Our One Picture
21 March 2012
Well, what with one thing and another it's a bit difficult for us to upload pictures and we haven't put too much effort into the process, so you'll have to be satisfied for now with a picture of our tour group in front of the Sierra Negra Caldera.
30 December 2011 | Mazatlan, MX
Dan / Clear 60 Light NNW winds
The family von surf
Well, after all that hard work bird watching, sailing, whale watching, etc. we thought we needed a break. So, we took the day off and went surfing at what is almost our local spot, playa Bruja. All the crew got into the act: catching some waves, catching up with a few good books, catching some rays. Mexican style shrimp cocktail, fish tacos, carne asada, chimichangas with beer, daiquiris, and sparkling lemonade at the palapa restaurant on the beach provided the sustenance for the day. Tomorrow, new crew in the form of Dan's sister Chris shows up, just in time to ring in the New Year. Sunday, we swap Gayle and Stephen, who will make their exodus back to the mountains of New Mexico for Sheryl, in from Northern California. With the new crew we return to our southern ways, with the plan to take about ten days to trek back to Isla Isabel for an encore, then San Blas, Chacala, and on to Puerto Vallarta.
Happy New Year to all from the crew of Sophie
Lying Marina Mazatlan
30 December 2011
Back to Mazatlan
Wednesday dawned Easter egg blue and warm. Tea in the cockpit while our old friends from Baja the fabulous flying bat rays put on a morning matinee. We readied for sea and began the beat back up the coast to Mazatlan where some more surfing was waiting. The sail up was mild, 8-12 knots, three-foot seas; it was enough to repress (and expel) the appetite of some of the crew, but the old salts thoroughly enjoyed it. A few whales came to wish us goodbye and the ever-present frigate birds were out in full force on the hunt. They're happy to fish, but seem to be even more happy stealing fish from another bird: frigate, booby or gull. While on the island, though, there is complete tranquility among the species. Thursday was spent recharging and resting with a little boat cleanup thrown in.
The crew of Sophie
Lying Marina Mazatlan
29 December 2011
Isla Isabel did not disappoint. We anchored in about 30 feet in a small bay on the south side of the main island. The setting was a bit intimidating as the waves wrapped around the island and crashed upon the rocky outcroppings that make up the bay boundaries. There was one other boat anchored in naturally the best spot. We took a position close to them, close enough to cause a little anxiety as anchoring can be a bit tribal. However, the hook went down easily and took a good set on the first go around. So, after a brief nap a shore party was formed by all to take in this fabled island. We were immediately greeted on the beach by a gentlemanly three-foot iguana, so deliberate in its mannerisms. After that it was an assault of color from the blue footed boobies, red throated frigate birds, tie-dyed red crabs and other animals that live free of fear from predators including man. It was almost a somber experience to walk among the birds only a few feet away, some setting on eggs, others preening their young. In a single tree, the size of a small lemon tree there would sit dozens frigate birds almost nose to tail. One tended to be quiet and not look directly at the birds as if not to intrude on their family life. While looking down from a cliff on the groves of trees with tens of thousands of birds gave yet another impression, one of a sci-fi movie where we stumbled upon the nesting grounds of some terrible race of aliens waiting to do their horror to humanity.
We took a swim in the velvet-blue lagoon and met our bay neighbor who was not at all miffed by our close anchor job, but complimented the family crew on a well-executed landing.
We hiked through the short jungle canopy, on top of which the frigate birds were nesting only a few feet above our heads, to the center of the island which contains a crater lake about 500 yards in diameter. We were curious about whether it was a fresh water or sea water lake, but did not test it, though the frigate birds seemed to enjoy a low swoop and a quick drink. On the eastern shore while beachcombing a few whales came close by shore, the rising underwater terrain providing the upwelling food that sustains these gentle giants. Also on eastern shore is a small research camp. The students come for an extended period, camping on the beach, tagging birds and studying their nesting habits. What a glorious laboratory!
The crew of Sophie, luxuriating in the cockpit
26 December 2011
5:30 PM local time
21 degrees, 51 minutes N
105 degrees 53 minutes W
Bound for Isla Isabel,
We cast off our lines mid-morning to catch the outgoing tide for Isla Isabel. The winds obeyed the forecast and have given us pleasant sailing conditions. Gayle and Dan were on deck talking about what sort of wild life would we perhaps see while en route. Our analogy was that animal watching is a bit like going out during a meteor shower; they're fun to watch partly because they're a bit rare and one has to be both diligent and lucky. As if on cue, a few minutes later we were treated to a large pod of dolphins parading their stuff off the starboard bow. They passed us going the opposite way, headed north to either fun or food. Dan and Gayle appeared to be favored this day, for as the sun got low on the horizon, and the invariable discussion about the green flash ensued, all hands were on deck. Though there was an overcast, it was clear right on the horizon to the west. And lo and behold, there appeared that elusive sunset charm. "Wow, did you see that?" Well, Gayle and Dan certainly did, but Will glanced away to attend to his camera and Stephen inadvertently left his sunglasses on, the polarizing lenses apparently canceling out the effect. Oh well, there's always tomorrow...
The faithful following may perhaps remember previous reports of the ever enjoyable behavior of the dolphins playing in Sophie's bow wave and the keen reader may even recollect tales of psychedelic trails of phosphorescent plankton entertaining the crew. So what does one get when the two are combined? A spectacular, Las Vegas style light show! While admiring the blue-green trails emanating from Sophie's pressure wave, Gayle was the first to spot what looked like either a fish or an eel aglow in that characteristic color. It took a few "glimpses out of the corner of the eye" to confirm that there were indeed fish swimming along with Sophie on her night run. However, upon closer view ala the bow pulpit it was clear that what we were seeing were dolphins playing in the bow wave. Each time they would dart back and forth, up and down their skin turned into a liquid neon Technicolor dreamcoat of many colors with the addition of a very long tail, about two to three times their body length. The effect turned these mammals into eerie ghost-like apparitions, though playful ones.
For the night watch, we've elected to pair up: Dan with Gayle and Will with Stephen. We're going to try out three hour rotations beginning at six PM through the night till six AM. Since Gayle and Stephen have yet to spend their first night off shore, it was decided to break them in gently with a partner.
The crew of Sophie, settling into the night watch
25 December 2011
6:30 PM local time
22 degrees, 42 minutes N
106 degrees 16 minutes W
24 December 2011 | Mazatlan, MX
Dan / Clear 60 Light NNW winds
We’ll use our bully pulpit today to send out a Christmas cheer to all on our list. Today is Christmas and we are planning to sail this evening to Isla Isabel, a small island about 90 miles south of Mazatlan. It is often referred to as the Galapagos of the Sea of Cortez. On it are found blue-footed boobies, frigate birds, iguanas and many other interesting animals, it is also a favorite place for many types of whales. We plan to anchor for a day or two and then head back to Mazatlan. Posted to the sail blog site is a picture of the new crew of Sophie, ready for some warm Christmas family times.
The year for us has been most remarkable. High on the list is our joy in celebrating Will’s graduation from New Mexico State University with honors. He achieved that academic milestone of a Bachelor’s degree in psychology with a supplementary major in linguistics. That momentous event served as a catalyst for the sailing adventure that we are now on and also provided the impetus for Gayle and Stephen to join us here in Mazatlan. It is so nice to have the family together, if only for one week. Our non-traditional way of celebrating Christmas has in itself become a tradition. For example, Will has spent ¼ of his Christmases here on the sailing vessel Sophie, quite remarkable. While we do miss the romance of a white Christmas, it sure is nice to be able to enjoy seventy-degree weather on the beach.
Gayle is settling into the full-time life of a working mechanical engineer with real deadlines and deliverables in an effort to ensure the efficacy of the US nuclear stockpile; pretty heady stuff for a young professional. Stephen has taken up the task of youth pastor at Calvary Chapel in Los Alamos. He now is in the position of role model for the youth that he himself was just a few years ago. My, how quickly the torch gets passed to the next generation.
Dan is on his first sabbatical ever, and still getting used to the fact that one does not need to wear a badge while sailing and surfing. And he is perhaps just settling in to the fact that for many Mondays to come he will not have to put on shoes and a real shirt.
All of us find ourselves in good health and in good cheer this season; we hope the same for all of you.
Fair winds in your journeys,
The crew of Sophie, readying for sea,
25 December 2011
A Day in the Life-in Port
20 December 2011 | Mazatlan, MX
Some of you may be wondering what, exactly, a sailor does when the boat is tucked away in the marina and isn’t out - well, sailing. For those of you that have, and for those who have been pondering grander thoughts (such as: “What to wear today?” or “I need to eat dinner tonight, what will I have?”) and haven’t thought about sailors, what follows is something of an answer; and, since the beginning is a very good place to start - convenient, at least - we’ll start in the morning.
Waking up is of particular note: The slight, near imperceptible, sway of the boat beneath, the air permeated by the sea, and, most importantly, no alarm clock. After the normal fair of breakfast the list of projects comes out. Whether it be rebuilding winches, changing the oil for the engine, or folding up 700 square feet of sail – then refolding it because the first go at it, while fine, just wasn’t good enough – individual projects are completed but the list never ends.
All this hard work has to be balanced out with a bit of play, of course. Some days it’s out on the beach and in the water surfing, while others are out on the town, walking along the beach down the Malacon, Mazatlan’s version of a tourist’s haven populated with shops and restaurants.
Between work, play, and a bit of reading, altogether its own part of the day, lunch fades away, hand-in-hand with the midday heat. Out come the sweaters and pants because it still is winter, and mid-60s F with humidity and a sea breeze is cold! Curling up with a book, tea, and cookies has become de rigueur to pass the few hours after dinner before sleep.
Being in port is a time to recuperate, recreate, and repair so that the challenges at sea may be met refreshed and rejuvenated.
The Crew of Sophie
Lying Mazatlan, Mexico
December 19th, 2011
Sophie's Southern Saga Begins
16 December 2011 | Mazatlan, MX
Dan / Cloudy 70 F Calm
Hello readers of the sagas of Sophie!
We are back at it again with another adventure. To those of you who were with us on the trip down the West coast of North America, this part will be old news. But to those of you who are just joining in, here’s how it works. Will and Dan will be the primary crew for this adventure, which has already begun in Mazatlan and ends we know not where; but perhaps if Neptune, Poseidon and their watery cousins are gentle with us, we’ll make it to the South Pacific by May or June; after that, no plan. We’ll be joined by family and friends along the way, (there’s always a crew spot open should any of you wish to shed a few layers).
While we’re off shore and out of reach of the Wi-Fi umbilical, we will have a very slow, but steady means of passing messages back and forth via an HF radio. Gayle, the reliable one in the family, will serve as a relay, so-called Gaylemail. We will send a single email to her and she will broadcast it via a blind copy to all and send along to us any messages from land. While in port and blessed with free Wi-Fi, Dan’s regular email danon447ATgmail.com will work should you wish. If you have any questions, comments, or witticisms feel free to send them our way by either method. So, let the gambits begin!
The crew of Sophie began their escape of the grasp of the Northern New Mexico winter on Monday, the 12th of December. A short lived storm put several inches of snow on the ground and most certainly frustrated many of the daily commuters who were simply trying to get home from work. We were caught up in the fray; in the first hour of our exodus we moved only about three miles. We consoled ourselves that if we were already sailing in very light winds, we’d be doing about as well. Thankfully, we didn’t have to sail to the airport.
We were greeted upon arrival to temperatures that seemed hot to us, the high seventies, with light northwest breezes. Queuing up for immigration at the Mazatlan airport brought home to us how popular of a winter getaway the place can be. There were two lines: one for residents and one for foreigners, the latter being much longer. Government business out of the way, we went to find a taxi, and when we mentioned that we needed to go to Marina Mazatlan, another cruiser chimed in that he was headed that way as well and would like to share the cab. So, we met our first kindred soul, a Bay area sailor with a Ph. D in physical chemistry, and only a few minutes into our adventure.
Sophie was sitting pretty, just as we had left her, and in a few minutes we were sipping a celebratory beer, finally, really believing that it had all begun. The last couple of days have been a mix of minor boat projects that didn’t get done back in San Francisco and a general re-acquaintance with the local environs (read palapa bars with live music). We’ve met some new arrivals, traded stories about our passages so far and are just getting used to all this air at sea level (read taking naps). Play plans include a trek over to a surf spot a few miles away on Saturday and some day sailing early next week before the first of the family arrive, Gayle and Stephen, on Christmas eve.
The crew of Sophie
Lying Marina Mazatlan
15 December 2011
12 October 2011 | San Francisco Bay
We're getting ready to set sail for southerly, warm waters. Sophie has been playing in and around the Bay for several years and now she is going to see some new vistas. We're signed up for the Baja Ha-Ha, then on to La Paz. Looks like crew and weather are coming together for this Sunday. Stay tuned as we sail the first leg to San Diego.
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