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!

No comments:

Post a Comment