Sunday, May 15, 2011

Paper Nautilus (Betsy)

Argonauta Nouryi
A strong wind blew through much of the night. Normally I wouldn't care, but Mystic was at anchor for the final night of our seven month, 4,700 mile cruise and I didn't want any trouble. Besides, it was Friday the 13th.

Despite sleeping fitfully, I was wide awake before the sun poked over Baja's dusty hills. Pulling on yesterday's clothes, I jumped into the dinghy and in my haste to get to the beach I didn't even bother to pump up the tubes that had gone a little soft overnight. This was my last chance to do some beach combing before we went into Marina Palmira in La Paz and put Mystic to bed for the summer.

A quick survey of the beach turned up tracks in the sand along the high tide mark that despite the early hour showed someone had been there before me. First to arrive was a tejon, but not to worry, he was hunting for his breakfast, not shells. Tejons look like raccoons but have pointy snouts and long, cat-like tails. Cute, but vicious little creatures. (

Not finding anything exciting (the tejon probably had the same luck), I picked up a few olive shells, nothing special, but at least they filled my pocket.

Working back towards the dinghy, my eyes continued to sweep the beach for one last, though unlikely, treasure. And there, partially buried in the sand, was a conchologist's prize--a paper nautilus! And I'm not even a conchologist, or at least I wasn't. The whoop that escaped as I bent to retrieve the delicate three-inch shell surprised even me. It was followed by a quick thank you to the very wind I'd been cursing just a few hours earlier.

The paper nautilus is actually an egg case created by an octopus and not a true shell at all. Because they are so fragile most are crushed by the sea long before they reach land. This Argonauta Nouryi 
was rare find indeed. (

I hope the tejon found what he was after before leaving the beach. I certainly did.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

It's all about friends (David)

Cruising in Mexico is all about the people you meet. Sure, the beaches are beautiful, the anchorages benign and the climate is great, but the big contrast compared to the Pacific Northwest is the degree to which one socializes. In the Pacific Northwest, most people are on a one or two week vacation. Even the long term cruisers are all going in different directions. In Mexico it is different: pretty much everyone is moving either up or down the coast and you see the same boats in anchorage after anchorage. Close friendships develop and that is one of the joys of cruising in this part of the world.

Sarah & Darrell (and Sparky of course)
For example, on our very first day in La Paz, we met Sarah, Darrell and Sparky on El Tiburon, (El Tiburon) and enjoyed their company at just about every anchorage throughout the season. Farther down the coast we met the folks on Tapatai, Sarah Jean II, Musik, Rutea, Anna and Miss Teak, to name just a few of our cruising buddies. To further illustrate the point, I'm still in contact with families I met in the South Pacific in 1974 and two prior cruising seasons in Mexico (1990/91 and 1999/00).  Don't get me wrong: we loved our ten years in the Pacific Northwest. With 1000 miles of islands and anchorages between Seattle and Glacier Bay, it's a great place to go boating -- it's just a different cruising experience.

Mexican Train Dominoes
This year, the game of choice is Mexican Train Dominoes. Then there's bocce ball on the beach, dinghy pot-luck raft-ups, tacos & cervezas at beach palapas, excursions to the local markets, shell collecting (quite a competitive sport, as I have learned), dinners in town and of course the camaraderie of shared passages and 'boat talk.'

Happy Hour, La Cruz Yacht Club
In March and April, we said bon voyage to Sarah Jean II, Rutea and others as they departed for the Marquesas. Earlier we wished Silas Crosby safe travels as they left for the Galapagos, Easter Island and Chile. More recently, our group split between those returning home via the 'Baja Bash' and others, like us, who are leaving their boats in Mexico for the summer.

Unlike earlier years, these are not really goodbyes because we can stay in touch via e-mail. For example, everyday we read of Sarah Jean II's progress across the Pacific and their adventures in the Marquesas, Tuamotus and beyond via their beautifully-written blog postings (Sarah Jean II). We also always enjoy Meredith Lewis' writings aboard Silas Crosby.

Dinghy Pot Luck Raft-Up
Drinks aboard Mystic

Loreto Fest

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Mission San Javier (David)

Just getting there was an adventure
Just after Loreto Fest, a bunch of cruisers anchored in Puerto Escondido climbed aboard a four-wheel-drive troop carrier for the drive to Mission San Javier. Located in rugged mountainous terrain about 25 miles west of Loreto, Mission San Javier was founded in 1699, the second oldest (after Loreto) of the west coast missions. Just getting there was a three hour adventure as the mission appears to be in the middle of nowhere.

Today the narrow arroyo is inhabited by just a few locals who maintain the mission and run a tourist restaurant, but back at the beginning of the eighteenth century this was home to a community of about 20,000 Indians before smallpox and other diseases took their toll.

Mission San Javier
It's been reported that when the first service was held, Father Miguel del Barco was horrified to see the locals turn up in their native dress, that is, no clothes at all for the men, and a small covering for the women. Furthermore, the mission interior proved to be quite chilly in winter. When the good Father preached about the choice between eternal damnation in the fires of Hell versus the more nebulous benefits of Heaven, most expressed a preference for Hell because at least it was going to be warm!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Anchor watch (David)

We are in Puerto Escondido, the most protected anchorage in Mexico. It's 2:00 am. It's blowing 30 knots, gusting 37. We are on anchor watch. WTF?

Yesterday morning, the second day of Loreto Fest,  we listened as always to Don Anderson's weather forecast on the Sonrisa net. "It's going to be really honking all the way down the Sea of Cortez, starting tomorrow afternoon," he says. When Don says "honking" we pay attention: he has an uncanny ability to get it right.

When we arrived in Puerto Escondido a few days ago, I envied the people who had reserved one of the many buoys. They looked secure and well spaced, whereas we had to squeeze amongst the 100 or more anchored boats. As the wind built up during the day I let out more chain. A little later, I hailed the ketch right behind us. He had out 150 ft, same as us. "How about letting out another 30 ft?"  I asked. He readily agreed: now we both had out 180 ft. Not as much scope as I would have liked in 40 ft of water given the forecast, but the swinging room was limited in the crowded anchorage.

I set an anchor alarm that sounds next to our bed, but cannot sleep. Betsy is also wide awake. We take turns sitting in the pilot house keeping an eye on everything. The anchor is holding: our track on the Nobeltec screen paints a wide arc as we swing back and forth, but there is no sign of dragging. I can see the two smaller arcs from before we let out more chain. Everything looks OK. I still cannot relax. I don't remember when I last checked the seizing on the anchor shackle. I ask Betsy: she says she looked at it last time we raised anchor and it was fine. I plot a course to get us out of the anchorage just in case. It would be difficult to maneuver through 150 boats in the dark with 30 knots blowing, and then exit the narrow, shallow channel, but, hell, a crappy plan is better than no plan at all.

The pre-dawn light shows whitecaps throughout the anchorage. The VHF chatter starts. Several boats on mooring buoys have chafed through their pennants and back-up lines: they are circling the anchorage looking for a place to put down the hook. I'm not envious of the buoys anymore, in fact I love our 7/16" chain and 110lb Bruce!

Just as Don forecast, it blows all the next day and most of the following night.

Tuesday morning it is calm and beautiful. No boats damaged, no one hurt. The Loreto Fest organizers offer free margaritas and food: everyone shows up. Another day in paradise.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Blindfolded dinghy races (Betsy)

Put two people in a dinghy, blindfold the driver and have the other person navigate. Trust. It's all about trust.

Today, Betsy of Mystic and Katie of Miss Teak entered the LoretoFest Dinghy Race. I was driving, Katie was navigating.

The rules were simple: cross the starting line, circle a boat in the distance (without hitting or damaging it), return to the start and retrieve a big Micky Mouse that's been tossed into the sea. Easy? Not on your life.

Katie and I, the only all-girl entry, laughed and cheered the dinghies that went before us. Then suddenly it was our turn. Looking us in the eye, the rough, gray-haired race organizer said, "I'm counting on you two". Jeez, as if we didn't have enough pressure from the talented, speedy teams that had gone before us!

Easing toward the starting line, Katie positioned herself low in the bow as I pulled the blindfold over my eyes. I heard the starting gun, goosed the throttle and we were off. For the first forty-five seconds we were flying. Then I stopped trusting Katie's instructions. I heard her emphatic starboard, starboard, but instead let my own head and blind sense of direction take over, throwing us off course.

I so wanted to pull off the blindfold and see where in the heck we were. All the while, Katie kept shouting directions and managed to retrieve that life-jacketed Mickey Mouse. And as you might have guessed, we did not take home the trophy.

What a powerful lesson in trust. I just wish I could have seen it.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Surrounded by the Mexican navy (Betsy)

Midday surprise

We left Puerto Vallarta early this morning for an overnight passage to Mazatlan. We always want our passages to be uneventful but we don't always get our way.This afternoon a Mexican navy vessel came racing at us then swiftly veered off, but not before I snapped a quick photo. Strange, but this is Mexico. At dinner we commented on a boat that had been shadowing us for several hours, but no biggie, it's usually just some other cruising boat traveling about the same speed as Mystic.

Mexican navy in stealth mode
Later, alone on night watch I dimmed the lights and was enjoying an amazing full moon (the brightest in twenty years) when my moon suddenly morphed into a five million candlepower spotlight. I quickly eased back on the throttle—our signal that the off-watch person was needed topsides—which brought David running. We tried to identify the boat that was nearly on top of us: drug runners, navy, fisherman wanting a beer, we had no idea.

I repeatedly hailed the menacing boat and got the same response: a spotlight in my eyes from 50 feet away. I asked their intentions, same response. Fed up, David got out our spotlight and shined it back at them: it was the Mexican navy, again. That finally got them talking. After a few Spanglish questions about us and our boat they announced they were launching their rubber boat and would be boarding us for a "routine inspection" in ten minutes. Routine? At night? We waited as Mystic wallowed 25 miles offshore. David and I have a rubber boat too, and it takes us about two minutes to hoist it off the boat deck and pop it into the water.

It took the navy an hour-and-a-half to launch their rubber boat and send six men over to us. More specifically, it took the Mexican navy an hour-and-a-half to call in the three big boats that were now circling us.

Once on board the seamen took off their shoes but kept their guns. One guy asked the questions, another cradled a big radio that continuously transmitted everything we said, and a third just stood there, Uzi in hand, pointed downward, thankfully.

It was soon clear to them that we were just cruisers on an overnight passage and the conversation shifted to the beautiful sights in Mazatlan, the Mexico of years past, even tacos al pastor.

I followed the boss down below as he made his "routine inspection", and there, out of earshot of that transmitting radio, he told me why the navy had surrounded Mystic. They'd had a tip that a boat similar to ours was transiting the area with a shipment of bad stuff that they hoped to intercept. He acknowledged that the navy had been shadowing us, apologized for the inconvenience and advised that they were keeping the waters safe for everyone.

As I write this I can see the lights of the Mexican navy in the distance, one boat to port, another to starboard. And I'm kind of glad they're there.

(This was Mystic's second boarding in six weeks. All told, we were boarded 5 times by the Mexican navy this cruising season. Gone are the days when you could cruise Mexico without having all the necessary documents present and correct

Friday, February 25, 2011

Gasoline, Mexican style (Betsy)

David and I are still enjoying Mexico and as we travel from anchorage to anchorage we always manage to sample a little bit of the local color.

Today it was a girls trip (plus Ted, one of the husbands) to the Careyes Resort for lunch.

The guys ferried us ashore in Chamela where we strolled down a beautiful sandy beach and up to the main road where one of the women thought we might be able to catch a taxi for the 25 minute ride to Careyes. Not. We're in Chamela, not San Francisco. I suggest that perhaps we can find a guy with a pickup truck to squire us but my idea is poorly received. Eventually I find a young woman whose brother, Luis, is willing to drive us in his van.

Luis quotes a price of about $20 round trip for all of five so we climb aboard and are off. I'm sitting in the front seat chatting away with Luis about the latest iPhone exploit and sharing our thoughts on what the next iPad is going to look like (who would have thought that our driver was actually a full time geek who was just kind enough to give us a ride!) when he suddenly pulls off the narrow road onto the dusty shoulder.

The local gas station.
Luis explains that if we are going to make it to Careyes -- and back -- he needs to buy some gas. The gas station turns out to be a shack with an assortment of jerry jugs, a few bottles of engine oil and a huge pin-up calendar of the hot babe of the year.

 Luis places his order with the gas station attendant who brings out a couple of well used jerry jugs and a length of hose. The man hoists the jug onto his shoulder, puts one end of the hose in the jug and the other in his mouth and in no time at all gravity has done its job.
Human gas pump.
We all pile back into the van and continue on to Careyes and a delightful lunch.

When it's time to go back, Luis is ready and waiting for us. We retrace our steps, climb back into our dinghies and zip back to our boats. I'm feeling a bit richer for my interesting ride with Luis.
Luis and the girls (minus Ted)

(David and I are resting up this evening in preparation for a midnight departure north. Mystic will be traveling in the company of several other boats, all of us hoping the weather window is big enough for us to get around Cabo Corrientes and into Puerto Vallarta before the next big blow.)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Navigating in Mexican waters (David)

In US waters we trust the charts, both paper and electronic. With the help of GPS plotters, you know your position within a few feet. In Mexico, however, many of the charts, generated from survey data taken in the 19th century, are off by one or two miles! For example, it is disconcerting (to say the least) to find Isla Isabela more than a mile to the south east of its charted position. Furthermore, the electronic charts, at least those supplied by Nobeltec, show no detail whatsoever. 

While in La Paz, we met Bill Stockton on board True Love, a beautiful Waterline 53. Bill has written a program called ChartAid that captures a Google Earth photo of any location you choose and geo-references it to the chart on the Nobeltec screen, thus placing the photo in exactly the correct position and scale on the display. One can zoom in to whatever resolution is available from Google Earth. Wow -- what a difference this makes to navigating in Mexico! I can thoroughly recommend this $99 program.

This Nobeltec screen shot shows the charted position of Isla Isabela, compared with the actual position shown by the Google Earth photo.

Zooming in for more detail, you can even see the fishermen's shacks on the beach (click on the photo for an enlarged view).

Mystic is anchored just south of the rocks on the east side. Although the south bight is more protected, it has a reputation as an 'anchor-eater' because of underwater boulders.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Boarded by the Mexican navy (Betsy)

Shoes off, please
We arrived in Tenacatita, one of our all-time favorite Mexican anchorages, and within ten minutes of putting the hook down the Mexican navy came aboard Mystic. They didn't announce themselves nor did they ask permission to board. They just brought their launch alongside and stepped aboard.

Three well-armed men stood on our swim platform and were about to enter the boat when I stopped them and (in my best Spanish) said they were welcome to come into the boat but they needed to take off their black-soled shoes first. They looked at me like I was crazy (and so did David) but I stood my ground and after a moment of "What the ...?" two of the Uzi-wielding soldiers took off their shoes and came inside.

While their companion waited outside the other two asked us two pages of questions in Spanish. Did I mention that David and I barely speak Spanish? We offered them lemonade and chips with guacamole but they kindly declined saying they'd already had lunch on their big gray mother ship. The guys in the salon were polite and friendly and the third guy stood on the aft deck looking totally left out.

Having satisfactorily answered their many questions one of the guys pulled out a small camera and took photos of our passports, our radios and all the electronics in our navigation console. As they prepared to leave I said they couldn't go until we had a photo together. David looked at me again like I was crazy but picked up a camera and took a shot of me with two of the Mexican Navy's finest.

After a few more pleasantries the two guys put their heavy black shoes back on, climbed back into their launch and shot off back to their mother ship.

Mind you, this experience was far more pleasant than any experience we have had with our U.S. Homeland Security. See: We just wanted to have lunch

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Salt on a bird's tail (Betsy)

Magnificent Frigatebird.
When my sister and I were little my mother used to tell us to go catch a bird. She said that if we approached a bird very slowly and quietly we could put a little salt on its tail and would be able to catch it. Armed with salt shakers my sister and I spent ages sneaking around the yard chasing down robins and chickadees that would quickly flit away. What my mother really wanted, and got, was a some peace and quiet without kids underfoot.

Isabela fishcamp.
We recently visited Isla Isabela, a small, rocky island off the mainland coast of Mexico that would have my mother running wild with a salt shaker. Isabela is host to an unbelievable concentration of seemingly tame birds. Other than a small fish camp and a tumble-down research station with a few birdwatching grad students, the island is undeveloped and predator-free.

Brown-footed Booby
The birds, brown- and blue-footed Boobys and Magnificent Frigatebirds, rule this roost.The boobys have got the ground covered and the frigates control the shrubs and low trees. Not to be outdone, large numbers of iguanas warm themselves each day before disappearing into rocky nooks and crannies when the sun goes down.

They might be yellow but these
are actually "Green Iguanas"
What makes this place so fascinating is just how approachable the birds and iguanas are. It's easy to get within a few feet without scaring them off. I'd happily salt and catch a booby in memory of my mother but I don't think the bird would appreciate it.

Looking for a hot chick!
Like the boobys, the frigates have an unusual mating ritual. The males have what looks like a red turkey wattle under their beaks that they inflate to attract a female. Once properly courted, the frigatebird builds its twiggy nest in low trees and shrubs and never leaves it unguarded for fear of losing its nest material to other frigatebirds.

Booby mother and chick
Walking around the shrubbery I was surprised to find the ground littered with eggs that awkward would-be parents bumped from their nests. Given the number of birds on the island I don't think the occasional lost egg will put the frigatebirds on the endangered species list any time soon. Following an elaborate courtship dance the boobys build a rough nest on the ground. After laying two eggs (the second is insurance should the first one not survive), the booby stays put for nearly a year to raise its young as well as protect the chick from an opportunistic frigatebird out for an easy meal.

Isla Isabela is an amazing place and well worth the small detour we made to get there. If you ever want a little kid-free time send your child into the garden with a salt shaker. If you want them to bring home a bird, take a trip to Isla Isabela.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The dinghy dilemma (David)

Power boaters often go to Mexico with their Pacific Northwest dinghies. Typically these are heavy rigs with electric starters, center consoles and big outboards -- stable, comfortable and fast, but quite impossible to bring through the surf and haul up the beach in Mexico, even with wheels. Many of the great anchorages on the outside of Baja and the mainland require surf landings, so the question was what do do?

For this trip, I decided to also bring a lightweight dinghy: an air-floor Walker Bay with an old 8HP motor and wheels. Either of us can haul this rig up the beach with one hand and no back strain. We still use the big Avon in protected anchorages in the Sea of Cortez, or places where there is a dock to tie up to. Although the Walker Bay can easily be deflated and stowed, most of the time it rides on top of the Avon. Mounting dinghies this intimately in public is against the law in Arkansas, but no problema in Mexico!                        

The wheels have it (Bahia Tenacatita)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Night watch (Betsy)

We do our best to avoid night watch. Sometimes we have crew on board to maximize our sleeping hours, but having crew changes our boat mode. This time it's just the two of us running down the coast of Mexico's Baja peninsula, so we've been making day hops from anchorage to anchorage when possible. But now we can't avoid the big "N" any longer.
This morning we poked around a dusty little town collecting a few provisions to tide us over for the next several days until we reach Cabo. We stowed the dinghy on the boat deck, raised anchor and were underway before noon. The next time our anchor touches bottom will be in Magdelena Bay with its rich marine life and perhaps a chance to trade some Goodwill hoodies for lobster with the local fishermen. But first we have to run 26 hours to get there.

By mid-afternoon David is sick. He never gets sick, but he is violently ill. And it isn't seasickness. Must have been the huevos rancheros in Turtle Bay. At one point I find him bent over the bed in our cabin. He's trying to come up to stand his watch but is too sick to even make it up the stairs let alone keep an eye on the boat, so I tuck him in and go back to the pilot house.

It's a lonely feeling being fifty miles offshore, out of sight of land, watching the moon rise as the sun goes down and hoping David will feel better soon.

Before the sun is gone I turn on the running lights so other boats, if there are any, can see us. In the pilothouse, I dim the displays on the navigation equipment and switch on the red console lights to save my night vision.

The hours wear on and occasionally a big wave catches the boat swinging us from side to side before the stabilizers have a chance to do their job, Mystic's long-familiar creaks tell me she is groaning back at the sea. The autopilot grinds as it works to correct our course and once or twice its siren-like wail gives me a start. By the time I jump up to have a look the alarm has stopped and we're back on course. Sometimes we get a "slippery" wave and each time I hope David is asleep and doesn't feel it.

I haven't heard a peep from him in a couple of hours and am hopeful that the drugs he took are working. Just to be sure I go down to check. The night lights are on and I can tell he's asleep. Finally, some rest for him.

I'm feeling peckish, but it's not much fun dining alone so I start the generator and pop a bag of popcorn instead. A glass of wine would be nice, but not with popcorn, so I skip it.

Running in daylight is so different from nighttime passages. During the day I am futzing around the boat doing a little cleaning and chasing down dust bunnies that magically appear in all the regular places. I keep up with my iPad Scrabble. And now that the water is warmer, I put out two fishing rods, one with a cedar plug, the other with a Mexican feather lure. So far the fishing has been terrible. I've managed to catch a bird, yes a bird, and one Bonito, a so-so edible fish that made a mess of the back deck.

Traveling at night is another story. I glance at the radar every few minutes to see if there are any boats in our path, but there aren't. Most boats don't travel at night. I also keep an eye on the various gauges; oops, I suddenly realize the generator is still running after making popcorn and jump up to turn it off. Then I wonder if we have enough fuel in our day tanks to get us through the night. If I open the engine room door to check, it's sure to wake David up. Hmmm.

Looking out the pilothouse windows the moon lights up the sea as it rushes by. If only it would rush by faster so we could be anchored in Mag Bay and David would feel better.

David suddenly appears and offers to stand his watch. But he's still sick. Back to bed with him.

It's only 10:30pm but I've been in the pilothouse since noon and am starting to feel drowsy. Maybe another game of iPad Scrabble will get me going again.

Traveling on a boat at night is like flying a plane at night but with a heck of a lot more room for error. Everything is done by instruments and you have to trust them because it's just plain dark outside.

The sea has quieted a little and the boat motion is gentler now. As the night wears on it might settle some more.

The various boats noises have become part of my night watch rhythm and the slightest change is cause for attention. Fortunately, Mystic has carried us a long way with little trouble and she'll make it through this night without a problem. And so will I.

At 2:00 a.m. David manages to drag himself into the pilothouse. He doesn't look great but says he feeling better. Probably a white lie, but I'm ready to go below for a little rest. Thank you, David. I hope you feel better soon.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mexico bound (Betsy)

Mystic running down the coast
We've been planning to take Mystic from Canada to Mexico for most of this last year. After a short summer in Canadian waters, we left the beautiful Pacific Northwest, ran down the coast, and settled a short while in San Diego. After some final preparations and some serious provisioning -- half of Trader Joe's and a lot of Costco, we cast off our lines and crossed the border to Mañana Land. Other than a few lumps on our first day out, the seas have been kind to us. Our first Baja anchorages were a bit rolly but Mystic took them well and kept us comfortable -- as well she should since she weighs 100,000 pounds.

Dolphin escort
The sea has changed from the cold steely gray of the pacific northwest to a friendly deep blue, and the sun that we see every day looks like a million diamonds bouncing off the sea. We're seeing lots of dolphins -- they love to ride our bow wave, sometimes staying with us for 30 minutes or more. There's something about dolphins that makes them seem like big kids out for fun. We also had a run on whales one day as several of them blew and flipped their tails and fins. Trivia: the Gray whale makes a 12,000 mile round trip from the arctic to its calving grounds in Mexico, one of the longest known migrations.

Inquisitive seals of Benitos
We anchored Mystic at Islas Benitos one afternoon and couldn't believe how many elephant seals littered the beach -- it is calving and mating season. There were a few fights going on between males who were after mating rights, fights that sometimes end in death for the weaker male, or at the very least, a bloody snout. The seals around Benitos are incredibly curious especially compared to their Pacific Northwest relatives. Fifteen or 20 of these guys will come racing toward the dinghy and bob around close by for a bit, then suddenly they'll race back to the rocks before starting their little adventure again. These small seals tend to stay away from the beaches where their ungainly cousins have hauled themselves out.

We're starting to meet other sailors who are also seeking warmer waters. Yhey're coming mostly from California, Washington and British Columbia, though we did meet one couple that came in from Australia via Japan. Also, one very young couple bought a boat in San Francisco in July, quit their jobs in September and jumped off in October. They're final destination is a nice one: the Caribbean.

Eager to turn the corner at Cabo...nice beaches, warm water, colorful fish. Soon. Very soon.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Anacortes to Ensenada (David)

After spending 10 years cruising the Pacific Northwest, Betsy & I decided to return to Mexico for the winter. Our plan was to bring Mystic down the coast from Sidney, BC to San Francisco in late August, continue down to San Diego in October before the winter storms start, and then leave San Diego for La Paz in November at the end of hurricane season in Mexico.

Lach and Kenny on watch

From Anacortes to San Francisco, Betsy & I were accompanied by Becky & Lach McGuigan, long time friends and sailors who spent many years cruising their C&C 49 in the South Pacific. Also joining us was Kenny Murray, an experienced skipper who knows every inch of the coast and is always a pleasure to have aboard.

Other than putting into Brookings for a couple of days to let a gale blow by, we had an easy ride down the coast -- from Brookings to San Francisco, we didn’t see a single whitecap. The most stressful part of the whole trip was navigating through a sail board race under the Golden Gate bridge. This guy seemed intent on becoming prop fodder!
For the Santa Cruz to San Diego leg, it was a bachelor crew including CCA member Bill Forsythe and my neighbor and close friend, Larry Lopp. We left Santa Cruz early on the morning of Oct 13th and cleared Pt. Conception at 8:00am the following day. We enjoyed overnight stops in Ventura and Catalina, where my son Derek and his girlfriend joined us for an all-too-brief visit. 

We entered San Diego bay just as a couple of nuclear subs were leaving. As a special courtesy to the navy, I moved right over to the starboard side of the channel. That wasn’t good enough for the Coast Guard chase boats: they wanted me completely out of the channel and practically on the rocks. Since the boomers had enough fire power on board to obliterate half the planet, I decided to comply.