Sunday, March 11, 2018

Last crossing...

For the record: this is the last time we will be crossing the beautiful Sea of Cortez :-(. And, oh what a first night we've had. Ha! I just saw two sea turtles swimming in line off our Port side.

It's 0630 and I've just taken over the watch after a 2 1/2 hr. break. We have the Lee cloth set up on the couch (to keep whoever is trying to sleep from falling off if and when the boat rolls quickly). Such is the available sleep on a small boat when two people are taking turns on the helm... using a 2-3 hr. watch system. Mostly you lie there with your eyes closed, trying to ignore the constant thrum of the Diesel engine (when you're motoring), the explosions of noise on the VHF radio (particularly when the Mexican fishermen get to bantering),the creaking and groaning of the boat as her hull flexes, and the noises in your head as you run through the lists of things you did remember to check before leaving... and the lists of things you should probably check to make sure everything is working as it should. At some point, within the two hour period you actually fall asleep; and then it's time to get up, put your gear back on, and head out to take over the helm. Lots of fun :-)

Back to the crossing. I wrote you we finally had a window. SSpirit, and about 8 other boats, left Mazatlan bound for La Paz. Even though we all left within a few hours of each other, and were all heading for the same place, we haven't sighted a boat since yesterday afternoon. Everyone is out here but they're all below the horizon. As usual, we're one of the slower boats. We observe several 'house rules' when transiting. It's a safety thing. The first is, having experienced the ruthlessness of northerly winds when they kick up (and expecting them to arrive as forecast) we put one reef in the main sail. The second rule is... we put the second reef into the main just before dark. The other rules have to do with both crew being tethered in at all times after dark and no one leaves the cockpit unless the other person is watching.

OK, back to the trip. Yesterday, the first day of our trip, went very well. The winds and seas were (as expected) on the nose... but didn't get as high as had been forecast. We left expecting to see 20 knot winds by 1600 hrs; but they never arrived. Yahoo to that. That made our journey much more comfortable and fun.

A couple memories I'd like to share with you... During the day we saw lots of birds and quite a few turtles. Then, as sunset approached, we were treated to the most beautiful, brilliant, almost neon, blazing pink skies. For one gorgeous 20 minute period, one particular cloud formation was so brilliant it turned a swath of the the sea below it to deep pink with its reflection. Never seen that before. It was amazing. The glow continued for some time and we motor-sailed on, cloaked in Mother Nature's colours.

Over-night provided some excitement as well. There I was minding my own business and tending the helm when I happened to notice the depth sounder flashing. Now, this new and dependable instrument had been showing - - - like it does when it's really deep, for hours... and all of a sudden it was flashing 45.1. Yikes! I watched and pondered this situation for about 10 minutes... wondering what the heck was going on. We were in an area the charts declared to be over 1200 feet deep. I was watching it carefully because, if it got to 30, I was going to slow down and call upon the navigator (who was off watch and sleeping) for a second opinion. Best I can figure is a very smart whale was swimming along with us, at our speed, about 45 feet below us... or... we went over an unmarked sea mount (there are many in the Sea of Cortez).

The next major event that captured my attention also kind of scared me a bit. Visions of having to abandon ship in a hurry, in the dark, with our abandon ship gear spread around somewhat (a situation that was remedied as soon as I recovered from the 'event') flashed through my mind.

When I stand my watch I have the habit of, besides watching the instruments (radar, chart plotter, autopilot, engine dials) constantly. I also make it a point to stand up (the usual position for the person on watch is standing or sitting behind the wheel) and 'walk the deck' (all four feet of it when I walk from one side to the other of the that little space) every ten minutes or so. When I'm doing that, I do a complete scan of the horizon and all the space between it and our boat. I'm looking for the lights of ships I know are there and the lights of ships I don't know about. On a night like last night the stars are so brilliant the ones near the horizon actually look like they could be ships... and vice versa; a ship near the horizon could look like a star.

So, there I was last night, about to begin my walk, and looking to port, I saw a huge patch of phosphorescent light developing in the water about 100 yards off. As I watched, and before my shocked eyes, I saw the ball of light (about the size of a Greyhound Bus) was moving and moving fast, much faster than us... and it was on a collision course with us, heading toward our bow on a diagonal course. I really couldn't do anything as I watched for the few seconds this all took.

I'm assuming it wasn't 'our time' yet; the light disappeared as it went below our bow. I must also assume, as I'm pretty sure Greyhound Buses can't swim, that one very large (and fast) whale was deep enough, or dove, and missed us. He missed us and we missed him. Thank goodness. But, I have to say... phew, that was a close one.

And so my friends, as a new day develops with smooth seas, light winds, and us chugging along towards La Paz, I've started this blog so I can share our last crossing with you. I'll finish it tomorrow so you can have the whole story in order and in one shot.

For now, know we are safe and enjoying our crossing of this beautiful body of water. The Sea of Cortez has provided us with a lifetime of experiences and stories over the seven plus years we've been wintering here.

Ha! Dolphins fishing off our Port side.... must go and watch. Adios till I write again.. CJ

Friday, March 9th.

1828 hrs. I cannot describe well enough for you the vision created by a blazing sunset to one side of us and the pale pastel blues and pinks on the other. Mother Nature's tablet is surreal. I could be floating in a vase of pinks and blues. I can't even see the horizon for the shades of colours that blend the sea and the sky. This is the kind of experience that woos us sailors away from our homes and keeps us coming back. And as the day slips quietly into the night... I am trying to imprint this moment into my memory... forever.

It's later now, quite a bit later. It's dark and there are clouds of mist scattered across the barely visible horizons. We are motor sailing (yes, the mainsail has been up the whole time... it often catches and holds a bit of wind). We have made it to the other side of the wide expanse of the Sea and are heading up along the east side of Ceralvo Island.

Do you remember I told you about being scanned by a drone when we were crossing Banderas Bay in the early hours, after coming north around Cabo Corrientes? Well, I'm experienced now and it didn't take long for me to identify a mysterious object with flashing lights hovering fairly high over our port side. It moved with us for a little while and then scooted back towards land. Hmmm... Cartel or authorities... a 'coin toss' for sure. I worried about that a bit; then decided while the authorities wouldn't worry about being spotted (bright flashing strobe lights) the Cartel would probably 'run dark'. Anyway, I spotted the small little spy ships several times. They must have had a slow night to spend so much time watching us. I really can't get used to these things. Their presence and purpose feels very invasive. But, if I was to take one out with my little flare gun, I expect I wouldn't get to enjoy the rest of our season... sigh. Oh well, on we chugged.

Pre-dawn on Saturday morning found us crossing the top of Ceralvo Island and approaching Lorenzo Channel. Tuamotu, a sailboat ahead of us, and ourselves had to scoot out of the way for two, very large ferries, converging on the same Channel. We continued on our way once they had passed. An easy route south to La Paz, on a beautiful sunny morning.... and by 0900 hrs., we were tied snuggly to our new slip in Marina Palmira. 51.5 hours... not bad at all.

We are delighted to have arrived, finally, in La Paz. Friends Sue and John are still here. They leave Wednesday, aboard a beautiful, sea-going trawler called MV Shorleave, as crew for a four month journey into the South Pacific. We are so glad we arrived in time to bid them safe journeys and help them slip their lines.

We will catch up on our rest and get on with our plans; meeting old and new friends, having new canvas created for SSpirit, and preparing for some cruising in our favourite cruising grounds - north of La Paz. If you think about the location of Loreto... that's the area we'll spend most of our time.

For now... know we are safe and secure and wishing you all your own safe journeys.

Adios until next time. CJ

Sent from my iPad

Thursday, March 8, 2018

News Flash... we’re on the move!

0500 hrs. Winds calm...tide lowish. Forecast: not too bad until late Saturday. It's Thursday. We have a window!

So, can't talk long... things to do. But know this; we are finally able to head to La Pas. yippee! Yahoo! Finally! Probably won't write again until we're there (not much internet at sea). But, approximately 236 nautical miles from here... I'll let you know once we're there.

Hope everyone's well. We're delighted to be on the move. Adios for now... farewell Mazatlan. We will miss the wonderful folks here... and our cruising friends who stay on the mainland side.

Until we write again. Be well.


Sent from my iPad

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Livin’ on a boat in Mazatlan...

Yes, here we are; still. The winds continue... some days less, most days more. The seas go on and on and on... and still we wait.

Now, you might think crossing from Mazatlan to La Paz sounds pretty simple... but let me tell you... it's not really. The course is pretty simple, but the preparation and the doing are something quite different. And so, for now, we are just "livin' on a boat in Mazatlan" as the days roll on.

It's not all bad mind you. In fact, life here is pretty sweet. We wake at about 0700 and make coffee, like you would. Then we check out all the available, and credible, weather forecasts... and make copious notes for future reference. By the time that's done we sit by the VHF radio for the morning net (Channel 72 at 0800). This is when we check in with all the other boats, and listen to yet another weather forecast, and collect all kinds of information... from what's happening nearby to what's coming up. There's the (once a month) Art Walk and numerous musical events about town. Then on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday... the veggie man (red pick-up with mounds of fresh fruits and vegetables) and the fish man (white van filled with fresh fish and camarones ) come to the nearby parking lot and, if you're lucky... the donut guy comes by at the same time... OMG they're delicious.

And of course there is Spanish lessons by the pool at 1100 and Happy Hours from 1300-1400 (at the beach across the way), 1400-1500 (at the pool nearest to the docks), and 1500-1600 (at the quiet pool with the hot tub... our personal favourite... furthest from the docks but near the point with a good view of the ocean). Sigh... it's hard to keep up with it all.

Then there's domestic lugging the laundry to Alexandria, a delightful woman who runs a lavenderia three blocks away. She greets us with a big smile and hugs and then does the best job, ever, on our sack of laundry. There's also grocery shopping which requires an eleven peso bus ride, a wandering of the Soriano aisles, and a taxi ride back (not so bad really). The hardest part is stripping all the packaging off upon arrival home (no corregated cardboard allowed on board).

We also have a list of chores and projects that, as the time wears on, is becoming shorter and less critical... but there's always something to do if you're bored. But, hey, who has time to be bored.

With the winds and currents mis-behaving, we've kept busy helping boats come in. The newbies don't have a good understanding of the forces they're up against and there's nothing like a runaway sailboat to test your metal as it goes out of its way to miss the dock and/or confound it's skipper who's trying to slide it serenely into a slip. We're there to help when we can and, otherwise, we have no trouble keeping ourselves busy.

Strangest thing happened today though. We realized we actually had time to down tools and kick back and spend some time with our books. Seems like once you give up trying to keep to a schedule or serious plan, life gets simpler...

So, for now, we live life on this boat in Mazatlan... and we bide our time... waiting for the 'green light' to head across to La Paz.

Hope your plans are unfolding as you intended... adios for now.... from our Mazatlan residence... sigh.    CJ

Posted by: Carolyn (via Kathy's Google mail profile)

Monday, February 19, 2018

Rocking Horse Alley... out there. Glad we’re not...

Hello all, it's been some time since I've written. Not that I haven't had news to impart; of course not. But mostly, since an hour after we arrived, we've been busy with paperwork, mechanical repairs... and, even an upgrade in the form of stainless steel railings at the cockpit (which, I must admit, look splendiferous).

And then... there's our friends Mother Nature, or the wind Gods, or just plain luck... that we cruisers must negotiate with, beg somewhat and, in the end, find buckets of patience so as to wait for the merest hint of a smile in our direction. Such is our case today.

We are close to ready to proceed (you are never really ready... you just 'go' when it's time). But, as is the case when there's almost too many sources of information, we spend each morning scanning the myriad of weather info available - looking for the ones more closely associated with our intended course. Oh for the days when you just squinted up into the sky, sucked your thumb and stuck it up into the wind, closed one eye, stood on the opposite foot.... and declared it safe to leave. Aargh; life must have been much simpler then. Today, with digital, projected, model-based, etc., etc., weather forecasts.... it's almost impossible to know when it's safe to go. Some say (I may have offered the advice myself) "just keep reading 'till ya find one ya like... and go with that." Today, I'm still reading, waiting for one where the large swells are farther apart than 5 seconds. Been there, done that; not volunteering for more.

But, like I always say, there are much worse places to be stuck than lovely Marina El Cid. We will be ready... and we will leave... when it's the right time to do so. Until then, know we are safe and hoping you are all warm and cosy and staying safe. Heard there's a cold snap in southern BC. Brrr!!

So for now, adios me amigos. Go well and be safe. CJ

PS: If the weather predictions are more than half correct, we may be here for another week. Time will tell.

Posted by: Carolyn (via Kathy's Google mail profile)

Monday, February 12, 2018


Hola amigos,

After 26 hours of wind and seas on the nose, and surviving the most fishing vessels we've ever seen yet, we are safe and secure in Marina El Cid. It seemed as if every apparatus in Mexico that could float was out fishing the waters the whole way from Matanchen to just north of Isla Isabel. The good news is we only encountered two long lines and were able to slide over them... all the rest were fishing shorter nets held near to their pangas... for those, lonely, fishermen... we'd coast up to their panga, wake the fisherman who was sleeping under a tarp, and accept his advice on how to safely avoid his net. They were pretty happy with us for caring enough to do that. Further north, as the net fishermen diminished, the shrimpers took over in droves; but at least they were large, well lit, and contained their nets around their vessels.

We also enjoyed numerous sightings of whales blowing and a fantastic display of breaching and huge fin slapping. Oh, and of course... there were the stars. My God how they could spill across the thick it made finding the usual constellations difficult.

While the trip wasn't the most comfortable we've ever had... it did put us at Mazatlan's doorstep right on time. Exactly 26 hours after we'd left Matanchen (0900), we slid quietly through the entrance to the Mazatlan estuary, home of El Cid Marina, Marina Mazatlan, Fonatur Marina and the Isla Marina. Luckily for us... the dredge hadn't started working yet (which cuts off entrance to the estuary without regard to current or standing waves at the entrance.. (and we'd missed slack tide by about 2 hours), and there were no catamarans (carriers of vast numbers of tourists intent on a day at the beach... with promises of whale sightings and easy to use sanitarios) blocking our way. We made it in after slack tide but before the ebb was too strong. Our friends were waiting for us at the dock and we slid handily into B16 at Marina El Cid.

For now, we will focus on a few repairs that are needed, and on continuing our journey to La Paz once the repairs are completed and the weather Gods open the gate. Fairly high winds are predicted for the next week... so that may work out quite well. Time will tell.

For now we are content... and enjoying the familiar haunts of Mazatlan (couldn't resist a dinner tonight that came with "all the margueritas you can drink" :-) Tomorrow we will refocus and get SSpirit ready for her next several months.

Hope all is well with each of you. Adios for now... CJ

Posted by: Carolyn (via Kathy's Google mail profile)

Friday, February 9, 2018

Matanchen Bay

Just a quick note to say we are well. Have decided to enjoy a couple days in Matanchen Bay while some gusty winds between here and Mazatlan settle down a bit. All is well here. Enjoying the peace and quiet and beautiful sunsets. Hope all is well with each of you. CJ

Posted by: Carolyn (via Kathy's Google mail profile)

Monday, February 5, 2018


Yup, the day has finally arrived... we are heading on our way. There is so much left to do and see... we are delighted! Visits with friends, new and old in Puerto Vallarta, have been great and we will miss them. But it's time for us to get moving and set some new routes into our chart plotter.

We'll be in touch as and when we can. Know we are safe (always cautious) and living every day. We hope you are too. TTFN (tatafornow). CJ

PS didn't get a chance to send this before we left... but leave we did :-). Officials all arrived; some on time and one not. But, by 1130 hrs. We were on our way. Have pulled in to Punta de Mita to collect ourselves before carrying on. More news later. For now, know we are well and enjoying ourselves. Saw no less than ten whales while crossing Banderas Bay, some quite close to the boat, and several moms and calves.

Posted by: Carolyn (via Kathy's Google mail profile)