Archive for December, 2007

La Paz, Otra Vez

Sunday, December 23rd, 2007

We came back to La Paz on Dec. 15, and pulled in to the swanky Marina Costa Baja. This place is a marina and a resort, and we have access to the hotel’s beautiful (but unheated) swimming pool. It is about 20 minutes away from downtown La Paz, but there is a free shuttle service that runs frequently. They also gave us a cable modem, so internet access has been fantastic! Todd even played CounterStrike online with his nerd buddies.

Koiya’s favorite thing about the place is the trampoline in the playground. She got in quite a bit of jumping before flying back to SF on Dec 18. She even tried to teach Capn ADD a few moves, but he was too distracted to focus on her coaching.

There is also a “Beach Club” here, for use by the condo owners. We went in once but apparently we didn’t look like we belonged there. A guy explained to us that we could talk to the marina office about buying a membership for $20/day. We looked around a bit, and since there were only a few other people there (and no one in the pool), I asked if we could just stay and have a quick swim. He agreed. We set ourselves up on some lounge chairs and read a bit. Todd decided it would be nice to give the restaurant and bar some business, so he went and asked to see a menu. The guy wouldn’t show him one! He said we should really talk to the marina office and get a membership. We were like, “Buddy, your club is so exclusive, there’s no one here! We’re trying to give you some business and we’ll tip you!” Anyway, Todd felt unwelcome, so I took a quick swim and peed in the pool, then we left. (more…)

Off to the Islas

Thursday, December 20th, 2007

One of the great things about La Paz is the close proximity of many beautiful anchorages with great diving, snorkeling, beach combing and hiking. With fair winds, we can get to gorgeous Isla del Espiritu Santo (Holy Spirit) in about four hours. We spent Dec 5 – 15 exploring the nearby islands.

My mom said I should explain something about our daily life aboard Sugata. Really, “daily life” varies depending on where we are. When we’re at a marina, things are hectic by cruising standards. We catch up on email and blog posts, shop for groceries, do laundry, fill our diesel and water tanks, and take care of things like changing the engine oil or, in Capn BrownThumb’s case, rebuilding the head (toilet). We also enjoy hot showers and eating out. But after about four days in port, I get antsy to be back out at anchor.

When we’re anchored out, I’m typically up at 6:45am. I make myself tea, and if we’re out of cereal, I’ll lovingly prepare oatmeal or pancakes. Capn Sleepyhead might roll out of bed by 8:30. We sometimes spend all morning reading, or if we’re feeling ambitious, we’ll go snorkeling or exploring in the dinghy. I dig around to find something to make for lunch or dinner, while Capn Guzzles debates whether to drink beer, wine, or margaritas. At night we might play a game or watch a movie, or get together with the crew of another boat. By 8pm we’re tuckered out; 9pm is called “Cruiser’s Midnight” because if we stay up past then, we congratulate ourselves for being such hard partiers. (more…)

Who Is This Eric Guy?

Thursday, December 20th, 2007

My brother Steve (Uncle Bumper to Koiya, though we liked the derivative “Uncle Bumpus” that Todd’s mom came up with!) emailed me recently and included this question: “Does that hippie Eric have a job, how long is he sailing with you guys?”

This made me realize that, while Eric and his exploits are infamous on Todd’s side of the family, my family and many of our friends are probably wondering why that shaggy guy keeps popping up in our photos. Well, if you want to learn about Eric in his own words, click here to check out his website. But if you want the scoop from a snarky blog mistress who sailed many a mile with the guy, read on! (more…)

Pushing to La Paz

Wednesday, December 19th, 2007

Strong southerly winds were predicted for Friday, Nov. 30, so we got an early start from Los Frailes, bound for La Paz. It was so hard to leave Frailes, because the anchorage was teeming with sea life and I really wanted to snorkel there! At night we aimed our spotlight into the water and saw squid and brilliant turquoise trumpet fish, and heard a sea lion feeding. During the day, small manta rays leaped several feet from the water, spinning and flipping before splashing down again. As we left Frailes, we saw one do a triple flip!

Our most important source for weather info is a man named Don Anderson, who we listen to on our HAM radio. Click here to check out the schedule this guy keeps, all as a free service to cruisers. Everyone down here tunes in for his forecast, and if the atmospheric conditions are such that you can’t hear Don, you can call around to other boats and someone will repeat his predictions to you. But no good deed goes unpunished; Don has another commitment on Friday mornings, so he can’t get on the radio then. The other day some guy down here had the gall to whine to Don that “we really need the forecast on Fridays”. The guy clearly needed a tongue lashing, but Todd held the microphone over my head and, after jumping for it for a minute, I was too worn out to be indignant.

We spent about eight hours motoring north before the wind picked up from the east. We sailed along well into the night. Eric took the first night watch, and when I took over at midnight it seemed that the wind was dying. Then suddenly it swung around and began building again (I’d guess it was 25kts and gusting higher), and Todd double-reefed the main. Thinking the situation too touchy to go back to bed, Todd tried to sleep in the galley with his foulies on. We flew along, and soon felt rain drops, which was odd because the sky overhead was clear. Then I looked over to the west and realized that those rain drops were from a massive dark cloud that was coming our way! (more…)

Just Say No to Cabo

Sunday, December 16th, 2007

Sometime around the end of November we left Bahia Santa Maria and decided to bypass Cabo San Lucas, as it’s expensive and touristy. It was about a two day sail to Los Frailes, on the east side of the Baja Peninsula. We were thrilled to finally be headed into the Sea of Cortez!

The ocean near the cape is incredibly alive! The water is such a rich, deep blue that in the early morning hours it almost looks purple. I was reading John Steinbeck’s Log from the Sea of Cortez
and he had remarked that this is what fishermen call “tuna water”. Sure enough, we could see yellow fins cut through the water, and Sandy on Imagine caught two of them! We also saw marlin jumping and millions of jellyfish.

It was thrilling to see the changes in the landscape and fauna as we headed further south. On our way to Santa Maria we saw our first frigate bird, a sure sign that we were headed towards the tropics. But while new sightings are exciting, nothing thrilled us more than a night-time visit from Koiya’s old friends, the common dolphins! I had just turned in for some sleep when Todd shook me awake, telling me there were dolphins on the bow. I scurried up and found Koiya on the bowsprit, pointing a flashlight down at the dolphins. They were with us for about half an hour, and returned again a little later. Though there wasn’t as much phosphorescence as we’d seen on the way to San Diego, Koiya left her flashlight off for their second visit, and got to see them glitter. (more…)

Off to Espiritu Santo and other islands

Wednesday, December 5th, 2007

Susan, Sequoia, Eric, and I are leaving now to head out to the uninhabited islands north of La Paz to do some exploring. We’re planning to be back in La Paz in 10 days on December 15th at which point Sequoia will be flying back to San Francisco (on the 18th) to visit her dad for two and a half weeks. At that point we should have internet and some limited phone access and look forward to catching up with everyone when we’re back! After these great days in La Paz Capn and Co-Capn Our Pockets are Lighter are ready to spend some time where they don’t take Visa or Mastercard.

Will Work for Water

Tuesday, December 4th, 2007

We left Asuncion on Wednesday, Nov. 21, and sailed about 190 nautical miles south to Bahia Santa Maria. That meant we were offshore on Thanksgiving, so our dinner was not elaborate. For the meat eaters, I made chicken in mushroom gravy, while I had a tin of smoked trout. I also made stuffing and three-bean salad. For dessert, the pumpkin “pie” didn’t have a crust, but the crew were surprised that it was Thanksgiving, and even more surprised to get something pumpkiny!

This passage was the first on which we got a lot of use out of our spinnaker, which has now taken us many miles! The spinnaker allows us to sail with light winds, when we would otherwise use the motor. Our average speed has decreased, but we are thankful anytime we can sail instead of motoring! Yay, spinnaker!

Our sailing friends will appreciate this: Because they had not yet figured out a good way to sail downwind, we actually beat Imagine (a Hallberg Rossy 49) to Santa Maria! It was funny because although neither boat acknowledged it at the time, we were closely monitoring each other’s progress. Poor Andy (Capitan of Imagine, and a veteran racer)! Though he claimed to be suffering from Montezuma’s Revenge, we suspect it was actually shame and disgust that kept him holed up on his boat for a few days. As he remarked, it was like the tortoise beating the hare.

Bahia Santa Maria is a big, beautiful bay, with no town. It does have a huge tidal lagoon, with a number of little fish camps on it. They seem to be populated mostly by lobstermen, but we did see one woman and a child. The men leave in their pangas early in the morning, and if the tide is out when they return, they have to get out and drag their pangas through the shallow entrance of the lagoon. We also met some who were hauling pounds and pounds of marine snails that they use as bait in the lobster traps. (more…)

Asuncion Me Encanta

Monday, December 3rd, 2007

On Sunday, Nov. 18, we motored/sailed just over 50 nautical miles from Turtle Bay to Bahia Asuncion. We left Turtle Bay at 5am, and by 6am were sailing on a strong NE wind. The wind picked up a bit, and Sugata charged ahead at over 7 kts. It was thrilling to feel her go! But Capn Buzzkill was worried that the wind would continue to build, and struck the jib in anticipation. Shortly thereafter, the wind died completely, and we had to start the motor. Ridiculing Todd’s misjudgment was small consolation.

En route, we were thrilled to make radio contact with our friends on Imagine. Like most boats, we monitor VHF channel 16 while sailing. In California, we mostly used it for safety reasons, listening for warnings or hailing ships on courses that might cross ours. But here in Mexico, the VHF is the cruisers’ telephone system, with boats calling each other to touch base, discuss the weather, and make arrangements for cocktail hour.

The usual procedure is to hail a boat on channel 16, then switch to another channel to have your conversation. Of course, everyone else is listening in, and switches to the new channel so they won’t miss anything. For nosy people like ourselves, it is a great improvement on cell phones. We even listen in on crews we haven’t met!

It turned out Imagine was also headed to Asuncion! Sequoia and Emma (from Imagine) have become quite the little VHF chit-chatters. It’s pretty cute to hear them talking, saying “Over” and “Clear” and “You want to go to one-seven?”. (more…)

Soy La Capitan

Sunday, December 2nd, 2007

When we got to Ensenada, Todd finally asked me the question that I’ve been waiting to hear: “Will you be the captain?” I was so proud! He must have noticed how quick I’ve become with a bowline; how keenly I read the wind and adjust the sails; and how carefully I monitor the engine’s functions. “Of course!” I replied.

My first duty as captain was to file our papers for entering Mexico. I carried out the task cheerfully, welcoming the added responsibilities of my new office.

The passage from Ensenada to Turtle Bay (Nov. 14 to Nov. 16) was our longest to date, just shy of 300 nautical miles, and taking us almost 55 hours. For one lunch, I made split pea soup and served it to everyone in the cockpit. As I was sitting down, Koiya giggled. “It’s funny,” she said, “You’re the captain and the steward!”

All of a sudden it hit me: I had been duped! Todd only made me “captain” so that I’d be the one to handle all the paperwork! I shot a glance at Capn Deception, who was smacking his lips with satisfaction. I stifled my indignation, and resolved to remember that despite outward appearances, a brain lurks behind that large forehead, a brain that is capable of formulating cunning strategies to avoid work. I also made a note to give the “Co-Capitan”, as he called himself on our entry paperwork, a little midnight wake-up call (as I’ll explain). (more…)

Hola de La Paz

Saturday, December 1st, 2007

Another quick note to let everyone know we arrived in La Paz this morning. For the first time in weeks we have great internet access again so we have some catching up to do in posting the various legs of the trip.

In short from Asuncion we stopped in Bahia Santa Maria for 3-5 days (none of us are sure how long we were there) which is just outside of Magdalena Bay and totally isolated with no town nearby. We swam, we read, we hung out with other boats passing through, explored the lagoon by dinghy, had a bonfire on the beach, etc… From there we sailed non-stop south rounding the cape and bypassing Cabo San Lucas going north to Frailes. We left Frailes yesterday morning riding north on a rare southerly and then hung out outside of the channel to La Paz until sunrise so we could see our way in. Since Ensenada we’ve been doing a lot less motoring putting many enjoyable hours on our asymmetrical spinnaker. More to come over the next few days on those legs of the trip!