Feliz Navidad

Hello KittyHaving a merry time in San Carlos.  Not overthinking the “why”, just taking it all in and enjoying Christmas, even though we are apart from dear family and friends.  For the first time since leaving San Diego, we are at a marina.  A well maintained marina with lots of fat and happy kitty cats.  This alone brings a huge smile to my face each and every day.Lunch 2

Pretty Kitty

Besides fat and happy cats, the marina is brimming with friendly, chatty, and helpful neighbors.  Pulling into the tight slip, new faces appeared and assisted with dock lines, connecting us to shore power, assisting when we couldn’t get power to the boat, bringing over spare cords to at least get us minimal power until the problem is fixed, offering rides into town, the list goes on and on.  I have a grateful heart to go with the smile on my face.Fly

We are using our time in San Carlos to tackle some basic boat repairs (autopilot and sail repairs) while we wait out the prevailing north winds and decide what next; sail Seamore Pacific to Puerto Penasco or “put her to bed” until next season.  We very much want her at Puerto Penasco, but winter time weather is what makes or breaks the deal.  Just like we can’t jump over the Grand Canyon, we can’t sail/motor north against 25 knot winds, 6 foot waves/swells every 5 seconds across the beam, and get anywhere.  Heck, we would have a tough time pushing off the dock. Three days ago 3 boats left and they all came back because of the sea conditions.  2 of the 3 couldn’t make it back into their original slip because of the wind, instead settling for wherever they could safely tie up a boat, until the next morning (usually no wind in the morning).  It was exciting.

Feliz NavidadBack to Christmas in San Carlos, I’ve observed the focus is not on gift giving.  Rather it is on festivities and sharing a meal.  Two days ago, I hitched a ride into town (Guaymas) with Magic Carpet.  Donna, an olive grower from California, has owned Magic Carpet for over 30 years, and has been cruising the Sea of Cortez part-time for 5 years.  She and her husband will be heading to the south Pacific this spring.  She is a wealth of local knowledge.  Hoping to find a few little Christmas decorations and gifts for Captain Chameleon, I was surprised to find, not a Christmas decoration, gift display, or “buy-buy-buy” advertisement going on in the stores.  Sure, Christmas spirit was in the air, but the focus was on food.  Large hams, tamales, olives, rum, wine, bread, cakes, candy, pasta, tortillas, fish, cheese, more tamales….  Finding a miniature Christmas tree, nativity scene, or wreath for Seamore Pacific was harder than jumping across the Grand Canyon.  Laying aside my usual methodical holiday decorating, I have depended on others to bring holiday cheer to Seamore Pacific.  I have not been disappointed.  For starters, no one seems pressed to buy presents or squeeze in another party.  It is relaxing but festive. Boats with Christmas lights adorn all sides of Seamore Pacific and they appear to take turns serenading us with Christmas and holiday music.

good lighted boats

Side view of churchChristmas eve mass was both magical and heartfelt.  It started with our short stroll from the marina to the church.  Along the way, families were gathered, food was in abundance, perfume was fresh, and laughter and music was everywhere.  Arriving at church, we were greeted by the voices of 3 young children, singing Feliz Navidad as they skipped circles around a lighted tree in the parking lot.  Strangers and families squeezed together, sharing in the Eucharist; accompanied by acoustic guitar, familiar incense, and a grand nativity display.Christmas Tree

Church

Entering Church

Manger

Virgin MaryPelican Lunch 3Excuse me while I change into looser clothes….I’m still stuffed to the gills after Christmas day lunch at the San Carlos yacht club (like the pelicans feasting on bait fish).  Open to nonmembers, cruisers and locals gather for a traditional Christmas feast, with proceeds going to fund education for local students who desire to go to high school and college but are unable to afford the cost. This year’s recipient, a bright and articulate young lady, attended with her  mother and sister.  A senor with top grades, she is university bound with a brigade of support from ‘strangers’.

We have been in town less than 5 days, and yet when we arrived at the club, we were greeted by new friends that had saved us places at the Santa table.  The food was awesome, the stories entertaining, and the forging of new friends uplifting.

What did Captain Chameleon find on Christmas morning?  A case of Modelo Cerveza and two chocolate donuts.  Actually 1 and a half chocolate donuts.  A Christmas mouse visited Seamore Pacific at midnight last night and couldn’t resist nibbling on a lovely, glistening, chocolate donut.

Feliz Navidad from the Captain, the Christmas Mouse, and Ruby

Ruby sunbathing

Ruby sunbathing

Actually taken a few years ago on a road trip to San Carlos.  We wanted to come back on a boat!

Actually taken a few years ago on a road trip to San Carlos. We wanted to come back on a boat!

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A night on the Sea of Cortez

Message in a bottle

a message in a bottle over the Sea of Cortez

This is what I came here for. Encountering the sea and it’s creatures in harmonious thrill.  Our 129 miles from Puerto Escondido to San Carlos was nothing short of excellent. The night’s briny air engulfed my senses and pushed me to a new level of gratitude for being in a boat.  On the ocean.  And not fearing the what-ifs (what if the rudder falls off, what if we hit a submerged cargo container, what if the mast breaks, what if…what if…what if).  A transformation has happened somewhere since leaving San Diego. Other sailors have told me that hair raising or uncomfortable moments at sea dismantle the temptation to get stuck worrying about “the what ifs.”  Eventually, one learns to prepare, prevent, maintain, and then respond when necessary.

To recap the crossing: Well, it was a calm and sunny day leaving Puerto Escondido.  Maybe it seemed extra calm because the wind had been blowing up to 25 knots the previous few days.  Maybe it seemed extra ‘sunny’ because once again I was cut-free and allowed to venture into unfamiliar places.  A National Geographic cruise ship was at the fuel dock as we sailed by.  It was rewarding to wave “Bon-voyage” to a ship of high-end adventure seekers; as though I was leading the way for all of us.  National Geographic Stern of ship Leaving Puerto Escondido Traveling northeast in the winter, when most other cruisers are going south, the horizon was void of other boats and yet I didn’t feel alone.   Captain Chameleon and I agreed to 3 hour shifts, where one could nap and read, while the other manned the helm.  When it was my turn at the helm I peeled my eyes so intently for whale sightings that I thought my eyes would cross.  Fortunately a little saying came into the crevices of my brain; “if you look to hard for____, you just might miss____”.  Ok, I need to stop looking and be in the moment.  What do you know, I see a sea turtle, lots of birds, and a shark fin (the captain saw it first).  The next morning a humpback breeched twice a few hundred yards off our starboard side.

Shark!

Spotted a shark in the water

The moon rose in a way that I’ve never seen before; the sky was so clear that I mistook a few stars appearing over the horizon as the running/steaming lights from another vessel; birds floating on top of the water as though asleep; the sun rising and the moon setting were in equal brightness…the ocean at night was mysterious but not scary. Moon over Sea of Cortez Then the fog came.  Not a scary experience because the radar gave us “eyes’ for the fishing boats that we started encountering closer to San Carlos, but it was a very odd sensation.  Steering north, directly by compass, and with the waves at our beam, it felt as though I was turning in circles.  Dizziness would come over me and I would have to look away from the compass and waves to get my baring’s.  Fog does bring mystery.  Once I picked up something on radar that we thought was probably a panga without lights.  Probably they were fishing in one spot, but none the less, we were within a quarter mile of each other and I couldn’t see them…to close for comfort at sea.  We sounded our horn and the “what is it?” that we had picked up on radar moved away from us. Maybe it was a ghost ship! Anyway, we came into San Carlos, pulled into a marina, and just in time for me to start getting in the Christmas spirit of things. Close up of San Carlos houses Sunrise in the Sea of Cortez

Looking for a Southwind

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A picture paints a thousand words.   What story does this picture tell?

This is Portobello restaurant, where I go everyday for Wi fi, since my Banda Ancha doesn’t work in Puerto Escondido.  Today, I’m looking for a south wind.  We have been in Puerto Escondido 10 days, waiting for a weather window that allows us to sail northeast to San Carlos (or maybe even further to Puerto Penasco).  We may just have that window tomorrow or Wednesday.  Sail Flow and Passageweather are currently showing 3 days of West/Southerly winds at 5-10 k. in the middle of the Sea.

So what the picture doesn’t reveal is the ‘fun’ we have at getting to Portobello.  For starters, I’ve learned that I need ‘connection’ to the outside world on a daily basis.  This is a stark contrast to Captain Chameleon’s needs and thankfully, he obliges me.  On a scale of 1-10 (1 being a drop and 10 being a drench) we are certain to get a salt bath on our return ride from shore to the boat.  The wind has been blowing from the north and some days have not been fit for coming ashore. But, Captain Chameleon obliging my need for connection to the outside world, has always found enough gumption to get me safely to shore and back.  The last three days the dinghy ride home was a “10”…we were drenched with cold salty water by the time we tied up the dinghy and hoisted ourselves aboard Seamore Pacific.

It is invigorating and soothing, when that first large wave comes over the bow and drenches the hair, outer clothes, and eyes, to imagine how cozy Seamore Pacific’s cabin will feel.  The other day, I lost my shoe trying to get aboard.  Captain Chameleon to the rescue again!

I must bring this to a close because the sun has just set and I always worry about it being dark and the outboard engine stalling and trying to row to Seamore Pacific in the dark of night….drenched and cold.

If the South wind is willing, we will be sailing to San Carlos; a 28 hour voyage.  If the South wind is willing, seas are calm, and we have a “hankering” then we will just go for it….all the way to Puerto Penasco (a 3-4 day sail).

By the way, never believe every picture that you see.

Sailing away from old habits

DSC01016Sailing back in time…

I’ll forever remember Puerto Escondido as the place I made a daily visit to the Portobello Restaurant for a beer, an hour of internet, and to watch 80’s Music Videos.  As lovely as it is, the place and accommodations are sparse, unpredictable, and nothing close to what we expected.  Actually that is fine with us because we didn’t sign up for a tour but rather a Mexico sailing sabbatical; full of uncertainty and unexpected gifts.

Sometimes the slow pace feels romantic and sometimes it makes me want to climb the teak walls of Seamore Pacific.  I thought I was ready to unplug from the rat-race of life and then when it happened, I realized how out of shape I am for it. Then just as I’m ready to climb the wall and jump overboard, a voice comes over the VHF channel 16, announcing a whale sighting a few hundred yards over.  Or, we meet another couple doing the same thing we are…finding their cruising legs and letting go of habits that only work when one has a nine to five job.

Too cold to swim, we wait for a weather window to sail across the sea to San Carlos, as we visit Portobello each afternoon and meet new friends either on the same learning curve or teaching us newbies how to sit back and enjoy the 80’s Videos.

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Sailed into Puerto Escondido

DSC01017Seamore Pacific and her crew arrived at Puerto Escondido (Hidden Port) yesterday after 5 days of “gunk holing” from La Paz.  Using two Sea of Cortez cruising guides, the Navionics App, a nautical chart, our eyes, and an abundance of caution, we have another dozen new experiences and memories to hold on to.   Without a doubt, all credit goes to our Bruce anchor.   A bumper sticker of an anchor and the words, “I LOVE Bruce” comes to mind. DSC01028

Falling head over heels in awe of Bruce became a love-hate triangle and anticipating each night’s anchoring conditions was similar to being on a blind date.   Studying both cruising guides we would agree on the “nice” one for wind and swell protection.  Much like going on a blind date, we used the experience and preference and assumed it matched our own likes and dislikes.  Every single night was a dud!  Most every night it would have been easier to drag Seamore Pacific ashore, hoist her on our shoulders, and carry her 20 miles down the road, then set her back in the water when the sun came up.

The days were lovely and the nights were hateful.  Take for instance our date with San Evaristo.  We arrived to find a dozen other boaters swimming, paddle boarding, and enjoying the warm water.  We relaxed in the cockpit with appetizers and marveled at the view; a quiet little fishing village with the Sierra de la Giganta range in the backdrop.  The sleeping in shifts at Ensenada Grand  (we both slept in the cockpit to keep watch for dragging anchor) was erased by a beautiful day sailing past Canal de San Jose and along the eastern shore of Baja.  It was picture perfect and Captain Chameleon was smitten with the wind protection the gigantic mountains would provide.

“We couldn’t have found a more perfect location.  With those mountains over there, and the mountains over there, and how the cove wraps around…we are going to sleep great tonight!”

4 Hours later a Corumel hit and all mayhem broke loose.   Boats were dragging anchor and their owners were trying to protect life, limb, and property.  One boat in particular was dragging through the tiny anchorage banging into other boats, fouling anchors, and trying to avoid ending up on the reef.   I went from a deep sleep to Captain Chameleon shouting over the wind, “get up here quick….we have a boat that just hit the Hans Christian in front of us and is coming our way… let’s get the engine started….get ready to pull anchor…I need a flash light….get the boat hook….throw on your life jacket…hey Baby aren’t we having fun!!!”  He didn’t really say, “Hey baby aren’t we having fun.”   But, what great team work that night.  For the remainder of the Corumel blow, our eyes never left the boat wedged between us and the Hans Christian.  50 feet was all that was between two boats, in a 30 knot wind.

Tired from two nights without sleep, but eager sailors that we are, we pulled up anchor at 0730 and took off for a date with contestant # 3.  Another day of breath taking beauty and rewarding sailing we pulled into Bahia San Marte just as dark grey rain clouds enveloped us.  Excited about making it safe to port before the rain started and eager to have a good freshwater rinse for Seamore Pacific, we battened down the hatches and enjoyed the rain, confident in Bruce’s ability to stay put where the Captain had set anchor.  1 inch of rain fell that night and the next morning we woke with north winds blowing 20 knots.   Locked in by the wind, meant we wouldn’t be making our way closer to an internet connection and letting family know were safe.   We had anticipated taking 3 days to Puerto Escondido and here it was now day 4 and no idea when the dangerous weather would subside for us to leave.  While 20 knots can make for a good sail in the ocean, 20 knots kicks up very rough seas in the Sea of Cortez.   My spirits were sad that day and it was a challenge to try and put on a happy face.   My sad face turned into a queasy face as we rocked and rolled through the night.

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At 0700 the wind settled to 10 knots, we pulled up anchor, motored downwind to give ourselves ample room to clear the slightly submerged reef and then turned north to Puerto Escondido.   My spirit soared and it no longer mattered if we were in for a bumpy ride…I was sailing with my Banda Ancha 3 G to a Telcel tower.   There are no medals given out to sailors who go without internet and I’m convinced I’m a happier sailor when I have it.

Coming into Puerto Escondido, I was jumping up and down with excitement and giddiness.  I had endured 5 days without internet or connection to the outside world.    Guess what?  No Telcel towers in this area.  However, there is a little restaurant that has WiFi and with that, I’m a happy sailor again.

I Love Bruce and Banda Ancha!

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A Norther’ is hitting the area tomorrow with winds up to 30 knots until next Friday.  Boats are coming in right and left seeking safe harbor.   We are on a mooring ball and pretty much ready for whatever blows our way.   It is beautiful country, even minus a Telcel tower and I’m grateful for getting to spend time with Captain Chameleon cruising the Sea of Cortez.

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The view from Seamore Pacific of the Marina at Puerto Escondido

The view from Seamore Pacific of the Marina at Puerto Escondido

Road Trip to Todos Santos

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DSC00837Captain Chameleon, Ruby, and I took a little road trip in our little rented car… to Todos Santos.  Honestly, two months ago I didn’t know anything about the little town, that Mexico Tourism promotes as “the magical oasis of the Pacific.”   But, on our third leg of sailing from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas, we were able to hug part of the coast and it was at Todos Santos that I was really struck with the beauty of land meeting the Pacific Ocean.  Tall cliffs, white sandy coves, and primitive adobe buildings speckled the landscape of our tiny floating world.  Wanting to know more, I pulled out some books and began to read bits and pieces about Todos Santos, as we sailed past her.  A couple of weeks later a friend encouraged a visit and so the notion took hold for the Captain, his dog, and I to venture by land to see the Pacific from a vantage point far different that the one we had prior. DSC00866 On her best behavior, the Pacific behaved in away that any tourism promoter would be proud!  Sparkling light blue, the ocean rushed in smoothly, crested, and then crashed ashore.  Walking up the large dune to find her, the roar of crashing waves was audible well before we actually took sight of them.  It was a piece of the puzzle that I needed.  After reading about the ocean, looking at pictures of the ocean, walking many beaches, crossing the ocean as a passenger in a cruise ship, and then to feel the greatness of the ocean in a 36 foot boat (day and night)…sometimes petrified and sometimes mesmerized…to stand on the shore of Todos Santos and look out at the horizon and see the exact point of where I had sailed a boat….well, it was like finding a piece of the jigsaw puzzle.

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Captain Chameleon didn’t have the same metaphorical interpretation (ha- ha)  with Todos Santos as I did.  In fact, as we drove out of town he summarized his thoughts by saying, “I’m glad I didn’t spend a week’s vacation to come here.”

The Captain and his dog.

The Captain and his dog.

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El Bano with a curtain instead of a door.

El Bano with a curtain instead of a door.

DSC00859Although Todos Santos isn’t one of our ‘have to return to” destinations, it served its purpose of being a fun place for road tripping.  To change gears- the weather models are calling for several favorable days of sailing.  If tomorrow’s report is no different, Seamore Pacific will pull up anchor and head towards Puerto Escondido, stopping over in popular but remote anchorages at night and if weather necessitates.

Until next time….because I’m still looking for a few more pieces to the puzzle.

S/V Seamore Pacific from La Paz.

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