirtu Santo with hook-down at 0300. In spite of initial rough seas and high wind conditions to start, then light-air (read "motor-sailing") the next day, we actually made really good time surfing down big waves at 8-9kts, and arrived at Bahia Bonanza about six hours earlier than we'd estimated (hence anchoring at 0300 rather than 0900.) We kept a watch schedule of 4 hours on/4 hours off at night, and 6 hours on/6 hours off during the day. The water was much warmer at Espirtu Santo and we took advantage of the warm, calm conditions to snorkel and dive Due West while we cleaned the bottom with paint-scrapers for the barnacle removal, and green Scotch-brite pads to clean the mossy-gunk that grows along the hull. Kirk used our dive-hooka (thanks Jim Knapp!) to clean the prop, strut, and rudder too. Due West
is so happy to have a clean bottom again!
Tikka snugged down in a sleeping bag atop food crate during passage. Tosh sacked out in his usual manner in our sea-berth, along with a toy...he always brings toys to bed! :-) We just can't get enough of these kids, and miss them so much when we're away from them.
Cool Animal Sighting of the Day
It's been a while since we've had a really COOL animal sighting (other than Tikka & Tosh!), but this one takes the cake so far, and sadly Kirk was off-watch/asleep and missed it! Heidi was on watch around 2300 hours after leaving San Carlos earlier in the evening, and conditions had finally moderated somewhat though still in 3-4' seas. She was taking a break from reading her books-on-Kindle and looking out into the darkness when suddenly about 100' off the starboard quarter, a neon-green dolphin leapt clear out of the water 4-5' high, then dove back in. See photo gallery. This dazzling display was followed by four or five other neon-green (lit up with bioluminescence) "torpedoes" racing along the starboard side of the boat for only a minute or so before they all took off to the west. Heidi was hopeful the dolphins would surf the bow wake and she could wake Kirk up to watch, but no such luck, in a blink of the eye, they were gone. We have a "rule" onboard Due West
, it's ok to wake up the off-watch person if there is a Cool Animal Sighting (or sunrise/sunset or other natural phenomenon that worth seeing!)
Speaking of being awakened, we had a rude awakening part-way into our trip when the engine started to falter and intermittently slowed. Yikes! Captain Kirk determined it was likely a clogged fuel filter and throttled back a bit to see if that helped. That seemed to do the trick and "MP" our trusty engine ran smoothly through the night. Then just as Kirk was coming on watch the next morning, it faltered again, then died. Damn! Time to roll out the jib and sail slowly in light air while Kirk changed the fuel filter, hoping that would fix the problem once and for all. Much to his surprise, when Kirk pulled out the fuel filter, it was Jet BLACK with dirt and sediment. Yuck! But the fuel in the bowl still looked clean!?! This was curious to us, as we use a Baja Fuel Filter to filter all fuel we buy in Mexico before it goes into the tanks. And we'd just had our tanks cleaned less than a year ago in San Diego. Back in Seattle we only changed our fuel filter once every three-to-five years, and even then they were still fairly clean. This time it had been less than a year and this filter was filthy. Leading us to believe that the fuel in Mexico is fairly dirty, and the Baja Fuel Filter doesn't filter out the flour-fine particles. Note to self: We'll now be changing our Racor fuel filter every six-months!
Captain Kirk with the filthy-black Racor fuel filter
We stayed two nights in Bahia Bonanza so we would be clear of marina interference (masts) for our SSB Amigo Net Radio hosting gig. We love being SSB Radio Hosts on the Amigo Net every Tuesday morning, taking turns, Kirk hosting one week, Heidi hosting the next. If any of you are HAMS or have SSB radios, you can tune in at 1400 Zulu every Tuesday morning to hear us on frequency 4.149 USB. For any new cruisers reading our blog, the Amigo Net is a great place to check in, "meet" other cruisers, and get daily marine weather forecasts for where ever you are in Mexico.
NOAA's Experimental Weather Offshore waters forecast for Mexico.
On the Amigo Net we read the NOAA Experimental Weather Forecast for Mexico and the Sea of Cortez, which on our last crossing from San Carlos to La Paz, we found to be exceptionally accurate. Where everyone from Windyty.com to PredictWind, to SailFlow was saying we'd have northerlies, NOAA Experimental WX was predicting southerlies. Huh...Really?? Being the only forecast to predict southerlies out of five sites we checked, we considered throwing NOAA out as an outlier, but our intuition said "What does NOAA know that nobody else knows?" Turns out NOAA was the only one that got our forecast right for this passage. That doesn't mean that the NOAA Experimental WX is always right, but we trusted NOAA WX in the Pacific Northwest, and we'll give it a lot more credence here next time.
Sticky La Paz
As we've mentioned before, La Paz is "sticky", like an octopuses tentacles, or a boomerang, cruisers who leave La Paz always seem to find their way back. Arriving at Marina La Paz was like "Old Home Week"! So many cruising friends, marina staff friends like Martha, and familiar faces. The BIG difference this time though, is the marina is chock-a-block FULL of Baja Ha Ha rally boats who've just arrived from San Diego. We hit the dock running... did a load of laundry, then met up with friends Viviane & Scott from s/v Juniper
for a fantastic healthy meal at Dulce Romero. Viv & Scott got the low-down on feeding and caring for Tosh & Tikka, plus all their fav toys and games!
Delicious dinner at Dulce Romero in La Paz with good friends (and Tosh & Tikka sitters!) Viviane and Scott. This all-natural/healthy/organic restaurant was SO delicious. Not super gluten-free friendly (lots of multi-grain breads!), but they had great salads for Heidi. And Kirk's pizza was beautiful and tasted out of this world--Kirk hasn't had food that good in a few years! Thanks for knowing about this spot Viv & Scott, and for taking care of the furbies for us over Thanksgiving too!
Happy Birthday ~ Happy Thanksgiving
Next morning we caught the bus for a two-hour ride to Los Barriles for a long-anticipated Giswold Family Thanksgiving Extravaganza, and to celebrate Sara's birthday! Braden & Molly were also there, along with Sara's brother Fred. The Giswold Family are consummate windsurfers, and Sara spends her winters in an RV park full of other wind- and kite-surfers. Kite surfing is really beginning to take off down here and Braden is quite the kite-surfer--it's beautiful to watch all of the kites and windsurfing sails out on the bay.
Besides the RV itself, Giswold's RV site consists of an outdoor kitchen and dining area, plus tents set up for the "kids" and visitors, screened off from the neighbors with vibrant Mexican blankets and Christmas lights, topped with a canvas awning for sun shade. Check out the video here
. Such a fun, relaxing indoor-outdoor space for Birthday Dance Parties or Thanksgiving Dinners. Sara's birthday party started with cocktail hour at the neighbors, progressed on to a fun Mexican dinner out with 20-friends complete with mariachi band (video)
, then back to the RV park for dessert and a Dance Party as only the Giswolds know how to do! (If any of you were at Heidi's 50th birthday party, you'll know what we mean!)
Photo credit: Sara's iphone on a ladder, with Bob blowing the lamp out of the way! Kitty in Kirk's arms is not Tikka, but neighbor cat Kaya who often visits Sara.
Family friends Hans and Lyna arrived from surfing Baja, just in time for Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday. The only thing missing was Kelsi & Jesse, and of course dear Dr. Bob, RIP! Kirk was the "surrogate dad" sitting at the head of the table wearing one of Bob's Hawaiian shirts, trying to fill shoes that are impossible to fill. (Kirk and Bob had been best friends since age 11, sadly Bob passed away 18 months ago.) THANKS for everything Sara and family, we had a fantastic time. Hope you join us on our next passage to Puerto Vallarta Sara!
Hope you all had a Happy Thanksgiving with your friends and family! Salud to everyone, and FREEDOM for ALL.
xoxo Heidi, Kirk, Tosh, and Tikka
PS. If you're wondering about our upcoming cruising plans, we've decided to stick around Mexico for one more season before heading south to Panama and Ecuador. Hurricane Newton gypped us out of getting as far north into the Sea of Cortez as we'd hoped to last summer, so we plan to head further north up to Bahia de Los Angeles in Summer 2017. In the mean time, we'll soon be heading back across the Sea to Puerto Vallarta in December, and hopefully Bara de Navidad for the Christmas Holiday. We also look forward to visiting Chamela, Tenacatita, Las Hadas, and Manzanillo for the first time this spring before heading back north into the Sea in the spring/summer. Remember we have two open bunks for friends and family to visit and experience some of these amazing places with us...We'd love to see you!
Remember to heck out more pix in our Photo Gallery