Wednesday, December 28, 2011

....and the livin' is easy?

La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Mexico: Christmas couldn't have come at a better time. By that I mean we needed a day of cheer and escape from a week of several lingering and maddening issues. Part of the reason for the slow blogging is that both of our computers died within 24 hours of each other. Mine is completely fried, Terry's needed some fixin and some pesos. We found Eduardo at CompuElectronica here in La Cruz to be competent and easy to work with. Now we are in the process of getting a new computer for me, and getting the stuff off my old one onto another drive, etc. Our friend Lawnboy (Brian Wade on S/V Wade's Aweigh) said his father can bring a new computer down when he comes to be with Lawnboy on 1/3.

A dinghy is a crucial component of cruising life. It is our car. I'm one of those people who never gives a thought to the dependability and functionality of my car. I just turn the key on and go. So imagine my annoyance when we discovered that our brand new dinghy has a transom that is too shallow to keep our dinghy motor properly out of the water. We now have a dinghy motor full of water that has come in through the exhaust. We are without a 'car'. Parts may or may not be available, getting them here may or may not be very feasible, a new motor will be very expensive. We're still considering our options--stay tuned.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

La Paz To Banderas Bay

11/29/11 in Los Muertos: We left La Paz at about 7:30 am morning, clear skies, winds about 12 knots. We had an uneventful trip making the 45 miles from La Paz to Los Muertos, the place where Terry tangled with the mystery sea creature. We had sundowners on Endeavor and met Sherry, Bob, Sydney (another one!) and Annie aboard s/v Pearl, who joined us on Endeavor. They are from Olympia, have lived aboard there for years, which is how the Phillips family met them. What a nice family. They had hoped to cruise for a year or two, but the cruising kitty isn’t quite big enough, so they will be in Mexico for only six or seven months and then bash back north so Bob can go back to work at United Airlines. Sherry and Gina talked a lot about homeschooling, Sherry has been doing it for years, so Gina is always glad to talk to other homeschooling moms. I think doing something like this with your kids is fantastic for their education.
It’s so nice to be back on the hook. The only reason I like marinas is for the chance to get online.We’ll be leaving around noon or so tomorrow to begin the passage across the Sea of Cortez to Isla Isabel, about 250 miles.
The water temp here in Muertos is 74 degrees, considerably cooler than it has been over the last several weeks, when it was in the 80’s. The nights are also cooler, but we still sleep with all the ports open even in the ‘winter’ here.

11/30/11 – 12/1/11 Crossing the Sea of Cortez: We left  Los Muertos at about 11:00 this morning ahead of Endeavor bound across the Sea of Cortez to the Mexican mainland. They were going to give us a head start since they can go faster than we can. We aren’t sure yet exactly where we’ll land. Possibilities are Isla Isabel, Mazatlan or Matanchen – all around 250 miles away, so it will be two nights offshore. It will depend on the sea state and what kind of time we can make. We left under calm winds and sun, put the sails up and sailed for a couple of hours and then the wind died. I had first watch at 8pm, which was pleasant and uneventful. The moon was a crescent turned up like a cup. It was high in the sky, then in what seemed like only a few minutes, it turned bright red and sank into the Pacific.

The next day was very warm and the sea was glassy and no wind again. We saw sea turtles and lots of flying fish. The sky and sea blended into one blue canvas above and all around us. Again I had first watch and it was so surreal. There was kind of a haze that smudged the line between the sky and the mirror-like water, the stars were brilliant. It was sort of like drifting in space—I can’t really describe it. I kept thinking about that song I used to sing and play guitar to--Winken Blinken and Nod…’they sailed on a river of crystal light into a sea of dew’. As we motored along in the dark, there were some kind of critters in the water about the size of an small dinner plate that kept firing off an iridescent glow as we went by – hundreds of them. It was the most mesmerizing watch I’ve ever done. It was like a dream really. I don’t know what they were, but what a show with the glassy sea, the stars, the smudged horizon and the big fireworks going off in the water all around us.
It was decided to bypass Isla Isabel this time around and head for Ensenada de Matanchen because we had made very good time on the crossing and would have had to go into Isla Isabel before dawn—not a fun thing to do.

12/2/11 Matanchen: We saw humpback whales this morning just before we reached Matanchen. It’s a roadstead anchorage and had only a few boats in it when we got anchored and settled at about 9am. Just as we were coming in we heard a man on the VHF from the vessel Jama who was warning all of us about some serious theft problems in the San Blas and Matanchen anchorages. He advised us not to leave our boats unattended because very recently a boat had been boarded while the owners were ashore and the thieves had broken through their companionway and cleaned them out. Apparently the thieves had someone onshore who was signaling when the owners were on the way back to the boat, allowing them to get away. None of their stuff was recovered Terry recognized the name of the guy on the VHHF giving the warning and said he had read in Latitude 38 that this guy was kind of a troublemaker. We had a little meeting with Endeavor and decided that whether the guy was a troublemaker or not, we would be wise to follow his advice.We all (six of us) jumped into our dinghy and went ashore after arranging with Twyla and Ken on SV Sail Time to keep an eye on our boats and call us on our portable VHF if anything suspicious was going on.

The long beach is lined with many palapas and ramshackle buildings, dusty and hot, with the ever-present stray dogs. In stark contrast to the aridity of Baja, the vegetation here is lush--like a jungle.  Apparently the town is a short walk down the dirt road running along the beach. From our vantage point on the boat it looks quite deserted, with hundreds of plastic chairs at empty tables in all the palapas—a bit unnerving. I guess the economy is suffering quite a bit.On the beach we met Baro who directed us to his palapa restaurant where we had all kinds of tasty dishes. Finally, we are in a palapa eating and visiting with the locals. Baro was so kind to us. He practiced his English, and we practiced our Spanish, and we learned all about his life. His house was behind the palapa, with a neat little yard in front. He’s lived here all his life, and he truly feels he lives in paradise. He used to be a professional surfer and has travelled all over competing. He has four grown children, a couple of whom live in Denmark, one in New Mexico and one someplace else I can’t remember (LA?). He cut some lemon grass out of his yard and gave it to us so we could make tea. All the while we’re visiting with him, an older woman is in the little cocina cooking away while the Mexican soap operas blared on the TV above her head. After eating lunch at the beach we went over to Endeavor and had the marinated FRESH dorado they had caught this morning. OH WOW! I guess the menu name for this fish is Mahi Mahi, which I’ve had before, but what a difference FRESH makes. Even Terry, my die-hard beef man is starting to order seafood and ceviche in restaurants!

12/3/11 Matanchen: We watched their boat while the Phillips’ took the panga tour up into the mangroves to see the birds and crocs. Then we spent all afternoon at another palapa eating and drinking and battling jejenes and mosquitoes.

12/4/11 Matanchen: This time Endeavor watched our boat while we took The La Tovara Jungle Tour. Eduardo was our excellent guide pointing out the crocs, iguanas, storks, herons, falcons, lilies and turtles. Then another afternoon at another palapa eating and drinking, the kids swimming. Tomorrow we leave – next stop Chacala.

12/5/11 Matanchen: We have been eaten alive by the jejenes and mosquitoes, and are out of OFF. We don’t have mosquitoes or bitey things in Anacortes and I had forgotten what it’s like to itch 24/7. To continue my little whine, we also had a very rolly night and didn’t get much sleep. Anyway, we finally said uncle and pulled up anchor to head the 54 miles to Punta Mita. We decided that Chacala was going to be just as rolly as Matanchen, so we changed our float plan and headed to Punta Mita. We do that a lot—make a plan of some sort and then change it on the fly. Endeavor fished all the way and we always knew when they had a fish on because they’d start going around in circles to chase the line. Punta Mita is small, mostly condos and a few nice palapas on the beach. The next morning we went ashore for a tasty breakfast after spending the night at anchor in Punta Mita, then headed out early the next day for Banderas Bay. It was only about a 2 hour motor over there.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Life In La Paz

la paz boat sculpture
11/11/11 – 11/28/11 La Paz: The name La Paz means “Peace”, and for a city of 215,000 people, it manages to convey an atmosphere of the quiet and simplicity of a much smaller place. The malecon, that long beautiful walk along the waterfront with its many statues and works of art was the picturesque setting for all the early morning walks that Gina, Sydney and I took. We joined locals at a simple little makeshift  malecon gym with slant boards and parallel bars, and were greeted warmly by another group of locals practicing their Tai Chi. Our days quickly fell into a routine of boat chores in the mornings and relaxation in the afternoons when the temperature climbed and the motivation plummeted.

La Paz has a remarkable cruisers network where information about services, equipment, and all things related to boating are readily available. The morning VHF net provides weather, news about coming events and activities, and a forum for questions and answers. Our hats are off to those who provide this great resource.

Terry and I were able to get a replacement for the dinghy prop the first full day we were there. It was  quite a process to communicate to the ladies in the Yamaha shop what were looking for, but after many pesos and much laughter we emerged with our prop.

We also managed to disengage ourselves from all the red tape that is required to get Mexican cell phone service, with our sanity mostly intact. I never thought I’d miss AT&T.

We walked and walked and walked, exploring, looking for markets and restaurants and interesting things to see. We struggled to find the best places for provisions, hoping to find farmer’s markets, but were mostly disappointed. Then we were just as amazed to find a store something like a Fred Meyer, except that they had people singing over the public address system (blue light specials maybe!?) and a meat department in which none of the labels made sense to us.

Mostly what we did in La Paz was learn all about what it means to be cruisers in Mexico. Here are just a few of things covered in the curriculum in lovely La Paz:
*  We learned that in Mexico you must must must carry small bills, lots of them, or ‘cambio’ becomes a problem.
* We learned that to take a dinghy into town in early evening when dark clouds are rolling in and winds are piping up means a long dark, rainy and rough dinghy ride home later on, and that it’s sometimes best to just take a cab.
*We learned that occasionally we are  kinda stupid (see above).
* We learned you no sooner get one problem solved (dinghy prop), then others pop up—a fried battery charger and heads needing new joker valves.
* We learned about what I call the Gringo Parcel Express, the underground railroad of sorts in which cruisers and friends and family traveling to and from Mexico are obliged to transport all manner of goods, equipment  and ‘stuff’ to and from the States for cruisers.
* We learned that we are fortunate to have a Gringo friend willing  to  be our packhorse in the Gringo Parcel Express and bring us a new battery charger. Thanks Lawnboy!
*  We learned to love the Arrachera at Rancho Viejo, and the hamburgers, cheap drinks and wacky atmosphere at The Shack.
* We learned that miracles do happen when Gina located an actual ham for part of our Thanksgiving menu.
* We learned once again how blessed we are to have these particular friends to share another Thanksgiving, and that cooking Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings in Mexico is one hot and sweaty affair.
* We learned that we need to remember next time to take a picture of the feast on our Thanksgiving table (duh)
* We learned that La Paz is indeed a city of Peace and that its people are warm and kind.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Cabo San Lucas To La Paz

11/06/11 in Cabo San Lucas: Finally we get to leave Cabo San Lucas! We headed to the fuel dock at 6:30am, got filled up with diesel and some gasoline for our generator. We were out of there by 7 and on our way to La Paz.  La Paz is around and up into the inside of the peninsula in the Sea of Cortez, sometimes called the Gulf of California. We plan, for now, to go to La Paz and stay for awhile and then figure out our next step from there. I am so glad we now get to go where we want, when we want. Now our actual cruising life begins. We have heard the weather reports of a ‘norther’ with high winds and steep seas beginning Monday or Tuesday, so we will only go part way to La Paz and pull in somewhere that is protected. We motored for 45 miles or so and pulled into a nice sized bay called Los Freiles—The Friars. I love this place. There’s no town, only a beach and some fishermen’s shacks. Since we have no prop for our dinghy, we went to the beach with the Phillips’ and poked around for awhile. We found some rocks and tide pools where there were hundreds of dark brown small crabs jumping from rock to rock. I’ve never seen a crab jump before—very cool. The best thing about this place though is the isolation and the quiet. Such peace here. It’s very soothing and wonderful to just sit and look around. We had looked forward to doing some snorkeling and taking a hike here and exploring. But we’ll have to wait because of the weather. We plan to leave tomorrow morning.

11/07/11 in Los Freiles: We left this little spot at about 7am. I was sad to go because it was so beautiful and I don’t think we finished doing all we could do there, but the weather is supposed to get worse before it gets better and we want to get to La Paz. The seas were a bit choppy, wind on the nose about 15-20 knots, but lots of sun, so we soaked up the rays as we travelled, and then anchored in Ensenada Los Muertos. There’s no town here, only a very small luxury hotel and golf course on the west side of the bay, a small church on the hill, a cantina on the east side of the bay and a huge empty white beach with a bunch of fishing pangas in between The mountains off to the west are spectacular—high desolate and intimidating. We got settled in by about 3 pm, had sundowners, bbq’d the fresh tuna the fisherman in Cabo gave us, and settled in for the night. I’m a happy camper to be somewhere tucked in behind a bluff with the wind supposed to get pretty nasty tonight and all of tomorrow.

11/08/11 in Ensenada Los Muertos: Today was a mixed bag. After doing a few chores on the boat in the morning, Rick invited us to go ashore with the family for some beach time and lunch at the cantina. The cantina is named 1535 (the year Cortez landed in these parts) and is a nice large airy place with tile floors, tables for dining, a few grouping of couches and chairs for lounging, a bar, and they serve nice meals.  After lunch we went to the beach, and after some confusion, Terry, Rick and I decided to move the dinghy further down the beach to be closer to where the kids were going to snorkel. As we were pushing the dinghy into the water, Terry got stung by some sea creature of some kind on his foot and was in a lot of pain, and it was bleeding quite a bit. So Rick took us back to our boat and I started reading our medical guide about what to do. It was difficult because we don’t really know what got him. We soaked his foot in as hot of water as he could stand. That really helped his pain. After doing a lot of reading we are guessing he stepped on a sea urchin. I noticed that Sydney had found a dead one on the beach earlier, and the symptoms and description of the wound fit the best of anything I could find. There is no town of any kind here, and if his wound started looking worse I was prepared to hire a local person to drive us to La Paz or the closest doctor. He did the hot water thing for 90 minutes and the pain had lessoned and he had no other symptoms of any kind. So the only thing to watch for now is infection. And we also can’t tell if there is maybe part of a spine from what got him still in his foot. Poor Terry, first he pulled his hamstring very badly in Avalon and now this. He was pretty bummed. By the end of the day his foot was looking much better, so I think the worst is over.

11/09/11 in Ensenada Los Muertos: Terry’s foot looks good, and he feels fine, so unless some sort of infection develops, he will live! We have cheated Los Muertos!
We didn’t go ashore today, we took care of boat chores instead. I did two bucket loads of laundry out on the poop deck. The winds are very strong (+20 knots) because of the ‘norther’ blowing down the Sea of Cortez. We are quite sheltered in Los Muertos, as it’s supposed to be blowing +30 knots outside of here. The sun’s still shining though, so there I was hanging laundry to dry, hoping it doesn’t blow off the boat. I also made bread today!!!! I bought a fantastic book called Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking.  I highly recommend it.
Because the winds in the Sea of Cortez are supposed to die down by tomorrow mid-morning, we are planning to leave tomorrow and see if we can get to La Paz, which is about 58 miles from here. If the seas are too rough, we’ll stop somewhere. There are several little places we can hole up in between here and La Paz.

11/10/11 in Ensenada Los Muertos: Up bright and early, pulled up the anchor and were on our way by 7am. As we left I went up to the cockpit to see what the sea state was. Winds seemed fairly light and the waves were manageable, so I went down below to cook breakfast. What a joke! I no sooner got in the middle of cooking up eggs and chorizos (our last ones from Boise Sad smile) when all of a sudden I felt like I was trying to cook in a washing machine. Confused lumpy seas, winds picking up, Harmony bashing through the mess, and I’m down below hanging on by my fingernails. The eggs were scrambled by default.The rest of the day was not any better. We had 20 knot winds on the nose the whole day and waves like boxcars. We got pretty banged up by those massive waves. It took us 10 hours to travel about 45 miles and we were exhausted by the time we reached Caleta Lobos, where we anchored up for the night. Looks we should have waited one more day before leaving Muertos!
Caleta Lobos is small, empty and peaceful. The full moon rose in the stillness of the evening and once again all was good in our little world.

11/11/11 in Caleta Lobos: Up early, pulled the anchor and headed the12 miles to La Paz. Flat seas and sunshine had restored our good humor. We got a slip for a couple of days at Marina Palmira. Internet!!! It’s slow and I get kicked off all the time, but it works. As soon as we got in, we took a cab to Lopez Marine to see if they had a propeller for our dinghy. No luck there, but the guy told us where the Yamaha shop was, so we hopped in another taxi. We had a great time there trying to talk to the three women at that place, but they had a prop for us, and $143.00 later we left, after smiles and laughter all around. Nice people. We decided to walk for a bit, and ended up walking clear back to the waterfront, which must have been 3 miles or so. On the way I spotted a Telcel store, so in we went to buy sim cards for our cell phones. They do things very differently in Mexico. The store was lined with bank teller-like windows, I’d say 15 of them. We had to get a ‘little paper’ they called it and then get in line. All these employees working, but no one actually getting anything done. Aye yay yay, the red tape!! We waited in line for 30 minutes or so, and finally got our turn. We had everything but our passports with us, so now we have to go back so our sim cards can be activated. Who knew you need your passport to buy a sim card with cell phone minutes? That was all we got done today. Tomorrow laundry, back to the cell phone store, defrost the freezers, and maybe some grocery shopping. Or maybe not.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Cabo or Bust

I know it’s been a very long time since our last post, but I just couldn’t figure out how to make laundry, bill paying, and Costco runs even a tiny bit interesting. We loved our time in San Diego, we really did, but there was nothing much to report, so you’ll thank me for leaving out the humdrum details. That final week before we left was a bit frantic with much running to and fro from Von’s to Costco to Trader Joe’s and a dozen other places. The real HaHa kick-off was the Halloween costume party in the West Marine parking lot the night before the start down the coast. So many weird and fantastic getups had me wondering -- who ARE these people anyway? But it turns out that underneath the feathers, the wigs, the pirate gear and the Bay Watch fake boobs, are some very interesting and nice folks. Our group went as Gilligan—all eight of us, because well, we just ran out of steam to do any more running around for costumes.

October 24, 2011  San Diego to Turtle Bay, Baja California Sur: It was finally time to cut the dock lines and head down to our first stop in Mexico—Turtle Bay. The start of the “race” was at 11:00am, and after a lot of hoopla from other boaters following the HaHa fleet around in a parade through the bay, blowing horns and carrying on, and the dignitaries doing their thing, and the media boat filming our departure for the evening news—we were off! The sky was cloudy and the wind non existent, so Richard, the Grand Poobah of the HaHa fleet, declared that we would have a “rolling start” which meant that we were not required to sail until such time as the wind improved—which didn’t happen until 7:00am the next morning. I think there were 147 boats that actually started and after all the boats crowded over the start line, everyone quickly moved to their planned route to Turtle Bay. Some went nearly 100 miles offshore to the southwest looking for wind, and others, like Harmony, followed a more direct route. We had two nights offshore, good weather and no problems. It was SO nice to be underway again. The first night, with no moon to speak of, we had a sky full of stars from horizon to horizon, and Harmony’s wake shone with  stunning phosphorescence as we putted our way south. We had lots of time to read, listen to the talk-a-holics on the VHF radio, and plenty of time to not fish. It seems that not only are we not racers, we’re not fishermen either, but we heard about a lot of people catching all kinds of fish on the VHF radio, so we were happy to let them have all the glory, to say nothing of all the fish blood and guts on deck. Maybe manana we’ll drop a line in the water. Or maybe not.

October 26-28 2011 Turtle Bay Baja Sur California, Mexico: Ah Turtle Bay, the dusty typical little Mexican village, with the desolate mountains overlooking it. We were pleased to see that It hasn’t changed much at all from what we remember in 2004, except that they have a much nicer set of steps to get up onto the pier than the rickety rusty ones from before. The HaHa fleet was invited to play softball with the locals. Not too many locals showed up, but it was still great fun, except for the face plant I did running from home to first base. Then to add insult to injury, James put me out at third. After a mediocre meal at the restaurant at the top of the hill in town, we returned to the dinghy dock to find that someone had stolen our line off our dinghy, which meant that the $1 we paid the local kid to ‘watch’ our dinghy was money down the drain.  Terry was none too pleased.
We took a panga to the beach party the next day and enjoyed the potluck dishes everyone brought. The beach is huge with a small creek emptying into it. The women won the traditional tug of war contest as usual. There was also beach volleyball, a water balloon fight (biodegradable balloons) and plenty of walking and hiking and exploring. The only bad thing was that one of the fleet catamarans anchored too close to the beach and ran very firmly aground, with every surge of the waves bouncing it harder on the hull. Surprisingly, no damage was done.

October 29, 2011 Turtle Bay to Bahia Santa Maria: We made the trip down with light winds, partly cloudy, but warm. Wind finally picked up and we put up the sails and sailed through the night. That was wonderful, so nice and quiet. The next day was clear and warm and since no other boats were within view we took showers on the poop deck and worked on our tans in the cockpit. Terry got plenty of sun on his “cheeks”.
We reached Bahia Santa Maria at 0600 the next morning, and spent the rest of the day relaxing on the boat. There is no town here, just a few fisherman’s shacks and an eco tour cabin. The bay itself is magnificent, bordered with a white sandy beach/spit on one side and the ever-present mountains overlooking all. The only scheduled event here was a beach party with the meal cooked by local women and music by a fabulous local band. We made our first beach landing in the dinghy by following the cues from the local pandas on the best route in. For the first time in HaHa history arrangements had been made to have the customs officials from San Carlos come over and do our check-in to Mexico right on the beach. We had signed up for this in San Diego by email, but the customs officials ran out of tourist visas just as it came our turn in line. We did get the boat checked into Mexico though! Our former co-worker from Anacortes Marine Electronics, Fritz, hopped a ride with us in the dinghy back to the boat. We realized that our dinghy prop had spun making our dinghy motor useless, although we did make it back to the boat. We’ll be looking for a new prop in Cabo. Photos of Turtle Bay to Bahia Santa Maria leg:

November 2, 2011   Bahia Santa Maria to Cabo San Lucas: The fleet left Bahia Santa Maria at 7am, with very light winds. We decided to motor and got into Cabo by midday November 3rd. The water temp was 85 degrees, and we were hot and sweaty when we got into the harbor. We had elected to get a slip in the marina for a couple of days so that we could get internet and be close to the HaHa activities. Cabo has never been one of our favorite places—it’s noisy at night, crowded and just way too touristy. You see many many more gringos than you see locals as you walk down the street. We tried to check in to Immigration, but we got there at 1:40 pm, 10 minutes after closing, so we walked back to the boat. We kept trying to get onto the marina internet—no luck. Such is Mexico! After dinner at Poncho's (owned by Americans) with the Endeavor folks, we hit the sack early. The blaring rap music from the bars lining the marina didn’t let up until 3:30am.
The next day after going to Immigration and the bank,  we attended the final Baha HaHa beach party at the Baja Cantina. We chowed down at the buffet and listened to great music--no rap! We had a blast and took a ride on one of those banana boat things, where 8-10 people sit single file and a panga pulls you out for a short ride in the bay. The panga driver dumped us into the drink twice, but who could complain when the water is 85 degrees!
The final HaHa event was the awards ceremony, and both Harmony and Endeavor took third place in their divisions. Of course, no one gets less than third place at the HaHa, but we are proud of our trophy nonetheless. It was a successful and enjoyable HaHa, and now we are ready to really start cruising on our own.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Farewell Avalon, On To San Diego

shelter island
09/12/11 – 10/3/11:  Newport Beach was an easy little hop from Avalon. We spent two nights on the hook there soaking up the ambience, but were anxious to get on to San Diego. They had plenty of room for us at the Police Dock on Shelter Island here in San Diego, and only a short dinghy ride to all the marine related services you could ever need. We’ve had a marine layer most mornings, but clear skies and nice breezes in the afternoon. The local merchants have been very helpful in making sure we get everything we need, and the special Ha Ha pricing is much appreciated! Groceries, Trader Joe’s and Target are a short cab ride away—I’m on first name basis with the cabbies, who get me to church on Sunday’s right on time. We’ve ordered some take out online and had it delivered right to Harmony—life is good! Our cockpit is the perfect vantage point from which to watch the mega yachts (both motor and sail) come in to the hotel slips. We especially enjoyed watching the expert crew aboard 172 ft. Erica XII take off the headsail-quite the operation. One of the nicest aspects of cruising is that a little boat like Harmony can share the same quiet anchorage in a deserted cove or a busy downtown metropolitan marina, with the sleek and luxurious super yachts of the rich and sometimes famous. I’m hearing Robin Leach in my head right about now.

The Police Dock limits transient boaters to a 15-day stay in a 40 day period, so we arranged to dock Harmony on Coronado Island in Fiddler’s Cove, a marina and RV park owned by the Navy for the use of military personnel and their guests. The price is right, and we have a great view of downtown San Diego across the bay.  We were invited to spend some time shore side by Navy Lieutenant Commander John Duden, son of our old friends Enno and Wendy Duden. We’ve know John since he was a 5-year-old rough and tumble tow-headed boy, and now he flies helicopters in the Navy, has served tours in Iran and Iraq, and owns a beautiful home in the hills east of Chula Vista. In exchange for a few home-cooked meals (he’s a bachelor), John’s given Terry and I the run of the house, the pool, the hot tub, the high-def TV's all over the place and the pool table right off the kitchen. He’s been a most generous host. No one told me cruising would be like this! We’ve discovered the world has been spinning quite nicely without us, the politicians are still carping at each other, the economy is still in the tank, and the Seattle Seahawks are losing, as usual. Nice to know we haven’t missed anything. A few days after we moved into his house, and I had pretty much exhausted my home-cooking repertoire, John called in the reserves, (his parents in Grants Pass), and they jumped in their car and drove the 13 hours down I-5 to join us for hours of reminiscing about the old days, and  fantastic meals cooked by Wendy.  The tall tales and good-natured banter never stop. As the saying goes, the first liar doesn’t stand a chance!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Channel Islands-Will It Be Better This Time?

You might recall that the last time we were in the Channel Island (Becher’s Bay), we got our butts spanked a bit. This time however, the weather was balmy, clear and warm. We spent one night each in Prisoner’s Cove and Little Scorpion, both on Santa Cruz Island. It was nice to be on the hook again! Then we ventured over to Catalina Island where our first anchorage was at Two Harbors, or more specifically, Isthmus. It’s this way-laid-back sandy, dusty small little place that has a 50’s kind of feel to it. We had a bit of a hard time picking up a mooring buoy because they have this special system where you go to the bow and grab this long flexible pole that’s on on a float attached to the buoy, you pull it aboard and keep pulling till you come to a loop in the line, attach to a cleat on the bow, then keep pulling the line till you come to another loop and attach to a cleat on the stern. Of course, we have to try this is a strong headwind. I’m at the bow wrestling the dang thing, but the wind kept blowing us back. Finally Terry and I traded places, I took the helm, and he did the wrestling, a much better arrangement. It’s such a pleasant spot to be in—not very touristy, no shops, just a little store, a restaurant, and a nice beach. I loved it because it’s so quiet! Or maybe I loved Isthmus because of the Buffalo Milk!
On to Avalon, the gem of Santa Catalina Island. Well, it is really very pretty, but it’s a busy busy place. Glass Bottom Boat tours, diving and snorkeling tours, kayaking tours-- lots and lots of tours, and noise and commotion. There were two fishing derbies, a outrigger event and an art festival going on. We walked a lot, we shopped some, we read some. All was fine until Saturday afternoon. Rick needed to dinghy to shore to retrieve his ATM card left in the machine, so Terry went with him. At the dinghy dock things went awry and Terry ended up with one foot on the dock and one foot on the dinghy. Are you getting a good visual here? After he did the splits and fell into the water and drowned my cell phone,  he realized he had a badly pulled muscle in the back of his thigh—is that a hamstring? Anyway, he was in lots of pain by the time he got back to the boat, so alternating  ice-massaging and warm compresses, and liberal doses of various pain killers were called for. Then Rick was putting our dinghy back up the davit for us, when a splice failed and the dinghy dumped back into the water. It was not one of our better days.
We decided to spend another day in Avalon while Terry recuperated. Endeavor left very early headed directly to San Diego. Their calendar is filled with some fun and family things and they needed to get moving. I played nurse for Terry, and then took the water taxi ashore to get a few supplies. We leave tomorrow morning for Newport, CA. The Channel Islands have not been boring! Was it better this time? Yes, because Buffalo Milk and The Channel Islands make a great combo! (And add some whipped cream and nutmeg on top of mine please).

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Tap Tap, Is This Thing On?

I've had some questions and confusion regarding how to post comments on this blog. I think I've figured out where the confusion is. When you check the blog by using the url:, you are directed to a page that shows the most recent blog post at the top, followed by several previous blog posts, with the oldest being at the bottom of the page. There is no comment feature available on this page. If you click on one of the titles of the listed blog posts, you will be directed to a page that displays only that one blog post. For instance here is the post entitled Santa Barbara. If you scroll down, you can see a comment dialogue box, and you can type your comment, preview and post it. I hope this helps. Let us know if you are still having problems and I will try to figure out what's happening. Thanks to all who are following the blog, we really enjoy your comments and hope you will give us lots of feedback!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Santa Barbara

August 28—September 5, 2011:  Forget San Francisco, Santa Barbara is where we left our hearts. Sunny days, uncrowded beaches, the old mission, and the general ambiance were just what we needed. Who could blame us for dawdling here? The decision to skip down the coast at a pretty good clip was the right one for us because it got us out of the fog and cold and into sunshine, where we reveled in the chance to catch our breath. We relaxed a lot-- reading, watching movies onboard, exploring State Street, hanging out on the beach, and seeing a few of the sights. There were the regular boat chores like grocery shopping and laundry, and a few minor things to fix (stuffed full sea strainer, plugged fuel line) as well. We had a great evening at the The James Joyce, an Irish bar on State St., listening to Ulysses S Jasz, a group that plays classic New Orleans Jazz. I would love to go there again!
We left Santa Barbara on Labor Day and headed back to the Channel Islands to spend a couple of days in some small anchorages before heading down to Catalina. Here and here are pics after leaving San Francisco.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Monterey To Santa Barbara

8/24/11, 11:30 am: Monterey greeted us with sun and warmth when we arrived there on 8/24/11 at 11:30am. As soon as we got settled in our slip, and after a leisurely stroll down Fisherman’s Wharf, Terry and I took off for the Monterey Bay Aquarium by way of little transit busses. The aquarium is at the end of Cannery Row and was really a worthwhile stop. Although the harbormaster wryly called it “fish prison”, we were mesmerized by the exhibits, I hardly knew which way to look first. For a landlubbin’ country girl like me, it was fascinating. We spent several hours there marveling at the excellent exhibits of jelly fish, octopus, leopard sharks, sun fish, sea turtles, barracuda, tuna, and countless other species. My favorite was the seahorse exhibit.
8/25/11:  After a morning of boat chores including laundry and grocery shopping, our tiny fleet left Monterey at 3:30 pm, encountering fog soon out of the bay. We had originally planned to go directly to Santa Barbara, but early in the evening we decided instead to stop at Cojo Anchorage, which is just after you round Conception Point. I hate to sound like a broken record, but as you might guess, we had a night of stiff winds, roly seas and fog most of the trip, unsurprisingly the worst of which was right around Point Conception.

8/26/11: Cojo Anchorage, my pic above, (I also found this YouTube video) at first glance seems an unlikely place to stop with such wind and rough water, and it’s quite exposed, but we no sooner got in at about 5pm  and things calmed right down. The landscape here is very different than what we have been seeing down the coast so far-- much more arid and bare. I think it’s gorgeous—something like you’d see in eastern Oregon, less the sagebrush. In fact I saw a lone bull looking down on us from a windy bluff above our little anchorage. We were struck by how much warmer the air was immediately after rounding Point Conception. Hello southern California, we are delighted to finally meet you!
8/27/11: We were happy to wake up to beautiful, warm sunshine!! After a quick breakfast, we picked up our anchor and headed to Bechers Bay on Santa Rosa Island, part of the Channel Islands group. Conditions were perfect for a sail, so we took our time, sailing downwind and enjoying the silence of moving along with no engine. Later, we had a serious problem when our spinnaker halyard, which was clipped to our bow pulpit,  got tangled up in our headsail furling when we tried to reduce sail. Fortunately, we planned out a solution and waited for the 25 knot winds to die down a bit. Terry went on the foredeck and I was on the winch, and soon got the problem was solved. We were having such a good time and about ready to turn into Bechers Bay, when Rick (they were already anchored) got us on the VHF and told us we’d better reduce sail before rounding the point because the winds had picked up and were going “kick our butt” once we started in. There went our plans to sail to anchor! I have never seen anything like it. We rounded the point, were less than a mile from where we wanted to anchor, trying to beat against a fierce headwind of 35 knots and waves crashing over our bow and dodger. Terry even increased the rpms, but still we were only able to get up to 2.5 knots of speed over ground. The song from Gilligan’s Island kept running through my head …”the tiny ship was tossed”….At one point we could do nothing but laugh as we were getting thoroughly doused in Bechers Bay. We managed to anchor with the winds howling around us, let out 175 ft of chain, and then anxiously watched to see if it would hold. 
Santa Rosa Island has an interesting sheep and cattle ranching history. Beginning in 1901 Vail and Vickers operated a large ranch there for four generations, finally selling their holdings to the federal government in 1986,( for $30 million) with the stipulation that they be allowed to continue ranching for another 25 years. Read more here. It must have been sad to leave the island after such a long time.
Meanwhile, back at the boat, we could only gaze at the beautiful empty beach a few hundred yards away. There would be no leaving the boat this evening, but it will die down and be flat by morning—won’t it? Ha! The wind howled all night long, except for than one brief period when it when down to 5 knots, and the sudden silence woke us up. I’m such a nervous Nelly, I had to keep checking all night long to see if I could still see Endeavor’s anchor light. We were up and off the anchor early the next morning, after little sleep. Let’s get in to Santa Barbara as quickly as we can! We left Windy Lane (as we later learned it’s called), and motored in to Santa Barbara at around 2pm. Ah, Santa Barbara, we are smitten!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Lovely Capitola



8/23/11: Endeavor was ahead of us a few miles, and in less fog as they neared Santa Cruz, so they could actually see it from their boat. It looked very busy and touristy, so after some discussion, we decided to go a few miles further to Capitola. It’s much smaller and more laid back. I hate to use the word cute, but that’s what it is, very very cute. The marina staff came out in a dinghy and helped us snag a mooring buoy—what a great service. Then Rick ferried us into town and we spent awhile on the beach watching James body surf. He’s never met a wave he doesn’t like, even in water that’s 56 degrees! After a meal of Mexican food and a short walk through town, we went back out to the mooring for some reading and sleep.

I’m beginning to think Harmony is a fog magnet. We come into places where the sun is shining, and then we look out, and in a few minutes it’s rolling in to cover all the scenery and bring a cold chill.  But Capitola with its charm and color warmed us in spite of the weather.  More Capitola pics here.

Seeking The Sun In Half Moon Bay



8/22/11: Harmony and Endeavor pushed away from the dock in SF at 9am to make the short hop to Half Moon Bay.  Seas and winds were very calm, and we pulled into the marina after fueling up at around 2pm. We met Dick on Journey (a CT52) who saw our HaHa flag and came over to chat a bit. He’s had the HaHa on his bucket list for many years since the beginning of the rally, and will finally be able to make the trip this year.

Half Moon Bay is beautiful! We took a bit of a walk down the highway and found a small beach near the jetty. Gina and the kids and I had a great time poking around there. James found a new weapon we dubbed kelp guns, which are small tubular parts of the kelp that are filled with water-natural water pistols! So of course, he pitched battle against us, but I was able to sneak up and return fire—so there! Sydney showed off her dance skills and pirouetted down the beach like the prima ballerina she is. 

We ate at the local restaurant/fish market, then back to the boat for some shuteye. We leave tomorrow morning at 8am to head for Santa Cruz. More pics are here.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Bank Robber, A Jewel Thief, And I Was Born To Boogie

After a short hop from Angel Island, we docked at the South Beach Harbor Marina, right next to AT&T Park in San Francisco. Met Doug and Lynn MacFarland from Victoria, BC on sv Miramar, a Beneteau 40, who are also doing the HaHa. Those HaHa flags are great identifiers!

A news clipping posted near the door of the restaurant said it all: “Time Served. A bank robber was grilling the chickens, a jewel thief was filling the water glasses…” This was our introduction to the Delancey Street Restaurant, a unique and surprising eatery only a few blocks from the marina. We stumbled on it, and ventured inside because a glance at the menu showed reasonable prices and a decent selection. Once seated at our white-table clothed table we learned the amazing story behind it: “Delancey Street Restaurant is a key training school of the Delancey Street Foundation, the country's largest self-help residential organization for people who have hit bottom to completely rebuild their lives.” Without exception, all of the staff, from those in the kitchen, to those serving in the dining room and bar, have served time in prison for every kind of crime you can think of. Everyone is well-groomed, courteous, and well-trained. The food was good too! And the prices? $6.95 for a great steak sandwich and a nice salad! The residents, numbering 500, even built the building you see above, and live in apartments above the restaurant. The most important thing about it, to me at least, is that this foundation receives no government funding of any kind. And it is hugely successful! We all couldn’t say enough good things about it. Learn more by clicking here, and do visit the Delancey Street Restaurant the next time you’re in San Francisco.
Next on our agenda was Billy Elliot, a Broadway musical, winner of ten Tony awards. We learned the show was in town and decided a girls night out was in order. Leaving the menfolk to their own devices, off went Gina, Sydney and I to get tickets for the 8pm show, at the venerable old Orpheum theater on Market Street, a San Francisco Historical Landmark. The lack of available cabs and the distance to the theater were minor blips on an otherwise fun, fun evening. Old dancers, young dancers, ballet and modern, we saw it all from terrific seats, 11th row, center.The score is by Elton John, you can read about the show here and here.
Got back to the boat late, went to bed with “Born To Boogie” running through my head. Good times.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Boat Chores

Wednesday, August 17, 2011: Terry was talking to the crew of this big 116’ yacht (mv Sin or Swim) while we were at the Schoonmaker Point Marina, and they had just come up from San Diego. In the salon was a big ol’ granite table. It was so rough, the table came off and slammed to the floor and broke! That’s precisely why I don’t have a granite table in our salon-ha!

We motored over to Alameda to the Grand Marina, where Rick and Gina had saved us a slip across the dock from them. Internet! Terry and I walked the 1.6 miles to the West Marine to trade in our failed fresh water pump, and also buy an extra one, and to a grocery store to stock up a bit.  Endeavor had us over for drinks and we learned how to play “Fill or Bust”, a dice game. Lots of laughter, James beat the socks off of us. He’s dang quick with his math for the score keeping. Terry and Sydney traded verbal barbs back and forth. She really likes to try to get his goat. It’s a mutual thing.

Thursday, August 18, 2011: We are waking up later each day! So we pulled away from the dock in Alameda headed to San Raphael to get our watermaker fixed. When we got out in the bay, we put up our main, then practiced reefing. It made me a nervous wreck because we have never done it before. It was a bit of a rodeo, and wasn’t pretty, but we got the job done. The winds in this bay are amazing! And so many sailboats that are actually sailing! Then we put out just a bit of the staysail and with the one reef in the main we had a nice sail under the San Rafael Bridge on our way to San Rafael. Docked at the little yacht club there for free, then Terry took a cab to the Spectra factory while I did our laundry for the first time. I used that plunger thingy I got online. It worked fine, and now I have laundry hanging on my cute little rubber clothes lines I bought, where you don’t have to use clothes pins. We, motored over to Ayala Cove on Angel Island and met Endeavor, where we moored stern and bow. It’s nice to be away from the dock and at anchor. The whole island is a state park, and is where the immigrants (particularly the Chinese) were held until given permission to enter the country. Kind of like an Ellis Island of the west coast. Dinner, the rest of the movie “Dear Frankie”, and bed.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

In Which NOAA Lies, A Whale Is Seen, And The GG Bridge Is Not

Eureka, CA to San Francisco
Monday, August 15, 2011: Harmony left the dock in Eureka (public marina) at about 8:30 am, under blue skies (Yay!), no wind, and crossed the bar with no problem, it was like a millpond—glassy. Our AME customer Randy Peterson piloting m/v Hank crossed just in front of us on his way to SF as well. Beautiful sunlit balmy morning! Lunch was chips, cookies, crackers and cheese—too lazy to fix anything else. We laid around in the cockpit reading and soaking up the rays. Terry spotted a whale very close and I managed to get some good pics!.
We tried sailing (headsail, poled out on starboard side) for awhile. The winds had increased enough, but then shifted, which put our pole on the wrong side of the boat. Brought in the sail.
Between 2-3pm winds built to about 20 knots and we changed from shorts to jeans and sweatshirts. No more sunbathing today! By 3:45pm, light fog had moved in, “goodbye blue skies, we hardly knew ye”. Wind increased to 28 knots gusting to 35, seas building likewise for a rolling ride. NOAA weather service had predicted 10-15 knot winds. That’s the second time they have lied to us. No, I’m not bitter, I’m not, really.
When my turn came we had clear skies, lots of stars and our friendly waning moon-beautiful! By midnight we were socked in the fog, winds were still high, and seas were very rough. It was not a pleasant night. I was so sleepy. I had one of those brain spam things where the same song keeps playing over and over in your head. Then I made a boo-boo on the chartplotter, messing around with it because I was bored. I accidentally erased our route and alarms were going off everywhere! Had to wake Terry up to fix everything. Note to Furuno: The chartplotter needs one of those ‘undo’ buttons like they have on MS Word. I really like that button.  As for me, I may get fired from further overnight watch duty—a girl can always dream right? Actually, I mostly really enjoy night watch, and I will learn how to fix my plotter errors and run the thing properly.
While on watch the Coast Guard out of Eureka was issuing a pan-pan for a vessel that had yelled “help!’ over the radio, but the CG was never able to hear more or figure out where the boat was. They eventually called off the pan-pan until further notice. Sure hope it worked out ok.
Because of my little fiasco, I let Terry sleep longer before I called him up for his turn at 4:30am. I went below and slept like a rock.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011: Woke up to fog, but there was less wind and things had calmed down a lot. We were slowed down a bit last night, looks like we won’t get in to SF till between 5 and 6pm. Breakfast was scrambled eggs with onions, bacon, cheese, sour cream, salsa and cilantro, Lunch was left-over spaghetti. Still foggy at lunch time.
Went under the Golden Gate Bridge (at least we’re pretty sure it was the GG bridge) at 5pm in thick fog, had a spot o’ Ron Zacapa Rum (thanks again Craig and Kelly) to celebrate! Docked at Schoonmaker Marina, their office was closed, so we just took an empty slip. All we can think about is dinner and bed. Went to the the restaurant at the head of the dock to have dinner, but at $20-25 per plate, we changed our minds. Had Costco hamburgers onboard and tried to watch a movie (Dear Frankie), but fell asleep halfway through. Went to bed and slept like a rock. (I need some new sleep adjectives, any input will be appreciated.
All pics for our cruise from Anacortes to San Francisco are viewable by clicking here. (by Diane)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Rollicking Ride, Pinochle, And Some Great Furuno Customer Service

Harmony and Endeavor left Ilwaco  together on Monday morning (8/8/11) and crossed the bar with no problem. Endeavor was going straight through to San Francisco, while we were planning a stop in Eureka. Winds gradually picked up, but the weather was mild, and the day and night passed uneventfully, except for the ongoing issue with the radar and fresh water leak. Winds picked up steadily all day Tuesday (8/9/11) until they were a steady 25 knots when I came on watch at 8pm. By the time I went off watch at midnight, winds were steady at 30, gusting to 35. We were doing 10 knots sliding down the building seas. Woohoo, what a ride! The moonlight on the waves was beautiful, and except for the cold, I thoroughly enjoyed my watch. We crossed the bar into Eureka at around noon on Wednesday (8/10/11). Our old friends Enno and Wendy Duden from Grants Pass, OR drove down to spend a couple of days with us on the boat. What fun we had laughing about the good old days! They chauffeured us around town to do errands, and we played pinochle on Friday (8/12/11). Wendy and I let the guys win 2-1. We hated to see them go, but are hoping they might visit us in Mexico.
Jon Closson, our Furuno rep, has been providing fabulous support during our radar issue. By Friday (8/12/11) morning at 9:30 am there was a brand new radar antenna waiting for us at the marina office. Terry and Enno installed it in nothing flat, and the difference was amazing. Check that issue off the list. We will leave Eureka tomorrow (8/15/11) and expect to take a couple of full days to get to San Francisco. (by Diane)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

A Ration of Rum And A Plugged Fuel Line

Terry indulged in his little drink at 8pm just before he went down below to get some shut-eye  on Friday, August 5th, as we made our way down the Washington coast. The rum is Ron Zacapa, a bon voyage gift from Craig and Kelly Beedle—the best!. We had left Neah Bay at 8:30 am , and made our left  turn around Cape Flattery in foggy conditions. We had light winds on our stern all the way down the WA coast, and quite a bit of fog. Well, it IS Fogust in these parts after all! I took the first watch from 8pm to midnight. My watch was uneventful except for radar problems. There are SO many fishing boats out there at night and for some reason our radar would pick them up then lose them. Terry came on watch at midnight, and that’s when the real fun began. I was sort of in and out of sleep down below, amid the clatter of stuff in the galley as we rolled on the waves, when at about 2am, our engine just died--- no cough, no sputter, just sudden silence. That woke me up! We put up the staysail to steady our bobbing around and Terry went to work. He found a plugged fuel line which he was able to clear fairly easily, and we were off again.  We crossed the Columbia River bar at about 8:15 this morning (8/6), and are now all comfy in our slip in Ilwaco, WA ---with free internet! We plan to catch up on sleep and hot showers today. Tomorrow our boat buddies Rick Phillips and family arrive here, and then we make our plans for the next leg. (by Diane)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Untethered At Last!

We did it!!! Yesterday at 12:20 with our great friends Joe and Cindy Barnes and Art & Ray Schuwyler to send us off, we untied the dock lines and headed out to Hunter Bay to decompress and start our voyage to Mexico. Seems to be the best weather we have seen thus far. Just perfect for the starting day. It was quite fitting to be sent off by Joe and Cindy as 7 years ago we did the same for them. They did a four year journey form the Pacific Northwest to Mexico, South Pacific and on to New Zealand. As we sit here in Hunter Bay soaking up the sun and sipping on are Kamikaze's thinking about all of our friends such as Lawn Boy,
Bruce, Mia, Fritz, Bryan, all the good guy's at Furuno such as Jon, Steve, Bart Eric and Matt, the folks at North Harbor Diesel, Ian & Joy, Andy, Steve and Ben at Coastal Marine Marketing, Clay and those of you that I have forgotten. We sincerely appreciate all of your help and friendship.
(by Terry)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Still at the dock

Well it is 2 days from departing from the dock. The stress level of getting out of the condo and onto the boat has left both of us without appetites and a knot in our gut. Even though you get hungry at times it is not long after you start eating that you really don't want anymore. We are hoping that it all goes away after we leave the dock and head out into the islands to chill for a few days before going down the coast.
(by Terry)

Friday, February 11, 2011

"Hard to port!"

  Soon we will board Harmony, sail to Cape Flattery, the "blustery edge of America", then make that deceptively simple left turn."Hard to port!" "Aye, hard to port!"  That left turn will launch us out of the protected waters of Puget Sound and  into the wide-open blue seas of our adventure! We are bound for Mexico and perhaps points beyond, living and cruising aboard Harmony, our Tayana 42 sailboat.  The day we have planned for during the last 10 years is fast approaching. Of course we have many decisions still to make, endless lists of things to do or buy. In my mind's eye is an image of time as a boat wake, slipping past the stern very very quickly. We are excited, we are anxious......and almost broke! We are to meet the Phillips family, who own SV/Endeavor, outside of the Columbia River bar on August 1, 2011. Please join us and come follow in Harmony's wake!