Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Baja to Mazatlan!

Hola from Mazatlan, Mexico!

Chris and I made the 2 night passage east across the Sea of Cortez and arrived early this morning in Mazatlan.

Las Frailes, Baja California                                                    

We spent the last week at a beautiful anchorage at the far southeast tip of Baja called Las Frailes. If you look in the photo above, you can see our sailboat amongst the others in the anchorage far below.

Espiritu happily anchored in Las Frailes

Our 5 days at Las Frailes could not have been more different than Cabo San Lucas, obviously.

We hiked, snorkeled, swam, read and played music.

 I made chocolate chip cookies and we played chess when a storm passed through and we had a full rainy day inside the boat.  Having a few more hours to kill, we read the headlines to each other from a week old newspaper we found in Cabo.

Is Newt Gingrich really the man to beat now in the Republican Race? Or is that so two weeks ago now? LOL...

"You know how I beat you at chess? I just sit back and let you beat yourself." -- The Hubster to me after soundly beating me at the game of kings.  (sigh -- LOL)

Doing some Aunt Liz and Uncle Chris duty with Leah and Holly of "Wondertime."


We also got to see the famous jumping manta rays of Baja. For reasons unknown, juvenile manta rays leap several feet out of the water, several at a time, as a group, then slap down onto the water.

We saw this show not 15 feet off of our boat! Wow! There were 10-20 of them doing this all at once!

After 5 wonderful days in this lovely spot, it was time to move on. Time for more night watch as for the first time, we turned away from land and made a serious ocean crossing, over to the Mexican mainland.

In further reading of Joseph Campbell's works on myths and their meaning, I'm coming to understand that my purpose for this adventure is to work on my courage. Fear tends to grip me sometimes, sadly. If I am to be honest, fear is probably why I never had children.

So -- since this is my achilles heel, I'm seeing that addressing my fear, and working on courage -- is my purpose on this journey.

In my last two night watches, I've developed a new way of looking at the night.

If you understand astronomy, you know that the universe is mostly a very dark place. It's naturally that way.

During the day, the reason it is light is because the sun is shining on the earth, like a big flashlight. And then...the flashlight disappears under the horizon for the night. But it's not completely dark. We have the little flashlight (the moon) and the tiny flashlights (the stars and the planets) lighting our way.

In short, I'm trying to visualize that the night and the day are really the same thing -- just with different size flashlights shining on us.

Last evenings solo night watch went really well. I'm becoming more comfortable in the darkness.

An odd event:

As Chris slept below, at around 2 AM I heard a voice come on the radio whispering in a cryptic voice:

"Filipino Monkey."

What? Well, although some of my favorite people are Filipino, I definitely am not. And though anthropologists say I have Simian origins, I am not a monkey either. So I knew the message was not aimed at me.

Whispered again: "Filipino Monkey."  

I looked aroun Espiritu was the only boat around for miles and miles. So the message was not aimed at me.

One minute later:  a whispered, cryptic "Filipino Monkey."

 I wasn't scared. 'Cause I had the little flashlight and the countless tiny flashlights shining down on me.

Ah, well. Some mysteries in life will never be solved.

So we're here in Mazatlan for one week.


We feel that now that we are on the Mexican mainland, we are truly entering the Real Mexico.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Made it to Cabo San Lucas!

Finally arrived in Cabo San Lucas this morning! That's 850 miles of sailing all the way down the Baja coast!

We're exhausted but happy.

Our passage from Turtle Bay 300 miles south to Magdalena Bay was relatively smooth and comfortable.

Mag Bay, and the town of Puerto Magdalena, is an even tinier and sleepier town than Turtle Bay.

Puerto Magdalena 

When we arrived we were excited to hit the shops and do some reprovisioning. But in Mag Bay, what qualifies as a grocery store is actually someone's converted living room or dining room. It's one small unlighted room.


In this tiny, isolated town, our grocery shopping booty was:

2 apples
2 potatoes
6 eggs
1 package tortillas
2 containers of crackers
one onion

Fortunately we had lots of canned and dry goods to last us a few days, as another storm came through which left us holed up here for another few days. Also, our friends aboard "Spica" caught some fresh yellowtail so we were good to go for a dinner or two!

The good thing about Mag Bay is this is the first time the water has been warm enough to lure us in for a swim in beautiful Bahia Santa Maria.

After a couple of days letting the storms blow through, we were ready to make the final southbound Baja passage to Cabo San Lucas, 160 miles south. We awoke at first light, pulled up anchor and headed off. Unfortunately, after 30 minutes we discovered that our autopilot was malfunctioning.

We spent 3 hours driving in circles in the bay, with me reading the instruction manual to Chris as he tinkered with her, but alas, it was not to be. We had no choice but to turn back to Mag Bay.

After working on her for several hours, Captain Chris finally found the source of the problem (a burned out wire) and repaired her. He's amazing, that husband of mine!

The two night passage south to Cabo was a bit blustery. Also, it was our first night passage with clouds and no moon.

Sailing into pitch blackness.

For my solo night watch, by good fortune, The Foo Fighters "The Pretender" came up on iPod shuffle early in my 4 hour watch. I was a bit apprehensive about the complete darkness. The classic, kick-ass rock song came on just at the right time.

I stepped up, straddled the cockpit like a bucking bronco, and (tethered to the boat) rocked out bravely and loudly as I blasted into the pitch dark.

The thing about sailing into blackness is this: it's really not that different from real life. You know from your knowledge and experience that the path will materialize before you, whether it be sea, road or just another day at work. But stepping into the future is always an act of faith.

Then last night we spent 6 hours hove to in 25-30 knot winds 8 miles offshore waiting for the sun to come up so we could enter the anchorage at first light.

We dropped anchor in Cabo just in front of the many waterfront hotels that line the beach. It's pretty -- but crazy. Unfortunately for us, countless Americans spend Thanksgiving week doing wet t-shirt contests and beer bongs in Cabo. That's one way to be grateful, I guess!

The Cabo scene on the beach just off of our boat

Not 5 minutes after we dropped the anchor and exhaustedly fell into our bed to catch up on sleep, the guy at the hotel cantina beach party started screaming into his mike to the revelers:

"Let me see your butt cheeks!"    (shreiking)

"Let me see you do some booby push ups for a free shot!" (more shrieking)


I'm not sure what a booby push up is. I credit my husband for not breaking out the binoculars to find out (LOL)...

Anyway, it is lovely here, despite the extreme party atmosphere. We swim and bathe in the water every day. We've reprovisioned in town, refilled our propane and diesel, and tomorrow morning we head east to Cabo Pulmo (a day sail away) where there is said to be amazing diving and snorkeling.

Cabo Pulmo National Park

We are exhausted but happy.  This cruising stuff is hard work. But we're meeting good friends, exploring and looking forward to what comes around the bend.

Not sure where we will have internet again (I'm writing this in the Cabo San Lucas McDonalds, where hubster and I are sharing a McPollo, papas y Coca Dieta). It may be another week or more.

Our plan is leaving Thanksgiving Day for Cabo Pulmo (I bought some turkey breast at the deli and will make hubster a turkey sandwich in honor of Thanksgiving during our passage east), possibly Los Muertos, and then it's the 3 day sail across the Sea of Cortez to Mazatlan on the mainland.

Until then, hasta luego.

Love, Chris and Liz

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Rocky night in Turtle Bay

                                          Well, last night a storm blew through Turtle Bay.

We were all safely anchored but nobody slept well because we kept on waking up and checking to make sure our anchor wasn't dragging or that another boat was not dragging into us.

Also, many of the anchored boats are big power boats heading south. If one of those were to drag on top of us during the storm at night it would not be pretty!

Regarding food, Chris and I planned from the beginning to be quite frugal in this area. We are not the big money cruisers! In order for us to be able to go on this journey, we are basically not eating in restaurants. We've eaten out twice, and each time we split an entree.

In terms of eating on board, it's about being creative and using what you've got to whip up something fun and interesting.

For instance, the other evening, I assessed my provisions and came up with this little ditty:

                                                                     Spaghetti Alfredo!

With apologies to my foodie family and friends, I have something to share with you -- an announcement:

 Spaghetti Alfredo tastes exactly the same as Fettuccini Alfredo! Don't tell anybody. It's our little secret... :-)

In other news, although I am still Jonesing and weaning myself from my facebook/twitter addiction, I'm finding that in the sailing world, the VHF/SSB radio is the equivelant of facebook.

The way it works is you keep your radio on channel 16.  Sailors within 5-10 miles around are constantly popping on with announcements, status updates, questions. Just like facebook! 

One other announcement: one of our new friends was dragging their dinghy behind their boat in the passage from Ensenada to Turtle Bay, and when they arrived in harbor they discovered this:

A shark too a big bite out of their dinghy!                       

Wow. Crazy! We've given them a ride back and forth to their boat now that they are dinghy-less.

OK, so this is our plan: tomorrow morning (Monday) we will shove off and head south for Magdalena Bay with several other sailboats in our group.

Magdalena Bay (AKA "Mag" Bay)

We should arrive within a few days. Not sure when I'll have the internet, though. It's kind of an isolated place. So it may be 1-2 weeks until I post again, which will be when we arrive in Cabo San Lucas.

It's so weird. I have no idea what's going on in the world. 

Is Herman Cain still in the Republican presidential race?

Or how about the Michael Jackson murder trial? Is there a verdict?

We don't know, and I guess we don't care...YIKES, this is going to take some getting used to...LOL.

Talk to you in a couple of weeks. Until then, take care of each other for me, OK? XOXO Liz and Chris

Friday, November 11, 2011

Arrived in Turtle Bay!

We arrived in Turtle Bay, Baja, Mexico on Wednesday. This is about halfway down the Baja peninsula.

Our stay in Ensenada was quite pleasant. The giant pod of sea lions which lived right next to our marina was quite the entertainment. One of them must have gotten into a fight with his family and needed a place to pout, because we were surprised to find one of these giant beasts resting alone on the dock.

He wasn't in much of a sociable mood, so we just let him be


Our sail from Ensenada was a bit intense. There was a gigantic monster low pressure system a thousand miles north which was sending us 20+ foot storm swells.

An example of a strong low pressure system with many isobars

Even though we were far south of the gale, the waves were pretty large and close together. That, combined with 20-30 knot winds provided for a quick and dramatic passage.

During one of my night watches in big winds and sea, I happened to shine the flashlight forward and check everything on the boat to make sure she was OK. Sure enough, one of our lower shrouds was hanging limp.

The shrouds are what hold up the mast. This is serious business. I immediately woke up Chris and he headed up on deck to find that we had popped a cotter pin. He fixed it immediately.

Lesson learned: when on night watch, and especially in heavy weather, shine the flashlight on the rigging, the sails, etc. every 15 minutes to make sure all is well.

Anyway, after two tiring days and nights sailing, we were excited to pull into Turtle Bay for some much needed rest. But as we approached the entrance, the wind started to pick up dramatically again, and a large dust storm with a cumulus cloud of dirt high in the sky was visible in Turtle Bay.

One other boat trying to enter the bay announced on the radio that they were not going to chance it, and they were going to go on to Mag Bay, another 300 miles south.


Another lesson learned: always bring more than enough fuel, water and provisions for your passage. Because sometimes you might not be able to enter the harbor you were planning on entering, and you might need to proceed onto the next port, 3 days away.

We were crushed. But we decided to take a peek inside Turtle Bay harbor and see how bad the conditions were before bagging it and continuing on south.

Fortunately, as we entered the harbor, conditions lightened and we were able to drop anchor.

                                                             Yay! We made it to Turtle Bay!

                             The next morning, we walked ashore and explored the tiny town.

That's me! I'm here!  :-)


In the two days we've been here in this lovely little anchorage, we've already discovered that what they say about cruising is true: you're always busy. There really is always something to do -- some task, either cleaning, or fixing, or washing, or something, that needs to be done at all times.

Turtle Bay has the usual Mexican situation where there are dozens of dogs roaming the town freely. This takes some getting used to. They don't appear angry or aggressive. I've been just being friendly and cheerful with the dogs, which has worked so far.

Yesterday I was sitting outside of a store while Chris was inside buying cookies for himself (a typical Chesney family event). Three dogs came up to me looking for...something. I decided to pet them.

 Well, one medium sized dog must have been woefully deficient in the attention department, because as soon as I petted him, he immediately pressed right up and started licking me all over my body and pressing up against me. He buried his face in my neck and buried his body next to mine, despite my protestations.

Typical male -- I let him get to first base and he tries immediately to go all the way. LOL...

Clearly these dogs are very low in the "Maslow's Heirarchy of Needs" department.

Anyway, Chris came out with his cookies and rescued me from my lonely and desperate suitor.

I started a tradition -- when we are at anchor or in a marina, I pull out a sweet little painting of a chickadee that my sister Kirsten gave me. I will keep it in my kitchen to remind me of my family.

In our spare time, Chris and I have started reading Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers' "The Power of Myth" on my Kindle.

This seems an appropriate book for us at this stage of our lives. It's about finding meaning in the journey. About building character as we pursue the mystery. Countless humans have taken this same quest that Chris and I are currently undertaking. It will be helpful and inspirational to read the stories of the men who have come before us.

So the plan is to spend about 3 days here in Turtle Bay, then we will shove off for Cabo San Lucas on Tuesday. It should be about 3 days of ocean sailing at which point we will arrive in Cabo.

Hasta la vista!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Life is just a cartoon...

Last full day in Ensenada. We met with a large group of sailors who are all heading south to Turtle Bay tomorrow morning for the 3 day passage.

We established a time each day when we will all go on the radio and check in with each other and make sure that everyone is OK, that no one took a wrong turn...

                                                           Someone taking a wrong turn...(LOL)


                                               The brotherhood of sailing. It's a great thing.

            This morning Chris and I scrolled through Mexican TV and tripped upon a cartoon in Spanish. This is a wonderful way to learn a foreign language. In adult programming ("Novelas," for example), they speak way too fast, and obviously use "big words."

       Watching cartoons is a much easier way to learn Spanish, because obviously they speak to children, use simpler words and hopefully speak slower.

                                       Anyway, there was only one cartoon on this morning:

                                                           "Bratz" cartoon, in Espanol

We were sort of able to follow the convoluted story, which involved casting spells and riding away on magical unicorns.  Chris is already learning many new words this way. But after watching it for about 20 minutes we admitted that these characters were very disturbing, even in a foreign language. However, the pickings are slim on Mexican TV...LOL.

I've been thinking about mind/body/spirit lately. In going on this adventure, it is important that we attend to and nourish all three of these areas in equal measure.

For example, in the "mind" department, Chris is studying and learning Spanish, and I'm really buckling down and after 15 years of sailing, finally actually learning the difference between a snatch block, a snap shackle and a spinnaker lock.

In the "body" area, obviously good nutrition and proper rest will be tantamount to our success in our travels. We've already walked a few miles since arriving in Ensenada!

Then there is "spirit." This can mean things like watching sunsets, reading our daily devotions, playing and listening to music. Just talking with each other. Laughing and yes, sometimes crying together (although hopefully my crying days are now behind me on this trip! LOL).

Mind, Body and Spirit must all be exercised and equally strong. If one of these areas is weak, it throws the whole equation off balance.

                                               So, tomorrow we sail south to Turtle Bay.

                                                                  Turtle Bay, Mexico

We should arrive by Thursday, and I'll try to post by Friday. Meanwhile, what's new with YOU? How are the Thanksgiving plans coming along?

Much love, Liz and Chris

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Freezing in Mexico?

Yesterday a very cold, wet and windy storm blew threw Ensenada. It rained on and off all night long.

                                                               Main street in Ensenada

We were so cold in our boat! Good thing we brought our long underwear and fleece! Who would have thought we would need them in Mexico!

As we sat huddled, cozy in Espiritu under several layers last night, with the wind and rain pelting the boat, I thought: "Well, we'll really appreciate the tropical heat once we arrive at the lower latitudes. It's no fun if you don't go through a bit of hardship to get it, right?"

                                                           Our DVD of the evening...

We awoke this morning to clear skies and a crisp, newly washed Ensenada. We also had a new guest in the marina:

                                                            Carnival Cruise Ship "Paradise"

I felt happy because I knew that all of those sad vendors in town were happy too. Shoppers! Buyers of cheap crap! (LOL) Even more buyers of cheap tequila!

Sure enough, we went into town today for more errands (bank, internet, grocery shopping, pharmacia, etc.) and the town was filled to the brim with fanny-pack wearing Americans.

                                  I hope my friend the jewelry seller finally made a sale today.

This morning we channel-surfed Mexican TV. We were thrilled to find out that tomorrow they will show the Bills vs. Jets NFL game!

Alright! We love the NFL, so this is an exciting development! Of course, it will be in Spanish, but really, we can live without Troy Aikman and Joe Buck for one NFL game.

         I had to laugh, though -- in the TV promo announcing the game, it ended with this teaser:

                                                       "Con el Mexicano Mark Sanchez!"

                   Alright. Count us in. We'll be there! We have our NFL party all planned out!

After the game, though, it will be preparing for sailing again. We're expecting another storm tomorrow afternoon, which should blow through overnight.

We plan on shoving off Monday morning for Turtle Bay. This village and anchorage is almost halfway down the Baja Peninsula, at the tip of the "hook:"

It should take us about 3 days to arrive there. As always, we will be away from internet so you won't hear from us in awhile. I'll try to post again by Friday. Until then, enjoy your November, and let me know what's going on with YOU, OK? XO Liz and Chris

Friday, November 4, 2011

Welcome to Ensenada

Chris and I arrived at our first port of call on our sailing adventure, Ensenada Mexico.

The night passage from San Pedro to Ensenada was cold and basically windless. I came up from the cozy boat cabin to my first night watch at 11PM to find this:


Yikes! Ya gotta hate fog, especially at night, and especially on your first night watch in years. Ah, well...fortunately all went well.

We arrived in Ensenada yesterday and are now moored at the Cruiseport Marina.

It's a happy little place. There are many other cruisers here, from Australia, the states, etc. We've been so busy doing the "check-in cha cha" at the Immigration office, getting our internet/cell phone set up, etc., that we haven't had a chance to socialize yet.

Just over the fence from our marina is a gigantic gaggle of sea lions. There must be hundreds of them. They burp, fight, squawk and bark well into the evening. I wish I knew what they were fighting about. We did have a few moment of peace overnight and then they awoke us at dawn with more loud debating of the political topics of the sea lion world.

In the town of Ensenada, there is much evidence of poverty. Many open shops, few shoppers.

There was one very enthusiastic jewelry vendor who kept coming up to me with his wares. I politely declined several times. Finally, he said very solemnly: "Please. I haven't sold anything in two days."

This makes me very sad.

Last night was our first night sleeping in Mexico. Away from home, routine and family. I tossed and turned and did not sleep well. I thought of my family, of my mom and sisters, who helped us cast off the dock lines from San Pedro when we shoved off.

It seems I am in full detox mode. Don't worry, it's not drugs or alcohol.

I am detoxing from routine; from safety; from TV; from the 24 hour news cycle; from constant internet access; from easy availability of family and friends.

Mostly what I am detoxing from is constant stimulation. And constant reassurance that you are there, and that all is well with you.

They say the first 48 hours is the hardest, right? I think I need Dr. Drew.

 Oh yeah, there I go again. No TV! And no TV doctors!

And anyway, does Dr. Drew know how to help THIS kind of detox? Detoxing from routine, from the familiar, from the comfortable? We are weaning ourself off of these things.

And into the unknown.

I admit I cried a bit early this morning. The wonderful hubster held me and just listened as I tried to wade through my emotions.

I cried tears of laughter, joy and overwhelming emotion. This is such a gigantic undertaking! And I already miss my family and friends so much.

But we're 48 hours out. I think the worst has passed. And like with any detox, once you go through the initial emotions, then a new creature emerges.

A new creature who is comfortable with silence. Who does not need constant stimulation.

I'm hoping to come out of this adventure a woman of whom Dr. Drew would be proud.

Anyway, after crying and laughing and talking with my wonderfully understanding husband for an hour this morning, we put on the coffee, came out on the deck and watched the gorgeous sunrise. And laughed at the ridiculous cocophany of the sea lions apparently arguing with one another if the purple or the pink were the more beautiful colors in the display.

And, as usually happens after the blessing of a good cry, I felt a weight lifted off of me as the sun came up. Ready for the next phase of our adventure.

Next stop, Turtle Bay, halfway down the Baja coast. But we're here in Ensenada for at least a couple of days until two storms pass through.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Countdown to shove off!

                                                                 24 hours 'til shove off.

                                                              Today I am provisioning.

                                                                     It's a fine balance.      

               You want to bring enough stuff that you won't find in Mexico, without sinking the boat.

             Fortunately, we really only need enough food to get us to Ensenada, about 130 miles away.

                                              Ensenada harbor, with that famous gigantic flag.

                                               In fact, speaking of that, my latest mantra is this:

                               "We're not sailing around the world. We're just sailing to Ensenada."

One overnight. That's it. Then we've arrived. At Ensenada. It's all about breaking up the BIIIIIGGGGGG journey into tiny bites.

                                     The weather report for the San Pedro - Ensenada run is for fog:

                                   Hope we don't encounter this big guy outside San Diego.

                                 But if we should encounter fog, I'm alot less worried about it now
                                                       that we have our new AIS system.


                    On our chart plotter, each large boat appears as a triangle (see above),
                                      showing direction and speed. It's a Godsend!

                                                But they're also predicting Santa Ana Winds:

Which is weird because usually these two types of weather are mutually exclusive. But we're pretty confident that the fog and the Santa Ana Winds will both be mild and cancel each other out, leaving us with this:

A perfect sunny day sailing!

We'll be out of internet contact probably through Friday or even Saturday. We'll need to get all checked in with Mexican internet, etc. I'll update the blog as soon as possible.

Send me an e-mail at and I'll answer it as soon as we are back online.

                                               So Bon Voyage, farewell USA! Keep in touch.

                                  As Willie Nelson says: "We'll see you on down the road..."