November 29, 2008

Working south down Baja

Hola from Mexico! After leaving San Diego, we had a nice one-day sail down to Ensenada, complete with a dolphin escort as we rode our last miles in the US. The bull ring in Tijuana was visible from offshore- an emblem of the differences that await as we move south of the border. Within half an hour of crossing that invisible line, there was a bite on the line trolled behind the boat- we had fish on the menu for dinner! It was great to have our fishing licenses start paying dividends so soon.

Our stay in Ensenada was centered around checking into the country. It’s a fairly simple process compared to what is used to be, with all the services located together in one office now instead of spread out over town, but still the jaunt from the marina took half a day for us once you factored in lunch and the walking pace of a four year old. Lunch was in a stall across from the fish market- Niall felt bold enough with his Spanish to ask the senora for “una mas taco de pescado, por favor”- I am really proud to see him jump in and try. Of course, his effort was rewarded with another delicious fish taco! I’ve been humbled with my poor Spanish, but had nothing but friendliness and help from the people I tested it on… like the senora at the government office where I took care of the forms and fees for a reciprocal license for my FCC operator’s permit. We had few words in common but she made it work and was incredibly helpful in the process.

Currently we are in Bahia de Tortugas, about halfway down the Baja peninsula- arriving on Thanksgiving after about 46 hours sailing & motoring from Ensenada. It was very good to get here and rest- but after some good naps, we had a proper thanksgiving on the table! It was hard not to be able to talk to our families far away on the holiday, but we made a special one for ourselves…the children made dozens of little paper turkeys, we talked about the origins of the holiday and the things we’re thankful for today. The hard part for me was wanting to make more dishes than really make sense for our little crew! So, we’re going to have a “rolling thanksgiving” with more of the standards in the coming days…it was just impossible to get them into one night.

Bahia de Tortugas is just a handful of streets, and seems pretty poor on the surface- very modest homes, unpaved roads… They used to have a fish cannery, but it’s been closed for some time- the lobstering remains. Apparently fishermen here sell local lobsters to the China market and do quite well- there are some very nice SUVs on the dirt roads! People here are really friendly- hardly anyone we passed didn’t offer an “hola” or smile. Our ride to town was hailed from one of the ubiquitous Pangas- an open boat about 20’ long, the all-purpose Mexican fishing tender. Tomorrow, we’ll get a load of diesel from one of these- the only pier in town is a bit rickety and it’s around 15’ between dock and water, making it a challenging spot to fuel up.

Other highlights:

- Lunch in a restaurant about the size of our main cabin; we took up half the tables. The senora made amazing carne asada tacos, and fresh limonada to wash them down with…and gave us Spanish lessons on the side. We loved it so much we might have to go back! At 134 pesos, it was about $10 for the 5 of us. Not bad.

- Exploring tidepools; a young boy showed Niall an octopus in one of them! Then an older gentleman took notice and picked it up for all the children to see- in our mix of Spanish and English, we understood each other pretty well..

- Same gentleman gave a pile of really lovely shells to Mairen, collected from the tidepools. She was so shy she could barely look at him but SO happy about the gift. He placed them neatly in a row next to her before leaving- really sweet!

- The abundance of sealife in the bay here. Everywhere we looked were dolphins when we pulled in. Just sitting in the cockpit, you can hear the fish- and then realize why so many seals, dolphins, and seabirds make this home. The pelican dives in particular are spectacular!

We think we’ll head out of here on Sunday for our next destination- still considering which destination feels right. We’re headed for Probably Bahia Asuncion, about a daysail south… small chance we’d press on to Mag Bay (another overnight). SPOT will have our most current location by day- check the link at the top right of the blog to find us.

November 14, 2008

Day by day

Day by day
Originally uploaded by behang

We're in a comfortable berth in San Diego, enjoying the warm hospitality of a reciprocal club- Southwestern Yacht Club- on Shelter Island. The kindness that has been shown to us is humbling. Sure, there was the friendly face at the dock to help us land- but the rides to Costco for bulk provisioning? The touring through San Diego? Taking Jamie to his idea of sailor's nirvana, a perfectly organized and deeply stocked chandlery? It would be easy to stay longer!

We do want to keep moving south, though, and anticipate crossing the border in a week or so. Meanwhile, projects are underway- those related to safety which simply won't be put off. Coming over from Catalina, Jamie discovered a cracked weld in our boom- that needs to be addressed here and now. And, the luff tape on the jib must be replaced- if we had to get it down in a hurry, even in benign conditions, we'd be very hard pressed. We're also acquiring spares and parts for other projects- those we know, and those that will surely occur- down the road: water pressure pump, gallons of motor oil, expoxy and hardner, fiberglass strips.

Our days are not counted in many ways- we routinely forget which day of the week it is- but we mark each one in another way. A growing strand of beads counts them one by one. Each bead is a color (not terribly easy to see in my dim picture- sorry folks) that represents something about what we're doing: were we underway? did we anchor or were we at a dock? It's punctuated by a charm of the Golden Gate bridge, set to mark that day we sailed out under it with the children in October. I have a stash of charms to add in the future to mark everything from the holidays to sea turtles. This was shared by our friends on the TOTEM sistership, s/v Windarra- looking at the long strand from their journey across and around the Pacific was an inspiration!

For those who have wondered, we do have a bit of a plan. We hesitate to use the "P" word, because things change frequently and we rarely do what we say, when we say. With that disclaimer, the chart below tracks where we anticipate being, in very broad strokes, for about the next 18 months.

Should your path possibly cross ours, please reach out! We can occasionally Actually Plan, too...we look forward to Christmas in Mazatlan with one of my oldest and dearest friends Christy Buckman and her family; we'll be spending time in late January into February in Puerto Vallarta with our dear friends and cruising mentors, Jim & Diana Jessie. So it can be done, although we'll always tell you- the crew of s/v Totem is better at Intentions than Plans.