Thursday, March 31, 2011

Isla Seashells

Home schooling enroute to a secluded cove
We anchored at an island where no other boats were.  As we approached the beach the kids ran ahead and returned with arms full of sea stars.  They covered the beach! 

Petrified baby eel found among seaweed.  It's approximately 2" in length.

Henry back onboard and practicing knots.

Swimming with sea lions

Sailing north from Espiritu Santo we knew we would pass by a small island, Los Isolotes, famous for its sea lion rookery.  We took the opportunity to sail by closely, hoping to see the lively creatures.  Once we were within 150 yards of the land mass we did indeed see numerous sea lions swimming and sunning themselves on the island, which was actually just a very large rock jutting out of the water.  We'd been told by reliable sources we could snorkel around the rock with the sea lions and decided, "Why not?" So into the water jumped Chandler, Henry, and me!  It was harder to see the lobos (sea lions) once we were at water level so Doug, stirring the boat, told us where to swim to get close to them.  As we came within 10 - 20 feet of the wild creatures we could see their heads pop up out of the water and they would make eye contact with us.  Pretty cool!  They didn't seem to mind our presence and in fact they seemed as curious about us as we were about them.

I must admit, it was a little creepy when I first jumped in the water; I wondered if the sea lions would slide up against me.  I tried to keep my legs on the surfboard as much as possible while still kicking to move around the bay. In the end none of us ever did touch a sea lion but the experience of swimming alongside them will stay with us for a long time to come.

Henry approximately 10 feet away from a sea lion with Chandler behind him

Chandler and Mom on the surfboard with Henry in the background

Gulls diving at fish below the surface and sea lions chasing the gulls away.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The last eight days

We set sail from La Paz on March 27.  Knowing that in 7 - 10 days we would drop anchor in our
 home port of Puerto Escondido made us all somewhat giddy yet we didn't want to rush this final chapter knowing we had some of the best anchorages to visit between here and there.

Our first night out we stopped once again at the well-known Caleta Lobos.  This was our fourth visit to Lobos and we had the navigation of it down pat.  After sailing for the majority of a year we certainly had learned and grown in our roles as cruisers.  Doug and I smiled at one another as we entered the anchorage.  We would always remember our first visit here back in December (check out the 12/20/10 post).  But tonight this would serve as an easy anchorage where we would drop the hook and enjoy some water time before heading north tomorrow.

The next morning we headed to Isla Espiritu Santo, a favorite island for cruisers with its many deep inlets serving as protection from winds and offering an away-from-it-all environment.  We chose the bay of El Mezteno.  The chaos of La Paz would soon be far behind us.

Once we neared the anchorage the kids wanted to go fishing off the dingy but it needed some air and required being pumped up manually so Chandler jumped in and got the work done. This required balance, persistence, and lots of energy and she gave it her all.

A job well done!
In the meantime Henry splashed into the water and paddled off on the surfboard in search of fish.  And fish he found!  Doug and he enjoyed the fruits of his labor right away.

Spearing fish

Freshest fish around!
Meanwhile Chandler relaxed from her dinghy pump-up by finding a quiet, shaded place to enjoy a good book.

 Afterwards we went ashore to enjoy the beach and the lowering sun with its sunburned glow on the land and it's soothing effect on the water.

Doug, Henry Wyatt, and the cardon cactus all splashed with sunlight

Chandler, Henry Wyatt, and Doug enjoy a jog along the shoreline
A boy and his stick, uh, well, his stump!

Chandler enjoys a tranquil moment.  (Photo taken through Ann's sunglasses for pink effect)

Back to HanaCrew/Windfall as night falls.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What's the difference?

Cruising on the sea of Cortez… a home in California.   What’s the difference?  If the agenda is the same, then little.   But each fosters its own agenda.   There are paths of least resistance that are easier to follow for each location.   Time efficiency is not a cruising attribute.  Lists are not either.   Neither are goals.   These are items when you control the environment.   

When the wind changes, your anchorage changes and that includes whatever “plans” scheduled for that day also.  If the fish bite, you hunt.   If the wind blows, you save fuel and go.  If the wind doesn’t blow, you stay and don’t make that scheduled arrival.  When the seas roll, it all goes on hold.  When that part needs repair to keep water out, keep a motor running, to keep power charging, or a doohickey needs hooking up to get more fresh water, these go to the list’s top.  

In other words, one does not write a book while cruising or even get through the stack of reading.   When the whales breach you look up, when the neighbor cruiser shares an adventure or sight to see, you listen up.  Add kids and all their wonder and the chances to share and explore and imagine with them, then lists work better when written over and blurred with water splotches.

Dolphins swimming alongside Eyoni
San Juanico, Sea of Cortez side of Baja

Thank you to Nancy on Eyoni for these fabulous photos!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Appreciating the Baja moments

How can one appreciate the experience enough?  How long can you stare?   How often can you wonder at the next cliff, the next dolphin pod, the next manta ray leap, the next unspoiled, perfect, coiling sea shell? 

 Anchorages at desolate beaches and rock formation like broken down sand castles surrounding your anchorage.  

An osprey returns with its morning catch to its perch on top of a rock with cactus on its top like a spiked helmet.
An orange moon rising over a low sand spit and casting its orange glow to the side of your boat.

A daughter humming herself to sleep in the V-berth.

Spotting manta rays pop out of the water like firecrackers.

Free diving in an aquarium with schools of fish within arms length:  a school of yellow-fin, dog fish, and a thin, football shaped silver fish, huge angel fish, and at the top of the reef oodles of rainbow wrasse, yellow and grey sergeant majors, blue fish, star fish, fan coral and a manta ray leaps out of the water 20 feet from where you are snorkeling and your kids tell you all about it. 

Sea caves and steep cliffs that drop straight into the water and form little shallow lagoons.  You can’t stay long enough because there’s another one to see around the corner.    

What is it like?
Finding large, perfect sea shells on the beach. 
The blue phosphorescent sparkles in the sea at night. 
Clams for lunch, fresh fish for dinner.
Kids collecting shells and black rocks called Apache tears
Its beauty steams over indifference.  You have to look.  You’ll forget “whatever” and be amazed.  And talk about it excitedly.  I’ve seen this happen to kids.  Keyboards and game boys sit idle.  

The Baja is unbroken, at least to the fresh tourist’s outlook.  It is foreign to the image of “beach” wedged into the Southern California mind.

Kid comments:
Henry, as we watched an animated movie, said, "She’s not singing that.  She’s lip-syncing.”  ( was animated)

A 4-year-old describing a noise he heard at night. “It was louder than a shooting star”.   

And yet another boat kid said, "When I grow up I’ll have my ketch and sail the Ohio river."

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Friendships, Stories, and "Jump!"

These entries are from friends we met in Baja. Their stories and friendships are what make this place a home and adventure. 

From: Greg Gordon on his fishing boat.
A True and Documented Mexican Fishing Tale From the Sea of Cortez.....
As we disembarked on our day at sea aboard Oh Loreto fishing vessel....I asked Jack and Marea (Greg's kids)..."What do you want to catch today?"....
Right away my son Jack says.. "A Marlin!"...Okay sure you do I say....They are pretty strong!
We start trolling Live Mackerel baits...I see a small Stripe Marlin in the baits all lit up!...I say..."There he is Jack!..He`s all yours!"
He grabs the light tackle rod with 25 LB test ....Hooks it and says,"I got it!..Fishawn!"
“Jack....Do you need some help I say?...
"No! I got it!"
40 minutes later without any help at all, it was at the boat...I say, "Do you want to release him?...He says "Are you kidding me!...I want to eat him!"
So in the boat he came....Jack couldn't stop smiling...In fact he went to sleep with the same smile and saying to me..."Ya know Dad...I am a big kid now"
This was probably the best fishing day of my life....And I caught nothing.
Proud Dad

From S/V (sailing vessel) Eyoni in Bahia Los Angeles, 2010 – A Tale of a Whale Shark Ride:
Spent two dreamy weeks in Refugio at the North end of Guardian Angel Island. It is spectacular: loads of quality fish, free-swimming scallops (to 6") and rock scallops (in as little as 8' of water - sort of like SoCal before the Abs were fished out), beautiful anchorages, scenery, arches and shells. Spent time in close company with a gaggle of sperm whales on the way up there (like w/in 30'!) and got whale- shark rides yesterday. The latter was crazy. 

Nancy ran the dingy to get near the whale sharks, and we'd hop in and swim the final approach. The viz was only about 20' and they initially shied away from me and Zada (our 5 year old daughter).  When Z got out of the water, I was able to power alongside them and make eye contact.  That made a difference. 

After swimming underwater, parallel (2-8 feet away) I'd dive beneath them belly to belly and would either be treated to their MONSTER back-lit sillouette looming above me or they would follow my eyes through the turn and barrel roll a complete 360 over the top of me. Crazy! 

While doing this I made one particular friend with a shark with a scar on his back who would circle back to me and stop in front of me at +/- 45 degrees with his mouth and eye about 1.5 feet away. After looking at each other for a while, I reached out and stroked his head which he seemed to like. Then, as he continued to swim with his remora entourage, I slid up onto his head (much wider than my full arm-spread) and had a ride. More Crazy and totally amazing! 

Well, Z sees all this and wants in on the action too. So we swim into another couple of the big fish and finally hook up with old Scar-Back. After he turned and approached us, we both pet him for a while then, as he continues swimming, I huck Z up on his back and follow suit. We both got a several minute ride, and at one point he swam past the dingy and I rolled off to push it away so N was treated to watching Z ride past the dingy 5' feet away while lying on the back of the
biggest shark in the sea!. We tried a couple more times but only got swim-by's. At one point I was lagging behind as we approached, so Z hopped off the dink by herself and took off swimming toward the fish by herself. She's getting comfortable in the water, that one....

In April of 2009 at the Loreto Cruiser Fest, Ann and I met three couples with children similar in age to ours who were sailing the Sea of Cortez and mainland Mexican coast. This was their first “cruising” experience. Their stories intrigued us; nudged us to consider possibilities. Their tales may nudge you too. 

S/V Windfall:
Ok. You sail in a lake in Colorado. Your wife’s first overnight is when you cast the lines from the dock and sail south down Mexico's Baja Peninsula . This is your first blue water sailboat. It’s 35' and a dog, your teenage son, and 9-year-old daughter are game for the ride. Reading manuals: equipment, weather, and safety, and picking experienced sailor-friend’s minds, and determining what is really needed on the boat is really all it takes. And you turn the key and go? They sold their internet host business, and said “adios” to a couple acres in Colorado and are picking up the language and endless skills along the way – including their son’s epic catch of a Dorado with his bare hands.  We were definitely inspired and amazed! In fact so much so, that we bought their boat 11 months later when they up-graded to a larger Tartan 41’.  Jim and Meri were filled with tips about preserving produce, weighing essentials vs. non-essentials (milk only if in powdered form), and a carefree attitude of, “How hard could it be?”

S/V Don Quixote:
A husband and wife with five college degrees and three children, ages 9 – 13, have an opthamology practice. A carpet cleaner stops in and offers his service to clean their 3,000 sq. ft. facility for $600.00. Opthamologist/landlord, Dean, agrees and watches the cleaner wrap up and scoot out two hours later. “That’s more than I make and less headache!” he muses. 

Sharing the revelation with “Toast” his wife, it didn’t take all five degrees to launch a plan, tidy up the business end, and join the Baja Ha-Ha sail down the coast: first sail; first boat. We met them during the first year of their cruise -- Skipper, Admiral, and all crew members looked healthy, happy and completely in the cruiser mindset.  

S/V Just A Minute
The Setting: the perfect burb (think Desperate Housewives); The Car: import – Volvo. The Job: away from home way too much. The School: not connecting with son, so Mom decides to home school. The Dilemma? Dad doesn’t see his 10-year-old son growing up. Mom suddenly sees the Setting/Car/Job as someone else’s life – in fact way too duplicated in many friends’ lives – and wants to clock out. The Solution: Pack up family , sell everything and go cruising. Mom emails Dad (away working as usual) the simple word, “Jump..."  Next day, the same email, “Jump..."   This continues for two weeks, and Dad leaps in with both feet. A couple of sea courses, and they make their maiden voyage headed to Mexico. They couldn’t look more at home at sea. Ask Dad, the former big exec. or Mom, the once had it “good in the hood” their thoughts on the transition, and it is -- hasta luego to that life! “Jump!”.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Tacos on the Street

La Cruz has the most delicious taco restaurant we've encountered on the mainland.  It's called, "Tacos on the Street".  The first time we were told about it and went looking for it, we thought we would find a bunch of push cart taco stands on one street.  Instead we found an open air restaurant with tables inside and also literally "on the street", not the sidewalk, the street.  12 pesos, $1.00 USD, per taco.  Tortillas filled with meat or pork and topped with avocado, tomatoes, cilantro, onion...the works!  We frequented "Tacos" plenty of times while in La Cruz both with groups of friends and on our own.  We generally had to get there close to opening at 5 PM since the line started forming around 5:30 and after that the wait could be up to an hour for a table. We figured they could seat maybe 100 people at a time and turned the tables over 4 to 5 times a night.  Nice little business!  We wonder why more taco stands don't offer such good food and make it work the way these guys do.  (Most photos below courtesy of Nancy on Eyoni)

The simple menu - not a lot of decisions to make here

Doug, Zada (S/V Eyoni), Chandler, and Henry Wyatt dig in before the crowds arrive

And the crowds, they do arrive

We order 12 tacos for four people thinking that will be enough but we always end up ordering more!

Ann and Ethan (S/V  Eyoni) enjoying the tacos and the company. Check out the coffee filter "plates".

It's almost like being at a large Italian family-style restaurant.  We all pile in order, eat, and then meander back to the boat, full to the brim.

The walk back to the boat is always fun too!

Henry and Max (S/V Feliz) sitting outside but looking inside someones house to glimpse a little T.V.

Chandler leads a game of Simon Says while parents linger and chat outside the restaurant
Mom's relate: Ann and Nancy (S/V Eyoni) holding the girl's horses as the girls run ahead to the park

Mia, Chandler, and Zada -'s what it's all about!

Henry Wyatt catches some air
Chandler takes a spin too!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Banderas Bay Regatta

Some experiences seem to mark a point where you can say, “That changed my view”…or “That was the first time I knew”… or…, you get the idea. This weekend, it wasn’t the rare sight of the space station whizzing overhead in the starry night on its way to Argentina (Wow, is that thing fast!). And it wasn’t the juiciest, most tender tacos served up on a street in four years of Mexico travel (if you’ve been there, that’s right -- its La Cruz’s “Tacos on the Street”). No, it was the selection of a 9 year old to ride rail and tail sheets on a 46 foot sloop “Splash” in the Annual Banderas Bay Regatta. It was Henry’s time at bat to take a swing in a league a couple seasons early and rub shoulders with a teens-only crew half a foot taller than he. The Skipper liked his pluck, his eye contact, his gumption to ask, and that he had one race under his belt with his dad two weeks earlier in the La Manzanilla Regatta. 

Henry Wyatt, front row, with other crew members and captain, right

Splish Splash heading out of La Cruz marina to race
 Was it the team racing shirt? Was it the time alone without sister or family? Was it hanging on the gunnels and leaning overboard with a bunch of older kids just as excited as he was to be burying the rail? Was it the announcement over the radio that “Splash” had just crossed the line and a 9 year old was at the helm doing 7.8 knots!? Whatever it was, Henry Wyatt walked the dock a little taller that night. He ate heartier, a little quieter. 
Henry at the helm!

 He rose and dressed the next morning with no coaxing to report for day two of the race (although postponed by surge predictions from tidal waves caused by Japan’s earthquake). Some events line up like planets and splash a little extra light into a small spot of otherwise ordinary night. These momentary bright orbits will dilute and fade, but keep us looking up for whatever spectacular chance may appear again; it just takes a little plump and gumption and an eye trained in the right direction. 
A captain's congratulation

Memories in the making!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Kid stuff

Amazing times for the kids out here.   

Thank you Nancy from Eyoni for the first five photos!

The Princess tea party

Costumes, courtesy of Eyoni; poses, courtesy of girls' imagination

Girlfriends, horses, and shadows, oh my!

The best trampoline in the fleet!  Thank you S/V Santosha.

Fast friends and happy days

Sleepover smiles

Bake sale in La Cruz. Kids made and sold baked goods to raise funds for kid burgees (flags for boats)

Breakfast salon.  Girls paint nails while Henry chops peppermint candies (left over from Christmas) for peppermint pancakes.

And those peppermint pancakes were yummy...look at those smiles!