Assume the Position

  

Gary in the typical boat maintenance position.  The water heater decided to start leaking so out with the old and in with a shiny new one.  All without me making a single trip to the hardware store or apparently bothering Oakley.   There was some grumbling about the plastic connectors and we have a small leak.  So I will be ordering lots of those plastic connector parts before we leave the U.S.   

Fair winds,
Cindy

Where To Next?

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El Savadore? Nicaragua? Costa Rica? Panama? For sure, yes, absolutely, a must. Throw in Guatemala and Honduras by land and we have ourselves a broad plan. Now to fill in some details. We are reading guide books and sailing blogs for ideas on places to see and things to do. Land trips are a must as well as good anchorages and marinas. Figuring out the timing for festivals and sailing events as well as the ever present weather issues is adding to the fun. So we are working on a very loose plan which will change as the wind blows (pun intended). As long as we get down to Costa Rica which is out of hurricane zone by June 1, everything is good.

Fair winds,
Cindy

San Diego

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After arriving in Ensenada, Gary and I decided to take a land trip to San Diego for the Fourth of July fireworks. A bus ride to Tijuana, a stroll over the bridge, US Customs and Immigration, a ride on the San Diego trolley and four hours later we were having lunch at Ballast Point Brewery in downtown San Diego. We hit several of our favorite bars and restaurants plus a few new ones. The fireworks were not as great as the feasts in Gary’s hometown of Netcong NJ, but interesting in that they were going off identically in four different locations around the bay. That was impressive.

San Diego fireworks

San Diego fireworks

After two days we headed back to Ensenada. Getting off the trolley we followed the crowd crossing over to Mexico and then they all disbursed. Customs? Immigration? Does anyone want to see our passports? We kept looking around thinking somehow we bypassed a gate or door we were supposed to enter. I guess they just let anyone walk into Tijuana. Good thing I didn’t toss our tourist cards!

The day after returning we heard from Austin that he got a job offer in San Diego with a start date in six days. This was awesome news the only problem, he was still living in Arizona. So as he started to pack up his apartment and prepare Oakley, we looked at short term housing options with a four legged family member. One word, expensive!

One of the great things about our life is we can move our home at a moments notice. Three days later we threw off the dock lines and sailed Sereno II twelve hours up to San Diego so Austin, Nicki, and Oakley would have a place to live while looking for something to rent. We were going to bring her up in August for a few weeks anyway. So here we are enjoying the restaurant scene and getting our fill of food, cocktails and craft beer we can’t get in Mexico. And of course enjoying their company, flying dog hair and all.

If you are in the neighborhood, stop in. No room at the inn with four adults and a lively Sheltie on board, but sundowners in the cockpit are always nice.

Fair winds,
Cindy

Ensenada

After twelve days, Gary and I arrived in Ensenada at 6:30 am in a bit of a fog since our last leg required two overnights. Luckily the wind and current were calm so we just glided into our slip without waking anyone up. We were happy our journey from Mazatlan to Ensenada was over but also felt really good that we made the 900+ miles by ourselves. At twelve days this was our longest voyage yet.

After coffee, a nap, a quick boat wash and showers (not necessarily in that order) we headed out to stretch our legs and get something to eat before crashing for the night. Lesson #1, restaurants close on Monday’s. No cruise ship in port should have tipped us off. So we settled on a pizza place that makes Papa Johns in California look good where they served warm margarita’s that tasted a lot like a lemon soda. Even though the pizza cook ran out to get ice, the portions were rationed. Gary got three cubes, I got none. We were the only two in the restaurant. Were they expecting a rush on icy drinks later?! Not a great start but we are never ones to pass judgement too quickly.

Ensenada is pretty much contained in this one area and our marina sits right off of town. Hallelujah, no shuttles, taxis or busses unless we go to a big box store. We can get fresh produce, fish and have several grocery stores nearby. Exactly what we were hoping for.

There are many, many restaurants right here and surprisingly good given that a cruise ship is in port four days a week. With the cruise ships gone by 6 pm, locals are the main dinner crowd. We have been making the rounds picking out our favorites. And drumroll please…… we have a brewpub! A brewery right outside of town makes IPA’s, amber and red ales and has a brewpub right near us with pub food and all. You can only eat so many tacos :)

So much to explore yet. We have four months so no rush. Maybe I can talk Gary into a scooter LOL.

Ensenada Fish Market.  Shrimp, clams, octopus...... heaven

Ensenada Fish Market. Shrimp, clams, octopus…… heaven

And row upon row of fresh fish.

And row upon row of fresh fish.

Fish taco stands outside the fish market.

Fish taco stands outside the fish market.

Great selection of fish and so fresh.

Great selection of fish and so fresh.

Fair winds,
Cindy

The Baja Bash

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Pick your window and try to wait until July when the coast is calm! This is the advice people give on tackling the trip up the Baja Peninsula. That and take as much diesel as you can carry. We fully intended on heeding all this advice. That is until Andre, Blanca and Carlos. The three hurricanes that threatened the peninsula in as many weeks with Andre forming the end of May before hurricane season started. After running to Mazatlan to get out of Blanca’s way, we started the first leg by heading back to San Jose on the peninsula to wait for a good window. 32.5 hours, 175 nm

We have a 50 gallon tank and for this trip stored 52 gallons in 9 jerry cans.  Four of them were stored under our table along with the spinnaker.  The rest were under the nav station and in our shower.

We have a 50 gallon tank and for this trip stored 52 gallons in 9 jerry cans. Four of them were stored under our table along with the spinnaker. The rest were under the nav station and in our shower.

Unfortunately projections showed Carlos turning in our direction though still very far south. So we were faced with the same situation we had with Blanca. Not wanting to sail back 175 miles in the wrong direction back to the sweltering heat, we decided to start the second leg and go north. The only problem was the weather window was not as good as we would have liked. Our plan was to make only one stop at Turtle Bay for fuel. Making the right hand turn at the bottom of the peninsula to start heading north is notorious for being difficult. In the wee hours of the morning we pushed through 25 knot winds and 30 knot gusts on the nose with waves crashing over the bow in hopes that as predicted we would get out of it in a few hours. NOT! High winds and rough seas kept up and at some point during the night the meter that gives us our wind speed and direction quit working. We rode to the top of cresting waves only to come crashing down on the other side spray covering the cockpit and us. If you were down in the cabin, you got lifted right off your feet so we both spent the entire night in the cockpit. And the cold. Once we rounded the bottom to head north the temperature dropped down to the 50’s. What a shock after the 90+ degrees in Mazatlan. After 30 some hours with no sleep we decided to stop at Magdalena Bay. At 198 nm this would be our shortest leg up the peninsula. On a good day we would estimate 36 hours to complete, 43 hours if not so good. It took us 41.5 hours. And to provide even more adventure the anchorage was seven miles inside the bay and just as we approached it, the sun set. So we had to pick our way in the dark past seasonal fish pens, fishing boats and sailboats to find a spot to drop the anchor. But it was calm and quiet for the first time in 41 hours. And we had company. Six other sailboats also made the trip during that time and arrived just hours before us.

Fueled up, rested and with a good weather window we set off on our third leg to Turtle Bay 260 nm away. Calm seas and light winds took us all the way through until around 8:00 pm the second night. Since leaving Magdalena Bay we were in radio contact with another boat leaving at the same time. During the course of the trip we learned they were short on fuel. We offered to transfer some fuel to them since the seas were calm. It was certainly doable even in a dinghy with the flat seas. He thanked us but thought he could make it with three gallons to spare. Really?! When the wind and seas picked up after dark on the second night, the captain radioed that he felt he was not going to have enough fuel to reach Turtle Bay. He tried sailing but couldn’t make forward progress. I suggested a nearby anchorage where he could get help the next morning but he brushed it off. So I woke Gary and we set out to find the other sailboat. Difficult because they had no AIS and we could not see them on radar. They insisted they could see us and had turned around heading in ‘our’ direction. Long story short, they were headed for a 122 foot motor boat and were going past us in the wrong direction. When we got this straightened out we ended up back tracking a few miles to their position. By that time we were in heavy seas and while Sereno II was steady, their boat was pitching all over the place. After several attempts at coming along side us the other captain came up with the idea to head to an anchorage. The very same one I suggested three hours earlier. We parted ways and a few minutes later we were back in calm seas and winds that took us right into Turtle Bay by noon the next day. 48 hours 20 minutes, 260 nm

A warm bowl of noodle soup.  I much prefer sailing in shorts or my bathing suit!

A warm bowl of noodle soup. I much prefer sailing in shorts or my bathing suit!

A quiet moment on my off shift.  Just nights before I was in the same spot tethered to the helm while we were battling the winds and waves.

A quiet moment on my off shift. Just nights before I was in the same spot tethered to the helm while we were battling the winds and waves.

The same six boats in Magdalena Bay were in Turtle Bay. We had a two day wait on weather so we all caught a water taxi to the village where one of the few restaurants agreed to open and cook us fish tacos. The owners brother runs the fuel dock and water taxi service. They have quite a gig going with the north and south bound cruisers stopping by. Turtle Bay is the only convenient fuel stop on the entire west coast of the Baja Peninsula outside of Ensenada and Cabo. During the course of dinner they ran out of cerveza’s so they started serving us free margarita’s in every shape of glass imaginable. Turtle Bay is very remote and the shelves in the small grocery stores are mostly empty.

Having dinner with our fellow cruisers.  You can see a few of our boats at anchor in the bay.

Having dinner with our fellow cruisers. You can see a few of our boats at anchor in the bay.

We were anchored next to this fishing boat in Turtle Bay.  On our way down with the Baja Ha Ha, Greg, Richard, Gary and I hiked up the mountain range you see on the right.  Going up was easy, coming down not so much.

We were anchored next to this fishing boat in Turtle Bay. On our way down with the Baja Ha Ha Greg, Richard, Gary and I hiked up the mountain range you see on the right. Going up was easy, coming down not so much.

Our fourth, final and longest leg started out with dense fog. With radar and AIS going we headed out. I was standing in the companionway staring into the fog while Gary was at the helm. We both saw the fishing boat going too fast for the conditions at the same time. He was as startled as us and came to a stop motioning behind him as his friends in another boat came roaring up swerving off our bow. They took off a lot more cautiously. Soon the fog lifted and, with the exception of a few hours during our second night, had a fast sail into Ensenada. We arrived at the bay just as the sun was rising and were in our slip by 6:30 am local time. Too early and tired to celebrate, but a cup of hot coffee on a still boat was wonderful. 49 hours, 286 nm

With the exception of those 41 very long hours, we count ourselves lucky. Some were in sustained winds of over 30 knots for extended periods, one boat had their dinghy shredded in the wind and lost the outboard along with it. Another had their drive shaft bolts sheer off, while another somehow got water mixed in their diesel so were attempting to sail the entire way up. Now you know why the trip up the Baja Peninsula is known as the Baja Bash. While this was quite an adventure, it will be our last Baja Bash. Once we head south next fall, there will be no bringing Sereno II north again on the west coast. I wonder if there is a name for the north route up the east coast?

Loving the calm seas and feeling good that Sereno II took care of us during the rough parts.

Loving the calm seas and feeling good that Sereno II took care of us during the rough parts.

Fair winds,
Cindy

Mazatlan Take Two

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The good thing about being stuck in Mazatlan is we really like old town. The restaurants, the people and the El Mercado Pino Suarez or market. We wish the marina was within walking distance but luckily the taxis are plentiful and not too expensive. We set off early today for the market to get more provisions for the trip north. It opens daily at 6:00 am and is the hub of old town. What a different shopping experience than going to a grocery store. People walk or bus here daily to do their shopping for dinner. Counters selling prepared food, butchers, produce, cheese, pastries and even clothes all under one enormous roof. All the vendors were very helpful and friendly. Walking past pig heads and cow carcasses is not for the faint of heart and could literally turn someone into a vegetarian. But the freshness of the meat, fish and produce is amazing. So our freezer is full. No worries, no whole body parts are shown below :)

Ladies selling their fish at El Mercado Pino Suarez

Ladies selling their fish at El Mercado Pino Suarez

El Mercado Pino Suarez

El Mercado Pino Suarez

One of the many isles at El Mercado Pino Suarez

One of the many isles at El Mercado Pino Suarez

El Mercado Pino Suarez

El Mercado Pino Suarez

That is smoked tuna.  Melt in your mouth.  A piece that size was only 70 pesos which is $4.47 USD.  We need to go back and get more!

That is smoked tuna. Melt in your mouth. A piece that size was only 70 pesos which is $4.47 USD. We need to go back and get more!

Some of the freshest produce we have seen here.

Some of the freshest produce we have seen here.

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The only thing we can't find here is salad greens.

The only thing we can’t find here is salad greens.

Fair winds
Cindy

Blanca!

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Of course our first year on this adventure and we pick an El Niño year with predictions for a greater number of hurricanes. Hurricane number one, Andre, developed in May before hurricane season even started. That didn’t cause us any problems, however Blanca, is another story. We were in Cabo getting ready to head around Cabo Falso and on to Ensenada when the predictions for Blanca got bleak. We stood in the marina office with the Director of Marine Operations and the Dock Master looking at the predictions on a big screen TV for Blanca to make a direct hit on Cabo five days from then. We had two choices. Strip all the canvas and sails off Sereno II, tie her down and find a hotel that would take us in or get the heck out of there. Looking at all the wreckage still around the marina from Odile, the Cat 3 hurricane that hit Cabo last September, and talking with people whose boats were damaged made the decision a no brainer. We were out of there in an hour and sailing full speed way out of our way east to Mazatlán over 200 miles away on the mainland. The peninsula isn’t that wide so there was no where to go closer. We briefly considered trying to make a run up the coast ahead of the storm but would you want a Cat 4 storm coming up behind you? At best we would be doing 5 knots. And if the engine conked out, we would be in some serious trouble.

So here we are after a 30 hour beautiful full moon sail tied up at a marina that is a bit inland to protect us from the surge expected as the storm moves north. We will stay here until early next week and then return to Cabo and try again. Unless of course another storm is brewing…….

Growing up on the east coast, we learned the power of hurricanes and how unpredictable they can be. Californians don’t need to worry or think about them much because the sea along the coast is so so cold. Another sailboat from California decided to stick it out in Cabo. And another sailboat from California left La Paz and was heading to Cabo while we were underway to Mazatlán. Her and I had a conversation on the VHF radio and I was able to warn her. Hopefully they diverted. We really hope Blanca continues to move in a more western direction so Cabo does not take a direct hit. Odile destroyed many homes. The road between San Jose del Cabo and Cabo is lined with mega resorts. Almost all are still closed from Odile and just a few have reopened. This put many people out of work. It cost more to restore the electrical system then any other event in Mexico’s history. As I am typing this Gary told me Blanca is weakening. Hopefully that continues and they get nothing more than a good rain.

Fair winds,
Cindy

Never Say Never

When we set out on this adventure we were happy to put the Baja Peninsula behind us at the get go. It is so desolate with only a few stops available that we were happy to get it over with and continue our way south. And we certainly never wanted to bash back up North. Wind right on the nose and waves crashing over the bow, oh joy. Well Sean Connery said he never wanted to do another James Bond and well, we all know how that went. Which brings me to our current plans. We are bashing back up the Baja Peninsula to spend summer in Ensenada, Mexico and then will turn around and come right back down in the fall. Why you ask, would we do such a damn fool thing? Well we think we have some pretty valid reasons for making this decision. We decided some months back that with all there is to see in Mexico, we really needed to spend another cruising season here. Once that decision was made our next concern was what to do about hurricane season, which runs June 1 – October 31. One option was to find a safe hurricane hole to put Sereno II and rent a local apartment for us during the hottest months or install a cheap window air conditioner in Sereno II to hibernate in while it is a balmy 120 degrees outside. I think not! Our other option was to get out of hurricane zone. Since we had only four months to get the boat ready before we started this adventure, there are some things we want to do to prepare the boat before continuing south. So it made the most sense for us to spend the summer in Ensenada. We can get to San Diego easily enough by bus or take the boat up for a few weeks to get large items (kayaks!). Plus the climate in Ensenada mirrors San Diego, allowing us to stay on the boat and actually spend time outdoors. We can consider this year our shakedown cruise. Most people take their boat out to someplace like Catalina Island for that. No, we go half way down the freaking Mexico mainland for our shakedown cruise.

The plan is to leave La Paz on Tuesday and anchor in Muertos Cove for one or two days depending if we like the local cantina. We will then sail around to Los Frailes for a night before heading to the marina at San Jose del Cabo. The waiting begins for a 2-3 day weather window for us to round the dreaded Cabo Falso at the very tip of Baja and make our way to Magdalena Bay or on to Turtle Bay if the weather is looking good and we can both stay awake during our watch. In Turtle Bay we fuel up, get some shut eye and once we have another 2-3 day weather window will sail on to Ensenada. Sounds easy without all the scary details lol. But all plans are written in the sand at low tide so any number of things could occur that would cause us to totally change our minds and hightail it off to the hurricane hole in Puerto Vallarta for the summer.
We always have a backup plan.

Fair winds,
Cindy

Vacation!

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When Austin was in grammar school he let us know that his plans were to go to college. He was always interested in science and so we nodded our heads and said ‘great plans’. Because of course, as parents, that was our goal for him. He carried that dream through middle school and high school and while baseball pulled him in that direction, he eventually made the adult decision to concentrate on his academic dreams. This last week we had the ‘honor’ of attending Austin’s graduation from Arizona State University with a degree in microbiology. We could not be prouder of his accomplishments and can’t wait to see what the next chapter has in store for him.

Graduation May 11, 2015

Graduation May 11, 2015

What a way to end a ceremony!

What a way to end a ceremony! This was the second smaller ceremony with just his group. The larger ceremony the night before ended in fireworks.

Food, drink, a hike in Sedona and good conversation filled our vacation in Arizona. Austin had a list of restaurants he wanted to take us to and we hit every one of them and then some. He even made a steak dinner for us on Mother’s Day!

For the second time we stayed at Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale. A king size bed and long showers woo hoo! Originally built in 1956, it has a mid-century design and was the first hotel in Scottsdale to have central air conditioning. A few of the celebrities who visited Hotel Valley Ho included Bing Crosby, Tony Curtis, and Janet Leigh. Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood had their 1957 wedding reception in the hotel ballroom.

But just like that, us and our overstuffed bags were on our way back to the boat. We bought some much needed clothes, over 20 movies and a few boat parts. Wish we could have brought back some Four Peaks craft beer!

Sedona has been on my list of places to visit and it did not disappoint!

Sedona has been on my list of places to visit and it did not disappoint!

Fair winds
Cindy

Shitter Was Full

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Who doesn’t remember Randy Quaid in Christmas Vacation standing in his bathrobe smoking a stoogy announcing that the ‘shitter was full’ while a toxic glow is emanating from the sewer.

Major events are always a series of events. One item on our list of things to do before leaving the boat for Arizona was to have the waste tank pumped out. As luck would have it, the machine on our dock was not working. Ok not happy but not a major deal until the morning of our departure. Gary took a look into the stern head and noticed that it was unusually full. Hmm had Cindy used it and forgot to flush?! NOT!

The modern cruising yacht is a very complex and technologically advanced machine. Much more advanced then the average home. Computer navigation, multiple GPS devices, solar panels and controllers, water makers, wifi, radios, satellite communications, weather receivers, auto pilots, generators, freezers and refrigeration. In addition, water and waste must be stored onboard and this requires many pumps and valves not required in a normal home. Gravity on a sailboat doesn’t play as big a role on a boat as it does in your home. Pressure values in the heads keep waste in the tank and out of the hoses connected to the toilets.

So what happened? Two hours before departure we stood there watching waste water filling up the stern toilet. We suspected that the pressure valve was malfunctioning. Okay, if we used the Shop Vac to pull waste out of the hose, it should stabilize and stop leaking in to the bowl. Sounds logical right? NOT! Several attempts at this did not work. One hour left until we needed to leave. Frantically looking for a solution the dock hand mentioned the pump-out two docks away was working. Why did he not mention this earlier?!! Quickly start the engine, untie the lines and we left the dock quicker then we ever have before to meet up with the dockhand who quickly took care of the smelly situation. The cross winds were up and it took 4 dock hands to help us back in to our slip. Luckily I had a list of all the last minute things to do before leaving the boat so all we had to do was calmly go through the items and lock up the hatch!

A three hour bus ride to our hotel in San Jose del Cabo, two Pacifico’s, two shots of Tequila, a shower and change of clothes and everything was right with the world. This was more stressful than the morning in 1980 when we were leaving for a trip to Colorado and we found a skunk in our sump pump in the basement. LOL

A parrot outside our hotel room in San Jose del Cabo

A parrot outside our hotel room in San Jose del Cabo

San Jose del Cabo

San Jose del Cabo

San Jose del Cabo

San Jose del Cabo

Tropicana Hotel San Jose del Cabo

Tropicana Inn San Jose del Cabo

Fair Winds
Cindy