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2 In la paz/ the journal/ the life/ travel

Baja Road Trip: La Paz to California

In December we hit the dusty trail all the way up the Baja Peninsula for what we thought would be a two week road trip. Little did we know, this trip would lead to a long term change of scenery. (More on that later).

We rented a car and did our best to (over)insure ourselves as we knew we would be taking it into the States. We were honest about our intentions to take the car across the border, and we found Alamo in La Paz to be the most helpful and affordable under those circumstances.

A small portion of the drive was unpaved. Hurricane Odile damaged the highway and repairs were underway.

Only a small portion of the drive was unpaved. Hurricane Odile damaged the main highway and repairs were underway.

Leg One: La Paz to Loreto

Our first leg was a little over a four hour drive to Loreto. Loreto might be the most charming Baja town. Our digs for the night were at La Damiana Inn (for less than $40 USD). La Damiana is a small property of colorful, roomy casitas. The host (I wish I could remember his name!) offered us jamaica tea and cervesa when we arrived, showed us around, and gave us a great dinner recommendation. With that, we made our way to Orlando’s and filled up on margaritas, tortilla soup, and chile rellenos.

 

La Damiana courtyard

La Damiana courtyard

Leg Two: Loreto to El Rosario

We knew the drive from Loreto to El Rosario would be a long one, so we left at sunrise. The rule of thumb when driving the Baja Peninsula is to only drive during daylight hours. Cows are a hazard as they wander onto the roads at night.

Our dock neighbor in La Paz recommended the stop in El Rosario to make the final leg with the border crossing shorter. He also recommended we stay at the Baja Cactus Motel, (again less than $40 USD). Both suggestions turned out to be good ones. The hotel is also right next to the popular Mama Espinoza restaurant where Baja 1000 memorabilia covers the walls. We had a quick and tasty Mexican diner style dinner there.

Final Stretch: El Rosario to Tijuana

From El Rosario, we had a about a four hour drive to Tijuana. We arrived at the border around noon, rolled down the window to purchase short-term car insurance from one of the street vendors ($25), and were visiting with family in Southern California by 2:30 PM. Not too shabby.

0 In by sail/ mexico/ the journal

Ensendada de los Muertos

At 6am, after about a week in Cabo, we left to begin making our way to La Paz. For many boats headed to La Paz from Cabo, their first stop is Bahia Los Frailes. We decided to put a few more miles under our keel and sail through the night to Ensenada de Los Muertos, which is also known as Bahia de Los Sueños.

We sailed through the day and into the evening in light conditions. I was on watch during sunset, which was to our port side, sinking behind the Baja Peninsula. As our first sail in Mexico apart from the Ha-Ha fleet, there was a different feeling about this leg of our journey. We felt alone. We have felt alone at sea before, but I know I felt it even more so here. Not alone in a bad way, but in an exciting and self-reliant way. To be surrounded by the wild blue, with nothing between you and the deep but your trustworthy little vessel is amazing.

That night the bioluminescence was in full effect, which is probably my favorite thing in the whole world. I always look for it on night watch. I saw what I’m pretty sure was a dolphin swimming beside us. All I could see was the trail of bioluminescence it was leaving as it darted around our port side. There’s no question sailing by he light of a big bright moon is awesome, but a moon-less night sail has its own perks. With glowing glitter organisms in the boat’s wake and the dense blanket of stars above, everything around us sparkled. 

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We arrived before sunrise at Los Muertos, so we hove to until the sun came up before finding a spot to anchor in the bay. Umphrey was eager to get to shore, and we were ready for breakfast. There is one large restaurant, El Cardón Tequila Bar, on the northeast side of the bay. We launched the dinghy and headed in that direction. We enjoyed huevos estrallados at the restaurant, zipped around the bay in the dinghy, then headed back to the boat to rest and clean up.

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There a few boats we recognized in the bay, and we shared some happy hour drinks in the restaurant that evening, then dinghied over to our friends’ boat for a beer. The wind started to pick up as the sun was setting, so we needed to hurry back to Starfire to secure the dinghy on the boat for the evening. The bay was a little choppy and I saw 12 knots on the wind meter. We must have been a comical sight as we wrangled the 95lb dinghy through the breeze back on deck, our spreader lights acting as a spotlight for any viewers interested in our clumsy efforts. We usually haul up our outboard and dinghy with our topping lift and spinnaker pole. Jeff carries the outboard down the deck to it’s mount on the stern of Starfire, followed by the heavy lifting for the dinghy while I guide to it’s place on deck. This daily chore, in anything less that calm conditions, can be a bit of a nail biter. We’ve been known to get creative with the outboard step to make it safer, as we did on this particular evening. It went something like this: Jeff heaves the outboard up to me from the dinghy while I sit with one foot in the cockpit and one the swim ladder. Then he comes up into the cockpit to take it from me and place it on the mount. It sounds simple, but it’s pretty freaking hard. Basically, I function as a temporary outboard holder and end up with grease stains/bruises on my legs. Of course, two minutes after the dinghy and outboard were secure, the wind died to nothing. We laughed and said, “Well, that was easy.”

0 In baja ha-ha/ by sail/ mexico/ the journal

one week in cabo

Upon arrival in Cabo, we learned that Hurricane Odile damaged about 30% of the slips at the marina, and even though we were one of the first twenty boats to sign up in hopes of getting a slip, the damage was such that we ended up sharing. Thankfully, we’re a smaller boat, so it turned out to be no big deal. We were rafted up next to Rick and Cindy of Cool Change, and we were in front of the Ha-Ha mothership Profligate in a 100 foot slip. I did have a mini panic attack in the process of backing and tying up to pristine little Cool Change. We had never done the side-tie maneuver, but Rick and Cindy are a very skilled duo, and they talked us through the whole thing. Captain Jeff’s boat handling skills were on point as well.  We did regret skimping on the fenders though. We have extras, but they’re in the trunk of our car in San Diego. Oops.

Accomodations

We stayed at the IGY Marina. I think we were charged around $50 per night despite sharing a slip and not having access to power or water. Some people balked at this. We really didn’t care. We were just happy to be out of the afternoon roll in the Cabo anchorage. The laundry facilities and shower facilities were good. It was just plain bad luck that the dryers broke the day that I washed four loads of laundry. There was also a thunderstorm that day, which meant four wet loads of laundry strung up all over the inside of our 32 foot boat. It was a sight to behold. The marina staff had the dryers fixed and refunded our quarters in no time.

Festivities

I had personally been looking forward to the famous “Can’t Believe We Cheated Death Again” Ha-Ha dance party at El Squid Roe since San Diego. We didn’t really cut loose at any of the other parties along the way mostly because we wanted to conserve energy (and because we’re senior citizens). However, our arrival in Cabo was a pretty good excuse to celebrate. We boogied down with the rest of the bright orange shirts and happily accepted shots from whistle-blowing, ass-slapping shot girls.

Food

There are plenty of good restaurants and bars within walking distance, but by far, our favorite spot was Cafe Canela just around the corner from the marina. We had at least three awesome meals there.  Our server brought us tequila shots with cinnamon (canela) sprinkled orange slices. Tequila will never be the same. It was so delicious. Icing on the cake: they have the fastest wi-fi in town, but please don’t go just for that. Order drinks, and be nice to the servers. (sorry. rants of a former waitress.)

The week pretty much looked like this.
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There was also some “voyage planning”, which according to the photo below, was my cue to saw logs. After changing our minds about twenty times, Richard aka The Grand Poobah gave us some great advice, so we went with that. We figured he knew what he was talking about.

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0 In mexico/ the journal

Baja Ha-Ha Leg 3 – Bahia Santa Maria to Cabo San Lucas

The 36 hour leg from Bahia Santa Maria to Cabo San Lucas was delightfully uneventful. And pretty much windless. We welcomed the rest and motored for most of the way in flat seas and warm air. I was on watch in the early morning hours as we approached Cabo Falso. The moon was so full, and I watched some of the bigger, faster boats motor-sail right past us on their way to the cape. I was so grateful to have had an early start for this leg. 12 hours of rest in Bahia Santa Maria felt sufficient, and I was so ready to arrive at our destination. I could not wait to drop the anchor and jump in the warm water. And then get a slip, and have a real shower, and do laundry in a machine, and boogie down at Squid Row. All of those things.

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Cabo gave us an enthusiastic welcome that morning.  We saw whales breaching against the pastel sunrise in front of us while a huge full moon set behind us. We made coffee and snapped photos as we rounded the signature Cabo Arch into the anchorage.

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When the anchor was set, we made breakfast, straightened up the boat, then jumped in the bright blue water below us for a swim and a bath. Once we were somewhat presentable for the general public, we grabbed a panga to get Umphrey to shore.

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We can’t believe what a good dog he was the whole trip down. While we had some potty successes on the deck, this guy will really wait it out if he thinks there’s hope of landfall. I’m sure he’s grateful shorter sails are in his future! For more details on our experience anchoring in Cabo, check out our post at anchorage.io.

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0 In mexico/ the journal/ the life

Hellooo Cabooo

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We have been in Cabo for 5 days. I think. In that time we have busied ourselves with the remaining Ha-Ha festivities, laundry, immigration, reprovisioning, and dinners with new friends. In our typical haphazard blogging style, we will post on the entire Ha-Ha experience leg by leg, but we wanted to take a second to share some photos now, and let everyone know that we survived. It was an awesome experience, and it feels great to have some miles under our keel.

Latitude 38 did a fun little summary of the more interesting aspects of this year’s Baja Ha-Ha

0 In the journal/ the life

Liebster Award

We were Liebster-ed many moons ago, and it’s shameful to the Liebster name that I am just getting around to sharing our answers. Because the circulation has long past, we won’t be Liebster-ing others.

I watched the Liebster Award float around the cruising community with no intention of receiving a nomination, but how awesome is SV Terrapin for including us in the chain letter fun? They are a super cute family who plans on homeschooling their girls while they cruise (how lucky are those kiddos?!). Plus, self-professing “shameless deadheads”. So, obviously.

-What was the defining moment when you knew that you had to set sail?

When we put our house up for rent. Just kidding. When we realized that cruising was suited our values and the kind of lifestyle we wanted, we just started going for it. We gathered information, took ASA 101 on a lake in Arizona, and we were hooked.

-What’s the one comfort you wish you had while cruising?

Is it wrong that a million things are coming to mind right now? But for me, the one thing I want the most is frivolously long showers!

-How long to you plan to be out?  Is it until the money runs out or are your plans finite?

The truth is, we have no idea.That’s one of the things we love most about this. We plan to cruise the Sea of Cortez, or maybe farther south a for the next 6 months. After that, who knows? If we like it, we can keep going. Maybe it will suck, and we’ll do something else.

-What is the most awesome place you have visited so far?

This feels like kind of a lame answer because it’s right in our backyard, but SO cool nonetheless. Also, we haven’t been to very many places yet. Santa Cruz Island is rad. It’s secluded, wild, and stunning. Just you and the elements. We have literally seen hundreds and hundreds of dolphins on our way there. It’s downright magical.

-What is the least awesome place you have visited so far?

Cruising Southern California is pretty fun, so this is relative. The most disappointing stop we’ve made so far was probably Avalon. We dig Two Harbors, but Avalon was less awesome for us.

– What advice would you give our family as we’re about to set out?

Have the girls journal everything!

-What is one the one place that you can’t wait to visit?

We’re headed to the Sea of Cortez, so we’re stoked about that. Margaritas, street tacos, and warmer waters are calling our names. We daydream about even more exotic locations, but for now, Mexico.

-Wine? Beer? Margaritas? Feel free say all of the above

Jeff loves sake, but will probably have to settle for Pacifico. We both enjoy wine and fresh margaritas – like fresh squeezed lime, agave, and tequila.

-Do you ever get sick of your crew?  What do you do for personal space on a boat?

All of us get annoyed with each other sometimes. I’m pretty sure even Umphrey gets sick of us. He sits in the sun on the bow. I like to go for a walk first thing in the morning or journal. Jeff can slip in his headphones and be on another planet. Personal space is in your head.

-What is the one non-essential item on you boat that you would not want to live without?

For Jeff it’s the windlass. Technically, we lived without this handy item for quite some time. Resetting anchor by hauling it up hand over hand is not for the faint of heart (or bicep). For me it’s the fridge. Again, we lived without this for an entire year, but was it really living? I’m not sure. Cold beverages are so nice, so is saving leftovers, not rotating your eggs every day, chilled chardonnay, iced coffee, umm…

0 In the journal

on the move

Yesterday morning at 4 AM we said a quiet farewell to the slip that was our home for two years. Leaving didn’t feel all that different. We have left that slip many times before, and we were on our way to another familiar port. Still, there was a little twinge of sentimentality as we headed past the breakwater into the wide open darkness.

When we first set out to cruise, we planned to go to San Diego. We actually held onto that plan for a long time – always on the verge of going. They say the plans of cruisers are written in the sand at low tide, and we have found that to be true. The longer we stayed in our sweet harbor, the more we grew to love it, the people in it, and the spectacular sailing playground right outside its walls.

It feels like we accidentally ended up in the best possible place to prepare us for the next step in this adventure. We had no idea that we would be introduced to people who would become mentors, friends, sources of great inspiration, and sometimes literally lifesavers (To our dock neighbor and friend that rescued us at Yellowbanks, thank you again. We probably would have died.) These waters have taught us so much, and we still laugh at the many things we didn’t know when we first moved aboard. Learning new things almost always involves looking like an idiot, right? Totally worth it.

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So the first step away from home was uneventful, if not a little boring. With almost no wind or swell and lots of warm sunshine, we spent most of the motoring down a section of the California coast that would take a little over an hour to drive. Now that we’re in a different location, all of the anxiety that surrounded getting ready is gone. For the first time in months, we don’t have any boat projects and there’s nothing left to check off the list. That’s bound to change, but we’re enjoying it for now!

 

0 In the journal/ the pug

Bringing Pet Food to Mexico

I recently wrote about Umphrey’s new dog food and its many benefits for boat dwelling dogs. While the post was primarily focused on the style of food (dehydrated), it prompted questions about which ingredients can cross the border into Mexico. Armed with some new information on the various regulations, here’s a quick summary of the rules about bringing your pet’s provisions across the border. Below is the official document from the Mexican Secretary of Agriculture which was updated as of 7.24.14.

Official Regulations

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According to Mexico’s Secretary of Agriculture, travelers are permitted to bring in their own pet food. The dog food must be dried, packaged, “and without content of ruminant origin.” Ruminant animals are hoofed, cud chewing mammals, but you can read this for a more detailed definition. If your pet food has any ingredients containing beef, pork, deer, bison, etc, don’t bring it to Mexico. We’ll likely switch to the “Force” flavor (the same Honest Kitchen brand) which is chicken based, free of beef ingredients, and Umphrey enjoyed it.

If you’re interested in Honest Kitchen dog or cat foods, their website has a drop down menu which allows you to search based on ingredients you would like to omit from your pet’s diet. In this case, selecting “beef” from the “Without” drop down menu on the left to find a list of all of their foods that do not contain beef. Their ingredient lists are short and free of mystery foods making the process of finding a Mexico safe flavor a breeze. After omitting that ingredient, there is still a great selection to choose from including fish, duck, turkey, and vegetarian.

Regulations on Quantity

Additionally, the above document says that you are allowed to bring up to 20 kg (44 lbs) of food for your pet. That amount can be in up to two packages. The packages have to be unopened except for the provisions required for the trip. To meet that requirement, we plan to buy two new packages, and use an already opened one for the trip down the Baja Peninsula. Even if the already opened portion is discarded by officials, we will still have two 10 lbs packages of dog food which is 160 days worth of meals for our dog.

1 In the journal/ the pug

Boat Friendly Dog Food

We love our pug. We want him to be as happy and healthy as possible on this sailing adventure, and his diet plays a major role in that. It’s important to us that his diet meets his health needs as well as suits his lifestyle as a salty sailor pug, and the food we were feeding him was no longer cutting it.

Pug Provisions

Umphrey has been on a steady diet of high-quality dry kibble his whole life. Thankfully, he has been a pretty healthy guy in his six years. However, within the last six months he had a minor issue with struvite crystals. This can happen for a few reasons – breed predisposition, dehydration, and the wrong food. (Kitties are susceptible too!) His case cleared up quickly, but it’s not something we want him to go through again, let alone in the middle of the ocean. After talking to our vet, we determined hydration and well-balanced (probably wet) dog food were the keys to prevention. Umphrey has never been overly interested in drinking water throughout the day, and his dry kibble probably wasn’t doing anything to help him stay hydrated. So, the search for a boat-friendly, healthy, hydrating dog food began.

I thought it would be great, albeit unlikely, if we could find a food that we could stockpile in quantities on the boat. We’re headed to Mexico soon unsure about the quality of dog food available south of the border. Everyday grocery store kibble isn’t really an option. It’s full of unhealthy stuff. Most run of the mill dog food is primarily made up of cheap carbohydrates and fillers. Dogs were designed to need exactly zero carbohydrates to survive. When corn, grains, and potatoes become staples in their diet, problems can occur (including elevated pH).

We had kind of a tall order on our search for Umphrey’s canine cuisine. It had to be nutritious, easy to store on the boat, hydrating, and delicious. A couple of extra ingredients that I had my eye on were cranberries to help prevent bladder issues, as well as ground flax to keep things, you know, moving along. (See soon how our food selection played a role in teaching Umphrey to go potty on the boat!) There are so many different dog food brands it’s overwhelming, but after a little research on Dogfoodadvisor.com, we headed to our local pet food store for some samples.

In the days that followed, Umphrey had the great pleasure of sampling a variety of doggy fare from organic to canned, refrigerated to freeze dried, grain free, free range, and grass fed. He turned his nose up at some (kelp? no thanks), but gobbled down most with snorting enthusiasm.

Dehydrated Dog Food

We quickly realized dehydrated or freeze dried dog food is ideal for boat dogs. It’s lightweight, doesn’t require refrigeration, no heavy cans, no giant bags of kibble, and here’s the best part – six months of food for our 25 pound pug takes up about as much space as two shoe boxes. That is amazing.

Umphrey enjoyed most of the samples that he tried, but he went crazy for Honest Kitchen’s “Love” dog food (UPDATE: we’ll be switching to the “Force” flavor, because you’re not allowed to bring beef across the border. More on those regulations >>>here<<<). Honest Kitchen is a San Diego based company with FDA approved human grade ingredients and production practices. Meaning, in a pinch, Jeff and I can eat it too. There are no ingredients from China, it receives a five star rating from Dog Food Advisor, and the ingredient list includes flax and cranberries. Honest Kitchen’s foods are pretty affordable. Umphrey’s serving size costs us about $1.25/day. His old food was about $0.95/day. Honest Kitchen has a line of food and treats for cats too – perfect for boat dwelling kitties!

Dehdydrated food preparation generally calls for water, but not always. Some brands, like Stella and Chewy’s, can be served dry or re-hydrated. Of course water on board is a precious resource, and I can see how re-hydrating dog food might be a deterrent to some sailors. Honest Kitchen provides a guideline for the amount of water per serving that can be adjusted to taste. In our case, we’re happy to add an extra splash. It’s a great way to up our little chunk’s water intake. As we head south toward warmer climates hydration will be crucial, especially because his breed is susceptible to heat stroke. He grew up in Arizona though, so he’s not scared.

*We have no affiliation with the products/companies mentioned.

0 In the journal/ travel

Snapshots from the Road: Pacific Northwest

 

We spent two and a half weeks road tripping around the West Coast, and the majority of that time was spent in the Pacific Northwest. With Redwood National Forest as our jumping off point, we hit Portland, Olympic National Park, Port Angeles, and Seattle. Unusually sunny, warm weather followed us the whole way resulting in nothing short of a love affair with the Pacific Northwest. We took the ferry from Bainbridge Island into Seattle and watched countless boats zig-zag across the water. On land, everything was in bloom and everyone was outside enjoying the sunshine. It almost made us want to live there. Almost.

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Next Door, Port Angeles, Washington

Port Angeles, Washington

Port Angeles, Washington

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Silver Falls, Oregon

 

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Olympic National Park, Washington

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Portland, Oregon