Happy Birthday (officially belated now) to our dear friend Glynis Webster, officially the best gift-giver we know!
Stu has this bell. It is a small bell that is meant to be attached to our hand-fishing reel when it is being trawled off the back of the boat. In the event of a fish taking a bite, the bell is supposed to ring as the line is jerked around by the fish’s movements. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really work that way, and instead tends to jingle with every wave or vibration of the lure through the water. I’ve spent hours at the helm with a low level of anxiety that I now realize is caused by this tiny bell. I’m not sure if it is anxiety that we’ve actually caught something (which, we haven’t, by the way, but I’m still working through my feelings on, being primarily still vegan/plant-based), or if it is just the ringing sound. Well, recently, Ellie found the bell. And, is obsessed with it. And, seems to be able to find it wherever we locate (and re-locate) it.
This morning, I heard the first tinklings of the bell at 5:55am. See, when we crossed from Baja California Sur to Baja California, we also crossed a time zone, so while the sun rises at the same time, our clocks are such that the sun rises right around 5:45am instead of 6:45am. As per an earlier post, Ellie rises when ‘the sky is awake’, and so now gets up before 6am most days. We’ve made a few attempts at a Mexican version of a ‘Grow Clock’, with a small alarm clock purchased from the Sears (?! yes, it exists still in Mexico) in La Paz. Problem is, the alarm clock’s alarm doesn’t really work. So I, in a stroke of brilliance (not), painted nail polish marks at the 7 and 12, and explained what 7:00am looks like, and that she’s not allowed to exit their room until then. Let’s just say she’s fully outwitted me, and figured out how to set the time on said alarm clock, changing it to whatever time she feels. These days I’m settling for her not-so-quietly playing Lego in the salon while we try to doze, which is interrupted every morning by some odd request. This morning she wanted her bike glove that was sitting on the table in the cockpit, and asked us to unlock and open the door for her to retrieve it.
If the bell isn’t the bane of my existence, Ellie’s bike gloves are. Don’t ask me how they made it to the boat, I have no idea how they weren’t culled in our multiple re-packs before leaving Canada. I find one of these bike gloves in the most random places throughout the boat, and I swear no matter how many times I put them away in a cupboard, or in one of the girls’ toy boxes, or back on their book shelf, I find a bike glove staring me in the face. I have picked up one bike glove more times than I can count, and yet they still find themselves somewhere random on the boat. How they’ve not ended up overboard I’ll never understand. I think I’ve resigned myself to the bike gloves.
The last week has been a quiet one, since our breathtaking whale shark experience. From the Village of Bay of LA, we putted up to a northern beach in the bay called La Gringa, and spent a few days there enjoying its amazing sunsets. There were large camping parties on the rock crescent-shaped beach, and from the sounds of it, all were having the best time ever. We did a fair amount of swimming from the boat, lots of relaxing and reading, and I even managed a paddle board around the perimeter of the cove. At the full moon, particularly in the summer, cruisers are known to frequent this part of the Bay for a ‘full moon party’. Now, I don’t think this is quite the Full Moon Party that is known in places such as Thailand, but there is a lagoon in behind the beach, and at high tide at full moon it flows in a direction that affords people to float through it. So, people find whatever they can float on, sometimes don costumes, and party their way around the lagoon. I’m sure it is quite the sight, and very fun, but suspect we won’t likely see it this month.
From La Gringa we headed out to a cove on one of the nearby islands called La Ventana. Incredibly picturesque, and a little bit stinky. It appears that the cove on La Ventana is similar to our experience at Candeleros Chico, closer to Loreto, where fisherman (tourist and commercial) pull their pangas ashore in the little cove to clean their fish, tossing the carcasses on the beach to be fought over by seagulls, pelicans and cormorants alike. This meant that not only was the briny, slightly rotten smell present the whole time we were there, it was quite common as the tide came in and out, to see large fish cadavers floating by. Not exactly my favorite swimming environment. Again, we intended to go ashore, but a few more lazy days and we still hadn’t done so – it is funny how time works here; often days pass before we realize we haven’t been to the beach or moved beyond the boat. A new normal for sure.
From La Ventana we headed back to the village of Bay of LA for a quick internet pit stop, to catch up on some needed things and have some incredibly over-priced, largely mediocre food at the local beach hangout, Guillermos.
Following our pit stop, we headed south in the Bay to the southern shore at La Mona. Skirting the beach at La Mona are higher-end homes, some of pretty interesting construction. Perched on some rocks at the end of the beach is a peaked-roofed house that looks surprisingly like our old Whistler home – so much so that Ellie claimed we were ‘back in Whistler’ when she saw it. One can dream, kid.
We finally had some beach time after dropping anchor at La Mona. About 15 minutes total before, in an effort to shuffle away the sting rays in the sand close to the water’s edge, Stu met his match with one and ended up stabbed in the toe. We packed up quickly, and headed back to the boat for a couple hours of very hot water on his foot. All is well now, but we’re perplexed as the beach we were at is frequented at all hours by tourist pangas, and their patrons float next to the pangas in the very same sandy-bottomed waters where Stu was stung, and we haven’t seen another incident while we’ve been here. We’re wondering if, when the pangas rev their outboards as they approach the beach, it’s enough to scare away any would-be ray culprits.
I have devoured about 5 books in the last week, and am now making my way through the second Harry Potter book. Yes, I’ve never read them before, and yes I’m perturbed by J.K. Rowling’s transphobic tendencies, but they’re now a classic series and I want to know what the fuss is about. Also, we have a limited number of hard copy books aboard, and I wanted to read one. While I’m so thankful for my digital reader and the fact I can have thousands of books at my fingertips, sometimes one just wants to feel the actual turn of pages between their fingers. Oh, and I found the Harry Potters at a cruiser’s book exchange at a marina, so didn’t pay for them, so maybe that makes it more acceptable? I have mixed feelings on that whole idea of whether we can separate the artist from their art, and whether we can still appreciate the work that is made even if we want to ‘cancel’ the creator for actions we don’t agree with. Just one of the many things I spend time thinking about these days…these days with time; luxurious, gorgeous, time.
Every parent knows that the time changes with kids are simply not fun. Either their bed time comes an hour later or earlier than it should, or they wake up at some strange hour. Well, just north of Santa Rosalia, we crossed from Baja California Sur to Baja California, which means going from Central Standard Time to Pacific Standard Time…resulting in our kids waking between 5:30am and 6:00am in the morning.
This morning Stu heard Ellie before I did, so he got up to make the coffee and I had an extra 15 minutes of sleep, which was lovely. By the time I got out of bed and up into the salon, I noticed the sliding door had been closed back up, and the air conditioning was back on. Turns out the bees had found us nice and early this morning, and Stu had already shoed five or six back outside. What an incredible treat it is for us to be able to use the air conditioning as much as we’re able to at anchor. One of the major parts of the electrical upgrade that we did in La Paz (which Stu WILL write a more detailed post on at a later date), was increasing our solar from 525 watts to 2285 watts, replacing a 606 amp-hour AGM battery bank with and 1120 amp-hour LiFePo4 lithium battery bank, and installing a new Victron inverter. With AGMs you can only discharge the batteries to 50%, but with lithium you can discharge to 80%. In addition, when recharging lithium it is more like a waterfall into a bucket, instead of filling a bottle through a straw. What this all means is we now have the power, and the ability to charge our batteries in a way that allows us to run the AC even when we’re not connected to shore power, among other things.
Calla Puertocito de Enmedio, the anchorage we are in, is really lovely, and feels quintessential Baja save for the fact the water isn’t quite as turquoise as we’ve become accustomed to further south. On either side of the mouth of the little bay are craggy rocks jutting sharply out of the water. Stained white with bird guano, we’ve seen seagulls, pelicans, cormorants, ospreys, brown boobies, anhingas and vultures all hanging around this same anchorage. We are surrounded by rocky, triangle-shaped hills, and on one side of the anchorage they form a sort of canyon, which begs for exploring.
Blanketing part of the beach is green sea grass, the likes of which we haven’t seen much of since much earlier this year. The water temperature is just over 30 degrees Celsius, so a touch cooler, if you’ll believe it, then closer toward the Loreto area. We explored the beach shoreline by dinghy, to see if there was a good spot to hang out, and discovered we are in another stingray haven. Itty, bitty tiny Cortez rays cover the sandy bottom. These rays are more black with spots than the lighter brown ones we’ve seen elsewhere, and generally seem to be smaller; more the size of side plates than dinner plates. As we motored over top of the sand, it would virtually explode as they would dart out of their hiding spots and take off. Definitely not a beach we were going to be having the girls play at.
If you’ve never seen a stingray settle into, or pop out of, the sand, it’s quite something to see. When situating themselves on the bottom, they appear to float right above the sand, and then their sides ripple as they fling the sand from underneath them up and over their bodies as they wriggle down into the sand, becoming virtually invisible (and thus so dangerous), save for the faint circle-like impressions they leave behind. They really can get so far under the sand that you really don’t see them, which is how so many people end up ‘stung’ (remember, more of a stab wound than a sting) by accidentally stepping on them. When they emerge from the sand, it’s as if there is an explosion of sand as they wriggle themselves back out, sending sand in all directions. The last time we were in the anchorage at San Evaristo, Stu snorkeled over to the little reef at the side of the anchorage and was surprised by a barrage of sand in his face…and then quickly retreated as he had several very curious rays checking him out right up close.
We’ve decided to make it a quiet day here, just hanging on the boat without many grand plans. We had intended to go to shore to do a hike this morning, but didn’t get around to it before the heat of the day hit, so it may not happen today. Instead, there has been loads of painting, drawing numbers, reading stories, and Stu made us all bagels and pretzels today with our friend Sarah‘s recipe, topped with our much-coveted ‘Everything But The Bagel’ Trader Joe’s spices which were smuggled into Mexico for us by our friends on Red Rover. Stu swapped out our Perko latches for the lazarettes, which were mighty sun bleached and corroded. We’ve planned on some fun pizzas for this evening, and I suspect Stu will try to wrangle us into watching the rest of ‘Taledega Nights’ before the day ends.
P.s. Taledega Nights didn’t make its appearance until after we had our nightly catch-up on West Wing, and Stu was generous attending to the dishes (we usually take turns, so whomever cooks doesn’t have to clean). Our evening was otherwise interrupted by the sound of passing whales blowing their blowholes, and a massive gang of flying fish flipping and flopping in the water off our stern, stirring up unimaginable sparkles in the bioluminescence. My kind of evening.
Surprise! Skookum V has been pulled out of the water, and we find ourselves back in Puerto Peñasco, the town from whence we launched the boat back in January! Why, you may ask? As my dear friend Julie said to me this morning, we’re ‘doing some adulting. Less fun but necessary.’ So, here is the convoluted explanation about how we’ve gone from whale sharks to dirt and gravel.
We need to clean and paint the bottom of the boat. To make a complicated topic very basic, when boats are in the water, things grow on them. Grass, barnacles, and wee critters. So, boat owners paint different things on the bottom of their boat to either slow down the growth, or to allow for easy cleaning of the growth. Currently, there is an ablative paint on the bottom of our boat, so as one cleans it, the paint sloughs off, taking all the growth with it. That paint is wearing thin so it is time to address it. Needless to say, there is an environmental concern that comes with leaving anything behind in the water, and we’re not in love with that. It also requires someone to swim below the boat and actually clean it from time to time, which isn’t a problem in warm waters, but can lead to some funny (gross) experiences like when our friend Dave from Milagros emerged from his bottom cleaning job with itty bitty shrimp covering him head to toe, and stuck inside his beard!
We would consider alternatives to the kind of ablative bottom job that we will be doing, such as a copper coat like our friends on Totem have done, but our options are a little more limited since we’re having the boat yard do it for us, instead of doing it ourselves. We have made another calculated decision to pay someone to do this work this time around, instead of doing it ourselves (and thus having more options and flexibility in what we choose to do), so that it can be done quickly and so we aren’t here longer than we need to be with the kids. Having kids in a boat yard is dirty, dangerous and simply not fun.
The bottom of our boat isn’t technically in desperate need, but it does need to be done this year. So, since it is hurricane season, and we’re limited as to where we are comfortable going during hurricane season, we decided to do it now while we can be in a place relatively safely out of the path of hurricanes, and we’re effectively ‘killing time’ until the season ends anyway. From everything we’ve seen, this appears to be a busy year in terms of convection, and thus a higher likelihood of hurricanes, so not a bad idea to be a bit farther from the typical pathways.
We need to service the saildrives and replace the zincs on the boat. The saildrives are the transmissions that take the rotational energy created by our two Yanmar diesel motors and transmit it to the propellors in the water. The majority of boats have a shaft drive, with the transmission mounted to the back of the engine and a shaft coming through the hull to the outside with a propellor on the end. Saildrives are slightly different in that they hang through the hull vertically and the propellor is mounted to the drive. Both systems have pros and cons. The advantage in our boat is that the saildrive is mounted in front of the engine, which means that the motors can be mounted right further aft in the boat giving us maximum internal space – the motors are right behind our aft berths on both sides. The disadvantage is that we can’t do the regular servicing of the saildrives without pulling the boat out of the water as we need to drain the oil from the internal gearbox.
The zincs are sacrificial anodes that are attached to the boat under the waterline. Here’s a more detailed description of galvanic corrosion, but the short hand is that saltwater is corrosive, and when metals are immersed in it, they behave differently depending on their position on the periodic table or their ‘nobility’. Added to this, when we’re at a marina stray current exists in the water from both our and other boats that are plugged into the electricity supply. These stray currents will accelerate the degradation of metals below the water, and less noble (or more anodic) metals will degrade faster than more noble metals. The solution is to attach sacrificial zinc anodes to the metal parts below the water, such as our saildrives, to ensure that the zincs degrade before the aluminum is damaged. These need to be swapped out from time to time as they degrade (which is considerably easier and WAY less expensive than replacing the sail drives from time to time).
We need to get our second vaccine doses. Once again, this is a complicated calculation. First, there are limited batches being released in Mexico, so we had the impression that being in a bigger town and closer to the border would increase our chances of finding a dose. That being said, there is no guarantee there will be enough for us to be able to get our jabs here. We’re monitoring local Facebook pages daily, as information about where and when doses are released are being posted sporadically, and we’re hoping to get lucky like we did last time.
We have considered flying home to get our second doses, but this of course means we’d have to do a 14 day quarantine (which brings its own challenges), and all that comes with it. Added to that, our first dose was AstraZeneca, and we’d ideally like our second to be as well, but there does not appear to be many places administering AZ in British Columbia any more. While Canada is accepting mixed vaccines as valid, some countries are not yet accepting mixed doses, and there are rumors that some aren’t accepting certain vaccines such as Moderna. Seeing as we plan to travel south to Panama in the winter, we are trying to make sure we have the vaccine that will be most accepted wherever we go, so we can enter those countries. So, I’m spending time online researching the entry requirements for these places to find out our best possible option.
We need to deal with a rotten bulkhead on the boat. In between the two storage lockers that sit in front of the mast on the boat there is an opening, and an exposed wooden bulkhead (piece of structural wood dividing the two lockers). The wood is exposed to the elements, and has clearly been saturated with water over time, which has caused it to rot. We will need to cut it out, replace the wood, then fiberglass over it. And when I say ‘we’, I mean Stu. This doesn’t have to be done while the boat is out of the water, but may as well do it while we’re here, and there is access to a woodshop, equipment and extra hands and advice from other sailors in the boatyard.
We have certain things we need to buy for the boat, and as always, there are challenges trying to get them sourced in Mexico. The closer we are to the border, the more likely we can get things, and the higher the likelihood we can get them without paying exorbitant import fees and/or duty (think 30% on top of everything).
Some of the things we need to get:
new anchor chain (1.49 lbs per foot, and we are getting 400 lbs)
new halyards (the ropes that pull our sails up)
new lifejackets for everyone (Ellie is outgrowing hers, and I don’t have one that fits, and we want slightly more comfortable ones for longer passages)
new life raft
two extra winches (the things that help us pull in and let out the ropes on the boat) for hoisting our dinghy out of the water on our davits system.
As for when we’ll get back in the water, our current response is ‘as soon as possible’, as we really would prefer to be back out in the anchorages, and not sitting in the hot, dusty boatyard. Reality is, depends how long it takes to do this work, order in the things we need and get our vaccines. The other factor that we have absolutely no control over is the weather. Right now, the predominant winds are all coming from the south. If we’re heading south, we can’t exactly sail in a southerly wind (wrong direction). Furthermore, these southerly winds kick the seas up with waves coming from the south, which can get very uncomfortable to push the boat through. So, we’ll also have to wait for a weather window again to head south, likely a couple days with no wind where the sea state can calm down and we can motor out. The likelihood of that window coming any time soon is low, but we’ll watch the weather closely as we come to the end of the work.
We have booked an Airbnb for the next three weeks, at least to start, so we can get the kids out of the boat yard, and have access to air conditioning. Unfortunately, our glorious air conditioning that we’ve been enjoying overnight at anchor doesn’t work once the boat is out of the water, so it makes for some very toasty overnights. We had a sad reminder of just how dangerous boat yards are for kids when, the night before we arrived, the daughter of another cruising family ended up in hospital with a broken leg and arm after a ladder fell on her. I believe they’re quite fortunate it didn’t end up much worse, and we’re hoping for her speedy recovery so the family can get back to their sailing adventures. If you imagine, almost every boat here is doing boat work, so every boat is surrounded by sharp and dangerous tools as well as toxic chemicals, so having a kid wander around is just not possible. Added to that are the ladders leading up to every boat, which are very hard to prevent kids from climbing or playing on. So, while the Airbnb is not a cost we really want to incur right now, it’s the smarter move for the time being.
So, on to adulting for a little while, with the hopes of splashing soon enough and getting back out to those dolphins and whale sharks!
It has been an inexcusable amount of time since our last post. While we’ve been regularly updating Instagram and Facebook as to our adventures, I’ve completely neglected the blog. So, now that we have access to some solid internet for a little while, it’s time for some catch-up.
Secondly, both Stu and I have been writing from time to time, so I will be formatting and editing those to post in the coming week.
Thirdly, I can hardly believe it, but we are back in Puerto Peñasco, which is the place we boarded and splashed the boat from. We’ve travelled about 1500 nautical miles in the last 7 months, and honestly had both adamantly said we wouldn’t come back here, but here we are, and I’ll explain why in a coming post.
Thanks to all who have read and commented on our posts thus far, we are so fortunate to have such wonderful friends and family who support us throughout!
We awoke in the morning after rolling around in the swell most of the night. While we love the beauty of Los Gatos, we just haven’t found a night there where we’ve not had an uncomfortable roll. The wind had shifted from the prior evening, and we were closer to the rocks that morning than I personally felt comfortable with. Already awake after a restless sleep, and with the proximity of the rocks, we just decided to weigh anchor and leave at that time. SV Mapache and SV Catspaw decided to follow suit, and we convoyed out of the anchorage, straight into about 15 knots of wind. Excited for the opportunity to sail, we all pulled our sails up and quickly started moving north along the coastline…right until the wind completely died. Noting what felt like a wind line in the distance (where the water looked darker due to wind over its surface, instead of the lighter colours flat-calm water where we were. We were rewarded by a katabatic wind, flowing from west to east from the land, and we shot off like a bullet. Before long we saw some gusts over 27 knots per hour, and Stu was able to try his hand at reefing the mainsail in stronger wind. Sadly, the excitement didn’t last, and before long we were becalmed again, bobbing along. Stu took advantage and launched the drone and was able to get some fun views of the three boats moving along in tandem.
We only had 18 nautical miles to go to get to Agua Verde, so we all had fun with our respective boats, goading each other on over the radio, and enjoying the opportunity to sail when we could.
Back in Agua Verde, we dropped our anchor in the northern ‘lobe’ of the anchorage, nearly on top of where we had previously anchored. As there were several boats around us, Mapache and Catspaw anchored further over in front of the main beach. We all dinghied ashore for dinner at the tiny palapa restaurant on the beach.
Truthfully, there’s nothing much better than home-cooked Mexican food, while sipping a Mexican beer while wriggling one’s toes in the sand. The girls entertained everyone as they played with the proprietor’s granddaughter, and we all enjoyed watching the sunset continually change the colour of the sky.
Being able to show our new friends the girls’ favourite ‘swimming beach’ was a highlight, as were hikes to a nearby arroyo and Stu free-diving for an urchin I spotted from the paddle board.
Agua Verde has definitely been a favourite anchorage of ours, now having spent fourteen days total there over the last couple months. It is really interesting to see an anchorage over a stretch of time, as it can change so much from day to day and evening to evening. I suspect we’ll be back.
Ugh, once again I’ve been failing at regularly updating the blog, and really there is not much excuse, save for the fact the more ‘behind’ I feel in posting, the more I avoid dealing with it.
I’ve written a few posts along the way, and have held back on posting them because I hadn’t posted about the places prior to those ones, and didn’t want to get ‘out of order’, but I’m going to try to get over my OCD-like tendencies, and just post what I have so far, and then do some catch-up posts.
We’ve also filmed a tour of the boat that we’ve been trying to finish editing, and we’ve been procrastinating on that as well!
So, please excuse the fact we’ll be a bit out of order, as we catch up on the time spent since Puerto Escondido!