Sunday, December 27, 2015

Christmas in a Mexican Village

A magical Christmas Eve -- complete with full moon -- in Turtle Bay, Mexico

We were so fortunate to spend Christmas here in Turtle Bay with several other southbound cruising boats. Maria, Jesus and the entire Castro family literally opened their arms and welcomed us as family.

Cute, simple Christmas display in Turtle Bay

Maria made us a delicious gringo-style Christmas turkey dinner with all the fixins.

Three Wise Men and an Angel at our Christmas dinner at Maria's restaurant (left to right: Mark of Hop Toad, Nico of Yellow Feather and Mark and Eden of Halcyon I)

After dinner we had a big white elephant Christmas gift exchange -- each person wraps something used and hopefully funny and/or usable from one's boat, and we exchange the gifts. It's always alot of fun.

Sharon of Sea Horse smiles gamely with her gift -- a used circuit panel. 
Just what every girl dreams of for Christmas! 

Interestingly, my husband Chris received seasons 1-4 of the 90's terrorism gunfest TV show "24."

The reason it's interesting is this:

Sailors/cruisers do own and watch DVDs, although these days most of our entertainment is digital. But the few DVDs we do carry we never give away. We might loan them to a friend, but if we like them, we would never part with them.

Four years ago when we first cruised Baja, our friends aboard Eagle gave us a kind gift of seasons 1-4 of "24." We had never seen the show, so we watched a few episodes and decided by episode 10 that it wasn't really our thing.

A couple of weeks later we bequeathed the DVDs to our new friends on Interabang! 

And now -- four years later -- we receive -- AGAIN! -- seasons 1-4 of "24" -- in the same place -- Baja! 

My theory is the show "24" is the most regifted item in all of Baja. Everyone watches 10 episodes, throws up their hands, quits, and hands them off to someone else.

In short, I believe the DVDs we just received are the same ones we regifted 4 years ago, and they've been hopping from boat to boat, looking for a home.

Jack Bauer: Why doesn't anyone want to keep our "24" DVDs? 
Why? It's so humiliating! Why do we keep getting regifted?!?!?!?!?!? 

Well, we're continuing the regifting tradition. I've given them to Maria's son Hector. Comeon, boys...someone give poor Jack Bauer a home. 

Anyway, after the gift exchange we all sang carols and then went to the Christmas Eve service in the Catholic church. It was as lovely, simple and moving as we hoped. :-) 

Other Turtle Bay images --

Hanging muddy bear and shoe

We were thrilled to find a beautifully groomed baseball diamond in town. And what luck -- a game was about to start in one hour! 

Chris was so excited -- baseball!

Chris to the players: "OK, guys -- we'll be back in an hour for the game!"

Unfortunately, they had to cancel the game -- not enough players. Chris was crushed.

Another pretty day in the anchorage

We found these interesting rocks on an isolated beach. Hmmmmm. Odd...

Maybe we should call Ancient Aliens? 

Catherine bicycled here from Quebec with her boyfriend. She adopted this adorable stray here in Turtle Bay, and has named him Falco. No word yet on how they plan on transporting Falco all the way to South America...

Chris hoisted/cranked Rico up the mast of his sailboat Sea Horse

Fixer upper for sale at a rock-bottom price. Chris considers the possibilities...

Dinosaur-sized hip bone rests at the butcher shop in town

The Turtle Bay Pier. I know what you're thinking -- that there are many, many seagulls in town. And of course, you're right. But there's more to the story. The town got a little help from Jackson Pollack during his little known "Turtle Bay Period" in the early 60's.

 I'm kidding...or AM I? 

Gorgeous beach just on the edge of town

There are no laundramats in Turtle Bay, but Maria's sister Yolanda will wash your clothes for you in her washing machine which sits outside in the yard. 

Chris picks up our laundry from Yolanda. Note the REI 
wool sock still hanging on the line behind Chris' head -- 
that was ours, and we 
retrieved it before heading back to Espiritu. 

Maria's Restaurant right on the beach is the hangout for cruisers. She's got good food, fast WiFi, a cool drink and tons of good natured hospitality.

People are happy and welcoming in Turtle Bay, despite meager incomes. But there are signs everywhere here that when living in near-poverty, one is always right on the edge.

This is the wall in Maria's bathroom. She assures me that they "hardly ever" 
have earthquakes here, and they're "always little." Let us hope...

The ocean has been warm enough during this visit to swim and bathe in the ocean. But the last time we were here four years ago, the ocean was freezing. My only option was a "maybe hot" shower provided by Maria's restaurant for 10 pesos.

The gringo shower at Maria's restaurant -- yep, that's a pipe sticking out of the wall and a big window  looking out onto a loading dock. It wasn't the best shower I've ever had by a longshot, but I was mighty grateful to get it.

Pelicans: "Hey, fisherman...where ARE you? We're ready and waiting to go fishing!"

Pink house and fishing nets

On the main drag of Turtle goes on

We've loved Turtle Bay. She exceeded our expectations. But it's time to head south. The plan is sail to either Mag Bay or Cabo San Lucas in the next couple of days. Right now 30 knot winds are blowing, so we're staying put in this happy little village.

Hasta La Vista!   

Monday, December 21, 2015

Lost at Sea off Baja...

Espiritu and sailing fleet rests in Turtle Bay 

Yes, we were lost at sea off Baja. Well, not completely lost. We knew where we were...sort of.

We knew we were somewhere off Baja. We just didn't know exactly where we were, what direction we were going, or how fast.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

First, flashback to Ensenada.

Last day at Ensenada -- masts and hills at Cruiseport

Our plan was to head south the next morning for the 2 night passage to 
Turtle Bay with a group of buddy boats including
 Jason and Nicole of Stay Gold, pictured above. 

Let me tell you about these two cray kids: the've only recently returned from a round-trip sail to Hawaii which featured zigging and zagging between not one, not two, but THREE hurricanes. Trying to get to San Francisco they faced 60 foot waves, lost all of their sails, solar panels and all electrical power. Fortunately they had a back-up hand held GPS (All of you cruisers have one aboard, right? More on that later...) and tons of batteries, enabling them to limp into San Francisco victorious and alive. 

They plan on heading directly to the Marquesas, 3,000 miles across the Pacific.

Ah, youth. We're pulling for you two, you crazy kids!

We had a farewell dinner our last night in town with our new Ensenada BFFs.

The Three Musketeers: Richard of Golden Skye
Marty of Desiderata and Chris

I was mortified to see this face pop up on the local Mexican news 
broadcasting on all 3 TVs in the restaurant crowded with locals:

Oh noes.    :-/

The Mexican news was showing presidential candidate Donald Trumps' latest anti-Mexican immigrant speech LIVE on TV, complete with Spanish translation!

Several of the restaurant employees went over, crowded around the TV to watch the speech.

I was afraid this would happen.

Mexican restaurant worker watching Donald Trump live on TV

When Donald Trump famously said that essentially all illegal Mexican immigrants into the U.S. were criminals, drug dealers or rapists (and refused to dial it back, instead doubling down on his statement), naturally I was horrified. I had hoped Mexican citizens south of the border would be shielded from such hateful rhetoric. No such luck.

As best I could in my basic Spanish, I explained to the group of employees watching the speech that the great majority of American citizens are deeply offended by Trump 's anti-Mexican statements and  know that these words are, plan and simple, untrue. 

In short, I did what to some is the most unpatriotic act an American can do:
 I humbly apologized for my country.

They seemed touched and gratified by my awkward attempt at diplomacy. 

The next morning we set sail for Turtle Bay. 

This is typically a cold, blustery passage that is often complicated with big swells from winter storms in the north and cold winds. It's a passage every cruiser is happy to have behind him in his quest ever south to the tropics. 

Our first 24 hours were bumpy, lumpy and uneventful. 

Baby squids inexplicably kept jumping up onto the deck. What kind of hell was 
going on under the waves to make them do such a thing? 

 As the sun was about to set for the second night of the passage, our chart plotter began malfunctioning. First, it stopped displaying our course (the direction we were sailing). Next to fail was the boat speed, followed by a loud alarm from both the chart plotter and the auto pilot screaming:

"BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! The auto pilot is not functioning! We are unable to find your position! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!"

Well, alrighty then.

At the time of the electrical failure we were about 2/3 of the way between Ensenada and Turtle Bay. If you look at the map above, we were just heading away from shore to round "the hook." 

Unfortunately we had lost site of/contact with all of our 4 buddy boats. This is normal and expected, as we were all going different speeds and one had stopped off at a tiny port south of Ensenada.

But the truth was, we were alone.

Fortunately, even though the auto pilot was screaming that it was not functioning, it was apparently confused. It WAS still working, and it stayed on course during the entire passage, fortunately.

But our chart plotter and GPS had failed. 

Chris dove into our ditch bag and grabbed one of our two back-up hand held GPS monitors. He installed fresh batteries and after a couple of minutes had us up and running via the 15 year old  portable model. 

We decided that overnight we would chart our coordinates and course every 20-30 minutes until we arrived in Turtle Bay. It was a stressful night, but we were never in danger. Along with dealing with our electrical malfunction we also had multiple sail changes, plus I had to cook dinner! We took one hour watches overnight, resting in the cockpit when we were off watch so we were readily available for any issues that would arise.

Also, the hand held GPS kept dying and needing new batteries like every 60 minutes. Fortunately we bought the economy pack of 36 double A's. 

Adding to the stress of my midnight watch was the damn alarms kept going off literally every 30 seconds all night long and needed to be reset each time. 

"BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! The auto-pilot is not functioning! We are unable to find your position! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!"

Every. Thirty. Seconds.  (sigh)

It reminded me of those scenes in those airplane disaster movies where the cockpit alarms keep going off every two seconds ("STALL! STALL! PULL UP! PULL UP!") like Denzel Washington faced in the movie Flight. 

Of course, the great advantage of sailing over aviation is if the plane faces catastrophic electrical failure, the worse case scenario is smashing into the ground in a million fiery pieces.

The worst case scenario for us? We're left floating there, bobbing, dead in the water. 

We're never buying a plane.

Anyway, I digress.

The sun finally popped over the horizon to our relief. I jumped up in response to a mind-numbing leg cramp and came very close to fainting. I was exhausted. 

Passing Isla Cedros 

Approaching the entrance to Turtle Bay -- finally!  

We dropped the hook and slept for 15 hours.

The next morning we awoke refreshed and relieved. Chris got right to work and found the wire that needed to be repaired in the chart plotter. (My hero!)   :-)

I found this giant bruise on my arm while bathing the first morning. I have no idea when
 this happened, which tells you something about the passage. 

We were happy to see our friends Mark and Eden of Halcyon I had also arrived. 

Mark was a lieutenant commander on a submarine in the Canadian Navy. He told us when new sailors got freaked out with claustrophobia, they would put him in a quiet little room and give him a "hospitality lolipop." We used to use those at Children's Hospital -- they are literally lolipops made out of Valium. 

I could have used a "hospitality lolipop" during our last passage! 

Giving the freaked out soldiers a Valium lolipop is so Canadian. Somehow I doubt the American navy is that gentle with freaked out submarine recruits. 

Anyway, we headed ashore to climb one of the peaks surrounding the village.

View from the top, looking over the other side deep into Baja

Coming down was kinda scary.

I want my hospitality lolipop! 

We then set out to explore the little village.

We found the two pine trees in Turtle Bay

Abandoned baby doll in the street

I thought this was smart -- each side of the concrete yard had this 
combo basketball/soccer gizmo. What a great idea! 

I loved this hand painted stop sign

Oh, no. Another child's toy strewn into the street. As I began to fall into despair, my husband suggested that these were dog chew toys and not children's cherished toys cast aside.

I choose to believe the latter.

So, we're here in Turtle Bay through Christmas. It's a calm, comfortable anchorage, and we're here with several other boats heading south. 

All is well. What's new with YOU? Family and friends, please let me know. I live for your e-mails.

Feliz Navidad!   

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Ensenada Wiped Clean

Crystal blue skies greeted us after a cold storm blew threw Ensenada

A huge pacific storm sent giant waves down the coast, including the Ventura pier above. For perspective, the flag is flying at the end of the pier, and the wave is breaking halfway down the structure (photo courtesy of KTLA).

Needless to say, with swells like this humming down the coast, we're staying put here in the marina at Ensenada until these growlers burn themselves out.

Our rudder post work is done and we're back in the marina awaiting a weather window for Turtle Bay.

Pretty sidewalk flower, scrubbed clean

Mission hotel with hills in the distance

The city spreads off the coast, up into the mountains

Out the window of Cruiseport Marina

Two cruise ships were docked at Ensenada at once -- the industry is clearly thriving

Sailboats, a cruise ship and a flock of seagulls all relax in the Ensenada sunshine

Meet Smiley Joe Wiley and Dougie Doug, the comedians responsible for entertaining the Carnival Cruise ships passengers. We knew we had been in Ensenada awhile when we started recognizing these guys on the street. 

Our favorite Ensenada lunch -- 
a freshly made chicken mole "pasty" for a buck

As soon as it became clear we would be in Ensenada for awhile, I started up a yoga group.

(left to right) Lisa of Windcharmer, Eden of Halcyon I
Sue of Valkyrie and me

Yoga makes me happy :-)

But there's no denying the seedy downside of Mexico.

This trash patch floats in the corner of Ensenada harbor 

Bufflehead on the floating trash: "I flew all the way from Canada for THIS?" 

And then there's this photo I took in a bathroom at a Mega Super Store:

Quiz: what's missing in this photo? Right. No toilet paper or seat covers --
 not even any DISPENSERS on the walls. I guess you're supposed to bring your own? 


So Mexico is a mixed bag, of course. But what brings us back again and again is the people.

Ensenada family walks hand in hand down the street --
 a heartwarming, and NORMAL, sight

So tonight another storm blows through, then we're hoping for a southbound weather window to Turtle Bay on Wednesday. 

Meanwhile, how could we not love Ensenada?