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.

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.

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.

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.

The Islands

To get ourselves out of our little funk of thinking “What did we do?” we headed out to the nearby islands to regroup and do what we came to do. We wanted to remind ourselves why we were here instead of getting trapped in the daily grind in La Paz.

We got a bit of a late start heading out of the bay, but we were determined to go. We motored out of the long channel that leads into La Paz Bay and we hoisted the sails. We sailed for about one hour in very light winds before we realized we wouldn’t make it to the anchorage before dark if we didn’t motor. We started the “iron sail” and did some motor sailing with our head sail out for a little extra speed all the way into Bahia San Gabriel. This was kind of wide open to one side with a big white sand beach and an old pearl fishery I was exited to see. When we arrived it was perfectly still and we anchored just in time to see the sun set. We watched the starts over calm water before we tucked in very early.

What do you know, but the wind shifts from the north to the southwest blasting us into a lee shore all night long. A lee shore is when your boat is being blown to land instead of sea… not good. The anchorage was wide open to these “nighttime corumels,” as they call them, and wind and waves had us up all night long. I slept in the dinette so I could see better and get away from some of the movement. We were making sure we didn’t drag anchor all night. I actually had a dream that we did drag and we ended up right on top of a friend’s boat holding off the damage with my feet. Then I woke up and found we had drug and it looked like we were in Puerto Escondido and once again I was holding the boat off a wall of  mud and muck with my hands and feet. Then I woke up again and found we were exactly in the same spot we had anchored. Yup, I had a dream within a dream – Inception style.

Anyway, by the time the sun came up we were so ready to get out of there, we didn’t explore at all and high tailed it toward Caleta Partida, a well protected anchorage just north of the island we were on. I forgot to mention that our refrigerator stopped working while we were anchored, and we were pretty bummed. Turns out it was just a fuse, and we had it onboard. We finally fixed something! We thought it would be nice, since the waves calmed down on our way, to stop at a small cove just before we reached Partida. We wanted to have lunch and walk around a bit before we anchored for the night. We had a lovely and relaxing afternoon and really started to feel better about being out there. We met a couple who were kayaking around the islands and camping on the beach – wow, they are adventurous.

So we decided to head over to Partida and have plenty of time to anchor before dark. We got into positions – Tim at the helm and me ready to push the anchor windlass button that brings up the 44 lb. anchor and 100+ feet of chain – and nothing. Nothing happened. It is broken. We fumble around for a little bit trying to find the problem or a reasonable solution. We switch places and Tim has to muscle it all up.

We make it to Partida ready for a calm few nights. It was rather crowded so we had to anchor a couple of times to feel like we were in a good spot. This would normally not be a big deal, but with a broken windlass it made for an exhausting evening for Tim. We were happy to be settled for a while.

We finally got to have an enjoyable and relaxing time out at the islands. We explored around the outskirts in our dinghy and ran into some friends. We joined them for snorkeling and spear fishing and were happy to be doing what we thought we would be doing every day. Hayden speared a decent size fish and he and Irene came over to eat it. That’s what it is all about. We also got to hike to the top of the ridge, find the nearby sea caves and sleep soundly. Caleta Partida was good to us.

We knew a Northerly was about to blow through the area real hard, so we did a little exploring to find a nice calm spot (and to check out the nearby blue footed booby colony). We ended up tucking into a really small cove called Cordoncito next to our new friends on Matilda. The winds were very strong and we had some sleepless nights, but generally it was not too bad. We still got to explore, hike and snorkel in the daytime, so we were happy. I even got a day alone doing yoga on the beach – pure bliss. Tim, Hayden and Irene did some spear fishing, and Hayden shot something every day. One day gave us a little fish to practice gutting and cooking it. The funny part is that he was still alive and we had no idea how to kill him. Tim tried beating it, and nothing. It was kinda sad, but he ended up gutting and filleting it, and we had fish tacos.

We spend our last night there having delicious fish tacos on Matilda prepared perfectly by Hayden and Irene. As the weather subsided we headed back into La Paz to get some work done.

On the way out there.

Lunch stop and hike

Hiking El Mesteño

Spear fishing the reef in Caleta Partida.

Top of the ridge at Caleta Partida. Our boat is in the middle.

 

They are heading out to spear some fish

 

So how do you eat this thing?

 

See our boats in El Cordoncito

 

Back to the dinghy

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.

Our New Home

Tim, Me, Shelly and Mike just after the sea trial on our new boat

So, we did it. We bought our dream boat! We took her out for a sea trial today and we sailed for the first time in the Sea of Cortez. It was awesome! I can already tell I will be one of those types who continuously tweak the sails for more speed. Keep in mind, we are talking about the speed of a 35 foot liveaboard boat, so we are looking at like 2-6 knots. It is perfectly slow, however, because you have AMAZING views to take in while you are doing it. The water is clear about 100 feet down. Can you imagine? I didn’t really believe that —having been on lakes often — but Shelly dropped a green grape overboard just to see how long we could see it in the water. We sailed away, slowly, remember, before we couldn’t see the grape. It was stunning. Tim took a dive because it was blisteringly hot. We have found ourselves on a sailboat in the sun in Baja Mexico in the hottest part of the year and the hottest part of the month for this area. Just step outside and sweat a gallon a minute. And I thought Texas was hot! Well, it is actually about the same temp, but the humidity here takes the cake. We drank more water and Gatorade in 2 hours than I have in most days.

It was all worth it, though. We have a wonderful new home and we can float around anywhere we want. It hasn’t quite all sunk in yet. We had the boat surveyed by a pro boat builder who has been living in Mexico for the part 22 years — Cecil. He is an 86-year-old Austrian who kept up with the rest of us in that heat. I was so surprised at how good he was at moving around the boat while withstanding the heat.

Our Captain for the day was Ray. He maintains several boats in Puerto Escandito while the owners are out for the summer season. He is so nice, and a friend already. He has the exact same boat make and model as us, so he highly recommended it. We are so excited and can’t wait to head back down for the good cruising months. We have been told by every sailor we have met that the weather switches on October 15. Like clockwork, there is less humidity and a nice breeze every year. Can’t wait for that.

While we have been here we have been greeted with the friendliest people on earth. It seems everyone is incredibly supportive and helpful in whatever way possible. It is really refreshing to slow down and appreciate others. The cruisers (people living on a boat and cruising up and down the coastline) have a code of conduct to help out other cruisers and then pay it forward. They don’t help expecting anything in return, they just help because they are nice and know it will come back around one day. And it does.

Sunrise on the Baja

Shelly teaching me how to raise the head sail and tie a cleat knot.

Me at the helm, while Shelly guides me

Tim at the Helm

Our new kitchen a.k.a galley

Cecil working hard surveying the boat while in the dinette

Our new bedroom a.k.a. V Berth

There she is. Until we meet again.