Monday, 23 April 2012

attachment issues

In our excitement to leave La Paz for quiet anchorages, we didn't expect to be stuck. And I mean, actually, physically stuck. Wait, didn't this happen to us before? Yes, yes it did. So here we were, provisioned, topped up on water and ready to go, but the anchor chain would not budge. We tried a few approaches, but we soon realized we'd have to dive. As luck would have it, it was slack tide and we were anchored in 16 feet of water - a manageable depth. 

The barnacles only won the battle,
I won the war.
I had repeatedly said I couldn't wait to go swimming. I hadn't meant the La Paz anchorage. At least, the air was hot, over 30 degrees Celsius hot. I donned my snorkelling gear and dove in. Thank goodness the water was 4 degrees warmer than it was last month. The visibility is very poor in the anchorage, I pulled myself down the chain not really knowing what was coming up. It was a bit creepy, I must admit. 

A barnacle encrusted... anchor? Or an old mooring? I'm not sure, but the chain was tightly wrapped around what looked like a shank. After multiple dives, I managed to get a good look and with Rick's help (from above), I worked at unwrapping the chain. It was challenging to hold my breath long enough to be effectual, but eventually I freed the chain and gave Rick the okay to start pulling it up.

A touch of drama and a dose of team work later, we were on our way amidst bloody high fives. (My left hand got a few minor cuts from the barnacles down below.) Finally, we were leaving civilization.

Leaving La Paz in our dust, err, wake

Gone Sailing. (Don't wait up.)

Sunday, 22 April 2012

the eyes have it

The doctor's office
Speaking of real life while living abroad... The other day, Rick developed some severe pain in both eyes. He is not one to complain right away. When he began grumbling, I began to worry. Being the crew member with a modicum of Spanish, I searched for an ophthalmologist in La Paz and found a doctor who spoke English. I proceeded to call the Spanish-speaking receptionist. One of the biggest challenges when learning a language is speaking it on the phone. I had looked up key words and somehow fumbled my way through. All was set for an appointment later that day.

Our recently arrived friend Karina rallied, and we trouped down to the doctor's office. We waited in the reception area with a television blaring one very dramatic Mexican soap opera. There was even a strait-jacket scene. As Karina and I tried to decipher the unfolding drama, Rick sat with his sunglasses and cap pulled down low. 

The doctor made his entrance. 

Picture a well-to-do, bespectacled man of a certain age. He nodded toward us with an air of importance, and walked into his office. The receptionist gestured Rick in. I was encouraged to follow.  When we abandoned Karina in the waiting room, a nun was kissing her secret lover on the television set.

We got to know this waiting room very well
Dr. F spoke in careful English. He asked Rick questions and listened attentively. He began checking Rick’s eyes with his various eye-doctor tools. Rick found out he was suffering from a severe corneal infection in both eyes, likely triggered by the prolonged use of soft contact lenses. Throughout the examination process, Dr. F addressed me, as if Rick were a petulant 5-year old boy. Or perhaps it was expected that I, the caring wife of a forgetful man, should be responsible for him. To this day I'm trying to figure out if this is cultural, or if it is that particular doctor's take on the wife's role...

A paternal lecture, a contrite Rick, and more eye-machines later, we left with a promise to return two days later for a check-up and lab results. After a stop at the farmacia (drugstore), we hopped in a taxi to head across town to deposit samples with the lab. The pesos were flying out of our pockets and we were exhausted.

That evening, we recovered from our day with lemonade, beer, and a heaping plate of nachos. Karina is getting the real cruising deal. There were no margaritas at sunset this time, but the nachos after a day immersed in the Mexican medical system were just what the doctor ordered. Well, maybe not. But boy, did they taste good.

UPDATE: After two days, Rick was feeling much better. After another time-consuming doctor’s visit (and a different soap opera), we received confirmation that Rick suffered from pseudomonas, not something to laugh at. We are grateful to Dr. F for taking care of Rick. Rick has gone to see him 3 times. Now that we've experienced  the medical systems of both the U.S.A. and Mexico - our eyes better behave themselves. We'd rather be sailing!

Friday, 20 April 2012

sometimes, it is margaritas and sunsets

Caleta Partida - yes, it was that lovely

Goofing off in Ensenada Grande
Margaritas taste that much better when shared with a friend. I'm convinced this is true. When you have a Karina aboard, you see cruising through different eyes. Karina is not a sailor, but she's game for just about anything. Her first time snorkeling (ever) was with sea lions in 60 foot depths. She's no chicken.

We were very happy that she could spend ten days with us. Rick and I needed the comfort of home. It happens when you're living abroad. When you can be yourself - grumpy or silly, have honest conversations, and laugh your head off over margaritas - it feels like home, (minus the rain).

Fun in the water

The 3 musketeers
Karina purposely chose the cheesiest books at Marina La Paz's book exchange before we headed to the islands. We're talking the kind of books that have gold scrolly letters in the title. My mortified face added to her glee. I'm sure of it. There is something refreshing about not caring what the world thinks. I'm going to try it.

Through the drama of Rick's medical emergencies (story still to come), sailing in bumpy seas, adopting sea cucumbers and helping Mexican fishermen who later came back bearing fresh fish; we were reminded what it was like to share the bits and pieces of everyday life with our lovely friend. Hanging out on beaches and swimming in turquoise waters were an added bonus.

Isla Espiritu Santo - Ensenada Grande (We love this spot.)
(Photo by Karina)
Thanks for the visit Kk! We miss you already.

A sturdy little shrub on a Baja beach

She's got guts to read that book. It was very
very terrible. We've returned Colt to the book
exchange Kk, (in an anonymous looking bag)...  
But we feel guilty. No one should feel your pain.
The last margarita night (This shot was not the only thing that
was blurry...)

Friday, 13 April 2012

forgive me this sentimental moment

Highway 1
I love airports. The possibilities, the stories. Airports are great. What I really cherish, is the arrivals gate. The indescribable feeling of sighting someone you love rounding a corner and coming through the sliding doors, knowing you'll be hugging them soon. Like my mother, I have been known to tear up when witnessing reunions between people that are strangers to me. The heightened emotions are contagious. (Remember the opening scene in the movie Love Actually? Yeah, like that.)

For the first time since we've been in Mexico, we rented a car at a very affordable price (thanks for the tip Del Viento!) and drove the two and a half hours to San Jose del Cabo. We were to pick up our friend Karina at the airport. It was strange for Rick to drive again after 7 months and it was weird to be out of sight of the ocean for long stretches of the trip. We certainly enjoyed the different perspective. 

Sampling Mexican beer and good
Ultimately, we were meeting a very dear friend after what felt like a long absence. After hugs and a pee break, off we went. Within minutes of piling into the car and heading back to La Paz, it felt like old times: The conversation, the history, the laughs. I am a vagabond, but my heart misses the familiarity of loved ones. Both Rick and I are thrilled that our Karina (a.k.a. KK) is going to be here for 10 days.

Already we are enjoying pounding the pavement of La Paz with her. We've introduced her to Aracherra, negotiated the insane sidewalks of La Paz, and watched soap operas in a  Mexican doctor's waiting room. (That story is for another post.) We'll be heading out to the islands soon. 

Some cruisers think we are crazy for welcoming all the visitors we've had aboard Nyon. We think we're fortunate.

(Before the sunburn)

Thursday, 12 April 2012

it followed me to paradise

Photo by Karina
There is an undeniable side-effect when writing blog posts about our adventures in the sun. In spite of including some of our misadventures, sometimes I think they may be unintentionally misleading.

Obviously, long-term voyaging on a boat comes with all kinds of challenges. What I mean is, it's not a get-away from life's troubles. It's not running away from "Life" with a capital L.

When voyaging is a way of life, it is life. You have crises, you get restless, you miss your loved ones, you have grumpy days and sad days. 

I still find it hard to find balance between must-dos and want-to-dos. Surprise! I always have had a hard time finding a healthy balance in my day-to-day life in Canada. Here I am in Mexico, plagued with the same challenges. And more. When loved ones go through tough times, or you're having a rough time far away from loved ones, it can feel very lonely and frustrating. Sure, we don't have to deal with the incessant rain during Victoria winters and we don't work 9 to 5 jobs. Sure, it's cool to swim with sea lions. But sometimes, you just want to have a cup of coffee with a loving friend and talk about life without going through the small-talk that begins friendships when you're out cruising.

I still get down. I still sometimes feel melancholic. There are times I feel guilty admitting this to people back home. I should be "happy" all the time - I'm living my dream. Well, being a flawed human being and this being real life, the reality of my dream comes with flaws and adversity too.

Yes, I still think it's worth it. Life comes with its challenges whether you're exploring islands in the Sea of Cortez or you are juggling work and commitments in Victoria. So, my apologies if I've given you the wrong impression. Life is great here. But sometimes it sucks too. It's life after all.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

a deeper connection

It was magical. Up and down and around, she went.  Graceful. Quick. I was laughing in my mask, bubbles rising to the surface. We were just fumbling humans in her watery ballet. And we loved it.

Los Islotes, are a couple of rocky outcrops north of Isla Partida in the Sea of Cortez. We anchored near them, in some sixty feet of water. This anchorage affords little protection from winds and waves. We came here on a calm day, to visit a special sea lion rookery.  These particular sea lions are used to humans, and therefore unafraid of them. We were told you could swim in the water with them. To test this theory, we selflessly offered that Barb and Bjarne dive in first. (Aren’t we good hosts?) We shall call them the brave ones. (The reason we went in pairs, was to have someone on the boat at all times, as the holding there isn`t great and we wanted to keep watch on the boat.)

It wasn't long before, we saw plastic fins and animal flippers breaking through the water’s surface only to disappear down below again. Aboard Nyon, we observed, while some sea lions sunned themselves on the rocks nearby and the cacophony of their conversations echoed off the rocky cliffs.

Soon enough, it was our turn to go play. Seeing Barb and Bjarne’s wide grins, we jumped in without hesitation. Admittedly, I still was a little apprehensive. These are wild animals after all. We forged on and soon a lion swam nearby, and then another… I can’t think of a better word than: “Awesome.” It was awesome. I have a soft spot for sea lions, and to see them in their natural habitat, playful and energetic, was a wonderful moment. Barb and Bjarne had told us that if you dive down, they become even more playful. Up and down we went, likely appearing nothing short of clumsy to these lovely creatures. Nonetheless, it felt as if for a brief moment, a barrier was torn down.

Here's a short clip of the experience:

b & b take baja

Our anchorage 
We anchored in Isla San Francisco just in time for happy hour. Luckily, there were other boats we knew that were anchored nearby. SV Shannon and SV Keetya 1 helped us celebrate the sunset aboard Nyon.

Our anchorage at Isla San Francisco was an arid but lovely crescent-shaped bay surrounded by rose-coloured cliffs. Tucked away from strong northerly winds, we enjoyed three days anchored in the turquoise waters there. We hiked and the brave ones among us snorkelled. We also went agate hunting, salt tasting at the salt ponds (okay only one of us did that), and got used to seeing cacti everywhere while not running into them. That's no small feat for Pacific Northwesterners used to moss and spruce trees. And of course there were many opportunities to hang out with other cruisers and swap stories. This is also where Rick's I-phone met its demise. It went for an unplanned swim, and there was much diving in cold water to find it. Bjarne got extra rum rations, he found the treasure after two tries.

The guys, lolly-gagging along
“I believe in kindness. Also in mischief. Also in singing, especially when singing is not necessarily prescribed.”  Mary Oliver

Cruising with Barb and Bjarne goes something like this:
  • You get bonus points if you play '70's and 80's music. (Rick got a lot of bonus points)
  • It is common for them to break into song if you say something that inspires a ditty
  • Bjarne is obviously a man of the north - Only a Dane would enjoy swimming in 18 degrees celsius waters (The Sea of Cortez is not super warm in the winter, it is just now getting warmer)
  • While cooking can't involve onions, we ate like kings and queens
  • Both Barb and Bjarne are great bakers - the kind that make up recipes as they go
  • They like rum, so do we
  • Playing crib is an adventure that involves gloating and some swearing (the gloating was mostly mine, hehe...)
  • They're sailors and nature lovers, so there's lots of pointing and sail adjustments
  • Maybe we'll get a chance to sail with them again in another exotic port, we'd sure welcome the chance!

There's a Barb behind the rocky outcrop!

Drinking beers and sharing stories (I'm sure some of them are
true) Good times ashore with new and old friends including
SV Keetya 1 and SV Shannon

Saltwater shower, a necessary evil


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