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: http://www.webajeb.com/, then click on the Freebies link at the top), post to both my blogs (this personal one, and also http://www.blogwebajeb.blogspot.com/), 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: http://ascernia.blogspot.com/.

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!

Bahia Santa Maria

The gorgeous and unpopulated beach at Bahia Santa Maria:
An old fishing camp, currently deserted.
There’s no village here in Bahia Santa Maria. Some fishing camps are established along the beaches, but they are only occupied some parts of the year. We stayed here two days and on the second day “Mag Bay Outfitters,” from nearby Bahia de Magdelena, trucked supplies over and put on a catered lunch for us. They erected shade awnings, utilized a few small buildings built for just this type of event, put up some tables and chairs, and even brought in a local band. It was all very nicely done. Lunch was a foil-wrapped & steamed combination of fish, lobster, and shrimp served with rice. Everyone agreed it was delicious and it was, especially so, to Mike and I since it was our first hot meal in several days. Mike and I spent most of the day walking the beaches & shallow pools, exploring the deserted fishing camps, and taking photos. We came across lots of blue crabs and boy, were they ready to put up a fight when threatened! Here’s a photo of Mike offering one a beer – he didn’t want it!

We also found a whole herd of fiddler crabs. These guys are only about a couple inches across and have only one claw – hence their name. I enjoyed watching them scuttle in and out of their tiny holes, and engage in battles with each other; seems they are very territorial.
The tricky part of Santa Maria was the variable (and often treacherous) surf, and a sand-bar a little ways out from shore, that made it often very exciting (or terrifying) to go to shore. We were advised not to try it in a non-planing dinghy (that is, a dinghy without a motor strong enough to get the dinghy’s bow up and over a breaking wave); in fact, we were told it was best to use the pangas. Well, we don’t have a motor at all on our dinghy, so we hopped into the first panga that came by and had no trouble getting to shore for the lunch. The surf wasn’t too bad early in the day and everyone got to shore just fine; only one or two dinghy’s tipped over and the worse that happened was people got a bit wet.

Later in the day, though, when it was time to go back to our boats, surf conditions had changed. The pangas were taking as many people at a time back to their boats in order to have everyone shuttled back by dark. One couple attempted the return in their dinghy; it flipped in the surf, they’d forgotten to attach their kill-switch, so they were swimming while their dinghy circled around and around like a crazed demon. Other people went out to help them get back to shore and retrieve the dinghy. Meanwhile it was getting darker and darker and the line for the pangas was still long.
Mike and I were lucky. We got in the last panga that made it out. After ours, the panga drivers said it was just too dangerous to continue taking people to their boats. The chances were too high that a panga would flip and people would be swimming in the dark. The result was that around 72 of our people were stranded on the beach overnight! One person had a portable VHF radio so our fleet-leader, Richard, was able to do a roll-call to determine who was left on the beach, who had made it back to their boats, and to make sure no one had gone missing. The stranded people ended up spending a rather uncomfortable night on the floors of the few buildings without much in the way of blankets or pillows. But it would be a story to tell!

Before we knew it our stay in Bahia Santa Maria was over and we were preparing to head out again. We’d made our decision – we were going to turn back and head north, toward home. During the first two legs of the Baja Ha-Ha race, San Diego to Bahia Tortugas, and then Bahia Tortugas to Bahia Santa Maria, we were on the race’s schedule, and had blown by a dozen small bays that we’d like to have explored if we hadn’t been in such a southward rush. We wished for more control over where we went, when, and how long we stayed. So instead of continuing further south, around Cabo (where the race would end), and into the Sea of Cortez (which would leave us with a pretty tight schedule for the return trip) we decided to turn back north and stop at some of those little harbors while making a much more leisurely trip home.
Enjoying the sun, waves, and a book....my kind of sailing!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Bahia de Tortugas

Are we ever glad to be here in Bahia de Tortugas (or Turtle Bay, to us gringos). We left San Diego at 11 a.m. on Monday, October 29th and today is Thursday, November 1st. It was a fantastic sight – nearly 180 boats setting off at once from San Diego Harbor. We were accompanied by a Navy aircraft carrier, and a Navy plane whose pilot radioed to us, “Have fun and good luck!” We have been three days and three nights at sea, under sail constantly in fair to high winds and with large rolling swells hitting us almost directly on our stern, and having had to keep watch continuously. Not a lot of quality sleep! Plus, with the rocking and rolling of the boat I didn’t dare get out my laptop and do any writing. So this will be fairly short today. Rumor has it that there is an internet café in Turtle Bay Village, a little town of 1,000 people, so we’re hopeful that I will be able to post today. We have not been to shore yet and are anxious to do so and feel solid ground under our feet!

won’t say too much about the last few days except that it seemed endless! The nights were very dark, the darkest I’ve ever seen, especially Tuesday night when the moon didn’t rise until about 2 a.m. and the seas were like black ink. The stars seemed faint and unusually high above and gave no light. Gave me the heebee-jeebies when I had to be on deck alone! I was always sad when the sun went down, knowing the long night was ahead, and then jubilant when it rose again the next morning, especially when the view was this spectacular (see photo above).

Mike did trail a fishing line behind us much of the time and actually had a few catches. Two Bonito, both of which he deemed too small and released, and a very strange sea creature that didn’t look like it would be good eating at all! We threw that one back, too.

Gotta at least mention the great party we had in San Diego before the race started – a huge barbecue and Halloween costume party. Food and drinks galore, and lots of people dressed up. My favorite costume was a bearded guy wearing a blue bikini. Sonny and Cher were there, too, as well as Jack Skellington (who my male orange tabby is named after), the entire Flintstone gang, Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Little Bo Peep, and the Green Army Man from “Toy Story” and, of course, LOTS of pirates, including Jack Sparrow.

We’ve got Enrique coming out in his panga to top off our gas tank then we’ll catch the water-taxi to shore and see what there is to see. We’ve been told there are a couple of restaurants, a hotel, some little shops, and lots of friendly children. There is supposed to be some great hiking along the shore and in cliffs so we’ll get in some exercise, too. Tomorrow there is a big beach party for all the Ha-Ha’er’s, plus the locals will join us, including the children, so it should be really fun. I’ll be sure to take lots of photos to share with you next chance I get.

Take care everyone and we’ll continue to stay in touch as we are able. Be sure to keep an eye on my other blog www.blogwebajeb.blogspot.com for info on my latest digital scrapbook layouts!
Our love to our families and friends!!!