Wednesday, April 13, 2016 A Tour Of The Sea

Woke up:                   La Paz, Bahia La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico

Went to sleep:          Ensenada Grande, Isle Partida, Baja California Sur, Mexico

A Tour Of The Sea – La Paz to Isle San Francisco

Over the next forty-two days, Peter and I intend to explore twenty different locations and cover 443 nautical miles within Mexico’s Sea of Cortez. We’ll be following an itinerary, The Classics – La Paz Roundtrip – outlined in Shawn Breeding and Heather Bansmer’s Cruiser’s Guidebook, Sea of Cortez.

“Shawn and Heather” are household names among cruisers. Almost everyone has these resource manuals and everyone agrees: these are the most accurate, complete, informative and well organized guides available. Our copy, while purchased new, looks like it has travelled many a raucous ride.

Our goal is to sail Penelope as much as possible. We’d like to return to La Paz with nearly all the 135 gallons of diesel, $540, we left with.

Our first destination – Ensenada Grande on Isle Partida. We’ve been here many times before. This is where Peter “lives” when I’m in Idaho/Oregon. This is where we learned to play Bocce Ball with Ed, Melinda, Jake and JD last year.

Ensenada Grande

Ensenada Grande

After Ensenada Grande, each anchorage will be new to us. This part of Mexico is very remote. I am already experiencing cell phone/internet withdrawal.

I shouldn’t need a Costco, though, and there are none here. The boat is crammed with a wide assortment of fruit, vegetables, meat, pasta, rice, beans, cheese, crackers and cookies. The challenge is to eat what’s ripe on time and to creatively extend what’s been cooked into the next several meals. We don’t expect to see civilization for several days and no one knows what amenities lie ahead.

We’re currently sailing on a heading of approximately 40 degrees, basically north, at 5.7 knots. Peter has a single reef in the main and all three sails are aloft.

The boat is heeled to starboard between 15 and 20 degrees. This means you are more likely to fall off the toilet than on to it. About every fifth wave presents itself like a refrigerator. Rectangular, flat sides and sporting lamb’s wool on its face.

Penelope encounters the first wave in the series and she gingerly saw horses over it – PLOP.

Three to five seconds later, the second, slightly larger, wave approaches. Again, the bow of the boat lifts, and up and over we go – KER PLOP.

Three to five seconds later, we’re facing the third in the series. The volume of the wind and the water splashing against the hull is increasing. The bow rises and everything onboard slides astern. Penelope holds her ground, bucking over the crest – POW.

With the fourth wave, the interior wood begins to creak. I press my feet against a wall to brace myself. Like the workhorse she is, Penelope pounds through – BAM.

POW

BAM

Although I am down below, we both have our life jackets on. I keep both eyes on Peter. If he should fall down or fall out, I know what to do.

Finally, the refrigerator approaches. We’ve been gearing up for this. We’re going fast, we’re building steam, and the starboard rail is submerged, as a cascade of water courses from the bow to the drain hole in the rear. Our forward movement is momentarily halted midair as once again her bow sprit lifts toward heaven and all the force of the ocean passes beneath our keel – SLAM!

SLAM

SLAM

I relax and turn back to my crossword puzzle. The process begins again. Perhaps six more hours to go until we reach our quiet, calm anchorage at Isle San Francisco.

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Friday, April 15, 2016 Precision

Woke up:                  Isle San Francisco, Baja California Sur, Mexico

Went to sleep:         Timbabiche, Bahia San Carlos, Baja California Sur, Mexico

Precision

Peter and I operate this vessel like precision gears rotating as one. We’ve lived aboard for nine years and sailed over 5,000 miles in the past 20 months.

When leaving the anchorage early in the morning, Peter gets up before me. I sleep longer while he makes the coffee, checks the engine oil, turns on the instruments, fires up the engine, removes the sail covers, takes down the dodger and cheerfully informs me, “Coffee’s on the table!”

After half a cup, I get dressed, turn on the windlass and take my place at the helm.

Peter begins rigging the main sail while I confirm the steering is unlocked and control of the autopilot is at the helm.

Peter heads to the bow to search for the anchor. Due to wind and current, Penelope has been roaming about continuously since the anchor went down. It’s fun to follow the chain to where the anchor lies deeply buried in the sand, like following the yellow brick road. He signals with his arms which direction I am to steer.

Over The Sparkling Bay

Over The Sparkling Bay

We’re typically anchored in 25-feet of water with 225-feet of chain deployed. Once the windlass has reeled in about 50-feet, Peter runs below – I hand him his gloves on the way – to “flake” the chain. This involves lifting our mattress, opening the cover on the chain locker and pushing chain further into the locker to make room for more. This process continues until all 225-feet of 3/8-inch steel anchor chain is put away.

Once he hollers, “We’re up!” that’s my que to drive us out of the bay.

Peter finishes removing the lazy jacks, releases the sail ties, attaches the halyard and prepares to raise the main sail. If it’s a windy day, we’ll head out with a single reef in. By the time we’re out of the anchorage, he has the sail aloft. We begin to heel and I cut back on the throttle. Once the head sail is also engaged, I turn off the engine and begin to get a sense of how the boat is going to behave on this particular day under these conditions. It’s never the same.

Today we covered 36 nautical miles averaging 6 knots. The wind was uncharacteristically out of the south which made for a luxurious trip north into the Sea of Cortez.

The boat laid flat on the water throughout the day, making it easy to move around, make guacamole, and assist Peter when necessary. Mostly I sat on my cushion in the cockpit and did crossword puzzles which I find excellent calisthenics for the brain.

As we approach our anchorage, there’s always the challenge of taking down the main sail. I fire up the engine, put her in gear and steer the boat so her nose is facing directly into the wind. Of course, this causes all hell to break loose as the main sail and all its ancillary lines begin to flap widely in the breeze. I hurriedly engage the auto pilot to hold the boat in place so I can momentarily leave the helm to direct the boom into the boom crutch and the main sail falls neatly into the lazy jacks. Peter straps it up tight with the sail ties and life is good again.

Once the anchor is set, the work begins. We turn off the instruments and replace their covers. We shut down the navigation computer and tuck it away. I take the stacel sail cover to the front of the boat and wrestle the cover over the sail. Then I move back to help Peter with the main sail cover. Our main sail, which is fairly new, is stiff and balky. We call it “fatso.” It takes all four hands to stuff the sail inside its cover and button it up.

Next, I help erect the dodger. This heavy canvas zips onto a frame and shades the cockpit.

Finally, we are done. We crack open a cold Pacifico and rest in the shade in the cockpit, proud of our profound accomplishment and absorbing our new surroundings.

DSCF2039

After a brief rest, Peter lowers the dinghy from the davits and mounts the 9.9 HP Yamaha outboard motor to the stern. He launches My Boat and his SUP so we are ready to play.

Our solar panels and wind generator are working so efficiently, we have ample amperage to watch a move after dinner. Before bed, Peter squeezes the toothpaste from the end and rolls the tube up tight. I wipe excess toothpaste from the lid. We’ve grown into our respective jobs with everything we do.

Our First Selfie

Our First Selfie

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Saturday, April 9, 2016 Back On The Hook

Woke up:                  Tomahawk Island, Portland, OR, USA

Went to sleep:          La Paz, Bahia La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico

Back On The Hook

After three weeks in the US of A, I landed safely back in Mexico. It’s always nice to be home aboard Penelope. I put things away and organized, which is my forte, of course, and this morning we pedal/paddled around Bahia La Paz.

I’m definitely feeling the movement of the boat after being on land for three weeks. Also, Peter has a number of jerry cans, full of diesel, lashed to the lifelines and we seem to be listing several degrees to starboard. Peter doesn’t feel it but I seem to be leaning while walking from the galley to the head.

Christmas In April

The first thing I did upon my return to Mexico was go to the Marina de La Paz office to retrieve the Christmas present Rhonda Freeman sent many months ago. As hard as it is to believe, there is no reliable mail service in Mexico. The gift Rhonda sent arrived one day after we left the area. The wonderful folks at the marina were so willing to accommodate, they held onto it until now.

Our new Saturday Cups:

Our New Saturday Cups

Our New Saturday Cups

I hope these cups last as long as our original pair – 23 years. Thank you, Rhonda.

Friends and Family

I had the most fabulous time in Boise and in Portland as is possible.

I saw my mom each day. I ate in the dining room of the assisted living facility where she lives and vowed to do everything in my power to preserve my remaining brain cells. We took drives and stopped for ice cream. My mom has turned into the nicest old lady one could ever imagine. She says uncharacteristically sweet things like, “I don’t know what I would do without you here to help me.” It makes me feel like a million bucks.

In Portland, I crammed in as many friends as could physically be seen in 96 hours. I am so very grateful to Kathy Phillips, Cynthia House and Robin Smith who let me crash at their casas. It was either that or the Greyhound terminal.

Thanks to my gorgeous friends, Alex and Krista, who had me to dinner at their lovely home.

Thank you MSA for letting me stroll the corridors of the office for several hours and thanks for the hugs and well wishes of my former work amigos. I miss our coffee breaks, Daphne.

Thank you sweet Edie who treated me to her fancy, shmancy health club for a much needed soak and sauna.

Thanks to Bill who bought lunch sitting alongside the Willamette River on a gloriously sunny day. There is no place more beautiful than Portland when the sun shines.

Thank you Kitty for breakfast and chauffeuring me around.

Thank you Carol for driving all the way from Seattle to help me cook and clean for our party.

Finally, thanks to my Oregon Women’s Sailing Association (OWSA) friends, Liv, Julia, Carol, Chrissy, Lynda, Anne, and Kathy who made the arduous trip to the Island for my famous spaghetti. I love you one and all. My heart feels so full of joy, there are no words.

Changing Course

As many of you know, I’ve been finding myself more and more discontent with the “cruising” lifestyle. There are only so many hills to climb, beaches to walk, margaritas to drink, and fish to fry before a person determines to make an adjustment.

Peter and I have made plans, set goals, worked hard, achieved our desired results, made adjustments and traversed this life together for well over 20 years. Again, like always, we are both very excited about whatever path this course correction takes us down.

I think I want to teach. I have too much nurturing, too much creativity, and too much energy to squander what precious, healthy years I have left.

Sea of Cortez

Monday we’ll head up into the Sea of Cortez. We have yet to venture further north than Isla Partida and look forward to exploring new scenery. Knowing my retirement days are numbered, I think I’ll relax and savor each moment.

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