Monday, May 23, 2011

Monday, May 23, 2011 - Costa Baja, La Paz

We headed south from Bonanza, down through the Cerralvo Channel to the Bahia de los Muertos (aka by developers Bahia de los Suenos). It was a lovely day, and, finally after months of no luck, Earl caught a Dorado, saving me from having to figure out what we would have for dinner. We anchored in late afternoon in water that was just too inviting. I had my glass of wine in the water

We talked that night of spending a couple of days at Muertos or possibly going south, but early the next morning, the Captain pulled the anchor and we were on our way north, back up to Bonanza. It was a lovely day, but not a fish.

Then on Wednesday, Earl headed north again for an area called El Bajo where the fishing is supposed to be good. We were not alone. There were other boats, and, finally, bill fish jumping. Judging from the radio chatter, the fish were not biting, but we got bites and finally hooked a marlin. It was hooked behind the gills and put up a quite a fight. Earl had it up to the boat over and over and was exhausted by the time it finally got tangled on our stablizers and broke off. The only bad part of that was the loss of one of Earl’s favorite lures.

We anchored that night in the beautiful Hook at Isla San Francicso, this time off to the east behind the hook itself. We had only anchored there once before and had needed to move before the night was over. I guess it is a bad luck place for us. The wind was gusting 35 from the SW at 2am when Earl went up to check, blowing us toward the beach, and we had an uncomfortable 3 feet of water under us. Earl did not want to sand off the new bottom paint, so we picked up our anchor and moved to the other side of the island.

At first light, off we went again. We had agreed that this week was a fishing trip, and, finally, someone told the fish. Over the next three days we caught 5 more marlin and a sail fish, lost a bunch more, and caught a number of bonito. We also saw a number of sharks jumping. One of them jumped eight feet out of the water right in front of our bow. It was a dark color. We think it was a mako.

Fishing for these large bill fish turned out to be very much of a team effort. Daisy played a critical role. Her hearing is far better than ours, and she has learned to recognize the sound of the line being pulled off the reel and to let us know that there is a fish on. Then the circus starts! Earl is in charge of the back deck and the fishing rods. I am in charge of everything else and, at least in Earl’s mind, am to follow all of his directions which come hot and heavy.

These fish take out a lot of line fast and we have to chase after them. I have finally made a mental checklist for myself. Slow down the engine, take it out of gear, turn off the stablizers, turn off the radios so I can hear, shut the front doors so that I don’t need to worry about Daisy jumping overboard, and finally - this one seems to be hard for me - turn off the automatic pilot. (The boat does not react to the wheel if the pilot is on.) Then run after the fish, trying to keep the line 30- to 45 degrees off the bow. The boat reacts slowly, so I have learned to speed it up a little when changing direction. Importantly, I have to remember not to swear at Earl when he tells me to do something that I am already doing. In my free time, I need to take photos and get Earl into his fish fighting belt and life jacket.

These fish jump spectacularly! One of them actually “tail walked” about 50 yards. Unfortunately, this usually happens early on when I am too busy to try for photos.

We got better with practice. One day the seas were a little rough. It reminded me of gill netting in Cook Inlet. With the stablizers off, we rolled and everything seemed to end up on the floor. I had the boat in reverse and the water was breaking over the stern - just like Cook Inlet, except the temperature was quiet nice and we wore no rain gear.

Eventually, the fish tires and then comes the challenge of getting it off the hook and, more importantly, retrieving the lure Earl gets out on the swim step while I play the role of the assistant in an operating room - only it is gaff or pliers instead of scalpel. Daisy usually sneaks out as well trying to help. When it is all done, we collapse. One day we caught two fish before 10 am and had to go anchor up and rest for a few hours. What a wonderful adventure.

We have learned several things:

--Look for warmer water. The temperatures were between 78 and 85 degrees.

--If you don’t see any fish jumping, you probably won’t catch any - Duh

--Don’t bother buying lots of different types of lures. We have caught almost everything on the same type of lure called a Mexican Flag. (Ours are looking pretty chewed up.)

Then, it was time to come ‘home’ to Costa Baja. We will need to spend the next few days putting Serenity to bed for the summer and getting packed to go north. Since we came down in October we have gone 3,177 miles - Earl does like to travel.

We took on fuel before leaving on our fishing trip. It was expensive - $3.57 per gallon. Since we took on fuel in December, we had used 1,048 gallons. Assuming 1 gallon per hour for the generator, which we ran a lot, I computed that we used 1.7 gallons per hour and averaged 6.1 miles per hour.

Last night we met our new neighbors in the marina, Dave and Janet on the Cuervo. Janet brought their pet Lucy, an African Grey Parrot, over for visit this morning. She was darling and after she warmed up, she treated us to lots of her phrases and whistles.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Sunday, May 15, 2011 - Bahia Bonanza

I left La Paz and Earl on Thursday the 5th to head to Washington, D.C. for my cousin’s son’s wedding. Having left on the 7 am bus from La Paz to Cabo airport, I wasted no time dropping into bed at the hotel when I arrived at midnight. My sister, Marie Noel was most;y asleep so we kept the talk to a minimum. Friday we spent a nice day with my cousin helping around her house a little and then having dinner. It was wonderful to see extended family for happy reason rather than the usual funeral. As my cousin is crazy about her new daughter-in-law, it was a very happy occasion.

The wedding was Saturday afternoon, with a reception at the Decatur House near the White House. We all gathered in front of the White House for a wedding photo, close to groups protesting everything you can imagine. Marie Noel and I were quite festive! I had brought two of the extraordinary bows like the ones I had given Bella as presents for two little girls in the Berkshires. Marie Noel pointed out the they would go with our outfits and that the royal wedding the week before had made “fascinators” all the rage. We were the pink bow ladies and those who did not know better assumed we were Annie’s English cousins.

While I went north with Marie Noel to Boston and Stockbridge and then down to New York with my sister Cricket, Earl was busy with Serenity. He had her taken out of the water. Her bottom was scrubbed and sanded and given two coats of paint. She was back in her slip ready to go when I arrived back on the 13th. Earl gave me a day to catch my breath and get fresh fruit and vegetables, and then we took off this morning.

We stopped at the fuel dock and got 1,650 liters of fuel. I’ll report on cost and usage next time after I do the math.

The we took off for a final fishing trip before we head back to Anchorage. Sure enough, now that we have no guests on board with fishing licenses, we actually caught some fish. They were black skip jacks, not a fish we wanted to keep, but we caught a total of five and enjoyed it. We ran about 10 or 15 miles east of Isla Espiritu Santo. The water was an extraordinary color of blue and its temperature actually hit 80. To Daisy’s delight, we had multiple encounters with big bottle nosed dolphins and we saw on marlin jumping. I am sure that the cooler water is what caused the lack of sea life we have generally had over the past few months. Hopefully, the higher temperatures bode well for the rest of our trip.

We anchored in 14 feet of water off Bahia Bonanza in 76 degree clear water. We went for a lovely swim, and, since we had no neighbors, did not bother with swim suits. Earl said I could take a photo of him basking in the water for the blog, but when I got out of the water and looked at him, I was afraid the water was too clear and this is a G rated blog.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Wednesday, May 9, 2011 - Costa Baja Swimming Pool

This afternoon, Brian, Isha and and our darling granddaughter Bella leave for Anchorage - they have been here since Monday the 25th, but the time has gone much too fast. I am sitting at the hotel pool watching them swim together in delightfully warm water. They have been enjoying the life.

For the first part of their visit, we were blessed with perfect cruising weather, and we made use of it. After dinner at the beach club on Monday night and watching Bella dance her way back to the boat along the sea shore, we left early on Tuesday and headed for Gallina, a little bay we had stopped at on our last trip. The water was beautiful, and Brian dove in almost as soon as the anchor was set. We had bought some swim toys prior to their arrival - a short swim board and a five foot wide inner tube with a bottom to pull behind the dingy. We put them both in the water and Bella joined us wearing a life jacket, and we all paddled around. Then came the excitement - Bella in the inner tube being pulled behind the dingy. If she was afraid, it was for no more than a minute, after which it was “faster Daddy, faster!”. Then we watched while Brian pulled Isha around. Unlike Bella who was firmly seated inside the tube, Isha was lying over the top and taking all the bumps on her torso. She had her back arched and looked like a swan. We felt the price of the inner tube was fully justified by just that one morning - and of course there were more to come.


Bella and I took a nap together that afternoon while Brian and Isha explored the little beach for some alone time. That evening there were some killer connect four and cribbage games and early bedtime.

The next morning after Brian’s pre breakfast swim, he and Earl went fishing in the dingy. They caught an enormous trumpet fish which was an experience and saw a large school of yellow tail and some small mobulas. They also found that the reef on the south side of the bay was full of fish. Unfortunately, as has been the case this spring, they caught nothing worth keeping.

Meanwhile, the ladies went swimming off the boat. The water was clear, in the 70’s and the sea was glassy. It is hard to think of better conditions.

Then we were off to check out another near by bay, Balena. Isha was amazed that we just had to go a short way to find another example of paradise. This one had a better beach, so we took the dingy over, dragging Bella in her inner tube. While Brian and Isha sat and read their books, Bella and I played in the water. The water was quite shallow, so it was perfect for us. I had wonderful time dragging her on her small surf board and trying to tip her into the water. Then, after a late lunch, we took a nap and treated her parents to a little more quiet time.

We picked up the anchor and moved around the corner into Caleta Partita for the night. So far there had been no wind, but Balena was not where we would want to be if the SW winds that were predicted were to materialize. (They didn’t).

The next morning we woke to Daisy barking. There was a turtle in the water and every time its head came up, she would let us know. Shortly after, we saw some small rays, called mobulas, jumping. Then we took off for a day long fishing trip. We went north around Isla Partita and then east off the other side where we have had luck in the past. On the way, we toured Los Islotas. These are some rocks on the north end of the island that boast a sea lion colony. They were there barking (and smelling fishy) and we had fun watching them. Some people swim with them, but that does not appeal to me. The male bulls can be 800 pounds, and even a full grown female is 200 pounds. But we had fun looking at them from off shore. Then to make our visit complete, we had a visit from a bunch of bottle nose dolphins. They were feeding, but stopped to play with us a little. Everyone got a thrill watching them braiding back and forth under the bow in the crystal clear blue water.

We ran 10 miles off shore and had the luck to run into a bunch of marlin, finning on the surface. We tried for a while to hook one, dragging gear right by them, but no luck. It was fun to see them, even without hooking any. We passed the time happily, including finishing up Doctor Dolittle which I had the pleasure of reading to Bella.

We pulled into Bonanza on the east side of Espiritu Santo at about 4. The water temperature read 76 and we could see our anchor below the boat in 12 feet of water. In we went. We tied the toys to the boat with long lines so they did not float off, and, after noticing the slight current and wind, did the same to Bella. We certainly did not want to loose her.

Bonanza is lovely sand beach, probably about 1.5 miles long and the next day we pretty much had it all to ourselves. Brian and Isha set up a day camp on the beach under our beach umbrella, including books, cooler, inflated croc, sand pails etc. The water was a little deeper than on the west side beaches, so Brian and Isha were able to work with Bella on really swimming. They walked down the beach and Bella filled the sand pails with shells. They came back to the boat for lunch and I tried to get Bella to rest while her parents returned to the beach. (She didn’t.) After giving up on that, she got in her inner tube and I swam to the beach, towing her. She kept telling me to go faster. We played in the water and I was impressed by how much more confident she had become in the water. She was really beginning to swim.

That afternoon the wind came up. The waves really bounced us around when we returned to the boat in the dingy and we had a difficult time getting off without falling into the water. It was made even more difficult by the thirsty bees which had swarmed to our back deck to get water. Earl pulled the anchor and we moved off shore a little for the night so that we could cook our hamburgers without bees.

By the next morning it was clear that the wonderful weather was changing and there were significant winds forecasted for later. We left Bonanza and headed into Balandra on the mainland for a lunch stop. The beach is heavily used and as it was Saturday we had a good deal of company. Also, although the setting is beautiful, the water is perhaps too shallow and we found some trash on the beach which was sad.

That afternoon we pulled into our slip at Costa Baja having had a wonderful cruise and content to let the wind blow as hard as it chose for the rest of the kids visit.

So then it was time to explore the shore amenities. Bella’s birthday is May 12th and I had promised her we would have a small early birthday celebration in Mexico. So the first morning on land, Bella, Isha and I went to town in search of a new ‘princess’ dress at the public market which is quite a contrast to the shopping malls at home. It was a great success. All the purple and yellow dresses in her size were brought out for her inspection and she ultimately settled on a purple one with spaghetti straps that makes her inappropriately dressed for a seven year old. Then following directions from the proprietress of the dress shop, we found a shop with lots of pinatas. Bella selected a large green one with cones from which crepe paper hung, while I wondered how we were going to hang a pinata in the boat and break it open with out smashing the boat. Earl took us up to the golf club restaurant on the hill for lunch and we enjoyed the beautiful view. (Sadly, when we returned, he managed to delete all the photos from his camera.)

The next day, Isha and I returned to town to pick up some items to put into the pinata while Bella and Brian went to the pool at the Beach Club. It is gorgeous! Brian enjoyed his beer and a book while Bella played in the pool.

After we got back from town, Isha joined them, and when they returned, it was time for the birthday celebration. Bella dressed for the occasion in her new dress. After dinner, but before the cake, we took on the pinata. We hung it in the salon and Bella went after it with Earl’s fish killing club. The first blow knocked it down, still intact. We hung it back up, she hit it again, and again it fell. Then we took turns holding it while someone swung at it. Finally, Bella beat it to death on the floor of the salon. Since she was the only kid, it was actually much better that the contents had to be individually retrieved rather than having them scattered all over the boat. In addition to some candy, we had found some wonderful hair clip ribbons, sparkly rings and bracelets which were a huge hit. She was in heaven!

Tuesday, next to last day found us at the hotel pool which has a bar in the corner with seats in the water. The kids went up first, and when I arrived, Isha was floating around with a strawberry daiquiri in hand. I tasted it and had to get one too. Bella meanwhile was really swimming. She had not figured out how to breath and sounded rather alarming when she finally came up for air, but she was perfectly happy in water over her head. She knows when she needs to rest that she can roll over onto her back and float.

The evening was spent playing some cut throat “Sorry”, a board game at which Isha is a pro. Poor Brian got beaten very badly, every game we played and we kept pointing out to Bella that he was being a good sport which was what we expected of her.

And now, after early morning games of Connect Four and Sorry, we are back to the pool for the last swim before a late afternoon flight home to Alaska. Earl has joined us so that he can see Bella’s swimming. We have the pool to ourselves and the bar man is tempting us with all his creations. In addition to strawberry daiquiris, he makes pina coladas with mint that are to die for. Bella feels very grown up with her strawberry smoothie. She has swum steadily for 2 hours which should ensure a sleep on the flight home. We will miss them!

Tomorrow I leave for a quick trip to the East Coast for a family wedding and some family business. Earl will be taking Serenity out of the water while I am gone and getting her bottom painted!