Thursday, December 27, 2012

Thanksgiving Underway

Thanksgiving is different underway.
First of all, we could not contact our family and share a few minutes together via email, skype or cell phone.  Secondly, no turkey dinner with all the fun side dishes.  Last, no friends around.  We were alone.  Aboard our 42 foot sailboat in the middle of the Sea of Cortez making a 2-3 night passage directly to San Blas.  Hum...This is different but not all bad.

One of the unexpected outcomes of cruising this last year is that we have become much closer as a couple, and not only in proximity!  We have really become content together without needing a big party for every holiday or event.  It feels like we are at peace and can enjoy commemorating special events with little more than a special dinner or toast with some Chilean wine.

While under way I made dinner rolls, Salmon, veggies, potatoes and yams for our special Thanksgiving Dinner.  We ate our meal in fresh air under sail.  Unfortunately no wine since we choose not to drink any alcohol under way.

After two nights and three days we were approaching Mantenchén Bay in San Blas, Nayarit, Mexico.
The sun was setting and we knew we would not make the bay before dark.  Armed with way points in the GPS and the memories of the bay from last year we felt comfortable entering the bay by fog shrouded moon light.
Our only apprehension was the sight of numerous fishing trawlers and the unseen longlines that fill the waters between Isla Isabella and San Blas.  Our original plan was to stay at Isla Isabella overnight so that we could navigate the fishing line filled waters with the benefit of day light, but Isabella was like an over crowded RV park when we arrived earlier in the day (perhaps six or eight boats!), so we decided to make a run for Mantenchén Bay hoping to arrive with some light.

As we approached Mantenchén Bay in the dusk several large fishing trawlers were in a line making unusual turns and basically running-a-muck.  Every time we changed course to go around, another trawler would turn and our course was blocked again.  This with the sun disappearing into a fog obscured sunset and the appearance of lights ashore added some unease to the end of a long trip, but all went fine.  We sighted an engineless panga pulling in his line as we motored into the middle of the bay in the dark.  Luckily he had a flash light and shined it on his hull so we could see him, and we were thankful that we did not get caught up in his line.  We dropped the hook and poured a rum and coke for the well deserving Captain.  Job well done.

Fishermen bringing in their lines on a foggy morning in Mantenchén Bay.

 First surfing trip of the season and I cant wait!

Homes and restaurants line most of the beach in the bay.

Leaving the Bay and going around the corner in search of surf.

S/V Nirvanna's Bob on the board and Sheri at the helm
No surf from mother nature but we will not be denied.  We skurfed instead.

After working up a big appetite on the water we had a wonderful lunch at a beach side 
palapa restaurant.
The owner Ismael and his son we so gracious.  They pulled out all of the fish and taught us the different varieties and how good fresh fish should look.  We ordered two different whole fishes to be prepared by the son who generously demonstrated his method for Sheri and me.

Jeff, Bob, Sheri, Ismael and son

 The open air kitchen, notice the two buckets under the table, they catch all of the gooey, fishy water.

The spice rack

Fresh fish, rice, salad, fresh tortillas, live music and buckets of beers on the beach.  
What more could we ask for?

Besides a nap in a hammock like this little guy.

As the day wore on the coconut husks start to burn.    The smoke helps keep the biting no-see-ums away.  We took this as a symbol from God that it was time to head back to the Buena Vida for the evening and prepare to depart for Chacala the following day.

We spent a few nights anchored in the bay of Chacala with our buddy boat Nirvana.  Nirvana needed to head on to La Cruz but we decided to stop at a charming town called Jaltema.  We did not visit Jaltema last year so it was fun to explore a new place.  We really liked the playful spirit of Jaltema but the anchorage was so rolly.
We planned on anchoring off the town for the day and moving to the protected lee of a big rock island about a mile off shore.  Well, we could not get a good bite with the anchor.  
All rock at 15, 20, 25 feet enough!  We anchored in the best spot we could find, but it was a  bumpy night!

Joyful beach scenes of Jaltema

Notice the toilet seat in the bow of the panga.  I'm sorry but no... that is not going to happen in my life.

Sweet children on a field trip wander through the tourist zone.

Beach access from the lively resort at the end of town.  The magenta and lime seem to work.

We love the real deal where the locals like to eat.  Usually the best food at any price.

We never tire of the charms of daily life south of the boarder.  Mexico is so close to the U.S. but so different.  I feel that I have often underestimated the cultural differences between us.  We have so much in common and share a common history but the values and priorities of the everyday Mexican is so different from the life we are familiar with.  Besides great sailing, beaches, and restaurants, we love learning more about our neighbors to the south.

Now, off to La Cruz.  One of our favorite little towns.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Sea of Love

The Sea of Cortez stole our hearts.

After two weeks of preparing the Buena Vida  for another  cruising season, we overcame the gravitational pull of the marina complete with electricity, cell reception, wifi, access to groceries and restaurants, and sailed up the Sea for our shake down cruise.
It is a strange sensation that overcomes many of us cruisers and causes some fear about going into a marina, it is hard to leave.  We get lulled into complacency about the weather, electrical use and water supply.  One can just step off the boat if there are no tomatoes or the trash can is full.  But once out of the orbit of the marina the pace of life settles into a beautiful rhythm worth mourning the loss of wifi.

Our first sail to Isla Partida was a lively romp in 15-20 knot winds with a bit of chop.
We tacked out and back a couple of times to take advantage of the fun wind and remind ourselves how to handle the lines.  Cruisers hardly ever tack or hand steer so this was a fun and playful start to season two.  The Buena Vida was healed over romping along like a horse out of the gate!  She sailed beautifully and we were super stoked cruising along at 6 knots in swim suits.  (Stop what ever you are doing and bring your boat to Mexico - This is just to good to miss!)

  " Kilo Kilo 6 Alpha Mike India"  aka Jeff since he passed his
Technician and General Ham Radio License exam.
So proud!
The stunning colors of Ensenada Grande, the rock walls and the pale blue water was spectacular.  We passed the time snorkeling, hiking, snorkeling, reading, snorkeling and gathering with other cruisers for group dinners.
I lost my battery charger for my underwater camera and missed out on the best photo opps of our Sea of Cortez snorkel trips.  Gin clear water with 40- 50 foot visibility.
Tons on diverse fish life, I saw a big green eel swimming freely around the rocks, we saw a gorgeous octopus moving along the rocks changing color and texture with every move as we hovered, mesmerized.  Jeff saw a young turtle resting on the sandy bottom.  Our snorkeling in Ensenada Grande was far superior to our Dive trip the week before and it always feels good to swim freely with out all that gear.

Once in a life time opportunity to see the Baja so green.
After four years of sever drought the Baja Peninsula received record rainfall this summer as well as a visit from Hurricane Paul so every plant that has been laying dormant is now alive and in bloom.  People tell us this is a once in 20 year kind of event and to enjoy it while it lasts so... we are.

The red cliffs of the mountains are now scattered with lush green plant life, magenta, blue and yellow flowers and delicate yellow butterfly’s.  With all the extra water this last year there are also lots of little bugs.  Nasty little Bobitos fly in your face and hover around your nose and eyes.  In response, a new feature to the SSB nets are a bug report.  In the morning we listen to Sonrisa Net for weather, to hear the location of other boats, the conditions where they are anchored and this year, a bug report.
Thanks to the information from other cruisers were were able to pick anchorages with as few bugs as possible but on occasion we were swarmed too!

 Julie protecting herself as we sailed by an island and were swarmed with Bobitos.  
Got to take the bad with the good.

Spectacular hike up the canyon on Isla Partida.

Do you see the crab in the upper right corner?

No trail, rock scramble.

Buena Vida laying contently in Ensenada Grande

We connected with our friends Bob and Sheri aboard S/V Nirvana and S/V Eagles Tom an Jeanie via SSB and sailed over to San Everisto to meet up.  After a couple of nights in Evaristo we all traveled back to Ensenada Grande and spent a few more nights there.  We couldn't get enough.  

Good Morning Sunrise and Moonsettting at 6:00am, San Evaristo

Now we are all back in Marina Palmera each of us dealing with various and sundry issues with our floating homes.  We had a coolant leak so Jeff was able to fix that out at the anchorage, one of the boats received some bad fuel up in the sea and need to deal with polishing the fuel and cleaning their fuel tank.  We do not hear about that happening very often but it only takes once to really  screw things up for someone.
It probably is related to shortages that are taking place up in the Sea of Cortez as a result of Hurricane Paul.  Many roads were washed out and supplies are short up in the Sea.  Cruisers report fuel shortages, folks without water makers were struggling to find water and the likes.  So as the fuel was running low at the station up in Puerto Escondido our friends must have gotten the dredges along with all the debris.  Bummer.

We have loved our time in the Sea of Cortez so much we actually considered staying here all winter, but we know it will get too cold for us.  Since one of our cruising goals is to avoid being cold, off we go heading south in a few days.  We will likely be at passage crossing the Sea of Cortez on Thanksgiving day, I am a bit sad about that.  I always miss our family on the holidays and the next best way to celebrate is with our fellow cruisers but, we are waiting for just the right sailing weather so that is how it will be.

Happy Thanksgiving and Hasta Pronto

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Back home aboard the Buena Vida

We are back in Mexico aboard the Buena Vida lying in Marina de La PazBCS where every night is Friday and every day is Saturday.

We returned to find the Buena Vida in great shape.  We had heard horror stories of boats filled with rodents, bugs, birds, exploded cans of tomatoes, fouled fuel, fouled water and nasty odors so we of course took all to heart and over cleaned and prepared the boat for three months of solitude and possible hurricane strength wind.  We also had a boat  management team care for our home away from home.  So with all the extra work we did in the summer, we had a happy return, not even the notorious "boat smell" to contend with.

Three months is not very long off the boat but we made good use of every minute of it.
We spent a month in Ventura CA, in the home that we share with our son Josh and  his new wife Rachel.  They welcomed us home with a lovely dinner and a warm inviting spirit.  
Returning home after nine months made us appreciate more then ever how beautiful Ventura is.

The Bayshore Yacht Club or Our Home!

Chris, Josh and Rachel
Solamar Beach with Josh & Rachel

Pierpont beach is full of whimsy.

A day in the life in Ventura:  Beach, Farmers Markets, Family & Friends.  Qué Bonita!

Picnic with the Atwaters

After a month of catching up with family and friends in Ventura we flew to Hawaii to visit Jeff's daughter Rebecca and her husband Chris.  The Big Island of Hawaii offers a great diversity of activities, amazing diving and snorkeling, farmer markets, and a real Hawaiian feel.

Not to leave anyone out, we flew to Spain for a month.  We spent three weeks with Jennifer, Jeff's oldest daughter, her husband Carles and two daughters Sara age six and Lisa age three.

We then rented a car and drove to the mountains in the Castillo-Leon area then down into Valencia for some serious city life.  It was so hard to leave our beautiful grand daughters but that is the curse of having a family that lives all over the world.

Gorgeous city of Cuenca, a World Heritage Site.

After one last visit to our home in Ventura, enjoying time with our family, friends, yacht club and the comforts of life in So Cal we found we had mixed feelings about returning to La Paz.
Life is so good in Ventura, why are we leaving?  Why would we leave Chris, Josh and Rachel and my parents?  What kind of priorities do we have?  Shouldn't our family come first in our lives?  But after wrestling with these thoughts we packed our bags and boarded the small commuter jet to La Paz.   The lure of life aboard the Buena Vida was calling us home.

We really enjoy La Paz and did not want to rush our time there.  The boat was really ready to go within a week, but we wanted to remain for some local events such a Balandra Beach clean up, scuba diving with Whale Sharks and the Dia de Muertos celebrations.

Mexico is working hard to improve the 
cleanliness of its beaches.  We often see
trash and recycle bins at the beach and
Signs are posted to encourage trash disposal.  There is still a long way to go but at least the effort has begun.

We decided to go diving with a local outfitter and after a wreck dive, then a reef dive, we were surprised with a swim with some Whale Sharks.

Go to the link to learn more about 
Whale Sharks in the Sea of Cortez   

Swimming with Whale Sharks is probably a once in a lifetime event and the highlight of our dive trip.  The diving was OK, not world class but still fun, but watching and swimming with the largest fish in the sea was spectacular.

Our last night in La Paz was also the main celebration of Dia de Muretos. The Mexican tradition celebrating Dia de Muertos is actually founded in Pre-Hispanic civilizations.

Jeff with a live size "Catarina"
An altar to honor the deceased

The festivals and traditions that are practiced now began at the beginning of the 19th century and the playful characters called "calaveras" (skulls) made by José Guadalupe Posada and later became wildly popularized by Diego Rivera's calavera image named "Catarina" which is now an international symbol of this fun and playful event.  You can find Catarina images on 
t-shirts, posters, and life sized dolls everywhere in Mexico all year long.
Dia de Muertos is a time when souls may return to earth and visit their loved ones.  An alter is placed in the home or at the cemetery with symbolic items placed as a way to invite the lost soul back for a visit.  Traditional items are a picture of Christ, marigolds, and some candles usually placed in four corners or  in a cross representing north, south, east and west to be used as navigational aides back to earth.  Also, incense is burned and the smoke creates a navigation path. Salt will be placed on the alter symbolizing purity, and the favorite foods and drinks of the deceased are placed on the alter.  Families often have a fiesta with BBQ, beers, music and festivities.  The Dia de Muertos is not a scary or dark time for the Mexican people but a joyful, playful time to remember those who have past and invite them back for a short visit.

 Halloween Buena Vida style.  A tangerine.

From the bow of the Buena Vida, Marina Palmera

We are now sailing north to visit a few anchorages in the Sea of Cortez before the notorious
Northers begin to blow. Before the winds get too fierce we plan to cross the Sea and head south
to Mazatlán or Chacala mid to late November.

Hasta Pronto.