Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Hunkered down San Evaristo

Right now we are anchored in San Evaristo, a medium sized bay with a small fishing village on the shore and a salt pond. We are hiding behind the hills that surround the bay, below the mountains they call Los Gigantes. The winds have been blowing hard out of the north for the last 24 hours. At least another 24 hours are predicted. The winds in the anchorage are in the mid to high 30 knots range. Highest gust so far is 39 kts. Not much to do here but stay below, listen to the winds howl and read books -- actually I'm reading 'Cutting for Stone' (a story set in Ethiopia and recommended by Chris's friend Catherine) on my Kindle, close enough to a book. The bay is pretty protected but the winds are vicious. Makes you worry about your anchoring gear. The New Zealand boat in front of us, Ali Baba, woke this morning to see his dinghy with outboard flipped over. In trying to recover it he ended up in the water. Hopefully a fresh water bath will save the outboard and some hot tea the owner. There's 7 cruising boats spread over the two coves here plus one large fishing boat that is anchored further out. Looking past the fishing boat the Canal de San Jose (San Jose Channel) has major white elephant waves marching south. All this wind is due to a 1040mb high located around the Four Corners area(CO,AZ,UT, NM). It is amazing to see a high pressure that high. By the time you get to the end of the Baja the pressures are under 1020mb, so you have 20mb difference in 800 or so miles. That's apparently some kind of record-breaker higher and enough to create some real wind. Hopefully things will quiet down tomorrow. Today and tonight look like the wind will be blowing at least as strong as yesterday, if not more. We're hanging on by the skin of our teeth and Chris is praying to the anchor goddess for favor and cooking bean soup in the pressure cooker.

No Telcel here, so no pictures. I have a few picture blogs ready as soon as we find a Telcel tower.

Paul

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Arrecife del Pulmo

Bahia Los Frailes is about a mile from Cabo Pulmo National Park. This area has the only hard coral in the Sea of Cortez. Maybe the only hard coral on the pacific side of North America. We took the dinks over for some snorkeling this morning. Photo evidence below (click on them to more bigerate them).

Paul

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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Southbound to Cabo

We spent a couple nice days anchored in Bahia Santa Maria. This is a huge bight just north of Bahia Magdalena.  The water still wasn’t warm enough to swim on my comfort scale. But there were lots of birds, fishermen in pangas and a good hike along the shoreline.

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A hike along the shore of Bahia Santa Maria

We left Santa Maria to head for Bahia Magdalena (aka ‘Mag Bay’ among the yatistas), about a 25 mile run. It was light airs but we eked out  a nice sail. Past by a few whales, but still no good whale shots. The jumping rays were very cool. These guys would leap out of the water hell-bent to get somewhere, wings furiously flapping. Then they’d do a classic belly flop with their white undersides slapping the water. These guys were clearly here for our entertainment.

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A frigate bird watching the flying rays

We anchored off of Belcher Point in Mag Bay. It sounded interesting as it has old rusty stuff from a whaling station that had been there until the international moratorium on whaling was passed. Right now it is used as temporary housing for the panga fishing fleet who are  scraping by a living.

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I was excited to go ashore after we anchored late in the afternoon to look at rusty stuff. Since this was the locals homes, we walked around the outskirts to be a little less invasive. There was a long set of breams that were from the old whaling station. Between the two there was a gully about 50 feet wide and maybe a 1/3 of mile long. We walked along here only to realize that it was vying for the prize for the worlds largest outdoor latrine.

In the morning we pulled anchor at 7am to head for a day and half crossing to Cabo San Lucas. Picking up the anchor was a drag. There were 10 million hard shelled barnacle like crustacean thingees firmly attached to 75 ft of chain which had to be removed before going into the chain locker (or else it could get pretty stinky).

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Winds were light most of the day giving us a really nice downwind sail using our asymmetrical spinnaker polled out.

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Even Saben got into the light wind sailing game and they poled out their headsail for a wing-on-wing downwind run.

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We had good winds till about 5:30 in the morning. Then it was a motor boat ride into Cabo.

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Above is Cabo Falso, the first cape next to Cabo San Lucas. You can see (if you click on the image to enlarge it) the old lighthouse down low and he new one at the top of the hill. The new light can be seen from 35 miles out to sea.

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The famous Los Arco of Cabo San Lucas.

When we got around the point headed into Cabo it was a complete zoo. Jet skis every where. Sail boats with dual outboards taking tourists for a ‘sail’. The cruise ship Osterdam was in, with two more cruise ships planned for the next day. There were only two boats in the anchorage in the lee of the cruise ship and it looked really rolly (and nausea provoking). Paying for a transient slip in the Cabo marinas is highway robbery. You can get hit for over US$100 a night. We decided to just keep going and head to Cabo Del San Jose, about 19 miles further on. We picked up a slip here for US$40 a night in this high-end swanky resort development that is not quite complete – like no water or power on the dock we were on. Still a bunch cheaper than Cabo and very secure, and friendly.

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Marina in Cabo Del San Jose

The C-MAP electronic charts we’ve been using down the coast of Baja have been surprisingly accurate. That is until we got to Cabo San Lucas. The different or unknown datum that chart was plotted to starts to cause problems. The datum of a chart is the essentially the world model that the chart is laid on. The world ain’t perfectly round, so different models were created to represent its actual shape. Then on top of the model someone had to pick where zero longitude was and where the equator should be. Well, everyone did this a little different. Any chart done now is done to WGS84 datum, i.e. it matches the GPS satellites. Older charts have dozens of different datums, some unknown. The problem effects paper charts, just as it does electronic ones. Take a look at where the boat is just past Cabo in the image below; cutting right across the land. The red you see on the left is the overlay of the Radar image showing where the shore edge actually lives.

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Here’s Chris dressed for the weather, listening to old Jimmy Buffer A1A album and waiting to get to Los Frailes (‘The Friars’) so we can get in the water! The water is 77*F here, probably warmer there. We’ve read that there’s some good snorkelling and diving to be had in this area and we can’t wait.

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So, we’re off for the anchorage at Frailes and hopefully get in some skin diving in the morning.

Buen viento-- Paul

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Keep your eyes open

We left Turtle Bay about 10:30am. Motored out for an hour while we charged up batteries and then got a great sail along the coast. The winds were NE off the land and the seas were flat. Things lightened up by about 1:30pm so we put up the Asymmetric Spinnaker (the big purple sail). It was easy sailing till late in the day when we headed off shore to pick up more wind. With the spin down, we sailed all night toward the prominent point that sticks out of Baja, Abreojos. Abreojos roughly translates to Keep your eyes open in English. It was named by some caring old Spanish explorer to warn future retired cruisers that there are rocks offshore the point.

We got a VHF call in the middle of the night from our cruising mates Saben to say they had picked something up on their hull and it was clanging loudly (one of the downsides to having a steel hull I guess). We decided to head for the anchorage near Abreojos and dive on the boat to check it out. Jeorgia valiantly volunteered to escort them in. About 7 hours latter we were anchored in the bay past Abreojos. Steve dove the boat and found a loose zinc on the prop. No big deal. Up anchor and off to Bahia Santa Maria. Sailed all day and night till about 7:20am, then the wind died, the sails slapping was too much and the iron genny (engine) went on. Just made coffee and decided to write this. We are about 20 miles from Bahia Santa Marie. We'll stay there a night and then hop around the corner to Mag Bay.

No pics - this is sent via HF radio.

Paul

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Friday, November 12, 2010

No Tortugas

We haven’t seen any turtles in Turtle Bay. We did see this wing looking thing sticking out of the water in the middle of the anchorage when we came in.

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At first we thought it was a crashed and burnt wing from a plane.

 

 

 

 

Turns out it was a big catamaran that was tied up next to us in San Diego when we there. A family of four from Belgium was onboard then. Only the father was on the boat at the time of the fire. A sale of the boat had just fallen through. Now they are awaiting the insurance adjuster. Story here.

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The beach at Bahia Thurloe. A dinghy ride and a hike from Turtle Bay.

We are off for another couple of day sail to Magdalena Bay. We’ll spend a few days there, then it is one more hop to Cabo San Lucas and we should finally be in some warm water.

Paul

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Mexican Liquor license #002

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We stayed at Baja Naval marina and boat yard while in Ensenada. Marinas in Mexico aren’t cheap. Baja Naval was pretty reasonable at $30 a night. The others were more like $60. Baja Naval has the cleanest boat yard I’ve ever seen. Business is down, like it is in most of the rest of Mexican border towns. The mega-yacht yard keeps them busy, but the yard for smaller boats has lots of space. Rojelio and Arturo of Baja Naval take good care of the cruisers who stop by here. Rojelio spent a bunch of time going over our paperwork to make sure it was ready to take over to Immigration, Customs and Port Captain (no charge for the service). I dressed up in my going to customs uniform and we walked over to CIS building where all of the needed officials hang out. We hit the check in process at rush hour on day with a ton of cruisers and others checking in. Most of whom were as unsure of the exact process as us.  There definitely is a process. It consists of navigating multiple lines, multiple times with various stops to either pay a fee at the bank kiosk or go outside to make copies of an important form. If you didn’t have to go through the same line multiple times, all would have gone pretty fast. All didn’t. It took about 4 hours to get through it all. Chris only tried to strangle one poor unsuspecting soul. Just to make the whole experience fun, the last stop is Aduana (Customs). You do this after the getting through the black magic of executing a TIP (Temporary Import Permit) at the bank kiosk. The customs office has you go up to a traffic light. It has a red light and green light and covered button. The officer uncovers the button and indicates that you should press it. If the light turns green, he wishes you a good day and you’re done. If it turns red, he grabs a couple of compatriots and heads to your boat for another hour of inspection. I carefully visualized verde and hit the button. Verde it was – no search, we were free to head back to the boat and regroup. Finally!

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Baja Naval’s only real draw back is the surge in the harbor. Here’s part of our fendering system. If you come in here, set up in advance with mucho fenders and call ahead,Arturo will meet you at the dock. Did I mention the showers are Class A?

Next Ensenada project was to find the main Telcel office so we could try and buy a Banda Ancha card. This is a 3G USB data card for your laptop so we can pickup Internet access when we are near cell towers. It is a pretty cheap system, at about $40 a month with $60 for the card including the first month. A hell of lot cheaper than the Verizon card I have and so far it seems to work better. After a few false starts and dubious help with directions, we found the office. It is a big office with receptionists and lots of workers. After we made it through a long line we laid on a few choice words of Spanish and the person we were working with dug up someone who could speak decent English. He was a real nice guy who helped us navigate the process. It only took one more trip back to Telcel in the morning and we had connectivity.

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No trip to Ensenada is complete without a visit to Hussong’s Cantina. This place has been there since the 1890’s. It claims to still have Mexican Liquor License #2. I used go down there in the 70’s when we went on Baja surfing trips. It was a hell of a lot more crowded back then, but other than the crowds the place looks exactly the same.

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I think it is even the same Mariachi Band.  Not exactly the same, they did add flat screen TVs for the soccer game.

 

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After Hussong’s Chris tried to talk me into buying some Mezcal. Mezcal is bad Tequila with a fermenting worm in the bottom of the bottle. It has renowned hallucinogenic properties.

 

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After a couple of days in Ensenada we headed out of Todos Santos Bay for the 265 mile sail to Bahia San Bartolome, known among the yatista’s as ‘Turtle Bay’ although the turtles are long gone.

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The weather was pretty good for the trip with winds consistent between 10kts and 25kts. The seas were somewhat lumpy, making life on board grumpy at times. It was cool and even rained for a bit; we had our foul weather gear on... Something we didn’t expect in desert Baja.

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We found a suicidal tiny squid who landed on our deck during the night.

 

 

 

 

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Sunrise approaching Turtle Bay with reefed main after 48 hours of straight sailing.

 

 

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We’ll explore the fishing village and beaches of Bahia Tortugas tomorrow when we drop the dink in.

 

 

Paul & Chris

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Sailmail post test

When offshore we use HF radio to get weather info and to pickup priority mail. I can send text only blog updates - of which this is test post.

Paul

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Friday, November 5, 2010

Ethiopia

Map picture

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I went to Ethiopia for a few weeks consulting on a project for Averting Maternal Death & Disability (in the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University). My work took me out of Addis Abba (the capital and largest city) to visit some of the universities in other towns that are training emergency maternal health care providers. This young guy was selling watermelons by the road side. Note the t-shirt (that’s the local language, Amharic, below the English; most people in Ethiopia are at least somewhat bilingual, and everyone knows who Obama is!ethiopiaDSCF0097

Along the shores of beautiful Lake Hawassa (or, Awassa). Hawassa is a booming city with a big university campus.

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Swimmers, fishermen and cattle all enjoying the lake.

 

 

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Visiting the national museum where Lucy resides along with other hominid remains that date back 4 million years! I was pretty excited to meet Lucy after all those years of National Geographic! ethiopiaDSCF0043

A verdant Ethiopian countryside. The rainy season was just ending, and the crops were thriving. This is a field of teff, a local grain from which Ethiopians make their ubiquitous delicious soft flat bread.ethiopiaDSCF0034

Selling fruit by the roadside.

 

 

 

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Children playing by the side of the road.

 

 

 

 

ethiopiaDSCF0025Baboons were also seen along the roads. There was a large troop out this evening, but unfortunately I was a little slow with the camera. The surgeon I was travelling with, Dr. Daniel, detailed some of the appalling wounds he has seen that were inflicted by baboons… he wouldn’t let me role the window down!

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An example of the Christian churches you see in Ethiopia. It is an ancient sect, they consider themselves descendants of Solomon. Of note, Ethiopia is a diverse society, inhabited by both Christians and Muslims. Overt displays of religious animosity are not tolerated here!  ethiopiaDSCF0196

Public health is an on-going effort.

 

 

 

 

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Typical homes in the countryside.

Ethiopia is a beautiful country and the people make every effort to treat visitors with courtesy and care. If you ever get a chance, it’s a place worth visiting!

Chris