Last Island Trip and Renaming our Boat

Cloudy sailing day

Sailing out to the islands on a cloudy day was nice.

After squashing what we thought were all of our obstacles to getting out to the islands near La Paz for a more relaxing “vacation” part of our trip, we set sail on a cloudy day. It was a nice sail slightly upwind, so we planned to sail out on one tack and motor back into anchor, as we were feeling lazy and didn’t want to sail upwind the whole way.

Sailing to the islands

Sails up and heading out to Isla Espiritu Santo.

After motoring for maybe 30 minutes, our engine began overheating and spewing coolant. We immediately killed the engine and began sailing toward the nearest anchorage, unsure what the issue was. We sailed upwind in light winds all the way to anchor in Bahia San Gabriel. The engine had finally cooled enough for Tim to get in and take a look. It turned out to be an easy fix of installing a new alternator belt, allowing us to motor up to a safer anchorage with more wind protection just before one of the more beautiful sunsets.

Fixing the engine

Our alternator belt broke and our engine overheated on our way to the islands. Tim had to dive into the cockpit locker to fix it.

Island sunset near La Paz

We arrived to anchor just before sunset at Isla Espiritu Santo.

Anchoring at sunset

It was a stunning sunset as we anchored for the night.

The next day offered winds from the west/southwest, allowing for us to have a wonderful sail up to one of my favorite islands — Isla San Francisco. This is one of the more picturesque places we have visited in the Sea of Cortez. The same night, our friends on s/v Calypso, Rick and Jasna, arrived just before sunset. We had planned to meet them there, but weren’t sure if the would make it. We enjoyed swimming, kayaking, spear fishing (Tim, Rick and Jasna) and hiking at the island for six days. Rick and Jasna had to deliver some school supplies to the small fishing village just to the north, San Evaristo, and we were looking to get away from the tons of mosquitos at Isla San Francisco, so we followed them upwind.

Sailing in Mexico

Our nice sail up to Isla San Francisco.

sunny sail

We were keeping the sun off our backs as we sailed north.

Swimming the the Sea

The water was crazy clear and the perfect temp for swimming.

Picture perfect Island

Swimming, fishing, kayaking and hiking at Isla San Francisco.

Fish for Dinner

Tim shot three trigger fish for dinner with Calypso.

Hiking Isla San Francisco

Beautiful Isla San Francisco from the hike along the ridge line.

Hiking is fun

Me and Tim hiking with Jasna along the Isla San Francisco ridge line.

Jasna Tuta hiking

Jasna gazing off into the Sea of Cortez on our hike at Isla San Francisco.

Isla San Francisco

The view from the top – Isla San Francisco.

Jasna and Rick on Calypso are expert sailors, I would say. Jasna used to teach sailing in Italy, and Rick took a Yatchmaster course in Austrailia. Knowing we could learn a thing or two from these pros, we set out to follow them on our next sail upwind to San Evaristo. This proved a bit unsuccessful as we tried to tack our way to the little fishing village, we got frustrated and decided to turn the motor on (cheaters, I know). Much to our dismay, the alternator belt was slipping and our engine was struggling with overheating again. Tim rigged up a temporary solution by tying a line to the alternator and putting upward pressure on it so we could motor sail our way in. We stayed for a couple nights in San Evaristo, restocking our chocolate stash and a few other fresh foods that were running low.

With north winds predicted for the next several days, we all decided it was a good time to head back to La Paz. We were a bit nervous, considering our motor troubles, but left early for what we thought would be a nice downwind sail. Unfortunately, just as we pulled out of the anchorage, our engine was overheating again and the belt had broken once more. Frustrated, we opened our jib only and headed downwind, thinking we could repair it along the 6 hour trip. The sea was pretty rough and choppy, and without our main sail up, we were rocking and rolling the entire trip. This didn’t give Tim a chance to crawl around the engine compartment and sort out our issue.

The wind was getting pretty strong as we and Calypso — both with only headsails out — headed down to Isla Partida. As we finally approached our intended anchorage, we attempted turning into the wind with hopes of getting close enough to safely to drop anchor. This was a big mistake. The wind had picked up over 20 knots and we didn’t have any power without our main sail up. So we raised the main with the boat pointing downwind — a little dangerous maneuver because the chances for a accidental jibe are high. That is exactly what happened. We accidentally jibed hard, popping the boom right off the mast.

I had already reached my maximum stress load and freaked out about 10 minutes before we lost the boom. So, I stayed strangely calm, sailing the boat into the mouth of a different, calmer  anchorage where Tim was able to replace the alternator belt before we got too close to land. This allowed us to motor (hobble) the rest of the way to anchor. After a day like that, there was no way we could come on the VHF radio and hail with the name “Luckiest.” We decided at that moment we must rename our boat. We called Calypso, who had already anchored in our intended spot. They came down right away to help us lick our wounds.  We were happy to have their help, and we all stayed a couple of days to relax.

The second night we had our renaming ceremony (sailor’s tradition) for our boat, asking Neptune to take care of her under the new name — Lucí.

Motoring back to La Paz

It was a calm, wind-free day as we motored back to La Paz after reattaching the boom and repairing the engine a final time.

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Sailboats Belong in the Sea

As it turns out, we had to take care of a few more pressing items before getting in the water. Sailboats are funny like that, as soon as you think you have repaired everything, something else breaks.

After hooking up the new batteries, we noticed our started battery was overcharging. We quickly disconnected it and decided to have someone else look at our wiring and electrical system. Tim and I don’t trust ourselves with electrical problems and boat electrical systems.

Victor is a highly recommended Mexican marine electrician and was able to work on our boat the next day. He spent all day analyzing our system. It was too late for our starter battery, so he installed a new one and our battery switch, which will keep the starter battery separate from our house batteries. It’s often we learn important lessons about our boat when something breaks and we have to figure it out, or in this case hire someone to help us figure it out. We paid close attention to Victor’s work, so we would have a better understanding of how our boat should be wired.

Boat Electrician

Victor, the boat electrician, re-wiring our system.

 

Another issue we had to fix before launching was a broken sea cock — part of the plumbing that goes through the boat to the water. This is key to function properly. We replaced it, did a test start on the engine and declared ourselves ready to splash!

Sea Cock replacement

Tim working on replacing the head sea cock (plumbing).

We were very anxious to get into the water where the boat belongs. It was really a quick process, Tim took the helm and drove about one hour to the La Paz anchorage, while I took the car down into town where we could access it after moving the boat.

It went pretty smoothly until we needed to anchor. Our friend Jasna picked me up in her dinghy and dropped me on our boat to help Tim anchor. We hit a little snag here, as our chain did not want to come out of our Windless anchor wench. With a little more help from Rick and Jasna, we were finally able to drop anchor in La Paz.

Finished anti-fouling paint

We finished a new layer of anti-fouling paint on the boat bottom.

Boat back in the water

Capitan Tim manning the boat as she gets back in the water.

Sailboat splash into the water.

Luckiest back in the water. the Splash went smoothly and Tim motored down the La Paz Channel to anchor.

Life on the water is sooo superior to the boat yard. It’s cooler, less bugs, more beautiful sunsets.

La Paz Baja sunsets

Life on the water is so much better. The Baja sunsets are some of the best we have ever seen.

Sunrise in La Paz, Mexico

Sunrise this morning through our v-berth porthole aka “bedroom window.”

 

We still have a bit of work ahead of us before we head out for a couple of weeks at the islands. Tim discovered a leaky sea water impeller, so we are trying to repair this today. That, plus attaching the sails will be key before heading out. We have never reattached sails, and it has been 1.5 years since we removed them, so it could be interesting.  We think we can do most other items out at the islands.

Finally Exploring the Sea

This is what we came here for. Island hopping from one beautiful anchorage to the next, hiking, kayaking, snorkeling, combing the beaches and actually some sailing – we are finally doing what we thought we would be doing the whole time.

Now that we have a better grip on what we set out to do, what that requires in the long run and how to do what we enjoy while balancing our obligations to maintain our boat, we can enjoy this lifestyle a little more. It is so hard to see that when you are in the thick fog of learning something new and difficult. We knew we had a steep learning curve when we set out to live on our sailboat, but we couldn’t see the top of the curve until now. I’m not saying that we have learned everything we need to know or that we are now going to tackle an ocean crossing, but it is nice to know that we can at least handle ourselves cruising the Sea of Cortez. This entry covers a lot of info because it has been a while and we have seen a lot of new stuff while we were without internet.

We left the safe haven of La Paz on April 18 and stopped at only one familiar anchorage since then. On our first day we tried to unfurl our headsail, but it was caught and wouldn’t unroll. We had no idea why, but luckily, we left on the same day as our friend James on Pxis. We had been talking with him on the radio about our problem, and he offered to help. We stopped in a little anchorage where he rowed over to our boat and helped us tinker with our jib halyard (the rope or wire that holds up the front sail). He was awesome, identified the issue and had the tools and extra parts to fix it. That is what makes an amazing sailor and good cruising friend. There is no hesitation in helping your fellow cruisers. Thanks to James we were able to sail all the way to our next destination the next day – Isla San Francisco.

This was one of my favorite stops. It has a picturesque beach with great shells and an amazing hike taking you all along the ridgeline across the island. Tim and James did a lot of spear fishing at Isla San Francisco. James is a great hunter, and he was able to show Tim a lot of tips and tricks. Tim came home with a good size parrot fish – perfect for tacos. James gave us 1/8 of a huge pargo he shot, so between those two we had fish for days.

Hiking the ridge line at Isla San Fran

Me hiking the ridge with the 2 anchorages in the background.

The large bay at Isla San Francisco

Our next stop was just 2 miles north at Isla San Jose. This is a cool stop because there is a lagoon surrounded by mangroves that you can kayak or dingy through to the other side of the anchorage. However, no one warned us of how vicious the “no see ‘em” bugs are in the evening and night. We read about it later in our guidebook, but we stayed the night there, which we will never do again! We were eaten alive by these teeny-tiny-worse-than-mosquito bugs. Tim and I each had over 100 bites on our arms, legs and face. They itch worse than anything we have experienced, too. We would wake up in fits of scratching in the night for three nights. I couldn’t control myself and ended up scratching them off.

Kayaking through the mangroves at Isla San Jose

The beach was all river rocks and littered with starfish.

We ran away from that place in the morning, but I think we had bugs in our boat that we brought with us to San Everisto. I think we stopped here with Gary on our first trip down from Puerto Escondido when we first got the boat, but I can’t remember and it didn’t look familiar. I was not a huge fan of this spot. It had a little bity town and a hard-to-find store. We walked down the one road that took us over the hill to look at the salt ponds. It was pretty busy with fishing pangas (small Mexican boats), and we didn’t stay more than a night.

The small fishing village of San Everisto. There was a little store and tiny school with one dirt road cutting through the town.

Los Gatos, the anchorage just to the north, was much nicer. It has amazing red rock formations that were easy to hike around and explore. When we first arrived there a local fisherman who is well-known in the cruising community asked if we would like him to get us some lobster. Tim was excited to find them, too, and asked if Manuel would take him along. The guys went off lobster hunting and came back with a bundle. We traded a gallon of gasoline for five lobsters and Tim’s lobster hunting experience. I used the cooking books I borrowed from our cruising friend Brenda to figure out how to kill, clean and cook them. We ended up making a delicious lobster fettuccini alfredo for dinner.

Tim speared lobster with Manuel.

It got hot enough to swim in the late afternoon.

We made lobster fettucini alfredo with Tim and Manuel’s catch.

Hiking on the red rock formations at Gatos.

Red rocks at Gatos

Me and Tim hiking the red rock formations at Los Gatos. (Yes, Tim’s hair is getting very long.)

We headed to Agua Verde next, and stayed for a little while. We enjoyed how protected it was from the elements, and it was a larger anchorage with great water and a bit more to see. One hike went over a hill to a town cemetery, which was interesting to see. The town is cute and small, each yard lined with a homemade fence and their own version of landscaping. They had a great little store, too, where we bought some produce and popcorn, which I had missed up until then. Another hike on another day led us to the top of the outer-most point overlooking the sea and a large lone rock. On our last night in Agua Verde we went to the third beach to walk around and watch the sunset – which was stunning. There we met a group of guys who were on a spear fishing trip and had shot huge fish that week. They invited us for dinner and drinks at their camp.

A view from our hike of the north beach at Agua Verde.

Hiking Agua Verde

Enjoying the beach as we wait for the sunset.

The amazing sunset from the south beach at Agua Verde.

In the morning, we planned to head to Candeleros Chico – a little north facing anchorage midway to our next stop. Surprisingly, the wind picked up from the north that afternoon. We sailed upwind a bit, but decided not to stay in that spot and carry on to the next one where we might have more protection from the north wind. It was a longer day than expected and when we arrived in Honeymoon Cove, it was smaller than expected, and there was nowhere for us to anchor. I was really stressed out at this point. Tim did a great job worming us into a spot just south of there next to another boat. Tim actually got me to get in the water at this place. It was a small anchorage with reefs on both sides. I have not been real interested in snorkeling or getting in other than the occasional swim. I got all geared up in my wetsuit, fins, goggles and snorkel, and I took my sweet time easing into the water. I don’t really like the idea of ocean creatures that are all around me. We held hands and worked our way through one of the reefs. Not my finest hour. The next day we explored the beach a little bit. I forgot the camera, but we found a ton of shells, a dolphin that had been dead a while and a recently dead tarantula! That was enough for me to be ready to leave.

Me all geared up for snorkeling.

Tim taking a picture of me taking a picture of him under water.

Where we anchored south of Honeymoon Cove on Isla Danzante.

From there we hit up the two islands just north of Puerto Escondido – Isla Carmen and Isla Coronados. We had steady wind from the east all the way there, so we had an amazing day of sailing to Puerto Ballandra. We had a little difficulty anchoring here because there is a large underwater canyon that begins in the middle of the cove. Everyone has to anchor in a row to make sure they are on good holding ground. A nearly four-hour hike took us through the valley to overlook huge salt pond and another anchorage on the other side of the island. This was the longest hike we did. It was neat despite the insane amount of bugs in the beginning. They weren’t biters, just nat types. We also kayaked around the anchorage and explored the beach on the other side. We found a lot of cool shells and beautiful sea glass.

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

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

I know we match, but the headbands really helped keep the sun and bugs off our heads while we hiked.

The huge salt pond view at the end of our journey.

I was very excited to go to Isla Coronados because there had been several whale sightings that week. I was on high alert the whole time we were there. This is a part of the Loreto National Parks system – as all of the islands are, but this was very well maintained and frequented by tourists from Loreto. We hiked around a little bit and enjoyed the white sand beaches and contrasting black volcanic rocks. This was a large anchorage with lots of boats in it when we arrived. Most, it seemed, were perched waiting for Loreto Fest in Puerto Escondido, just like us.

The well-defined hiking trail and our boat at Isla Coronados

The contrasting white sand beach and black lava rocks on the small beach at Isla Coronados.

The beach at Coronados had beautiful succulent plants covering the ground.

On our trek down from the islands we saw SO many dolphins (no whales though). Tim had the idea that they respond to happy people noises, so we began doing our best dolphin impressions. To our amazement, they can right over to the boat! We talked to them and heard them responding as they swam at the bow of our boat. It was one of the best experiences I have had out here. I was like a kid, just so amazed with nature. I posted a video of this on Facebook.

The dolphins swimming along with our boat.

We headed down to Loreto Fest, not really sure how we would anchor in Puerto Escondido because it was very crowded and moorings litter the bay. There is an area known as “the waiting room” outside the main heavily controlled bay. We did a lap in this very crowded spot and quickly realized there was no way to anchor there. We headed into the main bay to find plenty of room despite the hundred plus boats. Anchoring in there does require a daily fee, but I would rather be comfortable and safe and pay a little more.

Loreto Fest was a blast – I made a necklace, Tim took some fishing lessons, and best of all, we made new friends. We ended up scooting down to the anchorage just south of there and meeting up with our friends A.J. and Norma on No Problem and Chris and Anne Marie on Starship. They are also a young married couple who live aboard and are spending their first year in the Sea. We had a great time with them in Candeleros Bay anchored in front of a nice resort that shares its pool and bar with sailors. They showed us how to hunt for clams, so we cleaned them and cooked them on Starship. Tim had shot a Cabria, so we had them over for dinner. This was our last new stop and we really enjoyed ourselves.

Chris and Anne Marie from Starship at Loreto Fest.

The pool at he resort at Candeleros Bay.

We actually relaxed by the pool and felt like we on vacation for a couple of hours!

Tim finding clams in the sand.

Cooking and Eating clams. Anne Marie showed us how to clean them (dirty job) and Chris grilled them with a garlic, onion and butter sauce. Very delish!

Tim shot a Cabria (aka Grouper) for dinner.

When we left there, we just made nightly stops and kind of hurried back to La Paz, as time had crept up on us before we knew it. The last two hours of our trip back we finally saw what I had been looking for the whole trip — a whale! It was amazing to see something so huge. I didn’t get a good picture despite my incessant clicking, but it made an impression on us as we leave the sea for a while.

Now, we have to give notice to the boat yard that will haul us out, and we have a lot of work to do to shut her down. That brings us up to date. Today and tomorrow will be spent packing, cleaning and preparing to head back to the U.S. for a undetermined amount of time.

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.

Tim’s Parents’ Visit

Steve and Debbie were not quite sure what they had signed up for when they decided to visit us in La Paz, but I think they were very pleasantly surprised. They had booked a hotel for the five nights they were here and left the option open to possibly stay on board the Luckiest. They only stayed in the hotel the first and last nights and stayed with us on the boat at the islands the other three nights.

We all had a wonderful time. Tim and I really enjoyed being able to share some of our experiences with family – especially at the islands – and it sounded like Debbie and Steve were enjoying it all. We got to show them the world of discovery we have been finding over the last few months.

We took them to the grocery store and the market the first day and headed out to the islands the next. We did get stopped by the Mexican Navy on our way out of the La Paz channel, but we had heard that they were friendly and courteous ambassadors that simply wanted to make sure nothing funny was going on. This was our first time being stopped, and machine guns always make me a bit nervous, but the troops really were pleasant and kind. One man boarded our boat while another four stayed on theirs. He asked to see our documentation, import permit, passports and if we had life jackets. Thanked us for our time and off they were. No big deal at all. I was glad it was just like we had heard.

As we got out to the channel, I convinced Tim to do a bit of sailing, even though we were making good time with the motor. Tim has decided he doesn’t like sailing too much, but I was able to get him to show Steve and Debbie some of the things we have been learning. We had a great smooth sail in about 10 knots of wind.

Our first stop was Candeleros Bay, which is one of our favorite anchorages because of the great hiking and the cool rock formations. We anchored there about an hour before dark. That night we all piled into our sad little deflating dinghy and zipped around in the dark water watching the bioluminescence glow. It is so magical looking and hard to describe without seeing it. we had a sparkling wake and as we would approach fish we could see them scatter surrounded by glowing plankton. It doesn’t get old seeing that. In the morning we all went up to the beach to do some hiking and exploring. We took Steve and Debbie up the center ridge just as we had done a couple weeks before. It’s great because we were able to get a great view of the bay without having to work too hard. We all went on a hike back into the valley. Steve did hurt his toe, but it was a easy-going hike other than that.

After lunch on the boat, we scooted over to Caleta Partida, a popular and well-protected spot. The winds had kicked up some, and Tim was feeling a bit adventurous, so we put up the sails at his insistence. I think we scared Debbie pretty good this time. We had Steve at the helm, just to give him a bit of a thrill as well, but I’m not sure he was quite ready to take on that task in those winds. We did some whipping back and forth (accidental tacking). We regained control, I took the helm and eased us into the anchorage. After we all settled down, Steve and Tim donned their wetsuits and went looking for some fish.

When they returned (no fish) we all decided to play cards and have something else for dinner. Little did we know that when the guys had returned from spear fishing, the dinghy was not properly secured to the boat, so before Tim and I tucked into bed (in the convertible dinette), he checked outside and we had no dinghy! It had floated off somewhere, and with light winds and lighter current, we knew it couldn’t be too far, but it was far too dark to see anything. This was pretty frustrating for Tim knowing he might be able to save it if he could see, but there was nothing we could do until the morning.

First thing in the morning we all hurried to eat and ready the boat to either go find the dinghy or head back in to La Paz. With no dinghy, there is no way off the boat, so our trip would have to be cut short. I was plotting ways to get a new dinghy and how we would get off the boat, etc. as we pulled up the anchor. Tim and Steve had binoculars on the bow and scouted to find it. It seemed unlikely because it had been missing for about 12 hours and the north winds had really kicked up in the night, which would have blown it out into the open sea. As we came out of the anchorage we checked one side along the shore and turned to head toward the other side. Then, shockingly, Tim spotted it! It had almost made it out of the large cove, but as it neared open sea the waves kept it pinned to the rocks.

Tim quickly suited up in his wet suit and I got him as close to the rocks as I could. He tossed our foam surfboard into the water and jumped in after it. We joked about his Seal Team Six dinghy rescue mission. He was great. He bailed it out, pumped it up, and paddled away from the rocks against the waves until we could pick him up. He was afraid the fuel had water in it, so he waited to replenish it before starting it up. We really were the Luckiest.

The rest of the trip had far less drama, thankfully. Our refrigerator did quit on us, but the food stayed cold enough for the whole trip. We made one more stop on the way back to La Paz – Bahia San Gabriel. This is where Tim and I had spent Christmas. It has a huge white sand beach, and Debbie was really enjoying looking for shells, so we spent lunch there before heading back.

We drove them back to the airport and they were wishing they had planned for more time to stay. Now we are regrouping before we head back to the states ourselves. We are taking the ferry across the sea on Sunday and driving back out to Galveston to join up with more family for the company cruise. Yes, we are leaving our boat on one side of the Mexican coast to go to a cruise on the other side of the Mexican coast. Kind of ironic, but it should be relaxing, which we both need.

After the cruise we are heading up to Austin, Dallas, Evergreen, Colo., and end in Corpus Christi for my dear friend’s wedding on March 3. From there we will head back to our boat here in La Paz. We feel like we are ready to cut strings in La Paz and head north into the sea as soon as we return. We shall see how it goes.

Exploring the rock ridge in Candeleros Bay.

 

Nice View

 

Tim and Steve off to spear hunt and snorkel.

Tim rescuing the dinghy.

 

Steve snorkeling in Caleta Partida

 

Debbie looking for treasures on the beach. She went home with loads of shells.

 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

We headed out to the islands for holiday celebrations on Dec. 22 just before a strong northerly blew through the La Paz area. We knew we wanted to spend our holidays at the islands and would not be able to get out there during the north winds, so we cut out early and had a lovely time. We stayed on the boat for two entire days until the winds subsided on Christmas day.

We decorated our tiny tree with glitter covered sea shells, made a Christmas feast and opened presents before a stroll along the white sand beach of Bahia San Gabriel. We did miss our families a lot, but luckily still had phone reception to give them a call.

We spent the last 10 days exploring the anchorages that we had not seen yet and found some new favorites. We tucked into Candleros Bay and found some incredible hiking up the center ridge-line and down into the valley. We stayed there for a few days and watched tourist camps come in and out. We moved up to Ensenada Grande – on the north side of Isla Partida. This is a busy anchorage with tourists, divers and fishermen. This is where Tim shot his very first fish with his spear gun. He hunted it along the rocks nearby and brought it home for dinner. It, unfortunately, was very boney and tough to fillet, but we tried.

One night we were catching up on Season 2 of Friends and heard a loud splash outside. Tim went to investigate and found sea lions feeding all around our boat! It was so neat because as they swam around, they stirred up the bioluminescent plankton and created glowing streams of water and splashes all around. We grabbed our bright spotlight, and when we saw a grouping of glowing movement we flashed the light in their direction. All the sea lions would look at us surprised and scatter. It was great fun, and we all played this little game for about an hour.

We scooted up to the very northern rocks that have a colony of sea lions called Los Islotes. This is a huge tourist hot spot, so pongas (little power boats) full of divers and snorkelers were surrounding the island. The water there is about 65-feet deep and very rocky bottom, so we opted not to anchor and just do a loop to take a look at the activity. We anchored in a very large anchorage called Cordonal. This spot was cool because it nearly cuts the northern island in half, so you can take a very easy stroll to the east side of the island, which we did. We were confronted with the vastness of the Sea of Cortez on that side. It made me wonder if we will ever be ready to cross it.

From this anchorage we heard our friends from Matilda on the radio, but we couldn’t see them. Turns out, they were in the same place – Cordoncito – that we had waited out the last northerly with them. This is a little cove just next door to where we were, so we moved over there to join Hayden and his friends aboard, Megan, Andy and Emily. Another boat and close friends of Hayden, Pyxis with James and Eva, was there. We three boats decided to stay here and have a little party to kick off the new year. It was perfect. Everyone brought over food including the fish Hayden had shot earlier that day, and I helped fillet. We had dinner and drinks and shot off expired flares at midnight!

We also drove around to the anchorage next door and had amazing views of the glowing bioluminescence. It is unlike anything I have seen before. Our dinghies had glowing, sparkling tails as we whizzed around in the dark. Just amazing.

We returned to La Paz yesterday with sails up all the way to tend to boat maintenance and await the arrival of Tim’s parents. We are so excited to share our discoveries with them!

Heading out to the islands.

We made shells into ornaments, and I wanted to cover them all in glitter.

Ta da! Our tree covered in homemade shell ornaments.

Tim is carving our Christmas ham. We had green bean casserole, cheddar potatoes, ham and a chocolate cake for dessert.

Christmas day walking on the beach. Yes, Tim's hair is getting long.

Hiking the ridge in Candleros bay.

Working our way through the rocky valley in Candleros.

We found these amazing red rock caves.

There is a well in Candleros that travelers can use for showers.

The view from our hike in Ensenada Grande.

Tim's first spear catch. It doesn't look like much, but he could feed us.

Me filleting Hayden's fish for New Year's Eve dinner.

New Year's party on the Luckiest.

One of the best sunsets yet.

Well, the Sunsets are Nice

I’m catching up a bit because I had no internet access for nine days. This is from Nov. 30, 2011.

So far, we are really enjoying the beautiful orange sunsets lined with palm trees on the horizon… and that’s about it.

We have been working non-stop on this boat and feeling like we are getting nowhere. As soon as we finish a project, something else breaks or pops up. It’s not all sunsets and margaritas. In fact, we are having trouble finding a good margarita at all. I’m starting to think margaritas were invented by a Mexican in Texas.

I was laughing to my sister about how it seems that living on a boat might be really good preparation for motherhood: If you hear a strange noise, you have to check it out no matter what you are doing day or night. It also requires constant attention to detail and all the patience you can muster.

There are so many aspects that have been challenging – we have moved where we don’t know the language, where to buy parts or get service or how to fix what’s broken. It also seems like if a projects seems easy and everyone says it’s a breeze, for some reason it won’t be. Oil change – no big deal, right? One week later and we still have no clue and are tired of getting covered in oil. It has been hard to stay positive about everything and enjoy our surroundings. We both have had days where we just wish we were back home. The trick there is that one of us freaks out while the other stays calm and holds on to the idea of adventure, and then we trade. This is fun, right? I guess we have to remember that we decided to take on an enormous learning curve that will hopefully start to round off soon.

We finally drew a line in the sand and decided no matter what the projects on our list are, we were going to head out to the nearby islands and try to enjoy ourselves. So we are headed out today to find the reason we left everything comfortable and easy to challenge ourselves and move out here.

Let’s Go Sailing!

We have been living onboard for three weeks now… can we please go sailing? Thanks. Jasna and Rick to the rescue! Rick has been feeling really under the weather, so we were waiting for him to feel up to a day out on the water. We spent a few days in the slip getting The Luckiest ready, as we could, to go. Then everything aligned and out we went. Tim went to pick up our teachers for the day in the dinghy as I readied the boat to leave the slip. I unhooked our precious ethernet cord and the power cord from the dock, filled up with a bit of fresh water and welcomed Jasna and Rick aboard. They showed us how to properly leave the dock with just the two of us and Tim drove us out of the marina safely. Jasna was telling us she knows many people who still won’t brave pulling into a slip. It is really difficult and the chances of hitting something – another boat, a dock, etc. – are so high, you really have to be skilled to get in and out. Well, glad we dodged that bullet.

We motored down the channel out into more open ocean to start hoisting the sails and pulling some ropes. Well, almost. once we got out there we had a bit of a challenge locating the main halyard – the rope that raises the main sail. hum… is this the topping lift or the main halyard? So we sent Tim to the top of the mast once again to take a closer look.

Tim looking down from the top

As it turned out, we do not have a topping lift, which holds the boom up. But at least we learned a thing or two. So Tim scooted down with the help of the bosun’s chair and we raised the sails. Jasna and Rick were great teachers and showed us the proper way to regularly handle communication aboard. Communication is one of the most important parts of sailing. We practiced tacking – turning the boat left or right while heading into the wind – and jibing – turning the boat left or right while heading downwind. We tacked back and forth several times with me at the helm and then Tim at the helm. It was really quite tiring. Jibing is a bit trickier because there is an element of danger if you do not handle it properly. The mail sail can come crashing across the boat, especially in high winds. This could hurt someone or break the boom if you are not careful. When getting ready to tack or jibe you should say,”Stand by to tack/jibe.” The crew prepare the lines and makes sure they are paying attention. Then the helmsman says “Ready to tack/jibe.” Crew says, “Ready,” and then you turn the wheel. As I turn Tim hurries to let out one side of the jib and then pulls the other side until it is trimmed up for our new course. It sounds more complicated than it really is. It is important to get right, but not really complicated.

We discovered a few things we need to fix before we take off too far. The boom doesn’t really have an effective system to be held up properly. Right now, the mail sail was holding it up. This isn’t a great idea because it will wear out the main sail, so we need to add a topping lift or fix our boom vang. We also found out the hard way that our pulleys need stoppers on the slide rails they are on. One popped off the end and hit Tim in the hand. Not good.

We have heard from several people that the work on a boat is never done, so planning to finish everything before you go anywhere means that you will never go. Therefore, we are going to categorize high priority to low and complete those based on safety and efficiency of the vessel. The rest, we will do along the way.

What way is that, you say? Well we are still not exactly sure. We would like to feel confident in our skills, and we would like to see as much of the Baja as we can. We have begun to try to plot a direction for the next couple months. Based on the winds and the weather we should head south before we head north, but just how far in each direction, we don’t know. I think we will start with the islands nearby. We can sail for the day out to them spend a couple of nights and sail back. We will figure it out eventually. For now we are still learning every day. Except for the day after we went sailing. We did nothing. We watched movies all day long and didn’t leave the boat once.

Learning from Jasna and Rick

The boat heeling over to the side as we glide along.

 

We put the downwind sail up.

Lets eat and sit in front of the "TV" all day

 

 

Day by Day

A typical day aboard The Luckiest: We wake up as the sun makes its way up around 6:30 a.m. and are out of bed by 7 a.m. We make coffee and eat something for breakfast while we give ourselves time to realize we are still on a boat in Mexico. At 8 a.m. the local Net comes on the VHS radio. There is a format followed every day, except Sunday, that the net controller handles. It is a great forum for announcements, trades, news, weather, tides and other useful information. I volunteered to help organize an order for Mexican Navy Charts (navigational paper maps), so I have been announcing it every day on the Net. After listening to the Net, we get ready and load up our dinghy with any trash or maybe a water or gas jug to fill. We strap on a backpack (always take a backpack into town) and head in for morning coffee. It takes about 5 – 7 minutes to ride in from our boat to the dinghy dock at Marina de La Paz. We chit-chat at coffee with lots of cruisers who have found themselves here in La Paz for now. It’s a great time to get advice on projects we might be considering or already doing. Then we usually run whatever errands we have planned for the day including dropping off trash, getting drinking water or gasoline, grocery shopping and looking at the 4 marine stores for parts that we need to work on the boat. Whatever we buy ideally fits in the backpack. We then head back to the boat and work. Currently on the anchor chain and chain locker.

Luckily, we had a friend allow us to use his slip in the marina while his boat is being repainted, so we are able to accomplish a lot of projects that would otherwise be very challenging at anchor. Tim and I removed all the 300+ feet of chain from our boat, measured it out and marked every 20 feet. We had to cut some bad chain off and splice the good stuff together. We are planning to put it all back where it goes today so we can get back out on our anchor. We also have to replace our “spreader boots.” This is not very expensive, but it does require Tim to go high up on the mast. The spreader is the cross-bar on the mast that holds the rigging wires away from the mast. These have to have bumper pads on the ends so they do not rip the sails. Ours were kind of a mess (see below). We are being very productive because we have such a short time here in the marina to get stuff done. Also, so we can get our boat ready to sail! Jasna and Rick are getting ready to leave La Paz for a while, so we want to get a sailing lesson in with them next week before they go. We are so looking forward to a day or two out with the wind.

Our back porch at anchor

Dinner with Jasna and Rick on their boat

Cooking Enchiladas Verdes at home

Moving the boat into the slip for repairs

 

Working on the anchor chain

Measuring chain on the dock

 

Tim hoisted on the mast to replace the spreader boots

Some things I have been taking for granted in the U.S.:

Unlimited internet access, Long warm showers, air conditioning, watching TV at night before bed, a microwave, knowing the language, dishwasher, pizza delivery

In La Paz

As we walked around town trying to find the Dia de los Muertos celebration the day after we arrived, Tim kept saying, “We live in Mexico.“

It is certainly a weird feeling that requires us to stop and think about it. We still don’t know quite what to think, though. It can be a bit overwhelming at times, especially since Gary left. Yet other times as we watch the sun set over palms and reflecting off the water, it seems just fine.

We have begun working on projects for the boat and exploring the town a bit more. Every morning the cruisers get together for coffee and chatting near the marina. We have joined a few times and made a couple of friends already. Everyone is so willing to help us with everything. If we have a question (which we have many), there is an answer or two floating around for us. One in particular – how do we actually sail? Funny to think we have come all the way here and even lived on are boat for 2 weeks now, but we had to borrow the Sailing for Dummies book from our broker!

We have reconnected with a wonderful couple we had met when we were here in September looking at boats. Yazna (sp?) and Rick are experienced sailors with a great sense of humor and a willingness to share. They have offered to teach us on our boat. Yanza being a sailing instructor and Rick has lived aboard for three years; they could show us a thing or two. Rick, unfortunately, has been rather ill since we arrived, so we are waiting until he feels up to getting out. I made some chicken soup from scratch and took it over to them in our dinghy yesterday. Nothing wrong with a little southern hospitality in the Sea of Cortez.

A couple of days ago we went exploring with a new friend, John on the motor yacht Storm Bay, to find the local farmers’ market. It was really a different experience. We sat at a vendor’s stool and had lunch before we dove into eggs, produce and tortillas. I was happy the selection was fresher than the super markets. We have discovered about eating in Mexico: You have to soak your fruits and vegetables in a special solution before eating them because of their less sanitary handling processes, and that there is an amoeba that you can get if you don’t drink a preventative. It takes a little getting used to, but we have heeded the warnings just in case.

Today was another reminder why we are here. John picked us up and we all went around the corner of the beach to go see the whale sharks. They come to this area this time of year. We were motoring around on a 9-foot dinghy just hoping to come across some when we decided to follow the crowd of tourist boats, and there they were! They were two young whale sharks. Tim and John took turns snorkeling with them. I was a bit of a chicken to get in the water, but I was really close on the boat. They were just babies, but much bigger than our little boat.

We played a bit of Frisbee on the beach and everything seemed simple once again.

Last day with Gary

A katrina at the Celebration

At the Dia Celebration

Tim swimming with the whale shark

Whale Shark!