Saturday, May 7, 2011

Musical Beds

A note to our family and friends (the readers): 
Thank you for the kind words about the last blog entry. And Jennifer, thank you for offering to send us more books. We may take you up on that offer at some point in the future when we are not in Baja (on the peninsula). Shipping to places in the peninsula is exorbitant, unreliable, unpredictable. We will keep you posted. - Carrie

April 17 - 23, 2011
Life at Anchor, Our own little city

There was an adjustment period to life at anchor, the most intense reduction in space and companions yet (especially for Tamsyn and Griffyn who couldn't drive a dinghy or get off the boat with out us). And Owen and I were still tearing up the boat extensively to repair things and check systems. Tamsyn and Griffyn again needed a week or so to learn yet more rules for safety aboard and now to learn to amuse themselves and get along with each other (no one else to play with). And it has been heating up in La Paz, neither of them wanted to spend any time on deck in the hot sun. There were whole days when they were confined to the small space of just the V-berth (watching a movie) because there was literally no where else to be. I started homeschooling again and the affect it had on the kids was miraculous, with a schedule and projects to do again they began to feel at home immediately in this small space. Home schooling has helped the kids bridge each adjustment period, helped them to feel as though they are part of the bigger scheme and helped them to find and expand their own interests. Tamsyn is in love with sewing, she comes up with her own projects at the mere suggestion of how to make something. I told her about some of the stitches my mom taught me (embroidery) and she drew a flower on paper and began trying out new stitches. She has rediscovered her love for reading. Her new goal is a book a day. She is racing through the Magic Tree House Series. Oh how I miss the book shop mom! Griffyn is in love with Dr. Seuss. When he gets too wild - I offer him a book to read or a time out (with out a book) - he chooses the book and is often content for 1/2 an hour. 

Owen began systematically checking all the systems on board once at anchor that could not be checked at the dock. First he tackled the electrical system. We were no longer plugged in so we had to find out if the battery banks and solar panels were working properly; they are. Then we needed to check the salt water pump, the manual fresh water pump, the water maker - all the water systems. We no longer have dock water at our disposal. The water systems couldn't be checked in a marina because the water around the boat wasn't clean enough - at anchor it is. Each pump and the plumbing associated with it had to be traced (through out the boat) if there were any issues when we tried to use it. (Each system had issues - as with all other seemingly simple repairs). Owen remarked one day that living here was like running your own little city - we had our own fresh water systems, sewer systems, power systems, and disposal systems (we were allowed to throw toilet paper over board and flush our toilet - the rest has to be brought to shore - once 12 miles offshore we are allowed to throw all garbage over board except plastic). Most things will either become habitat on the bottom of the sea or ocean (a broken china cup for example) or completely degrade (paper, wood, even metal). Plastic is man made (it doesn't exist anywhere in nature) as it degrades it becomes more toxic through out the food chain (at any particle size), thus it is prohibited in all international waters. Once the water and electrical systems were functioning properly (this took over a week), Owen got ready to dive under the boat to clean the bottom, the propeller and the speedometer.  It had been a month since the hull was scraped clean of barnacles and marine growth (in a marina, the bottom should be cleaned about once a month, at anchor - less than a month is ok - at sea again less often). While we were at anchor we payed for the use of a dock, where we could park our dinghy - and do our laundry (on shore at the laundromat), get fresh water (at the water dock) and leave our dinghy to walk into town. The dinghy is used like a car when you live on a boat - so you have to have a parking spot for it when you come to shore. 

Provisioning (picture here) 

We spent much of the last week in La Paz provisioning and securing. We had been told by other cruisers that things are very close in La Paz, easy to get to on foot, compared to many other ports in Mexico - so we should provision here. We made one last huge shopping trip to Chedrauri's for groceries, taking a taxi back to the dock. We walked all over town - for those few items that had continually illuded us, like tinned meat (not fish) we found canned chicken half-way across town in a pharmacy that sold Kirkland products, so we also loaded up on toilet paper. We bought a weight belt for Owen, so he could dive the boat (cleaning the bottom and actually get down to the bottom of the keel without being swept away by the current). We bought more flashlights, batteries, mini DV digital tapes (home movies), webbing and elastic cord (for securing things), fabric, thread, fasteners, needles, elastic (everything we would need for the many sewing projects yet to do). We also spent time making things like the lee-cloths and a protective case for the sewing machine (picture). Owen would design the projects and I sewed them. Owen learned to sew in his teens making everything from stuff sacks and sleeping bags to tents and even a parka. He bought Sierra Designs when the company sold the design (long before they sold tents). I love the sewing projects. I love making things without a pattern. I showed the lee clothes and the carrying case to my friend, Sherry (who had a canvas shop in San Diego) and she said I was a good seamstress. Each sewing project we did took a couple days (designing and sewing). I am beginning to feel much more confident about using my sewing machine.

April 24, 2011
Easter Sunday at anchor

When Tamsyn and Griffyn first became excited about the prospect of another "candy" holiday, it was difficult for them to grasp just how different Mexican Easter Bunnies are from American Easter Bunnies (since we couldn't find egg dyes or chocolate bunnies or Easter baskets for sale anywhere in La Paz). So we decided to make our own baskets this year (ones that wouldn't be saved until next year). Our Easter bunny brought cadbury eggs and fancy Jelly Beans (in lieu of chocolate bunnies) and the kids colored paper eggs for the Easter Bunny to hide (in lieu of plastic or dyed eggs). (picture)  We also had to remind Tamsyn and Griffyn that since we were on a boat surrounded by water - there wouldn't be any Easter Bunny foot prints (as there always have been in the past). Holidays are very different in Mexico thus far. Of-course they do not celebrate the American holidays like President's day or Martin Luther King day or even Saint Patrick's Day (despite the fact that this country is mostly Catholic). Easter weekend many stores were closed from Good Friday through Easter. We were making all of our last minute purchases that week, so we were acutely aware of the early store closings. Walking around some parts of town felt like being in a ghost town. Easter is a religious holiday here, not a pagan bunny holiday like in the U.S. For our Easter breakfast we had scrambled eggs, grapefruit and cornbread with honey (and coffee). Desert honey is the most flavorful and delicious honey I have ever tasted. What ever we can make to cradle this sweet flavor is worth the effort. Oh and of-course the kids ate lots of candy (for breakfast).

April 27, 2011
Musical Beds and Swap Meets 

Griffyn lost a tooth today, his first. For the past week as it has been getting wigglier and he has been feeling some anxiety and excitement about himself in his new role (a boy who has lost a tooth!). He has grown since we left WA, he has lost the toddler look entirely. Every time I see him getting dressed, I think he isn't my baby anymore and feel a pang of sadness. His legs often ache at night from growing pains. He also is most likely done with pull ups, no accidents for two weeks!! "I don't want to wear them anymore," he says, and we couldn't be happier, the timing is perfect. During these growth spurts, Griffyn has been experiencing separation anxiety. (He can be a bit difficult if he is in pain a lot, having nightmares often or going through emotional growth spurts.)  So we decided to have him sleep with Mom in the V-Berth to see if that would give him a little more support.  And it seems to have helped. Owen has encamped on the starboard settee. It has been a big couple of weeks for Griffyn. I'm pretty certain the tooth fairy will make a stop at our boat tonight. 

Tamsyn has decided to sleep in the Quarter berth again (as her permanent sleeping space) after trying out the V-berth (with Griffyn) and the starboard settee. We plan to make a curtain (to darken the quarter berth) and wall pockets for her babies and stuffed animals. Tamsyn found a second stuffed brown bear at the last 'swap meet' (on Palm Sunday). She named this one "Brown Sugar." (She found her first stuffed brown bear, "Cinnamon", at the first swap meet we went to a couple weeks after we arrived in La Paz). Now Cinnamon and Brown Sugar need homes in the quarter berth with Tamsyn. Swap meets are like flea markets for and by cruisers - everything for sale is for a boat or a cruiser. We really enjoy the swap meets, there is always something we need or want to sell. Everything is priced very reasonably so there are always good deals (and if you are a child there often are free items, in addition to Tamsyn's two stuffed bears, Griffyn & Tamsyn have picked up toy boats, a book of paper airplanes, baked goods, cool rocks (quartz), shells and balls. Many of the cruisers we talked to had had their own kids on board (many years ago) and were happy and proud to tell us how well adjusted cruising kids were. 

April 27, 2011
Leaving La Paz (sung to Leaving Las Vegas)

(picture here) It was a fresh misty morning the day we left our anchorage in La Paz (about a week after Easter Sunday). The sailboats at anchor around us looked serene floating peacefully on the expanse of cool still water. What a glorious morning! I was so excited to be finally going somewhere! But we needed to fuel up, get propane, wash the deck and fill out water tanks before we left La Paz, so we motored a short distance (10 minutes) to the fuel dock at Marina de La Paz (where the richest man in the world has a couple boats -- giant clean and sparkling motor boats). At the fuel dock, Owen pumped diesel while I monitored the tank. The diesel fuel tank is under the V-berth (under our mattress) on our boat. Neither one of us had ever filled this tank (not having motored anywhere yet) - so this was another first for us. Our diesel dip stick is a piece of bamboo with black lettering - you can try to read it to determine how full the tank is - we tried - we needed 25 gallons. Owen, on deck holding a nosle to a hole in our deck (called a fuel fill hole), cannot see, from where he stands, how much fuel is going into the tank. So we relied on the dip stick I held in the tank to monitor the fuel level. Owen pumped cautiously calling out to me (under the deck in the V-berth) to check the level every couple of minutes. The first 7 gallons went in O.K. and Owen and I relaxed. Then all of a sudden there was a gushing fountain of diesel fuel spouting from the tiny hole I used for the dip stick. I yelled up - STOP!!! It had gotten every where - all over the top of the tank (which spills into the bilge), a bit on the bottom of the mattress, a bit on the sheets, a bit on me. Everything reeked. It was awful! How could this happen? - didn't we have 15 more gallons to go? I spent the next hour wiping diesel fuel off everything with fans on - trying not to breathe. Thank God it all happened in the morning. By evening most of it had evaporated and we slept fine - washing the sheets was not an option that day. After we fueled up we washed the deck. This time there was almost no leaking at all. A couple drops and we knew where they would be - so we had already laid down towels and plastic. Nothing got wet - Yahoo!! Then it was time to move the boat off the fuel dock while we waited for Lupe to bring our propane tank back. We moved to another dock and ate a couple Pb & J sandwiches (our standard lunch - no dishes). The wind had picked up substantially and now it was pinning us agressively to the dock, the movement in the boat reminded me of the Norther we had experienced while living at the boat yard. I was feeling a little sea sick. I was very anxious to leave. The fuel spill in our bedroom had been enough unexpected excitement for me for one day. We asked another cruiser on the dock to pull our bow away from the dock so that we wouldn't crash into the dock as we untied the bow lines. It worked very well - we didn't crash into the dock and were on our way, finally, I sighed and began to relax. After 3 and 1/2 months in La Paz we were finally going somewhere. As we motored past La Paz we waved good bye to our favorite ice cream shop on the Malecon (the walk on the beach with all the statues). We waved to the town as it disappeared. (picture here). Owen looks good as a captain driving the boat. (picture here). Tamsyn and Griffyn were having fun looking through their binoculars at everything going by. (picture here)   We past beautiful rock formations, ones we had only seen by car. We motored until early evening (the wind was dead ahead - not good for sailing and we needed to reach our anchorage before dark). At about 6 PM we slowed down and pulled into the bay called Balandre. We dropped anchor, which is to say that we let out chain, put the boat in reverse to set the anchor, let out more chain, reverse again, let out more chain and tied up the snubber (used to absorb the jerk if the chain is pulled suddenly and to protect the bobstay (a part of the rig that is attached below the bowsprit near the anchor chain). Setting the anchor is always a somewhat anxious 15 minutes because the windlass (used to lower and raise the very heavy anchor chain) is the most powerful winch on board, and can be quite dangerous to use. The kids are not allowed out of the cockpit while Owen lowers the chain and ties the snubber, I usually stand at the wheel - ready to steer us out of trouble if needed.

April 28, 2011
Puerto Balandra is the bay where we played in the water with John Caddy and John Horrigan when they came to visit us in La Paz. A stunning bay of white sandy beaches, light blue shallow water and large volcanic rock formations. Just after dinner, Griffyn struck his head (leaving a small but determined goose egg) while rough housing with Tamsyn in the V-berth so our plan to go ashore and explore was deferred. We awoke the next morning to the views of shadowy mountains all around. A stunning morning. (picture). We decided to continue our trip rather than play at the beach - so we headed south past the sleeping dinosaurs in the bay of Balandra, (picture). 

April 29 - May Day, 2011
Heading South along the Baja peninsula

We motored through the San Lorenzo Channel, the passage separating the southern end of Isla Espiritu Santo from the northern peninsula of the Baja mainland. Once the wind speed picked up to a steady 5 knots we decided to sail. We turned off the motor and raised the main sail and the jib. It was so nice not to have the sound and vibration of the engine running, a quiet slower pace. I loved it. The island Espiritu Santo slowly changed shape as we sailed by. I began to understand why people love the Sea of Cortez. The undulating dusty mountains contrasted with the deep azure blue of the clear clear water. When it is calm you can see into the deep blue water as the sun rays light up angular sections, as if you were looking through an enormous prism and of-course you are. We sailed for a couple of hours and the wind slowly but steadily picked up. The waves slowly but steadily grew larger. I was steering the boat when the wind hit 13, then 14, then 15 knots. We should have reduced sail at 13 knots, but I didn't want to (so excited to finally be sailing). Well the wind continued to pick up and we turned the boat around (into irons) to reduce sail. There were a few moments while I had the wheel and Owen was working with the sails where I experienced a panic. I turned the wheel the wrong direction and the boat heeled deeply into the wind (tried to round-up). I was glad to give him the wheel again. We turned on the motor, the wind was blowing up to 20 knots on the nose and again we wanted to get to a safe anchorage before dark. The anchorage, Bahai la Ventana, which was our original goal was very exposed, there were no boats anchored there, so we decided to round the bend and anchor at Ensenada de los Muertos. Muertos was considered a good anchorage except when a coromuel (strong wind out of the south) blew, a coromuel was expected that night, but currently winds up to 20 knots were blowing out of the north. We hedged our bets and pulled in at Muertos anchoring next to 4 other boats. Owen let out about 150 feet of chain that night, to help us hold as the winds continued to pick up. Muertos wasn't terrribly beautiful, so we pulled anchor after breakfast and headed south again. The winds were blowing directly at us all day blowing pretty hard - so we motored. (If we had sailed, tacking to port then starboard all day - we wouldn't have made the next anchorage by dark). I spent a fair amount of time behind the wheel that day - getting a handle on steering the boat, watching our position on the chart plotter and keeping us on a steady course. I felt much better about my experience driving that day. We pulled into Bahai Los Frailes just before dinner that night. We had had a couple rocky nights at anchorages and that night was a bit calmer. We all were sleeping well. No one had had any serious sea sickness yet. Owen was dolling out the meclazine every 24 hours if anyone showed any symptoms. 

(picture)  Los Frailes is a beautiful beach with sand dunes and hiking trails up into the hills and bluffs. We decided to play that day. We waited a couple hours after breakfast to give the wind and waves a chance to calm down. Eventually we decided to row to shore in our dinghy instead of using the outboard, the surf was at least 4 feet high when it broke on the beach. We packed a picnic lunch, the camera, water shoes, snacks, water, hats and hiking shoes. We were ready for anything - if we could get it all to shore safely. Owen jumped out of the boat as it rode a breaking wave, the dinghy rotated 90 degrees, knocking Owen off his feet. Owen was soaked and sandy- but we had made it!  Owen took the camera and went scrambling up the bluff above the bay as Tamsyn, Griffyn and I jumped in the huge crashing waves.(picture from up high). The undertow was very strong and the beach was a bit steep, but I held onto the kids tightly and Tamsyn as usual was completely fearless in the water. Griffyn was much more humbled by the size of the waves. He screamed often sometimes out of sheer excitement sometimes pure fear. We all fell down a couple times and were sucked toward the crashing surf. Griffyn wanted to make a sand castle so when Owen came back down off the mountain we all started digging. Owen and I noticed that the waves were increasing and began to be concerned about getting off the beach without over turning the dinghy. Owen had spotted the rip tides from up high so we hauled the boat over to the nearest one and road a wave out. It was touch and go for a couple minutes as Owen hollered at me to row - he was in the water pushing the boat. So I started rowing, backwards, hit him in the head with an oar (unaware) and one of the oar locks was broken, so Tamsyn had to hold it in place while I remembered how to row. Owen quickly climbed into the boat and took over. Of-course I did remember which direction to row after a couple gyrations, but there was the chance that we would be sucked back to shore. We made it back to the boat alright and everything that needed to be dry still was. We all took a shower (using our 5 gallon solar shower to rinse off after washing with Dawn dish soap and salt water). Dawn dish soap is wonderful, "The best surfactant out there," Joe, the owner of the laundry service near our apartment in Lynnwood said. I use it for laundry (1 tsp / 5 gallon bucket), for washing dishes in both fresh or salt water, for washing hair in salt water and for scrubbing off anything that needs it. Love the stuff. After the shower, it was dinner time. I have no idea what we ate but I'm sure it was simple. We slept well again and spent another day at Los Frailes. The waves never let up the second day so we stayed on the boat and secured more stuff. 

May 2, 2011
A rocky ride to San Jose del Cabo or "Honey, have you seen the dinghy?"

The next morning a norther was still blowing weakly in the bay.  We turned on the motor and pulled anchor around 7 AM. An hour later the wind speed in the channel read between 20 - 27 knots. We pitched and heeled as we rounded swells coming up from the open ocean meeting the rough winds and swells of the norther - it was a confused sea. The swells were around 10 feet high at 6 second intervals. It was a very rocky ride. Owen let me know that he decided that morning that he wanted us all to see how it felt to be in bigger seas (rather than wait out the last of the norther at anchor). I agreed with him and was relieved to find out that everything in my galley was holding well, nothing broke and the few things that came loose were quickly stowed in a better spot. We all had taken sea sickness medicine that morning with breakfast, but it wasn't in Tamsyn and Griffyn's systems early enough - each threw up a couple times. Luckily Tamsyn is very good at throwing up (having had much experience with it since she was born - always the one to be car sick at the slightest curve in the road), she just threw up in the bin and continued watching Curious George - not even complaining. After a couple hours of Owen driving, I took the helm as we plowed over huge waves. I kept us on course and as we headed south the north winds had less power, the wind speed began to lessen and the day was looking brighter. Some time around then Owen looked back and noticed that the dinghy was no longer behind the boat. The painter (Iine holding the dinghy to Madrona) had severed. Later we discovered it had rubbed on the windvane.  We were without a dinghy. He quickly took the helm, turned the boat around and raced north - back into the high winds and choppy seas to look for the dinghy. (We had to try, dinghys are expensive). The sea state had gotten worse up north and now the waves were even bigger. Heading into the rough seas was a much bumpier ride than heading out of them. Owen turned on the radar and we used binoculars to try to spot a white dinghy on the crest of a wave as the waves broke. I had a harder time going below now without feeling a bit nauseous. Griffyn was getting a little out of sorts, he became fixated on a particular toy boat, "with a keel and a rudder," he said. He was quite agitated, walking around the cabin not holding on to anything. He was scared so I just held him as he cried and told him I would help him find the boat. He calmed down a bit then and began watching Curious George again. The boat was rocking quite vigorously now, I felt moments of "zero G" as we lurched over big swells, a few things were sliding around the cabin (everything we hadn't secured yet.) I felt much better in the cockpit where I could see the horizon and could focus on looking for the dinghy. We went north for an hour before we gave up looking, the sea state still getting worse. I told Owen that perhaps it was for the best, that dinghy was in such rough shape (even after 4 repairs it still didn't hold air well, and the oar locks were broken, the oars were old, the handles were loosening, etc.) perhaps it was a blessing in disguise. We would get another - better - dinghy. That one came with the boat - we never would have bought it. So we turned around and headed south again. Immediately the ride was smoother. As we headed to San Jose del Cabo (our destination for the day) the sea state got better and better. We pulled into the marina around 2 PM. The first order of business was finding another dinghy. 

May 2 - 7, 2011
Preparing for the Puddle Jump

After we docked, Owen left for the main office to find out how to get another dinghy (new or used). I made myself a cup of coffee, the kids emerged from the V-berth and we all sat down in the cockpit to some homemade (left over) creamy potato soup. We ate slowly and began to look around. The soup and coffee were delicious - just the thing to help me feel grounded again. Slowly my body relaxed. I hadn't eaten anything since we left that morning around 7 AM.

Owen purchased a new dinghy - it would be delivered (from San Diego - via Marine Group here at the marina) on Friday if all went well, which meant that we were here until Friday May 6th. We had planned on spending one night here and then leaving. Sorry to have missed you - Hinke and Lois - in Cabo San Lucas! I wanted so much to find you - show you the boat first hand. We had no way of knowing where you would be or when. 

We continued stowing and securing. The lazerette (stowage space under the cockpit, near the engine) had to be secured. We have a very large lazarette and there were big blue tubs that needed to be repacked and strapped down along with all the other things we have to keep down there. The steering gears are exposed in the lazerette - which means that everything stored there must be secured tightly so that it will not come loose and jam our steering mechanism even in the roughest seas. There were old screws near the spreaders abrading our lines - Owen had to go up the mast again. I wanted to do the laundry that had accumulated and wash all the towels before we headed out to sea (for a long trip). We needed to provision again, the Bimbo bread that was supposed to last forever was molding already, the grapefruit I bought a week ago was going bad. We had crossed the Tropic of Cancer - we are in the tropics now. It is very humid here compared to La Paz, there are mosquitos and biting flies, we had to put up our screens. We were very protected in the marina - which meant that the winds would die down and we would roast in the cabin at night. I began to sort out our "extra clothes" again thinking about lightening up. Owen said tightly packed clothes in drawers or cupboards would mold. So we needed more plastic ziplocks. The marina is a "world class" marina which means that they cater to enormous fishing yachts mostly. Everything is very far apart - the showers were 1/2 a mile away. Everything was much more expensive than in La Paz (it's a world class marina - meaning it caters to the very wealthy). The Dolphin Discovery activity on site cost $169 / person to "swim with the dolphins". The walk to down town San Jose del Cabo was around 2 miles one way or $13 by cab. I decided the kids and I would walk. It took us almost an hour just to walk to the main entrance of the place - someone offered us a lift to town (gratefully) we spent the next couple of hours sight seeing. I have learned one very important thing - Always - bring your camera the first time you visit a place - you may not get back there again. San Jose del Cabo is a beautiful tourist trap. It is an old town (the mission was built in 1730). The streets are narrow like in many old European cities. Each building was painted a different color, it is very colorful. I loved the town, it was picturesque in a way La Paz wasn't. It reminded me of parts of Rome on a much smaller scale. We wondered through the art district and eventually headed back to the marina (a very long, dusty walk). We got back around 5:30 PM. Owen had spent the day replacing our back up bilge pump which was on the fritz. We had spare parts aboard. 

I spent two days doing laundry by hand. Owen fixed things, Griffyn played in the water continuously. We visited the local beach, Tamsyn read and sewed. We evaluated our next step and kept planning for the puddle jump.  We met new friends, cruisers, on the dock. A wonderful couple from New Zealand (Sally) and England (Al) who had dinner with us and have offered us tons of assistance with anything we need. They have been cruising since 1995 and crossed the Atlantic way back when. They were very encouraging about the puddle jump. They have been watching the gribb sheets (weather faxes) for some time and the weather looks very easy out there. It should be a smooth ride with an average 10-15 knots of wind (once we leave the shore - about 100-150 miles out). 

The dinghy arrived on schedule, we put it together and it looks great. Our old dinghy harness and shackles are on the old dinghy somewhere in the Sea of Cortez, so we will have to figure out how to secure the new one. It folds up (old one didn't) and packs into two bags that we can secure on deck. It will be a lot less stuff on deck during our voyage - another bonus with this dinghy. 

It is late in the night now and we leave early Sunday morning. During the passage (the pacific crossing) we will only be able to send out very short messages to our blog - just to let you know we are well. Sailmail cannot handle pictures at all. If we have time to upload the ones I planned to add to these blog entries - we will - if not we will add them in Polynesia. We will be practicing French as we traverse the ocean. Good bye to pesos and the good people of Mexico (who love children, especially boys - Griffyn could do no wrong in their opinion) - we will miss you, your ever cheerful 'Buenos Dias' and your gracious good will.



We're leaving this area in part to get out of the way of hurricanes, and in part because we want to see Polynesia.  We'll try and post periodic updates via sailmail, though of course if the radio breaks, or there are battery issues we won't be doing that.  Not to worry though - we'll be careful and let everyone know how the crossing went when we get in the land of palm trees and French bread.


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