Time Warp into Acapulco 2/7-12/2015

Hey, man, it’s the 60s all over again! Turquoise and pink and yellow, oh my! Many folks said don’t go to Acapulco, what with all the crime, plus it’s not cruiser friendly. Others disagreed with the nay-sayers, so with time to kill before Guitar Fest in Zihuatanejo what the heck, why not? Entering the bay felt like an instant time warp. Acapulco’s building boom must have been in the 60s and it hasn’t changed since!

Our 24 hour motor sail down was uneventful and included dolphin escorts, but thankfully no tankers or long-line fishermen. One dolphin even thought the hydrovane rudder was pretty cool. We were under sail at the time so it was engaged. I think he liked how Heidi tickled his nose as she made her little adjustments.

That relaxed feeling did a 180 when we reached Acapulco at sunrise. The cruising guide said we could anchor outside the main bay behind Isla de la Roqueta. We thought this would make sense since Google showed (mistakenly, as it turns out) the port captain, with whom we had to check in, located along the walk over the hill between the anchorage and the marinas inside the bay. We wanted to check in, get the lay of the land, and determine the feasibility of spending a few nights docked there. Wrong, wrong, and WRONG!

The sheltered areas of the island anchorages were so full of commercial moorings that there was no room to anchor. Maybe on the south side, but it felt cramped and rough. Fine, we’ll go anchor off the yacht club and marinas, and dinghy in from there. But THAT area was so twisted and jam-packed with mostly-occupied mooring balls and channel buoys that anchoring, or even picking our way through it, seemed impossible. We had no idea where we might tiptoe in to a dock since most everything was difficult med-moor style (anchor or mooring in front, stern tied to the dock), so switched to plan C. Which didn’t yet exist.

Our electronic charts showed no other anchorages and, because one chart was, I thought, an exact match to the page in the Heather and Shawn cruising guide, I didn’t actually go look in the book. Which did show one. There were NO other cruising boats anchored to give us a clue where to go. Luckily, info saved on my computer from a Southbound Yahoo net group discussion suggested a spot on the other side of the navy base from that missing anchorage. We beelined to it 3 miles distant on the far side of the bay – checking in be damned.

Naturally the choice area was occupied by day moorings in front of the tiny public beach, and we didn’t want to cozy up too close to the Mexican Navy base with the 600′ oil tanker med moored in front of it. Ha, imagine being able to anchor a few hundred feet from a US Navy base. Good luck with THAT! We dropped the hook in 40′ of water (usually we anchor in 10′ to 25′) just outside the moorings and breathed a sigh of relief.  The oil tanker pulled out shortly after our arrival, leaving us very glad it had been there to be taken into consideration for anchoring.

Well darned if this didn’t turn out to be a wonderful anchorage and we stayed for 5 of our 6 nights. We couldn’t even see the ocean, so no swell from any direction. The nighttime disco music was subdued and only on Saturday night, and there were no mosquitos. Civilization with stores and beaches for dinghy landing started just the other side of the navy base.

There were the usual jet skis and banana boats buzzing about – anchored boats seem to be magnets, giving them objects to buzz around – but you just hold on and wave as you rock and roll. Boats came and went from the moorings bringing a variety of entertainment. Fishermen cast nets for bait fish on the shore. Presumably since it was Saturday night, several locations around the bay, including one right next to us, celebrated our arrival with brief fireworks displays.

The port captain was actually FAR more conveniently located than we thought. I found another anchor spot on the west side, again from the Southbound Group discussion, and on Tuesday we dutifully headed over to find the port captain for check-in. And what to our wondering eyes should appear, but the port captain’s office astoundingly near! An easy dinghy landing at what turned out to be a pretty good restaurant with excellent internet, a walk across the street and up a block, spend 10 minutes, bang, done.

Determined to solve the yacht club/marina/mooring ball puzzle, we headed over to explore by dinghy. The Yacht Club and Marinas were decidedly NOT cruiser friendly and quite expensive. A guard at the Acapulco Yacht Club flatly said NO, there’s no place you can leave your dinghy to go talk to the office. If there even is an office to talk to.

At La Marina we made it to the office, but their price was very high and there were no showers. And no, there is no dinghy day-use option available. Should have thought to ask if they owned any of the mooring balls. But if there are no showers, and we wouldn’t want to make water in a less clean harbor, so what’s the point?

New Marina Santa Lucia was virtually all motor boats med moored to a very high concrete dock. We couldn’t even figure out how to dock the dinghy, much less Vivacia. Finally, I still can’t imagine where we could possibly have anchored. This place must have really filled in since the cruising guides were written. That or we’re just dense or chicken or both.

After our quiet nights over by the navy base, the all-night traffic noise here was a little jarring. But the worst was the mosquitos. Not even sunset brought them out on the east side and we paid the price for our complacency here on the west. It’s not that I mind a few more red sores on my legs. It’s just the burning like fire that makes me gouge the bites in the first place that I object to.

One can’t visit Acapulco without making the pilgrimage to the famous Quebrada cliff divers, so next morning off we went by bus and foot. We paid 200 pesos ($15) each for the best seat, the smallest piña colada, and the worst lunch but hey, it’s all about the show. Thankfully we were there quite early and treated to the unofficial pre-show. As if those guys aren’t nuts enough diving off the cliff, they joy ride in the ravine’s thundering waves to get warmed up!

The walk back to the 100% Natural Restaurant and our dink was only 25 minutes, heck with the bus. Determined to avoid another noisy, buggy night we upped anchor and headed back to our eastern anchorage, this time taking the scenic route close to shore.

What is it with us and tankers, anyway? Timing is everything, and ours couldn’t have been worse as another behemoth bore down between us and our intended anchorage. It was fun to watch them “spin” the tanker on its anchor to swing the stern into the shore for its med mooring position. Next morning that one left, and shortly thereafter another one arrived! Though we were really in no danger, as the bow swung around it felt close enough that Alan turned on the motor to ooch us a little farther away. It’s one thing to know that things on the water are farther away than they appear (opposite from that little sign on your convex rear-view mirror), but quite another to really believe it!

Our great plan to go ashore one more time disintegrated into laziness – you know, we gotta rest up for the big voyage tomorrow back up to Zihuatanejo. And launching the dink is sooo much work!

We definitely want to come back down here as there’s lots we didn’t do. It’s not cruiser friendly – we’re pretty certain we were the only ones there other than Dual Dragons just passing through. It’s so different from anywhere else we’ve cruised in Mexico: huge and crowded and busy. Unlike every other beach we’ve seen, this one isn’t lined with relaxing palapa restaurants. But there’s something that makes us want to do it all again. At night it’s magical, ringed by millions of glittering lights.  It feels good to say that now we’ve taken Vivacia from the Canadian border to Acapulco, a 2500 nautical mile (2900 statute miles) stretch of the Pacific coast.

The trip back up to Zihuatanejo was about the smoothest passage we’ve ever had for 22 of the 24 hours. The last two hours turned into 20+ knots on the nose, just to make us appreciate the preceding 22. We’ll be in rolly Zihuatanejo about a month through Guitar Fest in early March. We really got spoiled in Acapulco!

Posted in 2015A Winter on the Mainland, All Posts | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Thumb out to Hitchhike – Isla Grande, Ixtapa 2/2-5/15

I really don’t get what the whole rocking a baby in a cradle thing is all about. That motion is very uncomfortable! I suppose my engineer brother could tell me why it’s somehow different on a boat, something about fulcrums or pivot points, but I don’t know….Isla Grande anchorage isn’t tucked inside a bay. Rather, it’s hiding behind a tiny island. Similar to a bay, it has protection on three sides: The island, detached rocks, and Punta Ixtapa to the west and south, and the mainland to the east. But it’s open to swell from the north. During our stay the swell was quite benign, not a problem at all the first two nights as current held us facing into it. The last two nights an unfortunate land breeze turned us broadside. Rock-a-bye bayyybe….but we still had an amazing, unusual time there.

Dinghy davits (apparatus on the stern to lift the dinghy out of the water) would be a wonderful thing. However, we don’t really have room for them, they block the view astern, and they can be a bit ugly. So instead we carry our outboard motor on the stern rail and hoist the dink onto the foredeck using the spinnaker halyard. Hey, at least that halyard gets to see some action – it sure hasn’t been hoisting the spinnaker lately! It’s a two person process that takes about 20 minutes and a lot of muscle. Then at the end of each day we have to reverse the process as it’s not secure to leave it floating.

The thing about Isla Grande is it’s jam-packed with restaurants on gorgeous beaches, to which loads of tourists and locals are transported every day by water taxi and panga. So our brilliant idea was to hitch rides in and out to shore rather than mess with the dink. Not only would this save a lot of elbow grease, but it alleviated any worry over whether our little “car” would still be there waiting to take us home at the end of the day.

That first evening right after we arrived we noticed a dark blue panga with two little dogs in charge. Their person gave them a ride to the mainland, along with a few other people, then returned home to the island where he moored the panga and transported them to shore on a waiting kayak. We thought he had to be a nice guy and would try to flag him down the next morning.

Unfortunately the doggies must have been sleeping in because the panga never moved. Instead we caught the attention of what we thought was a taxi returning empty from the island, but was actually a local fisherman who proudly showed us his catch. He dropped us off at the taxi dock and we gave him 40 pesos ($3), which is the one-way taxi fare for 2 people. A short walk through the usual tourist souvenir gauntlet took us out to the bus stop. We wanted to check out Marina Ixtapa chandleries for the possibility of ordering in a new water heater plus marina rates for while we installed it.

Crocodiles are cool and prehistoric and would be fun to see in their natural habitat. But somehow visiting the crocodile preserves we’ve been near (the most recent being a few days ago in La Manzanilla), required just a little too much logistical energy. Enter Isla Grande. Waiting for a bus from Playa Linda to Ixtapa? Um, try turning around and looking behind you!

Getting to Ixtapa Marina required about a 15 minute bus ride, followed by a 20 minute walk (could have caught another bus). The chandleries were a bust, little more than a boat dealership and a hole in the wall overflowing with fuel filters and zincs. The marina didn’t make us want to stay there anyway – expensive and mainly power boats. Disappointed, we chose the lowest-end restaurant – which was still quite expensive – and settled in for lunch and internet.

Remember those nice little coincidences we’ve been having? You know, like where our friends Steve and Lulu were in Chamela, and Alan got to see Moonshadow, and we parked next to another Caliber 40 in Bahia Santiago?  So, we’re computing away at the restaurant and a couple of gringo guys happen by. A conversation ensues and it turns out one of them ALSO owns a Caliber 40. And not just ANY Caliber 40, THE Caliber 40, Rapture, on which I sailed for my first 3-day Coastal Passage Making class with Club Nautique in San Francisco. Recalling that sail was what made us feel confident about buying Vivacia despite not having managed to arrange a “test sail” for both of us – which actually would have been on Rapture.

We spent a couple hours with Greg and his friends John and Karen. Not only does Greg have GREAT taste in sailboats, but he’s a geophysicist as well! You know, that field in which I spent my career at Chevron and in which my daughter, also at Chevron, is currently working on her masters degree. How many of THOSE do you meet?! He’s down here checking out marinas for bringing Rapture down in 2 or 3 years.

Alan and I are Mac users, but for communications and navigational reasons have Windows on our Macs as well. I had forgotten to keep up with the constant stream of Windows 7 updates flung my way, so now was stuck trying to download and install 106 of them. As the process dragged on, time slipped away and if we weren’t careful our coach back to Vivacia was going to turn into a pumpkin.

Waiting and waiting, then realizing we must have missed the last bus, we finally grabbed a taxi back to Playa Linda, now waaaay too late to catch a water-taxi. The sun had just gone down and all was quiet, service having ended at 5. No sign of Pura Vida, commanded by the two doggies. One lone panga was loading up firewood and water down on the beach to re-supply Lili Cipriani, an island restaurant. He graciously picked us up at the dock and schlepped us to our swim step. They were happy with 50 pesos and we were happy and relieved to have made it home!

As darkness fell, who happened by but our doggie panga! We waved him over and made friends with Pele, Marinero, and their person, Joaquin. He spoke passable English, had lots of far-flung sea-faring experiences as professional yacht crew, and now owns the Siete Mares (Seven Seas) Restaurant on the nearby beach. He kindly agreed to pick us up at 11AM the following morning, making a special trip to take us over to Playa Linda.

At 11:20 AM a water taxi came by the boat. He said Joaquin wasn’t allowed to take us ashore but that he would, for 100 pesos. Pound sand, dude. A few minutes later Joaquin arrived with apologies for being late and took us to the little dock. He wouldn’t take money, saying “you are my friends”. I then realized I should have offered money out of sight of the water taxi guys, though he still may not have accepted it.

After parroting a slew of “no gracias” to the hawkers in vender row, and a quick hello to the friendly crocodiles, we hopped a bus to Zihuatanejo and spent the day checking it out and interneting on the 2nd floor of a restaurant overlooking the water. Sure beats a desk somewhere! The only other patrons had caught a fish which the restaurant prepared for them. They had too much so shared with us. Yummy!

Good time management apparently still not part of our bag of tricks, provisioning at the Bodega Aurrera took just a minute too long and we watched the Playa Linda bus pull away from across a busy divided street. Darn. It’s getting late again, there hasn’t been another one, we’re carrying lots of stuff, and here’s a hopeful taxi pulling up to the bus stop. Eighty pesos later (same price as the “special rate” from Ixtapa, much-closer, but the high-priced spread) we pulled up to the water taxi dock…at 5:05PM, no more taxis.

Great. Nearly deserted beach full of parked pangas. Sun going down. Who is that waving enthusiastically in our direction? Why, it’s our buddies from Lili Cipriani just finishing loading up. We’re saved again! Discretion winning out over pissing off the few still-present taxi guys unloading their final passengers, we boarded on the beach this time, only getting a little wet. Though I did try my darndest to lose my balance as a wave passed, and nearly fell ass over backpack into the water. Luckily I caught myself against the panga. Just call me Grace.

Much, much later and now pitch dark, who should appear but our doggie dad, Joaquin, and his wife Adriana. They had gone to the mainland to order take-out pizza and hung out with us, holding onto the back rail to stay in place, while they waited to go back and pick it up! His favorite? Hawaiian, same as ours. Man, you gotta really WANT it to go through two bouncy boat-rides in the dark to get it.

Next day he sent his panga out to pick us up at 1PM so we could eat lunch at his Siete Mares restaurant. A table was waiting for us on the beach, and server Mario took great care of us, recommending the specialty of the house and giving us all sorts of advice about our upcoming Acapulco visit. As Adriana cooked our delicious langosta-crab-shrimp-octopus-fish feast we checked out the other beaches on the island. I even splurged, indulging in a totally over the top piña colada.

At last it was time to take us back to Vivacia. Three younger servers, including the one who had come out to pick us up, accompanied us. They were thrilled when we invited them to come onboard for a look – which I’m sure was their hoped-for outcome. They delighted in taking pictures of each other looking nautical.

Later on Juaquin, who had been away in Zihuatenejo during the day, and Adriana came by to say goodbye. They came onboard and we had a nice farewell visit. Early the next morning, off to Acapulco!

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Playing in Traffic and other Twisted Games – Las Hadas to Isla Grande 1/31-2/2

Things were getting a little dull, so we thought we’d go play in traffic. All we wanted was to get far enough out to avoid the ubiquitous keel-catching long-line fishing gauntlet. Instead we managed a course right down the middle of the cargo ship freeway. Not that there’s much way to avoid it without really hugging the coast, especially around Punta San Telmo where many ships cut the corner.

Our first encounter saw us exiting, stage right, in order to skirt past a ship that suddenly was on the reciprocal of our course. But there was a bonus in being so close. We learned why dolphins like to play in front of our bow when we’re going 6 knots. (We’re too boring at 5, which is unfortunately our average, so they don’t stay long. They come racing in to play, roll their eyes at our slowness, and leave.) Anyhoo, turns out they are simply warming up for the big event: cavorting in the bulb wave of a cargo ship going 18 kts!

The breeze was fickle, mostly useless (light and from behind). Though, I must acknowledge our good fortune in having enough to sail on a pleasant close reach for a few hours. So poor lonely Heidi, our Hydrovane self-steering-while-sailing gizmo, finally got to briefly do her thing after 2 years of neglect. Sadly, for most of the 122 miles / 25 hours she observed from the sidelines while the thirsty motor and noisy autopilot got all the glory.

After a lovely sunset it was time for my kind of night sailing – when the moon is so bright you need to sit in the shade. It’s comforting when the sea and sky are more than just an amorphous black blob. Though the primary nighttime aids are still of course radar and AIS, which shows where all the ships are, where they’re headed, and, most importantly, how closely your paths will cross. PLUS, if ya sprang for the expensive (well, MORE expensive) one, it also shows THEM where YOU are!

Rather than go all the way to Zihuateneo, we opted for a rest day at tiny Caleta de Campos. This tiny bay is wide-open to the sea and swell, making it a pretty dicey proposition. Two attempts at deploying a stern anchor to hold our position perpendicular to the swell were failures. We have a lot to learn. Turns out success would have been ill-advised, since the local pastime seems to be buzzing closely astern anchored boats and they would not have been expecting that thin blue anchor-line occasionally (depending on how we swing) floating just below the surface for several yards.

Setting and retrieving said stern anchor also provided us with the opportunity to solve another looming known problem. It seems repeated lowering and raising of the main anchor gradually introduces massive amounts of twist into the anchor chain. As the first 150 feet are regularly used, and the chain can’t go out through the windlass if it’s twisted, the twist gets pushed back into the last 150 feet which becomes a knotted balled-up mess.

Weeelllll, to back down and retrieve the stern anchor the first time, after subsequently having gone just a lit-tle too far forward in not quite the right direction to drop the bow anchor, we had to let out nearly all of our chain. That took about an hour of heavy labor (chain weighs about a pound per foot) working the twist back through that 150 ft piled in the bottom of the chain locker and off the end that normally stays attached to the boat. Thank goodness my crew is a big strong manly man! Can you spell ibuprofen?

To complete our fun day of rest, Alan changed the engine oil and I cleaned the floors. Lunch, such as it was, happened at 4pm. Thanks for the travel break, but next time I think I’d rather just keep going for another overnight at sea.

For the next leg to Isla Grande, (at Ixtapa just north of Zihuatenejo), we started out at oh-dark-thirty in order to arrive in daylight. Near the start we had to cross the shipping lanes in and out of Lazardo Cardenas. Crossing shipping lanes feels a little like trying to run across an Interstate. It doesn’t matter how few ships come by during that time, you are guaranteed to have to dodge at least one of them. 200 feet may be a long way on a football field (Congrats New England Patriots) but when the AIS says you’ll cross each other that closely, that’s too close for comfort! So once again, evasive maneuvers were required.

At long last we pulled into beautiful Isla Grande, a welcome sight indeed. The very unusual time we had there is a subject for the next installment.


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Cold Feet and Cold Showers – Melaque, Bahia Santiago, Las Hadas 1/27-30/15

When the palm trees have their skirts blowing over their heads, and it’s a crosswind in a tight slip, AND you need to re-dock at the fuel dock, sometimes cowardice is the better part of valor.  As I mentioned in the last installment, we got cold feet about leaving Barra so frittered away the scary wind, believing the prediction that it would soon diminish.  It finally died a BIT and we managed to safely exit our slip with a little help from a couple marina guys. Alan says our bowsprit missed that piling at the end of the dock finger by at LEAST six inches, but I was glad for the help standing by.

The strong-wind-blowing-off-the-fuel dock landing wasn’t pretty, but it was safe and we successfully managed to spend a few hundred bucks on 300 “liters” of gas. Ah, for those low prices you folks in the US of A are enjoying. In Mexico not only have government-fixed prices remained high, it also includes the normal, though variable, “oh, you expected a WHOLE liter????” tax. That, or our tank just got a bit bigger. The day had passed us by so we crossed the small bay to Melaque for a mildly rolly night and a leisurely start south the next windless morning.

Would that we had the wind we squandered yesterday. Actually SAILing our SAILboat looked promising for awhile and we enjoyed a gentle close reach with a following sea for an hour. But then the wind gods said “hey, where were you YESTERDAY?” and shut off the fans.

A pleasant 30 mile ride was still had by all, pausing for the night in the extremely well protected from swell but open to a cool evening breeze anchorage at Bahia Santiago. Ah, cervesa and guacamole in the cockpit. What could be better? Not having to spend a day here trouble-shooting the latest problem, THAT’s what!

Why the heck has the water pump started running every couple of minutes even though we’re not using any water? Long search short: the water heater has now chosen to warm the bilge instead of the dishes and people. Would that it could have just been a leaking hose fitting. But neeewwwwww, that would be too easy, available, and inexpensive. And naturally, the day wasted on trouble shooting the leak, bypassing the water heater, and removing said offensive object, was a gloriously windy day that would have been perfect for sailing south. As it was, it just made the awning flap annoyingly.

First the head, now the water heater. Problems that involve water on a boat are not good. And this time I don’t think I’m going to be able to chat up a random person and score a water heater. So off to Las Hadas, just around the corner in the next bay over, in search of internet and water heater info.

The result of that foray was the decision to wait until La Paz. Luckily I have a little solar shower so providing I:  A. Manage to leave it in the sun all day and B. remember that I have done so BEFORE taking a cold shower (don’t ask), then cleaning off the day’s humidity is a little less startling. Alan deigns to use it, claiming a preference for water pressure over warmth. I think he doesn’t want to look like a sissy. Maybe he really LIKES balancing on the narrow swim-step. No hay problema! More warm water for me!

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Tenecatita, La Manzanilla, Barra – Jan 17-28, 2015

Next stop after Isla Cocinas was Tenecatita 30 miles south, and yet another nice little coincidence. You know it’s a good omen when you pick your heading into a huge, crowded anchorage and unwittingly beeline it straight for another Caliber 40 LRC! Now, Calibers are special, even if we do say so ourselves. There are only about 200 Caliber 40s in existence so when you see one, you are drawn to make contact. We’re a little cult of fanatics in love with our boats. So when I called SnowAway on the radio, his response back was to “that beautiful boat calling SnowAway”. Sadly, they were just leaving the next morning but we had a nice radio chat and will most certainly end up somewhere in the same anchorage again.

Our plan in Tenacatita was to do the 2 mile dinghy exploration through the mangroves as described in the Heather and Shawn cruising guide but, sadly, it had been closed off and all the little businesses at the far end closed down due to land disputes. Shucks. We didn’t go ashore – too lazy to put the dink in the water just to see a few restaurants and a fancy resort. We could hear their loud music just fine from the anchorage, thank you very much.

La Manzanilla a couple miles across the bay was the only place to find internet and a cute little town to boot. Next day we putted over and anchored for some shore time. As good luck would have it, we pulled the dink up right in front of tiny Guacamole Grill with the best internet we’ve seen in mexico, awesome ceviche Acapulco style, and a super nice proprietor who welcomed us for as long as we wanted to stay. Typical Mexican hospitality.

After a bit of a rolly night – this isn’t the popular side of Tenacatita Bay in winter because there’s little protection from the northerly swells – we braved the endless 15 mile journey to Barra de Navidad where we let the head games begin. Luckily that wasn’t the ONLY thing we did there. Barra is a cute little totally tourist town accessible from the marina only by water taxi, and a short bus ride away from the slightly less touristy town of Melaque where we could do some provisioning.

Another missed photo opportunity: Alan with a backpack, 6 shoulder bags, and a case of beer under each arm. Probably because I had a few bags of my own. The sequence goes: Walk, taxi, water taxi, dock, cockpit, galley, now what the hell do I do with it all? None of this car-garage-kitchen-pantry-megafridge easy stuff here, no siree, it’s the boating life for me!

Next morning we checked out of Marina Puerto de la Navidad, but sat at the dock waiting for the unusually strong (timing is everything) wind to die as predicted (good luck with that). We were chicken to leave the slip and make our way to the fuel dock in this unfortunate crosswind (and we were cross about it) direction and velocity. Cluck cluck. Next stop was supposed to be Bahia Santiago near Manzanillo, but we ended up just going across the bay in front of Melaque for the night. This is Mexico, you know, so mañana for actually leaving was just fine.

Next stop, Bahia Santiago

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La Cruz, Puerto Vallarta, Chamela, Isla Cocinas, 1/1–19/15

The best way I can think of to start the new year involves water, warmth, boats, and best of all, my daughter Julia! She and her friend, Falene, spent just over a week with us in La Cruz. The highlights of sailing, whale spotting, zip lining, exploring Puerto Vallarta shops and art galleries, Sayulita, and fine dining at Frascati’s were punctuated by multiple visits to our beloved Tacos on the Street. As was the case two years ago, the garden view cottage at Casa Baku was the perfect guest and relaxation venue.

Alas, all too soon they had to leave. But one thing about this cruising life, the end of one adventure simply begins another. Our venturing south of Puerto Vallarta was delayed in 2013 by crewing on the Puddle Jump, and then in 2014 by our sweet Mimi’s cancer. Enter 2015 and we’re finally on our way south! Hopefully some of you have been following our progress on the DeLorme. What a wonderful new (for us) device that is!

First stop, the beautiful Bahia Chamela. We had a new, fun experience thanks to a nice little coincidence. For years we have followed the blog of cruisers-turned-RVers Steve and Lulu Yoder. Our first night in Chamela happened to coincide with their last in a bayside RV park there. We joined them for beer can races at the hoppin’ RV park. And here we thought beer can races had to do with sailboats after work on a Wednesday night. HA!  Nope, more like decorated cans, dice, puttin’ your money where your mouth is, and making lots of noise.

Another lovely coincidence was when the sailing yacht Moonshadow put out a general invitation for happy hour that evening. Alan said no way, I said yes way, we’re being social. Lo and behold it turns out to be this gorgeous Deerfoot 62 whose blog Alan had followed years ago when our cruising idea was new. It had different owners, was doing amazing things, and Alan had always wished he could go aboard because Deerfoots were seriously cool. He should listen to me more often, eh?

Remember Hurricane Odile? Worst hurricane in Baja history, crunched many boats, cost insurance companies lots of money. So this January is a BAAAAAAAD time for your insurance policy to come up for renewal, especially if said company is Pantaenius. You came through unscathed, right? Tough. We’re nearly tripling your rate and essentially eliminating named-storm coverage for anything but a total loss by making the deductible 25% of the insured value (compared to 2% for a normal claim). Seriously?

So here we are in a pretty internet-free zone and what should have been an easy renewal becomes a search and application process for new insurance. Luckily our good buddies Mike and Judy on sv Milagro steered us to Twin Rivers insurance. Over the next three days in Chamela we were able to acquire a new policy for a slightly LOWER premium, the same coverage amount, and only a 10% named storm deductible underwritten by too-big-to-fail AIG. The only downside is Pantaenius had no deductible on lightning strikes where AIG has the standard 2%, but you can’t have everything. Half that difference would be eaten up by the higher premium.

Mind you, this meant at least one trip a day ashore in the dinghy, through the surf, then a 10 minute walk into the tiny internet/video game place in the tiny town of Pérula.  It’s only open in the morning or at Mexican 5PM. That just means never BEFORE 5PM. We sat on the curb waiting a lot.

For surfers, those waves rate less than a sneer. But for dinghyers carrying computers, they were terrifying and required precise timing of large vs small sets, and when to give it the gas going in or jump in and row like hell going out. One time the boat ended up full of water, but luckily still right side up. Rookies. Plastic dry bags are such a wonderful thing.

From here Murpy’s Law takes another gentle jab. Snorkeling hasn’t been all that great in Mexico. We’ve been spoiled by the Carribbean, French Polynesian, the BVIs, etc. So after moving just across the bay to Isla Cocinas I hopped in for our snorkel along the shoreline MINUS my underwater camera for the first time ever. Needless to say, the sun rays streaming through the rocks around the shoreline, framing the undulating schools of thousands of tiny fish, were amazing. Ah well. How about a fish doodle instead?

Next day we explored around Isla Cocinas and its neighbor Isla Pajarera by dinghy, landing at a beach around on the southeast side. This time I took my camera and did manage a few gawgeous pictures. So I’ll end here with these and pick up with Tenacatita in the next installment.

Wish I could have gotten caught up – but Tenacatita and Barra (other than the head rebuild) will have to wait for the next time we find internet!

Posted in All Posts | 2 Comments

Oh Poop! Head Games in Paradise

Ah, paradise, the Wyndham Grand Hotel Isla Navidad, with full pool etc. privileges and friends nearby. What could be better? So HOW have we been spending our time?

It seems the head has a little item called a joker valve that, when it becomes a joke, can make your life miserable. It’s the little rubber gizmo that lets liquid flow in only one direction. Until it can’t any more, at which time it lets stuff flow in two directions. Into, and then right back out of, the pipe to the holding tank, and therefore back into the potty. TMI?

Hmmm. Must be something stuck in it, plus it HAS been 6 years. No problem, it’s easily replaced. Not a pleasant job, but certainly doable. It’ll probably take longer to empty the lazarette (or is it the quarter berth?) to get to the new valve than to actually replace it.

Weeelllll, I have no pictures of what the valve, macerator, and their immediate surroundings looked like. I couldn’t bring myself to take any. Suffice it to say, those who assured us that fresh water heads don’t grow all that cruddy scale that plagues salt water heads were WRONG! Yes, the valve was shot as expected, but with all the crystalline growth clogging the hoses they needed to be removed and cleaned out as well.

Cleaning is frequently done for salt water heads by beating the hoses senseless on the dock to loosen up the crystals so they fall out, then re-installing. So we’re lucky we haven’t had to in 6 years, but our reprieve had definitely run out.

Alan ended up removing the entire toilet from the mounting in order to disassemble and clean things. The big problem along with all the calcification was Caliber’s bright idea to put a section of PVC from the toilet forward to the front of the holding tank. There it connects to a hose running up the outside to a Y-valve leading into the tank.  We love Caliber, but WHAT were they THINKING?

I mean, how are you going to get that out of there without cutting it? And we had no idea how serious the calcification was, or for how far into the pipe and hose it extended, so just putting it all back together was not a good long term option. No problem, just buy some sanitation hose to replace them both. Helloooo, we’re in tourist Mexicooo. Local wisdom said good luck with that, even if you took a bus into Manzanillo 30 miles away.

Alan tells the next part: “Dear, sweet, social Elizabeth to the rescue. Returning from a shower, she just happened to chat up a passing gringo who turned out to be the captain of an 80-ft motor yacht here. He had just brought down a bunch of 1-1/2” sanitation hose from the U.S. to re-do all five heads on his boat. (I guess he’s the engineer and the captain. The boat is a classic woody, built in 1961 in Costa Mesa, CA and originally owned by the Nordstrom family up in Seattle. Now she’s owned by four families from Newport Beach.) Anyhow, he told her to have me measure and add a foot. Perfect! I even have 15 inches left to pad the dinghy transom when it’s tied down on the deck.”

While Alan was doing all the really dirty work, I spent a couple hours scrubbing the previously unreachable grunge out of the nooks and crannies of the bowl and base.  A fun time was had by all. Yeah, that’s it.

Now that we’re back to normal on the head front, it’s on to other projects so we can continue south. I’ve been meaning to tell about one project in particular that is only partially finished, but is quite a lifesaver even in its present form. It’s the awning that stretches from the mast to the front of the bimini and keeps the hot Mexico sun at bay.

After years of procrastination due to lack of a clue about what to do, I got the design idea from another cruiser and Alan, with tons of help from Kimberley and a little from Garth and me, put it together. It works kind of like a horizontal shower curtain so is very easy to open for shade or close for getting underway or during storms.

OK, now, where’s that swimming pool?

Happy Birthday Linda! Love You!



Posted in 2015A Winter on the Mainland, All Posts | 5 Comments

The Baja 2000 – La Paz to San Diego and back, Nov.17 – Dec. 18, 2014

Baja California’s version of Route 66 is the consummate long and winding road. It is white-knuckle narrow, occasionally shoulder-less, mudded, flooded, or construction-detoured onto miles of washboard dirt.

But the drive also dishes out some serious geographic and geologic eye-candy. Alan had driven the 1000 miles 5 times, wanted me to see it, and finally found the following perfect recipe for sharing this sweet treat with me:

In a large, generously-loaned bowl…er, pickup truck (thank you Geri and Brett of mv Avalon), combine generous portions of said eye candy with the need to:

Replace 4 fried boat batteries (see previous post),
Devour 1 San Diego roast Turkey with family,
Indulge in 40+ British Virgin Islands coconut rums on a catamaran charter with friends,
Replace 2 expired drivers licenses in Las Vegas,
and Torture ourselves with 10 doctor visits.

Bake for 1 month. Remove from the oven just in time to:

Install new batteries (no easy task as they weigh 130lbs each)
Provision and Prep Vivacia for sea (2 days)
Sail to Marina Riviera Nayarit in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle (5 days with 3 stops)
and Pick up daughter, Julia at Puerto Vallarta airport on Dec. 28

Our schedule was ambitious, breaking all the rules against tight scheduling when sailboats are involved. Thankfully with some serious luck and bullet-dodging, we pulled it all off and I’m writing this in La Cruz, having just finished a wonderful, too short, visit with Julia and her friend, Falene.

The BVI 10-day charter was amazing and I hope to do a post soon (though internet will be a challenge for the next 3 months), but this post – mostly told in picture captions – is devoted to the did-not-disappoint drive up and down the Baja.

Poor Alan has done the 1000 mile trip in 1 day to transport a sick friend to the border, and 2 days to help transport Garth’s new car down from Canada (Boys’ Road Trip!), but never in the relaxed 3 days we planned in order to stop and savor the sweet geology. Overnight stops would be at Las Casitas, in Santa Rosalia and Baja Cactus, in El Rosario.

North of Santa Rosalia is where the really serious geology begins, including steep mountain climbs, sweeping vistas, and crumbly lava flows. One of the most amazing places was miles and miles where mountains of huge granite boulders from ancient volcanic batholiths littered the landscape. It was great fun to stop and explore here.

We stayed the second night up, first night down, in El Rosario – a tiny town close enough to the border to allow for a daytime arrival going up and less night driving in the rain after our late start heading south.

Little did we know when we transported some broken down motorists to El Rosario for help, that we were dangerously close to becoming a casualty ourselves. Immediately on reaching San Diego Alan commented on a strange noise he began hearing under the hood. Long story short, the water pump bearings were so far gone that the fan blades were this close to boring into the radiator. When Alan asked the mechanic whether he could run to Home Depot before leaving the truck, the answer was “I wouldn’t!”

We had a little more trouble on the way home, needing to scrounge some wire to silence a loud rapid banging, but overall – despite carrying home nearly a ton in a half ton pickup – we were happy to have an uneventful trip and enjoyed watching our faithful truck turn over 200,000 miles on the odometer.

Tomorrow we set sail from Puerto Vallarta, heading south. Our furthest destination is Zihuatanejo for guitar fest in March. After that we’ll be heading north for La Paz. Internet will be an unknown quantity, which is one reason we switched to the DeLorme instead of the SPOT tracker since it has 2 way messaging capability. Links to the DeLorme are in the sidebars of this blog as well as the tracking page.

As always, though I may not respond, thanks to you all so much for reading, commenting, and following our adventures.

Posted in 2014D Fall in La Paz, All Posts | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Shake Up on the Shake Down

But first, thank you dear friends and family for all the thoughtful blog comments and emails after hurricane Odile. If you are interested in more about our experience, there’s an interview with us and pictures we took in the November issue of Latitude 38. You can read it by clicking on the link above. It’s in the Changes section near the back of the magazine.

Now, It’s all about the voltage. Ya gotta have it if ya want power, water, refrigeration. We always used to say “It’s all about the Cat”, but since our beloved Mimi is gone, the batteries have kindly stepped into the role of attention-demander.

This power grab happened on our week-long shake down cruise. You know, where you turn the boat upside down and see what gremlins shake out BEFORE heading over to the mainland for the winter.

It all started out nicely enough, meeting up with Irish Diplomacy Garth and Kimberley in El Cardoncito anchorage on Isla Partida, 4 hours north of La Paz. Sounds far away, but don’t forget we only move at about 6mph. Good friends, good food. Good cards, good stars. Good to be away from the dock at last. OK, we had managed 2 nights away last week, but that happened so fast we blinked and it was over.

As if hurricane Odile wasn’t enough, hurricane Vance was churning his way over to the mainland, passing just south of Cabo. So the next couple nights we holed up a little farther north in San Evaristo. It offered good protection from the monster seas built up by strong north winds rushing down the Sea towards Vance.

Next stop, Los Gatos (The Cats). When we lost Mimi we thought we would scatter her ashes here. But we were stopped by 2 things. First, we kind of like having her little jar sitting on the dresser draped in her pink harness (Hey, I see you rolling your eyes). Second, our pristine, geologically spectacular anchorage had been invaded by a swarm of kayakers complete with tent camp and chase boats. And we don’t like to share! 😉

My (and maybe Alan’s too) mistake was mentally commenting how well things were going with Vivacia.  On the next leg north Alan un-pickled the water maker to see if our too-long year and half inactive time had damaged the membrane at all. We had to motor-sail against strong north wind and seas so theoretically had plenty of juice to run the thing. Wellll, it would only run at about half the needed pump pressure and water output before ceasing production altogether. Not good.

When we finally anchored and shut off the engine at Bahia San Marte, just south of Agua Verde and about 90 miles north of home, we noticed a disturbing odor. It was like a cross between diesel and sea life rotting in an old filter. Alan opened the lazarette to investigate and was greeted with well above normal heat as well. Definitely not good. But we had been running the engine hard against the waves, plus loading it with the water maker, so still didn’t quite get clued in to a major problem.

Our wake-up call came after dinner, watching “Game of Thrones”, when a very loud alarm pierced our little world, offering no visible explanation or means of termination. Alan thought to switch our battery monitoring system from it’s happy, apparently misleading, charge-percentage view to a verrrry unhappy actual-voltage view. Trust me, seeing the voltage on your just-charged house batteries showing below 11 is NOT a good feeling. For those who blissfully need not worry about such things, full charge is about 13, minimum before recharging after a couple days of use – not hours – is 12, and under 11 is pretty close to dead.

OK, turn everything off, including the fridge, and fire up the generator. Uh oh, the inverter, which is required to feed the batteries via the generator, refuses to come on. Dead as a doornail. Not even a warning light. Remember, the alarm is still blaring. Next, fire up the engine which feeds the batteries w/o the inverter. After a couple hours we still couldn’t get the voltage above 12, but mercifully at some point the alarm did give it a rest.

The rest of the night was spent trying to conserve what little power we had. No lights, including the anchor light (yay solar charged garden lights), no water pressure (yay fresh water foot pump), no electric toilet (no comment), no fridge. Right before bed we fired up the engine again to run the fridge for a little while, but now it wouldn’t come on either. This is all a perfect example of why the battery that starts the boat engine is completely separate from the three interconnected “house” batteries.

Next day was a 40 mile “downhill” motor sail to Punta Salinas, across from San Evaristo. All day running the engine barely charged the batteries, so we anticipated another powerless evening and night.

In the dead quiet of finally having an anchorage with no wind or waves, I stuck my head in the hot smelly lazarette (“why?” you might ask) and emerged with the question…”If everything is off, what is that sound? It’s like buzzing and gurgling!” Now, finally, we get it – that ominous sound is a seriously overheated AGM battery emitting acid and fumes! And we’ve been trying to force more juice into it for 2 days!

With visions of fire, explosion, and asphyxiation dancing in our heads, Alan donned a scuba regulator and went down into the lazarette to disconnect the rogue battery. And what d’ya know, the gurgling stopped and the remaining 2 house batteries happily charged up to nearly 13 using the generator via the revived inverter. The fridge came on – the chicken was saved! We are optimistic that the as yet un-retested water maker will behave normally as well. This boat is a constant learning curve!

In the morning we high-tailed it 50 miles home a couple days early, having added battery research to our already too-long list to accomplish before driving north next week. Guess what we’ll be bringing back with us? 4 new batteries at $500+ each. Further demonstrating the true definition of a boat as a hole in the water into which you pour money. Not to mention time, blood, sweat and tears! Well, we try to minimize the latter.

Next stop, driving to San Diego for Thanksgiving. Then flying to the British Virgin Islands for a catamaran charter with good friends Kathy and Dave. After driving back to La Paz we’ll do final preparation, including installing new batteries, for a week before sailing to Puerto Vallarta for New Years with daughter Julia and her friend Falene.





Posted in 2014D Fall in La Paz, All Posts | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

Farewell, Guenter

A beautiful song, a stunning day, a touching farewell for a gentle soul. After a brief sharing of Guenter stories, his two sons and a fleet of friends escorted Guenter out to his mooring one last time and released his ashes. I hope you’ll watch my short music video full screen with the sound turned up.

Posted in 2014C Summer in La Paz, All Posts | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Hurricane Odile…Another Hole in Our Hearts

Drive 60mph and stick your hand out the car window. Feel the tremendous force. Now drive 120mph, if you dare, and do the same thing. The force isn’t just doubled. It’s increased exponentially. Now, stick a whole city or two and a bunch of boats out that window. Welcome to the tragedy of Hurricane Odile.

Even moored at the dock in relative safety, the night was long and terrifying. Our railing dipped under the edge of the dock several times as violent gusts pushed us broadside and a few things inside went airborne. Outside the town and anchorage were being ripped apart. The following video gives you a little taste of the sound as you watch satellite footage of the storm. It also tells of the loss of Guenter on sv Princess, a cherished fixture in the La Paz cruising community for the last 28 years. We also lost Paul and Simone on sv Tabasco II. We didn’t know them personally, but good friends of ours are devastated.

As I write this Alan is helping pull boat number 14 off the beach. It’s grueling, dangerous, wet work. The video below gives you a taste. I was out there helping/videoing during the first three re-floatings, and Alan managed to get a little video of the next four in-between handling lines and getting wet. Meanwhile I spent many days working as part of “net control” coordinating rescue and recovery efforts.

Many others of the 35 beached or sunk boats can’t be rescued so easily and will need expensive professional salvage operations with dredges and pumps. These boats are people’s homes. And then there are dozens more capsized and damaged or destroyed at the Atalanta boat yard, which takes no responsibility for the inadequately braced boats. Please consider donating towards the recovery of our cruising community through the GoFundMe  Club Cruceros hurricane fund.

On Friday we said farewell to Guenter, his two sons releasing his ashes at the site of his mooring. After telling Guenter stories – which were numerous and funny – at the Clubhouse, the dinghy fleet headed out for a final farewell. It was a sad but beautiful tribute to this incredibly clever, funny, loving friend and his canine companion, Fritz.

If we had it to do over we’d drag Guenter kicking and screaming into the dock before the storm. Nobody had any idea it would be like this. We just weren’t thinking, so caught up in our own preparations.

I may do another post with more pictures, but for now, I’m done. Hug your loved ones. Our dear family and friends, we love and miss all of you.



Posted in 2014C Summer in La Paz, All Posts | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

Dusting off the Foulies – Hawaii to San Francisco

Alan just can’t get enough blue water sailing, so how could he possibly resist an invitation to sail from Honolulu to San Francisco? Especially when that invitation came from our good buddy, Mike, of Caliber 40 Red Sky fame. Loyal readers may recall he and Val visited us in La Cruz back in January 2012.

Best friends Red Sky and Vivacia enjoying San Francisco Fleet Week 2009 from Ghiardelli Square

Best friends Red Sky and Vivacia enjoying San Francisco Fleet Week 2009 from Aquatic Park (in front of Ghiardelli Square).

Anyway, it seems there was this ROWING race from California to Hawaii and the San Francisco based Jeanneau 49 Sun Odessy Galen Diana was a chase/rescue boat. Though the words race and chase don’t really seem to fit with the word rowboat, but who am I to say….Once the race was finished it was time to bring her home. Lucky for Alan, one of the crew dropped out and Mike naturally thought of Alan as the ideal replacement!

L-R Carl, Alan, Mike, Rod already having WAAAAY too much fun!

L-R Carl, Alan, Mike, Rod already having WAAAAY too much fun!

It’s been a long week waiting for our limited SPOT tracker to finally get in range, but as of last night we are no longer dependent solely upon emails for position reports. Follow their progress by clicking here, then zoom out or it won’t look like much. From the emails we’ve received, they’re having fun and eating lots of fish.

First email from captain Rod Mayer Thurs, Aug 21):

Hello all,
We are on day 4 at 0800 our position is 27.39.279 N / 157.11.329W. Weather
has been great! Winds have leveled out to an average of 12–18kts and seas
1-3 currently. We have sailed over 456nm with an average speed of 7.6kts.
our best day to date was 194nm ave 8.1kts in a 24hr period. Sea temp 77/Air
82.We have caught so much fish we have had to stop due to lack of freezer
space. Mahi Tacos last night. (Thanks Mike). Everyone is doing great (really
good crew to be with)…

Email Aug 22:

We are going to maintain a northerly heading C-000C/006T until we get up
near the high. We are averaging 2-3 lats per day and with the wind we have
now and grib forecast trends we should do more like 3 per day. This will put
us at Lat-38 sometime Monday as long as conditions permit.
Seas are relatively smooth with swells 1-2 and winds at 12-14kts. Air 82/sea
79. BP 1021. Clear skies day and night w/ some clouds and midnight squalls
lasting 2 seconds.
Having fun and eating well. Great sailing!

Email yesterday (Sunday):

Sunday, August 24, 11:00 Hawaiian time. As of 08:00 today we have sailed
944nm of which 181nm the last 24 hours. Our position is 35.06.613N /
155.49.380W C-000T/351C. It has been partly to mostly cloudy today with
winds from 10-24kts and increasing seas to 3-6. Sea temp 76, air 85.
Yesterday afternoon I brought in a Mahi Bull that we made in to sushimi
followed by pizzas.
Our average speed today is under 7kts after a night of 8-9.5kts on ave. We
may fall short of Lat 38 by 0800 tomorrow but our plan is to skirt the high
at or within 45nm of our current longitude. We most likely will start our
turn at Lat 40-42 and head east over the high then reach back down towards
SF by Tues-Wed (sept 3).
Everyone here sends their love and all looking forward to seeing you all soon.

I’m sure Alan will be a little sad shortly after the thrill of sailing back in under the Golden Gate Bridge (something we certainly NEVER thought he’d do again) since it will mean the voyage has nearly ended. But what we now know, especially after our Puddle Jump last year, is that the next great adventure is right around the corner!

We’ve had a good summer in La Paz and elsewhere. My goal is to publish a Summer 2014 blog post sometime before it becomes Fall!


Posted in All Posts, Other Fun Stuff | Tagged | 7 Comments

The Hole in Our Hearts

Today I opened a can of tuna. For the first time in 25 years there was no kitty…no InkSpot or Pinky, no Freon or Oreo, no Alex or Ivan…or Mimi, with whom to share that yummy overabundance of “packed in” water. Now I’ll just be annoyed that they’ve increased the water and decreased the tuna so the weight stays the same. Once I stop crying, that is.

That evil cancer has stolen away our beloved precious little Mimi. Following a few weeks of worrisome but not alarming decline, on Sunday everything changed and by Monday morning, May 12, the compassionate choice was to let her go.

We are blessed to have had this sweet little soul share her life with us. We became addicted to the gentle heart-tug that happened whenever she looked us in the eye and opened her mouth with a sometimes-silent hello meow, or stopped to lean up against our leg until we patted her, or cuddled close on the couch or settee, or pushed up for a “you’re mine” head-bump against our foreheads. Her tiny, chirp-like, seldom-used meow was so endearing I was often tempted to step on her tail (gently, of course) or withhold dinner in order just to hear it! Tail-stepping happened much more frequently on the boat, accidentally of course!

In Mimi’s healthy years she was always there to greet us when we opened the door or companionway hatch, helped on every project, inspected every space, played with every random bit of fluff. Right up until the last few weeks she enjoyed brief bursts of golf ball soccer on the cabin sole…enjoying the noise the ball made, especially at 3am.

Snuggling against her incredibly soft fur on a cold night made winter almost OK. We loved going to sleep with the sound of her purring, the feel of her little paws kneading, her 9 pound weight on our chest or legs, and the knowledge that when we woke up she would be crosswise between us taking up most of the bed.  On Vivacia, always upon hearing a quick soft thump-thump, we said in unison “cat’sup”, knowing that our princess had awakened from her clothes-cupboard (mine) or main-bunk nap and was now on a quest for food, pats, or pee.

During the 3 years in San Ramon, CA when her cousins Oreo and Freon (Julia’s kitties), and Julia were with us, the three kitties provided endless entertainment ambushing and chasing each other, and cavorting on their 6 foot cat tree. On the boat Mimi settled for a mere stump of a scratching post, but still delighted in tearing it apart…along with a bit of clandestine claw sharpening on the settees I’m afraid. Funny that those shaggy cushions now bring a sad smile remembering the innocent “who, me?” look she gave us when caught in the act.

When cruising time came she was an amazingly adaptable little girl, very soon becoming unfazed by her noisy lurching home, crashing waves, roaring engines, or anything else we threw at her. Her only achilles heel was motion sickness at the start of every trip – just like her mother.

During her months of vet visits and procedures she continually amazed with her scratch-free cooperation and even friendliness to her tormentors. How many cats do you know that would sit still and let the vet cover one nostril and then the other while bending close to listen for breathing obstructions? This sweetness lasted right to her quiet, briefly  purring, exit with Mommy and Daddy stroking her while sedation and then an overdose took effect.

The void Mimi has left in our hearts will never be filled. She was truly special. She gifted us with her life, then unexpectedly with dock-bound months during which we formed strong bonds with community and friends. This summer she’ll make her last voyage up into the Sea of Cortez – perhaps to Elizabeth’s favorite and aptly named Los Gatos anchorage – where we will scatter her ashes in a final farewell.

Posted in 2014B Spring in La Paz, All Posts, Other Fun Stuff | Tagged | 9 Comments

Alan’s Birthday Surprise – May 2, 2014

I can’t think of a more wonderful sight – the long wood-planked dock, tall masts proudly lining either side, Vivacia quietly resting in her berth in the sparkling morning sun…and Julia, my wonderful daughter, unexpectedly, joyfully inserted right in the middle of it all! Friday was Alan’s birthday. Wednesday night she decided to fly down and surprise him. Good thing I only had to keep the secret for 48 hours – those silly grins are mighty hard to suppress for long. And here she came, just a walkin’ down the dock…

That night we and our good friends Garth and Kimberley (Irish Diplomacy), Bill and Reyna (Ocean Quest), and new good friends Art and PJ (God’s Way) went for a birthday dinner at La Bodega Artesenal. This is Alan’s new favorite culinary destination because it’s a micro brewery with REAL beer and great pizza!

Saturday Julia came over to La Costa restaurant and learned to play Baja Rummy, a favorite cruiser activity. Then Sunday was road trip day, checking out the cool road cuts and pink rhyolite (geology nerd stuff) at Costa Baja marina (from the “Scottsdale” post about where we stayed before the puddle jump). Then onward to the beach at Balandra, made famous as our weekend cruising destination in my recent post about fall in La Paz.

All too soon her quick visit was over and it was back to the Cabo airport and home for our sweet girl. At least this time we took her via the coastal route by car rather than re-subjecting her to the the mountain route by airport shuttle. Thanks for coming to visit, Julia. It was simply amazing. And as for the rest of you…now you see how EASY it is to come visit. Just DO it!

Posted in 2014A Winter in La Paz, All Posts | Tagged | 10 Comments

Winter into Spring 2014 in La Paz

What a winter it was, all that frigid cold and snow and ice…someplace else! We truly suffered for all our dear friends and family back in the states shivering and shoveling their way through storm after storm. Hey – think how cold it might have been if not for global warming! We actually endured a warmer than usual winter, but still did have to put on jeans once…and even SHOES! Ugh!

What a relief to again need the air conditioner ensconsed in its inconvenient position blocking the companionway.  Right now it’s just perfect – days in the 90s, nights in the 60s. We ought to be out cruising! But, alas, we’re not. Our La Paz bungee remains in it’s fully retracted position while others leave for points north.

Good San Francisco buddies Jim and Jessica on sv Hajime treated us to their presence for a week on their way north, just 3 slips away in Marina de La Paz. It was wonderful to spend a little time with them again though, alas, as bad timing would have it Alan had to leave for San Diego the day after they arrived. Hopefully we’ll find them again soon somewhere up in the Sea.

Good friend Jim and Jessica from sv Hajime popped in for a week. We led them outside the Golden Gate Bridge on their first coastal cruise 3 years ago and they have done us proud (read that as "shown us up") ever since! Now they've headed up into the Sea of Cortez.

Good friends Jim and Jessica from sv Hajime popped in for a week Apr. 19-26. We led them outside the Golden Gate Bridge on their first coastal cruise 3 years ago and they have done us proud (read that as “shown us up”) ever since! Now they’ve headed up into the Sea of Cortez.

Ok, enough blah blah – time for more pictures! If you’re interested in the geographic locations of any of the places shown in the pictures, click on the map here or on the Where in the World page. Don’t forget, as always if instead of scrolling down, you want to arrow through a slide show of larger, better-looking versions of the photos, just click on the first (or any) one and the gallery will open.

Posted in 2014A Winter in La Paz, All Posts | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Fall 2013 in La Paz

Soooo, the burning question is whether we’ve actually fallen off the face of the earth, or if it just seems like we have. Vivacia WHO? Ok, I deserved that. So, first an update and then some fall highlights in pictures. But, it’s Spring, you say! Baby steps.

Life is good and we have made many close friends. This is a very special community in a magical city. It’s true. Every boat that arrives here is fitted with a bungee cord attached to the stern. They may leave, but that silly cord eventually just pulls them right back!

Little kitty Mimi is still with us, but the cancer and the effects of chemo are taking their toll. She’s a sweetheart, but getting her to eat or keep food down, especially every other day with medicine mixed in, requires patience and creativity. Gives “breakfast in bed” a whole new meaning.

I think really she's just training us as servants.

She’s starving but won’t get up to eat in the morning. I think really she’s just training us as servants. OK, figure this one out. She can’t eat on an empty stomach. Too much at a time and it comes right back up. So mornings consist of several mini feedings to get her tummy going.

Elizabeth just had her 3rd eye surgery. The sequence goes like this: Left eye Salzmann’s nodule removal Sept 2013. Woo hoo! Less double vision and sharper now. Right eye: Botched lasik in 1999 resulted in good vision (though eventually double like the left), but mistakes left nearly-invisible scar tissue. Salzmann’s nodule removal in Dec 2013 ripped part of it off, right down the middle of my cornea. PTK (laser smoothing) in March 2014 unfortunately reversed much of the lasik correction and so far has done only a little to relieve the now multiple slightly offset ghost images. Holding out hope that some healing time will help. Meanwhile, if I see each word with 3 or 4 extras, does that mean I read the book that many times?

Alan is working diligently on boat projects. OK, that’s the cruiser version of working. Projects generally consist of the following task distribution: 15% moving stuff out of the way, 30% looking for stuff, 10% shopping for stuff you hid somewhere (remember the technical term LOB, Lost on Boat), 30% accomplishing the task, and 15% putting stuff away.

Ok, on to the pictures. But first, in case they still leave you wanting more (um, sure), I’ve gone back to all the Puddle Jump text-only posts and added pictures. This because my “Observations, Ironies, and Silliness” post was published, at their request, in the January issue of Sailing Life Magazine on iTunes, and includes a link to the blog.

So I thought I’d better finally get off the dime and get that done on the off-chance the magazine attracted some visitors. The easiest way to go back and look at them is by clicking on the Puddle Jump category over to the upper right on any blog page.




Posted in 2013C Back to La Paz Life, All Posts | Tagged , , , , , | 15 Comments

Seeing Spots – A Whale of a Shark!

A popular fall attraction in La Paz Bay is snorkeling with the whale sharks. We’ve now had the privilege of two very different encounters with these gentle giants. Last November we had a spectacular time hanging out with four of the mammoth beasts as they lazily filtered plankton, repeatedly sucking in gallons of seawater while circling right at the surface.

The really amazing thing is that, despite the usual plethora of tourist boats carrying a hoard of snorkelers, we had these four all to ourselves. The video below is a little fuzzy, other than a couple closeups from Irene, because of a defect in the original GoPro2 camera. But please spare 3 minutes and have a look. Be sure your sound is turned up.

Then in November of this year our buddy Bill from Ocean Quest took us out in his dinghy on another whale shark quest. They’re pretty hard to spot, but we managed to find a lone medium-sized fellow with no intention of staying still for a bunch of silly snorkelers.

We and 3 or 4 pangas full of tourists chased him around, much to his annoyance I’m sure, trying to get ahead enough to jump in for a quick look. In the video below, Alan is filming with his repaired GoPro as I swim through his shot, also filming the shark. The two clips are edited together for one more brief look at this amazing creature. 

Ain’t Nature grand?

Posted in 2013C Back to La Paz Life, All Posts, Other Fun Stuff | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Had a Ball in Balandra (Oct 25 – 28)

Well, it’s about time we escaped the dock for a few days!  Three boats (including Garth and Kimberly on Irish Diplomacy, Al and Louise on Delight) managed a weekend getaway 12 miles up Bahia de La Paz to Balandra (see location on Where in the World map), a favorite local anchorage and public beach. Poor Mimi had a very rough (read seasick) start but recovered after a day or so at anchor.

Peacefully at anchor at last - Irish Diplomacy on the right

Peacefully at anchor at last – Irish Diplomacy on the right

In my last post we had just received the devastating news of Mimi’s terminal cancer. She is doing well on chemo (Lomustine pill) every 3-4 weeks and a prednisolone (steroid) pill every other day, but has lost weight despite a healthy appetite and does little but sleep (well, she is a cat, after all). Her vet said seasickness would not be dangerous – we were concerned as her cancer is in her sinus and her lungs are compromised. Even so, we felt like terrible parents as she suffered miserably on the 3 hour trip up.

Mimi briefly staggers into the cockpit…are you people DONE torturing the cat yet?

Mimi briefly staggers into the cockpit…are you people DONE torturing the cat yet?

We were pretty rusty on the boat handling skills after months on someone else’s boat, on shore, or at the dock, but we managed not to embarrass ourselves too badly. After a bouncy trip upwind (remember the first rule of cruising: wind is always on the nose or up the butt) the three boats anchored in the beautiful but rolly Balandra anchorage just at sunset. Even if you think you should be protected from the swells, the darn things have a nasty way of refracting into every corner of an anchorage.

A SWELL sunset

A SWELL sunset

First order of business the following morning was sending Alan up the mast on a misery-suppression mission. You see, we had removed the furling mainsail back in March and not yet managed to re-install it. Picture a 60 foot long hollow aluminum tube housing a heavy 50 foot long bar, secured only at the top, around which said mainsail furls. Now picture this tube and bar, the base of which cozies up to our bed, interacting in a rolly anchorage. Those Polynesian kettle drums had nothin’ on us! The subsequent nights were much improved after Alan secured line around the bottom of the bar, then half way up, mercifully transforming the kettle into a snare drum.

Noise reduction strategy - a line around the clanging furler mandril, pulling it out to the opening, securing it around the spreaders.

Noise reduction strategy – a line around the clanging furler mandril, pulling it out to the opening, securing it around the spreaders.

The remaining time was relaxing and fun, including a dinghy tour of the huge anchorage (thank you, Garth), walking the beach, climbing dunes, kayaking (thank you, Al), snorkeling, plus happy-hours and one dinner with our buds. Plus, of course, Garth and Alan fixing a problem with Irish Diplomacy’s generator since no cruise, no matter how short, escapes the second rule of cruising (there are only 2 kinds of boat equipment: broken, and soon to break). It was so good to be away from the dock that Vivacia stayed behind an extra day. Ah yes, THIS is why we chose the cruising life!