Sunday, January 25, 2004

Passage Journal: Turtle Bay to Cabo San Lucas

January 25, 2004

Route covered by this post

I've been hearing (or reading via email rather) a lot of "what's going on with the website".  O.K., I'm a bit behind, but when faced with the choice of sitting below deck on the computer versus kayaking, exploring towns, or kite surfing, well you can imagine which I pick.  Before leaving Ventura we had a number of other cruisers tell us to "take projects", "bring lots of books", "you'll have sooo much time", etc etc .... we aren't sure what we are doing different, but I can honestly say it doesn't feel like there are near enough hours in the day.  By the time this journal hits the website, it will already be mid February.  We are still planning on crossing to the South Pacific towards the mid to end of March -- only one month away!  Where did all the time go?  Originally we thought we'd make it all the way to Zihuatanejo, but now we will be lucky to hit Puerto Vallarta with enough time to complete some last minute preparations!  We aren't complaining, we've loved every minute of it, and would definitely not go any faster.  It does make us wonder though, will five years really be enough?

Anyway, on with the last month's events ...

We stayed in Turtle Bay for a full week, departing on Jan. 16th.  All in all it was an absolutely wonderful week.  I was a bit nervous when we first arrived because we were instantly greeted (or attacked depending on how you look at it) by a Ponga and a small rowboat.  The local in the Ponga informed us he was the BEST source for clean diesel, then continued to circle around us, huge smile, just watching (or lurking).  The kids in the rowboat stayed their distance until we had finished anchoring and killed the engine, none-the-less, as a newbie I’m not a fan of anchoring with an audience.

The kids rowed over to our boat, grabbing hold of our foot rail, at which point Chris says "you're the one who speaks Spanish".  To this day I'm still unsure of where Chris got the idea that I speak Spanish [he says it’s the three years of high school Spanish that I took, but come on, that was High School … “My name is KT”, “My sister is pretty”, and “It is very hot today” can only get you so far].  But what the hell, I grabbed the 'ol Spanish book and went on deck.  I managed to ask how they were, what their names were, and what the dogs name was.  They were polite enough, but I could not figure out what they wanted.  So we sat there, me thumbing through my book cursing myself for not actually listening to those Spanish CDs, they, hanging on the Billabong not saying a word.  The best I could think to say would've translated directly as "What want?".  That just seemed harsh to me, after all, wasn't I the guest?  Finally I went with it, because after 10 minutes of them still not asking for anything or attempting any communication, just hanging on the side of our boat (occasionally bumping into her hull with their metal row boat), I decided I didn't care if I sounded rude. They were there for Garbage (and money of course).  Chris and I contributed and they were off.  Ironically when we came ashore later, there were our two trash bags, just sitting to the side of a building ... ahh yes money well spent!

While Turtle Bay is a small town with lots of Fisherman, it's a huge step up from the fishing camps we'd passed on the way.  There are no paved roads, and you could easily walk anywhere you needed to go, but oddly everyone appeared to be driving.  Sure, they most likely needed cars in order to get into major cities, but we couldn’t figure out why so many of them were driving (rather than walking) about town.

We were surprised to find an Internet location at all ... let alone one with five computers and USB connections.  Of course our first few days there THE [i.e. singular] town generator was down, and when it was finally up the connections were rather slow ... but we were pleased just to be able to read a few emails.

Our friends from Sea Pilgrim arrived a few days after us (they had stopped at San Benitos and Cedros Island) ... and when they came, they came bearing lobsters!  We feasted on their boat, followed by a game of Hoopla (great game if you haven’t tried it).

The next morning, we spotted a set of dolphins in the anchorage … we’d seem them roaming around every morning.  They seemed so casual and relaxed that I was convinced that they wouldn’t mind hanging out with me for a bit.  So despite rather cold-water temperatures, I jumped in the kayak and went racing after them.  First I tried the “in cognito” approach … coming in under cover (or as quietly as possible).  While I don’t think they cared one bit that I was there, they continued to swim beyond my reach.  Next I tried the “beat them there” approach … I could predict where they were going by the birds - the dolphins seemed to be feeding, and the location of dense gathering of birds pointed out prime fish eating spots.  Using this method I was able to get somewhat close, but not the put-out-my-hand-and-touch-them closeness that I desired.  Finally I went with the “all-out” approach … frantically racing after them, and sometimes imagining that my wake would be enough for them to want to come back and play (as they do with the bow of the boat) … hee hee.  Unfortunately they were just too fast.  I decided that the seals provided an easier target.

I began by casually stalking the seals.  I thought that if I just kept paddling around them, they would get used to me, perhaps accept me as “their own”, or that their curiosity would get them to come closer.  But they always kept me at a 'safe' distance, and soon I think my stalking became annoying, because one of them continuously barked at me every time he came up.  He would look in my direction with that “you … still … ARGH”, give me a few barks (which I returned), and dive back under.  I gave up on the being accepted tactic and went to all out sneak attacks.  One seal was casually napping in the water as I drifted over, I was so near, just about there, when he casually looked up, and oh the shock in his face!  He instantly jumped, stared me down and dove under.  I laughed out loud.

I probably spent a good two or three hours kayaking around, loving ever minute of it.  It was so perfect, so serene, and even though I couldn’t get within touching distance of the dolphins, seals, or pelicans, I felt like I belonged.  It sounds silly, but I don’t know how else to explain it.  It was so silent and calm, that I would just sit in the anchorage listening to the whoosh-whoosh-whoosh overheard as the pelicans flew by, followed by huge KURPLUNKs as they bomb-dived the water for the latest catch.  The seals with their human sounding breaths every time they surfaced, along with their loud BARK BARK BARKs whenever they noticed me.  And finally the phoo-phoo-phoo as the dolphins surfaced.   It was an collage of sounds, and I could’ve sat there forever … I didn’t even want to paddle as it interrupted the melody.  [BTW … I just spent five minutes sitting here in the cockpit with Chris trying to come up with the sounds – yep, that’s the cruising life!!!]

The next day, after checking email, we blew up our two-man kayak and launched our two individual top-riders and set out for the “other side” with Brian and Teri.  It was a long paddle over (later to discover 8 nautical miles round trip), but worth the effort.  A huge kelp forest and a small sea lion (or seal) family made for some great kayaking.  We also witnessed a true bird feeding frenzy – if only we could’ve recorded the sounds, I won’t even attempt it here!

The day after next, we did a bit of hiking which provided some great views of the town and our boats anchored below.

On the 15th we had a ‘final’ dinner on Billabong followed by a Cranium re-match (again Sea Pilgrim kicked our booties).  The 16th we departed, Sea Pilgrim was staying a few additional days, and would most likely spend more time in Magdalena Bay then us, so we weren’t sure when we would see them again.

As I write this we are listening to the Bluewater Net (via SSB radio), and Sea Pilgrim has contacted us … they are still in Mag Bay.  I’m worried that we won’t meet up with them in La Paz.  This I’ve decided is one of the bummers about this life.  You arrive somewhere new and its great … new things, new people, hopefully new friends.  But eventually you leave, or they leave.  It was hard to leave Ventura – and that will always be the hardest good-bye, but now I realize that the next five years are going to full of good-byes.  I recognize that on the other side of the coin we are going to meet more people and be introduced to more cultures then possible if we stay rooted in one spot, but that recognition doesn’t fully relieve the sadness that hits me every time we pull anchor.

While we had no wind on our passage to Santa Maria, it was not a boring passage.  For the first time in my life I watched the entire moon rise, from start to finish!

Journal Entry:  At first it was if a large cruise ship might be coming over the horizon, but rather what appears is the very tip of the moon and it slowly rises, transforming into a gigantic Halloween-orange ball, glowing, shedding its orange rays across the water.  As it rises, sitting just on the edge of the waters horizon, it’s as though you could easily swim to it, reaching out and capturing the glow (which is so orange and bright that the color alone feels warm) within your arms, embracing it.  And then, as if the moon is modest, and perhaps slightly embarrassed by your staring, it slips partially beyond a thin, low hanging cloud.  But not completely – just enough to make it mysterious – to make you anxiously await its return.  And as to not disappoint, the moon reappears, swiftly, gracefully above the cloud.  Still burning orange, but no longer seeming to be  within reach.  And it rises.  Lighting up the night, keeping you company, comforting you in the otherwise dark and lonely night.

With the flat seas and shadows created by the brilliant light from the moon, the water seemed to float above the rails of the boat.  At first glance my heart would momentarily skip a beat because I was absolutely sure that we were about to be flooded!  Even worse, once my eyes had adjusted, my imagination kept going back to the movie “Dead Calm” … I envisioned psychotic murders boarding our boat at any moment.

We spent our time in Santa Maria playing Skip-Bo and waiting out a storm.  Between the rain, wind, and breaking surf we could not go ashore.  In between hands, Chris studied his weather books.

After three nights in Santa Maria we pulled anchor for Magdalena Bay.  We anchored in one of the outside anchorages of Mag Bay, hoping to avoid any port captains or time consuming check-ins.   Mag Bay is known for whale spotting.  In the winter months (Dec/Jan) pregnant female whales enter the bay to birth.  Male and non-pregnant female whales hang out outside the bay (supposedly known to do tricks and what not).  As we entered the bay, we saw the blow from a whale, but it was too far away to make out anything more.  We explored the local fish camp, which had remnants of an old whaling factory.   We departed the next morning, spotting two more whales, both too far away to really get excited over (although I was ecstatic anyway, calling out “Chris Chris Chris”, only to have Chris frantically come up convinced we were sinking or some other tragic event was occurring … he was not amused!  I guess I’ll have to call out more in a more relaxed fashion next time).

We had a great sail (at last no motoring) from Mag Bay to Cabo San Lucas.  As night approached so did some very threatening clouds.  They seemed to surround us, but never actually hovered over us.  We were sailing in what appeared to be the only clear spot for miles!   And when the lightening started we were more than thankful for the opening!!!  At first we only heard some very distant thunder (so distant that I was sure Chris was only hearing things in his paranoid state).  But, as usual, Chris was right, and soon we were seeing lightening in every direction.  Of course the grounding rod we had purchased to attach to our mast was still in the states (it arrived after our departure).  Chris jerry-rigged an alternative (chain attached to our shroud and thrown overboard).  Ironically, prior to leaving Ventura, Chris was asked what his biggest fear [about the trip] was … without hesitation he responded, “lightening”!  I, not being the captain, and therefore not required to stress over such things, sat back to enjoy the show.  If you can get away from the fact that one strike can destroy your floating home, it is quite the beautiful site!  While Chris prepared the boat as much as possible I kept him informed as to where the clouds were moving, how much lightening I saw and if I thought we were getting closer.  For the time being we were still merrily sailing under a very clear patch of sky, and therefore safe.  We debated about trying to slow down (were we going to ‘catch’ the storm ahead?), but then we feared the lightening aft would bear down on us.  The lightening lasted about two hours, and we never left our clear patch of sky … easily surviving (minus a few extra gray hairs for Chris) our first encounter with lightening.

Cabo Anchorage

Coming around the point into the Cabo entrance was like entering the Big Top.  What a circus!  Everywhere jet ski’s, water taxi’s, and cruise ship transport boats zigged and zagged.  Powerboats towed banana rafts loaded with people or pulled individuals attached to parachutes through the air.  Chris had four words for me, “I told you so”.  All along he had warned me about the ‘nightmare’ Cabo was, but I had insisted on stopping here, having never had the money to make it down with my friends for spring break, I just “had to go”.  We slowly made our way through the bay and just as Chris was handing the helm over in order to go up and to the bow we heard a faint “beeeeep-beeeeep-beeeeeep-beeeeep”.  Instantly we both looked down to the motor alarm lights, the red light was on and the temperature was rising, fast!  Never in my life have I seen Chris move so fast.  It was truly superman in action.  In about ten seconds flat he was up on the bow, had released the anchor, and yelled back for me to quickly back down then kill the motor.  Turns out our fan belt had shredded.  Whenever we run the engine we check the motor (belts, water, oil, etc) at least hourly (in addition to our pre-start and post-kill checks).  The belt must have been stripped within minutes.  We are still trying to figure out what might have been the cause.  Luckily we were able to shut down the engine without any damage.  After changing the belt and letting the engine cool a bit we re-anchored and sat back watching the spectacle of motion around us.

We stayed in Cabo two nights, arriving Saturday and departing early Monday morning.  I would hardly consider Cabo part of Mexico.  Between the prices and number of Gringos, it felt more like Southern California.  By arriving on the weekend we were able to skirt around check-in and in doing so avoided some hefty fees (a few cruisers admitted to paying up to $300 just to anchor, and the marina charged $150 per night!).  We did splurge and eat a couple meals out, which were good, but could not compare with some of our meals in Turtle Bay or San Quintin … especially at four times the cost.  All that said, I’m glad we stopped, and have to admit enjoyed some of the conveniences (like good grocery stores, easy communications, fast internet) Cabo had to offer.

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