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Passages, People, Places

Sailing to Tahiti

On Sunday, September 11, we pulled up the anchor around 8:30 a.m. and sailed on the jib alone across the Tikehau lagoon, using the OpenCPN satellite images to navigate around bommies. We exited the pass a little after 11:00 a.m. and it was uneventful. Once outside the pass, we put up the main with the first reef in, pulled out the jib and headed toward Moorea. It was sunny and windy at first but eventually became rainy and windy, with big seas. The whole passage was like that. Big seas, wind and then some intense squalls with rain. One of us had to stay at the helm at all times because the wind shifted so much that big surprises occurred if we weren’t attending to the course at all times. Neither of us enjoyed it. Linda did get a little sleep during the night but I didn’t.

Leaving Tikehau on the way to Tahiti
Enroute to Tahiti
The skies were stormy

We were grateful when the sun came up on Monday morning but we still had twelve more hours of our little hell. As we approached Tetiroa, the Marlon Brando island, we decided to head to Tahiti instead of Moorea. It seemed about an hour shorter in distance and we knew we were going to run out of daylight. We got to the Papeete pass at 5:00 p.m. and made our way to the anchorage in front of the airport. We dropped anchor at 6:00 p.m., just as it was getting dark. We were so grateful to be in flat water and no wind. Both of us slept very well that night.

Arriving just before dark at airport anchorage in Tahiti, Moorea in background

The next morning, Tuesday, we woke up to realize that the boats had all swung around significantly and we were too close to another boat. We pulled up anchor right away and proceeded farther along the channel, requesting permission from Port Control to cross at the end of the runway. After searching among zillions of boats, we finally found a place to drop the anchor. We lowered the dinghy and went to shore to Marina Taina and left the dinghy at their dock.

Walking along dock at Marina Taina

After dropping off our trash and recycling, we checked in with my agents, Tahiti Crew. They had been holding my Carte du Sejour for me, so I got that. It is the document that lets me stay in French Polynesia for a year or more (if I renew). After a nice lunch at La Casa Bianca, we returned to the boat, only to be visited by a marina authority who told us we could not anchor where we were. We pulled up anchor and moved across the channel to the low-rent district and finally found a spot that was safe for anchoring.

Legally anchored between the Intercontinental Hotel and Marina Taina

After a quiet night, we went back to Marina Taina with the dinghy and went grocery shopping. We also stopped by Tahiti Crew again and rented a wifi box that allows us to get Internet access on the boat, which is why I am able to make blog posts for the first time in a long time.

After returning to the boat, we saw Antje come in and anchor nearby. Antje is the boat we hit in Omoa in Fatu Hiva. I had been able to pay online for the spare parts that they needed to fix the steering vane, but we got in the dinghy to visit so I could give him something more to compensate somewhat for the inconvenience I had caused them. While we were talking to Jorge about his plans for the boat and his family, we realized that the visitors he had onboard for a day sail were Dana’s friends from high school. They were shocked to see Linda. It is such a small world.

We also noticed that Waveriders had anchored near us so we took the boat over to find them. They weren’t home, but shortly after we returned to Aldabra, Andrew and Liane stopped by on their water bikes for a bit of a visit. It was nice to catch up with them.

Passages, People, Places

Visitors on Rangiroa

On August 14, my sister Debbie and my niece Julia arrived on Rangiroa by plane. They brought some treats and provisions and some parts I needed.

Unfortunately for them, the weather did not cooperate with their visit. We had many days of high winds and rain. We were able to eat a nice lunch a couple of times at Relais Josephine and watch the activity in the pass.

Looking out from the restaurant at Relais Josephine at the Tiputa Pass
The walk to Relais Josephine
Watching the activity in the pass

At one point we had a nice sail over to the other side of the atoll, to the Blue Lagoon. When we go there, however, it was too rough to stay, so we pulled up anchor and motored back to the Kia Ora anchorage, arriving just before dark and anchoring quickly, without being able to see where the anchor landed.

Looking from the boat toward shore at the Kia Ora Hotel Anchorage

We waited out the weather again, and a few days later sailed back to the Blue Lagoon. We had a nice day there and a couple of nice nights with flat seas and no wind. Early on one morning, before the tourist boats arrived, Julia and I snorkeled on the reef outside the entrance to the Blue Lagoon and saw lots of sharks and fish.

Quiet moments at the Blue Lagoon, Pasito is the boat in the shot
Wading in the Blue Lagoon

We next went down to Motu Fama and anchored for the night. It was beautiful there but that night a big squall came in from the south and our anchor may have dragged. We monitored the situation until the squall subsided and then Julia and I put out more chain. I did an anchor watch until 1 a.m. and when all seemed stable, I went to sleep.

Anchored in front of Motu Fama
Another View at Motu Fama
Aldabra in front of Motu Fama

The next day, the wind was building sooner than I expected, so we pulled up anchor and sailed back across the lagoon and then turned into the wind and motored back to the Kia Oro anchorage with enough time to anchor before dark. That was the end of our adventuring on Rangiroa. The lagoon is so big that the seas really build on the other side. So we stayed put and snorkeled at the Aquarium, which can be really good snorkeling. We also went over to Tiputa on the last Sunday of their visit to attend church. The Catholic service involves lots of beautiful music.

Bike Riding on the windward side of Rangiroa
Another beautiful sunset on Rangiroa

Debbie and Julia left at the end of August and I took a couple of days to get the laundry done and clean a bit. Then my friend Linda Moore arrived. After taking a couple of days for Linda to settle in, we did some dives outside the Tiputa pass, followed by lunch at Snack Puna one day and Relais Josephine on another.

dLunch in front of Tiputa Pass after a dive

We also snorkeled at the Aquarium, which Linda liked better than the dives. Seeing the dolphins up close is fun, but the diving can get boring as you wait out in the blue water away from the reef for them to show up. The last dive was probably the best because we went more slowly and could see more fish on the reef. We were joined by two divers from California and it was fun to talk to them.

Looking at the weather predictions, we thought we would be pinned down in Rangiroa for multiple more days during strong winds. I was anxious to move on, so we found a weather window on Tuesday morning, leaving the Avatoru Pass at 7:00 a.m. uneventfully and sailing over to Tikehau. The sail over was very nice. We went around the top of the atoll and were protected from the seas, so they were flat.

Sailing to Tikehau
Events, Passages, People

Arriving in the Tuamotus

Heading for the Tuamotus, we left the Omoa anchorage on Fatu Hiva on Saturday night, July 9 at 10:30 p.m.  We set our sails as soon as we cleared the island and then put a reef in the main. The winds were in the mid-teens and we moved along nicely above 7 knots. The moon was out and it was lovely. Sunday was nice, with winds between 9 and 12 knots, always on the beam. And Sunday night was a calm, pleasant sailing night. Monday brought about the same light winds and more sunshine. A pod of dolphins joined us briefly. It’s nice to have an uneventful, comfortable passage.

On Tuesday, the winds kept getting lighter. After trying the spinnaker, we sailed on the jib alone. Finally, in the gap between Raroia and Takume, we pulled in the jib and motored. Once we got near the pass at Raroia, we turned off the motor and bobbed for the rest of the night and into the morning, waiting for the right time to enter the pass. As I later figured out, I was reading the current tables wrong so we entered the pass at the wrong time. For our first entry into an atoll pass, it was a bit intense but otherwise fine.

Once we entered the pass, we went over and anchored in front of the village. It took us 2-3 hours to anchor because we were floating our chain for the first time. We had to find a sandy place for the anchor and then attach fenders to the chain to keep it from touching the coral on the sea floor.

As we were coming in, an armada of dinghies passed us on their way to drift snorkel the pass. Bob and Sarah from Rhapsody were among them. That night we met the rest of the armada. We went over for sundowners to Womble, a beautiful Seawind 1600 from the U.K, owned by Dale and Katrina with crew Jack and Etta. We also met Lance and Amy on Lorien, and Kate and Jim on Polaris. It was a very nice evening with good people. We had a little mini-emergency because Marshall fainted. But Dana, Dale and Katrina tended to his medical needs.

The next day was Bastille Day and on many islands in French Polynesia they celebrate. Raroia was not among them. It was a very windy day in the anchorage and some of us had to re-anchor in those conditions. We stayed on the boat. Rala also joined the rest of us, having come from the other side of the atoll.

The next day, Friday, July 15, most of the boats were headed to Makemo but we headed over to the other side of the atoll, first to the Kon Tiki monument and then to a beautiful, quiet anchorage on the northeast end. We explored on land a bit and otherwise hung out. The weather went from still to rain to wind.

Raroia: Introduction to the Tuamotus

On Monday, July 18, we left the northeast anchorage at 8:00 a.m. and headed out of the pass. I still handn’t figured out that I was reading the current tables wrong, so we didn’t exit during slack tide, but it wasn’t too bad. We put the jib up and ran on a broad reach to Makemo. Dana caught a very large tuna and cleaned it with guidance from Johno. We arrived at 5:00 a.m. and waited until 6:30 a.m. to enter the pass, again at the wrong time, but it was fine. We anchored in front of the village, floating our chain. It took about an hour.

We went ashore and bought provisions, got money at the ATM and answered emails because we had a cell signal for the first time in many days. We had Dana’s tasty fish for dinner. The boats in the anchorage included Womble, Polaris, Rhapsody, Lorien, Rala and now Candine and Black Moon (who had been in Fatu Hiva with us). It felt like quite a community although of course we would all head off in different directions.

While we were in Raroia, Johno and Marshall had colds. We tested them for Covid and they were positive. It sort of explained why Marshall had fainted. I went around to as many of the boats as I could to let them know that we had exposed them. By the time we got to Makemo, some of the cruisers were symptomatic.

On Thursday, July 21, we motored to the Punaruku anchorage. It was a calm day inside the lagoon but there was a big south swell outside and you could see the waves breaking on the reef. We had a nice snorkel on the reef and a nice evening. After a gorgeous sunrise on Friday, we motored to the anchorage near the west pass, which we would not have done if it weren’t for OpenCPN and the satellite images that are integrated into the charts. We could see each bit of coral as we navigated into the anchorage. It was a fun place to snorkel for the day and a nice quiet night.

Makemo Sunrise

On Saturday, July 23, we left Makemo via the west pass (still at the wrong time) at 6:25 a.m. We sailed on a beam reach with 10-12 knots of wind from the north. It was a nice day of sailing. In the evening, the wind came up and we put two reefs in the main. We had 13-15 knots of wind and we were still going too fast to reach Fakarava. We arrived at the pass at 10:00 p.m., took down the sails and motored for four hours. Then we shut off the motor and floated around until sunrise. After that, we put the jib up and sailed around, killing time. We entered the south pass at 9:25 a.m., at the wrong time, and it was a bit hairy. There were a bunch of dive boats in the pass and they were yelling at us. I’m not sure what they were saying but I think they were chastising us. As we headed to the anchorage near the pass, it was really windy and it seemed imprudent to pick up a mooring ball there. We kept on going (which meant passing up the opportunity to snorkel the pass) and went to Hirifa.

For kite boarders, Hirifa is the spot. The wind seemed perfect and lots of boats had people kiting around the anchorage. For me it was just an overnight spot. We pulled up the anchor the next morning and headed toward the north side of the island, stopping for the night in an anchorage by ourselves. We had a nice snorkel and a quiet night.

The next day we proceeded to the village of Rotoava and anchored. Rala was there at anchor and Rhapsody was tied up at the wharf because their windlass had broken. We spent a week in that anchorage. Partly it was due to multiple days expected of high winds. We also were dropping Marshall off there so he could fly out. And it was a decent place to provision, ride bikes, eat at restaurants and tour a pearl farm. We hung out with Ian and Laura on Rala and saw Bob and Sarah on Rhapsody before they left for Tahiti. There wasn’t that much to do on Fakarava during super windy days, but Fakarava Yacht Services was a godsend to cruisers. We could get laundry done, use wifi, get cooking gas fill-ups and rent bikes. I discovered that I couldn’t take Marshall off the crew list in Fakarava so that would have to wait until Rangiroa.

On Monday, August 1, Rala and Aldabra went over to the anchorage near the north pass so we could get an early start going out of the pass the next morning. (I had finally figured out how to use the current tables properly.) We each picked up mooring balls but it was really windy, the seas were huge and choppy and the balls were very close to shore. If a ball had broken, we would have only seconds to start the motor and keep the boat off the shore. And the motor would be working very hard against the wind and seas. Both boats elected to go back to the village and anchor. We each had a somewhat peaceful night before an early morning departure back to the pass.

On Tuesday, August 2, Rala and Aldabra pulled up anchor at 6:00 a.m. and sailed to the pass. Because I finally had the timing right, it was very smooth. Outside the pass, the swell was a bit big and the winds were in the high teens. Headed for Rangiroa, we sailed on the jib alone on a broad reach, jibing every so often. Rala was sailing downwind so they had a much better angle and stayed ahead of us the whole time. At one point we ran the motor for an hour and a half to charge the batteries and they didn’t charge. Johno found a loose wire and reconnected it to the alternator and charging resumed. Whew!

To arrive at the pass in time, we motored for the last few hours and went through the pass as soon as we got there at 8:00 a.m., just behind Rala. We anchored in front of the Kia Ora hotel with several other boats, none of whom we knew. Rangiroa was to be the last stop for Dana and Johno, who were flying out on August 7.

As soon as we anchored, we went ashore to walk around. We ran into Ian and Laura at the pass, where people were watching dolphins surf the waves. They took us to a great little restaurant at the pension Relais Josephine where we could eat while watching the dolphins. We had a nice lunch before heading back to the boats for naps. Ian and Laura came over to Aldabra that night for sundowners.

I needed to get to the gendarmerie to take Marshall off the crew list. Google Maps said it was in the village of Avatoru. So the next morning, Dana and Johno and I took the dinghy the four miles to the village and beached it. It was a windy, wet ride and I was soaked from head to toe. We couldn’t find the gendarmerie and there was confusion among the locals about its location. We stopped by the mayor’s office to pay our cruiser’s tax and a very nice man explained where it was. We could walk 5 kilometers or take the dinghy. We elected to take the dinghy and found a little pass to tie up before walking a short distance to the gendarmerie.

We found it, but I don’t speak French and the staff didn’t speak English. We spent a lot of time on forms that I was pretty sure were not right. At the end, the woman sent me away without anything in hand. I asked if I should be signing something and she assured me that everything would go to Papeete and be just fine. But later that day I got an email from her saying that I needed to come back and sign a form.

After we left the gendarmerie, we ran into Ian and Laura, who were taking a bike ride. We stopped at a magasin before going back to the dinghy, and then we took the wet ride back to the boat, something I would rather not repeat.

Dana and Johno banished me to the cockpit during the middle of the day so they could bake a birthday cake. Later, with Ian, we attempted to snorkel the pass by pulling our dinghies along with us as we drifted. But we were working against a current so we abandoned that and went over to the aquarium at the motu near the pass. The snorkeling was good there so we spent a bit of time before heading back to the boats to rinse off before dinner. The five of us had a nice birthday dinner at Snack Puna, which included a chocolate torte with trick candles that didn’t blow out.

Trick birthday candles

The next day, Friday, Dana and I joined Ian and Laura for two dives with Rangiroa Diving Centre. The first dive was a reef dive outside the pass on the east side. The second dive took us into the pass from the outside. We were hoping to see dolphins, which is a highlight of the dives here, but they didn’t appear. The second dive was a sunset dive and we did see a lot of fish, which had all come out of their holes in the reef to feed. When we got back to the boat, we were freezing and cold. Johno kindly whipped up a meal.

On Saturday, Johno and Dana and I went to shore in search of bikes, but the place was closed. We ended up taking the dinghy across the pass to explore the Tiputa village. We found a working ATM at the post office but not much else. Later we went snorkeling at the aquarium and then joined Ian and Laura at the Snack Puna for a last-night dinner. 

On Sunday, Dana and Johno’s last day, we rode bikes to the Avatoru village and happened to find the gendarmerie open. I stopped in to sign the paper, which turned out not to be the right form. I finally got a form, officially stamped, that probably isn’t correct, but at least it shows I tried to sort it out. At the end of the motu, we checked out the Avatoru pass, which is wide and looked very tame. After spending the rest of the afternoon on the boat, I took the two of them to shore at 5:00 p.m. to catch their taxi to the airport. Sitting on that boat that evening, I could tell that no plane had come to whisk them away, but finally, a couple of hours late, it arrived and they took off.

With Dana and Johno’s departure, I was alone on the boat for the first time since April. I was ready to do some serious cleaning. But first, I got one more day of scuba diving in with Ian and Laura. We did two dives, basically in the same place as before, but we saw dolphins. They came and swam around us. We also saw a turtle that didn’t dart away. It let us gawk at it. And we saw lots of sharks and some big pelagic fish, along with beautiful reef fish. That night I had a lovely dinner on Rala with Ian and Laura.

On Tuesday, the taxi driver, Gilbert, took me to the gas station where I could buy gasoline and oil for the dinghy. I was also able to drop of my laundry at Addison’s house. I spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning.

On Wednesday morning, amidst much rain, Ian and Laura stopped by to tell me that one of the magasins had some fresh produce. So I hopped into the dinghy and went there to find some mangos and avocados. (I’d had only one avocado since arriving in French Polynesia.) Later that day I went back to get the laundry from Addison, who had managed to dry everything even during a big rainstorm. (It had rained so much the night before that the dinghy was completely filled while hanging on the davits. Had it been in the water, it probably would have sunk.)

Sadly, Ian and Laura left on Rala on Wednesday afternoon, headed for Moorea and then parts west and south. I’m not sure I will see them again anytime soon. But I really value the friendship.

Rala Leaving for the Societies

Alone on the boat and without anyone I know in the anchorage, I just puttered away on the boat, defrosting the freezer and fridge and cleaning the galley, cleaning the heads, the floors, the rugs. I re-glued a seal on one of the hatches, changed out the watermaker filters, cleaned the cockpit. Mixing the chores up with a bit of reading and writing, I’ll be ready when my sister and niece arrive in a few days.

People

Tribute to Jim Foley

Jim on his 80th Birthday

You’ll recall from the early days of this blog that Jim Foley was the person most instrumental in preparing Aldabra and me to go cruising. He coached me on the purchase of the boat, he did most of the work in refitting her, and he taught me how to work on her. He was an invaluable resource. And now I have to say goodbye. Jim died on April 5, 2021 just shy of his 81st birthday, after a stoic battle with cancer. He leaves his wife Linda, four children, many grandchildren, his sister and many nieces and nephews. Jim also leaves a California surfing and sailing community that benefitted so much from his friendship and ingenuity.

You can read others’ insights about how Jim was the Northern California pioneer of surfing’s shortboard, and about the various sailboats that Jim designed and built for racing and then later cruising. He also went through a long phase of passion for windsurfing. There probably wasn’t any aspect of being a waterman that Jim didn’t embody, including swimming, scuba and lifesaving. But design and invention didn’t stop at water-related activities, he also designed and built parts of his homes, refit cars and designed at least one famous logo (O’Neil). But I knew Jim as a long-time friend and mentor.

My story with Jim goes back to my college days in the mid-1970s. I was part of the UC Santa Cruz woman’s sailing team and Jim’s first wife joined us in regattas. The two of them took these young college students under their wing, inviting us to BBQs at their house in Ben Lomond and including us in Santa Cruz Yacht Club events. That was during the time that Jim was racing his iconic Third Reef, and I think we sailed on it. I know we spent the night on it once in Moss Landing after a regatta.

Years later, Jim married my close friend Linda, who was the person who initially brought me onto the university sailing team. Jim and Linda finished building their cruising boat, Dana, and set off around the world for six years. By then, I was pretty immersed in my career in Silicon Valley, spending very little time on the water, but I joined them as crew when I could.

In Tonga, Jim tried to teach me how to do water starts on his windsurfer. I ended up with bloody knees and gave up. I think it was in Tonga that they had me getting up at midnight to go diving for lobster. I was no help. I think I was just befuddled as they darted around to locate and nab their prey. The three of us had a spectacular time sailing throughout all three of Tonga’s island groups. I’m pretty sure those were my first night watches by myself. And that was my first experience with navigation, which was with one of those original brick-size hand-held GPS devices, a paper chart, parallel rulers and a divider. Weather information was by way of an isobar chart received by fax over the ham radio. Communication with fellow cruisers was with VHF and communication with people in the U.S. was by way of ham radio, letters sent using snailmail or by going to an island-based telephone center to make a long-distance call or send a fax. They had made friends with several other cruisers and that was my introduction to the supportive, congenial bonds that cruisers develop.

My next visit was a magical trip from Vanuatu to the Solomon Islands. I arrived with two large duffels full of parts and goodies that they had requested via fax. Jim commandeered a pickup truck to get the goods from the airport to the dinghy, which almost sank under the load. That trip started out with some urgency as we tried (successfully) to outsail a cyclone. Once we were outside the reach of the storm, we found ourselves ghosting by an active volcano in flat, glassy water that seemed to extend forever. I got spoiled sailing on Dana, because the boat moved in in just a whisper of wind. Built using a Santa Cruz 40 mold, she was light and designed to go fast.

We stopped at a few islands in Vanuatu and the Solomons before arriving at Guadalcanal, which would be my departure point. I think Jim and Linda had decided it was easier to trade for lobster, so they were no longer hunting for that crustacean. But they had become experts at catching and cooking coconut crabs, which we did on one remote island. (These crabs with their pinchers can get pretty scary when they get loose on the boat.) We also hiked into the heart of one of the islands to a native village that seemed untouched by the outside world. On the way back, we rode air-filled floats down the streams that flowed back to the ocean. It was an example of how Jim always looked for a way to turn any occasion into frolicking fun.

The next time I was to meet up with Jim and Linda was in Seychelles. We had been in communication by fax and had a rough plan to meet up around May of whatever year that was. (I don’t have my journals with me.) But weeks went by without any word from them. Not really understanding what their circumstances were (like being in the remote Chagos during a year when ham radio propagation was poor and they had no other means of communication), I just decided to fly to Seychelles and see what would happen. I had taken the time off of work and didn’t want to squander it. After arriving on Mahe and checking into a small inn, I took a bus to the harbor to ask around. As I was standing there, a boat that looked very much like Danaarrived in the harbor. Like a thoughtless landlubber, I asked someone in a skiff to take me out to where Dana was anchoring.

So imagine it from their perspective. They are sleep deprived and not feeling all that well after a two-week passage. They are in the middle of anchoring, the most stressful interaction that any cruising couple goes through. And on their passage, they had completed, with great thought, the list they expected to fax to me of all the things they wanted me to bring. On the passage they had been dreaming about those things. And here I am before them, which means a)I will not be bringing anything on their list and b)they are way too tired to interact. I have never seen a more disappointed look on Jim’s face.

Jim and Linda generously forgave me and I moved onto the boat the next day. We took some time to tour around Mahe, visiting local artists. We attended a big independence celebration. And we reprovisioned the boat. After spending some time on other islands in the group, Praslin and La Digue, I think, we headed west, buddy boating with two or three other boats.

The passage was rough at first. Seas were coming from two different directions. And the winds were intense, probably blowing 30-40 knots over two or three days. Waves were crashing into the cockpit from above and filling it with water, or broadsiding the boat. We were tossed around so much that we gave up on regular watches and pinned ourselves into our berths down below to avoid being thrown all over or hit with projectiles. At one point a wave blew the main into tatters and we had to abandon our nests to change it out. For a respite, we took refuge at a small atoll. We didn’t have permission to land, but all the boats anchored for a spell to fix damage and rest from the wind and seas. From there we sailed to Aldabra, to visit the giant tortoises and to dive in the lagoon, which is the largest of any coral atoll in the world.

At that time, in the mid-1990s, Aldabra was inhabited by a small staff of people at a research station. We arranged with them to take us all in a couple of skiffs to the mouth of the lagoon. We were dropped off just as the water was gushing into the lagoon. Through a series of mishaps, we were mostly separated from one another, but we all held onto our masks and road the current into the center of the lagoon along with all kinds of sea creatures. Each of us surfaced when we ran out of air and the boats found and retrieved us. One guy was lost for a couple of hours but we eventually found him alive. We spent those two hours wondering what we would do in the worst-case scenario. Fortunately, it didn’t come to that.

From Aldabra, we set off west again, not knowing exactly where the winds and seas would take us. But we ended up at the island of Mayotte, off the east coast of Africa. I flew from there back to Seychelles and onto France, before flying back to the U.S.

Jim and Linda continued around the southern tip of Africa after they explored the continent by land. They then crossed the Atlantic and explored the Caribbean and eastern side of Central America and the Gulf of Mexico before trucking Dana overland to Oakland. The next time I met up with them on the boat, I took a ferry from Tiberon and spend a couple days with them on Angel Island before they sailed Dana back to their home port of Santa Cruz.

That began their next adventure. They brought twins Trevor and Dana into the world and had a lot of fun raising them. I was with them on a boating trip in British Columbia when the twins were about eighteen months old. We had five adults to keep an eye on two toddlers, which is what it takes when you’re walking along docks. On their boat, which was a MacGregor 26, Jim had installed car seats to keep them safe in the cockpit. When they weren’t trucking the MacGregor around the country or to Mexico, they might be paddling or sailing the canoe that Jim built, or helping coach the kids’ sailing classes or exposing them to some other water or sports activity. Jim took delight in any of the twins’ science or art projects, and Linda was a wellspring of interesting educational or creative projects or outings. They were both fulltime, hands-on parents that passed on their curiosity and boundless energy to their children.

I had always planned to buy a cruising boat when I retired and in 2008 Jim had a slip in the Santa Cruz harbor if I could put a boat in it. So he helped me buy and fix up Aldabra. We were partners in the boat until I took off down the coast to Mexico to begin my cruising adventure. Those roughly eight years of working with Jim on the boat were just plain fun, and I learned a lot. He did projects on the boat during the week while I was working. And I would join in during the weekends when I wasn’t traveling. He did several projects without me (replacing the entire fresh water system, replacing the engine), but would save parts of each project so I could learn. He guided me on what tools I needed, how to maintain each system on the boat, and how to prepare for long passages to remote places.

Jim was always anticipating what could go wrong and helping me prepare for each catastrophe. He would say, “It’s not if things go wrong, it’s about what you do when they go wrong.” Jim was a master at both anticipation and inventing a fix for anything that broke. That was a mindset that I had to learn. I just wanted to put all new parts on the boat and expect that everything would survive, but of course that wasn’t going to be the case. As Jim had explained multiple times, and I of course discovered first hand, owning and journeying on a boat is an endless process of maintenance, repairs and improvements. But the joy you get from making new friends, sharing with old friends, traveling to remote countries and sailing along in a good breeze with the engine off makes it all worthwhile.

I had always hoped that Jim and Linda and the kids would join me at points during my cruising adventure. Jim was aboard when we set off from Santa Cruz to Southern California. And Dana was part of the crew that sailed from Puerto Vallarta to San Diego on a trip that was supposed to be to the Marquesas. And I hold out hope that Linda, Trevor and Dana will still be joining me once the COVID restrictions are lifted. But Jim’s last time on the boat was several weeks ago when he and Linda visited in San Diego and I showed him the modifications I had done in Mexico and San Diego.

Jim on Aldabra as we brought the boat down the coast of California

He was his usual enthusiastic, supportive self. In all the years I’ve known Jim, he was always supportive. I’m sure he worried about all the things I didn’t know and all the challenges I was likely to encounter. He probably worried about his daughter sailing to the South Pacific with me. But He never voiced any doubts. He just made lists of everything he could impart. I’m so grateful to have had such a friend. I miss him and it pains me that his family has lost him.  

Jim and Linda on the beach in Carmel
The Foley family at Trevor’s and Dana’s high school graduation
People

Tribute to Dr. David Rose

If you’ve followed Aldabra’s journey through this blog, you’ll have read about Dr. David Rose. He and his wife Susan crewed on Aldabra for the Baja Ha Ha in 2016. They also visited while I was in the Sea of Cortez. And David was headed to French Polynesia with us when we had to detour to San Diego. Susan was going to meet us in the Marquesas.

Because of the quarantine, I hadn’t seen David since we arrived in San Diego in April. We spoke on the phone in July and closed the conversation with an expectation that he would come down to the boat at some point in the near future.

But that wasn’t to be. David passed away unexpectedly in early August. David was a very close friend and has been my sailing partner for years. Every time I make certain improvements to the boat, I think about whether David would approve, even now.

Having David on the boat was alway reassuring to me. We had very complementary styles, underscored by trust and mutual respect. We developed strategies collaboratively and never argued. He loved to sail and he loved to tinker, with electronics and with anything he noticed that could be improved. David was very smart and very thoughtful. I always paid attention when he challenged my approach to something. And he was always a great partner when it came time for a repair. He was also great company for everyone on board, with his quiet humor and easy-going nature.

David’s and my sailing partnership began in 1997. He had a small day sailor in the Santa Cruz harbor and he furthered his interest in sailing with an ASA course that prepared him to charter bigger boats. Shortly after he completed his course, he proposed that I join his family on a charter to the BVIs, and invited one of my nieces (Halley) along. She was between his two oldest kids in age.

We chartered a monohull and had a wonderful time. I think Halley was only about eleven years old at the time, and it was hard for her to be away from home. But Susan took Halley under her wing while David and I were probably quite occupied with the business of sailing the boat.

That began a tradition of chartering a sailboat in some part of the world every other year. There were a couple of times when I wasn’t able to participate, but David and Susan and their kids (Jessica, Ben and Samantha) always got their charter trip in. I loved the preparatory meetings for the trips, the trips themselves, and the post-trip recap gatherings. And through those experiences, I grew close to the Rose family and was honored to participate in many of their family celebrations.

For the trip after the BVIs, David wanted to charter a catamaran. Neither of us had any experience with one, so we signed up for a two-day class at Club Nautique in Alameda. We would be learning on a PDQ, which was identical to a boat we planned to charter in the Bahamas.

We did learn about the differences between a monohull and a catamaran, so the class prepared us well for the charter. But the class also bonded us in a life-and-death experience. Due to a freak accident, our instructor was strangled by a jib sheet and lost consciousness. He wasn’t breathing, and it was up to David to bring him back to life. As a surgeon, he certainly knew how to perform CPR in theory, but he didn’t have any experience in a setting outside the OR and without competent staff to assist. But he did save the instructor’s life. The whole emergency of keeping the guy alive, making our way back to the dock and working with the Coast Guard was a bit traumatic and very memorable. But it was not the last of Dr. Rose providing emergency medical assistance during a sailing trip.

Our uneventful catamaran charter in the Bahamas was followed four years later by a trip to Tonga. (The Rose family had chartered in Greece in the interim, but I had not been able to go.) In Tonga, we chartered two boats so we could include more of our friends. I brought my niece, Lizzie, along with two other families. There was also a third boat with our friend Pete and his family. It was strange not being on the same boat as the Rose family. But every day, David, Pete and I had skippers’ meetings to plan our navigation for that day. And in the evenings the crews of all three boats gathered on one of the boats to party after dinner. Playing the card game Hearts figured prominently in the evenings’ activities. And true to form, David responded when a local citizen put out a call on the radio for medical assistance. David met with him and provided consultation.

Two years later, we chartered in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, again on two separate boats. We had some of the same friends, and this time I brought my sister Ann and her daughters, Emily and Hannah. Our friends Vicki and Bruce and their son Griffin were now experienced crew, having been on the Tonga trip. And our friend Mark was also a repeat participant. The trip had lots of drama, including the effects of an approaching hurricane (that never really messed with us very much). And once again, there were medical emergencies that David needed to address. Beyond that, however, he became a casualty himself, with a couple of broken ribs. Fortunately, his daughter Jessica, who went on to become a doctor, was able to help David out.

The next trip was to Croatia. This time we chartered one boat, a 50-ft monohull. The trip included the Rose family, their good friend Karen and my nieces Rachel and Julia. It was fun to have everyone together on the same boat, but it was a very different kind of trip. Rather than sailing among remote tropical islands, we were in civilization. It involved dressing up to go to restaurants and even a visit to an exclusive night club. Uncharacteristically, we had no medical emergencies that I can recall.

Next, we chartered in Belize. This time David and I each captained a catamaran and out friend Mark captained a monohull. My boat included Vicki and Bruce and Griffin along with Marty and Katie and Gabe, who had been on the Tonga trip.

Two years later, the Roses chartered in New Zealand and I was not able to go. So our next trip together was a return to the BVIs. We had three boats. The Rose party was on one boat. My boat included my mother, my friends Pete and Cookie and my friends Jim and Linda and their twins, Dana and Trevor. The third boat included Mark’s brother and family and mother. We all joined together for a Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant on shore. The only medical emergency I remember from that trip was Pete’s excruciatingly painful toothache, which David successfully treated with antibiotics.

Our final charter trip together was in 2015 out of Raiatea in the Society Islands. We were on one catamaran together, with my sister Wendy and her husband Pat, David and Susan, Karen and Jessica. We sailed around Raiatea, Huahine, Taha’a and Bora Bora. We bought pearls at a pearl farm and had a great time snorkeling, especially through one pass between two islands that swept us rapidly through narrow channels with coral heads everywhere. After we dropped off the boat, we stayed a few days in Tahiti, visiting the market in Papeete and touring the island in a rental car.

I found out a bit after we returned that David had contracted Dengue fever while we were there and suffered multiple complications from it. It was very much on our minds as we planned the trip to the Marquesas, because it was imperative for him to avoid getting it again.

David, Susan, Wendy and Pat were all on the Baja Ha Ha trip the next year, on Aldabra, where David once again came to the rescue, this time for a sailor who had dislocated his shoulder.

As I anticipate the possibility that Aldabra may get to leave for French Polynesia in 2021, it’s hard to imagine the voyage without David. I hope Susan will still want to join us in the Marquesas. And I hope that sometime in the not-too-distant future, we’ll get the chartering gang back for another catamaran trip in David’s honor.

David somewhere in the Society Islands

People, Places

January/February 2019

When I last posted, I had just put Aldabra away for the summer hurricane season of 2018. For the rest of the year, I spent time in California, visiting family and friends, which included a trip to Lake Tahoe with good friends and the wedding in Santa Monica of a young woman I have watched grow up.

Rebecca, Haller and Terry hiking around Emerald Bay in Tahoe

I also spent six weeks in the highlands of Mexico, with friends Jeff and Jules. I met up with them in the lovely city of Queretaro, and we then drove to Guanajuato to attend language school for a month. We stayed in a nice house with a large garden and attended private Esquela Mexicana. I essentially had one-on-one instruction, working on conversation and the subjunctive verb tenses that I find so hard to master. Guanajuato is a bit touristy but it has some good museums, parades and food. We took beautiful hikes in the city and in the surrounding hills. We also took a scenic mountain bike ride from a higher-elevation town back into Guanajuato.

Guanajuato on a cloudy day
Hiking above Guanajuato
Guanajuato children marching in Independence Day parade
Guanajuato children marching

After leaving Guanajuato, we drove north to Zacatecas for a few days and enjoyed walking around town and visiting the museums. It is definitely a city worth visiting. Finally, we drove north to Durango, which wasn’t as compelling as the other three cities, but featured beautiful landscapes outside the city.

Looking down on Zacatecas
Exploring ruins outside of Zacatecas
Hiking through the ruins outside of Zacatecas
Hiking outside of Durango where so many westerns were filmed
More of the landscape outside of Durango

I flew back to California from Durango and stayed until the end of the year. It was nice to meet and spend Christmas with the two new additions to our family, niece Rachel’s (and husband Caleb’s) daughter Peyton and niece Halley’s (and husband Michael’s) son Oliver. And of course I enjoyed hanging out with other members of my family as well as cruising friends Tom and Helen from Catatude.

On January 1st I flew back to Puerto Vallarta to prepare Aldabra for the 2019 sailing season. I slogged through all the usual chores to take the boat out of “mothball.” (Fortunately it wasn’t too hot.) It takes me almost two weeks to decommission Aldabra and about the same amount of time to reverse it. I also attended some seminars at the Vallarta Yacht Club, caught up with a few old friends and met a few new people. I managed to get some walks in a first but as time started running out, the boat chores got priority.

On January 11th, my sister Wendy and brother-on-law Pat flew in from San Diego. I was supposed to have the boat ready for a southbound trip, but we were delayed by a week. We had to haul the boat out of the water at the Opequimar boatyard for work to be done on the shaft. It turns out that the shaft was fine but the coupling needed to be remachined. (The shaft practically fell out of the coupling when I put the transmission in reverse as we approached the Opequimar dock.) Alvaro Bello did fine work and we were back in the water in three days. While the boat was out of the water, I discovered that the bottom paint that was put on in June (which should last 3 years) is already coming off, so I’ll have to haul out again soon. During the haulout, Pat and I worked on projects on the boat during the day. We stayed in a nice hotel across the street and ate at restaurants in Marina Vallarta. It wasn’t a bad place to be stranded for a few days.

After the haulout, we took the boat back to the Paradise Village Marina long enough to check out with the port captain, do final provisioning and pause for a weather window. We took off on Saturday morning and motor-sailed out of Banderas Bay, rounding Cabo Corrientes before dark. Once out of the bay we had a pretty big swell but we had a nice northwesterly wind that let us sail most of the way to Tenacatita, gybing away from the coast and back a few times to compensate for the swell.

We arrived in the late morning on Sunday and anchored. After visiting briefly with John and Donna from Carmanah and Jeff and Jules from El Gato, it was nap time after an all-night sail. Later, it was time to expose Wendy and Pat to classic Tenacatita experiences, such as landing the dinghy on the beach (that went well thanks to calm surf), a beach walk and kayaking. (They opted out of bocce ball but I’m sure we would have played if we’d been there longer.)

The next day we took the dinghy up the river for a jungle cruise and then tried to take the dinghy out of the river, up a road and across another road over to the beach to relaunch into the ocean. The idea was to then take the dinghy over to the Aquarium so they could snorkel. The problem was that hauling the dinghy over to the beach was really hard. Plus, the waves were huge so we had to haul it a long way to find waves small enough to launch. And then once we got to the Aquarium, it was clearly too rough for them to snorkel. So that was a bust. We then motored the dinghy in nasty swells all the way around the point (taking at least an hour) to return to the anchorage, where they finally did find a spot to snorkel.

The first night in Tenacatita, we had dinner with Jeff and Jules on their boat, El Gato. The second night was another classic experience, movie night, again on El Gato. Nine of us watched This is Spinal Tap while eating popcorn and drinking rum and tequila. The problem was that we all had so much catching up to do, there was only a bit of movie watching.

On Wednesday, we sailed to Barra de Navidad, which is 10 miles south. We pulled into our slip in the marina and prepared to take advantage of the Barra experience before Wendy and Pat had to fly out on Saturday morning. They got to experience street tacos at Tacos de Miriam.com, dinner at Simona’s, the hotel pool with the water slide, and the Thursday Barra market. We also took the bus over the Melaque for lunch and a bit of textiles shopping.

After Wendy and Pat left, I spent a couple of days washing the boat and doing chores before leaving in a car on Monday with Jeff and Jules and their dog Chance, bound for Zihuatanejo. After an 8-hour, curvy drive, we arrived at Casa Roja and were joined a few minutes later by our landlords, Tim and Donna Melvile.

Casa Roja is a lovely tri-level house overlooking the Zihuatanejo bay. It was strange to be in Zihua without our boats, but it was nice to be staying in such comfortable surroundings. (When you live on a boat, a real bathroom and a real shower is a novelty.) Tim and Donna just bought the house several months ago. They were on the floor above us and some of their relatives were in the unit below us. The two-week stay there was delightful.

You can see Casa Roja perched on the hill overlooking the bay

But we weren’t in Zihuatanejo to play. Donna and Tim are the driving force behind the cruiser component of Sailfest, an annual charity event to raise money for the local school children. Sailfest technically is a one-week event, but Donna and Tim and other volunteers get started a couple weeks early and extend their effort beyond the official event. They, along with other cruisers and volunteers, book tourists on sailing cruises. The tourists pay and the cruises are on private sailboats that are anchored in the bay.

Many of the boats show up year after year to host these tourists on the cruises, donating their time, their boats, their diesel fuel and their crew to the cause. Other boats show up unsuspectingly after a long passage from the north or south. Sleep deprived, they arrive in the bay, anchor and start trying to familiarize themselves with the town and the local services. But as soon as they anchored, we would be on the radio, recruiting them to participate in the cruises. Fortunately, most of them were willing to give it a go, and usually enjoyed the experience.

Some of the boats in Zihuatanejo bay that took out tourists

Some of the cruises were three-hour sails that ended with the sunset. Others were music cruises, featuring some of the best musicians in town. The boats would sail for a bit and then anchor so that the musicians could play until sunset. These were amazing performances. Sailfest also featured a rally (race) on one day and a parade on another. The parade had more than 300 people paying to go on boats. Sailfest raised more than a million pesos this year.

Zihuatanejo musicians playing until sunset on a music cruise

My purpose in going to Zihuatanejo was to help Donna at the sales desk, and that’s what I did most days. Occasionally I would crew on boats doing cruises. And I did play pickleball on one morning. But the stay in Zihuatanejo was pretty much a singular focus on Sailfest, with some good dinners in the evenings.

Shortly after we returned to Barra de Navidad, my mom and my sister Ann came to visit. They stayed in a nice room in the hotel and I joined them every morning for the breakfast buffet. We walked on the paths behind the resort and along the harbor channel. We went to Melaque to buy textiles. We relaxed by the pool. We road the water taxi back and forth across the lagoon. And we had dinners in Barra. After five days, we all three flew to Tijuana and crossed back over the border to San Diego.

Ann and my mom during a walk above Barra
Surfer catching a ride outside of Barra

I was returning to San Diego to go to dental and medical appointments, to buy a few things for the boat and to get ready for tax preparation. I also took advantage of the cool weather to take walks around the lake and hike Cowles Mountain. The final day, most of my family members gathered for a scrumptious brunch at my mom’s house.

Passages, People, Places

Spring and Early Summer 2018, Mostly Sea of Cortez

I Just arrived in San Diego after putting Aldabra away for the hurricane season in Paradise Village Marina in Nuevo Vallarta, Banderas Bay, Mexico. It took more than a week to prepare the boat. I had to strip the exterior of things that could get damaged or cause damage during a big blow. Down below, I went bow to stern, clearing out gear, cleaning compartments and then restowing the gear. I also pickled the watermaker and changed the engine oil, flushed the dinghy motor with fresh water, and lashed the dinghy upside down on the deck. The task list also included defrosting the refrigerator and freezer and giving away most of the food still onboard. The final steps were to close all the hatches and cover them from the inside with aluminum foil, and install the dehumidifier (thanks to Jeff from El Gato). After that, the boat was like a sauna, so I packed up my luggage and headed for the airport. (I was looking forward to some relief from the heat and humidity.)

I had arrived in Paradise Village on July 2 with crew Stephen Hardt after crossing the Sea of Cortez from La Paz. We left at 4:00 p.m. on Friday June 29 (I forgot that we supposed to leave on a Friday) and sailed or motor-sailed for three nights and two days. We had 1-2 meter swells the whole way across and a variety of wind conditions. During the last third of the trip, the wind came from behind but it was too light to fly the spinnaker, which we’d set up on deck in anticipation. We saw some wildlife (turtles and dolphins) but most notable were the 15 brown boobies that hitched a ride on the bow pulpit for an entire night and made quite a mess.

Brown Boobies Hitchhiking. They were joined later by more of their friends.

It was a good spring in the Sea of Cortez. It started with a week-long visit with my sister Wendy, her husband Pat and my niece Lizzie. We traveled north to Isla San Francisco and then backtracked to Isla Partida and Isla Espíritu Santo, then to Puerto Balandra and back to La Paz. It was early in the season, plus it was an unusually chilly season, so the water was cold, the anchorages were very windy, and we had only one really good sailing day.  We enjoyed Ensenada de la Raza on Espíritu Santo. We explored by dinghy and kayak and watched the turtles and the grebes in their daily routine. I hope they had a good time but the conditions were not optimal.

Wendy, Pat and Lizzie on the Back (East) Side of Isla San Francisco

Once back in La Paz, I spent time playing with good friends who had arrived in La Paz on their boats (Tom and Helen on Catatude, Jeff and Jules on El Gato and John and Donna on Carmanah). And I got some modifications done to Aldabra. (The arch and davits installed last summer needed to be made stronger.) And of course no time spent in a marina is without chores, such as cleaning, changing the engine oil, defrosting the refrigerator and freezer, shopping for provisions, and regularly checking the weather. Then on Tuesday, April 10, I headed north, back into the Sea of Cortez, this time single-handing the boat in the company of buddy boats. We knew a strong northerly wind was coming so we traveled rather quickly, first to Isla San Francisco and then to Agua Verde, where we rode out the northerly quite comfortably. (I had thought it would be good to get to Puerto Escondido for the northerly, but my friends on Carmanah suggested that Agua Verde was the place to be. I later learned that the folks in Puerto Escondido had a miserable time of it. In Agua Verde, we hardly noticed anything as we hiked and played bocce ball on the beach.)

Our Little Fleet of Boats Waiting Out the Norther in Agua Verde

Leaving Agua Verde began a two-month buddy-boating excursion in which Aldabra and El Gato were inseparable. We stopped in Puerto Escondido where I was joined by crew Katie for 10 days. We then went north to Isla Coronados, San Juanico, and Bahía Concepción. We saw whale sharks swimming around Playa Coyote and did some kayaking and hiking. Katie departed from Bahía Concepción and caught a car ride back to Loreto to catch her flight, while Aldabra and El Gato continued north to Punta Chivato and then Santa Rosalía.

El Gato Was Never Too Far Away from Aldabra

Hiking on Isla Coronados and Looking Back at the Anchorage on the South Side of the Island

Katie at the Helm on the Way North

Hiking in San Juanico and Looking Over at the Anchorage

Hiking with Jules and Jeff in Bahía Concepción. Looking Down at Playa Coyote and Playa El Burro

Hiking in Bahía Concepción

By the time we got to Santa Rosalía, I had become comfortable with anchoring by myself and I successfully picked up a mooring ball in Puerto Escondido. But I was quite nervous about going into a marina, especially one I hadn’t entered before. Plus it was quite windy. So Jeff and Jules took El Gato in first and got situated. I then followed, talking to Jeff on the radio. They had plenty of dock hands waiting so entry into the slip was smooth. The marina at Santa Rosalía is small and friendly and the town has some charm. We spent a few days getting our boats back in order, doing laundry, eating out and reprovisioning.

Sitting on the Boat and Watching the Ferry Arrive in Santa Rosalía

Santa Rosalía is an Old Mining Town with a French Influence

Then we were off again, north. We stopped in Bahía San Francisquito and then Ensenada el Alacrán. There is an eco lodge there and we visited with the guests and did some hiking. We were there for two or three days with a lot of wind. We finally broke free and continued on, up into Bahía de Los Angeles.

El Gato and Aldabra in Bahía San Francisquito

While Waiting Out the Wind, We Hiked Over to Punta el Pescador. This Cove Was on the Way

 

El Gato and Aldabra in Ensenada el Alacrán in Front of the Eco Lodge

Bahía de Los Angeles had been the goal. We’d heard so much about its beauty. And it was beautiful. But we were there during a pretty significant red tide, and the water was cold and the anchorages windy. We were chasing some magical experience that wasn’t happening. We did anchor at a couple of the islands and walked around the volcano on Isla Coronado (aka Smith). It took us four and a half hours to go around, bouldering for more than half of it. We were very glad to get back to where we’d left the dinghy.

Aldabra, El Gato and Pincoya Anchored at Isla La Ventana. The Village of Bahía de Los Angeles Is Off in the Distance

The View from a Hike on Isla La Ventana

From there, we headed north again to Puerto Refúgio, at the northern tip of Isla Angel de la Guarda. The trip north started out calmly enough, although I reefed the main in anticipation of wind, a first for me since arriving in Mexico. We were sailing pleasantly on a reach until about halfway up, when the winds and the seas built quickly. Both of our boats had too much sail area up. El Gato had an issue with their headsail, which limited their maneuverability and I found it hard to round up into the wind to drop my main. The wind was coming from behind and I wanted to sail with just my jib. The first step to dropping the main was to furl the jib, and while doing so, I lost control of both jib sheets. (I know, where were those figure 8 knots?) The problem was both boats were getting too close to each other, so I had to act. I turned on the motor to get myself into the wind, and the jib sheets wrapped around the prop.

After quickly turning off the motor, I went forward and cut the jib sheets free, dropped the main, and then rigged up new jib sheets to continue the journey with just the jib, sailing at 6 to 7 knots in 25+ knots of wind. Meanwhile, El Gato fixed their issue and sailed on ahead. They anchored on the west side of the island and launched their dinghy. Jeff then lashed his dinghy to my boat as I approached in case I needed help anchoring. We each took a turn at diving in the 60-degree water to free the lines from the prop. The jib sheets had fused with the rubber of the cutless bearing and pushed it about a half inch forward of the strut. But we got enough of the lines free so that I could motor east the rest of the distance around to where we would anchor for the night.

I soon realized that the force of the jib sheets on the shaft had caused problems with the stuffing gland, which had just been repacked in March. I was taking on more water than I should. Jeff was kind enough to repack it and we continued to make adjustments over the next couple of days. It was still leaking too much water but I was able to use the motor. And in the coming days I gained confidence that I wasn’t causing additional damage.

Puerto Refúgio, although it had cold water, was beautiful. We had good hikes on the main island and visited a nearby island with a sea lion colony. We were in the company of Gene and Gloria on Pincoya, and enjoyed a couple of nice evenings with them. We had one night there with really intense winds, the most I’ve experienced in Mexico. I thought my wind generator was going to explode but I thought it might be too dangerous to try to tie it down. It was a long, noisy night. None of us, El Gato, Aldabra nor Pincoya got a true reading of the wind speed that night, but it was remarkable.

The sail back south to Bahía de Los Angeles was quite nice. I was afraid that I might not be able to use my motor, so I left early and tacked back and forth. The wind angle eventually became favorable so I was able to stay on course on a single tack. And when the wind eventually died, I was able to motor back to the anchorage in front of the village. After a day or so, we headed back south, stopping at Punta el Pescador and then Bahía San Francisquito, where we met Adam and Jessica on Volare. We hiked all the way around the bay and then later paddled around.

Hiking Around Bahía San Francisquito

We continued on to Santa Rosalía, Punto Chivato, Bahía Concepción (three different anchorages), San Juanico and Loreto. In Loreto, we anchored off the town and attended the Chocolate Clam Festival with our friends Tony and Diane from Dolce, and new friends Linda and Ken from Linda Marie and Chris and Annette from Wishlist.

Then it was time to head south. We tried to stop at Nopalo because we never had, but it was too windy so we headed straight to Bahía Candeleros. Jeff and Jules and I took a long hike there and went swimming. The next stop was an overnight at Agua Verde, where we explored the east anchorage in the dinghy and had fish tacos at the palapa on the beach. We then continued on to Puerto Los Gatos for a night, where we took a nice hike up the hill on the north end of the anchorage.

Hiking Above Puerto Los Gatos

On Friday, June 8, we went south to Bahía Amortajada on the southern end of Isla San José. We took a dinghy ride into the estuary and celebrated Jeff’s birthday with a carrot cake. It was a calm night, but the next morning brought a significant south swell and we went in search of a new anchorage. We ended up on the northern end of Isla San Francisco, which was the best protection we were going to get from the south swell and southerly winds. We took a hike up to a saddle where we could see the other two anchorages on Isla San Francisco, with very few boats, which is quite unusual. The southwestern anchorage is usually packed.

Aldabra and El Gato at the Northern Anchorage on Isla San Francisco

Looking Down on the Other Anchorages of Isla San Francisco. Almost Empty

The next morning we headed south to Puerto Balandra, on the Baja Peninsula near La Paz. It would be our last anchorage before heading back to La Paz and civilization, and it would signal the end of our journey together. While in Balandra, Jules and I took a significant hike in the surrounding hills and the three of us went in the dinghy to a restaurant about a half hour a way. It was on Tecolote Beach, so crowded with tourists it was hard to find a place to land the dinghy. It was a crazy scene but the food was good.

From Balandra we stopped at Marina CostaBaja for fuel, where I was able to dock on my own without incident. And then it was back to La Paz, where we settled into Marina Cortez, just in time to be sheltered during Hurricane Bud, which by the time it arrived was just a bit of wind and a light rain.

On Monday, June 18, Jeff helped me take Aldabra over to the Palmar boat yard, where she was hauled out for four days. I stayed in an air conditioned room at Posada Luna Sol while the work was done. She had her cutless bearing replaced, new bottom paint, and the stuffing box was repacked.

Aldabra in the Hoist in La Paz

During that time, I also said a temporary farewell to El Gato. They were headed back across the Sea to Nuevo Vallarta. We had shared every evening meal together since leaving Agua Verde in mid-April. We’d taken dozens of stunning (and hot) hikes together. And they were my support when the conditions were challenging. We’d also watched an episode of Orange is the New Black each night. We still had two episodes left of Season 3, but they would have to wait until we were all back together in Nuevo Vallarta.

Aldabra went back in the water on the morning of Friday, June 22, with help from Doug from Spartan. I got situated in Marina de La Paz and then later walked downtown to the bus station to meet my old friends David and Susan Rose. We set off the next morning to spend some time in the anchorages of Espíritu Santo but had to quickly turn back to the marina with an overheating engine. Instead, we spent the day replacing a shredded impeller and cleaning out a hose that might have harbored impeller debris. (Before I hauled the boat out, I should have closed the raw-water intake to the engine. What I believe happened is that the impeller dried out while the boat was on the hard.)

Confident that the engine was running smoothly, we set back out the next morning and enjoyed Sunday night at Caleta Partida and Monday night in Puerto Balandra before heading back to La Paz for their last night. At Caleta Partida we took the dinghy through the cut (my first time doing this) and explored south. In La Paz, I made them hoist me up the mast so I could check out my wind instruments that weren’t working. It was a quick but nice visit before they had to return home to finish preparing for their daughter’s wedding in August.

Checking Out the Wind Instrument at the Top of the Mast

Checking Out the Wind Instrument

Once David and Susan left, I had a little more than a day to get ready to cross the Sea of Cortez. Crew Steve would be flying down the next day. He very kindly drove all over Santa Cruz collecting the parts I needed. A new wind instrument, a new wind vane and a new chart plotter. When he arrived, we installed the chart plotter and La Paz electrician Will Imanse came over and climbed the mast to install the wind instrument and vane. We had some configuration issues up until minutes before leaving, but we departed just ten minutes later than planned.

People, Places

Nuevo Vallarta to Barra de Navidad

Aldabra left the Paradise Marina in Nueva Vallarta on the afternoon of December 4 with crew members Vic and Sonja. We had a mishap getting out of the slip. Another boat had been squeezed into our slip with only about a foot between the two boats. A 3-knot current was running. I should have asked the marina for assistance getting out. Instead we snagged parts of our boat on the other boat, doing some damage to both boats. Another of many learning experiences.

Once out of the marina, we were able to sail west across Banderas Bay in light winds. We rounded the infamous Cabo Corrientes that night without any drama, sailing at first and later under motor power when the wind died. We arrived in Bahia Chamela on Tuesday morning to an almost-empty bay, sharing it with our friends on El Gato. We stayed in Chamela just a few days, taking time to kayak over to the rocks at Punta Pérula, to walk along the beach and along the main road in town, and to have dinner at the Scuba Jazz Cafe with our friends from El Gato and Dolce. Our dinghy landings and takeoffs were wet but upright.

From Chamela we went on south to Tenacatita, arriving on Friday afternoon, just in time for the Friday evening raft-up with other cruisers, hosted by Rob and Virginia on Harmony. The cruisers raft their dinghies together and share stories and food. It was nice to get acquainted with the other participants.

While in Tenacatita, El Gato and Aldabra took our dinghies up the river to the beach near The Aquarium, a good snorkeling spot and anchorage in fair weather. Our motors scared many of the birds, so I think (now that I have done this river trip 3 times in a dinghy) I won’t take this this trip again unless in a kayak. We had lunch and went for a swim before heading back down the river. Like Chamela, Tenacatita offers good swimming right off the boat. We also took some time to work on the water system, which is full of irritating mysteries, and to re-secure the cross-bar for the dinghy davits, which was losing the nuts off the bolts. Vic climbed up to use the solar panels as a working platform to complete that precarious job. While in Tenacatita, we had the opportunity to get better acquainted with Steve and Shaunna on Wind Rose and George and Sue on Julia Max, the latter two are making their way south to go through the Panama Canal this next year.

We left Tenacatita on December 11 and motored to Barra de Navidad, with one slight detour just to check out the anchorage at Cuastecomate. Once in the marina in Barra, we pulled into a slip on the same dock as El Gato, which offers the farthest-possible walk from the boat to the bathrooms. But all the people on the dock are very nice, so we have made it our home for the month of our stay.

Dancers Celebrating the Virgen de Guadalupe

Worshiping the Virgen

On December 12, Jules from El Gato and crew Sonja and I went to the celebration for the Virgen de Guadalupe in a nearby town called Cihuatlán. Dance groups from the surrounding area danced parade-style through the main street to the beat of drums. The bright and imaginative costumes drew from all aspects of the culture. And interspersed with the dance groups were roving “bad men,” representing things evil to counter all the goodness represented by the Virgen de Guadalupe.

Vic and Sonja each departed the next day, so I began my daily mixture of getting chores done, hanging with friends by the pool or getting dinner in the town of Barra. Many boats began to arrive in anticipation of the cruisers Christmas dinner. So it has been fun to see old friends, such as Myla, Catatude, Carmanha, Jolly Dogs and Liahona, and to meet lots of new people. There were more than 80 people at the dinner, organized by Jake on the boat Jake and the people on other boats who have done this dinner once or twice before. The organizers provide the ham and turkeys and the participants each bring a dish to share and a white-elephant gift. The food was great and the gift exchange featured a wide range of gifts and lots of laughter.

Cruisers Christmas Dinner

Cruisers Christmas Dinner

Jake is the Main Organizer of the Dinner

The day before Christmas, the guys who organize all the boat work in the marina hosted a Posada celebration for the cruisers. They served a traditional goat meal and brought in a couple of piñatas. I received a prize for being the first person to arrive at the fiesta, which was fun because I got to meet the families of the organizers.

Posada Organizer Arturo and his Daughter

I’ve had the pleasure of hanging out with Jeff and Jules on El Gato a lot. We’ve taken a couple of trips to Melaque to the markets, paddled in the lagoon and had pool-time and meals together. Jules and I have also been taking yoga on the beach in the mornings. And Jeff has helped me with boat projects, such as sorting out the mysteries of the fresh water system, making the dinghy more secure when it’s on the davits underway, servicing my diesel motor and filling the fuel cans. I also joined them on their boat for a day trip over to Cuastecomate for some snorkeling. They helped me look after Daisy, a sweet dog that lives with Tom and Helen on Catatude. They went to the U.S. to be with their family for the holidays, so I spent the nights with Daisy on Catatude and went  back and forth between my boat and Daisy’s boat during the day. Daisy is a bit of an escape artist so she kept me on my toes.

Yoga on the Beach

Lots of old friends and new friends have been here in Barra during the first couple of weeks of January. It has been great to see Stephanie and Mark on Wainui and to hang out with Tony and Diane on Dolve and Duey and Nan on Flight.

I have a sore tooth so I rented a car last week to drive to Puerto Vallarta to see an endodontist. Turns out nothing can be done at this point so I’ll have to tough it out for a while. The trip between PV and Barra is a long one but I did some grocery shopping while I was there. After I returned, Jules and I took advantage of the rental car and drove southwest to the towns of Coloma and Colmilla. Coloma is a Puebla Magica and very charming. We met this wonderful chef by the name of Piter, who has a restaurant called Paraiso on Avenida Ignacio Allende. I highly recommend a visit. He was the chef for the Las Hadas resort for many years and is also a professor of culinary arts. While in the area, we got as close as we could for a view of the local volcanos and walked to a wonderful little museum near Coloma with a collection of pre-columbian art.

I’ll be leaving Barra de Navidad next Tuesday, January 16 with Tony and Diane from Dolce as crew. They will leave their boat in the marina here while we sail to Zihuatanejo by way of Bahia Carrizal and Bahia Santiago. I hear the organization of SailFest is already underway, so I look forward to getting to Zihuatanejo to help out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gear and Preparation, Passages, People, Places

Year Two Has Begun

Flying the new spinnaker

Transiting back and forth between California and La Paz from late August to early November, I prepared for another year of cruising. The professionals in La Paz, Sergio, Will, Hector, Luis, Fabian and Arturo finished up their boat projects, and friends Chris and John came down from California to help. I now have more solar power, wind generation, WiFi in port and satellite Internet for weather offshore. In California I picked up needed parts and had dental work done. I also got a little bit of time to visit with friends and family, although it would have been nice to have more time.

I returned to La Paz on November 2 to make final preparations for the season. After each work day it was nice to hang out with Bobbi and Stephen from Sam Bassett or visit with old friends such as Bret and Marne on Liahona and Steve and Sherri on Pablo. Jane and Jerry McNaboe (from Aeolian) joined me on November 15 and we left La Paz two days later. After stopping at Costa Baja for fuel, we motor sailed straight to Isla Isabel. Winds were light so the two-day trip had only about four hours of sailing without the motor. But those four hours were a nice spinnaker run. We learned a lot of lessons about how to deploy the new asymmetrical spinnaker.

Aldabra at Isla Isabel

Isabel was calm and uncrowded. We hiked on the island through a forest of nesting frigates, over to the other side where the blue-footed boobies hang out. Afterward, we snorkeled near our boat on the east side of the island, where I got stung by something with long tentacles. It was painful at first but then was fine, except it looked like I had a tattoo.

Blue-footed boobies

Blue-footed boobie

More blue-footed boobies

We left very early on the morning of November 20 and arrived before dark at Punta de Mita, the northern point at the opening of Banderas Bay. We stayed the night there and then headed the two or so hours into the marina at Paradise Village. Although there had been very little wind and a lot of motoring, it had been a nice passage with warm winds, calm seas, stars and dolphins. And Jerry and Jane made it very easy and relaxed.

The next day was Thanksgiving, so we joined Jeff and Jules from El Gato and Dennis and Jerri from Ultegra at Arroyos Verdes, just above Bucerias. It was a nice dinner and a nice evening. Before Jane and Jerry moved off the boat on Sunday, to join their family at a nearby resort, they helped me with a lot of chores, although we did get a little bit of beach time. While they vacationed with their family, we did get a chance to take the whole group out for a very nice day sail, and I later joined them at their resort for a day of relaxation.

The docks in Paradise Village are filled with old friends as well as new arrivals, so it has been fun to catch up with everyone. I even ventured over to the Sunday market in La Cruz and got to see other old friends.

Today is Monday, December 4, and I have two new crew arriving. We plan to head out of Banderas Bay this afternoon and round Cabo Corrientes late tonight. The wish is for wind and minimal swell, although the forecast doesn’t include much wind. The goal is to get to Chamela tomorrow morning.

In closing this first blog post of the season, let me just say that I think about what’s going on in my home country every day. I’m grateful to my news sources when I have access to the Internet. With each new bit of news I feel sicker. It’s hard to reconcile this life of permanent vacation with the travesty that goes on every day.

 

 

People, Places

Cruising Around the Sea of Cortez

After two weeks in San Diego, celebrating weddings and birthdays and being with family, I arrived back in La Paz on May 17. Dinner that night was with Jane and Jerry of Aeolian who had just put their boat on a ship bound for Victoria, Canada. It was a bittersweet dinner because we had shared a lot of our Mexico cruising experience, and now they were departing. I knew I would miss them.

I spent the next two days cleaning the boat and was ready for my new crew, who arrived on May 19. We went to the market for provisions that day and took off the next. After stopping for fuel at the Costabaja dock, we headed north, back into the heart of the Sea of Cortez.

My goal for this next trip was to get to some places I hadn’t yet seen and connect with other friends for brief visits and subsequent farewells. The first visit was with Kemo Sabe on the first night out. We found them in a beautiful, small, quiet cove on Isla Espiritu Santo. Sometimes finding cruising friends isn’t easy because our cell phones and radios aren’t always in range. But we were lucky to find Jan and Alan in El Mezteño. They came over to Aldabra for happy hour and we caught up on our travels since we’d seen each other several weeks before. This was another sad farewell because they were returning to La Paz and then Jan would fly back while Alan and friends sailed or motored Kemo Sabe back to San Diego. Two more people that were integral to my Mexico cruising experience, and they too were departing.

Coaster and Epic at anchor near Aldabra at Isla San Francisco

While Jan and Alan stayed in El Mezteño for another night, we headed north, stopping first at Isla San Francisco. I wasn’t planning on lingering, even though Isla San Francisco is stunning and offers much in the way of hiking and snorkeling. I’d been here multiple times before and I had more places to see in a short time. So we didn’t put the dinghy in the water, which prevented us from visiting with friends on Epic and Coaster, who were also in the anchorage. I swam over to each boat for brief chats, but we were off again the next day, heading north.

The next stop was lovely. Puerto Los Gatos, on the eastern side of Baja, is a small, beautiful anchorage with its colorful rock formations and a couple of good reefs for snorkeling. I could easily have stayed there for days, but this time it could just be an overnight stop, so again we didn’t put the dinghy in the water to explore on shore. But I did get to snorkel on the reef. And a man named Jimmy brought us lobster and scallops and fish fillets. Dinner was quite a treat that night.

Leaving Puerto Los Gatos, we were headed to another bay on the eastern side of Baja, Agua Verde, which was about 18 miles north. But we learned on the radio net that morning that Liahona and El Gato might both be in Los Candeleros, another 18 miles northwest along the coast. I wanted to see both of them, so we motored past Agua Verde and anchored in Los Candeleros. El Gato hosted both Liahona and Aldabra for happy hour that night. The visit seemed way too short with not enough time to really catch up. But Liahona was able to return my wetsuit to me. And I was able to deliver a package to El Gato that I had brought from San Diego.

Liahona took off the next day, and I thought I might see them as we moved north. But as it turns out, we were on different tracks and I won’t see them again until next year. I have been able to listen to their progress on the morning radio net, and they are already in San Carlos, ready to haul the boat out for the summer.

We stayed in Los Candeleros and Don and Anne on Redwood Coast II sailed down to join us. I was able to deliver a package to them from Don’s sister in Calfornia. And Anne and Jules and I kayaked to shore and went to the small tienda in the nearby village. That night all three boats had diner on Aldabra, with more farewells. El Gato would head out the next morning and it would be the last I would see of them until we meet up in Nuevo Vallarta at the end of June. Don and Anne and I went for a nice hike the next morning in Candeleros, but I then had to say goodbye to them. It has been such a gift to be cruising with these two. We left Santa Cruz about 3 months apart, and we’ve traveled at different paces while in Mexico. But we’ve been able to share many anchorages and have been in touch at all times. They’ve supported me in countless ways. I don’t like to think of them not being here. But they are now headed back to La Paz and then on around to the west coast and back to Santa Cruz.

Don and Anne of Redwood Coast II enjoying the seats at the top of the hill while hiking in Candeleros

Looking down the other site of the point from Candeleros. Very nice hike.

The wind was up that afternoon after the hike, and I wanted to take advantage of the first good sailing opportunity we’d had since leaving La Paz. So we took off and kept sailing past planned anchorages, and ended up in Puerto Ballandra. We stayed two nights and explored the bay, both on land and in the water. I think I saw a big horned sheep high on a mountain ridge.

From there, we headed west nine miles over to Loreto. We anchored in front of the town, put the dinghy in the water, and went ashore for lunch and reprovisioning. After returning from the market, we hauled the anchor back up and motored north six miles to Isla Coronados. This is yet another gorgeous desert island in this vast Mexican sea of varying shades of green and blue waters. Many people stay for several days off this island. It has lots of hiking and walks and good spots for snorkeling and diving. We didn’t take advantage of it as much as we could have. We circumnavigated in the dinghy and saw lots of interesting rock formations and dive spots. But in the end we snorkeled only in one spot near the boat, with lots of rays. And we just took one flat walk on land. Swarms of bees around the boat were a bit of an irritation. And the winds indicated that it was time to move on after a couple of days.

The rocks around Isla Coronados

More of motoring around Isla Coronados

I had been told that San Juanico, 18 miles north on the west coast of Baja, was a favorite spot. And I wanted to check it out. The problem is that we chose the wrong time to visit. As soon as we got there, the winds blew hard from the east, and brought huge seas that traveled over long distances to this bay, which was unprotected from the east. We sat there uncomfortably at anchor all afternoon and into the evening. Then shortly before sunset, we followed the only other boat around the point to the north, to La Ramada, a north-facing cove with flat seas and relatively calm winds. That night we did have strong south-westerlies howling through the anchorage, but at least the seas weren’t huge.

The next day, we hiked over the hill, back to San Juanico to explore by land, but we never had the right conditions to experience this beautiful anchorage as many of our fellow cruisers have. We also took the opportunity to snorkel a bit off the northwest point of La Ramada. And we joined other boats, Jollydogs and Our Affair on another boat called Wet Bar, for happy hour. The wind howled again from the southwest that night. The next day, most of us left La Ramada. Jollydogs and Our Affair headed north. And Aldabra started heading back south. It was the one day when winds were predicted to come from behind us, and I wanted to take advantage of that. So we sailed and bit and mostly motored to Puerto Escondido, which is 14 miles south of Loreto.

Looking down at Caleta San Juanico

Walking over the saddle from San Juanico to La Ramada

Another view of San Juanico

Aldabra and Jollydogs at anchor in La Ramada

When you’re moored in Puerto Escondido you’re dwarfed by the gigantic mountains

We arrived in Puerto Escondido in time for me to check into the marina to pay for the mooring ball I would use for the next few days inside the harbor. My crew left and took a taxi to Loreto. And I began to take advantage of having the boat to myself for a few days. I leisurely cleaned, took advantage of the laundry, showers and Internet services and chatted with other cruisers. And I indulged in some reading. I also took at taxi into Loreto on one evening for the Chocolate Clams Festival and had a great evening with some other cruisers, from boats Myla, Mystic Eyes, Interlude, Milagro, Trovita, Gypsea and Easy.

As I am posting this blog, I’m now waiting for my crew for the final cruising segment of the season. Steve Hardt, a long-time friend of my sister, who shares my interest in sailing, will arrive in Loreto and take a taxi here to Puerto Escondido. We’ll then take the boat back to La Paz, hopefully by way of a few places I haven’t visited. It of course all depends on the wind.

As I contemplate returning south to La Paz, I’m thinking about all the places I didn’t get to this year in the Sea of Cortez. I barely surveyed the middle section and didn’t even get close to the northern section. There is much more to see, as I could tell as I flew over it earlier in May. On one side you have this vast, desolate peninsula with huge mountains running up the center. On the other side you have dozens of desert islands of all sizes and shapes. Travel from place to place can be in short hops. Sometimes the weather is benign. Sometimes the winds and seas seem quite challenging. But this relatively unpopulated expanse is a boater’s paradise, with great swimming, fishing, hiking and people.