Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Some unlikely friends

It's been over a week since we left our 'buddy boats' in La Paz to make our crossing to Mazatlan and south. Several of you have asked to hear more about our friends, and we find them fascinating people.

Gypsy Wind's crew consists of Harvey and Kim Chernoff and their three kids Nikita (16), Kiya (15) and Noah (6). They call Nelson, BC their home, which is about a 9 hour drive from Vancouver, in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Harvey is a luxury home developer and has left his business in the care of his brother-in-laws. Kim is an artist and runs an artist's co-op. Gypsy Wind is a gorgeous 47 ft Vagabond (1986) ketch - interior is beautiful wood and very roomy with a great galley (kitchen) and some Persian rugs. Of all the boats we've been on, theirs feels the most homey.

On land, they live in a very tight-knit community with Kim's family, including her 99 year old grandfather who lives with Kim's mother. They are Dukabors, a group of Christians that left Russia around the turn of the century to avoid fighting in a war. As a community they are very peaceful and live a simple life. I remember learning about Dukabors in junior high school in Calgary as there were Dukabor communities close by. Dukabors are vegetarians, so given that we are keeping kosher, we've had a lot in common. In addition, Kim makes verenikes, latkes, blintzes, borscht and other Jewish comfort food, given their Russian roots. They had decided to catch fish and eat it along the way (essentially drawing their own 'kosher' line), but had such a traumatic experience killing their first one, that they've gone back to being strict vegetarians. For Jews, it would be like deciding to eat pork for a short period but killing the pig first. I feel for them. But boy, could we ever use some of the fish they've caught and then thrown back!

Meshach's crew consists of Thor and Tanya Temme, and their two kids Tristan (7) and Sienna (4). They sailed to San Diego to start the Baja Haha all the way from Hawaii where they live (Tanya grew up there). They live on Kuai, and surf and sail. In fact, Tanya's father started a surfboard manufacturing company. Thor rebuilt their trimaran over 4 years before this trip. It's a very cool looking boat, with some really inventive components. For example, their trampoline is actually seat belt canvas woven together. Tanya is a great cook, which is even more impressive given that they do not have a fridge or an oven on board.

Ten years ago Thor and Tanya sailed Meshach for a few years to the South Pacific. It turns out that Mark McNulty, our crew until Thanksgiving, had been aboard their boat in French Polynesia ten years ago. The cruising world is very small. Thor and Tanya also have incredible stories, including one where someone they had crewed with sent them a letter asking them to pick up the $40,000 he hid in the bilge in a boat that was being impounded due to his criminal activity that had landed him in jail.

Cruising gives you the opportunity to get to know some really interesting people. We are all out there helping each other out with information, sharing food, and whatever else there is to share. I suspect having a hunger for adventure and the unknown is what brings us together, but I certainly feel that our voyage is enriched by getting to know people like the Chernoff and Temme families.

And while we are on the subject of friends, we were joined last week by Harrison's buddy Kenji Greenberg and his mom Natsuko in Mazatlan. We did some exploring in Mazatlan, and set sail a couple of days ago for a 27 hour trip to San Blas (21 degrees 32.617 minutes N; 105 degrees, 17.612 minutes W). On the way, we saw dolphins and a very active and beautiful whale. Kenji has been participating in Harrison's homeschooling and it has been going so smoothly! The boys are in heaven being together again. I call Natsuko our resident healer and sushi chef. She has been an amazing crew member, massage therapist and cook. For those of you who know her from back home, she has an amazing gentle way about her, and it has been calming to have her aboard. Of course our highlight was when we caught a pompano on our way into San Blas marina. Within minutes, we were making fresh sushi rolls. It doesn't get much fresher than that!

We'll meet up with Kenji's dad Jonathan and his brother Tomo in La Cruz in a few days, and hopefully will share some more adventures with them. Tomorrow we are hoping to meet up with Alex and Sonia Bernstein (friends from San Francisco, CA) and their 3 kids, who are vacationing a bit north of Puerto Vallarta in a surfing town call San Francisco/San Pancho. We were hoping to anchor off the beach there, but because the surf is so high, we'd never get our dinghy over it without capsizing, so instead we'll meet them somewhere close by. Finally, our friends Mimi Arfin and Bob Rebitzer and their girls Elana and Maya are meeting us in Nuevo Vallarta, a bit north of Puerto Vallarta, until new years eve. We are all totally psyched to see them too, and hope they don't have to do too much explaining coming into Mexico with a large suitcase full of items we asked them to bring for us (all legal)!

More later.
Signing off underway somewhere in the Pacific on our way to Chacala Bay
21 degrees, 12.601 minutes N; 105 degrees, 14.453 minutes W

Kids On Board

My friend Kenji came on board on the 17th of December and ever since, Kenji has become a cruiser. We built a car that, when you pull back and let go, it goes forward. We do different subjects together in homeschool. Kenji, Danielle and I swing on the halyard around the mast. Natsuko, Kenji's mom, bought a seat that attaches to the halyard and we sit on it. I like having other kids on board.

Halyard - a rope that raises the sails.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

We've Arrived In Mazatlan

Yesterday, we left Los Muertos (23 degrees 59.48 minutes N by 109 degrees 49.67 minutes W) on the Baja coast for Mazatlan (23 degrees 16.18 minutes N by 106 degrees 27.32 minutes W)on the mainland. Its a 190 mile sail across the Sea of Cortez -- the longest off-shore sail (versus coastal sail) we've done. We raised anchor at 5:45 am on December 14th and were docked at the Mazatlan Marina at 9 am on the 15th. It was an awesome sail. We had wind of between 15 and 22 knots the whole way across and did it on one tack. As the sun set last night in the west (as it usually does) we were about 90 miles off the coast of Baja and could still see the outline of coastal mountains with the sun in the background. We put a reef in (made the main sail smaller) and changed out our screecher (a sail) for a small jib. Interestingly, with the smaller sails we really did not slow down much at all. We were averaging over 8 knots with a peak of nearly 12 knots -- that is catamaran sailing. We had actually budgeted 35 - 40 hours for the crossing but with the wind we had and the speed we were making we did the crossing in approximately 27 hours!

Barb and I each shared the night watches three hours on/three hours off. That worked out well and believe it or not, Barb has not yet taken a nap today! :) My last off watch this morning was cut short because while Barb was on watch and as the sun was coming up a school of dolphins was swimming beside and in front of our boat. It was so impressive that she had to wake me -- and it was worth it.

The last time I was in Mazatlan was over 25 years ago when I came here with my sisters and parents over Christmas break. While we have not yet been into town yet (home school and cleaning up the boat), the skyline looks much more impressive than when we were last here. Also, last time, I remember every afternoon after we were at the beach and back in our hotel rooms taking showers yelling (six stories down to the maintenance staff -- no room phones) "NO AGUA, NO AGUA". For what ever reason, there just was not enough water to service the hotel. Well, I can tell you today there seems to be plenty of agua as I was able to do a thorough wash down of our boat and I had excellent water pressure.

I sure hope there is water left for us to take showers this afternoon....


Monday, December 14, 2009

Our favorite boat names

Just passing the time as we make our 3 day crossing from the Baja Peninsula to the mainland (Mazatlan is our goal), we wrote down our list of favorite boat names.

There are those that clearly would rather be sailing:
Exit Strategy
Outta Here
Gato Go (note: Gato means cat in Spanish - this is a catamaran)
Done Dealing

Fishing vessels:
Tuna Tamer
Reel Pain

X-rated (try these using the VHF hailing system - see Barb's previous post on this):
Rock Hard
Lucky Dick
Simple Pleasures
Wet Dream

Those that name their dinghies to go along with the 'mother ship':
Sea Weavel; dinghy name: Lesser of Two Weavels
Just a Minute; dinghy name: Just a Second

Many that play on the wind:
Prevailing Wind

And some others:
Hello World
Broken Compass
The Office (as in: I'm going to the Office)
Risk Taker
Beach Access
Pipe Dream
Ballena (in Spanish, this is a whale)

Chrokeva - this one is a play on the owner's kids' names: Chris, Robert, Kevin and Virginia

And then there's the not-so-creative:
No Name

Of course, there is ours "Whatcha Gonna Do" and we are beginning to figure out what we gonna do.....

We'll post more as we come across them. In the meantime, please send us your favorites...

Signing off from somewhere along the southern crossing of the Sea of Cortez,
23 degrees, 58.36 minutes N; 109 degrees, 12.97 minutes W,

Some highlights of our 11 day exploration of the islands around La Paz

Before I forget, I wanted to capture some highlights of our 11 days at various anchorages in and around the islands close to La Paz, heading further north into the Sea of Cortez. When we are back with internet access, I'll edit this post to include some photos, so stay tuned for those additions.

Our first stop was Isla Espiritu Santo, where we anchored for three nights at Bahia San Gabriel (24 degrees 25.7 minutes N, 110 degrees 21.57 minutes W). There was only one other boat anchored in this vast stretch of beach, with gorgeous stratified cliffs in the background. It was from this location that we did our 'school desert field trip' to the other side of the island, ending up at Playa Bonanza, another gorgeous stretch of beach. Both kids blogged about what we saw along the way, including plenty of mud on the way back. We also visited the ruins of what used to be a pearl fishery. We learned about tides in a big way - the beach at San Gabriel has a sand shelf that is the same depth for at least a quarter of mile. When we brought our dinghy in to shore, we had to anchor it way out in high tide, and lucky that we did: When we returned at low tide, we had to walk out the quarter mile as it was on sand. (photo)

Next stop: Isla Partida, where we anchored for the next three nights at Ensanada Grande (24 degrees 33.631 minutes N, 110 degrees 13.771 minutes W). By this time our friends on Gypsy Wind and on Meshach caught up to us, so we hung out with them here. Highlights included a bonfire on the beach one night, the kids building a teepee on the beach, cutting Michael's hair, and skurfing (being pulled behind a dinghy on a surfboard with a waterski rope; it looks like wake boarding). (photos)

From Isla Partida, we visited Los Islotes (24 degrees, 35.79 minutes N, 110 degrees, 24.24 minutes W) to swim with the sea lions - definitely a highlight as Danielle has already written about. And yes, I was scared. Much preferred to stay on the kayak - the sea lion pups would play with the kayak by bumping up against its underside and chewing on the rubber ring at the end of the kayak. That was certainly enough excitement for me! We had heard that just a day or two earlier, a woman was swimming in the water and got between a mother and her pups so the mother grabbed her arm and pulled her away. That's all I kept thinking about in the water, so I opted for the kayak. Our friend Tanya on Meshach had a seal pup jump into her lap on her kayak a couple of days later when they returned for a second time - she loved it but I would have screamed for sure! (photos)

There is no place to anchor at Los Islotes, so we continued on to Isla San Francisco (24 degrees, 49.12 minutes N, 110 degrees, 34 minutes W), possibly my favorite anchorage so far. We stayed here for two nights. Great hike along the ridge, from where we had an incredible view of 5 separate pods of whales heading south. Utterly wonderous. From there the hike continued on to sea level where we passed through some salt ponds, then to the other side of the islands where we searched for agotes (crystals) and seashells. Just gorgeous. (photos)

Next, we anchored at Isla Coyote (24 degrees, 51.04 minutes N, 110 degrees, 34.86 minutes W), a rather strange place. The island covers maybe 2-3 acres, and is inhabited by a family that has been there for 150+ years. Currently there are 10 people living there. They have a small structure that serves as their church, and they have solar panels on each of the approx. 5 or 6 homes. Everyone has a VHF radio. They make a living by fishing, salting their fish, and jewelry making for sale to the gringos like us (Danielle and I were happy to oblige with a pair of earrings each). Believe it or not, they have a Whale Museum, which consists of the whale carcass that wraps around the island and a large sign that says Museo de Ballena. We spent a couple of hours there and moved on to our next anchorage. (photo)

Our next anchorage was at the north end of Isla San Jose at Mangele Solo (25 degrees, 01.77 minutes N, 110 degrees, 42.36 minutes W), our point furthest north. This was the only anchorage we stayed at without other boats. Incredibly peaceful, with a cactus forest on the hills surrounding the beach, until a panga with 4 men motored toward us in high speeds. We freaked out a bit - Michael sent the kids inside, told Danielle to get us our satellite phone, and we waited for them to arrive. They actually appeared to be wanting to tie onto our boat so Michael kept our motors running and spun in circles. It was really scary until we figured out that they just wanted to sell us chocolate clams. This experience prompted us to have a safety review with the kids, from what's in a ditch bag and how to deploy our liferaft, to putting out a fire and using the Single Side Band radio and/or the EPIRB (an emergency device that, when deployed, sends a signal with our position to the US Coast Guard who then sends someone out to rescue us - if you remember the story of the boat that sank due to being hit by a whale, it was the EPIRB that saved them by notifying the Coast Guard of their distress). In any case, the reason for anchoring in this spot was because you supposedly can see many whales and dolphins, but unfortunately we didn't book ahead with them so they never showed up. In the morning, we discovered two dozen eggs had gone moldy so the kids had a hysterical time throwing rotten eggs one by one off the side of the boat. (photo)

After one night at Mangele Solo, we continued on to the mainland of the Baja Peninsula to a small town called San Evaristo (24 degrees, 54.64 minutes N, 110 degrees, 42.38 minutes W). Apparently this is a fishing village of about 20 families and a general store that opens only when they feel like it (it was closed when we were there). We passed the town elementary school - basically two rooms with a basketball court - and a desalination plant (that seemed to consist of a hole in the ground with a really old motor and some tubing connected here and there). Three horses roamed the town freely. On our way back to fetch our dinghy to get back to the boat, a fisherman offered us some free fish - a very tasty yellowtail. The fisherman fileted it and made a little hole in the filet tails so that Michael could carry it back to the boat. One thing about the Mexicans that's definite - they are very resourceful! (photo)

We spent one night at anchor in San Evaristo and we woke up at 6 a.m. to begin our sail back to La Paz. Which reminds me: I have been getting up by 7 or 7:15 every morning since I posted that I would. Homeschooling has definitely improved, and I'm better for it.

Signing off from the Sea of Cortez 39 miles offshore,
23 degrees 56.394 minutes N, 109 degrees 06.283 minutes west,

Sunday, December 13, 2009

We need Spanish lessons

Barb went grocery shopping yesterday.  Included on the list was some shampoo and body wash.  Had an interesting shower last night when I washed my hair with Head and Shoulders conditioner and my body with Dove moisturizing cream.  And she told me her French was close enough to Spanish for us to get by!

My Lego

My mom told me, "I read in a sailing book that said a kid that is cruising needs lego."  But I have so many legos that my friends that have lego come to my boat to play lego.  I have two big 2-gallon bags and 2 small.
I built a car with so many details, it looks like a model.  It has a trailer full of a toy hand car wash, that has something that says, "$15.00" so I tell people "$15.00 for a hand car wash."  My friends Tristan (6) and Noah (7) come to play legos with me.  I guess my mom's book was correct! 

Update on La Paz send-off

We did have a send-off at 6:30 a.m. this morning. In addition to our friend Thor from the sailing vessel Meshach, who helped us get off the docks, we had some dolphins jumping in the background to the sound of the church bells ringing. Should be a great day.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The La Paz Vortex

La Paz is like Hotel California: You can check in any time you like, but you can never leave...

We arrived in La Paz the first time a week before American Thanksgiving and stayed 11days. After spending the next 11 days in the Islands further north in the Sea of Cortez, we returned here 2 days ago with the intention of staying overnight and moving on to make our crossing to the mainland. But it's so hard to get off the dock. If it weren't for some friends that we are meeting in Mazatlan on the 17th, we might have stayed for longer.

We fully understand why so many arrive in La Paz and never leave. In fact, we have met many of those people. La Paz is everything wonderful about Mexico without any of the bad stuff. The people are friendly, happy, helpful. They are family-oriented, they love their celebrations, and they are colorful. But there are no vendors trying to sell you stuff on the beach or elsewhere, we have seen no begging or poverty, and the city is relatively clean. Okay, so there are no zoning laws that we can see, but it is a pretty civilized place.

The population, as we've been told, is about 100,000. It's a 'government town', being the capital of Baha Sur (the southern half of the Baja Peninsula) and as such receives a lot of government money. There is the traditional cathedral opposite the central plaza where bingo is played on Saturday nights, a cultural center, a malacon (boardwalk) where locals regularly stroll, and yes, Home Depot just had it's grand opening on December 6 [that's not to say it's a quick in and out - our friends who visited today said it took them several hours to do their shopping]. We were lucky enough to be here during Revolution Day celebrating Mexico's freedom from dictatorship in 1910, with parades, music in the streets, traditional dance performances, and lots of fun. Mexicans know how to throw a party.

And then there's the Bread Guy. That's seriously what he calls himself. He's a transplanted American - one of those guys who arrived 10 years ago and never left - and he runs a small bakery with amazing breads. We have visited his shop three times, and the bread has never made it home with more than a few crumbs.

The big resorts and condos have not yet made it here to La Paz, which is what makes the city so charming. There are not many tall buildings yet dotting the coastline, most of the Mexicans you deal with in the shops off the malecon (boardwalk) do not speak English, and for better or worse, it does not have any of the toursity hub-bub of Cabo San Lucas. We have found our way around nicely, mostly on foot, as the city streets are all on a grid - no windy streets to get lost in. From what we can see, there are no shanties here.

Within the marina / cruisers world, it's an incredibly easy place to be. There is a daily 'Net' which I referred to in an earlier post, run by Club Cruceros which also has a clubhouse and coffee hour every day just outside the Marina de la Paz (check out their website at ClubCruceros.com). The Net begins at 8 a.m. every morning except Sunday on VHF Channel 22 (remember the 'party line' I posted about?) and is led by different English speaking North Americans living in La Paz. It begins with daily arrivals/departures, mail call from the local marinas, marina announcements, Club Cruceros announcements, rides and crew (anyone looking for a ride or crew), local events, local assitance, and swaps and trades. Because one cannot sell anything for money here unless you are a Mexican citizen or have a vendor's licence, when someone has something to 'swap or trade', often you'll hear them say they've got something to sell 'for coconuts'. We bought some extra line (rope) for coconuts that happened to be made into paper with faces on it. As for local assistance, I found out you can find veggie burgers at the CCC supermarket.

And we've made some great friends. So much so that when we left for the islands, we actually had a crowd waving us off at the docks. Harrison even commented: "Finally, a crowd to send us off!" I'll write more about these friends in another blog post, but we've had a great time with them - many meals shared, laughs, playdates with the kids, borrowing eggs, limes and zucchini. I imagine that this is what it was like in the 60's when neighbors were really neighbors, and you spoke to each other daily, not by phone but because you were outside hanging laundry or fetching kids, or walking to the store. You pick things up at the store for your friends. You take their kids when they are trying to get boat projects done and they do the same for you. The men talk about boat equipment and projects and the women talk about homeschooling, food and cooking, grocery shopping, and the luxuries we found locally or the ones we miss from home. Back home I would find this division almost insulting, yet here there is a comforting simplicity to it all.

Because of the kid boats, our kids have gained a tremendous amount of freedom and independence. They roam freely within the marina (the gates are locked) and the Clubhouse playground, so long as they are together with other kids and let us know by VHF radio when they change locations or go to someone else's boat. We've even tried buddy homeschooling (Harrison went to one of his friend's boats and one of Danielle's friends came to our boat) - it actually went quite smoothly too.

For the boys between ages 6-9, you'd think you were on Leave It to Beaver. They spend hours on end fishing off the docks, or pulling barnacles off the sides of the docks and dissecting them, or setting off paper boats in the water to see whether they will sink, or keeping pet hermit crabs or fish or who knows what else. There is a bit of a wider range in age for the girls - Danielle's friends range between 10 and 15, and they often look after a 4 year old. Everyone loves swinging from the halyard on our boat or someone else's boat, although I can never watch that activity as I imagine them coming in straight for the mast and sliding down like the coyote does in the Roadrunner cartoon.

When we returned to La Paz after being away for nearly two weeks, it felt great to come into a familiar port. We knew the ropes already - where to shop, where to go for dinner, where to find someone to do some boat work. And it was great to see some familiar faces too.

There won't be a crowd in the morning waving us off as we'll be setting out at 6 a.m. to make it to our next anchor by sundown. We had to say our goodbyes tonight, but we'll be seeing many of our new friends on the mainland over the next month or so. Someone's gotta leave first, but it sure w0uld be easy to stay put for another little while.

Signing off from La Paz,

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A comment on your comments

We just wanted everyone to know how much we enjoy receiving your comments. While we cannot reply to each one, we gather around the computer each night after the dishes are done and read all of them. We get so excited to hear from you all, so please keep them coming. They are a wonderful source of encouragement for the kids' writing, and they are our connection to the 'real' world. In fact, we have no clue what's going on in the world at all - other than the weather. We'll do a separate post on weather one of these days, I'm sure, but suffice it to say we know when there is a storm in California as it usually travels down here...

Back to your comments. We've heard from old friends and new, business colleagues, people that we haven't spoken to in years and acquaintances. We've been hearing from our family in Toronto almost daily - more than when we are on land - and we are loving it!! We love each and every comment, whether from a familiar email address or not. It's like our own personal Facebook page on the water.

Let us know what you're curious about, or what you'd like to hear more on.

We do try to post photos whenever we can, but we do require internet access to post more than one or two at a time. When we do post via the Single Sideband radio (i.e. when we don't have internet), it uses up limited time we have to receive and send emails, so we often choose to wait until we have internet access.

I also have to say that I love my friends and family! Your support after my last post was so welcomed, you have no idea. Just so that you know, it's been back to a great experience since then. In fact, our buddy boats started grounding their kids until they'd get their work done - could it be that we set the tone?

And so, please keep commenting.

Signing off from San Evaristo on the Baja Peninsula,
24 degrees, 54.633 minutes N; 110 degrees, 42.367 minutes W

Monday, December 7, 2009

Kings, Protectors, and Babies of the Sea

In Los Islotes, Espiritu Santo National Park, there's an experience that you would never forget. Up the coast of the Baja, on the side that's in the Gulf of California, there are many different places where you can see sea lions. But at the one in Los Islotes, a sea lion rookery, or breeding ground and home, you can swim with these graceful swimmers.

The male, big and black, are like the kings. We rode in the kayak into a cave, and were about to go in when one of those "kings" swam up to us barking-in other words, telling us to get out of his "castle".

The females, smaller than the males and tan, are very protective of their babies. My mom and dad were kayaking and got too close. A female came up and swam between the pups and my parents, barking, until they piffled away. A few days ago, a woman was swimming too close and wouldn't swim away, so a female bit, not to hurt her, but to drag her away.

Pups, smaller than females, are like real babies-they LOVE to play and chew on chew toys (a.k.a. snorkel fins and kayak paddles). My dad and I were swimming, and I was beginning not to feel as scared as I had before, when all the pups came out to play, bit dad's flipper at least 20 times and chewed on my mom's paddle. One even climbed on my dad's shoulder, until I made a quick movement and it swam away. This is probably why my mom preferred to be in the kayak. Okay, you made me admit it. I got really scared again.

So, if you ever had a choice, I really hope you decide to come and visit the kings, protectors, and babies of the sea, living in their own version of a castle. You'd all enjoy it. I know I did!


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Sunday, December 6, 2009

A vent, a head and a battery

So I have not posted in a while. It seems there are always things to do. If its not working on the boat its cleaning the boat, helping with a meal or on occasion, reading a book or magazine. So, I've been busy.

Anyhow, today we left Ensenada Grande on Isla la Partida for a day stop at Los Islotes, a sea lion rookery. It was an opportunity of a lifetime to swim with sea lions of all sizes from pups to bulls. They would swim up to us, nibble on our fins and do twirls and spins to perform and entertain. I am sure Danielle or Harrison will post more on this later.

Now we are on our way to Isla San Francisco (24 degrees 49.9 minutes north by 110 degrees 34.6 minutes west), Barb is giving herself a pedicure, Harrison is taking pictures and Danielle is reading and on watch. I guess Barb's venting yesterday is over with and she is more relaxed. I on the other hand (read venting), seem to always have to fix or tweak something on the boat. Boat ownership is fun but there are always things that need doing -- and this boat, like many cruising boats these days, have lots of systems on them -- including water makers, generators for charging batteries and producing AC power, inverters (for converting DC power to AC power), two diesel engines, an outboard engine, navigation equipment, email (which needs to be sent over a single sideband radio), vhf radios, sails, rigging, refrigeration and water heaters and pumps -- and all need to be monitored and maintained. So, while I might not be doing as much cooking and home schooling there are plenty of things to keep busy with.

When on land we take so many things for granted. Barb's already talked about water. I will talk about a few others. At home, we flush the toilet. Do we ever really think about where all that stuff goes when we flush that toilet? The system just works. Maybe the toilet bowl needs to get cleaned on a regular basis or on a rare occasion it gets clogged. On a boat however, we have special toilets, called heads. These heads bring in saltwater (saltwater with anything is usually never a great thing) into the toilet and then when you flush you either have a manual pump or electric pump that pumps and/or macerates the waste into a holding tank. At home we don't have holding tanks to worry about. However, on a boat, you can't just flush overboard (unless you are three miles offshore. Instead you flush/pump into a holding tank. So you have to monitor that. How full is it? What do you do when it gets full? Well, you try to time when it gets full to when you are leaving the dock (and heading three miles offshore) or you have to either have a service that comes to pump it out or you have to head (no pun intended) to a pump out dock and pump it out into the municipal waste system. Our preference, of course, is to pump out offshore. Its a lot easier.

Then there are batteries. I have not given amps much thought since engineering school, and I will be honest, I've forgotten most of it. We are constantly monitoring amps. At home we really take electricity for granted unless it is August 14, 2004 (not only Barb and my birthday, but also my nephew Sam's bris and the day the east coast went dark). At home we turn the lights on or off, we don't ask where the electricity is coming from or how it was generated and we really don't have any good way of monitoring how much we are using. It is not until we get a bill from the electric company at the end of the month do we say "wow did I use that much?"

On board, our electricity comes from our bank of batteries, our generator and/or diesel engines which run an alternator which generates electricity. We have batteries that when fully charged will hold 660 amp hours. That means if I use something that draws 10 amps I can run it for 66 hours. For example, our salon lights use 3.2 amps. Also, you never want your batteries to go below 50% (or about 330 amp hours). So, we are always looking at what lights, radios, computers, water pumps, refrigeration, navigation equipment, etc. are on to minimize how often we need to charge our batteries since charging them requires us to either run the engines or run the generator. We are also monitoring our battery meter to see what our battery level is at and how many aggregate amps we are using. So, we have a little game on board. We turn things off and see how many amps we save. We have an amp cop -- that's me. Did you turn your lights off? Why is that hull light on? Do we really need to charge that vacuum?

Even with solar panels and trying our best to monitor and minimize our usage, we seem to have to run our generator every couple of days -- which from what we hear from other boaters is not too bad (they run them every day). I do think a home based product that monitored electricity usage would be a great product. Because, if you can't measure something how can you really know if you are using something a lot or a little. And, as I like to ask, does anyone really know how much it costs to run their washing machine or dishwasher either? NO. But if they did, perhaps they would use them differently -- that is my cleantech plug.

So, as you can see, it is not just about getting a boat from point A to point B safely or dealing with home schooling or boat cleaning, it is also about making sure all the systems are working properly. Great fun and a great learning experience.

So, we now are approaching Isla San Francisco. Time to navigate our approach and think about where we will anchor. And then of course, there is fishing, swimming and dinner and tomorrow probably a hike to some salt ponds.

More later,


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Michael Post

I was going to post something but it seems to be clear from the comments to Barb's, Danielle's and Harrison's posts that there is no way that I could come close to producing the quality of writing and stories nor would I get the sympathy and hugs that Barb got if I were to complain about the amount of cleaning and boat maintenance required by me or about listening to the home school banter.

That's my post.


PS. Barb gave me a haircut yesterday. She took off more than what is left, but had tons of fun and laughed a lot.

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Saturday, December 5, 2009

Calm seas, light winds, but no smooth sailing aboard this vessel

I know I said my next post would be about life in La Paz, but I need to vent a bit. While these blog posts make it seem like life is a constant vacation, I'd feel more understood if you got a piece of reality as well.

Homeschooling is not easy.

We probably hit our proverbial brick wall two days ago (Thursday, December 3) when we left Bahia San Gabriel on Isla Espiritu Santo for our rendez-vous with some buddy boats on Isla Partida. We got up early to get the boat ready to leave. We had discussed with the kids that we'd need to be ready to leave early so that we wouldn't waste the whole day, which meant our morning checklist (other than breakfast and schooling) completed: Get dressed, tidy your room, make your bed, brush teeth, take vitamins, do chores (salon duty or cockpit duty includes tidying up those areas, taking off or putting up clothes on the lines, wiping down tables, vacuuming the floors, rugs and seats). We said we'd have breakfast once underway, followed by school. No problem there.

Got underway, practiced maneuvering this 3-bedroom/3-bath condo on the water (I've only ever had to hold the wheel straight), and we even raised the sails although the winds were really light. We then ate breakfast and cleaned up. Pulled out the school books. That's where it all went downhill.

Harrison couldn't focus. Danielle was bored. Kids start arguing. I'm trying to help them both get focussed, answer questions and correct work. Michael and I are trying to get our course sorted out and figure out where we're going to be to meet visitors on time. Being pulled in a million directions. Missing all the beautiful scenery as we go.

And then it's time for lunch.

After lunch, Harrison couldn't focus. Danielle was bored. Kids start arguing. I'm trying to help them both get focussed, answer questions and correct work. Michael and I are trying to get our course sorted out and figure out where we're going to be to meet visitors on time. Being pulled in two million directions. Missing more beautiful scenery as we go.

And yes, I lost it. Yelled at Michael. Yelled at the kids. Threatened that I can't continue doing this without cooperation. Yelled that it's not worth it for me to be schooling all day even though there's this beautiful nature all around us because I don't EVER get to see it. I'm the ONLY ONE who cooks and cleans. I'm the ONLY ONE who works on keeping the schedule. I'm the ONLY ONE blah blah blah. It did quiet everyone down, which makes me feel even more like an ogre. But boy was I pissed. And ridiculously frustrated. If I sounded like a two year old, I sure felt like it. And I probably looked like it too. Nothing I'm too proud of, but thought I'd come clean.

Danielle finished her school work around 3, and Harrison and I abandoned his by 4:30. Michael read them the riot act. I chimed in no less than a half dozen times. Bottom line: not a pleasant scene. By this time we had arrived at our destination, but I couldn't even greet our friends off the boat. Danielle and Michael went for a quick visit, but Harrison and I stayed on the boat.

By dinner, we barely ate. Harrison called a family meeting saying he wanted to go home. The kids were crying, I was crying, and it was just awful. We all went to bed early, but I couldn't sleep thinking I had destroyed my kids, and that mentally they will never be the same. I ran through the dilemmas in my head: Should I just abandon school altogether, have a great easy year, and deal with the consequences when they re-enter their regular school once we return on land? Or do I keep at this, and let them know that we mean it when we say that school needs to be done early so that we can do stuff in the afternoons? Or do I make them do school on their own (Danielle already does) and if they are not done by 1, I leave them and let them stay on the boat to finish it? And then I keep going back to the fact that if I don't get angry, I don't get results.

I've already stripped down Harrison's subjects to reading comprehension, writing, phonics/spelling, Hebrew - and he's chosen to keep science and geography. We don't do poetry, mythology, art and some other odds and ends. We occasionally throw in an American President. Danielle has kept most of her program's assigned subjects except for the program's reading selections as she'd prefer to read books of her own choice and I'm okay with that. Somehow I'm also supposed to begin teaching her Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream - I've got the Cole's Notes for it, a child's version, and we've already studied the life and times of Shakespeare - but I have never liked Shakespeare myself - how am I supposed to teach it with any verve? And while I love teaching (my friends will attest to the fact I always have advice on most topics), I find it incredibly burdensome going off the assigned daily checklist provided by the homeschooling program - I don't see myself as a creative person in this area at all. When we took the day off to do a field trip hike to examine desert life, no one was interested in hearing the details. Perhaps I should have done a scavenger hunt - except I didn't know what to expect myself. Dead end again.

If anyone out there has any other advice or options on homeschooling, please come forward, as I can use any and all help you are willing to give me.

Michael, on the other hand, takes all this in stride. He's way more anxious about keeping afloat than about what the kids are doing. His view is that I have been too relaxed about the schooling schedule and that they need to know that we mean business. He assured me that we needed this day to get on the right track. And although he may not always do or say things in the gentlest of ways, he is usually right about most things. And in this case, he was, once again right.

We woke up the next morning (yesterday) at 7 a.m. The kids ran through their checklist and were doing school by 8:30. Done before 11. Which was also before the other boats were done. We had a great day.

All's well that ends well.

As a side note, I will take the blame for some rocky starts of some of our days because I get up and ready after the kids are awake. My entire life I have battled getting up in the morning. It's not actually being awake early as I love being awake early, when all's quiet and fresh. Rather, it's getting from the horizontal position to the vertical. I honestly don't know what it is. Today, I was on 6 a.m. anchor watch so I HAD to get up. Even after checking the anchor, I stayed up to see the sunrise (it was too cloudy) and even enjoyed it. I recall loving the nighttime baby feedings once I had started. And it's not that I'm going to bed too late - we have eased nicely into the cruisers' life of being in bed early (as early as 9 p.m. some nights). Bottom line is that I MUST get up early to help the kids get a smooth start to the day. Woops - In coach-speak, 'having' to do something will never work - there's too much dissonance in it. So I'll correct my wording to reflect my true perspective: Getting up early is the only way for me.

Right here, right now, I am committing to getting an early start every day. Please check in with me down the road - I'll let you know how it goes.

Signing off from Ensenada Grande on Isla Partida,
24 degrees, 33.631 minutes N by 110 degrees, 23.771 minutes W,

Friday, December 4, 2009

My New Shoes and Some Shells

Today, 12/2/09, we went for a little field trip. We are anchored in Bahia San Gabriel - a bay in the island called Isla Espirtu Santo (24 degrees 25.7 minutes N, 110 degrees 21.57 minutes W). For our field trip, we went for a hike that led from the beach we were anchored near to a beach on the other side of the island. We took our dinghy and dinghy anchor to go and beach it. It was still high tide, so we dinghyed up to a reef, checking our depth with a paddle. The reason we did this was because the beach is very long and even and when the tide goes out we would have had to pull our dinghy all the way out to be able to float. Our dinghy is really heavy so instead, we chose to anchor to the reef and walk along the bay through 2 feet of water to the shore. Before that, Harrison and I hopped into the water to play around and waded ourselves into deeper waters. My dad took the anchor to anchor us. Once the anchor was dug in, we waled to shore and changed into dry clothes. Then we began our hike.

The path of the hike took us through a valley. It was clearly a desert, for there was a lot of cactus all around us -- some three times the size of my dad. After 2 hours, we were at the beach.

Harrison and I played a little in the water. Then Harrison dug a hole in the sand while my mom and I searched for shells and my dad slept. After a half an hour we went back.

After we had walked most of the way back we were 10 minutes away from the beach where our dinghy was. The Mangroves stretched into a swamp that was right in front of us. The river was muddy and brown, and unless we wanted to push our selves through it we had to go back and round the rest of the mangroves that stretched backward and also be hiking through thick mud. We we decided to go back and around and it and it added another half hour to our hike.

So, now my green shoes are brown and heavy. And, I guess you could say tat I have two souvenirs from from our little day trip. One pretty, one not so pretty. My shells will be the same forever and hopefully my brown shoes will turn green again.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Me and My VHF Radio

We use the VHF radio everyday. VHF stands for very high frequency. Our mobile VHF radio is like our cell phone and the one on the boat is like our home phone.

We use it to communicate with our family and friends. Sometimes we use it to ask mom or dad a question for school if they go out. We use it for making arrangements like for dinner or a play date to go to the park. We also use it to ask things like "when are you coming home."

People use boat names as phone numbers. Some boat names are very interesting. One is Meshach. Another is "Just a Minute" and their mobile is "Just a Second." Another one is "Do it" and their mobile is "Doing It." Our mobile is "When They Come For You", just like the song. That leads to a story which I will tell you about.

When I called "When They Come For You" a guy answered on their VHF "Why don't we get a kids channel." Then I called again. "Get a cell phone a women said. Those people are sure mean. A mom from a boat that we talked to later called those people boogers because everyone has the right to use the VHF.

VHFs are useful and fun for kids and adults.


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Water's low - Time to go

Our 200 gallon water tank is down to only a few gallons. This means it's time to leave the docks in La Paz and head on so that we can make more water.

It's not that there is no water to drink around us. After all, we've had the luxury of being at a dock for a week and a half. In fact, this is the most 'connected' we've been since we moved aboard the boat in mid-September. You see, when we moved on board, we were docked in San Diego at an old boat yard that did not have electricity or water hook up. For all intents and purposes, we could have been at anchor without the need to dingy ashore. Since leaving San Diego, we've only been at anchor until arriving in La Paz. Here in La Paz for the last week and a half, we've had unlimited electricity, which means internet (when it's working). And we could have chosen to have water hook-up, but we have a water maker.

A water maker, you ask? Our water maker is a state of the art water de-salinator and purifier with 3 membranes to ensure the purest of pure water. In fact, the water it makes is so clean that there are no minerals left in it at all (we are all taking a multi-vitamin with minerals to compensate). Washing our clothes in our own fresh water makes them incredibly soft (and a belated thanks to those who provided advice on doing laundry aboard - see recent photo post of our clothes hanging from the lifelines). Given that our water maker is so state-of-the-art, we cannot let chlorine get flushed into the system or we have to 're-pickle' the whole system and start again, which is pricey and time-consuming (or is it that chlorine ruins the membranes? Either way, it's pricey and time-consuming; bottom line is No Chlorine In Water Maker). The water on the docks is chlorinated. You'd think that with all the water we are floating in, we would just turn on the water maker, then. Not so cut and dry. The water in the marina is pretty yucky, and although the water maker could likely handle the diesel and yes, even some feces, the thought of letting those things even near our filters makes me cringe. You see our dilemma. Stretching those 200 gallons doesn't seem like such a bad option after all.

We last made water nearly 2 weeks ago. It doesn't take long to go through it all. To put things in perspective, the average person uses approximately 15-20 gallons for a shower. Teen age girls use much much more. Needless to say, along with the luxury of being at a dock with electricity, we have the inconvenience of having to head up to the public showers for our daily cleansing. In fact, we have also been heading up to the marina bathrooms whenever duty calls.

Which leads me to another interesting fact. Because we are a catamaran (top photo is Whatcha Gonna Do, docked in La Paz), our boat is much wider than monohulls so we don't fit into most marina slips (we are 24 feet wide). As a result, we have to tie off at the end of the dock, ususally with the big yachts (bottom photo is Time For Us, one of those yachts - 173 ft to be exact - with Harrison on Michael's shoulders helping them with their bow line as they are docking). (As another aside: Tully is right oppposite us on the dock (in that empty open-air space you see behind our boat in the top photo), owned by the person who started TelCel and who is one of the richest men in the world. While smaller than Time For Us, Tully still puts our boat to shame and literally towers over us. We've lost our view). If you've lost where this is going with all these digressions: We are getting loads of exercise hiking up to the marina restrooms whenever we have to go. For those of us with weak bladders, the walk often turns into a jog...

Washing dishes is another interesting task when you have to make 200 gallons of water last. It makes me wonder how much water I have wasted through my lifetime simply washing dishes. On board, we pile the dirty dishes (cleaned off first) into one sink. Then we fill a glass with about a quarter of a cup of water with dish soap. This is what I use to wash the dishes, placing the soapy dishes into the second sink. I then plug that sink and let the water trickle as I rinse the dishes, so that by the time I'm done, the sink has only about an inch of water maximum. When we got down to about 25 gallons of water remaining, we started taking the dishes off the boat in a bucket and washing them on the dock using the marina's hose to save our own water (see photo of Danielle washing at the dock). A bit of an inconvenience, and I'd rather not mention that I dropped two of our glasses off the dock today. If you recall how dirty the water is here in the marina, you'll understand why I didn't jump in after them. We now have glass service for 10 rather than 12. So be it.

Experienced crew all seem to share the common experience of having been handed a glass of water by their captain and told that that is the amount of water they can use for the day for personal use (i.e. washing up, brushing teeth, bathing). Without a shower, it is do-able. Thank goodness for Costco baby wipes.

I read that those without water makers must provision their boats with at least 8 cups of water per person per day: 4 for drinking, tea and coffee; 2 for cooking; 1 for personal use (including bathing); and 1 for clean-up (dishes, wiping down the galley, etc). Showers are extra.

And so we depart La Paz tomorrow morning with still some water in our tank (even if it is only a very few gallons). We are heading out to explore the islands around La Paz for the next 10 days, including some hiking, snorkeling, kayaking, fishing, swimming and, yes, water-making.

Will write more about La Paz on my next post - a pretty amazing place. We will likely return here after our island-exploring to reprovision (buy groceries) to prepare for our 2 and a half day crossing to the mainland (this time without any extra crew).

Signing off from La Paz with 2 fewer drinking glasses,

Monday, November 23, 2009

Our Crew and Friend, Mark

[Harrison's writing assignment was to write a biography.  He chose our crew member and friend, Mark McNulty, who has been sailing with us since the very beginning but will unfortunately be leaving us in a couple of days.]
I met Mark when he drove his truck to our boat in San Diego. Mark's nicknames are Milk and Markus.  He was born on September 19, 1970, so he is 39 years old.  Right now he is our crew.
Mark is very caring for kids and loves playing with them.  He is more than okay to help my dad trouble shoot problems on the boat. Mark is good at solving puzzles. He also loves playing guitar, fishing and sitting on the beach.  Mark says, "I love to relax."  He crossed the Pacific by himself on a trimaran with only a bucket as a toilet.  He is so cool!

Bigger Adventures Await U.S. Family

[Since many of you have asked why we decided to take this trip, I wrote a news article for one of my writing assignments on this topic.]

Bigger Adventures Await U.S. Family

Think about it. Wouldn't you want to have more adventure in your life? If you follow that dream it could happen. And for the Mitgang family (Michael and Barbara and their kids Danielle-11 and Harrison-8) it did. After buying a 46 foot Fountaine Pajot catamaran sailboat in September, they recently left with the Baja-Haha, a cruisers' rally from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas, in late October.

"I've always wanted to do something like this, so, we're doing it," says Michael Mitgang, 45. "My kids are at a great age and my wife is all on board. And what better way to weather out this lovely economy we're dealing with!"

The family had many mixed feelings about the trip, but everyone ended up happy. "At first I was nervous and excited. Then I was just nervous. Now I'm really excited," says Barbara, 44, who is also doing the homeschooling.

Danielle is certain that this trip so far has been the best adventure of her life. "I love sailing to different places I've never been to, snorkeling, swimming, and hiking. I know I'll have so many stories when I come back because, from the last 2 months, I already have hundreds!" she says enthusiastically.

And there have indeed been many adventures. "My biggest adventure was when our toilets weren't working so I had to go to a local restaurant," states Harrison. "I missed the dock as I was getting off the boat and landed in the water. I climbed onto the boat yelling 'Man Overboard'. " He adds, "When I was dried off, I was so scared, I didn't have to go to the bathroom anymore!"

Their current plans are to sail through Mexico and possibly Central America for a year. As Michael says, "Live now and worry about the future later."

Sunday, November 22, 2009

VHF etiquette, lurking, and the final chapter on an apple, tomato and avocado

There is an etiquette for everything at sea. You must know who has the right of way, for example, when two vessels are approaching each other. The same goes with chatting on the VHF radio, which, it turns out, is essentially the party line for sailors and boaters. The proper etiquette includes knowing which channels are the 'hailing' channels (i.e. used only for calling another boat), which are monitored by the port captains' office or the coast guard or the navy or the taxi drivers (and therefore need to be steered clear of), and which are available for chatting.

On the hailing channel, proper etiquette dictates that you state the vessel's name that you're calling 2 or 3 times and then state your boat's name. For example, when we hail our friends aboard Gypsy Wind (fellow Canadians with kids), we say: "Gypsy Wind, Gypsy Wind, Gypsy Wind. Whatcha Gonna Do." If they don't respond, we repeat the hail. If they don't respond again, etiquette dictates that you try again later, as they are likely not monitoring their VHF. If they do respond, heaven forbid that you carry on a conversation right away on that channel. The hailed boat must instead state: "This is Gypsy Wind to Whatcha Gonna Do," and then they suggest a channel to go to for a conversation, such as: "Let's go one up." This means, you change your channel to one channel above the hailing channel. If you do carry on a conversation, even to say you're at the dock and come on down, you'll get a knock on your knuckles, so to speak, by those who regularly monitor their VHF radios (waiting for someone to hail them, I suppose) by hearing, "Folks, this is the hailing channel - would you take your conversations elsewhere?!" Those people are also likely the lurkers, but more on that later.

When you do reach the other party, they may also suggest 'let's go down one', meaning one channel down. Or: 'let's go to 1-8' or 'let's go to 2-3' or 'let's go to 6-8' (never '18' or '23' or '68'). You then respond with the number (again, '1-8' or '2-3' or '6-8' and never 18, 23 or 68). Or, at busy times (usually right after the 'Net' which is La Paz's marina call-in radio show over the VHF at 8 a.m. every morning when they take roll call for newcomers and those who are leaving, lost and found, announcements, trades, needs, etc), you'll hear: 'let's try 1-7 and up' which means you go to channel 17 and just keep trying for a free channel - if it's taken, you keep moving to the next channel up.

If you are on your boat, and someone from your boat goes elsewhere, they will take the mobile VHF. In this situation, you will hear: "Whatcha Gonna Do, Whatcha Gonna Do, Whatcha Gonna Do. Whatcha Gonna Do mobile." This is where having a shorter boat name would have come in handy. We've also heard it stated like this: 'Don Quixote Steve. Don Quixote Steve. Don Quixote Steve. Don Quixote Martha'. Interesting.

The most annoying boat name by far has been Baby's Here (or is it 'Babies Here'?). "Blue Dolphin, Blue Dolphin, Blue Dolphin. Baby's Here." It took us a while to realize the boat's name was not just Baby and that the hailing voice was not just being cutesy. Darned Baby is always Here.

This morning, a boat whose captain stated its name as 'Doing It' was approaching our marina and was tring to hail the marina office. It went like this: "Marina de la Paz, Marina de la Paz, Marina de la Paz. This is sailing vessel Doing It.' Michael got on to tell him that the office was closed today so he shouldn't expect an answer. Michael's hailing went like this: "Doing It, Doing It, Doing It. Whatcha Gonna Do." He just couldn't resist.

Now for conversations. Once you move to a channel for conversation, etiquette states you say 'over' whenever you have finished talking and are waiting for a reply. Try that one in your regular conversations. And be sure to keep the button pressed while you talk, and released while you await the answer (yes, I've missed those a few times). When the conversation is over, etiquette once again requires that you say your boat name is going back to the hailing channel (eg. Whatcha Gonna Do back to 2-2). All very complicated, although Harrison was the first to figure the whole thing out. No surprises there.

And now about lurkers. At a moms' night out last week when we were anchored at Bahia de los Muertos, 9 out of the 10 women admitted to lurking on other people's conversations. The 10th woman later stated that although she hasn't lurked herself, she readily listens in when her husband lurks. For those who have ever had access to a party line, you'll know how easy it is to listen in on other people's conversations, but with a VHF, the other parties cannot hear you (unless of course you accidentally press the talk button). It really is as easy as pie.

Because of our own lurking, we've discovered:
a) we are not the only boat with a repair list.
b) our repair list is nothing compared to many other boats - we've heard of one boat with steering problems, another two in the same morning with generator problems, someone's solar panels are not working, someone's anchor dragged so badly they went out to sea, many boats can't get their dinghy motors to work, and the list goes on.
c) we weren't the only ones who didn't sleep the night our anchor dragged - but we were perhaps the only boat in the area that didn't have a schedule for anchor watch (we've learned since then).
d) the Los Suenos resort when we were stuck in los Muertos for several days -this one was a lifesaver as we found restaurants, pools and a hammock (see photos recently uploaded).
e) many kid boats, kids' names, and kids' ages.
f) some guy was going to be taking out $550 from his boat vault and meeting a friend at the marina clubhouse to give it to her (seriously!!).
g) how much taxis cost to various places.
h) when taxis don't run.
i) that the port captain's office was closed for a national holiday before shlepping all the way out there with a few other friends - we were definitely heroes for being in the know on this one.
j) what time the party starts.
k) what time the party ends.
and the list goes on...

Not that we spend a lot of time lurking, but it truly is amazing what you find out whenever you do. Will try to post more as we hear interesting conversations - it makes for great entertainment for us, and, we hope, interesting blog posts.

Signing off from Marina de la Paz, La Paz, Mexico,

(24 degrees 09.376N, 110 degrees 19.650W)

P.S. For those wondering what I did with the apple, avocado and tomato: We ate the apple for breakfast, and then I took my sister-in-law Bronna's advice and made quinoa with the tomato and avocado and a can of black beans and it was yummy! Thankfully, we did find the Los Suenos resort and had ceasar salad that night, and went to the Cantina down the beach another night for more veggies. I also had carrots, onions and potatoes on board so made a vegetable soup that we ate for what seemed like days. Bottom line: we survived. And now that we've reprovisioned (that's boat-speak for grocery-shopped), we've been overdosing on fruits and veggies: veggie omelettes for breakfast plus papaya and a cold glass of orange juice that I had been craving, fish tacos filled with veggies for lunch (made with fresh caught striped mullet I might add), gazpacho soup (6 tomatoes, 3 cucumbers, 2 peppers, fresh dill and cilantro) and pasta with swiss chard/pine nuts/garlic/onions on top for dinner. We are, once again, eating well.

Los Suenos in Bahia de los Muertos

[This post was ready to go last week but for various technical reasons we could not post it then.  Now that we are in La Paz at a marina, we have shore power and internet!!].
Yesterday (Sunday, November 15, 2009), instead of swimming in the ocean, we went to go swim in a pool.  I don't really know why we weren't just swimming in the ocean but a resort called Los Suenos lets you swim in their pools. There were booths, tables, and palapas that were in the pools! Also, there was a water slide that was steep, short, and fast. It would zoom you down into a pool deep enough that you couldn't even stand in. Once, I said something and Harrison asked "What?", but before I could answer I had already splashed into the pool beside him. In one area of the resort, there were three pools connected to each other, one of which was the water slide pool. Another pool was higher than the water slide pool and had one of those cliff rock waterfalls. Harrison and I would jump from the higher pool into the water slide pool (because it was deep enough to do so).  I had so much fun!

Friday, November 20, 2009

New Photos Posted

San Diego to Cabo San Lucas to La Paz

Bay of the Dead

Well, it’s been a little while since my last post.  It seems there is always something to do on the boat – fixing chafe points on lines, changing the oil on the engines or cleaning the bottom of the boat.  Whoever thought that cruising was just sitting around drinking margaritas was gravely mistaken!  It’s been a lot of fun so far, sailing around the east cape from Cabo San Lucas to La Paz.  On our way, we had planned to spend two nights in Bahia Los Frailes (23o22.863’N,109 o25.286’W and 45 miles from Cabo), Ensenada de los Muertos which translates as Bay of the Dead (23o59.215’N,109 o49.620’W which is 45 miles further) and Puerto Balandra (24o19.268’N,110 o19.868’W which is 12 miles outside of La Paz).  Anyhow, because a Norther (a wind that can gust over 30 knots and blowing straight down the Sea of Cortez) was forecasted, we decided to spend a couple of extra nights in Los Muertos to weather out the storm.  In fact, the wind blew so much one night, our anchor began dragging and we had to reset it at about three in the morning.  It was great fun hanging out there though – there was a beautiful boutique (14 room) high-end hotel on the beach with, I think, six guests.  It had one of the most impressive model train exhibits I have seen outside of the train museum in Balboa Park.  The hotel was more than happy to have cruisers hang out at their pool and there were lots of cruising kids there so it made for a good time for Danielle and Harrison.   Barb even had a moms’ night out with many of the other cruising moms if you can believe it!

Once the Norther had blown through, we decided to head north from Los Muertos to Balandra Bay through  Cerralvo Channel (24o15’N,110 o00’W).  While the Norther had died down somewhat it did make for some serious San Francisco Bayish sailing as the wind and swell coming down through the channel was still pretty strong.   But, once we made it to Puerto Balandra it was all worth it.  Puerto Balandra is perhaps one of the most beautiful bays I have seen.  The water was crystal clear water and we anchored in about eight feet of water.  There were about six other boats here (as compared to the 30 or so in Los Muertos).   The beaches were pristine and you could walk out from the beach for probably a quarter mile in knee deep water.  Harrison and I dingyed around trying to catch some fish and discover all the inlets while Barb and Danielle discovered the bay by sea kayak.  Harrison and I even found our way deep into the bay where there was a huge protected mangrove area.  The water was so calm we could have water skied!

This morning (Thursday Nov. 19th) we cleaned the bottom of the boat and, since we are beginning to run out of food, we decided that we would head for La Paz (24o09.376’N,110 o19.650’W) and spend some time reprovisioning and discovering the city.  We will likely be in La Paz through Thanksgiving.  Anyone want to come visit?

I should also hopefully upload some more photos today (or tomorrow) and will put out another post when they go up.

More later,

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A word on Fishing

Fishing is one of my favorite pastimes on this trip. I learned to fish by many people but I'll just tell you about two of them. The first one is Glenn, who was our next door (boat) neighbor at a dock in San Diego for a bit and then he went to a mooring. The second guy is Mark. He is (or was, depending on when you read this) our crew on our boat.

There are four different types of ways to catch fish. First is trolling, which is when there is a long line out the back or side of the boat. The second way is casting. You throw the line and wheel it in. The third way is to let the line down and wait, wait, wait and wait until you get a bite. Finally, the fourth way is to have a hand line. It's like the first way but it isn't on a pole.

I fished in the Pacific and in the Gulf of California. I caught lizardfish, a big-eyed tuna and a bloody mackerel. I saw striped mullet but we didn't catch them. I also caught a puffer fish but you can't eat it.

I like fishing because it is a game of patience. I can't wait to catch our next fish.

Signing off from Bahia de los Muertos, Baja, California

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Stretching an avocado, tomato and an apple

The last few days have been what I suspected a cruiser's life would be. Gorgeous weather, some smooth homeschooling, swimming and hiking, kayaking and fishing, family games at night, and reading. We moved on from Cabo San Lucas and anchored overnight at Bahia Los Frailes. Did some of the above the next day in Los Frailes, including swimming the 1.5 miles to and from shore for some added excercise with Danielle. Yesterday morning we decided to move on to our next anchor point on the way to La Paz - we try to do no more than a day's worth of sailing to avoid those exhausting overnight watches, and now with one less crew, we'd get even less sleep if we sailed all the way through to La Paz.

We arrived at Bahia de los Muertos after a gorgeous afternoon of sailing. Along the way we hit some clouds with what may have been some sprinkles. Arrived in the bay during sunlight hours, with plans to stay the following day, and head out on Sunday early to get to La Paz by Sunday night. We heard on the radio that a norther (cold strong wind blowing from the north) would be heading in Monday so we hoped to avoid this.

We settled in to a shabbat dinner with homemade challah, Trader Joe's soup, and fish tacos (unfortunately, the frozen kind - haven't had much luck with fresh fish over the last few days, but I'll leave it to Harrison to post about that) with cabbage, tomatoes and guacamole, plus rice and beans. Desert was homemade oatmeal raisin/pecan cookies. Hey, there's lots of time to cook on board...

We played a great game of hearts after supper and I headed in early. Apparently, that's when the winds started picking up. I sensed in my sleep that we were tossing a whole lot, and realized that Michael had been up several times to check the anchor. I too did my own checking at around 2 a.m. to make sure the boat hadn't dragged - all seemed fine although the winds were steady at 15 knots and gusting up to 25 knots. Standing out there, I must say that the winds felt more like hurricane force. The boat was wagging back and forth around the anchor, which made me a bit anxious, but it was a relief to know that the anchor itself hadn't moved. At 3 a.m. Michael woke me to tell me things had changed. Our anchor was dragging, and we had come much closer to a fishing boat that had been moored what seemed like hundreds of feet away when I had gone to sleep. After debating some, we lifted the anchor and moved the boat to re-anchor further from shore. Apparently, several boats did the same. We learned this morning over the radio that few boats got any sleep at all due to their own anchor watches, dragging, and re-positioning. We've also learned that this norther has moved in early and won't settle out until Monday evening. We are stuck here until then.

The only fresh produce left is one tomato, an avocado and an apple. Any suggestions for how to make those stretch for five people over four days? How do we ration the remaining two fresh eggs when there are five of us swooning over them? But still loads of Trader Joe's packaged food. I know we won't starve but what I wouldn't give for a fresh glass of orange juice and a crunchy colorful salad.

I think I'll make some pancakes to try to brighten up the crews' spirits. Am thinking we need those two eggs for the batter. Will serve with Trader Joe's real maple syrup.

More later.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Snorkeling at Pelican Beach

[This blog entry was a culmination of a descriptive paragraph (using adjectives) and ordering events (such as instructions) that Harrison was assigned as part of his homeschooling. The snorkeling took place a few days ago.]

When I went snorkeling at Pelican Beach, I saw hundreds of different colorful, beautiful fish. We swam around different shaped and colored rocks that were wet and rough. The waves were tall from all the pangas that were zooming by. The current was so strong, pushing us out and into the shore. The sand under the water looked like waves and when the real waves came, they made the sand waves go flying. When Mark (our crew) and I went walking along the rocks and beach, the sand under our feet felt rough.

Our friends from Journey, another kid boat, came to Pelican Beach with us.

Kid Boat: a boat with kids
Pelican Beach: a beach in Cabo San Lucas

How to Put on Snorkeling Gear:
1. Put on mask and snorkel.
2. Put on fins in the water.
3. Breathe in and put head in the water to see if snorkel is of the water.
4. Walk backwards.
5. Start swimming and breathing with hands on your back.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Start of Adventures

The Start of Adventures

Yesterday was the most fun on the trip so far! We went to a place in Cabo San Lucas called Pelican Beach. Pelican Beach has the best snorkeling in Cabo (rated by locals). When you snorkel, you always have to use the buddy system so that you stay safe. My friend and crew member, Caren, was my buddy. She taught me how to equalize under water when your ears start to hurt. I was fascinated by all of the sea life that I'd never seen before (it was my first time snorkeling). Caren showed me many beautiful fish. There was so much coral growing on the rocks and many schools of fish below. We saw fan coral-brown, tree-like coral-purple, orange, and brown, bubbly coral-orange, and mossy coral-lime green. The fish we saw were angel fish, trumpet fish, and fish of many different colors. One of the fish was black and was even spotted with blue sparkles-literally! But crossing from rock to rock is harder than it sounds, for it is like crossing a street with broken traffic lights, no police officers, no cameras, and speeding cars because of all the pongas. It was best day trip ever!




Pongas-small fishing boats used as water taxis.

Cabo San Lucas-Mexican city at the point of the Baja Peninsula

Trumpet fish-long skinny fish



Monday, November 9, 2009

Life at Anchor in Cabo

We are anchored at Cabo San Lucas.  It is very loud because of all the pangas, jet skis and music.  The only problem is that we cannot swim around the boat.  The good thing is that we have a catamaran and we can swim under the boat.  We get to shore by dinghy, kayak or panga which is a water taxi.  I love Cabo!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Safe and Sound in Cabo San Lucas

We arrived in Cabo San Lucas on Friday morning at approx. 8 a.m. It was a beautiful site seeing the famous arch in the morning sunshine. It is definitely warmer here.

We are anchored along the main beach just outside the marina and it's been pleasant, although a bit noisy. Pangas (water taxis) and jetskis go by from early in the a.m. until after dark, and music from the beachside restaurants goes on pretty much all day and night. Still, it's a bit surreal being here under anchor. Am feeling incredibly fortunate to be able to be doing this.

Friday morning, while Michael and our crew went to the immigration office to report in, the kids did some schooling and I cleaned the boat after 8 days at sea. We then hopped on our dinghy to head ashore for the Baha Haha beach party after which we enjoyed Shabbat dinner - meat and potato stew and salad. Didn't have enough time to make challah this week.

Saturday morning we loaded our 8 loads of laundry onto our dinghy - weren't sure we'd stay afloat - and headed to shore for the laundromat. We managed to find one a couple of blocks in from the marina where things are not so pricey and found one where they do the laundry for you. In this heat, it would have been torture spending 3 hours inside a heated laundromat. We walked along the marina and through the streets but ended up vegging at a restaurant until our laundry was done. Saturday evening was the final event of the Haha - rewards were given out to all the boats that finished the rally and one that did not - the JWorld boat that sank due to being hit by a whale. The boat's captain had flown down to Cabo and told her story to the awe-struck crowd. It turns out that the boat had not been attacked at all, but rather sailed in the middle of a pod of whales. The swells were pretty big, and going down on one of them, the boat's keel hit one of the whales and tore right off leaving a gaping hole in the hull. After bailing water for 40 minutes, the crew decided to abandon the boat, which sank shortly afterward. The US Coast Guard was summoned via their EPIRB, and rescued them a couple of hours later. The crew, it turns out, were on an offshore sailing course - what an initiation!

Today was a fabulous one. We started out with school while Michael and our crew attended to more trouble shooting - a slow leak in our water maker which may need re-plumbing. The kids then swam around and under the boat (between the hulls). We then took a water taxi to Pelican Beach, almost at the Cabo point/arch, where we snorkeled for several hours. It was like swimming in an aquarium.

We said goodbye to one of our crew, Caren Edwards, tonight. We will miss her as she was an incredible source of wisdom and advice for us as we prepared for our trip - she sailed with her family for five years, and is from the Bay area. Danielle and she got along incredibly well, and not just because of her swimming stamina. Our other crew, Mark McNulty, will stay with us until we get to La Paz (and perhaps longer?). He has become Harrison's buddy, as they play on boat building computer programs together, do boat repairs, and just hang.

We will attend to more boat maintenance tomorrow and leave for La Paz the day after (Tuesday). Signing off from Cabo.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Relaxed Day on Anchor

Well, we arrived yesterday afternoon (Tuesday Nov 3rd) in Bahia Santa Maria two thirds of the way down the coast of Baja. It has been an awesome trip! We finally caught up with the rest of the Baja Ha Ha fleet and it was quite an impressive view to turn into this bay in the middle of nowhere and see nearly 200 boats all anchored. We joined up with the party going on at the beach and then came back to the boat for an excellent steak dinner. Today, the fleet planned to depart at 0600 to begin the final leg to Cabo San Lucas. Given that we had just arrived at Bahia Santa Maria only late the prior afternoon, we decided that we would take it easy today, sleep in, have a late breakfast, swim and then go for a late afternoon hike. Once all those other boats had left it was pretty awesome to see ours and just two others anchored in this bay. After two over nights at sea we figured we deserved a little break. Overnight sailing, which requires doing two hour watches, can be tiring after a while. We are doing 2 hour on, 4 hour off shifts with Barb and Caren sharing one of the shifts.

Catamarans are great and here is just on reason why! On Barb and Caren's shift two nights ago all of a sudden the port (left) engine alarm went on and the rpm's went to zero. We could not figure out what was causing the alarm so we turned the engine off and decided to look into the problem the next morning. Well, when we got up that next morning and went to look inside the port engine compartment we discovered that the engine room was over half full with water! We thought maybe there was a leak caused by the rope getting wrapped around the propeller but found that hard to believe. When we looked closer there was a lot of water further aft of the engine room and that was the water that was leaking into the engine room. What the #&$*@! We started pumping all the water out with a hand bilge pump (which took about four hours -- there was a lot of water) and during that time tried to figure out how all that water could have gotten into the boat. Was there a hole in the boat and if so where was it? We had not hit anything. Anyhow, we kept looking and went down onto the sugar scoops (the steps behind the boat) and there they were -- two very little holes on the bottom step. The boat has these nice outdoor carpets that are usually snapped onto the steps but we have taken them off for this passage and stowed them. My guess is that these two tiny little holes were left when the carpets were originally installed and not properly sealed! Only with extended time at sea in a boat heavy with gear and water constantly slapping up on the lower steps could that water have slowly leaked in. Well, we patched the holes with a sealant that we had, finished pumping out all the water and then finally sat back to have lunch. Now the reason catamarans are great is that if this had been a mono haul the whole boat may have been underwater (or worse), but because this was a catamaran, with built-in buoyancy, this was much more of a nuisance than a safety concern. Needless to say, it made for an exciting morning.

Well, after a great day of relaxing in Bahia Santa Maria today with the kids swimming in our outdoor swimming pool all afternoon :) followed by a sunset hike, we have departed on our final leg to Cabo San Lucas. We hope to get there sometime on Friday but as I write this there is not much wind, so we may be motoring for a while.

More later,


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Gentle Seas

Am on my 3-5 a.m. night watch as I write this. The seas have been gentle and pleasant and my seasickness patch has been working wonderfully. Last night on this same watch with an almost full moon, we saw a pod of whales - we've been trying to identify which kind but we think they were false killer whales or melon-headed whales due to the fin we saw. While the sight was pretty spectacular, it was also a little unnerving: During the first night of the Baja Haha Rally, a very experienced crew had to abandon their boat which had been attacked by a whale. The crew waited about 2 hours in their dinghy but were rescued by the coast guard. Their boat, however, sank. While this type of thing is incredibly rare, when you are sitting in the middle of the ocean, 20 miles offshore, you feel rather vulnerable. For more info on the Baha Haha and the whale incident, you can go to their website at http://www.baja-haha.com/index.html (thanks for that link, Mimi).

We've now reached warmer climates. It's 75 degrees at 3 a.m. and we hope to swim tomorrow if we get into Bahia Santa Maria before nightfall. We've been covering a lot of ground (or should I say ocean) and even overtook a monohull in the rally yesterday. We all dashed onto deck to be able to see other humans. We are no longer in last place! As for the rally, there is a party in Bahia Santa Maria today at 1. Not sure we'll make it, but the rally leaves there at 7 a.m. tomorrow morning, so we'll have caught up (even though we left 3 days after everyone). The kids are ecstatic about that.

Interestingly we haven't really had a dull moment. There are always things that need to get done. Yesterday is was pumping water out of the port engine room and sealing a leak. We've also had to trouble shoot issues with our water maker. Another day it was the battery charger. The list goes on. In addition, I spend at least half the day home schooling the kids (actually, we learn for only about 3 hours, but there's a lot of time getting ready for school - some things never change :) . At this point we've completed 4 weeks of school so will need to do school on Sundays for a while to catch up.

Harrison is feeling much better. Still a cough, but fever free for the last 36 hours. Feeling very relieved.

You'd think on such a small boat that Michael and I would spend loads of time together but it's actually been like two ships passing in the night (literally). We are on opposite watch schedules, nap at different times, and attend to completely different tasks. Am grateful for the smooth division of labor though.

Had pasta with sautéed onions, broccoli rabe and swiss chard, plus salad for dinner. Yum. Produce has been lasting very well.

More later.
25 degrees 16.315 minutes N
113 degrees 14.183 minutes W

Monday, November 2, 2009

Turtle Bay

We arrived in Turtle Bay on November 2nd around 2am. As we dropped anchor we accidentally had one of our lines (rope) in the water which, with the engines running, ended up getting caught around one of the propellers. Damn! Fortunately, with a catamaran we have two engines and we were therefore able to get the boat safely anchored. Given it was 2 am there was not much that we could do about the propeller so we all just went to sleep. Of course, I got up just about every hour or so to make sure the anchor was holding and the boat was not slipping -- its like parents of a new born baby up checking on them constantly.

Once I got up in the morning, I put on my wetsuit, goggles and snorkel and jumped (or rather slowly worked my way) into Turtle Bay. The water is still relatively cold. I dove down to take a look at the line around the propeller and began to untangle it. It came loose very easily and fortunately did no damage to either the propeller or the line. Its just another reminder of how important it is to make sure there are no lines (or people for that matter) ever in the water when the engines are on! Anyhow, with that adventure behind us, I was able climb out of the water and enjoy Danielle's walnut pancakes for breakfast. They were awesome.

We spent the remainder of the day doing some home schooling while Caren and Mark used our two-person kayak. Later that afternoon we all went ashore using our dingy to check out the town in Turtle Bay. This took about 5 minutes as it is a pretty small town! We had a late lunch, and then made our way back to the boat for an evening departure. We are now on our way to Bahia Santa Maria and are about 20 miles off shore at 27 degrees 12 minutes north by 114 degrees 43 minutes west. We have absolutely no wind and the seas our very calm. Good thing we have engines as we've been motoring for the last five hours!

We will likely spend the night in Santa Maria before making our way to Cabo San Lucas.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Arrived in Turtle Bay

After 2 and a half days of sailing and motoring (when the winds die down), we arrived in Turtle Bay at 2 a.m. this morning (sunday). We were welcomed by at least a dozen dolphins - quite a spectacle in the full moon light. We anchored and went to bed. Slept in, did some homeschooling, Danielle and Caren went for a swim (its still too cold for me!). Mid afternoon we headed out in our dinghy for our first mexican meal of fish tacos on the beach, and then to an internet cafe. Unfortunately, i do not have my computer with me which contains all the email addresses for famly and friends, but worse yet, dont have my sign in informtion for my email accounts so i am unable to pick up my email. It will have to wait unitl our next stop, 2 to 5 days from (depending on whether we stop at Magdalena Bay). Weve been eating very well - turkey chili, lemon lentil soup with spinach and potatoes, chickpea chicken, to name a few of our dinners. We definintely wont starve.

We left San Diego 3 days after the Baha Haha since Harrison was not feeling well but it appears that this was the right thing to do as many of the boats in the rally anchored along the way due to very strong winds. Apparently the last boat just left Turtle Bay this morning so there is a good chance we will catch up.

So far, so good. Its getting dark so wed better head back to the boat. More later.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Dolphins on our Bow

It is now the morning of day 2 (Saturday -- Happy Halloween) (by the way don't expect updates every day)! :)
We finally stopped motor sailing yesterday morning after running engines for about 15 hours. Its good to know they work. We've been sailing ever since and this morning I have the generator running to charge the batteries and to run the water maker. Once I have the water tanks refilled it will be nice to take a shower!
Yesterday we had a few firsts -- we caught our first fish (a bonito) and made fish tacos! and -- we had a school (or is it a pod) of dolphins sailing beside our boat and under the trampoline. If we tried we probably could have reached down and touched them they were that close!
Last night was our second night at sea and things went smoothly. As it is now Saturday morning and we have left over challah I now have to begin making my traditional French toast.
Location wise, we are 240 miles south of San Diego and hope to make it to Turtle Bay tonight. Turtle Bay is just over a third of the way down the Baja. If you are interested in seeing where we are, pull out a map and look for 29 degrees 14 minutes N by 115 degrees 30.8 minutes west.
We all look forward to getting your comments through this blog. Since we don't have any internet connections, commenting on the blog is much better and easier than trying Facebook updates. Facebook and linked in though probably have apps for providing updates by email but I am not aware of them.
More later.....

Friday, October 30, 2009

Barb's First Post

This is my first of what I hope to be many blog posts. Why have I waited so long? First because we have been so incredibly busy preparing for the trip in only 7 weeks. Now I can fully appreciate why most people spend 2-5 years getting ready. In addition, I don't even know where to begin. There is so much to say. And so I'll start right now.

We just completed our first overnight sail after departing San Diego yesterday mid afternoon. Actually, I can't say we sailed overnight since there was no wind and had to motor the entire evening and night. My watches from 9-11 p.m. and then 3-5 a.m. were uneventful and quite enjoyable. Caren and I were on watch together so the time went quickly. I must say that now that we have left the dock, I am finally more relaxed. The best part of the departure was when we passed a dock and someone shouted: "WhatCha Gonna Do: Safe voyage. See you in Mexico". It gave me the chills.

Many have asked exactly why is it that it takes so long to prepare. Michael and I have an excellent division of labor. He has taken over the role of 'tech guy', ensuring the various systems aboard are working and are getting properly repaired or serviced. I started out home schooling the kids although at this point we've missed so many days (one of the sources of my anxiety). Aside from finalizing our affairs on land (paying bills, etc.) my duties included the First Aid, both training and assembling a mega kit for our boat and our 'ditch bag' (what you take with you when you must abandon ship). Another major task has been to provision the boat. It included galley (kitchen) supplies, toiletries, cleaning supplies, storage solutions and organization, and of course food. For anyone who has camped with our family knows that we will be eating well. I prepared stew, bolognese sauce, soups and chili ahead of time, and have a fully stocked pantry for this two week leg to Cabo San Lucas. Challenges for food have included a very limited chest fridge/freezer space as well as limited storage space. We have placed extras under the floor boards. Needless to say, our boat is sitting very low in the water. You can be sure I will insist that the crew eats lots and often.

Another anxiety is how to say goodbye for the year and extend my gratitude for my friends in a meaningful way. I want to thank everyone for coming out to Mitchell Park to say goodbye and everyone who has emailed or wished us well. I still would like to plan to respond to everyone individually as I apparently will have a lot more free time - it's feeling hard to believe. Email will be my lifeline.

As I am writing this, Harrison just caught his first fish on this trip - a bonitta in the tuna family. Mark helped him and then did the filleting. Fish tacos for lunch!!

Will continue more later.