Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas in La Paz, Baja style

Christmas in La Paz, Mexico 

It's Christmas Eve, and here in Baja people are scampering around preparing for the big day.

La Paz, Mexico -- our home for the holidays

. There's lots of traffic here in La Paz (population around 200,000) today as everyone does their last minute shopping.  It's not as bad as South Coast Plaza (come on -- it's still Baja!) but Mexicans love Christmas even more than Americans do.

Gaily decorated sailboats compete for attention along the La Paz waterfront 

A lighted Christmas VW bug speeds along the waterfront, 
while the inflatable Santa on top holds on tight

Blue lights entwine a large ficus tree, ubiquitous here in La Paz

My photo op with a young local boy rehearsing 
for his big role of Joseph in the Christmas play

This Christmas altar in the yard of a home here in La Paz is typical
of others throughout Mexico

The owner of this fancy power boat in the marina spared no 
expense for his Christmas light display

We attended a Christmas pageant at the large Catholic church in town.
Truth be told, I didn't completely understand everything that I saw there, but 
it was dramatic nonetheless.

Wisemen (I think?) enter the church for the Christmas pageant

Close-up of the wisemen's mask, which was actually a little bit creepy.

As always, I'm missing my family back in the states as I write this. Choosing the cruising lifestyle, with months and years away from family and friends, is hardest during this time. 

I realized yesterday that in recent years when Chris and I have been cruising and helping deliver other people's boats, we've been away from family and in exotic locales for FIVE of the last several  Christmases (Portugal, Honduras, and three in Mexico). 


Of course, this is one of many prices we pay for choosing to go off on these sailing adventures. 
Besides the financial cost/sacrifice, this one (to quote our President Elect) is HUGE. 

But, what am I gonna do, feel sorry for myself because I'm in a warm, exotic locale on a 
sailboat with my handsome husband for Christmas?

Um...NO. That would be unseemly for several reasons. (smile)

What I'm going to do is buck up

One of the most powerful life lessons I've learned is that for every decision we make in life -- for every path we choose -- there is a sacrifice. For every benefit we get by our decisions, we give something up. 

Every time.

This is my sacrifice.

So, what you do is you make the locals and your fellow cruisers your family while you're away from home. It's not easy, and it's not the same -- but it is a great source of camaraderie and fellowship.

So we were especially sad to say goodbye this morning to our very good 
friends Bret and Marne of s/v LeaHona. 

Farewell dinner last night with Bret and Marne of LeaHona 
at Mesquite Grill here in La Paz

We've had the good fortune to hang out with these two in Puerto Vallarta,
 Mazatlan, San Carlos AND La Paz.  We volunteered together at 
the orphanage in Bucerias.

Today, they're sailing south from La Paz and heading for the Mexican mainland, 
while we remain here in Baja.

Playing Baja Rummy with Bret and Marne (right), while Trisha
 of s/v Interabang plans her next sneaky move

Trisha, we're glad you and Derek are staying in La Paz over the holidays!

Bret and Marne help a local nun down a curb in her wheelchair

Bret getting excited about Christmas at Marina La Paz

So -- they're gone. 

As former Laker Coach Phil Jackson said:

"Unceasing change turns the wheel of life."

It was his mantra -- he had it on his desk at Staples Center.

So, we'd all best take this to heart. Who knows what 2017 brings?

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from

Captain Chris and First Mate Liz, s/v Espiritu

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Tour of the Southwestern Sea of Cortez

The anchorage where we stayed at southern Baja's Caleta Partida is an ancient 
volcanic caldera. Gorgeous. But first we had to GET there...

Two weeks before, Chris finished painting Espiritu's bottom at the 
San Carlos drydock, across the Sea of Cortez and 400 miles north.

We shook off the drydock blues by dipping our toes in the cold water 
with our fellow drydock pals of s/v Slow Flight

Finally Chris' hard work was done, and a freshly painted Espiritu 
was happily ker-plunked back in the water. 

Espiritu back in the San Carlos anchorage -- the first step to being back at sea!

Since Thanksgiving was only a couple of days away, we decided to stay in San Carlos to enjoy the holiday with our cruising friends before heading out into the great wide open once again.

We were invited to the home of our Dutch Canadian friends Theo and 
Marian for a Thanksgiving potluck. 

Someone actually baked a chocolate cake that looked like a giant Ding Dong!

A giant Ding Dong! I was so excited!

I hadn't seen an actual Ding Dong in 30 years. Filled with nostalgia for my American youth, I ran from person to person at the potluck exclaiming: "Look! A giant Ding Dong!'

Unfortunately for me, 95% of the 50 guests were Dutch or Canadian. 
Evidently they didn't have Ding Dongs in Canada or the Netherlands back in the 60's -- 
so instead of shared emotional nostalgia for the chocolaty cupcake treat of our youth,
 all I got was perplexed stares.

Looks like the Ding Dong was ME. So what else is new? Ah, well.

Starfish collection at Theo and Marian's waterfront home

After the delicious Thanksgiving holiday, it was time to pull anchor and begin the
 400+ mile journey south to La Paz on the Baja side. 

We said goodbye to our pals Cesar and Fernando at Barracuda Bobs.
These guys are salt of the earth.

We got a good weather window for the 90+ mile overnight sail 
southwest across the Sea of Cortez to San Juanico on the Baja side. 
The prediction was for fair winds and following seas -- every sailor's dream. 

Instead we got cold winds on the nose. 

Me sailing to weather on the cold, blustery crossing

When we arrived in San Juanico the next morning, we uttered the famous sailor's motto, 
exclaimed only when dropping the anchor after a hard, cold passage:

"Hook that bitch."

Ha! Indeed, we did. 

OK. The anchorage at San Juanico was cold and pretty,
 but at least we were back on the Baja side.

The anchorage was pretty calm, so we got a good night's sleep after the passage.

Weirdly, though, for the second time in recent memory, I was awakened by the haunting
 call of a Mexican owl in the middle of the night.

Hearing an owl is bad luck in Mexican lore. Creepy. 

We went ashore with s/v Notre Isle and Windcatcher to do a bit of desert exploring. We hoped
 to find  the Rancho we had visited months earlier about a mile into the desert.

The Mod Squad 

(AKA Gringos hiking into the Mexican desert)

I caught this snap of a striped snake next to the trail

We loved the sight of a wild horse running past 

Soon this real Mexican caballero approached on the road, 
so we new the Rancho was close by

Since it's nearly winter, the Rancho didn't have any fresh veggies for sale, 
but we checked in with the farm animals. 

This donkey at the Rancho was VEEERY happy to receive a free scratch

Speaking of donkeys, Mexico sells a very popular body wash called "Donkey's Milk."
It's so popular that it's often the only brand of body wash for sale on the shelf.
We've bought and used several bottles over the weeks and months here in Mexico.

Serious question: what in the heck is the main ingredient in silverly, 
shiny, slimy Donkey's Milk body wash? 

Honestly, we don't know, and we don't want to know.  :-/

But it works, and it's cheap. Moving on...

Check this out: These donkeys were untethered and freely roaming the rancho. As we approached, they appeared to be deep in conversation with the chickens in the henhouse. They turned to look at us as we approached, as if we were interrupting a very serious ranch animal top secret meeting.

Chickens to donkey: "Hey? Where ya goin? Is the meeting over?"

This goat had the original hipster beard.
 He came across cool without trying too hard.

After exploring the Rancho, we hiked the mile back across 
the desert to the beach and the anchorage.

Harley the boat dog of s/v Notre Isle, went way, way out during his swim

San Juanico beach

We found this giant scapula on the beach. From what species 
I know not. Maybe a horse or a cow?

Whispy clouds over cathedral rocks

This cathedral rock at the San Juanico anchorage was 100+ feet tall

The next day we pulled anchor and sailed south along 
the Baja to Puerto Escondido, our next destination

Sunrise on the gorgeous Sierra Gigante Mountains over Puerto Escondido

The mountain views here at Puerto Escondido were simply spectacular, and 
reminded us of Zion National Park in Utah. 

We stayed anchored in the Ellipse for 3 days while the norther blew threw. 

We had a music jam aboard with our new friends George and Sherlyn of s/v Believe.

Salty sea dog Lucy sleeps on the music while we jammed with s/v Believe

Chris and George of s/v Believe were amazingly able to laugh after an hour or two of frank discussion of the latest news of President elect Trump's cabinet appointments (The current Exxon-Mobil CEO, with absolutely NO diplomatic or government experience, for Secretary of State -- bada BING!) 

After the storm blew threw, we headed south again. Next stop, Agua Verde. 

A mule train ambles up the hill above the Agua Verde anchorage

We stayed one night at Agua Verde then headed south again at 
daybreak the next day for San Evaristo.

Our good buddies Bret and Marne had caught this marlin just 
outside San Evaristo a few months earlier.

Since a big norther with 25-30 knot winds was predicted to arrive in 24-48 hours, we decided to hightail it on out of there and head south to Caleta Partida, a famously beautiful anchorage between Isla Partida and Isla Espiritu Santo.

Me looking down onto the anchorage at beautiful Caleta Partida.
Espiritu and several other sailboats are visible off in the distance.

Our dinghy Swamp Bucket (yes, that's her name!) appears to be 
floating in space over the crystal clear water

We explored all over Caleta Partida

Unlimited visibility

Georgeous beach. Who needs the Saychelles when you've got the Sea of Cortez?

Cacti and steep cliffs on the wall of the caldera

We saw this horrifying bug here. Who knows what he is or what he's up to. 
Some sort of a flying tarantula? 

There were some cool caves here on Isla Partida. 
But trust me -- we did not enter in.  Maybe the hive or the nest, or whatever 
the hell you call the home of that big scary flying tarantula -- is just inside? 

After the latest norther blew through, we headed south one last time and finally 
arrived at our destination:

La Paz, Mexico

We'll be here at this bustling little Mexican working town through the holidays at least.

Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad!

XOXO Christobal y Liz