Monday, November 28, 2011

Turtle Bay to Bahia Magdalena - from sandstorms to glassy seas

We left Turtle Bay early yesterday morning as the Santa Anna winds were blowing thick clouds of sand offshore, in a brisk easterly wind.

Three other boats, new-found cruising friends of ours from Vancouver & the Pacific Northwest, left about 1/2 hour before us. As we rounded the headland just outside and south of the bay, we saw these boats were all heeled over with the gusts blowing out through the valley.

We kept in touch over the VHF radio and our friends sent back reports on the conditions that they were experiencing up ahead of us. About an hour out, one of the boats (Reunion) lost control of their transmission and had to turn around and head back. We all offered our help, but they told us they were fine and urged us to carry on. We listened to them call other boats anchored in the bay and were glad to hear that they were able to sail in and select a safe spot to anchor.

As we progressed down the coast, we would find more gusty winds and choppy seas each time we came abreast of another valley. So we spent the day alternating between motoring in dead calm and sailing 'on our ear' with a reefed main and partially-furled headsail.

The Santa Anna winds are warm and dry, so we wore shorts and t-shirts until evening came and the sun set.

The night was quite uneventful, with few ships and just a couple one or two hour periods of gusting winds. We took turns on watch while the other tried to catch some sleep.

This morning, we checked in and gave a position report on the Sonrisa (Ham) net and received a weather forecast for the next few days. It looks like we will have a motor-boat ride down the Baja the rest of the way to Bahia Magdalena ('Mag Bay'), so we are being careful with our fuel consumption and are glad that we still have four gerry cans of diesel on deck.

We hope to make Bahia Santa Maria (the bay outside of Mag Bay) by sometime mid-day on Wednesday. We'll post position reports along the way.


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Friday, November 25, 2011

A leg to 'test our mettle'...

May each day create new opportunities for learning and growth... phew!

We last wrote on Nov. 20th and we were on our way from Isla San Martin to Turtle Bay (Bahia San Bartolome)... well, we made it. We arrived, or were rather blown in, at about 1020 hrs. on Tuesday the 22nd, after what I will describe as our toughest leg yet. Don't get me wrong.. there were times when it was the best of the best that Georgia Strait has ever had to offer... downwind sailing with seas not too huge, blue sky, blue water and sunshine.... And/but there were parts where the winds were a bit more than that, the seas a bit bigger than that, and well... to be honest, for the last 24 hours of the leg... we were hand-steering again - our auto-pilot complaining about something or other. Given the wind strengths, water conditions, and wave and swell heights, and our equipment issues... this leg taught us more about ourselves than any other has so far. So, really, it's all good.. isn't it. We're even stronger than we realized :-)... and Princess Sophie, boat dog extraordinaire continues to amaze us. She is now truly a live-aboard boat dog... using the deck for 'both' and doing so where she's supposed to - even at a fair heel in 15 knots of wind... what an amazing little creature!

Having arrived safely in Turtle Bay, we were quickly joined by several boats we had already met and so, in the company of SV Lorelei, SV Reunion, SV Prairie Rose and SV Desolita we have spent the last few days visiting each other and touring the small town of Turtle Bay. Yesterday, we all met for lunch at a small mom and pop restaurant for what turned out to be a 3 hour meal... (who knew that once you placed your orders, the proprietors then rush to the store to buy the food to bring it back to fix for you?) It was truly delicious and Carlos and Mercedes were wonderful hosts... The only downside was it gets dark so early here that it was dusk before we got back to our boats and began to prepare for departure the next morning...

However... the weather gods were not on the same page and we've all decided to hang out here for a couple more days while a system packing up to 30 knots of wind blows by... Then (hopefully Monday) we'll weigh anchor and head south to Magdallena Bay where we have a date with some whales. Anchorages such as Bahia Asuncion, Punta Abreojos and Bahia Santa Maria are along the way and available to take refuge in should we need to as we travel south. Our friends Jeanne and Tom (SV Eagle) are already snorkeling in Los Frailes and we're just a wee bit jealous... but we'll get there in due course. We plan to spend Christmas and New Years in La Paz and have secured moorage at Marina Palmira from mid-December to mid-January. Then we'll see which way the wind blows... no firm plans on direction yet.

As for thanksgivings.. we missed both opportunities for turkey dinners but will try and make it up later... To our Canadian and American friends... Happy Thanksgiving everyone !!

Bye bye for now... CJ

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Heading down Baja Norte

We left Ensenada yesterday morning, after 15 days at the dock, and we were (wait for it...) able to successfully calibrate the new autohelm!

After a short 24 hour leg, we anchored (for the first time since June!) in front of a tiny little Mexican fishing village on a tiny little volcanic island called "Isla San Martin". There is a fishing camp onshore and about a dozen little pangas moored in the little bay. The bay is open to the NW winds, which are prevailing this time of year, however SW winds were in the forecast for the next day or so. This little bay is the best (and only) SW protected anchorage between Ensenada and Turtle Bay, so we were glad to spend the night there.

As we were just settling into the cockpit for a "hook's down" margarita, a young couple from Pender Island (S/V Prairie Rose) saw our Canadian flag and came over by dinghy to say hi... small world!

We spent a quiet night (aside from all the curious seals playing around the boat) and got up early to check in on the Ham radio nets for a bit of news about our other cruising friends and also a weather update. We could hear Lionel & Barb of Sea Whisper checking in from Bahia Conception, on the other side of the Baja from us. It turns out that low pressure system (with its strong SW winds) made landfall quite a bit further north than expected and so had missed us, so we're good to go!

We left Isla San Martin this morning in the sunshine and are now headed to Turtle Bay. We have a light SW today, so we are motor-sailing.

News flash: Carolyn got the watermaker going today!! We are making the 3rd gallon as I type this.

A large bunch of elephant seals come porpoising by the boat this morning as we were passing San Quintin. They were so cute! And curious about us, it seems, as a couple of them stopped at the stern and popped up out of the water to have a good look at us.

As I am typing this, a large pod of dolphins have come by for a visit with more coming up astern of us. The ones bringing up the rear slowed down to do some community fishing, with lots of splashing and circling behaviour. A few of them are jumping completely out of the water and tail-walking.

Princess Sophie is taking a nap (making up for lost sleep on the last leg from Ensenada) and so is missing the excitement. Her big news is that she has now successfully used the 'mat' while underway. This is a huge relief for us (as well as for her, of course). Her voyage should be much more comfortable for her (and us) now.

We won't be in Turtle Bay for a couple of days, so we'll post Position Reports enroute when we can.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Scrabble Champ!! ... and some photo catchup

Hi folks,

It's hard to believe that we've been in Mexico for 15 days already!  Definately long past time catch up on a few photos, so I've added a new album to our photo library (see the link on the right, near the top of our blog).

But, first of all, I need to take a moment to brag... Carolyn and I were playing Scrabble on the iPad the other night and (this must be some kind of record or something) I scored 76 points on a single 4 letter word!  Have a look at this...

Awesome score

As I mentioned, you'll find more photos added to our photo library, but here's a few just to get you started...

The view from our mooring in Avalon Harbor

At Marina Baja Naval, Ensenada

On the Malecon in Ensenada

That's it for now. We'll be up early tomorrow morning to continue south, hoping to finally find those warm sunny days and long sandy beaches. We'll let you know when we do! :-)


At last...

Kathy rocks !! She did it !! We are free to go.... Ah, but I rush ahead... let's go back a bit... As much as we like Ensenada, and have met some wonderful people... IT'S TIME TO GO!! Oops, was that too loud ?? :-))))) OK, I feel better now... we all do.

The short version of the last 15 days is, we arrived in Ensenada to check in (and out) and carry on our merry way. Unfortunately the auto-pilot had suffered a bit of a melt-down just before we arrived and we knew that would take a little time to repair... but, no worries, the weather (as usual) had stirred up and we'd need to wait a day or two anyway. That was FIFTEEN days ago. Seems that the experts at Raymarine, with whom Kathy conferred regarding dear 'not so old' Otto... may need a bit more time to study up. The first guy was certain we needed a new 'course computer' and so we set about trying to obtain one. Turned out the price difference between a new course computer and the whole shebang was only $200... so, what you have done?? You got it.. we did that too... ordered the whole enchilada. Lucky thing we did.. cuz when it finally arrived (yesterday afternoon) and we set about replacing the old with the new (course computer) nothing changed... THAT was not the problem. Second call to the 'experts'... this guy was certain the problem was not the course computer, but the drive motor... Good thing we just happened to have a spare one... now :-) So we changed that. While it was good that we did, as we discovered a small crack in the inner ring/contact/surface of the drive unit... nothing changed... THAT was not the problem either. So, we girls put our heads together and decided it might just be the (always has been) lousy connector of the power cord to the drive motor... and so we changed that... and VOILA (sorry, that's french not spanish)... zee whole theeng, she is fixed !! you betcha... ! We'll be out of here tomorrow morning (with a few extra spare parts) after doing our obligatory circles to calibrate the new parts of the almost new auto-pilot.

The weather looks pretty good and we're going to make a run for Turtle Bay (about 3 days away if wind and water cooperate). There are several places we can stop along the way if we (or Miss Sophie) need a break so we'll just head out, turn left, and keep going 'till it's time to come in.. or until we get to Turtle Bay. This is one of the very few places you can pick up fuel on the outside of the Baja.. and it's the last major stop before heading for Magdalena Bay.. one of the destinations we've been dreaming about for a very long time... We hope to spend several days with the whales there and on the long, sandy beaches... before continuing south. From there, we'll continue down the coast rounding the bottom of the Baja at Cabo San Lucas and probably continuing past there to San Jose Del Cabo where we'll pull in for a rest. That's the plan for now anyway.. written in sand as usual.

Until we write again... this is CJ and Kathy and the devine Princess Sophie.. sending you all hugs and hoping your winter is going well... sorry about the weather you're having :-( Take good care. Bye for now... CJ

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

November 15th... and still waiting

Hi all... just a quick note to let you know we're still waiting for our new auto-pilot. 'twas to be here today... but now it's tomorrow (maybe)... We've 'enjoyed' our stay in Ensenada and/but are antsy to move on...

We'll let you know when we do.

Monday, November 7, 2011

still here in Ensenada town...

Wow... woke up this morning and thought we were in Prince Rupert. Not that there's anything wrong with PR, it's just that the wind, rain and cold... are not supposed to be 'here'. Add to that the fact we're going to be here a few days longer than planned... and it could get downright depressing. Seems the course computer for our auto pilot may be fried... won't know for sure until Kathy speaks with Raymarine this morning, and an electrician/technician this afternoon. But, for sure, we won't be leaving this morning with everyone else. And, therein lies a slight problem as there's yet another 'system' coming in on Friday that will be bringing huge seas from the south... which means cruisers need to be anchored somewhere with protection from the south winds and seas before Friday... and there aren't any of those between here and Turtle Bay. For those of you new to this kind of 'figurin' it's what we have to do every time we're planning to leave somewhere safe. Where are we aiming for? How many nautical miles away is it? How far out should be go considering fore casted seas and winds? How long would it take us to get there if we averaged 4 knots ? 5 knots? 3 knots? Can we get there before the next weather system? If we don't make it, where can we turn in to for protection? Are we ready to go? fueled? watered? victualled? It's what I used to speak of when I described cruising as just the first three steps in the "Hierarchy of needs." You psychologists will know of what I speak.

On another note, we've had some difficulties in being or staying connected to the internet (I'm writing this quickly as we're connected for just this wee moment). And, cell phones are not what we expected either. Seems they're more expensive and less useful than we'd been led to believe. So, sorry about that but it looks like e-mail will be our main form of general communication and you can use either our personal e-mails or the boat e-mail and we will get it. Also, if you call our home phone number (the 604-800-xxxx one), the message will come through on the ships e-mail. Please feel free to stay in contact; we love to hear from home. To those of you who e-mailed yesterday, if I don't get back to you today, it's only because the 'net connection's gone down again... so thanks for writing. It was great to hear from you. To all of you, please know we think of you often and hope all is going well.

Ensenada's changed since we were here last (2003). It's bigger and a few more people in the 'tourist' industry speak a little bit of english... but not much. I got lost yesterday, trying to find the bank. There I was standing on the corner, with the trusty ships dog at my side, and I couldn't tell which way it was to get home... in fact I was pretty sure if I kept walking in the direction I was going, I'd end up in the country, inland somewhere. Best I could come up with after tapping a lady on the shoulder, was to point at myself and say "yachtista"... and then "yacht??". Naturally she thought I was nuts, shook her head and wandered off. So, Sophie and I figured that if 'that' way was inland, then the opposite way must be water.. so off we headed and we did finally find our way home... I have GOT to learn how to speak spanish. Maybe if we're going to be trapped here for aItalicnother week by auto pilots and weather systems .. maybe I can sign up for some spanish lessons now, instead of waiting for La Paz. Oh yeah, there's another bit of interesting news. The 'northers', those horrible and cold winds that sweep down the Sea of Cortez in December and January.... have already started. Rats ! That's going to throw a kink into our plans too. When the northers are blowing, cruisers have great difficulty even getting up the coast to La Paz... so most just give up and head across to the mainland. That's all well and good, and warmer too... lots warmer, but it extends the time frame as to when we'd be getting near to an airport (and we'd hoped to each head home for a week near year's end). So, as they say (over and over) "the best laid plans for cruising, are written with a stick in the sand... [wait for it] just below high water mark." Some things just don't change, and that's one of them :-)
Time will tell and we'll just have to do our best. Bottom line... we're in Mexico !! Yippee.

I know Kathy will tell you more about it, but as I'm here now, I just wanted to say a bit about our faithful companion, the ships dog, the devine and beautiful, princess Sophie. What a girl !! She continues to amaze us as she just takes things in stride... Can you even begin to imagine what this little girl is experiencing? Don't forget, her world is only 14" tall. The sounds, smells, birds (most bigger than her), noise level, number of people, type of people, even the sidewalks, and lack of grass (that she's allowed on anyway), dog-friendly areas (none), and language... are all so very different than what she's used to. Heck, she even had her first over-night passage already...didn't mind it too much once she realized she could sleep with whoever was off-watch. But there you have it, she takes it all in stride... doesn't even bother with the pigeons anymore, unless they walk right under her nose... cocky birds ! And, no, she doesn't bark in spanish yet, but she'll learn to I'm sure :-)

Guess that's all for now.. I just wanted to say hi and let you know we're well.... surviving in this Prince Rupertish climate. This morning will be a bit sad as we bid farewell 'till next time to many of our cruising friends who are leaving early to make the 3 day run to Turtle Bay before Friday. We'll see them some time... but, at this point, don't know where... While we wait for our auto pilot to be well, I've arranged for a diver to clean off Shannon's bottom, and I'll putter away on chores. I want a better and easier system for tying on (and un-tying) our jerry cans and I'm going to build a shelf in the V-berth to hold a couple of things that can't seem to find a home. And, maybe I'll learn spanish, and maybe I'll find a Ukulele and start learning how to play it, and maybe I'll start writing again... who knows. Kathy will be busy with the technical challenges (sorry I can't help her with them... but I keep the toilet working and the engine running, so far..). And she may even have time to pick up her guitar.

Wow, I've been chatty. Hope all's well.. take good care my friends... hugs to all of you. CJ

PS: Just a reminder that our friends Jeanne and Tom on the SV Eagle do a great job of describing their journey, which is parallel to ours, on their blog at . The latest is a great description of what it's like to check into Mexico now.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

"Dos cerveza por favor"... Mexico at last !!

Can't believe it! We're actually here... in Mexico... in one piece... and still happy.

Well, to be honest, last night with the winds gusting to at least 30 and the surge springing the boat back and forth (even tho' we are tied to the dock), and our soaking wet clothes (from re-doing lines and actually moving Shannon across to the other side to prevent her from crushing all her fenders) hung all over the place to dry... our dear Shannon did feel a tad 'small'. Even with all our fleece on and tucked under blankets on the couch reading our books, it took a goodly dose of Carolan's in hot chocolate to cheer up the crew. We were all feeling a little bewildered at the way mother nature decided to treat us on our first visit to Ensenada. It's 1045 in the morning as I'm writing this and the temperature is only 18 degrees. Our clothes are almost dry, the sun is out and Kathy's gone off with Rogelio (our wonderful marina manager) to try and get a cell phone. Sophie and I are onboard, tidying up and deciding which chore to do next. They say there's another system coming through on Sunday so I guess we're here for a few days at least. There's nothing about 15' seas that I find appealing and that's what they're calling for out there, never mind the wind. Besides, there's lots to do here :-) and we have a few repairs/maintenance issues to take care of (nothing new there, I know.. I know.)

Our trip from San Diego to Ensenada was fairly uneventful. We decided to slip at mid-night and, when we awoke from our early evening nap, we found ourselves surrounded by fog (what else is new?) Luckily it lifted just long enough for us to clear our slip and head out of Shelter Island harbour and San Diego. It filled in again as we cleared the last channel marker. We motored in calm seas and no wind pretty much the whole way to Ensenada, and the fog finally cleared off when we were a few hours from the end of our trip. Unfortunately, at about 1130 hrs., the auto helm declared itself "Not Stable". I thought it was talking about me but apparently it wasn't as it then shut itself down and ceased functioning for the remainder of the trip. Today, when Kath gets back with the cell phone we shall commence running some tests to see if we can figure out what's wrong. Luckily there is some internet (albeit off and on) here, and we should be able to access some Raymarine 'help'. Time will tell. The good news is that the marina is also a shipyard and Rogelio says he has a good electrician. Will let you know the outcome later.

With the weather systems predicted we're not sure when we'll be leaving here; hopefully and perhaps on Tuesday morning. We have to check 'out' (get clearance to leave) so that can be done on Monday and we'll then have 48 hours to 'get outta town'. Checking in wasn't too bad. It's easier now that you don't have to go clear across town and back again (several times) between the Port Captain' office, Customs and the Bank. It's all in one building, with a handy little photo-copying office just outside the door. Our only delay was that the sign on the Port Captain's office window said "back in 30 minutes" which really meant "see you in an hour and a half... maybe...". Eventually (about 3 hours later) we were done and headed back to the boat... armed with our Tourist Permits (good for 6 months), our Temporary Import Permit for the boat (which is good for 10 years), and copious numbers of photo-copied documents which we never needed cuz no one asked for them (this time). No questions were asked about the dog and Rogelio has advised us that no one here cares about that, but that Port Captains down the way might. We even managed to get a 'green light' which meant that the Customs fellow did not come down and tear apart the boat looking for contraband that isn't there... so it's all good.

We hope you are all well and enjoying life. Take good care... until next time. Carolyn

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

San Diego...a boaters paradise

I can't believe a week has passed already. We 'touched down' in San Diego on Monday, Oct. 24th and landed at the Silvergate Yacht Club. But it wasn't the quiet entry you might have imagined. We planned, and executed, an arrival at the entrance to San Diego harbour - to coincide with the departure of the 177 sailboats heading off on the Baja Haha rally down the coast to Cabo San Lucas. One hundred and seventy-seven masts... all shapes and sizes... and all heading out of San Diego at the same time. It was an amazing sight. We just coasted down the side of the channel as they all passed us; and, we were able to pick out the Canadian boats... most of whom we now know... It's great how loud those little air horns are :-)... and, of course, we hoisted the biggest Canadian ensign we have (which is pretty big) so it was great fun to cheer for Canada as the "eh's" (that's what they call us down here) passed. Once they'd all turned left and headed down the coast there was this, almost audible, sigh of relief from the San Diego harbour chandleries, restaurants, and other service providers. And, thankfully, it seems they did leave a bit of merchandise in the stores for us to wander through. This area of San Diego is literally filled with every kind of boating store and service you can imagine. Within a very few blocks you can find at least one of everything... it's marvelous!

The folks and facilities at Silvergate were very nice. Their bar & lounge were open most nights. The food was delicious and the big-screen TV allowed us to watch the last 3 innings (the best part of) the 5th baseball game in the world series... which of course hooked us and kept us watching the ball games until the series was over. Shortly after we arrived at SYC, we received a call from friends Susan and George, who had taken a jaunt down to San Diego to say 'hi' and to give us a hand with our provisioning. We spent an enjoyable two days with them, visiting various spots in San Diego (at least in this portion of it which really is focused on boaters and boating... and we did some shopping and running around... and we visited the Birch Aquarium, an amazing place Kathy had wanted to see for years. Their displays and aquariums were second to none and the sea horse tanks (and baby sea horses) were really neat... They even had a floor to ceiling, huge, aquarium display of a kelp bed, complete with sharks, huge groupers, and other local fish.... and, I'm happy to say, the displays were pristine.

After a few days (2 as reciprocal guests, and 1 as paying customers) we left SYC and moved over to the Southwestern Yacht Club. They didn't recognize us as 'reciprocal' so no free nights, but they did allow us their 'daily rate' of $1/foot. (NB: imagine our surprise to see them flying our Burgie in their wall collection). Here we met up with our friends Tom and Jean on SV Eagle and continued with our preparations and projects on Shannon. The SWYC has the best Club restaurant we've seen yet. Food and service are excellent and their Crab Louie salad ($7.50) was so good.. I had it twice. They say the food at SWYC is so good that the members from the neighbouring San Diego YC come to SW to eat :-). We stayed at SWYC until Monday (yesterday) when we had to move off the guest dock anyway, so we took ourselves over to the San Diego YC (again no reciprocal, but at least the $1/foot)... because we could. We won't be by this way again.. and besides, they have a pool and hot tub :-).

We're now in the last couple of days here. Today, Sophie gets her 'Mexican cut' and a visit with the Vet for her International Health Certificate (required for entry to Mexico). While she's at the 'spa' Kath and I will head downtown to the Customs office to acquire our 'permission to leave the US' papers... and we have a few more parts (technical and mechanical) to pick up on our way back. We'll spend this afternoon and tomorrow morning tidying the boat and getting our papers in order. Our plan is to head out of here at mid-night Wednesday/Thursday and travel through the rest of the darkness in US waters. That will give us daylight to find our way through the myriads of Mexican crab and lobsters pots as we approach Ensenada - our first port of entry.

We'll be checking into Mexico at Ensenada and staying at the Marina Naval. They're very helpful there and the manager, Rogelio, speaks English well. We'll then provision with fresh food and hire a diver to sponge off the bottom of Shannon's hull. Hopefully we'll be on our way south within a couple of days.

It's definately time to get into some warmer weather. The dew is so heavy now that it pools on our little cockpit cover just as if it had rained all night. We've collected the charts and books we need (and there aren't that many available anyway) for Mexico so, off we'll go into the second phase of this fantastic journey.

PS: We'll be getting a new cell phone in Ensenada so our US cell will be 'retired'.

Take good care everyone... talk to you later... Carolyn