Sunday, February 27, 2011

Another Sea of Cortez Crossing

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We hung out at Espritu Santo till it sounded like we would be getting decent wind to make the 330 mile crossing back to Puerto Vallarta from Baja. We left late in the morning from Caleta Partida and headed to the channel between the island and the Baja. It was dead calm and we had a beautiful view of the Telcel tower on the mainland. This meant we could get some decent internet connectivity, so we slowed down and finally uploaded Chris’ Africa pictures. As soon as we headed into the channel to go South to Muertos the wind picked up straight on the nose. Some how we had missed getting this memo. It was slog down to the anchorage in Muertos. We spent the night and woke early to a strong north wind. Just what we needed to start across the Sea. It was blowing in the high teens to low 20’s most of the day and night. We did a bit over 160 miles the first 24 hours. Next day it was light and we had a great spinnaker sail. We stuck the asymmetric spinnaker on the pole and it behaved itself very well. We were going to stop at Isla Isabela, but we arrived around midnight and didn’t feel comfortable trying to get into the small rocky anchorage in the dark. We ended up motoring to the Banderas Bay entrance early in the morning then had a great little sail across the bay to La Cruz de Huancaxtle. From a sea life point of view it is a pretty impressive entrance. Humpback whales breaching about every 20 minutes. Boobies doing their rocket dives for fish. Turtles, porpoise and the ever present jumping rays.

Got into the marina at La Cruz. A pretty cool little town with a lot of music oriented restaurants. The main reason we came here was to let Siempre Steve know if the taco places were any good. He needs some up front scouting before he’s comfortable leaving a place with great taco selections and we don’t want to see him bungie corded to La Paz for too long. You’ll be in good hands here, Steve. There’s a place called “Tacos on the Street”.  It has tables in the street (no parking). They don’t sell any beer or wine, so you are expected to bring your own. The tacos are great and cost 12 pesos each (1 buck). The only draw back is the hours. They are open Wed, Fri, Sat and Sun. If you want a Monday taco you are out of luck.

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I had to re-torque the head bolts on the engine after it had gotten 20 hours on it. Also needed to fix a pretty significant leak in the raw water pump. This required hunting down some new pump seals. I looked on the dock here for some Canadians to help me hunt down the seals, but surprisingly there were no Canadian boats around. Three bus trips latter and we had our seals. Mexico is a country of shop keepers. There are specialty shops for everything. In this case we went to the Beleros Y Retenes store (bearings and seals). Actually we went two of them, as the first one didn’t have the right size. A little hammering and whacking on the pump and the new seals were in and doing what they are supposed to do – seal out the oil and the water. And no little white furry seals were hurt in the process.

No pictures for Banderas Bay/Puerto Vallarta/La Cruz yet– I guess we were lazy.

Paul

Friday, February 25, 2011

Sea Lion Escapade

sealionP2180384 We finally got out of the marina and did an engine test outside of the La Paz bay. Things looked good, so we headed back to the anchorage for the night.  We got a good group together to do one last taco eat at Rancho Viejo. Tony & Connie from Sage were anchored right next to us, so they came along. Bill & I met them first in Bahia de los Muertos. They are hanging in La Paz till its time to head to Hawaii and points west. Steve and Lulu on Siempre Sabado are always up for an RV dinner. They are hanging in La Paz till its time to head to the north Sea of Cortez for the summer to avoid hurricanes – I’m sure they will be blessed with warmth there. Steve and Maria on Saben came in from Marina Palmira. Owen, Carrie, Tamsyn and Griffyn all now relocated from Seattle and settling into their new life on their boat Madrona (renamed from Que Tal) also joined in. The kids ended up at different ends of the table and seemed to really enjoy the new company.

Next day we headed out to the islands just off of La Paz, first stop Isla Espritu Santo. We wanted to do some exploring there and to wait for a good wind to head across the Sea to Puerto Vallarta. On the way over we ran over a fisherman's drift line and wrapped it in our prop. Ooops.

propP2160379Spent 30 minutes in the water cutting the lines free. Too bad for the fisherman, good deal for the fish, turtles, dolphins, etc. 

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A beach walk at super low-tide in San Gabriel Bay on Espiritu Santo.

We anchored in Bahia San Gabriel, sharing one last dinner with Saben. This will be the last shared anchorage with Steve and Maria (and Angel) for awhile. They are headed north up the Sea and planning to haul out in San Carlos for the summertime hot season. They say they’ll probably do a little travelling to Alaska and visit family and friends in Washington this summer.

esprituIMG_6686Adios Steve and Maria, buen viaje!

Next we headed north to the beautiful anchorage of Ensenada Grande on Isla Partida, which is separated from Espritu Santo by a cut created by a breach in the crater of an ancient volcano. We anchored here so we could visit Isla Isoleta which is a little spec of an island, really just a couple of big rocks, just to the north that is a major California sea-lion rookery. We joined up with Frank on Solitude and headed to the island the next day. The sea lions here are visited daily by pangas bringing tourists from La Paz and they are quite friendly. It was little intimidating jumping in with these guys. However, since tons of people do it, we figured why not.  As soon as Chris jumped in, after saying she really didn’t think it was a great idea because these are after all wild animals, one of the playful critters came over and grabbed onto a swim fin. He quickly let go, did a turn around, grabbed it seriously and started tugging. It didn’t look like he was going to let go. As Chris noted, “I was screaming like a little girl!”. He finally let go and promptly went over to Frank who was coming to the rescue and nipped his hand.

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A little blood, but nothing that sharks would be interested in.

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Trying to look at the camera while swimming away.

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Sea Lions doing their rookery thing. It was too early for mating season, when the males get really pushy, although Frank and I did watch two adult males chest-butting underwater. We didn’t want to get in the middle of that! Adult males are at least 9 years old and are 6 to 10 feet long and weigh in at up to 1,100 lbs. Sea lions live 15 to 20 years old. Swimming with these guys was pretty cool!

sealionP2180382 Frank keeping a good eye on a big guy close by.

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How do you tell a Sea Lion from a Seal? Sea Lions have small ears, that you can see in this picture, seals don’t.

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This juvenile is just playing with this dead fish. He would grab it, throw it up in the water and watch it sink. Then nudge it around and go for another round of ‘push the fishy’.

sealionP2180392 More play live fishies in the background. There were huge schools of small silver (sardine like) fish swimming all around.

sealionP2180401 Also some other reef fish like this Giant Hawkfish (I think) hiding from the Sea Lions with local camouflage. That’s their name, they aren’t really giant, this one was about 12-16” long. Also saw a big grouper, and some really big sergeant majors and yellow-tailed surgeon fish.

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Hiking up the trail and looking back at the anchorage in Ensenada Grande on Isla Partida. This photo was taken next to the dry well that was dug by the naturalist Joseph Krutch in 1959 while he camped here working on his descriptions of the flora and fauna of Baja. Although a day trip from La Paz, the Isla Espiritu Santo archipelago is a national park and feels completely wild and remote.

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A Paper Nautilus shell we found in Ensenada Grande, posing on the dodger as sunset approaches.

Paul & Chris

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Serengeti Critters

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I really did go to Africa to work: On this trip I was visiting schools in Malawi and Tanzania that train non-physician clinicians who provide life-saving care to pregnant women and their newborns in the very isolated towns and villages. (There just aren’t enough docs who want to live and work in the rural towns and villages of Africa.) But, while in Tanzania, in order to get from the school in Kilimanjaro to the school in Mwanza (on the shores of Lake Victoria) I was lucky enough to travel right across the Serengeti Game Park! So, we rented a Range Rover and a driver and off we went.

This little guy greeted us at the entrance.DSCF0315

DSCF0234Descending from the rim of the Ngorogoro Crater, you drive through the beautiful Masai lands. The Masai are the fabled tribe of warriors turned herders when the wars were done.

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They are also remarkable businessmen and women. These boys are painted as for puberty initiation rites and were by the roadside to sing and dance for tourists.DSCF0367But you dare not take a picture without being able to pay for the privilege!DSCF0366_2

After crossing the Masai territory, we descended onto the vast Serengeti plain… and it was amazing. First thing we saw was a herd of mama giraffes loping along with their babies. Their gait is really funny. They were clearly curious about us. What neat creatures!DSCF0241 These giraffes were feeling amorous I’m told.DSCF0283

We saw several hyena by the roadside. Bold as you like in broad daylight. I never expected to see them because I always thought they were nocturnal. They are powerful and fear-inspiring creatures. I was very glad to be in the vehicle.DSCF0255

It was early in the rainy season and the annual migration was on. There were thousands of wildebeest on the plains, clearly getting the hyena’s attention.DSCF0267

The ostriches were out there grazing too, with no fear of the predators only the egg hunters. Their eggs are huge and are collected and sold as tourist trinkets. I wouldn’t want to cross these parents though!DSCF0268 DSCF0365

Hippos were crowded in the newly flooded creeks.DSCF0276

The warthogs were out- so ugly they’re cute!DSCF0282 Often grazing along side the zebras or gazelles.

DSCF0287There are few animals more graceful than the antelope and gazelles. They are so beautiful, standing still or taking flight as the car gets too close.

The zebras weren’t nearly as shy. Aren’t they great? Apparently the females are white with black stripes and the males are black with white stripes. Hmmmm…..DSCF0342 DSCF0323 DSCF0340

I was lucky enough to see elephants, too! We also saw large herds grazing by the side of the road at dusk in a small game park we crossed going to visit a school in Mbeya, in the south.DSCF0389

And we  even saw Simba! This lioness was trotting along the roadside very determined to ignore us on her way to an important date.DSCF0354   

On our way back, climbing back up to the Ngorogoro crater rim, we passed these giraffes grazing at altitude, the plain spread out below them in the distance.DSCF0369 DSCF0371  I think that the giraffes were my favorite.

One can’t visit Africa and not think about the history of colonialism and the role of the Christian missionaries there. These are two old churches, one in rural Malawi that also has a hospital and school on its grounds the other stands on the water front in downtown Dar es Salam.

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Last, but not least, are the Africans themselves. I am  privileged to be able to learn a little about the lives of the people I meet there. But it’s harder for me to get photos of people than of animals… it can feel intrusive. This young woman was selling roasted bugs (yech!) on the side of the road and thought it very funny that I wanted to photograph her goods before buying, but gave her permission. (I will eat many things, but I did not try this snack although I’m told it’s quite tasty.)   DSCF0227

Note the sleeping baby tied on her back… that makes me very happy and is what my work is all about- healthy mothers and healthy babies.

Chris

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Back from the darks of Africa

Chris made it back from her work in Malawi and Tanzania. Here she is in the La Paz airport acting her best Santa Claus role delivering sweet packages for Jeorgia and her Volvo engine.

IMG_6663She was lucky and pressed the button in customs that came up with the green light. This means you just get a few questions that answer as naively as possible. Get the red light and they take all your luggage a part and start charging you for all the goodies you brought in. 

We spent a few days getting oriented, making a new sausage bag for the stay sail (with some expert mentoring from Chris on the Aussie boat Storm Bay) and installing the new fuel pump and thermostat. We are off tomorrow to start working back over to the mainland of Mexico.  We’ll see how together we are in the morning and what the weather is like before making a hard plan. We’ll probably spend a few days at Isla Espritu Santo and then do the two day crossing to Isla Isabela. Our current, cast in Jello, plans are to work our way down the mainland coast of Mexico, then jump to El Salvador. After that we will escape hurricane season and sail to Ecuador to sit out summer hurricanes and hot weather.

Next post will be the photo animal  ménage that Chris was able to snap on her crossings of the Serengeti on her way to the various schools she had to visit.

Paul

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A little joy in Mudville

“Men and Ships rot in port”

Got the head on, engine running smoothly, no leaks in the many water lines that needed to be resealed. Now the bad news. Looks like my fuel pump is – well as my Aussie neighbors on Storm Bay might say – it is all buggered up.

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I’ve got a new one on order from the states. Not expensive, but a pain to get here.

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If you have a Volvo-Penta 2002 or 2003 model with freshwater cooling, here’s the best improvement I’ve made on this engine. The little stainless clamp in the picture above is a custom replacement for the silly triangle piece that was a royal pain to use to get the heat exchange piping to not leak.

Off for more extensive rotting in port.

Paul