Dolphins, Killer Whales and SPAM

A lot to go over from the last couple days, but first our current position.  It’s about 1200 on December 6th and we’re just a couple miles off Ensenda.  It’s blowing solid 20 knots gusting to 25 and of course is right on the nose so we’re motoring right into the wind and waves.  Smash, smash, bash, spash!  Water everywhere.  We’re just barely making 5 knots which is our determinate as to when to give up and duck into Ensenda.  If we can hold this speed we’ll stay out go for San Diego (ETA some time tonight).  Fuel might be tight, so I’m watching the engine time carefully.  We should just have enough, but you never know whether bashing into this stuff is using more fuel than I’m accounting for.A couple of Grey Whales just swam over and cruised by about 30 yards away.  They each spouted about four times, so I had a great view of them and they me, then they dove and I didn’t see them again. Must have been the beard.

More on dolphins and killer whales in a bit, first a quick update on our stay in Turtle Bay.  Most importantly, my laundry did arrive as promised.  However the expected, price inflation also hit.  Miguel looked uphappy when I gave him the $6 for the laundry, but he’s a patient man.  Instead of complaining, he hung around while we had a final beer at Refugio’s on the beach.  During this time, he talked around the issue for a while but finally drew two lines in the sand.  One was big and the other half the size.  Ah, ha!  The aforementioned laundry actually took one and a half “automaticas”, as in loads of laundry in their machine.  Well, it wasn’t that much, but I had factored the inflation in before I gave it to him the day before and was still glad to have “Kayak service” and clean laundry for $9.  Miguel was happy.

Left Tortuga on the 4th.  Just outside the bay, a pod of dolphins joined us dancing, jumping and carrying on as dolphins do, as if asking; “Where’s Ann?” (the Dolphin Whisperer).  A fitting farewell to what has now become a favorite spot.  I can’t wait to visit here again.  A gorgeous setting and wonderful, happy, people.

The excitement of the day came a few hours later when we spotted several pods of Killer Whales (Orca).  We found them to be keenly attuned to their environment and more shy than the dolphins.  I altered our course to go over and see them and the minute the boat turned, the Orcas disappeared and popped up quite a ways from where they had been swimming.  So, I altered course back and they came back to their spot.  This went on a couple times until figuring out the issue, I just put the boat in neutral and let it float without course or speed changes.  That did the trick.  I guess they realized we weren’t a threat at that point and came over our way.  Here’s the really interesting part; it felt like the Raptors in the movie Jurassic Park.  One pod came up about 25 yards off the starboard side and showed themselves, swimming lazily along while Geoff and I were frantically taking pictures.  Then all of a sudden, completely taking us by surprise four others that we hadn’t seen jumped out of the water BEHIND the boat, scaring the bejebbers out of us.  We whipped around to see them swimming right up to the stern and about three feet under water looking up at us.  I’d swear they were laughing. They had us cold.  I was staring right down at a 15 foot long killer whale about 10 feet away.  Beautiful and clever creatures.  The male’s dorsal fin had to have been 4 feet tall.  I will never forget this encounter.

Just so they wouldn’t be upstaged, about an hour later, several hundred dolphins passed us chasing their dinner.  Leaping out of the water and surging down the waves, they turned the otherwise placid water around us into a class IV whitewater rapid as they darted back and forth (probably chasing squid).

My note for 2330 this evening:  Being out here is all about you and 10 million stars all attentively listening to your every thought.

Oh, the SPAM part!  Well, we’re definitely tired of fish although we’re still finishing up that Wahoo with fish tacos at lunch.  But for a change of pace for dinner I made SPAM a la Chareesma.  Left over potatoes, onion, chopped pepper, salsa and three eggs all browned on the stove with a couple tortillas thrown over at the last minute to steam.  With a cucumber and tomato salad, we were happy.  A one pan meal, perfect for that first evening back at sea, topped off with a Charisma to watch the sunset with (now new and improved with Fresca, since we can’t get Ginger Ale and have run out of Sprite).2killer-whale.jpg

Whales and “Santa Ana” Winds

We’re finally coming up off Ensenda.  I’m mentally calculating whether we need to stop for fuel or not when I see something out of the corner of my eye.  Whales!  Finally.  They have been pretty elusive this trip.  Two Grey whales came over to check us out.  We’re headed North, they are headed South, so our passing was brief.  They came to within about 50 yards, surfaced four or five times, then one final dive and they were gone.  (My camera was below and I didn’t want to miss seeing my friends, so you’ll have to imagine what they looked like).   Wow, I always love seeing such huge majestic and gentle creatures.  You can always “sense” an intelligence when they are around.  It’s an eerie feeling.


A little later in the day a dozen or so dolphins swam over to visit and ride the bow wave.  I love to go up on the bow and watch them as they trade places riding the wave up there.




Later that afternoon the wind was up to 25 gusting at least to 30 knots.  Too much wind to be able to motor anymore as we were down to making about 2 knots headway.  Sails up.  We had a double reef and staysail and were doing 6 knots through 4 foot, fairly closely spaced swells, so we were burying the blow a lot and there was a lot of water flying through the air.  The forecast had not talked about such winds and I was trying to figure out how it had been so far off, but the answer appeared at sunset.  As the sky started glowing some amazing purple, orange and red colors, I could also see a brown haze across the sky-Santa Ana winds blowing the dirt off the land.  We were nearing San Diego and they HAD been talking about these, but I thought we’d be too far South for them to be an impact.  Wrong again!  Fascinating colors and cloud forms.  At one point the clouds actually looked like the rings of Saturn, blown flat and curved with brown, purple, lavender, orange and more colors.


The wind and waves lasted until about 0100, when they dropped and we were able to shake out the reefs and have a more relaxed sail as we neared San Diego.

 Santa Ana Sunset


Greetings from Turtle Bay

December 2, 2010-27 Degrees 41 Minutes North, 114 Degrees 52 Minutes West

Back here again.  A beautiful spot.

Got in around 0400 this morning.  As soon as we were sure the anchor was secure, we crawled into our bunks and within a minute or two were sound asleep until the sound of a Mexican serenade woke us mid-morning.  For my part I thought I was dreaming until I heard a lilting; “Charisma (pronounced Mexican style; ‘Char_isma’), donde esta?”  That woke me up, but looking out the porthole I saw nothing. Still I heard; “Char_isma?”  I went up the companionway into the cockpit still looking for the voice and finally looking down in the water next to the boat saw Miguel, our new friend in his Kayak.  Or at least he voted himself our new friend.  He paddled all the way out to the boat and asked, could he come aboard for a cup of coffee.  Well, he was so nice, how could I resist.

So, we spent an hour or so chatting in English/Spanish with Miguel over some coffee.  Turns out he’s now our self-appointed guide of sorts.  His wife does laundry, so I gave him mine ($6).  I hope I see it again.  We’re supposed to meet him tomorrow on La Playa, a la Quattro (4PM) when it’s to be ready.  He drew a very complicated but fun map to show where to meet him (“right next to Refugio’s”).  I’ve already placed the hand made map in the picture frame in the main cabin it’s such a delight.  After coffee, he paddled off with my laundry secured in a garbage bag on his lap.  Later, when we went to the little town for some lunch, Miguel was waiting on the beach to escort us to Carlos and Mercedes’ restaurant.  I think he gets a meal for bringing the gringos because he got a plate of the same food we got and of course joined us in our meal.  Kind of like advertising only more charming.  Oh well.  He’s very nice.

Our sail here yesterday and last night was lovely as it could be.  The highlight was a night long meteor shower in the NE.  About five per minute, some of them scorching dramatic arcs across the sky.  How fun to watch.  It certainly makes the night watch go quickly.

As I was watching the meteors, I found myself staring at the Big Dipper, also in the NE.  My epiphany for the night:  The Big Dipper in the early morning hours forms a question mark for those who are still awake to see it.  Hmmm.


Follow The Milky Way

It rises from the Southeast, arcing directly overhead and slipping over the horizon to the Northwest. We’re just chasing the trail the Milky Way leaves across the sky.

That was a note I made from last night.  Another gorgeous, although now distinctly chilly, night.  Sailed much of the night just following the stars.

The conditions were 15-18 knots, 3-4 foot seas, Wilson ably steering and one reef.  This kind of sailing is what it’s all about.  We are not quite going directly to where we want to go since we have to make an angle to what the wind allows, but it’s peaceful and beautiful.  It’s also not often that you get to stay on one tack for eight to ten hours and just stare at the stars!  Haven’t seen another boat.

1900, Nov 30-Three Frigate Birds are attempting to land on the masthead.  We’re having an argument (me and the birds) over that.  I know that they can’t land on the water and need a rest, but I also know these big birds would break the wind instruments and/or the VHF antenna, so I’ve been alternately flashing my flashlight and blowing the handheld horn (it’s starting to sound like a football game out here).  What finally worked is I set off the strobe in the masthead light as the three huge birds (six foot wingspans) were hovering just a foot or so from their proposed landing zone.  That seemed to disorient and discourage them.  Sorry Frigates.  Bow pulpit OK.  Masthead, Not.

1600, Dec 1st-Motor sailing with about 7 knots of wind.  It’s going to be like this for a few days now, so we’re taking advantage of flat seas and light wind to power into Turtle Bay (Bahia Tortuga).  We should get there sometime in the very early hours-maybe 3 or 4AM, after leaving Bahia Santa Maria yesterday.  The wind died down a day earlier than forecast, so we jumped out of Santa Maria first thing in the morning.

Actually lots of different conditions but this morning gets the prize so far.  On my five hour watch (0800-1300) the wind went from zero to 25 knots and back.  I was motor sailing, then as the wind picked up, shut down the engine and commenced sailing, but quickly had to put in a reef as the wind increased and then the not forecast increase went to 25 or so and had me put in a second reef.  After a couple hours of really fun sailing and some tall, steep waves on the beam, the wind died back down until by the end of the watch it was back to motor-sailing.  So far, we’re thinking Geoff’s jinxed.  Every time I have a great watch, sailing like crazy, just as his watch starts the wind dies.  We’re hoping for better for him as we continue our move North although for the next couple days he doesn’t care.  He’s been lured into the trilogy of the Dragon Tattoo.  He can’t stop.  Read the first one in a 24 hour period yesterday.  He’s now on the second (well, actually sleeping right this minute, as he was up reading all night!).

The sun’s getting ready to set, so time to put on some warmer clothes.  This isn’t the tropics anymore.

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!