Thursday, December 29, 2011

Our Christmas Dinner... still no turkey

Hi folks... still no turkey... (we missed both thanksgivings :-( But, we had a good Christmas feast with our cruising friends....

S/V Eagle did a great job of documenting our Christmas gathering and dinner at a local eatery called "The Shack". They've got some great photos too... So, if you want to see how we did.. check out .

All is well here. The winds have calmed down for a little while and we've moved to a slip at the Marina de La Paz. It's right downtown, has showers 'n everything... We're hoping to go snorkeling with the whale sharks very soon (maybe tomorrow even :-). They're huge, but harmless (unless you're vegetation 'n such)... so it should be fun. There's so much wildlife around here. Even under our boat, 1-2 lb. fish (n/k name but apparently good toeat) hang out and leap out of the water regularly. Last night I saw a 1 1/2 foot eel wandering through the water near the dock. And, of course, the birds continue to fascinate. Take good care.. have fun... and


Much love.................. Carolyn & Kathy & Sophie.

Friday, December 23, 2011

They call the wind... a 'norther'.

Northers: Now I'm pretty sure the word alone can conjure up all kinds of images and scenarios in the average imagination... and that no doubt could be a lot of fun explaining... but let me tell you what the word 'northers' now means to us...

Here we sit, in sunny La Paz. it's a little colder than we thought it would be so we're wearing things like fleece pants 'n pull-overs in the mornings and evenings... but that's ok, cuz it's warm during the day. We're tied up to a long, new dock in the middle of the main harbour and we're in good company. Several of the boats we've met along our way are also here and it's kind of like another group of our loose-knit cruising family. We'd been assured the new dock with it's newish dock-anchoring-system would hold us all very well, but I think the owner hadn't realized just how popular his new long dock would become and, as boat after boat arrived, the weight on the lee side (the only comfortable side of the dock) grew steadily larger. You see this dock runs straight out from the beach side and lies broadside to winds from the north. That's ok most of the time because, except for one kind of wind (you guessed it, but more about that later) the harbour is fairly well protected.

Now we'd heard about winds called 'northers' before we left. The Sea of Cortez veterans, all the cruising guides, and just about anyone you talk to who has ever sailed in these parts.. will tell you about them. They blow hard, they say. They blow for days and days. They start in early December and the air and water temperatures drop... it gets cold... they say. Now come on... we're from BC. We've sail in cold, heck we swim in cold, and as for wind - how hard can it blow? It's protected on 3 sides for heavens sake!

Well... let me tell ya... Here's how it goes. For the last few days, our local radio net weather guy has been mentioning that a norther was on the way. We all listened carefully and mused about how the dock would do with all the boats on it. No problem was the response. We also took a look at our dock lines and fenders... no problem there either... all looked good. Yesterday, I even hiked to a nearby marina to find a guy called Javiar who apparently had some large rubber snubbers for sale (just in case you know...). Unfortunately when Javiar finally arrived, he knew nothing about snubbers and, by that time the stores were closed.... so no snubbers for us. I should confess that, believing we'd be mostly anchoring, I'd left our handy-dandy Blow-max shock absorbers at home. We had only one rubber snubber (thanks to father Ken) we'd brought to use on our hand-line for fishing. We put that snubber on our bow line. Just about this time, the wind started to pick up... you guessed it... from the north. Seems when the 'northers' hit, they curl around the entrance into La Paz channel and harbour and then they head straight in to where dozens of boats are anchored and hundreds of boats are tied up at various marinas (ours included). The forecast, as we'd heard it, was for E 5-15 on Thursday, N 30 on Friday, and 20+ for Saturday and Sunday. It wasn't such a large surprise when the owner, or his right-hand -man, showed up Thursday afternoon pacing the dock and looking kind of perplexed. Indeed he was quite worried that the weight of all the boats on the one side of the long dock would create more flexing than the anchoring system was designed to hold. You see, the new marina is only partially built and, once complete, the anchoring system will be quite sufficient, but until then (and without the support of the rest of the intended docks) there was room for some serious concern. So, here's what happened. One boat joined several others that had been anchored, and left town all-together, deciding to take their chances at anchor in the lee of one of the nearby islands. Three boats moved off the dock and took up older mooring buoys in the nearby area. Four boats stayed on the main dock, but spread themselves out to even the weight distribution. One boat went around to the inside of the main dock, deciding to take his chances with the many small ferries that pass nearby. And we moved Shannon back and on to the main dock to a position that those who had experienced this before said would be the most protected.
Once all the moves were completed we all set to organizing our chafing gear and our dock lines and generally tidying up our decks and junk that collects there. This whole thing took the rest of the day. It was actually after dark when we finished (mind you, it gets dark here very early.. about 1700 ish...). I'm pleased to say we completed our dock line 'knitting' just before the brisker winds began to hit. Which was pretty much when we realized we should have used the winter lines (buried at the bottom of the biggest locker) and we should have had more rubber snubbers (who knew??) and we probably should have joined the others at that peaceful island anchorage somewhere 'out there' (but we hadn't). So, having done all we could think of to do, we turned in for the night... after all, how bad could it get??

Well.. it was just like anchor watch on a blustery night. I was up pretty much every hour checking out each new noise, or new jerk... and checking our lines to make sure they were all still in one piece. The wind howled... the boat lurched and bucked up, down and sideways... at times threatening to stick all her fenders under the toe rail of the dock... just to see what would happen... yikes! Through the night I became quite inventive with respect to re-establishing the best height for fenders, and shortening and lengthening the many spring lines, trying to get the boat to stop bucking quite so hard. After all she'll be 37 this April.. how much can an old girl take? And so it continued through out the night. The other boats and crew were going through similar maneuvers and, by daybreak, we were all pretty tired. But there is no 'rest for the wicked' and winds have continued all day. There are a few small boats on the beach, several dragged over-night and, when you look out to the end of the channel, all you can see is a wall of white water. We've seen gusts just over 30 this afternoon which is pretty much what they forecast so no real surprise. First thing this morning Kathy hiked to Lopez Marine and we're now the proud owners of four, humongous rubber snubbers that fit perfectly on those large winter lines I almost didn't bring (after all... we were going to the Sea of Cortez, not the Arctic... right?). Together with two extra-large, borrowed fenders (thank you Dario), all of the fenders we brought with us, our winter lines, our new rubber snubbers and rather taxed senses of humour, we are finally 'ready' for this 'norther' to hit... oh, wait a minute, it's almost over... or so 'they' say. We shall see. But that, my friends, it what the word 'norther' now means to us... big prep, big winds, take heed....

Before we leave you, may we wish each and everyone of you all the best over this joyous season. Enjoy your self... love your family and love your friends. All the best... CJ & Kathy

Thursday, December 15, 2011

La Paz... at last

Here I sit, at my computer, in beautiful Marina Palmira, at the coastal town of La Paz on the inside of the Baja. The weather's cooler now (all the way down to 19 this morning :-) and I'm forced to wear a sweater. Who knew how quickly you could become adjusted to warmer temperatures? I'd worried about that before we left home., about how we'd deal with the much hotter temps... but no need to have worried as here I sit, actually chilly at 19 degrees. Visiting home in January is going to be like travelling to the North Pole I expect.. brrrrr.

Anyway, we are finally in La Paz. We weren't exactly the slowest vessel (there are several still behind us, but many others have definitely been here for a while) and before I tell you about this place, I want to share with you some of the experiences we had getting here from Cabo. You will recall we arrived in Cabo in the middle of the night, anchored in ridiculously deep water just outside the entrance to the inner harbour, and passed out/fell asleep for 4 hours before rising to continue on. Well, it turns out that in the clarity of daylight what we had thought were condos 'n such... that had laid claim to most of the waterfront areas in Cabo bay... were in fact figments of our exhausted imaginations. The shore of the bay, further away from the inner harbour entrance, was actually a terrific place to have anchored and there were quite a few boats already there, some of whom we knew. They called us on the radio as we were leaving, asking where we were going and inviting us to join them. Given the constant passing of more time than we had, we were determined to carry on so thanked them for their invites and pressed on towards our next 'port of call', San Jose del Cabo.

San Jose del Cabo: Leaving at 0700 hrs in the morning is often a great time to weigh anchor as the morning winds are usually not as strong and don't begin to build until early afternoon. That was the case for us and we had a good motor-sail all the way to San Jose, arriving at 1130 hrs. at their beautiful, new marina. We joined friends on their new 'long dock' which is a side-tie and costs only $40 per night (instead of about triple that in their regular slips). There was no power, and (non-potable) water was provided by one very long hose... but, considering the price, that was just fine with us so we settled in with SV Desolina and SV Lorelie, and a few other boats we came to know thereafter. We spent a couple days there, enjoying the (all new and still under development) gardens, paths and art work; really quite a place and worth a trip back to spend some time. Their monthly rate is only $400 so a few boats have booked in there to spend that time now. We met up with Francine, a woman from our yacht club at home, and had a wonderful dinner and we went for a walk on the longest most beautiful beach I've ever seen. When next we visit this desolate beach will have become a world-class resort but for now it is just miles and miles of white sand and undeveloped fore-shore stretching as far as you can see, with azure blue water for waders and puppies to play in. Sophie was so excited. We'd been promising her beaches since she rejoined the boat... and finally we were able to deliver. While we lay on our towels to dry off, she proceeded to dig and spray sand in every direction possible.. and, if we weren't paying enough attention she'd just leap and deposit her sandy self onto our towels and our bellies... she was a hoot!

Bahia los Frailes: Despite a growing urge to stay longer, we headed off to our next destination (Los Frailes) on Thursday, December 8th and after a very long day (9 hours) of bashing up and down on large, square waves (some call them boxcars) and fighting wind and current that pushed us back to a mere 1 knot of speed at times... we finally arrived in the lee of a very large rock/mound and dropped our anchor in the dark (it gets dark here by 1730 hrs. so we're actually getting some experience anchoring in the dark) and settled down to catch up on our sleep. We awoke to one of the most beautiful anchorages we've been in yet. It was gorgeous. A beach with golden sand, several boats at anchor (a few left early in the morning, allowing us the opportunity to move a bit closer to the more protected snorkeling area.. which we did). We were just delighted with this place. There was an RV parking area of sorts at the far end of the beach but our end was serenely and ruggedly 'empty'. And, it turns out, not more than 10 feet from shore was the best snorkeling we've experienced in Mexico so far. It was like swimming in an aquarium with huge schools of fish who hadn't yet figured that snorkeling humans might provide food. They just let us swim with them, no demands made. The action below the water wasn't the only wildlife either. This bay is famous for, and we were treated to, the sights of small rays (about 1 to 1 1/2 feet across) leaping from the water and performing somersaults in mid-air before crashing back into the water with a very resonant splash. We'd heard the splashes the first night but didn't realize what they were. What a great sight... and then, looking into the water, we couldn't help but notice the huge schools of various types of fish circling our boat and moving through-out the bay in giant 'balls'. It was quite amazing. Whilst we were taking turns snorkeling, Miss Sophie played on the sand and I don't think we've ever seen her quite this excited. Even with her life-jacket on (which she now wears quite happily because it means she gets to go in the dinghy) she ran and ran and ran (without leash this time as there was little fear of predators) in the soft sand... She was so excited she actually, at one point, just stood there jumping up and down... This bay is definitely on our list for places to return to. But again, the calendar called and we responded, leaving Los Frailes and continuing north, up into the Sea of Cortez.

Ensenada de los Muertos: Sunday, Dec. 11th we weighed anchor at 0044 hrs. (that's right, just after midnight). We worked out the math and determined that, to arrive in daylight, we needed to leave in the middle of the night. Actually we've become quite fond of this plan as it allows us to sail away from a port we know, travelling along and into the oncoming day, and... with luck, arriving at the new destination in time to anchor in daylight. On this occasion we had a great passage with light winds and much calmer seas. We arrived mid-day and had our anchor set by 1230 hrs. This anchorage is also well known for snorkeling and Kathy did some with the crew from SV Sea Moore. Several other boats also joined us in this anchorage, including SV Navigo, friends from BCA who arrived with a gift of fresh caught fish for us (and a recipe). It was delicious. We had a group dinner at the one restaurant on the shore aItalicnd hit the sack early as we had another early departure planned. This time it was 0200 hrs., at which time ourselves and Navigo departed. They headed south on their way to Mazatlan and we headed north, continuing our quest to arrive at La Paz in time to catch up with friends on SV Eagle and in time for Christmas. Turned out, we'd planned well and, with the tide and breeze in our favour as we transited the infamous Cerralvo Channel and it's neighbour San Lorenzo Channel, we had a very comfortable journey up, around, and down to the port town of La Paz.

La Paz: We had reservations at Marina Palmira in La Paz. It's a lovely marina with great services (laundromat, showers, small store, garbage, water) and we were lucky to get their last slip (everyone is super busy as it's Christmas). We were well received by several vessels, all great folks. The only downside with this marina is that it's 2 miles out of town and, although there's a free shuttle it only runs three times a day... and, the boats and friends that we do know are all in town spread between the various anchorages and marinas. Although we really don't want to anchor (with dog aboard, etc.) we would like to be closer to the activities of the town harbour. La Paz is set up well for cruisers. There's a Cruisers Club with morning net and a coffee get together each day. Many activities get organized as well. For instance there's a swap meet this Sunday.. a great opportunity to off-load some of the extra 'stuff' we've been carrying around. There's a great malecon for walking and lots of things to do.. if only you're close enough to take advantage of it.

We've been here a few days now.. checked a few things out. Our friends Tom and Jeanne (SV Eagle) are here, in the harbour, tied up to a brand new dock/marina. They don't have power or water yet but are right down-town and, it turns out, we may be able to join them (the moorage cost will be much less than we're paying and we'll be right in the heart of things). Fortunately a near-by marina (Marina de La Paz - for which we're on the waiting list) allows boats (for a small fee) to tie up their dinghies, use their showers, and acquire water... So, we will be checking out this possibility... That's the news for now. We're safe, working on the boat (what else ? :-), enjoying learning about La Paz (still no Spanish lessons yet, but I'm trying)... and looking forward to spending time with friends.

The latest project? There I was at the helm one day, having just left an anchorage, and Kath was on the bow washing down the anchor chain (with buckets of water into the anchor locker). I couldn't help but notice a pattern. About 2-3 minutes after each bucket of water into the chain locker... the bilge pump kicked on and spewed out about a bucket of water from our bilge. Hmmmm..... I quickly deduced we had a problem. Yup, you guessed it. The drain hose (37 years old) had finally separated from the bottom of the well..... onto the project list it goes.

Well, my friends.... that's it for now. More news later... I expect you're all very busy getting ready for Christmas... can't say we're used to even thinking about Christmas when it's 75 degrees out... but we're trying. Please know you're in our thoughts... and we hope your preps for the festive season are going well. We'll write again before the 25th... Bye for now... CJ

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Bahia Santa Maria to San Jose Del Cabo..

It seems like weeks ago we were heading to Bahia Santa Maria... so much has happened I shall try to provide you with a 'shorter' version of events... We are well.. very well.. and as I sit here at the nav station, in the Marina at Puerto Los Cabos (an almost new marina taking up the whole harbour at San Jose Del Cabo) writing to you.. I feel like we've 'made it'.. and I guess we have. We're at the bottom of the Baja, at the doorway to the Sea of Cortez. Phew...

Kathy last wrote when we were heading to Bahia Santa Maria so let me backtrack to there. We arrived at the 29th of November and had our hook down by 1800 hrs. It was an amazing place, our first experience with the 'Baja' style of anchorage... very low land surrounding a large body of water with a small range of tall hills protecting the anchorage from the northwest winds. We finally picked our place to anchor (based on info from the guide books and our own observations) and even with all that help, it was quite unnerving to feel the swells rolling under our keel as they swept towards the shore, only to crash against the beach. No safe dinghy landings here... (thank goodness for Princess Sophie's willingness to use the mat). We spent the night safely enough and went to bed expecting an early leaving the next morning.. NOT. We woke up to thick fog and so had a leisurely morning until it lifted. About 1110 hrs. we headed out of Bahia Santa Maria, bound for Magdalena Bay (just around the corner we thought). Also NOT. What looked like an easy 3 hour tour... turned into a longish day (not without its excitement tho') and we didn't arrive in Mag Bay until 1800 hrs. That was ok because we were still on a high from the trip. As we left Santa Maria the boat ahead of us (SV Lorelie) caught a fish.. not just any old fish.. but a yellow-tail.. and a small enough yellow-tail it motivated me to drag out my rod and dangle it off the side and drag a good old BC lure.. something with some chrome on it. And guess what? I CAUGHT A FISH !!!! not just one, but TWO... It was very exciting. Both about 3-4 pounds. They grabbed the lure and ran with it, a very exciting sound, even on my old rod and reel. Then I'd get to play it a bit.. and then we'd net it and flip it into the cockpit. Now that's where the 'fun' got trickier. They have very hard heads... and Sophie wasn't too impressed watching me trying to bash their little brains in with a fish club. And the fish weren't responding to that knocking on their heads either... so then I had to find a more refined method of dispatching them.. which I did... and I won't go into details but suffice to say a little vodka and a sharp point did the trick.. a much more peaceful way to 'go'. Also... just to paint the picture accurately, as I was playing fish #2, a large humpback whale began to breach just off our beam. He lept out of the water and crashed down on his side about four times while we were playing this fish, sailing, steering and enjoying a brilliantly sunny day. Very much like paradise, I'd say. We had sashimi for dinner that night; it was delicious. We had BBQ fish the next; it was good too. We gave away some to another boat and we still have some in the freezer. Fish tacos??

Man of War Cove, Magdalena Bay was our destination and we got there. It wasn't at all what we'd come to expect, having spoken at length with other cruisers over the years. We didn't see any whales after entering the Bay and the small village was a ghost town as the vast majority of inhabitants were away at another village for some sort of celebration. They weren't returning until Sunday or Monday so we had short visits with the few residents who remained. There was one little store open, with not too much food and there were lobster fishermen in abundance, but they weren't allowed to sell us any lobster... So, we made a visit to the local teacher (school wasn't in as there were no kids and she was sick anyway) and gave her some school supplies we had brought and then we began the process of watching the weather forecasts to determine when it was safe to leave. We weighed anchor on Saturday, Dec. 3rd. It was time to go. Our delays earlier in the trip had eaten up the time we might have spent dallying in Mag. Bay so we decided to make the best of it and keep heading south.

The trip from Mag. Bay to Cabo San Lucas is a long one and there is no where to get out of the weather if it kicks up. So, when you leave... you leave.... and you're on your own to deal with whatever the weather gods throw at you. This part of the trip has been described by others as the 'best downwind sailing' you'll ever do. What they don't tell you tho' is that the average auto-pilot (ours included) doesn't handle large following seas very well... and neither do many of the wind-vanes (ours included). So, you guessed it, hand-steering yet again !! We had a 'vigorous' downwind sailing experience, with a double and triple reefed mainsail and the 110 genoa furled in to hankie size. We had winds averaging between 15-25 knots and, just to make things perfect, at one point we heard a beeping going on and finally discovered our Wheems and Plath tracking/recording barometer alarm beeping away.. to tell us of a Gale Warning !! What else we said... bring it on. It's interesting how your mind can deal with pretty much anything once you tell it, it must. And so we continued all day and all night and all day again. We were tired, very tired, and even running out of quick to prepare food (how many times can you eat peanut butter in a row???) so decided to pull into Cabo San Lucas for a rest before continuing around to San Jose Del Cabo (our original, intended destination).

We were last in Cabo in 2003 and at that time there were dozens of available mooring buoys and so that's what we were looking for. Unfortunately it was 2330 hrs (very dark) when we arrived and, in our fatigue, we couldn't find a single mooring buoy and failed to recognize the proper anchoring location. In desperation we finally dropped the hook just outside the entrance to the inner harbour, in about 70' of water, and fell asleep. We woke 4 hours later, hoisted anchor, and continued on our way... arriving at San Jose Del Cabo at 1100 hrs. on the morning of Monday, Dec. 5th. Our friends on SV Lorelie and SV Desolina were here already and took our lines as we arrived. This is a great place, brand new and still under construction. It's quite beautiful and the price is right ($40/night without power). We'll stay here until the winds abate some (there's been a "Norther" blowing for several days). Last night we met and had dinner with Francine a friend from our yacht club who has a condo in Cabo. It was great to spend some time with someone from 'home'. Tonight all us 'yachties' are heading into town for dinner together... I expect tomorrow some may head out (we may too, but it depends on the wind and the sea conditions)... Some may wait until Friday.

The long legs are over... yippee !! Our next hop will take us to Punta Los Frailles a meer 30 NMs away. The next hop will be to Ensenada de los Muertos (48 NMs), and from there we'll aim for La Paz... (60NMs). We've friends waiting to see us in La Paz and we're looking forward to spending Christmas and New Years with them. We have reservations from mid-December to the end of January at the Marina Palmira in La Paz... can't wait to 'park it' for a while.

This amazing journey continues. We're happy and proud to have made it this far.. and looking forward to warmer weather and waters as we travel.

Take good care friends... Enjoy your family and friends over the Christmas season. 'till later.... Carolyn