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 (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.