Sailing with KIST

02 June 2012 | San Diego, CA
27 May 2012 | Pacific coast of Baja California
16 May 2012 | Turtle Bay
08 May 2012 | Bahia Magdelena
27 April 2012 | La Paz, Mexico
25 April 2012 | La Paz
14 April 2012 | La Paz
03 April 2012 | La Paz, Mexico
21 March 2012 | Stone Island, Mazatlan
16 March 2012 | La Cruz
09 March 2012 | Melaque, Barra, and Tenacatita
01 March 2012 | Melaque
23 February 2012 | Banderas Bay
08 February 2012 | Banderas Bay
31 January 2012 | Banderas Bay
29 January 2012 | La Cruz
24 January 2012
23 January 2012 | San Blas

Back in the US!

02 June 2012 | San Diego, CA
Bonnie/not hot
The trip from Ensenada to San Diego was uneventful…in other words, a nice way to end what was not an overly fun BASH. A huge pod of dolphins came to wish us farewell and I finally got a decent photo of them!

The trucker we are using to haul KIST back to Bellingham is scheduled to be here on June 18th and the mast is being pulled on the 15th. That gives Kevin the weekend to prepare the boat for the road trip north. We’ve found dock space at a fairly reasonable price in San Diego terms for a couple of week so now we are concentrating on ‘the return’. Cars, jobs, connecting.

Trip by the numbers:
5084 –Miles logged on KIST since August 4, 2011. The day we put her in the water with a running engine, systems intact, and sails installed.
603 –Miles hand steering due to the autopilot belt breaking. This amounted to roughly 96 long hours.
250 –Days of our midlife adventure. We left the dock in Bellingham on Sept 21, 2011 and reached the dock in San Diego on May 28, 2012.
53 –Degrees. The lowest temperature we recorded was off the coast of Washington on September 27 as well as on the return trip off the coast of Baja California Sur on May 12 at 4:00 am.
38 – Humidity reading on April 18 in Honeymoon Cove, the lowest reading we saw.
7—Fish caught by Kevin. I’d also guess that was the number of times I complained about the smell and mess of fish preparation. Kevin says he saw me stomp my foot one time and said ‘ah man’ when I poked my head out in the cockpit and realized he caught another fish.
1 – Dinghy race won.

Countless—wonderful people we met along the way, from fellow cruisers to the Mexicans of Baja California and the Pacific Mainland. Thanks to all for making this experience memorable.

Turtle Bay to Ensenada

28 May 2012
Turtle Bay to Ensenada
One of the things we heard from the seminar we took in La Paz about the Baja Bash was that the bash up the coast of Baja to San Diego would challenge all the systems on your boat and if there are any weaknesses you would find them on this trip. We also learned that because of the challenges to the boat systems you should have spares for most everything on the boat that can break. We are certainly finding out that this is true. Somewhere between Mag Bay and Turtle Bay the belt to our auto pilot broke. I unfortunately did not order a spare for this part so we have been hand steering the boat for the last 500 miles. Anybody that has been cruising for any length of time knows the value of a good auto pilot which is why autopilots are often named and considered part of the crew. We used the auto pilot extensively and it made passages much easier. Without it we have had to change our watch schedule to two hours on two hours off. Going from Bahia San Carlos to Bahia San Quintin the winds and waves were bad enough that we ended up taking one hour shifts. This makes it very difficult to get any kind of sleep during the night. So after overnighters we have been pretty exhausted.
One of our passages was going to be to go from Cedros Island to Bahia San Quintin. About half way through this passage our motor started sputtering and quit. I went below and checked the glass bowl on our Racor fuel filter and I could see the diesel in it was white and milky looking. I first thought I must have picked up bad fuel at Turtle Bay when we refilled last, but once we were at anchorage in San Carlos I checked the fuel fill cap and found that it was not completely tightened. I must not have fully tightened it after our last fuel fill. We had been bashing into the waves and wind and a lot of green water was flowing over our decks. I think what happened was the water on deck was seeping into the fuel fill and contaminating our diesel. Anyway when the engine first quit I replaced one of the fuel filters, bled the system and got it running again. This lasted about two hours and then the motor quit again. At this point we were west of Bahia San Carlos with the northwest winds blowing we decided to hoist the sails and sail there instead of trying to go to San Quintin. Once the sails were up I turned my thoughts to how I was going to get clean fuel to my motor. Luckily I brought along a spare gas tank for my dinghy motor and was able to modify it for a temporary diesel fuel tank. We were carrying about 40 gallons of fuel on deck in jerry cans so we used this to fill the temporary tank with. The tank only held three gallons so every 2 hours I would grab a jerry jug and go below to fill it up. I replaced my primary filter again bled the system using the new fuel tank and was able to get the motor going again. With this new set up the motor was still not running right. It would run fine for a few minutes but then start to sputter clear up and start to run ok again. I did not trust it at this point so we continued sailing to Bahia San Carlos. We finally arrived at the anchorage at 8:30 am. We started the motor so we could set the anchor, dropped the hook and went below to try to get some sleep.
That afternoon while I was down below fixing things Bonnie was on deck relaxing, reading, soaking up some sunshine trying to stay out of my way and away from the diesel smell ( it was either that or she was being the little princess she likes to be and was making me do all the work) when she stuck her head down below and said there were a bunch of guys with black masks coming to the boat. I came on deck and was greeted by six Mexicans with stocking masks over their faces and sub machine guns. One of the guys on board politely introduced himself as a lieutenant in the Mexican Navy and asked if he could come aboard to inspect the boat. It is hard to say no to a boat full of men carrying sub machine guns so I welcomed him on board. It was all pretty routine though he asked me some questions, checked our papers, he had some forms he filled out that I had to sign and that was it. He said thank you and they were on their way giving us the thumbs up sign as they left.
The next day we took off early for the trip from San Carlos to San Quintin. It was foggy so visibility was poor. I still did not trust the motor so I wanted to sail as much as possible. We had wind in the 20 to 25 knot range so there was plenty of it, but of course it was right on the nose. We set a course way west of our path and headed off shore. We had to go out about 20 miles off of our track before we were able to make our tack and head back in. The wind was pretty strong and the waves were short and steep so it was rough going. Because of how rough it was we decided to do one hour shifts instead of two. We kept this up until we made San Quintin at 3:00 am. On the way in to the anchorage Bonnie noticed our depth gauge was not working properly. I went below to check out the transducer and found one of the tabs that hold it in place had broken off. I was able to install it temporarily so we could see the depths for anchoring. In the morning I did some problem solving to see why the motor still was not running properly and found out that the auxiliary fuel pump I had installed before we left was not working and this was restricting flow of fuel to the motor. I by passed this pump, bled the system again and was able to get the motor running normal. I also was able to epoxy my depth sounder transducer back together so it was working properly again.
With the motor running properly we decided to do one last overnighter and head to Ensenada. Our original plan was to do a couple of day trips and stop at some anchorages along the way but we only had a weather window of one day and then it was supposed to get windy again. We decided to bite the bullet and get it over with. No problems on this leg of the trip except my fuel gauge stopped working and I was getting a little tired of filling up the fuel tank every two hours. In Ensenada we stayed at Cruise Port Village Marina where I was able to hire someone to pump out our diesel tank. I bought new filters and changed them all then added clean fuel to the tank so it is all back to normal again. On Monday we will be heading to San Diego where we will be pulling the boat out of the water and getting it ready to be trucked back home.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly - The Baja Bash

27 May 2012 | Pacific coast of Baja California
As our time in Mexico is limited and the 'cruising' life draws to an end we needed to decide how to get ourselves and KIST back to Bellingham. There are a few schools of thought:

1) Do the Baja Bash--The idea of ending our year off fighting opposing winds, swells, waves, and the colder climate nearing the Pacific Northwest didn't appeal to either of us. We'd heard horror stories from credible sources about how hard this trip could be on us and the boat.
2) Take advantage of the typical weather patterns and sail to Hawaii then tack north towards Alaska and follow the coast south to home - This is not an option for us as Kevin has a work related test he needs to take in San Diego mid June. Besides, neither of us wants to be out to sea for 21 days at a minimum.
3) Ship the boat home via a special freighter designed to transport small boats--When we looked into this the price was way more than we would be able to justify.
4) Hire a skipper to take the boat up the coast -Kevin was not keen on the idea of handing KIST over to a stranger.
5) Haul the boat out of the water and put it on a specially rigged truck--Some cruisers haul out in the northern portion of the Sea of Cortez where arrangements are made to truck the boat out of Mexico to Tucson and then onto the chosen location. We discovered that the cost was almost as much as having the boat shipped back so that option didn't make sense for us.

When we lit on the idea of only bashing as far as San Diego where the skies are still mostly clear and the sun is warm and then trucking KIST the remainder of the way home that seemed more doable. The cost was almost half of what it would have been for any of the other options and more within our price range, so about two months ago we settled on this as a plan and set off at the beginning of May.

After 800 miles of 'the bash'...
The Good:
~Kevin and I still like each other.
~There were a few passages which were easy.
~We were no where near the tornado that was threatening the mainland.
~In some fairly heavy seas dolphins played around the boat, jumping through the waves, out of the water, and putting on a fun show for about 30 minutes one evening. It helped calm my nerves...somewhat.
~None of the 15-20 whales that we saw one afternoon on their migration south against our migration north nudged the boat. Not even the two times a couple of them veered off from the distance and swam toward us until about a boat length or two away before they decided we weren't a threat and went on their merry way. They were amazing to see but I would have preferred to only be able to see them through the binoculars!
~One of our anchorages, northern Cedros Island, is home to a sea lion colony. Many of the sea lions sunbath on the beach, stretched out basking in the warmth (they are hard to see in the picture but if you look closely, those things that look like beached branches are sea lions). We stretched out basking in the warmth in the cockpit of the boat and I finally beat Kevin at a game of Baja Rummy!
The Bad:
~The autopilot belt broke on my the dark. We didn't have a replacement as it was new when we began the trip. This meant that we steered by hand and could not depend on Orville or Wilbur to get us where we needed to go for more than 500 miles. It also meant that we needed to be at the helm the entire time and could not tuck under the dodger out of the wind and the spray making the trip much colder than either of us would have liked. We also needed to change our normal four hour shifts to two hour shifts limiting the amount of rest we were able to get on our off shift.
~The fuel tank fill cap was loose and we took on some salt water in the tank. How did we discover this? The engine started making noises and then the dark. Kevin did things (I was at the helm, so I don't know what type of magic he does) and got us going again. Rather than head to our planned destination we diverted to the nearest anchorage which was still about four hours away. Luckily we had plenty of fuel in the extra jerry jugs we carry on deck which was not contaminated and while at anchor Kevin, being the clever guy that he is, devised a system utilizing a small fuel jug to feed fuel to the engine rather than from the large tank. This meant that every two hours he had to transfer fuel from the larger jerry jugs to the smaller jug while underway.
~The depth sounder quit working as we were about to the a strange anchorage... but again, Kevin was able to fix it.
I think everyone should have a Kevin aboard.
The Ugly:
Really no ugly unless you consider what the fuel that was pumped out of the tank looked like, oh, and the smell of the boat for a few day--Essence of Diesel. Not something that will most likely catch on as a favorite fragrance.

KIST is back together, fuel filters changed, systems put back the way they are supposed to be, and clean fuel in the tank. We are well rested, showered and enjoyed spending a few days in Ensenada. Tomorrow we leave for our last passage of this adventure; a daylight, one day, hopefully uneventful trip to San Diego!

Beach bowling

16 May 2012 | Turtle Bay
This is our second time at Bahia Tortuga or more commonly known in the cruising community as Turtle Bay. The first time was in November and we were anxious to move through as quickly as possible on our quest for sunshine and warmth. We only stayed one or two nights and barely explored the town. This time we were just as anxious to move through quickly only in the opposite direction in our quest for home. It seems that regardless of where you are the desire to go home toward the end of a vacation/trip/adventure or whatever gets stronger the closer you get and although we aren't exactly close to good ole Bellingham, the pull is definitely being felt.

As the weather gods would have it, we have been in Turtle Bay for five days and had plenty of time to explore the town and surrounding area, try the only restaurant we could find open, do some grocery shopping, take on fuel via panga, and bowl on the beach...Fred Flintstone style.

For those of you who have never been bowling ala Fred Flintsone all that is needed is a rock with finger size holes and a few others that can be used for pins. No problem when you are in an area of sandstone. Kevin found the perfect bowling rock with nice rounded but somewhat square edges and then we set up the pins and away we bowled. Kevin went first and knocked over 6 pins and but left two standing on his spare. Next it was my turn. The pin picker upper machine (Kevin) set the pins back up in formation and I, in all my perfect bowling stance and style, managed to roll the ball so that it knocked over a few pins and managed to pick up all but one for my spare. So if we were keeping score I would have beat Kevin ;-).

The other thing we've been doing for entertainment is playing a game called Baja Rummy. It is a little like Hand and Foot for those of you who have played it and takes a long time to get through so is a good way to spend an afternoon. So far Kevin has been winning and if we were keeping score it would be Kevin 8, Bonnie 1. Now, most of you know I am not very competitive when it comes to games and just like to play. I don't normally care whether I win or lose. But for some reason I'm getting a bit on the grumpy side as Kevin consistently lays down his last card and I'm not even close to going out. I'm not ready to give up though, I know there is at least one more win in the cards for me and if Kevin can stand having me through my cards at him as he says "and, I'm out" then I'll continue to play.

Heading home

08 May 2012 | Bahia Magdelena
It was a bitter sweet day departing the warm, clear waters of Cabo San Lucas and heading up the outside of Baja California Sur towards home. Although we’ve enjoyed this nomadic life that includes soaking in the sunshine and exploring new areas, both of us have missed home and are looking forward to the conveniences of living on land again and being with family and friends.

The winds were forecast to be in the teens from the Northwest with waves from the Southwest or in other words a bit topsy-turvy but typical for this time of year. We’ve heard over and over to expect the first 10-15 miles of the trip to be hard going but once past Cape Falso things tend to smooth out some. Okay then, I can psych myself up for that—10-15 miles bashing into waves for us can mean going an average of 3 knots which means that portion of the trip might take us up to 5 hours, not pleasant to look forward to but doable. We rounded the cape in fairly flat seas and for the first 20 miles things were not hard at all so I breathed a sigh of relief…bad move! We hit a rough patch with a little squall and winds increasing at times with gusts up to 30 knots and although not pleasant, it still wasn’t as bad as the trip we had from Cabo to Los Frailes so I sighed in relief again….again, bad move because then the lightning started. Now, ordinarily I love lightning storms, of course that is when I am on land all cozy on the front porch enjoying the show and am nowhere near being the tallest point within a yard let alone 20 or more miles. None of the websites we monitor for weather had any predication of storms so this was definitely unexpected and unfortunately this leg of the trip has no options for ducking out of a storm for 170 miles so you grin and bear it or in my case curl up in the corner of the cockpit and go silent. As the storm got closer and lightning was both behind and in front of us, Kevin took our electronics and put them in the oven…a tip we’d read may help save them if the boat is ever struck. Luckily, we only saw a few strikes in front of us and then watched as the activity moved further away to the south and west but this time we knew better than to sigh at all!

Other than the lightning storm everything else was fairly easy and we made it into Bahia Magdelena in good time at an average of 5+ knots, not bad for bashing.

As we entered the bay, we noticed the smell of what we thought was fish; the shore seemed to be red and the waters brackish which wasn’t the case when we were here in November. As we were anchoring Kevin noticed what he thought was shrimp in the water and we wondered if that was what we saw on shore as well and sure enough when we took the dinghy to shore we saw the critters washed up on the beach most dead and the cause of the smell, some were still moving, and there must have been millions of them…yuk. One of the locals told us they are langusta (not sure about the spelling) and appear annually in April and May. He said they are not good for human consumption but that fish love them. I don’t think they love them enough though or there aren’t enough fish to eat them as there is a whole lot of fish food wasted on the beach.

Because the predominate winds are still coming from the northwest and there are some protected anchorages for winds from that direction in the next 250 or so miles we get to day hop for the next week to ten days. That will be a welcome change from the trip down in which we made the trip from San Diego to Cabo in three long passages.

Making a list and checking it twice

27 April 2012 | La Paz, Mexico
Bonnie/Hot, hot, and hot!
La Paz is where we decided to prepare for ‘The Baja Bash’. From everything we have heard and read it is aptly titled. Luckily there have been a number of successful trips north and cruisers are more than willing to share their lessons learned. Our hope is that we have learned all we need to and won’t have anything to add to the mix!

The prep looks something like this:
To do before Bash
-Go to the seminar being held at La Paz Fest to learn from a guy who has made the trip 25+ times.-Done
-Do rigging check. (Kevin says this isn’t necessary because the rigging is new and he’s the one that has to go up the mast to accomplish it but I’m leaving on the list just in case I manage to change his mind).
-Figure out what to use to plug hawse pipe. (This is the opening the chain goes through to reach the chain locker and although it only looks like a small opening evidently a lot of water taken over the bow can find its way to the bilge).- Done. We bought tennis ball, cut it to fit, wedged it in and will hope that it stays in place. If not, we’ve also heard that using a wax toilet ring will work but that seems much messier.
-Make spray curtains to surround the cockpit and keep as much water out of where we spend the majority of our time on watch as possible.- Done
-Reseal window over the electronic panel.- Done
-Go over routes stored in chart plotter to decide if any changes need to be made. Will do this on our way to Cabo.
-Install u-bolts in cockpit for tether lines.- Done
-Freeze premade, quick, easy to heat up meals.- Done
-Prepare muffin, biscuit, and pancake mix.- Done
-Fuel plan. (KIST only has a 65 gallon tank and due to having to motor against the prevailing wind and current potentially we may use significantly more fuel on the return trip. There are only two places on Pacific Coast between Cabo and Ensenada that fuel is consistently available so we’ve calculated that we need to carry about 60 additional gallons on deck which brings us to the next item on the list). – Done
-Purchase additional Jerry Jugs!- Done
-Fill water tanks day before we depart.- Done

Then there are the other lists:
Before heading into rough weather
-Reinstall jack lines (special webbed lines laid down each side of the boat that we can tether onto from the cockpit all the way to the bow in case there is a need to go forward in rough seas)
-Tie down anchors.
-Duct tape around forward hatch.
-Close solar vents (we learned that lesson heading from Chamela to La Cruz, you’d be amazed at how much water can work itself through those little spaces).
-Turn off water pressure (lesson learned already).
-Make sure covers are in place for ports in v-berth.
-Plug hawse pipe

To buy
-Refill Telcel (Mexico’s answer to USB web connection)
-Refill RX’s

Ok then, you can see we are just ready to go and are leaving in the morning. We’ll travel from La Paz to a few anchorages between here and Cabo San Lucas. From there we’ll watch for a good weather window for heading up the coast, top off our fuel tank and be on our way.

We’ve planned for six weeks to give us plenty of time to wait out rough weather so all the prep we did should be just that…good prep that isn’t necessary. At least that’s the plan and like any good planner you plan for the worst and hope for the best, we’re pretty good at both!

Blind folded dinghy race

25 April 2012 | La Paz
Bonnie/in the 90's or too hot!
I know Kevin mentioned the Blind Dinghy Race in an earlier post but I wanted to highlight that particular event because it is proof that the work we’ve been doing on our communication skills has finally paid off…and we have a bottle of rum for our efforts!

How did we accomplish this achievement? Before the race we talked strategy and went over which is my right and which is my left. Since we were facing each other this was different than Kevin’s right and left. Good thing Kevin knows me as well as he does because sometimes even though I told him right he went left which wound up being right and he was blindfolded so I’m not sure how he knew to go the opposite direction than I was indicating. It may have been the added pressure or tap on the correct hand that gave him a clue, just like when we’re in a car and I point left but say right, he knows to go to the direction I’m pointing. Also prior to the race we talked about how to explain when the oars needed to be straightened so we would glide through the water better and decided I needed to tell him which oar (again using my right and left) and whether to move his knuckles toward me or him which worked well in practice.

All of us lined up at the starting line and on the mark we got set and then when the command was given and we went. Kevin shot out in front and from that point on listened to my navigation instructions; “Right, right, RIGHT! Now left, left, knuckles forward, right, right, no left, right, left, knuckles toward you, left, right, right, right, RIGHT.” The race was on and no one was even close to us so things got a bit easier. We didn’t take out any of the moored boats, didn’t get stuck between pilings, nor did we do a 360 at any point in time. In other words, we were boring…there are no pictures of us coming across the finish line but quite a few of the other boats all tangled up in each other. That’s okay, it was fun and felt good to know that when we have a common goal, we can reach it with a little preplanning and good communication!

Sea of Cortez

14 April 2012 | La Paz
Kevin/ 80s
We left La Paz on Tuesday April 3 to head further up into the Sea of Cortez to do some more exploring. Many of the islands and anchorages in the Sea are national marine parks so you are supposed to buy a park pass in order to anchor at them. Before we left Bonnie went off to find the office where we could purchase the passes. She did not have to go very far because there was an office right in the marina complex at Marina de La Paz where we were staying. Once there she was told they had no park passes to sell. They had been out of them for several weeks and did not know when they would be getting more. Bonnie asked what she should do since we were leaving that day and did not have a pass. The person told her not to worry about it. If we get stopped just tell the authorities we tried to buy the passes but the office was all out of them. He said it happens all the time and they would understand. Bonnie was thinking “Only in Mexico.”.
Our first stop was in one of the parks in an anchorage called Ensenada Grande on a small island called Isla Pertida. It was a three-lobed bay and at the head of each lobe were white sandy beaches. We set the hook in the southern lobe and spent a nice quiet non rolly night at anchor. The bay is very popular with kayak expeditions and all along the beaches campsites were set up to accommodate them. The expeditions have a boat that accompanies them and it carries all the food, tents, sleeping bags, kitchen gear and everything else to set up a nice comfortable camp for when the kayakers make it to shore.
The next day we took off for our next stop which was San Everisto. It is a very small fishing village on the Baja Mainland. We took our daily walk which led us past their one room school house where they currently have nine students attending. We continued walking down to the salt evaporation ponds at the end of town before heading back to the boat. It was a pretty quiet uneventful day.
After San Everisto we headed out to Aqua Verde where we stayed for 2 nights. It was Semanta Santa which is the Mexican holiday before Easter. Many families take this week off and spend the time relaxing. As we were traveling to Aqua Verde we could see the beaches all lined with tents, trailers and motor homes as the Mexican people flocked to the beaches for their vacations. The bright colored tents and awnings made the beach look very festive. Once in Aqua Verde we pumped up our kayak and spent part of the day paddling around. The water is very clear here so we had great views of all the fish swimming below us.
From Aqua Verde we went to the furthest point north we were going to go which was Puerto Escondido. We tied up to a mooring ball there and went in to take some much needed showers. There is not much at Puerto Escondido. It has a very nice sheltered bay with a small Fonotur Marina, a tienda and a small restaurant. It was kind of strange because the land around the bay has the infrastructure for some pretty big projects. There are paved streets with street lamps that surround a whole bunch of barren lots. I think they were thinking it was going to be a big tourist place but the funds dried up and now it is just empty. Bonnie and I were going on our morning walk when we met Gary and Phyllis from Canada. They were driving into Loreto and wanted to know if we wanted to go along so we jumped into their car and were able to spend a little time exploring this quaint little town.
The next day we got up early to head to our next destination which was Isla San Francisco. We checked the weather the day before and all the reports were for calm conditions with wind in the 4 to 5 knot range. Well the predictions were wrong and as we were heading south we ended up motoring the whole way right into 20 knots of wind. One of the guide books we read said if anybody asks which direction the wind blows in the Sea of Cortez to just tell them it always blows right on the nose. We were able to tuck into a cove on the north side of Isla San Francisco so we had some protection from the wind but as it usually does the wind subsided by the evening and we got a good night’s sleep. In the morning we hiked around the island and did some beach combing. In the early afternoon the wind had shifted and was now coming out of the north so it was making our anchorage very rough. Our original plan was to stay in the anchorage for another night and then head back to La Paz in the morning but we decided to take advantage of the north east wind that was blowing, pulled anchor and sailed back to Ensenada Grande. It was a great sail with the wind on the beam the whole way and we made good time.
After a night in Ensenada Grande we had favorable winds and were able to sail back to La Paz in time to get involved with Bay Fest going on now. Bay Fest is a celebration that the local cruising club Club Cruceros de La Paz puts on every year. It is kind of a celebration for the end of cruising season down here since April is when many cruisers leave their boats and head back to their home ports for the summer or begin to head north into the Sea of Cortez where it is cooler. They have seminars, games, dinghy races, sailboat races and other fun activities to enjoy. Bonnie and I signed up for the blindfold dinghy race. This is a rowing competition where the person rowing is blindfolded and your partner tells you which way to steer around the racecourse. Bonnie really enjoyed this because she got to boss me around. We made a really good pair though because we sprinted out in front at the start and no one was even close to us as we crossed the finish line. The second place finishers were a young couple who broke one of their oars at the start and ended up using their other oar to paddle around the course. We think they would have been some stiff competition if they had both oars to work with. After the race we sat in on a seminar that talked about doing the “Baja Bash” and got some good tips on how to prepare for the slog up the coast from Cabo San Lucas to San Diego.
That pretty much brings us up to date. We are planning on being in La Paz for another couple of days to wash the boat and do a little provisioning before we head out again to do some more gunkholing in the islands around here. Then it is back to La Paz and final preparations for the “Baja Bash”.

Back to the baja side

03 April 2012 | La Paz, Mexico
Our trip across the Sea of Cortez was uneventful which means that it was one that I liked and Kevin was bored. The seas were flat, wind was close to nonexistent, and we only saw one or two other vessels the entire 176 miles which for us took 31.5 hours. It also meant we had to motor the entire passage and used more fuel than we anticipated using. Our original plan was to reach Los Frailes and then head north towards La Paz. Instead we reached Los Frailes, spent a night, and headed south to San Jose Cabo the next closest port with fuel because we weren't sure we'd be able to make it to La Paz on what we had on board. Nothing like a 46 mile trip (there and back) in the opposite direction of your destination to make you wonder just what the heck you are doing out here! All was good though, no mishaps, no running out of fuel, no problemo. I love being in the country of 'no problemo'.

On our return north we once again stayed in Los Frailes. We've now been there three times and this time finally took the time to climb the peak that makes the point of the bay. I really wanted to get to the top so we could see to the other side and the surrounding waters. The climb is on trails marked with small rock sculptures, narrow, most of the time steep and rocky, and in some cases pretty close to prickly cactus. About 2/3 of the way to the top Kevin asked me if I wanted to continue, evidently my face was a bit on the red side and I may have been panting a little, but I was determined. Finally we made it to the top and the view was beautiful. We could see KIST at anchor to the south in Bahia Los Frailes and the outlines of the reefs to the north in Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park. A lizard was sunning itself on the highest point, a small rock sculpture that someone had created. Nice spot for a lizard I guess but I would have preferred a beautiful leafy tree for shade.

We have spent the last few days in La Paz, or what I've heard referred to as Cruisers Heaven. La Paz, is a fairly large town of about 175,000 people, an international airport and a huge community of expats but much more laid back than the big cities of Cabo, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta. Again, we wonder about how the Mexican people are able to make ends meet. Kevin and I went out to dinner at a local restaurant recommended by two cruisers we ran into as well as the guide book for his birthday. It was Saturday night and there were only two tables occupied, ours and a group of six. The restaurant has a view of the boardwalk pointing towards the west and the sunset was beautiful. There was an off road race car promotion and check in set up right below the restaurant with souped up VW's and I don't know what else parading below us. Kevin enjoyed the view and I really enjoyed my coconut shrimp!

Early in the day we'd run into our friend Theo from Mariannetto and made plans to have dinner with he and Marian, his wife, the following day. Poor Marian had hurt her foot falling on the wonderful maintained sidewalks of Mexico but whipped up a delicious pasta dish anyway. We ended the evening with a rip roaring card game of what I'll call 'oh, darn' since this is a family blog. It was a nice change from the cribbage games Kevin and I have been playing.

After a few days of boat chores we're ready to head back out and continue exploring the region. KIST has a nice clean bottom and hull, we've had two REAL showers, and we've stocked up on groceries. Ready to go!

Since my Dad reads the blog more then his e-mail I thought I would use it to send out a happy birthday wish. He is 81 on April 4th. Happy Birthday Dad! Hope you have a great one.
Love Kevin and Bonnie

Easy trip

21 March 2012 | Stone Island, Mazatlan
Bonnie/a bit on the cool side, temp is just above 70 sometimes
Now that our pride and wounds have healed we are heading across the Sea of Cortez to the Baja side. Since our mishaps we have been on another overnight trip from La Cruz back to Mazatlan. The winds were out of the north and light which meant that we motored the entire way. I have to say that after our previous leg I wasn't at all unhappy to be motoring.

We've been anchored at Stone Island outside of the Mazatlan harbor for the past couple of nights. It is a quiet anchorage in terms of other boats and noise from the beach so has been fairly relaxing and welcome after an overnighter. The first day in we didn't even get the dinghy down and instead napped, ate, napped again, ate and then went to bed for the night. Hard day, I know.

The following day we spent some time on the beach and then were invited over to the neighboring boat for a beer. Now despite Kevin's last post I want everyone to know that we haven't turned into beer guzzling, foul mouthed, accident prone sailors. We brought our own beverages which in this instance was water and since neither of us got hurt or had a huge wave crash over the boat there was no need to swear--I just wanted to set the record straight.

In preparation for the trip across 'the sea' we took the water taxi from Stone Island over the Mazatlan and went shopping. I was surprised when the water taxi driver asked us to put on life jackets. The trip is a short distance, not even a 5 minute ride. When I asked him if it was really necessito, he said si. Of all the things we've seen in terms of safety regulations or rather lack or enforcement of them it made me chuckle that a life jacket was required. We've seen people riding motorcycles with no helmets with a baby nested between the driver and the passenger on back, no railings building ledges, rebar sticking out of the sidewalks and huge holes in the roads but rest assured if I fall into the water during that short panga ride, I'll at least float!

Tenacatita Back to La Cruz

16 March 2012 | La Cruz
Kevin/ Sunny and Warm
Tenacatita Back to La Cruz

On Friday the 9th we left Tenacatita to head up to Chamela where we were waiting to get a weather window to go around Cabo Corrientes and then back to La Cruz. While in Chamela we met our friends Dave and Leiann from Chrysallis who were heading south. I fixed pancakes and scrambled eggs and we had them over for breakfast. After that we decided to go ashore to a small hotel where you can use their pool and showers for 50 pesos apiece. Wind had been blowing out of the sea of Cortez for several days so the swells were pretty big which caused quite a bit of surf going into the beach. This means we were going to be doing a surf landing with our dingy so I was pretty excited, Bonnie was a little worried. The kill switch on our outboard has a plastic key on it that is attached to a tether. The tether is a safety device that you attach to your wrist so if you happen to fall overboard the tether pulls out the key and the engine shuts off. This saves you from getting cut up by a spinning propeller and stops the boat so you can get back on. I rarely use this device and most of the time it is left attached to the motor. Since the surf was so big Bonnie asked me attach the tether to my wrist just in case the surf ended up dunking us. As usual I thought she was overreacting so I told her I didn't think I needed to but then since she is the safety officer on our boat I decided I would appease her and went ahead strapped it on and then headed for shore. We stopped just short of the crashing breakers and watched the waves for a while trying to time our landing so we would be riding on the back of one of the waves into shore. To make matters worse there were lots of families with children who were playing in the surf pretty close to where I wanted to land. So I had to find an avenue between the families as well as pay attention to the swells. The dinghy gently rose up and down as the swells passed under us. I waited until one of the swells picked us up, chose a course between the swimmers and then gunned the motor to stay on top of it. For the first second or two I thought we were going to do just fine but then I started to outrun the wave and we were being pushed sideways towards the swimmers. I could see the dirty look on one of the dads faces as I am sure he thought I was going to run over one of his kids. I did not want to hurt anyone so I throttled back and just as I did the wave we were riding crashed, picked up the stern, shoved our nose into the sand and we went head over heels into the surf. It was a good thing I always listen to my safety officer because when we went over, the tether on my wrist pulled the key out of the kill switch and the motor stopped quickly and did not fill with water or decapitate anybody. I came up out of the water and struggled to flip the dingy back over. A couple of other cruisers on the beach came over and gave me a hand and we were able to right it very quickly. While I was doing this Bonnie was running interference with the dad with the dirty look on his face who I am sure was coming over to cause me bodily harm or at least give me a good tongue lashing with a few choice Spanish words.( To tell you the truth I wouldn't have blamed him.) She waved her arms at him and repeatedly said "Lo siento, lo siento!", which means sorry in Spanish. He eventually smiled at her and then turned around went back to his family. Afterwards I thought this was kind of interesting as my first thoughts after the dunking were about the dinghy and outboard motor and how much damage they received and Bonnie's was about making sure everybody was safe, keeping the peace and stopping what I am sure could have been and international incident between a concerned Mexican dad and a crazy cruising gringo with his dinghy of death. Though I have not read it, the book, Men are from Mars Women are from Venus could probably explain why we had such differing thoughts. Anyway after this incident we ended up having a nice time sitting by the pool and visiting with our friends. Later we went back to our boat with no dinghy dunking had a nice dinner with Dave and Leiann and then sadly said our goodbyes as they are heading south and we are heading north and we will probably never run into them again. Bonnie says cruising is kind of like going to summer camp as a kid. You make great friendships for the week or two that you are at camp and then everybody goes their separate ways and you never see them again.

Early the next morning we pulled anchor and began our trek around Cabo Corrientes and into Banderas Bay. There were about six of us cruisers that left at the same time. The night before we all had checked the weather talked it over amongst us and decided that this day would be the best day to go with NW wind in the 10 to 15 knot range and seas 4 to 7 feet 12 seconds apart. The guide books all say you should go around Cabo Corrientes either early in the morning or at night when winds are usually calmer. The forecast had the winds picking up in the late evening on this particular day so we left early enough to hit the cape in the early evening so we would miss the strongest winds. The morning started out fine with winds around the 10 knot range and while the swells were pretty big they were far enough apart that it was not real rough. Then the weather started getting rough, the tiny ship was tossed if not for the courage of our fearless crew the Minnow would, whoops wrong story although when we were finished some of the cruisers actually started calling it "That fateful trip!". Around 10:00 or 11:00 the wind started picking up and began blowing in the 20 knot range right on our nose. The waves were getting very steep and close together so that you would come down off of one wave and smack into the crest of another sending waves of cascading water onto the deck and quite often back into the cockpit. I had to smile at Bonnie as one particular large wave hit us broadside as she was at the wheel, I saw her eyes get big and she said either "Holy shit!" or "Oh shit!" right before she got soaked. (Our youngest daughter once, after she got done with a sailing trip with us exclaimed " I have never seen Mom and Dad cuss as much or drink as much as they do on the sailboat!" Sailing just seems to bring the best out in us.) Like I said this was supposed to let up in the evening but it never did. The waves stayed big, with short duration and the wind stayed in the mid 20 knot range all day and into the wee hours of the morning. We motor sailed with a double reefed main and just a small amount of jib rolled out for 21 hours before we able to get into Banderas Bay far enough for the wind to calm down. At 6:30 am we set our anchor in the La Cruz anchorage and crawled into our bunks thankful that that trip was over.

We spent the next day just relaxing and recovering from the trip. Kist did not seem any worse for wear and seemed to take the beating in stride. She was quite a mess though having been covered in salt from all the waves splashing on deck and everything that was on the v berth in the bow was now on the floor. We took laundry ashore, took much needed showers and had dinner at Ana Banana's restaurant while listening to live old time rock and roll. It was a very pleasant evening. Back on board Kist I was putting our dinghy up for the night and Bonnie had gone below decks. As I was just about to tie off the dinghy I heard a crash down below. I asked Bonnie if she was all right, she kind of moaned said she was ok and about two seconds later said no I don't think I am. I went down below to see what was going on and I found her doubled over holding her hands. Seems she was trying to open our hatch in the main cabin. She cannot reach the hatch without a step stool. As she was standing on the stool she reached up opened the hatch. As she was opening it the stool slipped out from under her, she grabbed the bottom of the hatch to steady herself and the hatch lid fell down onto her fingers causing her to fall all the way down. She ended up with a couple of pretty deep cuts on both middle fingers and smaller cuts on several others. I cleaned up the cuts and we bandaged them for the night. She took some pain killers to ease the pain. The next morning she went to see our friend Ann from Full and By who is a nurse just to see if she should go see a doctor to get a stitch or two. She advised us to use sterile strips to close up the cuts and then put splints on them so they will not bend. I thought it was kind of ironic that we spent the last 24 hours in a boat that was bucking like a bronco and neither one of us got so much as a scratch, and then in a nice quiet anchorage Bonnie ends up getting her fingers smashed. To top it off the next day I was in town getting groceries and ended up getting a bee sting on my arm. I am sensitive to bee stings and my arm ended up getting all swollen. Sheesh we were better off smashing our way into the waves and wind out in the ocean.

Today we are going to begin our trek to Mazatlan. We are going to head out to Punta de Mita and then leave early in the morning for Chacala or San Blas. If the weather holds we will then leave for an overnighter to Mazatlan to wait for another weather window to cross the Sea of Cortez and head to Lapaz on the Baja side.

Southern point

09 March 2012 | Melaque, Barra, and Tenacatita
Bonnie/I'll just say it is warm.
We hit our furthest point south last week at Barra de Navidad, and that was by taking a short bus ride from where we were anchored in Melaque with just a few other boats. Although Melaque was a bit rolly at times, it was for the most part quiet so we decided not to go through the very shallow channel and into the lagoon of Barra to join the other masses of boats that seem to drop the hook there and stay for weeks. The photo was taken at a local resturant in Barra where we found our homeport listed.

While in Melaque we happened on a parade celebrating 'carnival'. I'm not sure what all the celebration is about although we'd heard it had to do with young women trying to earn the most amount of money they could for what purpose no one was sure. I was hoping charity but who knows. Evidently it also has to do with getting all the wild and craziness out of people so they can behave during Lent. During the parade we saw very sedate princess type girls riding on cars like you would at a parade going through the streets of Bellingham but the main portion of the parade seemed to be about super load music, dancing on the floats, and drinking alcohol...the wild and crazy part definitely was coming out and because we are in Mexico where public safety has not reached the same level of 'oh no, we might be sued', that we have in the states, each float is evidently responsible for lifting the electric lines over the highest point of the float by using a three to four foot wooden stick. As one float was rounding the corner some of those low lines needed to be lifted before it could pass through making us cringe! Unfortunately we didn't have the camera with us.

The shore landings here have been a bit challenging to get through the surf. We thought we had timed things fairly well but Kevin and I were both on the same side of the dingy, me in front where it was deeper and Kevin telling me to jump. Now I'm pretty sure all of you have seen me, so just imagine me thigh deep in water trying to jump over inflated tubes which make up the side of the dinghy, which means that at this point, I'm trying to jump over something that is almost to my waist. I tried to quickly go to the other side where Kevin wasn't in my way but wading in water and quick don't really go hand in hand. We'd already taken on enough water to soak everything in the boat including us. Kevin was 'encouraging' me to jump, I was telling him I couldn't, and we were both laughing--sort of. I would have loved to have that one on video I'm sure.

We've begun heading back north and anchored in Tenacatita Bay for a few days where we ran into Ann and Dick on Full and By who were docked right next to us in Blaine for a few years. It was nice to catch up and compare notes, especially while floating in water chairs to cool down!

Bahia De Navidad

01 March 2012 | Melaque
Kevin/ 75 and hazy
Bonnie and I were getting a little bored with surfing and eating, surfing and eating ( although I am not sure you could call what I do on the surfboard surfing. It is more like paddle, paddle, paddle, stand up and fall down, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle some more stand up and fall down again but that takes a lot longer to write so we just call it surfing) so we decided we would pull up the anchor and head a little more south to Bahia de Navidad. This bay is much smaller then Banderas bay and is the home of the towns of Melaque and Barra De Navidad. To prepare for the trip we went into Paradise Village Marina at Nuevo Vallarta for the night so we could fill our water tanks with fresh water. This marina is the only marina we could find in the area that has potable water at the slips. Some cruisers buy 5 gallon jugs of purified water and fill their tanks that way but with over 200 gallons of water in our two tanks it is more economical and much easier for us to fill up at this marina. Paradise Village is a very upscale marina and large hotel complex all in one that is priced very reasonable. It cost us $30.00 for the night and includes use off all the hotels amenities such as showers, hot tubs and swimming pools. They also have a Bengal tiger breeding program on site that was interesting. Currently they have three tigers here a male, female and their little cub.
The next day we left in the early afternoon to head out to Punta De Mita to anchor for the night. Banderas Bay has very similar wind patterns to our home bay in Bellingham Washington in the summertime. It is almost always calm in the morning and as the land heats up it creates a wind that starts at the head of the bay and blows towards the land. It makes for great sailing conditions within the bay with winds in the 10 to 20 knot range. Since the wind comes from the head of the bay we were heading right into it so we ended up having to make several long tacks to get to Punta De Mita but it made for brisk sailing.
The next morning we got up at 4:00 am so we could round Cabo Corrientes early in the morning when the wind is not as strong. We rounded the cape around 8:00 am and went to check out a small anchorage called Ipala. The guide books said this is an anchorage that is good when the weather is settled so our plan was to go to the anchorage look at it first hand and then decide if we wanted to anchor for the night or continue on to Chamela. We decided against staying at Ipala because it was very small and filled with pangas and fish pens. This left very little room for anchoring. So on we went to Bahia Chamela which is a fairly large bay that has good anchorage in the northern section right in front of the little town of Perula. We got in around 11:00pm so ended up anchoring in the dark which we hate to do but with Bonnie on the bow with our search light we were able to do it without running into anything. We spent a lazy day in Chamela relaxing and catching up on some sleep and then left the next day for Bahia De Navidad.
It was a good day of sailing from Chamela to Bahia De Navidad. It is only 38 miles from one bay to the other so we did not need to rush things. We were able to use our asymmetric spinnaker and even performed our first successful gybe with it. Unfortunately not long after the gybe the shackle came lose that attaches the clew of the spinnaker to the bow of the boat and the spinnaker popped loose and was sent flying and flopping in the wind. We have a spinnaker sock so it was no big deal to douse it but it ended our spinnaker run for the day. There are several choices for mooring in the bay; there is a large shallow lagoon at Barra De Navidad, a marina called Marina Puerto de la Navidad and an anchorage in front of the town of Melaque. We choose to anchor in front of Melaque because it was not very crowded and started our anchoring ritual which goes something like this; Me on the bow getting ready to deploy the anchor. Bonnie steering the boat to where we are going to drop the anchor. Me pointing to where I think we should anchor. Bonnie steering there. Me getting ready to drop the anchor. Bonnie deciding she does not like it here. Me saying where do you want to go. Bonnie saying over there. Bonnie steering to wherever over there is. Me getting ready to drop the anchor. Bonnie saying she does not like it here. Me getting a little exasperated saying where do you want to go. Bonnie getting a little exasperated at me getting a little exasperated at her and saying I want to try over there. Bonnie steering over there and me finally! getting to drop the hook and set the anchor. Then after everything is settled, Bonnie saying maybe over there would have been a better place. Me not answering.
The next morning we got a call from Pat who is a friend we met on the boat Cricket. He was wondering why we did not drop the hook over by them since there was lots of room and it was less rolly. Bonnie told him she likes to go around the anchorage to check out all the spots before dropping the hook. He said he had a dog once that was just like her it would go around and around in circles before it finally would lie down for the night. Bonnie didn't appreciate being compared to a dog but we had a good laugh. Last night we had dinner with Pat and his wonderful wife Lynn aboard Cricket and met newlyweds Stephanie and Rob aboard Red Witch. Dinner was steaks with real baked potatoes. What a treat! We also had a rousing game of Mexican Train. For you that may not know Mexican Train is a dominoes game that seems to have as many variations as there are people who play it. Each boat we have played on seems to have a new twist to the rules. This keeps the game interesting because the new rules mean you are always changing your strategy to try to win. That is, unless you're Bonnie, who does not care if she wins or not.
Well that is about all the news from sunny Mexico. We plan on spending a few more days here in the bay before we start heading back north. We will be heading into the wind on our way back so to make the trek back we will be stopping in some of the smaller anchorages that we skipped on the way down. This should make the trip back less taxing on us.

Leiann and Bonnie to the rescue!

28 February 2012
At the request of our daughter who worries about her parents...the make believe robber story as told by Leiann on their blog (
Leiann writes "Now I am going to tell on myself before the story gets out there and blown way out of proportion. Oh that's right I blew this story way out of proportion! Bonnie and Kevin from KIST and Dave and I went to shore in Punta de Mita so the guys could surf and bonnie and I could wander around. While we were meandering along the beach I glanced out at our boat and saw a power boat and panga very close to it. I looked again and saw someone on our boat and told Bonnie. She said are you sure? I told her "Look they are moving from side to side." We started running down the beach to the dinghy, and this was no easy feat considering the beach is slanted, and yelling at the guy from the hotel asking if that was their panga. He said no so we kept running towards our dinghies. Then there was the local native guy that was whistling to someone out on the water and I just knew that he was alerting whoever was on our boat to retreat. We came upon the dinghy and since I don't know how to run one ( I know, I know, lessons coming) we got got Bonnie's with the help of Eric (from Marionetto) and off we went to capture the burglar. Bonnie asked if we should stop for Dave and Kevin and I said no there's not time. As we wer gaining on the suspect and he got closer I realized it was nothing more than our jib sail cover swinging in the wind. Oh boy....Bonnie was wonderful and was very positive about needing to run lickety split across the beach, jump in the dinghy and go tearing off across the water as if the grim peaper was after us! Thanks Bonnie. So we discussed that it was a drill, kinda like a man overboard drill. And I also told Bonnie her and I couldn't hang out together after dark as our two imaginations (especially mine) could get us into a predicament for sure."

By the time this was over I was laughing so hard tears were going down my face. You may ask what we were planning on doing once we got to the boat and caught someone on it. My reply would be I was going to shout really loud and tell them to get off...that's about it. If they didn't react we would have gone over to Marionetto and got some help ;-).

Picture is of Leiann and Dave at dinner on the beach that same night.

Been busy

23 February 2012 | Banderas Bay
Bonnie/80's with threat of shower today
As part of our Banderas Bay explorations we've only moved from La Cruz to Paradise Village (6 miles), back to La Cruz, out to Punta de Mita (8 miles), back to La Cruz, and now, tonight, we are spending one more night at Paradise Village before we start moving south towards Barra de Navidad which is approximately 125 miles.

Why no updates in the past few weeks when we obviously haven't been doing much sailing? Let's see, there's been:

• Surfing in Sayulito (or attempts at surfing) with Jon and Leah from Brio, Christian from Alitair (or something like that, sorry Christian), Rob from Wings of the Dawn, with Stephanie from Camanoe who brought her boogie board but sat with me on the beach to watch the entertainment. Christian gave a few tips and the rest of the group were off in the water trying to catch some waves. Frankly, I'm surprised the bus even stopped to pick us all up, 8 people at a bus stop, 6 boards, and a full bus. Not much room was left over for the locals! Leah and I played a few games of Cribbage with Steph looking on to learn and then we moved onto Uno. Hard day for those on the beach.
• Petroglyph tour. We hiked into the hills to a well maintained but not at all commercial site. This special place contains more than 50 petroglyphs which are thought to be at least 2000 years old. It is believed that the site was treasured for its beauty as well as an abundance of water in an area where water can be scarce during the dry months. The area is still used today for religious ceremonies for the Huicholes who still leave offerings. This was definitely a favorite place of things to see!
• Surfing (or attempts at surfing...again) this time with Dave from Chrysalis while Leiann and I explored Puenta de Mita. Oh, and fought off make believe robbers, ask Leiann.
• Pot luck dinner at a restaurant on the beach in Punta de Mita on Valentines Day with a group of cruiser friends. Business is so slow for some of these guys that they agreed to let us bring our own dinner so long as we bought a beer or two. So, with friends from Marrionetto, Chrysalis, and Jean Marie everyone brought a dish to the restaurant to share and then we played a rip-roaring game of Catchphrase.
• Dinner with Leah and Jon, her family who had come for a visit and were lucky enough to find a great condo right on the beach in front of the anchorage, and Steph and Dave from Camanoe. A great meal, we got to talk with Leah's parents who also have a Fraser 41. The evening ended with another game of Catchphrase and a lot of laughter.
• Surfing...this time with an experienced surfer on a beach outside of Punta de Mita that only locals know about. Kevin was standing on the board a few more times than he has been on the other occasions! I think he's getting the hang of it--or at least he is from my perspective on the beach.
• Goodbye dinner on KIST with Leah and Jon as they are heading back north.
• Attending a fundraiser dinner with Dave and Leiann to help raise money for The Friendship Club. This is an organization that helps the local community.

Surf, eat, surf, eat, maybe hike, eat, surf, eat and you understand why neither of us has managed to keep the blog updated...and we're some of the less social cruisers!
Vessel Name: KIST
Vessel Make/Model: Fraser 41
Hailing Port: Bellingham WA
Crew: Kevin and Bonnie Peterson
About: Kevin and Bonnie hail from Bellingham Washington. Kevin is a special education teacher at Mount Baker High School in Deming Washington and Bonnie is a self employed project manager. We have two wonderful daughters and two very special grand daughters whom we are going to miss very much on our trip.

Who: Kevin and Bonnie Peterson
Port: Bellingham WA