Sunday, 24 June 2012

before we head north... one last glimpse

As we get ready to leave the Loreto area for the rest of the summer, allow me to share some snapshots of the past two weeks... 

Chasing Cortez Angelfish
(They are much bigger than they look - these ones were at least 12 inches long)
The end of another blissful day in Ballandra

Bright red starfish
Girls' day on SV Nyon (with Jeannie from SV Eagle)
Crazy-big school of Green Jacks hanging out under Nyon
It was a pretty cool sight
Impromptu party in Ballandra. SV Camille's stand-up paddle board
became the bar. I kid you not. We spent four hours  rabble-rousing
and floating in the warm water. It's a rough life...
(I'm not sure what John is doing here, I was desperately trying to stay out of the way)
I call this Rick's classic Sear's shot... hehe
Cuddly moment on the beach at Isla Coronados
Cruiser-potluck in Coronados

Saturday, 23 June 2012

here, fishy fishy...

We love fish. We like observing them in their natural habitat, and we like some of them with garlic and lime juice on our plates...

I'm not trying to be facetious, this is indeed the contradictory truth. Snorkeling is by far, one of our favourite pastimes. It just turns out that fishing is also Rick's new passion. While I have been partaking in fishing trips, I have yet to catch an edible fish. We were given a fishing rod, and on occasion, Rick has caught fish with it. But today, he finally speared two fish with his nearly new pole-spear. It was very exciting, and tonight, we will feast. 

Sergeant Majors are everywhere in the Sea
This Greybar Grunt is trying to ignore me
While this little King Angelfish was staring me down

This here fish, with the funny bump on his head, is a Mexican Hogfish

Playing hide-and-seek with a juvenile hawkfish


I have spent the last couple of weeks learning to fish. My luck hasn't been great so far. But, I have         caught a few. We have eaten fresh sand bass and a strange looking thing called a triggerfish.

Triggerfish... poor sucker didn't know what was coming...
The Triggerfish is a roundish fish with a small mouth and big teeth. They do most of their swimming by undulating the oversized anal, and second dorsal fins. They get their name from the first dorsal fin, which is mostly a heavy spike-like protuberance.  When they are threatened, say, when they have a fish hook in their mouth, they dart into the rocks and use their trigger fin to anchor themselves so they can't be gotten out. 

Triggerfish are the reason that I don't have any jigging lures left. I need to include replacement fishing gear to my provisioning list. 

This morning Kyra and I went snorkeling at Isla Coronados. I brought along my new(ish) pole-spear. It is a 6' fiberglass rod, with a barbed tip on one end, and a loop of surgical tubing on the other. You loop the tubing over your thumb and stretch your hand to the middle of the spear. It is sort of like a one-handed sling-shot. 

I have tried it out a few times, without success. Today I had success. Kyra called me over to where she saw a big Triggerfish. I was about 40 feet away, when I cocked my pole-spear. Another 15 feet, and I saw a big Triggerfish just ahead. I stopped swimming and took aim. I let fly, and got him. 

Rick's first catch EVER, with our pole-spear (Don't look mom)
I had to dive down a little to retrieve my dancing pole-spear, then I came to the surface and called Kyra, and showed her my transfixed fish. 

After dispatching our dinner and putting it in the dinghy, I went back to snorkeling. I was hopeful that it wasn't just a fluke, but I didn't hit anything else. Eventually, we decided to head back to the beach where our dinghy was anchored. 

Again, Kyra waved and pointed at another fish. It was wary of Kyra, but swam right up to me. And that is how I speared my second fish. After not having much luck fishing with line and lures, and no luck initially with spearfishing, it is pretty satisfying to catch something I was going for. 

Rick, celebrating his second catch on the spear complete with a
manly-man pose... Thank you Mr. Triggerfish.

Friday, 22 June 2012

set phasers to stun

Underwater scenery... very sci-fi.
Don't you think?
(Karina, it makes me think of you!)

"Out-of-the-box, is where I live." (Starbuck, BSG)

Rick likes to remind me that I was once a sci-fi denier. I never read science fiction novels and would only rarely watch a sci-fi movie. The first and only time I saw the original Star Wars movies, I was 25 years old. You could accuse me of being highbrow, but I just didn’t get it. It was too “out there”.

A friend of ours, who’s also a sailor, writes stories. Many of them happen to be set in futuristic worlds. Being an artist myself, when I have a friend who practices any art form, I am going to show my support. The creative field is a tough one and anyone treading its minefield deserves backing; that’s how I came to read my first science fiction novel. When I finished it, I thought: “Wow, this is sci-fi? I didn’t know it could be like that!” I then had to read her second, third, and fourth novels.  I blame Darusha, at least in part, for my relatively newfound enthusiasm for sci-fi. Although we’ve never had a television set, Rick also introduced me to the TV series BattlestarGallactica (2003) and Firefly. I quickly became a fan of both, albeit widely different, shows. Apparently, I just needed the right narratives to hook me in.

Yet, this was still only a novelty. Science fiction, as a genre, was merely in the periphery of my interests. That is, until we left on our voyage. Rick and I have always been avid readers. This was even truer when we started doing long passages and anchoring in secluded anchorages. I quickly began running out of reading material. Rick suggested books from his reading list; his collection includes historical fiction, fantasy, and science fiction novels. I’d opened that door a crack, I supposed it was time to walk in. So I did. Nowadays, I read as much science fiction as any other genre found on my bookshelf. Had you told me this 5 years ago, I would have shaken my head and laughed.

There is something to be said about being open. It took me nearly 40 years to come out of the science-fiction closet. I could have remained attached to the idea that I just didn’t like it. After all, it’s a long time to be convinced I had no interest in fantastical tales from outer space, comprising time travel and future worlds…

I find that voyaging sets you up for that kind of discovery because you are so often thrust out of your comfort zone while you are constantly dealing with new people, new places and activities, different cultures or worldviews… When you have been repeatedly thrown off balance, you can’t help but cope differently than you would in a more predictable environment. You could shut yourself off from the unknown, or, you can choose to become more open, more tuned in to new experiences.

Had I not gone on this journey, I wouldn’t have learned that talking about hurricanes and following one hurricane’s path a mere 250 nm away, are two very different things. I wouldn’t know that spear-fishing turns you into a hunter. I didn’t know I had a hunter in me. It feels natural, yet odd. I wouldn’t have met some of the wonderful people that have crossed our path, tasted the strange foods I’ve tasted, or learned about sea life to the extent I have.

While traveling, I have also discovered generosity in its many forms. Human beings are inherently giving when you have the courage to put your trust out there. This became apparent from the many exceptionally patient Mexicans that have corrected my Spanish with a smile and shared their world with us, to the acquaintance who gave Rick a fishing rod and another friend, who gave him a reel after seeing a budding fisherman’s keen interest; to the girlfriend I snorkelled with, who taught me to pause and really look at rocky crevasses for oft-overlooked underwater treasures.

Science-fiction opened up a whole new fictional world for me, yes it did. And voyaging? It opened up my real world and allowed me to see it, in a very immediate way, for the fantastically difficult and beautiful place that it is. Voyaging is like reading a book. You relish the story, then you turn the page, keen to know what is on the other side, curious for what might be. As cliché as it sounds, anything is possible if you make it so.

Kaylee: "Well, we're headed for help... right?"
Zoe: "Captain will come up with a plan."
Kaylee: "That's good. Right?"
Zoe: "Possibly you're not recalling some of his previous plans."

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

swept off our feet

Rick, blissed out

Misty afternoon
It didn’t take us long to fall under the spell of Isla Coronados. On a whim, we had decided to leave our cocoon in Ballandra for a different view from our galley.  My body was finally on the mend, and my spirits lifted as we neared the island.

We arrived late afternoon, to a nearly deserted bay. We were surprised; we’d been told it  could get crowded there. Counting us, there were only 4 boats in the anchorage, and two left the next morning.

Our first sunset in Coronado. At first, it looked like this

Thirty minutes later, it looked like this

The chef, about to taste the ceviche
he made with freshly caught fish...
This dish is now Rick's specialty
Isla Coronados is a treasure trove, it's full of nooks and crannies to explore. In the morning, we went fishing, and while the fish didn’t bite, we were soothed by the quiet bay while drifting along in the dinghy. We ended up in the northwest notch of the anchorage. This little nook contained a beach with a rocky reef, and white butterflies everywhere. We spent hours beachcombing and wading in the shallow waters. Two oyster catchers sang their distinctive song while avoiding us and a grey heron watched us warily, its long leg pausing in mid-air. Time flew by, and pangas too. Tourists in Loreto come to the island on day trips. They all headed for the main beach, no one came to our little beach. Rick spent hours scouring the shallow waters for fish bones. They look like beads you’d find in a bead shop, or around a sailor’s neck.

Dolphins eating their breakfast while we sipped our coffees
Our little beach
The fisherman
A different view of our playground
Yup, this is good
Happy in Coronados
The water in Coronados was cooler than in Ballandra – a touch more refreshing as Rick would say. We swam, explored and relaxed. Our last evening there, SV Rage came into the anchorage. We had met Barry and Coni in Candeleros and enjoyed some mighty fine conversation and stories with these two.

Now, we’re on our way back to Ballandra, we hope to meet with up with friends. We’ll be stopping in Loreto for limes and tortillas. When we go back to Isla Carmen, Rick plans to show me a snorkelling spot he’s been saving for me.

We’ve barely scratched the surface on Coronados Island, but this is a backyard we will be revisiting. 

The rocky patch

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

in limbo, in paradise

On the way to Ballandra
Clear waters, desert landscape

Sometimes you just need somewhere to hide out. Ballandra, that’s pronounced Ba-yan-dra, is a large, well-protected anchorage on Isla Carmen. It’s a lovely place to hang out for a while. We certainly were in no hurry to leave.

I was laying low, recovering from my AS flare, by floating in the water and generally taking it easy. While I was happy that Rick had an able-bodied buddy to go snorkelling and fishing with; I hate to admit I was feeling a little sorry for myself. My mobility was limited, and my brain was over-active, what can I say.

"Let me tell you about the
one that got away..."
Rick returning from an evening
of fishing with John
Rick, the recent fishing enthusiast, taught me how to cast with John’s fishing pole. It was fun until I accidentally caught a porcupine fish. I was so distraught, I had to go in the cabin while Rick freed it and sent it back in the water. Yep, I’m a wimp. The thing is, I have a soft spot for porcupine fish, (and yes, I’m fully aware of the irony here). But they’re cute, what with their big cartoon eyes and mouths… Then again, I do like fish on my plate, the eating kind. I’m just not as attached to sea bass. Oh, the double-standard. While Rick has caught a few fish now, it’s usually when he’s off fishing with John from SV Time Piece. I’m starting to think that John is his good luck charm.

Ballandra is worth revisiting, which we will, after another quick stop in Loreto. And this time, I'll be part of the action gosh darn it!

pulling over to civilization

In the plaza
I was grumpy in Loreto. It wasn’t Loreto’s fault. I was in pain, and pain will sometimes make me unpleasant to be around. Since my little escapade on Isla Danzante, my Ankylosing Spondylitis has kicked me in the butt, so to speak.

Having said that, I liked Loreto for what it was: A town, with buildings, people, and tiendas. And a town can be a lovely contrast to uninhabited anchorages, especially when you’ve run out of fruit. We left Ballandra early morning, and John from Time Piece followed soon after. Ten nautical miles later, both boats were anchored once again. We trekked around town (at reduced speed), with John pointing out the tortilleria, grocery stores, marine supply store, and tourist zone. (That one was obvious.) By late afternoon, we ended up at Augie’s, a gringo bar with high speed internet; not our usual kind of hang out, but it was just fine. We caroused for a while before going home to our boats at a very respectable hour... It turns out that civilization can be exhausting.

Near the plaza, and next to Cafe Ole

The mission
We chose a good night to spend in Loreto – the lack of wind meant we weren’t violently rocked at anchor and didn’t have to grumble our way back to Ballandra by the light of the moon. There isn’t much in way of protection there. Simply put, we got a good night’s sleep and we didn’t try to fit all our errands into one day. We’re cruisers after all, we like to pace ourselves.

The following morning I wandered off on my own, taking photos and sitting in the plaza to write while the guys tackled a few more errands. We met at the Café Olé for a late Mexican brunch to fortify ourselves for the task of provisioning.

Later, while lugging heavy bags of groceries back to our dinghy, all we could think was: Got the town fix, time to get off the grid again.

Strings attached

The old mission, a close up

Stairs to nowhere

Away from the tourist area

Mango trees are everywhere... 

Walking to the edge of town

Walking by a daycare. Kids sound the same
no matter where you are

Thursday, 7 June 2012

sitting atop an island, sipping coffee

Nyon, with the Baja Peninsula in the background

Another feeding frenzy in the anchorage

I love early mornings. Rick is not a morning person. He’s usually pretty dopey for the first hour or two that he’s awake. It’s difficult for him to string together a sentence during that initial hour. (He readily admits this.) I like the solitude and quiet of mornings. It’s my special time.

Clear green water
My first morning in Honeymoon Cove, I brewed some coffee, threw a few items in my little pack, and rowed to shore. Rick was fast asleep. As I walked up the path from the main cove, I looked back to see a large pod of dolphins feeding in the bay. I could hear and see them clearly as I walked up the hill. I climbed up to a point on the north end of the island. I sat on a rock, drank my coffee, watched, and listened.

Later, the day filled with noise, activity, and laughter. That morning, it was just me and Isla Danzante; and she was a charming companion.

SV Time Piece, SV Eagle, and SV Nyon

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

a little slice of heaven

View from Isla Danzante

Sergeant Major enjoying some breadcrumbs I brushed off
our breakfast plates

Some places draw you in. We did not know much about Honeymoon Cove. It seemed like a good alternative to paying anchoring fees in Puerto Escondido. Plus, it was a short sail away. I   like the name of the island: Isla Danzante… Dancing Island. 

We arrived late afternoon, and anchored near our friends on SV Eagle in the central cove. Soon after, John on SV Time Piece joined us. When the south-eastern cove became free the next day, we moved to our private little slice of paradise, a short row away. Our visit there stretched to nearly a week.

The days found their natural rhythm. We spent our time snorkelling, socializing, doing boat jobs, and hiking… The island felt like a big playground.

We had met Eagle’s Tom and Jeannie on the outside of the Baja, our first month in Mexico. It’s been fantastic to hang out with those two again. Surprisingly, there were never more than 4 boats in this anchorage, and eventually only Time Piece and Nyon were left. We weren’t quite ready to leave, and neither was Time Piece. Happily for us, we got to know John (and we like him!) The three of us continued having fun exploring and sharing meals together. Rick and John are off fishing right now – I’m hoping for fish tacos tonight. [My wish was granted!]

Soon we’ll move on, but of course, we’ll meet up with Eagle and Time Piece again since we’re all sticking around for the summer. I predict many more Farkle games and silly fun. 

Hiking on the island

This is steeper than it looks I kept hiking when the guys
decided to go back for the dinghies(Of course, I lost the trail and
got myself stuck on a steep mountain-side of loose rocks.
The climb down was, uh, interesting...

Dinghies coming over to the north end 
Three goofs on one island 
The guys catching dinner
(John very generously has loaned Rick one of his fishing rods -
and he's loving it!)

Mmm, dinner!


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