Friday, 27 July 2012

sometimes, voyaging means saying goodbye from afar

written by Rick

I remember this time, when I was a little kid, maybe nine, we went over to my Grandma's place on a weekend afternoon. My local aunts and uncles were there, along with their kids. 

My Grandma always made really good muffins and chocolate chip cookies. My Aunt Kandy would make these marble mazes out of Lego, and bring them to my Dad to figure out. The muffins were always cut in half, and piled on a plate. There was a friendly competition for who would get the muffin tops. There were rules of etiquette to be adhered to. If someone was bold enough to reach for a muffin top, when there was a muffin bottom higher on the pile, there were several self-appointed referees who would see it and and cry foul. 

That kind of thing is common with big families. My Dad is the oldest of six kids. 

This particular day, everyone was sitting out on the deck, around a plate of chocolate chip cookies. The grown-ups were drinking coffee. In those days, kids only drank in the kitchen, because they were expected to spill. 

Suddenly, Grandma says, "Roddy!", my Dad's youngest brother. Everyone had seen it. There was a sense of group outrage. My Uncle Roddy had picked up two chocolate chip cookies off the plate at once. 

"But Douglas did it too!" he sputtered in response, sounding more like a little kid, than the grown-up he was. The tattle-taling did nothing to dispel Grandma's outrage, or win over the sympathy of the group. 

Uncle Roddy sulked contritely while Grandma expressed her views on the situation. He continued to sulk while all the aunts and uncles debriefed the incident. No one gave my Dad any grief over taking two cookies at a time, after all, he didn't get caught. 

Just an amusing little family memory. 

My Grandma died yesterday. She was 92. She was one of the most feisty and lively old ladies I have ever been around. She was active and healthy her whole life. And then she was gone. 

I don't think she would have suited a lingering illness-style departure. It is sad to see her go. 

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

what do you do all day?

Sometimes, we sail

Or we hang out next to a panguero

Underwater fun is a common activity

Including bringing home the ba... err, fish

Time for exploring, that's important

And of course, boat jobs, always boat jobs

Alone time is good too

Sometimes I even add a touch of colour

Checking out sky art is very relaxing

Friends add some pizzazz to our days
(Sorry Tom, I couldn't help it...)

Eventually, another day is over

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

refill, resupply, recover

Colourful Santa Rosalia
We had crackers for breakfast and only 10 gallons of water left in our tanks. It was time for a town. Santa Rosalia was it. We were on Isla San Marcos when civilization called, a mere 10 nautical miles away.  SV Eagle led the way and we followed. Not long after that SV Time Piece showed up too. We thought we'd anchor, but reconsidered when we realized we needed to load 16 garrafons, (those are 5 gallon jugs) onto Nyon in order to fill her tanks with the goodness of purified water. It was decided, we would go to a dock. There are two options in Santa Rosalia. There is the Fonatur Marina - what I call the swanky marina. Then, there's the hole in the wall marina: Santa Rosalia Marina, with the rickety wooden docks and the broken-down clubhouse. Guess which one we chose? We lucked into a slip at the old marina, and couldn't believe that this was the first time we were at a dock in exactly 6 months. We recognized some of the boats there, and also met a few crusty salts who warmed up to us once we laid on the Canadian charm. 

The marina. We are next to the motor vessel on the far right.
It's not very clear, but Armando and Rick are lugging and pouring
garrafons of water, I'm about to bring another load down the ramp.
Thank goodness for our dolly.
The glorious marina office
We like this marina. The office is a rundown clapboard building, with paint, actively peeling off the wood. The dusty interior, sparsely filled with mismatched furniture and a wall full of books for the avid reader, felt just right. Santa Rosalia Marina uses the honour system. You want a beer? Take one out of the fridge and tally it on your personal record sheet. Crave a coke? Mark it down. When you leave you add up what you owe and pay up. It's simple, and I like it. The wall of books is a book exchange. Bring a book, take a book. Rick's horrified look, when I picked up 3 more novels, stopped me from picking a fourth; I will have at least a dozen books to drop off on our next visit. So, really, it balances out, right? 

The quintessential Mexican pangas

Nothing gets between Tom and his bacon-
wrapped hotdog... Not even Jeanne!

We had heard of the famous Chuyiutas hotdogs. Bacon-wrapped weiners with the works. That includes what I call "melted plastic cheese" and onions among other delectable choices. We indulged, but let me tell you, two trips there had us sated of that craving. For at least a year. We explored the town with fellow cruisers, found the hardware store, located a bakery, a yummy taco stand, the bank, the ISSTE (Government-sponsored grocery store), the tortilleria, and the list goes on. (Now, if only I had remembered to actually pick up some fresh tortillas before leaving town!) Let's say that it was a full two days of running around like the mad gringos that we are. That's what happens when you're planning supplies for 2 months...

It's officially mango season!
We learned that here, many a "novedades" store will carry an unpredictable variety of items for sale. A store may have some baby clothes, kitchenware and giftwrap supplies. Another might have shoes too. Or hair products. There is no rhyme or reason to it, but it's half the fun. Unless you're on a self-imposed schedule, that is. 

 Rick and I are now able to split up to make more efficient use of our time when we're in a town. There was a time when he was very uncomfortable trying to communicate in Spanish and I did all the talking. Now he goes into a store head first, apologizes for his poor Spanish, and proceeds to inquire after the items he needs - in Spanish - and manages to get the right items! 

Sometimes, we fail to notice the small ways voyaging has transformed us. From how we handle unexpected challenges, learn spearfishing techniques, or ask for a 25 amp switch in Spanish, our comfort level keeps expanding. When we revisit our first few months here, it's pretty cool to see how far we've come.

Looking out from the plaza, watching life go by.
We did pause. A little.
After barely surviving the "busy-ness" of this trip to town, we promised ourselves that the next time we stop here, for our final provisioning before going north, we will slow down. Explore. Take in the sights. And go. with. the. flow. It's such a contrast from the deserted anchorages with the occasional fishing camp, that we seem to forget that our pace of life can still remain sane, even if we are among the civilized...

Well, Santa Rosalia, we kind of rushed by you this time. We got a taste, but only a taste. We'll be back very soon, and this time, we'll do it right.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

wind in our sails

 "He's right on top of us. I wonder if he is using the same wind we are using..." 
Inigo Montoya, "The Pricess Bride"
Nyon, on a glorious sailing day in the Sea of Cortez
Photo by SV Winsome
SV Winsome, the same day - looking lovely under sail
SV Time Piece arriving in Isla San Marcos
Earlier this year, SV Eagle, flying their dramatic
spinnaker on a leisurely day

Friday, 20 July 2012

beneath the surface

Life afloat affords you two very different perspectives. One, what you see from above the water - the land, the waves, the sunsets, the birds... The other, is otherworldly. When you go underwater, you enter a different universe. And oh, what a universe.

Exploring the underground passages between sea caves

The neighbourhood

My very own Neptune

The light from the world above finds its way to the bottom

King angelfish - wondering what that clumsy being is doing here

Drawn toward the light

no golden arches here

Some places are just plain cool. And sometimes, to get there, the wind is just right. The day we sailed to Isla San Marcos,  the wind was blowing, the seas were flat, and the sun was shining. Nyon found her groove back.  We cruised at 7.3 knots with the wind in our hair. Sure, we could have reefed the main and have had a little less weather helm, but she was letting loose after so many legs without enough wind to sail. What a treat for us and the old girl! We arrived in Sweet Pea Cove and dropped the hook, exhausted but happy. We were exhausted because our last night in Punta Chivato was a bouncy one, the loud 30 knot winds had kept us awake and on our toes most of the night. 

Blue-footed Booby chilling out on
Isla San Marcos
We only spent one night in Sweet Pea Cove. (This cove was named after a boat that sadly sank there some time ago.) As the wind freshened the next day, we scooted to the no-name anchorage just north of there. After settling in, we left in our dinghy with water, snacks and snorkelling gear. Another bay to the north of us - called Caleta de los Arcos (The bay of the Arches), was calling to us.

On the way there, we had a lovely chat with a blue footed booby. (Okay, it was a one-way conversation, he just stared stoically.) Unbelievably, it was our first sighting ever! They are funny looking birds, but I love them - and their feet really are bright blue. We explored many nooks an crannies in the bay.  The numerous sea caves don't get boring. It was a glorious day of snorkelling, exploring and lounging. The next day, was work, work, work. Boat jobs never go away, even if we sometimes try hard to deny their existence. But, it's all about balance, and it was satisfying to take care of some tasks that needed doing.

This was the first arch we came across.
We really liked this one (at low tide you can go through here),
but you can easily sneak in around the other side when the tide
is higher

Sometimes, you just have to include a cheesy shot

View from the "inside"
Here is a video clip of one of the sea caves we explored.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

sure in my heart

Written by Rick

Once upon a time, there was a boy who lived across the water from a girl. Both the boy and the girl were lonely. They knew each other, but not well. One summer night, the girl's phone rang. 

After that moment, the boy and the girl stopped being lonely. And they got to know each other well, quite well. 

In the process of getting to know each other well, quite well, they decided to have a big party to celebrate all of this wellness, so they got married. 

The party was a smashing success, if they do say so themselves. Friends and family came from all over, and helped, in a real physical way, to make the wedding something to remember. 

All that happened 13 years ago. A lot of water has gone under the bridge since then. Not all of our endeavours have been as successful and fun as our wedding. Our highs have been pretty high, but our lows have been pretty low too. Our life together has been nothing, if not dynamic. 

I don't know what I expected from being in a long-term relationship. In the stories, and movies, 'happily ever after' is something simple. There is nothing simple about our happily ever after.

Our happily ever after is more like a rickety old roller-coaster. It is fun and exciting, but also needs to be repaired at the most remarkable moments in order to keep going. Then we both get back aboard and we are off on a path that we don't quite expect. 

Thirteen years ago, no one would have predicted that we would be here, on our own sailboat in Mexico. I don't know where we might be 13 years from now, but I bet that we will look back and say, "I never would have guessed we'd be here, doing this."

So, Kyra, love of my life, I wish you a happy anniversary. May the future hold lots of adventure for us together. 

Okay, we are aboard and ready for more. Whooopeee!!!

Monday, 16 July 2012

simple pleasures, little treasures

"Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Looking out at the Sea
We love finding treasures. Be it an ocean-worn piece of glass, a sea shell, or even an unusual stone, they are all cherished. Beachcombing reminds me of being a child. When you're young, you don't think twice about spending hours simply observing the world around you. Searching for that special shell or talking with a bird are valid pursuits. As  cliché as it sounds, it's about being in the moment. How easily we forget to value every moment as a treasure in itself as we get older. I can unequivocally say that we've been re-learning that lesson on our voyage.

In Punta Chivato, there is a beach littered with sea shells. There, you don't walk on sand, you walk on piles and piles of shells. For the most part, we just looked around us. The worn edges, the broken bits, the beauty in the imperfections. Shells, shells, everywhere. We don't often keep our finds, but we did stow away a few memories... 

I can't think of a better way to have spent that Tuesday morning.

Rick's spot, right by the water

Up close
“One cannot collect all the beautiful shells on the beach; one can collect only a few, and they are more beautiful if they are few” -- Anne Morrow Lindbergh
He was hoping for a treat

Digging for treasure
"At the beach, life is different. Time doesn't move hour to hour but mood to moment. We live by the currents, plan by the tides and follow the sun."

Sunday, 15 July 2012

jet-ski free

Wary buddies
This Heerman’s Gull wouldn’t leave Rick alone. The turtle was not interested in us at all.

As per usual, we went for a dip after dropping the hook in Playa Santa Barbara. It was hot and humid and the water beckoned. A juvenile gull, wholly unafraid, kept circling around us while slowly aiming for Rick’s tantalizing toes as Rick was blissfully floating in the water. Poor thing never did get what he wanted.

We stayed in Santa Barbara for two days.* The bay is bordered by mangroves, a beach, and a few scattered private palapas. You go there to get away from the busier bays to the north. Weekends in El Burro equate jet-skis and loud music. Two other boats (SV Eagle and SV Time Piece) felt the need for a quieter spot as well, we all agreed to meet in Santa Barbara. Together, we went snorkelling around Islas Tecomate and Guapa. That’s where we saw the lovely turtle. As you can see, turtles are incredibly graceful (and quick) underwater. 

Video courtesy of Jeanne (SV Eagle)

To our chagrin, we all noticed that there were fewer fish here than in anchorages south of Bahia  Concepción. The air was thick with heat and humidity and the water was nearly too warm, but the peaceful atmosphere was pleasant. We enjoyed buddy boating with the gang again – and Jeanne’s lasagna was to die for. Time nearly stood still in Santa Barbara, but Nyon was once again ready to move on. And so we pointed her bow north.

Loved those colours

The boys after a good snorkel

* Santa Barbara is a little bay on the south end of Bahia Coyote, which is still in Bahia Concepcion. “Bahia Concepcion is large and narrow, open to the north and protected to the east by a peninsula of land nearly 25 miles in length.”1 In Bahia Concepcion, there are many bays to tuck into, and the area is popular with tourists. 

1 Shawn Breeding and Heather Bansmer, Sea of Cortez: A Cruiser’s Guidebook. (Washington: Blue Latitude Press LLC, 2009), 20

thirsty bees and velvety waters

We rocked and rolled our way to Bahia Concepción. La Ramada was still waiting for the sun to rise when we weighed anchor. There was ominous lightning in the distance and the wind was blowing. Ever since I’ve become a sailor, lightning scares the hell out of me. Two boats we know who are currently cruising in Central America, were both struck by lightning these last few weeks. When a boat gets hit by lightning, it can sustain incredible damage – fried electronics and wiring, impaired thru-hulls – the list is long. It truly is a nightmare.

The rainbow connection
Rick reassured me that the lightning was too far away to be a concern. So we focused on heading north and felt rain for the first time in months. It was just spitting, but when you haven’t felt raindrops in such a long time, it is a novelty. Unfortunately, it didn’t rain enough to clean off our decks and salt-encrusted lines. The rain simply muddied the dust into swirly patterns. In time, a rainbow appeared, the skies cleared and we arrived in Santo Domingo eight hours later.

We were in Santo Domingo for one night. After a friendly chat on the radio with SV Seychelles, we jumped in the water. What a difference from the cooler waters in La Ramada. The water felt velvety. I can’t think of a more accurate way to describe it. There was no sharp intake of breath when we went from the heat of the deck to the refreshing water. Yes, we both readily admit that we have become wimps when it comes to water temperatures, after 8 months in Mexico.

The bees on the other hand, did not feel velvety. In some anchorages, I’m sad to say, bees can become your sworn enemies. This was one of them. They come to the boat sniffing out fresh water. If you have wet clothes hanging on your lifelines or an open cup of water, or a dripping faucet, the bees will be there. In droves. Luckily, they have only occasionally stung us. The next day we tacked our way down to El Burro, (still in Bahia  Concepción,) while swatting the last of the bees off the boat.

Rick fueling up for more socializing
In El Burro there is an expat named Geary, who is a retired meteorologist. He provides daily wind and weather forecasts for sailors (on the Ham radio). He also hosts a July 4th potluck barbecue/party for all the American sailors and expats in the area. We crashed the party by touting ourselves as the friendly neighbours. Two Canadians at a party held in Mexico, for a group of Americans. I have to admit that I felt much removed from the Mexican culture that day, but we met some fine people.

After a few social hours, we tucked into our cockpit for the rest of the evening and watched the glow of the moon creep over the horizon. Have you ever watched a moonrise? It’s not dramatic like a sunrise, it’s much more subtle. Yet a full moon appearing from behind a mountain can be breathtaking. All you dreamers out there will understand what I mean.

We eventually left El Burro and headed two nautical miles south, for the seclusion of Playa Santa Barbara.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

canada day, mexican-style

Pancakes  à-la-Dana
Of course, we had to have maple syrup. With pancakes. Other than that, we chose to have a laid-back Canada day. Considering we were the only Canadians in the bay... It worked for us. Our bellies full, we tackled some boat projects. Rick installed the sailing rig on our dinghy and we took turns playing in the bay. It was a great day. 

Hope our fellow Canadians enjoyed it too!

Canadian expats
Sailing in the bay


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