Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Jewel of the Sea of Cortez

                         "The ocean is made of water -- H20 
                          Two parts hydrogen, one part oxygen. 
                          But there is a third thing that makes it water --
                           and we don't know what that is." 

                                                                  -- D.H. Lawrence 

Espiritu rests at Isla San Francisco

Chris and I finally pulled anchor in La Paz a week ago and headed north to explore the Sea of Cortez.

For the first time on this trip, we flew the spinnaker.

The former bowman is happy


This Wimpy Cruiser (moi) is always nervous about hoisting a spinnaker, as the memory is still fresh of countless horrifying, spinnaker-flying brushes with death during our racing days.


Holy crap!

I think that's Leonardo DiCaprio at the top there...

As you can see, this innocent looking, usually brightly colored swath of sailcloth can wreak havoc like no other piece of equipment on the boat.

But it also makes you fly...

Yeeeee Haw!

Anyway, despite my fear I didn't fight Captain Chris because I knew how much he wanted to pop that damn spinny. Thankfully the wind was light so actually, I was happy too...

The spinnaker and me, anxiety free!

As the map shows, we started at La Paz (at the bottom in white letters). Our itinerary 
would include Isla Partida and Isla San Francisco.

First stop: Ensenada Grande at Isla Partida

For the first time, I strapped on our spearfishing gear at Isla Partida and headed for the reef. I plan on becoming an expert spearfisherman by the end of our summer in the sea. 

The visibility was unlimited, but the few remaining coral were not healthy appearing. 

I was shocked to see a deadly Crown of Thorns 
sea star devouring the reef on Isla Partida

We've seen documentaries on the Crown of Thorns. It's a sea star that feeds on coral, and it's proliferating and destroying coral reefs all over the world due to overfishing of its predators (large fish). 

I got off one shot from the speargun, which missed my target (a large parrotfish) by a mile.  I spent 15 minutes fumbling and bumbling in the sand trying to reload the thing, but this Wimpy Cruiser was too weak and incompetent, and reloading proved harder and more complicated than I originally thought.

 Ah, well. Looks like spaghetti for dinner tonight. 

The next morning, we headed ashore for a hike.

I was surprised by the greenery along the well kept trail

This desert hare let us get incredibly close. I've heard rabbit stew is tasty grub. 
Maybe I should go grab the speargun...? 

The geology of the island looked like a melting chocolate cake, which kinda put me in the mood for the tasty, decadent, sugary treat. Sadly, on a desert island in the Sea of Cortez, there is no actual chocolate cake anywhere to be found, which is probably a good thing.

This cave looks like it drops directly into hell. 
Needless to say, we did not enter.

Another gorgeous yet foreboding cave on Isla Partida

After a couple of lovely days here, we headed north for the short hop to Isla San Francisco. 

True story: We have 7,500 songs on our iPod. As we approached Isla San Francisco, I had the iPod on "shuffle." And what song should pop up?

"When the Lights Go Down In The City," by 80's supergroup Journey.

A song about...SAN FRANCISCO!

Lyrics to the song

And -- not only are we visiting Isla San Francisco, we're also on a JOURNEY!

Whoa.    ;-)

The Jewel of the Sea of Cortez

We climbed to the top of the mountain to get the de-riguer shot of Espiritu in the middle of the bay. There is a pretty good trail which we ecstatically climbed. We couldn't believe we were here. 

There was some dicey class IV-V rock scrambling at the very tippy top of the mountain (meaning there is at least a slight risk of death). Since we have mountaineering and rock climbing experience we took several deep breaths, planned our route together, and went for it.

 Emerging victorious from the exposed area, we bounded down the trail on the other side -- giddy with the life-affirming joy one earns after surviving slightly risky adventures in the wild.

Chris looks down on the trail winding before us on the hills below. 
That's a couple of hundred feet down on the right. 

A slightly bloody knee was my souvenir of the 
kinda-sorta-scary-but-worth-it climb

There are some salt mines on the island. As everyone knows, salt is 
my drug of choice (I can handle it, because my BP remains 116/70. Anyway, come-on, 
I've given up chocolate cake...what do you want from me?).
 I was in ecstasy!  

I felt like Tony Montana in Scarface. Only with salt. 

Chris gently holds the skeleton of one 
who had been here before

Day 2 of spearfishing -- still no kills but I did manage to reload the thing myself after much practice. Also, I had a couple of bounce-offs and I hit one poor guy in the eye before he scampered away in terror. 

Sigh. I actually tossed and turned that night worrying about the fate of the wrasse with the blown out eye. Was he in pain? Was there any way I could possibly bring him some tylenol? Or maybe a little fish-sized eyepatch?

Anyway, I'll keep working on my spearfishing skills. 

Yes. Spearfishing is sexy. 

That evening, we watched a spectacular full moon pop over the mountain at dusk.

A magical full moon lights up the bay just after sundown. 

After another night of fluky, sometimes quite blustery Coromel winds, we pulled anchor again to head north. But our chart plotter, which had been dogging us with malfunction after malfunction over the past several months, failed again. 

Captain Chris made the decision to turn around and return to La Paz to deal with the problem.


It made me think of a quote I had recently read in People Magazine:

"All challenges can be met with joy."

I know, I know. People magazine? Sorry, I always cite my sources, no matter how embarrassing. Anyway, I don't even remember what the context was, but the quote was so simple and powerful that it stuck with me. 

We're a bit disappointed because our good friends aboard LeaHona, Interabang and pretty much every other buddy boat of ours have all sailed north. 

But I'm not completely alone...

Me and my buddy Angelica at our favorite 
local hangout Super Burro -- together again. 

So, for the time being, we're back in La Paz dealing with the chart plotter issue...with joy. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Over the border

The peaceful La Paz malecon

Chris and I have spent the last few weeks in La Paz preparing for our big sail north to explore the Sea of Cortez this summer. But in between all of the cleaning, provisioning, fixing and scrubbing, there's been some fun as well.

We both bought matching unisex hiking sandals (18 US at Mega) and Chris came up with a novel way to quickly tell whose shoe is whose:

Typical morning in La Paz

paddleboards and cactus

La Paz is the state capital of Baja California Sur, and for some reason they have these cardboard goats on the sidewalk in front of the governor's building. Meaning? (Too deep for me to understand, I guess)...

A local child showed me her play-money "Frozen" pesos

The TV in "Super Burro," our favorite local hangout, was playing an episode of Friends the other day. The subtitles of Joey's words translate as: "Where the hell have you been?" I think this is the one where the gang is in London for a wedding. Anyway -- everyone around the world loves Friends, apparently. 

Marina La Paz, where we moored Espiritu during our 
short flight north to renew our Mexican visas

Weekly music jam at Club Cruceros at Marina La Paz

This fellow cruiser's t-shirt says "I never though I'd miss Nixon." As with the goats in front of the governor's mansion, I'm confused by this message as well. I'm not sure if he's a disgruntled Republican, disgruntled Democrat...or simply disgruntled. Anyway, this photo shows the amazing selection of books and DVDs for exchange -- all four walls are covered floor to ceiling.

 Color me dazzled. :-) 

Speaking of politics, check this out.  Now that Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee for president, well, he's certainly the hot topic of the day, to say the least.

Someone, apparently anonymously and under the cloak of darkness, pinned up a celebratory photo of Donald Trump on the Club Cruceros bulletin board.

The next morning, someone rearranged the push pins, leaving the photo like this:

Donald Trump, muzzled

If I ever look like this lady on the left, you have my permission to put me out of my misery

8yo Oliver of s/v Alert mans the outboard

Major provisioning for sailing north means stocking up on those little things you love that you probably won't find in the tiny tiendas, like canned chicken,
 black olives, green tea, and sugar-free jelly. 

Bret and Marne of s/v LeaHona relax with Chris during our one big splurge of the last couple of weeks:  $4.50 US to go to the super-fancy recliner movie theater in La Paz. A waiter comes and takes your order. Wow. Life is good in Mexico, I'm telling you...

We saw "Eye in the Sky" starring Helen Mirren, which I strongly recommend.
 Powerful, suspenseful  
and sad.

It's  been awhile since I've found a good candidate for my ongoing series: "Mexicans unknowingly wearing inappropriate donated English t-shirts." 

My question about this t-shirt which says: "Single and Disease Free!" is -- what is the possible scenario where this t-shirt was printed? Who would wear it? Once again, as with the goats and the Nixon t-shirt, I'm purplexed. Me being confused is, apparently, the theme of the week.

La Paz worker takes a smoke break

5yo Emily of s/v Alert. Note the tiara on top of her little hat

Our 6 month Mexican visa expires this month, so Chris and I had to "step over the border" in order to obtain a new one. (Don't ask me why they do this -- once again, I am (surprise, surprise)...confused).

We took a $96 US flight from La Paz to Tijuana, just south of the US border.

Volaris gives every jet in their fleet a name. Charming, I think -- just like boats! 
Our flight north was aboard  flying vessel "Felipe."

The view from "Felipe" flying over the La Paz anchorage. Espiritu is down there somewhere.

Flying a Mexican airline in Mexico was pretty much exactly the same as flying a US airline in the states. Except...

...immediately after take-off this stewardess instantly went to sleep. It's a 90 minutes flight -- we weren't exactly flying over the north pole to Minsk (where the staff of course needs to take naps). Anyway, I'm pretty sure she was violating Volaris policy. As long as the pilot is awake...

After renewing our Visas at the airport in TJ, Chris jumped back on a plane south to return to Espiritu while I crossed the border to spend a few days with my family. 

The overcrowded shanty-shacks cover the hills at the TJ border

Graffiti at TJ border

I passed the words "Fuck you, Donald Trump" written in spray paint.

Someone died when they plowed down this TJ lightpost

I took two trains north to visit my family in the OC.

A group of Amish boarded the train in San Diego

Super-excited preteen girls skip past the Amish at the train station. Perhaps they were anticipating their upcoming visit to Sea World? 

The "Novelties" sign at the old San Diego train station is itself a novelty

First stop, my Dad's house in the OC with his lovely wife Michele

Dad and his sign by his desk which says:

"I'm at that awkward stage between birth and death."

He's an existentialist. I remember him reading Sarte 
when I was a little girl. Pretty cool dad, huh? 

It felt like old times reading the morning Los Angeles Times with my 82 year old dad. He's a traditionalist and continues kickin' it old school subscribing to the news-PAPER. 

After reading the paper and discussing the issues (especially the sad state of the Angels baseball team), dad and I went for a walk. 
He keeps quite the pace.

As I stopped to take a photo, Dad waves his hand 
impatiently and charges on

This sign was posted in front of a million dollar home in Dad's OC neighborhood. 
The OC is traditionally one of the most conservative counties in the country.

Later on our walk we passed this old tin mine. 
Weird, I know -- old mines in the OC!

After our walk, we looked through some old photos. Here are some of my favorites:

Grampa Ralph feeding baby Gerry (my dad) a bottle.
North Dakota, 1934

My dad in his letterman's jacket with his sister Barb.
North Dakota, 1951

My sisters Kirsten and JoAnna
Newport Beach, CA 1975

My sister Devon, her daughter Grace and our niece Emily
California, 2014

Grampa Ralph with (L-R) my sisters JoAnna and Kirsten, my cousin Julie and me
North Dakota, 1967

The next day, Michele babysat my 6yo niece Emily for the afternoon.

Emily and I swam together for 2 hours! I taught her how to blow air from her nose when underwater -- obviously a skill of major importance in adulthood when you grow up in California.

After swimming, Michele and I did some yoga. Dad supervised.

After two amazing days catching up with Dad and Michele (thanks, guys!), it was on to my Mom's apartment in Costa Mesa (also the OC).

Mom is also old school, also subscribes to the daily LA Times newspaper, and we also discussed the issues of the day, including (again) the sorry state of the Angels. (Both Mom and Dad are ardent fans)

She bought me a beautiful birthday cake -- from world famous "French's Bakery," no less. 
She also threw me a little birthday party. I'm a lucky girl. 

But don't let the birthday cake fool you. My 81 year old mom hasn't been to the doctor in years and is as healthy as a horse. 

Mom: "Here, have some seaweed to help counteract that birthday cake!"
Me: (cringing) "No, thanks."
Mom: (gleefully) "More for me!"

She's run the LA Marathon like 30 times and was in the top 10 in the senior category several times.

She also famously does not eat after 3PM. "Just like the Dalai Lama," Mom says. Hmmm. So she watched me while I whipped up a salmon filet for myself for dinner. That's my mom. Ya just gotta bow before her greatness and know that you will never be at her level.

Mom's very proud of her cool new finch feeder.
Just watching them happily eat and flit about joyfully 
really is a sweet thing -- #tweet 

My niece Lauren came to the party. She's 8 month pregnant, so I figured the 
best gift I could give her is a good foot massage. She's gorgeous, healthy and calm. 
I could not be prouder or happier for her. 

My baby sister JoJo and her new husband Alan also popped by.


Thanks so much, Mom, for your amazing hospitality. As always, just basking in your glow is a joy and privilege. 

It was an amazing trip. Literally everyone in the family is happy and doing well. Sigh. You know what that means...just waiting for the other shoe to drop.

We all have good times and tough times, so ya just gotta be grateful when the good times are rolling.

We're back in La Paz, and the plan is to sail north tomorrow morning to begin our summer in the Sea of Cortez. What will the summer bring? For you -- for me -- for any of us?

Time will tell...meanwhile, make hay while the sun shines!