Monday, December 17, 2012

December 17, 2012. Anchorage, Alaska

December 17, 2012 – Anchorage, Alaska

It is now three days before the start of winter, although one would not know that by looking outside our kitchen window, where the snow is piled high on the back deck and over the Christmas lights strung around it.  The sky is a beautiful clear blue, and the temperature has warmed to minus 6 degrees.  With a warm cup of tea, Christmas music in the background and a fire going, it seems far away from our fall cruising in the Sea of Cortez this year, where the temperature was usually at least 90 degrees warmer than this. 

I think that the fall is perhaps the very best time to cruise the Sea.  This year was a little different because there has been a good deal of rain, at least by Baja standards.  As a result, the hills were quite green, instead of brown, and the air was somewhat humid.  The real downside was that we found ourselves pestered by flies and some mosquitos that had not been an issue in La Paz the prior winters.  The locals were happy to have the moisture so there must be more pluses than minuses. 

As we had discovered last year, there are flocks of little yellow butterflies that are found even way off shore.  I don’t know where they are the rest of the year, but it made us feel like old timers to see them again and be able to say – oh yes, as usual in the fall. 

The air temperature in the early fall is higher than I like, especially during the day.  At the beginning of October it is frequently in the high 90’s.  By the time we left in the first week of December, it had dropped into the 80’s during the days and the 60’s at night, making for great sleeping.  The wonderful thing, however, is the water.  Starting above 85 in October, it was still just below 80 when we left and extraordinarily clear.  I think we could always see the anchor.  Swimming was something that we did multiply times a day, and, if we were alone, we did not bother with suits.  It was heaven.  We are currently planning on bringing the boat back north this summer, and I am having a hard time adjusting to losing this aspect of Mexico.

This year we did not have any specific plans to go anywhere.  It was incredibly relaxed, even by our standards.  We spent time generally near La Paz and explored some of the smaller coves that we had passed over in prior years, but somehow did it with no sense of urgency.  It was wonderful.  There was lots of time for reading, knitting, other handwork, kayaking, and just enjoying each other and any guests who dropped by for a drink or to visit. 

As usual, we met wonderful people.  One young couple from Canada was planning to go off to the Pacific.  They were darling and I was slightly envious that we were not in their shoes.  Another cruising couple gifted us with 16,000+ eBooks.  I have finally figured out how to get them on my kindle and Earl’s iPad, so we may never need to buy another book from kindle.  The week before we left, we met up with Nina, our Norwegian friend off the 27-foot sailboat Bika.  They have spent 7 years on a sailboat with ‘limited amenities”.  As Nina said, just having no through hulls limits things a lot.  They have really mastered a simple way of life.  They too are planning to head across the Pacific where they plan to sell Bika and buy a larger sailboat in which they will live when they return to Norway.

The week before we left, we finally got to see the whale sharks that are frequently found out in front of La Paz.  These are strange creatures.  They are filter feeders and very large.  They grow up to between 40 and 60 feet.  Their mouths are huge.  For all their size, they are very docile and many people swim in the water with them.   We admired them from the deck. 

For now we will bundle up and enjoy the North Country, our family and the holiday season.  How lucky we are!  We return to Mexico around January 15th and, in contrast to the fall, have a busy schedule planned.  We will cross over to the Mainland in January with the help of our friends, Joan and Clark Scarboro.  Then come mid February we will be back on the Baja to pickup our son Stuart and his wife in Loreto and cruise down to La Paz.  We will reverse the trip and return to Loreto with friends from La Conner, and hopefully have a visit from old friends, Jim and Jane from New York before another visit from our son Brian and his family.  Then, it will be time to figure out when to go north back to the Puget Sound area.  (Or not, if we change our minds).

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

November 5, 2012 - Costa Baja Marina

October 29, 2012 – Underway East of Isla San Francisco

Earl just caught a large sailfish, 7 feet or so – that’s what happens after you say the magic mantra “There are no GD fish in this GD ocean” and go to make yourself a sandwich.  Daisy, of course, heard the first click and provided encouragement during the whole process.  I was mostly driving the boat trying to help Earl keep some of the line on the reel.  He was his usual self – calm not.  This boat does not turn on a dime, especially at low speed. His real frustration is that he cannot both drive the boat and reel in the fish at the same time.  I should record the dialogue!  That said, it is a tribute to the 43 and to my fisherman husband that we are actually able to catch such a fish on a 7 knot boat.

We have been here about 2 and half weeks and there has been a fish drought.  We finally caught a little skipjack this morning and now the big excitement of a sailfish.  The billfish are so beautiful when we first hook them.  Silver and blue.  They fight so hard that they exhaust themselves and by the time we get a fish close enough to the boat to release it, the colors have changed to brown and orange.  I hope this one survived.

We left Serenity in April and headed north to Anchorage to meet our new grandson, Reese.  He is charming with the added bonus of dimples.  His big sister Amelia is very good and protective – Daisy could do without him since he gets all the attention. 

The summer started and ended with weddings of grand children.  Last year, Jon’s son Justin married lovely Courtney.  This year in June, Julie Ann’s son Erik married his Julie Ann in Las Vegas where they live.  We now have two Julie Ann Andersons in the family.  It makes for confusion on facebook.  
The wedding was beautiful and we had a marvelous time seeing lots of our family.  It is a small world – we discovered that the bride’s grandmother grew up in Anchorage not far from where we live.  Earl did lots of dancing with his great granddaughter Lily and his granddaughter Meaghan.

The second wedding, in October, was Jon’s daughter Beth. She and Ryan were married in Dufur, Oregon at a lovely small old country hotel.  We were surrounded by golden wheat fields with Mount Hood dazzling in the distance.  Although the complete opposite of the first wedding in setting and style, It was again wonderful.  Beth had 5 flower girls, aged 2 to 6, who were good enough to eat.  The youngest spent the ceremony alternating between dumping out her pail of rose petals and then picking them up again. Beth’s daughter Lily, aged 9, was honorary maid of honor, and Jon’s wife Becky looked so young and lovely that she could have been the bride herself.

In between the weddings, in mid July, the Kari boys went fishing.  Earl and all five of our sons were together on Serenity for a week of Mexican fishing.  It was a very special trip.  With 18 years difference in age between the oldest and the youngest, this was the fist time since 1978 that all five boys were under the same roof for more than a day.  They really had time to be a family.  The water was in the high 80’s and the temperature probably in the 100s.  There was lots of swimming and water play, and many, many margharitas.  And of course, there was fishing!  Although no one caught any billfish, the dorados were slaughtered!  Earl thinks they must have caught about 40 of them as they cruised from La Paz to Loreto and back.  The largest ones ran about 50 pounds.  A stop at Los Gatos and a visit with Manual produced 45 lobsters, so they had a feast of those as well as fish. 

While Earl and the boys were fishing, I took daughter in law Isha, her eight year old daughter Bella, granddaughter Beth and her daughter Lily back to Stockbridge Massachusetts to visit our family home there and see some East Coast relatives.  It was also a wonderful time.  Beth and Isha are even closer in age than their daughters and have many similar tastes.  We all enjoyed seeing the sights in New England, so different than the Northwest, and many hours were spent in the swimming pool.  

In between our trips, we had wonderful at home times with our children and grandchildren and many of our friends in Anchorage and then La Conner Washington.  October 10th, loaded with luggage, we headed for Mexico.  As usual, we had tons of stuff to bring, the largest being a new barbeque since the old one had died when Earl was here with the boys.  Also as usual, having Daisy slowed the process.  As required, she had had her physical within the prior week, including expensive blood tests, and, being wise to the process, we even had duplicates of the forms with us.  That was not enough.  They now give the dog a full exam at the airport.  Given that there is no control on dogs brought in by car, this is overkill. 

Our wonderful friends John and Maria Luisa met us at the airport and we stopped at a grocery store on the way to the marina.  After 6 months, it was wonderful being in the produce section of a Mexican grocery store.  I have missed the marvelous selection of peppers and fruit.  Then we hauled and hauled stuff down to the boat. 

One advantage of keeping the boat here in Marina Costa Baja is that she is beautifully maintained by Fito and others at very reasonable cost.   She is washed every ten days and her bottom is cleaned every three weeks.  In addition, Fito polishes the outside and pretty much polishes the inside too.  Thus, the biggest job on our return is unpacking and stowing.  We don’t have much if any cleaning to do. 

A couple of days after we arrived, our first guests of the season, Roland and Nancy Miller, arrived to spend a week with us.  They had been down in the spring of the second year and we had gone north to Loreto.  This time, we went south to Muertos (aka Bahia de los Suenos).  We hoped to catch fish but that not happen.  However we had a lovely visit there.  First lunch at the beautiful resort Gran Sueno
and then dinner at the little restaurant at the other end of the beach.  Then north again to Espiritu Sancto where Nancy was able to get in some post dinner skinny dipping.  Too quickly, we had to return to La Paz and send them north.

Continuation – November 4 at Costa Baja Marina
The day after we caught the sailfish, October 30, we left Ensenada Grande after a peaceful night.  The seas were flat and the sky blue and we were headed towards an anchorage at Bahia San Gabriel where we get internet.  Earl had the fishing poles out and all was calm until he hooked a nice dorado.  As usual there were the constant and conflicting instructions to the first mate:  take it out of gear, put it in gear, go left, no go right, no go right ahead, put it out of gear etc.  Eventually the fish was close to the boat and it was time for photos.  As instructed, I left it in gear, put the auto pilot on, and went to the back the with camera.  I could not get the camera to work, so Earl gave me the fishing pole and then discovered that the camera did not work for him either – dead battery.  I suggested that he try his iphone.  He did and got some photos.  Then he gave me the iphone and landed the fish.  We were in the process of taking photos of him with the fish –(more instructions about getting my back to the sun) – when there was a terrible noise and we were almost knocked off our feet.  I rushed to the pilot house followed by Earl and to see a cliff rising in front of the boat with our anchor grinding into it.  We had run into Isla Balena (Whale Island).  It was an unreal moment.  I looked to the left and could see rocks that appeared to between two or three feet below the surface.  (It is hard to tell the depth with the water so clear.) I put it in reverse and we slowly backed away as we kept an eye on the bilge pump.

Miraculously, the only damage we could see was the anchor roller was bent.  Embarrassed, shaken, but counting our blessings, we headed back for the marina.  Lesson number one:  don’t ever take things for granted.   Lesson number two: if you are going to run into Whale Island, do it in a Nordhavn.

Today is our 40th wedding anniversary.  We celebrated with mimosas and pancakes for breakfast, followed by domestic tasks in the marina. Daisy has had a haircut, I have done several loads of laundry, Earl has fixed some fishing lures in preparation for more fishing and now at last I am catching up on the blog.  Our 4th season in La Paz has official started.  

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Friday, April 6, 2012 - Costa Baja Marina

Time has flown and I am somewhat horrified at how long it has been since I posted. But, afterall, I am in Mexico, land of manana. Come to think of it, since Charlie left on Mardi Gras and Sunday is Easter, maybe I gave up blogging for Lent.

We spent a couple of days with Charlie showing him some of the land sights of Baja. First we took a trip to Todo Santos which is about an hour and a half from La Paz, on the Pacific Coast. It is a very old community, initially started because of the springs in the area. It is now an ‘artsy’ town, populated in part by people from Taos who found Taos had grown too large for them. It definitely caters to tourists, but nicely. We had a lovely drive and the little art galleries suited Charlie to a T. He bought a piece of pottery by a local artist and inspired us to buy some pots of a type (Mata Ortiz) which we had long admired.

After shopping, we went to lunch at the Hotel California, known for an song by the Eagles of the same name. It is a cute place.

Later we took a tour of the Ibarra Pottery in La Paz and Charlie found a small souvenir. La Paz had celebrated Carnival for the better part of a week and driving around town was almost impossible. The entire Malacon was taken over with booths. We missed the parade but had a good time checking out some of the floats before Charlie left.

Our time went far too fast and ibefore long we were driving to Cabo to the airport. It was a lovely drive and actually not too long. We stopped in Los Barrilles for coffee and Earl explored a tackle shop next door which was advertising frozen bait for sale. To his pride and joy he found that they sell frozen Ballyhoo for $5 each - when they can get them. By that standard, he has $100 of bait in our freezer.

After Charlie’s departure we had a few weeks to cruise by ourselves before the arrival of Brian, Isha and 7 year old Bella on March 14th for a ten day visit. We hung around the La Paz area. The weather continued to be less than perfect. It was relatively cold and every few days we had strong winds, many of which were not forecasted. In addition, for whatever reason, we caught no fish -ZERO. That sorry state of affairs still holds 6 weeks later. Nevertheless, it is really not possible for us to have a bad time here.

The kids arrived from Anchorage exhausted. They had taken a red eye from Anchorage to Seattle, than on LA and finally arrived in La Paz in late afternoon. We had a quick and early dinner at Azul at the marina -Bella and I shared a pizza- and then everyone hit the sack anticipating an early departure cruising the next morning. We headed for the Islands with our friend John in his new boat, Viking Spirit.

Bella had two new bathing suits for the trip, one of them a ‘bikini’. She was very impressed with herself in the bikini which she modeled right away for us. She asked us if she did not look grown up in it. When Isha and I looked confused, Bella pointed to the bra top and said that was something grown up ladies wore. We decided that maybe she was a little grown up. She spent the next two hours alternately posing and showing us her flexibility with blowing soap bubbles.

We did all the usual things on our cruising. First Brian and Isha towed Bella behind the dingy in the inflatable inner tube. She was screaming - we though for joy but later found out that was not the case. Oh well.

Then there was lots of swimming and even some snorkeling using the new pink fins we had found for Bella. She did pretty well on the snorkeling. The only problem was that we ran into almost invisible jelly fish called string of pearls that cut the activity short. We did not tell Bella there were jelly fish lest it keep her from enjoying the water in the future. Instead she was told that the sea water was hurting her sun burn. One time I had retreated back to the boat having gotten stung and watched Bella having a wonderful time for a further 20 minutes until she suddenly yelped that her feet were feeling sunburned. Poor thing.

On afternoon Earl spotted whales spouting off in the distance. We found them and spent a happy half our whale watching. They were minkies.

Another day at anchorage, we were surrounded by large bunches of grebes. They are great fun to watch. All of a sudden, the entire group will dive as if someone gave the signal.

One night in the blue lights we had a bait ball. They were mesmerizing. Brian had his feet in the water and the fish were bumping into them.

We were joined in our anchorage by John and Maria Luisa on John’s Viking Spirit. We went over for drinks and Bella fell in love with the boat and with John. (Good taste on both counts).

After we got back to the marina we had a treat for the kids. The Costa Baja Development, hoping to entice us into buying a condo, had given us three days free in a three bedroom unit. It was brand new and gorgeous. Bella was in heaven. Having spent the previous week sleeping in the pilot house, she had her own room and bath. She used every drawer in the dresser - spreading out all her articles. The next three days went quickly with lots and lots of swimming for Bella, either at the beach club or the pool at the condo unit, lots of sun bathing for Isha and lots of pool side margaritas for Brian. Everyone loved it, even Daisy.

One night we went out to eat, armed with a gift certificate from the Costa Baja Development. We decided to test out the new sushi restaurant which was quite good. Bella wore her new Mexico princess dress and was the hit of the evening everywhere she went. The next afternoon we used our gift certificate to the spa. Isha got a message and Bella and I got a pedicure.

All too soon we were taking them back to the airport for their trip home. We cleaned up the guest stateroom and two days later picked up our friends from Anchorage, Anne and Tim for a much shorter stay. We took them for drinks up at the golf club to enjoy the view. One day, we went ashore on Isla San Jose to look for paper nautilus shells. These are beautiful and fragile things. They are not actual shells but an egg casing created by a type of squid. We found none, but Earl found a beautiful shell, an apple tun, that we will be bring to La Conner with us.

Then after Anne and Tim left, Earl and I went for a couple of nights of solitude to soak up as much of our surroundings as possible before leaving for the summer. It was a pretty magical time, just us and the Sea of Cortez. In many ways, it is a pity to leave now. The weather and water are finally heating up. We enjoying swimming and the heat. Perhaps in another week or so the fish will show up, but I won’t be here. We leave on the 9th. I am in a hurry to get back to Anchorage where a new grandson, Reese Eberhard Kari, was born on March 23rd. I can hardly wait to get him in my arms.

Blue Latitude which published the wonderful guide book for the Sea of Cortez just came out with a couple of new products. One is a digital version of the charts which I loaded on to Earl’s Ipad into I Nav X. The other is a data file of all the waypoints, which I also downloaded for him. He is terribly pleased. It is really quite wonderful. Except for the fact that it is not linked to our autopilot, we would not need any other navigation tool here, since the GPS shows our location on the ipad. We are now working on an auto download of the waypoints into the Furuno.

Earl will be returning in July with some of our sons for an all male fishing trip. I know it will be hot, and hopefully there will be many fish. Whatever, it will certainly be a special time for Earl with his boys.