Fresh Veggies

Today we went shopping for fresh vegetables. Such a simple statement, but the actual event is so much more, so in true blog style I will try to describe our adventure.

We’re currently anchored in Caleta San Juanico, which is about 40 miles as the blue footed boobie flies from Loreto. In this bay there are 7 sailboats including Happy Dance, a handful of campers on shore, and two casas on the hill. Today a small contingent of 18′ wooden sail boats flew in under sail to set up camp for a leadership training course and they’ll be here for a few days. Are you getting the picture? It’s a large bay with a bunch of adventuresome self-sufficient types, all enjoying the beauty and the isolation. In other words, there ain’t no Walmart!

After about a week or so at anchor we always start to run out of fresh green produce. The potatoes, onions, cabbage, limes, carrots, tomatillos, etc., those all stay fresh for a good long time. It’s the green leafy types that disappear rapidly.

We’d heard about the possibility of getting some fresh veggies from a ranchito that was a little over a mile away. Since we needed some terra firma exercise we decided to venture out and see if we could find this place.

To get the full effect of what it means to go veggie shopping while in a remote anchorage, you have to remember all the steps involved, and not just the ones we’ll take while walking down the path! Marty first needed to inflate the flat dinghy wheels (yes, our dinghy has wheels so we can pull it up the beach), then he wanted to take a little time while on the beach to try to find the mystery leak that has been evading him. We loaded up with shoes, wheels, backpack, and assorted tools for the leak team, then headed off to the beach, timed our landing between waves, and pulled Tiny Dancer (our dinghy) up above the high tide line on the beach. Marty played detective with his wrenches and silicone while I took a walk down the beach.

When Marty finished up, we put on our shoes and headed over to the path that would take us around the lagoon. As it turns out this lagoon, that is now landlocked, was once a nice little inlet that led from the bay to the lagoon, but Hurricane Odile washed so much sand and rock up on the beach that the inlet is now a hill of sand. But I digress. The lagoon is a still pond now, populated by loons and herons, cormorants and kingfishers.

It always gets quiet when you leave the shore and walk inland, but today the wind was howling along the cliff sides and across the dried river bed. We walked around the lagoon and came to a dirt path with plenty of tracks left by the horses and mules we’ve been seeing wandering about. We followed those to a wider path that led to a dirt road. That dirt road led to another dirt road that was bordered on both sides by a perfect row of stones set into the soft dirt.

After a mile or so we went up a slight hill, then down the other side, around a bend, and low and behold we found an oasis. There were plenty of small fruit trees bordering a neat little stone casa, with a fenced garden on one side and a thatch covered patio on the other. There was a chicken house a little distance away, a rack of beautifully tooled leather saddles, and plenty of neat paths, all bordered with stones. The garden had raised beds, with frames for green house covers, irrigation pipes for watering, and plenty of GREEN!

We made friends with the two dogs that announced our presence. The Spanish music coming from inside the house was turned off and out came a nice looking Mexican man to meet us. We introduced ourselves and were soon chatting with Jose, in our broken Spanish. He took us into the garden, explained that he’d started building two years ago, and that the veggies were organic. We walked around from bed to bed and Jose pulled up carrots, green onions, beets, cut us a few bunches of oregano and lettuce, washed them all, then bagged them up for us. He had plenty of other produce that wasn’t quite ready but would all be very tasty in a few more weeks.

After chatting with Jose a bit longer we learned that he has never lived in a city, that he was raised in the mountains near San Javier, and his father is named Martin. He has a wife and an 8-year old daughter who goes to school during the week in Loreto. We soon ran out of easily explained factoids about us all, so we paid him 80 pesos ($5.50 or so) for our haul, shook his hand with plenty of gracias, and we headed back to the road.

When we got back to the dinghy the wind had picked up into the 20’s so it was a bumpy ride back to the boat, but we were soon onboard. After our three hour expedition into an unexpected desert oasis, we were rewarded with fresh beet salad to go with our Parmesan chicken for dinner.

You’re probably getting the idea by now that when you live on a boat small chores often become big chores, and when you’re very lucky they also become adventures. Today was like that. It’s these unexpected discoveries that make this lifestyle so satisfying. When you are able to reach into the lifestyle of these beautiful people and shake a hand that is made of soft leather from years of hard work, look into the eyes of a new friend; it’s such a privilege.

So please forgive me for waxing poetic about a bunch of veggies, but when you go to the grocery store next time, remember Jose and his little plot of veggies out in the empty desert, and smile along with us.

The Allure of the Dock

Last night we awoke once again to the sound of the halyards as they clanged against the mast, like the bass drum in a marching band accompanied by the wind instruments whistling the melody through the shrouds. It’s January and the chilly north winds are blowing. The boat rocks gently and the mooring lines squeak while the fenders bounce on the hull. It’s on nights like this when we’re happy to be tied to a dock, when we can simply turn over and snuggle down a little deeper into our cozy bed, not having to worry about which way the wind is blowing or where we’ll be when morning comes.

Marinas are a powerful enticement to the cruiser, providing comfort, convenience, and security, and for some cruisers they soon become impossible to leave.

The ease of being in a marina is hard to deny. We can simply step off the boat onto the dock, wander to the tienda for groceries, hop on the collectivo bus to town, or stroll over to any of the nearby restaurants to have a cold one or watch the Seahawks. The trash cans are just a few steps away, there is a shower with plenty of hot water, and there are people nearby always ready to lend a hand, tell a good story, or share a laugh.

Even more than the comfort factor is the safe refuge of the port. When the winds are whistling and the flags are snapping in a heavy breeze, if you’re tied to a dock it’s an easy thing to simply check the dock lines, makes sure everything is tied down, then go below and relax. It’s sweet dreams every night.

Marina San Carlos

Marina San Carlos

When you’re at anchor on a blowsy night it’s a different story. Somehow it’s the windy nights that are the darkest when the sounds are louder and everything is more intense. That’s when the “what if’s” have a way of taking hold. What if the anchor drags? What if the snubber line parts? What if we don’t have enough rode out? What if the winds shift and put us on a lee shore? Are we slipping? What’s that noise? Here comes a big gust, hang on!

When you’re at anchor you always sleep with one ear open, ready to jump if the need arises, but even more so on a rough night. When you consider that your home is attached to a chain that is held down by a 50 lb. weight sitting in the sand, it’s enough to make the imagination run wild!

So here we sit at the dock, tied up and safe, comfortable and bored, waiting for a weather window. We’ve been sitting patiently for a week now and we are getting antsy to get those dock lines untied. Today was another provisioning run; we had to go to the Santa Rosa market to stock up on the best tocino (bacon!) in Baja. The freezer is full and the chores are done. We won’t be seeing another grocery store for a month at least, so it’s good to have some food onboard just in case our fishing never turns into catching!

One might ask why we ever leave the comfort of the marina. Why risk it, why head out to find  potentially uncomfortable or scary situations. There are so many reasons and so many experiences that I’d never trade for a calm night at the dock; our first Sea of Cortez sunset in San Gabriel, the huge schools of dolphins swimming along beside us, the sound of seabirds diving, the changing views as we swing on anchor, the hail of friends coming by for a sundowner, the sight of only our footprints on miles of beach. It’s the serenity, the beauty, the sense of awe, and the joy of sharing.

Marty said once that if our cruise ended tomorrow that he would still be happy and thankful for all that we’ve experienced. I balked at that, wanting it to continue, but now I see what he meant. Neither of us want it to end, but it’s certainly been an awesome ride so far!

The countdown has begun, the dock lines will be tossed soon. On to new adventures!

DSC_4478

Our first sunset in the Sea, over two years ago. La vida es buena!

 

 

Port Harvey to Montague Harbor

When I was a kid I remember the cold north wind piping onto the beach at Three Tree, bringing with it big rolling waves and sideways streaming rain. From where we sat inside by the fire watching the snapping flames as they wrapped their blue and green tentacles around the pieces of salty tree bark we’d collected from the driftwood piles, we’d listen to the rhythmic pounding of the waves rattling the rocks up and down the tide line.

I particularly recall one such wintry day when my older brother started to smirk as he looked out the big windows at the breakers, and turning to me he said; “want to go for a row?” I still grin as I think of how we got all bundled up in rain jackets and sou’esters and headed down to the beach for a crazy adventure. I climbed into the bow and held on to the gunwales in the bouncing boat while Bob waded out to shove us off, then he jumped in and started rowing as hard as he could straight into the white capping waves to see how high we could fly over them. Bob was rowing crew in high school at that time so he could power that unwieldy wooden rowboat into the waves and I can still feel the frigid salt water as it sprayed into my face and threatened to swamp us. I was squealing with laughter and we were both soaked by the time we turned the rowboat around for shore. As I write this I have that same old silly grin just thinking about the joy of it all.

These days I’d just as soon hide behind the dodger when the waves start splashing over the sides of the boat, and I definitely am not interested in knowing how much water we can get in the boat without sinking her, but it’s still a thrill when the white caps are flashing their toothy grins at you and the sound of the wind is something over which you must yell to be heard. Braving the elements; it’s a challenge and a satisfaction. It makes the warmth of the cabin and a good anchorage seem all that much more secure after a long day of sailing in the cold with the wind and rain seeping down your neck to chill you to the bone.  But let’s forget all that waxing poetic – it’s cold and rainy and I want my Happy Dance!!

Okay, I apologize for whining a lot these days, complaining about the lousy weather we’ve been having on this trip, missing our home and friends. Our trip to Alaska two years ago was so sunny and nice we didn’t expect to be constantly battling storms and noserlies when we decided to deliver Ruby Slippers from Ketchikan to Anacortes. Maybe the weather gods are laughing at us, in that we tried to escape the heat of the Sea of Cortez by transporting ourselves 1,000 miles to the north. Whatever the cause, we are eager to pack our fowlies away once again and dig out the shorts and flip flops. We miss our Happy Dance and our swimming pool, sundowners in the cockpit and friends always ready to dinghy over for a visit.

But in true cruiser fashion let’s look on the bright side; those few days of warmth and patches of blue sky. When the rains have stopped we’ve simply bailed the dinghy out yet again to go for a ride, jumped in the kayaks for a paddle, or found a new slice of paradise to enjoy. Here are a few tales and photos of our latest adventures between rain clouds since leaving Port Harvey.

After leaving Port Harvey we planned to transit Johnstone Strait to Shoal Bay.  We’d stayed in Port Harvey an extra day in order to wait out the strong southerlies in Johnstone Strait, and the forecast was for light northeast winds on the day we left, but as luck would have it when we left the calm water of the bay to turn south into Johnstone, the winds were blowing 20-25 on our nose.  Our original plan was to go 30 miles down the strait before turning east into one of the many channels that would get us to Shoal Bay, however the current was with us and the winds were against us, adding up to a nasty combo of large lumpy waves on the bow that soon slowed us down by a couple of knots.  Though it was nothing like some of the ocean conditions we’ve traveled through, it was still time for a new plan!

After about 12 miles bashing into the wind we took the first left into Sunderland Channel to get a break from the cold noserly winds.  We’d anticipated that this route might be one we’d have to take, so we’d timed our departure to make sure we arrived at the rapids at the right time.  The rapids are true to their names and are narrow channels where tons of water gets squeezed through deep slots in the topography creating whirlpools, upwells, and back eddies.  They remind me of making dams in the gutters on rainy days when we were kids, forcing the water into smaller and smaller gaps and watching the ripples and whirls as the dams slowly broke apart.

The two rapids we were heading for are called Whirlpool Rapids and Green Point Rapids.  These aren’t the strongest of the local flows, but currents can still run 7-8 knots depending on the tides.  In order to get through both of them at or near slack (slack water is the time when rapids cease flowing one direction but haven’t begun flowing the opposite direction) we had to take the first one before slack with about 2 knots of current behind us, so that we could reach the second one before the tide turned against us. Even with the current only running two knots we tossed and tilted quite a bit as we bounced from eddy to eddy.  It’s mind-boggling to see the water boil and churn as you pass over sections where the current is rebounding off the rocky depths below.

Once through the rapids it was an easy trip into Shoal Bay where there is a public dock, a pub, and a few cute houses scattered around the open fields at the end of the bay. With a gorgeous view of the mountains surrounding Philip’s Arm, we enjoyed an afternoon walking around, checking out the gardens, and sitting in the Adirondacks sipping an adult beverage.

Our plans for the following day included two more rapids, these being of the 9-knot variety and requiring perfect timing. That meant an early departure, however when we crawled out of the cabin at o’dark thirty the bay and surrounding channels were hidden in a thick blanket of fog. We have radar so we certainly could have ventured into the soup, but we had to ask ourselves, why? We decided to have a second cup of coffee and see what another hour would bring. Sure enough, the fog started lifting, so off we went – on a different route. We had wanted to take the back channels into Octopus Islands, but since we weren’t going to be able to get to the rapids in time we decided to head back out into Johnstone Strait and transit Seymour Narrows at nearly slack, then head around the corner to Rebecca Spit.

Seymour Narrows is the main shipping channel for the north south traffic on the inside passage and it’s pretty wild to see the big commercial vessels that go through it. Large tides that occur during the full moon can generate currents in the 14-16 knot range here so it’s not surprising that the commercial traffic only goes through at slack tide. Can you imagine getting one of those ½ mile long tug and tows sideways in the channel? Yikes! We arrived with the current going with us, and started getting sucked through with a speed over ground (SOG) of 11 knots. When we rounded the point we got pulled into an eddy and the SOG hit 12.5 knots, another E-Ticket ride!

With the rapids and narrows behind us we zoomed past Campbell River at 10 knots, then slowed down to fish at Cape Mudge where the current creates a back eddy that is supposed to be great for salmon fishing.  We joined the parade of about 50 fishing skiffs for a couple of hours, and saw one salmon chasing Marty’s lure as he pulled it in to clear the eel grass off it.  We never saw any of the other boats pulling any fish in either, so maybe the salmon didn’t get the memo!

We set the anchor next to Rebecca Spit, took a quick run into Port Heriot for fresh veggies and a quick look-see of the town, followed by a walk on the driftwood strewn beach.  Port Heriot seems to be where old boats go to tie to the government dock and die, or be overtaken with friendly tattooed pierced natives.

It was only 30 miles from there into Desolation Sound so we left the anchorage early with coffee cups full and pointed the bow east toward the mountains.  After zigging and zagging through a few narrow island passes we started checking out the anchorages in Prideaux Haven.  We were surprised at how many boats were anchored there this late in the season, so we went up to Laura Cove, a smaller anchorage.  Of course we arrived at low tide, so Marty had to climb up the slippery rocks in order to get the stern tie set, always an entertaining event!

We stayed in Laura for three days enjoying the beautious-ness of the place, kayaking and exploring.  AND we had a very special event while there; my birthday!  In true Marty fashion, I was given a lovely LARGE PRINT crossword puzzle book along with my eggMcMartyManMuffin brekkie.  Then I was told to “go paddle”!  When I came back Marty had made a cake and even decorated it..with craisins!  When it was time for the big celebration, I knew I was in trouble when Marty gave me my “thinking cap”.  I unwrapped my present to find a thumb drive.  Hmmmm…!  That opened a crossword puzzle that held the clue to my present.  I’m happy to say that I was able to figure out the puzzle and can’t wait to go spend lots of Marty’s money on a new zoom lens!  Gracias MartyMan!!  Je t’aime!

With winds starting to blow down Laura Cove we decided to head a little further down the road to Grace Harbor, another lovely spot and a bit more protected.  Leaving Laura felt like we were literally running from the black clouds and rain rolling down the mountains.  We had only seen the mountains on our first day in Desolation, so we were glad to remember our first visit there in 2011 when the weather was a bit more cooperative!

From Desolation we made the long trek to Pender Harbour for a visit to the Garden Bay Pub, one of our favorites.  We considered staying a few days for the upcoming jazz festival, but with another round of 20-30 knot southerlies forecast for the Strait of Georgia we decided to get out while the getting was good.  The next morning we were up early, along with half a dozen other boats, all pointing south before the storm, and all navigating our way around the live fire target range called Whiskey-Golf.  The Canadian Navy was monitoring the edges to make sure none of us ventured too close, so we had to travel off course for a bit before making a 90 degree turn straight into the now lumpy seas.  Ahhh, it was good to enter Nanaimo Harbor and see Dodd Narrows, the entrance to the calmer waters of the Gulf Islands.

So now we’re anchored in Montague Harbor, and making plans for a big night on the town.  We’ll take the Hummingbird Bus to the Hummingbird Pub, for….Talk Like a Pirate Night!  Oh my gosh, what timing, I think Marty will be in nirvana!  If I survive I’ll tell you all about it…so stay tuned to this bat channel!  ARRRRGH!

Garden Bay Pub

Garden Bay Pub

 

 

Almost Agates

When I was a girl I spent weeks with my Mom’s Mom at her house on the beach. She was known to all eight grandkids as Gran and she lived in Hemlock Cottage, so named for the hemlock lumber that it was built from. It was a cozy cabin with a large sleeping porch hanging over the hillside above the beach near Three Tree Point. Gran’s father, my great-grandfather, Edward Verd built the house in 1905, made from hemlock as a demonstration to prove to the naysayers of the longevity of hemlock as a building timber. My great-grandfather was a lumberman and president of the Bryant Lumber Mill located in Fremont, near Seattle. He would commute to Three Tree on weekends, where his wife, Mumsie, and their two kids Erma (my Gran), and Wes spent the days enjoying their life at the beach.

Where am I going with this history lesson? Well, I intended to talk about my days at Three Tree, but when I think of those days, I also am reminded of the stories of Gran as a girl paddling her canoe out to ride the freighter waves while Mumsie watched anxiously from the porch, or the stories of my own Mom and her two sisters having marshmallow fights on the beach with Gran and Grandpa Dick trying to keep the peace. The eight grandchildren of my generation also spent many happy days building rafts, fishing from the rowboat, or just being kids on a beach. My son Kyle had happy times there too, and now there are new generations of cousins at Three Tree.

As the youngest of three kids, I was with Gran quite often while my older brother and sister were in school and my Mom was at work. It was fine with me! Gran and I spent our days walking up the beach and back home via the Indian path picking thimbleberries and blackberries, or for a change we’d walk up the path and back down the beach. If the tide was out we might try to walk all the way around the point, but if the tide was in we’d just go as far as we could, then turn around and head home. We’d pick up armfuls of bark that was in constant supply from all the logging barges that went by the point and when we burned it in our morning fires, the flames were full of blues and greens from the salt. Gran made blackberry pie or Swedish pancakes, and we’d spend hours reading while sitting on the porch listening to the waves. I have great memories of those times.

Whenever we walked on the beach we looked for agates. Gran was well-practiced and never seemed to get skunked like I did. She could see a tiny gleam in the layers of beach sand and pebbles and come up with an agate in her hand every time. I would forever pick up pretty rocks and take them to Gran and ask “is this one?”, only to have her say, “well, it’s almost an agate – throw it back and pretty soon it will be”. Anyone who knows geology knows that agates don’t “become” agates from rocks; they are either agates or not, but I came to believe that agates were a work in process. So I kept trying, kept asking, and kept tossing back the “almost agates”.

Yesterday Marty and I sailed the 20 miles from Caleta Partida to Isla San Francisco. After a perfect day of sailing with following winds and seas, we anchored off one of our favorite beaches. Today we went for a walk across the narrow isthmus on Isla San Francisco, across the salt ponds and barren fields to the beach on the north side of the island. The two beaches are quite different; the north side is full of green and red rocks, and has coarse colorful sand while the South side where we’re anchored is a long white sandy beach full of shells. And the one major difference is that the north side is full of agates.

From what I remember reading, agates were formed from pockets of water getting trapped in the porous rock eons and eons ago. These volcanic islands have lots of holes and crazy striations of different colors of rock, so it’s easy to see how the agates would have been created back when the islands were still “under construction”. I’m sure a true geologist would be cringing at my less than scientific descriptions, but until I get back to a place where I can google this, I’m open to corrections!

Now back to current history, today’s island adventure and the reason for this long-winded blog. Today when Marty and I were walking on the beach on Isla San Francisco, Marty handed me a rock and asked; “is this one?” I laughed along with Gran and said, “it’s an almost agate! Toss it back and we’ll pick it up next year.” Needless to say, we kept on walking and ended up with a handful of treasures. Agates and memories, new ones and old ones; I’m a lucky girl.

Becoming Upperclassmen

Our flying time from Los Angeles to Puerto Vallarta was 2 hours and 35 minutes. During the last half of the trip we flew directly down the Sea of Cortez giving us an awe-inspiring view of the places where we had anchored last year.

It was surreal to see the endless beaches and hilly pathways, the off lying rocks and shallow reefs, and the rolling white caps in a sea of beautiful aquamarine blue, all from our perch at 35,000 feet. To remember the heat and the sounds and the serenity of those places left us both with silly grins on our faces as we sipped our cranberry juice and listened to the flight attendant remind us to keep our seatbelts buckled.

Tomorrow we’ll untie the dock lines and head back up the path left by our Boeing 737-900 (good job Marty!).   We’ll put another 700 miles under the keel as we slowly work our way north, stopping at the bays and beaches that we have come to love in the past two years. In a sense we feel like we’ve graduated to upper classmen and will be exploring this year on the varsity team. We know the lay of the bays, where the covered rocks are, where the currents are, and where we want to spend more time. However one really never knows the Sea, and we’ll always be students of weather and winds. We have learned much in two years, and we know we have plenty more to absorb.

This will be our sixth crossing between the mainland and the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula, and we’re hoping for the forecasted SW winds to show up and blow us north. We have a bit of a love, hate relationship with forecasts, and it’s mostly hate. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that this trip will give us a little more love.

We traveled about 1,000 miles in 2-½ hours yesterday, and tomorrow we’ll begin a 2-½ day trek of 330 miles. There’s a bit of a difference in speed from 450 miles per hour to 4-5 knots per hour, and we’re definitely entering the Sea of Cortez time warp, where time is measured in gentle ripples on the water, and in counting the dolphins on the bow. Then there are those nights when measuring time takes on a stressful edge; those nights when the Coromuels or Chubasco winds blow. We (mostly I) spend the night watching the clock waiting for morning after a dark night of listening to the waves crash behind us as we dance close to a lee shore.

So why do we keep going back to the Sea? Why deal with the heat and crazy unpredictable winds?  It’s a magical place. The water is so clear you can see your anchor below you. The sea life is abundant; we’ve had the pleasure of seeing blue whales, humpbacks, orcas, pilot whales, sea turtles, dolphins, seals and sea lions. There are so many different kinds of fish that I can’t even begin to name them. The rocks and mountains are incredible with colorful striations and shapes. There are forests of cacti, volcanoes, and salt flats. It draws you in, even for this NW girl who loves her pine trees and green forests.

In a mere 65 hours we’ll be there.

Yet another selfie on Isla Carmen

Yet another selfie on Isla Carmen

Sojourns and Southerlies

Of all the sailing terms there is one that seems most apropos; “beating to windward”. When the wind is dead on your nose and the waves are rolling down against you, there are two options. Either bash your way straight into the wind and water, or sail many miles off course in order to make a mile or two in the direction you want to go, because in a sailboat there are actually times when it seems you just can’t get there from here!

It’s spring, and we’re south of where we want to be, so that means we either bash north or wait for the southerlies to blow. We’ve done a little of both, most recently choosing to motor sail on our 15-hour trip from Barra to La Cruz with a “noserly” all the way, using a tightly sheeted mainsail along with our iron genny to push our way through the waves and stay close on the wind while maintaining the heading we wanted. Occasionally the waves got too steep and we had to veer farther off the wind, since Happy Dance doesn’t like to pound straight over steep rollers. We hate the sound of the slap of the hull followed by a shudder all through the boat when we land hard after getting too much air under us taking a wave straight on. Altering course to keep the waves on the forward quarter gives a much smoother ride and keeps Happy Dance and her crew happier.

As we rounded Cabo Corrientes (the Cape of Currents) we hoped to have the wind abeam since we were changing course by 50 degrees, but the wind just followed us around the corner and stayed on the nose. We may have to change Happy Dance’s name to Wind Magnet. We motored into the La Cruz anchorage just before midnight and tip toed through the sleeping fleet. It was a challenge to figure out which lights were onshore and which lights were boats (not to mention the boats without any lights on, but that’s another story). We finally found a spot to drop anchor and were soon safely in our bunk enjoying a good night’s sleep.

Our next push will be a 60 hour run across the southern edge of the Sea of Cortez as we make our way over to the Baja side from the mainland. We’re eager to get going, but having made this passage five times both in good and bad conditions, we’ll wait for the right winds. Waiting has its own rewards too, as I sit here watching another pink sunrise listening to the terns and frigates overhead, enjoying the calm before the tourists wake up and start playing dodge boat in their jet skis.

While waiting for southerlies, we took a sojourn north and landed in Las Vegas for Marty’s annual pilgrimage to pay homage to all that is baseball. It’s also a time of brotherly bonding, donating a few pesos to the casinos, people watching in the world’s most bizarre playground, and for Katie and me; spa day! Marty, Meg and I went to see a bunch of dummies (not the ones in the baseball draft room) along with Jeff Dunham; belly laughs for two hours! As the saying goes, “a good time was had by all”.

Another mode of travel that we enjoyed while on terra firma was our annual E-tkt ride on steroids, compliments of my brother Bob. My brother is a car aficionado, rebuilding magnificent American dreams from the 60’s, and he knows how to drive them too. Heading down the straightaway at 100+ miles per hour, he calmly says to me, “this is where the brakes failed on me on my first run”. Thankfully, he knows brakes too, and installed brand new ones in the Cayman so that we wouldn’t land in the dirt. I’m proud to say that this year I wasn’t scared! (Last year I had to pry my hand off the handle before I could get out..ha!)

 

As we flew over Happy Dance on our approach to Manzanillo airport we saw huge bands of red tide stretching out into the ocean. It’s been in every bay we’ve entered from Barra de Navidad north to La Cruz where we are now. The water is thick with reddish brown algae, so no swimming for this crew. It just makes us all the more eager to get north into the Sea and enjoy that clear water. We’ll be leaving at the first opportunity!

As a footnote, we should mention that we’ve passed another milestone on our travels – it’s been two years since we untied the dock lines and set sail.  In Roman times milestones were a series of stones placed every mile along a road to show the distance to a far off place and mileage was measured from the Golden Milestone, located in the center of ancient Rome.

For Marty and I, milestones have become a symbol of dreams fulfilled; a time or place that we can look back on where before there had only been a vague idea. Our mileage is measured not only in lines on a chart or in looking back at the path of our wake, but also in the colors of the water, the feel of the wind, and the movement of the stars as they spin around Polaris.

Two years ago when we left the dock in Anacortes we had no idea of what an incredible voyage we were beginning.  Since then we’ve celebrated many milestones, and have put more than 7,600 nautical miles (8,700 statute miles*) under the keel as we’ve traveled up and down the west coast from Alaska to Mexico. We’ll soon be adding another 300 nautical miles as we head back to Baja, to the Sea of Cortez, an area we’ve grown to love. Come on southerlies!

One of our many visitors on the passage

One of our many visitors on the passage

 

*  Converting nautical miles to statute miles:

A statute mile is 5,280 feet in length.
A nautical mile is 6,076 feet in length.

To convert from nautical to statute miles: the factor 1.15 may be used, but it is approximate.

 

That was nice, but this is better…

Wafting up through the companionway comes the smell of home fries cooking for breakfast. In my hand is a cup of hot coffee and I’m listening to the waves and watching a pod of dolphins swim through the anchorage. A gentle wind ripples the reflection of the warm sun, and the salt from my morning swim is drying on my skin. It’s one of those yes kind of mornings, a sensory overload, a pinch me moment.

As breakfast cooks I find myself thinking about the conversations we’ve had lately while meeting new friends and swapping stories with old friends at potlucks and sundowners.

The other night we were invited over to a boat buddie’s 50’ catamaran moored in the marina where a group of 20 or so was comfortably spread around the huge aft deck enjoying some great food and conversation. Some of the folks we met were land based, living in condos overlooking the sailing fleet at anchor. It’s always fun to hear their perspective on what life at sea must be like, and to be able to chuckle at the confession that one woman brought some Dramamine along, just in case she might get seasick… At the dock… On a gigantic cat. Well, I guess it could happen!

As introductions were made Marty and I were asked about our life BS…before sailing. We both had our corporate jobs, but our last gig was the B&B. So we shared a few of the fun and funny stories of running the Inn.

Count ‘em twice! When serving lots of folks at one time, we always counted out a stack of plates for the number of guests we were serving so that we could serve them all at once. Well as you can guess, on a morning when we had 20 guests, we counted wrong and only put out 19 plates! I took the final meals out to the dining room and when I looked at the table I noticed that we were missing a meal for one guest….RUTRO! That morning I had made Aunt Penny’s eggs, a sumptuous take on scrambled eggs. I quickly went to the fridge thinking I could just whip up a couple more eggs and no one would be the wiser, but alas, there were no eggs left! I ran over to Mom’s house next store, and you guessed it, she didn’t have any eggs either! Time was running out, so I had to come clean to our guest and tell her I couldn’t count and would she like something else for breakfast. Thankfully she laughed and said that was fine with her, she didn’t like eggs anyway! The moral to this story – count the plates twice!

One Sunday soon after we’d opened, we had a group of four ladies checking out while Mom was behind the bar serving Mimosas for Sunday brunch. All teachers, this fun foursome got together once a year for a weekend outing. On this particular year they had come to our Inn to enjoy the island and to go see the tulip festival. Well, they had arrived just in time to see that all the tulips had already been “whacked” for bulbs so all there was to see was a field of green stems. In telling us this story we were all laughing hysterically, and somehow it came out that they’d held a lemon drop party to drown their sorrows at not seeing the tulips! Well, neither Mom or I knew what a lemon drop was, so out came their satchel that served as a traveling bar, and pretty soon Mom and I were drinking lemon drop martinis at 9 in the morning and hearing more great stories of the ladies’ travels. These four ladies became very dear to us and came back year after year (and they finally saw the tulips), and they were known to us as the lemon drop ladies! Just one example of how we met many lasting friends during our stint as Innkeepers.

There are many, many, MANY tales of getting three 1880’s houses ready for show! My Mom and I started the project when I purchased my first Victorian house so that I could move from Texas back home to the NW. She and I traveled to Coupeville to move in and start the remodel a few days before Christmas. We arrived at night to a cold house, with no oil for the heater, no electricity, no propane for the stove, and worst of all, no wine opener for the wine… an ominous beginning! In a few days we had the quirks ironed out, and our air mattresses laid out in the house and the tiny cottage out back where I intended to live.

Reinforcements soon arrived when my sister and brother-in-law, my son, and my aunt all showed up for Christmas and a demolition project! Nothing says Christmas like a massive project with crowbars and hammers, hedge trimmers and hatchets! The first order of business was to remove years of growth of the wisteria tree that was covering the cottage. We cut down two huge truckloads of old growth and discovered that the cottage had a false front that we didn’t know was there! What a start!

We painted and polished, plumbed and wall papered our little hearts out for three months. My Mom, who was 80 at the time, led the charge with hammer in hand, or while standing on the top of a ladder pulling off eons of old wallpaper. My cousins and my brother showed up to help with the project, painting 13’ ceilings and rebuilding porches. It was a labor of love and I can never thank my family enough for all they did to help.

One day I was stirring a 5-gallon bucket of oil-based paint that would be used to cover the old wallpaper and help it re-stick to the walls where it was peeling in places. Since the walls were lath and plaster, removing the wallpaper was a nightmare so we were able to paint over it with the oil based paint, but if you’ve ever tried to stir a 5-gallon can of thick gooey oil paint you know it’s hard to do! I had the bright idea of turning the bucket on its side and rolling it to mix it. You can probably guess what’s coming… I turned the bucket on its side and started rolling it back and forth when whoosh, off popped the lid and 5 gallons of white paint started pouring across our original 1887 pine plank floors… ARRRGH! It was a moment of utter horror followed by frantic action as we all ran to the kitchen to grab whatever we could to scoop up the paint. With spatulas and spoons flying we soon had the paint corralled and the floor was saved.

Then there is the story of the raccoons under the house, or the water heater that flooded, or the time I fell through the ceiling, or opening night and the county health inspector… yes, the stories are endless and someday I really will write that book, but for now I need to explain the title of this blog! While regaling everyone with stories of human nature meets Bed and Breakfast, Marty and I found ourselves mentally reminiscing about all the good times we’d had running the Inn together. It was an awesome time, albeit with tons of work!  We had three lovely years with my Mom in residence, we met many friends along the way, and we have a bazillion fond memories of Whidbey Island. So yes, that was very, very nice.

But as you can probably guess… this is better! Our cruising lifestyle is a dream come true, full of freedom, friendship, escapades and exhilaration. Marty and I are so incredibly lucky to have found each other (thanks e-harmony) and to be able to live our dream. It’s a rare gift to be able to survive with someone in a 43’ x 13’ space 24/7/365 and still laugh at their jokes!

Seriously though, it is bliss to have found someone who enjoys the same views, is ready for the same adventures, and who is able to laugh at the inconveniences. Living on a sailboat is amazing, but it’s also a bit of a challenge. Cooking and storing food can be an ordeal when faced with trying to store a month of food in a tiny space, or trying to cook up a meal on two burners while the boat rocks on the waves. Fresh food goes bad fast in the heat. Shopping means a trip to town via the dinghy followed by a hot walk and a bus ride, with heavy backpacks on the trip back to the boat, usually after the wind and waves pick up.  It’s quite a difference from my old kitchen with its double ovens, two full size fridges and a separate freezer, and weekly deliveries from Costco!

Projects on a boat require coordination. Everything has to stop while one section of the boat gets dismantled to either find something for the project or to open up the area needing the attention. We have to take turns being “go-fer” on project days so that whoever is in charge has what they need once stuck down in a hold doing boat yoga and needing another tool. And there is never a simple project on a boat; everything takes longer and is more difficult than expected, so you might as well just give in to it.  Marty does miss his “man cave” occasionally where he had every tool available and plenty of room to make noise.

Thankfully though, we have all the comforts we need in our floating “mansion” and we enjoy all the oddities that cruising brings. The discomforts are far exceeded by the contentment found in having the time to enjoy the adventure. If I was to describe my overall favorite part of our lifestyle I guess it would be the little details. In having time and freedom to go where we want when we want, we are able to see and experience the little stuff. We can be entertained by the boobies diving for fish, we can float in the water and listen to the whales sing, we can play chess and read books without feeling guilty that the lawn isn’t getting mowed, we can quietly share the sunrises and sunsets, we can pull anchor and roll out the sails when the wind comes up, we can call up a friend and share a sundowner. Everything and anything is available and we have the time and the freedom to enjoy it all. We move slower and see more, we talk less and say more; we have less stuff and live more.

So as I look out at another day of sunshine and water, I thank our lucky stars that we made the leap and risked it all. I love this friggin’ life!