Thursday, December 30, 2010

Sunday, January 2, 2011 - Bahia de los Muertos

Sunday, January 2, 2011- Bahia de los Muertos

We spent the few days before Marie Noel’s arrival doing boat chores and provisioning. My major task was to fix my dell computer (which I hate). For some reason, it had stopped recognizing my telcel nokia stick modem. I tried the modem on another machine, and it work well. I decided that there was something wrong with the driver for the stick and tried to down load a new copy from telcel. No luck. Finally, and only desperation would drive me to this, I decided to call Dell. Of course the 800 number would not work from Mexico, and there was no other number on the website. I had an inspiration and called the 800 number using Skype and it quickly put me in touch with a lovely man in India named Charles. He very efficiently took billing information before passing me on to lady with an unpronounceable Indian name to take care of my technical problems. She was able to drive my computer remotely and did so for the better part of an hour. Unfortunately, she did not fix the problem – instead suggesting that I call nokia. She talked me into getting a program to ‘declutter’ my computer. After an hour and a half, I was $100 poorer and the modem still did not work. Somewhat disgusted, I decided to give the new software a try. Damned if it did not fix the problem.

Marie Noel arrived at 5 on the 20th after a very long day. She had gotten up at 3 EST – a 14 hour day. We took her to the Costa Baja Beach Club palapa – which she decided looked like a movie set – for a nice early dinner and retired early.

The weather forecast was good for the next couple of days, so we left early and headed north. By the time we got as far as Isla San Francisco, the wind had come up from the south, making that a poor anchorage. We continued up to the village of San Evaristo which has a lovely harbor. Marie Noel and I took a stroll through the village which boasts about 20 families, a school and a desalinization plant and visited a remarkably well stocked tienda. Then back to the boat to introduce her to dorado, which, as we expected, she found to be delicious.

The next morning we woke to an unusual sight – fog on the hills behind San Evaristo. The wind had died down, so we headed back to San Francisco, one of my favorite places. The beach is white and the water an extraordinary aqua color and we had a lovely mellow day beach combing, reading, and napping. The water was 72, but with the air temperature at 76, we did not feel the need to swim.

Later that afternoon, a young woman, Alicia, from a 37 foot sailboat named “On Verra” kayaked by. Her boat was home ported in Portland Oregon, so we hailed her, asking where in Portland she lived. She was somewhat vague about that. In fact, I don’t believe she ever lived there, but it was a good home port tax wise. While talking, she mentioned that they had been down in Patagonia in their boat and had gone on to Antarctica. Earl immediately asked her to come over for drinks and share their stories with us. I warned Earl that I was determined to have dinner at a reasonable hour, so to cut off the drinks at 6 so that they would leave.

They did not seem to have a dingy and Earl had offered to give them a ride, but they said no problem. Sure enough, promptly at five, they arrived together in a ride on top kayak. They were fully dressed, he with a beret, she sitting on his lap, and a bowl of fresh ceviche on hers. Alfredo looked quite delightful with his hat and wonderful smile. He spoke wonderful Italian English and Alicia looked delicious in a rather raggedy tee shirt. What a couple they turned out to be and what a story they told! It was enough for several books and a couple of movies. Needless to say, they did not leave at 6.

Alicia was born in New Orleans and started sailing at the age of two. After completing St John College, she headed for San Francisco where she worked teaching sailing. Before long, she was crewing boat deliveries in the Pacific and it was not long before she parted ways with her college sweetheart. She had met Daniel, a computer software sailing man. In time they bought On Verra and set off, with Daniel doing some telecommuting. Seven years later found them on an atoll in the middle of the Indian Ocean, part of a community of sailors who were living the good life, swimming, sailing, eating fish and coconuts, playing beach volleyball and partying.

Meanwhile, Alfredo was single handing a steel hulled sail boat eastward across the Pacific, headed for the same atoll. 500 miles from it, his engine threw a rod and spewed oil all over the inside of his boat. The winds died and he limped slowly to his destination where he was met by the earlier arrivals. Everyone pitched in with parts and labor, and within a week the engine was working. It was such a nice place that Alfredo lingered for five months instead of the one he had planned. Over that time, Alicia and Alfredo had become friends, Alicia secretly swimming across the lagoon for coffee while Daniel worked on this computer.

Things finally came to a head on Alicia’s birthday. She and Daniel had decided to have a Garden of Eden party. They were dressed as Adam and Eve in strategically placed leaves. Everyone came appropriately dressed with plants and body paint. Daniel came wearing an apple, the forbidden fruit. In the course of a wonderful party, many leaves were lost, and at the end of the evening Alicia announced that she was going home with the forbidden fruit. The next day, Daniel kayaked all her stuff across the lagoon and shortly thereafter both boats left headed for the tip of Africa. Poor Daniel was dealing with a boat that was not set up for solo sailing and had a tendency to sea sickness. Periodically, Alicia would leave Alfredo and help Daniel out on the On Verra. Eventually after some very rough sailing they made it to South Africa. Daniel found some crew and headed for New York. Alicia and Alfredo headed for Brazil.

They loved Brazil. Unfortunately, after a while it was discovered that Alicia had no visa, so it was time to sail on. Their new friends loaded up their sail boat with provisions, including tons of green coconuts, and off they went. Alicia was running a fever and went below. Sailing with a 20 knot wind, six miles off shore Alfredo ran into a reef which took the bottom off his boat. It took two minutes to sink and the life raft did not deploy. They had just enough time to save their passports and a little money. Holding on to some floating jetsam, they swam towards shore and found a dive platform on to which they climbed. From there they swam after coconuts and water bottles and back on the platform they watch pieces of Alfredo’s life drift by.

In time, some fishermen rescued them. Alfredo bemoaned his situation to a fellow Italian that he met. He was told that nothing he lost was irreplaceable; this man had lost his son which put it in perspective. He had a 61 foot boat in Maryland which needed to be delivered to Palermo and he gave Alfredo the delivery job, despite Alfredo having just sunk his own boat. Their travels and story continued, and I will not try to remember it all. Eventually, Daniel called Alicia and told her to come and get the boat. He said he had bought it for her and she should have it. Once again, Alicia and Alfredo had a home. In the years since they have sailed everywhere. As she told us, if they want to go somewhere, they sail. After Patagonia they had gone to San Francisco, found it too cold, and had come to the sea of Cortez. The boat has spent two summers on the hard here. During the first, they hiked the Pacific Crest trail from Mexico to Canada and hitch hiked back. The second, they bicycled 8,000 plus miles around the USA. Now they are off to Pitcairn Island which they have never visited. One future destination is South East Asia from which they want to make a trek to the Himalayas. On the 37 foot sailboat they have 2 bikes, 5 pairs of boots, 5 sleeping bags, two tents and God knows what else. Pretty hard core!

The next morning, Earl found that his grey water tank was not working, so we headed back to La Paz to fix it. Earl had a spare. The pump was in a pretty hard to get to place under the guest bunk, but he eventually replaced it. Unfortunately, it did not solve the problem. After much analysis, he discovered that he had put the new pump in backward. It works very well now.

We spent another few lovely days at anchor with Marie Noel around Espiritu Santo. The time went far too fast. We had a couple of days on land before she left and we took a trip to Todo Santos to see the Pacific Ocean, shop and visit the original “Hotel California”. We also had a chance to introduce her to our friends John and Maria Luisa who loved her.

Then it was time for her to leave and two days later our friends Clark and Joan arrived from La Conner Washington. Now, having celebrated the arrival of 2011, we are headed to the mainland. We ran down to Muertos yesterday, a lumpy ride with 30 mile an hour winds. It is still howling today, but the forecast is for it to come down. It looks like there is about a 48 period of okay weather which should see us across to the mainland. I am keeping my fingers crossed!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Friday, December 17, 2010 - Marina Costa Baja

Tuesday, December 14, 2010 – Leaving the Hook at San Francisco

Predictably, when we woke to a beautiful morning Sunday, Earl had the motor warming up and the lines untied before breakfast. We left on glassy seas and headed to Caleta Partida, one of our favorite anchorages. Shortly after we anchored, the wind came up from the north and gusted for the rest of the day up to 30 mph. One by one, we were joined by others, and we all enjoyed our beautiful and snug position.

The next morning, once again we were off before breakfast. Earl clearly thinking fish and wanting to test out his new fishing lures. We were sitting in the pilot house with our first cups of coffee when we heard the line screaming through a reel. Earl was off in no time, after turning off the stabilizer and autopilot. The next thing I knew, we were rolling in the swell and everything was hitting the floor, while Earl yelled instructions. I never caught up. While I was trying to mop up the salon, Earl was trying to deal with the dorado he had pulled in. It was bleeding, but lively, and in no time the back deck looked like a slaughter house. By now, I was feeling not well! Not one of my better mornings.

Fortunately, the Hook at San Francisco was beautiful. We spent the afternoon in a most lazy fashion, reading on top deck. We were joined by the National Geographic Cruise Ship. It is larger than our normal company, but much quieter than the more common ‘party’ boats that we have encountered. Later one of the mates came over to our boat by dingy. He apologized for disturbing our tranquility and very graciously invited us to join them on the beach for a barbeque. We thanked him but declined. We had dorado to barbeque on the boat. We ate on the back deck and it was glorious.

To make up for the past couple of days, it is 8:30 and we are only now leaving.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010 – leaving Los Gatos.

Tuesday, we decided to head up to Los Gatos by way of the Canal de San Jose where we have caught fish in the past. We had a wonderful cruise. The water was glassy and the scenery as always breathtaking. Before we even left San Francisco we hooked and lost a dorado. During the day we caught two more and four bonito – some even on one of the new lures. This channel is known for whales and we saw a pod of orcas, a pod of pilot whales and some other large whale. In addition, there were manta rays and dorados swimming on the surface.

The real reason we had come to Los Gatos was to get lobsters for dinner. Manuel, a local pangero, is well known among the local cruisers for visiting boats at anchor in Los Gatos with fresh lobsters. Patiently we waited. Finally around 5, he showed up. He told us that he had been sick, which we had heard from other cruisers, and could no longer dive for lobsters. Fortunately for us, his son Manuel would dive and they would be back in the evening with some. He had some embroidered mats that his wife had made. He said they took her two days each, which I can well believe. I bought three for the grand total of $20.

True to his word, the two Manuels were back by 6:30 with 9 lobsters. The younger Manuel was wet and shivering. The water is relatively cold for extended diving and he has no wet suit – they are too "caro". No one had a scale so we guessed high on the poundage and gladly over paid. We told Manuel that we might be back on Christmas Eve. Manuel asked if we would bring him 20 liters of gas when we returned. Instead, Earl gave him three gallons of gas in plastic gas can. Manuel promised to return the container in the am at 8. Bright and early, there he was with three more lobsters as a present. I think we are going to grow shells.

Today we are off to look for more fish.

Friday, December 17, 2010 – Costa Baja Marina

On Wednesday, after we left Los Gatos, we headed for waters east and north of Isla San Jose to look for fish. We had done well here before. Sure enough, shortly after passing a bunch of porpoise, we hooked a nice dorado which we kept. After that fishing seemed to dry up, so we headed west to the Canal San Jose. On the way, east of Isla San Diego, we passed patches of red water. It looked like red tide. We will need to see if that occurs here. Once back in the Canal San Jose we started catching more dorado. I lost count, but I think it was four. Anyway, the man was happy.

We tried a new anchorage, at the southern end of Isla San Jose in an area called Bahia Amortajada. This is right near a large mangrove area and lagoon. We had heard that there were clams to be had there and they are among Earl’s favorite food. He decided that we would try near the outlet to the lagoon in the morning at low tide. The evening was lovely. We were alone, although there were two sailboats anchored within sight. There was a nice light breeze and it was pretty close to heaven.

As usual, Earl had his underwater lights on, and, as usual, he was wandering around some time during the night. He noticed that the small fish which are usually jumping in the lights were quiet. The reason, it turned out, was a seal who was delighted to have his dinner lit up. He would come by the stern, within arm’s reach. Daisy who was up could hear the seal snort and was all excited. She wanted to go out on the swim step to get a closer look, but Earl would not let her.

The next morning the Captain changed his mind about clamming. Much as he loves clams, he likes to catch fish better and he really would like to get another marlin. In addition, it was windy and there were waves on the beach. So off we went towards an area on the east side of San Jose called El Bajo on the fishing chart. Before long, we were in choppy water. Recognizing that it would be hell to bring in a large fish under those conditions, Earl headed south along the east side of Isla Partida to another new anchorage. This one is across a shoal from our favorite Caleta Partida. The wind was blowing from the west and it was a fine place to be. As usual, we had a spectacular sunset, with only one other boat keeping us company.

This morning we headed for ‘home’, marina Costa Baja. One the way, Earl made a swing to the east in one final attempt to find a marlin, but no luck. No matter. It is a lovely day and we found to our delight that our new ATT i-phones have great service compared to our old Verizon net work. We had coverage most of the way home.

Once at the marina we stopped at the fuel dock and got 525 gallons of diesel, as well as gasoline to replace what we had used and given away. We paid about $2.65 for the diesel.

Pulling away from the fuel dock, our bow thruster quit working. Earl did a great job of getting us into our slip without it. He has had no luck finding the problem so a mechanic will be coming to do it for us. We are getting spoiled by the cheap labor in Mexico. Right now, Fito and Rudolfo are washing our boat, something we used to do ourselves.

This little cruise was 182 miles, 31 engine hours and 22 generator hours. We really did not go as far as that might imply, since we were mostly fishing. It is definitely the journey, not the destination. We will spend a couple of days here, then, Monday evening, my sister Marie-Noel arrives and we will have the joy of sharing this beautiful place with her. I can hardly wait.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Saturday, December 11, 2010 - Marina Costa Baja, La Paz

Less than 24 hours after leaving warm La Paz, we landed in Anchorage to beautiful fresh snow. I did not have to wait long to see the kids. The day after we returned we celebrated my birthday with three sons, two daughters-in-law and five grand children. It was wonderful to see them all. The grandchildren have all changed in just a few months, even the older ones. Bella who is six had grown an inch and lost three teeth and Amelia, 22 months, is now very competently verbal. She particularly likes to sit at the piano with me and sing. She ‘plays’, keeping time, and she has now relegated me to the upper registers, having claimed the rest of the key board as her own. We saw as much of them as possible and had a wonderful mellow Thanksgiving. We are very blessed.
I had brought home dresses from the La Paz public market for Bella and Amelia. Amelia’s was a size 2 and she swam in it, but was not about to be left out when her cousin turned into a princess, albeit a dentally challenged one. Earl took photos, which are wonderful, but sadly he did not bring them back here to post on the blog.
After a wonderful three weeks at home, the thermometer reading below zero, we headed south to La Conner for a brief visit. As we had in Anchorage, we made the most of our time. The day we landed, we picked up our old friend Don Dubois at the airport and caught up with him over dinner. He had flown up from Denver to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Seattle EPA office.
For the prior few months, every time we thought of something that we wanted in Mexico which was not available there, we had used the internet and to full advantage. As a result, when we reached the house in La Conner, we found the living room looking like Xmas. The boxes were piled so high there was almost no place to sit down. It did make us wonder whether we should cancel our flight south and rent a U-Haul. Fortunately, once they were unpacked, we found we could make do by adding a couple of suitcases.
In addition to seeing friends in La Conner, we had a wonderful weekend visit from our son Jon, his wife Becky and oldest son Justin. They brought Justin’s friend Cortney to meet us, and we found her just as delightful as we had been told we would. The week there flew by and on the 8th of December it was time to return to Mexico.
It was quite a strange collection of stuff that we ended up bringing back with us, including: Thai chili paste- both red and green, bed room fan, outdoor speaker, fishing reel, many fishing lures, electrical wire, hamburger buns, zincs, pillow protectors, frozen pot stickers, wine chiller, paper towel holder, frozen meat balls, hot chili oil, fish oil tablets, bed sheets, bifocal sunglasses, microfiber cleaning clothes, an led reading light and seven led bulbs, hose hook, tons of books, hula hoop, knitting wool for socks, and a cruising guide. Trying to remember what we brought, reminds me of playing “I packed my grandmother’s trunk”.
The last time we flew into La Paz we had been held up in customs because Earl’s boat parts exceeded the allowable limit and Daisy did not have proof of recent deworming. This time, Daisy sailed through. We were doing pretty well, until Earl pushed the button and it came up red. If you get green, there is no actual inspection other then the x-ray of the luggage. If you get red, it is another story. Between the language challenge and the sheer amount of luggage, it was an experience. Earl was finally led off to discuss whether he was entitled to bring stuff in without paying tax – which he was able to do. The customs people gave up and actually ended up not even looking into some of the suitcases, including the one with the cooler full of frozen pot stickers and meat balls.