Monday, December 29, 2014

colorful old town Mazatlan

Another fun morning outing to old town Mazatlan. Part of the small downtown, Centro Historico, is beautifully restored.

catedral de la Purisima Concepcion

Matazlan is more lush and tropical than Baja

It's about a 20 minutes A/C bus drive ($ 0.70 /pp) to get there. This morning we opted to take the unique open-air taxi, called Pulmonias to get there. We also took an open bed pick up truck with benches in the back. Fun drives, but we feel a bit safer in the bus. Glad we don't have to drive cars ourselves here though, as traffic is hectic and not very controlled.....stop signs seem just a mere suggestion.

We started with the large, busy municipal market, where you can get anything from clothing to fresh fish and veggies. Getting a super size juice combo (orange, mango, celery, pineapple) made on the spot is one of our favorites. Upstairs are all small places to eat.

busy marcado street, takes some gusto to drive here as well as cross the street..

Tessa with her new shirt from the market, Bliss in the background

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Boogie boarding in Mazatlan

This year, we spent Christmas sailing from la Paz to Mazatlan. The 250 miles trip took about 44 hrs, a mix of sailing and motoring.  There was a small weather window that would get us here without the dreaded choppy seas but the trade-off of light wind, and the forecast proofed to be fairly correct.

Tessa running for her last trampoline time at cafe Stella in la Paz

trampoline, playground and happy hour: great invention!

her 1st haircut bob style,which I did in 1 minute, the time she sat still
sunset during very calm seas

No perogies this year, but Tod made a delicious  roasted chicken on Christmas eve.  After we left La Paz on Christmas morning, we choose a nearby anchorage to check the oil leak (good news there, seems to be fixed), and make a big pot of lentils and veggies. Cooking underway is not something we enjoy at this time, so we tend to make meals for several days ahead. Tessa watched parts of her first ever movie during the passage- the Lorax. Mixed reviews on her part I think, one moment she loved it, the next she seemed scared and wanted to stop.

We are staying in the marina belonging to the resort El Cid, and a nice pool is very close by. Tessa was super excited to try out her boogie board, and it is a hit!

In the afternoon we checked out the Gold Zone- long stretches of beach with resorts, very touristy, not much of our liking. In the next few days we will go to Old Town, which supposed to be wonderful.

mango on a stick, if we only  had seen it before we had a huge ice cream

Expression of the day, after she saw 'a just married couple' here..." I want to get married to Sinterklaas (dutch equivalent of Santa Claus)"

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Almost 3 months in: holiday perspective

It's getting close to the end of the year....reflection time.

Although it might seem like we are on an eternal vacation, that's not the reality of this lifestyle we have chosen. 
Yes, there is no paid job to go to and everyday we can choose what to do, we get to see beautiful places from the comfort of our own boat/home, we meet wonderful people and make new friends and this list goes on. But, like every lifestyle you choose, there are trade-offs.  In our case, there is always boat projects to work on (really, every time we go out, some project that was not on the list, has to be added); simple grocery shopping or running an errand takes 3 times as long as we used to need; deciding where to go next is getting somewhat tiresome, even for an extreme planner as myself (off course, we can stay put, but we have not found a place yet where we would like to stay for a longer period). And...referring to the title of this post: It's the holidays and we miss seeing our family and friends ( we miss you even when it's not the holidays!).

But even given all this, the Bliss crew is finding her groove,and will be heading to the mainland of Mexico after Christmas for more adventures and new experiences.

Wishing you all Happy Holidays, and a wonderful start of 2015!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The beauty of the Sea of Cortez

After just spending a little time in the Sea of Cortez , we can see why some sailors who have traveled all over the world consider this one of their favorite cruising grounds.  It's not just the abundant and unique sea life or the pristine beaches with turquoise waters and colorful shells that makes this sea attractive,  it's also the amazing rock formations we have seen. Anchored in Ensenada del Candelero on the beautiful island of Isla Espiritu Santo felt like a mini Bryce Canyon, one of my favorite national parks in the US.  Non boaters can visit here by panga's from la Paz.

With so many gorgeous anchorages to choose from, we try to pick the ones where the landscape stands out. Puerto Los gatos on the East Side of Baja is another favorite, one big playground for us all. 

No stores since leaving  La Paz and we didn't fully provision, so we are getting creative with the limited fresh food choices we have (plenty of staples though and some frozen and canned veggies).  Think coleslaw with a recipe from my university years.....

Luckily, we did get the chance to visit a tiny tienda (market) in Bahia Agua Verde, another gorgeous anchorage with goats roaming around. When we asked for tortillas, the shop owner discussed this with another woman, and she gestured we could get tortillas in the house further up the dirt road. And so we ended up in someone's little kitchen, where the tortillas were made on the spot for us! With fresh tomatoes, avocados, and smoked marlin from La Paz, paired with Tod's excellent Margarita's, we got ourselves quite a delicious dinner aboard.  Another dinghy excursion in search for goat cheese ended successfully, and we got home with a huge round of goat cheese and more tortillas. No signs for a store, just follow the goats and you might find it. On our last afternoon there, we enjoyed a bonfire and the good company of a fellow cruising family, 4 yr old Thorsten, Katia and Rich.

On a different note, we have met several non boaters, who come to Baja with a camper /rv and kayaks. Seems like another good way to explore this rugged and beautiful part of Mexico.

With stronger Northerlies predicted soon, we are changing our plans to go South from here, back to La Paz. Charming town Loreto will have to wait till Spring.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Hi from La Paz

Bread as good and chewy as Acme, yummy cherry tomatoes a la Berkeley Bowl, buttery baby lettuce and smoked marlin? Yes, it all exists in La Paz ( the city of Peace), the largest and not very touristy city on the east side of Baja. We just got back from a little farmer's market, and enjoying some of our favorite foods reminding us of the Bay Area. Grant you, due to the prices I only saw gringo's buying there.

We have been in La Paz for almost a week, and Bliss is docked in Marina Cortez. Our dock is full of other cruisers, with travel plans somewhat similar like ours. Tessa is having a blast with other cruises kids, all of them older, but that doesn't seem to matter. We enjoyed a dock party last nite, and Tod toasted to the good outcome of our engine troubles.  Yep, the iron sail has kept us busy here, and for a day I thought we would be here for a while (not at all a bad place to be). Without going into much boring engine detail, let's just sum up that we had an oil leak that got worse over time. A local mechanic suggested we pull out the engine. He made it sound like this was not a big deal, and all would be done in a week. Skeptical we decided to get a second and third opinion from 2 gringo mechanics. Both of them said this was not necessary at all, one of them provided the part we needed, et voila, we are back in business. Well, almost, Tod is working on it right now.

We plan to head out to Espiritu Santo Natural Marine Park tomorrow, just 20 miles North of here. We had a taste of the beauty that is awaiting us in the pristine anchorage of Caleta Lobos. Azure blue water to dive in, pristine beach and plenty of fish. If it wasn't for the pesty wasps (no place is never ideal), we might have stayed a bit longer. Our friends aboard Astraea will be snorkeling with baby whale sharks (the largest known fish species) there, and we are looking forward to doing that too, either this or next year.

walking along the Malecon, with the marina in the back

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

sculptures and camels in San Jose del Cabo

I'm trying to see the beauty in every place we visit, and for some places that's very easy to do, others it takes a bit more effort. This place falls in the latter category for me. It's the city next to super touristy Cabo San Lucas. On purpose we skipped Cabo as we don't find it very appealing. Six years ago Tod arrived here with the Baja HaHa fleet as crew on another boat, and I flew there to meet him.

Reading underway in easy seas
Our overnite passage from Mag Bay, with great sailing and fun radio contact with another sailboat several miles behind us, took us around Cabo San Lucas at noon on Sunday. We decided to plow on and find a good anchorage near San Jose del Cabo. It didn't quite work out that way, we couldn't find a comfortable one and we wanted to rest. So we bit the bullet (more expensive than any marina we have ever stayed in the US) and went into this upscale marina. Lots of big US based power boats here, likely attracted by the great fishing here. The marina has many great sculptures though, along their pleasant sidewalk. A deserted sculpture garden is within walking distance.  Osprey's are flying over, and colorful mariposa's (butterflies) are abundant here. We do see the effects of Hurricane Odile which struck here last October.

Yesterday we had fun taking the bus into town to do some much needed groceries.No assigned bus stop, just stand on the road and the bus will stop. We stocked up, had some very yummy gelato on par with top ice cream places in Berkeley at 30 % of the price and took a taxi home to Bliss.

Tod carries Tessa in a backpack when we want to
go any distance, and they get quite some looks

In the afternoon we strolled to the other side of the marina, and we encountered camels. Wait a minute, are we in Mexico or? While Tessa clearly enjoyed seeing an animal she had only seen in books, and without any fear started to pet it, it just seemed not right. Sadly, these camels, as well as the dolphins in salt water pens we saw a few minutes later, are kept for entertainment purposes. The documentary BlackFish is well worth seeing to get a more`detailed background on this captive animal  industry.

We will leave here soon to continue onto La Paz into the Sea of Cortez.. No turkey on Thanksgiving for us, hopefully we will have some fresh fish taco's in our next anchorage.

Monday, November 24, 2014

A slice of Paradise in Magdalena Bay

What a great time we had in Magdalena Bay! This is a bay the size of San Francisco bay, and one of 3 gray whale calving lagoons on the Pacific Coast of Baja during winter time.

We played in the sand dunes with the most pristine sand we have ever seen; we saw a bunch of sting rays and luckily did not get stung while we walked out our dinghy on very low tide; Tod fixed a solar panel for the very happy port captain of the village of Puerto Magdalena. Even in this tiny place, where people do not have much material possesions, Tessa found a little play structure, while we watched kids of all ages playing baseball close by.

On our passage to Mag Bay we saw whales and flying bat rays, quite a spectacle.

But let me also share some less ideal moments in the days before. We had chosen another "daytrip' (10/12 hrs versus 24 or more hrs) to go from Bahia AsunciĆ³n to Punta Abreojos. The latter is popular for windsurfers in the summer, and it's close proximity to another grey whale calving lagoon in the winter. We had quite bumpy seas and wind coming in, and our hopes for a comfortable anchorage started to dim a bit. To our surprise, the anchorage was comfortable, and with no village lights to distract, the sky was just amazing to watch. Stargazing is Tessa's (and ours) favorite thing to do before bedtime.

During early morning hours, the comfort started to change, we both couldn't sleep anymore so  we decided to get an earlier start. By now we know that our girl does not wake up by any loud sound, engine (and it's loud!), nor the windlass pulling up our chain (chain locker is in her room, the v- berth).

The GRIB weather fax files , which Tod pulls up via our SSB radio, looked a little different than what we encountered. Strong winds in the upper 20's, with gusts of 30, combined with 4-6 feet seas in very, very short interval periods, made us run 90 degrees away from our destination, under reduced sail/ jib only. Let's just say, those are moments you wonder why one travels by boat. While Tod and I were not happy to be down below because of the super rocky motion, Tessa on the other hand? " Big waves, yeah" we hear from her room, where she wanted to be. So, who is the real sailor in this household? Today she asked me when she could steer the boat by herself. Well, kiddo, anytime now!

Eventually, the seas and wind subsided, and we made another overnite passage to Magdalene Bay. We sailed about 50 miles offshore, no land in sight, just stretches of long Pacific Blue.  When you arrive in a place like this,  you know why you take the  discomfort of this lifestyle, and travel by your own boat.