Life in a Boat Yard

One week into round two of our Baja adventure, and we are happy it hasn’t been all work.

We left our Denver home and dog with my aunt and drove out Tuesday, Oct. 15, as planned. We got an early start – about 5:30 a.m. – so we could make it to Newport Beach by the end of the day. We crossed through the Eisenhower tunnel as the first snow rolled into the Denver area, making our mountain driving a bit icy, but beautiful as daylight broke.

Colorado roads

Driving through the Rocky Mountains on our way to La Paz, Mexico.

I felt like we were driving through winter into fall as we drove down the Rockies’ western slope. It was really a beautiful scene, and a pretty drive all the way from I-70 to I-15. We drove through mountain and canyons the whole way, periodically stopping to enjoy the view in Utah and Arizona.

Fall and winter mountains

We drove from winter into fall. You can see the snow at the higher altitude fade away.

Utah mountains

We so enjoyed the drive through so many types of mountains from Colorado to California.

Utah Canyon

This beautiful Canyon in Utah made us stop to admire it.

We had to drive through the Las Vegas strip, even though it was the middle of the day because I had never seen it. This put us at our day one destination about 8 p.m. to visit with our (pretty-much professional) sailing friends, David and Katie, who we met at Thanksgiving in La Paz almost 2 years ago.

They are always so welcoming when we crash coming or going from Baja. We delayed our morning start just a bit so we could meet their one-year-old daughter, Emily, putting us on our way about 7:30 a.m.

We crossed the border in Tijuana with no issues and booked it for our typical mid-way stopping point in Guerro Negro.

The mountains in Baja were more beautiful than we remembered because they were so green. the Baja had been getting a lot a rain and very wet season, actually washing out a lot of roads on the only highway that runs the length of the peninsula.

Luckily, in Mexico, they will happily divert traffic off-road.

Sunset in Guerro Negro

We arrived in Guerro Negro just at sunset.

Guerro Negro Hotel

This is the hotel we like to stay at in Guerro Negro. It is on the edge of town, always clean and the people are nice.

Broken Baja Road

The roads washed out just 2 days before we drove through here. Baja has had a very rainy season.

Green Baja Mountains

We really enjoyed how green the mountains were because of all the rain on the lower Baja.

We arrived in La Paz around 6 p.m. Our boat broker, La Paz Yachts was our first stop because we needed to get the key to our boat being stored at a local boat yard – Bercovich. Our second stop was Bercovich to check on the condition on the boat, and our third was dinner with our dear friend, Jasna, from the boat Calypso.

The boat was not in bad shape. She was a little dusty and in need of batteries and bottom paint, but mostly just how we left her. We got to work pretty much right away.

Day 1) Wash down outside and clean inside thoroughly. Remove old batteries, buy new batteries – about $450usd

Day 2) Install new batteries, unpack bags and ready v-berth for sleeping

Day 3) Power wash the boat bottom (we were able to borrow one from our boat neighbor, Pete, who came down from San Francisco to work on his boat too.)

Day 4) Had the boat bottom inspected by a local boat surveyor, Cecil – who did our boat inspection before we bought 2 years ago. He was a boat builder most of his life and will be 89 soon. We bought one gallon of ablative anti-fouling paint nearby for about $180 usd and supplies for painting. We got advice to just do a light sanding on the existing paint, power wash again and paint. So we did.

Day 5) Find cayenne pepper and put inside paint – old sailor trick to keep barnacles away. Had paint shaken again to mix all biocide and cayenne pepper inside. Now, we paint the bottom.

We are hoping to get into the water in a couple of days, in which case we would head straight to the islands to finish up the work on the boat. The boat yard has not been as bad as I thought it would be. I just had to accept that I would be dirty, sweaty and eaten by mosquitos every day. But there is unlimited fresh water and electricity, and we have the best spot in the yard with an ocean sunset view.

La Paz Sunset with boat

We enjoyed the sunset walking the ocean boardwalk in La Paz.

In the boat yard

Our boat “on the hard” in the boat yard.

Dirty boat bottom

Our boat bottom before any cleaning.

Clean the boat

Tim power washing our boat bottom.

Painting boat bottom

TIm painting the boat bottom. We went with a darker blue, and I really like it.






Big News — Back to Mexico

Big news – we are heading back down to La Paz, Mexico!

We knew we needed to get back down and take care of our boat, but we were not sure about when we might be able to actually break away from the life we have been building in the Denver area. Money was also a big factor; as in, will we make enough in a short time to get our boat back in the water?

It turns out, Tim was able to work a hail storm in Greeley, CO, selling new roofs to replace damaged ones. For those of you who didn’t know, Tim grew up in the roofing industry repairing and selling roofs for his parent’s roofing company in DFW. This work has afforded us the possibility of getting back to our boat for some TLC.

Our lovely Cal 35 sailboat has been stored on-the-hard in a boat yard in La Paz for more than a year. We did the typical seasonal shut down checklist, per advice from our sailing friends. This included removing all sails, draining fluids from the engine, tying down everything and protecting what we could from the damaging sun and bugs. This took us about four days to really secure her to be stored. We are anticipated about two weeks to put her back together.

One reason we decided to go back now was to get our beautiful boat looking beautiful again. As I said in a previous post, we have decided to sell our boat. She has been on the market for a few months with a few showings under her belt. But when we left her, we hadn’t intended to put her up for sale, so we know she is not looking up to her potential. Hence, our trip down is two-fold: to have a last hoorah at the islands and to put a bit more work into The Luckiest to get her sale-ready.

We plan to probably pay someone to sand down the previous layers of paint and barnacles and applying a fresh coat of barnacle-resisant paint to her underside – the anti fouling process. This also increases sailing speed, which is important when every knot counts. We will clean her up and get her sails back on, etc. Her house batteries are also ready to be replaced, so we are adding that in, too. All this, we do in hopes of selling her as this years sailing season approaches.

It saddens me to think about selling her, because she is a perfect cruising boat. But the truth is, we have to find a better balance of a traditional American lifestyle and one of travelers. It is a very hard balance to strike, and we thought we could do it by living on our boat for six months and in our small townhome for six months (sailors call it “six on, six off”). This plan isn’t really working for us because we have to work more throughout the year than say a retired person to keep ourselves afloat. We have tried to keep a minimalist lifestyle in the states with a small monthly budget to keep ourselves free of as many strings as possible.

Because travel is a high priority for us, we still plan to set ourselves up for lots of it. More realistically than six months out of the year, we will have two to three months for travel yearly. This will take time and financial legwork, but we will get there. We love the sailing lifestyle and community – having made some dear friends in the Sea of Cortez. It’s likely that we will come back for more, just not on our own boat. Crewing on other’s boats is a big part of the sailing community, and we certainly would like to see more of the world via sailboat.

For those of you who are interested, or might know of someone in the market for a Cal 35 with added sugar scoop, please share this listing info and blog post.

Current Price: US$ 35,000

Yacht World Number: 2614835
Located in La Paz, BCS, Mexico
Year: 1974
Hull Material: Fiberglass
As stated in the brochure, the ingenious and unique touches that Bill Lapworth has designed into the Cal 35 set her apart from other world cruisers, coming close to a perfect cruising yacht. Whether you’re anchored off La Paz in the Sea of Cortez or running downhill across the Pacific to Tahiti, you’ll live in style and comfort aboard the Cal 35. The interior finish is as practical as it is luxurious, beautifully designed with rich Burmese teak. With a full 6 foot 6 inch head room and a 7 foot long double berth, this is a great boat for tall people! The raised dinette allows you to view the scenery while dining below. The long water line, sleek hull lines and large 546 square feet of sail area give her great speed. And she’s easy to handle. The big modern spade rudder offers greater maneuverability and easier wheel steering control. The comfortable cockpit has benches long enough for sleeping outside as well. All mechanical and electrical equipment is easy to get at. Making repair and engine maintenance a cinch on the Perkins diesel and its fuel supply give you an 800-mile cruising range on power alone at 7 1/2 knots. This is an excellent cruising yacht!

Cal 35 cruising boat under sail

Sailing from Isla Danzante to Puerto Ballendra at Isla Carmen. We sailed all the way there with fairly steady wind and good speed.

Cal 35 Salon

Our main living space with Galley to the right and dining area to the left.

Cal 35 V berth and head

A peek into the v berth and head.

Sailing sunsets in Sea of Cortez

The amazing sunset from the south beach at Agua Verde. We saw some of the greatest sunsets ever.

A view of our boat at the beginning of our long hike across Isla Carmen.

A view of our boat at the beginning of our long hike across Isla Carmen.

Well, now what?

Now that we have wrapped up most of the projects around the house, we are a little stir crazy while deciding what to do next. I have been working with local non-profits and networking organizations through my business: Blank Slate Graphics and Marketing.

I have discovered a huge passion for helping others and really put working with the Global Education Fund as a top priority for myself. I met several of the board members at a networking group a few weeks ago. The speaker at the event has several schools and organizations she has started in Bangalore, India, and receives funding from the Global Education Fund. She is one of the most accomplished individuals I have ever met. She is a core shaker. I felt completely moved by her story, and felt compelled to change my direction. I created a new blog to reflect these thoughts and changes as I move forward into the non-profit realm.

I have no idea what is next for me and Tim. Right now we are both working in the Denver area trying to make more than a few bucks to get back down to Mexico. We are thinking we will have a couple of months on the Luckiest and put her on the market to sell to someone else looking for an escape. It is a very tough decision, as we both are in love with our boat, but we feel a bit tied down to traveling to Mexico even if we want to go elsewhere. More to come on this as we prepare our lives to have comfortable established home and aboard lifestyles.

Farewell For Now

We had a very busy past couple weeks, getting out of the Marina and then participating in BayFest – an annual party the cruisers in La Paz put on – and now we are finally ready to go.

The stress was really building for us while we were in the marina and we really considered putting the boat on the hard and heading back to the states early. Then we backed off and realized we really just need to be having fun. So we decided that we would wrap up everything that completely had to happen and get out of the marina and then La Paz, but put no stipulations on ourselves. We are going to go as far north as we can or want to and then come back to La Paz to pull the boat out of the water.

During the BayFest we entered a raffle to get 50% off our haul out ($350 usd) and a new bottom painting at a boat yard here – and we won! We really are the Luckiest. To take advantage of that, we are coming back to La Paz in Mid-May and driving out the Baja to California.

I’m not sure if I have mentioned this, but we made a friend and fellow cruiser here who owns a restaurant and small marina on Shaver Lake in California. He has offered us a couple of summer jobs from June through August. Tim will be working on the dock with boats and wake board lessons while I tough it out serving at the dinner house. Except for during the month of July, which I will be spending with my sister who is due to have her third baby on July 14. We are very close and I fully intend to be there before during and after her new baby arrives. We are excited to get up to the mountains and lake setting, and to make some money!

We have been spending a lot lately working on the boat and really readying ourselves to go. It will be nice (and necessary) to replenish the “cruising kitty” as they call it. I have no idea why. We have also been enjoying our friends more, especially at BayFest. We played in sand volleyball tournament, blindfolded dingy race (2nd place) and costume contest (also 2nd place). It was all really fun. We said goodbye on Sunday to some friends who are crossing the Pacific. We might meet up with them again on their side of the world.

As the cruising season begins to close everyone is talking about their summer plans and when they might come back next year. It is a joy to say we are not quite sure where w will be come September.

It’s just a quick update this time, and I will try to keep it up as we head north and internet will become harder to find.

Setting Sail Tomorrow

And not today because you never leave on a trip on a Friday in the sailing community. Today we learned a lot, some good things, some bad things. But I suppose learning is always good.

Tim and I went into town to get a few more items before we take off including some gasoline and oil to use our Honda generator, a few more food items, drinking water and some money.

Gary stayed behind on the boat to run the engine to repower up our batteries, which unfortunately took longer than we expected. Gary was able to track the progress on the charging cycle, so when we got back we had an amp hours lesson. We have to be very careful not to overuse our batteries. We will likely be a couple of power hogs onboard, but as long as we balance our usage out, it should be OK.

We also talked about maintaining the bottom of the boat. We will likely need to get some sort of diving gear, something simple and cheap if we can. That way Tim can go down and scrape the barnacles off the bottom of the boat and clean the rotor and propeller. It’s quite a job that will take several days once a month. Gary also said if Tim doesn’t mind that work, he could easily charge other cruisers a dollar a foot (our boat would be $35) for the service on their boat. It could give us a few more “cruising chips” here and there.

Some other things we learned were not so fun. Since we have been sitting here on a mooring at this little marina in Puerto Escandido we have been using up water and power, etc. We decided to fill up our water tanks and our “jerry cans” with diesel before we take off. We sat at the dock filling our water tanks. We notice it seems to be taking a long time to fill up our port side tank. We begin to wonder how big it really is and joke about it filling our boat. Tim gets down inside the boat and starts looking and listening for leaks inside. And there it was. Filling up our bilge, the lower belly of the boat. That is what the bilge is for – catching leaks, but we were just pouring water into it. So we found out two VERY important things from this: our water tank has a pretty big leak, and our automatic bilge pump to remove the water, doesn’t work. Interesting. Well the pump does work if you turn it on, but not automatically if there is a leak. This will have to be fixed immediately when we get to La Paz, and based on the amount of water we were using on board, I would say we will want to fix our water tank too. What is that saying… BOAT stands for Break Out Another Thousand. Yup, we are experiencing a bit of that. But we are very happy to have figured these problems out right away, especially while Gary is on board to tell us what to do.

I can’t imagine ever trying to start this life at sea with no help or guidance. You would have to have a captain Ron or ease into the whole idea for years, which I suppose is the more practical way of going about this.

Arriving in Puerto Escandido

We made it to our destination! All the traveling to get here went pretty much as planned. We left Durango as early as possible and made it to our friend Gary’s in Copala a bit early. We gained an hour and didn’t realize it, so that really helped in the long run. We were able to tour his wonderful little home with the best view in Copala. We headed down to Mazatlan to catch the ferry. We were on the ferry for 18 hours including loading and unloading. It took a little getting used to the motion, but we were so tired from all the traveling that we just crashed. We napped for a couple hours, woke up for a couple more and went back to sleep. The ferry was nothing like the pictures online. I don’t know why I thought it would be… This is Mexico. It was a very small everywhere. There was a tiny cafeteria and “lounge” area with a ton of small recliners for people to sleep who did not have a cabin. Luckily we got a cabin. It wasn’t much to speak of, but it had a door, 3 tiny beds and a sink.

When we arrived in La Paz we and the car had to endure some light searching before we headed out to visit Shelly and Mike with La Paz yachts. They squared away some paperwork for us and let the sellers, Doug and Ann, know we were heading that way. We took a little longer than we should for lunch and visiting, so we knew we would be to our boat after sunset. A big no-no in Mexico. Tim “drove us into the land of no return” into the mountains in the dark. Although it wasn’t as bad as I expected like everything else down here.

We got to the dock to find the ponga (little boat) to take us out to the boat for our first night on it. We were driving around and around and the man began flashing his big spotlight on every boat to see which one we were to board, and none of them were it! I was thinking “Oh great it was stolen or floated away before we could get here! Of course I am a bit dramatic. We found it, boarded it and all was fine. Gary showed us how to turn on the lights. we poked around with what we could in the dark before we were so tired. Gary slept in the cockpit (outside near the wheel), which is a common practice for cruisers on a warm night. Tim slept on top of the cabin, a little less common, but had more breeze to keep cool, and I slept in the V-berth with the fan on blast. It was a pretty decent night of sleep except for my dream that we were just about to hit the trimaran in front of us.

Pictures are on their way… it is tough to get enough service to publish images.


Wow, leaving is actually upon us now, and I could not have anticipated these feelings. I am overwhelmed in all forms: physically with packing and moving, mentally with all our tasks to accomplish and emotionally with the thought of telling all the people I love and this place goodbye.

I do ok with the day-to-day activities and chores. As long as I can check it off my list I don’t seem to have a problem with it. Visas- check, storage unit- check, garage sale- check, packing the house- check. All the while these items I’m checking off are propelling me toward leaving. When I stop and think about being gone or telling any particular person goodbye for a while, tears well up in my eyes. Then to keep myself together I go back to my checklist. Today I realized, “oh my, what we are doing is a little crazy… Hum.” oh well we have come this far, might as well keep going.

We are heading to dinner with Tim’s parent’s house to celebrate his brother’s birthday. It’s nice to take a break and enjoy company, just like it was on Saturday night with our dear friends.

Wish me luck tomorrow!

Getting Down to the Wire

Wow, so we had about two weeks at home to get organized and ready to go, but we pretty much didn’t. We did do a few things here and there, but for the most part just stuck to our routine and started packing some stuff. We also did a lot of hanging out with people we will miss while we are gone. My family had a vacation planned from Sept. 30 – Oct. 7 to Gunflint Lake Lodge on the border of Canada and Minnesota, so we stuck to the plan and headed north. We knew it would make for a crazy couple weeks when we got back (now), but it was totally worth it! We relaxed and enjoyed the company of my family so much. I know we won’t be seeing much of them for a while, so I tried to soak them up.

My sister, aunt niece and nephew (in the back) on a boat ride back from a hike.

My nephew Caleb is so thoughtful and sweet. He now recognizes the importance of a situation without being told “you won’t see Aunti Mere for a long time, so be sure and give her a hug…” The day we were flying out of Minneapolis, he just knew. He spent his time at the lunch table decorating his napkin as a going away card for me and Tim. It was one of the sweetest things. He gave it to me when we said goodbye and told me to read it on the plane with Tim on our way back home. We all hugged and kissed as much as we could, and they saw us off at the airport. I broke out into tears before I even got inside. Caleb was hanging his arms out the car door saying “I’ll miss you!” I took one look at my sister – and we both lost it. Instant tears! I tried to keep it cool when we got inside. It was a challenge to pull myself together and get through security and to our gate. After we took off, we read the napkin card. As you can imagine, I couldn’t keep it together anymore. My new goal was to cry as quietly as I could, so as not to disturb the other passengers.

"I wish I could be with you" - Caleb's napkin card

Now that we are back, we are busting into overdrive! We realized through communication with our sailing mentor, Gary, that we would have to leave earlier than we originally intended because it will take at least four days to actually get back to our boat with our gear. Our new plan is to drive to Loredo and stay the night, cross the border and drive to Durango – remember, no driving at night in Mexico for fear of hitting livestock, then head into Copala where Gary and his wife Lois live in the mountains. We will pick up Gary and take the overnight ferry into La Paz. From there we will drive to Puerto Escandido where our boat awaits. Sounds like fun, eh? Not really, but it’s what must be done to get the three of us and all our stuff to our boat before Doug and Ann, the previous boat owners, leave the country. They are going to show us a thing or two about our new home before they take off. Then we will be in the trusty hands of Gary to sail down to La Paz.

As for the things we are doing this week: Packed up a lot of stuff to keep, sold a couch, priced stuff for a garage sale, found a storage unit and now we are looking to sell my two-door Accord to get a larger vehicle to take down there. We are worried all of our stuff and three people in that one little car just won’t happen. Let’s see, what else… Oh yes! We are making boat business cards for when we get down there. It seems a little silly at first, but they come in handy when you meet other cruisers and want to get back in touch later. I am excited to design them. One other big thing looming over this week is chopping off my hair! My appointment is for tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. I am actually getting pretty excited and talking myself out of long hair, anyway. I will post before and after pics tomorrow. Let’s cross our fingers and hope it looks good!

To Do Lists

I often start my day or my week with a very detailed to do list to keep myself organized and focused on my tasks and goals at hand. With this new adventure, I don’t even know where to begin. I will make a list and then add to it and then re-categorize the items on it, all the while it seems like very little of the items are getting done and new items are being added. Talk about overwhelmed. We just stop, take a deep breath and remind ourselves why we are enduring this bit of stress now. For the chance of escaping the stress of a lifetime. For slowing down our internal clock. For learning new skills that can take us wherever we want to go.

My lists include how to wrap up our lives here, what gear to buy for safety, lifestyle gear like clothing and snorkels and stuff just for fun. We are packing up enough of our stuff to live in an apartment or small house when we get back — putting it all in a climate controlled storage unit. The rest of the stuff we are selling. Then there is all the services we have to cut off, too: phones, tv, Internet etc. Takes up a lot of time waiting on hold.

From there we will be more free, but we certainly have a growing list of items to pick up before we go back to Mexico. This becomes increasingly difficult when you still have to research what it is you are adding to the list, the best type and the best price for each item. So we have our work cut out for us!

Just to give you an idea, here is some of the items:
small metric voltage meter
Honda 2000 generator
Oil change pump
Charts for Mexico
Cruising guide
Bosuns chair – to climb the mast
Battery switch
Watertight toolbox
Waterproof camera
EPIRB locator

I realize you may not care about the items listed here, but I just wanted to show you a snapshot of my brain. Haha! Either way, we are getting into cram time and are really have to begin to chip away at this stuff.

We went to West Marine today and looked at all the items they carry and the prices, specifically on things that we know we already have on our boat and things we need long term. It really brought in perspective how much money we saved by buying a very equipped boat.

We bought a few things and left feeling a little better for now.

We are Back

So after three days of traveling back from the Baja, we are happy to be home, but a bit overwhelmed. We got in on Sunday afternoon and have been busy since then. We have so much to do before we can head back down to live on our boat! There are certain things that are easier to get in the states than elsewhere, like charts of the areas we will discover and plastic baggies (yes, they do not sell baggies in Mexico, weird, huh?*) and a generator and all this other miscellaneous stuff. Thankfully, we have several experienced sailors and livaboards that we now know who are sending us lots of information that will be helpful along the way.

In the mean time, we are speeding up right now, so we can slow down in the long run. We have so much to sell and box up and still work to do and gear to get. We are also trying to see as much of our friends and family while we are still here, so we have to factor in time for entertaining and eating out. We haven’t decided our exact plan of action when we return to the boat because we will have to drive down a lot of items in the car. We want to leave our car on the mainland side of Mexico because it will be easier to get back and forth from the States over there, but our boat rests in a tiny port on the Baja side. Decisions, decisions… We do know, however, that we will be heading down to live in the Sea of Cortez before October 27, 2011. Yup! All of this has just worked out magically. The previous owner of the boat wants to meet us and tell us everything about the tricks and quirks to running her properly and he is leaving the country on October 28.

I also wanted to note that traveling to and from and all around the Baja peninsula was not scary. The biggest question we got about this trip was “Is it safe?” We were told not to drive at night for safety. I thought that was because of the Cartel, but as it turns out, it was really because there are a lot of cows and horses on the roads. Haha! I realize the drug Cartel down there is getting a lot of media in the U.S., but there is a lot more going on than drugs in Mexico. It is a beautiful country with nice people and wonderful family traditions. People still live and love and dream and grow up and succeed in Mexico just like they do here. I’m not saying there isn’t a problem that needs resolving, but I am saying that there is a lot more than that.  There are scary parts of the U.S., too — places others wouldn’t venture to go on vacation or at night. It is the same for Mexico… it’s not the whole country.

Below are some pictures from the days we spent traveling back home. We took a tiny plane from Loreto to Guaymas. Stayed a night there, then took a bus for 11 hours (including stops) to Tucson, AZ. When we arrived to our hotel, the power was out because of a violent storm that had just passed through. We walked 2 blocks away and found one with power. We stayed there and caught our flight at 5:15 am to Houston, the home to DFW!

*Correction – they have baggies in Mexico, but not the common-up-here medium size.

Waiting to board our tiny plane in Loreto Airport

Now that's a puddle jumper!

Me and the Pilot

Stunning views from the plane

The bus was roomy and you could lay down - not a chicken bus ; )

In line to cross the border

We arrived to a crazy storm in Arizona. Can you see the leaning power lines in the background?