Sunday, September 25, 2016

Our Third Hurricane, named Paine

Hurricane Paine (hurricane #3 of the summer for us), projected 
to head into the northern Sea of Cortez

It was only 2 weeks ago when the entire Bay of LA sailing fleet headed into the 
hurricane hole Don Juan (again) to escape Hurricane Newton (hurricane #2).

After Newton passed through, fortunately with only a little wind and rain
      (for US, anyway -- he inflicted great damage to the southeast), we all headed 
ashore for a "We Survived Hurricane Newton" party. 

The family on s/v Kenta Anae rows ashore for the party

Hurricane Newton sunk several boats (including that of our friends, s/v Siga Siga)
 to the southeast in Guaymas, and sunk a fishing boat at sea, killing its crew


The Bay of LA is far enough north that if a hurricane does actually reach us, the air and water are usually cool enough that the storm weakens without doing much damage.

Emphasis on the word USUALLY.    :-) 

The next morning we went for another SCUBA dive with our friends aboard Manta. At about 50 feet down, we nabbed a couple of fresh scallops for dinner, and we spearfished as well.

Fresh scallops from our SCUBA dive

After our "We Survived Hurricane Newton" party in Don Juan, one by one we all poked our nose out and returned to "normal" life here in the Bay of LA area during hurricane season.

Not two days after we returned to the Bay of LA and dropped the hook, we saw this on the satellite:

Meet our new buddy, Hurricane #3, named Paine. It was barreling north, and we were already feeling the effects in early clouds and rain (we were under the blue/purple on the northeast coast of Baja).

This is me watching the early bands of Hurricane Paine during my afternoon swim.
Nothing stops my daily swims. Well...almost nothing. 

Guillermo lit a candle for the hurricane
at his BLA seaside restaurant

Fortunately, the cooler air and water of these northern latitudes caused Hurricane Paine to weaken and dissipate within 48 hours. Yet another bullet dodged!   :-) 

Clearly, hurricane season in Mexico is no joke. Which means the 10-15 sailboats up here had some time to kill before heading south. Fortunately we're in a beautiful place with some pretty cool people!

After Paine settled down, we all sailed over to La Gringa for the monthly full moon party.

After swimming and floating in the "rushing rapids" of the La Gringa "river" all afternoon, the crews of Firefly, Linger Longer, Venture Forth, Stryder and Espiritu enjoyed a sunset potluck aboard s/v Volare. 

The full moon which rose at sunset did not disappoint, and sprinkled a diamond studded path 
across the velvety surface of the sea

Everything about this evening with our friends personifies the beauty of "Summer in the Sea:" -- the gorgeous moonrise; the clear sky so free of pollution that mountains are visible as far as the eye can see; the warm, clear water gently lapping the hull; the gentle breeze caressing our faces in the cockpit; and most importantly --


To be sitting out in the cockpit during a tropical evening without needing bug spray is, pure and simple, a miracle. 

This is the beauty of the desert Sea of Cortez.

Chris hangs with Captain Ted of s/v Firefly during the potluck.
Retired cop Ted is one of the good ones, and we're grateful for his friendship. 

After dinner, I suggested a rousing game of Charades.

Meg Ryan famously did her best to portray "Baby Talk" in a famous 
scene of "When Harry Met Sally." 

Oh, we miss you, Bruno Kirby...

We didn't use the drawing board like Meg did -- we went old school and acted them out. Take my advice: the next time you're at a get together and people are running out of things to say -- one word will save your party:

 Charades, baby. (OK, that's 2 words)

We hadn't laughed so hard in weeks -- and after all of this hurricane 
business it felt really good to let loose. 

The next morning it was back to the Bay of LA for provisioning, diesel, water-making and minor repairs aboard Espiritu. 

After our work was done, we did some more exploring along the areas beaches.

Fish, fish shadows and rocks in the crystal clear waters of the Bay of LA

We found these teeny-tiny baby starfish along the beach

And further offshore, a grown-up

We loved this gorgeous strip of beach south of town lined with modest yet well
 cared for vacation homes. Unlike those in other places, these are safely up away from
 the beach and protected from bad weather. 

Not surprising, NONE were for sale. These people have a good thing going, and they know it.

Seagulls and a great heron respecting each other's turf

Well, this was just dumb. This gringa relaxed in the shade nearly completely 
nude along the public beach.  Good luck with that.   :-/ 

Outside Alejandrina's, another simple little eatery in the village

Me and a little local charmer

Trail to the lighthouse

There are 6 small tiendas in town. It's fun to pop into a different one each time to see what's new on the shelves.  Along with fresh and canned foods, they also have hardware, clothing, toys and a variety of other items.

I was in the market for a 2017 desk calendar, and was purplexed 
by this find at one of the tiendas:

Yes, they had four pocket calendars. Unfortunately they were all for the year 2012 (needless to say, there were none for 2013 - 2017). The weirdest thing of all? The price for these 4 year old calendars was 90 pesos (about 5 dollars). wonder they weren't flying off the shelves.

Well, alrighty then. Welcome to Mexico!

This young girl, a checker at one of the tiendas, does not speak English and she swears she has no idea what this donated English t-shirt means:

"Look like Barbie, smoke like Marley."
Does she really not understand it?
Hmmmm...the mystery continues...

One of the tiendas sells pinatas. 

Buchanan's whiskey pinata for sale -- perfect
 for your next kid's birthday party

I keep hearing about Donald Trump pinatas being popular here in Mexico.

Trump pinatas -- all the rage in Mexico

Fortunately I haven't seen one yet. Of course my lizard brain self would love to take a whack at a Trump pinata if given the opportunity, but I'm sure I would pass. That's just not cool. Plus, it wouldn't really deal with the actual problem now, would it?

Although we love sailing, diving, spearfishing, hiking, provisioning and exploring, the truth is a great majority of our time here is within a few hundred feet of Guillermo's on the beach.

We all park our dinghies on the white beach in front of Guillermo's here in BLA

Guillermo's has WiFi, good affordable food, nice people and the NFL on Sundays. 
What more could we ask for in a hangout?

Guillermo lets us do yoga on the beach in the shade of the desert pines.

Dawn of s/v Manta, Brenda of s/v Firefly, Allison of s/ Kanta Anae, me and 
the local cat Lupita, who likes to sit in the mush pot

Baja buggies passing through stop at Guillermos

Hanging with the boys of Kanta Anae under the Guillermo's palapa

Mexican train dominoes with crew members of s/v Adagio, Adios and Kanta Anae --
-- at Guillermo's, of course. And also under the "of course" category,
Captain Chris won. Again. ;-}

So, that's where we are -- still in the Bay of LA awaiting the wind-down of hurricane season before heading across the Sea of Cortez to Guaymas/San Carlos. 

As I write this, there's yet another tropical system spinning up down south (sigh). Stay tuned...

Saturday, September 10, 2016

More whale sharks, more hurricanes

A whale sharks glides underneath Espiritu's stern

Summer in the northern Sea of Cortez is winding down, but it's certainly been eventful! Our friends Jeff and DeeAnne of s/v Stryder actually had a rattlesnake swim out to their anchored boat and enter the cockpit through the scuppers!

Wait -- rattlesnakes can swim? 

Evidently, the answer is yes. Good Lord -- another thing to worry about!

Jeff actually wrangled the thing with his boat hook and hurled it back out to sea, at which point it promptly turned around and swam right back again, trying to swim up through the scuppers! After several tosses back out to sea by Jeff the Rattlesnake Wrangler, the scaled amphibian finally gave up and swam back to land.

I was hoping he'd machete the guy in the cockpit and let us know if they really do taste like chicken. Well, I'll guess we'll have to wait to find out the answer to that one...

Jeff and DeeAnne of s/v Stryder -- the rattlesnake wranglers

Other than that minor drama, we've mostly spent the last couple of weeks dialing down from the stress of dealing with Hurricane Javier, which blew threw only a couple of weeks ago and fortunately broke apart as it flew over.

Chris on Guillermo's beach in the Bay of LA

One morning anchored here in BLA, as Chris and I sat in the cockpit enjoying the sunrise and sipping our coffee,  we were greeted with the sight of this just off the starboard side:

The water was so clear and still that he seemed to be flying 
as he silently glided through the crystal blue water

Chris and I looked at each other and mouthed a silent "Wow..."

Note the little fish suckers behind his dorsal fin

Well. How cool was that, huh? 

Terry and Dawn of s/v Manta are avid SCUBA divers and invited us to dive with them at Punto Don Juan. I was excited but a bit nervous. We are SCUBA certified and have dove hundreds of times, but the last time was four years ago in Roatan, Honduras.

But since Manta has their own air compressor on board and fill their own tanks, how could we say no? We sailed the 6 miles over to Don Juan and dropped the hook with Manta.

Inside the protected Puerto Don Juan

We enjoyed the lovely sunset on the gigantic deck 
of Terry and Dawn's trimaran Manta 

Our SCUBA gear, which we hadn't used in four years.
Note the red bow which tells you which one is mine. :-) 

I was a tad bit nervous as the dive approached. I didn't know how I'd feel once I was down there, or how my temperamental ears would tolerate the depth.

(Deep breath). EEEEEEasy does it.    

Happily -- I felt fine! We fed puffer fish and an octopus at about 40 feet, and a seal swam over to check us out.  I had a moment of terror when I watched this giant black thing that looked like an aquatic death star slowly rise from the depths before me...I held still and tried to slow my breathing, staying calm...soon it came closer and I was relieved to see it was merely a giant sea turtle! Whew!

 Terry teased me during the dive, though, because I always dive holding my depth gauge ever at the ready in my hand, and I check my depth about every 60 seconds. I don't want any surprises. 

You hear those cautionary tales of guys diving and then "suddenly" finding that they're at 150 feet with no air left in their tanks. #whelp 

That, my friend, will NEVER be me. 

Jerry Seinfeld does a hilarious stand-up bit on his SCUBA diving experience, saying essentially:

"SCUBA diving is an amazing thing to do, but when you're down there, your basic goal is to not die. You're swimming along, singing to yourself in happy-go-lucky fashion: 'Don't die...don't die...don't die, don't die, don't die...there's a rock, there's a fish, don't die...'"

Yep. That's me!   But it's all good, and I was happy and proud that the dive went well.

The next day we returned to BLA village to provision and do basic maintenance aboard. We were also making plans to haul out Espiritu this fall at Fonatur Marina Guaymas, across the Sea of Cortez. 

A couple of days later we were all stunned to see that another hurricane was heading our way. This one was named Hurricane Newton.

Oh, noes. Bay of LA (our current location) was well within 
Hurricane Newton's  projected path. Damn. 

So, once again, we all hightailed it over to our favorite hurricane hole, Don Juan.

We had about 36 hours until she would arrive, so we had plenty of time 
to prepare Espiritu for the storm.  There were 16 boats crammed in Don Juan 
before we were through.

Chris looked and looked for our chafe guards for the anchor bridle, but he couldn't find them. s/v Linger Longer had acquired some donated firehose somewhere along the line and 
shared some with us. 

Firehose is the perfect chafe guard -- you just thread the bridle rope through it, and it protects the line from severing completely (which is prone to happen during long, severe storms), and it basically keeps the anchor attached to the boat.

The donated firehose for our chafeguard was from the McClellan Fire Department. 
I did some research online, and it's a little town in California near Sacramento.

Thanks, McClellan!

We took down both headsails, note the chafeguard firehose, and Chris dug out 
the storm anchor, armed it, and lashed it to the deck, ready to deploy in an emergency.  

We felt good, knowing we had done basically everything we could to prepare.

This shot shows the extreme outer bands of Hurricane Newton

As we waited for the storm to hit, I took a quick swim.

Swimming in a hurricane!

Not really -- it was only 25 knots when I took my quick little dip.

Menacing and beautiful sunset storm clouds  

Right around sunset we received a NOAA report which told us that the eye of Hurricane Newton had veered to the east, and was now predicted to head across the Sea of Cortez well south of us.

Another bullet dodged. All we ended up getting was 25 knot winds and a bit of rain.

Like a good first mate, I did a "Hurricane Newton" chart entry, and updated it hourly

The reason we're all up here in Bay of LA for the summer is this: the odds are good that any hurricanes coming up from the south will either turn off to the east or disperse by the time they get this far north.

Sadly, we've heard that the Marina Fonutur at Guaymas, where we were planning on hauling out next month, was a direct hit from Newton -- the marina was destroyed and several boats were sunk. So -- we'll have to research a plan B for Espiritu.

Well, look at it this way: if it weren't for hurricanes, then the tropics would be PERECT, and everyone, from around the world, would move here! 

But there ARE hurricanes. And they are terrible, scary things. We're grateful we've had brushes with two of them now, and all is well, so far.

Gracias a Dios!