Last passage to U.S.A.

“The Baja Bash” is what everyone calls this trip north, but it is anything but that this week.  Other than a few afternoons, the trip has been calm with flat seas and light winds.  This seal is laying on the surface warming his fins.

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One over night passage north from Magdelana Bay is Bahia San Juanico, surfers know it as Scorpion Bay.

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On one side of the bay the fishing pangas blast through the surf to go out and check their traps and nets and the other side is covered with gringo surfers camping along the bluffs and parking on the beach. We had the best camp spot, just out beyond the surf line.  I love traveling on Makai, the scenery changes but our home remains the same. We have the same comfy beds, nice warm shower, a refrigerator full of snacks, plenty of water, and movies in the evening.  I’m so glad I’m not camping in the dirt.

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The kids quickly got the hang of catching the little waves near the beach.  One day wasn’t enough, so we stayed a second and a third.

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The town consists of a grid of dirt roads, a few small tiendas, hotels for surfers, a restaurant and a campground.

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Eric, Marie and I went to town for a few supplies and found out no one remembered the pesos.  Marie had a U.S. $20 which we were able to use in a store and got enough pesos for change to buy a few drinks and chips and salsa.  Perros everywhere.  This little guy lives at there the restaurant.

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We look pretty far away from the bluff at the campground, but you can see the waves rolling in.

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Over the years we’ve had plenty of great days at the beach, today was another one.  Besides surfing, we drew pictures in the sand.

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And the kids played around.  I think everyone is trying to get as much ‘Cruising’ fun in as we can.

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Topaz has been having a great time.  We always tie her to an anchor so she doesn’t have the freedom to explore unsupervised. She tromps this way and then back that way looking for fish or other interesting things in the water.  The only problem is that she always turns to the right and drags her line over the anchor.  In just a few turns she can manage to ball up her line around the anchor and then run around dragging this glob of weight.

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I guess we’ve had enough fun, better get going.  Passages have their own routine.  I usually cook a bunch of food up every other day and then everyone fends for themselves.  Eric and I take turns during the night and spend lots of time taking naps and reading during the day.

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Topaz is enjoying her last raw hide bone.  She often leaves it on the floor in the cockpit.  A few months ago, Roy came out and accidentally kicked it right out the back and later that day Marie did the same with a new one.  Today Eric did it, but we turned around and went back for it.  Marie rinsed it really good and that must have made it more delicious because Topaz was happy to gnaw on it for awhile.

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We departed San Juanico on Monday afternoon and had great conditions until Thursday afternoon when we were a little south of Ensenada.  It was just the usual afternoon wind and waves but we weren’t making any progress, so we spent the next few hours tacking out to the west.  Even though we weren’t pointing towards San Diego, Makai was riding comfortably waiting for evening when the wind and waves usually settle down.

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Finally, Friday morning we arrived in San Diego.  On the way up I stared at my phone waiting for Sprint 3G so I could make phone calls and text my friends.  Yippee, Hello Krista, Karen, Tara, Mom, and Jim!  The Point Loma lighthouse greeted us.  This is my favorite lighthouse, I have a picture of it that hung in our old Makai and is now by our back door on land.

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The buoys are always a resting place for local seals.  Sometimes they bark, sometimes our dog barks.  Teak used to get all excited when we passed a buoy, barking at the seals.

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San Diego is a big military town.  The submarines tie up on the side of the channel, navy ships and aircraft carriers are further down the bay.

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After more than a week with out seeing other boats, San Diego harbor’s frenzy of activity really made everyone nervous.

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Krista asked me weeks ago if we would be here for the holiday, but we didn’t think we would be in so soon.  When we arrived her family was already here visiting other friends but was getting ready to head back home.  It didn’t take much to convince them to stay for the 4th of July fireworks.

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We traipsed around town.  Mexican food for lunch, I might be about taco-ed out for awhile, West Marine to see if they had anything we can’t live without.  Eric didn’t see any critical boat parts but the kids said special sunglasses with mustaches are a critical.  They are good for a picture but were vetoed at the cash register.

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Since leaving the Sea of Cortez we’ve been quite chilly.  Most days the sun only comes out for an hour or two and if it’s breezy we need to wear jackets.  Our walking adventure started out chilly, but all of a sudden the sun came out and everyone started to melt.

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We spent some time at the launch ramp on Shelter Island watching boats being dropped in and hauled out.  The highlight was this amphibious bus which putts around with an outboard engine and then roars up the ramp and drives down the road.

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There are several public grassy areas on Shelter Island.  These green spaces were covered with EZ ups and little parties. It looked like fun, but the thought of dragging all that stuff down to the shore, packing up and driving out after the fireworks doesn’t sound like fun to me.  Once again, Makai come through with the best venue for the day.

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After a wonderful dinner of Roy’s Dorado and tri-tip steak we went up on Makai’s hard top for fireworks.  We had six adults, five kids and two dogs up there.

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I’ve never seen a fireworks display that features four barges lighting off fireworks all synchronized to music broadcasted on the radio.

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After our guest left and the festivities were cleaned up our friend loaned us a car for a little sight seeing.

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The first stop was Point Loma and the Cabrillo monument.  This national park has a great view of the city and, our favorite, a movie.  In the movie they followed Cabrillo’s expedition from Barra de Navidad up the Baja and beyond San Diego.  The kids were excited that they mentioned many of the places we visited and the history that we learned about when we visited Mexico. Just beyond the monument is the lighthouse.  It operated in the late 1800s and was eventually decommissioned because it is too high up on the hill.  At this height the clouds and fog often impedes visibility and no one can see the light.

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Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery covers the ridge with plain white stones of the men and women who gave their lives for our freedom.  Many of the graves date back to the early years of the California Republic, but by the late 1960s all the spaces for caskets were full.  They still accept cremated remains which reside in walls build throughout the cemetery.

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We stopped at the shops on Rosecrans by Midway and Sports Arena for a hair cut.  Marie’s hair has been a major issue.  First of all, our hair is pretty dry and damaged and secondly, she hates to brush it.  That combination results in huge matted messes.  Finally she decided a good cut would solve all of our problems.

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The last stop for the day is at Filipe’s Pizza Grotto.  Eric and I used to come here all the time when we lived on old Makai on Harbor Island in the early 1990s.  Ahh those were the days when we could gaze into each other’s eyes over a meatball and fall in love.  Now look at us!

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Oh, well, I like the kids too.  Yes the food is great, but the character of the restaurant makes it taste even better.  First you wait in a long straight line through the deli.  We had plenty of time to check out the salted cod, refrigerated meats and cheeses, interesting wine bottles, noodles, oils, sauces and sardines.  Mmmm.

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We only have a few days here with a dock and hose to make boat maintenance easier.  Eric got back to work on his computer, the kids quietly hid in their rooms enjoying the internet, and I set out to scrub, and wax the cabin, deck, and cockpit.

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Tomorrow is 979 days on the blog’s Adventure Days counter.  That’s the count from the day we drove away and said adios to our friends and the town house we’ve been living in.  Tomorrow morning Krista will come pick Eric up at the shore so he can go retrieve a borrowed car and a new adventure will begin.  We have to put together the house, get our cars on the road, get everyone registered for homeschool classes that will begin next month.  We have a few building projects, painting projects and yard projects.  Then we’ll have the impossible task of visiting and taking care of Makai, our cabin, and the town house without leaving any place neglected or left out.

If you all are still interested in our day to day adventures, stay tuned, I’ll try to post regularly.

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Bread

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Awhile back, Marie referred to the time before Makai as “when I didn’t cook” and today Genny asked me if I would ever make bread after we return home. For the record, I did cook and make bread at home, but it wasn’t nearly as obvious. Since this isn’t our first cruising experience, I had some ideas for provisioning to start out with. It was pretty easy, no lists or complicated formulas. I went through Costco and BJ’s warehouse stores and multiplied the amount I would use of each item in a week by 30 weeks. That’s the length of time I thought I had without a car and warehouse store. I also tossed in a few items I thought would spice up ‘the same old meal’ like curry sauces and other spicy dips. This plan worked very well and here we are returning with just the right amount of noodles, sauce, ketchup and mustard, etc. left over.

Then there is the baking bread part. In many places we traveled we preferred to spend weeks at remote locations rather than seek out provisions. Also, bread doesn’t keep for very long or takes up too much freezer space that could be used for more important things like ice for drinks, meats, and Roy’s latest catch. Fresh hot bread is also a treat on a passage. Spread some butter and honey or peanut butter and Nutella and watch the loaf disappear. I just popped out a triple batch, two loafs for snacks, sandwiches, and french toast tomorrow, and one pan of rolls for cheeseburgers at dinner. We’ve spent quite a bit of time with seasoned cruisers and everyone bakes bread, it’s all very easy. But recently, we made new friends, it is their first season, and bread was a bit of a mystery. So looking at my loaves I decided to put together a little lessons learned essay on bread, rolls, and pizza.

There are dozens of great cookbooks out there, some specifically for bread and others geared towards boating. I have a very old Sunset Mexican cookbook, bread cookbook and The Joy of Cooking, original copyright in 1931. I use them all but really like the later because each section comes with a page of background information to help understand the science and mechanics of cooking. I frequently study the 80 page section ‘Know your ingredients’ to better understand why the recipe works and add recipes into the margins and back cover when I hear of something I should never forget.

The Joy of Cooking talks about rising dough step by step. First they address steam as a riser and discuss properly preheating the oven to take advantage of it. There are also instructions for the rising power of creaming butter with sugar, beating egg whites, and mixing batters. The discussion continues on with baking powder and soda. Baking Powder is simply a mix of baking soda, salt and cream of tartar. These recipes combine an acid and an alkaline reacting in the presence of moisture to produce CO2 gas which bubbles and rises in the dough or batter like a science fair volcano. The Joy of Cooking goes into great detail for a page and a half on this topic.

How yeast works is the section missing from many cruiser’s cookbooks. I found my new friends’ boat galley cookbook didn’t tell them how long to let the dough rise. They were rising for less than half the normal amount of time and coming out with flat, dense loaves. So, here are a few tips for yeast dough.

I use active dry yeast in granular form. At home when my yeast doughs are few and far between, I buy the individual packets keeping in mind that they do expire. But out here, with my 150 pounds of flour, I get the Costco package, I think it’s about one pound, I’m not exactly sure. ALWAYS store the yeast in the refrigerator, especially if it is opened. The Joy of Cooking says that yeast in the air is enough to rise dough over many hours, but using granular yeast will have it ready today. Dissolve the yeast in liquid warmed to 105 degrees, I don’t measure the temp but just use water that is warm to the touch, I figure it’s warmer than my body temp. Be careful not to warm it too much, hot liquid will kill the yeast. Next I mix in the rest of the ingredients. Some recipes call for sugar which feeds it and salt that controls the rising. In the end I stir in as much flour as my fork will mix in, then sprinkle some flour on a cutting board and flour on my hands before I start to kneed. Once the dough is soft and stretchy I pour a puddle of oil in the bottom of a bowl and roll my dough over to coat it, cover with plastic wrap and then a dish towel to let the yeast produce CO2 and rise.

Most recipes call for rising twice, once in the bowl and the second time after shaping the dough into rolls or a loaf on a well greased pan (I like Crisco sticks). Occasionally the recipe will rise only once and sometimes rise three times. The number of risings will change the texture of the finished bread. Fewer risings have a course texture with big bubbles and more rising produces a smoother bread. Just be sure you rise long enough. Often the recipe will say to rise until double, that means at least 45 minutes. I like to let my loaf rise until it is nice and rounded high above the pan. Another tip is to oil the plastic wrap on that final rising because if it sticks to the dough, when you pull the wrap off the dough will deflate, booo hoooo.

By the time we arrived in Panama, by bread was flopping. I had all these loaves that looked like a deflated chef’s hat flopped over the side. Sandy came to visit us and she said to decrease the yeast. She has some recipes that rise for several days and only use a ¼ tsp of yeast. That makes perfect sense, if the amount of yeast I use is only to speed up the rising, and if the ambient temp is getting hot and humid and my dough is rising too fast then flopping, just decrease the yeast. Thanks Sandy, now I almost never use the full two teaspoons of yeast, I just let it rise longer. One last bread making tip is that if you don’t want a crusty top that crumbles all over the place, lightly butter the top when the bread comes out of the oven.

Pizza works the same way. I used to prebake my crusts to speed up pizza delivery at dinner time, but gradually our pizzas got crispier until they could be confused for a cracker with sauce and cheese. When I went back to the original recipe and baked it according to the directions everyone enjoyed Makai pizza again.

Will I make bread at home? Probably not very often. But when we’re out on Makai for the weekend and up at the cabin where it isn’t so easy to stop off at the bakery inside our favorite grocery stores, the bread will be rising, biscuits flaking, and pizza bubbling.

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Bahia Magdalena

Bahia Magdalena is about 160 nm north of the cape on the Pacific side of Baja.  The bay is enclosed by 60 nm of barrier islands in an “L” shape similar to Cape Hatteras.  We were last here in 1999 and have fond memories of Gregario the Port Captain.  We arrived around 4am, had a nap, the kids went berserk cleaning their rooms and then headed in to see Gregorio and sign his log book.  As luck would have it, he was out all day.

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So, we all went to the beach.  Just like Teak did so many years ago, Topaz ran along the shallow water chasing fish. We walked about a mile to the sand dunes at Punta Delgada, the reward was beautiful, white, warm, soft sand dunes.

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Topaz and the kids ran up and down the dunes, sliding, rolling and jumping in the sand.  I’m too old for anything more than crawling to the top, watching and taking pictures.

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We were surprised to see the number of huge blue crabs, long dead and dried out on the beach.  Roy got his crabbing gear out but didn’t have any luck.

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When it was time to go home, Topaz was staying just out of our reach.  Roy is more determined to go than she was to stay, so he captured her.

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The chore for the next day was to get fuel in San Carlos, five miles across the bay, which was stretched by a ‘Z’ shaped channel through the shallow water.  We were hoping to find a fill up from a Pemex gas station where we could use credit cards instead of exhausting all of our cash.  No such luck.

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Instead the Sardine Co-op offered to fill our jugs for cash.

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The challenge was to move our 22 gallon tank, found on the beach in the Bahamas, from the truck to the dinghy at the beach.  Luckily, the guy giving us a ride helped with that. I was really grossed out by the birds, bird poop, big sardine boats, icky water and beach and as soon as we got situated I was ready to pull up the anchor.

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Back at Man of War Cove Eric gave me a nice cold Pacifico and the memory of the low flying sea birds and their poop faded.

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As soon as we arrived Gregorio came by in his panga ready to fuel us up.  Ahhh, we just spent most of the day on this fuel adventure to San Carlos and he comes with manageable sized jugs to deliver right to our cockpit.

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We had some empties because we topped Makai’s tanks off, so we bought a little more off of him.  Gregorio is a really nice guy.  We remember how nice he was last time we were here and even remember he was preparing Cabeza de Res for a party.  It’s hard to get the vision of the stewing cow head out of your mind.

The next morning the kids finished with even more cleaning and came up with three huge bags of donations when just as if we had prearranged his arrival time, Gregorio stops by again. I had been trying to give away Makai’s washing machine the whole time we were in Mexico without any luck.  Gregorio’s face lit up when we offered it to him.  Rodney and Jane shipped this machine to St. Lucia when they bought the boat, it traveled to the Mediterranean Sea and back to the Caribbean, then up and down the east coast with us, through the canal and found it’s final resting place here in Magdalena Bay.

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We said, “Adios, see you when we return after the kids are off to college.”

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Everyone took turns testing out the new piece of space freed up by sending the washing machine off.

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Our last day was all fun in the sand. Bahia Santa Maria is on the other side of the dunes facing the Pacific ocean.

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The walk to the other side was a 3/4 mile nature walk. The plants that grow here are hardy withstanding drought, floods, heat, cold and wind.

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We saw plenty of evidence of critters in the dunes.  From a distance we saw a jack rabbit in the bushes, these little paw prints went up and down the sand hill, there were a few big burrows and of course scat.

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The beach in Bahia Santa Maria had gentle surf in shallow water.  Marie and Topaz had a blast playing in the waves.  The high tide line was covered with little red tuna crabs.  Eric said that the El Nino weather brought them up into California as well.

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Roy and Genny walked on the beach quizzing me about plans for our return home.  We’re enjoying this beautiful beach and talking about washing windows, registering the cars, building loft beds and landscaping the back yard.  What a crime to waste a beautiful day on discussing chores.

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The shells were abundant so we collected a hand full of cone shells to se for crafts this winter at the cabin.

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The beach was also littered with giant sand dollars.  There were many in the surf that were black and still alive.

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Roy found the grand prize today.  I’ve been google searching to identify this cool clam shell with no luck.  If anyone out there has a name for this spiky clam shell, I would love to know it.

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Back to Mag Bay’s side of the dunes the pelicans were going wild.

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Marie was out to see how much sand her body could absorb.  Surfing down the dunes was great fun.

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Then there was the belly flopper, getting a little closer to the sand.

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She wore her goggles for eye protection because Marie had a plan to get right into the sand. She grabbed hand fulls of sand to dump into her bathing suit, did head stands, side rolls and then…

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She somersaulted down the hill, rolled over and made sand angels. I was invited to join her but respectfully declined.

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Topaz visited us on the dunes but mostly enjoyed the water.  She pounces on a fish which gets away, so she grabs ahold of her collar and retrieves herself back to the beach.

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Enough of this fun, remember we have chores waiting for us at home, better get going. On the way out of the bay we motored through a big school of the red tuna crabs.  They were easy to spot with their bright red bodies in the deep blue water.

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The water was teaming with these little red guys.

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As always, Roy is scooping things up out of the water. In all the hours, of all the years, I’ve had my face in the water searching the bottom for interesting things, I’ve never seen a sea horse in the wild.  Here Roy dips his net in  the water while Makai is under way leaving Mag bay and comes up with a sea horse.

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Around the corner to the north, on the outside of Mag Bay is Bahia Santa Marina.  We have fond memories of this bay as well.  With only an afternoon to explore Eric took us down a mangrove river looking for more sand dunes.

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We saw plenty of fish and birds, fishermen and fishing camps, but no where to land and play in the sand.

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The problem with this bay is that there are nice waves breaking along the shore.  This would be a fun day with the surf and boogie boards, but not with the dinghy.  I remember our last trip here and we only went ashore with the kayaks.  Kayaks can be surfed ashore and if you get dumped off, both rider and kayak washes up on the sand.  Something you can’t do with a dinghy and engine.

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It was a great day.  Now we’re 20 miles closer to our next destination.  We’ll leave tonight after dark and hope that the afternoon winds and waves have settled down for a nice overnight ride to San Juanico, also known as Scorpion Bay to the surfers.

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Spic and Span

Yesterday we motored five miles across the bay to San Carlos in search of diesel. We knew it wouldn’t be as easy as tying up at a beautiful fuel dock and pulling the hose over to our fuel tanks, it’s always an adventure. Eric and I took the dinghy over to the sardine co-op, Eww birds and bird poop everywhere. We were told to bring our jugs, they drove them to the other side of the yard, filled them and then drove to the office to pay (No credit cards so we spent pretty much all of our pesos), and then returned us to the beach. Eric tipped the guy for helping carry the jugs, then I thought he should have a bigger tip which prompted the guy to get his shoes wet and load the jugs into the dinghy. This was well worth the extra $3 in tip money. The day was pretty sucky with this fuel and bird issue at the sardine co-op so we scooted out of there as fast as we could back to our quiet anchorage by Man of War Cove. Just as we arrived, Gregario, the retired Port Captain that we remembered from the 1990′s, came by in his Panga offering jugs of fuel. Doh! We still had a few empties so we bought more from him, courtesy of Roy’s stash of cash. We had a great conversation using our bad Spanish and his poor English. Today the kids got on some sort of cleaning kick. There was all kinds of activity in their rooms. They came out for garbage bags and donation bags, then rolls of paper towels and Windex. In the end their rooms were spotless and three bags of clothes and toys to be donated were out in the cockpit. I wish we could have gotten rid of this stuff months ago, but we’ve been holding onto old snorkel gear and clothes for “just in case”. Just at that minute Gregario came back, stroke of luck, and happily accepted the bags. I also threw in Makai’s washing machine since it would be unused and taking up space for at least 10 years until we head out again. We had a great rest of the day at the beach and in the dunes. Topaz is definitely at the top of her game. She can run for miles through the sand, chase birds and fish, run up, down and across the dunes and then swim off the back of Makai. I feel like it is pup abuse to take her away from this life. We love it here but will move up the road a little bit to Santa Maria Bay tomorrow morning. The crew is chomping at the bit to get home, but whoa, slow down, it will be many years before we can get back to someplace as beautiful and free as Magdalena Bay. —– At 6/25/2015 10:38 PM (utc) Makai’s position was 24°40.30′N 112°07.55′W

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Fish on!!!

Holy crap it’s a billfish (marlin, swordfish, sailfish, I don’t know how to tell the difference). Roy yells, “Get the scissors, cut the line!” I was being selfish, I wanted pictures. He tried to hold it off so I could get pictures, but it kept taking lots of line even though his drag was set tight, he was worried about breaking his reel again. Luckily, I did get a little video of it jumping to post later. It went *boing*, Roy corrected me, it went *twang* from the tension when he cut it. Now he’s putting on new line and a new lure and will try it again. Cabo San Lucas is a sport fishing capital, come on giant Dorado, look at the tasty feathery blue and white thing dragging behind Makai.

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Tip of the Baja

We had a great trip down the Sea of Cortez Friday and Saturday. We did run into a few issues with La Paz’s corumuel winds, but we stayed in the lee of the islands and the day was pleasant. We managed to get to the fuel dock 30 minutes before closing to load up, Makai was down to our last 15 gallons. Last time we fueled up was here in La Paz in late April. Full of fuel, Makai turned around, took advantage of the corumuels and flew out of the bay and around the corner. This was probably the best 20 mile sail we’ve had in Mexico, reefed down making 8-10 knots. Today we will round the cape and hopefully the weather and current in the Pacific allow us to reach Magdalena Bay tomorrow afternoon.

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The last week in the Sea of Cortez

At the last minute for the last chance to visit Makai on her big adventure, we had Saundy and her daughter Effie come for a visit through Loreto.  The 2 hour direct flight from LAX is a quick and easy way to jump into our cruising lifestyle.  Loreto is the perfect mix between tourism, a little Mexican town, services and stores all boaters need, and with the beautiful water of the Sea of Cortez at the front door.

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While we have our whirl wind morning in town Topaz waits patiently for her chance to go swimming.  She doesn’t care about the tortillaria, or the zapataria where I dropped my sandals off to be reglued. It is of no concern that Eric needs engine oil and the beer bottles are empty.  She might be interested in groceries, but doesn’t think past her next pounce in the water.

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As always our guest bring gifts.  I can’t think of any guest who hasn’t arrived with some type of Makai supplies.  Our American flag was a disgrace.  We seem to need one every season and it doesn’t seem to make the spare parts shopping list.

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Its great fun having a pal in the kitchen as well.  You can never have too many hands when there is chopping, stirring and cleaning to be done.

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Our trip had us revisiting a few anchorages we didn’t get enough time at.  Punta Mangles and then San Juanico were first on the list.  I’m not sure what the reason or cause of it was, but the water clarity really sucked.  Some theories have to do with the storm bringing in nutrient rich cold water from the depths, which bloomed green, or something like that.

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The beach was still fun for bonfires.  The shallow water was warmer and clear so we chose to stay at the beach and collect shells.

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As always Roy fishes all day long.

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The storm also brought cooler weather with days up to the mid 90s and nights cool enough to cover up with a thin blanket. Rain in the desert prompts everything to bloom.

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After a few days the water started to clear up a bit.  We anchored in La Ramada and hiked back over the hill for a view of San Juanico from the north side.

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At this time of the year most boats have left the Sea of Cortez.  We mostly had the place to ourselves.  Every evening the manta rays would give us a show and schools of reef fish kept us occupied during the day.

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Topaz is torn between keeping an eye on the activities in the water and lunch in the cockpit.

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Since the storm we’ve had a few new bug visitors.  For several days in Santa Rosalia, we chased around ticks (oh yucky), then there were giant grasshoppers and dragon flies.

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Lobster has been a rare sight this year.  In the 1990s, these pretty bugs were plentiful, but this season we haven’t seen more than a hand full.

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Sea stars and other brightly colored fish really stand out on these brown rocky reefs.

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For the first time in over a week Roy had an opportunity to spearfish.  The water was just clear enough at the deeper depths to see his targets.  Quickly he came up with a big snapper, then a bigger one and lastly an even bigger one.  That’s when we called it quits for the day.  Roy’s biggest obstacle to his fishing obsession is finding enough people to eat his catch.  It works out nicely when we’re buddy boating with a few other families, but one catch is too much for Makai only.

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So when the fishing is over, he takes to harassing the puffer fish.

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Marie got new fins to match her yellow snorkel and Eric got a set of blue fins and a snorkel as well.  I know it’s a little late in the trip, but at least they got to enjoy them before we go home.  The last time we were at the panga dock in Loreto, I dropped a bag of old gear off to the guys on the dock.  The looked like they had struck it rich.  Our gear locker was full of old snorkel gear Eric and I had from before our last trip to Mexico as well as gear that was left over from when Makai was a charter boat.  We kept it around for spares and back ups, but off loading it sure feels good.

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I’m really working on the kids’ cooking skills.  Roy and Genny have many specialties.  Roy likes to make sweats like cake, doughnuts, and jello.  Genny is great at following the directions on packages, reheating left overs, putting together tacos, sandwiches and salads, and her specialty recently has been lemon bars, yumm.  Next, I’m trying to get Roy to branch out and use the BBQ.  He’s always in charge of clams, and the other day he did lobster and steak on the grill.  Marie is hopeless, she just wants to be cute and taken care of.  I told her with those skills, she can be replaced by a puppy, better come up with some other job security.

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Roy and Effie did a great job with clams, garlic toast, and butter for our snack.

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The next new anchorage was El Refugio (V-Cove).  This place was fantastic.  We had great protection from any wind except from the North.  The shore had one small but nice beach with the sides of the bay protected by cliffs. Everything was dry here so there were few bugs to deal with and in the evening the winds funneled down the canyon and cooled us off all night long.

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The special attraction here is the caves.  Some were big enough to take the dinghy in and some had hidden underwater air pockets.  The water inside was very clear but a little spooky to make it special.

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Genny and I really dislike the stinging things in the water, so we cover up with wetsuits, gloves, a hood and I even put my finger over my upper lip to prevent stings resulting in a fat lip for everyone to laugh at.

 

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Flashlights were fun to use in the caves.

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The sandy bottom gave the cave a cozy feeling like a carpeted living room.

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Some caves went way back under water.

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Roy and Genny used their freediving skills to hold their breath and swim back to ‘high five’ the wall.

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Orange Cup Coral was new to me.  It was like a field of wild flowers surrounded by brown and grey rocks.

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I was so happy the water cleared up for Saundy and Effie.  When the conditions aren’t so nice, we grumble a little and spend the day catching up on chores.  But, I don’t like when guests on vacation loose snorkel days to murky water.

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The scissor tail damsel fish caught our eye by tricking us. When we first saw them in the murky water all you could see was a long thing body with a white spot near the end followed by feathery fins.  We were sure it was a school of squid swimming backwards.  A closer look brought the gills and eyes into view.

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Here is some more of that Orange Cup Coral thriving in the shade of the cave.

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All the fish seem to be moving into new phases.  We saw stripy fish that now had spots, silver and yellow fish turning blue, tiny star fish, damsel fish protecting eggs, lobsters roaming around, tons of rays, and now that the sea is warming, it’s time for DORADO!

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Oh YEA!  Every time Roy’s pole with zing with a fish taking line I would look out there for a blue and green body jumping in the sunlight at the end of his line.  Always disappointed by a bonito, but happy to see him fighting the fish and then releasing it.  This time I looked back and there it was.  I was so excited I jumped up and down too.

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While this bull isn’t as big as some of the massive sea monsters we got in the Bahamas, he did provide quite a bit of meat.

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As you can see, as soon as it starts to die, the color drains out of it.  Better get the picture before its too late.

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Just as Roy went out to bring in his line before anchoring, he got one more hit.  Not jumping Dorado, but another bonita is fun to catch and release.

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I got up early to get this post out as we’ll most likely be without internet until we reach San Diego.  This morning we’ll head over to Loreto and enjoy town and lunch before seeing Saundy and Effie off in a taxi to the airport.  Then Makai will set off for home.

We expect a 24 hour run to La Paz for fuel, then continue on right away to round the corner at Cabo San Lucas.  The prevailing north west winds are forecasted to be light the next few days which we’re hoping will make the trip north less miserable. There doesn’t seem to be anything cooking in the tropical kitchen, which is the area where hurricanes are formed off of southern Mexico.  If the weather stays calm, we’ll stop in Magdelana Bay around Tuesday.  From there we have a few stops we would like to make between overnight runs up the coast.  If the tropical kitchen starts cooking up a storm, we’ll bash on up the coast to the colder California water where we’ll be safe from hurricanes.

Keep an eye on our spot track and we’re looking forward to seeing old friends and new friends in California.

 

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Heading up to Santa Rosalia

After the last few anchorages full of beautiful sea shells, Genny got creative and crafty.  She put together a jar of shells then Eric and Jack tied it up with heavy duty line.  Hopefully we’ll be back to see it again in the future.

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A couple of our buddy boats left a sign as well.

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Terrapin and YOLO left their names on the tree as well.

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Twinsies at the beach.  Last spring Genny and I bought bathing suits but didn’t notice that one of the many tops we bought were so similar.  We’ve both avoided wearing this suit but now all the other suits are worn out and we’re left with our twinsie clothes. Genny looks much better than me in it though.

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Over the hill to the beach on the other side we followed a small band of donkeys, mules and burros.  This little guy was bringing up the rear and waited a safe distance from us before making a break for it to join his pals.

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As always the kids are finding some little critter like this warf roach.

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Ahh, the beach.  Now that its getting hot out, we spend lots of time soaking in the water.

I guess when they get bored they make signs.

The Hobie hasn’t been in the water for a few days so Eric put on some new stickers.  Arrrrg, doesn’t it instill fear?

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The grebes are like old friends.  On our last trip we spent hours playing games with the neighbors and watching the grebes.  A whole flock of these little guys would float around in the bay.  Then one guy would get the bright idea to dive under the water prompting the rest of the flock to follow popping up like little bobbers in another location.

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On a provisioning run in La Paz we came across a fabric store with dozens of bolts of stretchy dress fabric.  The girls picked this one, came home and sewed up their new cruising uniform.

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A fire ring is more than designating a location for the fire, its also about style and decorative shells. Driftwood has been easy to find and everyone has fun walking the beach collecting wood, shells, trash, bugs, digging holes, swimming and getting side tracked.

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Topaz must always, always, always be tied to a line and anchored so it’s easy to get a hold of her in case she gets some sort of an idea that maybe, she would like to roll in something disgusting.  We thought we were giving her a chance to run and stretch her legs on this long soft beach.  Instead, she found something disgusting to roll in.  Will we ever learn?

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Earlier, a panga came over and the fishermen asked if we had any water.  They had been living out of their boat for a few days, lobster diving at night and sleeping during the day and were low on supplies.  The trade was more than a dozen tails and we happily accepted.  While Eric filled their water jugs, I made peanut butter and nutella sandwiches with fresh baked bread and scrounged up packages of cookies and crackers for later.  When dinner time came around we invited Yolo over for a seafood feast on the BBQ.

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Beer in Mexico is wonderfully refreshing on these hot days.  Pacifico comes in regular, big and bigger sizes.  While the Ballena (whale in Spanish), about a liter is fun, the Ballenon is a chore to finish. Definitely the big bottles are to share.

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Eric’s shoes were burned at the stake.  They were glued, sewed, and had holes in the soles. This environment is harsh on sandals.  I have a pair of Chacaos that have been saved for the past two years.  Within the first few months of wearing them the sole started to delaminate.  I guess just living on the boat, whether or not they are used, is enough to trash a pair of expensive sandals.

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Roy lives to spear fish.  If its a sandy bottom and no fish, he always finds something to harass.

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Look mom, here’s a starfish. How about this interesting ray, maybe it’s a guitar fish.

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Look if I gently scoop up this puffer fish, it puffs up and I can hold it.

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Oh, look at those crazy sea lions floating on the surface warming their fins in the sun.

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Roy is happiest in his wetsuit with his long fins propelling him through the water a snorkel to breath and his mask giving him a clear view of the world beneath the surface.

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While each reef has its similarities, there are also new things to see.  This green weed is new to us.

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Roy with his infinite patience, deep diving and eagle eyes, he always manages to come home with the prize.

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Matt estimated this 30 inch leopard grouper to be about 15 pounds.

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Conception Bay is REALLY hot.  The average daily temp is 99 degrees and the water is in the mid to upper 80s.  The only thing we can do is float in the shade of the bridge deck. I can’t work, or cook, or even sleep.  The heat saps all the energy out.

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Everyone joins us under Makai.

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The biggest hazard in Santispac is the swarms of catfish that like to nip at your legs. The kids loved them.  They could scoop half a dozen up in one swipe or yank them out of the water one after another on the pole.  Roy was a great fishing guide.  He filed the barbs off of everyone’s hooks, and set the crew up with hot dogs for bait and took their fish off the hook or taught them how to do it.

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With this heat no one wants to go ashore.  Here is the ruins of the campground bar and restaurant. The restrooms were made of straw bales, they look interesting but are crumbled now.

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Now that we’ve completed our obligatory walk, everyone ran back to the beach.  Yolo brought snacks and drinks and everyone is happy again.

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Back to the catfish.

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This is Roy’s new de-hooker device.  You just clip the line, slide it down to the hook and twist.  The fish falls back into the water, no slimy hands and you don’t even have to put down your pole.

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It was so much fun and easy Genny gave it a go.

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Me too.

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Eventually the heat catches up and we have to soak some more.

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Topaz had fun because everyone was in the water with her.

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We visited Geary in Burro cove.  Using his favorite internet weather sites and his own experience, he gives the fleet morning weather reports on the Sonrisa HAM net.

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Highway One passes by the bay.  We had plenty of entertainment watching the trucks go by.

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I’m not sure what the purpose is of these signs.  Maybe to teach you geography or how about to show how far away the stresses of major cities around the world are. The sign pointed to JC restaurant across the street.

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So we fed the kids and had a parents night out. I love these restaurants out side of the tourist zones.  A meal that could easily cost $200 pesos or about $13 in a tourist zone, costs half that here.  We had fabulous Mexican plates of meat, salad, beans, torillas and it’s always served with a tray of salsas and veggie condiments. The margaritas were top notch and the locals enjoying the soccer game completed the atmosphere. Geary is a volunteer fireman for the Bahia Concepcion substation.

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First thing in the morning everyone packed up for a hike to the petroglyphs. The sign says the Cochimis Indians made them 3000 years ago and lots are for sale.  If anyone is interested contact Boni or Manuel Diaz. Now, I love a hike through the forest with a cool breeze rustling in the tree tops and the moist earth squishing under my feet as I walk along. Jumping across little streams and pointing out wild flowers or ferns.  This was not that hike!

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We saw the petroglyphs then scrambled up a rocky wash.  The heat had everyone dripping in sweat and the rocks loosened and rolled under our feet, not to mention scraping past cactus and thorny bushes.  The kids all whined and I wanted to whine but tried to support the adults by pressing on.  Finally, when I thought the kids would mutiny and simply turn around and slide back down the hill, I set a goal of the next shady stop and said we could turn around then.  Luckily, the next ridge gave us a view of the actual path that we missed.

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Hurray, lets get out of here.  Once again, I love a hike, but this 99 degree heat is only good for one thing.

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SOAKING!  and making everyone crabby and sleepy.  I would move from one bench to the other unable to be productive in any way. Everyone thought I was sick, but once I joined everyone in the water, like a wilting flower I perked up when properly watered.

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Topaz isn’t used to people in her water for so long.  Usually we swim off to a reef or take a quick dip and get out.  She loved to have two families soaking and swimming around her.

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We felt bad that all the humans could float on cushions but Topaz had to swim, swim, swim. After a little struggling she finally relaxed on floating cushions.  Then we all slid under Makai’s bridge deck for shade.

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After three nights in this heat we decided that maybe Conception Bay’s beauty wasn’t enough to compensate for the heat.  Off we went to Punta Chivato, a few miles north of the Bay’s entrance. We were all still hot and soaked at another beach.  There we met a guy who has a house on the beach in front of our boats.   He mentioned shells and whale sharks.  Oh yea, we missed the whale sharks in La Paz, lets go check them out here.

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We didn’t know what to expect, but then we saw fins slowly meandering through the shallow water.

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We saw up to five of these fish, one clearly larger than the others. They slowly swam at the surface filtering the nutrient rich water for plankton and anything else that appeals to their pallet. Occasionally they would stop, open that big mouth, and suck water.

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We have been really lucky to have these animal encounters.  The memories are with us forever.

After watching them the first time out, we decided to get into the water.

Roy finally met a fish he didn’t want to eat.  This whale shark would move back and forth, coming back to the swimmers and dinghies on his loop thorough the water.  Swimmers could gently wipe their hand over his side, but he didn’t like his fins touched.

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Jason Holmberg from  whaleshark.org saw our video on Vimeo and sent us a link to the entry he started for sightings of the shark we shared our morning with.

 

No one wanted to leave but there are more places to visit before we turn around and head for home.  Isla San Marcos has a gypsum mine (main ingredient in drywall) billowing dust on passing boats.

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A few miles up from the mine is Sweet Pea cove our destination for the night.

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Those Manta Rays followed us up here and were going crazy.  The evening before we were having dinner and heard a roar of splashing, belly slapping rays heading our way.  Roy was ready with his mask and fins when they returned in the morning.

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Unfortunately the water visibility wasn’t so clear but the aerial show was spectacular.

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Roy and Topaz were out there.  Roy covered his head for fear of being flopped on, but Topaz would have chased them and barked until she was exhausted.

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No one knows why they jump.  Speculations include removing parasites, mating rituals, and jumping for joy.

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Crazy Mantas

We only had one chance at snorkeling.  Marie was exhausted after a morning of avoiding homework in earnest. I was exhausted hearing her complaints.  When were in the water everything is mellow.  My ears are full of water so I can feel alone and she can rest since I can’t hear her complaints.  There she floats, fast asleep.

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Next stop is Santa Rosalia. This is our fish hook, as Roy calls it.  You know the fish hook is at the end of the line, a little fisherman humor there.

Santa Rosalia is a turn of the century Copper mining company town.  In the late 1884 a French company developed the area and its influence over the towns architecture is immediately apparent.

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Santa Rosalia also uses Gustave Eiffel’s church, built for the exposition in 1889, and dedicated to the patron saint of miners, Santa Barbara.

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The metal works are an interesting contrast to most Mexican cement, stucco, adobe architecture.

 

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Here’s a photo of the church during Santa Rosalia’s boom years.

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Inside the white ceiling and beautiful stained glass windows bring in a lot of light to show off the beautiful wood work around the altar and pews.

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Another historical building to visit is the bakery.  Panaderia el Boleo.  Remember the French Baker in Barra de Navidad, we love our baked goods.  The girls picked out a selection of sweet bread and bolillos (traditional Mexican French bread) for sandwiches.

 

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We’re still here, any more than 2 days in one place we must have a good reason.  Yes, we do, there is a hurricane brewing and is forecasted to make landfall at Cabo San Lucas and then head up the Sea of Cortez.  While it will be losing strength on the way up, the storm is still something to prepare for.  We decided this marina should be safe for the storm.   So lets go sight seeing.

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There is a museum at the top of the hill to house artifacts used in the administrative offices of the original mining operations.

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The artifacts and descriptions were pretty sparse, but the museum was on on the way to the grocery store.

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Nice Sculpture, a tribute to the miners.

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We were excited to see a street named after Jean Michel Cousteau, but further research left me without any more information about his connection to the town.  One thing I did learn is that his last name is misspelled.

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Abandoned mining buildings are a centerpiece on the water front.  After the French ran the mines, the Canadians, Mexicans and Koreans all took a stab at it.  The current offices are just out of town.

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The old Marina office is also abandoned along the waterfront.  When we visited in 2000, this is the marina we stayed at.   I remember that we gave our windsurfer to a guy that worked here, and while there weren’t any amenities, the atmosphere was a little more like a cruiser friendly hangout.

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Santa Rosalia has been the City of Manhattan Beach, CA’s sister city since 1989. The program provides an opportunity for the people in Manhattan Beach to donate fire and rescue equipment, scholarships, and exchange student programs.

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We were excited to see Manhattan Beach on the side of these trucks because we have a neighbor at our cabin who is a retired LA City fireman who lives in Manhattan Beach. HI Ron!

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Summer in the Sea of Cortez is hot.  We spent the days waiting for the storm inside Makai with the air conditioning on, catching up on work, school, and blog posts.  Topaz was bored to death and had to stay inside to keep cool.  Just before turned the AC switch to ON, we cleaned the cockpit and everyone got hosed.  Topaz hates, hates, hates the hose, a squirt bottle, a bucket of water or even a sprinkle of rain. How can some pup who spends 8 hours a day swimming be so afraid of a hose?

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She is pretty lucky living with the comforts of Makai provides.  The local perros and gatos living on the street don’t have such comforts.

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What good would a stay at a Mexican town be if we didn’t get to eat local delicacies. The exquisito cart is still located next to the church in the afternoon/evenings.  This hot dog is wrapped in bacon and served topped with tomatoes, mayo, and cheese wiz.

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Hurricane Blanco has been brewing for a week south of Cabo.  All the boaters spent the last few days executing plans for safe refuge.

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We’ve decided to stay here in Santa Rosalia.  The marina is situated in the bay in a corner safe from the swells.

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All the boats used extra lines to tie to the pilings instead of the docks.

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It turned out to be a rainy day, a few gusts of wind up to 30 knots.  Now we’re off to Loreto and to pick up Saundy and Effie.

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Loreto II

We returned to Puerto Escondido to hook up with friends and pick up our guest, Jack from the airport.  The morning of Jack’s arrival, Eric, Courtney and Matt from Yolo hiked Steinbeck’s Canyon.  I’m having a hard time finding exactly why the trail is named after John Steinbeck, but my hypothesis is that this is the area he and Ed Ricketts visited in 1940 when they collected marine specimens and explored the Gulf of California as documented in The Log of the Sea of Cortez. They met a rancher who took them out to hunt big horn sheep.  In the end they had a great trail ride and camp out even though they never saw any sheep.

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Cow, goats and even horses can be found wandering free in this harsh land.    The trails took them over pools of water.

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Scrambling over boulders.

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The terrain is tough, but a little soil and a little water in enough for this beautiful palm to sprout out of a rock.

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The day was hot, but the views were worth it.

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This was a quick stop in Puerto Escondido, now we have to get out to the islands and enjoy the water.

When I moved aboard our first Makai in 1991, Jack was our neighbor at Cabrillo Isle Marina in San Diego.  He had returned a few years earlier from cruising in Mexico and told us all about this area in Baja.  Jack’s stories inspired us to head out on our cruises in 1997 and again in 1999. Its nice to have him here and listen to the stories of his adventures.

Jack was kind enough to gather up our mail and a few supplies.  Be aware when cruisers ask you to bring mail, it’s not just Christmas Cards and bank statements.  He brought us things like new dinghy propellers, outboard engine parts, mail order bathing suits, several months of Reader’s Digest (our favorite magazine), and even bread yeast.   Thanks Jack for all the presents.

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Our dinghy prop had a difficult year.  The first blade got chipped in Atlantic City, NJ, then there were rocks in Zihuatenjo, Tenacatita, and lastly Ballandra Bay had a hidden hazard.

Jack traveled Mexico and Central America by boat and camper several times.  It was great having a tour guide to teach us more about the area.

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The Cholla cactus was blooming these barely visible little pink flowers.  Jack showed us how its mean little needles shed their outer skin which embeds into the victim leaving the needle to live another day on the cactus.   When the plant dies the wood has an interesting Swiss cheese pattern.

The beach in Marquer, Isla Carmen, had other interesting treasures like this trigger fish skeleton.

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How about this stag beetle.  There is always something new to see at the beach.

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The Hobie has been our best toy ever.  In Mexico the wind is either too light for Makai to sail or from the wrong direction.  Once in the anchorage the wind always comes up in the afternoon and Hobie gets to zip back and forth exploring the bay.

Topaz Jump

Topaz gets clipped to her swim line in the morning, her ladder goes in and then she takes care of herself all day.  After her evening bath she is done, beat, spent, pooped out, don’t try to sit in her spot, she will wiggle her way in to put herself to bed.

The next stop is Isla Coronados, our first new anchorage in several weeks.  We arrived at the end of the day, sailed the Hobie around, took showers and had dinner.  Everyone was settling in for relaxation when we spotted Topaz out swimming.  Hey, she jumped off the bow to chase the jumping Manta Rays.  I always remembered them jumping in the Sea of Cortez, but this year has been amazing.  We all jumped into the dinghy and chased Topaz who was chasing the rays.  They gave us a spectacular show with a dozen in the air at any given time.

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The next morning Roy and I were on the bow pulling up the anchor when he looking into the water and saw the school of mantas swim by the boat.  What is a few more minutes, lets go swimming!

Swimming with the Manta Rays

Isla Coronados has fishing restrictions so this sandy anchorage is full of life.  Even the tiniest rocks have a giant scallop growing on them.  We saw all kinds of fish, as well as the mantas.

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Normally the Hobie is hoisted on the deck any time we move to another location but the weather has been so calm, we have been towing it from anchorage to anchorage.  Today we left a little later in the morning, the wind started to pick up and the Hobie was getting beat while trailing Makai, so Marie and I volunteered to sail Hobie the rest of the way.  The waves were a little big, the wind a little bit on the nose, and we were really cold, but we made it the 12 miles up to Punta Mangles.

I never saw so many pretty little shells.  We spent the rest of the day collecting a large baggie of shells for future crafts.

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Mangles is also home to abandoned buildings.  Between the unfinished abandoned houses there is also an abandoned unfinished swimming pool.  This type of neighborhood isn’t unusual, it always leaves us guessing about the story behind the ghost town.

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Several pangas were cruising around.  Instead of the usual fishermen, these were full of tourists out on paid fishing trips.  One boat was fly fishing.  They got a few little fish here and there, not quite the success Roy has with hot dogs for bait in the evenings.

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Around the corner is a nice snorkel reef.

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Watching the animals go about their day leaves me wonder what it would be like to live in a neighborhood as diverse as theirs. There are some relationships where they actually swim together, but others that don’t mingle at all.

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We experienced cold water in some areas, red tide in others, but where it was clear the reef full of sea life to keep us entertained for the morning.

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Of course Roy is always hunting. One of these fish makes two meals.  We gave one fillet to our neighbor and cooked the other up for Baja fish tacos. Leopard Grouper is our new staple for seafood. Roy puts forth more patience and effort to get these fish than he did in the Bahamas.  First of all the water visibility is fair to good at best and hard to find and chase the grouper. They are fast and swim out in the open, deeper water.  If they make it to the safety of the rocks, their color blends in and they can disappear so far into the reef you can’t dig them out. Roy is determined and the best I can do is to keep and eye on him and assist if he asks for help.

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The next anchorage up is San Juanico, a large and beautiful bay with several beaches and reefs.

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One tree here hosts the cruiser’s shrine where sailors passing by leave a plaque or paint a rock or shell with their boat name and date.  We saw a few from 20 years ago, but no sign of old Makai on our previous trips.

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Driftwood bonfires with our pals on the sailboat Friday were fun each night. When the bigger logs heat up, scorpions come crawling out.  Ewwww, it’s creepy and scary, no one wants to step on one of these guys as they’re fleeing to safety away from the fire.

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It’s time to turn around and head back to Loreto so Jack can catch his flight back to LA tomorrow.

Isla Coronados hosts yet another hot, dry, rocky, steep hike.  A perfect challenge for Eric and Jack.  The kids and I made up some excuses and then disappeared when it was time to leave.

The trail started out well marked with signs to describe the flora and fauna along the way.

Oooo, pretty flower!

And another.

Then Jack headed back to the beach telling Eric to take a picture from the summit. Yikes, there are no switch backs, just scramble up the side of the hill.

High above the anchorage, the summit is the top of an ancient volcano.

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Eric called us on the vhf radio from the top.  After a half hour or so we went to the beach to watch the steam come off him when he finally made it to soak in the water.

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All that hiking deserves a beer at the beach.  We saw a few schools of some type of brown ray swimming by.

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After months of cold water, the clear, warm, shallow water along this beach was like a big Jacuzzi.

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Our Christmas card from 2000 is a picture of Eric, Teak and Me taken by Mike Gebb on this very same beach.

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The next day we anchored in front of Loreto and did all the usual chores.  We hiked around town for dinghy fuel, beer refills, tortillas, flashlight batteries, and groceries.  We made new friends, a family on vacation from the Pike’s Peak area in Colorado, and had lunch and ice cream with them.  Then the anchor came up and we motored up to San Juanico to meet up with Yolo and pick up where we left off.

 

 

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Loreto, Baja California

I love the Jacques Cousteau quote on our Evolve Freediving t-shirts, “The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in it’s net of wonder forever”.  We’re all hooked forever.

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The thought of ending our time living and cruising on Makai has Marie making extreme decisions.  She said that when we arrive in Loreto, she’s going to catch the next flight to the Bahamas.

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Until then we are enjoying the Sea of Cortez.  Whales frequently pass us quietly.  Occasionally we see their tail flukes as they disappear out of sight.  Manta rays leap out of the water and slap on the surface.  I haven’t been lucky enough to capture them in a photo yet.  We also see seals and gangs of dolphins.

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All of this activity usually gets Topaz riled up, she races around Makai barking.  Occasionally, the dolphins pause for a look at the noise maker and then go off and give her a show, leaping and slapping the water.

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The trip up to Loreto is just a little to far to make in one day so we stopped at San Marcial Pt. for a little snorkeling. The shoreline and reefs are usually steep and rocky.  Way off shore is a reef that is visible by this little rock tip with a gull perched for a rest.

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The visibility has been horrible, but today we had a beautiful dive.  Still waiting for the water to warm up.

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A spearfishing/snorkel trip can be about 2 hours long.  The chilly water has been leaving us with numb fingers and toes.  This cloud of tiny fish didn’t complain.

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The reefs are mostly boulders and walls of rock with occasional sea fan and spongy coral.

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Roy was anxious to get a little more practice with his spear gun.  In contrast to the groupers in the Bahamas that quietly hide in holes, the leopard groupers in Mexico swim out in the deeper open water and quickly sprint away from our spearfishing boy Roy.  This gives Roy plenty of exercise and practice with his deep diving. We learned that 1% of the groupers metamorphose into this golden color.

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As we were wrapping up our morning dive we started to notice the red tide moving in.  It is interesting the way it swirls around at various depth and water temperatures that it prefers. A once crystal clear anchorage is now mucky and red.

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Twenty five miles to Puerto Escondido and Loreto Fest 2015.  Along the way we have homework and fishing.  Maybe a little more fishing than homework.  The Black Skipjack / Mexican Bonito kept jumping on our line, one after another.  They are good fighters and like to dive deep, so Makai needs to come to a stop for this 15 minute battle.  One battle is ok, but after about 5 fish, Eric suggested we pull in the lines and keep going so we can get into the bay before sunset.

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Just in time for Loreto Fest.  We raced up here for this weekend event.  We were here for Loreto Fest 1998 and again 2000, back then the party was a week long. This year it is two days of pot lucks, music, seminars, meeting new friends.

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Dogs are always invited, but they have to stay in the shade.

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Mary from AirOps offered a shell drilling seminar.  She brought equipment and shells for everyone to make a necklace or earrings.  Genny brought a favorite shell to drill and now we have a new hobby.  I spend at least one day in each anchorage searching for shells.

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A local cooking school was invited to make lunch.  They had bbq hamburgers and hot dogs, tamales and tacos in the evening.  But the best was the sushi bar.  I got this beautiful plate of sushi for 100 pesos which is about $6.50.

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Puerto Escondido is now managed by a marina.  Personally, I think the marina is an asset to the bay.  We used to have nothing more than a dinghy dock, water hose, trash and a shaded meeting place available.  Now there is a dry boat storage, mini market, laundry, showers and bathrooms, trash, this cool upstairs pool, occasional internet, the taxis hang out in the parking lot and moorings are easy to pick up.

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Next to the upstairs restaurant is an unused bar with power for me to sit at and work on the blog.  Don’t get the wrong idea about the internet, it is still a grueling struggle to upload photos.  On this day I spent 4 hours uploading the La Paz photos and another 4 hours with the video of us swimming with the seals.  After 4 hours with the wifi, I was only 50% on the video upload and took it back to the boat to finish up with Eric’s Mexican Cellphone data plan.

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The Hobie is always great fun for bored kids.  Even out here on a cruising boat we all have trouble with the kids getting too much “screen time”.  Every time I turn around someone is sneaking a game.

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The evening entertainment was some amazing volunteers.  There were 3 or 4 guitar players playing songs we all know, one young guy playing concert quality classic violin, and of course we have ….

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The Mears family singers with their rendition of “Dumb Ways to Die“.  This hilarious song comes from a video game and is also a safety advertisement for an Australian public transportation system.

Whew, after all that socializing, off to the islands.  Isla Danzante is about 3 miles away. We did some great snorkeling and a few short walks.  After a day, we were driven out of there by the bees.  Apparently, they send out scouts looking for fresh water and if you don’t kill them, they bring back all their friends and the swarm is scary.

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Isla Carmen and Marquer Bay is next.  The cactus are so cool, growing wherever they find water and congregating in the lowlands.

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Happy Birthday to Eric!  We spent the day Hobie Sailing and snorkeling and now Roy, our master cake maker, set out the cake for Eric to make a wish.

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We’re racing to finish up school, which mainly consists of math. I have to say, I’m way better at Algebra now than I was in 1980.

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We don’t formally do science, geography or history on Makai, because we live it.  We’re learning about the missions which started in Loreto in the 17th century, the expedition the Spaniards went on to discover that Baja is a peninsula instead of an island in the 16th century as well as science like how to spot a Mexican Chocolate Clam.

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The science lab requires the use of a mask and snorkel.  When you see these two uniform holes close together, dig your fingers down a few inches and pull out the clam.

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The girls came ashore to die their hair.  The dollies are resting in the shade while the girls read books in a cave and let the hair dye set.

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Roy, Roy, Roy, can think of only fishing fishing fishing. Line fishing off the back, trolling on Makai and the Hobie, at the beach or on the rocks, spear fishing with a gun or Hawaiian Sling, or even using his hands as well as a hand net or throw net.  Catch and release as well as for keepers for the dinner table.

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The puffer fish was scooped up with a net for closer observation in the bucket.

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Speaking of critters, its time for kibble inventory.  We left with five bags of Canidae delivered to the Solomans, MD. Post Office from Amazon.com. Each bag lasting 2 months, we’re down to the last two.  Our quality control expert is making her final check before we split and repack the last two bags.

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Ballandra Bay is another favorite anchorage.  There is a picture of Eric sitting in the water looking out towards Loreto framed and hung at our cabin.

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Roy and I took the Hobie for a little ride to explore.  We had the bright idea to pull into a little tidal estuary and immediately got stuck in the mud. I was most worried about losing shoes in the thick mud.  This worry comes from experience at the muddy beaver ponds and river banks in Colorado.

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A closer look at the cactus gives an appreciation for their needles.

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A 20 mile trip around the top of the island takes us to Punta Perico. We scrambled around on the rocky beach looking for shells and pretty rocks.

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It’s certainly not as soft as the Bahamas beaches, but just as quiet.

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The anchorage is surrounded by rocky reefs.  On our first trip to this bay the visibility was barely 10 feet, but within a week it improve to double or triple that. Roy as always is bringing home dinner.  As compared to the Bahamas, he spends a lot more time searching and stalking big fish and then only brings home one or two instead of a whole bucket of smaller ones.

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A few miles away in the dinghy is a 100 foot long tuna boat wreck. Eric heard that it sunk in 1981 and lays in 26 feet of water on its side.

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The boat makes an impressive reef loaded with schools of huge fish.

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The wreck is covered in plant growth with scallops and crabs living in every nook and cranny.

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I’m really impressed with the number of fish we’ve seen so far in Mexico. Every time we go snorkeling the water is swarming with life.

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Wrecks are great reefs as long as they aren’t leaking harmful fluids.

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Roy’s catch of the day is a Barred Pargo.

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Nothing goes to waste.  We get two jumbo fillets, the gulls sit off the back squawking at him for the skin and then the rest of the carcass is consumed by the food chain that feeds off the bottom.

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The refrigerator is sparse, time for another grocery run. Plus, our pals on Yolo and Terrapin were in Puerto Escondido, so it’s time to go back for another visit.  In two days we managed to take care of trash, dinghy fuel, propane, laundry, groceries, dinner out and make plans to go back to the island ASAP.

On the way we had a few sprinkles so I got out and scrubbed the deck.  Just as I got everything soaped up the rain stopped.  Eric got out the hose, Yahoo, lets waste water maker water!

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Happy Marie is enjoying jumbo sized bananas.  There are some things you conserve on a boat and other things you don’t.  One the banana gets brown spots I have to get creative to get anyone to eat it, so eat them up now!

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After our last dinner out at the Tripue, Genny was ready to cook Mexican food.  Here is her enchilada creation.  I prefer to heat them in a skillet, it’s quicker and doesn’t make a stuck on mess in a casserole dish.

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Back at the wreck in Salinas  we’re going to explore on SCUBA.

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We have a real system now.  Everyone is getting used to finding and putting together their own gear.  Eric and I supervise a little and check to be sure the air is on and everything works properly.

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Then at the dive site, I get in first and collect each kid as they enter.  After we swim around a little someone gets cold or bored and switches gear with Eric to finish the dive.  A normal dive for us has a total bottom time of about 45 minutes at 25-30 feet deep using about 2000 lbs of air. Just enough to keep everyone happy, interested and in practice. While Roy like SCUBA its against the fishing regulations to kill anything while using compressed air.  So, SCUBA only holds his interest for so long.  Marie likes to SCUBA but gets cold, so her dives are short. Genny loves SCUBA the most.  She is the first one in and the last one out.

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Genny likes to look for shells and explore the dark corners of the wreck.

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SCUBA lets us get close to the fish and just sit there and watch them live their lives.

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Genny found a big snapper hooked on a broken fishing line.  She was so proud to find this fish.  It was a combination of Roy’s line fishing and spear fishing without all the hunting.

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After diving we joined our friends for a walk on land. Check out Terrapin’s Blog for more photos. Salinas was home to salt mining until the early 1980s and now hosts a big horn sheep hunting lodge. Cruisers can go ashore and ask permission to poke around in the ruins and go see the salt pond.

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The beach is quite long and very sandy compared to what we’ve seen so far in the Sea of Cortez. Jess found a stick bug, this is a new critter..

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While the lodge was modern and beautiful, we were interested in the run down ruins of the salt mine.

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The half a dozen or so buildings are nothing more than stone walls and what’s left of the roof.

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Some buildings had a sign labeling it as the office, other’s had paper records dated 1980.

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A rusted out typewriter overlooks the disintegrated remains of a dock.

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The kids found the kitchen with a sparse cupboard. Our friend, Jack, visited these ruins in the early 1990s, just ten years after it shut down. He said there were still bottles in the pharmacy and stuff like that.

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We mostly saw rusted mechanical equipment and vehicles.

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The salt marsh was cool.  It looked like snow from afar.  Up close the crystals shined in the sun.

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We walked cautiously on the salt because it looks like slippery snow.

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Roy found a bit of water inhabited by hundreds of fiddler crabs.

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Like all good Mexican towns, the church is at the center.  Our Lady of Carmen is a statue of Mary and baby Jesus encased in glass.  I think that on this trip I just came to realize all the “Our Lady of xxx” churches means that is the name given to the statue of Jesus and his mother.  In Puerto Vallarta we saw Our Lady of Guadalupe and in Buffalo we visited Our Lady of Victory, there must be thousands of “Our Lady” churches around the world.

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The beach is full of so many shells, they were used to decorate this outside wall.

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On Roy’s birthday, 14 on May 14th, we had a great family evening but saved cupcakes for when our friends arrived.  After cupcakes everyone watched a John Wayne movie.

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The dewy morning attracted bees in search of fresh water.  We’ve found that they are easy to swat and flick off the boat.  Once we get rid of them all, no more come until after the shower hose sprays water on the back deck.

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Swat Swat Swat, that’s our entertainment for the day.

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Don’t forget Topaz.  She barks to swim, barks for food, barks when you leave in the dinghy, barks at dolphins, barks at rays, barks at pangas, barks barks barks.

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But she is much better off swimming off of Makai than snorkeling.

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One last look at the reef.  Roy goes out deep looking for the big fish, but I got back in the dinghy.  We’re starting to see Portuguese Man o War float by.  Many years ago I had a bad experience with these guys and ended up with zig zag blistering welts  on my legs, face, neck, arms.  It was horrible and I hope we can get through this trip without anyone getting stung.

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We’ve spent several evenings playing cards while Roy fishes off the back.

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One after another everyone pulls in Chubs, Grunts, Jacks, Yellowtail, and anything else that jumps on the hook.  The kids have a blast fighting these little guys and then sending them back to the school.

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Making the full loop again we stopped by Danzante for one more snorkel before heading back to Puerto Escondido for another round of chores.

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One of Puerto Escondido’s landmarks is the pointy gorilla head in the Sierra Gigante Mountains.

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We all piled into Yolo’s car and took off for a day in town. The waterfront statue here is a whale shark.

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We had a meal at a bbq chicken restaurant.  You can’t beat it, a whole chickens, fabulous crispy french fries, tortillas and chips, and drinks for about $10 per family. Courtney scraped the leftover chicken scraps in a pile for the dog wandering around out front.  The dogs roam freely, most of them look like they’ve had several litters and many have some sort of healed over injury or infected looking part.  It’s sad, but all the dogs in this town look well fed.

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We went for a tour of Our Lady of Loreto.  This was the first mission in the Californias and held it’s first mass in 1697.

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I took this picture a few days before and was later surprised to notice that the statue of Our Lady of Loreto was not on display in my picture.  It is hidden behind the red curtain.

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The mission was built more than 100 years after the town was claimed by the Spaniards. Back then they thought Baja was an island but after further exploration and no northern route was found, they charted it as the peninsula of California Baja Sur.

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We browsed the adjoining museum and learned about the indigenous people, four different missionary orders, explorers, their lives and challenges on Baja.

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Roy spotted a cactus outside and told us about a scene in the “Mask of Zorro” where the bad guys stripped the good guys naked and tied their hands together around a cactus.  If one guy pulled the guy on the other side got poked by the cactus.  Wow, if I could use this technique when the kids are being bad, I bet moral would improve around here.

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Around the mission are several gift shops, restaurants, and a Thrifty Ice Cream.

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About a block away we found the tortillaria, marine hardware store, and grocery store.

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All this shopping is tiring.  The laundry is clean and the boat is prepped, tomorrow we have a guest arriving.  We used to live on our boat next to our pal Jack in San Diego.  He told us about his sailing stories about cruising in Mexico in the early 1990′s which was one of our influences for our first trips in the late 1990s.

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We will spend one last week cruising these islands (and a few new anchorages) with Jack.

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