The Adventures Continue

These past few weeks we’ve been having fun sharing our favorite places with family and friends, so now we’ve been finding a few new adventures.  We’ll be sure to add these to our list of “must-do’s” when we have visitors next year.

We rented a car with our friends Ken and Sheri from s/v Cake while we were all in Puerto Escondido so that we could provision, refill propane tanks, etc., etc., and decided that while we had wheels we should explore!  Since none of us had been up into the mountains above Loreto to see the mission at San Javier, we decided it was the perfect day trip.

After a tasty hamburger lunch at El Barracho, we headed uphill – really uphill – into the mountains.  Lucky for us, the road to San Javier is now all paved except where water crosses in some areas, turning a punishing two-and-a-half-hour marathon into a relatively easy ride that can be completed in less than an hour.  It’s only a 22 mile drive, and between the spectacular scenery, steep grades and dizzying hairpin curves, there’s definitely no need to rush.

San Javier is a tiny village with a cobbled main street (the only street?) that leads straight to the mission and is set against a backdrop of high rugged mountains.  The Mission was founded by the Jesuits in 1699, led by Father Francisco María Piccolo.  The Jesuits built aqueducts and dams, harvested timber, and an interesting factoid for this sailor is that timber collected from areas north of the mission was used in the construction of the first ship ever built in the Californias, the famous El Triunfo de la Cruz.

The church is in surprisingly good condition and rising behind the altar is one of three retablos (I learned a new word..!) covered in gold leaf from Spain, featuring 18th-century oil paintings and a statue of San Javier.  With the surrounding mountains, the quaint town, and the church itself built from huge quarried stones, it’s all quite stunning.

Then of course there is the filming of the telenovela (Spanish soap opera) the day we visited!  What a riot.  When we arrived in San Javier we could see there was a large crowd around the church and flowers outlining the door, so we thought we had stumbled onto a midweek wedding.  Then we noticed all the cameras, the drone flying overhead, and the townspeople standing around ready to clap or cheer on queue.  As it turned out, they were filming a wedding scene for a telenovela, and the entire town had turned out to be the extras.  So much for quietly wandering through the historic church!  We watched for a bit, and wandered around when they weren’t filming, so it was still fun to see.

Our next adventure was a trip to a secluded oasis with plenty of shade, great snorkeling, fantastic views of the area, and a great walking beach.  We loaded up the dinghy with a picnic lunch, our chairs, books and snorkel gear, and made a day of it.  We enjoyed some of the best snorkeling we’ve had so far this year, floating in and out of the shallow reefs and over the steep underwater cliffs.  What a great day!

Another short adventure was seeing a Desert Bighorn Sheep up close and personal!  A ram had come down the ridge to the beach area and went into a cave to enjoy the cool shade.  He was absolutely gorgeous and quite majestic!  We floated for awhile watching him and he didn’t seem to mind our presence, but when we started the engine to leave he got up to go too.  We felt bad for having disturbed him, but it was spectacular to see him standing there watching us.  These pictures are taken with a telephoto, so please don’t think we were this close!

I always thought it was odd that Bighorn Sheep were on the island, but then I read more about why they are here and it’s actually pretty interesting.  The sheep were relocated to Isla Carmen in 1995 as a program to help increase the overall population of sheep in Baja California.  They originally brought over two sets of 13 sheep, and in 2009 there were estimated to be about 450 on the island, so at that time they’d relocated over 65 animals.  This type of a conservation program requires that there also be a harvesting program in place and in 2005 the Mexican government started issuing a controlled number of tags each year, and there is a hunting lodge that is in operation in Bahia Salinas.  Hopefully the relocations are continuing successfully, as these guys are gorgeous!

So there you have it, our latest and greatest adventures.  We’re adding new anchorages to our list of favorites, learning more about the area, and we hope to share more of our slice of paradise with stowaways in the coming years!

The Wild Life Continues!

This has been the month (or three) of wild life on Happy Dance.  Visitors from land and sea have been making appearances to warm our hearts and entertain us.  It’s been AWESOME!!!

In our last two posts you met cousin Barb and son Kyle with girlfriend Rachael.  We’ve now shared more sun and fun and sea life sightings with friend Janet and my sister Meg!  So here you go…more photos from the Happy Dance B&B.

Our friend Janet left Colorado in the snow and landed in sunshine.  The weather was a bit blowsy during her stay, but we managed to get in a couple of days of paddle boarding and lots of wild life watching.  Toss in some margaritas with extra salt, a few quesadillas, and voila..vacation in Mexico!  This was Janet’s second trip to the Happy Dance, so she is becoming an old salt and even spent all of one day captaining us along under sail – yay Janet!

After Janet went back to newly fallen snow in Boulder (wearing her sandals), we then had a week of total calm weather.  Go figure.  Guests get northers, we get calm?  It’s been frustrating that the weather hasn’t cooperated this spring; the water is unseasonably cold and green, in other words…BRR!  We seem to find lots of great things to do anyway, but hopefully on our guesties next visits (hint, hint), the weather will be more cooperative.  However as I write this I think that 70-80 degrees is probably acceptable to folks traveling from the great white north!

Last but definitely not least, our final stowaway visitor of the season was my sister Meg.  Having never seen Happy Dance it was great fun to give her the 5 second tour of the boat, show her all our sea treasures, explain that the anchor will indeed hold, and that sailboats are meant to heel!

Meg arrived in Loreto and we immediately jumped aboard Happy Dance and headed north to Isla Coronados.  We enjoyed a yummy dinner, some dolphin and turtle sightings, and called it a day.  Unfortunately, it was a rather bumpy night, so Meg learned very quickly about life at sea.  Next morning we weighed anchor and headed toward Caleta San Juanico, expecting to sail all the way in the forecast SE winds.  Well, once again, local weather patterns overrode the wider forecast and we had 25-30 knots of gusterly wind from the West coming through the gap in the mountains.  We reefed down and sailed, and Meg was a trooper for her first day on the water!

Caleta San Juanico is one of our favorite anchorages because it has plenty of beaches, beautiful rock formations, and we love to snorkel, paddle board, and fish in the huge bay.  The water was a bit chilly this visit after the northers had stirred up the bay, so we chose beach exploration over swimming.  It’s a beautiful place in any weather!

From San Juanico we headed south again down the east side of Isla Carmen.  We saw a few dolphins on the way, along with some great sightings of the painted cliffs.  The colors of the rock formations on these islands is absolutely stunning and simply doesn’t show up in the photographs.  It’s something you have to see in person with the changing light and shadows.

We had two VERY blowsy days in Bahia Salinas, never even getting off the boat.  Ugh.  But we entertained ourselves with birthday bonfires, and laughing through some card games, interspersed with lots of sisterly gabbing.  Perfect.  The highlight of the stay in Salinas was fisher woman extraordinaire Meg, catching 3 huge trigger fish off the bow while at anchor!   That led to some very yummy fish tacos for dinner.  Way to go Meg!

We saved the best for last.  As we left Bahia San Juanico we saw some flashes and jumbled water up ahead.  After confirming our hopes with the binoculars, we headed over toward a pod of 200 or more dolphins.  The water was boiling with dolphins swimming in close formation, leaping, slapping, and generally appearing to have a wonderful time!  We went along side the pod and many of them came over to visit and ride the bow wake.  We idled near them for over 30 minutes, snapping photos and simply listening and watching the incredible beauty of dolphins in the wild.  The wild life…it’s a good thing.

Flying!! …with hitchhikers

After wearing out our smile muscles we sadly left the dolphins behind and headed around the southern tip of Isla San Carmen, and anchored in the beautiful little bay of Bahia Ballandra, just east of Loreto.  The water was finally clear and fairly warm, so we enjoyed a nice swim before dinner on the bar-b-que.  The next morning we sailed early to Loreto, walked the town, and had our last Mexican meal with Meg (sad face); until next visit!

This spring has been incredible for many reasons; fun with family and friends, exciting wild life sightings, and mostly the warm of fuzzy feeling of getting to share our amazing life with our amazing friends.  More adventures in our wonderful wild life!

More Wild LIfe!!

Another week in paradise and more wild life sightings to check off our list!  We’ve been very lucky lately, seeing lots of critters of the sea, especially since we’ve been entertaining more stowaways from north of the border.  This week we had our son Kyle and his girl Rachael on board for a week of sun, fun, and many laughs…it was awesome!  We love getting to share our slice of happy to our family and friends.

After a quick provisioning run we met the kids in Loreto and headed out to the islands.  Loreto is the perfect place to pick up guests, because there are numerous anchorages within a day’s sail, so no matter what the winds are doing you can still hunker down in comfort and enjoy some incredible scenery.   Our first stop on this tour was Isla Coronados, a quick 6 mile jaunt from Loreto.

After a couple of days on Isla Coronados watching pangas come and go bringing Mexican vacationers enjoying their spring break, we decided it was time for a less busy anchorage.  We pulled anchor and moved on around the north end of Isla Carmen, along the east side to view the gorgeous painted cliffs, and then into the large bay of the abandoned salt producing village of Bahia Salinas.  We had the place to ourselves and enjoyed beach walks and lots of swimming in the warm water.

One day I was watching the gang return to the boat in the dinghy when I noticed a large moving black shape near the surface of the water.  Then a black fin of some sort starting showing as it lazily swam along behind the boat.  When the dinghy arrived I told them to go see what it was…as I was a little worried that we might have a shark in the anchorage!  They finally found the mystery shape and discovered that we had a young Whale Shark in the anchorage with us!  Wow!  That’s a first in this anchorage and a first for Marty and me to see a Whale Shark up close.

The next day Wally the Whale Shark showed up again making the same lazy circle around the boat through the shallows.  Kyle and I jumped on our paddle boards to go investigate and it was an amazing sight.  Wally was about 25′ or 26′ long, just a baby in the Whale Shark world, but he sure seemed big to us looking down on him from our 13′ paddle boards!  Kyle paddled ahead at one point and slipped into the water with his snorkel mask on to float and see if he could see Wally up close and personal.  Sure enough, Wally went right under Kyle and from the look on Kyle’s face as he surfaced saying “OMG!!!”, it was quite an experience!  Picture a mouth swimming toward you that you’d easily fit in!  Yikes!  Glad that Whale Sharks are vegetarians!!

From Salinas and Wally’s World, we headed down a few miles to another gorgeous anchorage known as Punta Colorado.  Again we had the place to ourselves and enjoyed some great snorkeling and paddle boarding on the glassy water.

The final day of Kyle’s and Rachael’s visit the wind finally showed up with a vengeance.  Forecasted to blow in the low twenties, we got the boat ship shape after breakfast and headed around the south end of Isla Carmen and set the sails.  We sailed as close to the wind as we could and Happy Dance was definitely in her element!  She was making over 7 knots and when I took my hand off the wheel she was perfectly balanced, and sailed herself.  It was an amazing sail!  Mother Nature soon wanted to show us what she had to offer, with a swell building and an angry blue line headed our way so we turned south and sailed downwind toward Puerto Escondido.

A lovely week of sun and fun and sharing our crazy wild life with some of our favorite people!  Tomorrow we head to Loreto to start the tour again with another stow away!  Wow, I think our family and friends have finally discovered that we live in paradise…YAY!




Our Wild Life!

After our last escapade into a dark and stormy night, you might wonder whether we parked the boat and settled for a less liquid lifestyle.  I’ll have to admit that when the lightning was hitting the sea all around us that we both had a momentary thought that maybe it was time to do just that.  However, I’m happy to assure you that the answer is a resounding NO…we’re not leaving!

In the past four years of living on Happy Dance we’ve experienced a number of what we’d call “rutro” moments and only a couple of those were actually something where we could have been in danger.   So if you do the math, the ahhs, the wows, the pinch me moments, and the total count of wonderful, far outweighs the rutros and oh s**ts.

Our first couple of weeks after crossing over from the mainland we stayed in the Islas Espiritu Santos and Isla San Francisco.  It was quiet and we enjoyed just being back in the Sea.  So here we are, floating along, listening to the waves and the gulls, and enjoying our slice of paradise.  We’ve spent the last month zigging and zagging through the islands just north of La Paz, and we are now in the central Sea of Cortez, where there’s a whole other set of islands and anchorages to enjoy.

We then made a quick run down to La Paz to catch a flight back to the States.  It’s baseball season; time for Marty’s annual trek to the land of glitz and glamor in Las Vegas (not to mention an all day drafting session in a conference room away from the glitz and glamor!).  After his draft was done in Vegas he then headed to Seattle to perform some more baseball magic and see a few family and friends while I returned to Happy Dance to get us ready to leave the dock as soon as he returned.

When Marty flew back, he brought company!  My cousin Barbara came down to visit and she gets the Happy Dance prize because she’s our first repeat visitor. This must be the year for visits, because we have a full calendar this month and even have a second return visitor.  I guess after four years the word is getting out that this is a pretty good gig!

We’ve had a wonderful week with our extra crew member onboard as we made the 100+ mile trek north from La Paz, stopping in Caleta Partida, Isla San Franciso, Caleta Nopolo, and Agua Verde.

It’s been a great week of wild life too (the kind that lives in the sea).  We saw dozens of turtles in Caleta Partida, a pair of humpback whales near Isla Ballena (Whale Island), hundreds of rays jumping in Isla San Francisco, and even a shark or two along the way into Agua Verde.

Barb and I collected agates and climbed the ridge trail on Isla San Francisco while Marty handled anchor watch on Happy Dance during a very windy day.  The hike was great, but I have to admit that it was a little scary standing on top with the wind howling!  Slow and steady was the theme of the day, but it’s so beautiful from up on the peak that it’s well worth the hike.

Today we’re in Puerto Escondido doing laundry after hailing a taxi to the airport for my cousin Barbara (sad face).  We’ll spend this week meeting up with friends in the nearby anchorages, then return next weekend to pick up our next stowaways!


(Hint: to see the photos full size just click on any one and it will open a slide show)

The Baja Boogie

Okay, I admit it, I was scared! My knees were shaking and I had to concentrate to stay focused on the positive, on knowing that all was well, that Happy Dance was taking very good care of us, that in a few hours we’d be through the storm…

We’ve made many trips across the southern end of the Sea of Cortez between the Baja Peninsula and the Pacific Coast of Mexico, and with the exception of our first crossing all have been smooth sailing. Until now. A few days ago we made the 225 mile trek from Mazatlan to Isla Espiritu Santos, although our mileage was significantly higher than the rhumb line 225nm measurement due to all the crazy course changes we made while dodging storm cells.

As I write this we’re siting here in the cockpit looking out over gently rippled water, under a blue sky, looking at the white sand beach and the red rocky cliffs of Playa Bonanza on Espiritu Santos. It’s a view that is familiar and yet it feels new after having been south on the tropical coast of mainland Mexico for the past few months. It’s also a view that reminds us that the challenges of the past few days are definitely worthwhile. We’ve paid some more dues to the sea gods who guard this slice of paradise and hopefully we’re now paid up for a very long time.

To really appreciate the trip we just survived, let me try to give you a visual of Happy Dance making the crossing with her crew tethered on and enduring the ride. First you’ll need to go into your laundry room, fill the washing machine and start the agitator. Drop in a toy sailboat with two little lego people duct taped to the deck. Now close the lid and turn out the lights. It’s dark in there right? Yep, really really dark. Now leave the lights out, open the lid and aim bright flash light bursts all around our little Happy Dance and her crew. With the first light flashes, bang a pan a few seconds later, then start banging the pan as loud as you can immediately after the flash of light. Now get a watering can and pour cold water over our little Happy Dance with the little lego people duct taped on. Now get a fan and point it at our dancing toy boat, turn it on and off and change the direction of the wind from minute to minute. Are you getting the picture? Yep, it was that crazy.

Now hold that visual I’ll try to fill you in on the actual details.

After watching the weather forecasts for a week, we’d decided that there was a good opportunity to boogie over to Baja in moderate 8-15 knot northwest winds with a low swell, beginning Friday and ending Monday, when another strong northerly was expected to blow down into the Sea.

We pulled off the dock Friday at 10:00am on a rising tide under cloudy skies, exited the narrow channel to be greeted by a zillion rays jumping with joy, and multiple pods of humpback whales breaching and slapping. The wind was blowing 8-10 just off the bow; not hard enough to make much speed under sail alone, so we motor-sailed on our rhumb line close to the wind. A lovely start to a two day sail.

We held this course as day turned to night, enjoying a sliver of a moon that lit our way. By this time we were about 60 miles offshore, the seas had gotten progressively lumpier and more confused, and the wind was beginning to get flukey. Soon the moon went down and the clouds covered the stars making for a very, very black night.

When I came up to start my watch at eleven o’clock Marty was looking at the radar and said that a vessel had just appeared on radar about 6 miles out. As we watched a couple passes of the radar that vessel turned into a small island and then grew into a blob about 4-5 miles wide; our first storm cell of the night. Little did we know how many more we’d see over the course of the next 12 hours. Since we were starting to bash into steeper and steeper waves we reefed the main, and altered course slightly to avoid the squall cell and take the swell more on our forward quarter. Marty went below for his 3 hours off watch and I took over, staring into the black and hanging on.

As the night progressed, things began to deteriorate. Tiny dots appeared on the radar and literally within minutes they would bloom into large yellow blobs measuring 6-8 miles in size directly across our path. The evil storm cell blobs were traveling south to north at 3-4 knots, and we were moving east to west at 4-5 knots. We tried to dodge the cells by anticipating where they were heading as they grew and changed shape but it was nearly impossible to get through without going through some of them. At one point the cells made a complete circle around us and we just had to pick the narrowest band to aim toward in order to escape. It was like playing a video game, only we didn’t have any zappers to blow up the blobs and they were definitely winning.

As one group of cells passed us by, we’d get a slight reprieve of 10-20 minutes before the next group would start building. At first the only lightning that we saw was far in the distance lighting up the entire sky, but as the cells grew in intensity we began to see actual bolts of lightning hitting the sea or splitting the sky horizontally, and then we started hearing the thunder; the very loud, rolling, crackling, scary thunder that meant the lightning was getting closer.

In the midst of all this craziness, I did have a smiley moment when a large pod of dolphins joined us in the dark. Their paths through the water toward Happy Dance were lit up by the phosphorus, and as they leapt next to the boat little sparkles would light their backs. Oh how I wanted to be a dolphin at that moment, away from the scary weather on the surface!

Soon the cells started dropping rain in addition to the thunder and lightning; lots and lots of driving rain. It soaked us and filled the v-berth with rainwater from a river running down from the anchor windlass. The dinghy that was strapped on deck and was soon a small swimming pool with water sloshing back and forth.

At one point we were surrounded by a particularly scary cell that just wouldn’t let us escape. This cell was terrifying because it was full of blinding lightning that just kept coming closer. Marty was in the companionway looking aft and watching the strikes of lightning getting nearer; I couldn’t watch and could only cringe as the light flashed around us. Some of the strikes were like clotheslines, with a horizontal line connecting to the sea by numerous vertical bolts flashing down off of the clothesline. I was trying to outrun the worst of it by making a bunch of large course changes as the cell would shift around us. When I heard the thunder I would count it off and turn the other direction, always looking for a hole in the image on the radar screen so that we could make a getaway. At first the count was 8 seconds, then 6, then 2, then BAM; no time to count that one. Yikes! I’ll never forget the sound of the strikes near the boat and the crackling feel of the air around us. How we didn’t get scorched I’ll never know, all I know is that my knees were literally shaking!

We finally escaped that nasty cell and kept up the crazy course changes to avoid cells the rest of the night. As daylight dawned we were greeted by the sight of the waves that we hadn’t been able to see all night. I remember thinking that if we were in the dinghy on the face of those waves that we’d just tumble out; that’s how vertical the sides of the waves were. I don’t want to exaggerate and I really have no idea how big the waves were, but because they were steep and closely bunched together it made for a very rough ride. Occasionally Happy Dance’s bow would just plunge down into a trough and as it came up the sea would explode in white froth. We were looking up out of the cockpit to the tops of the waves so the heights were maybe 6′ to an occasional 8+’, and if it hadn’t been a tad uncomfortable, I would have to say that it was truly beautiful; green transparent wave tops and white froth mixing with the colors of the breaking waves as they lit up with phosphorus.

Then just when we thought it couldn’t get worse, we found out that yes indeed it could and did; as the cells were now packing more of a downdraft. Bear in mind we’d been fighting this mess for about 8-10 hours and we were both a bit tired; it’s hard to sleep on a boat in a washing machine. As we watched these new daylight cells appear in front of us, the sea would change from a smooth lumpy mess, to a dark gun metal grey covered with angry white breakers. The wind from these new cells was instant and unpredictable, with the anemometer reading 8 knots one minute and 30-35 literally the very next minute. Happy Dance, now under a bare pole, was staggering in the force of the wind with her rigging vibrating, and it was all we could do to stay on course. The waves pushed by these winds were crashing into us and I took a few right in the face; as if I wasn’t already wide awake!

In the face of one nasty squall that was heeling us over in 30 plus knots, we turned downwind to run with it for a bit just to catch our breath. At that point I was thinking that maybe we needed to just give it up and turn back to Mazatlan. We were now at the halfway point, so that meant about 110 miles either way; back to Mazatlan with the wind at our backs, or on to Baja fighting against what now appeared to possibly be the leading edge of a norther. Thankfully Marty and common sense prevailed, and we decided that these mighty winds were localized from the storms and would hopefully dissipate as soon as we reached the other side of the front. In a few hours that came to prove true, and around mid-afternoon it appeared that we’d passed the final cell and now we now just in widespread torrential rain. The sea started settling down and the wind dropped back down to the forecast 8-12 knots from the northwest. Ahhh, we made it.

The rest of the passage was thankfully uneventful, and we alternated watches and naps for the second night, motoring into the light wind and increasingly smooth water. We slowed down a bit in order to time our entrance into the anchorage at first light, and soon had the anchor down in paradise as the orange sun rose out of the Sea behind us. So here we sit, bobbing at anchor, enjoying the beauty of Baja and the clean feel of Baja air. A light breeze is rippling the anchorage, the beach is shining in the sun, and we’ve had a nap, a shower, and a hot breakfast. It’s wonderful to be alive, and it’s a great feeling to be back in the Sea of Cortez.

So there you have it, another story to add to our tales of fun, sun, and dubious adventures. In hindsight the storm cells we endured packed winds that were sudden and fierce, and waves that were steep, lumpy, and uncomfortable, but neither the wind nor the sea state were life threatening and Happy Dance is more than up to the task. The only part that was really scary and that I hope never to experience again was the lightning. It was terrifying to be so close to such power, such noise, such hair raising voltage, knowing that there wasn’t a darn thing to be done except hang on for the ride. Thankfully Happy Dance and her crew didn’t get fried and all was well.

Life at 6 knots

I think it’s fascinating that airplane wings and canvas sails use the same aerodynamic principles to generate movement. I love that the wind exerts force on a sail in much the same way that jet engines create air flow around the wings of an airplane to lift it into the sky, and while I much prefer the serenity of sailing over the power of a jet engine, both are impressive.

We’ve put a few thousand more air miles on our flight list in the last two months, as well as a couple hundred road miles. We’ve been moving fast! Now it’s time to get back into our home afloat life. It’s time to slow down, take a breath, soak up some ahhhhs. Six knots is not only the speed that we travel, but it’s a characterization of the speed that we live. Everything takes a little longer when living on a sailboat.

For the past couple months we’ve been moored in a marina, with easy access to buses and taxis and an airport down the road. It’s been a necessity with all of our planned mainland excursions, but it’s not our first choice of places to be. The convenience is nice; there are plenty of stores and restaurants within a few blocks and we can purchase most everything that we need. That all changes though, as we prepare to leave the dock.

Life at six knots is not without a few challenges, and doing a major provision in preparation to be at sea for a few weeks or months can be one of them, transforming a simple trip to the grocery store into an all-day adventure. First we pack up our backpacks full of carry bags to bring home all our loot, then we walk up the hill to the bus stop. We climb on the collective bus, wedge ourselves into a seat, and we’re off.

Collectivo buses come in all shapes and sizes, as well as all levels of comfort or the lack thereof. Usually they are small vans that have 4 or 5 rows of seats with extra fold away seats at the end of each row. When full that means there are about 18 or 20 people on board, often carrying big bags or parcels. The windows are open, the radio is blaring, it’s hot, crowded, bumpy, and fun. It’s like a Chinese fire drill when the person in the last row wants to get off!

When we arrive at the Mega or Chedraui, we grab a cart and wander up and down all the aisles. Super-marcados are comparable to large grocery stores in the states, however the selection is obviously much different, and it’s good to be able to read a bit of Spanish!

I remember one time trying to find yeast and not knowing the Spanish word for it, I tried to act out a description of bread rising to the dumbfounded clerk trying to make sense of my babbling! I finally found the yeast (levadura) and went back to show the clerk what I’d been trying to explain; we both had a good laugh at that one!

Some markets have a “gringo” section, where they have lots of over-priced American products for the tourists who just can’t live without familiar name brand items. We gave up on specialty items long ago and choose more traditional Mexican fare now, with a few exceptions; whenever possible we stock up on American cheeses. However it’s usually more fun to learn to use the local selections and to sometimes be surprised by what’s on the inside of a mystery item!

After we’re all loaded down with bags of stuff, we then wheel our cart out to the curb and hail a taxi. If we’re doing a small shopping trip we’ll ride the bus home too, but if it’s too much to carry, a taxi is a nice treat. We get dumped off in the parking lot behind the marina, where if we’re lucky we’ll find a cart, much like a garden cart, that we can load up and wheel our groceries to the boat. If not, it’s lots of trips up and down the dock as we get our groceries to the boat. Then we have a bag brigade to hand bags down the companionway as we start the process of stashing the groceries in all their various hidey holes.

We take everything out of the cardboard boxes that they came in so that we can avoid bringing onboard any stow-away bugs. Dry goods go into plastic canisters so that they stay dry. Cans get stowed under the floors with their contents written on top in sharpie so that we can see what we’ve got at a glance. Everything has a place on a boat, or at least we try to keep it that way!

With the shopping and stowing done, the next step is to “check out”. That means taking our collection of official papers to the Port Captain and having him record that we’re leaving his port of jurisdiction. We have to let him know how many people are on board and where we’re heading. When we arrive at the next port we’ll then need to “check in”. It’s an ongoing in and out from all the ports in Mexico.

After checking out with the Port Captain, we check out of the marina, and then we prepare to toss the dock lines! Before we start the engine, there are plenty of onboard checks to do as well. All the normal engine checks have to be completed and the cabin needs to be secured, making sure everything on board is stowed so that it doesn’t become a missile when we hit some boat wake or start heeling in the wind.

Then finally it’s time. It’s always a great feeling when that last dock line is removed, Marty steps onboard, and we slowly back away from the dock. We have one more stop to make and that’s at the fuel dock. The fuel dock is full so that means floating in the channel trying to keep the boat in one place as the wind and tide try to do otherwise! As with anything in Mexico, fueling takes time, so we turn in circles as we wait patiently for our turn at the dock. Pretty soon it’s our turn, we pull in, tie up and hand the hose back and forth across the boat to fill both tanks. Marty watches the liter count while I keep an eye on the gauge and the overflow valves.

Fueling is NOT an exact science and it’s easy to misjudge when a tank is full. We want to make sure we get every ounce possible into the tanks because we’ll be making a 350 mile crossing and it’s good to have a bit of reserve in case there’s no wind or in case the wind turns against us. We also carry 20 gallons on deck as a backup, so in theory that gives us a range of 120 gallons, or 92 hours, or about 540 nautical miles – in theory. Once the diesel tanks are full, Marty gets a bit of regular gas for the outboard, and NOW we’re on our way.

We pull off the dock, wind our way through the line of boats waiting their turn at the fuel dock, and start getting ready to sail. Deck crew Marty starts untying the fenders and removing the dock lines when “fender overboard”! Oops, one got away, and of course we’re right in the channel. A little backing, turning, and luckily a friendly dinghy going by to hand us our fender and NOW we’re really on our way!

We clear the entrance channel, get everything ship shape, roll out the sails, turn off the engine and ahhhhhh; back to life at 6 knots. It’s a perfect sailing day; flat water, 12-18 knots of breeze, sunshine, whales breaching in the distance, and plenty of daylight to enjoy it all. We’re on a close haul, so the boat heels with the wind to remind us what it’s like living on a tilt. Settling in with silly grins, we just soak it all in.

After a few hours of sailing and remembering why we live on a boat, we head for the anchorage at Punta de Mita. The afternoon wind is up so it’s a bit bumpy in the anchorage, but that’s okay. We drop anchor and settle in to watch the world go by. We’ll stay a couple days, then start making plans to head north back into the Sea of Cortez. It’s time to get our sea legs back, and start focusing on the weather and swell conditions before we head off on a 3-day crossing to the Baja.

I like living at 6 knots. I like being barefoot. I like drinking my morning coffee in the cockpit as the boat swings on anchor. I like the smiles and “Buenos Dias” when we walk in town. I like fresh tortillas and buying veggies out of wooden crates. I like to listen to the mewing gulls, the sound of the waves crashing on shore, and feeling Happy Dance rise and fall on the ocean swell. I like watching boobies and pelicans circle and dive for their breakfast while I’m cooking in the galley. I like seeing dolphins and fish balls boiling at the surface, hearing the wind in the sails, and the gurgle of the hull as Happy Dance slips through the water. Our canvas wings will slowly but surely power us back to our favorite spots where we’ll drop an anchor, swim to shore and feel the sand between our toes. Simple pleasures, slow life. Perfect.

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A Hodgepodge of Happenings

If I remember correctly when we last wrote we were still dealing with the ongoing saga of engine woes. Unfortunately that has yet to be corrected; a subject I’ll get to shortly, but in the meantime, here are the dazzling details about our amazing adventures. Well, amazing might not be the right word, but they were certainly fun! We put a few more air miles on the tally, and added another total to the ongoing list of how many beds we slept in during one month.

Having traveled east last Christmas looking for snow in the mountains of Bavaria, this year we decided to head west and revisit the sunny shores of Hawaii. We rendezvoused with part of the McDaniel and Johnson clans and spent a week or so enjoying some winter storms on the island of Maui. There was plenty of rain and wind, but that only made for more rainbows than usual! It was a busy week with plenty of laughs, beaches, luaus, whales, feasts, and Zachary! Zach is our 20-month-old grandnephew and was of course the life of the party.

Marty and I also fit in a few adventures on our own. One day we went up to see the sunrise from 10,000’ on the cold summit of Haleakala, and then rode bikes down the mountain. It was quite a wild ride and a tad bit unnerving when I started smelling my brakes smoking!

We also spent a few days in Hana, where we rented a little cottage perched above the ocean. It was totally quiet and totally spectacular; kind of like being in a solitary anchorage only we were tethered to shore. We took some spectacular hikes through bamboo forests and banyan trees to see the many overflowing waterfalls and spent a couple of quiet days watching the ocean.  Hana is truly magical.

Once home from our Hawaiian sojourn, we drove up to San Luis Obispo to visit Kyle and Rachael in their Prefumo Canyon hideaway. They’ve been working hard on completely remodeling two 70’s era homes in the canyon and the place looks amazing! The rain that had been with us in Hawaii was still pouring down everyday during our visit to SLO, making the hills look like a scene from the Sound of Music…with oak trees!

From SLO we then flew to Phoenix to celebrate the incredible life of Marty’s Grandmother who had recently passed away at age 103. It was a heartfelt gathering of family that came together; something I’m happy to be a part of. Grandmom, Ina Stalnaker Dresser, was quite a lady and it’s amazing to think of all that she experienced and all the people she touched in her 103 years on earth.

We flew back home to Happy Dance, where we’re currently moored in Marina Nayarit, La Cruz de Huanacaxtle. With the intention of finally resolving our engine issues, we brought a new part home with us after our stateside travels. Unfortunately that part turned out to function exactly opposite to the one we have. In other words, when installed, the resting position of the valve was closed rather than open, so it would only open to let fuel through when pushing the kill switch, which is actually used to close off the supply of fuel…ARGH! Needless to say we have reinstalled the old part and will try again to find the correct part on our next foray into Yanmar land.

While here in La Cruz, a special event was just celebrated called the festival of Our Lady of Peace, patron Saint of Bucerias. One of the events during the week of celebrations is the blessing of the fleet. Crowds start gathering mid-morning in Bucerias to see the local riders on horseback in their traditional costumes, the ladies dresses spread out over the horses’ backs, and the local Mayan dancers. The fishermen gather in La Cruz to decorate their boats with palm leaves, paper flowers, balloons, and flags.  There is plenty of live music and a few bottle rockets, and then the fishermen and villagers all pile into the pangas to travel the 6 or 7 miles from La Cruz to Bucerias, where they will make dramatic surf landings on the beach and the priest will bless them. As they approach Bucerias, the pangueros form a sign of the cross with their boats. This is a tradition that occurs in many seaside villages and its intention is to bless the fishermen and their boats for safety in the coming year.

So there you have it; the latest episode in the lifestyle of the retired and not so famous!


They look the same….but they ain’t!