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

Another Trip Around the Sun

I opened Facebook the other day and a 1 year memory post popped up with a picture of me toasting the day I retired. One year already?! It got me thinking about all the changes. My hair is now sun bleached and we both have killer tans. Our living space is smaller than an average apartment. Home can be anchored off a beautiful beach, a rolly anchorage, or docked at a Mexican resort. Laundry is sometimes a half mile walk so wearing the same shorts a few days in a row is the norm. We buy only what groceries we can both carry back to the boat and fit in to our small refrigerator. We eat out more often because it is relatively cheap and way more fun than cooking on a small stove. Our old brains are learning Spanish very slowly. Looking back, after the trauma of selling off all our possessions, the transition to life on a boat has been fairly easy. I’m still way out of my comfort zone with the sailing part, but I’m working on it.

But for right now, our tourists visa’s are up and we are heading out of Dodge. Lucky for us, the end of our 180 day limit in Mexico coincides with Austin’s graduation from Arizona State University. So on May 4th we begin our trek to Arizona. It will take us two days to get there but that is only to reduce my stress. The airport is three hours away by bus and you know all those scenarios that run through your head. What happens if the bus gets a flat tire or breaks down, a major traffic jam (strike that this is Baja not LA Lol) etc, etc. So instead of crazed Cindy, we will enjoy a nice evening in San Jose Del Cabo with a short cab ride to the airport the next day. Can not wait to see Austin and Oakley!

Fair winds,
Cindy

Luau La Paz Style

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The local cruisers club put on its 10th annual Bay Fest while we were in La Paz. The festivities included a sailboat race, backwards dingy race, seminars, and raffles. The big event was a luau. Seemed odd that it wasn’t a Mexican Fiesta but the club is all gringo’s. They did have a roast pig (not sure where it was roasted?!), tasty rice and salad. We met up with friends from the sailing vessel Dragon’s Toy for happy hour and got to meet some fellow cruisers at our table. It is a good thing we liked our table mates since out of 17 tables we were the next to last to be called to the buffet table. The pig did not die in vain as I’m fairly certain we got the last pickings.

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Somehow they were able to find luau dancers from Mexico that put on a nice show.

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One of the main events for the party was the ugly Hawaiian shirt contest. They must have decided there were too many ugly shirts because they never got around to awarding that prize. Gary solicited input from his Facebook friends on which shirt to wear. Funny, the majority selected a vintage Key West shirt he gets the most compliments on and in fact got several that night. I think the shirt just doesn’t take a good photo.

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Fun time was had by all

Fair winds
Cindy

Isla San Francisco, Sea of Cortez

We got off the docks and headed further north to Isla San Francisco. Unfortunately the morning winds were coming from the north instead of the usual south so we had to motor sail the 6 hours. But the beautiful bay was awaiting us and with only three other boats in the anchorage we had plenty of room to drop the anchor. Unlike the mainland of Mexico, the water in the Sea is very clear so we could see straight to the bottom. We explored some of the other coves by dinghy, hiked across a salt pond to the other side of the island, and hiked to the top of the surrounding hills where we were rewarded with a spectacular view of the bay and the turquoise and blue water.

The bay at Isla San Francisco.  Sereno II is on the right

The bay at Isla San Francisco. Sereno II is on the right

Like the Baja Peninsula, the islands in the Sea of Cortez are desert with cactus and shrubs and most are uninhabited. Sitting in the cockpit we had a front row seat on the flight path of the Brown Pelicans and Bobo’s as they flew from one side of the island to the other. The pelicans glide just inches from the surface. There are 7 types of pelicans and we just learned that the brown pelicans here and in other parts of Mexico are the only ones that dive from the air in to the water for their food. DDT in the 70’s almost wiped them out. Given the numbers that we have seen here in Mexico, I think they are doing very well indeed.

The Brown Pelican

The Brown Pelican

We were prepared for mosquitoes and no-see-ums (which never showed up) but it was the bees that drove us nuts. We heard they can be a nuisance looking for fresh water and they sure were. The anchorage was very calm until our last night. At 2 am the waves rolled in. Picture John Travolta riding the bull at Gilley’s in Urban Cowboy! We pulled up anchor just as the sun was rising and bashed in to the 15+ knot winds coming from the south (the direction we were going, sigh….) for the next few hours. But things calmed down and we had a great ride the rest of the way.

Sunrise over the Baja Peninsula

Sunrise over the Baja Peninsula

The birds start their day at sunrise

The birds start their day at sunrise

Sereno II at anchor Isla San Francisco

Sereno II at anchor Isla San Francisco

Fresh papaya for breakfast

Fresh papaya for breakfast

Fair winds
Cindy

Playa Tecolote

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Having a set of wheels for the first time in 6 months has been awesome. We filled the trunk up with provisions this morning for once not feeling like pack animals schlepping everything back to the boat. Then this afternoon we set off exploring some of the beaches and coves around the bay. Here are a few pictures from Playa Tecolote.

That is Isla Espiritu Santo

That is Isla Espiritu Santo

Where is his lounge chair?!

Where is his lounge chair?!

There was 4 or so restaurants and bars

There were restaurants and bars. Probably pretty happening on a weekend

Sea on one side, mountains and cactus on the other

Sea on one side, mountains and cactus on the other

Fair winds Cindy

Todos Santos

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There isn’t a lot of places we can stop with the boat on the Pacific coast of the Baja Peninsula so we rented a car and hopped on over to the surf and beach town of Todos Santos on the west coast about 1 1/2 hours from La Paz. I had not driven since the end of October and I thought it would feel weird but it didn’t phase me (I do the driving and Gary navigates, it works for us :) ). And it was really nice to have a brake peddle!

We chose the Todos Santos Inn to stay at because it was right in the historic district and it was very old. I knew that only 2 streets were paved and the remaining were dirt. Part of the charm. Here is the sight that greeted us when we arrived in town

Construction 1

Construction 2

The town has decided to pave the remaining streets, put in new sidewalks and all lines underground. They are not just working on one street at a time. Everywhere you turned there were jackhammers going, big holes with no barricades, and mounds of dirt. And the funniest thing was, you could and people did drive down the streets being worked on. The only thing stopping the cars was if the road was totally impassable. Sidewalks here in Mexico are treacherous anyway, but this was a riot. We were walking down one sidewalk and came to a sudden drop. Good thing it was daylight!

This was an elaborate blue sidewalk we were walking on.  Then it just ended!

This was an elaborate blue sidewalk we were walking on. Then it just ended!

But construction and noise aside, we could see that this was indeed a cool little town and I think we captured the good parts in our pictures. I’m hoping that the changes they are making do not ruin the spirit of the place.

We loved the inn and probably would have stayed another night but for the construction. The innkeeper prepared a little history on the place which we tried to capture here in these photos.

History of Todos Santos Inn

History of Todos Santos Inn

History of Todos Santos Inn

History of Todos Santos Inn

Todos Santos Inn

Todos Santos Inn

In addition to books, the library at the inn had a TV and a chess board waiting to be played

In addition to books, the library at the inn had a TV and a chess board waiting to be played

Our room at the Todos Santos Inn.  No we didn't sleep under the net.

Our room at the Todos Santos Inn. No we didn’t sleep under the net.

Another picture of our room.  We had Terrace Room 1 which is one of the original guest rooms.

Another picture of our room. We had Terrace Room 1 which is one of the original guest rooms.

Small heated pool at the inn

Small heated pool at the inn

Courtyard at the inn where it is said that a suitor dropped flowers from a helicopter to impress a girl.  I would be impressed!

Courtyard at the inn where it is said that a suitor dropped flowers from a helicopter to impress the owners daughter. I would be impressed!

The patio where we enjoyed a free hot breakfast.   Made to order. No buffet like at Holiday Inn Express.

The patio where we enjoyed a free hot breakfast. Made to order. No buffet like at Holiday Inn Express.

Loved the pool.  Small and no screaming kids LOL

Loved the pool. Small and no screaming kids LOL

Those are all rooms to the right down the hall

Those are all rooms to the right down the hall

The terrace right outside our room.  Oh how I wish we had stayed another day.

The terrace right outside our room. Oh how I wish we had stayed another day.

And of course the bar at the inn.  Good margarita's and I tried a drink made with Mezcal.  Since I do not like sweet drinks, I liked the smokey taste.  Gary's martini had sweet vermouth instead of dry so I think that got a thumbs down.

And of course the bar at the inn. Good margarita’s and I tried a drink made with Mezcal. It was good now can Gary recreate it? Gary’s martini had sweet vermouth instead of dry so I think that got a thumbs down.

The Cathedral

The Cathedral

Not as elaborate as we have seen but still pretty

Not as elaborate as we have seen but still pretty

Children dancing on the plaza

Children dancing on the plaza

Todos Santos

Todos Santos

Todos Santos 2

Todos Santos 3

Todos Santos 4

Despite the torn up roads and all the dust we were glad we went. As always we found good drinks and good food. If only we could get Sereno II from La Paz to Todos Santos in under 2 hours……

Fair winds
Cindy

“Venus Was Her Name”

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We were a few miles out from Costa Baja Resort and Marina in Bahia La Paz when I called to get our slip assignment. Bummer, the lady on the other end of the radio said we had to stop at the fuel dock and come to the office first. We have found the marina’s in Mexico usually send boats right to a slip. Cuts down on the potential for something to go awry! The entrance to the marina is rather confusing so we were both concentrating on that and spotting the 500 foot fuel dock. We rounded the corner and there it was, the 256 foot yacht Venus built for the late Steve Jobs. There was no mistaking it. And where does one put a 256 foot yacht in a small marina? Yup, on the fuel dock. So with a bit of good maneuvering on Gary’s part and the help of two dock hands there we were parked right in front of this magnificent vessel. Sereno II has never felt so small! As we walked down its length on our way to the marina office, the security guard saw our camera and informed us that no pictures were allowed. We politely nodded knowing we had already snapped about 20 pictures before we left the boat LOL. Pictures do not do this boat justice. It really is beautiful in person though the stern is a bit on the square side, which from what we can tell is a ‘garage’ for all the toys.

Steve Jobs boat at Costa Baja Resort and Marina.  Magnificent!

The yacht, Venus, owned by Steve Jobs at Costa Baja Resort and Marina. Magnificent!

The garage door is open and inside was a tender.

The garage door is open and inside was a tender.

If the boat to the left looks small, you can imagine how small Sereno II looked.

If the boat to the left looks small, you can imagine how small Sereno II looked.

And a beautiful picture at dusk

And a beautiful picture at dusk

Street signs and street numbers really go a long way to help get around any city. That and the internet with reliable maps and directions. We were craving pizza this week and according to Trip Advisor the number one restaurant in La Paz is a pizza place. I know, should be a Mexican restaurant right?! According to the map on Trip Advisor it was in the farthest corner of the city so we hopped in a cab with those directions. Around and around we went but the restaurant was not to be found. The cabby called the phone number on Trip Advisor and with limited English and limited Spanish we set off in a new direction. As we were leaving the city we realized something was amiss. We somehow agreed to go an hour away. No pizza is worth that cab fare! Ok maybe Carmen’s in Netcong or Celestino’s in Rocklin :) Ugh, the information on the internet for Mexico is way behind where it is in the States so finding places has been interesting. It is no wonder the mail system is really bad here. We did find another pizzeria and enjoyed some good pizza. And better yet, we received a free caesar salad and free bowl of pasta. Leftovers!

Wood fired stove at the La Paz pizzeria

Wood fired stove at the La Paz pizzeria

Not great but good pizza

Not great but good pizza

Unknown to Gary, I decided to do a Man Overboard Drill yesterday on our crossing to our new marina. I threw one of our floatation devices overboard in a narrow channel so he had the challenge of turning around not once but twice so I could retrieve it. I’m happy to report he passed with flying colors. That is my story anyway. The way Gary tells it, I was swatting at a bee that was bugging us with said floatation device and it went flying out of my hand and into the water. Now why would I do something that stupid?

The inner harbor at Costa Baja Marina.  We were in the outer harbor with the big gals because of our draft.

The inner harbor at Costa Baja Marina. We were in the outer harbor with the big gals because of our draft.

The pool at Costa Baja Marina

The pool at Costa Baja Marina

Fair winds
Cindy

Life in La Paz

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We will be in La Paz until mid May. That should allow us time to get the feel and vibe of the place before we need to move on. There is no better way to do that than to put on our walking shoes. In fact we walked so much I blew out my flip flop (stepping on a pop top, Ha) and Gary had to fix it. The Malecon (their version of a broadwalk) along the waterfront stretches the entire length of the central historic district and is lined with many statues representing the fishing and sea life in the Sea of Cortez.

Beach along the Malecon

Beach along the Malecon

The Malecon

The Malecon

A nice shady spot along the Malecon

A nice shady spot along the Malecon

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A boy fishing with nets

A boy fishing with nets

From 1616 until 1940 Bahia de La Paz was famous for its natural pearls until the oyster beds were destroyed by a blight.

In honor of the oyster industry

In honor of the oyster industry

Jacques Cousteau once called the Sea of Cortez ‘the world’s aquarium’. In 2009 the Mexican government renamed “Isla Cerralvo” to “Isla Jacques Cousteau”. When we left our overnight anchorage of Muertos to arrive in La Paz we had to leave early in the morning to pass between what we thought was Isla Cerralvo and the mainland before the winds kicked up and created strong opposing currents. Many in Mexico have not accepted the name change because they were not consulted so most guide books refer to the island under its historical name.

Jacques Cousteau 1910-1997

Jacques Cousteau 1910-1997

The Malecon really is the most picturesque part of the city. In other towns we have found pockets of neighborhoods where the architecture catches your eye. Here not so much and I’m thinking the homes and buildings are built very boxy and low because of hurricanes. We have not seen any damage here from hurricane Odile’s visit in September last year like we did in Cabo San Lucas.

A small B & B.  It is hilly here so walks are a good workout.

A small B & B. It is hilly here so walks are a good workout.

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The church off the main plaza

The church off the main plaza

La Paz has big box stores like WalMart that are out of the central district. Within walking distance to our marina we have the local markets where we can get fruits, vegetables, fish, beef and even lunch. Nothing is done ‘in the back’, all the chopping off of cow and fish heads is pretty much done right in front of you. No pictures of this gruesome task.

As we were sailing in last week, I commented to Gary that if you take away the water we could easily be in Arizona. We left the tropics of mainland Mexico and came back to the desert of the Baja and this region is no exception. Though, the water is absolutely stunning. Crystal clear with beautiful turquoise and blues. Cannot wait to get out into the Sea of Cortez. We have been busy exploring on foot and getting our arrangements made for our trip to Arizona for Austin’s graduation. But we move the boat to another marina next week that is outside of town and closer to the entrance to the bay. We can then start planning some trips up to the northern parts of the Sea of Cortez. I read that some areas around La Paz have venomous sea snakes. So more research is needed because this girl is not getting anywhere near sea snakes.

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The Sea of Cortez is calling us

The Sea of Cortez is calling us

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Boat Music

In deciding what to bring on this adventure, we selected those items that meant the most to us for one reason or another and seemed somewhat practical to bring on a boat. My favorite picture of Austin, a Hawaiian Santa Steve had given us, our Buddha from the BVI’s and two ceramic figures from local artists we picked up on our travels. Okay maybe the last two were not so practical! We also brought martini and wine glasses because after all you can’t properly chill a plastic martini glass or drink a fine wine from a plastic wine glass :) Each breakable item has a specific place where it is stored during passages.

Before leaving the relative calm of the San Diego Bay and hitting the big ocean I went through the boat and made sure everything was as secured as I could. That meant going through all the cabinets and making sure they were full enough so that once we hit the ocean swells, nothing would go flying or break. We had a lot of food for four people so the food locker was quite full. We exited the bay out into the ocean under beautiful bright blue skies and so the boat ‘music’ began. Wine bottles and glasses clanging like a cymbal, the steal drum sound of cans, clattering dishes like tambourines, and the xylophone sound of silverware. All combined with a melody of crashing waves hitting the hull creating a symphony of heavenly music. The volume and beat was steady no crescendo culminating in broken glass. Whew I guess I did alright!

Then the sun set, the stars and moon appeared and watch schedules began. The aft cabin contains the food locker and engine all located under the cockpit. Cans rattling, cockpit table swaying back and forth, crew noises, wood creaking, water splashing against the stern not to mention the drone of the engine if it was on. It was described as the ‘House of Horrors’. In the main cabin, the roll of the boat mirrored the clang of dishes and bottles. Instead of counting sheep I was counting the clang of wine bottles. In the cockpit the engine exhaust sounds like thunder and one evening Gary and I both were positive that Greg was playing music in the aft cabin. NOT!

We have since learned how to really batten down the boat when on passages. And if we are anchored out where the boat is constantly moving, we have about five things we need to secure before going to bed. Otherwise somebody is getting up in the middle of the night. It took us two days to figure out that a small squeak that was keeping us awake was a latch on our companion way door.

But when all is quite in the cockpit, I still hear music playing.

The culprit that took us two days to find

The squeaky culprit that took us two days to find