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!

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