Saturday, March 26, 2016

Whale watch (posted by SSB radio)

While we have no internet to look up all the details, the news traveled fast among cruisers that a sailboat, crossing the Sea from around San Juanico (our current anchorage)to Guaymas/ San Carlos was sunk quickly by a whale encounter about 30 miles off shore sometime last week. Luckily, the sailor was rescued, and was able to get into dinghy, and even grabbed his liferaft, before his boat sank.

It gives us a different appreciation now when we encounter whales. And lately it seems that we encounter them almost daily. They are a wonderful to watch, from a distance! Yesterday while setting our anchor, we had one about 100 feet off our stern (swimming in maybe 20 feet of water!). Today, we had one about the same distance on our beam, while we were preparing the set up our spinnaker for the 2nd time this season. Both, too close for our comfort, but not much we can do about it. We can only prepare for the worst: our ditch bag is close by, EPIRB and PLB are working, and life raft ready to deploy if needed. Beyond that, we just keep enjoying the beauty of the remoteness of the Sea. Now with Semana Santa in its second week, we are seeing more Mexicans enjoying their remote beaches as well. Planning an Easter egg hunt tomorrow.

The attached picture is Bliss sitting at anchor at San Marte, a lovely cove where we stayed for a couple of days. (If you zoom in you can see Tessa standing near the dodger -- sorry for the low resolution, but we are very bandwidth-limited!) We enjoyed snorkeling there -- saw hundreds of fish around rocks close to shore, and Tod went out 1/4mile to a detached reef to snorkel there. We even convinced Tessa to try her goggles and snorkel tube and to stick her head in the water and look at some pretty violet fish! On our way into that anchorage we also got to see *hundreds* of porpoises in a large area (maybe a couple square miles) apparently having a feeding frenzy!

In the next anchorage called Agua Verde, while snorkeling Tod got to see dozens of large sea urchins, and a large ray swimming about 30 feet away. We get to see these rays often when they repeatedly fly up out of the water and do belly flops, but it's the first time we have seen one underwater. Very cool to watch swimming!

Friday, March 18, 2016

exciting and scary stories from the Sea

"Nooooooo", I yell, and that scared Tessa. A big flying ray jumped so close to our dinghy, about 5 feet straight up into the air, that I was afraid it would land in our dinghy! It did not land on us, but did several double flip jumps very close by. We just had a delicious belated birthday dinner at Lupe Sierra's simple beach restaurant in San Evaristo, and came back after sunset to Bliss. That was just a short exiting moment, not coming close to the excitement and anxiety I experienced on Tod's 50th birthday the day before.

We decided to go for a good hike up the hills, on the ridge, on the south side of Isla San Francisco. We started from a different point than last year, as we met our friends Sherilyn and George of s/v Believe on the beach, and walked with them for a while. We said goodbye, and started our trek uphill. The views are just amazing, and we just kept going. At some point I found an old diary with a pencil box attached sitting under a rock, and other hikers had added their names. Without knowing what was yet to come, I happily added some thoughts and names, and marched on. And then there comes a moment when the barely existent trail becomes non existent. Tessa is happily climbing and talking, but Tod and I are looking at each other with confusion. We had walked for a good hour now, on a rocky ridge, where a misstep would not be beneficial (to put it mildly) and where you have no medical help if you need it. Going back the same way did not look very appealing. We opted to continue, and for the next 30 minutes we used hands and feet, and climbed over the top of the ridge, with no room for error. Tessa is a born hiker/climber, and I see many climbing/hiking expeditions with Tod in her future. I, with my high center of gravity, love hiking, but do not like these kinds of challenging climbs (and at one point swore to Tod that I couldn't proceed; and later that I won't do this again). But, we made it without scratches, and combined with a snorkeling outing in the afternoon with our friends, Tod started his 6th decade well.

Saving the best (?) for last....We were waiting out a storm front in the anchorage of La Paz. Tod stored the dinghy and other items above deck more securely, and was about to set up our anchor alarm. He just went down below for a couple of minutes, where Tessa and I were playing. He goes back in the cockpit, and I hear him yell "We have a problem! Come up now!". I run up to see Bliss a boat length away from shore pilings. We dragged anchor for the first time in our life, and it wasn't looking good! Adrenaline kicked in, I started the engine (tip: keep engine key in the control panel), as Tod ran to the bow to raise our anchor. For the next few minutes we worked hard to save our boat and home. The wind has piped up some more, the current running about 4 to 5 knots at the time. We motor away, and re-anchor further away from town, easier said then done with current like that. Since that incident, we have not used our anchor ball/float anymore. Tod's theory is that due to the way he was attaching the anchor ball to the chain (instead of to the shank of the anchor as we did last year), the anchor float caused enough upward force on the chain to prevent the anchor from resetting in big current changes we experience in La Paz.

Ok, that's all for now, folks! Tod is filleting a sierra right now, for which he traded gasoline with a local fisherman. The scenery, and swimming (with a full lycra suit for me!) in the Sea has been great again. We will soon go to shore to burn our paper trash, as there are no garbage bins in the remote parts of the Sea. Plastic trash has to wait till we arrive in a town in a few weeks (where we will have internet again as well).

Sorry, only one picture since we are posting this by radio at less than 1000 bytes per minute!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Love for the Sea of Cortez/ Gulf of California

We are back in the area we love the most of our travels with Bliss in Mexico, the Sea of Cortez or the Gulf of California. Jacques Cousteau called it " the world's aquarium", and even though it's current status is nowhere near what Cousteau experienced (read here), it's a magical and wonderful place. Add to that a nice climate: we are in the desert, so humidity is low, and day temps near la Paz are in the upper twenties, nights are in low teens. La Paz also has a real community feel for cruisers, and a wonderful malecon to stroll. Great, clear anchorages are close by, and we enjoyed Puerto Balandra for 4 days after we crossed from mainland Mexico. We will stay for a couple of days more in La Paz, let a strong weather front pass by,and then make our way North into the remoter parts of the Sea.

We are anchored next to another Bliss, the first one we have encountered in the water. Boat names, we hear some interesting ones on the morning net. This morning "Go for Broke" hailed "God's Will" on channel 22. Another one: "Worth waiting for".

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Highs and lows of our last passage making

Is that an Orca killer whale off our beam, I ask Tod? We both look again, and for sure, it is! Minutes later, we see several turtles adrift in front of our beam. A lazy bird is sitting on top of it, going for a ride. The Pacific ocean is calm, no wind, so we motor at low speed. Our plan is to stop at Isla Isabella, 85 miles north. On our way, we hear our bilge pump going off. We have 3 bilge pumps, they remove water from the deepest part of the boat, and when they go off, it’s time to get your sleep deprived brain into action. 

We arrived at Isla Isabella at 7AM after an overniter, and are water tanks are empty! Not good, but at least we have a fresh water leak, not a salt water leak. In the somewhat rolly and unprotected anchorage, Tod goes into diagnostic mode, and start making water again. We can’t come up with the cause of the problem, and after 2 hours decide to just move on again, do another overniter to Mazatlan, where we will fix the problem in a marina.

A few hours later, Tod is taking a rest in our bed, fan on full blast. When I walk by, I see black spots all over my side of the bed. Somehow Tod's sleep deprived brain was thinking that my body lotion has the color of used motor oil, and it was me causing these stains, not a fan running amok and spilling graphite all over the bed! By now, the Pacific is not so tame anymore, but that doesn’t stop me from washing our sheet by hand (by now we have water again!), and hang it out. Tod installs our spare fan, and we are back in hallelujah land.

We are about to leave Mazatlan. We have enjoyed the pool, got groceries for another week, and prepare for our 45hrs + crossing to Baja.  And that water problem? Well, mysteriously it has not shown up again….but no worries, we have an engine oil leak to deal with at some point in life.  Ah, cruising, isn’t that fixing boat problems in exotic places? And the pictures of this post, yes, the relate to the highs of our passage making.

moon rise at my evening watch