Annie is married to Eric Witte and together they own El Gato, a luxury semi custom performance cruising Catana 472 catamaran.
Life long sailors and sailing teachers, they bring their passion and experience on board this fine vessel and want to share the stoke with you!
Customized teaching charters can focus on teaching all levels of sailing, cruising, and windsurfing.
Snorkeling, hiking, and other island adventures await as we explore the Caribbean chain of islands.
Annie's Career Highlights
Olympic Silver Medal - windsurfing
5 world, 18 National sailing titles in Catamarans and windsurfers
Navigator America3 - Americas Cup Womens Team
Team Building Facilitator - MBA programs for Universities and businesses
Sailing Commentator and Adventure Show TV host on ESPN, FOX, PBS
Eric's Career Highlights
Hobie Cat Design Team
ASA and Beach Cat Sailing Instructor
Worrell 1000 competitor - long distance Hobie 16 race from Florida to Virginia
Top competitor all size multihulls
Coming soon: TradewindAdventuresLLC.com
For more info on customized chartering:
As soon as the 2 Moderna COVID vaccines were in our arms we provisioned and threw off the dock lines. The first 300 miles took us from San Diego to Isla de Cedros, pronounced Say-dros, a 20 mile island that supports a salt mine and fishing. It was cold, windy, and a fast run. The Newport Beach to Cabo race was taking place as well and Pyewacket smashed the record by 1/2 day. In order to arrive at daybreak and not in the middle of the night we reduced sails down to our smallest jib, no main, and still were sliding downwind at 8 knots. Top speed was 15 with the big jib and no main. To stay warm I constantly put my bean filled long fuzzy bag in the microwave and wrapped it around my socks, legs, neck, torso not in that order but whatever needed it the most. I’m talking cold!
As stated in the last post, I took notes so this is more like a daily log/diary combo. Writing it down as it’s happening is the only way I would remember these events so many months later. And of course it’s always fun to revisit a good ride! Sorry but this one is LOOOONG! It covers about 2000 miles and I should have broken it up into a few blogs, but since I’ve taken my time, took many breaks from this for almost 9 months, I’m throwing it all out there at once. Consider it a mini book. It’s not the writing that takes time, it’s finding and downloading the photos to go with the stories. Since we hope to leave for Mexico next week, I give up. Too much going on to work on it now. Just going to post this without finshing the photos. Sorry. I know that’s usually the best part of any story or blog. There are lots of photos for the first half. I just have to revisit this someday. Or not! And yes, when this great big adventure is over I will copy paste and have my book.
BTW WE GOT OUR VACCINES SO WE ARE FREE!!! No, I’m not 65, but I used my Merchant Mariner(Captain) License and convinced a pharmasict I was important. Eric thinks I am. So that counts too.
I left off with sailing from Panama to the southernmost port in Mexico, Chiapas.
Boys John Forgarve and Simon Garland just left and Miquel, AKA El Raton y El Gato, our tour guide, a father of 2 who is as informative as he is proud of his hometown, took me to Sam’s Club to shop for a month worth of food. This was included in our tour price. This guy loves to help others and is great with people. He offered for me to use his car and ran errands until it was time to check out.
I was one of two in the whole place who wore a mask (other than Miquel) and the only one wearing gloves. Unlike Panama, this time I will buy meat, cheese, and more fresh food. When I tried to buy 2 cartons of eggs I was told no, only one per family. No problem buying TP. We’ve heard they ran out in the states. LOL So it begins.
Came back from dropping off the crew, then shopping and learned all the Mexican ports are closing TODAY, Sunday. WTF! Can we leave tomorrow AM and pretend we don’t know? Can they keep us here? If they say we can’t leave, we will plead our case, possibly throw some tears in there, and say we Must return home. It’s the uncertainty that feels so strange.
We go to the only restuarant in this relatively new marina and are 5 minutes late. No dinner, it’s after 6! This is so un Mexican like. OK so the rules for them have changed too, and we can’t take anything for granted. It’s a bit scary anyway. Servers without masks, and within a day they are wearing them. It’s still feels a bit wrong to eat out but the food is delicious and the local folks are eating here too. It’s next to the water and under a large palapa so the ambience is relaxing and feels healthy.
Leftovers are great. Shrimp, rice, spinach, chicken, fresh orange.
Next we learn all ports are open for us.
YAY! Evidently the marina owners in Mexico all got on the phones and complained to the powers that be that if the airports are open and the borders are open, why the hell are the marinas closed?!? It worked. Gotta love Mexico.
The cruising neighbors are all in flux too. Some wanted to go south, some north.
I took photos of an entire Mexican cruising book loaned to us by our neighbors in the marina, plus friends sent PDFs to help guide us home. With nothing but Navionics, our electronic charts to guide us but help is pouring in. Gotta love friends and FaceBook in times like these. Getting excited seeing all the cool places on our way home!!!
Dona Spindler sent us a list of great places to go, Lori Rafferty sent some tips and info from her trip south 30 years ago, Mike Howard gave us some names in cool ports, John Rumsey and Eliane Ferrara plus plus have made good suggestions too. Grateful.
Feels nice and warms the heart to have a community of sailing friends.
Very tired and hoping for a good sleep so when we depart (fingers crossed) we are rested. A tremendous amount of non stop planning, communicating, worrying and wondering. Now that we are on our own, we can also relax a bit more. As much fun as it is to have friends onboard, it is also a responsibility. Gotta keep them safe, feed them, make sure everyone is OK, and get them to the port of departure on time. Being on our own means we can set our own plans, and go at our own pace. No one has to catch a plane to get home. There is a rule of thumb that doens’t always work but it’s a good one when you can adhere to it. Invite friends to a place or a date, not both. Why? Cruisers get in trouble with weather windows trying to accomadate schedules. Mother Nature doesn’t always cooperate. In this situation, with the world in turmpil over a virus, the boys were ready and willing to sail home with us if that’s what needed to happen. For everyone’s sake, it worked out well. The boys were able to buy tickets and fly home.
Some good news. Kids are all great. They are trying to muddle through this too, saying we are in a better place. It’s hard to know.
It’s scary thinking how many people are affected by this and finally our president is starting to get it. I think. April 30 is the new stay at home policy. (Hindsight is now 2020, he may have gotten the virus, but he never “got it”)
8:30 went to the office and indeed we could clear out with a Zarpe. Could not get a replacement fishing license for me. Lost mine and we’d have to go downtown to get it. Took Eric 4 hours the other day to clear in going downtown so decided to skip it for now. I mean, are the fish and game wardens going to be stopping boats to ask about fishing licenses during a pandemic?
We might try and get one later. Ask forgiveness as Patsy says.
Took off for fuel and headed out about 11AM.
The forecast is for it to be light and flukey – all weather models are different but none show breeze. We are going to cross the famous Tehuanatepec. It’s known for being downright nasty so choosing a good weather window is imperative. We are lucky. The timing is perfect. Some advise and choose to hug the shorebecause the waves can get huge and steep. We won’t hug the shore as it’s a lot less miles to jsut go straight across.
The moon finally came out tonight but it’s gone and so are the stars.
Instead there is a big storm to our right looking like it’s over the land. How do we know? PredictWind. I can download weather in small and large scales and do this a few times a day when making miles.
The Tehuantepec, aka The Pecker, is known for strong winds, gales, and large steep waves close together. The wind howls over the land from the Caribbean. But we are in a different pattern. The thermal wind that has been fairly consistent on the passage north is here now.
The wind is from the port side, around 220 degrees. It’s approx 230 miles across and we’ve already gone 70. 158 to go to Hualtulco Bahias. Haven’t picked the first bay yet. And now it looks like we are faster than planned so might get there in the dark.
That will help us choose. The rule is try to never land in a new place at dark but sometimes sailing dfoenn’t work out that way. Finding a bay on the charts that will be easy to enter, have a sandy floor for good anchor holding, and have the wind push us away from the shore are all priorities.
Felt funky for the past 2 days and having been exposed to people it made me nervous. But I’m better now. Made chicken soup and still pounding the vitamins and drinking tons of water. Haven’t had a sip of alcohol since our entry to Chiapas. That hangover made me weak.
Best part about being up at all hours of the night? Seeing the wildlife glowing under water and hearing dolphins before you see them.
Last night was a light show. Big blobs of lights, small explosions and larger ones when the main self tacked making a loud crack noise. Dolphins swirling off the bows – leaving and returning and dancing.
This am at 5:45 heard a loud exhale, looked up from my book to see a pod of dolphins but the breath was louder than that. Another woosh and saw a humpback emerge amongst them! Then another! Never seen them fish and swim together. They were following us!!!
Tried to wake Eric but he’s out cold having spent a long shift from 11pm -4am. The mornings are sweet. Today it’s hazy, there’s a damp feeling, and the clouds are building by the land to our starboard. The water is so flat it is a mirror of the light which is a grayish pink.
Water spout spotted and we will are not in the path.
Looks to be a wettish day.
6:30 Sperm whale off to starboard going opposite direction!
For some reason turtles don’t seem to hear us coming. They stay on the surface and don’t even try to get out of the way. Had to put the auto on standby at the last second before hitting one. We’ve had them go between the hulls. This one was still on the surface and just inside the S hull as it emerged from the stern. Very different from the Caribbean where they see or hear us and bolt underwater. They have large white barnacles on their shells, and sometimes a bird resting on top. Old and tired? Lazy? Deaf?
Finally see a ship – have not seen any boats except small fishing boats with traps or nets near Chiapas.
Eric saw a large diameter hauser about 15’ long and partially unravelled ( a really thick rope), with about 7-8 turtles eating things that were growing off it. He did a circle to get a closer look because at first glance he thought it resembled a sea monster in the swells with an occasional flipper emerging. LOL
Arrived at 23:00 and set the anchor right off a resort that had 3 high towers spread out across the area with hearts near the top of each one. Seemed like a good sign! The swells were twisting around the edge of the harbor so we tucked in tight.
There was a light breeze and we felt secure in knowing we could rest and wake up to a pleasant surprise regarding our surroundings. We are not the type of people who like to hang out at marinas for very long. As nice as it is to walk onto shore and buy supplies, visit neighbors, and take showers off the boat, it is so much nicer to float into the wind, gently swinging and swaying to the ocean and the breeze.
As we suspected, the view was spectacular. If you like resorts. There were several of them spread out across the bay with long white sandy beaches sloping down to water of the perfect temperature. We could hear someone on a loud speaker at the closest resort speaking to the handful of people who were there. Saw only one family come down to the water.
We took a swim, made breakfast, enjoying cell service, and relaxing and by 2 were ready to check out another bay.
Turns out this bay, Bahia Tangolunda, was where Shala Youngerman and I won our first World title in the Hobie 16 Women’s World Championships in 1995! It looked very different without all the boats on the beach and without going to shore. It used to be a club Med but was bought by another company and is still an all inclusive resort but was for the most part empty due to Covid.
The one just to our northeast called Conejos is more remote and that seemed like a good idea. We headed out and as we got outside spotted a whale in the current line. Looked as good a place to fish as any!
Unfortunately with the south winds and south swells Conejos was not going to work for us. So we headed southwest, passing Chahue and found the perfect spot! Maguey is a small bay dotted with palapas that normally would be serving up camarones dishes and cervesas. Active Cpt, an app that relies on users to write their input warns about too many pangas and toursists but that it quiets down around 5. It was shut down and the beaches were empty. We swam to shore and walked alongside all the restaurants that would normally be bustling in this holiday week. A few guys were playing soccer and others were working their huts. Otherwise a ghost town. Surreality hitting us broadside.
Enjoying the solitude on our boat eating fresh avocado, mango, banana, and pistachios accompanied by guava rum drinks, we played dominos and cards and were in bed by 8. It usually takes a couple days to get back on schedule after being up all hours of the night on watches.
4/2. Made biscuits and banannie bread in a bundt pan with the bananas that are going brown. Banana beard you ask? It is my way of making banana bread but I never make it the same way twice. Adding other fruits and nuts or seeds, with a topping that resembles one on a good pie, it is probably why I can’t lose weight. Addicting! Some feel bananas are bad luck in a boat but that comes from centuries ago. They made other foods risen too fast. Women were bad luck too. Probably because there were to few and the men would start fighting over her. Eric and I are not superstitious. You are not supposed to depart on a Friday but we don’t flow that either. If you don’t believe on them they can’t hurt you is our motto. I digress.
Another perfect weather day and the swells are down so a snorkel to the rocks, a walk on the beach, and on to the next bay. It is so beautiful here!!!! Will rendezvous with Barbs friend Heidi to collect some fruits and veggies I couldn’t get at Sams. Another FB connection that turns out to be superb.
Rendevouzed at 5PM on the beach by dinghy to meet our next new friends.
They had to go through 6 checkpoints explaining how they were delivering food to a boat in need. They brought a lovely picnic complete with Mezcal which at first I refused. But succumbing to the ideal of when in Roma, I decided to give it a taste. It was smokey and delicious. A playful orange kitten showed up with 2 dogs and was fearless. The story of our new friends was told over more Mescal. Heidi and Rick sailed to Tahiti in their 20’s right after they started dating. The owner of the boat cancelled his plans of continuing on to NZ, and they stayed in Tahiti for 2 years. Now they own a condo here in Huatulco and property in Colorado for skiing and also a home in Oregon. Super friendly yoga types that I immediately felt super comfy with. Hoping someday we can reunite.
She gave us in addition to the requested veggie and fruit list some homemade granola and jam. Plus the salt with the worm in it. Very tasty! It has a special name I can’t remember but it is great for putting around the rim of the glass of a margarita.
Watched a whale play in the current just outside the bay at sunset. What a spectacular sight!
Heidi and Rick stayed until well past sunset until we all knew they better go. They said they had money in case there was trouble getting home. Evidently that still works in Mexico. (Turns out they were the last to travel that road. It was completley locked down the next day. Once again we are barely one step ahead of trouble.)
4/3. Paddleboarding around the cove and snorkeling. Decided to stay here another night. Why look for something better when this is just fine, if not pretty darn awesome! I can’t get enough of snorkeling and although it really doesn’t compare with the Caribbean, it’s still warm enough to swim and the water os clean and clear. The fish and turtles are enjoying the serenity of less human impact.
No Lionfish spotted, lots of blue parrotfish types and loud crackling underwater meaning they are eating the reef. Their poop is what the samd is made from! It looks fairly healthy. Locals caught a big octopus in the reef. Totally understand their happiness but it makes me sad. Smartest creature in the water. (And I hadn’t even watfched My Octopus Teacher yet!)
Motor sailed along the shore. Once again miles and miles of empty beaches, big swells. Arrived in Puerto Escondido around 18:00 and saw one other sailboat. A panga came alongside and it turned out to be the port captain. Laura was very nice, spoke a little English and did not come aboard. Only wanted to know our plans – to keep going but sleep here, and continue to SD with stops along the way, She is informing Acapulco Port Captain to expect us which is comforting. After asking Eliane, a family friend from Mexico, what the status of Acapulco is regarding cartels etc she said Acapulco Yacht Club is very safe and to not worry. They have fuel and can accommodate us. She called them for us!
The kids from the one other foreign boat came by with beers and stayed in their dinghy behind us. This is the new socializing way to visit with the quarantine when living on a boat. The Polish Pirate was the owner and couldn’t have been more than 30 YO. He picked up the crew along the way. Built the boat in Santa Cruz California. The crazy Norwegian was a round faced blondy who looked like a fun friendly Chica to have around. And the Sexy French man was pretty entertaining. He’s been traveling South America for over a year and was surfing in Chacahua when he came aboard. We talked about the pros and cons of continuing to Panama right now. Its PP’s goal to go to Spain. Love that these young adults are out in the world exploring and not worrying too much about careers and jobs, especially now when the world is turning but no one knows what will happen. We warned them about the dogs that come aboard and sniff in Chiapas and might have saved them from losing their boat. They definitely were carrying MJ.
Cooked up Chicken Marbella – delicious!
Motor sailed nicely up the coast. Still heading more west than north.
Made mom’s Cuban black beans and rice recipe for lunch. Still have plenty of the ingredients for making more but no more green peppers. I bet it’s good without.
Arrived in Chacahua, a surf point break and set anchor around 4. Launched the dinghy and headed to the channel. Big waves breaking across it so the timing was critical. When we went for it I lost my El Gato Visor. There was no going back into that to fetch it. Hope someone finds it on the beach and uses it.
The lagoon was long and wide and we followed a panga around the bend only to run aground when they went to shore. It was a dead end. Reversed course and after a nice look and see went back out to El Gato. First checked out the beach to see if landing was possible but the waves were crashing and it wasn’t worth it. A few people on the beach but compared to the miles of sand it was empty.
2 sailboats came in to anchor for the night which doubled the number we’ve seen in a week. A man named Henry paddled over to chat at sunset. He is mates with a famous female cruiser named Pamela. Maybe we will connect as she’s a communicator too. (We did and have been in contact ever since sharing info and stories).
Had leftovers and watched Damages. On to disc 2 – there are too many discs! Eric is disturbed by the personalities – how much they betray each other. He’d rather watch shows like Jack Ryan where it’s almost clear who the bad guys are. I get it. But I prefer this. Twists and turns and throwing us clues now and then. Rarely a gun or a knife although the whole show is about a murder (or two).
Listening to big surf crashing on the beach while looking at full moon from the tramp. Went to bed when it started getting damp on the pillow.
4/6. Up early to watch sunrise. Clocks moved ahead in Mexico. Motored and as soon as we put lines out caught 2 fish. Yellow jacks. Tried to give one to a panga but it slipped through Eric’s gloves right when he was making the pass. They are catching plenty. Kids from Mexico City on vacation with one German. One girl wearing a white dress. They looked happy and healthy and probably came from Cachahua.
Lost 2 cards from the Phase 10 deck while catching fish. One card for each fish. Guess that game needs to be replaced.
Saw dancing rays! Tons of them jumping in groups. It’s really entertaining!
Yesterday saw a sea snake on top of the water. YUK! Missing the dolphins. Haven’t seen any since Tehaunatepec.
The shoals off of Punta Maldoonado made it bumpy. I’d read to stay 6 miles off but we only stayed 2.5 and felt it. But to get to Bahia Dulce sooner we cut off the miles. Since the weather is decent it’s OK.
Then I noticed several pangas heading the same direction as us. They met another who turned and went with them. All of a sudden I’m on high alert. “Eric hide the money!”
He goes to task and can’t find it. Eventually does but while he’s looking I have the binoculars on them. Decide to tack and go away from shore. If they follow we are screwed. They don’t. But he finds the money and hides it. Mission accomplished. Safe and have money. And in case you nissed the pirate story, we really don’t have a good way to protect ourselves if we were attacked. We don’t have a gun as not only is it illegal to carry one onboard in most countries, we’d have to be willing to kill someone and that’s not our nature. Our plan is to be compliant, give them what they need, and hope we have the strength to stay calm. Eric is the one I worry about because if they were to try and dishonor me he would try to kill them. Then he’d be dead. So… we do everything we can to be safe and stay away from trouble. Like you do at home. Avoid certain neighborhoods, don’t go into unlit places at night, etc. We have a computer we are willing to toss and can hode the good ones. But if they tear apart the boat we are screwed. Bottom line is we are super nice to everyone and hope that the good karma keeps following us.
Meanwhile the sun is setting and the moon is rising. Tomorrow is a pink moon. The closest it will be to the earth all year and called pink because of a flower that blooms or something like that.
We take the sails down after tacking back and can’t see the pangas. No doubt they were going home from fishing. Or if the imagination wants to wander, doing a drug run with no intention of meeting anyone on the way. This is called “the lawless coast” for a reason. There are so few homes or establishments along the coast it’s spooky.
We are between towns so maybe they went home but with full moon doubtful. I am spooked after hearing Henry’s stories about robberies even though he said they were because people did stupid things and got retribution. Henry has been in Mexico for 17 years. He knows a few stories that’s for sure. He and Pamela anchor every night off any beach. They do not do overnight passages anymore.
Tried to anchor in the dark off the beach but the surf was so loud, the water so deep, we aborted. There were several fishing boats around and 2 river outlets. Punta Acamama.
What’s one night of all night if we can get to Acapuilco in good daylight and rest comfortably?
Eric takes first shift and let’s me sleep until 0300. That’s our new system. Stay awake as long as you can then wake the other. Not the old 3 hour shifts. There was never a long enough sleep.
We can go back to that when there’s more people.
Thoughts at 0400. The water is like glass, the moon so bright, with waves a bit mixed up it’s easy to get vertigo even with the autopilot on. Things that are close are easy to see, things far away harder. The lights don’t show up as much. The pink moon is large and beautiful.
As we approach Acapulco, out of the mist arise a clump of skyscrapers. We pass a panga with one man aboard who stands and waves to me.
Eric is getting a good rest now. I’m excited to see AYC. Back in 1982 when I was 22 I raced there with Bruce (wasbeen) on a NM with the owner Jorge Ripstien. In 1983 I raced in the Women’s World Championships on windsurfers representing the USA. There were 3 classes. Lasers, 470’s and windsurfers. I met many outstanding female sailors, some who are now legends including Betsy Allison who was my roommate. Cory Sertyl is now the president of US Sailing. I placed 3rd and learned valuable lessons from the coach and manager that I would carry with me as my racing career continued to evolve.
From my posts on FB Eliane Fierro, a Mexican whose parents were friends and owned an NM, and John Rumsey who I met at SORC in 81 and stayed in touch, have reached out to us and to the club to let them know we are coming. Eliane gave me the manager’s number. I called around 10 and Enrique said they were waiting for us. As we entered the bay the first thing that caught us off guard was how quiet and empty the bay was. Normally it is a hubbub for boats. Mostly tourists would be carted around the bay, some parasailing off the back of boats, others beach hopping, regattas every weekend and in the summer sailing camps, and of course fishermen and ferries. To be literally the Only Boat moving in Acapulco Bay was incredible.
Winding our way around the corner we spotted the fuel dock which was in fact front and center to the club docks. How nice to have their own supply of fuel! Enrique met us and as we tied up we learned that today, this day, the ports had all been declared closed. Again. But this time we are suspecting it will stick. Our plan was flexible. If we thought it would be cool to stay there for a night we would. But in the back of our mind we felt it would be better to stay away from people as much as possible and being at anchor accomplished this much better. The more we learn about the virus the more we realize it’s way too contagious to take chances.
Eric went to the office to sign insurance papers for the YC. We were told no need to go to the port captain. It’s closed. And we were already checked in at Chiapas with a clean bill of health.
I strapped on a backpack, bought a cool shirt at the club store of the Volvo Mexican Team, and walked to the supermarket with my mask on. Only saw 2 others with masks on the way. In the store people seemed careful and they had signs and short films at checkout about washing hands and staying 6’ apart. There were yellow and black taped lines to keep people from crowding.
I found lots of fresh veggies, avocados, limes, arugula, and meats of fajitas. They had not stopped selling alcohol yet so 2 bottles of gin for Eric were added to the pile. Originally I thought I’d only buy what I could take home. But with the news that ports are closed, and the uncertainty of where we find food again, I filled the basket. My 3 bags were going to be impossible to carry the 1/2 mile back and at the bottom of the escalator was a cabby waiting for me. He pushed the cart that I had wiped with gel, grabbed my bags and placed them in the trunk. As soon as I was inside I washed my hands again. He took me inside the gates and right up to the dock where Mario arrived with a cart. They unloaded the trunk and Mario pushed it top the dock. Different country, better service. Can’t imagine that happening in the states. We handed Mario a coke and the yellow jack we caught and filleted. I was pretty sure we would not like it and he was happy to take it even when I told him what it was. They are not as picky as we are. Perhaps they ahve better cooking methods or don’t care if fish tastes like fish?
I washed everything in hot soapy water and put it away. We departed at 2 and were at anchor off Isla Roquesta, just south of ACA by 3pm. It was a sweet little beach but the foam from waves crashing on the rocks kept us from jumping in. Later when the wind shifted and things settled we saw people on kayaks and fishermen came by. Ferries were on moorings and we could tell this was a hot spot for tourists. The palapa restaurant in front of us called Isla de la Fantasia was empty. A few kids hanging out at the ferry landing. This is their holiday week. And most likely schools are closed indefinietley.
We had a nice evening with Tony Roma ribs, arugula salad and corn on the cobb to celebrate.For the first time in over a month we felt we could stop and breathe. Now that we had fuel and food to get home, we could slow down. Hopefully no overnight passages for awhile. At least not until we cross over to Baja in the Sea of Cortez. This was Tuesday. Full moon night, and the view from the islands towards the city with the moon rising was spectacular!
It was a peaceful feeling followed by a deep sleep.
4/8. We woke up super early to depart for our 75 mile journey to Papapnoa. Arriving in daylight with time for options is the key.
Very light wind so motored the whole way with sails going up and down whenever we felt it would help. Happy the Gato’s engines are working well thanks to Eric’s diligence and our engines sip fuel if we are careful.
Arrived in good daylight – it’s in San Francisco!
As we pulled around the corner of the high cliffs on the point, we saw the break water. The difference in calm was immediately apparent. Ah, a nice port with setlled water to relax and stay one night before moving on.
We slid in to the small bay and saw pangas moored alongside the land where several large palapas stood. One had a group of people in it hanging out. We set our anchor and while Eric was still setting up the bridal, a woman started waving indicating she wanted us to leave. It was hard to understand and hear her but the I caught a few words like police and her arms and gestures clearly meant she was representing her family and wanted us to get out. It was a simple choice. We lifted the anchor and headed back out. They were afraid of the virus and consequently us.
We head outside and go about 1/4 mile, still with protection from swells. Our stern is to the rocks and a young man, maybe a large boy is clamoring around the rocks picking up sea creatures for food. Too far away to speak to him, but close enough to see he goes up to some rocks, puts things down, and heads back to the shore to gather more. After sunset and before it’s too dark he climbs up the steep hill on a hidden path to go home. Here’s to the simple life.
I make tuna tartar, our favorite way to eat fresh caught tuna, and we enjoy the solitude. On the horizon up the coast there is a wall of yellow. Fire reaching into the clouds. I noticed a wall of smoke in the daylight but wasn’t sure what it was. Definitely not rain but fire? Indeed it was. Hoping it was a controlled burn and feeling confident it was. No way to check the news channel like back home. (Later we learn that fires are common along the coast and most are not planned nor controlled.)
The view as the sun sets is once again breathtaking. With the mist on the layers of mountains on our bow I have to grab the camera once again. Using my new iPhone11 instead of a camera 99.9 % of the time.
Friends are posting great memories of sweet times on FB. I miss my friends and family (who also happen to be my friends).
Taking it one day at at time as this is an adventure of 2 lifetimes! hugging the coast. Houses hugging the rocky cliffs
Palm trees. Love them!!!
Mornings are damp on the deck
We are being told that when we come home it will seem like a different world. And yet we are living in a different world on a boat. No TV, rarely Netflix unless near a city, just e mails, phone calls and FB for news, again only with good cell service. Things are not at our fingertips like in the land of plenty and we appreciate this.
We are not inundated with BS or agendas. There is no nightly news to scare us. This world, our world, is filled with nature.
When we meet locals down here we learn that some live hand to mouth, literally, catching fish for the family and growing things on the land to survive.
Meanwhile our British friends on the Catana called Zan left Panama 27 days ago, have 1/2 fuel left, and are unsure of what to do, stay or go home. Nuku Hiva is turning boats away. Zan went to Tahiti to help crew fly home although there is only one flight scheduled.
They went through the Canal on the 5th. We went on the 12th. One week later and it’s a different world in the Pacific as well.
I sleep in today. It’s nice to not feel rushed. We will be going only about 30 miles to Morro de Petetlan. Hugging the coast seems like a nice way to chill and see things.
Eric notices a man fishing high up on a rock off our bow and plays with the camera. It’s a good shot! (But I’m not sure where it is – LOL)
The anticipation of heading to a new port, which is now happening almost daily, is always a good feeling. There’s few expectations and always a surprise or two. What will the next place show us? Not being able to go shore and eat or greet makes it not completely ideal but given that we are safe and it’s beautiful we are not going to complain. We will return when things are normal! But the first time going somewhere always feels like it’s the best. It’s that discovery that you’ve never seen this before, you’ve never experienced this before. We both relish this. But we also know that when we find something good, we want it again. Like going to your favorite restaurant. I tend to order the same thing every time. I know it’s good so why mess with a good thing. Some folks take this too far, and do the same vacations or restaurants over and over. Not us. Give us something new and unexpected and we relish it!
3 hours into our cruise today I look and see the area where the fire was last night and still is. The smoke is rising and capping out above. There are ashes falling on the boat. Tried to get further offshore but there is no way we will miss passing it and the boat will be covered in ash. Good thing we have a fresh water hose on the bow. We are going to need it! It is not a controlled burn as the more the wind strengthens so does the fire.
One of my favorite sayings is “it’s all about people”
Case and point. As we motor up the coast close to shore I spot 2 pangas. Deciding to go closer to them but not too close to mess up their fishing, they wave to me as I am abeam. They keep waving so I decide to turn around, go say hi and check them out. They get all excited. Eric is on the phone will Paolo and hears the engines change and feels the turn and comes running up. He takes the helm while I check out their fish and say no gracias – another yellow jack, called Amarillo Corvalles. And the other boat is yelling and smiling and we go over there. One is standing and is clearly the most extroverted and boisterous. He is yelling and happy. El Gato! What’s your names? Viva Estados Unidos!
We yell back Viva Mexico and “no Corona virus!” They are laughing.
It is a good exchange out on the open sea with no other boats in sight for miles and miles.
The photos are priceless proving once again people are indeed social animals and it’s nice to say hello. Even if you don’t want their fish.
We round the corner and find 5 meters depth alongside a rocky shoreline. Ahead of it the mouth of a lagoon but from our vantage point it looks like it is sanded over. There are pangas lining the beach up high and dry with several one story palapas and buildings behind them.
As we chill out a police pick-up truck drives as far as they can to the end of the beach. They can’t call to us. Too far. They are not waving, they see our boat but don’t see our bodies. We are reclined. Eventually they get back in their truck and go away. Later a panga pulls onto the beach and a white truck tows them across the sand bar after they hop out. the rules here seem to follow the pattern. No hanging out on the beach. No tourists. Fishing is OK )as it shold be)>
Good thing Eric wasn’t rigging the windsurfers. Too light he said. Now no way.
Need to read and rest. It’s sunny, warm and the apocalypse feeling hits again.
We sail onto Zihuatanero, spend one night next to other cruisers, and move on. The town is closed. The only thing of real interest is what’s happening on the beach. There is a line of officials in 3 different color coordinated shirts, black, white and orange, wearing masks combing the beach. It looks like they are looking for clues to a murder mystery. My imagination runs wiild. I follow them with the binos. They go the full length to the beach mostly looking down. Then they leave. Later there is a soccer game on the beach. Social distancing is not happening. A week later we find out that some restaurants were open and there are no cases of the virus here yet. The officials were doing their daily sweep of the beach for tourists. To tell them to leave the beach. That’s all. Conforting to know there wasn’t a murder…
We sail on to Isla Grande, a misnomer as it’s small but it is in fact larger than the surroundings isles. A small open harbor with a beach the length of 7 restaurants is there. 6 other cruising sailboats are anchored. They become our community for the week. Now this place is worth sticking around a bit!
Every day several power boats of various sizes arrive with guests to celebrate Easter week. Pink inflatable Flamingos drag from their sterns, some fish, some swim, some SUP, all eat and drink.
And every night around sunset they depart.
Juan owns a restaurant called Parasio Escondido (hidden paradise) and has taken the cruisers under his watch. He buys fresh fruits and veggies, fish and lobster, and shares. Need propane? He goes in and fills it. We have 2 potluck dinners onshore with all the cruisers and Juan. I bring our small twinkly lights and leave him with one set. He shows me and Eric his family’s enlarged (huge) photos with a time line that starts when his parents met. He also loves that he is on the island enjoying the tranquility of the moment. Normally he claims there are between 2-3000 people/day visiting this island.
Juan also likes to have the cruisers come to shore at night and eat with him. It’s always potluck, but sometimes he buys lobster or fish and we cook it up and bring as well. He has to be careful not to upset the other restaurant owners who are forced to be closed. So we go by cnadl light and bring battery powered twinkle lights. It’s really nice to be with the company of others.
Eric and I stroll around the island, going across to the backside. Another beach with continuations of the restaurants. Some have upper decks for great views.
We look for the deer which we’ve heard about but only find bunnies and feed them carrots.
One day we all grab inflatables and head to the middle of the bay with cocktails and appetizers. It is a fun afternoon of freedom. I’ve let go of my insecurities for keeping a distance. There are still no reported cases in Ixtapa and every one here is healthy. We do yoga on the beach and the next day on El Gato. Mexican dominoes on EG after yoga. We are the only cat so we have the space.
At night on the way to the beach with a light showing the way fish are jumping like crazy this way and that. They are flying fish! Another night we put our light in the water and they come. So cool to see them up close just swimming, not being chased.
The snorkeling is so so, but better than nothing. I love floating around watching fish. Inspires me to paint fish on clothing.
On our last morning we wake up early to go surf with Emily and David. I actually catch my first wave in many years. It’s been ages. But the water is nice, warm, the waves gentle and I am ready to get back into it. Especially in Mexico! We are the only surfers out for about an hour, then some locals come, and they leave before us. We are out there for almost 3 hours!
Our last night we paddled around to say goodbye and give everyone our cards. I will send them the photos I took at the raft up.
4/18 – It’s been 11 days since Acapulco or a store. We ate our last lettuce but still have brocolli and plenty of fruit. Caught 2 tunas but they had stripes and I remember them as having very dark meat so we threw them back. Dolphins come along. We put lures back out. Next time we keep thoise dark meat tunas and give to locals. That was our first time catching 2 fish together! Usually we give someone else the line.
We are heading to Caleta de Campos. It’s where Bill Lilly was robbed and Richard Spindler warned us not to go because of that, but we feel Ok. It’s in the guide books, none of the other cruisers, nor Bill feel like it’s a bad place. His deal was a panga followed him from somewhere else. Anyway, we will only stay one night to rest and move on towards Las Hadas in Manzanillo. We can always leave a coke and cookies outside after we lock up. Just in case.
The other cruisers told us they never lock up, and feel very safe in Mexico. They’ve never been stopped by Navy to check on fishing licenses. That’s good news! We will still lock up to stay safe. Plenty of ventilation down below and why risk it?
Eric is happy as a clam driving El Gato upwind towards the next port. In the AM the wind is offshore, then it dies and switches to side shore and increases. We must use engines to assist the progress. We make fresh water using reverse osmosis as it’s always cleaner offshore.
Arriving well before sundown, about 30 minutes after anchor down we hear load sirens. With flashing lights on vehicles the police show up and start walking the short beach with their megaphone telling folks to go home. There were kids playing in the surf, families on the pier, fishermen bringing boats back in, and maybe 25 max people around. They scattered slowly, and 20 minutes later, after the police left, they all came out to play again. It’s a small town with many palapas for eating right on the beach. Many pangas high and dry. One man around the corner in a secluded beach that we could see but not visible otherwise undressed, threw his clothes in a bag, and waded around to the popular beach. He then hid behind a rock and dressed again. Tricky!
We had steak for dinner and a nice red vino. Locked up very tight and put on all our security lights. It was a long night as they kept tripping. Large swells and Eric’s swim trunks flapping – oops. But no problem and when we brought up the anchor some pescaderos came in from a long night of fishing.
I waved them over and bought 3 large red Snappers for $20. They wanted 300 pesos for 2 fish. We have no pesos and to support their economic crisis I sweetened the deal. $20 US for 3 large fish equivalent of 750 pesos. Helping the locals always feels right. Back to that good karma feeling. Win win!
Eric cleaned them and then jumped in the water to wash off the scales and blood. After he came back onboard dolphins showed up. Better than those other fins.
The difference we see on this coastline is instead of miles upon miles of beaches there are beach coves nestled inside high walls of rocks and cliffs. The mountains are closer to shore. Palm trees dot the beaches. And sometimes we see farms. The pangas are sporadic.
The swell continues to be big so we bump along under engine power in the AM. When the thermal kicks in we sail. Knowing we can replenish fuel is good. We are not wasting it but are using it to move along since it would take forever to go upwind by sails alone.
Discovered something good to drink today.
Homemade chocolate with coconut milk! Heat them up together and wow!
Homemade pizza is the BEST! I bought lots of yeast in Panama and just heard they are out of it in the states. Everyone must be finally learning how to make bread. LOL
We are the only catamaran we’ve seen since leaving Panama. Very different on this coast. Lots of monos.
4/19 The water is cold now. We spent a night in Escondido (cove) Carrival all by ourselves and were told it is a great place to snorkel. We watched another light show at night with fish chasing fish and circles near the boat, but were not inclined to swim in the AM. So we left.
4/20 Santiago Bay has a shipwreck near the beach. We anchored, made chicken soup, and a guy paddled out from the beach named Luiz. After he shared TMI, like how he loves California, used to be in the drug trade and worked for guys who now basically support him. That part said plenty! “I don’t need money, I have a pure heart”. His thoughts on the virus? “It’s bullshit!” Not to judge a book by it’s cover but when the guy has the gold rimmed front teeth, abs of steel, and tattoos across his body while he tells you all this, we decided it might be best to leave after lunch. Go somewhere safe. As Eric pointed out, he just got a really good look at our boat up close. He left by going between the hulls.
Off to Manzanillo we went.
And upon arrival Chris, from Wishlist hails us on the radio. He is the brother of a FB friend from San Diego and she has connected us. I called him a week or so ago and forgot where he was so this is a pleasant surprise. CRS creeping in again. Chris is a big burly handsome ex contractor dude from SD. His new GF named Brenda is a flight attendant who was on vacation when the virus took hold. They hooked up and now she is living aboard with him; it seems to be working out really well. For someone who has never sailed or been on a boat overnight can you imagine? (Update 1/21 – they are together and enjoying life together – we will see them again)
Turns out it was his birthday too.
4/21 A very long walk to town wearing masks through the resort then along the golf course and then along the main road to get internet at Starbucks. (It closed the next day due to Covid). Wrote the blog about rescuing the mainsail. Had a really nice cold fruit drink with acai seeds in it. Lovely. Turned in our laundery. Then to the grocery store where I stocked up on fresh stuff at El Comer, a huge chain in Mexico. All employees wearing masks. There are 2 military type guards at the door and a hand sanitizer dispenser. I wonder if that will forever be in place onwards. Hope so.
Another long walk home in the heat and my feet that hadn’t worn shoes in a month were sore.
4/22 – 4/25 Another walk to town. That’s it. No more of that! Get the bikes out!
It’s Friday and Malolo has arrived from Isla Grande Ixtapa. The kids Britt and Matt = Bratt. It’s refreshing to see kids that are our kids ages out seeing the world and discovering life on the water.
Eric and I greet them on the way in as we are headed out to make water and sail a bit. 12 miles offshore, turn around, set the kite, and catch a Dorado right before we take the kite down. It is planing behind since we are going about 8 knots in 10 knots of wind. It felt great to sail downwind it’s been so long! And now we have fish for dinner. I made guacamole, fish fingers, and hummus for appetizers and we all met onshore on a little round elevated palapa without a top on the resort grounds of Las hadas. Hard to describe but maybe they use it for ceremonies or small parties and put up a tent. We brought our own chairs and played music until they kicked us out. We moved down to the dock and continued socializing until after dark. It was really fun.
The last day in Manzanillo, Saturday 4/25, Eric and I rode bikes to town and I bought my herb garden of mint, basil, oregano, and rosemary. Eric bought motor oil. Grabbed more pesos from the bank. The exchange rate is really good for us right now. 25-1. So as I’m getting 3000 pesos I have to do the math and stay this is worth $125 USD. Not that much but it goes a long way. The herbs cost 100 pesos total!
To get home we ride through the golf course loaded down with herbs in my little bike basket in front. They don’t like all the bumps on the cobblestone roads. Neither do we.
Dinner has been planned for 6 PM at the restaurant onshore. It is Brenda’s birthday. Brenda of Firefly who is married to Ted = Bread. The owner has decorated the chairs and table, and the other Brenda has brought balloons and bubbles, and its a dining table set for royalty outside. We order nice drinks, good wine, appetizers, and 2 meals of shrimp wrapped in bacon with cheese on top of mashed and sweet potatos. It is delicious and we are all feeling super lucky. The rest is empty except for our party. The restaurant has one other table that leaves early. The waiters and waitresses are all wearing masks and eventually take them off. The owner is giving us personal attention by making our drinks and recommending good wines. He even makes the crepes for dessert with a helper at our table. Hard to describe the buttery flavors and how this is just ridiculously special. We are over the moon happy and trying not to feel guilty over these guilty pleasures. Carlos, owner is also very happy. So few customers lately and turns out he was the manager of Las Hadas up until about 5 years ago when he bought the restuarant. Used to manage 300 people at the resort, now he has 10. These are tough times for him too. But it is the simple pleasure of pleasing us and sharing what he loves that has him smiling all night. We are too. The connection between people has been strained and as cruisers we feel not only healthy but happy to be able to be so much more free than our loved ones at home.
Bratt will be following our path up to the Sea of Cortez. They are waiting for Emily and John on Serendipity, the other youngsters. Chris we will see in San Diego and take out on El Gato. He’s never been onboard because that was where we drew the line on social distancing. After a full meal and everyone had paid their checks, (ours was about $70 for the best bottle and 2 meals ever) we were told the guard had locked the gate to the dinghies. What?!? Las Hadas charges 250p/day to land the dinghy on the dock. While the resort is open this makes sense. You can swim in the pools, eat at the restaurants, walk around, enjoy the beach, and go to the store. We paid a few days ago, 2 dinghies for 3 days. This was day 4. Carlos finally talked the man into opening up the damn gate. We would have paid again but since we are literally the only people here who cares? Because it is Mexico they open the gate. We love it here.
4/26. I plant my garden, Eric tries to fix the port water tank that has slow flow, and the drone from Firefly launches. They take videos and we depart for Barra De La Navidad. It’s calm out. I make black bean soup and catch up on the writing. Eric is still sorting out the water. Malolo says they do not see us on AIS. But the radio is now loud and clear!
Observations – tons of fish below our boat, red tide comes and goes, fishermen on kayaks daily, and the view is always breathtaking. Bouganvilla against white buildings, gotta love it.
Next stop was Barra de Navidad. Friends John and Monique Shultess have been in communication with us and they keep their cat Baha Fog here. It’s a tricky entrance but we use our eyes as well as Navionics and get inside without hitting the notorious sandbar that has stranded plenty of newbies. It is a bio rich bay with many boats anchored here as it provides great shelter from all directions. The marina is beautiful but also closed due to Covid. We are not even allowed to tie up our dinghy. John has left us a cruising guide to borrow so we can explore on the way home. We
Tenacatita – Went up the canal on the dinghy, only made one wrong turn. Most people have a guide the first time! It was when we were literally pushing branches off our heads and not seeing it getting better that we turned around and foudn the correct path. Being the only ones was unique. At the end we walked across a small portion of land to get to the beach and saw El Gato. One thing that was fun was we took presents and left them alng the way. I wrapped up a cookie jar and put cookies in it and left it next to where the fishermen would return. Also left long sleeve shirts with ribbons on them in strategic places. Fun gifts to whoever found them first!
Paraiso – One night all alone in paradise. Small cove with pelicans diving for dinner all around us.
Chamela – other boats here. There’s a good surf break! Eric meets other surfers and learns of some French brothers who shape boards. They are gorgeous pieces of art that are too heavy for the real thing. But for $500 we are thinking we will return and bring one home for the outside palapa we build someday.
Next stop is Barra de Navidad. turning the corner to head towards Bara we notice a huge shipwreck. Lost in a storm all survived.
Heading otw3ards the entraqnce we can already see the beauty of this place and it only gets better.
It has a tricky entrance after you pass the main channel.
There is a bay with many cruisers who saty here for long periods of time, thus a community of nomads. We pass through with no problems as we use our eyes as well as the charts. The sandbar shifts so it’s more about using your eyes.
John and Monique Shultess who own Baja Fog have been here awhile but finally left right before our arrival. They’ve been communicating with us anout this place ever since we landed in Chiapas. now we know why. It’s a good hurricane hole.
We will explore the area and know that it is worth returning to someday. Unfortunately the marina is all but closed due to Covid. We grab John’s Mexico cruising book off Baja Fog, and after a few days we take off. But before we do, fellow cruisers give us a nice tour of the local town.
The next day Eric and I grab our bikes and pedal over to Melaque where we find hand loomed rugs and table runners! We purchase one of each and swear to ourselves we will return for more next visit. Such a cute town that Canadians have migrated here.
Yelapa – Arrive before sunset in a place that people rave about. Small harbor that can be rolly for monohulls, but we are OK. Got one of the 3 mooring balls close to the beach – nice backdrop. It’s so beautiful! Yellow blooms on trees that I can’t stop looking at. Can watch families and kids play on the beach. No virus here it seems. Stayed 2 nights. 300 pesos/night ($12) for a mooring totally worth it. No worries.
Hiked up to the waterfall. Watched little ones swimming in the natural pool. French Americans.
Tried some Rasilla (like taquilla as it’ made from agave, but it’s a local thing) with Brooke. She has 2 kids, a pig and a local husband. She fled Colorado, possibly to get away from a man, and foind her slice of peace and paradise. Her daughter will one day inherit land as only locals can, and her husband claims he owns a lot! Had to pass through a large group having a religious service outside in the pathway.
No one wore masks. We had ours and wore them in stores.
La Cruz De Huatcaxtle – anchored outside the La Cruz marina.
Best part of this was meeting the stranded Swiss at the marina and going to the fish market. The Swiss own a 2016 Nysegna cat named Kianga. They are new cruisers and not comfy anchoring out.
Strolled around the closed town and left for Punta Mita
Punta Mita. Where to start. Doug Haas guided us in and was generous in loaning boards to surf and paddle board surf. He took us mountain biking around the gated community which is quite large. We went to Kenton’s house, a rich HGH (human growth hormones) specimen who sells the stuff. He and his wife are spoiled but the kids seem OK (so far). Beautiful property on the water and gorgeous house he designed and built. We went foiling on his remote controlled board 2 days later. Eric did. I declined. Preserving what’s left of this body!
2 islands out to sea and one looks like a crocs head. So many birds! Loved watching them feed and fight over fish. They follow fishermen. The entrance was tricky when the swell was up at the tiny fishermen marina which is basically a beach with mooring balls inside 2 breakwaters. There were men hanging around and kids playing. Donated stuff to the madre and kids. Stores in town – one for locals and one for gringos which had everything but at a price. Similar to Gardners, our family store chain in Miami back in the day. Met Shanti and Cory, 2 extreme athletes, 45 and 50. Emily and David showed up from Isla Grande Ixtapa. Celebrated their 1st anniversary and ate a Cabana’s. With Doug and Jo we ate on El Gato, and Barbella’s. They are invested so dinners were free and delicious. One at their house too. We took all the kids to Yelapa for a day. Made pizza and enjoyed margaritas with some of the tequila stack Cory bought. Lobsters on the way home in the dark. On our last night we ate on Serendipity, a Peterson 44, and rocked and rolled and experienced just how good owning a cat is.
Nights were special in that the red tide made things glow and the fish shows were constant. Skies were clear so stars shown brightly. The weather was so darn perfect it was hard to believe. The water got warm enough to jump in and we windsurfed 3 days. Once it was a nice fresh breeze and Eric and I raced around the harbor using boats as marks. Sometimes there were as few as 6 boats and other times as many as 13. Never crowded. We could swim or paddle to the surf break.
We climbed Monkey Mountain with Cory and Shanti. Shanti guided us while Cory ran up and down the mountain training. Impressive.
It was impressive because not only was it steep but it was hot. He is an animal. She is a trainer and works with Gabriel Reese and Laird Hamilton. I did one of her classes on the boat one day and almost passed out from heat and had to quit. She’s a great strength and fitness guru.
Chacala – sweet surf town. Met Americans Jenna and Brook on a monohull.
Walked the beach, bought some Avos and other fresh things. The little surf town is normally busting with surfers and tourists. Sad seeing the locals just sitting and waiting for this nightmare to be over.
Motor sailed to Isla Isabella – arrived in the afternoon under cloudy skies.
All books say tricky anchoring but we crept forward of the other 3 boats and found a nice sandy spot near the Las Monas, the manequins. Next Am water clear and snorkeled around the rocks. Best snorkeling we’ve seen in the Pacific so far. Water around 84 degrees so wetsuit top for me. Hiked the island to the East side and saw our boat and Monas. Tons of nests and baby birds. Frigates, Blue footed Boobies and seagulls. Took photos and video. Dry arid landscape with a large lagoon in the middle of the island. Iguanas and lizards. 3 hour hike. Good for the legs. There is a fishing village on the beach where the dinghy lands and lots of pangas are onshore with anchors offshore. Nets in piles and small houses/shacks for living in, They have permits, This is a world heritage site. Cousteau loved it. Migration, a red trimaran crew came over to check out El Gato. No masks after they had requested them they decided what the hell, let’s be normal. Their friend Ruby wants to buy a boat and singlehand. Alene and Bruce have cruised for 15 years and have lots of experience in Mexico and the French Polynesians. They say get the 6 month visa in Mexico City. And go the islands 300 miles west of here to see the gigantic manta rays you can swim next to.
Bruce has made satellite images of the islands which we will copy today. No internet but thumb drives are great. They can’t believe more people don’t stop here and were curious why we decided to. We are island people!
Wake up to the gentle sounds of surf on the beach, birds, and look out the bathroom window to see tiny fish, and clear view of the sea floor, and little white tuffs, feathers drifting by.
Went for 2 snorkels today. The morning by myself, channeling Debbie from San Blas. Found my GoPro and went with Eric to show him the grotto Alene and I discovered yesterday near the bird nests. Took some photos and played with camera. It is fickle but the photos are good. Just have to change from wide angle to regular.
The fishermen seem to come out mostly before dark. They are behind us tonight with the mother ship getting ready. The smaller pangas take off and then come back to it or to the shore. Not sure how they keep the fish fresh without ice. Maybe they have a generator onshore? Last night there were 4 boats tied up in a circle hauling in Snappers by net near us. Looked like a good haul. We still have plenty of shrimp and some fish although it would be fun to barter with them for something fresh. But…don’t want 2 day old fish!
We will depart in the AM for crossing to the Sea of Cortez. May land at Muertas or go all the way to La Paz. Need to pick up some cruising guides folks left for us. Maybe we will check in with a port captain for the first time since Chiapas.
Christy Steinman is on her last stretch going home today. They should arrive tomorrow. We try to talk nightly on the SSB.
We have 5 weeks left before July.
Still no rush since everything in the US is mostly closed. Why sit at home or on the boat in San Diego when we can explore here? Will watch the weather closely now that hurricane season is looming. LA Bay is the escape route if one were to come now.
We had the place all to ourselves until dark when Free Luff arrived. Migration already left.
Departed the next AM, 5/27, after swimming over and talking a bit. Jody is from San Diego, and Randy from Michigan. They gave us some tips on places to anchor near La Paz. Learning lots from others about Baja.
Had a nice motor sail and after a panko crusted shrimp taco dinner I went to bed. Eric woke me at 2:30 saying we had a problem. Long polypro line dragging under the boat both sides. He pulled as much in as possible. Then cut it. Still have plenty underneath but it doesn’t seem to slow us down too much. Luckily that engone wasn’t on or we’d have a bigger problem.
We will get the rest when it’s light out.
At 6 am I notice 2 Boobies on the bow. They have great balance – one is on the pulpit and the other on a cleat and we are bouncing. Eric touched one last night right before another tried to land on his head! They are his favorite birds. Before that happened he was trying to scare them away and I yelled at him. He stopped and that’s when they rewarded him…embrace nature and it will embrace you. It’s just the poop that bothers him. LOL
Lots of wind shifts overnight but it’s better than nothing.
There’s a saying in the Bahamas that there are only 2 kinds of captains. One who has run aground, the other who will run aground.
I believe in Mexico there should be a saying if there isn’t already, there are 2 kinds of captains. One who have caught fishing nets or lines, and those who will. Eric jumps in the water in the morning while I search the horizon for sharks. He has to get that net off. It is long and has large hooks spread out on it. I pull it onboard and Eric gets out safely. He was fast on that project! Scary!
The Boobies continue to hang out and now we have 3! Put my blue socks on and went and hung out with them on the bow. When I scrubbed their poop off the deck they stayed put. It was think and smelled like dead fish. Gross.
Lots of good wind from the south so we are hauling butt. Texted with Jeff and Cheri about joining us in Scorpion. Hearing that no one allowed ashore from a boatin Scorpion but that could change by the time we arive.
Caught a tuna, a shark was after him. And yes, we both think about how he was in the water cutting the fish line off earlier.
Right as the sun was setting, I was taking photos of the booobies and watched a Marlin jump for joy about 6 times!
La Paz – We first spent the night off of Isla Espiritu del Santos. A long stretch of white beach with a mountainous backdrop. Water was cool but refreshing. Eric spotted a large dark rock that was moving. It was the rays. They were dancing like crazy around us. LOL. We moved to the other side to be attacked by bugs and quickly retreated back to the east side. That night as the sun set, the wind came in hard. We’d heard about these winds.
The next day we headed into La Paz and first topped up with fuel. Jorge was our man. We gave the boat a good fresh water scrub and took off for the next Marina del la Paz where Patsy left her mooring ball in the water for us. We were directly outside the entrance and 5 minutes too late to pick up the cruising guide on a Saturday. We had dinner ashore but it wasn’t very good. The margaritas were terrible. Kinda disappointing.
The next day was laundry and shopping at a big store. Eric walked with me to the store and we found a great place for take out which is the only way they serve in town. Found a bus bench to eat it and ignored the bus that pulled up. Gotta make do.
That night we joined Ken on Sea Shifter to relive the story of the Nicaraguan pirates. And the next day we departed after Eric changed the oil in the engines. Headed up the bay to Bahia Balandra. Had it all to ourselves (again) and as soon as the anchor was set we jumped in with masks and snorkels to explore the rock where the pelicans were hanging out. The water was frigid! I wore a wetsuit top, no bottoms and E went nude. He has more tolerance for cold.
That night after the sun set it blew hard. I woke up at 3am and went on watch sort of. Top speed wind was 27. Not bad but it felt like more because they were puffs. Downloaded the weather forecast and finally relaxed enough to sleep again. By now Charlie and Liz Ogletree had decided they would love to come stay with us for a night or 2. Maybe more?
They own a Catana in turkey called Kaya. Hope we can visit someday. The invite is there.
Sailed south and met them in Los Muertos 30 minutes after catching a huge Marlin! We had Gordo and full main up and were going fast that when we slowed down the marlin went flying past us and was in front of the boat. As I started going forward he was about midships when he finally flew into the air and managed to get free. The whole thing took about 3 minutes and was surreal. Very cool to see such a magnificent fish and now we know why fishermen come here to catch and release one. Sadly I have no photos but the imprint is in our heads forever.
Eric went to get the Ogletrees with the dinghy. We anchored, swam, and had a nice dinner catching up.
6/3 The next day we sailed down towards their house in Las Barilles via the island Cervales to see if we could catch some fish. No dice. No wind, 3 lines out. Only caught a little thing we threw back. At night at anchor after swimming and seeing tons of rays jumping. At dark 30 we heard what we thought were dolphins. But it was too loud, it was a whale behind our boat! We could see the long line of it’s back and the breaths were back to back and then it went down and we never saw it agian. WOW! The rays were jumping so much it sounded like a July 4th finale, or many flgs flapping in the strong winds. Very loud and cool.
Up to their new house. Beautiful Mexican decor and view of the sea. Perfect for Charlie to look and see when he can go kiting.
June 5 – Ogletrees hopping back on board with snorkel and spear fishing gear and sail with us to Cabo.
Headed down to Frailes where we spent 2 nights and enjoyed a full moon anchorage nestled between large privately owned fishing boats. One yacht was on line and charters for $210,000/week! We were in a National Park so no fishing or snorkeling or anything but swimming close to the boat. Witnessed a large beach party in the fishing village on Saturday night after the police and park rangers were gone. Had our own dinner parties. One featured ribs. We laughed until we cried after eating my now famous Mexican brownies.
On Sunday we motored south a few miles and anchored near an endless white sandy beach. Lizz and I swam in, beach combed and found white oyster shells. We made a art project out of them with a piece of driftwood. A noiseless wind chime! Charlie tried to spear fish but the visibility was bad. He and Lizz both saw a green moray eel.
Motored down to Cabo and on the way Capt Charlie had 3 lines out. Caught a not good for eating Tuna (don’t have a book to know what it was) and saw over a dozen marlin!!! at the surface near our boat! Eric got bins and watched a sports fishing boat catch one. Everyone was in awe of the numbers. Very few boats out for Cabo but there were at least 8 that day. When we arrived in Cabo we anchored by the beach outside the harbor and went in by dinghy to see where to drop them on Monday. A driver would pick them up. 2 hour drive to get home.
Another fun dinner and we played games as usual. Lizz kicked my butt on Rummikub. She is a formidable game competitor. When I finally win one game I am jumping up and down and celebrating!
Cabo is a ghost town. We said our goodbyes and Eric headed off by taxi to get propane. I found Wifi at the restaurant called Arts and Sushi and managed to get the waiter to smuggle some wasabi to me after I tipped him nicely for a coke. When I went for a stroll to the main road I was on the corner less than a minute and 2 men came up and chatted. I felt uneasy after I asked them where the grocery store was and they wanted to walk with me. Call it intuition but something was wrong. I told them I was waiting for my husband. Then I walked a different way than they went and after about a block decided to turn back. 2 more men coming towards me and asking if I was alone. Red flag alert! Cabo is a hustlers town and there are no victims anywhere except this blond middle aged woman by herself with a backpack. Headed right back to the marina and shared the story with Carlos the dock guy who said I was smart to come back. When Eric arrived we went together to the store and even then someone called out to us. When we returned to the wifi another guy tried to sell us a bottle of Don Julio tequila that was most likely not DJ because the seal was broken. Another huster. They are hurting and I wish I could help but I couldn’t wait to get back to the boat!
We had an early evening as we would depart the next AM for the long bash up the coast.
Departed at 8:30AM and as we rounded the cape it was windy, bumpy, and cold! Geez!I put on 2 jackets. Heated up a potato for warmth and put in in my pocket when I didn’t have it between my feet which get really cold these days. After a couple hours it settled down as predicted. Spoke to 2 other yachts – La Mer and Voyager heading north.
We caught a 4’ Mako shark and Eric had to get him off with the pliers to save the new cedar plug. We need longer pliers. Mako’s are good to eat, but first you have to kill them, make sure they can’t bite you by cutting off their head or putting a bucket on it (even afer they are dead they can bite), deal with all the blood etc. Size matters and we prefer smaller and safer. –
The sun is out, it’s warmer, not warm, and we have about 90 miles to go to Magdalena Bay. Taking turns resting and in between eating and playing games. Dolphins paid us a short visit.
We did our new normal watch system. I make dinner and head to bed. Eric stays up as long as he can and then wakes me. Tonight it is at 3AM. I bundle up with 2 jackets and seat pants and thick socks. The deck is very damp so staying in the cockpit.
The moon is waning, mid sky, and very bright – full was a week ago.
When the sun came up, the moon was still bright and high in the sky, the stars faded and the planets finally did too.
Then the fog developed. The thought of going into Mag Bay to see what it looks like evaporated with the fog. That would add an extra 20 miles to our trip which is no big deal but timing is everything. We still had about 100 miles to Scorpion so ticking off a few more felt right. Plus everything is closed so meeting locals or going ashore is nil. And looking at it. It was dark and deserted so whats the point?
I’d been to BSM in the Haha, remembered the long beach, and thought maybe I could walk along the shore once more shell shopping. What I forgot is that a panga took us to shore and the surf break was Big. Plus I was really tired by the time we arrived at noon. The whole point of stopping was more about resting. So we both took long naps and enjoyed the scenery behind the point of BSM. It had a Point Loma Point effect going on. 20 knots where we anchored but totally flat seas. The urge to windsurf was there but the need to rest took over.
Spoke to daughter who informed me she is getting an apartment and won’t be managing the house since we are coming home. At 29 I get it but it still hurts a little that she feels so strongly about moving the moment we arrive. She got a raise though, and was only living there to helps out. She wanted to move last year. Baby bird needs to spread her wings. Still have 3 renters so I wrote them a letter for her to read telling them our story and how we look forward to taking them out sailing.
A nice dinner of carnitas and some games and a new Netflix show. So nice to have cell service!
Woke at 4:30 to a clear sky and damp decks. Put our head phones on and up anchored.
Looked for fishing traps and saw something dark to port. With Eric on the bow I asked if he saw it too. Then it moved. And flew in front of the bows! It was a pelican. A flying buoy! LOL
Turtles in the Pacific look like humpbacks. Their shells stick way out of the water and they don’t seem to notice us until we almost right next to them. The motors or sounds of hulls sailing certainly don’t alarm them. We just came really close to hitting one and when I turned the wheel they were midships about 6’ away before it went “agh!” and plunged for safety. Huge barnacles on their back like none I’ve seen before.
We each caught a mystery fish. Bonita perhaps? No book so not sure but it had stripes and so far anything with long horizontal stripes is really dark meat which tastes super fishy. Yuk fish.
So we threw them back. Taking turns bringing them in. The trick is to slow down and with lighter winds this is much easier.
Still fog at 13:30 Normally it burns off but this feels more like June gloom, a tradition in San Diego
Eric points ourt that when we were in Ct and it was this fogged in, pea soup style, we were supper cautious as there were other boats around and we knew they were on they were on the lookout too. Here we know there are few if any boats anywhere virus or otherwise, and we do’t feel the need to look out so often but of there was another boat, it might not be on AIS. We arrive in Santiago Bay, Scorpion Bay, in thick fog but as we get closer and see land, the fog disappears. A long beach with fish pens close to shore. Texting with Jeff Husted sho is talking to his friend Tom who lives here. This iwll be our last good stop before returning home and we’ve been lookihng forward to finally seeing where a few of our friends have property and love to surf.
The fishermen are all leaving the beach in the AM and by 10 they are headed back. I wave one over after watching them clean fish and toss the guts overboard near us. They happily sell us a halibut – I trade 2 NY steaks and probably could have gotten 2 fish for them. The next boat comes right at us and I buy 2 Groupers for 500 pesos ($22) and they clean all 3 fish for us. Cpt requests an El Gato hat. We only have 2 left but I trade him one with the promise of another fish tomorrow. We are now swarmed by fishermen. Turns out they were not allowed to fish until yesterday! Whether it was an embargo against Mexico for violating fishing practices or it was Covid, we don’t know. But these guys are super happy. This is the onluy life they know and the families need to sell fish to eat something other than fish. One holds up a huge halibut and I snap away. They all wave for the photos. It’s a good morning.
Using the Kona to surf, we check out the waves. There are several breaks and I choose the middle, catch a ride to shore and meet 2 men, the last folks on the beach after what was a great morning for surfing. Guy and Greg. They stick around long aeoungh to meet Eric who catches more waves even with the large waterproof backpack. Guy invites us to try his SUP and we take turns but the waves are almost gone now. Must get out there earlier but today we had “stuff” to do. Because the tide will be low later tomorrow it will fit my schedule better. 10:30! We walk around the town, meet Chino and his wife who show us Mike and Erin Howard’s house for sale. It is not at all what I expected. But the tiny house next door is what I would want if we bought something here. 2 story, with charm. M’s was old style and I bet it had some epic times with family and friends back in the days. They live in Oregon now and it looks like he hadn’t been here in years. Chino gives us a lift to Tom’s house, Jeff’s friend. He’s not home so we walk to Guys. He gives us a tour. His house is really cool. Love the xeroscape and he shows off his tiles in his shower that used natural rocks from the beach and broken colorful tiles with a sun burst.
Getting back to the boat was fast. The wind was honking, the kiters were out, and I knew that if we missed the landing we would be goners. I put my paddle in the sky and sailed almost as fast as paddling. Definitely faster than if there were no wind. Mahi for dinner! For sure we will be eating fresh fish daily now.
6/13. It’s always wonderful to watch the sun rise and last night because the moon came up late we had a star studded sky. The breaking waves all night long lull us to sleep.
I may not cook anymore. After making a new delicious dip for the halibut and letting Eric try it… silence. I’ve decided he is much pickier than I like. I scolded him and said pretend you like it unless you hate it. Too much effort for blasé responses. Then I asked him to grab the cheese. So what does he do? He astarts doing discing laps around the boat timing himself. I needed cheese treated for God sake and he is being silly.
He says need to chill. You should never piss off the chef . Unless you want to east carrots for the rest of your cruising life.
WE are laughing at all fo this but he has been warned. Don’t piss off the chef!!!
Fresh halibut is on the menu, along with Mom’s black bean recipes with rice and grated cheese. It was delicious and we have enough for 3 more dinners unless I cook bigger pieces which I shrink Eric would like. It was like butter, melt in your mouth fish that tastes so mild! Made a new sauce with dill, sour cream, mustard, lemon and capers to go on top.
The weather looks like we should be leaving now to go home but we are not ready. SB is growing on us. It’s so calm in the AM’s and the waves are small so we can both enjoy them on our boards that are not meant for surfing. And today we plan to windsurf as everyday the wind howl in the afternoon sea breeze that’s a thermal.
Sad news about Kokopelli in san Blas. They were heading to Linden Bay to fly home and the engine caught on fire. They couldn’t put it out and it burned to the waterline in 40 minutes! They were able to grab passports etc but when your home burns down it is sadder than sad. These 2 were the ones who took us snorkeling off the reef near the “lagoon”, sent the mola artists to us, and came over for dinner. Very friendly and helpful and we enjoyed meeting them. The San Blas community of sailors is small but strong. Their friends are devastated too. The good news is they are OK. But it is a reminder that we need to be diligent and careful. Lucky they were not way out to sea. And they rarely moved the boat so maybe it was a maintenance issue. I rely heavily on Eric to keep things moving smoothly and his fastidiousness is a huge asset. Our engines are old and they need lots of love. He changes the oil at the minimum hours recommended and checks them regularly whether we are sailing or not. That doesn’t mean a fire can’t happen, but maybe it will help? If we had one I’d rely on him to put it out and me to grab stuff. We have a fire blanket under the galley sink so I’d grab that first and toss it to Eric, then inflate the life raft and get the dinghy down. Too many stories of life rafts blowing away. The dinghy would have an engine and be more comfortable. Some day when this is all over I should take a safety at sea seminar. Then we will know all the things that could go wrong and what to do. Agh!
Today we are going to place El Gato stickers in the fishing boats after they go home. Hope they are cool with that but we think it would be funny. And no one has ever turned us down for those stickers. Usually they ask for more.
There is a trimaran that arrived with owner Shawn and his GF Marissa and dog Cocoloco, a small mix of chihuahua and Sheltie? Mini Lucy. She is from South Africa and he from SoCal. He came over to the boat in Cabo and was a monologue person. He spewed conspiracy theories and left us shaking our heads. She;s really fun and weYesterday on the beach we met the man who owned Tillman, a famous dog that surfed, skateboarded etc and he says made him lots of money. He knows some stories about Shawn from S’s brother.
Surfing here is the best I’ve ever experienced. Like skiing, I am afraid of crowds. Afraid I will hurt myself or someone else orbe in the way. When the kids were little I got into it and loved to surf near the house with the boys in the hood. Daryl would push me into waves and encourage me to paddle harder. Eventually I would catch them on my own and exhilarate in the feeling of sliding and riding down a wave. One summer in particular the water was warm enough to wear a bikini, no wetsuit. The next summer was most likely cold, and I took a break. When the kids were big enough to learn to I got them out there. Chelsea took surf camp when she was pretty small and they both were riding on the boogie boards almost as soon as they could swim. Both kids are very good surfers now and I’m just beginning to get back into it.
Warm water helps a a lot! And no crowds here. The virus has kept the tourists away and the locals are relishing the time with each other. There are as many women as men and of all ages from girls to grandmas.
*****Memoirs of a Wind Goddess – the title to this book suggested by Eric.*****
Today was pure entertainment in the water. Couples on boards together holding hands while standing and riding waves, a man tossing his GF in his arms and effectively rolling her around, a small black pug dancing on the bow with his owner, a teenage girl catching waves on her knees on a longboard and then popping up after she was sure she had caught the wave. I’ve tried this technique and like it too. But am mostly standing and learning to paddle harder and faster, choking down on the paddle and bending my knees more. I rode my longest waves and they never even break until you are almost on the beach!
Eric paddled in with our trash and a backpack. Guy loaned me an SUP meant for surf and I loved it. We rode on the ATV to explore the town some more. It’s small but spread out. Dirt roads except for the main one into town. The grocery store in minimal. The tortilla store owned and operated my Maria and Chino also sells gas. It is in a barrel with a tube that feeds into bottles which then are used to fill the tanks. Old school. We put a Gato sticker on the door and Maria asked kindly if she could have one too for her car. She was wearing a tiger shirt, carrying her grand baby. Of course! Our plan to put them on the boats was postponed until we have something to clean the boats with so the stickers will stay in place. We have 14 for distribution and Scorpion Bay will have more stickers than any place we’ve been. Since we are going home we can order more. Wish we had more XL shirts so we could give one to Guy.
Invited Guy to dinner and he paddled out but fell in the surf so was soaking wet. We gave him some of Erics dry and warm clothes. It’s been cool at night with the thermal still going at 8PM.
Did not windsurf as I was knackered from 2 sessions and a very tired back. Took a little nap and then did the dinner. Chilli rubbed shrimp with a salsa in a martini glass. Eric loved it! Will make again. The halibut fell apart when I flipped it so it was in pieces for dinner but the beans and rice were still the best. I wonder if one day of freshness makes a difference or the fact that I turned it more than once. Probably the latter.
The vibe here is small community and special. Met Cami on the water who explained she only looks at news every other day and has moved here with her sons and husband from San Diego. Life is simpler and lovely. Her sons play in the surf with their Mexican friends and go to school here too.
I’m watching the weather and there is a system predicted, starting near the pecker, and goes out to sea. But it’s 13 days out and things change. I watch it to see if more than one model predicts it. So far just one. When 3 or 4 show the same, I can bet it will happen. But usually that’s 1 week away. LIke the time we sailed down from the Chespapeake. So nice to know what to expect! With almost 500 miles left to go home we want to stay here as long as possible. Hurricane season is upon us and yet, the big storms are normally in September and the water is still cool. Not so cool I have to wear a wetsuit though!!!
The bees are attracted to El Gato. In the Sea of Cortez and below, they came for the water on our back step. Sometimes we were swarmed and I took showers inside. Other times they would be inside the boat trying to figure out how the honey got here. Where is the hive???
Maybe it’s the color scheme. We have slate which looks almost black, and sunflower yellow on white decks and hulls. Bee colors. Now they are landing in my cup of tea! Attracted to the honey no doubt.
Afternoon spent windsurfing across the bay. Enough wind for us to fly, not consistent enough for the kites. We raced back and forth from 2nd break to the place where the kites launch. Brushing by El Gato. I used the small skeg and never fell. Eric fell plenty. Normally he blasts past me in this wind which was averaging `17. More in gusts. I felt strong and in control. He says that was the fastest he’s seen me. 🙂
The daily paddling and now windsurfing is making my arms sore but I can feel the strength growing. We invited people over for cocktails and had the chili rubbed shrimp cocktail with the large prawns Guy gave us.
She in interesting. Originally from S AFrica. Now a singer and private swim instructor, artist.
He has got the best reputation according to a local named Ron dog Tillmans dad). We are taking him on face value, our experience. Turns out he remembers Eric’s roof rack business.
Waves small and low tide at noon. WE NEED INTERNET!!!
6/17. Long lazy AM.
Merissa is in excruciating pain from her period so I dropped off the rest of my strong brownies. Waned Sean not to touch them. Turns out he bought the boat from Liz Hyorth!
Went to Burros again for internet and fish tacos with limeade. Called Rico and Chad as it was his birthday. A year ago we flew him to kew west to celebrate with him.
Guy threw a BBQ for us and invited all his neighbors. N one showed up and it was sad as they all seem scared of group gatherings even though they’ve been isolated. But Pedro and Eva showed up, local Mexicans. He fishes and she is the English teacher. Which was funny because he translated for her! He also kites and is really really good. Blue eyed like Juan Susio. Good stories and a nice evening. WE had to go find wine at Steve’s after hitting the stores. Nothing after 3PM. We will reciprocate today.
Pedro dives for abalone and I am hopeful to get one to try in exchange for the fish line and hooks. Turns out they are used fora catching sharks which are dried and salted. We learned a lot last night. IK prefer smaller crowds. Just felt bad for Guy.
6/18 still no surf. Eric wants to check out his kites on the beach where they launch. Thew plan: I will drop him off with the stuff and go back out to the boat and grab my phone off the charger. He will walk down the beach and meet me at the dinghy to drag it up the beach. He makes the first drop on the beach and is coming back out when a large wave decides to break in front of me. I have it in gear and hit the throttle just enough to go straight up. Vertical. All the stuff comes sliding back but somehow miraculously I don’t go over backwards, especially with the engine in gear. A near miss. It could have been disastrous. He grabs the 2nd load and I take off just a tad in shock.
We go to Burros again meeting Guy, Sean and Merr??. Politics comes up and Guy declares Trump the best president we’ve ever had. I think he’s joking but before I insert foot realize he’s being honest. Woah.
A small amount of windsurfing but I recognize it’s too much wind for my sail and I’m not feeling good about it after falling and struggling. The other day I did not fall once. Hot shower on the back step and watch the kites is good enough. It’s gusting to 23 knots.
Pedro brought me a secret abalone! Guy gave it to Eric to bring to me, shell and all! I am psyched to figure out how to cook it. The shell will be a treasure
Tossing gatorades to pangas, shells, arrowhead, abalone shells, smiles, and the last day goodbyes.
Elisa – Masseuse and town healer, nurse to Steve Nelson, and new friend. Dinner onboard with Kevin who owns the yellow cat Feet. Exchanging presents. Small fish made from her garden rocks, ancient sharks teeth from her coolection, dried oregano, honey with the comb, and mint chocolates! I also gave her our white bowls and plates from Pottery Barn and West Elm.
Lots of laughs.
Took us to the goat farm and bought cheese, duck eggs (YUK) and took polaroids of the couple who just celebrated 30 years together.
The ATV to go down the beach on our last day. Then champagne at 5 with the old gheezers Steve and Guy. I found lots of shells and saw too many dead turtles and other large dead things.
20 miles of beach with no one but me on it. Against the law to drive on a beach or collect shells in Meixco. I’m an outlaw.
Depart 6:30 into glassy seas and later wind picks up to 20+. We spend the night at Hipolito, anchoring at midnight and serving dinner. Up again at 6:30 and most pangas are gone but a few stop by to say hola and Bien Vieja.
More motoring and sea lions and youngsters come play around us as we pass Asuncion.
Looking at the landscape it seems so barren and devoid of wildlife or vegetation. But we witnessed in Scorpion Bay that the treasures are hidden. Nature survives and thrives differently here.
Growing up in Florida I’m accustomed to greenery and lush landscapes. San Diego has water imported and grows flowers and trees. This is raw desert next to the ocean. Lots of birds, fish, and the 2 thrive. The rest seems imported. Like people and goats. LOL
We were exposed to wind chill and low temperatures last night. It took awhile to get warm but cooking helps. The stove warms the room nicely.
Today we don foul weather gear and boots before take off. I’m reluctant to take mine off.
Friends from Hiolani , Sean, Mariza and dog Cocoloco swapped movies and I’ve been enjoying them. Also reading a book on my phone. No cell service for weeks now so very little communication except with the Inreach. Phone was shut down for roaming today so even if there was service I’ am cut off. T Mobile.
18 miles to Turtle Bay. Earlier landing today so we can look around, figure out where the fuel is sold, and relax.
We sailed up to Ensenada to rest and check out of Mexico. This is where we sorted all our country flags and when we sailed into San Diego Bay, for the very first time on El Gato, we had flags flying from the 49 countries we visited as well as the code flags and fun flags like our Eat Sail Love wedding flag!
Our kids and friends were on the dock with balloons and champagn and we celebrated being home!
This blog is a bit like a ships log. I took notes daily and copied and pasted them here.
The day before we head out, John an d I spot a sloth up in the trees. Seems fitting since I have been craning my neck for weeks trying to see one. They are shy.
March 18, 2020
A big sigh of relief as we heard stories tumbling in from friends who had taken off just weeks and days before us. Our friends on a cat named Sea Bear, Nick and Lauri who we met in the Canary Islands and reunited with in Panama, had sailed to the Galapagos only to be turned away. With 4 on board, they had provisioned for a 900 mile passage, not the extra 2000 miles to the Marquesas. So sail on they did, catching fish and rationing food wisely. Upon arrival at the Marquesas they were told to stay on their boat. One person per week allowed ashore for food and suppies. No swimming off the boat, no paddleboarding, no nada. Lock down in paradise. I can jump ahead now and say that they are happily cruising again but it was pretty messed up for several months. Meanwhile NZ is still in lock down. NO VISITORS IN HURRICANE SEASON!?! Where will all the boas go?
Meanwhile we are entering our first days off the continent, happily exploring and making decisions of which islands to visit and for how long.
The water is warm, there are very few boats, and we are hoping no one has the virus so we can continue north towards Mexico then San Diego. It’s not a bad place to quarantine! Meanwhile all are loading up on Vitamin C.
At Isla Contadora there is cell service – it might be our last communication before taking off so everyone is on their phones. The Latest news is the Canal is not closed yet, but travel to and from Panama will stop on 3/22.
All our neighbors are heading West – a single handed female named Dee on SV Auntie comes over to chat and tell us about the anchorage. Super friendly, she is finishing her circumnavigation in FP. As the reality that we are not going west sinks in; we try and grapple with it.
News flash: the canal is not allowing anyone to arrive that has not already been onboard – line handlers etc. This will severely limit who can go through. And Shelter Bay Marina, the staging marina for all going west is not allowing any workers on sight. Things are shutting down fast. Maybe being forced to sail north isn’t so bad. Costa Rica is now closed but Mexico still open. Ay yay yay
Checked out the Code Zero on our way to the submarine that’s on a beach off Isla San Telmo,
and saw a huge lumbering (sleeping?) sperm whale our starboard side. As we pass it, it wakes up and starts to follow us. Possibly curious. Glad we didn’t get too close. Moby Dick is based on a true story! Then pilot whales pass us as we chase down a Nautitech 40 with a German couple onboard. We anchor close to them near a river off of a gorgeous beach on the south side of Isla Del Rey. With an hour before sunset we hop in the dinghy, stop by to chat with S/V SYBO and head to the river. It’s low tide and we take stunning photos with the light reflecting on the sand.
Tried to go up the river in El Raton but the waves at the mouth were looking dicey. Had to turn around and punch it while a wave broke over us. We don’t have time for accidents. Let’s go sailing!
The guide book talks about a sweet fishing village where you can purchase fresh fish on the beach or from the boats. As we approach the area we notice a couple of boats rafted up and head to wards them. A small panga comes over and we choose 3 large red snappers.
No sooner had we negotiated the price $30, than they were called back to the other ship. Hands were sprayed with disinfectant and they waved us away. 2 armed men on the beach were watching and had sent our another panga to call off the deal. It was confusing to watch but then it all made sense. They are indigenous peoples and the government was protecting them from us, foreigners who may carry the disease. I got a little sad, and it looked like the fishermen were sad too. It felt like the world was shutting down. “Oh the times they are a changin…”
Heading out and true to form for this challenge, the wind is 6 knots on the nose. It could be worse. At least it’s light and not stormy. This is dry season so no rain unlike wet season when it rains too much and there’s lightening. We could have waited for a better window and favorable conditions, but a sense of urgency was starting to rest on us. What if Mexico closes?
Saw dolphins on the end of the last island we passed in Les Perles. That lifts my spirits a bit. Nothing like a little nature to bring reality into check. We are healthy, we are free!
Later a Sperm whale came at us to visit, literally right up to us so I revved up the engine to pull away. Then a Marlin frolicked behind us, jumping at least 10 times! Finally the wind wasn’t against us and we sailed 10 knots for several hours.
Cooked a veggie lunch – sweet potatoes and broccoli/cabbage mash with cheddar. Our first vegetarian meal. The veggies will run out in about a week, but not the potatoes and onions.
For dinner lasagna with eggplant and potatoes, some ground beef. Trying to conserve the meat.
We got cell service from Panama so everyone checked their e mails and called loved ones.
Just learned the Panama Posse coordinator advised anyone who had not left for the Pacific to stay on the mainland. Cook Islands and Tonga closed. Too much uncertainty and they don’t want foreigners. Our friends from Zan and Tourtelle are more than half way and will be stuck on one island indefinitely. No island hopping. Wonder how the 90 day Visa limit will work? For them it doesn’t matter as they are British. For us it would be tricky. We made the right decision but it doesn’t make it easier. Friends John and Simon are realizing they are with us for the long haul. Mexico is stopping non essential travel tomorrow night. We got an email saying they received our reservation at Chiapas but do not know if that will still be available when we arrive. I’d call this essential but will they?
Wind lightened overnight.
Saw dolphins in the phosphorescence! The Red Tide illuminates them and it is surreal! Watching them swim, weaving and dancing around our hulls is a a sight I’ll carry with me forever.
A note comes in from our friend Carin on Serenity. We left her in the San Blas Islands last month. Evidently while she went to town for some medical procedure, they shut down the islands. No one allowed in. Her boat is there and she has to find someone to sneak her in. While she was gone, the guy she left to watch her boat ate most of her food and wine while hosting dinner parties. He split and the local boys helped themselves to her kayaks and the rest of the booze. When I asked her if anyone was helping her out she said she was being treated like she was a leper because she had been in town. Only one person was OK with being in contact with her, a nice French male cruiser. Proving once again the French are fearless on the water.
Had the 6Am watch and saw the sun rise. Always nice to witness. Winds light, 1 engine on.
Made bisquits with sausages and scrambles eggs. Making bread later. With 2 cans of propane we are fine. Today is the last day SDYC will do take away. But they also said they will still keep Opening Day which is mid April. Optimistic!
Maybe grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch? (See how this works? It’s all about wind and food!)
09:45 Caught our first tuna after breakfast. We had just switched to a cedar plug, Gary Weisman’s survival kit. Thinking the lure that sinks and swims a lot may have been scaring them off because we’ve seen tuna all morning with no luck until the switch. Dolphins came to play on the bow between bites.
It’s a smallish Tunny, dark meat, so best for ceviche. Should have thrown it back.
The wind picks up so we can sail fast towards Isla Vicaron, and the anchor is down before sunset. There’s a swell and I worry that in the night, when the wind changes, we might be stern to the beach with waves breaking over us. (Didn’t happen)
We enjoy a swim in warmer water than LP, and then cocktails while I make sushi to order. Fresh nutty bread with olive oil dip is the appetizer.
Dominos to finish the eve and we all crash happily to the sound of waves crashing on the beach.
At sunrise we are turned around into the new wind direction, 80, and the waves are smaller but now and then a set has us going up and down. The anchor set in 7 meters and now we are in 3.5.
But the wind is approx 15 knots and we can sail! No exploring this island which quite frankly should not be considered one the prettiest on the planet (according to the cruising guide it is).
There are howler monkeys, turtles, and Palm trees however so that kinda cool.
Eric calls for Stella (our spinnaker) and a full main.
He drives even though he’s off watch and is really happy, especially after checking our boards for damage from the logs we hit at full speed 2 days ago.
Wind picks up and goes forward so we douse the Stella and deploy the Gordo (fat reacher). Smoking along at 8-10 knots. The current has been against us since we turned the bottom corner of Panama. John warns us it will be an upwind bash going home along the Baha.
That’s so far away right now I can’t think about it. Tonight we will enter Cost Rican waters. We have our quarantine flag up so if anyone approaches we will start coughing. That is the new plan to keep anyone away.
The ships going to and from Panama are in a shipping lane to our port side. We stay closer to shore but off far enough to catch wind and sail less miles.
Around 4PM with barely any wind and port engine on, we landed a 58’ Mahi Mahi! It was Simon’s turn to reel one in. This was the longest fish we’ve ever caught on El Gato and Eric did an excellent job of gaffing him. I drove the boat to keep the fish behind us or make it easier to reel in, John helped Eric by tying a line around his tail, and we were all excited because this meant a fish dinner, or probably 4 dinners. It’s sad to watch the fish change colors as it dies. It starts out vibrant turquoise and emerald green mix and starts to fade even before it’s on the boat. By the time we had him cut he was mostly blue flecks over grey.
For dinner it was rice and beans, pineapple salsa, panko crusted Mahi, and Giradelhi brownies.
A quiet night of watches.
We got cell service at 3AM to download emails and check on line. I posted our fish photos on FB. Some folks following us are happy to see what we are up to while they sit at home working, home schooling, or watching Netflix. We can’t imagine what it must be like back home and are grateful to be out here in fresh air. The real question for us is will Mexico accept us, and when will the boys fly home. Eric and I would like to continue cruising the coast making wise choices on weather windows without a deadline.
John would like to be home by April 20th, JPL is shut down but he runs out of sick days by then. Simon has a kid in high school and would like to be a good parent and share the responsibilities. We figure if we can land in Chiapas and check in, refuel and reprovision, then we will continue up to Barre de la Navidad which is less industrial. Time will tell. Meanwhile the emails from the PPJ were so plentiful that our iridiumGo box was too full and would time out. I finally had to delete all the mail and may never know what folks wrote. But the InReach is great. I updated it to unlimited. The texts must be less than 160 characters including spaces but it’s better than waiting for IG to download. IR is instant and it rings so I know when someone has communicated. Nothing like a good back up system that turns out better than the original. IG is priceless for weather routing though and it is working flawlessly with PredictWind.
Its hot and calm and we are just off Costa Rica.
The latest news from the PPJ is that yachts cannot clear in, but they can stay. Perhaps that will help with the visa time limitations. Only one person can go to shore, only 2 dinghies at the dock at a time, and they can only go for food or repairs. Still no swimming allowed.
Sounds awful. Feeling sorry for the boats that went.
Caught a small Mackerel and let it go.
We have been sailing in the afternoon thermal breeze that only ECMWF has forecast correctly.
Speed over ground, SOG is around 6 knots with 10 knots true wind speed. Current is always against us and probably will be the whole way north.
Weird day for Boobies…. Caught a Boobie who chased our lure. Twice! Dragged it though the water, it came off when we slowed down and then it went to eat our lure again, got caught, got off. Then at sunset 2 Bobbies landed on our mast, flat top main, squaking. We tried to shoo them away so they don’t hurt our wind wands. Took photos.
Tonight another green flash like last night, and then more dolphins playing off the bows. A light show that is magical!
Wind on the nose, very light. Slow going.
And then the wind picks up as we get close to a point. We call these Pt Loma puffs. One reef and the Flacko and we are scooting along nicely dodging ships and land. Winds lay back down and we shake the reef.
3/24 Tuesday Another gorgeous day with blue skies and flat seas.
Everyone feels rested and relaxed.
For lunch we have mahi mahi fish tacos and then the boys take a swim. It’s really calm now. As we get closer to shore in CR we have cell service and I communicate with friends on Baja Fog in Barre de la Navidad. They inform me that Mex is soon closing up and cruisers, once checked in, will not be allowed to move around. This has my head spinning. Would Chiapaps be better than Barre to be stuck? Neither idea is appealing, and while Eric sleeps the boys and I discuss options. They are all in for sailing all the way home. Now we really need to conserve fuel. And while it was supposed to be windy here it is in fact light with the swells building from the right where the shore is. Are these left over or is there something coming? So far the predictions have been mostly wrong. Nothing about thermal winds which everyday we’ve had later in the day. Could be leftover or could be something big coming. Might be a long night because it’s super uncomfortable. If one were prone to seasickness they would be stuck on the side barfing. Its even hard to walk. The waves are steep and close together and on the side. Yuk.
Saw another green flash.
Simon has offered to cook tonight and I’ve given him the ingredients for fish curry. It was the worst night to cook considering the awful sea state and I am grateful to take a break.
Everyone says they are good eating less and thank goodness because we have already run out of most veggies. Still some onions, potatoes and carrots left, one mango, 4 limes, 2 oranges, 2 apples, 2 lemons, 6 juicy red tomatoes, one voluptuous watermelon, frozen broccoli and spinach. Hoping we can go in for fuel and provision and depart again quickly on Chiapas. John will call ahead and question them when we are close. If we stay 12 miles out we are in international waters and they can’t make us check in or stay.
Our quarantine flag is flying.
Saw a basking shark today from the bow. It was only a few feet away! Tons of dolphins and turtles. Love how much sea life there is down here!
I’ve been up since 5am but can’t sleep on my off watch. Too many decisions and weird weather. Gotta keep moving and groovin’!
Crazy night of side waves, wind picked up but not going to head up at night into a shipping channel to raise the main. It was slamming so much earlier we took it down. A ship named AAL Genoa has been changing course, us too with the Flacko up and heading down 10 degrees. Keeping a good eye on them. Otherwise we should be able to avoid any ships. He seems to be turning towards San Sebastian. CPA less than a mile. Prefer 2!
Raised the main at 6AM and hoisted TIGGER! Eric says it took him longer than usual to get him out of the bow locker because Stella was sitting on his face. LOL The wind went forward and decreased to 9 knots and we sheeted the spin in for a tighter reach. Full Main. Then BAM!
Around 8:30 the active spin sheet broke at the knot. Eric woke up to help me and John retrieve it.
The lazy sheet got caught around the leeward daggerboard. We got the landing pole AKA boat hook and retrieved the end of it but tied it up for now. Too windy even backing down to get it unstuck from the board. Wind back up to 22 kts and sailing with full main and Flacko.
Apple mango pancakes for brekkie.
Hitting 22 kts TWS at 10AM and surfing small waves from the stb qtr.
There is a wind window in this gulf that will eventually close. So getting the best of it and loving it for now!
Wind eventually died and we motor sailed, then motored.
It was still a bit lumpy but relatively calm and no wind so we stopped, Eric jumped in, I looked for sharks and had a line to toss him, and he cleared the board within a minute. Had to swim under the board which was all the way down. Happy that was so easy.
3rd green flash night in a row.
Funniest thing tonight: John looked out for traffic at dinner (pizza) and said there is a boggie off the port bow. Eric looked – it was the moon setting! So Eric says CPA (closest point of approach) – 2 million miles!
In actuality Simon was right – it’s 234,000 miles away. We had to Google it to make sure.
We haven’t seen it at all because it sets so early so it’s just a fingernail. Had a good giggle.
Pretty calm day – not much wind so lots of motoring, especially after hearing from Betsy that we can indeed check into Chiapas without risk of being stuck there. The boys made the decision to fly home while they still can. They were willing to stay with us for the duration but the truth is we would like to slow down and cruise home. There is no hurry to get back to a country in quarantine. And once we refuel and reprovision we should have plenty to keep us going for another month or so. Plus now we know of places we can stop on the way to get more fuel even if we can’t go to shore. We have new jerry cans bought in Panama on our last day there. Just in case. As the safety officer I’m always trying to prepare for worst case scenarios. That way they don’t happen but if they do, we are not caught unprepared.
The highlight of the day was seeing wildlife. Saw numerous turtles lounging and never scurrying to get away from the boat. Even had 2 go between the bows. One had a Boobbie on his back!
And the marlin that jumped close to the boat? That was spectacular! The dolphins continue to frolic off our bows but I still can’t get enough of them at night when they look like topedoes all lit up leaving squiggly trails. The movie Life of Pi shows a whale scene where the whale is all lit up at night and one can imagine that this happens and how insane that would be to experience firsthand! I challenge IMax to capture THAT on film!
We continued to put main up and down, roll our jibs and genoas in and out as wind allowed or didn’t. THE ENGINES HAVE NEVER BEEN USED THIS HARD OR THIS LONG.
We have a goal to get to Chiapas in the daylight.
Up since 2AM we finally get close enough to shore to get cell service. We all hop on our phones when we awake to check in with the world back home.
I hear from friends we met in Lanzarote before crossing the Atlantic back in 2015! Friends with Mexican cruising knowledge are fast to send us tips and advice on where to go, where not to go. I’m so absorbed I can’t sleep on my off watch and am up until 11. Pass out a couple hours, then make homemade bread, then grill cheese prociutto sandwiches.
The crew devours them as we discuss our news from home.
We will arrive before dark. The wind has finally cooperated but the current is still 2 knots on the bow. We’ve been fighting that for over 24 hours. The wind has been mostly on the nose too. Hence the iron genny’s.
We can feel the end of this chapter closing soon. It will be different without the crew, it’s been special sharing this adventure with them and they’ve been a great help. They would not leave if we felt we needed them. But Eric and I have done a lot of miles on our own and somehow sailing off of Mexico feels like we are super close to home. But it’s still almost 2000 miles to San Diego!
We will take our time. If we can. So many uncertainties. Just found out our son in Madagascar was sent home to USA by the US Embassy. He teaches school over there. And of course the other 4 kids in the USA are in lockdown. One is a principle for experiential learning at a group of charter schools in SF and is doing virtual learning with students.
2 are in San Diego working from home and kid #5 just had her wedding last month. The timing was good and early enough that no one shared the virus thank goodness considering it was in snow country, close quarters for everyone, and some came from NY. Chelsea cancelled he flight to the wedding. In hindsight we think she had Covid. If she hadn’t gotten the symptoms until she had already arrived at the wedding, who knows how many people would have suffered or even died. Dodged that bullet by a couple of days. Whew.
We are sailing up the coast and sometimes very close to the beach. As safety officer I get nervous. As renegade sailor who likes to go fast and also look at waves, Eric likes to go closer. The compromise is when the swell lifts us up 4’ we tack. Or if there is a sand bar (barre) ahead.
Both engines are blazing and we should arrive at sunset.
It’s amazing after 1000 miles how the landing can work out so close to dark.
I’m ready with hand sanitizer for the immigration officers. Have tidied up the boat and will cook mahi for last supper. Tonight we will drink alcohol for the first time in over a week. John claims it’s the longest he’s ever gone without. LOL No one here is an alcoholic but when we are sailors and it’s our culture and release to drink spirits, you wonder sometimes. The good thing is no one missed a drop and it’s easy to go without when you’re at sea. Eric and I never drink offshore. Seems like a bad idea. Even when it’s calm out. We wear life vests at night no matter what the conditions are. Good habits that are easy to implement on others.
But tonight? Tonight we are gonna party a little bit!
Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua,
El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico – all in 9 days?!?
As we coast along this beach we see lots of palapas. Beach houses! The sand is not white or yellow, rather volcanic looking so not as pretty as the Caribbean. Lots of palm trees though.
We didn’t get close to shore for most of the trip up.
Entered before sunset! Huge swells. Close hauled up the coast. Eric pushing it.
Upon arrival, 2 guys, Ronny and Polo take our lines.
Then the Harbor Master and the Navy show up with full Covid gear including masks and gloves!
Before sunset, Ronny, Polo, then the Harbor master and Navy with the German Shepard.
All very chill and cool. Everyone smiling, polite, and careful.
We meet Miquel who was nicknamed El Pato as a kid, and then El gato! Are you kidding me?
We booked a tour with him after Eric cleared us in which took hours and hours.
Simon, John and I went to the Mayan ruins,
a house where ladies made delicious tamales, Bought 4, then onto a house where a lady makes artisanal chocolate. And tortillas! Finished up with hot chocolate. Bought a Mexican shirt, some chocolate and she gave me a fan as a gift.
The boys booked tickets out of the wrong airport. Oops! Miguel takes them to the correct airport which is empty, and then takes me to Sam’s club letting me borrow his card. No one inside has a mask on except me and El Gato. I also wear gloves. When I try to buy 2 cartons of eggs I am told only one per family. They are starting to get it.
Now that Eric and I are on our own, and understand that Mexico is open for us to cruise north, we can take a breath and plan. We will sail north slowly, choosing our ports based on how many miles in a day can we go and still anchor and sleep at night. Our first trip will be crossing the Tehuanatepec which is famous for gnarly winds and sea states. The window is soon, and we are ready to head over to Huatulco!
The disappointment of not sailing west is slowly melting away. There are new adventures waiting for us. And discovering Mexico one port east a time seems like a really cool alternative. We just need to stay safe and healthy.
Uno Dos Tres, here we go!
Next blog will be about the Pacific Coast of Mexico.
Last March we thought we were headed to the Marquesas. Little did we know how fast the Virus was spreading or how much it would affect our plans… I took notes and am finally catching up on our travels. The next blog will have more photos. Promise.
Now that our last crew member for the Pacific crossing, Simon Garland had arrived on literally the last flight into Panama from San Diego, and the 4 girl friends, Marci, Sarah, Dianimal, and Teri had flown home after scratching plans to visit the old city (who knew when the airport would shut down), I needed to shop for the 3+ week crossing to the Marquesas. Better to shop for a month just in case. That’s a lot of food!!!But we have a large top loading fridge, 2 drawer type freezers, and tons of space for storing dry goods and drinks.
Sharing an Uber with a fellow Catana owner we headed to the big grocery store in town, often located in malls in when abroad. Upon arrival we enjoyed a nice lunch and the owner, a young woman who spoke perfect English served up delicious food with healthy ingredients. Her good taste coupled with a variety of ingredients made our tummies happy. The plan was to split up and meet after grocery shopping to share a cab home.
Truth is I am a distracted shopper with others. It bothers me to have someone with me. I prefer to explore, especially in new countries and stores, take my time going up and down every isle, discovering what is different on their shelves, making decisions on the fly. Yes there is a list, but seldom do I stick to it because I find things I didn’t know were there. More fun to roam and imagine this or that with that or this. My culinary skills are decent, and it’s fun to think of all the possibilities as I can cook most anything on the boat. We tossed the grill out years ago when Eric decided he’d had enough of cleaning the damn thing before putting it away. So everything is cooked indoors and I’ve got all the gadgets. Growing up in 3 generations of grocers, food has always been front and center in our houses. The joke is while we are all gathered and enjoying a great meal, we are planning the next one. My mother taught us how to celebrate with meals, and my sisters take great delight in cooking up amazing dishes that make my mouth water just thinking about them. I am the baby so it’s a tough act to follow but I try.
There was no way for me to finish shopping by the time we had agreed on. Luckily we bumped into each other in the store and extended the departure time. Sadly I was never going to be able to finish provisioning. My cart was filled with dry goods and I had only studied the meats, cheeses and veggies thinking I would return alone the following day and take my time choosing and planning carefully. There were 4 mouths to feed, and a well fed crew is important.
What no one anticipated was Covid restrictions would be implemented that night. The next day only 50 people were allowed inside the store at a time, masks required, and 6’ apart outside while waiting. When I returned the line was around the block. Not being a patient woman I asked the driver to take me to the market that sold fresh produce called Mesca Panama. It wasn’t too far and well worth the extra Uber fare. Imagine Costco with rows and rows of produce, only produce, and imagine 10 of them next to each other. That’s how big this fresh market was. No lines, locals picking out their goods, and my driver was so kind he helped me carry the produce and loaned me $50 as my card wouldn’t work in the local ATM’s. Even he was astonished at how quickly the world was changing in his own country.
Loaded up with fresh things, we were still lacking meat, milk, butter, and cheese. He took me to small Chinese owned stores (they are everywhere on every island in every country) and I was able to go right in and snap up the frozen chicken, sausages, chips, cookies, vodka, gin, and single wrapped butters. It wasn’t what I had hoped for, but I learned my lesson. Shop alone, take your time, and don’t share a cab when you are going to fill it up with your food and drinks! There’s no room for others. Anyway, I was certain we had plenty of provisions as I had stocked up on rice, beans, flour, and other dried goods that would far outlast the fresh things that would be gobbled up first.
Once we provisioned and fueled up, all we had to do was clear out of Panama, head to the Pearl Islands and self quarantine for a few days while exploring a beautiful area. We figured if Simon caught the bug on his flight into Panama, one of us would feel something within 3-5 days. And if we started sailing to Marquesas and someone got sick, we could turn back. We were not counting on 14 days to get sick, more like 10. Seemed like a good plan.
3/17 Our appointment for clearing out is at 11 at Flamingo Marina where our friends on Supertramp are located. They too were excited to sail to the Marquesas. Turns out they are stuck because their dad can’t fly home to England, no one is allowed in, and he needs meds and can’t get them shipped. The local clinics are closed for anything except an emergency. Covid nightmares are starting to become real. We can’t wait to get out of here.
John Forgrave and I ride our fold up bikes to customs and spot a sloth in a tree on the way. I’ve been craning my head up for weeks trying to spot one and it was fitting to see it on our last day.
After the documents are signed we head to the fishing store and notice a message on my phone saying to call our yacht insurance agent. “Urgent!” Our insurance covered us in the Med, the Caribbean, and we thought the premium was going down for the Pacific but we paid extra to go through the Panama Canal, were requested to have a rig survey, $$, and we thought it was all under control. But, now we are told our insurance company won’t cover, nothing we did or didn’t do, the company is changing its policies, and if we cross the Pacific we will not be covered. Wait WHAT?!? It took our breath away. So much planning that I can’t begin to write about it, not to mention juggling friends schedules, our mainsail drama and Panama Canal deadlines, all to be told we can’t go to the party. We were devastated. Then Mad, Then Sad. Then we tried to come up with a solution. Switch insurance companies right? Not as easy as you might hope or think. We asked other cruisers who they used, especially those heading west, and we just couldn’t sort it out. Friends tried to help but to no avail. The hurricanes Irma and Maria had made a terrible impact on insurance companies and as far as we could tell we were stuck. So we threw up our hands as we watched our fellow cruisers head off. It was sickening.
So, the new plan was to head to Les Perles, enjoy them while we self quarantined, then sail north. All countries were closing their borders so we would sail straight through to Mexico, approx. 1000 miles. If we could check in at Chiapas Mexico, John and Simon could fly home to their families who were now worried about them and Covid in general. As you recall, most everyone was in a state of shock and panic in the beginning. And in the days that followed we embraced the new plan. All of us were in shambles, scratching our heads in bewilderment, wondering how did this happen? It was a Toal curve ball but like seeing a big wind shift, you have to adjust your sails and go the right way.
I actually started to get excited. Since the door to the Pacific crossing was closed, we would make the very best of the circumstances. We’d never cruised Mexico. We had however raced there over the years on others boats. I’d raced to Manzanillo with Dennis Conner on Retaliation (1st), had done the MEXORC a couple times, and competed in the Women’s IYRU Worlds in Acapulco 1983 on a windsurfer (3rd). We’d both raced to Ensenada and Eric was on the winning team of Double Bullet to Puerto Vallarta. When you’re racing seldom do you leave the race site to explore your surroundings. It’s all about hanging out with your friends and swapping sea stories. In Mexico this also mean gorging on fish tacos and drinking enormous quantities of tequila. This time we would take our time sailing up the coast unless Mexico went on lock down and closed their borders. El Gato had enough stores, water, and fuel to go all the way home so we were ready for anything. Our water maker was working well and the tanks hold 200 gallons. The fuel consumption can be like sipping when we use one engine, low RPMs, and there’s wind. Eric figured we could go over 1500 miles with both tanks full. We were ready for anything and the boys were willing to sail all the way home if that’s what was needed. Staying 12 miles offshore would keep us in international waters if Mexico closed too. We had a fluid plan.
BONUS! Our permanent slip at San Diego yacht Club was assigned to us in November on the same day I won the Women’s Hobie World Championships! Boy was that a day we’ll never forget. With only 6 out of 600 slips big enough for cats we were fortunate to be at the top of the list when one came vacant. The timing was perfect.
How cool to be home with our yacht, embrace our community, share our stories, see our kids and friends, and wait out the Covid storm in a place that has good medical facilities. The more we thought about it, the better it felt.
There were still uncertainties, but at least we were going in the direction that was somewhat familiar. I speak enough Spanish to get by, and learned in the Med that even without language, we can communicate with others. I’d given our Spanish for Cruisers book to a fellow cruiser in Panama thinking we would not need it. Bad move. And we had no cruising books on Mexico, not one shred of info other than Navionics that now includes Active Captain. AC has been really helpful over the years. People can write comments about the place and leave a marker so when you zoom in on a chart you can read their thoughts and opinions and sage advice. We knew we could get home and would figure it out along the way. At least we still have weather forecasts with PredictWind.
A big sigh of relief as we heard the stories tumbling in from friends who had taken off just weeks and days before us. Sea Bear, who we met in the Canal Islands, and reunited with in Panama, had sailed to the Galapagos only to be turned away. Never was I more relieved about not having spent the time effort and money to make reservations for Galapagos this year. With 4 on board, they had provisioned for that 900 mile passage, not the extra 2000 miles to the Marquesas. So sail on they did, catching fish and rationing food wisely. And upon arrival they were told to stay on their boat. One person per week allowed ashore for food and suppies. No swimming off the boat, no paddleboarding, no nada. Lock down in paradise. I can jump ahead now and say that are happy and cruising again but it was pretty messed up for several months. And NZ is still in lock down. NO VISITORS IN HURRICANE SEASON!
OK So now we are headed to Les Perles with our new Code Zero, our friends on board, to quarantine. We tell our family and friends, and set sail for a 35 mile jaunt to Les Perles. First stop is Isla Contadora. We leave after our new friends on Dualaseas, a Catana 50′, and pass them. Always the racers, we love to sail efficiently. After dropping the hook, we talk on the radio to them because, well, there’s Covid. We can’t do the normal cruising thing and invite them for sundowners.
There are a handful of sailboats here, all waiting for a good weather window to make the big crossing to the Marquesas. A woman rows up in her dinghy to chat. She is single handing her way across and tells us there are 2 other women doing the same. It is exciting to hear as we’d just met a young man who was on his own as well.
Still swallowing our own news, we need to decompress and embrace the fact that we are healthy and blessed. We have food, water, friends onboard, and can make it all the way home if the world comes to that. And that my friends, is the beauty of having a sailboat with 2 engines and full tanks, lots of sails, and fishing rods!
March 10 – Departed San Blas with Teri, Sarah, Diana, and the rescued mainsail. How nice to have our boat whole again and sail!
It’s approx. 70 miles, a day sail to Shelter Bay Marina, on the Caribbean side of the Panama Canal, where we would meet up with Marci and John Forgrave on 3/11.
2 days after lie left San Blas it was closed due to Covid 19. Our mainsail was 48 hours away from unable to retrieve. Sovereign Grace, the yacht that delivered it to us would wind up being a ship without a port. Captain John is now building an organic farm in Colombia with his wife and kids. He was unable to deliver a note to Club Nautico’s Manager John with a tip inside but it’s not a priority anymore. The thought was there and John knows how thankful we were as we stayed in touch with both of them on WhatsAPP, the norm for anyone outside the USA.
The timing was not lost on us. Less than 2 weeks later Colombia closed its borders. We stayed one step ahead of many closures as the days ticked by.
SBM is one of our favorite marinas (truth is we rarely go to marinas) because yachts and crews are ready to or just did the transit, and have big plans for the coming year.
The energy is intoxicating.
The docks are full of boats and their crews, unlike many marinas where people park and leave. Cruising the Caribbean or crossing the Pacific are where the majority are headed. Some go north towards the USA, stopping in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, San Salvador, Guatemala and/or Mexico, some south to Colombia, Ecuador, Peru or Chile, but most continue exploring and very few are Americans unless they are Canadians. Many Canadians are cruisers but we rarely meet our countrymen. They tend to stay close to home. Bahamas, Catalina Island are their comfort zones. What happened to the land of the free and the brave? Nevermind. Eric and I do our best to represent our country and almost always fly the Stars and Stripes off our stern.
We attend the meeting for the Pacific Puddle Jumpers and meet others who are setting off on the same great adventure. A few boats we met 5 years earlier as we prepared to cross the Atlantic. Some we’ve just met and bond with immediately. This is going to be a grand adventure so gathering info and materials is important.
At SBM, the Caribbean side of the canal, there’s a bus to town for provisions and a sail loft on site to repair or order more sails. A pool, showers, a smart friendly helpful marina manager named Juan,
a small store, laundry services and a restaurant means you have everything you need right there . There’s a resident crocodile so no swimming near the boats. A handful of boats stay a long time either to wait out the weather or more often to wait for crew, parts and sail repairs.
Walk across the road and you are in the jungle hearing and quite often see howler monkeys, various types of parrots, and a plethora of flora and fauna. There are relics from days of US servicemen stationed here as well.
We often heard the howlers from the boat at day break and sun down.
The sound carries, and it’s similar to something made for a horror movie, a deep roaring monster.
Once a week there is a cruisers potluck, a good way to meet others and share experiences and info on islands and nations, and to share ideas on how to fix, install, find parts, and get things done. There’s a daily AM cruisers net on VHF radio to share info and greet those who have just arrived, and say adios to those leaving. It is a fluid community filled with characters that could fill a best selling novel.
On Mardi Gras the marina hires locals to dance for the cruisers on the docks.
Some of the Kunas set up shop for the World Arc that has already departed. I bought a couple molas and some beaded jewelry of which the ladies are covered in. The women love color and so do I! Still wearing my beads 4 months later as they don’t come off until they break. Evidently they use strong string.
3/11 The girls help us clean the boat for the new guests. Upon arrival we request the new guests to take showers and wash off the airport germs, then I head off to provision for the transit. There is a rule that you must feed your advisors in the transit or they get grumpy and could order food delivered which is costly. That’s not happening on El Gato!
3/12 Our appointment for the transit has been confirmed by the agent we hired to do all the paperwork and get us cleared. He tells us to watch the advisor closely. If he is on his phone a lot, and something bad happens, we should have photos of him on the phone to prove he was not paying attention. We’ve been hearing about canal nightmares lately and I’m getting nervous. We love our boat. The instructions are to be at anchor outside the marina near the canal at such and such Lat Long 2 hours ahead of schedule. If we are not in the assigned area the agent says the advisor will go away, we will pay a huge fine, and we will have to wait a few more days to get back on the list. We have received the large inflatable buoys and lines that we rented and we’re ready to rock and roll!
We are there by 1PM with a 4 Pm transit confirmed. Then we wait. And wait. Not my strong suit. We watch as other boats who came out later than us are boarded and head towards the canal. It’s 5PM. We call our agent, the port authorities, and get no answers. At 6PM a boat comes to us and a man jumps onboard and says “let’s go!”.
We offer him water. Someone goes below to fill a glass and he throws a fit. “THE AGENT IS SUPPOSED TO TELL YOU I MUST HAVE BOTTLED WATER!” We assure him this is filtered lovely water and he wants to know the agents name, birthdate, address, phone number, company name, and first born’s name so he can go find him and scream. It takes hours for me to get him to relax and do his job without anger. My team building muscles are being stretched and eventually he is calm. Must have had a bad day so far. Once things are less stressful Eric does a great job of asking him questions about the canal. He loves the attention of being considered an expert and starts telling stories. It was a rough start that ended well. The food was hearty and plentiful and he was not afraid to help himself.
We head towards the canal as the sun is setting.
The advisor is already on his phone texting his GF!
I learn later she’s from Miami and he wants me to talk to her on speakerphone since I grew up there. Trust me Miami’s changed. I rode a horse bareback and played on my Hobie back then. Now you’d have to drive an hour to have riding lessons in a ring and be enrolled in an Olympic class training session. My childhood had a lot of freedom and I’m not sure I if ever wore a life jacket, nor did my parents know where the heck I was 90% of the time. Helicopter parents? HA! No wonder I am so fiercely independent and with a free spirit!
We are paired up with a 60′ monohull, French owner and crew, who are friendly and not intimidated or non trusting of a female captain. They are just as excited as we are!
Only one boat can drive and with 2 engines and a much wider boat of 25′, we will drive once the 2 are tied up together. The advisor spends more time on his phone and my limited understanding of quickly spoken Spanish has me guessing what’s up. Turns out we are waiting for a small tourist ferry to join us to make a threesome. Luckily for us they take too long. The canal authorities say leave without them. 2 days later we learn the ferry joined another pair after they were in a lock, and they hit the wall. Words and insurance info was exchanged. We felt bad for them but oh so glad it wasn’t us. We think we could have refused that combo if it had been proposed to us.
The sun has now set and Eric has blown the conch shell.
Our crew is happy, excited and ready.
It seems incredible that we will all fit. The agent does not want me driving with my engines, to only use the rudders. I suppose they have had bad experiences with people who have no idea what angle their rudders are and the engines won’t turn the boat properly. We however have good instruments that tell us the angle and I always center the rudders. At first I do exactly what he says but when towing a boat on your side you need to have control and this is not the best solution. Sometimes you need a burst of power to push the boats and maneuver them. Using engines as little as possible I keep us off the sides. Since our throttles are on the starboard side we choose to have the mono tied to our stb so I can communicate with the French owner/capt, and his advisor. Sometimes we override our advisor and wink. I say yes to his commands, and then do what needs to be done, now and then asking the other boat to help with a burst of throttle. Considering we were working with 3 languages we did a pretty good job communicating.
To transit you must have 4 line handlers onboard and we have essentially 5. With 2 boats together you only need 2 line handlers for the lines that are tossed from high up on the walls. The cleats on EG are big and strong, our line handlers John and Sarah, are strong and quick with Teri and Diana backing them up. Marci is in charge of social media and Eric is crew boss making sure all goes well. I keep my phone in my pocket and take photos mostly when the boat is tied up and the water level is rising. Marci is videoing and all are snapping photos with phones when they aren’t busy. It’s so impressive!
It all goes well and we are in awe, especially Eric who is reading The Paths Between the Seas by David McCullem. It is a highly recommended read for anyone interested in the history of how it was conceived of, design, and built. It was truly an epic feat.
The path goes across 45 miles of land with a man made lake in the middle called Gatun that supplies the water to operate the locks. The first 3 locks take us upwards to an elevation of 240′, and when we reach the lake we go left and the ship goes right. It is 10PM, we are tired, and there will be no celebration tonight as we’ve heard is common when you’re half way through. John jumps on the huge bouy that we are required to tie up to. A boat comes to whisk the agent away and he says be ready at 6AM. Huh? OK definitely not the time to celebrate. It’s a quick dinner and we are all in bed, glowing from the experience of being in the middle of the Panama Frickin’ Canal!!!
3/13 6AM arrives too soon, no agent in sight.
We forgot. 6AM means 9AM in manana land. We hear howler monkeys. A boat finally arrives with agents for all 4 boats, the pair that went before us, and our pair. This agent has me gunning the engines towards the next set of locks that will take us down to sea level in the Pacific Ocean. We have 28 miles to get to the locks so we turn our heads towards shore and enjoy the beauty and serenity of lucious greenery surrounding us on both sides. It is a long winding path and we see other ships including a huge Costco cargo ship.
It feels like a race and in some ways it is. This agent wants to go before the other pair so he can go home earlier. When we arrive we learn we are paired with the monohull from the other group, also French owned. Again, very nice and agreeable. And this time no drama – our agent is happily doing his job. Instead of behind, we are now in front of a large ship. And I’ve been warned by the last advisor. Make sure when they open that last lock you are ready to bolt! “Theres a lot of current with the water rushing out and there’s a large ship behind you. You must get out fast!” I’ve been nervous since the day before, or excited, or a healthy combination as there’s a lot of responsibility lying on my shoulders for not just one but 2 boat’s welfare. It feels similar to just before an important regatta. Butterflies that won’t go away until the starting gun goes off. Then it’s full concentration.