Thursday, November 23, 2006
Gringo + Mexican Style Thanksgiving?
I don't know - that was just what was one of the activities at the annual Thanksgiving Celebration here at the Mazatlan Marina in Mexico. Brett simply muttered "I'm confused". Well, aren't we all.
Anyway, we had a tasty turkey dinner, complete with about 1/4 can of cranberry sauce on each plate, and plenty of Pacifico beer. Many folks danced to the live band that was really very good. The tables, decorated with colorful confetti and paper streamers were shaded from the bright sun (85 degrees & humid), by large blue "Pacifico Beer" umbrellas. After a beautiful sunset, we enjoyed the fireworks display. Ah, the traditional Thanksgiving celebration.
But before all the fun, we had to do some more provisioning - beer, bolts, computer parts, and various groceries. We've learned to ride the local buses which cost only 5 pesos - about 50cents each. Here's Jones fresh off the bus with his shopping cart ready to fill 'er up!
Sometimes the buses are a little scary because of the wild driving, cracked windshields, and squealing brakes. Most of the buses are decorated inside by the drivers - jesus decals, virgin mary posters on the ceiling with fringe and dangling charms, cowboy leather fringe and stitching on the gear shifter boot. You know, the usual bus decorations we are all used to seeing. It's all an adventure.
Actually, the fare is 4.5 pesos, but most drivers don't give change - we call it the "Gringo Tax". We're just too rich and/or stupid to care. What's a nickel anyway? Coming back home, we took one of the many little open-air taxis, called "Pumonias" because we had a lot of grocery bags and 3 cases of beer. They are like a cross between a golf cart and a VW bug. Some have doors, some do not. More adventure. That cost us 60 pesos - about $5.50 for all 3 of us and our goodies.
Our currrent plans are to leave Mazatlan this coming Sunday and sail to Isla Isabela which is a National Wildlife Preserve for a couple of days of birding and snorkeling. Then we plan to sail south to Chacala Bay for a couple of days, then eventually down to Punta Mita near Puerto Vallarta.
Unbelievably, I've been too busy/sleepy/hot/lazy to knit the past 2 whole days! Oh, except for the little pair of socks I always carry with me (good for the wait at the bank to exchange dollars for pesos, and at the Turkey day celebration).
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Victorian Lace Shawl Finished
Whoo hooo! I finished the shawl, blocked it just by hanging it wet over the lifelines and stretching a bit, then today took a picture. I hope my sister, Dana, enjoys this shawl I knit for her. She sure earned it! Because I can't eat wheat, she made me a whole bunch of wheat & gluten-free goodies for my voyages. They were delicious!!!! Carrot cake, banana muffins, cookies, cornbread, and a dynamite rice noodle lasagna. I'd knit her a shawl anyway, 'cause she's my big sister and I love her to death.
My plan is to send it home with my son, Brett, in a pre-paid US Priority Mail package so all he has to do is take it to the post office. Brett is still planning to abandon us in Puerto Vallerta, but all of the other cruisers here are working on him to stick around a while longer. Heck, why not?
Friday, November 17, 2006
After our heady days of celebrating the completion of the Baja Ha-Ha, we put our son, Ryan, and sailmaster Tony on shuttles to the airport to catch flights back to the US, got our laundry done, re-fueled, and bought groceries for our planned 4-day hop over to Matzatlan. The boat seems so much larger and kinda empty without those guys onboard – not that they were noisy, we just miss their company.
So early Tuesday morning, we waved goodbye (middle finger salute) to tawdry, touristy, money-grubbing Cabo and headed round the point and up north into the Sea of Cortez. Winds were fair at first and we had a great spell of pure sailing. Then, just like that, it was suddenly dead calm. But only for about 5 minutes. As we turned on the “Perkins Jib” (engine), we were blasted by winds up to 20 knots coming straight at our bow! The seas grew to 6 to 8 foot swells that were breaking on their crests. Water blasted up over the bow as we rode straight on up the hills and then down the valleys between the swells. For the first time ever, we had to close ALL the deck hatches because water was coming into the galley and salon areas.
Sounds cold right? Nope – I was wearing a tank top and shorts. The water is over 82 degrees, the sun hot, and the wind was quite warm. It was actually pleasant to feel the splatter of the breaking waves and be blown by the wind. For the last hour or so of the trip, I sat up on the foredeck, lifejacket secured to the jacklines, and watched for a known dangerous rock (never saw it). It was heaven!!! I would have laughed out loud the whole time except I would be getting saltwater in my mouth. Again, Niki Wiki performed flawlessly. This is what she was built for 23 years ago – open sea cruising.
The coast of Baja California, Mexico was so much greener than we expected. We could see the rugged mountains as we sailed up the coast.
An hour before sunset, we motored into the serenity of the protected anchorage of Los Frailes. There were about 12 other Ha-Ha participants already anchored in the bay so we felt right at home. Dropped the anchor, made dinner, drank beer, and fell asleep with only the occasional, gentle swaying from a light breeze.
Because we had decided to leave Cabo one day early, we had a whole day to linger in Los Frailes. Jones and I took the dinghy ashore to explore the rocky, scrub brush covered area and found a seasonal fresh water pond. There was abundant wildlife – egrets, ducks, coots, butterflies, and lizards. As this is the end of the rainy season here in Baja, the vegetation was unexpectedly lush with many plants in bloom. We had to be careful and watch for cactus and snakes. Saw plenty of cactus and only one dead snake (but it was big!)
We swam at the beach a bit to cool off, then rode back to the boat, socializing with the other “yachtistas” along the way. For about half of each year, there is a seasonal fishing camp set up on the beach. The men fish from their pangas (about 40 boats here) for red snapper out in the Sea of Cortez.
Leg 2 of 3 of the Baja Ha-Ha -Turtle Bay to Bahia Santa Maria:
November 2 to November 4th, 2006
We were dragged, kicking & screaming, from Turtle Bay in the early morning. Okay, no real physical force, but we really didn't want to leave. The people were overwhelmingly friendly and the natural areas were beautiful. The town itself has been described as "coyote ugly", which I have to agree is pretty accurate. This is a very isolated fishing village that has seen better days when there was a commercial cannery (now closed) operating here.
There are no paved roads in the little town, and the nearest paved road is 143 miles away!!! Here's a pic of Jones & Brett on the main street.
Yet, we fell in love with it. I delivered a large bag of goodies for the school kids to the community center. We had heard that they would appreciate pencils, pens, paper, toys, etc. so I loaded up before I left the US - including some goodies from my friends - and lugged them up the hill. This is a picture of me outside of the Turtle Bay Community Center which was the nicest building in the whole town. Well, except for the small flower garden against one blue house - it really was a welcome bit of color.
We walked past a man painting his house LIME GREEN - he was so proud of the color!! Actually, in this town it really didn't seem out of place.
As we were anchored in the large harbor, the pangas (small open fishing boats) would come by the boat and take our garbage bags for $1 a bag. Also, these same folks would ferry us to town and back - for $2 per person. This is a great opportunity for the fishermen to get some extra cash while this large fleet of boats is in town because they can make a lot more money than fishing those days. So, most of the year these boats are used for fishing, then we get rides in them. Usually, there was a mysterious liquid sloshing in the bottom of the boats - sometimes with scum rolling around in it. Brett named this liquid "panga juice". I don't even want to imagine what sort of life/chemicals/dead sea critters/waste was in it. Just wash the feet at the first opportunity.
We also used our dinghy to get to town and soon discovered the thrill of "dinghy butt". That's when you get your shorts wet from the splash and have to walk around town with a damp rear end.
A panga approached our boat one evening and a young boy held up a baggie with giant shrimp in it. We ended up paying $7 for about 2+ pounds of the biggest, freshest shrimp I have ever had!! We just put them on the grill with the marinated chicken (pollo asada) I had pulled out of the freezer. That night we ate like kings: fresh corn tortillas we bought in town, cold beer thanks to the ice Jonesy located in town, the shrimp, chicken, and all the fixings. This is a photo of Ryan and the pollo asada fresh from the grill. Note that it was sweater weather in the evening - still a little chilly at night.
After a couple of nights, it was time to set sail again and get farther down the coast. Despite the "Dog Overboard" incident at the start of this lap of the race, it was a beautiful start. Yes, he was wearing his lifejacket and was rescued immediately. Next stop...Bahia Santa Maria.
On the Knitting Front
I finished weaving in the ends of my sister’s Victorian Shawl!! Yippeee!! I'll block it on the boat rigging tomorrow. I started another “Harry’s Golf Vest” as a pattern sample. So much knitting – and so much time to do it!!!! Yahooooo!!!
Okay. What's this? A ratty dishrag. I've been using this thing with the hole in it for about a month now. Why don't I just throw it away? I have at least a dozen of these (because I went on a dishrag knitting frenzy a couple of years ago) so I can well afford to toss this sad thing. Oh well, it went into the laundry yesterday and came back today (100 pesos = $10 bucks for ALL of our laundry washed and folded) all fresh and clean. Maybe next time I'll toss it.
Does anybody else hang on to their knitting like this?
Saturday, November 11, 2006
Cabo - Rock the Boat Baby
Cabo is a tourist town with a blend of Las Vegas, some Tijuana thrown in, and just a hint of Palm Springs. We've hung out at some of the bars with the other Baja Ha-Ha folks to celebrate the successful completion of the Rally. Here's some pics from "The Squid Roe" bar and the "Mango Bay" bar on the beach. Squid Roe is a loud, crass, wierd place. The waiters country line dance periodically, and the booze is free flowing (and expensive!). That's a fellow Ha-Ha'er from the yacht "Raptor Dance" doing , hmmm, dancing like a raptor on the table? Our group was a tad more sedate.
Partying hardy, we again met up with the group on the beach at the Mango Bay bar for dinner and more drinking. That "NO GRACIAS" sign is there to discourage the constant barage of beach vendors who wave cheap trinkets in your faces. Speaking of which, I had them make me a NIKI WIKI bracelet from brightly colored threads. Of course, we had lots of work to do too: Hike over to Immigration to get our tourist visas and ships papers stamped, then hike over to the Port Captain's office to get the ship's papers stamped again and pay to have enter Mexico, then down to the bank to pay for the tourist visas - and get them stamped. It was hot & slightly humid - high 80's, so we were tuckered out after doing all this paperwork.
The Pelicans are fantastic - there are LOTS of these guys hanging out in the marina and swooping over the bay looking for fish.
So, a little about the first leg of the voyage down here:
LEG 1 of 3
On a cloudy, cool October 30th morning, we set out with the 170 sailboats and a couple of powerboats (in the "no comprende" division) for our first port - Turtle Bay, Mexico. It was to be 3 days and nights of sailing - the rules are you can't use your engine unless you want to. We all motored out to the Starting Line at the entrance of San Diego Harbor and anxiously awaited the signal to start. Suddenly, the countdown began 9, 8, 7, 6, 3,8,4,1- GO! The race was on. Most of the boats began cheating immediately and fired up their motors. We, purists, put up our sails and tried to catch the light puffs of wind. Taking the racing part very seriously, we all donned our clown wigs as the rules stated that there would be a special prize for crews that wore costumes at the start of the rally. Hmmm...the wigs didn't do much to increase the machismo of the crew - but at least they kept their heads warm.
We had to do a lot of provisioning the day before taking off of all of the perishable items. Check out one of 3 of our hammocks of fresh fruit, the absolutely full refrigerator and giant laundry bag of snacking junk (back by my knitting library). Then, there was the booze supply for the bar, and the massive quantities of beer and soda for the crew - plus some extra beer for trading. Jonesy thinks that there's no such thing as "extra beer".
So, what was the sailing like? 10mph light seas the first day, 20 mph moderate seas the 2nd day, and 30 mph heavy seas (terrifying!!!) the 3rd day. The rest of the trip we had very light winds except for 2 hours of very high (unexpected) winds blowing off the desert the first night out of Turtle Bay.
Tending the sails in the dark with rough seas was very difficult and scary. We all used special life jackets that had lines (tethers) attached from the jacket to a special lifeline (jackline) so that we would not fall completely off the boat.
Not me - I stayed below for the most part and prepared all of the meals and have the bruises to prove it! No problem, I have plenty of built in "bumper pads" on my torso to absorb the impact so no broken bones. The seas were "confused" with swells coming from different directions than the winds. The Niki Wiki rocked and rolled, lurched, dove, and still continued to sail a straight course. Jonesy, Tony, Brett and Ryan all took shifts at the helm.
All of the electronics and mechanical systems worked beautifully. Well, except for the aft head. Poor Jonesy had to rebuild the exit hose after it was discovered that it wouldn't flush "solids" (if you get my drift).
On the knitting scene: I've got only a couple more rows until I'm done with my sister's Victorian Shawl. The Cascade Pima Cotton & Tensel yarn has been a real pleasure to knit with. Thank goodness I had my knitting - it really gets me past those stressful high-wind periods.
So, it's off to Matzatlan tomorrow morning early with a stop in Los Frailes. Matzalan is over on the mainland of Mexico so we will head slightly north to Los Frailes, then do an all nighter down to Matzatlan. We have made a reservation for a berth in the marina there for a little rest & relaxation.
Knitting & Sailing on and on...
Friday, November 10, 2006
Niki Wiki at Anchor in Cabo San Lucas!
We made it!!! After many hours of boredom and a few of sheer terror, we have safely arrived in Cabo San Lucas at the very tip of Baja California, Mexico.
All the crew is well, and the Niki Wiki performed flawlessly. We've had a fantastic voyage of 11 days, and are now anchored in the bay here with about 100 of the other Baja Ha-Ha fleet. Some of the other vessels choose to pay for a slip at the marina.
More later - the battery is running low....