Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Dolphin Feeding Frenzy

We enjoyed many peaceful, sometimes calm nights at anchorages on the Baja, soaking up the beauty of our surroundings, amazing colors of the sea, wildlife and the vibrant night sky. One night in Santispac, Bahia Concepcion, we had the fortune to be in the middle of a dolphin feeding frenzy. We heard some erratic bumping against the hull. As you might guess, worth checking it out…It was a still evening, so we knew it wasn’t swells. In fact, it was so calm Mike thought the banging was our anchor snubber slapping against the hull, not pulled tight as happens when it’s windy. We ventured onto the deck, checked out the star-filled night waiting for our night vision to settle in. Eyes downward, we peered into the dark, gray yet illuminated water swirling around our hull. What the heck? We think we were in the middle of a bait ball and the dolphins were enjoying the feast. Bathed in their bioluminescence, multiple dolphins zoomed into the fish and crossed port to starboard, bow to stern, all angles, all illuminated and feeding like crazy. The poor fish were also zooming about, bumping into the hull and doing their best to avoid their demise. Mike thought he heard them call out: help me!

What a trip! I must say that incredible nature experience ranked right up there with my night scuba dive with manta rays in Hawaii. Nature at its most amazing. Sorry, no photos were possible - it was a "live in the moment" memory.

And speaking of photos, our friends on SV Echo captured these photos from their dinghy as we departed Bahia San Carlos on February 15th, heading across to the Baja. Thank you for the great photos!

During our time in San Carlos, Mike discovered the need to get the support bracket for our generator rewelded. On the morning VHF net, we learned the name of the shop to do the work so we called and made an appointment. As usual, this is me using my best Spanish to talk smartly about welding and generator parts hoping I get the message across. We walked along the main road heading out of town until we found their cyclone fenced yard. We arrived early and stopped for a cold juice at the Cocos stand next door waiting until the gate opened. We entered and talked with Jorge, who immediately got to work efficiently welding the parts while we waited (nice!). Then, Jorge called to say he was in his office. We said, and we are here at your office, talking with Jorge. Jorge replied, well my office is my truck and I’m still on my way and that’s my brother Jorge you’re talking to. As you might imagine, we were confused but hey, the welding was being done and we wondered if we wandered into the competitor’s welding shop by mistake?

Turns out, the guys are both named Jorge (that’s George) and they truly are identical twins. Same build, same curly dark hair, same smile, same tattoos. Their mother named them both Jorge! Super nice guys and we know next time we need a welder, we’ll call Jorge and see who we talk to. Another great Mexican vendor experience.

Heading west in Feb - life is good! First sail up.
We enjoyed almost 2 months on the Baja with many incredible experiences and plenty of nice people along the way. Internet was spotty at best so I am behind on my writing. I have so many stories to tell, just no time now to pen them.  Photos will have to suffice to tell a bit of our story for now. 

Full moon over La Paz, BCS - March

Full moon over Guaymas, Sonora - April
Hiking at Isla Coronados

Great cacti everywhere

San Javier Mission - built over 300 years ago!

The bar at Puerto Escondido. Great views!

That's a mama whale and her baby behind our boats in the anchorage! We could see them moving across the bay behind us as our hike took us up to the volcano cone

Hiking at Isla Monserrat

Pelican Paradise at Isla Monserrat

Fish flour being hand loaded into a container bound
for China, in Guaymas at the boat yard

Monday, March 26, 2018

Diving in Playa del Carmen

With our Venezuelan Dive Master, Jon
Encantado (enchanted) serenaded at dinner
We've been wanting to scuba dive in warm waters to keep up our diving skills and of course, see some sea life. In the areas we've been on the Baja, the sea is just too cold at depth for my liking, especially for a 40 - 55 minute dive. I know, I know, it's way warmer than Washington's Hood Canal but I also enjoy the great variation of sea life in the Caribbean. And before you knew it, we were off to dive at Playa del Carmen!

3D view  from our hotel room features a very
cool mural at street level,
a bustling 24/7 veg/fruit processing operation &
Mega grocery store a block away 
In the sea during the summer, we understand the water is quite toasty but in the winter and spring, it’s about 68 – 70 degrees (at the surface) which is chillier than you might think after multiple dives. We chose Playa because of the great Caribbean diving destinations along Carmen and out to Cozumel. Plus we’d dove there with good friends in 2009 and have fond memories. Photo to the right is wonderful Henry and his boss Jose - they made us some great martinis at the fancy steak place where one of our dive buddies, Jonathan, worked. We couldn't afford the dinner but a martini with bacon appetizer was a pretty special treat.

Playa del Carmen, like many destinations in Mexico, has changed a lot; it's grown up and out and is now a truly burgeoning tourist mecca.

On the ferry to Cozumel, we sat in front of the
police for additional safety (for those who heard
about the explosion last week)
I had airline miles that were going to expire so we scored free tickets on Aeromexico from La Paz to Cancun! Gotta love that. We dove again with Tank-Ha Dive Center, a very professional and well run dive shop in the center of the action in Playa. 

Scooter rental--perimeter road around Isla Cozumel
We explored the two museums offered in Playa - the informative, emotional and well-presented Frida Kahlo museum which was just excellent. She was quite the woman in so many regards. Then off to the 3D Museum which places you in the action in of amazing 3D paintings. Our cute little tour guide helped position us for the best angles and the three of us shared plenty of laughs.

We took the ferry to Cozumel for the day - after diving there, this was a great way to see the land side of island life. The scooter was a little small for tall Mike but we got by just fine.
Amazing array of blue hues!
Enjoying a molcajete!

Cheesy tourist photo #1001
We think they meant 'Goal' for the name
of this Sports Bar, not Gool
The well done 3D museum was great fun!
Who knew? A ballerina. Delicious cake.
Luckily we aren't posting
all of our 3D pics!

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Making Ice Cream

 On our southerly trek along the Baja, we tried our new portable, boat-ready ice cream maker (compliments of Mike’s sister Veva). Yep, we made ice cream underway. You need to be moving about 6 knots for the proper shakeup.

End result? Creamy and tasty. What a treat!

Main catch? You need plenty of ice.
Shaken, not stirred

The canister makes for great portion control

We are always on the search for a quiet anchorage, which generally leads to memorable sunsets, great bird watching, hikes on shore, kayaking and even a bit of relaxation. One of the favorite anchorages for us and many types of boaters is Isla San Francisco, a very large, welcoming bay that holds many boats and protects nicely from northerly winds. In fact, it graces the cover of our Sea of Cortez ‘bible’, the infamous Shawn and Heather book we rely on for safe passages and well-researched destinations.

We arrived to meet up with friends and pass a few days before heading further south to La Paz. All in all, a great place. On the weekends, all bets are off as there are frequently large power boats that come in with a ready-made party and a set of speakers that instantly drown out any quiet you envisioned in your silly little head. We all enjoy music, but some of us don’t feel the need to blast out everyone for miles around. Alas, a group of guys kept things rocking and bumping until about 3am. I can’t say if I fell asleep at that time from sheer exhaustion or if they finally shut down. In the morning, I wanted to go over early to their yacht and blow our airhorn, just to wake them up. Then of course, I got over it, realizing that would ruin the morning quiet for everyone, not just the late-sleeping boys on board. I’m really not meaning to complain, it is just part of reality and an observation that there are many ways to enjoy an anchorage.

Repeat trip to a great spot in Loreto - fresh made margaritas

Hiking at Isla San Francisco

Sunrise as we're leaving Bahia San Marte

What's not to love about a fuzzy baby burro?

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Gray Whales on the Pacific side

 Our desire to see migratory gray whales took us to the west coast of the Baja peninsula. A couple friends highly recommended the trip for a chance to see the calves and their moms up close, plus high wind conditions around Puerto Escondido made the decision for us. 

We left our boat on the hook at one of the well-tended mooring balls and rented a car for the enjoyable two hour journey across beautiful scenery and tremendous terrain differences. Mountainous stretches with hairpin turns and sky high cactus followed dips into valleys filled with lush greenery and arroyos ready for the next rains. Lots of ranches and cattle crossing signs so we kept an eye peeled for wandering bovine and a few goats along the way.
Diver checking our mooring ball in
Puerto Escondido after a big blow
Our friend Doug helped with
our mooring ball upon our
arrival in Puerto Escondido

Being birdwatchers, the big highlight for us was the Caracara, or Mexican eagles, of which we saw at least 100. Many of the birds were hanging out along the power line route, where additional posts were erected for their aeries (nests). Great idea for saving the power lines and made for easy bird watching.

Our day was overcast like the Oregon coast and we were blessed with some rains throughout the day. We drove through a modest little town called Insurgentes and arrived in the small port village of Lopez Mateos on the Pacific coast.

We ran into some people in the parking lot at the port who we’d met in Puerto Escondido – they were kind enough to lend us their rain jackets as we had not prepared for the cooler weather. Three vendors offered trips into the bay on their large pangas for the whale watching experience, and we connected with a Mexican family for our 2-hour outing.

It was a day well spent with plenty of oohing, aahing and photo snapping of the moms and their playful calves. As an added treat or distraction, we had an adorable little girl named Sofie with her mom and dad in the seats in front of us. They bounced that little champ back and forth across the boat (wrapped up in an XXL rain poncho) every time a whale popped up (oh Sofie, there’s a whale!). We think she must have been exhausted after the trip.
A couple of happy customers

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Bumping along the Baja

Anchored in Bahia San Carlos
Sprite and Coke with
our tacos to go!

We are pleased to share that we’ve made it to the Baja! Not a big deal to some, yet for us, a reward. We crossed from San Carlos toward Loreto on the morning of February 15th.

I got the baby Jesus on Epiphany
Supporting the local Rotary event -
Cow Plop Bingo
Our passage was 21 hours and of course, we’d checked all weather sources to be sure we had a good weather window. As life on the Sea of Cortez sometimes changes without prediction, at 11:30PM the weather changed. Gone were the light winds that filled our mainsail and made my shift at the helm, shall we say, predictable. The wind picked up and the rest of the night was filled with big winds, stormy skies, rough seas with big swells, very dark sky with no moon and only a few stars popping out between the clouds. That meant careful maneuvering and hanging on to every grab rail as you move about the boat. Shifting in the overhead compartment, did, in fact occur and by the next morning, we were glad to pop into the south bay at Isla Coronados to anchor.

Wishful thinking---that's what we'd operating on since early in January, yearning for our departure to warmer places south of Sonora. Alas, while we were ready, Pura Vida was not. 

Banda on board - complete with tuba & drums 
Sunset toward the Baja
We worked on a variety of projects since arriving in Guaymas in November.  The highlight of our planned projects was the installation of new Garmin electronics including a (working!) radar dome along with installation of 4 ports. Our new depth sounder currently isn't working consistently - which gives us fits when underway. Imagine cruising along at 100 or say, 300 foot depth and suddenly your depth gauge reads: 3 feet. That's a bit of a pucker factor. 

Revamped bow sprit
An unplanned project was the complete revamp of our bowsprit (revamp looks fabulous and works great). New nav light, mahogany boards, new paint and fittings.

Got a haircut and of course,
I couldn't replicate the style
Time-consuming unplanned projects included a new alternator, new inverter/battery charger, generator brackets, old (new to us) batteries to replace our very young AGM batteries - oh and the list goes on - but who wants to read about that! Unless you're another boater who can relate or merely shake their heads.

Life happens, system issues show up, new friends appear and local destinations beg to be explored. And so we had a great time during our extended stay in the grand state of Sonora.
Learning with Dira: Chile de Arbol Salsa making

The last delay was a welcome invitation to a catered dinner at the lovely home of our new friend’s on Valentine’s Day, so we joined in the fun. Plus, our hostess Dira took me under her wing to teach me how to make some kickass chili de arbol salsa just a few days before.
Underway, heading south to the Baja

We've been in Puerto Escondido and Loreto for a week having a grand time. Big winds on Saturday so we stayed on board, rain yesterday, cooler weather 'than usual' but warmer than Oregon. 
dinghy ride out to the Puerto Escondido anchorage
The peaceful bay at Balandra
Our dinghy awaits the trip back to the boat;
blue LED lights courtesy of the power boat