Saturday, December 29, 2007

My Best Christmas Gift Ever!

My boys laugh at me because every year when we put up our Christmas tree I say "it's the prettiest tree we've ever had" and for the last 4 or 5 years we've had an artificial tree. This year I got the best gift ever -- having BOTH of my sons with me on Christmas when I expected only one.

Michael, my younger son, has been in China this past year, teaching English at a university in Louyang City. I knew he wasn't going to be able to make it home for Christmas and was looking forward to seeing him in the U.S. when he came for a visit in January.

I was perplexed when my older son, Rodrigo, who lives in the L.A. area, began insisting that I drive from my northern Cali home to my parents' home for Christmas (they also live in the L.A. area). I had spent last Christmas with my mom and dad, I was just home from an 8-week sailing trip, and I really wanted to just stay home and relax. He kept it up, though, and even enlisted my mom's help in persuading me! Finally, I agreed, and drove the six hours to my parent's home. Well, the morning after I arrived I was expecting Rodrigo and his fiancee, Dianna, when I heard the doorbell ring. I went to answer it and who walked in right behind Rodrigo but Michael!!

Michael had drafted pretty much my entire family in an elaborate scheme to surprise me and boy did it work! I had NO idea that something like that was in the works. What a wonderful Christmas it has been! I never would have hoped to have had the chance to take the above photo of Michael on Christmas morning. Best of all, Michael will be in the U.S. for about 7 weeks and, in spite of having lots of family and friends he wants to visit, will be able to spend time with me because, as everyone knows, no one misses you like your mom, especially at Christmastime!

Here's my family as we gathered for Christmas Dinner at my mom's house. This is only a fraction of the members of my family as over the years we've become a frighteningly large group! And an ever-changing one, too, as we add a never-ending stream of spouses, in-laws, and new babies.
This most heartfelt wish I can offer you this year is that your Christmas was as wonderful as mine, and that you have just as much hope and optimism for the upcoming new year!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

My Mom's Christmas Crescent Rolls

Today I'm calling them "Christmas" Crescent Rolls but they make appearances all throughout the year at family dinners. My mom makes these and has done so for many years; they are so good that our family fights over them. These are not Pillsbury pop-can rolls (although I'm sure those are good, too); these are hand-made, twice-risen, and freshly baked and I, my dad, my siblings, my nieces and nephews, etc., have become "high-maintenance" when it comes to these rolls. Every holiday dinner at my parent's house, and many non-holiday dinners, too, like birthdays or anniversaries, we all EXPECT these rolls to be on the menu and every chance we get we drop the hint "it wouldn't be (insert name of occasion) without the crescent rolls!" in order to ensure that my mom makes the rolls. The sight of the rolls rising on the baking sheet (below) has been known to create a kind of manic anticipation that borders on mob mentality!
There were a number of occasions in the early, early recorded history of get-togethers at the Hansen Homestead where the demand for these rolls exceeded the supply. None of us who were present at those particular gatherings have ever forgotten it, and even though Mom keeps upping the quantity of rolls baked for subsequent gatherings, that past trauma gave rise to a number of schemes that many of us use to each guarantee our fair share of the rolls.

I myself, prior to dinner being served, am guilty of sneaking a half dozen crescent rolls, putting them in a ziplock baggie, and hiding them in my luggage. I have also hidden them in the freezer behind boxes of frozen mixed veggies where I knew they would be safe until I could retrieve them later. I've slipped an extra one (or two or three) into my pocket while they were being passed around at the dinner table. I've tried, but I can't stop doing this; after all, I know other family members engage in the same subterfuge which means I have to also or I risk someone else obtaining and eating my crescent rolls!

In recent years the rolls have even begun disappearing while they are still rising on the pans. I completely deny having anything to do with that business. My mom sometimes puts the pans up high on top of the refrigerator, or even on top of her ten-foot bookshelf, until they are ready for the oven. She says that she does this so the dog can't get them but I think she's on to us . . . uh . . . I mean them.
Last Christmas we had a small gathering at my mom and dad's house. Isn't the table pretty? Don't bother looking for the crescent rolls; they're not on the table yet because my mom didn't want to have to keep smacking our thieving hands while we were supposed to be getting a nice picture taken. From left-front, clockwise, that's me, my sister Lisa, my bro-in-law Ron, my Dad, my son Michael, my sister Karen, my Mom, and my son Rodrigo. Hubby Mike took this photo. As I recall, to get us to smile he said something like, "just think of all those crescent rolls you've squirelled away for later!"

This time of year is all about anticipation. What will Santa bring? Will he bring me everything on my List? Will I get my fair share of Mom's Crescent Rolls????

"Dear Santa,

I have been extra-good this whole year.

Please fill my stocking with Mom's Crescent Rolls.

Love, Debbie"

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Monday, December 17, 2007

"Home Is the Sailor, Home From the Sea..."

...(from the poem by A. E. Houseman)...

We got our first view of the Golden Gate Bridge in the mid-afternoon of Thursday, December 13th. What a welcome sight! It was a very cold day and we were bundled up in multiple shirts, sweatshirts, jackets, hats and gloves, and the first thought I had when I saw the bridge was, "Tomorrow I get to take a hot bubble bath!"As we sailed under the bridge it was hard to believe we'd been gone 60 days (!) and even harder to believe that our trip was nearly at an end. We'd logged approximately 2,600 sea-miles in a 34-foot sailboat with no refrigeration, heater, A/C, shower, or flush-toilet. We cooked and ate simple meals and if we were missing an ingredient we substituted something else or did without. Our "stuff" was minimal and what we found was that we really didn't need much. All the things we left behind -- the stuff that literally fills to bursting a three-bedroom home with a two-car garage -- proved to be totally unnecessary. Some stuff we missed, but we sure didn't need it.We saw this mural on one of the buildings on the San Francisco waterfront -- although we've seen it many times, on this occasion I felt it was meant just for us! The sun was going down as we moved through the bay and just as we reached the Bay Bridge it dropped behind the buildings creating this awesome view of the famous San Francisco Skyline:
The story of the huge oil spill of November 7th was (and still is) all over the news. A container ship called the Cosco Busan hit one of the supports on the Bay Bridge which acted like a giant can opener ripping open the side of the ship and dumping 58,000 gallons of bunker fuel oil into the water. We got a chance to see the damaged strut close-up as we sailed under the bridge; I took the photo below. You can see where all the concrete has been torn away and the underlying steel structure is exposed. It's under repair now. The most fortunate thing is that the damage to the support didn't cause any failure of the bridge.

We spent that night on the boat, docked in Alameda. The next morning our housesitters, Richard and Mary, arrived in our car to pick us up and take us home. By that time I was literally counting the minutes until I'd see my cats again! When I did, there was no hesitation on their parts -- they came right up to us, rubbed against our legs, and butted us with their heads. I was so surprised! I was sure I'd get the "cold tail!" All three were fine, a little fatter, and obviously purr-fectly happy.
That was 4 days ago. Since then we have quickly re-adjusted to all of Life's little conveniences! We're cooking in the microwave oven, stocking up our (relatively) huge refrigerator, taking long baths, flushing the toilet (instead of pumping it by hand!), doing laundry whenever we feel like it, running to the store for every little thing, and sleeping in a huge bed with real bedding (and three cats) instead of crammed in the forward berth in sleeping bags!
One thing that travelling to foreign countries always does for me is help me appreciate anew how blessed I am to live here in the U.S., and being without my "stuff," my pets, my family and friends only makes me enjoy them all the more now that I'm home again.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Santa visits Morro Bay - via Sailboat!

The kids in Morro Bay must have some kind of "in" with Santa because the jolly old elf paid them a special visit this past Saturday (12/8) and he arrived in a sailboat! We were tied up to the dock of the Morro Bay Yacht Club when Santa made his entrance, and he pulled in right behind us, then quickly disembarked to the joy of the kids lined up on the yacht club balcony.
After Santa's visit we were too excited to stay on-board Mirage so we went for what would be our last walk through the little town of Morro Bay (population 10,000 according to a waitress in town). Mike, who has a fondness for all-things-mermaid, naturally wanted his picture taken with the cutest mermaid in town. I guess anytime I want more attention from him all I need to do is grow a tail (oh, and cavort with dolphins and wear seashells over my...uh...yeah, those)!
The next photo is for our friend, Paul, who says he used to work at the Wavelengths Surf Shop in Morro Bay. He wrote to us about it with such fondness that we thought we'd stop in and see it for ourselves:
Indeed, it's a super-cool shop if you are a surfer and, as Paul told us, they have an awesome collection of vintage surfboards on display on the walls and ceiling. We talked the "kids" running the place into letting us take some photos so here's one:
I'm pretty sure that board on the right-hand side, second from the bottom, with the orange stripe, belonged to my friend Judy's brother, David, when we were teens in the 70's and growing up in Redondo Beach, California (and that dude STILL surfs everyday! Sweeeet)!

Oh, by the way, Paul? The shop seems to be doing just fine without out you. ;-)

Now, last but certainly not least, is a photo of Bob and Sue Cross:
I met Sue on-line in a yahoo group for scrapbookers and this was our first chance to meet IRL (in real life). We had a great time talking sailboats & scrapbooking, and had a fun dinner together at Rose's Bar & Grill. She and Bob now live full-time on their boat, S/V Fugue, and spend their days sailing from place to place, keeping to no schedule but their own, and just enjoying what life brings. A lifestyle we should all aspire to!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Morro Bay Seabirds, a Cat & a Meltdown

A walk along the waterfront here in Morro Bay never fails to provide good photo opps. This Great Blue Heron kept one eye on us but we didn't seem to worry him much; he was too busy waiting for his breakfast to swim unknowingly by. What a beauty! What first caught my eye, though, were these two white pelicans (below). We see a lot of the brown pelicans but these were the first white ones we've seen on our trip. In our neck of the woods, northern california, I've often seen these guys in the marshlands off Highway 37 between Vallejo and the coast but this is the first time I've had a chance to photograph any.Also on our walk we came across this grey-and-black Tabby cat. His nametag told us his name is Tony. He was very friendly and clearly wanted some attention which I was glad to give!He's also kind of a camera hog! As you know, the weather has not been too good. Thursday, which was yesterday, actually looked like a small window of opportunity to get out and on our way. Mike went out early to look at the sandbar (at the entrance to the harbor) and came back to report that it looked ok. I was concerned that he hadn't gotten a "second opinion" from someone like the harbor patrol or the coast guard. He was confident, though so despite my misgivings we made ready to go.
As we were motoring toward the harbor entrance I got more and more unsettled. I was down below, bouncing from window to window, and trying to gage the weather with my landlubber's eye. True, in the harbor the water was calm (see above photos) but that was not a good indication of what was going on out on the open water. I couldn't see out there, I only knew that the weather reports were indicating much higher winds and swells than I'm comfortable with. Up on deck Mike had on his cold-weather gear and life-jacket. I had just started to put on my own life-jacket when I glanced out a window and saw spray coming up over the rock jetty that we were approaching.

Well, that was the last straw -- I could NOT go out there! I slipped into a full-fledged panic attack. I opened the hatch and told Mike to drop me off at the nearest pier, that I would take a bus home! (I may even had said I'd jump overboard, I can't remember for sure!) He threw the boat into a u-turn and started motoring back, then turned back to the harbor entrance again and told me to come up and look, that the entrance was not bad at all, I'd see, and there was even a boat ahead of us on their way out, but I wouldn't even go up, I'd made up my mind. Mike was angry, but he drove the boat back to the dock and tied it up. By that time I had my bags packed and was ready to walk to the nearest motel to check in until I could figure out where to catch a bus or Amtrak.

Mike didn't like the economics of that (Paul, you understand!) and convinced me it would be better for us to stay on the boat, at only $20 per night, until I was ready to head home and at that point he'd take me to the bus station. As I have calmed down over the last 12 hours or so I've realized I really would like to finish this trip on the boat, if at all possible. Mike has agreed to wait out this bad weather, which looks like it may last through the weekend, and we've figured out that we still have time to make it home by the 15th even if we didn't leave until Monday.

At this point, our plan is to make a short run to San Simeon on Sunday - the weather will be calming though still a smidge over my ultimate comfort level but it would be only for a short day -- stay the night there, and continue on to Monterey Bay on Monday after the storm has fully passed. After a night there we'd then decide whether to make the run home to Alameda (about 100 miles) all at once, which would entail sailing overnight, or perhaps make a stop in Half Moon Bay.

And, what do you know? The weather deteriorated greatly last night -- the wind roared and rain hammered -- and today the wind is howling through the rigging and even here in this normally calm and placid harbor (check it out in the photos above), the water is choppy. I took the photo below about an hour ago of the boats near us that are tied to mooring buoys and they are surrounded by whitecaps!It's pretty clear that Mike and I have different tolerance levels for dangerous ocean conditions which is understandable since his skills at sailing are far greater than mine. Mike thought I was questioning his judgement about whether or not it was safe to go out yesterday, and that made him angry. The reality of it is that I simply reached the limit of how scared I can stand to be! It doesn't even matter whether my fear is rational or not; it is what it is.

So we are here for at least two more nights. You can't beat the accommodations, and we've been invited to attend a get-togther this evening at the yacht club. Mike has gone off (in the wind and cold) to hike to the grocery store for a few things, and I'm wrapped up like a burrito in a blanket enjoying the free internet access! The sun peeks out now and then but the wind is still howling and I'm quite happy inside our snug little boat.

(by the way, I have no idea why some of these paragraphs are single-spaced and some double -- the blogger tools seems to make decisions like that for me!)

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Homesick Again

I've been looking through my digital photo files and came across some that our housesitters, Richard and Mary, recently sent us. They are caring for our home and our cats during our 8-week trip and, let me say this, if you haven't used housesitters, it's THE way to go if you want peace of mind on vacation! (Check out, where we found Richard and Mary, next time you need someone to care for your home, with or without pets.)

I always worry about my cats while I'm gone even on short trips so I was truly nervous about both Mike and I being gone for two months. I couldn't possibly just have someone come in and check on them, even if it were every single day -- they'd probably destroy the house or, at the very least, develop some very bad habits if left on their own so much. Plus, I don't like to leave my home vacant; even though we live in a very safe area, you still never know! Finding Richard and Mary was a huge relief; especially when we met them and saw how they interacted with our pets and we could tell they were responsible, caring, and thoughtful people who would take the same care of our pets and home as we would.

So anyway.....just check out these photos! The first is of Jack who is obviously in blissful heaven sprawled in Richard's lap! The little traitor!
And here is my little sweetheart, Scout, giving MY kisses to Mary! The little hussy!

All kidding aside, I'm really grateful to Richard and Mary for providing such good care of the Tabbies that they have (obviously!) bonded to them. I can relax and enjoy my vacation knowing that my pets are not unhappy, pining away for me (do cats even do that?), or not being fed and watered and loved on a regular basis.

And, not to leave out our third (and oldest) cat, Bo, here is a photo of him snug as can be in his little bed. At over 17 years of age the only things that make him happy are a warm bed and food and we know he's getting plenty of both.

Thank you, Richard and Mary!!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Happily Tucked into snug Morro Bay

There's a big storm coming causing conditions like the waves pictured above. That's a big Coast Guard cutter entering the Morro Bay harbor amid huge seas. So glad we got in last night ahead of the storm. It's supposed to get worse before it gets better so we'll be tucked in here for a few days at least. No way do I want to be out in 35-40 knots of wind and 15-25 foot sea swells! I'm seasick just thinking about it. We couldn't leave if we wanted to -- the Coast Guard has closed the entrance to this harbor due to the dangerous conditions.

Of course, staying here is no hardship because we are tied up to the dock of the Morro Bay Yacht Club, and we're the only visitors here, so we have the guest bathrooms/showers/laundry facilities all to ourselves AND free wi-fi internet--wooohooo! Needless to say I'll be updating both my blogs plus reading and replying to all my emails, making phone calls, and doing plenty of digital scrapbooking. So nice to be back in civilization!

We've already done quite a bit of exploring here and love this little seaside town. It's our first time in Morro Bay and since we'll be here for a few days you'll get to see some photos of this quaint little place. First, though, here is a photo just for my Mom who Mike has fooled into thinking he's always clean-shaven -- hah!!!
Most of the time on-board the Mirage THIS is how he looks! I refer to it (affectionately, of course) as his "grizzled sea-captain" look. He was getting ready to shave in preparation to going to a restaurant but I made him wait til I took his picture. He doesn't look too bad here, he's been much worse!
That's the famous Morro Rock - I took this photo yesterday in much calmer weather. This afternoon it is shrouded in fog. It's really quite incredible. People used to be able to climb it but naturally, since that would be so much fun, the gov't put a stop to that. After all, we might hurt ourselves. At one time this rock was separate from the mainland but then a causeway was built in 1933 and you can now walk, bike, or drive along the inland side. There's a lot of new construction going on as the walking and jogging trails are improved, and a boardwalk is being added. We're hoping to come back in a year or so and see it all completed.
And here's the other landmark which distinguishes Morro Bay -- a power plant with three towers stretching high into the sky. Too bad -- a necessary building, sure, but to put it right at the waterfront? And you can see it -- like the Rock -- from practically anywhere in town. An interesting juxtaposition of Nature and Man.
Last photo for this post is this pelican. Mike took this photo -- he's really a much better photographer than I am -- he has a lot more patience. I love how he caught the bird as it's wings nearly brush the surface of the water!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

San Diego - Part Two

That’s me in my cold-weather headgear. Hah, Mike says I look like a Russian. I’ve got some pretty strange outfits for cold days and, believe me, fashion is a distant second to warmth out on the ocean! Some days I end up with 5 or 6 layers of clothes on!

I was asleep when we crossed from Mexican waters into the U.S. or I’d have immediately fired up my cell phone to check for service! We reached Shelter Island Harbor in San Diego early in the morning. Then it was immediately to the showers, woohoo! And, yep, we’ve got cell phone service!

Other very necessary chores followed – laundry and trash removal among the most important. Mike had a long list of boat maintenance tasks and I had a lot of work to do on my laptop. For my digital scrapbooking business I needed to upload my December freebies (check ‘em out if you haven’t already:, then click on the Freebies link at the top), post to both my blogs (this personal one, and also, as well as go through numerous emails in both my business email account and my personal yahoo account. Whew!

By the time I got myself over to the Kona Kai hotel to sit in their lobby and use their free wi-fi connection it was already after noon. Before I got busy with internet stuff I called my mom’s house but no one answered so I figured she and my sisters were off on the annual day-after-Thanksgiving “Mother/Daughter Christmas Shopping Kick-Off.” I was missing it! Well, but I could talk to them anyway! I got hold of my sister, Karen, on her cell phone and, sure enough, they were all at the Simi Valley Mall: my Mom, my sisters Karen, Lisa, Denise, and Kristen, Karen’s friend, Jen, Lisa’s daughter, Heather, and Denise’s daughter, Jenny. They were having a great time. I’d love to have been with them.

Well, since I wasn’t there to take photos I’ll just have to post the only photo I have with me from a previous shopping trip. Here’s Kristen, her friend, Stacy, Mom, Lisa and Denise. This is from a few years back, I don’t even know how many….! (Stacy’s black eye is a whole ‘nother story!) However, if you visit my sister, Kristen's Blog, she just might write about it....or not -- depending on if she sees this posting! Here is the url:

I also got to have a long chat with my son, Rodrigo, later in the day. He is due to get married next summer so he brought me up to date on the latest wedding plans. He and his fiancée, Dianna, have a lot going on these days with the upcoming wedding, full-time jobs & night school, not to mention applying to graduate school programs. Thank goodness I don’t have to maintain a schedule like that!

Our day in San Diego flew by with all we needed to get done. We fell into bed that night and slept like logs in spite of a couple of dock lights that were shining directly into our windows. This morning we got up early and hit the showers (ahhhh!), did a couple more quick things to the boat (like pump the holding tank – yummy) and then headed back out to sea. On our way out the channel we passed several buoys, all occupied. These goof-balls were definitely enjoying their snooze in the sun.

We originally thought we’d head out to Catalina and then to Ventura or Oxnard, but when we did the calcs for distance and travel time we realized we’d reach Avalon in the dead of night. Not a fun time (or safe) to try to anchor in an unfamiliar harbor. We studied the charts again and decided, instead of spending a day on Catalina, to instead spend that day with family, so we will be forging straight through the night and most of tomorrow to reach Oxnard by dark tomorrow evening. I told my Mom we probably wouldn’t be there until Tuesday so I hope she and my Dad won’t mind us showing up a bit early!

Of course, our new schedule means night-watches tonight. You can bet I’ll be wearing one of my cute cold-weather outfits when it’s my turn. Mike always takes the bulk of the night-watches but I try to do my share. I am better about them now than when we first started this trip, but I still don’t like them much. It’s just creepy out on deck all alone in the dark! Luckily, we have a full moon tonight so that will help a lot.

And it’s almost time for my shift so I’ll put away my laptop now and get settled for the long night ahead.

Take care everyone!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Bashing Back

Hi all, and Happy Thanksgiving! (a little late....)

I’ll be posting this in San Diego hopefully tomorrow which, unfortunately, is the day AFTER Thanksgiving. I had so hoped we’d be in the U.S. again by today so that we could call home to our families. Our cell phone service (Verizon) doesn’t seem to work at all here in Mexico even though Verizon assured us that we’d be able to make roaming calls when we were in range of larger cities. Guess the little coastal towns we’ve been in don’t count!

I’m craving turkey today (no surprise there) but we are going to have to make do with a Chicken Helper box dinner with canned chicken. Oh well, Mike has promised me a turkey dinner when we get back home in a few weeks, and another one for New Year’s, so I will just look forward to that. He’s sad to miss the great sale prices on turkeys (we usually buy several and freeze them). One thing I have learned on this trip is to forgo instant gratification. We sure can’t run out and buy whatever it is we might want for dinner, or that one ingredient we need but don’t have, or anything really. In fact, we could wait up to a week for a food item, and other things we can’t get here on the coast of Baja at all. Whatever we don’t have, we do without. My mom has always said, “Happiness is not having what you want; it’s wanting what you have.” So, I want a Chicken Helper dinner, Bisquick biscuits, and Crystal Light Lemonade for our Thanksgiving dinner today – YUM! Oh, and we have plenty of cookies (Mexican, which I’ve developed a great fondness for) and candy for dessert. One thing we won’t be missing out on is the overabundance of calories associated with a Thanksgiving Day feast!

The last week has been a bit hard. We have set foot on land exactly once in six days, and it looks like we will not get off the boat today either, not until we get to San Diego tomorrow. We have been sailing from anchorage to anchorage, staying just the night, then setting off again in the morning. Due to my dislike of night watches, Mike is trying to locate small harbors where we can anchor for the night and which are close enough together distance-wise that we can get to them with just day-sailing. It’s been nice doing that but we don’t make very good time on our “Bash Back,” which is what the Baja Ha-Ha calls the return trip north due to having to sail into the wind -- always harder than having the wind at your back (this is why sailors wish each other “fair winds and following seas”).

A couple of times the wind and waves were especially uncooperative and we didn’t reach our anchorage until past dark (last night it was at 1:30 a.m.). This means I get to go forward with a spotlight and watch for such things are crab pots, small buoys and floats, and other boats (especially pangas which don’t bother with anchor lights so they are hard to see at night). Oh, and kelp, which is hazardous because it can foul the prop. One night when we anchored after dark (at Isla Cedros) we woke to the anchor alarm at 3:00 a.m. because the anchor had dragged free and we were drifting out to sea. It took over two hours to hoist the anchor, move to a new location, and set the hook again once more.

Two things we have not had the pleasure of here in Mexico – one is marinas with docks to tie up to and that don’t necessitate inflating our dinghy and rowing to shore; and the other is showers. You’re cringing now, ha ha! It’s true, no showers since the ones we took just before we left San Diego on October 29th. Scary, eh? We’ve been making do with sponge baths and the occasional dip in the ocean. I think I’ve washed my hair maybe twice by hanging my head over the (tiny) galley sink and letting Mike pour water over my head with a coffee cup. In between I’ve been living with hair like Kramer’s on the Seinfeld show. If I’m going to be seen by anyone except Mike (who is used to it by now – I think) then I “do” my hair by putting on a hat. I just thank my lucky stars I thought to get it cut really short before we left. A small knitted beanie or a baseball cap covers everything.

On the other hand, one thing we have definitely had the pleasure of and that’s the company of dolphins. Hundreds of dolphins. I’ve near driven myself crazy trying to get photos of them. I’d hang off the bow with my camera, try to anticipate when they’d come to the surface for a breath of air, and then press the shutter. Ninety-nine percent of the time I’d get a really nice picture of . . . water. Then just yesterday (yeah, I’m a little slow) I realized, “Hey! My camera takes movies!” Mike, who has a much faster camera trigger finger than I do, caught my moment of realization in the following photo.

Thought you all might enjoy a good laugh! Not only do I look dumbfounded and disgusted with myself, but I’m also sporting the ultra-cool raccoon tan that’s all the rage on the Mirage right now. Oh my. Anyway, after that I spent a long time taking QuickTime movies of the dolphins racing the boat and playing in the bow waves. Got some great footage! I hope I’ll be able to post one or two short ones on the internet, either on my blog, or on my website, but will have to wait awhile to figure that out. You’ll love ‘em! (And maybe Michael can help me figure out how to make some still photos out of the footage, too, hint hint!). Here are a couple photos we did manage to take – they’re probably both Mike’s:

I hope I get a chance to share some of the film with you all. It is really incredible stuff. We’ll be just sailing along and suddenly, from all sides, we see dolphins coming our way, fast. They converge on our boat and we watched groups of up to 8 at a time swimming together, racing each other and us, and surfacing for air in unison. Incredible! At times they actually roll over onto their sides and seem to look right up at us as if to say, “Hi!” They are so friendly-looking, too, with smiling faces. We saw some youngsters, too, and they usually jumped the highest out of the water. We watched them for hours both yesterday and today.

Later – 7 p.m. I’ve been keeping an eye on my cell phone since we are offshore from Ensenada now and a little while ago I actually got a “roaming” message instead of the “searching for service!” But when I tried to call my parents the call failed. I even tried dialing the 001 country code for the U.S. and it seemed to be dialing the call, then I got “lost call” message. Dang it!! I thought I was going to get to wish them (and whichever of my siblings and other relatives are at their house) a Happy Thanksgiving. We are between 8 and 10 miles offshore, though, so we are probably just too far from whatever cell towers Ensenada may have. So I’m back to waiting until tomorrow.

As I mentioned before, we’ve only been off the boat and onto dry land once in the last week. That was on Isla San Martin. Very small, with perhaps a dozen very shabby fishing camp shacks made out of plywood and corrugated tin, and only a couple of pangas moored near a small beach (which, by the way, was littered with dead pelicans and seagulls). At the center of the island are two inactive volcanoes and the land surrounding them is made up mainly of volcanic rock.

It looks pretty barren at first glance but when we started hiking around we found an incredible array of hardy-looking succulents, many that we’d never seen before. One variety looked rather like a barrel cactus but grew in huge clumps and had wicked spikes that could reach out and grab a sneaker or pant-leg from several inches away. We had to carry sturdy sticks to beat the things off. The spikes had barbs, too, so when Mike caught one in his hand, and I ended up with one stuck in my leg, pulling them out hurt worse than when they went in!

Seems the island is also a sanctuary for marine animals and birds.
We saw a lot of pelicans, especially in a small lagoon at one end of the island where they were taking end-of-the-day baths with much noisy flapping of their huge wings, also seagulls, of course, and a single butterfly and one hummingbird. My favorite critters were the seals that we came across sunning themselves on the beach, sound asleep. We actually had to whistle to wake one up. We were trying hard not to annoy them (remember the sign). The little guy (see first photo) doesn’t look too concerned, though, and the other three seals never even opened an eye.

On one side of the island are awesome sheer cliffs with the surf crashing below.

As the end of the day drew nearer flocks of pelicans and cormorants came flying in to roost for the night. It was getting colder, too, so we headed back to our own “roost” for the night.

More soon!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Three Updates Posted Today

Hi friends and family! We are back in Turtle Bay; I have just posted three "posts" so be sure and scroll down to read them all. We have been so busy; but not much chance to get on the internet. We think we'll be back in San Diego by the end of November, at which time I'll be calling my MOM & DAD! I'm pretty homesick today; but should be over it soon. It is POURING here today, including thunder & lightning and the lady who served us our lunch said they haven't had thunder in 10 years so it is a pretty exciting event around here. We are now on our way home, but it will take us another month to get there, and meanwhile we will be "port-hopping" so that we don't have to spend many all-nighters at sea; certainly never more than ONE night at sea at a time! Since the weather is so bad we will probably now just go back to our boat (after buying a few groceries) and hole up for the day, watching movies, reading, cooking a meal, and getting a good night's sleep. Poor Mike did the entire night-watch himself last night because I have not been feeling up to par so he is exhausted. So, gotta run, and get him into his sleeping bag. Wish I had more time, but will write more and post again as soon as I can. We're thinking of you all, and miss you, and thank you for all the emails, posting comments, and other messages you've been sending. Love every one of 'em!
Our best to all! Mike & Deb

Bahia Abreojos

We arrived here in the late afternoon after a day and a night of smooth sailing. Our engine is holding out fine, we’re both feeling really good, and we have a full propane bottle. It was a very quiet and peaceful anchorage and we had a great night’s sleep.

In the morning as we were preparing to go ashore a panga drove up with two Mexican guys in it. They indicated that they had lobster. I thought they wanted to sell the lobster to us but they kept saying the word, “soda,” and later the word, “candy.” Finally we realized they were looking for a trade. Eventually, between our limited Spanish and their limited English, we negotiated a trade of four nice-sized spiny lobsters for a half a bag of mini candy bars and a 2-litre bottle of Coke.
As before, with the yellow-fin tuna, we had to cook these babies right away. Mike got a pot of water boiling and got the first one in. Our pot was barely big enough for one at a time. All went well until it was the third lobster’s turn in the pot. As Mike was lowering it into the pot it gave a twist, slipped out of Mike’s grip, and splashed into the pot, throwing boiling water over the stove, the floor, and Mike. Mike slammed the lid down, then checked for damages. He’d received a pretty good burn on the inside of his left arm. Out with the first aid kit and on with some burn ointment. The fourth lobster was cooked and we set about cleaning up the mess.

Once we got the lobsters cooked, cracked, and on a plate we decided that a meal like that deserved butter so we went ashore and set off on what would turn out to be about a five-mile round-trip to the village to find butter. At one point we realized we were walking along a landing strip; another part of our hike took us across some tide pools where we watched hermit crabs, fish, snails, and other sea life scuttling around. The little village itself was a mix of old abandoned buildings, like an old arena, and newer and bright-looking schools, homes, and a beach-boardwalk. The people didn’t seem quite as friendly as other little towns we’d visited so far; but they weren’t unfriendly either, and we decided they probably just didn’t see Americans very often. An interesting sight were the huge nests built on top of tall poles, or on the streetlight poles, for the ospreys. I’d never seen these birds in the wild before; they are huge! And numerous here, it seems. We couldn’t tell whether or not there were young in this nest but this adult bird does seem to be guarding something.

We found our butter, and a lot of other food items that we thought we couldn’t do without, and which proved to be a heavy load for Mike to carry all the way back to the boat, and which meant I had to carry my own backpack, dang it.
But when we finished preparing our meal, it was a feast! Nothing tastes better than fresh-caught and cooked lobster with melted butter and a big heap of rice, eaten on a sailboat in a quiet little bay in Mexico.

Bahia San Juanico

We had a blast being part of the Baja Ha-Ha. I even got a Baja Ha-Ha tattoo! We made lots of friends, people we’ll stay in touch with. But we are more than ready to be “off on our own” again. We consulted our charts and chose Bahia San Juanico as our first stop on our northward journey. One of our “Charlie’s Charts” books told us that there would be no services and only the tiniest of villages, but we thought it would still be a nice spot to anchor overnight and perhaps explore the beaches. And it would be only ONE night spent at sea. That kind of schedule I can handle.

Sailing north along the Mexico (and California) coast is very different from sailing south. Instead of the wind at our backs, helping to push us along, now it’s coming toward us. We can’t sail directly into the wind so we have to tack back and forth, moving in a zig-zag pattern. It’s definitely slower going so I’m very glad we have extra time now for this part of our trip. We don’t feel rushed at all. It was about 26 hours from Bahia Santa Maria to Bahia San Juanico. We anchored at about 4 in the afternoon, a little too late to dinghy in and back before dark. But we could see a lot more buildings and houses than we had expected given what our book said. It was clear that there’d been a lot of development since that text was written. Below: Mirage at anchor in Bahia San Juanico – the only boat there!
In the morning we found out just how much more there is here than the book claimed. One of the first places we found as we walked along the cliffs that fronted the ocean was the Café Buena Vista. The prospect of real coffee was a draw, plus we could see people up on a second-story patio with a thatched roof (called a palapa), and we could hear English being spoken. After we’d found our way up we met Angela, who runs the little coffee bar, her husband, Jack, their son, Blase, and a number of other Americans. Jack and Angela bought their home and land about three years ago, and opened the coffee bar for a little extra income. They were a wealth of info for us and told us all about the town (population is 1000+ now), the influx of Americans buying land, and what kind of services we could get in the village. For one thing, propane!! For another, internet access (right there at the café)! We hadn’t brought either our propane bottle or my laptop when we rowed ashore so while I sat and enjoyed a café latte Mike rowed back to the boat to fetch both. What a great guy!
I got online and, although I didn’t have photos or text ready for a blog posting, I was able to send out a mass e-mail to as many people as I had in my address book, and who might be concerned at not having heard from us for over a week. After I’d done that, and skimmed through my e-mail (including one from our housesitters with two photos of the kitties which made me really homesick, but I loved seeing them!), Jack drove us in his pickup across town to get our propane bottle filled. This photo shows the gasoline guy in his little roadside store:
My dad will be interested to know that during our visit we saw a number of off-road race cars (the dune buggy variety) and motorcycles that were pre-running the course for the upcoming Baja race. My dad used to participate in those races and spent many a day in dusty towns like this one.
Over the next few days we explored the town from one end to the other. We ate lunch at Restaurant Las Glorias, shopped at several of the little corner markets, talked to whoever we ran across, visited the cemetery just outside of town, made friends with a gorgeous German Shepherd/Husky mix who accompanied us on a hot & dusty two-mile hike, and even got our laundry done. We found a small family-run “Same Day Laundry.” On one of our trips to shore in the dinghy we dragged along two net bags full of dirty laundry. The next morning we returned to pick it up and paid about $8.00. What a deal!

We liked San Juanico so much we stayed three nights. On our last evening we jumped off the boat for salt-water baths and a quick swim. Lovely!