Sunday, December 30, 2012

and so it goes… bye bye 2012

Hi all. It’s been some time since I’ve written.  I must admit it was hard to imagine what I could say that wouldn’t sound too sad, or too lonely, or too whatever… so like all good writers, I opted to say nothing.

But now, it’s December 30th and we’re one day away from welcoming in a new year. The dawn of 2013 gives us all an opportunity to welcome a new day, make a fresh start, do some of those things we always thought we should…  It’s a time for reflection too.  If you’re like me, you’ll understand when I say there are things that have happened over the past year that I hope to never forget… and there are things that happened last year, I wish I could undo. Unfortunately I can’t change a single thing… I can only learn from the experience and hope to grow from what I’ve taken in.

As you know we lost a good man, Kathy’s dad Ken; and another good guy, my dad Ted,  is having his challenges. Seems life’s like that - and so it will go one day for each of us. Until that day I am determined to keep moving forward.  There is so  much to see and so much to experience in this world, in this life. For me, the start of 2013 will be a time to ramp up my energy levels… pull myself out of this bit of a slump and get going.

Kathy will return to the good ship Shannon at the end of January and I hope, by then, to have her (the ship that is :-) all spiffed up and ready to go.  After a few days of whirlwind tours of Mazatlan (restaurants :-) we’ll be on our way. We’re hoping to visit at least a couple of anchorages before we turn our nose back towards La Paz.  We’re due back in La Paz by mid-March to prepare Shannon for her summer vacation in a La Paz shipyard.

So that’s our world in a nut shell.  Our heart goes out to friends, Dianne and Mary,  who have each recently lost a parent as well. 

And, we wish you a wonderfully good start to a fresh new year….

From all of us, to all of you..

Happy New Year everyone…

all the best in 2013.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Marina El Cid

Good morning. As a few of you have expressed concerns about my whereabouts, I thought I'd try and share a bit about where I'm at.  Sophie and I are safely ensconced at the El Cid Resort and Marina.  It's a beautiful place, with good marina facilities and a lovely resort.  Being 'residents' at the marina entitles us full use of both pools and hot tub, along with clean towels every day and access to laundry services and other such things. We're not suffering.

I've taken a few photos... a few of which have actually managed, I think, to find their way to this post...  We'll know for sure, once I publish.  I'm new at this so please be patient.. there are more to come and I'll do my best.

This pool we call the warm one.. generally about 80 degrees

This is the shallow end of the warm pool,
in case you just want to warm up your toes.
It also has a swim up bar.
Aqua-size, bingo, and other activities
are provided here daily.

A poinsettia garden...

Cactus garden at the hotel entrance

Now this pool is the cooler one.. only about 70.
It has water slides, a hot tub, and a cafe/bar.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


We lost a wonderful man on December 10th.  Kathy’s Dad, Ken, passed away suddenly.  He was a good man, a devoted husband, a loving father, a caring friend, and an understanding confidante.  He accepted me into his clan and loved me in his special way. He was an adventurer, like my own father, and I was honoured to have been included in the last 13 years of his journey. We will miss him every day.

Needless to say, the family circle is struggling. This was totally unexpected and the shock has only begun to subside. It will take time for each of the family members and close friends to heal and to learn to live with this loss. While Ken’s passing leaves very large and vacant holes in our hearts… as always, he has led the way down the path of graceful transitions.  Ken left his mortal world, after a good day and while enjoying his favourite view of Ladysmith harbour from his hot tub.

When we received the call, Kathy and I left Shannon and Sophie in the care of friends at the marina, and returned to BC. Ken’s services went well, in fact they were quite magnificent. The church and the reception hall were packed with friends and loved ones, all gathering in his honour and in support of the family. Ken would have been pleased with the love and support that flowed throughout this sad time and I am sure it will continue as the grieving process unwinds. 

Kathy will be staying with her mom and family until at least the end of January, and I have returned to Shannon where I will have time to get to know Mazatlan better, work on the varnish, my writing and my figure. We’ll revisit our cruising plans when Kathy returns but I expect we will likely return across the Sea and spend a few weeks in the islands north of La Paz before putting Shannon to bed in early April.

I want to thank all of you for following and supporting our journey and for sharing our ups and downs with us. I, Kathy and Miss Sophie wish all of you and your families, a wonderful and joyous Christmas Season. Be good to yourselves and ring in the new year with as much ‘umph’ as you can muster… make 2013 one for the books.


Sunday, December 9, 2012

The ups and the downs of it…

And I don’t mean waves…. or maybe I do.  The other day a friend of mine asked me tell her the truth about our cruising life, not the prettied up version, written for entertainment and so folks would know where we are… but the real stuff, the good and the bad.  And, as she was a good friend, and one I could trust to not blab all my inner secrets to the world at large…  I did.

Now, after a couple of days of contemplating what I confessed to her… some of my frustrations, some of my darn right toe-tapping ‘what am I doing here?’ days, I’ve realize that (with the exception of a couple of too scary to share stories) I’ve pretty much shared the good and the bad with all of you… just maybe in not quite so much detail as I related to my friend. And, thinking about that got me thinking about how there must be some days when I’ve really sounded like an ungrateful wretch.  You know, whining about the heat and not enough rain… And complaining about having to always be repairing things and working through maintenance procedures.  And, then there’s the wind… oh those nasty northers… and coromuels… and other such weather challenges.

So, for the record, and so I can clear my conscience… here comes a review of the ups and downs, the good, bad and ugly… of this way of life, from my perspective… just in case you’re interested.  If you’re not, please just move on and come back for the next episode of our continuing adventure on the good ship Shannon.

For the record on the ‘downs’:

Just for starters, I wish I could be two people.  The first of me would be enjoying this marvelous adventure and experience. I’d have no guilty conscience dragging my thoughts back to home and family and friends… I’d just be a free spirit, forging onward into the unknown and enjoying every minute of it.  The other ‘me’ would be at home, spending more time with my dad, my sisters, and my partners family and seeing a lot more of our friends, nurturing those relationships for the many years to come. I bet you can see the problem.  I can’t have it both ways.  I chose the compromise and am living with it… that being adventuring for half the year and being home for half the year. It’s definitely not guilt free, and it’s not the perfect solution, but it sure beats being only one of those me’s and wishing I was the other.

On the issue of boat size, you’ve heard me whine more than once about our lack of storage space.  That, unfortunately, hasn’t changed. We’re unloading what gear we can, but remain over-stuffed with all the things we need for this adventuring life… all squeezed into a boat that is, or at least feels, about 6’ too small. Despite her ‘Ma and Pa Kettle’ look, with gear piled everywhere… Shannon forges on like the great dame she is, and we do our best to not let her feel or see our frustrations.. moving gear back and forth every morning and night, just to go to bed or clear the couch. Needless to say, we don’t entertain much.. and when we do it’s mostly in the cockpit…  we can seat 6 out there… and we  just pass the food back and forth :-)

On the issue of time spent maintaining and repairing.  The common joke amongst cruisers is….  “it’s all about repairing your  boat in exotic places”.  While that isn’t all that funny :-(  it’s definitely true.  These good old boats don’t care where they are when they need your attention.  They just demand it without any thoughts to your own needs or desires. Nope, don’t show any compassion at all…. just let themselves fall apart whilly-nilly without any thoughts towards availability of parts, temperature ranges, weather challenges.. or available skill levels. That being said, these repairs would be needed whether you were moored at your local yacht club in BC or swinging on an anchor in a wee bit of paradise… so, hmmm, let’s see…. where would I choose to be while I sit and contemplate what I’ll need and how to make said repair(s)?  The good news is the cruising family (and it is a family) is filled with folks with many skills. We carry as many spare parts as we can, content in the belief that if we can’t fix it, someone we meet will be able to. Just like a family, cruisers help each other in so many ways. It’s humbling really… to be welcomed into such a warm and supportive group of folks. They’re great and we’ve made many friends who we will be in touch with for years. But let me not leave this topic without saying “yes, this is perhaps the most frustrating part of this life with a good old boat'”.  We do seem to be spending an inordinate amount of time working on our dear Shannon.  Not just to keep up with the neighbours, but to continue to try to bring her up to a nautically acceptable level of condition. It never seems to end. Everywhere I look, little jobs await me… when I finish one, I turn around and there’s another. I make lists, and then lists of lists (just like home) and I cross off what I get done… but in a world where the average temperatures are still higher than normal and the humidity will drop you to your knees some days, my work day is much shorter, and my list of still to do’s is much longer…. it is a tad frustrating. When we’re feeling sorry for ourselves, it’s because there doesn’t seem to be much time for ‘fun’. We haven’t been able to free our minds and our bodies to go seeking the fun times and the tours and the other stuff folks do in their spare time… We’re still hunting for time to call ‘spare’…manana.

For the record on the ‘ups’:

There’s one big one for me… and that’s the people. Not just the cruisers, and I’ll speak of them in a minute, but the Mexicans we have met everywhere we’ve stopped. Once I got over the fear of fierce looking fellows, many carrying very large guns, guarding everything from elementary school children in a military neighbourhood, to border guards and others who don’t seem to know the rule about not walking with your finger on the trigger… once I realized these guys aren’t really that scary and when they smile, their faces light up like the sun… I started to relax. Now they don’t look so different or so fierce.  Now they smile at me and respond to my somewhat halting spanglish when I wish them good morning, or good afternoon.  This morning I even tried a “how are you?” and it worked.. he answered. That’s when I got stuck.. but he didn’t seem to mind and he practiced his English and I practiced my Spanish while we fumbled through a couple more lines of greeting. We’ve met many Mexican families in the small fishing villages like San Evaristo and we’ll meet many more as we travel.  We have toys for the kids and it’s really fun to give.  We also have items for the men and women. We have been welcomed warmly where ever we have stopped.  Kathy does very well communicating with them.. and I, well I smile and nod a lot and they don’t seem to mind… probably think I have a speech problem or something… but we’re getting along.

As for the cruisers… what a family. Like other somewhat ‘extreme’ sports or lifestyles, we all have something in common… we’re here… in a boat… most of which we sailed from some distance…  Enough said. To have shared the experiences that we have – speaks volumes – and creates an immediate familial connection. Just like in life, you don’t get real close to everyone you meet, but of the folks you do meet, there are many who quickly become very close and dear… Common interests such as music, or fishing, technology, art, culture… you name it… these common issues create yet another plane upon which your friendships grow. Good or bad, there is also a lot of socializing.. Whether it’s a quick ‘sundowner’ on the dock or beach, or a full-blown pot luck appie party and jam session…  these get-togethers occur regularly and are great fun. We do have to be careful tho’. Their numbers can get out of hand and it’s easy to run out of food or ideas for food. As well we’ve found we want to limit our socializing a tad… it was kind of taking over and biting in to our alone and together time…

Wildlife, of the mother nature kind: All my words and all our photos will never be able to do justice to the beauty that is the Sea of Cortez. I could never have imagined the sea life and the majestic beauty of the Baja. To swim with whale sharks and sea lions, to be entertained by leaping rays, to swim with schools of tropical fish, to look deep into azure and turquoise blue waters, to even be able to select the exact piece of sand you’re going to plunk your anchor into.. to ‘paint’ with the spotlight at night – running it across the sea surface and having thousands of fish leap from the water in the path of the beam… to experience being surrounded by hundreds of frolicking dolphins and dozens of feeding whales… to fall in love with the full moon, night after night after night… and to thrill at the sight of a meteor racing through the atmosphere.. What more can I say? These things… the people, the nature, the lifestyle… is why we are here.

So, like so many things in life… there are some ups and downs to this cruising adventure. But the one main realization I have is that we would never be able to have this experience without going through the tough stuff first and as we go. There’s no exactly right time to go (age, career, family); there’s no exactly right size of boat to go in (24’ – 74’ they’re all out here); there’s no exactly right way to plan your courses and routes (it’s an individual choice); and there’s no exact formula for figuring out when you’ve seen enough, done enough, travelled far enough… (I guess we’ll know when we get there).

So that my friends, is my message this Sunday morning.  I wish all of you a day filled with peace and love.  Be good to yourselves… enjoy your families and friends. Hugs to you all…. CJ

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Great sailing, Boobies, and turtles… from Los Muertos to Mazatlan

We had a great crossing!  After spending several wonderful days in Los Muertos… swimming, snorkeling in warm (82 degrees) water,, fishing and generally enjoying life at anchor… it was time to go. The northerly winds were calming down and the seas (forecast to have been running at 5 second intervals) were laying down as well. We were to have 3 or 4 days of relatively calm weather which is exactly what we’d been waiting for. So, without further ado, we made ready to leave… and left. With the fleet of small boats (the dinghy and kayak) up on deck and all other gear lashed down.. we were back to looking like a travelling road show complete with Sophie the wonder dog and her famous mat.
When to weigh anchor: Now then, just to explain the timing thing… as to when to weigh anchor and actually leave. There’s kind of a formula that we use.  Most of us plan our voyages based upon the average speed we expect to travel, the distance we know we have to cover, the weather conditions we expect to encounter, and the precise time we need to arrive (given other factors like tide change, currents, daylight and darkness, and other navigational hazards).  It’s definitely not like hopping into your car and driving to the country.  Nope, there are more than a few things that have to be identified, researched and factored in to the first decision…. which is what time to leave. We’re a smallish boat and travel more slowly than others.  Given that we enjoy sailing comfortably (eg: without the leeward rails buried in the water and gear and crew being tossed about like loose ballast) we have a house rule out here…  we keep one reef in the main at all (well, mostly all) times. Over the years we've learned that Shannon sails very well lightly reefed in brisk winds. We've also learned that the wind and sea conditions here can change very quickly… they pay no attention to the forecasts at all, and do their own thing. So, all things considered, and unlike larger boats who figure they travel at an average of 5-6 knots, we use 4 knots as our average speed for working out timing for travel. Travelling at 4 knots, we worked out it would take us approximately 48 hours to cover the distance to be traveled – and we wanted to arrive at the entrance to the harbour just before the high slack tide. We did the math… and weighed anchor at 0930 hours on Saturday, December 1st.
It was a beautiful day, brilliant sunshine, crystal clear blue water, and a warm and steady breeze. We hoisted sail, came about to our intended course and headed across the Sea of Cortez…”Mazatlan here we come”.  We had a fabulous sail!  Averaged 6 1/2 knots over 10 1/2 hours! With reefed main and genoa!(there goes the timing :-) We ran from 1000 to 2045 hrs. on one tack with a steady wind and large but steady seas. It was the kind of day you dream of… the kind of sailing we usually get to experience in short spurts. Everything worked well… all systems were ‘go’. By quarter to nine that night the wind was backing off and the ride was getting kind of lumpy so we fired up the ‘iron genny’ and motor-sailed on into the night. Using the three hour watch system (3 on/ 3 off) we were kept company by the myriad of stars (including our favourite constellation… Cassiopeia), a half-full and still brilliant moon, and a few critters.
Boobies (not that kind :-) Now don’t get me wrong….  I’m a pretty critter-friendly kind of gal but even I have my limits. When the large brown sea birds and Masked Boobies start arguing over who is going to land on our tiny mast head… covered with sensitive and light-weight wind instruments… I get a little testy. And, when one large Booby decided to heck with the masthead, the solar panels make a nice landing strip….  well, I got out the fly swatter… and didn’t I look a bit silly climbing up the side of the stainless steel arch, waving about the tiny green plastic fly swatter.  So silly I guess, the bird just looked at me with a stupid look on his face…   Finally out of sheer boredom or in need of peace and quiet away from this mad woman with a fly swatter.. he took off.  Leaving me then with only moths the size of robins to duck and swat at… who knew humongous moths could fly that far out to sea? Well, enough said… everything settled down and the rest of the night was peaceful… we motor-sailed all night and into the next day as the winds died away to nothing and the seas flattened to glass. It was early the next morning when Sophie was heading up to use her mat, we (well she) realized there was someone living on our fordeck.  One young Masked Booby had decided he needed to rest and our little patch of fordeck was a good place to stop.  He was with us for several hours, only leaving when the swells came sideways and rocked us about a bit.
In the middle of the great blue sea: By mid-day on our second day we were travelling through the middle of the Sea; well out of sight of land and without a single other boat in sight.  We could have been in the middle of the Pacific, half way to Hawaii.  But we weren’t. We were in the middle of the Sea of Cortez, with flat, smooth warm water all around us, and no sight of other human life. You guessed it… off came the clothes, out went the life-ring on its floating line to act as a safety… and in we went… skinny-dipping in the Sea one at a time (so the other could mind the boat and watch for unwanted creatures of the shark-like variety.. this, of course, is assuming that sharks swim just below the surface like in the movies.. which, of course, they don’t… but if you blow past that bit, we had our lookout looking out… and really enjoyed the swim…  :-) After our swim and after lunch we carried on…. motoring on the glassy, slowly rolling sea.  On and on we travelled, one course, one destination… Mazatlan.
We were also delighted to see numerous sea turtles floating about; quite a few actually…  None were going anywhere fast (do they ever?) and all kind of gazed at us as we passed… and then carried on their way.
Oh oh:  It was my watch; Kathy was sleeping. The time was 2330 hrs. precisely.  Otto was driving (that’s Otto the auto-pilot… the auto-pilot that failed on us on our journey down the west coast…  the auto-pilot we had to replace in Ensenada because the cost of the one broken part was only $200 less than the cost of the entire unit… and you couldn’t buy just the one part anyway… the autopilot that couldn’t really handle the seas at the best of times….).  I digress, but only because I am so displeased with the Auto-Helm I purchased and had installed the year before we left…a Raymarine SmartPilot X-5. To continue, there we were, motoring on a flat calm sea on a windless night… and my ears picked up a whining sound coming from the  motor tube (which contains the motor and gear box) of the auto-pilot and within minutes the whole shebang ground to a halt. Now we’re not new to the routine of hand-steering (having hand-steered over half of the 2000 nautical miles we travelled last year) but oooooh, what a disappointment.  So much time and money spent on this auto-pilot already.. and it goes and breaks again !!  And, this time it breaks when we’re in the middle of the Sea of Cortez with over 12 hours still to go.  I called Kathy up and we reviewed all we could… she tested what she could … and then we just carried on, now one hour on and one hour off… hand-steering yet again.
We arrived at our waypoint, just outside the entrance to Mazatlan and the El Cid Marina, a couple of hours early and Kathy was able to contact Raymarine to discuss our current problems.  She and the tech guy agreed the problem was (again) the Motor Tube.  Unfortunately, while the equipment is still under warranty, being in Mexico practically nullifies the opportunity to use said warranty. Between finding an actual dealer (there’s one in PV), ordering the unit, shipping the unit, the potential customs fees (rumoured to be totally outrageous.. eg: thousands of dollars) and the time required for all this to happen… AND the fact I’m loathe to put one more nickle into this auto-pilot… turns out we’re kind of hooped… for now.
At 0930 hrs., exactly when we’d planned to arrive, we motored into the El Cid Marina and were warmly welcomed by Lynn and Debbie Greentree (SV Dolphin Tales) friends from our own yacht club. They had kindly arranged for a good slip for us (B 07) and after helping us tie up and giving us a brief rundown of all the great things to do at the El Cid, they left us to catch up on our sleep (always necessary after a couple of all-night runs).
Current status: You know, sometimes when you think you’re having a bad day… you need only look about to find someone who’s having a worse one. Dave, a friend from La Paz, and his crew Cheryl also sailed across the Sea (SV Free Spirit).  They were one day behind us. On that same day our auto-pilot gave up the ghost, their transmission followed suite.  They were forced to sail a great deal of the way.. in little to no wind. When they arrived on this side, they had to anchor outside the entrance.. no transmission = no motor = no manoeuvring in small spaces.  They’ll be coming in to the slip right beside us this morning (under sail and with small dinghies helping)… and we’ll be here to catch them. The good news?  Dave will get his transmission fixed. It’ll cost him, but there is a good mechanic here. More good news? Dave has a spare auto-pilot on board which he may be able to spare and that may work for us.  Still more good news?  Dave may be able to use our spare course computer (one of the brand new parts left over after we had to buy an entire unit to get a motor tube) on his current auto-pilot. Time will tell and we should know where we stand by the end of today or tomorrow morning.
A little time for fun:  Oh yes, it’s time for some fun.  We had dinner at the Fat Fish restaurant tonight (thanks for the tip George).  It was great. And tomorrow (er today) we get to take a free cooking lesson… cooking Marlin… and with free tequila.. how good is that??  And, did I mention, that with our slip rental at the El Cid Marina.. comes free use of two pools, one hot tub, morning yoga classes, aqua-size classes, free shuttles to town, clean towels, movie night under the stars twice a week, and all the pools and spa facilities at all El Cid hotels here… (there are four I think… beautiful hotels).  Not bad hey?
Well I think that’s enough updating for now.. sorry for the delay in writing but we had to get a few things organized before I could clear my mind. We’re doing well. Sure like the greenery here.. it reminds me of Maui.  Kathy has photos to post and will do so as soon as she can.
We hope all is well with all of you… think about you lots…  good luck with your winter weather…  California has sure taken a hit this past week or so. Stay warm… stay safe… write anytime.. we love to hear from you.  Bye for now…  adios..   CJ