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Sunday, December 24, 2006

Happy Holidays!

24 December 2006Marina Seca, San Carlos, MX

We are home again in Mexico after our month long road trip to Seattle and back. We departed San Carlos November 19 and returned to Nakia in Marina Real December 19. We drove over 5,000 miles (including miles covered doing errands in various stops) with overnight stays in nine cities. Most of our time was spent on Bainbridge Island waiting to finalize the business of buying our condo. We were in a hurry to get north for that and then in a hurry to return south to the boat, which resulted in our not getting to see everyone we would have liked to visit. The rainy, cold, and sometimes snowy weather wasn't conducive to adding more miles to an already long trip.

On our way north we made a brief stop in the Bay Area to retrieve some winter clothing out of storage, and another stop in the Portland area for some day-after-Thanksgiving-sales tax free shopping. For the return trip south we had to make stops to pick up a new mattress and anchor chain for the boat. Needless to say the old truck was loaded down and not happy to be in the cold weather, but it was a trouper and got us everywhere safely. Crossing back into Mexico we paid duty on some of our items at Customs, got a red light, and only a cursory look in the back of the truck before being waved on. Feliz Navidad!

Two days after our return we bashed Nakia around the corner from Marina Real to Marina San Carlos for our haul out at Marina Seca. It has been windy out of the north so there was some swell which we weren't prepared for after sitting in a marina for so long. Now we are up on the hard, but enjoying the comforts of home with Stan and MJ in their 2Bed/2Bath San Carlos rental. We go to the yard after breakfast and John does the dirty work, while I fetch and carry for him. This is our first haul out since we left the States in 2004, but it's still just the usual projects of replacing through hulls and putting new paint on the bottom. We're actually paying the yard do the latter for the first time in 15 years of boat ownership.

It's wonderful to be back in shorts and T-shirts again. The nights are cool (below 60), but the sun is warm and bright most days. We hope everyone is enjoying this time of year with friends and family no matter where you are or what you're doing!

Linda and John

Haulout pics

Here's the trailer getting set to haul NAKIA. They don't use a travlift here, just this big trailer. NAKIA's so small she only uses about half of it.

Haulout pics

The trailer is backed into the water and positioned under NAKIA. The trailer operator spent about 15 minutes making sure the trailer was properly positioned.

Haulout pics

Half way out of the water.

Haulout pics

NAKIA's all the way out of the water and ready to go down the road to the yard.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

As many of you may know, we're buying a condominium at the Harbor Square Condominium complex on Bainbridge Island, WA.

Thanksgiving week we traveled north from San Carlos to close on the condo. Here are some pictures of the weather and the condo.

It's been cold, to say the least. Doubly so for us because we're used to 80 degree days and 60 degree nights.

John and Linda

Snow falling in Eagle Harbor. Current temperature today: 25 degrees F


View outside on the balcony.


Sunday, November 12, 2006

Pictures of New Hatches

Here are the before, in progress, and after pictures of our recent hatch refit. In addition to this we're removing the teak decks and replacing them with fiberglass non-skid, fitting new overhead material over the existing overhead, and revarnishing the interior.

Now with the hatches done, we feel like we've got something to show for the work so far. We've also made good progress already on the overhead, and with the updated hatches the interior is really taking on a new look.


Original butterfly style hatch over salon.

Original forward hatch over head. Together the teak hatches weighed almost 100 pounds

Salon hatches with fiberglass frame edges cut off and plywood in place to build new frame.

Forward hatch with fiberglass frame edge cut off and plywood in place to build new frame.

Salon hatches after plywood has been fiberglassed and epoxied.

Forward hatch after plywood has been fiberglassed and epoxied. (Note: you can see where the teak decks have been removed in this picture.)

Looking up through salon hatches after frames have been cut.

Looking up through head hatch after frame has been cut.

New Lewmar Ocean 50 hatches after installation.

New Lewmar Ocean 60 hatch after installation.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Red Light, Green Light

6 November 2006
San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico

We made another trip to Nogales, AZ (John's third, my second) to pick up boat parts and misc. supplies last week, and got our first red light at Mexican Customs! Fortunately we were prepared with our paperwork, and it turned out to be a non-event anyway. After unloading everything from the truck onto their table John realized that last out (so first to be seen by the officer) was the bin with all the beer on top. But he just asked John what we had to declare, took a cursory look at the beer (and not much else), and wished us a good journey. The trip was actually worse going north into the U.S. because it took us two and a half hours to cover one mile in stop and go traffic to the border!

John installed the last of the replacement hatches and should be posting some before and after pictures soon. He's now working full time on the new Formica overhead which is probably going to be the job he hates the most. Cutting the Formica sheets is fairly straightforward, but fitting all the bits of teak trim to cover up the seams and edges is driving him to frustration.

Hopefully listening to Howard Stern on our new Sirius satellite radio will help ease the pain. We still have the XM radio and we'll decide which one to keep after we've played with Sirius for awhile. So far I think I prefer the Sirius NPR programming, but I hate the thought of giving up Bob Edwards for Howard Stern - not a fair trade! It's a good thing we have plenty of radio to listen to since renting DVDs at the local outlet has turned out to be a bad idea. Out of probably eight movies, we've only seen one straight through without any problems, and half of them were completely unwatchable due to heavy scratches. So I'm giving up on that as a waste of money and time.

We made a successful trip to the Enpalme (a town south of Guaymas) tianguis (flea market) yesterday with the SolMaters to buy a 20" screen TV to go with the cable service they had installed in their little rental house (they had to purchase the cable service in order to get the internet service - see how things snowball when you move to land...). So now we have a place to watch football where the beer and snacks are free - or at least the prices are lower and we don't have to tip the waitress.

Nights are cool and the days are sunny and warm. What are you doing up there?

Linda and John

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Winter Refit

24 October 2006
San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico

It's been three weeks since we came into Marina Real to begin our winter refit projects on Nakia. Interestingly it's a lot like life in the marina before we left to go cruising, including having a job. But at least we're working for ourselves and we get to set our own hours. In our case we usually get up at 5:00 so John can be ready to start at first light. So far we haven't had any complaints from our neighbors which may be because the "boat boys" (the local crews and hired captains of the power and sport fishing boats) arrive for work at about the same time, as does our neighbor, Stan on SolMate.

The current project involves replacing the hatches up on the cabin top. We have one forward hatch over our head in the bow (where most sailboats have a V-berth) and a butterfly type hatch in the middle over the salon. We are replacing those with three Lewmar hatches. To date John has:

Removed the old (extremely heavy) teak hatches
Pried out the interior teak frames
Cut and ground the fiberglass exterior frames (which were built up for a custom fit of the original hatches)
Made plywood inserts to create new frames
Tabbed the inserts into place
Filled, fiber glassed, and epoxied the new plywood frames (interior and exterior)
Cut holes for new hatches in the new plywood frames
Filled and faired frames (currently ongoing)

He's taped heavy plastic to the interior overhead, vacuums as he sands, and we hose down the entire boat after any sanding to keep the mess to a minimum.

To pick up parts and supplies for the refit we've made one overnight trip to Nogales, AZ, and John went a second time making the round trip in one day with a friend. It's a 5-6 hour drive each way plus stops at Customs both leaving and entering Mexico to take care of paperwork. We'll need to go up there at least once or twice again, but hopefully those will be over night trips so that we can take advantage of the U.S. shopping.

The "marina life" part of the refit includes unlimited fresh water from our hose on the dock, which was great for cleaning and stowing things we won't be using for awhile; unlimited electricity at the dock; showers and flush toilets in the marina bathroom (there's no hot water though, and the weather is already getting a little too cool for tepid showers); choice of two self-service coin laundries; WiFi access up at the marina office, which unfortunately doesn't reach our boat in the slip; and we've even decided to get a Skype phone number so that people can leave us voice messages. Our truck gives us access to all kinds of shopping including small markets locally in San Carlos, bigger stores 20 miles south in Guaymas, and mega stores (Costco, Home Depot, Office Depot, Ace Hardware, WalMart) 85 miles north in Hermasillo. We've signed up at the local video rental store to try to catch up on some of the movies we've missed, and we're working our way through all the local eateries with SolMate.

As I mentioned the weather is getting cooler and tends to be too breezy for swimming already, but we're only a few blocks away from a pretty beach for walking, if we ever make the time for it. Fortunately we can already tell that the improvements we're making will be well worth the time off we're taking from cruising!

Linda and John

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Tied to the Dock

3 October 2006
Marina Real, San Carlos

The Catch 22 anchorage in Bahia Algodones was lovely (imagine a 20' deep swimming pool with a sandy bottom) and we hated to leave it, but we are now in Marina Real for the foreseeable future. We've returned to civilization (including our little Toyota truck!) to begin the winter refit projects that John has planned for Nakia. The two big jobs that he's going to start first are installing a new Formica overhead and replacing our boxy teak hatches with sleek new Lewmar ones. We're excited about giving Nakia a new look and will try to post pictures as we progress through each task. Working conditions are less than ideal right now as we try to acclimate to the higher humidity, and we're keeping our fingers crossed that someone will switch on nature's A/C by the middle of this month. A simple thing like doing four loads of laundry at the not-well-ventilated laundromat this morning had me soaked in my own sweat and it wasn't even 10:00 yet. And we find the marina showers won't run cold water - the best we can get is tepid which isn't very refreshing. But we are plugged in, and can run multiple fans; keep the refrigerator full of cold water and beer; and when we get really desperate, go for a drive in the air-conditioned truck to eat pizza in an air-conditioned restaurant.

As Ray on Adios always says, life is good!

Linda and John

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Mainland Ho!

30 September 2006

On Wednesday we crossed over from Isla Tiburon to the state of Sonora on mainland Mexico. This was a 40 mile trip which took us a little over 11 hours (with a 4 AM departure), only three hours of which we were able to sail without the engine. We anchored with SolMate in Las Cocinas and it didn't take me long to get in the water for a late afternoon snorkel and beach walk. The water clarity was good with a wonderful variety of small fish, and shells of all kinds on the sandy beach.

Las Cocinas isn't well protected from the swell, especially anything coming from the N/NW. It got a little rolly overnight so we departed Thursday morning for Rada el Pasito just four miles to the south. On our way there we ducked in to take a look at Ensenada Julio Villa. This is a charming and well protected small cove but it's tight for a big boat. The water was completely calm and there was a nice little beach, but John wasn't comfortable with staying overnight so we continued on.

SolMate anchored in about 25' at Rada el Pasito and we nosed around until John found the edge of rock and sand where we could get tucked in at 14-15' to keep us out of the worst of the swell. Welcome back to the mainland anchorages where it seems we are always rolling.

That afternoon we took the dinghy back to Julio Villa and snorkeled a rock outside that anchorage. Not a lot of fish there but I enjoyed watching all the small creatures close up on the leeward side. It's so wonderful to be able to float at leisure in the 82-84 degree water. I just can't do that in the winter water temperatures of 76-79 degrees! That's fine for swimming but I start to freeze if I don't keep moving in the lower temps. We walked the beach at Julio Villa and then went back to the beach at Pasito for more shelling. The greenery above the beach was full of small flowers and greenish yellow worms with a spike on their tails which MJ said looked a lot like the green tomato caterpillars/worms in the States.

By late morning on Friday we were getting big wind waves rolling straight into the anchorage so we followed SolMate out. When they reported 18-20 knots out of the SE (on their nose going south to Bahia San Pedro) we opted to turn tail for the easy sail back to Las Cocinas. There was a lot of high overcast which increased during the day making it very humid.

It felt great to finally jump in the water at 3:30 and go for a snorkel. This time we went along the south wall and reef which were loaded with a terrific variety of small fish, including sierra, ladyfish, gafftopsail pompanos, and even a golden grouper. The sandy floor in shallow depths was covered with sand dollars, and we spotted an octopus in its hidey hole. The latter really give themselves away when they litter their doorsteps with the shells of their prey! A walk on the beach turned up a treasure trove of interesting things to pick up and look at, with even more waiting in the shallows of low tide. This was a terrific stop, the only drawback being a little swell and the ubiquitous flies.

Today we got an early start to continue south before the SE wind kicks up again. We've sailed past Bahia San Pedro and will shoot for San Carlos. If it gets too windy to slog into the chop, we can always turn around and go back. That's the beauty of cruising!

Linda and John

Isla Tiburon

27 September 2006

We departed Ensenada Pescador (just south of Ensenada Quemado) at sunrise on the 23rd, and I had a little cry as the rosy desert mountains faded from sight. We both definitely prefer the Baja to mainland Mexico and hated to leave it so early in the season. I never get tired of the rugged, remote scenery and the numerous protected anchorages. The mainland has a more cultivated, civilized feel to it (could it be the jets and contrails overhead which we haven't seen all summer?), and we are cranky in the higher humidity. It's nice to see so much greenery, butterflies, and land birds again, but not enough to ever make me sad to leave it.

It took us until mid-afternoon that day to reach Isla Tiburon, four hours of which were nice sailing. We hit a lot of tidal current before Noon and had to motor against it the rest of the way. We anchored at Punta Willard (north side, east cove) which turned out to be the prettiest stop we made on the island in spite of the large amount of trash on the beach (including a few rusty refrigerators). John swam out a stern anchor to keep us pointed into the swell, and I jumped into the clearest water I've seen in months (okay, so the water visibility in BLA during the summer isn't the greatest). In just that one late afternoon snorkel I saw a nursery full of grouper with a few big adults, the biggest trigger fish I've ever seen, a nudibranch, a small moray eel, and big schools of bait fish in about three different sizes (S, M, and L). I'm sure the fishing there must be excellent.

Not knowing that this would be the best the island had to offer, we decided to press on farther east the next day to get through the channel formed by Isla San Esteban to the south. Less than 30 minutes after weighing anchor John pulled in a nice sierra for dinner. He had fun releasing skipjacks and a bonito (and we had a brief whale sighting) before we got tired of bucking the current and pulled into Bahia de las Cruces, just to the east of Punta Colorado. This was pretty, but the beach was gravel, we had to be careful to anchor in a sandy patch (there were many rocks on the bottom), and the water clarity had dropped.

We got another sunrise start Monday morning to get through Cactus Pass at low tide and calm water so that we would be able to see the reefs to either side. We took it slow and I don't think we ever saw less than 35', but we were glad that we hadn't tried it the day before when the wind was blowing hard in the afternoon. It only took us a couple of hours to rejoin SolMate who had taken the safe route around Isla Turner the previous day when we decided to stop at Las Cruces.

Dog Bay is where we really started feeling the humidity of the mainland. The bay was loaded with life - birds, at least one turtle, and fish jumping clear out of the water - but there was so much organic matter in the water that we were back to snorkeling in a snowstorm. It was so bad that when we got to where we could touch bottom we couldn't even see it very well. This makes me nervous since I'm afraid I'll run into a rock (or worse), so after a short beach walk I swam back to the boat. The flies, gnats and mosquitos were bad here so we didn't sit out on deck for long either. It seems as though that's the drawback to getting so much rain in the summer. Even the boats left on the Baja have been reporting annoying bugs in their anchorages.

Linda and John

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Farewell to BLA

20 September 2006
Ensenada Quemado (28 56' N 113 25' W)

After a couple of "last flings" Nakia has officially departed Bahia de los Angeles for the year. It's very hard to have to be one of the first boats to say goodbye but John is anxious to get over to San Carlos to begin working on the boat projects he has planned for this winter. We are buddy boating as usual with SolMate and we will take our time making day trips across the Sea of Cortez. Local fishermen are still reporting floating debris from hurricane John, so we want to avoid having to make any overnight passages.

Fortunately before we left we were able to spend time with our favorite boats. We went down to SoBLA for a birthday party, and had three days in a row of pleasant weather and competitive dart games. Our last morning there we had sunrise temps of 72 F in the cabin and 65.5 F outside, making it our coolest morning of the season so far. Maybe that was a sign that something was up because the wind built to 25-30 kt gusts out of the northwest, and we waited too long to bail out of the exposed anchorage. We raised anchor mid-afternoon and took spray across the entire boat during the three mile voyage to La Mona where we could get out of the worst of the wind waves. So much for our fresh water boat wash from the remnants of hurricane John...

The next morning we returned to the village anchorage for two more days and nights of shopping and eating out on the town with friends. I got my chilaquile breakfast fix for the summer at Costa del Sol; we had one last Sunday birria and taco night with the gang at China's; I bought my BLA souvenir T-shirt from the excellent little museo in town; I got my last dog fix on the beach with Rocky of Milagro; and we had killer margaritas and botanas at Costa del Sol for our final farewell to our friends. It is just too hard to say goodbye, so instead we say "see you down the road." As John told a friend on the Sonrisa net this morning, summers in the Sea are our favorite part of the year in Mexico, and it almost (almost!) makes us wish hurricane season was a little longer.

As a final wrap, here's a list of the BLA summer class of 2006. Hasta luego!

Adios (Ray and Jayne)
Aquarius (Jerry and Sally)
Caravan (Gene, Vicky, and six year old Fiona)
Catherine Estelle (Ricardo and Linda)
Cat 'n' About (Rob and Linda)
Ceilidh (Jay and Janice)
Elusive (Dick and Carol)
Endeavor (David and Candy)
Esmeralda (Jim and Sandy)
Java (John and Mary)
Joyeux (Rob and Sue)
Liberty (Larry and Jackie)
Maitairoa (Alex and Sue)
Milagro (Lance and Jo)
Nakia (John and Linda)
Nuestra Isla (Bob and Jennifer)
OverHeated (Darrell and Rita)
Que Tal (Dave and Carolyn)
Rhythmic Breeze (Kalen, Mimi, and six month old baby boy Taave)
SolMate (Stan and MJ)
Soul Searcher (Ray and Peggy)
Trick (John and Patricia)
V'ger (Casey and Ann)

Linda and John

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Winding Down Summer

12 September 2006
BLA Village

After spending six nights in Puerto Don Juan waiting for hurricane -> tropical storm -> tropical depression John we were all a little stir crazy and ready to get out of there. There was a mass exodus on September 5 with most boats opting for a supply run to the village, but a few headed straight for other anchorages and a handfull actually stayed on in PDJ. We enjoyed an evening out with Ceilidh, Milagro, and SolMate at Costa del Sol for margaritas and botanas. Costa del Sol is still my favorite place in the village to enjoy a very nice, though spendy, meal, and it's perfect for celebrating special occasions.

We got an early start the next morning for La Gringa. It's only six miles from the village but we decided to motor there in the cool of the morning. Most of the fleet (15 boats!) went to La Mona for the full moon jacuzzi tides, but we decided to avoid the crowd this time. Along with four other boats we played in the runoff from a lagoon to the east of the anchorage. This lagoon is much bigger than the one at La Mona so the current is very strong. It's not as laid back as the La Mona jacuzzi since it's more like one of those "river" water attractions. We had fun floating down it until it got too shallow to keep us off the stony bottom, and then we just sat in the shallows out of the current and relaxed.

We hung out there for four nights before returning to the village for fuel and water. I love the easy living here - 10 peso tacos, internet, groceries - and I also like the sand spit. It's a good destination for a swim from the boat, and once there it's a nice walk for shelling too.

This has been an excellent summer so far! The weather has been mostly pleasant and we've seen more rain than ever before (the ocatillo are even leafed out now). It's been fun, and we hate to have to think about leaving for San Carlos and boat projects at the end of the month.

Linda and John

Monday, September 04, 2006

Nada from John

4 September 2006
Puerto Don Juan
8:00 AM PDT

Just a quick update to let everyone know that we got nothing but a little rain from John. Yesterday was breezy, but only 15-20k with gusts to 25. We could have gone about as if it were a normal day, but most everyone had their outboards off their dinghies (or dinghies stowed away) and so everyone was stuck on boats. John and I even managed our late afternoon swim, although there was an uncomfortable (for swimming) chop in the anchorage.

Last night it rained, but I don't think it was even an inch if that, and I didn't wake up to any strong winds.

Sad report from Mulege this morning. They had extreme flooding along the river and in the streets in town. Some people had to swim from their homes to reach higher ground. Although no deaths have been reported, there are still some people missing. There was major damage to property on or near the river. A large camper was seen floating down the river. There's no power, no gas, and no water. After people were able to return to their homes, they found the looters had been there before them.

Linda and John

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Latest on John

3 September 2006
Puerto Don Juan
7:00 AM PDT update

La Paz: (report from Reflections) 20k winds today and some blue sky appearing; storm abating; 10' seas out in bay at height of storm.

Puerto Escondido: (reports from Cat's Meow and Blew Moon) at height of impact sustained winds up to 40k with gusts 55 (Cocktail Cove) to 80k (the Waiting Room); 31" of hard, horizontal rain over 24 hour period; today 20k S/SE; road to Loreto is washed out; Tortuga broke loose from her mooring and is in the mangroves.

Bahia Concepcion: (report from Etosha) 40-50k yesterday; 23" of rain over 24 hour period; today S/SE 20k with higher gusts.

Magdalena Bay area (report from Nostalgia): yesterday 30-40k with higher gusts; 15-30k last night; 15-20k today; 2-3" of rain total.

Puerto Don Juan: yesterday SE 15-20k; overnight light and variable; this morning NW 5k and overcast to the S.

San Carlos (mainland MX; report from Selah): 20k NE and rain this morning.

1200 GMT position of tropical storm John: 26.8N 112.4W; eye is 25m W/SW of Mulege; moving NW at 9mph; 35-45k winds from eye out to 60 miles; rain 100-150 miles out from center; 995mb; forecast to move NW at 7k.

Forecast for Sea of Cortez: Today - S/SE 20-50; 40k in northern crossing area up to Isla Tiburon (25-29 degrees N); this afternoon in far north (Isla Angel de la Guardia and Isla Tiburon to Puerto Penasco) E/SE 30-45k, then veer counter clockwise S 25-35k by Monday morning; Monday afternoon S/SE 10-20 for entire Sea of Cortez.

All is well with us, just waiting to see what's going to happen.

Linda and John

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Dress Rehearsal

2 September 2006
Puerto Don Juan
8:00 AM PDT

Yesterday was mostly clear and calm, just like the day before, with enough breeze to keep things cooled off. We've really been enjoying the low humidity after a period of cloudy, muggy weather earlier in the week. We continued prepping Nakia for the potential effects of hurricane John, and went for our usual late afternoon swim. It was another peaceful evening after sunset with little to no convection on the horizon (although this is difficult to judge accurately since we are mostly surrounded by high hills).

After listening to my John moving around on deck for awhile I got out of bed when the wind started to build at midnight. By 12:30 AM it was probably in the 20-25 knot range and everyone was up taking down sun awnings, checking anchors, and clearing the decks. Fortunately, we go to bed pretty well prepared now, and there wasn't much to worry about except for other boats.

It didn't take long for a trimaran to start dragging anchor. This was kind of ironic since their crew had already been up working on hurricane prep. It didn't help that they had two anchors out either. It's tough to get one anchor back on board while dragging/motoring through an anchorage, let alone two. So they dragged the length of the anchorage before it looked like they reset (or at least regrouped) long enough to get control. But then they came motoring through the field of 19 other boats, and it was a good thing Dave and Candy on Endeavor had pulled almost everyone's anchor buoys yesterday afternoon, or the tri could have hooked one of those.

Instead they hooked SolMate's bow. It looked like they were connected pretty well before finally separating, but Stan reported no damage or injuries this morning - yay! We were feeling awful about it since we were the ones who directed them to that particular spot when they came in to anchor yesterday. John had scoped it out earlier with the GPS and it looked like a nice hole to drop in - who knew.

No other excitement to report from here. Highest gusts reported were 46-48 knots. No rain. Lightning was off in the distance. No thunder. Lots of dirt on everything this morning.

La Paz was in the path of John with winds 50-60 knots and gusts to 78. No reports of anything other than light damage to boats, but we've only heard from a couple of people in the area and that was too early this morning to expect complete coverage of the event. Things are expected to heat up here in about 24 hours, but by then the forecast is for John to have cut across to the Pacific at Guerrero Negro, and be downgraded to a tropical depression. [0900 update: Latest forecast is for John to be a remnant low by the time it gets up this far.]

Three more boats should be arriving today, and everyone is busy completing their preparations for more high winds. Our dress rehearsal last night was good practice, and now we have a better idea of where our weaknesses are, and of who the scene stealers are likely to be!

Linda and John

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Waiting for Hurricane John

31 August 2006
Puerto Don Juan (28 57' N 113 27' W)

Yesterday we moved from the village of Bahia de los Angeles (BLA) to the local hurricane hole as we wait to see what hurricane John is going to do. This morning the forecasts were split, with one predicting that it will hit Cabo San Lucas and then make a left turn, and the other saying that it will hit Cabo and then come up the Sea of Cortez. We should have a better idea by tomorrow afternoon, after it reaches CSL. In the meantime the Mexican Riviera is getting pummeled by wind and rain, and probably huge swells. We heard this morning that John is finally starting to get some notice in the US press. This is typical since all the US focus is on Atlantic hurricanes (from their infancy), and no one pays any attention to the Eastern Pacific storms until they get cranked up and begin to threaten the Mexican resorts.

There are currently 17 boats anchored in PDJ with another five expected to come in if things start to look serious. We all have anchor buoys out so that the newcomers can see where each boat has its anchor, and several of us already have all our chain out to mark our territory. There's no point in keeping it in the anchor locker, and it would be a bummer if a boat anchored right behind you and you couldn't let anymore chain out if you had to. We won't begin to make serious hurricane preparations until we have a better idea of where John is headed after Cabo. We're keeping our fingers crossed for that left turn, especially since we have many friends with boats in La Paz.

And we're a little more concerned than usual with hurricane John since, as John Gratton says, "This one has my name on it!"

Linda and John

Friday, August 25, 2006

Boat Wash

24 August 2006
Bahia de los Angeles (28 54' N 113 31' W)

We're anchored in SoBLA (aka Ceilidhville) where we've been hanging out with Ceilidh and SolMate at "Duffy's," Jay and Janice's micro trailer/palapa on the beach. They have a dart board on their wood porch, and so far we've had two afternoon games interrupted by weather. The anchorage is a bit of an open roadstead in the SW corner of the big bay, and when the wind comes up from the east or any of the northern quadrants there's an ugly fetch.

The first time it happened the "J" team (Jay, Janice, and John) were being soundly beaten by the "Others" (Linda, MJ, and Stan). We'd been keeping an eye on the weather and watching some unusual clouds creeping over the eastern mountains like San Francisco marine fog, but it was a great game (for some of us) and we didn't want to call it quits. Finally it was obvious that the wind was picking up from the east and there was concerned chatter on the radio from the rest of the boats around the bay. We hastily carried chairs and dishes into the trailer and gathered up our potluck lunch things before racing to the dinghies on the beach.

It was already a bouncy ride back to the boat where we started our engine and got the dinghy outboard stowed on Nakia's stern. Although it hadn't been his intention on the beach, once we were on the boat John decided he'd better raise the anchor while he still could. The depth sounder read nine feet and the bow was getting buried in the swell. If conditions worsened, we'd be caught in a potentially dangerous situation. Stan said later he wished he'd thought to capture John raising anchor on video, and John said it felt like a "Victory at Sea" moment with the bow climbing up and then plunging off the waves.

Of course as soon as we were motoring to the safety of La Mona the wind was already backing off. Even so SolMate followed us over later so they wouldn't have a sleepless night worried about more of the same. Since Ceilidh's more used to the conditions down here at their home base they stayed put, and we all had a calm and peaceful night.

We returned the next morning for a rematch at darts. This time Nakia anchored farther away from the shallow shelf that runs along the beach down here. Once again there was a close match being played as weather built up late in the afternoon. The J's had trashed the Others in the first game before the latter got its act together and pulled out ahead in the second game. But the J's came from way behind and it was down to a last bullseye for the Others to win it.

We'd been watching lightning over the western mountains and rain coming down the valley but we were sure it was going to pass us by. It's a real conundrum for cruisers who wish for rain to get a free boat wash, but who are sitting ducks for lightning strikes. Here in the desert you rarely get the former without the latter, and usually the rain dumps over the mountains and valleys before it reaches us out on the water.

We'd been focusing so much on the activity over the mountains that we almost ignored the ominous black cloud high overhead. It just didn't seem low enough to start anything, so we were startled when we felt drops of rain falling on us. This time John and Stan raced out to the boats to secure hatches and portholes while the rest of us stayed behind to close up Duffy's. Then we took cover up on a neighbor's second floor covered deck where we could observe the boats. As the southernmost boat, Nakia was first to disappear in the pouring rain. John radioed back to us that he'd be staying out there until it had passed. Stan took care of closing up SolMate and Ceilidh and hurried back to the beach soaking wet. There were two lightning strikes that were within a mile or two of us - it's pretty scary when you only get to "one, one thous..." and the thunder cracks right next to you!

The storm soon passed by, we watched the mud puddles disappear into the sandy soil, and then we were all walking the Buster dog on the beach, enjoying the fresh green smell in the air like nothing had happened. It was just another lazy summer day in the Sea of Cortez.

Linda and John

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Hot and Cold

One of the aspects of living in a desert sea environment that I find intriguing is the way we can go from sweat to goose bumps to sweat again in a matter of minutes. Here in Ensenada Alcatraz the water is 78 degrees and the afternoon/evening cabin temperature is 91. We've gotten into the habit of going for a swim at around 4 PM. If possible we'll swim to the beach, take a short walk, and swim back to the boat. The wind here blows out of the SE during the day time, but by 5 or 6 it switches back to the west for the night. So by the time we return for our showers up on deck the wind has become very dry, and the water rapidly evaporating off our skin makes us freezing cold. After we've dried off, wiped the decks, hung our wet things on the life lines, and put away our snorkeling gear, the temperature has risen and we're sweating again.

But I'll take the hot, dry wind over a humid breeze any day!


Thursday, August 17, 2006

Summer Routine

17 August 2006
Ensenada Alcatraz, just north of BLA (29 10' N 113 37' W)

No, we haven't been sucked into a black hole, we're just settled into our summer cruising grounds. It's a bit like winter hibernation for those of you up north, in that we slow down and don't get much done due to the hotter temperatures. Even computer work, which seems like it would be an easy occupation to while away the hot afternoons, isn't much fun when sweat is pooling underneath your hands as they rest on the keyboard. And reading after lunch inevitably becomes a nap. Since we usually start our days before 6 AM, we don't feel too guilty about the naps.

We've returned here to Alcatraz because there's a pretty white sand beach and the fishing is supposed to be good. However it's a windy spot, and today we've killed 3-4 mosquitos the size of small flies which were out flying around in the day time. It's also hotter than some of the island anchorages but since the wind is usually out of the west, it's nice and dry. We left Las Rocas at Isla Coronado (aka Isla Smith) to come here yesterday because the no-see-ums were eating John. At least we can see the mosquitos to kill them, which is next to impossible with the no-see-ums.

The swimming has been great this month with water temps ranging from 78-84. We had fun at a full moon party about a week ago in La Mona (see the entry for "Jacuzzi at La Mona" September 19, 2005). There were around 15 boats anchored there for the big tides, and on the afternoon of the full moon everyone went to the beach for bocci ball, "rafting" out the lagoon cut, and generally keeping cool. I had a great time playing "dolphin" and other water games with six year old Fiona off of Caravan, and it was a nice way to meet boats who are up here for their first BLA summer.

After the full moon most of us moved west to Ceilidhville (aka SoBLA), which is the open roadstead anchorage in the bay just off of "Duffy's Tavern." This is Jay and Janice's micro trailer/palapa where we enjoyed many games of darts last summer. They were nice enough to throw a Net Controller's party for all the boats which volunteer to run the radio nets (Sonrisa, Amigo, and Southbound). Jay cooked up delicious Duffy Dogs and we brought all the rest of the food. Jayne and Ray on Adios even presented each controller with a humorous "award" (Nakia got "Net control most likely to be mistaken for a cell phone company" because our name is always being mispronounced, "Nokia.").

We've been to the village a couple of times to take care of the normal provisioning chores - food, water, and fuel - and to treat ourselves to dinner in the evenings. The sure bet for the latter is any of the taco stands, but one of SolMate's summer goals is to try every restaurant in town so one night we ended up at a new place. The location isn't new, but the upstairs restaurant wasn't operating last summer. Now we know why, and we won't be returning - it took almost two hours for our food to be served (because there was a table of four boats which ordered before us); when it arrived it was only mediocre for the price; and there was not a word of apology, let alone complimentary dessert or drinks, offered to make up for the delay. Yes, this is Mexico, but when the price is 160 pesos for a skimpy shrimp dinner, even cruisers have their limits. Especially when we know that we can get a very good meal with prompt service in nicer surroundings for less money at Costa del Sol just down the road.

Adventure of the month: A few days before the full moon, when there were only three boats in La Mona, John happened to be up in the cockpit (the absolute luck of these things amazes me) when a 12-14 foot whale shark passed right alongside the length of Nakia. I kept an eye on where it was headed while John loaded up our snorkeling gear, and we jumped in the dinghy to follow it. When we were about 15 feet away from the shark we killed the motor to let the dinghy drift, and jumped in the water. In case you think we're crazy, whale sharks are baleen filter feeders, not your normal toothed sharks. We've heard stories and seen video of cruisers swimming with them and even holding on to the dorsal fins for free rides. So of course John's goal was the latter, and we had to swim hard just to catch up behind this shark. I swam parallel to it and watched John come up and gently touch the dorsal fin. But the second he touched it, the shark gave a few hard sideways flicks of its tail (hitting John in the shin, but not badly), and was gone. It was absolutely beautiful - they are black with white spots all over - and it had three remoras attached to its tail. We never got in front of it so were spared the sight of its huge open mouth. This was quite a thrill, and something we were hoping to do last summer but the sharks didn't arrive in the bay until about a week after we left to go back south. This appears to be a lone adolescent, just hanging around in the bay, since there have been several sightings of it. SolMate spotted it later when we were in the anchorage off the village, but we haven't seen it again.

That's all the news for now!

Linda and John

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Sail Day with Aquatic Adventures

I sent this to Latitude 38 to post on 'Lectronic or publish but just in case they don't, here it is for all our friends to read:

On July 23, 2006 six boats based in Bahia de los Angeles for the Pacific hurricane season hosted 15 boys and girls and six adults for an afternoon sail on the bay. The kids were here from Hoover High School in San Diego for a five week educational program with an emphasis on marine sciences, the environment, and community service organized by Aquatic Adventures (www.aquaticadventures.org). Hoover HS is an inner-city school, and it's the goal of Aquatic Adventures to supplement programs in schools where budget cuts have reduced coverage of the sciences.

We all anchored off of the dinghy landing at Guillermo's to await the arrival of our guests at 1 PM. Each skipper dinghied in to meet them on the beach, ferried out the passengers assigned to each boat, and then the "race" was on. Nakia raised anchor under sail and was first to lead the fleet out from the Village on a close reach towards Isla Cabeza de Caballo. There we tacked toward Isla la Ventana, and when it was time to return, most of the boats set their spinnakers for the downwind run back to the Village. It was a beautiful sight to see six boats sailing as a fleet out on the bay!

From all reports everyone had a great time. The kids were encouraged to raise and lower sail, perform tacking and jibing maneuvers, and of course, drive the boats. We told them a bit about the cruising lifestyle and they asked all sorts of wonderful questions. After the boats re-anchored everyone jumped in for a swim in the warm water before riding back to the beach in the dinghies. It was a nice way to cool off after a hot, cloudless afternoon. We were fortunate to have a perfect day which had been preceded by days of thunderstorm activity and was followed by the big south easterlies from tropical storm Emilia.

We can't say enough about how terrific this event was. The students were enthusiastic, inquisitive, and just a delight to have on board. And it's always refreshing for jaded old salts to experience the thrill of sailing through the eyes of appreciative youngsters.

We'd like to extend a big thank you to everyone who was involved:

Nakia (John and Linda) and SolMate (Stan, MJ, and el gato Gale) who got the ball rolling.
Ceilidh (Jay, Janice, and bad dog Buster) who picked it up and ran with it.
Milagro (Lance, Jo, and guard puppy Rocky) and OverHeated (Darrell and Rita) who rushed north from Santa Rosalia to be here in time.
Caravan (Gene, Vicky, Fiona-6, and good dog Clipper) who called us on the VHF and asked to be included.
Liberty (Larry and Jackie) who unfortunately had to cancel at the last minute due to engine problems.
Rancho Pacifico (Larry and Lois) who are land based in BLA for most of the year, and who threw the great parties that brought everyone together in the first place!

Linda Hill and John Gratton
S/V Nakia, Hans Christian 33
Redwood City, CA/Cruising Mexico

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Puerto Refugio

18 July 2006
29 33' N 113 34' W

Fishing report: John caught one 36" male dorado about five miles out of Isla Angel de la Guardia as we made our approach.

We only had time to anchor here for two nights on our way back to the village at BLA, but we're very glad we decided to include this stop. We were leery of staying here because everyone we know has been chased out by the jejenes, or no-see-ums, the bites of which drive John loco. We exercised extreme caution in the evening and morning hours (socks, long pants, long sleeves, bug repellant sprayed on all screens, and mosquito coils burning), and while hiking on shore (bug repellant and long sleeves for John). So we suffered from being fully dressed in the heat, but we departed with only a few bites between us.

Despite our biting insect paranoia the area more than lived up to its reputation for scenic beauty. The West Bay, where we anchored with SolMate, was swimming pool blue and clear. There wasn't a huge variety of fish but we saw lots of grouper and trigger fish and three turtles over the two times we snorkeled. It was so fantastic to be able to snorkel in warm, crystal clear water for a change.

We took a short walk on Isla Mejilla the afternoon of our arrival. Covered with the most organ cactus we've seen in one area, it was too bad that a fish camp or kayakers have left unsightly garbage along the beach. Today we all took a morning hike on Isla Angel de la Guardia, walking up ridges with views into the East Bay anchorages. This is a very active bird nesting area and we were at the tail end of the season. The gulls had all fledged, but there were still a few young pelicans walking around that didn't seem quite ready for flight. The ground was littered with dead pelicans, but there was a healthy population of juveniles hanging out at the middle bight in the East Bay and we have no way of knowing if this was a good or bad year for them.

We'd like to return for a longer visit but we hear that it gets hotter as the summer progresses. We're very glad we made the stop early in the season, and maybe we'll go back up in September before we cross to San Carlos for our haulout.

Linda and John

Friday, July 14, 2006

North Country

14 July 2006
Gonzaga Bay (29 45' N 114 18' W)

Yesterday at 5 AM we raised anchor at Isla Smith, off of BLA, and mostly motored the 65 miles NW to Bahia San Luis Gonzaga. We didn't drop the anchor until 6 PM which meant that John got to check in as an underway vessel (which take priority and get to go first) to all three radio nets - Sonrisa (HAM), Amigo, and Southbound (both SSB). John tried hard to get some sailing in, but we knew we had a long way to go and what wind there was was from directly aft (which is a very slow point of sail for us) so we only had the engine off for a couple of hours. The rest of the time we had the main up and we rolled the big jib in and out all day long whenever we thought it could help give us a push. We always motor with the main up, for shade if nothing else. We thought we might get an assist from an 8-12 foot flood tide (depending on whether you look at the tide table for BLA or Puertecitos farther north), but just because the beach gets huge at low tide doesn't mean you get any current out in open waters. The only place we really noticed it was exiting Canal de Ballenas that morning.

And the only interesting thing of note during the whole slow long day was a shark sighting. John looked aft and saw something big checking out his fishing lures. When it came to the surface we could clearly see that it was a 6-7 foot shark of some kind. John never felt any tension on the hand line, but after the shark departed and John pulled the line in, there was no lure and the 150 lb test line looked like it had been cut with a razor.

Our other shark story which I forgot to tell you about was when we had our really slow sail from Esta Ton on Isla Angel de la Guardia to Ensenada Alcatraz. We had the spinnaker up all morning making no headway, and by 1 PM we were actually just drifting, the spinnaker hanging limp. I had been thinking that a long day of slow sailing is fun when there's lots to see, but can be pretty boring when there's not much wildlife around. John stepped up to the starboard rail to give Mr. Winky some fresh air, and I looked to port from the cockpit when I heard a sound like an approaching wave in the glassy water. I whispered, "John, John" when I should have just screamed, "Shark!" This 7-8 foot monster made a direct bee-line for the cockpit end of the boat before rolling on its side to pass about two feet from the port side of the boat. Then it went around the bow to do the same thing on the starboard side. I guess I didn't really need to worry about scaring it away before John could see it! It was just incredible when it rolled on its side sort of looking up at us with a big eye in a very huge head. Friends of ours said it was probably a black fin, but it all looked dark gray to me with a big pointed head, so we thought maybe it was a mako. Good thing we hadn't decided to jump in for a refreshing swim before the wind filled in.

Anyway, we're now the farthest north that we've ever been in the Sea of Cortez and, boy, is it hot! It was over 90 degrees when we arrived and it was over 90 degrees when we woke up this morning. The good thing is that the humidity has been in the 30-40 percent range. The water temp is in the low 80's and we had a long soak before dinner last night. But the evening breeze felt like it came from a blast furnace (and is so dry you can't look directly into the wind or your eyeballs dry out), and every time I woke up during the night I was sweating even though we had two fans pointed at the bed. We are drinking liters of water at a time, and I even dreamt last night that I was snorkeling in cool water.

This morning we met SolMate on the beach at our usual 8 AM rendezvous time. (I had debated about making coffee when I got up at 6 AM, but I couldn't not have my morning cup in spite of the heat!) We took a leisurely walk through the section of "vacation homes" above the beach here. Much more primitive than at Punta Chivato, but I think that's because this is even more difficult to get to by dirt road (there's no water or power to these places, and they have dirt airstrips for private planes). There were lots of impressive solar arrays, but they all looked brown with age. The best part was when we got back down to the huge sandy beach exposed by low tide and found all kinds of small shells in the tidal runoff. The boys had to drag the shell collectors off the beach to return to the boats in time for a late breakfast.

Now we are hibernating in the heat of the afternoon. Tomorrow morning we plan to go a bit farther up to Bahia Willard, aka the other hurricane hole up in the Sea.

Linda and John

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Eight Miles in Five Hours

11 July 2006
Mitlan anchorage, Isla Smith, Bahia de los Angeles (BLA)
29 04' N 113 31' W

Well, it would have been eight miles if we'd come directly here from Ensenada Alcatraz instead of trying to sail. You'd think between two boats and four sailors that one of us would have realized we'd burn less diesel by putting the pedal to the metal as soon as we left the anchorage. We all knew that we were soon going to be bucking an eight foot flood tide, and the reason we were leaving in the first place was to find a better refuge from the strong south easterlies that came up by mid-morning for the past two days.

But instead, intrepid sailors that we are, we sailed out of the anchorage hoping for more wind to take us south. Two hours later we had the engine on at low RPMs and 20 minutes after that we cranked it up to full cruising throttle after we realized we'd never make the new anchorage if we didn't beat feet. Even so our best hourly average speed over ground was only 3.0 knots, and we ended up covering 15.5 nautical miles.

But the new anchorage is calmer, though still windier than I'd like for swimming. At least there's not much in the way of wind waves so we'll be able to get out in the dinghy. Yesterday we didn't leave the boat at all. Instead John made a new wind scoop to replace the old nylon one that finally ripped in the previous night's high winds. And we watched a movie in the afternoon. He was able to go fishing before we left this morning and caught his first yellow tail jack of the season. He caught a second one but we already had enough for dinner so that one got thrown back in.

The weather had been hot and dry after a humid period, but this morning we woke up to soaking wet decks and 77 degrees in the cabin (was usually about 83). We've been doing a lot of hiking in the mornings with Stan and MJ from SolMate, and I got one nice warm snorkel (water was about 84 degrees on the surface) in at a place called Esta Ton at Isla Angel de la Guardia. That was a beautiful little anchorage (both boats had to bow and stern anchor - it would make a better one boat anchorage), but we got chased out by the no-see-ums. All of the anchorages on this island are notorious for the no-see-ums which is a shame since the places at the north end are supposed to be very pretty. But John is very susceptible to bug bites and we've already had a bad report of bugs up there, so we're probably going to give it a pass.

It was fun to visit the village of BLA again after being away for almost a year, and not much has changed. Laundry is still exorbitant (they wanted 250p for three regular loads - wash, line dry, and fold - but we talked them down to 200p which is still higher than anywhere else in Mexico). There's one additional tienda to add to our list when it's time to search for vegetables, and it's still easy to find most of what you need.

So it should be a good summer, and we're looking forward to seeing the rest of our friends up here soon.

Linda and John

Monday, June 26, 2006

Communing With Nature

25 June 2006
Isla Las Animas, Baja
28 42' N, 112 05' W

Yes, we're no longer up to date on our blog, but let's just jump back in from here. We spent an unheard of six nights in the lagoon at Bahia San Francisquito - unheard of because we're usually in and out of an anchorage after three nights max. But the anchorage there is very protected with no swell, which turned out to be just what John needed for removing the teak from the cabin top foredeck. Except for the cockpit, that's the last large area to be done. It's very nice to be able to walk around without leaving dirty footprints most of the time now. The gel coat is much easier to keep clean.

The bird activity in that area was amazing, and was starting to become a nuisance with all the noise they were making. Hundreds of birds - including pelicans, terns, Hermann's Gulls, blue-footed and brown boobies, cormorants, etc. - were after huge bait balls which ringed the bay. These were so thick that the sandy bottom appeared to be black with undulating "grass." We also saw several young sea lions enjoying the feast.

We took one hike and one beach walk while we were there, had three boats over for cocktails on Nakia, dinner on SolMate (we contributed some of the dorado John caught on the trip up from Santa Rosalia), and movie nights on both Nakia and SolMate. Besides the water being a refreshing 70-72 degrees, the only downside was the number of bees visiting the boat whenever the breeze was down (mostly mornings and evenings). This morning I decided I'd had enough of them and got up from my chair to come down below. I wasn't careful about making sure none were nosing around me and, when I flexed my foot to stand up, I felt something on my instep. I lifted my foot back up off my flip-flop in time to release the bee and see it fly away, but then quickly realized that it had already stung me. I immediately went below where John was waiting with a kitchen knife to scrape out the sting and poison sack, and then applied ammonia and ice. This afternoon the sting isn't much bigger than a mosquito bite and hasn't bothered me at all. I'm sure the key was getting the poison sack out in a matter of seconds after being stung.

We raised anchor at 8 AM and motored for an hour before sailing the rest of the way here. Actually there wasn't any wind to speak of but we got a push from the flood tide. The nice thing about only doing 2-3 knots under sail is that you see and hear so much wildlife. We heard the splashing of a large pod of dolphins before we could see it, and we were surprised a few times by the loud exhalations and inhalations of a few very large whales which we think were fin backs. And it's always fun to hear the splats of manta rays doing back flips in the air. They've already disappeared back into the water by the time the sound reaches us, but they usually accommodate us by doing two in a row so we can see the second aerial trick.

John's out fishing, trying to find the school of yellow tail that our neighbor reported seeing in the anchorage yesterday. We're a little exposed to weather out here so tomorrow we'll probably head back to the Baja coast to continue north.

Linda and John

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


We've been doing a long term summertime project on NAKIA that I thought you'd all be interested in. We're removing the teak decking from everywhere except the cockpit. This is a long multi-step process which, ultimately, will prepare the deck for gluing down new non-skid fiberglass panels. The process goes as follows: First I take a small chisel and a hammer and remove the wood plugs which seal up the top of the screws. The plugs are about 3/8" of an inch wide and 1/8" deep. This turns out to be about the hardest part because the plugs are very well glued into the deck. In fact on a lot of times, the only thing sealing the screw is glue, the plug having long worn away. After removing the plugs from 150 or so screws, I take my drill driver and remove the screws. This is the fastest step - power tools are great! When all the screws are removed, the hard work begins. Using two pry bars, a couple of wood chisels, a heavy duty putty knife, and a big, heavy hammer I pry the teak planks from the underlying fiberglass. This is usually a challenging effort because the black caulking used to seal the teak planks to the fiberglass is still in pretty good shape and the teak is not in very good shape. Between the strong glue and old wood many of the planks break in the process of being removed, leaving a lot of splinters and short pieces. Once in a while I can actually pull an entire plank without it breaking. Once all the planks are off Linda and I go back over the fiberglass and scrape off as much of the black caulking as possible. The rest will be sanded off later. With all the screw holes open, I take some penetrating epoxy (a runny glue which soaks into wood and fiberglass and then hardens) and squirt it into the screw holes using a small syringe. That's left for 36-48 hours to cure and then I go back and drill out all the screw holes using a counter-sync bit to make a larger surface area for the filler to adhere to. I mix up some epoxy and thickener and then push it into all the holes. This cures over night so the next day I can finish off the job by sanding all the excess epoxy filler along with the left over black caulking. This is the dirtiest step with all the sanding dust blowing all over the place. Finally I vacuum up the dust and Linda wipes down the deck with a sponge and water and we're left with a clean smooth white deck.

Why, you may ask, are we doing this? The primary reason is heat. The teak decks are hot-hot-hot! If the mid-day sun is on the teak it's impossible to stand barefoot on the deck; you have to wear shoes to protect your feet. Also the teak is dirty. It holds dirt and mildew and slowly distributes it to the rest of the boat. So we're hoping that after the removal/replacement process we'll end up with a cooler, cleaner, and lighter boat.

We'll know for sure this winter when we're all done and the deck is newly painted.

John and Linda

Monday, May 15, 2006

Puerto Escondido

After staying in Puerto Los Gatos for a while we started getting itchy feet and since the weather was so calm we figured we'd go ahead and make a 'big jump,' all the way to Puerto Escondido.

Puerto Escondido (Escon-Gringo to some of the more cynical cruisers) is the home of Loreto Fest, a big cruiser party, that had just completed a few days before. We really only went in for one reason, to hook up with our friends Stan and MJ from SolMate. But since we were there anyway we thought we'd go ahead and get water.

PE has great fresh water. But only one spigot. The spigot is on a sea wall about 8 ft high, and the depth next to the wall is only about 4 ft (NAKIA needs 6). However, it's much deeper only a few feet from the wall. There are two ways to get water in PE. You run back and forth between the spigot and your boat with jugs or you can Med-moor to the sea wall and run a hose ashore. Since we were coming in for a quick turn around we decided on the second method.

Before you can get water in PE, you have to call Jose. Did I neglect to mention that the water spigot is under lock and key? Well, Jose has the key. Before you can get a single drop you have to call on the radio and in your best Spanish say "Jose, necesito agua, por favor." He'll come back in his best English, "OK, OK!"

Having contacted Jose, we called Stan and MJ to take our stern line for the Med-moor. (Med-mooring is done by dropping an anchor and then backing down toward a wall or other fixed structure and then tying a stern line to the wall. It's called Med-moor because the only way to moor in many ports in the Mediterranean is by this method.) We had one problem though, we didn't have any way to get our stern line to the wall. Enter John, super sailor. I quickly tied a monkey's fist using some old line and a tennis ball and then tied a 50 ft piece of small line onto the monkey's fist. I'd throw the fist ashore with our stern line attached so we wouldn't have to get to close to the shallow water at the base of the wall.

All set, we entered the harbor and went toward the spigot wall bow first to check the depth. Finding it sufficient, I pivoted the boat around, stern to the wall and motored forward to drop the bow anchor. This maneuver got a "you're showing off" rating from MJ. Before we dropped the bow anchor, Linda and I switched positions. She would drive and I'd handle the heavy anchor while I gave directions via hand signals from the bow (this is our normal anchoring procedure). In went the anchor, back went the boat, and just before we got too close I snubbed the anchor chain and walked back to the cockpit to throw the monkey's fist to Stan (this got an "You even have a monkey's fist!" rating from Stan). He tied off the stern line and we were set. You'd think we'd done it before. After that it was short work to fill NAKIA's tanks.

For our departure Stan just released the stern line and the anchor pulled us away from the wall. The only hiccup came when I wanted to tip Jose. I put a bill in the monkey's fist and threw it ashore, but for whatever reason I did it left handed and instead of arcing cleanly to the top of the wall it went wide left and too high, almost hitting a guy in his dinghy at the base of the wall. Oh well, you can't always be perfect.

John and Linda

Monday, May 08, 2006


LTR=Long Term Relationship

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Movin' up

Well it's been a long time since our last blog, so I thought I'd try to get up to date.

We spent the last part of April in La Paz where we did two things. Well maybe more than two, but two important things. First we renewed our FM-3 visas. We're now legal residents of Mexico for another year, and it only cost $100 each :-( The second important thing we did was to attend several of the seminars at La Paz Bay Fest. This used to be a real 'to do' in the Sea of Cortez but over time Loreto Fest got bigger and Sea of Cortez Race Week (as La Paz Bay Fest used to be called) got smaller. The new format is less party than Loreto Fest, but has a lot to offer in the form of seminars and a good race. Linda attended seminars on diving and snorkeling in the La Paz area, summering in the Sea of Cortez, Mexican laws applicable to Baja Cruisers, and First Aid. John, not as interested in continuing education programs for cruisers, got a race crew together for his friend Bob on Airpower and sailed the race.

While Linda was taking notes in seminars, John was out with Bob and Airpower trying to get the crew in order to race effectively. We must have done a pretty good job, because we won the race. Not only that we managed to fly two spinnakers at the same time in the process. Everyone was suitably impressed. Bob was a true friend and gave us the winning prize of dinner for two at La Divina Uva, which was a real treat and made for a very nice evening out for us.

After we received our new visas and got finished up with Bay Fest we moved Nakia into Marina Palmira for a two night, three day scrub-a-thon. The teak and fiberglass were looking pretty bad so it was time to spruce up for the coming summer. We also managed to do a bunch of last minute shopping, thanks to Lance and Jo on Milagro who have a truck and were based out of Marina Palmira all winter.

We were back out into the wild on April 30th. SolMate told us about a large beach on the east side of Espiritu Santo Island so we headed out that way. The wind didn't cooperate, and we ended up motoring almost the entire way. The beach was as advertised though - almost two miles of white sand. Of course the wind came up right as we were entering the anchorage so we had to wait until the evening before we could take a walk. Anytime we do something like this I think of the classic singles add: "SWF seeks LTR, enjoys long walks on the beach." Heck, we just take long walks on the beach because we want to take a walk, and the beaches are, well, long.

We left Bonanza Beach after only one night (I guess we don't like long walks on the beach that much) and headed out to the north end of Isla Partida. The weather forecast looked good to stay at a little cove there. Of course right as we're within one mile of the cove a Moorings charter boat comes screaming by in front of us, cuts into the cove and drops his anchor. As soon as their anchor was set, everyone went below. I went by close to ask if they were planning on staying the night and not just the afternoon. The cove is only big enough for one boat, and even though it was pretty clear they had 'taken our parking place,' Linda and I decided to let it go. After all, they're on vacation and we anchor in beautiful coves almost every night.

We set the spinnaker, right in front of the Moorings boat, and set off to Isla San Francisco. This is Linda's all time favorite island. We posted a picture of it in the blog last year showing its incredible turquoise water and crescent shaped white sand beach. The one bad thing about Isla San Francisco is that it doesn't protect you very well from the Coromuel, a southwest wind that blows out of the Bay of La Paz nearly every night in the spring and summer. In order to maximize our protection from the southwest, I decided to get in as tight as I could in the crescent. The water in there is not very deep, and there was a minus tide early the next morning, but I managed to get Nakia in far enough to get out of the worst of the wind generated chop and still keep about 6 inches of water under the keel even at low tide. It's a good thing the Coromuel did blow, because if it hadn't I'm sure we'd have ended up hard aground until the next high tide. One useful thing about being in shallow water, when I went down to clean the bottom of the boat I was able to _stand_ on the sand to scrub. Much more leverage that way. :-)

We spent three nights at Isla San Francisco, all of them in a stiff Coromuel. But thanks to our almost too shallow anchoring spot we were snug as could be. We'll have to try that again sometime. We had a good sail to Bahia Rincon, going through the usual antics with the sails: raise the main, roll out the jib on a broad reach, jibe the main, pole out the jib, hoist the drifter in double headsail configuration, drop the main, hoist the main, drop the drifter, jibe the jib, take in the pole, roll up the jib, drop the main, drop the anchor. Sounds like a lot of work for a 15 mile sail, no?

We actually survived our night at Bahia Rincon. It was just what we expected when we got there Wed afternoon; a nice calm anchorage with the wind out in the San Jose channel blowing 12-15. We anchored in 35 ft and put out 200 ft of chain, being careful to set the anchor in anticipation of a west wind Wed night. We went snorkeling and I got a medium sized crawler. Evening was calm and we went to bed.

About 1100 the wind started blasting down a little canyon that Lance warned me about on the Southbound net. We don't have a wind meter, but judging by the spray and short fetch I'd say some of the gusts were in the mid 30s. The wind died about 0100 only to start up again at 0400. No big deal really, we were only in danger of getting blown offshore, but it was hard to sleep with all that noise!

We set sail Thursday morning with the last of the blusterlies and dropped anchor on the north side of the Moreno Rocks. There's a little protection here from the SE wind that came up _after_ we motored almost all the way here. We put the dinghy in and went ashore and walked the beach; no snorkeling, it's just too darn cold. After our walk we got back to the dinghy and noticed a large flock of turkey vultures circling over Punta Cobre. That's when we noticed the smell.

We jumped in the dinghy and went around the south side of Punta Cobre and there on the beach was a medium sized gray whale. Or at least what was left of it. We were motoring away from the scene and, swimming between Isla Morena and Punta Cobre, was a small gray whale. Obviously a baby. Neither Linda nor I thought the whale on the rocks was big enough to be a full grown mother, but what do we know, we're not whale bio-persons. We were probably underestimating the size since we were viewing it from a distance, and there wasn't much left of the animal other then the skeleton and a nasty smell.

When we went ashore the next morning to scavenge a bone for Duffy's Tavern up in BLA, it was apparent that the whale was much bigger than we had originally thought. What a sad story if it really was the mother of the baby we saw in the channel. We chased the turkey vultures off and circled the carcass/skeleton taking pictures. I'd had visions of collecting the jaw bone, but it was huge when we got close enough to really see it. Instead we settled for one of the smaller vertebra, which was still a heavy load for John to carry back to the dinghy. John tied it to the back of the pushpit where it doesn't stink as long as we face into the wind. Let's hope we don't get a true downwind sail until it has a chance to bleach out in the sun. [Addendum: SolMate reports the whale was mostly still intact when they were there a week before us. It will be interesting to compare photographs with them.]

We had a great sail up the beach about 10 miles to Puerto Gato, and anchored next to friends Bob and Jennifer on Nuestra Isla. Other than some overcast, Puerto Gato has been very nice. We've been here three nights and haven't had so much as a light breeze. I did a little snorkeling, complete with wet suit jacket, to see if there were any crustaceans crawling around the rocks. There weren't. We also met a nice couple from Colorado who were on a bareboat charter from the Moorings. We spent an afternoon hiking together in the desert and invited them over for cocktails in the evening.

One of the things we found on our walk ashore was a terrible pile of garbage which looks like it was left by kayakers of all people. So this morning we got a bucket, some kerosene and a lighter and went ashore to clean up a little. We picked up as many of the cans and bottles as we could fit in a 5 gal bucket and then picked up all the paper garbage and burned it in a nearby fire pit. We also gathered as much of the plastic trash as we could and consolidated it into a large bag. We had to leave the plastic trash behind, since we're not going to be anyplace with good garbage service for a while, but we did take all the cans and bottles back to the boat so they can be deposited in deep water (over 600 feet) on our next passage. The beach looks much better.

Well, that should bring you up to date. More adventures to come.

John and Linda

Thursday, April 27, 2006

New Pics

Here are a few pictures of what we've been doing lately (mostly racing AIRPOWER). We did two races: the Banderas Bay Regatta, and the La Paz Bay Fest.

La Paz Bay Fest crew

Here's the crew from the La Paz Bay Fest showing what place we came in.

Another view

Here's another view of the two spinnakers.

Two spinnakers!

During the La Paz regatta, Bob called the race commitee to ask if we'd get 'points' by doing a spinnaker change. The commity said we'd be penalized if we had two spinnakers. We countered by asking what it was worth if we flew both spinnakers at the same time. They were duely impressed, we got the extra points.

Airpower at the start

Here's a picture of AIRPOWER at the start of the Banderas bay Regatta.

Nikki and Ralph

This is Nikki and Ralph sailing their San Juan 24 near Punta de Mita. They run a bakery from thier home where they make pizza and wonderful bread.

Hitch hiker

We had a little hitch hiker while crossing Banderas Bay. This turn stoped on our chairs to take a break and preen.

Sea turtle release

Here is a baby sea turtle getting ready to hit the waves. Linda spent an evening 'launching' two sea turtles into the wide world.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Mazatlan to La Paz

13 April 2006

Underway at 0500 from Mazatlan headed for La Paz. Passed a Carnival cruise ship on its way into the port. This makes number five since we arrived - Monday, the Mercury (is that Celebrity Cruise Line?); Tuesday, Holland America; Wednesday, both the Viking of the Seas (RCCL) and the Sapphire Princess. Plus there were two Baja car ferries in and out while we were anchored in the old harbor. Needless to say the Port Captain was too busy to talk to us on the radio, so we didn't really get checked in/out there.

Yesterday we took the Sabalo Centro bus (eight pesos each) all the way from the old harbor (where we were anchored) to Marina Mazatlan. We just wanted to see what it looked like since we've never stayed in either of the two Mazatlan marinas. It's surrounded by condo construction and there's no shopping within walking distance, so it didn't seem like a very nice place to hang out. In spite of its drawbacks (the smell from the sewage treatment plant when the wind blows in the right direction, being the main one) we prefer anchoring in the old harbor. It's an easy walk to the old part of town with the mercado, church, zocolo, and theater, and an inexpensive bus ride back to the boat when you're tired and loaded down with all your purchases. The Club Nautico charges 30 pesos per day to tie the dinghy to their dock and use their showers in the bathrooms (which are old and a bit rundown, so we shower on board). They will also arrange propane and laundry services for you, and they have a shallow draft fuel dock.

On our way back from Marina Mazatlan we took the bus to La Gran Plaza which is the largest upscale shopping mall (with a Mega as its anchor store) we've seen in Mexico. It has a movie theater and we must have passed at least two or three other movie theaters on the bus back to the old part of town. There is also a baseball stadium, but unfortunately we didn't make a side trip to see it this time. We like Mazatlan and can see the Marina area turning into a kind of Nuevo Vallarta when all the condos are finished.

We may end up doing a lot of motoring this trip, but will hope for some wind to sail. We're not sure if we'll go all the way into La Paz for Easter weekend, or stop out at one of the islands until the businesses are open again after the holiday. Either way we should be dropping the hook sometime on Saturday.

Linda and John

Monday, April 10, 2006

Banderas Bay to Mazatlan

9 April 2006 (late Sunday night)

We departed Punta de Mita this morning before dawn (7:15 AM Puerto Vallarta time which I think is 5:15 PDT). It was tough getting up in the dark for the first time in ages. Normally we wake up when it starts getting light out or just before sunrise, so having to use the alarm was painful.

Had an uneventful day motoring until 2:30 PM, sailing until 8:30 PM, and now motoring again. It was actually very nice to be the only boat out there with just the gentle swells, turtles, and sea birds to keep us company. We passed closer to the Tres Marias islands than to the mainland, but kept it mostly up the middle. At least one of these islands is a prison and you are required to keep clear of them. They don't keep the prisoners locked up since they are on an island out in the middle of the ocean. I was a bit concerned when I spotted a fishing panga and saw that the two fishermen were wearing orange jumpsuits (panga fishermen usually wear regular clothes and maybe a black garbage bag with head and arm holes cut out in the bottom to keep them warm and dry at night). I monitored them through the binoculars but they didn't wave for help or approach us so maybe they were out on a day pass.

We're almost half way there now, so we should arrive in Mazatlan by late tomorrow. We'll spend a few days there before looking for a weather window to cross over to La Paz. John may crew for Air Power again in the La Paz Regatta which is sometime around April 20-23.

Linda and John

Friday, April 07, 2006

Banderas Bay

Thursday, 6 April 2006

We were sucked into the black hole of Banderas Bay on March 18 and we're only just barely making our way back out of it.

We left Chamela at 6:30 PM on March 17 for the overnight trip to round Cabo Corrientes. Unfortunately it took us until 4:00 AM to break an average of four knots of speed - motor sailing! I'd look out at the ocean during my watch and I was sure that if I could only walk on water, I'd get there faster that way. It felt like we were wading through molasses. We finally rounded Cabo Corrientes on flat seas at 10:00 AM. This felt great until we remembered that we still had to cross Banderas Bay to get to Punta de Mita. We finally turned the engine off at Noon and sailed slow for four hours. Ninety two nautical miles from our start we dropped the anchor at almost 6:00 PM. Yeehah!

We moved into Marina Nuevo Vallarta almost a week later and tied up to a set of concrete pilings. This was a great deal. No dock, no water, no electricity - but only $7 a night. The two (unisex) bathrooms are nice and clean, and Juan, the dock master, is a very nice guy. John spent the next four days training with Bob and crew on Air Power, a J-41, for the Banderas Bay Regatta. He'd come home wiped out from a long day in the sun, and we'd go out to dinner more than usual as a result. It was non-stop busy and I didn't even have time to check email. It didn't seem like I was getting all that much done on the boat, and I know I wasn't doing much reading, but the time just flew. There's a huge amount of socializing here because it's a such a major waypoint on everyone's itinerary. When John wasn't racing we both had our teeth cleaned, ran errands, and even managed to see a movie (Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang). I got my haircut and bought three kilos of good coffee beans in Puerto Vallarta. I also walked down the beach one evening with some friends to participate in a baby turtle release in Nuevo Vallarta. We each got two baby turtles, set them down on the beach (well after sunset), and watched them slowly walk the 3-4 feet to the water. One of mine was especially reluctant to go, and kept turning around the wrong way, but it finally got swallowed up by the swell.

If you're wondering how the race went, Airpower got a second in class and third over all. We placed second in the first race, third in the second race and second in the third race. All in all a pretty good showing for a (mostly) inexperienced crew. John only had to apologize for yelling 5 times, so you can tell it was a lot of fun.

Tuesday we left Nuevo Vallarta, filled up on diesel and gasoline at Opequimar in Marina Vallarta, and sailed out here to Punta de Mita. Yesterday John changed the oil and we spent the rest of the day reading and doing nothing. Today we had to go back in to Nuevo Vallarta, but we struck out on the two errands we'd hoped to accomplish. We made up for that by having a huge shrimp lunch at Mauricio's in Ixtapa. For 110 pesos each (plus drinks and tip), this is the best deal in all of Mexico.

Now we're thinking about how soon we'll get to La Paz. We may end up skipping Chacala and San Blas on our way to Mazatlan. It will depend on how the trip goes. We're anxious to get "home" to Baja so we'll probably be on the fast track once we leave Banderas Bay.

Linda and John

Thursday, March 16, 2006


16 March 2006

Wow, what a great sail from Tenacatita to Bahia Chamela! We got underway at o-dark-thirty as planned and we had Nakia gliding under main and jib 15 minutes after raising the anchor. In less than an hour we cleared the rocks at the main entrance to the bay and had the spinnaker set in plenty of time for John to run the Amigo net. I drove the whole time he was transmitting since the radio sends the autopilot into fits. We were on a course to take us off the coast in preparation for the freak southerly we were having to clock around as usual from the north in the afternoon. This gave me lots of room so all I had to do was steer and try not to hit any other boats (and there were about four or five out there with us). It was a blast!

The wind never stopped coming from the south so we had a brief debate about continuing north to Banderas Bay, but there's no reason for us to be there this early so we jibed the spinnaker and sailed back in towards Chamela. It really hurt not to take advantage of the prime weather window, since you never know if you're going to get another one as perfect again (especially when you know at least half a dozen other boats who are charging ahead)!

We finally doused the spinnaker after hitting seven knots pretty consistently and went in to the islands for shelter. We'd heard reports from the anchorage off town that the wind chop was getting a little high since it's wide open to the south. Island Girl followed us in and we ate lunch and hung out for a few hours until the wind died down enough for us to continue on to the main bay. It was a little rolly at first but had calmed down quite a bit by bedtime.

We went into town for fresh provisions yesterday morning and I had a brief swim around the boat in the afternoon. The water is very murky (I hate it when I can't see the bottom) but there are lots of birds, fish, and yesterday a pair of dolphins hung out around the anchorage all day, scratching themselves on Island Girl's rope anchor rode in the morning and leaping clear out of the water before sunset. Just like Flipper, except without all the annoying chatter. I was a little apprehensive about swimming with all the dolphin activity nearby, not to mention that it was only 73 degrees and we'd seen a big long worm swimming by the boat the evening we arrived. So I did a fast 10 laps around Nakia and lived to tell about it.

On our last two passages we've seen dolphins, a ray, a big bill fish leaping out of the water, and a shark swimming on the surface within a boat length of Nakia. The shark was about 3-4 feet from its dorsal to its tail fin, but we don't know what kind it was. The dolphins stayed with Nakia for longer than usual as we were sailing into Tenacatita Bay. I told John that was because the adults told the youngsters that here was a nice slow boat on which they could practice bow riding. John hasn't been fishing at all in ages, so no fish report.

There's a Polish man here named Janusz who runs a beach palapa called La Manuelita (which has a nice professional sign out front complete with a picture of a ketch). He and his Mexican wife both speak excellent English, serve delicious food, and he's begun to offer his services (medical assistance, gasoline, propane) to cruisers on VHF 22. Island Girl tried it yesterday by ordering three blocks of ice which were then delivered by panga fisherman on their way out fishing last night at 10 PM. The price was right, and Janusz could prove to be a great resource for the cruising community.

We'll probably be in Chamela for a few days hoping for another magical southerly to take us sailing again.

Linda and John

Monday, March 13, 2006


12 March 2006

We had a pleasant 15 mile sail from Barra de Navidad to Tenacatita on Thursday, although it took us six hours to get here. It was a close reach in light air for the first 10 miles with John hand-steering because of the 20 degree wind shifts, puffs, and swells. After we rounded the point to make the right hand turn into the bay, we set the spinnaker and had a great time doing 4-5 knots. There were several other boats making this short hop but the only ones sailing it were headed south. When we were settled into the anchorage we got lots of compliments on our red and white spinnaker and the fact that we came in and anchored under sail (main only). All that practice in the Sea of Cortez last summer has paid off nicely.

Since the "Mayor of Tenacatita" departed for the season several weeks ago, John declared Friday's traditional "Mayor's dinghy raft-up" to be "The Great People's Republic of Tenacatita Citizen's raft-up" and instead of holding it off of "Good Dog Beach" it was "Comrade Dog Beach." He used an interesting blend of communist and anarchist terms to announce it over the radio, but people came and had a good time, ignoring politics as usual. The Friday night dinghy raft-up here is a nice winter tradition which typically gets going when the more or less permanent population arrives and a "mayor" is drafted or volunteers. It's mostly a meet and greet position - kind of like a welcome wagon. The mayor anchors his dinghy off shore and all the other dinghies tie up together. Everyone brings their own drinks and some type of finger food to be passed around. It's a nice way to meet people from other boats. The especially cool outcome of this particular raft-up is that after we finished anchoring our dinghy the first couple to row over and tie up to us was John and Kathy from the Bristol Channel Cutter, Gertrud, whom we met up in Canada (see 7/20/2004 blog entry). Another one of those "small world" moments!

After a walk on the beach this afternoon I helped John scrub the bottom. He's been working on it every day since we left Barra and it's ready to take us on a fast passage north now. He says there are spots where the bottom paint is disappearing fast, and it will be a challenge to get through the summer before our haul out in San Carlos in September. But it's great exercise and we always come out of the water feeling that good kind of tired.

We're buddy boating with Christie, who's single handing on Island Girl, because her engine is a bit on the fritz and we're slow enough for her to keep up with sailing. We both plan to leave for Chamela on Tuesday assuming the wind lays down after tomorrow as forecasted. It's been unusually windy down this part of the coast (well, not for March according to Don on Summer Passage), and there are several boats here waiting it out to go north. It's been very comfortable here in the anchorage since the wind doesn't come up until around 1:00 in the afternoon, and later it makes for cool evenings which are so nice and cozy for sleeping.

The last time we were here a couple of friends reported catching dorado right from their boats in the anchorage! The water temperature is back up to around 78 now and no one appears to be catching anything, but it's just perfect for swimming. John hasn't gone out at all yet - I think he's waiting for the better fishing in the Sea, but it sure would be nice to eat dorado again!

Linda and John

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Inland Trip Notes (Part 1 of 5)

7 March 2006
Barra de Navidad

We're back on the boat in the lagoon after our first bus trip to some inland cities here in Mexico. These are some miscellaneous notes regarding the trip in general. The entire report contains more detail than most of you are interested in, but I'm writing it both for our benefit and for those cruisers who plan to make a similar trip.

We used "The Rough Guide to Mexico" (July, 2004 edition) and a January, 2006 trip report from S/V Secret O' Life as our references. As to be expected there were several errors and/or outdated info regarding hotels/restaurants in the Rough Guide (RG).

We made no reservations for bus travel or hotel stays. We did usually remember to check the bus schedules for our return leg when we arrived in a city, but for the most part we were just very lucky with our connections. I reviewed hotels listed in the RG, and had an order of preference based on price, description, and location before we arrived in each city.

The buses we took were all varying degrees of First class service. When we looked into Second class service it seemed to take about a third longer (e.g., a four hour trip on First would take six hours on Second), for only three to six dollars less per person. A "stewardess" gave us a snack (usually something a step below airline food) and our choice of a drink (bottle of water or can of soda) as we boarded each long distance bus. These are very comfortable buses with bathrooms and movies, think about the fancy tour busses you see running around popular tourist cities in the US. Much nicer than Greyhound. All the movies shown were dubbed in Spanish.

We tried to keep hotel costs to a minimum without staying in flea bags. Asking to see the room before committing to payment is very important! Rooms with a single bed ("matrimonial" - a small double-sized bed) were cheaper than those with two. The beds were usually hard, often with lumpy pillows. No room was without its faults but we planned to spend most of our time out touring and mostly wanted a place to sleep and shower. When we had TV it was never satellite (local broadcast stations in Spanish only). No room came with wash cloths, only one came with a hand towel, and all included a small bar of soap. We usually paid only one night at a time with the understanding that we might want to stay over another night and would let them know in the morning. This way we could move to another hotel if we wanted to.

All of our transactions were conducted in Spanish. I don't recall speaking English to locals during the trip.

The prices noted include tips where applicable.

We ate a lot of street food because we happen to like it and because it's inexpensive. I don't recall any particularly memorable meals during this trip probably because we deliberately kept them simple. I found the chilaquiles (usually one of my favorites) to be wetter than on the Baja which I didn't care for.

We were unprepared for the high elevations of Guadalajara and Guanajuato, and had some trouble with the extremely dry climate. We tired more easily, and woke up every morning with a sore throat. Next time I would take a saline nasal spray and eye drops. The good thing is that my hair wasn't frizzy and we never felt sticky.

We traveled with a normal sized ("school") backpack each, fanny packs, and my small canvas shopping bag. John could get away with shorts for the bus rides or during the day, but he always changed to slacks at night and I never wore anything but the latter. This was a wise move since no one except children wore shorts in any inland city.

Expenses Summary (six night/seven day trip for two; averaging the peso at 10.5 to the dollar):

Transportation (all buses): 2,023 pesos ($193)
Lodging (6 hotel nights): 1,950 pesos ($186)
Meals/Snacks/Drinks: 1,526 pesos ($145)
Total: 5,499 pesos ($524)
Approximate number of hours spent on bus travel (local and long distance): 24