Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Crossing the Sea - Dark, soggy, exciting

Red tide streaks through the water
We were treated to three whale sightings on February 17th during our afternoon passage south along the Baja peninsula. I let out a ‘whale!’ shout on sighting a good size spout followed by a tail at some distance from the bow. A few minutes later, a full tail splash along the forward portside, and finally a full length skim along the surface just a football field from our port side, gliding until a flick of that massive tail sent him diving. Of course, the camera in hand but not fast enough to capture the moment except in our memories.

And on February 14th - Sweet Valentine! We celebrated by crossing the Sea of Cortez, leaving San Carlos midday for the Baja and arriving after 18:15 hours at 7:30am on the 15th. Ours was truly a dark and soggy night. After so much rain during the passage, Pura Vida is clean and so are we, as we don’t have cover over our cockpit allowing us the full experience of whatever the weather brings.
Another amazing sunset between rain squalls
There was plenty of lightning all around - always scary on a sailboat with a 50 ft mast sticking up as if to say get me if you can! Thankfully, lightning strikes stayed at bay, thunder roared through the boat louder than our engine, stars poked through during the night and at 3am the waning crescent moon occasionally appeared through amazing cloud formations from a B-rated scary B&W movie.

We slowed down to arrive at the anchorage in the morning light which was slow in coming with such a gray sky. After 20 hours of testing the newly functioning autopilot and making our passage across the Sea, we dropped anchor in lovely Bahia Santo Domingo at the entrance to Bahia Concepcion. We’d purchased a bottle of champagne on our most recent trip to Nogales AZ to pick up the replacement autopilot computer. Since we were underway for the entire day and night, why not enjoy the champagne with our own boat-style Sunday brunch once safe in our anchorage? We toasted our safe arrival, ate slices of cold quiche I’d prepared for our passage then went to sleep for the morning. During night passages, neither of us sleep much (especially on the first night of our first passage) so that rest is magical and restorative. 

Hundreds of pied billed grebes move in unison
As we sat in the cockpit, we heard noises reminscent of whales breathing then realized it was the mass of grebes that surface and dive in unison, making the most amazing noise as they rustle the surface of the water.

Sunset at Bahia Santo Domingo

And so we enjoyed a relaxing day between sun and rain, watching rain squalls with wicked storm clouds swirling around followed by sun breaks then late afternoon, huge cumulo nimbus clouds brought in the most amazing lightning storm, thankfully a few miles to the north, watched from the safety of our dry cockpit. 
Our anchorage at San Carlos before heading across the Sea

Great profile rock formation at the entrance to Bahia San Carlos

Monday, February 2, 2015

When Otto doesn’t want to Auto

Mike, Cynthia and our Linear Drive Module

We don’t name a lot of stuff on Pura Vida but sometimes an item earns it, deserves special recognition or has a personality. In the case of Otto, a trustworthy companion that’s part of our life and that we rely on, it’s the name we’ve given our autopilot. For those who don’t know the significance of an autopilot on a sailboat, it provides freedom and flexibility. It’s how we set our course and stick to it. Otto is great for singlehanding when we’re on a passage, for tacking or making adjustments or allowing you the requisite “bio-break” so you can leave the helm to take a pea or grab a snack during your shift. Important things when on a long or night passage and your partner is catching some zzz’s.

With Otto not working, your hands are on the wheel non-stop to maintain a course (which on rough seas is a good workout). So, in 2011 we made the investment in Seattle for a heavy duty Raymarine unit thinking it would last us a good long time. You can imagine our surprise when that was the system that decided to quit after only three years when we left on New Year’s Eve from Guaymas. Back again to the dock and over a month later, we’re still working on making Otto happy.

Nary a complaint shall dare spill forth from the crew on Pura Vida, as Mike and I enjoy a warmer winter than our northern friends (although it’s chilly of late and actually rained this week!). We’re learning more about autopilots, having fun, spending time with friends old and new, doing boat projects, hiking and exploring. It’s been a great month, just not on the open seas watching for whales and dolphins.

A welcoming doorway in Alamos 

Alamos at the music festival

We’re flexible and have a sense of humor – two personality traits that are critical for boat owners everywhere. And plenty of our friends are having their own “boat fun”…so the stories never end.

There’s a long saga associated with Otto’s demise, better shared over a beer or perhaps, best left untold.
Hiking Nakapule Canyon with  Connie & Scott/Traveler

4 wheeler taco stands

Help these hats escape from jail

Ahhh, morning Nescafe

Huapango music at Alamos

String Quartet poster at Alamos Music Fest

Traveling minstrels late evening in Alamos
Tequila-carrying burro

Monday, January 5, 2015

Crossing on a Waxing Gibbous – Now it’s Waning

Ham Sandwiches on Christmas Eve on Goldenheart
As with many parts of North America, we are experiencing rather chilly and windy weather in northern Mexico. Since our travels are always dictated by weather, we’ve been waiting for the right weather window to cross the Sea of Cortez to the Baja. Then there was Christmas and before you know it, it’s the end of December, the moon has achieved waxing gibbous and we
anticipate the enjoyment of a moonlit crossing.

My newly created rope mat - thanks for teaching me, Fran!
Rope mat against the patterned dock
On 12/30, we headed out and engine problems made us turn back that afternoon. We were greeted back at the dock by several friends who had just seen us off with music and shouts of good wishes. The next day, we’re fixed and ready to go when clouds fill the sky, wind picks up briskly and the weather changed for the worse, a day earlier than expected. We reassess our options. One more review of multiple weather sites show big winds on the Baja for the next 6 days. The 20 hour crossing was estimated to be a reasonable but cold passage and we’d probably be tucked into San Juanico for a week - not a bad way to start the new year but figured we'd stay put and hang with our many friends in Guaymas!
New Year's Day bus driver's change box
Guaymas bus ride - none of the gauges worked - who needs 'em? 

I was reminded of Dorothy clicking her red shoes together, saying “there’s no place like Guaymas, there’s no place like Guaymas.”
At the mercado before Christmas
Shopping at Empalme with Mel
 And so we spent New Year’s Eve on SV Gitana, with 13 of us tucked in their cockpit for the holiday evening, telling stories and being merry. Very fun!! This also provided the opportunity to watch New Year’s Day bowl games with my Wisconsin Badgers and the Oregon Ducks winning their respective games.

Now we are ready to head south on Tuesday 1/6, the weather is looking good but we'll check again before untying the dock lines. Off we go to seek our next adventures.
New Years bowl games - photo compliments of Larry

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Nature At Its Best – above and below the water

7mm wetsuits!
We make sure to have some fun along with the excitement and challenges of working on the boat and walking around in the dirt yard visiting friends. The natural beauty and creatures we encounter here are part of the joy of Mexico. Not so much the mosquitos and no-see-ums... We went diving last week and take morning walks several days each week for exercise, to enjoy the sunrise and look for birds.

DIVING: We took a day off from our labors of love and went diving with one of the three dive shops in nearby San Carlos. We scoped them all out to find out who had the best trip and planned for a good weather day after we’d had a ‘wind event’ so the waters had settled down. It was an excellent dive boat – with a working head (!) and helpful staff who assisted with our gear and made a delicious lunch of quesadillas and guacamole between the dives. We had an hour and a half fast boat ride to the island of San Pedro where the sea lions bark and the rock formations rise from the sea to form an amazing bird sanctuary.

A beautiful boat ride to San Pedro Is
We brought dive gear from our boat but like everything here, items dry out and Mike’s mask no longer provided a good seal. The first dive, his mask flooded constantly and he looked like a cartoon character with the mask filling up and his eyes getting bigger as he tried to clear it. We borrowed another mask and enjoyed two dives in 71 degree water, which is chilly when you’re in the water for 50 minutes. 7mm dive suits, gloves and I was glad for a hood.

Great dive stickers from around the world 
We saw tons of starfish, a nudibranch, ray, giant schools of various species and even had a zoom by from a female sea lion (smaller and with no knot on the forehead like the males). They’re incredibly fast and curious. Glad for the dive trip and break from our work, we enjoyed the outing and were glad to log a couple of dives. It had been over a year.

BIRDING: We walk 3-5 times per week and the bird watching is great in the early AM, as the sun begins to rise above the surrounding craggy mountains. Once we started taking the binoculars with us, the count of black crown night heron and little blue heron in the bushes along the shore rose from 11 to as many as 27. It’s great birding here, some migratory and some full season. Osprey, pelican, egret, sandpipers, grebe, hummers and we think, a long-billed curlew (or his second cousin).

Just as part of the walk is the birding, part of the birding is the walk. On the road to the shore, the local buses "Paraje Fatima" rumble by hauling uniformed school kids to two oceanography/fishing prep schools. One's primary, the other secondary where there's a huge poster outlining very specific appropriate uniform attire for boys and girls - right down to the centimeters the girls' skirt is allowed above the knee. As I write this, memories of the nuns measuring at St. Jerome's School in Oconomowoc overwhelm me! 

It's not a road that is easily traveled - from the danger of those flying buses and tardy taxis to random stray dogs that bark at your heels and conveniently leave their mark everywhere. Horse hoof imprints indicate early morning passages. Tons of small rocks twist ankles (as Mike found out a few days ago) and potholes lurk for the unexpected. When you make it back safely, it's a great start to the work day.

In Search of Jehovah’s Tacos

Traveling nursery - "Have truck, will sell stuff..."
Thanksgiving in the boat yard - a wonderful potluck
Where to start... We’re in the dry boatyard (Marina Seca) in Guaymas, Sonora once again, preparing Pura Vida for her splash next week. Having an old sailboat, you always have projects that improve and repair. And what better place than the bustling town of Guaymas where we’ve been since mid-November. 
Our 2 new portlights rock! Great job, Mike

The 3 covers worked great to protect Pura Vida
We’re with a few other boaters doing the same – installing, replacing, grinding, painting... One of the great aspects of this experience is sharing ideas and resources, like buying a kilo of rope and dividing it (not easy) and a bucket of bottom paint (a mandatory, treasured commodity – but that’s a whole other story). We exchange needed parts, swap stories about where to find the ‘good boat hardware’, which shower stall has water/hot water or important things like where to find the best street taco.

Let’s just say Guaymas isn’t famous for street signs except the two main drags, so directions are smattered with “near the Pemex, by the statue in the square, turn right at the churros stand”. Keep in mind there are probably a hundred Pemex (government owned, locally managed gas stations where they don’t post prices because, well, they don’t have to). Well-intended directions often lead to adventures and finding some other place that might just be a gem. In this case, Daryl’s description about his favorite street taco stand includes it's built into a car that’s sunk down, been there 30 years and the guy’s sign says something about religion and tacos. He’s not sure of the name, but as I walk away he shouts after me – hey, I think it’s called Jehovah’s tacos!

Unloading the car & new diesel fuel jugs carried on the roof rack
Visiting friend Cathy in NV on our way south

Hauling up the
ladder to  our home

Turns out, he went there after we talked and reported back: don’t bother, the prices have gone up - to 28 pesos (that’s over $2.00 for a street taco!).
Wine tasting in No Cal with Cathy & Robert en route south
Sunset in the dry yard from our cockpit
Giant squid at the grocery store - calamari fillets and tentacles
Resident sheep keep the yard 'clean'

Another clean up and paint project
Mail delivery moto - you don't see many
mailboxes and this is the first mail
delivery guy I've seen

The new 'guard shack' in the dry yard
Replacing our flares - safety first!