Too Much Wind

We’re sitting here at anchor in Bahia Santa Maria because there’s too much wind outside.  This morning it was 20 gusting to 30+ knots (in our anchorage) right from the direction we need to go. That and reports of 8 foot seas has us comfortably staying at anchor waiting for more favorable conditions, which should be in a day or so.  Wednesday for sure, but if we feel it’s dropping before that, we’re ready to head out.

In the mean time, we’re a little bored.  It’s chilly now so no swimming and with waves in the bay being kicked up by the wind, a dinghy ride anywhere is virtually like swimming.  We’d get soaked.  So we’ve been just sitting on the boat all day.  Geoff’s been planning his around the world trip using my copy of Jimmy Cornell’s “World Cruising Routes” and now he’s practicing obscure knots from my knot book (he just yelled down down the hatch; “hey watch this, a figure 8 loop with three adjustable loops!!”).  He’s getting a crazed look in his eye, so soon I’m going to redirect his energies toward making some sushi.

We were watching the birds earlier (you know, we lead an exciting life here) and making up imaginary bird conversations:

(Two Pelicans talking)
“Whatcha doin’ today Pete?”
“Dunno Howard, it’s kinda windy, I think I’ll sit on this rock”
“Ah  Pete, I was thinkin’ we’d go eat some squid”
“Nope, I’m sittin’ on a rock”

And so it goes.

Geoff wrote down my quote for the day:  “Just because a tortilla’s crunchy doesn’t mean you should eat it”.  So take it from me folks, if you see a stale tortilla, fry it first, or better yet, get a fresh one.

Probably you had to be there, er, here.

I was up on deck reading earlier this afternoon but after too much sun, retired to the lounge (my quarterberth) and promptly fell asleep.

The good news is it’s almost Charisma time which should liven up an otherwise very uneventful day.  Then Wahoo for dinner.  In fact, Wahoo for dinner, lunch and breakfast.  We need to catch smaller fish.

That’s it folks.  Sometimes cruising gets a little bit sllloooowww.

Into The Night

Saturday night, approximately 60 miles North of Cabo San Lucas, back in the Pacific and Northbound.

23 knots showing on the wind gauge, right on the nose.  Double reef in the main, stays’l and yankee doing their job driving us through three to four foot swells.  Charisma is charging forward, rail kissing the water heading right into the setting sun, darkness sneaking up behind us. The stars are filling in, anxious to begin their night’s journey across the sky.

The masthead is cutting wide circles in the sky as we romp over the waves, the mast-light winking at the stars as if to say; “Time to play!”

Harness and lifeline on now because with just two of us, one is sleeping while the other is on deck.  Unlike the trip down, there’s no-one around to hear the lonely sound of the crew slipping over the side.

I’m listening to the anchors hanging from their mounts on the bow creak as we leap up and over the waves, spray flying in the impending darkness and I realize this is not just another random sound in the night.  This is Charisma squealing with joy, reveling in the wind and wave, as she lays her rail down to the nighttime seas.

The red glow of the compass is keeping me company while I’m mesmerized by the quiet transformation of twilight colors to darkness lit by 360 degrees of stars.  Horizon to horizon, North to South, East to West, everywhere I look I am surrounded by pinpoints of light that have traveled thousands of years to be here, right now, at this moment.

A very fine night.

Bittersweet to round Cabo because it means heading back North after so much fun and enjoyment.  Of course, there are all the good things about getting back home to look forward to, but this place is hard to leave.  However, we got a good send off around the Cape, as a dozen or so dolphins came over to say; “bye, bye for now” and a huge tuna jumped a good six feet in the air waving “goodby” less than a hundred yards away.

And, wouldn’t you know it, about four hours later, up the coast we hooked a large fish on our handline (basically a line with a lure on it that you pull in by hand).  I was off watch sleeping when Geoff called; “Fish On!”  I jumped out of my bunk and on deck to help gaff a 55 inch Wahoo and get him on deck.  Probably in the 60++ lb range, it took 1/3 of our bottle of Tequila to subdue him!  (Quite a contrast to a Norte Americano group we overheard at dinner one night who disgusted that they had caught nothing from their 70 foot luxury sport fishing boat, decided they needed to spend a few thousand more dollars on “better” fishing gear-we just smiled and they ignored the two grubby, bearded sailors who obviously knew nothing about how to fish).

After filleting Mr Wahoo, we ended up with 5 one quart freezer bags stuffed with huge fillets.  We’ve already had sushi about an hour after landing this majestic fish (with our evening Charisma of course!), fish sandwiches for lunch and just finished a fantastic ceviche dinner.

We left Puerto San Jose on Friday morning (the 26th) and 46 hours later arrived Bahia Santa Maria.  Quite a contrast to the trip down where there were over a hundred boats here.  Right now, we are the only sailboat anchored in this desolate bay.

We’re planning to visit the fishing villages at the end of the bay tomorrow and bring them some school supplies that we picked up in Cabo for their children.  The folks who live here are very isolated and basically have nothing that we (in California) would consider basic supplies.  They were so good to us on our way down, we’d like to repay the kindness.

A last little note:  Geoff and I have been sitting in the cockpit, anchored in the bay, listening to music (Taj Mahal) and watching the stars.  There have been quite a number of shooting stars and it’s hysterical each time one lights up the sky as we’re reduced to simply pointing and enthusiastically muttering; “ohhhhhhhh!” then laughing hysterically at ourselves and at how simple little things like meteorites are so cool and entertaining down here.  Entertainment is where you find it.

“Slightly, Supremely Awesome”

That was my summary of today’s sail when Geoff came up for his watch.  We also solved the mystery fish mystery, but more about that in a minute.

We sailed 40 miles today, all downwind in about 15-20 knots with 2-3 foot following seas.  Warm wind, blue sky, deep blue water and Wilson did an exceptional job of driving the boat.  I don’t think either of us touched him all day.  I spent a good portion of the day sitting in the lee scuppers dangling my feet in the spray and watching the coast go by.  The other part was laying on the foredeck watching the sails and being lulled to sleep listening to the water as we powered through the waves.  Today might well be the last of the pleasant, easy sailing we see on this trip since after one more short leg, it’s almost all “uphill” back up the Pacific Coast.  The BASH as it’s called.  Today’s forecast for the Pacific side: 17-22 knots, gusting to 29, 4-6 foot seas, all from the NNW or the direction in which we need to go.  Rats.

Arrived at Bahia Frailes just a few minutes before the sun dipped below the mountains.  Just as we entered the bay, we saw some serious fish jumping action.  Since we had our lines out and we had not caught a fish all day, we headed right for the jumping and splashing.  As we approached, we realized all the commotion was dozens of Manta Rays going berserk!  Quick!! Bring in the lines!  I did not want to hook a Manta Ray.  We got the lines in the boat and just coasted through the crazed jumping Rays.  Wild.  All around the boat, the Rays were leaping out of the water, Most were 4 feet or so across and they jumped up to four to six feet in the air.  Don’t know what they were up to, but definitely fun to watch as it lasted for about 15 minutes.

Speaking of fish, the fish mystery is no longer.  Our new favorite fish of all time that we caught and so completely enjoyed up in La Paz, is the Sierra Mackerel.  Geoff found the description online at the bar/restaurant in Los Muertos.  It is considered a delicacy in Mexico.  We agree, although we’ve decided to just call it the Sierra as Mackerel doesn’t sound as appetizing.

Note: As I’m typing this, Geoff just stopped by to see how the blog was going and gave me a couple cookies.  My enthusiastic, but not quite coherent response (that he said I HAVE to blog) was; “ooh!, ohh!, ohh!, behind the sink, Nutella, or some Nutella-like substance!”.  Like I’ve said; “simple pleasures thrill us”.

OK, back to our story: We’re getting creative on our stores these days.  We’re out of rum for now, so have to use Tequila for our Charisma after anchoring at the end of the day.  We’re thinking we should have a Spanish flair to the name of the drink when it’s made with Tequila, so Charismatita it is (for now: we’re open to suggestions).  Dinner without fish too, so we sautéed some peppers and onions and made Risotto with canned tomatoes, peppers, onions and some canned chicken.  Not bad with marinated cucumber salad.

Oh yeah, before I forget, take a lesson from two sailing instructors (you’d think we would know better):  Don’t ever, under any circumstances TOW an inflatable dinghy with an outboard on it, when you have a forty mile leg to cover.  This actually works fine as you leave your anchorage and think about how smart you are that you aren’t deflating the darn thing and having to inflate it again later, put the engine back on, etc, etc.  It becomes a whole different ballgame six hours later when you’re five miles offshore and the wind’s gusting into the twenties with three foot swells and your dinghy just passed you as it came surfing down a wave.  Realizing we had a problem and had to do something about this and quickly.  Well, as knowledgeable sailing professionals (wink) we each grabbed a large dock-line and started tying the biggest knots we could manage about every three feet along the line.  We then pulled the dinghy to the side of the boat (again, imagine the seas and wind and you can picture that this was an experience in itself to get the thing in without us falling out, or the dink tipping over as waves slammed it against the hull and threatened to tip it upside down).  Once we wrestled it next to the boat, Geoff quickly tied the lines to the handles on the side of the dink that he could reach and then threw them off the stern and we let the whole rig back out with fingers crossed.  Success!  The lines with big knots acted like drogues and the drag in the water kept the dinghy straight and more importantly from surfing down waves on its own, attacking us and threatening to careen out of control and tip over with engine and gas tank attached.   I don’t think we’ll do this again.  OK, maybe once more to get to Cabo San Jose, but not after that.  And we’ll store the outboard first   😉

Manta Rays By Moonlight

Bahia Frailes, 23degress 22minutes North, 109degrees 26 minutes West

We’re sitting in the cockpit enjoying a cigar and a scotch after dinner, watching the (still full) moon come up over the water, but more uniquely, watching and listening to the Manta Rays leaping out of the water around Charisma.  Quite a show and even sounds like fireworks as they hit the water with a boom and a splash.

There’s even been a bat from land flitting around the cockpit tonight, so we’re very entertained as we sit here drinking our Charismatitas!

Dinner was inspired by lack of fish, but more on that later.  Overall, we actually had an inspired day.

Today was a “boat project” day.  We started early attacking the tiller pilot project.  First we had to figure out how to mount the thing so it would steer the boat using Wilson, the wind vane.  The inspired part happened yesterday while we were sailing here.  In anticipation of the project, I was rooting around in the spare parts bin looking for something with which to mount the tiller pilot to the stern pulpit and found a large shackle with exactly the right size hole to put the tiller pilot mounting pin through. Feeling inspired, I leaped up the companionway hatch brandishing the shackle and bellowed to Geoff; “I’ve found our mounting bracket!”  Not exactly knowing what I had been working on or thinking, he moved subtly away from me until he more clearly understood my intentions.  Inspiration can be a funny thing out here.

So, now that we had the ideal “mounting bracket” and Geoff was onboard with the vision, we set to work first thing in the morning before it became too hot.  Geoff worked on fabricating the wind vane “stub” and tiller pilot connection to the stern pulpit (using the aforementioned shackle, electrical tape and two hose clamps) while I was down in the Lazarette working on bringing an electrical circuit out to the stern pulpit.  Once everything was finished we connected it and surprise, the thing worked!  As Charisma moves (at least as she sails around her anchor) the GPS in the tiller pilot senses the change in direction and “moves” the wind vane.  Tomorrow, we’ll do an actual sea trial on our trip down to Cabo de San Jose.

Not insignificantly, we also resealed the leaking deck prism.  Not a big deal here on the East side of Baja, but a big leaking problem on the West side as we go North and will likely have a lot of water over the decks.  As of this morning, the forecast for going North is NNW wind 18-22 and 4-6 foot waves.  All right on the nose for where we need to go, so it will be a bash.

OK, I promised the dinner stuff.  No fish again, despite being in such a “fish rich” environment.  So∑SPAM Hash!  Yum, it was delicious.  Our version had sautéed jalapeno peppers and onions with fried spam and potatoes (gotta eat those guys that have been with us for four weeks now).  When everything was good and browned, we added six eggs and stirred until it looked edible.  It was good!

And, just to finish, we did a quick calculation on the money we’ve been saving by catching our own fish for the last month.  By our calculation and based on $18/lb tuna and mahi costs, we figure we’ve caught and consumed about $1500 to $2000 worth of fish.  Of course we’ve given some away, but overall, have caught about 100 or so processed lbs of fish.  Hope our luck holds.

We’re planning to move to Cabo de San Jose tomorrow for provisioning, then wait out some local weather and start around the Cape on Friday or Saturday.

Happy Thanksgiving to family and friends if we don’t have a chance to say so in the next day or two!

Supreme Commander Does A Faceplant On Beach Landing (from the 24th)

(apologies to readers on the late post – I just discovered this post which had gotten lost in my email)

It was embarrassing and thank goodness Geoff didn’t have his camera.  But that was only the beginning.

However, before we get to that, we should say that we stopped by and met the only other boat in the cove and they were another Tayana 37.  Chris and JoAnn on Mariposa from Port Townsend, WA.  They have been down here a year and are in full on “cruising mode”.  That is to say that they are having a blast and not worried about where they are going tomorrow.  They were kind enough to invite us aboard and we spent a delightful hour with them seeing how they set up their boat.  All too soon we had to leave as Cabo San Jose, was our destination for today and we had to get moving if we were to get there before dark.

Upon leaving their boat, we took a quick detour to the beach so the Supreme Commander could say he set foot on said beach.  Well, set foot I did.  And knees.  And arms.  And body.  And eventually, FACE.  Yup, upon leaping valiantly off the dinghy to pull us into the beach, I tripped in the surf and went down.  Totally splashed face on the sand landing.  Oh well.  As I said above, at least there are no pictures.

The even bigger event though came about as we went to stretch our legs a bit before setting out for a day long sail.  Geoff sprinted up the sand dunes and I followed, not sprinting.  About halfway up I looked back and saw that a big wave had dislodged the dinghy from its perch on the beach and it was, uh oh, floating!  I started running back toward the boat when I noticed it was not just floating down the beach, but heading straight out with the wind.  If left unchecked, its next stop would have been approximately the Galapagos Islands.  I sprinted across the sand, possibly not actually touching down I was running so hard (OK, I know that’s hard to imagine that 270 lbs of Supreme Commander is that light-footed, but…I digress).  I thought I’d catch it in the surf, but it was moving too fast being pushed by the gusting wind. As soon as I entered the surf zone, I realized (fully clothed; albeit just shorts, tee shirt, hat and sunglasses, shoes long ago being stored somewhere) I’m going to have to swim for it.  I started sprinting my best freestyle (less style, more free).  I was still not catching the dinghy that was doing its best imitation of the Great Escape.  As I was swimming out, all I could think was that after sprinting a hundred yards into the deep water after sprinting a previous hundred yards on the beach; if I didn’t catch the dinghy to have something to hang onto I’d be in biiiiggg trouble.  Adrift and exhausted without a dinghy.  I had to catch it.  So I swam faster.  I don’t know if I really swam faster, of if there was a lull in the wind, but I caught it.  The next problem was I was too exhausted to climb in.  So, using my rusty former lifeguard sidestroke, I slowly swam back to the beach towing the recalcitrant dinghy.  Finally got into shallow water and thankfully I was able to stand for a moment and catch my breath.  Whew!  I would like to avoid that from happening again.  Ah, the cruising life.  Exploding Manta Rays and sneaky, adventurous dinghies.

Speaking of the Galapagos where my dinghy would apparently like to visit, the other night we had a Galapagos-like encounter with a seal who seemed bent on mayhem.  It was dark (“Christ, there we were…”) after dinner and we were sitting in the cockpit watching the moon, when this huge seal came blasting up and barked at us.  We jumped up (partly in fright at the sudden commotion) and looked, but the disturbance had disappeared.  As we were looking, up it popped on the other side of the boat and barked again, then dived.  This went on for a time.  We would look one direction, Mr Seal would dive and come up behind us.  Seemed like a kind of a seal “peek-a-boo” game.  We’re not sure if it was just playing, wanted a hand out, or whether it was eying the dinghy for a resting place for the night (maybe they were planning to go to the Galapagos together!)  We pulled it in close to the boat just in case.  I guess we spoiled its fun, as the game ended once the dinghy came in and we brought out the flashlights.

So to end today’s report; we tested R2D2 (that’s our name for the tiller pilot since it’s electro-mechanical and makes a noise like a robot; ert, rrrt, riggnt, rrrrt, ert).  Yesterday, we fabricated a little mini-vane to go on top of the monitor that the tiller pilot, er R2D2 attaches to.  It’s for us to use when we’re motoring and there’s not enough wind to activate the wind vane mechanism.  You set Charisma on course, then turn R2D2 on and it (he?) pushes the wind vane stub one way or the other. This action in turn turns the trim tab in the water, which then swings from the force of the water to one side or the other and in turn turns Charisma’s wheel.  It’s a Rube Goldberg contraption to be sure, but works like a charm.  We motored for five hours today and didn’t have to touch the wheel.  Once we set R2D2 he took care of everything leaving us free to read and watch out that we don’t run into something (he can steer to a compass course, but can’t see a thing).

So that’s it for today.  Thanksgiving tomorrow, (it is Wednesday as I write this).  We’ll miss everyone, but will make a special dinner and drink a toast to one and all. Our job for Thursday is going to town and stocking up groceries for the trip North (Rum, wine, beer, you know, the essentials).  If weather permits, we’ll leave early Friday and round the Cape.

Watch some football for us!

A REALLY Bumpy Night

When last I left off, it was getting bumpy and hard to type.  As the night progressed it got even worse.  The wind in this area is supposed to blow from either the North or the East.  We anchored where we would be protected from both directions.  However, “our” wind was out of the West and unrelenting (usually they die down at night) and was full on down the middle of our anchorage.  Neither of us slept really well.  I set the GPS anchor alarm to 100 feet and it went off at one point.  I think because we were bouncing so much, it “thought” we had moved.  Despite the alarm, I still got up three or four additional times to check on the anchor but it didn’t budge.  Fortunately for my peace of mind, I “dove it” when we dropped anchor the day before and saw that it was fairly well dug in.  A little tipped on the side, but not bad.  Had about 5:1 all chain scope, so as long as the wind didn’t go above 20 knots, it theoretically should be fine.

OK, I’ll spare you all the angst and such that I had all night bouncing around worried about breaking loose and being driven on the rocks a hundred yards downwind, other than to say that since the wind stayed for the most part, below 15 knots in our cove, I wasn’t ready to bail out.  Also fortunately, it was dark!  In the morning when we looked out, we both about had an attack.  I knew Charisma was bouncing a lot-we both were hanging on to our berths all night, but to see three plus foot waves rolling through our anchorage and the bowsprit going under water about every fifth or sixth wave was to get religion.  0600, coffee or no coffee, it was time to go!  Since it was too rough the night before to take the dinghy out of the water (we thought!) we still had that chore before we could leave.  Imagine lifting a 60 lb engine out of a rubber boat bouncing up and down three or so feet and trying to secure it to the side of Charisma.  Whew, we were glad to get that done and the rest of the boat cleaned up and were out by 0700.

Other than that particular local weather that we had at Espiritu Santo where just outside our cove it was gusting to over 20 knots, the rest of the day was blue sky, 15-20 knots following wind back down to Bahia Los Muertos, some 40 miles South.  A really stunning sail in blue sky, blue seas and we used almost every sail we had.  Spinnaker, 130 jib, main and stays’l saw use at some point during the 10 or so hour sail.  On the way, got a call from our friends in Black Pearl who were beating up toward La Paz.  They had stayed in Los Muertos for some boat repair and they saw us and called on the VHF (the benefits of tanbark sails are many and one is you are VERY identifiable).  Had a nice chat and wished them well for the rest of their voyage.  Garrett and Ruth are in Black Pearl, a 1960’s era Cal 30.  Garrett just turned 19 or 20 a week ago and I think Ruth is of a similar age and they are just “heading out”.  I hope to hear lots of good things about them in Latitude 38 as the months go by.

Oh, and I have to mention today’s food don’t I?  Well, it was another amazing fish taco with the last of the now mystery fish.  We determined that the two “tuna-like fish” we caught earlier in the week were Pacific Bonito, but we now don’t really know what the “wahoo” was.  We’re pretty sure it wasn’t a Wahoo, but it was by far the most delicious fish either of us have ever had, so we’re interested in finding out what it was.  It had a pointed nose, sharp teeth, about 30 inches, tuna-like body, although slimmer and the most distinctive spots on its side.  Let us know if you have a clue.

Got here (Los Muertos) around 1600 and am sitting in the cockpit right now at 1730 watching the most incredible, full, harvest moon rising over the water.  Huge, bright, perfect.

We’ll leave first thing tomorrow for the more picturesque Los Frailes where we’ll spend a day or so rigging the tiller pilot to Wilson the wind vane so hopefully, we’ll be able to have some amount of auto-steer under power for the trip back up the coast.

Dinghy Ride From..

Well, let’s just say it wasn’t the smoothest dinghy ride I’ve ever had.  OK, maybe worse than that.  But first, I have to note some “spiritual” doings from last night.

11.20.10-We’re still at Caleta El Candelero, and getting a little seasick right now I might add.  It’s 2200 and we have a 15 knot wind out of the SW that’s blowing right into the cove where we’re anchored, with a fetch of about 14 miles, so we’re bouncing in about a 2 foot chop.  We’re going to leave tomorrow for Los Muertos, since as of tomorrow, we’re now officially heading back around the Cape and back up to San Francisco.

So, about last night∑right about 1900 we were down below getting ready for dinner, when very suddenly a stiff breeze blew down through the hatch and got our attention (I mean a serious, sudden breeze).  Geoff scrambled up the companionway ladder to see what the breeze was about and was practically paralyzed.  He was muttering something about 2012 when I pushed up past him and we both were staring at the most amazing sight; a huge plume that curved across the-by now darkened horizon-and covered 1/8th of the sky with a bright light at it’s apex.  We both stared at it for almost 10 seconds in absolute wonder until the bright light dimmed and just the plume was left.  What could it be?  Spirits communicating with us from Espiritu Santo?  We might never know.  We did note that it was on a bearing of 250 to 260 degrees from our position and we’ll check with NASA when we get back to find out if it was a meteor or comet, but in the mean time all we can say is that it was most unusual.  On top of that, the fact that we have little information about the world outside of the boat and our immediate Baja environs and it’s a little strange not knowing.

This experience prompted one of those “blogworthy” comments of the day from Geoff; “We’ve been out here for 34 days and we’ve already seen a lot of cool shit”.  Translating the existential meaning; when you’ve been on a trip like this, you see stuff that fundamentally changes you.  The amazing things we’ve seen and experienced assure we will never see things the same was as we did when we left.

OK, about the dinghy ride∑ Geoff said; “hey are you down for going around the point?”  From the comfort of my hammock lazing away up on the foredeck, I hesitated a moment, but knowing that I’d get no end of grief for NOT going, I quickly said; “sure, why not”.  Why not indeed.  It’s one thing to go DOWNWIND and downwave for two miles in an inflatable dinghy with a four horsepower motor, it’s quite another to COME BACK the same two miles against a 12 gusting to 18 knot building breeze and two foot waves in said dinghy!  We had a nice downwind adventure to Partida Cove which separates the Northern part of the island from the South.  You enter a large bay at the end of which is a beach with a channel through it to the East side of the island.  Pretty cool.  Very beautiful, etc, etc.  The ride back was another thing altogether.  First off, Mr. Geoff didn’t tell me we were going two miles each way.  His invitation; “just around the point”.  Neither of us thought to check the fuel either, so added to pounding back into wind and wave, was the anxiety of having to row part of the way if the engine quit!  We did have an adventure though, we were very wet and we looked pretty cool as we passed some other real boats who no doubt wondered what the two idiots were doing out in the middle of the Sea of Cortez in a flipping 9 foot inflatable raft!  Mission accomplished.

We finished today snorkeling, finishing our ceviche and generally enjoying our last day at this beautiful spot.  Here’s hoping we get to spend more time here in the future.  One could easily spend a month exploring this island and enjoying its beauty.

Tomorrow 0500, up and out (yeah, right).  I have to finish this for now as it’s getting too rough to type anymore. I cn’t begimmmmmmm to tlle whtt thhhhhhhe nex wvve is doiiiiiingg.  Tooo bummmpyi.

A Holy Spirit

We’re at Islas Espiritu Santo, which means;  Islands of the Holy Spirit.  There’s no question; you can feel a spirit here.  From the moment we motored into the bay at Bahia San Gabriel, there was a palpable feeling that this place was different.  From the amazing earthen colors of baked red, ochre, sea blue, coral turquoise, and cactus green, we knew immediately we were in a different place than we’ve been so far in this trip.

On the way here from La Paz, we caught a Wahoo-first of that kind of fish we’ve seen.  A beautiful fish with some serious teeth.  We’re considering making some ceviche tomorrow with this fish.  After Geoff got him filleted and the decks cleaned up, he let the hand-line back out just to straighten it out so he could coil it properly and BAM, hooked the biggest Dorado we’ve yet seen.  Since we have enough fish on board, we decided to let the Dorado go and shook him off the hook.  Good fish Karma.

We anchored in Bahia San Gabriel with only two other boats.  It’s really nice to be away from the Ha-Ha fleet many of whom are still in La Paz.  On this second part of the voyage, we will likely be the only boat in most of the anchorages we visit, now that the race rally is done and most of the boats continue south toward mainland Mexico and parts beyond.

Dinner was as usual, delicious as well as creative.  Geoff “invented” something to make use of our stores.  Sauteed cabbage (one left that we’ve been stripping leaves from to keep it from going bad), grilled yams that have voyaged with us from San Francisco, ancho peppers from the local Mercado in La Paz and grilled “tuna things” (we’re not sure yet what these fish were) that we caught a few days ago and have kept on ice.  Amazing how it plated so well.  A whole grilled fish on a bed of sautéed cabbage with the grilled yams and grilled peppers with melted cheese (I did the grilling and clean up and Geoff was the Master Chef).  We have been eating some amazing meals courtesy of Geoff and his culinary creativity (more below).

My next goal is to get him out of the hammock that he conveniently settled into while I was doing the dishes (our goals here in this simple life are very modest); so I can enjoy the stars and moon.  Rum might be part of the problem here.  It’s Cuban Rum, so that’s OK.

(The next day, 11.19: OK, so the last two sentences above were caused by the Charisma’s before dinner (Geoff’s comment: “Make them strong, I only want to drink one”.  Of course I obliged), wine with dinner and then shots of Cuban Rum after dinner.  After reading them over today, I thought I’d leave them in as evidence of the evening’s activities)

Today (11.19.10 and 24degrees 26minutes North, 110degrees 24minutes West) we left San Gabriel around 0900 and headed further up the island to a spot called Caleta el Candelero.

A short 5 miles trip, so we left the dinghy in the water and towed it up the beautiful coastline.  If you flooded the Grand Canyon and then sailed in it, you have some idea of how spectacular this area is. Adding to the experience was the aroma of chopped onions, bell peppers and jalapeño peppers wafting up through the hatch as Geoff was preparing the Wahoo ceviche.  As he filleted the fish, he would toss bits of raw fish up to me at the helm.  Delicious!  A very pale, almost translucent flesh and a mild buttery flavor.  As we found out later, it made a most excellent dish marinated in the pepper/onion/lime marinade.  A bonus is that it will now keep for 3 or 4 days.

Upon turning into this spectacular bay, we both commented at the same time that we’d like to stay here a couple days.  It just does not get any more beautiful than this spot.  The bay is about π mile by π mile, shallow, mostly only 20 feel deep, all on a white sand bottom.  On the furthest inland side there is a stunning beach.  On the other two sides vertical walls of burnt umber and reddish colored rock rise a couple hundred feet, topped with ridges lined with cactus.  In the very center of the bay is the candelaro or “candlestick”.  It’s a large rock, about 100 yards, by fifty yards that juts a hundred feet or so out of the sandy bottom.  The sandy bottom and the absolutely clear shallow water and cloudless blue sky result in a pale turquoise color on which Charisma just seems to be suspended.  We can see Charisma’s and the dinghy’s shadow on the sandy bottom as well as fish swimming under the boat.  Did some swimming before lunch and saw the usual array of tropical fish, some puffer fish, a skate and some starfish.  Time for a siesta now after eating the delicious Wahoo ceviche, a cheese quesadilla topped with avocado and a cerveza.  More later.

A spiritual place indeed.

Work in Paradise

Yup, today was a workday.  Since we’re officially halfway on our voyage, mileage-wise at 1752 miles, it was time for some boat maintenance before we leave tomorrow to begin our trip back. Actually, we’re not heading “back” for a few more days, as the next two or three days will be at Islas Espiritu Santos, about 20 miles East of La Paz.

Technicalities of the trip aside, there was work to do.  Charisma badly needed a fresh water wash, not having seen same since San Francisco.  She is much better now thank you very much.  I even thing she’s smiling now that all the salt has been rinsed off.

Down below, I changed the oil, oil filter, and the primary and secondary fuel filters.  Diesels will run forever IF they have clean fuel and oil (knock on wood).  We have used 114 hours since leaving SF on the engine.  Most of those hours have been “easy” hours used to run the alternator to refresh the batteries for power for nav instruments and lights, but as we move up the Sea of Cortez, we do less sailing and more motoring (less wind and when we have it, it’s right on the nose), so at least 20 of those hours have been in the last week.  We did very little motoring from SF all the way to Cabo.

Geoff started the day by going to the Mercado.  He had a fun time getting supplies and returned with stories of how to butcher a pig (apparently today was “pig day” at the market) as well as lots of fresh vegetables which down here means various peppers, some tomatoes, avocados, limes and sweet potatoes.  We stripped all the cardboard off, washed all cans and fresh veggies in white wine vinegar (the object is to wash/kill any pest eggs) and then stored all the provisions.  Hopefully this will keep Charisma pest free.

Geoff also made the supreme mistake of asking; “what else can I do?”  The Supreme Commander (yes, I still wear that hat occasionally) with an evil glint in his eye innocently said; “the ice boxes could use washing down”.  In reality, the Supreme Commander had discovered earlier, while changing the oil, the source of flies in the boat. They appeared to come from some fish that had gone bad a couple weeks ago and which run-off found its way into the bilge (the iceboxes drain there).  This resulted in maggots in the bilge, etc, etc.  The upshot: Geoff cloroxed the heck out of the ice-boxes, the drains into the bilge and the bilge itself.  All mentioned are now so clean, we could drink out of them.  In fact, after pumping the bilge, I think the marina is pretty clean now too!  The flies persist, but we’re eliminating them one at a time.  Not all is paradise in paradise.

For my part, I made a smallish mistake.  I decided that the best way to completely clear the bilge was to use the hand pump under the cabin sole.  It drains the bilge completely, whereas the electric pump stops a little short of clearing the bilge.  Anyway, as I said, I wanted to drain the bilge to get rid of the maggots.  The problem is or should I now say; “was”, we also use the manual bilge pump to pump out the holding tank at sea (for landlubbers, it’s where we – well – in the marina – well, it really stinks when we have to pump it out!  OK, I’m not admitting to anything here, I’m just saying; once I cleared the bilge, I had to leave the area for a while as I didn’t want to have to answer any questions from our neighbors or the dock police.  Back at the boat a half hour or so later, there appeared to be no repercussions.

We also discovered that Geoff is excellent at killing flies and bees.  For some reason, some bees had decided that Charisma was a good place to nest.  Probably the cereal Geoff brought back attracted them.  We weren’t as comfortable with them as they seemed to be with us.  Deadly force was exercised.  With dispatch!  The bees have retreated for now.

Boat projects have a way of expanding.  I won’t bore you with all of them, but suffice to say there were a ton of; “tighten this, fix that, etc, etc” and before I knew it, it was MARGARITA TIME.  Geoff is back in town for the evening and I went to the Beach Club for a shower (probably the last one for a while) and a cocktail overlooking La Paz Bay at sunset.  Beautifull!  Then treated myself to a last dinner ashore. I had Carpaccio de Salmone and Salad Rustico or something like that.  My waiter was the highlight:
Omar Fabian Hernadez Mondragon.  He was very, very good.  Really knows his wines and is trying to get into an exchange program to work in Canada.  I gave him my email address and told him I’d be an enthusiastic reference for him.  He seemed genuinely pleased.  My Spanish and his English made conversing an experience!  I hope I didn’t tell him by accident that he could bring his family and live with me in San Francisco.

Opps, almost forgot to mention that in the middle of all the work-Geoff made some excellent fish tacos from the Mahi we caught a couple days ago.  Fresh tortillas, avocados, peppers, salsa, mahi, onions∑.  We’ve been carefully keeping the Mahi and the two tunas on ice, so they are fresh as can be.  Yum.

So, tomorrow, we get up at a reasonable mid-morning hour, motor to the harbormaster and check out.  By then (late morning) hopefully the wind will kick up a bit and we’ll sail the 15 or 20 miles to our next destination.  We’ll see where the weather allows us to anchor (many of the bays at Isla Espiritu Santos are exposed to NW wind).

More once we get there.

A Day In La Paz

Don’t know what day it is, but my watch tells me it’s the 16th.  What a fun city La Paz is!  I really enjoyed walking around.  Probably because I’m a gringo, the entire city looks fascinating.  I didn’t even come close to covering the whole thing.  That’s good, since it leaves me room to further explore next time.  I’ll probably anchor in the inner harbor too just for the full experience. We’re further up the channel at Costa Baja Marina to give ourselves a break from anchoring out all the time.  More on Costa Baja below.

The part of La Paz I explored today was along the channel into the harbor.   It’s very picturesque.  I found the Super Mercado, where lots of individual vendors set up mini-shops to sell their wares under one roof. On one side of the market there are the clothes and shoes.  Not very good quality merchandise unfortunately.

In the middle are the produce vendors.  I bought a couple dozen limes, some cilantro and half dozen avocados.  All got washed in white wine vinegar back at the boat before they came “down below”.  I’m being very careful about trying not to pick up “critters” that are hard to get rid of later.  No paper/cardboard is allowed on board either.  Things like cereal boxes can harbor cockroach eggs in a tropical environment, so everything gets removed from its packaging and gets poured into various containers before being stored on board.

At the far end of the market are the meat, fish and poultry vendors.  There’s a lot of “interesting” looking meat for sale, including an entire pig’s head in one of the meat cases.  I took a picture and hope to upload it here someday when I have internet with enough bandwith.

Found a Tortilleria and bought a kilo of freshly made tortillas for about US $2.50.  I’m eating one (well, actually three) rolled up with some salsa for a snack right now.  Delicious!

Two popular things down here are the street fruit vendors and the ice cream stores.  The fruit vendors have all sorts of fruits that they peel, and chop into a cup.  I had a papaya with lime this morning.  Yum. After lunch, the ice cream.  A true luxury!  Actually it’s sherbert-more ice than cream, but all the more delicious in this heat.  I had Lime and Watermelon.

Anyway, tons of walking today and then back to Costa Baja Marina which is where we are staying.  A little luxury before we head back out.  After today/tomorrow I don’t think we’ll be in another marina until San Diego about three weeks from now (if we’re lucky with the weather).  This place is great.  It’s not downtown, the marinas there were full, but there’s a free shuttle every hour.  It takes about 20 minutes into town. But more importantly, this place is LUXURIOUS! (Sue and Andy, check it out online-there’s golf in the hill above AND a Moorings office in the marina.  They have about five 38ish foot boats for charter.  Isla Espiritu Santos is 15 miles away and you could easily spend three/four days just exploring there.  I think it’s probably on the internet at

As part of the Marina Berth fee of US $40/day, we get access to the resort’s Beach Club.  I’m trying to upload a picture from my iPhone of sunset in the bar overlooking an infinity pool which in turn overlooks all of La Paz Bay.  Absolutely stunning!  And clean showers.  The first I’ve seen on this trip.  Most marina showers are dirty and/or in disrepair.  These are full-on resort showers.  Tons of water, clean and luxurious. Again; after this it’s sun showers on the deck, salt water bucket showers and/or sponge baths for the next three plus weeks, so we’re taking advantage of the resort access.

La Paz

So, tomorrow is boat project day.  We need to change the oil, and all the associated oil/diesel filters, see if we can find a way to combine Wilson the Monitor wind vane, with a tiller pilot I bought (theoretically Wilson can steer the boat while motoring with this set-up), fix a leak we found in the port deck light and do some final provisioning for the trip back.

So, until later, Adios Amigos – and thanks very much for all of you who have been sending comments.  They are fun to read!