MatTag Sailabout

Stories, photos, videos, and natural history updates from a family of three traveling from Alaska to Mexico on their sailboat with their Schipperke.

Vessel Make/Model: Contest 44
Hailing Port: Juneau, Alaska
Crew: Beth Mathews, Jim and Glen Taggart
Beth is a marine biologist who has lived in Alaska for 20 years. She retired from the University of Alaska Southeast to begin this sailing adventure with her family. Her research and teaching focus has been on marine mammals and behavioral ecology. [...]
Extra: 2016: Last year Jim delivered our sailboat from Baja to San Francisco Bay where Glen and I met him for the final leg up the Petaluma River to her new home. Resilience is now moored in the Petaluma Marina, only 20 miles south of our land home in Santa Rosa.
22 July 2020 | Bodega Bay, CA
06 January 2016 | Petaluma Marina
26 June 2015 | San Juanico Bay
25 June 2015 | Exploring Magdelena Bay
19 June 2015 | Off SW end of Baja
27 May 2015 | Santa Rosa, CA
23 March 2015 | La Paz, Mexico
15 October 2014 | Bahia San Pedro, Mexico
15 October 2014 | Santa Rosa, CA
09 June 2014 | Alameda, CA
05 April 2014 | 27.55'N; 111.50'W
03 April 2014 | San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico
27 March 2014 | 33.9425 N; 118.4081 W
23 February 2014 | Alameda, CA
18 December 2013 | Alameda, CA
13 June 2013 | Crossing the Sea of Cortez
Recent Blog Posts
22 July 2020 | Bodega Bay, CA

Wilderness with a Big W

Day 40 aboard S/V Resilience*: Last Saturday (7/11), we ducked out under San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge and motored north into 4-5 foot seas ~4 hours to the shelter of Drakes Bay, off Point Reyes National Seashore. The contrast with exploring the calm, warm-water Delta is striking. Everything [...]

18 December 2019 | Petaluma River

Edgy déjà vu: Petaluma River Retreat from Kincaid Fire Smoke

The Kincade fire began on October 23, 2019 and eventually consumed 78,000 acres--the largest wildfire Sonoma County has ever experienced. The first whiffs of smoke sparked an edgy déjà vu. At noon that day, Jim left our home in Santa Rosa for Petaluma to do some work on our sailboat, planning to return that evening. Although Santa Rosa did not experience an imminent threat, as the Air Quality Index rose, and high-wind forecasts persisted, we decided to shelter on Resilience and head down river to San Francisco. Leaving also meant we could offer our home to a family who had been evacuated from Windsor or Healdsburg, the heart of the Kincaid fire. This short video chronicles our oddly serene trip down the Petaluma River, through agricultural land and past a bucolic small town.

10 January 2016 | Santa Rosa, Ca

VIDEO: Beth reads "The Third Try," a story about releasing fishing line snarled around the prop

Beth Mathews is a marine biologist and writer who set out on a three-year sailing adventure from Alaska to Mexico with her ten-year-old son and husband, after her husband had a debilitating brainstem stroke. In this video, she reads about snorkeling beneath the boat, while in Mexico, to cut the boat's [...]

06 January 2016 | Petaluma Marina

Make a Difference in 2016

With the New Year's first week about to vaporize, I paused today while walking in downtown Petaluma (20 miles south of Santa Rosa) to think about what I had done last year that I wanted to do more of in 2016. The list started with "exercise." Then I remembered that in 2015, I submitted a letter to the [...]

26 June 2015 | San Juanico Bay

5:00 AM Anchor in San Juanico 6/26/2015

5:55AM B: Just read all of your posts. So glad last night went well. Wishing I knew how to teleport. 6/26/2015 FRIDAY [Note: Jim can send send 150 character texts from their InReach GPS device.]

Pearl Dress

13 June 2013 | Crossing the Sea of Cortez
Beth / Nighttime
My husband and I crouch in the dark at the boat's bow, crowding that tapered space where we lash the anchor. As I lean out over the water, the rushing air cools my bare legs. Our attention is locked on the frothing ocean three feet below, a miniscule patch of the Sea of Cortez. Above, the Milky Way arcs, a thick powder across a black, star-intense sky. Resilience, our sailboat, drives herself through the darkness.

Since nightfall, we have not seen another boat's lights nor heard a radio call. The boat traces a 280-mile line to the northwest from mainland Mexico. We are on a two-day, one night passage back to the Baja California peninsula. We were in the midst of a watch change in the cockpit when Jim noticed something in the water ahead; we both rushed forward.

Below us, riding the bow of our plunging sailboat - catching a free ride like an underwater surfer - is a bottlenose dolphin. That alone is worth mentioning. What makes this encounter special is that the dolphin slicing through the water is covered with small lights, as if she were wearing a fitted lace gown studded with thousands of glowing pearls. Instead of a static dress, however, a continuous supply of evenly spaced electrified pearls glides over her body, revealing hydrodynamic contours with x-ray-like precision. The dolphin, possibly a female, is surfing through a thick soup of bioluminescing zooplankton. We happen to be lucky enough to intercept that patch of ocean just when this athletic torpedo decided to hitch a ride.

Each gem-sized light is a small organism equipped with a special biochemistry. When stimulated, say by the pressure wave of an approaching predator or perhaps a swimming mammal uninterested in the tiny creatures as prey, the small invertebrates release an enzyme called luciferase. That enzyme triggers a reaction that produces light as a byproduct, much like other biochemistry releases heat. One function of the light can be to startle an approaching dark-adapted predator, the blast of light in that last instant of being pursued usually give the zooplankton a better chance of escaping. Some organisms even eject a glowing chemical 'puff' to distract a charging predator, then dart aside into darkness, leaving the confused attacker chomping down through empty water.

On land, children have been entertained for eons by fireflies. In summer, adult insects flash a species-specific Morse code to attract a mate, their miniature light dance performed across three dimensions. Similarly, lantern fish use bioluminescing structures to attract mates. The phenomenon is more common in the marine world than on land. Bioluminescence has evolved independently at least 40 times; it is now found across some 700 taxa, or groups, from single-celled bacteria to fish and jellyfish. There is even a fish that harbors bioluminescing bacteria below its eyes in a special structure called a photophore. The fish -- aptly called a flashlight fish -- can slide a flap of tissue over the photophore when the light is not needed, or slide it back when it is dark and the fish is foraging.

One ghoulish-looking, chunky fish is impossible to see in its inky habitat with the exception of a small, stalked piece of tissue that protrudes from between its eyes and dangles down in front of a gaping mouth. The small, retractable pendulum-like structure - some look like the uvula that dangles at the back of your throat - contains luminescing bacteria. These fish are characterized as 'sit and wait' predators. Scruffy hair-like structures around the fishes' heads detect the smallest movement. In the dark, the glowing tissue acts as a lure, attracting unwitting prey who are sucked into the waiting mouth-cave, seconds before chomping down on that tasty looking, glowing decoy. No surprise: species in this deep-sea group are called anglerfish.

Meanwhile, the sleek, human-sized dolphin glides and curves along our hull, barely exerting any effort.

"Look at that!" I say, leaning out over the lifeline to get a better look at her head, my calf wedged for counterbalance against Jim's thigh. The light around her is so good we can see her eye perfectly. We both think about waking our son but know that this visit is ephemeral, that we might miss it altogether if we leave our narrow perch to pry him from the potent clutches of teenage sleep; he was up late for his watch.

"Oh, wow!" I exclaim, at a loss for words to describe the dual magic and power beneath our feet.

Next to the dolphin's bright outline, a more subtle glow defines the boat's hull. With a flick of her flukes, a slight shift in the angle of her left flipper, she changes her trajectory, slipping out of her Christmas-light gown, diving down and down then turning away. The pearled-glow tapers behind, the trail of a flaming comet, gone from view but forever embedded in memory.

Bioluminescence lights up creatures of the oceans. Science, NBC News. (Article interviewing Edith Widder, President of the Ocean Research and Conservation Association, Fort Pierce, Florida.)

[Occurrence date ~April 14, 2013]
[Photo is of a bottlenose dolphin bow riding in Bandaras Bay. The pink scarring across the dolphin's back looked very fresh. The injury is possibly due to a prop.]

RESILIENCE's Photos - Main
Contains photos I need to store here to upload into posts.
1 Photo
Created 6 January 2016
1 Photo
Created 25 June 2015
Our 2nd stop during our passage south from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas with the 2012 Baja Ha Ha. (This is where Jim is June 20+ 2015)
56 Photos
Created 21 June 2015
Jim has prepped & is sailing/bashing our sailboat up the outer coast of Baja.
4 Photos
Created 19 June 2015
Photos by Forrest Young and Jim.
7 Photos
Created 6 November 2014
This album has 3 photos from our new home in Santa Rosa, CA.
6 Photos
Created 15 October 2014
While the hull and bottom painting projects continue below, we pull out the sails from months of storage inside the boat to reattach them to their booms -- a job that would be hard for Jim to do alone.
16 Photos
Created 5 April 2014
Boat painting continues while we pull the mainsail out of the boat and reattach it.
12 Photos
Created 5 April 2014
Beth and Glen join Jim over Glen's spring vacation in San Carlos, Mexico where the boat is hauled out for painting.
26 Photos
Created 3 April 2014
Over breakfast at the San Ignacio Oasis, I met Tad, Galia, and John, who were touring Baja by motorcylce. We shared a wonderful breakfast. They did a great job of shattering my stereotype of 'bikers.' John is a former avid bicycle rider. Seeing how they packed all of their gear for weeks onto their bikes was impressive.
5 Photos
Created 1 July 2013
San Ignacio is where Glen's cave painting trip originated and ended. I made new friends here with Faith (3 yrs old) and her parents, Isabel and Russ, wrote, walked, paid bills, rode a one-speed bike around town, and painted while Glen was off on his big trip.
30 Photos
Created 23 June 2013
Glen surfs his new board by being towed behind our sailboat as we travel north in the Sea of Cortez.
9 Photos
Created 13 June 2013
Nine of us from 5 family boats visited La Paz's Serpentarium. The highlight was the aviary, where we all got to feed birds that ate out of our hands.
41 Photos
Created 1 June 2013
We loved getting close to the cactus and volcanic rock on this steep, rocky section above a white beach along the lower Sea of Cortez.
25 Photos
Created 24 May 2013
Several mother-calf pairs of gray whales interacted with our boat and us in San Ignacio Lagoon -- an amazing experience.
16 Photos
Created 5 May 2013
Glen meets the other expedition members in San Ignacio, Baja
8 Photos
Created 29 April 2013
On our first day in San Blas we toured the town and ruins with fellow boaters from Lady Carolina
12 Photos
Created 25 February 2013
East of La Paz, in Cerralvo Channel, we encounter a lone, young sperm whale.
6 Photos
Created 26 January 2013
San Diego to Bahia de los Tortugas, including Glen's first tuna (under full sail) and our first overnight sailing.
35 Photos
Created 30 December 2012
Savoring Bahia de los Frailes.
20 Photos
Created 26 December 2012
Glen and Beth move back to Alameda from Ojai; Glen attends Cazadero Music Camp; we decide to bail on maintaining teak cap rails and paint (!) them instead.
70 Photos
Created 19 December 2012
We are coastal hopping our way south, pausing to wait for very good weather and to experience small communities and people along the way.
16 Photos
Created 1 September 2011
Still some essential projects to complete before heading out past Cape Flattery. Made time to visit the fantastic Makah Indian museum in Neah Bay.
9 Photos
Created 11 August 2011
Last days in Port Townsend getting ready to start our offshore trip. First leg to Port Angeles; fogged out on Aug 7.
30 Photos
Created 8 August 2011
We launch our new main sail and discover 2 excellent, free, interactive educational web sites.
26 Photos
Created 29 April 2011
Glen and I took a long side trip to see the edge of one the world’s most unlikely and puzzling migrations: 10 million monarch butterflies, through 4-5 generations, migrate from central Mexico to the Great Lakes region.
47 Photos
Created 12 April 2011
Ijsselmeer gets back in the water and is remasted. Christmas on board and with Nan and Ina.
6 Photos | 1 Sub-Album
Created 23 March 2011
As the deck project marchess on to the fiberglass phase, we appreciate house-sitting for friends, a brief bit of snow, visits from dear friends, and Thanksgiving with Nan and Ina.
63 Photos
Created 23 March 2011
We (especially Jim) continue to work on the deck overhaul, while learning splicing for the running rigging from Brion; Glen celebrates his 12th Birthday in PT and thrives with homeschooling; housesitting a wonderful Victorian home while the deck project drones on keeps us from imploding.
77 Photos | 1 Sub-Album
Created 26 February 2011
As the rigging project is pre-empted by the deck replacement mega-project, we continue to enjoy life in Port Townsend, a visit to the Bauer-Youngs near Mt Ranier, thanksgiving with Beth's cousin Nan (and Ina), housesitting a wonderful Victorian in PT, the Kinetic Sculpture event and more.
63 Photos
Created 7 February 2011
Glen meets new friends at a Marine Biology camp; rigging work continues; we enjoy PT's farmer's market; Glen starts a writing workshop with local author, Patrick Jennings; we share a dinner with the Piatt family.
25 Photos
Created 21 January 2011
We started Ijsselmeer's re-rigging project with Brion Toss, Glen took a sailing class, and we all enjoyed PT's sunny summer.
14 Photos
Created 21 January 2011
photo from our 1992 photo album taken during our stop in Nanaimo to visit Graeme and Dana Ellis, and Jane Watson durg our trip north delivering a new Ijsselmeer from Seattle to Juneau.
1 Photo
Created 1 September 2010
Shortly after arriving in Port Townsend, we started working with Brion Toss, a very talented rigger, to upgrade and revise Ijsselmeers standing rigging. The first steps in this process involve 1) removing all sails, 2) tuning and measuring the existing 'rig', 3) removing booth booms, and 4) detaching all of the standing rigging at deck level, and 4) removing both masts.
36 Photos
Created 1 September 2010
July 8-14: We had planned a quick overnight visit with our dear friends, Graeme Ellis and Jane Watson, and their daughter Dana, as we were sprinting to make our date with the rigger in Port Townsend. A new kink in the steering, however, required us to stay a week instead (take us to the briar patch!). Graeme and Jane's hospitality and help were over the top: really. We loved being folded into their and Dana�s rich lives on Protection Island, just offshore of Nanaimo, BC.
34 Photos
Created 1 September 2010
We had two beautiful days traveling down through the inside passage to an anchorage just south of Bella, Bella. Glen discovered kite-flying off the stern.
26 Photos
Created 29 July 2010
Jun 29-Jul 4: We spent a few extra days in Prince Rupert, British Columbia to do some work on Ijsselmeer, and we were also delayed by the weather.
7 Photos
Created 29 July 2010
Photos from some of the preparation steps and from days 1-8 in transit from Juneau to Prince Rupert.
29 Photos
Created 30 June 2010