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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Holidays from Nuevo Vallarta

20 degrees 41.385 minutes North
105 degrees 17.525 minutes West

So we managed to get a spot on the pilings in Marina Nuevo Vallarta where we spent some time two years ago for the Banderas Bay Regatta when John crewed on Air Power. If we have to be tied up anywhere in Vallarta, this is ideal because it's only $8 a night. There's no electricity or water and we have to use the dinghy to get to the marina docks to go ashore, but the shower/bathrooms are very clean, the harbor master is very accommodating, and best of all Ziggy can't get off the boat so we don't have to keep close tabs on him. We came in late on Saturday after waiting for a very low tide to pass so we could cross the shallow bar entrance into Nuevo Vallarta. This is also the site of Paradise Village where we spent some time our first two winters in Mexico. Boy, have things changed there. You're now required to carry a special Paradise Village photo ID with you to access their property. Guards will stop you to check your ID if you try to cross any of their perimeters. This means we're not welcome to land our dinghy at the dock outside the Vallarta Yacht Club (which means no access to the mall there), nor can we get to the beach by walking through the Paradise Village resort. If we visit friends on boats in Paradise, we wouldn't be allowed to walk around the property with them either. Welcome to Paradise...

We had a good trip from Mazatlan, with a stop in Chacala rather than San Blas. We had originally planned to finally visit San Blas but negative reports of interference from the local self-appointed cruiser representative once again deterred us from stopping there. Instead we joined old friends for our first visit to Chacala, which was absolutely charming. We all anchored bow and stern to keep us pointed into the swell, and if you had a rocker stopper, you were wise to use it. It was a fun stop and we could have easily stayed longer. We played bocci ball on the beach and enjoyed the best shrimp empanadas in Mexico at the Las Brisas beach palapa (look for the three big flags on the roof), thanks to the expert guidance of Ray and Jayne on Adios. We also finally broke down and bought two small Huichol yarn pieces for much less than you would pay in a higher end place like La Cruz.

After two nights in Chacala we motored for awhile and then had an easy spinnaker run down to Punta de Mita on the NW edge of Banderas Bay. We spent three nights there visiting our friends Ralph and Nicole, and their three month old daughter, Delfina Marina, at Mita'z Pizza. They sell whole wheat baguettes that are out of this world, and they'll also deliver fresh pizzas to the dinghy landing (talk about pizza to go!). We also made a bus trip from there to meet up with V'ger in La Cruz, and to see the new marina there. It was good to visit with Casey and Annie, but very sobering to see what the new marina has done to the landscape of La Cruz. If you ever need an example of the risks associated with buying property in Mexico, just take a look at all the formerly ocean view/beach front homes that are now for sale because of new high rise development on land fill right in front of them. The little beach in front of Ana Bananas where we used to land our dinghies is now buried under dirt fill, beyond which is the huge new marina for mega yachts. At current rates of about .75/foot (which will rise to .90/foot when the marina is completed), it's way beyond the average full time cruiser's budget, but is perfect for people who want to leave their boats in Mexico while they go back to the States to work (to pay for the marina, to keep the boat, that they wish they could sail, while they have to work, to pay for the marina...). There are still lots of boats anchored outside the marina, but no place to land your dinghy other than at the marina (for $3/day), or by braving a steep scramble up the seawall inside the harbor. It all seems very sad to us, and we just hope that some of the big bucks being passed around are making it down to the locals who need it most.

We've been delighted by all the wonders of mainland cruising that we forget about while we're on the Baja side of the Sea: humpback whales flapping their fins and flukes, and babies shooting straight out of the water; turtles passing a boat length away; butterflies and bird song; speckled dolphins streaking past our bow wave; palm trees and gorgeous vegetation up sloping hills; the smell of smoke from burning (garbage, or all those palm leaves they have to trim?). Okay, that last one isn't a favorite, but the rest makes for a nice change of pace.

Banderas Bay was an unscheduled stop for us as we had planned to be in Bahia Santiago by now. We discovered a diesel fuel smell which is present when we run the engine, and John is in the process of troubleshooting the problem. It isn't incapacitating but we decided to investigate it while we can stay in a place with lots of service options (and with inexpensive moorage). We will be out of here as soon as the part is fixed, heading south again.

Happy holidays to all our friends and family!

Linda and John

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Done. Well for now anyway.

Once again we spent a good part of the prime cruising season working on the boat. This year, projects included:

o Finishing the teak deck removal project (started almost 2 years ago)
o Completing the non-skid deck
o Install a new solar panel arch and solar panel
o Rebuild a teak hatch that has been coming apart for 5 years
o Refinish all the exterior teak
o Repair the mainsail
o Align the engine

When I first put the project list together I added up all the time I thought I would need and it came out to about 55 days (more than 2 months). We had planned for a month and a half in Marina Mazatlan, so it was clear I was going to have my hands full. As it turned out I was able to combine projects into one day; take apart the hatch that needed rebuilding while the paint on the deck dried, repair the mainsail after applying a coat of Cetol to the exterior teak. But I think in the end I worked all but about 3 of our 46 days in the marina. I guess that's what I get for goofing off all summer long.

We almost had a show stopper at the end. Linda had left for her visit to the Northwest and I began the final project: Align the engine. A month or two before I had checked the alignment and found that it was pretty far out, so it was obviously past time to do something about it. However, when I started I immediately found that the coupler between the transmission and propeller shaft was broken (probably caused by the bad alignment) and that the bolts for one of the motor mounts had stripped their beds (probably the cause of the bad alignment)!

Good thing Linda was in Seattle, because the vendor for the coupler is close by in Lynwood. A quick phone call had a new coupler on its way. But that didn't take care of the cause of all the problems, the stripped bolts. It was not only obvious that I needed to do something about the bolts, fate was telling me to do something about them. Right when I was thinking I should remove the shaft zinc to make the alignment easier, the diver walked by and asked if I needed anything. "Yes", I said, "would you mind getting into the cold water and taking off the shaft zinc"? Then, right when I was thinking that I needed some heavy duty epoxy filler for the job, my dock neighbor reminded me that he still had the filler that I had loaned him.

That settled it, I was going to do a good job. No need to tempt fate any further. All that was required was removing the two bolts, turning the engine mount 90 degrees to expose the stripped hole (it turned out that only one hole was stripped, the other just needed a longer bolt. Fate again). Drill out the hole and then epoxy a nut into the bottom of the enlarged hole. Sound's easy huh? Did I say this was on the back engine mount? The engine mount that's located under the exhaust system? The one that you can't work on unless you actually lay on top of the engine? Yeah, it's that one.

After a mere 4 hours of yoga I had a nut bedded in epoxy a full two inches under the engine mount. Hopefully it will be strong enough to hold against the vibration.

A couple more hours of yoga and I had the engine aligned. (To align the engine you have to kneel with your head below your backside and use a feeler about the thickness of two pieces of paper to make sure the shaft and transmission are completely in alignment. If they are not aligned, you have to extract yourself from said yoga position and crawl into the main cabin, there to make your adjustment that will hopefully bring everything into alignment. If not, you get to do it again. I think I only did it about 10 times. It's a zen thing).

We left Mazatlan with our very spiffy looking and smooth running boat yesterday and are headed for Chacala. The engine seems to be holding together after 20 hours of motoring and the cat didn't even get sick after not being underway for a month and a half. Looks like fate is keeping up her end of the bargain, so far.

John, Linda and Ziggy
Bahia Chacala
21o 09.78' N 105o 13.71 W

Friday, November 23, 2007

November pics

9/25 Girlie boy


10/4 Tupperware stores everything


10/9 This drill bit, Dad?


10/12 Coolest spot on the boat


10/21 In the thick of things

10/22 Ziggy "in" his crate


11/1 El Dia de los Muertos


11/1 Linda and friend

11/15 Birthday boy (5 months) in the sink







Saturday, November 17, 2007

Boat projects

17 November 2007
Marina Mazatlan

Cruising life in a marina is not like the lazy life at anchor for the crew of Nakia. We generally try to avoid the expense of marina stays unless boat work or other chores can be facilitated by being tied to a dock. So while other cruisers spend leisurely mornings over lattes at the marina cafe, afternoons strolling the mercado and plazas in town, and evenings dining out or enjoying concerts at the historic Angela Peralta theater, John is working his tail off and I'm lending a hand where ever I can.

We are up by 5:30 most mornings, awakened by the Ziggy alarm, and we take turns walking him in his harness and leash (or allowing him to lead us around to be more precise). We had to abandon restricting his outdoor time to just the boat itself (which he'd gotten pretty good about with the help of a squirt bottle) when John began painting the side decks. Now he's very good about the harness and leash, but doesn't understand staying on the boat when there's enough of a break in the wet paint/brightwork cycle to let him out on his own.

John is usually ready to start on the project du jour after the local VHF net, by which time the decks are mostly dry. He tries to work until late afternoon, and then it's beer time, followed shortly after dinner by bed time. The cap to the Ibuprofen bottle is getting a real work out. (Ziggy also gets a little more bug chasing, grass chewing time before dinner.)

So the non-skid is on the side decks and now it's time to refinish the exterior teak trim which we stopped maintaining long before we left for Mexico. Yesterday John scraped off the last of the peeling Cetol while I polished stainless, and then we scrubbed as much of the mildew out of the cap rail and bulwarks as we could. Today John started sanding and I'm doing laundry to stay out of his hair.

For entertainment we have spent one Sunday afternoon watching football with friends at a local restaurant; gone to dinner at a friend's home in one of the new marina condos; and shared Domino's two-for-one pizza with friends on their boat. Sometime before the end of the month we hope to catch a Venados baseball game (if we can manage to stay up that late), and we'll probably go out to dinner somewhere on Thanksgiving. At 236 pesos per person the catered Thanksgiving extravaganza organized by the folks here in the marina is pricier than the cruiser holiday potlucks we've enjoyed in La Cruz and La Paz, and we're not the dinner and dancing types anyway, so we're giving that a pass.

The weather here has been significantly warmer with higher humidity than we experienced in San Carlos. Nice if you're in vacation mode but not so good when you have to worry about dripping sweat onto your fresh coat of paint or freshly sanded teak. Yesterday was different because the scattered clouds in the morning actually built to rain showers by the late afternoon and early evening. It was wet enough that even Ziggy decided to forego his evening walk, and the cool north breeze made for a nice change.

In other news, we've sold our pickup truck to cruising friends who plan to do the same as we have - cruise Mexico, making occasional trips to the States, and storing it in Mexico between trips. Since our plan is to continue down to Central America and Ecuador next year, it didn't make much sense to keep the truck any longer.

Ziggy continues to both charm and exasperate us. He's a beautiful animal with a mind of his own, and sometimes we wonder if he wouldn't be happier living on land. But until someone comes along who has more to offer him than we do, we'll continue to honor our commitment to him. He's slowly getting more affectionate, but he's sure not a lap cat.

Linda and John

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Marina Mazatlan

30 October 2007

We arrived safe and sound at 0130 today. Only got to do a little more sailing, but it was enough to give the engine and us a rest from the noise and heat. We've been in and out of the harbor entrance before, but not in the dark. It's a very narrow channel with a bit of a dog leg right at the beginning making it a challenge even under ideal circumstances. But John nailed it using our previous track (in our navigation software), and we were soon tied up to a dock again.

Ziggy went wild with the quiet and the stillness of the boat for the first time in days. But we locked him down below and hit the sack. This morning it only took a few squirts from the water bottle to keep him from jumping off the boat, and he's spent most of the day on deck watching the swallows and snoozing in the shade. Which is odd because he always napped down below when we were at anchor. We'll see if he tries to go wandering after he gets more comfortable with the new surroundings.

Speaking of birds, our sparrow spent the night on the boat. I saw him go to roost just after sunset, and then we lost sight of him during the night when it got too rough to stay where he had perched on the stern. But come sunrise, when I was sitting in the cockpit on watch with Ziggy, the bird came hopping into the cockpit with us. I managed to block him from Ziggy's view and took some bread and water up to the bow to get the bird to stay out of sight. He eventually flew off, we hope to shore. He sure was a cute little thing, hopping at various times on my shoulder, hat, arm, and feet. But loose birds and leashed cats don't make a good mix!

We'll be getting right down to work, especially now that John discovered that he has two months worth of work to try to cram in to the six weeks we planned to be here. So Stan and MJ, don't hold the figgy pudding for us - we might be late getting there!

Linda and John

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Topolobampo

28 October 2007

When the forecasts yesterday began calling for 20-30 kt. E winds nights and early mornings we decided to divert to Topolobampo to anchor for the night and to change down to our smaller jib this morning. We were underway for Mazatlan again by 0845 this morning.

So far it's been a slow motor boat ride made even slower the first day by either a foul current or a fouled boat. We finally put the engine in reverse to free whatever may have been caught on the prop, rudder, or keel. Our speed gradually came back up to normal so maybe that was the problem after all. We've only seen two ships and half a dozen fishing boats, so the traffic hasn't been as bad as feared. Since the winds were light yesterday, the seas weren't more than a foot of wind chop until we turned in towards Topolobampo. By then the wind had picked up 15-18 out of the NW and we had some good following seas.

The town of Topolobampo is 12 miles from the sea buoy. It was close to sunset and we didn't want to go down an unfamiliar channel after dark. We chose to turn left out of the channel after about the fourth set of buoys, and tucked in behind Punta Santa Maria, a low point consisting mostly of sand dunes and mangroves. We dropped the anchor just after sunset and even managed to catch the evening net.

For most of the time underway Ziggy managed to sleep or zone out. He was awake most of Friday night since one of us was always up and about on watch. Then he really slept hard practically all day Saturday. We played with him for as long as we could that evening before the no-see-ums (sand dunes and mangroves - WHAT were we thinking!?) and sleep deprivation drove us to an early bed. Last night Ziggy recuperated from the arduous journey by: 1) shredding a sponge (his favorite unauthorized toy; fortunately this one wasn't dry so it wasn't completely destroyed), 2) shredding a Kleenex and knocking over the other Kleenex box which had been "Ziggy proofed" with a stone coaster placed on top of it, 3) shredding some toilet paper (fortunately not the whole roll; I remembered I hadn't put this away after we were already in bed), 4) getting past the single piece of "Ziggy proof" tape blocking the hole to the plastic grocery bags bin and pulling one partially out, and 5) gnawing on the bag containing an empty cat food can to be thrown away today (our fault for not putting the trash outside). We're usually better about stowing Ziggy tempters before going to bed, but we were too tired and the bugs were the worst we've seen this year. It's almost 11 AM and they're still biting down in the cabin.

So we have another two days and two nights before we expect to arrive in Mazatlan. Other than dealing with the no-see-ums it was a nice break for all of us.

Hey, a sparrow just landed on the cockpit cap rail! John's going to try and feed it some bread and give it a bath with a spray bottle. Will Nakia acquire a new crew? How will we "Ziggy proof" a wild bird? Stay tuned...

Linda and John

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Bahia Catalina

25 October 2007

Yesterday morning we visited the Marina San Carlos Pemex (fuel) dock to top off our diesel and water and rinse off some of the dirt we accumulated in the Bahia San Carlos anchorage. Almost every afternoon for the three weeks we were there the wind blew out of the NW at 20-25 knots and didn't die off until after 8 PM. The boat (including the rigging) was coated with a layer of dirt, and we'll have to get the rest of it off in Mazatlan. For the most part the weather in San Carlos was very comfortable, with temperatures in the 80's during the day and down to the low 70's at night. But as much as I usually prefer low humidity, it's been so dry (down to 20% even) that no amount of lotion has kept my skin from drying out!

That should soon change as we head south to Mazatlan where it's been warmer and more humid. Since we already had the anchor up after getting fuel we decided to motor a few miles south of Bahia San Carlos here to Bahia Catalina for a change of scene. Just a couple of miles outside of Guaymas harbor, Catalina is a charming anchorage with one sand and two rock beaches, an islet, a big cave/blow hole, lots of birds, and water black with bait fish. Unfortunately, being so close to Guaymas and its associated fishing industry, the beaches are littered with plastic garbage, there's a large abandoned fish camp (waterfront property or just an eyesore?), and fishing pangas come in and set nets all night long. It's kind of entertaining to see all the rusty shrimpers and seiners coming and going past the entrance to the bay, but also a little nerve racking to see so much commercial traffic after so much time spent with only other recreational boats to think about. This morning I even saw a huge tanker headed out to sea, and we saw the car ferry coming in. We'll have to be extra careful when we leave at o-dark-thirty tomorrow morning.

We would have left this morning except that John woke up yesterday feeling punk, and later we discovered he was running a low fever. So he rested yesterday afternoon and went to bed early, and aspirin and Tylenol helped bring his fever back down to normal today. We'll leave tomorrow instead, and plan to arrive in Mazatlan sometime on Monday (early if we motor, by dark if we sail some).

Ziggy finally went for his first swim yesterday. At 5:30 PM, 15 minutes before John was scheduled to run the evening marine radio net, John was busy stowing fuel cans on the stern of the boat. Ziggy is daddy's little boy and loves to "help" John, so he was right there in the thick of it. Unfortunately the new configuration caused him to misstep, and John watched him fall head first into the 69 degree water. He immediately started swimming up the port side of the boat which was too bad because, a) the kitty rescue rope is off the starboard stern, and b) the swim ladder (usually hung off the port mid-ships) had been stowed for the passage, and hadn't been redeployed (who was planning on going swimming in that cold water?). Although we had previously discussed exactly what we should do in the event of a cat overboard, pandemonium reigned, and Ziggy swam all the way to the bow of the boat before John was there with the fishing net to scoop him out. He'd had to swim against some thankfully small wind chop, and his strangled meows sounded like he was swallowing water. I was right there to wrap him in a dry towel and we even had warm water ready for our evening showers that we used to rinse off the salt water. He didn't struggle too much with that, so he either needed the warm up, or was just in shock. I wrapped him up in another dry towel and he was still shaking. But thanks to the low humidity and his own efforts at bathing, he was soon dry and back to his normal self again. We were thankful that John was right there when it happened, and I guess that's a good demonstration of why he insists on keeping Ziggy locked down below at night!

Based on the weather forecasts we don't expect to do much sailing to Mazatlan, so we're hoping for a relatively smooth motor boat ride. We'll try to check-in and let you know how it's going.

Linda and John

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Short trip to the US

19 October 2007
San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico

We made a quick trip across the border this past week to pick up some things we'd ordered for the boat and to do some US style shopping. This time we went to Tucson where we stayed with friends, Alain and Mary of S/V Blue Moon. They have a lovely desert home complete with javalinas and quail, and we were treated to delicious meals made with exotic ingredients such as whole wheat fettucine, fresh basil from their garden, and romaine lettuce - not things you find every day in Mexico, especially not in BLA!

They invited us to bring Ziggy along which, in spite of my misgivings, turned out very well. In fact John and I both felt that he was better behaved on the trip than he is at home, perhaps because it was all a new experience for him. He was very quiet in the truck, mostly sleeping the whole way. We put him in his soft carrier to cross the border and he didn't make a peep. Technically he's still an illegal alien because he hasn't had all his shots yet, but the border guard missed him since the carrier looks like luggage.

We discovered that Ziggy isn't much of a shopper when we took him (in his carrier) into Pet Smart. He didn't care which toys we picked out or what kind of food we got, he just wanted back in the truck. He loved staying in our big room at Alain and Mary's - his tail went up like a flag as he explored foreign territory. We put him on his new leash and harness and he had a ball outside, but it was time to leave after he tried climbing a prickly pear cactus (only two spines in his right paw).

When we got back to San Carlos John made several trips by dinghy to transfer all our new purchases to the boat. It seemed like an impossible task but it only took us about a day to stow everything. We went through and cleaned out the major storage bins to make room for everything, and managed to find a few things that could be sold or tossed.

Yesterday we bit the bullet and took Ziggy to the vet for the "big event." He's only about four months old, but most shelters nowadays do it at even younger ages. We dropped him off and went back to pick him up after a couple of hours. It's a good thing he was still pretty out of it because it was a windy, wet, and bouncy dinghy ride back to the boat (of course today it's nice and calm). We tried keeping him in his new carrier (one of the hard, airline kinds) but he wouldn't fall asleep and seemed agitated so we let him out and took watches, mostly to make sure he didn't jump up or fall down since he still didn't have full use of his hind legs. He's back to normal today, and even goes in his carrier for naps (with the door off).

We are now waiting for Kiko and some forecasted northers to pass before making the long passage to Mazatlan. We should be leaving San Carlos sometime by the end of this coming week assuming nothing else comes up.

Linda and John

Monday, October 08, 2007

Dorade Dance

video

Shot Sept. 1, 2007. Linda was really glad to catch this on video, Ziggy can't do it any more. He's too big!

October Ziggy pics

9/5 Head out the hawse pipe next to his kitty rescue climbing rope

9/5 Buster, Ziggy. Ziggy, Buster.

9/7 He doesn't fit in the small mixing bowl anymore!

9/12 Scary kitty on the main boom

9/13 Climbing "tree" made of dead cordon wood (future hiking sticks)

9/13 Outboard fin perch

9/13 Kitty overboard rescue rope

9/22 Climbing the main sheet

9/22 Wrapped in his "binky"

9/22 Ziggy on his "binky"

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Arrived San Carlos

3 October 2007

We anchored in the Bahia before Noon today and are both very wiped out. Motored the first eight hours, finally were able to sail the next eight hours, but the wind dropped to almost nothing in the early evening and we had some very sloppy seas making us roll beam to beam. The end result of that was Ziggy throwing up for probably the first time in his life. I even saw it coming when he began nervously licking his lips. The good news was that he deposited it on the hardwood floor and not on a rug. He was not a happy camper with all the noise and motion and people up all night long, but now we're settled in here and he seems fine. It was definitely more stressful making a crossing with a pet since not only to you have to tend to yourself, but you have to make sure the animal is okay too. One of our first purchases will be a harness since we didn't dare let him loose on deck with the boat rolling so terribly, and he cried to get out any time we were both on deck. Fortunately we have a framed screen that slides in the drop board slots, and with the hatch slid closed he can see us but he can't get out.

We only sailed a couple of more hours this morning and the rest was a motorboat ride. John had to dodge a Navy ship after midnight but other than that it was an uneventful crossing.

John has gone to get the truck out of storage, and we plan to do laundry and internet first thing in the morning. Then it might be off to the vet's for Ziggy's first set of shots. We should be here in San Carlos for at least a week or two.

Linda and John

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Underway for San Carlos

2 October 2007, 0915

We left Ensenada Pescador early this morning and are motoring east in a flat calm sea. If we run into SE winds, we may head for San Francisquito, about 40 miles south on the Baja. But if it stays calm or we get the forecasted N wind this afternoon, we'll keep going across the Sea of Cortez to San Carlos (about 140 miles). We would expect to arrive in San Carlos by tomorrow early evening.

We're trying to keep Ziggy in the cockpit or down below to avoid any more catastrophes like getting his head stuck under the handrail. But he's a rambunctious boy so I doubt it's going to be easy. Fortunately, as long as we're playing with him, he's happy to be just about anywhere. Right now he's taking a cat nap to build up his strength for the next round. I just hope we can keep up with him!

Linda and John

Friday, September 21, 2007

Break out the blankets!

21 September 2007
Ensenada Pescador (just south of Bahia de los Angeles)

Well, maybe not quite blankets but we're sleeping under a top sheet again. Everyone in the BLA area has been reporting morning temperatures below 80 degrees for the past few days, and it's amazing what a difference it makes to wake up to 78 degrees in the cabin. It really is like throwing a switch, the change in the weather seems to happen so suddenly. I'm sure we'll have a few more hot and muggy days, but at least we know they're mostly over with. The water is still around 80 degrees, and we're doing more swimming than hiking. Everyone is currently watching tropical storm/sometimes hurricane Ivo to see what he's going to do but it's doubtful that it will get up this far north. A few boats have already started moving south to Santa Rosalia, and others that were headed that way have paused to see what's going to happen. We should know for sure by early next week.

Ziggy Stardust continues to entertain us as he also taxes our patience. He's either full of energy, running around like a crazy kitten, or asleep. There are very small windows of purring affection in between those two states. As a last resort we put him on his "binky," one of John's bandanas that he likes to suckle. This calms him and we can pet him as much as we want when he's occupied with that. He likes to have visitors, and Ray and Jayne from Adios even coaxed him to jump in their dinghy from Nakia's caprail when they came by yesterday. He wants to be part of whatever we're doing, but we've started to draw a line at allowing him on deck when we're raising anchor or sails. So far he's been good about sailing, mostly sleeping the whole time, and he hasn't gotten seasick yet.

We still plan to cross to San Carlos in mid-October for a trip to Nogales to pick up parts, before continuing on south to reach Mazatlan by November 1. Until then we'll make one more trip into the village for water and veggies, enjoy friends and anchorages in the area, and then wait for a good weather window to make our crossing. It's hard to believe that another summer is almost over!

Linda and John

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

September Ziggy Pictures

8/16 Two months old, but malnourished

8/19 Space alien kitten

8/21 How do I look?

8/22 Asleep in his food dish


8/23 Still a face only a mother could love!

8/28 Growing fast

9/1 Ziggy in the dorade

9/2 The boys taking a nap

9/4 All legs now

Friday, September 07, 2007

Henriette roll call

7 September 2007

Well, Henriette was a complete non-event for those of us here in the BLA area - no wind and no rain. We went to the extreme of breaking down our inflatable dinghy and stowing it in the quarter berth along with all of our sails, which ensured we would see no ill effects from the storm. From reports we've had, Santa Rosalia saw 40-50 knots of wind and some boats broke loose in Puerto Escondido. This is exactly why we come so far north for the hurricane season.

We came back to the village yesterday to get laundry done and pick up some fresh vegetables. Life goes on! For the record, here are the boats we know to be in the northern Sea of Cortez and where they were for Henriette.

Puerto Don Juan (28):
Adios - Ray, Jayne, Captain Morgan (cat)
Afroessa - Dan and Lee
Balena - Randy and Gina
Blew Moon - Houston and Gail
Cambria - Michael, Elizabeth, Gordon (cat)
Came to Believe - Rich, Annette, Tito (cat)
Catherine Estelle - Ricardo and Linda
Ceilidh - Jay, Janice, Buster (dog)
Gemini - Les and Diane
Guinevere - Greg and Jill
Hooligan - Tim, Paula, Maggie, Nigel (dogs)
Java (catamaran) - Evan (not on board)
Jenny - Doug, Jo, Ziggy (cat)
Lightheart - Steve and Carolyn
Maitairoa - Alex, Susan, Gigi (cat)
Masquerade - Tim, Cindy, Willie (cat)
Momo - Bernie, Michelle, Lola, Jana
Moonhunter - Bill
Nakia - John, Linda, Ziggy Stardust (cat)
Panoya - Jim and Lita
Que Tal - Dave, Caroline, Paws (dog)
Sail Soon - John and Bridgett
Southern Belle - George, Melinda, Joshua
Sweet Lorraine - David and Kellie
Tony Reyes - fishing charter boat
Two Pieces of Eight - Peter, Marni, Tigger, Latte (cats)
V'ger - Casey and Ann
Windy City - Mike and Mon

North of BLA (11):
Daydream (bare aluminum) Wayne and Susan [Gonzaga/Willard]
Ebenezer (catamaran) - Jim, Shelley, Grover (dog) [Gonzaga/Willard]
Ensueno - Ralph and Joanna [Refugio]
Milagro - Lance, Jo, Rocky (dog) [Gonzaga/Willard]
Niaouli (Swiss boat, bare aluminum) - Andre and Claire [Gonzaga/Willard]
Rapscullion (catamaran) - Henry and JJ [Gonzaga/Willard]
Sailor's Run - Jeff and Debbie [Refugio]
Tao 8 - Larry and Angie [Gonzaga/Willard]
Kia Paha - Christian and Mike [Estanque]
Nala Setia (Rhodes Bounty II) - Clint and Jacinda [Gonzaga/Willard]
Questor - Dave [Refugio]

San Francisquito (4):
Flying Cloud
Idefex - Scott, Frederique, two kids
Ojo - Tracy and Renee
Sea-tacean - Archie and Bev

Isla San Marcos/Santa Rosalia area (5):
Nina del Mar - Lew and Billie
Peregrine - Bill
Reflections - Lew and Shirley
Two Can Play - Dennis, Susan, Jack (cat)
Vita e Bella - Colin

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Puerto Don Juan

4 September 2007

Yesterday the weather report had Henriette coming our way mid-week so we left Isla Ventana (where we had been joined by two other boats in what is typically a one boat anchorage) to go to the village for laundry and water. Before we had even cleared the islands John heard a loud yowl from the bow area and rushed forward to find Ziggy with his head stuck under one of the teak handrails. We tried twisting and turning him every which way but we couldn't get his head to slip out backwards, and his belly is bigger than his head so even though he got his shoulders through, he couldn't go the rest of the way. We even tried greasing his head with oil before John got out the tool box. We were in as much a panic as Ziggy was, and so John took a hammer and chisel to the underside of the rail to chop out enough wood for us to slide Ziggy's head out. Fortunately we were sailing in very light air so Nakia took care of maintaining a course all by herself. I took a few scratches and Ziggy spent the rest of the day washing off the oil, seemingly none the worse for the traumatic experience. John's hoping he grows up soon so he can't get into any more tight spots.

We had a quick change of plan after that, fired up the motor, and headed straight for Puerto Don Juan where we are currently neighbors with 24 other boats waiting to see what Henriette is going to do. Fortunately it doesn't look like it's going to be much for us, especially when you look at what Felix is doing to Central America. But we take no chances, so our sails are off, we have a tandem anchor set (a first for us), the hurricane anchor snubber is on, and the decks are mostly clear. Ziggy doesn't know what to make of his bare bones jungle gym and quickly learned how to walk the balance beam (our now bare main sail boom).

Assuming nothing comes of Henriette, we'll hang out here until Thursday or Friday and then go on into the village.

Linda and John

Friday, August 24, 2007

Welcome Ziggy Stardust!

24 August 2007
Puerto Don Juan

Nakia has a new crew member: a two month old mostly white kitten with blue eyes. We adopted him a week ago from the local animal rescue volunteer, and he's small for his age because he'd been left to fend for himself. We're going through adorable baby phase, when he actually looks like he belongs to the space aliens in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind". But we think he's pretty cute and our lives now revolve around his waking and sleeping moments. Fortunately he sleeps through the night without a peep (for now), and already knows what "No!" means (with a water squirt bottle as backup). We'll post a gallery of Ziggy photos when we get internet access for the laptop (probably not until the fall), and you can email us if you want the long version of how we got him.

We're not doing much else besides playing with Ziggy, supervising his on deck activities (we have a kitty overboard plan and hope we don't have to use it, though it's probably inevitable), reading, and taking our afternoon swim when weather permits. We're looking forward to hooking up with friends who are bringing kitten supplies up from Santa Rosalia so that we can keep this baby healthy and happy. We'll be going into the village tomorrow for fresh veggies and then down to La Mona in the southern part of the Bahia for the annual Full Moon party with the summer gang.

Linda, John, and Ziggy

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Chubasco!

14 August 2007
Puerto Don Juan

We must finally be in cruising mode because we had a record stay in one anchorage/area: five nights at San Francisquito, three nights at Isla Las Animas, 10 nights at San Francisquito, and four nights back at Isla Las Animas. We knew it was time to move on from San Francisquito when I began to recognize every rock and sea star in the bay from my daily swim. The water there never really cleared up much for us and the weed was still ringing the perimeter of the shore when we left so I couldn't swim in to the sandy beach. But we took the dinghy in to shore and were amazed by the number of pencil urchins we saw there.

Isla Las Animas was the first place we've been since La Ramada where we could clearly see the bottom. We had a couple of excellent snorkeling days, but by the time we left the water was getting a little warmer and was greening up. We went snorkeling two times on Sunday and had the pleasure of seeing a jewel moray (which John actually fed from the tip of his knife as he gathered objects off the rocks for our dinner); two golden grouper in one sighting followed by a third on my swim back to the boat; a sea lion checking me out by leisurely swimming below me in about 15' of water; a free swimming/creeping octopus making its way back to a hidey hole where we had seen it the day before; a flag cabrilla, a parrotfish, a few giant hawkfish, a few stone scorpionfish, a barred pargo, and several Cortez angels; and many, many triggerfish, grouper, shovelnose guitarfish, Cortez stingrays, and other fish. It was the best!

We could have easily stayed there longer but we were out of fresh vegetables, including basics like potatoes and onions. And then the weather helped make up our minds. After our last snorkel of the day on Sunday we noticed a big black cloud forming to the east, and hastened to finish our bathing in order to exit the water. We watched in awe as the cell moved NW, headed straight for Isla Partida (IP norte - not the Isla Partida down by La Paz) where Hooligan and Gettin' Around were anchored. We called them on the VHF to make sure they were aware of it, and they reported that they were battened down and waiting. After it was all over (well before sunset) we had seen only 10-12 knots of wind and barely enough rain to wipe the decks with, but the boats at Partida had their dinghies flip (with outboards on) as they took an almost direct hit, with a 52 knot highest measured gust and lots of rain. The lightning and thunder were impressive but nothing compared to what was still in store for us.

Fortunately we left everything stowed and tied down from our previous storm prep before we went to bed that night, because more lightning and a building wind from the E/SE got John up at 0200. I soon joined him to watch as lightning began to appear on every point of the compass. There were some phenomenal triple strikes that I dubbed "retina burners" but nothing came within 10 miles of us and we got very little rain. The new 55 lb Delta anchor (thanks Flying Free!) held us in gusts to about 45 knots, and Adios rode it out just fine right next to us. We finally went back to bed at 0430, and the morning HAM and SSB nets came all too soon.

We decided to take advantage of the leftover breeze and headed out at 0900 to ride the back of the front (which was still obvious to our north and moving west). It was a perfect downwind sail. We eventually rolled up the jib and even reefed the main after the skies cleared behind us and the seas got a little boisterous. We briefly dropped the hook in Quemado but there was too much swell wrapping around the point for our liking so we upped anchor again and used the jib alone to get us to Puerto Don Juan. We'll be here for a day or two before heading into the village of BLA to get veggies, water, gasoline, beer, and clean laundry.

Linda and John

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

San Francisquito and Isla Las Animas

From Santa Rosalia we made a 15 hour, 75 nm passage to San Francisquito on July 22. We could only sail for a few hours, but John hooked three dorado, the last and smallest of which he managed to get to the boat. It was just as well that it was a small one since both the refrigerator and freezer were packed. We spent five nights at San Francisquito, all but one of them on the outside east of the entrance to the inner harbor. We went inside one night after a strong chubasco possibility was forecast, but nothing materialized and we came back out the next morning. The inner harbor is very secure and the water is flat even in a strong breeze, but with a Mexican Navy presence established just up from the beach, we prefer the privacy of being outside.

We took a couple of hikes, but couldn't snorkel because the water was too green and cold. The coyotes sang us to sleep at night and one morning at dawn I counted a group of seven of them on the beach. We waited for a period of calm weather and sailed out to Isla Las Animas on July 27. We had a terrific three hour spinnaker sail practically from anchor up to anchor down, and were thrilled to find we could see the bottom in 20' of water when we got there. This year's crop of fledged pelicans stopped their fishing practice and gathered around to see what Nakia was all about. One was especially enamored of the new potential roosting place, and we had to shoo him off the rails twice before he decided we weren't being very hospitable (the first time I actually had to give him a gentle shove underneath his tail!).

We went ashore for a hike the next morning and were relieved to see that there were not many "diaper babies" in evidence. This is what we call the ones which haven't fledged yet because they still have fat white tails and can barely waddle around. They are also the ones which make the prehistoric scream that sounds like someone's being murdered. It's very odd that after they fledge you never hear another peep from a pelican.

So unlike last year, when we visited a month earlier in the breeding season, this time we could hike most of the island without disturbing any babies. We climbed over the first ridge to the valley of the chollas but when we had to watch every step to avoid the prickly "leaves" on the ground we climbed up to the next ridge where there was also a better breeze. And because it was such a clear, dry day we got the bonus of seeing terrific views of Islas (from south to north): Esteban, Tiburon, Partida, Angel de la Guardia, and Smith.

After our hike we cooled off with a snorkel. I couldn't stay in long because the water temp was still only 74 degrees, but it was nice to see that there were trigger fish and grouper in the same large numbers as last year. We snorkeled twice the next day, and while we were there John caught a Mexican bonito and a grouper - yum.

I hated to leave the clear water but we needed to get back to San Francisquito before the southerlies picked up again so that we could do some more hiking in this area. We had a much longer motor trip back against a wicked full moon flood tide - the channel is notorious for its "jumping waters" - and it was slow going. Last night we got rolled around in the east anchorage so we moved inside today after our morning hike. We'll probably stay here until the winds calm down again.

There are only six boats (regularly checking into the nets) north of here with an anticipated 30+ coming in behind us! It's going to be interesting to see how many we actually pack into Puerto Don Juan for the first hurricane this season...

Linda and John

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Sayonara Squid Stink

22 July 2007

[I hope that's how you spell "sayonara." I guess it really should say "adios" but my niece, Mackenzie, is on a student exchange in Japan at the moment, and besides, it's alliterative!]

With every food locker and the fridge packed to capacity we are currently underway to San Francisquito, 75 miles north of Santa Rosalia. We spent the past week at the Singlar marina in Santa Rosalia and the week before that at Isla San Marcos where the water was too green for snorkeling. But we managed to get two good hikes in, and a visit to the caves where the day tripper garbage wasn't quite as bad as it was last year. The two fish camps were still just as full of trash though, so no beach walking this visit.

We made what turned out to be a day sail to Punta Chivato norte on July 11. The previous two days had been calm so we thought we had a good window for a night or two there. The water visibility was poor but we swam ashore for a walk on one of my favorite beaches. It's unique in that it has small pieces of shells polished to a glossy smooth shine - very pretty to look at and wonderful to the touch as well. We were prepared to stay the night until we heard chubascos were forecast to come into the Sea. The anchorage is fully exposed to the east, so we made the prudent decision to beat a hasty retreat back to Isla San Marcos.

When it began to sound as though the first wave of northbound migrating boats was about to overtake us we moved to Santa Rosalia while we could still get a slip in a marina. The old marina was already full of boats on extended stays - either for the entire hurricane season; for trips by bus back to the States; or waiting for parts or repairs. We anchored out for a night and then decided to move to the new Singlar marina where it would be easier to take on fuel and water, wash the boat, provision, etc., without the squid panga fleet roaring by us every night.

The Singlar daily rate is still unreasonably high ($1/foot for our 33' documented length) but their weekly and monthly rates were much better so we opted to buy a week. Carlos, Ivan and the rest of the staff went out of their way to provide services that made it well worth the slightly higher cost, and I would highly recommend their marina for anyone needing a week or more in Santa Rosalia. We wouldn't normally choose to spend so long there but John used the extra time to replace the rudder bearing, which turned out to be a two day job (thanks again, Leslie and Tom, for bringing the part down with you in February!) Interestingly, John learned that all the new Singlar marinas are up for sale to private owners. Apparently it was never the Mexican government's intent to run them after they were built.

Unfortunately July is not the best time for a stay in Santa Rosalia's harbor. It's squid season and the small harbor is full of pangas which race out before sunset and roar back in after midnight. They clean their catch just outside the harbor entrance where there's a beach littered with plastic soda bottles, and packed with kids swimming during the day. Inside the harbor they unload their catch into waiting trucks and to the north is the canning factory. With the right breeze we were occasionally awakened by a squid stench so bad that we had to cover our noses. In one corner of the harbor the surface of the water is covered with plastic gallon water jugs which the fishermen discard after a night's work.

This is all such a shame because the city itself is absolutely delightful. The French copper mining history makes its architecture unique among Baja cities and many of the wooden houses (very unusual for Mexico) are truly charming. There are several tiendas, all of them selling different, must-have grocery items, so that the serious shopper has to visit them all. There's the famous "French" bakery, the Eiffel church, Chuyita bacon wrapped hot dogs on soft flavorful buns loaded with the works, Thrifty ice cream, Splash paletas, and enough restaurants to give the ship's cook several nights off. The city is very easy to navigate, and everything is within easy walking distance of both marinas.

We worked hard to take advantage of this last stop in "civilization," but we also had a lot of fun socializing at end of the day pool/jacuzzi parties, a BBQ potluck dinner, and dock side happy hours while we were there (thanks to Doug and Jo of S/V Jenny for organizing things with the marina for many of these). Now, with a clean boat full of supplies (including a small dorado John caught this afternoon!), it's time to move north for the rest of hurricane season.

Linda and John

Saturday, July 21, 2007

A few pictures

It's hard to believe, but it has been since March that we've had a stable enough internet connection to download pictures. Here are a few to look at.

John

Looking back into the river at Mulege

 
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Mooring area at Mulege

 
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Village at Punta San Telmo

 


The deserted village at Punta San Telmo.
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Tile sea shore

 


This is the natural state of this sandstone sea shore around Punta Cobre. It looks like hand carved tile.
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At anchor at Punta Cobre

 
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Salt Flats at Isla San Jose

 
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Urchin shells

 


Here are a few of the urchin shells to be found on the beaches.
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Clam digging

 


John, Lisa and Steve looking for clams...
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Argonaut Shells

 


Here are the Argonaut shells Linda found on the beaches of the Sea of Cortez in the spring.
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The Argonaut swimming

 
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The Argonaut

 


Here's a live Argonaut that we found on the beach. I put it in a bucket and set it free out in deeper water.
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