What's in her name?

What's in her name (Salish Aire)?

from her new home the Salish Sea

Aire as in a melody of song.

Salish + Aire = The melody of the Salish Sea.

Salish Sea:
In the late 1700's Captain George Vancouver wandered around the waters of what are now known as British Columbia, Canada and Washington State, USA. He did the usual 1700's explorer thing and put names he chose on everything he saw. The names stuck and are recognized and used to this day.

New lines were added to Captain Vancouver's charts in 1872 (after a near war with Great Britain over a pig) which made waters on one side of the line Canadian and those on the other side of the line American.

It wasn't until 1988 (officiated in 2009) that someone finally realized that fish and various critters, (to say nothing of the water itself) were never involved in the boundary treaties and really ignored them completely. (This is best illustrated by the problems that Homeland Security has with Canadian Canada Geese and American Canadian Geese - it seems they refuse to carry passports and have been known to poop on the head of any border patrol person who tries to challenge their right to cross the border when and where they choose!) In reality the waters from Olympia to the well up the East side of Vancouver Island are pretty much one ecosystem.

The Coast Salish are the indigenous peoples who live in southwest British Columbia and northwest Washington state along the Salish Sea and share a common linguistic and cultural origin. The Salish Sea is named in honor of the earliest recorded peoples who plied her waters and learned to live in harmony with her.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Christmas 2018

Cabo to La Paz

December 2, 2018

Since I got quite behind on my last blog entry I decided it might be best to get back into the habit of writing as we go and then it wouldn’t feel like a burden to catch up.

So our last post was put up yesterday using lots of my limited patience with very slow wifi (and slower 3G cell service) at a restaurant in Ensenada Muertos.  On one hand it’s not quite the fiber optic speeds we had in Washington but on the other hand we were anchored in a lovely cove with warm clear blue water and had kayaked up to the only business for miles around and low and behold were able to be in contact with the world.  We were able to talk with my mother with a fairly clear cell signal as long as we followed the directions posted in the restaurant and “walked down the path and sat under the mesquite tree”.

After we left San Juan Del Cabo where we hauled the boat to do more stabilizer work we headed north with the goal of finding kid friendly places to anchor and moor before our daughter’s family arrive on December 15th.  The kids love the water so we believe if we can find a place with relatively calm water and lots to see snorkeling that they will be happy campers.  So far we have checked out Bahia Los Frailes which is at the southern edge of a national park that aims to protect Mexico’s only Pacific side coral reef.  It was a bit bumpy but with a stern tie to keep the bow into the swell and our handy flopper stopper it was pretty tolerable.  It has lots of white sand beaches, a few easily accessible coral heads with lots of fish to see, a fishing camp, hiking trails in the desert, and friendly local expats from Washington.  It remains high on our list of places to go.  We also got high recommendations from Michelle (11 y/o) and Autumn (9 y/o) on SV Xpression  (svxpression.com) who we had met with their dad in San Diego and then met up with them again here in Los Frailes now with their mother an RN from Madigan hospital south of Tacoma on board (she flies in and out while her husband Max (a fellow Evergreen State College graduate!) home schools the girls underway).

Dinner on SV Xpression

The past two nights we stayed in Ensenada Muertos which was surprisingly calm even in higher winds.  The guide book indicates that this is supposed to be an up and coming resort with a golf course etc. . Currently there are some amazingly huge homes on the hills, some beautiful desert scenery, and a single restaurant around a well  protected cove much appreciated by mariners going north or south between Los Cabos and La Paz. The golf course amounts to some signs and watering systems and flat areas covered with new desert brush indicating a totally failed enterprise.

Ensenada Muertos

Golf course dream

Golf course pro shop

Dream home overlooking Ensenada Muertos

Sea of Cortez sunrise

Some comments on the full-time live-aboard life:

·         Do things get broken in ways they wouldn’t in a “dirt house” – YES! The other day we forgot to batten down one of the small porthole windows in our bedroom.  We ended up in very snotty head seas and when Clarice ventured into our bedroom she found sea water had soaked our settee and gotten into our DVD player and printer/scanner (both “let the smoke out” when they were plugged in).  We are in the process of replacing a $1000 (USD – not pesos) pair of binoculars that jumped off the counter during rough weather.  We have a backup pair but they don’t serve nearly as well as the electronically stabilized ones that we have had for 2 years so there goes another “boat unit” (boater speak for $1000).

·         Do you ever get tired of constantly being in motion – YES! I (Norman) am (hopefully) getting past a period of minor “being in the dumps” after weeks of travel followed by a major repair and never ending boat movement.  I am hoping this is similar to culture shock and will dissipate in a couple of weeks when I let go and start enjoying the adventure again.  It would be nice if life was all roses but it’s not even while living the dream.

·         Category, questions we’ve heard that we never realized people didn’t understand:

o   Where do you anchor when you are at sea at night? We don’t.  We take turns making sure the boat is running correctly and that we don’t hit anything obvious (like a cruise ship)  and just keep going.  As slow as we travel (6.5 knots average (about 7 miles per hour) ) we need to keep going or we would never cover some of the distances we need to between ports.
o   How do you get to shore when you are at anchor? We have a rubber and aluminum 10 foot long dingy we lower into the water with a crane or we have 2 kayaks we use to get to shore.
o   Do you worry about fresh water? Yes, it is always a concern.  We have a capacity of about 250 gallons so if everything fails we can go a long time without access to clean, fresh water.  Our problem in Mexico is that much of the fresh water is not “clean” to the standards are immune systems are used to.  As a result we are now running the generator 1 -2 hours a day to not only charge batteries but more importantly to use our reverse osmosis system to make fresh water from sea water at a rate of 25 gallons an hour.
o   How about fuel?  We topped the tanks in San Diego where the fuel was reputed to be less expensive than in Mexico.  It has taken us about 500 gallons of diesel to get from San Diego to here.  When we get down a bit more (we carry about 1000 gallons) then we will start watching prices and try to top off before our credit card has to take a huge hit. From Port Angelas, Washington to now we have consumed just under 1000 gallons of diesel between the furnace (which heats our hot water at anchor), the generator, and the main engine.
o   How much do you steer the boat?  The boat is steered by computer 99.9% of the time.  The times we do hand steer we realize that if our autopilot ever fails it will be a major problem as it is very tiring.
o   How do you navigate? We have 3 computers with current charts on them each connected to their own GPS.  Our iphones actually have a very good navigation program on them as an additional backup.  We carry paper charts in case of electrical failure and have done map and compass navigation in the past. (We do carry a sextant but have yet to get a good position from it due to lack of training – it’s on the todo list).
o   How does Jarvis tolerate the boat and where does he pee/poop underway? Jarvis would really rather live in a house with a big backyard but he is happy being wherever we are.  When we had a house and started to load the boat to take it out he made it very obvious that he had no intention of being left behind.  He loves being off leash on a new shore where there is lots of new nose candy and he can run free.  He seems to enjoy riding in the dingy and kayak as long as he’s not getting splashed.  He tolerates peeing on an artificial turf pad we have for him but he despises pooping underway and will put it off until he is so miserable he is shaking.   If the boat has a lot of motion he has finally figured out how to lift his leg to pee but keep it braced against a wall to steady himself.  If water is coming back through the deck scupper (a drain through the sidewall of the deck) near his pad, he will make us move his pad to a new location before using it. All and all he is a pretty happy little dog and adapts well.  He is showing his age a bit now that he is about 8 years old and has some gray hair.
o   Where does human sewage go?  We divide waste water into 2 categories: Gray water and Black water.  Gray water is the drainage from showers and sinks which goes directly overboard.  We work very hard to choose soap products that are designed to minimalize any environmental footprint for both human and cloths washing.  Our Black, toilet, water goes into two 50 gallon tanks.  Areas with a large number of boats in limited waters tend to have pump out facilities where we can vacuum the tanks out into the city sewers.  Out at sea we join the fish and dolphins and whales and pump our sewage into the water where natural bacteria treats it.
o   Are you afraid for your safety in Mexico? NO!  We were very concerned about theft in San Diego where even oars had to be chained to dinghies or they would gain legs.  We have been treated kindly and with courtesy by the Mexican folk. That said, a friend did have his very expensive dinghy sail away on its own accord while they were in a remote anchorage.  Also see below our experiences in La Paz.

December 10, 2018

It’s very hard to appreciate that the Christmas season is upon us.  While our friends up north report cold and snow we complain when the air temperature drops to the high 70s.  Music seems to be the strongest reminder for me that Christmas will come.

Sunday  December 2nd we arrived in La Paz at Marina Cortez.   We had barely tied up when a neighboring boat mentioned that the weekly rate in the marina was only slightly more than we had been told we would pay for 2 days.  The idea of a week of no travel appealed to both of us (and Jarvis!).  We were a bit concerned after beating into the wind for a good part of the day and feeling a heavy swell in the slip but quickly realized the motion was generally not bad.  The funny thing was that we were paired up in a slip with the sailing catamaran “Salish Dragon” who we had met in San Diego.  What were the chances of two boats whose owners had gone out of their ways to provide unique regionally (Washington/British Columbia) special names for the boats ending up in the same slip in Mexico?

La Paz Malecon (Sea wall promenade) 

One of many public sculptures in La Paz

Another public sculpture in La Paz (we finally found an iphone app that tells the story of each one)

Out for a morning walk in La Paz

I waited for this vendor to enter what I thought was a quintessential Mexico street scene - he make it even more authentic when he stopped and tipped his hat and said a small prayer at a Virgin Mary alter on a post next to the street. 

A typical sidewalk.  One section may have a marked ADA ramp followed by a very fancy inlay section then someone will build the next section 10 or 12 inches higher with no step followed by a section with no paving at all.

A 130 peso (about $5 USD) breakfast.  The cups have a broth that seems to be traditional (not much to our liking) and always a selection of sauces, limes, and other toppings to add.

We had heard along the way that La Paz has a very active cruiser community who meet every morning at 8 AM on VHF radio channel 22.  At 8 AM on Monday we tuned in and learned the weather and tides as well as who had arrived (us!) and departed the area and we had a chance to ask any “local assistance” questions such as “can we catch a ride to Walmart with someone” (yes, we could).  The net runs from ½ to 1 hour 6 days a week and is followed by coffee at Club Cruceros  (Cruiser’s Club) where the local cruiser community has its home base with a library of books and DVDs and events such as a Christmas Bazaar yesterday providing funds for local charities.  We also realized that a LOT of boats have ended up in La Paz and never leave.

Club Cruceros (Cruisers' Club)

We also decided that folks from the PNW are heavily represented here with a number of Puget Sound and BC boats.  We were on the same dock with Max, Stephanie and their daughters on Xpression as they waved goodbye to Stephanie as she headed back to Tacoma for two months of work before she can visit the family again for another month.  On one hand Max points out that the month the family has together on a small island in the sea amounts to more total time then when they try to combine school and jobs and a “normal” household life but he agreed the months apart can be hard.  In any case the girls are clearly doing very very well with both schooling (they are home schooled on such topics as math with celestial navigation) and social wellbeing.  We also ran into Sandi and Tom and their small boys on Korvessa who we had met in Dana Point where we learned he trained as a Physicians’ Assistant at the same hospital where I worked in Everett.  Next to us was a boat with 2 Jackhuahua’s on it and beyond them SV Agatha from Seattle with an English / Australian couple and their 13 year old daughter.  We had a lovely evening with Nordhavn (X2 boats!) owners from the Vancouver area, Penny and Larry Talbot who we had met in Seattle. Across from us was our friends on Nordhavn One Life, and the list goes on as we get to know more and more boats by name and the folks who live on them.

This boat used to be named Isis and was in the same marina as us in Everett.
I had read that an outcome of NAFTA was the establishment of a middle class in Mexico.  My memories of Mexico as a child were of impoverished Tijuana and Ensenada with beggars everywhere and everyone living in shacks.  Those days are not gone but they are going in the bigger towns we have visited so far.  On one hand  things still don’t work as we Yankees think they should but on the other hand the locals seem to feel in control of their own destinies.  During a RAIN STORM (capitals for emphasis – it rained more than cats and dogs – maybe elephants and horses) the sewers were quickly backed up, water ran into buildings because the tile floors had been laid with an inward slope, and cobblestone streets developed holes 2 feet deep but the next day MOST things were cleaned up and the water swept (literally with brooms) out to sea.  On the other hand much of the damage will likely not ever be repaired as ongoing maintenance is rare – a project gets done and then no follow-up.  (E.G. I tried to ride in a bike lane but a man-hole had been added in the middle of the lane 8 inches above the rest of the lane with no lid and no sloped approach.)  Our friend needed to make a report at the nice new police station (reported to have been built with USA funding) but the city didn’t have money for copier paper.  On the other hand families are out walking in the evening along the newly completed seaside promenade and taking time to try to practice their English with me as they greet Jarvis with a pat on the head (a well-trained and friendly dog seems to be very much appreciated).  We’ve only seen two beggars.  One man was making his way with his below the knee amputation on a knee crutch like Clarice used with her broken foot.  It was obvious that this was a long term solution for him and that he likely wears out knee crutches on a regular basis.  We offered to give his Clarice’s old one and he clearly fully expected to pay for it and was very very gracious when we gave it to him as a gift.  At Walmart I saw a group of young people with uniforms that seemed to indicate they were nursing students.  When I explained to two young men that I am an enfermero they were very excited to have an example of an “old guy” nurse who is a male.  We bought their supplies for them and wished them Feliz Navidad!  Walking with Jarvis one evening about 8 secondary school kids came up to us to greet Jarvis and to practice their English.  I later learned that one of the girls was celebrating her birthday was the purpose of their party so I sang Happy Birthday with my base voice turned up so everyone in the marina knew she was celebrating – the kids and parents clapped and the dog and I went on our way.  Perhaps the person who gave us this piece of wisdom said it best: “If you tell a Mexican they should do it like we do in the United States, they will point out that their society is a couple of thousand years old while our country has only been around for a couple hundred years.”

So today we are heading back to Ensenada Muertos after having waited out some high winds the past few days as we head back to San Juan Del Cabo to pick up Erin and her family on the 15th.   The wind today is again from the north at about 15 knots with short seas but they are much more tolerable from astern than beating into them from the bow.  Our learning here is that winds predicted in the Sea of Cortez coming from the north at greater than 10 knots need to be taken seriously as: 1) the speed estimates tend to be low, often by 10 knots (so a 10 knot prediction yields a 20 knot wind) and 2) the bay is long and narrow so it doesn’t have swell as such but does develop very steep sided short period waves that can be miserable for mariners.

December 11, 2018 – “Misplaced Passports” OR “It Takes a Community”

Just as I was finishing the last note and Clarice and gone downstairs for a nap we had a moment of internet coverage and we picked up an email from the marina we had departed  5 hours prior that our passports were in their office.  Hmmm, what to do: 1) turn against the following wind and following seas and beat back to the marina to arrive after dark or 2) call on The Community.  Here is what transpired among the group of boats travelling together:
·         “Stray Cat, Stray Cat from Salish Aire”…. (no response)
·         “Salish Dragon, Salish Dragon from Salish Aire” …. “Salish Dragon here”
·         “Salish Dragon do you know of anyone coming to Muertos tomorrow who could bring our passports down?”
·         “Break, Break, this is SV Valhalla, I believe Epiphany is coming tomorrow, I will see if I have contact information”
·         “This is Salish Dragon, I will also text my cousin who is still in the neighboring marina to see if she can contact Epiphany”
·         “Valhalla back to Salish Aire – I don’t have contact information for Epiphany”
·         “Salish Dragon back to Salish Aire – my cousin on Red Shoes says Epiphany isn’t coming south but is sure she can find someone through the morning net or perhaps you can catch a cab from Muertos back as its only about 45 minutes” (later it was confirmed as 2 hours over rough dirt road)
·         “Email sent to friends still in Marina Cortez explaining our situation.”
·         “Salish Dragon back to Salish Aire, my cousin has picked up the passports and will hand them off to Kwaai “
·         Email from the Marina Office confirming that the passports had been picked up by Red Shoes
·         Email back from friends confirming that they will help if our current plan doesn’t work out.
·         8:30 PM - Text message that we should expect the passports between 5:30 and 6 AM today and to listen for Kwaai on channel 6
·         5:50 AM, “Salish Aire from Kwaai – we can’t tell which boat you are in the dark”
·         “Salish Aire back to Kwaai we will turn on our deck lights”
·         5:55 AM a trailer launched panga (small fiberglass fishing boat ubiquitous to Mexico and Central America) pulls up next to our boat with a 2 Canadians and a Mexican boat operator – hand us the passports and then zip off into the dark to go fishing

(Spanish lesson: Bahia = Bay; Ensenada = Cove; Cabo =Cape; Muertos = Dead; Frailes = Friars)

December 29, 2018

Sometimes it’s hard to believe how full our days are even though we are doing “nothing”.  Today was forecast to be “extremely cold and windy” (its 65 Fahrenheit) so I put on long pants, shoes, and a long sleeve shirt and planned to get my blogging caught up. We saw a Mexican night watchman wearing quilted pants, a heavy coat, a neck scarf, a stocking cap, and heavy gloves.

After the last note we continued on to Ensenada Muertos where we put on our scuba gear and found a rock reef with thousands of fish about 20 feet below the surface and were entertained for some time.  We identified the constellation of the Southern Cross (not visible much north of here) and watched Venus, Mercury and Saturn in the eastern sky.  I practiced taking sextant readings as a woman from Spain living in La Paz offers twice weekly free lessons to anyone who shows up.  Then we moved south to Bahia Frailes where we climbed the significant hill (I’m from the Pacific Northwest – it takes a lot of elevation to be considered a mountain!) that constitutes Cabo Frailes and protects the bay from the northern winds.  Along the way I let out a loud “WOW” that brought Clarice running to the pilot house as I saw a blue whale breach three quarters of its body out of the water.

Beach at Bahia Frailes

Tiny fish that congregate under the boat

Bahia Frailes from part way up the hill

Jarvis leading the way up the Frailes hill trail

At the top of the hill

A cactus in bloom along the trail

On arrival back in San Jose Del Cabo the dock attendant immediately recognized the boat and directed us into a slip after having left Bahia Frailes about 5 AM so we would have plenty of time to get organized before Erin’s flight from Ontario arrived followed an hour later by Paul’s flight from Seattle where he is on contract with MicroSoft for a year.  We were irritated that the local cabs were charging about $50 USD from the airport to the Marina so we set about finding a better solution.  In the end we learned of a local car rental company who would provide an 8 seat van at a reasonable price but I needed to pick it up at the airport.  I jumped on my electric assist bicycle and headed out.  Picking up the van was a no-hassle event as Cactus Car Rentals apparently is very focused on getting repeat customers as was obvious by how they greeted (and were greeted) by folks who had clearly rented from them several times and considered the customer (manager) to be a personal friend. I waited in their comfy waiting room a short time and they recommended that Erin and family jump in their courtesy van from the baggage area where they had gotten through customs with no issues.

We used the van to tour town a bit and to make a run to Cabo San Lucas Costco and Walmart for provisions.  The kids tried out their new snorkel sets in a protected beach at the marina and all was almost well (two of the kids had very short lived belly illnesses most likely from a previously obtained bug and/or extreme fatigue and over stimulation).

After a day to acclimate in town we headed out early in the morning back to Bahia Frailes before the kids were awake so they didn’t have to endure much of the 5 hour ride.  On the other hand I had prepared reward forms where they could get pesos for observing sea life.  Valerie was on the front deck as soon as she was awake with her list in hand and soon spotted a gray whale.

Clarice would have loved to show the kids Ensenada Muertos but we decided with the wind forecasts it would be best to just hang out in Bahia Frailes.  This turned out to be the right choice as the kids were completely happy with playing in the water and on the beach.  We gave them underwater cameras for their Christmas presents and they took photos of the fish as they snorkeled.  We hung dive lights next to the boat and hundreds of fish were attracted to them.  They watched as a park ranger dug about 100 baby turtles from a fenced in nesting area and released them into the sea. We woke them just before dawn so they could see the Southern Cross and zillions of other stars with little in the way of light pollution.  To the local folk 75 degree water was really cold – to kids from frozen Ontario Canada it was just fine.  Finally we headed back to San Juan Del Cabo and after riding a local bus (always a bit of a cultural experience) we walked around town and they had fun negotiating prices so they could afford souvenirs with their sea life scavenger hunt pesos.  The scary part was how fast Valerie, at 8 years old, can convert from pesos to dollars in her head.  By the time they left after 8 days we all felt we had a wonderful visit together.

Henri warms up in a ditty bag after his first swim in Mexico

Kids and Erin spent hours on the beach

Clarice got a collapsible basin for Christmas which Jarvis promptly tried out for size (he hates baths so perhaps he thought it would make a good bed?) 

A bucket of baby turtles just out of the nests

Baby turtles scramble to the water 

We watched for about an hour before all of the baby turtles were swimming away

Erin practiced her sand penmanship

Henri and Carter built a sand fort

Valerie made shells she had collected into a necklace and castanet 

On the way up the hill with the Lyttle family

Looking from south to north over Bahia Frailes with the hill in the background

Lyttle kids checking out the Christmas decorations in the La Paz town square

Valerie playing with Bananagrams

Valerie and Henri play a video game in the pilot house while Jarvis supervises

Erin and Valerie head for the water with their full face mask/snorkel gear 
Henri was the only Lyttle child to make it to the top of the hill saying,
"I'm sad I didn't want to come because its really pretty."

Erin and Paul on the top of the hill

Frosting Christmas cookies

Playing a card game with Grandma

 About a half hour after our guests left for the airport we slipped our lines and headed north for a 19 hour run back to La Paz so we would arrive in a place where we felt we would have a community to join in for Christmas celebrations.  The run north started with the usual headwinds coming from Arizona down the Sea of Cortez and making for an uncomfortable bounce.  Between wind and currents and using our paravanes we were slowed to 4.5 knots (AKA “really slow”) and all we could do was hope that we had read the weather charts correctly and all would change in the evening.  Sure enough at about 9 PM the near full moon came out, the wind and waves dies out, and we had smooth sailing which brought us into La Paz about 10 AM.

We confirmed on the morning radio net what time the Christmas Eve Club Cruceros potluck would be and then settled in for a much needed nap (with A/C running on December 24th!).  We enjoyed the evening meal  with Max and his girls at our table and then attended a lessons and carols type service in the marina parking lot.  The next day Clarice and I walked up to the local Catholic cathedral and joined in the Christmas service.  While the service was in Spanish the message was clear in meaning.  We did find in surprising that the church nativity scene was a snow scene with a campfire for the Christ child.  The photos don’t include the Baby Jesus because he was being greeted at the front of the church by each of the congregants one at a time after waiting in line.

So with a very unusual (for us) Christmas past we are trying to get the boat cleaned after having housed 7 people for a week (Clarice’s present was to have a local man wax and polish the boat).  The motor oil has been changed and so Salish Aire is mechanically ready to take us out whenever we are ready to go which for the next month will be in the La Paz area as we have secured a slip in La Paz for a month.
The boat waxing team at work

Boats lit up for Christmas

The Nativity scene in the cathedral
The shirt says it all!

Saturday, December 1, 2018

San Diego to Bahia Frailes (Friars Bay)

Wow, have I been procrastinating getting an update done. I see the last note ended when we were approaching San Diego Harbor.
Approaching San Diego

San Diego downtown from our spot in the "cruisers anchorage"

San Diego is a bit of a challenge from a cruising boat’s point of view as anchorages are very limited and transient berths at marinas very expensive and scarce. The city harbor authority has helped out some by creating a “cruisers’ anchorage” area where those from outside of San Diego County can get up to 3 – 30 day permits to anchor in a 1 year period at no cost (that’s the good news).  To qualify for a permit you need to present your boat for an inspection at the police dock near the harbor entry where they confirm that you have holding tanks, fire extinguishers, and a generally seaworthy boat. The anchorage itself is across the street from San Diego International Airport (luckily at the usual landing end of the single runway so the noise from the airport is fairly minimal).  The anchorage lies directly between Coast Guard Station San Diego and Naval Station San Diego.  The fun begins when the new CG helicopter pilots practice hovering seemingly for an hour at a time and or the Navy decides to send a jet or two out from the airport BUT the real is the boat traffic.  I had never understood when our friend, John,  who grew up and learned to sail in San Diego talked about there is really nowhere to go like we were used to in the Pacific Northwest.  In San Diego there is one very large harbor or open ocean to choose from.  From about 10 AM to 8 PM we were constantly in motion from wakes from passing pleasure fast boats, big fishing boats, navy craft (up to and including aircraft carriers), and tour boats that decided we were of interest to their customers with our paravanes so they made sure to pass close by and explain their function over the loudspeakers multiple times a day.  Getting to shore meant a run on the dinghy to one of 3 very crowded dinghy docks where we carefully locked motors , fuel cans, life jackets, and other contents into the dinghy and then locked the boat to the dock with a ¼ inch stainless cable (this was highly recommended by the harbor police and other boaters as even unlocked oars quickly walked away).   On the positive side there are lots of marine focused services within an easy bike ride and with the Baja Ha Ha rally of 130 boats about to head south there were even low cost seminars to help us prepare for Mexico.
The other nice thing about San Diego was that John’s brother, Jerry, and his wife still live there and own a local business. They were very helpful in getting us to church services, making sure we saw the sights, and accepting packages for us.  We also met a number of other cruisers while we were there who also were planning to leave after the Baja Ha Ha like us to avoid the crowd (we jokingly referred to this group as the Ha Ha Baja folks).  Some other friends with a Nordhavn 46 also came into town and we had time to enjoy their company.  All and all the friendships we built and renewed have already proven their value as we have spent the past two evenings with a family from Puget Sound who are anchored near us.
Stealth navy tri-hull warship passes in front of an aircraft carrier

Salish Aire at anchor San Diego

I periodically check in on the progress of Space X on the computer.  I happened to look just in time to see an announcement that in about 15 more minutes "southern California should get a good show from a launch from Vandenburg AFB.  The cloud cover was perfect for a spectacular show. 

The second stage of the Space X rocket is on the left while on the right the first stage burns to
 prepare for the first ever land rocket landing on the USA west coast.

We did some touring while we were in San Diego including a bike ride up to the Zoo which deserves every accolade it has ever gotten.  I have always been amazed at how Disneyland takes a number of “lands” and stuffs them into a very small footprint and yet you really feel like you travel half way across the world going from one land to another.  The San Diego Zoo seems to have taken that skill one step further by adding the animal displays in the native habitats. We also took time to take in some of the other San Diego sights.

San Diego Maritime Museum

Old Town San Diego
A sailor's welcome home

Jarvis visits Little Italy on Halloween

We also rented a car for a couple of days and loaded the pup tent, sleeping bags, single burner backpacking stove, and Jarvis and headed for the desert.  We ended up in Joshua Tree National Park and once again fell in love with the desert scenery.  We’ve driven on the freeway across the southern edge of the Joshua tree area but have never really explored the part before.  It was pretty amazing and well worth the drive.  The previous Friday we had gotten pelted at our anchorage in San Diego by a fast moving front and thunderstorm.  Apparently the weather made it over the coast range and dumped on the desert as well.  Driving through the town of Joshua tree we laughed to see snow plows being used to move huge amounts of desert soil from the roads where it had washed down in the rare rainstorm.  (We didn’t have the opportunity to travel to the south entrance of the park as the road was washed out!)

Jumbo Rocks campground Joshua Tree NP

Joshua Tree NP

Joshua Tree NP

Joshua Tree NP
Joshua Tree NP

Joshua Tree NP

Joshua Tree NP

From Joshua tree we headed south past the Salton Sea and ended up in Anzo-Borrego Springs State Park.  I had been there as a child and once with Clarice and the kids always hoping to see the storied flower blooms only finding a dry desert.  This time I chose to walk a trail to a small oasis up in one of the canyons – the transformation from a dry canyon strewn with house sized boulders rolled in the periodic floods from high in the mountains to a lush growth of palm trees and reed grasses was worth the effort. The GPS led us on a mountainous twisty road back to San Diego and we felt like we had left the sea behind for a few days.

Salton Sea

Trail in Anza-Borrego State Park

Trail in Anza-Borrego State Park

Oasis in Anza-Borrego State Park

Oasis in Anza-Borrego State Park

My big purchase in San Diego was a new electric assist bicycle.  We knew the battery on my old bike was near the end of its service life and a new one would cost $400.  I had also ridden my bike through the winter in Sitka where the road salt and sand took its toll making my bike in much worse condition than Clarice’s matching one.  I kept looking at a very nice folding bike with a couple of generations newer battery and motor at a local bike shop and finally bought a Pedagio Latch from Sean (I had been by the shop so many times I started to refer to myself as the “Latch Stalker”).  The best demonstration of its capability was a 30 mile round trip ride (including a VERY substantial uphill run) to REI to buy a bike trailer for Clarice like one she had seen on another cruising boat.

I pick up my new Pedego Latch from Sean at San Diego Pedego
Our last two days we stayed at the city dock where we topped off our batteries and water supplies and headed out of the United States on November 1st for a short run to Ensenada Mexico.

We had previously arranged to stay in Ensenada as the local marina includes a “get you through the paperwork” guide service as part of the moorage fee.  Ensenada was really a nice place to visit so we stayed a few days.  While we were there we took Clarice’s new bike trailer (no bike – using it as a hand cart) and went grocery shopping bringing back 40 # of oranges and other commodities we weren’t sure would be allowed across the border.  We were docked near the cruise ship area and enjoyed the local market and splash fountain (kids (and I) play in it during the day and in the evening it is fenced off and becomes a music and light show).   We were pleasantly surprised at the low cost (as long as we paid in pesos) of eating out and enjoyed many varieties of fish tacos and other local foods.   After 3 days we finally had all of our papers in order (LEARNING POINT: customs is very easy on a Saturday after being closed for a Friday holiday when there is a long line forming just as they opened and they had 2 cruise ships in town to process ;-)  ).

"Children" racing through the fountain trying to beat the spray

Fountain and massive Flag of Mexico


Cruise ship in Ensenada 
We left Ensenada early Sunday morning November 4th for our run to Bahia Colnett (Colnett Bay) the next major protected anchorage south.   

Turning oranges from Ensenada into orange juice
Turning oranges from Ensenada into orange juice

Our next anchorage was Bahia San Quintin where we had a quiet night at anchor. On our way we managed to catch two tuna before we had fully let our hand line out each time.  There was a small pocket beach where we could land the dinghy and climb up to a trail above the rocky beach.  The trail ended above a small fishing village on an estuary.  We didn’t talk ourselves into crossing the sandbar but watched a fisherman run his panga onto the bar while riding a larger wave and then push it across to the other side finally motoring into the village.  We met up with another sister ship, Nordhavn 46 “One Life” here and continued south along with them for the next couple of anchorages.

Tuna caught before the line was fully in the water

Tuna converted to taco

Drone photo of Bahia San Quintin thanks to Doug on One Life

Drone photo of Salish Aire (foreground) and sister ship One Life thanks to Doug
From Bahia San Quintin we made an overnight run to Turtle Bay. It was a long night for Clarice as she had to frequent the bathroom frequently in addition to her regular watches.  It was nice to have One Life in range of radar and radio should something go amiss. This may be one of the nights when Jarvis alerted me to the porpoises next to the boat during the night and one of the times a little black storm petrel decided to hitchhike on our bridge.
Jarvis takes care of Clarice when she's not feeling well
Several Storm Petrels hitchhiked on our  Portuguese bridge overnight

Turtle Bay is a regular stop on the Baja Ha Ha and the locals look to the boats for income.  There was a one armed man who watched for any dingy approaching the shore and was sure you must need assistance with garbage, or directions to the store, or moving your boat up the beach or something that would earn him a tip – sadly he overdid it and made himself rather unwelcome.  On the other hand everyone else we encountered was friendly and helpful as we made our way with our pathetic Spanish.  The town had a beautiful church that we understand was started as a gift of gratitude from some stranded sailors when they were helped by the villagers.  The phone service only covered voice so I visited the internet café a couple of times.  The speed was just above dial up and using a Spanish language keyboard was quite the challenge (e.g. to create an @ for an email address required pressing ctrl then 6 then 4 if I recall correctly).  Needless to say I did a couple of emails only but the young lady running the store / internet café was patient with my Spanish, had cold sodas at hand, and a cool floor for Jarvis to rest on. I took a walk with Jarvis to the top of a little hill and decided that this and much of Baja reminds me of the Badlands of South Dakota.  Doug from One Life and I walked up to check out a colorful little village we could see from the anchorage, it turned out to be one of two miniature villages / cemeteries.  The best I could ascertain was that a family would bury their dead close to each other and eventually build a memorial house over the graves.  The houses were quite crowded together and looking through the windows revealed that they were very elaborately decorated.  This was an interesting contrast to the houses for the living that didn’t seem to be nearly as well cared for (keeping in mind that this was shortly after dia de los muertos  when they would likely have been spruced up per Mexican Catholic custom).
Approaching Bahia Tortuga (Turtle Bay)

Bahia Tortuga (Turtle Bay) church

Bahia Tortuga (Turtle Bay)

Cemetery "village"

Looking through the window of cemetery village "house"
Pelicans enjoy a break on a local fishing boat
Terrain around Turtle Bay

From Bahia Tortuga we headed out for an overnight run to Bahia Santa Maria just outside of Bahia Magdalena.  My notes indicate we had a starlit night as we headed south finally getting to Bahia Santa Maria with just enough time before dusk to take Jarvis for a run on the beach.  The next morning we moved into Bahia Magdalena proper. The dune backed sand beach was a Jackhuahua’s dream come true where he could run as fast and far as he wanted, chase birds and bark to his heart’s content and sniff and pee and poop wherever he wanted just like his wild inner wolf said he should.  This was our last stop before another overnight run to the tip of the Baja Peninsula and turning the corner to our current goal of the Sea of Cortez.

Village in Magdalena Bay

Beach in Magdalena Bay

First some orientation: Cabo San Lucas is a resort area at the tip of the Baja Peninsula. San Jose del Cabo is the original town and is a few miles north of Cabo San Lucas.  San Jose del Cabo is also where the international airport is located. Los Cabos is a term dreamed up for marketing purposes and refers to the whole “Cabo” area. 

Arch at the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula

Southern tip of Baja Peninsula

Cabo San Lucas 

We initially tied up at the rather expensive but very nice (and with potable water!) marina in Cabo San Lucas.  This gave us a chance to get our land legs back and well rested.  We also topped all of our water tanks and our battery banks.  The Walmart in Cabo San Lucas is a really big and really nice store where we were greeted by an “English assistant” who helped out whenever we needed something translated.  We rode our bikes to the store and came back with probably 50# on my heavy duty back rack and 50# on Clarice’s fancy trailer (our San Diego splurge purchases are proving their worth already!).  We spent about $80 USD for what would have cost us about $150 USD back in Washington and much more in Alaska.  I later rode to Costco but didn’t find it to be as inexpensive in comparison and curiously it seemed to primarily have USA folk as the customers who bought the same things they were used to getting at Costco in the States (it was nice to find unscented laundry soap in Mexico).  We quickly tired of getting asked if we wanted to buy a hat or a trinket or a meal or if we needed a massage (hmmmm – not sure if legit or not).  We did finally find the Port Captain as we are required to check in and out of every major port as we move along (this sounded strange until we learned that foreign boats in the USA face the same requirement).  After two days we moved out of the marina and anchored off of the main beach where we swore we were in the middle of an interstate freeway with all of the tour boats and water taxies whizzing past us.  There was a nice pocket beach where we could land the kayaks and let Jarvis run while we would take turns snorkeling and checking out the many fishes. Otherwise to get to shore we would just hail a passing water taxi and get a ride. The bad thing was the NOISE!!!!!! .  Both in the marina and anchored was like being in the middle of a discotech 20 hours a day.  Sunset tour boats would go out with loudspeakers blaring and lights flashing and the open-air bars on the beach would have music or DJ’s blasting and yelling with the volume turned to high late into the night. When the three day holiday weekend in celebration of the Mexican Revolution ended we were finally able to get in to see the Port Capitan and clear out before we lost our hearing for good.

Resort Row Cabo San Lucas
Cabo San Lucas beach

Anchoring in Cabo San Lucas was a bit of a concern as the water drops off into an underwater canyon pretty close to shore.  We were a bit concerned that an off-shore wind might come up during the night and pull our anchor off of the drop-off.  To allow us to sleep more soundly we decided to put out a stern anchor to make sure we stayed stern to the shore.  

HOW NOT TO SET A STERN ANCHOR: We moved out of the expensive Cabo San Lucas marina today and set an anchor in front of resort row. The water here is quite deep and drops off pretty quickly so even with 300 ft of chain out we were concerned about the possibility of the wind shifting and pushing us off shore. THEN Clarice Gregory mentioned that she had read that folks sometimes set a stern anchor here to keep the boat pointed the right way. Setting a stern anchor before the main anchor is fairly straight forward but since we already had the main (bow) anchor set it seemed best to carry the stern anchor back and drop it. This is commonly done using a dingy but we didn't want to launch the dingy just for this purpose and I was concerned about balance if I tried to carry an anchor and chain on the kayak. So I opted to float the anchor with a type I life jacket and the chain with 2 throwable cushions and swim out with fins and snorkel through a virtual freeway of water taxis and personal water craft (AKA PWCs ). I managed to get far enough from the boat and not get run over (I also towed a bright orange diver down "sausage") AND get the flotation devices off of the anchor and chain simultaneously. It worked but definitely qualified as good cardiac exercise. Finally a word of thanks to the water taxi driver and PWC operator that watched out for me while I was in the water.

Recall that while approaching San Francisco we hit two logs one of which caused considerable damage to our port stabilizer fin.  We had gotten new hydraulic cylinders and a new hydraulic pump in Dana Point and installed them so the system was back and operational.  While we worked on it there we noted that there was grease coming out of the top seal on both fins which could be a sign that the lower seals were failing or that the grease had come through the seal two years ago after we replaced the bearings and we had never noticed it as there are covers over the top of the mechanisms.  We decided not to panic but to be prepared so we ordered new seals and a used main casting and a used torque arm that we had delivered to Jerry in San Diego.  Our hope was that once the grease was cleaned up it would not return and we would store the parts until our next planned haul-out.  If the grease did recur then we had the parts we expected to need in hand and could make repairs wherever we could arrange to haul the boat.  Sorry to say but the grease reappeared on our way down to Cabo.  The reason for the main casting was that when we sent underwater photos of the top of the fin to a person very familiar with our type of stabilizers after the collision he mentioned that it appeared that the casting had been mounted too low when it was originally installed so it protruded about ¼ inch into salt water and was likely suffering from corrosion.  In retrospect we recalled that when we had replaced the bearings in 2016 we had done some repair to corrosion damage on the lower edge and made a mental note to keep an eye on it.  Since the log had apparently loosened the casting it seemed a good time to address both issues at once, the log damage and the installation issue.  The torque arm had clearly bent about ¼ inch with the collision and I was able to bend it back only about half of that distance and then had to grind off a bit of the end of the hydraulic ram to make it fit.  Again it was working as I had it but it seemed prudent to do a full repair whenever I had everything apart. While we were in Cabo San Lucas we started calling yards as far north as La Paz to try to get a plan for hauling the boat.  We ended up deciding to use a yard in San Jose Del Cabo.

From the church, marina on the left, boat yard is the large building to the right, town is in the distance

From "Container Restaurant" (its build from shipping containers)

One of many sculptures around the marina is this massive cross that lights up at night
San Jose Del Cabo may only be a few miles north of Cabo San Lucas but it is as different as night and day when it comes to being quiet and relaxing.  The marina is about a mile from town which is much less resort and much more local in nature.  The boat yard was not inexpensive as we had been led to expect – apparently folks from southern California are used to very expensive boat yards and consider the Los Cabos yards to be a good deal but we are from Puget Sound and points north where yard rates are much cheaper.  That said; the yard itself was very clean and had excellent equipment and staff eager to help.  They agreed that we could work on our own boat and arranged for us to stay on it by providing us with an access key. (The marina allowed us to keep our keycard  The manager was telling me his background and it turns out that he used to manage the Bayliner plant in Arlington only a few miles from where we raised our children while he lived in Mill Creek near where our final terrestrial house is located – talk about a small world.  We worked our fannies off in the Mexican heat so we would be sure to find any surprises with enough time to correct them and not extend our yard time beyond what we had budgeted.  As it turned out there were no major unexpected findings and we were able to enjoy our final day in the yard as it was a Sunday and no one was around to launch the boat anyway.  The old casting was not as hard to remove as I had feared once I bought a “gato” at Walmart (it turns out gato translates to both “cat” and “car jack”).  The bearings showed no signs of water damage (we didn’t have bearings with us so if they had needed replacement they would have had to come from San Diego) which was a relief.  We did make a HUGE mess when we emptied the motor oil that the hydraulic system uses as a fluid and pulled out all of the 20 year old hoses as we decided to address another hose project while we had the system apart anyway.  When we returned the boat to the water on Monday we had to do some minor corrections but we were able to head north the next morning.

Hoses where labeled before removal to aid in reassembly (hmmm - some of the labels washed off at the hose shop)

A big hole in the bottom of the boat once the casting was removed

The replacement casting 
Out of the water we discovered that the log impact had crazed the gelcoat about a foot back on the fin, Clarice sanded it down and applied an epoxy coating then new paint

Scraping old sealant from the hole

"On the hard"

Getting hydraulic hose demonstrates some of the challenges of working in a foreign culture.  One of the yard folk took the hydraulic hoses to a local hydraulic store as soon as we pulled the boat out of the water (we had pulled the hoses the evening and morning before being lifted). The next day we were told the new hoses would be ready at shortly after noon and that the yard could provide a translator / driver to get us to the shop where the hoses were being made.  The plan was that we would pay directly for the hoses so that the yard would not need to add a markup for running the costs through their accounting system.  When we arrived at the hydraulic shop I confirmed that they could take a credit card.  As we stood around I realized that the hoses were not quite finished as they had apparently needed some additional fittings (likely from 2 different sources).  We find this to be common in that small operations cannot afford to stock as much as we are used to so they will accept the order and then have an employee run to another location to pick up supplies (e.g. I’ve ordered orange Fanta pop a couple of times and rather than saying it’s not in stock, an employee zips out the door to the grocery store down the block to buy a single can.) When we tried to run my credit card it wouldn’t go through.  I called my credit card company and they indicated that the charge request had never reached their computers but assured me they would accept the charge when it did.  To make a very long story short, it turned out that the bill was for $Mx 32000 pesos (about $US 1500) but the shop didn’t normally get orders that large so the bank had only set their credit card system to accept charges up to $Mx 5000 pesos.  Our next step was to go to the bank and try the cash machines but they only could dispense  $Mx 6000 pesos.  Even the bank manager couldn’t help with a solution (and the teller line looked like it was a DMV office).  In the end we gave up and asked the yard to cover the bill and we would pay a premium for their service.

Monday morning we broke a few rules and paid for it. We generally try to watch weather forecasts for a few weeks in a new cruising area so we can get a picture in our minds of what happens when.  We knew that there was wind expected from the north at 10 -15 knots but we didn’t know what that meant on these waters nor did we know how accurate forecasts are or aren’t in this area.  We also usually try to leave pretty early in the morning so we get going before daily winds pick up in the afternoon, on this day we figured we only had a 4 -5 hour run so no need to rush.  We generally have a rule that if our “gut” says something isn’t right then we need to consider why we are feeling that way – I felt rushed and noticed that a number of other boaters chose to stay in port rather than head out.  We have always heard that when you cruise on a schedule you are asking for trouble and we chose to leave primarily to save paying another day’s moorage fee in the marina. Finally before we head out we walk and crawl around the boat to make sure everything is ready for the sea, since the water was calm when we headed out we ignored this step.  About an hour into the trip the wind picked up off our bow to 17 -20 knots.  Rather than have gentle swell of 2 meters we had short period wind waves of 2 meters making the boat slam up and down from bow to stern – did I mention we didn’t set up the paravanes that are our defense against this kind of motion despite our practice of always doing so when we head into open water?  So we are bumping along and just enduring the trip when Clarice checks down below in our berth and finds a porthole that wasn’t battened closed.  Salt water is gushing in with each wave onto our bedroom settee and onto our printer/scanner and DVD player which toasted their electronics.  All we can say was that the anchorage in Bahia Failes was well protected and the beaches lovely and the snorkeling great and the friends who visited were great company so after a couple of days and nights it was all worth it.

Some parting shots of wildlife at sea including one of about 50 turtles that were resting on the surface in one area and dolphins jumping way out of the water. We have not yet been able to catch a photo of rays doing up to 3 head over tail flips out of the water or the schools of fish that visit the boat at night.


I just get a kick out of pelicans

One of about 50 turtles we saw in one area