Burning Bush 2013 – La Ventana, BCS

 Posted by on January 28, 2013 at 7:49 pm  Baja, Festivals, Road Trips  Comments Off
Jan 282013
 

I have been to a lot of parties and festivals in my life. A lot. I consider myself pretty knowledgeable about what makes a good party. Last weekend at Burning Bush all my preconceived notions were blown out of the water. It was in a very small town, it had virtually no budget, and there was no music lineup, each act would just play “when it seemed right”. Since Drew was supposed to be playing live electronic music at the party, this last one was especially disconcerting. But Bruce, the party organizer, all around brilliant artist, and generally good guy, assured us that it had always “just worked out”. And it did. BEAUTIFULLY.

I heard Burning Bush being compared to a small Burning Man at least 20 times. In some ways it was, but not really. I love Burning Man for the harsh environment, the 50,000+ people, and the intensity of 24-hour visual, auditory and mental stimulation. Burning Bush did not have any of this going for it. The day was warm and the evening was mild – nothing of any extreme. There was about 1000 people – a fairly moderate sized party. And the music stopped at 2am – early for most music events. What Burning Bush did have going for it was sheer lawlessness. Around the perimeter were massive black powder and gasoline explosions forming giant mushroom clouds. Closer in was a ring of pterodactyl-like birds made from what looked like drift wood and whale bones – these were all interactive art pieces that you could climb into and make fly. They also shot fire from the beaks. There were people walking around with flame throwers setting wood piles and random cacti on fire, and 4-wheelers speeding through fire and jumping off the surrounding dunes. My all time favorite art piece of the night was a dome located right next to the stage. It expelled propane and fire, making intense scales of flame that morphed and changed as you lay underneath it. It mesmerized whole crowds with the chaos and movement of the fire. There are few things in life better than being completely absorbed in visual stimulation while listening to Drew playing mind-blowing techno until you can’t stand it anymore and you just have to get up and dance.

I may be overselling it a little, but honestly, when you consider the beautiful art, unpredictable fires, and magnificent explosions and then add in the can’t-help-but-dance techno that Drew was playing, I have to put it into the category of “great parties”. I’m so happy that I was able to share such a fun night with our friends Mike, Nia and Dan. If you want to hear about it from someone else, Nia wrote a great description of Burning Bush over at her blog Uncensored Restraint.

Burning Bush - Miya Burning Bush - Pheonix Burning Bush - Crowd Burning Bush - Small Fire Burning Bush - Large Flames Burning Bush - Drew and Bruce Burning Bush - Mike and Nia Burning Bush - Scrap Art Burning Bush - Propane Flames Burning Bush - Fire Bird Burning Bush - Mesmerizing Fire Dome Burning Bush - Mux

Scuba Certification in La Paz, Mexico

 Posted by on January 22, 2013 at 11:00 pm  Baja, New Skills  Comments Off
Jan 222013
 

Or otherwise known as “conquering a fear I didn’t even know I had”.

This story starts back in early 2011. Drew and I traveled to a small island named Vieques, off the coast of Puerto Rico for a close friend’s wedding. While there we decided to try a PADI Discover course. You don’t have to be certified, you just go down to a max of 40 feet and pass a few skill tests like filling your goggles with water then purging them and removing the regulator from your mouth and replacing it. After you do the simple tests then you get to go diving for about an hour. It seemed like a fantastic idea. I was not much of a swimmer but I had absolutely no fear of the water. We immediately signed up.

When we arrived out to the spot we would dive from, the instructor went through the skill tests we would be required to do once we were on the bottom. I was excited and feeling fine. Next step, descend 20 feet and start the skill tests. Still fine. Watch Drew complete the tests. Still fine. My turn…and nothing. I thought as hard as I could about moving my hand up to my face and removing my breathing apparatus. Nothing. I try a few more times, getting more and more worked up each time, but still nothing. My body would not let me remove my regulator. The instructor even tried to play tic tac toe with me to divert my attention from the panic that was obviously welling up inside of me. Finally I gave up, returned to the surface and Drew went back out with the instructor. We validated my failure with the fact that I had not been in the ocean in a while and I was just feeling nervous. It seemed reasonable to me.

Now, almost 2 years later, we decide to give it another go. This time with the full SSI Open Water Certification. This requires several days of classroom training, a day of pool training, an open water ocean skill test series, and one recreational dive. The classroom training and written test went fabulously. The pool training was cold, and I was a little nervous, but we were both able to complete all the skill tests in the pool without much problem. Then came the open ocean part. I felt nervous but confident as we arrived by boat out to the test site just about 30 minutes from where Tie Fighter is anchored. It is also the same place that we went last year to swim with the whale sharks. Drew entered the water first while I readied my equipment. Then it was my turn. I flipped back into the water just as directed, floated to the top and immediately threw myself into a full panic attack, hyperventilation and all. I wasn’t even underwater at this point – just bobbing on the surface with my BCD fully inflated. I tried for about 5 minutes to calm myself down but once the waves started throwing me against the side of the boat it was all over. I burst into tears and dragged myself back into the boat. It was not my proudest moment. I have never experienced this kind of irrational fear in my whole life. It was completely foreign and all I could feel was disappointment in myself and a determination to NEVER try scuba diving again.

I took some deep breaths, about an hour’s worth to be exact, and decided that I had to do this. I could not fail – and that was it. I went back into the water, immediately descended with the instructor and made it through my skill tests with no fear at all. I even had trouble with my BCD at one point when it would not deflate properly and the instructor had to manually deflate it. The only part that caught me off guard was the final test. It was the emergency ascent. You have to kick straight up as fast as you can while breathing out the whole time. It is supposed to mimic running out of air. I was ready for all this. What I wasn’t ready for was that the instructor was actually going to turn my air off while I was at the bottom of the ocean. It took me a few seconds sitting down there trying to suck air through nothingness before I shot up into a standing position and blasted to the surface. Drew surfaced a few moments later and that was it. We both passed our tests, albeit one of us with grace and ease and the other with shaking, crying, and blue lips – but nothing says you have to be pretty, you just have to do it.

 First Scuba DIve

Whale Whatching in Bahia Magdalena

 Posted by on January 11, 2013 at 7:15 pm  Baja, Road Trips  Comments Off
Jan 112013
 

We were so excited to have our friend Mr. Matthew Trentacoste visiting us for the week. We had grand plans of adventure and excitement. We had grand plans that is until we both got sick – not at the same time, but even worse, one after the other. Drew spent the first half of the week in bed with a 102F fever and I followed it up nicely with my own version of the same flu. Just as we were getting better and ready to take off sailing, in came the bad weather and the port captain closed the port to small vessels.

With only a couple of days left to spend with our friend, we decided to take a rental car and head to the other side of the peninsula for some whale watching at Bahia Magdalena. We figured it would be nice to get away and hopefully see some whales along the coast. When we got to the hotel we found that it would only be about $30 USD each to go out on an actual tour, so we decided to jump on. We were warned ahead of time that seeing whales is not guaranteed since it is early in the season – if we were to come back in February we would likely get to touch whales since it is a birthing ground and pregnant and new whale moms like to follow the boats and get attention from tourists. Although we did not get to touch any whales, we were able to see several large grey whales fairly close up. The tour also took us to see some sea lions, an old Japanese whale processing plant and some beautiful white sand dunes. All in all, the week could have definitely gone better, but having Matt in town was fantastic and the mini-road trip was a really nice end to the visit.

Pelicans - Bahia Magalena Cemetary - Bahia Magalena Village - Bahia Magalena Sea Lions - Bahia Magalena Panga - Bahia Magalena Sand Dunes - Bahia Magalena

Proof that we did *actually* see whales:

And Drew flipping gracefully onto the sand dunes:

Todos Santos and Pescadero

 Posted by on January 4, 2013 at 4:34 am  Baja, New Skills, Road Trips, Special Occasions  Comments Off
Jan 042013
 

We decided that this year, instead of exchanging presents for Christmas, we would have an experience. We placed only a couple of parameters on the search. We wanted to learn a new skill and we wanted it to be memorable. We immediately began scanning the internet for something interesting to do. When we stumbled across a National Geographic article ranking surfing in Todos Santos as one of the top adventure destinations for 2012 it seemed perfect – we wouldn’t even have to leave Mexico!

We traveled to Todos Santos by bus – a short 3 hour ride from La Paz. Upon arrival we had no room reservations, so we wandered through town, stumbling across a lovely little boutique hotel called Posada Del Molino where we spent the next two days. It turns out that Todos Santos is an adorable little art town filled with all the kitschy Mexico art that I have seen (and unabashedly loved) my whole life. It is an undeniably cute town, and very peaceful, but definitely on the expensive side, especially for food and drinks. A 12 peso ($1 usd) taco in La Paz is suddenly 30 pesos ($2.50 usd) in Todos Santos, and a jalapeno margarita at the Hotel California will set you back 90 pesos, but I won’t lie, that was the best margarita I’ve ever had in my life. By the end of day one Drew had already grown tired of wandering the same few streets, and honestly, by day two I felt the same. We decided to move on to the next phase of our adventure – surfing!

It turns out that National Geographic is mostly wrong. The good surfing is not in Todos Santos, but actually in the nearby town of El Pescadero. We checked around and it seemed like the Pescadero Surf Camp was the way to go. They had rooms and surf lessons and got really good reviews. We called ahead to make sure there would be space for us – the owner, Jamie, informed us that they had a room for us that night and could probably sort out something for the rest of the week. It turned out to be a lot of moving around over the next week (4 different rooms for 5 nights) including one night of dragging a mattress into the office and sleeping on the floor. Even with all the chaos, it was a fantastic time. We took surf lessons with the owners son, Ryan and his friend Coen, and they were wonderful teachers. They walked us through the basic process while on shore, then pulled us out into the waves and launched us time after time towards shore shouting “paddle, paddle, NOW STAND UP!”. Their genuine exuberance even after many failed attempts made it such a fun experience. Drew and I were both able to stand up several times after only one lesson and walked away feeling very proud of our baby steps in learning to surf. I couln’t have asked for a better Christmas and am now a full convert to the experience over the gift.

Yes, that is the real Hotel California from the song!

Yes, that is the real Hotel California from the song!

Drew serenading me with Christmas songs

Drew serenading me with Christmas songs

The resident horse at Pescadero Surf Camp

The resident horse at Pescadero Surf Camp

Going on a supply run with Angelo - he rode his motorcycle down from Toronto Canada!

Going on a supply run with Angelo – he rode his motorcycle down from Toronto Canada!

We spent a lovely evening around a bonfire down at a friends palapa

We spent a lovely evening around a bonfire down at a friends palapa

Heading to the beach with Coen and Ryan for our first surf lesson

Heading to the beach with Coen and Ryan for our first surf lesson

Surfing involves a lot of waiting. Drinking and waiting.

Surfing involves a lot of waiting. Drinking and waiting.

Mexican blankets sold outside our favorite fish taco stand in El Pescadero

Mexican blankets sold outside our favorite fish taco stand in El Pescadero

When it seemed to cold and cloudy to go to the beach, sitting by the pool made for a perfect substitute.

When it was too cold and cloudy to go to the beach, sitting by the pool made for a perfect substitute.

kilo foxtrot five sierra uniform echo

 Posted by on December 17, 2012 at 11:03 pm  Baja, New Skills  Comments Off
Dec 172012
 

I am now a level two ham radio SUPERWIZARD!

In November I took the first level “Technician Class” exam and passed with a score of 100%. Last week I leveled up and took the “General Class” exam, to my great disappointment missing 2 questions, but still passing well within the allowable 8 missed questions.

I’m quite proud of myself and am now legally allowed to touch all of the many ham related electronics scattered about the boat. I was also rewarded with a Yaesu VX-7R submersible handheld radio, courtesy of Drew!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Isla Espiritu Santo

 Posted by on December 15, 2012 at 12:18 am  Baja, Sea of Cortez  Comments Off
Dec 152012
 

We LOVE IT when friends come to visit. So we were especially happy when one of Drew’s closest friends from Vancouver Canada, Tom, came to visit us in La Paz. When he arrived we greeted him at the bus station with a margarita and unfettered excitement. We spent the first couple of days wandering aimlessly around La Paz showing off the city and discovering new adventures. Then, along with Dan from s/v Natasha we headed out to the islands. Drew and I have been to Espiritu Santo before, so we knew it would be the perfect place to go for a few days of relaxation. For the next four days we snorkeled, fished, and reveled in the beauty of our surroundings.

One of the best experiences of the week had to be swimming with the sea lions at Los Islotes. Everyone told us that it was not to be missed. Everyone was right! There are many companies in La Paz that will take you out there, but we just took the dinghy over, tied off, and jumped in with our snorkels. The only thing to watch for is the big males – they aren’t interested in playing and if you get too close to the pups they give you a warning snort.

We also had a really fun and interesting experience with manta rays. One night Tom noticed a couple of rays circling the boat so we grabbed a flashlight to see if we could get a better look. Within a minute we had them swarming at the light. We finally figured out that the flashlight was attracting the krill that the manta rays were eating. For the next hour we just sat out on deck watching the manta rays feed at the light. It was fantastically beautiful.

The weekend came all too soon and it was time to return to La Paz and return Tom to Canada. One of the hardest things about the cruising lifestyle is leaving old friends behind, but getting the chance to share new and beautiful places with the people we love definitely starts to make up for all the goodbyes. It’s also great to see things through a fresh pair of eyes. After so long of living on the boat it’s easy to lose track of how truly exceptional my life is. Having Tom here reminded me of all the things I have to be grateful for.

 

My only catch of the weekend - a hound fish, Apparently only good for bait.

My only catch of the weekend – a Mexican hound fish, apparently only good for bait.

Tom helping scrape the bottom of the dinghy

Tom helping scrape the bottom of the dinghy

Frigate birds - if you look closely the males have large red throats

Frigatebirds – if you look closely the males have large red throat pouches that they inflate for mating

A local fishermen fileting our dinner

A local fishermen fileting our dinner

Tom enjoying the bow nets

Tom enjoying the bow nets

Swimming with the sea lions

Swimming with the sea lions

A particularly photogenic little lady

A particularly photogenic little lady

Dan coming back from spearfishing with his catch

Dan coming back from spearfishing with his catch

Sailing back to La Paz with calm seas and perfect wind
Sailing back to La Paz with calm seas and perfect wind

Rest In Peace, Alice

 Posted by on December 14, 2012 at 12:12 am  Life Aboard, Lifestyle, Sailing  Comments Off
Dec 142012
 
Alice, opinionated as usual

Alice, opinionated as usual

A few months ago, Miya and I adopted a scraggly little Mexican street kitten, named her Alice, and welcomed her into our home on the sea. A scant five weeks later, she became sick and ultimately died. We were devastated - it was incredible to us just how deeply she'd ingrained herself into our family and our hearts. This post is her memorial.

First though, the back-story - when we returned from our visits to Canada and the US, respectively, I found myself making the daily trek back and forth to the public library in the Teatro de la Ciudad (known on our boat as "the office") about ten or twelve blocks from the docks. One day I stumbled across a large-ish cage by the side of the road, containing a mother cat, six or seven tiny newborn kittens, a bowl of dry cat food and a litterbox. The cage was slightly out of the sun, but it was filthy and the mother cat was obviously malnourished, and even in the 36ºC heat (96.8ºF) there was no water in the water dish. I walked away, wondering about the situation - there was a veterinarian's office across the street, but it was clear that this cage full of kittens was not actively being taken care of.

I can only guess at the motivations there - Mexico takes a bit of a dim view on cats, as unlike dogs they do not offer any real work in exchange for food, and as such they're looked at as a luxury, or at the other end of the spectrum, a pest. Even as I write this, I know that when I walk home from the library today I will pass the flattened, dried corpse of a run-over kitten directly in front of a nice, well-appointed home - it has been there for weeks, and nobody has bothered to pick it up.

picking up Alice from the vet

picking up Alice from the vet

So why was this cage full of kittens shuffled off across the road, out of the way? I can only assume that they were letting nature take its course, to avoid having to care for seven kittens that may or may not have ever found homes. I stopped at the first store I came across, purchased a large bottle of water and returned to the cage, cleaning and filling the water dish. The skinny, dirty mother cat was incredibly affectionate, purring loudly and rubbing against me before attacking the fresh water with a fervour.

For the next few weeks I stopped in every few days, bringing water when the cats had none and noting sadly that the number of kittens in the cage was slowly dropping. At one point there were two kittens down - one obviously dead, with flies starting to swarm, and one passed out in the litterbox obviously too weak to move. I tried to tell myself that I was doing what I could for these animals - the cage they were in was a prison, but it also provided protection against the many roaming street dogs in the neighborhood, who would happily make a meal of the little guys given half a chance. Each visit, I hoped to see the kitten count unchanged, but the numbers continued to dwindle.

in the dinghy, coming home for the first time

in the dinghy, coming home for the first time

At some point we left for our visit to Wasteland Weekend in San Diego, and I told myself that if there were any alive when we returned, I would do whatever I could to provide a good home for at least one of them. The first day back at the office, I walked over to the usual spot... but the cage was gone! I looked around and noticed that it had been moved across the street, in front of the vet's office, and I went over to take a look. The cage had been cleaned up and the water and food dish was full, but there were only two kittens remaining - a grey-and-white one, and a black one. I made arrangements with the veterinarian to come and pick up the grey-and-white kitten the next day.

When I returned with Miya, hoping to surprise her with a new kitten, the grey-and-white kitten was gone, the vet had given it away to the very next customer. I was annoyed, but willing to take the last of the litter - but Miya was hesitant. We'd talked a lot about the folly of having pets aboard and agreed not to have pets until we live on land again someday, and so we left, kittenless. Over the next few hours, however, she gradually came around to the idea and the next day we went after work to pick up the new furry member of our family.

Alice immediately made  herself at home, and offered her opinions on everything and anything. We had attempted to make the boat a kitten-proof environment, but we soon found out that there would be nothing safe from her explorations or critiques. Take for example this video, in which Alice discovers the Dia de los Muertos decorations and promptly destroys them:

The next few weeks flew past at an alarming rate - Alice accompanied us on a trip north into the Sea of Cortez, bouncing between anchorages and finally coming to rest for a week just shy of Puerto Escondido in a quiet bay called Bahia Candeleras. She seemed to really enjoy boat life, spending time running around the decks or going below to nap during the rough, rocky portions. We slowly trained ourselves to look carefully before jumping down the stairs into the cabins, as Alice asserted her ownership of the boat by sleeping wherever she damned well pleased... which often meant the middle of the floor in whatever room she occupied.

a pirate's cat for me

a pirate's cat for me

It became clear that we'd taken Alice from her mother a little too early - certainly she was able to eat solid food and run around the boat. Still, we began to notice some behaviours that marked her as something of a unique cat... for one, she had no problem communicating her discontent vocally. Alice would make very well known her needs, howling in her tiny kitten voice for more food, or more attention, or less food, or less attention, or her will to be picked up and moved to a higher location, or a lower location, or... well, anything. She was incredibly vocal, and we quickly learned to distinguish between her cries for food over her cries for attention or assistance climbing the steeper set of stairs.

Another unique feature of Alice was her immediate recognition of the humans on the boat as other sentient beings, by making regular eye contact. I took this behaviour at such a young age to be a sign of intelligence, but I was later corrected by my friend Tom, who said that constant eye contact was another sign of her having been taken too early from her mother. Apparently eye contact is a taboo in cat society, and Alice had just not learned that. "Proper" or not, we enjoyed her eye contact and vocal communications greatly.

effective camouflage

in our bed, perfectly camouflaged

The less-welcome habit began a few weeks after she arrived on the boat - suddenly, as though a lightswitch had been thrown, Alice decided that she needed to nurse on us. No body part was safe - we'd awaken in the night to find Alice suckling on our necks, or arms, or ankles. We were as firm as possible in trying to curb this behaviour - it wasn't damaging or painful in any way but hey, creepy. Eventually Miya offered up her favourite ultra-soft blanket, and somehow Alice decided that this would be her new suckling target - the blanket went into a shoebox and Alice began sleeping in that shoebox almost exclusively. The suckling on our necks and arms stopped overnight.

The end came quietly and without warning. We had sailed to the Isla Espiritu Santo with our friends Tom and Dan, and there was an incident on a Thursday in which Alice discovered a wedge of 'Laughing Cow' spreadable cheese and absconded with it. She was chased down, and when we attempted to take the cheese from her, she flipped - she went completely feral, with gutteral growls and all four paws flailing like windmills with claws outstretched. Taking this tiny wolverine by the scruff of the neck, I dropped her in the kitchen sink and turned on the water - she was shocked, and immediately stopped fighting and dropped the cheese. Alice spent the next few hours cuddling up to us, as though trying to apologize for her horrible behaviour.

obligatory cat-on-the-keyboard shot

obligatory cat-on-the-keyboard shot

Days later, on the Saturday morning, she seemed somewhat lower-energy than usual. She wasn't yowling, but she seemed mostly normal, if a little tired... we let her go back to bed and went about our day. When we returned at 4pm however, she was noticeably weak and shaky, not at all herself. When Miya realized that her food bowl was at the same level, she asked when I'd last fed Alice... I hadn't fed her in two days, and neither had Miya, and so Alice hadn't eaten in at least a day, possibly more. Kittens need to eat about every three hours, so this was a very bad sign!

We took her immediately to the vet from whom we'd adopted, and the vet told us that Alice had some kind of blockage. She gave the kitten a suppository and told us to feed her canned tuna juice and a special energy gel for animals recovering from surgery, and to call her the next day if Alice hadn't gone to the bathroom yet. Unconvinced, we took Alice home. When we examined her litter box closely, we found traces of aluminum wrapper - could she have eaten a larger chunk of the foil cheese wrapper?

We watched her carefully, like fitful parents, trying to get her to eat tuna juice and the energy gel - but at around 10pm, Alice stood to walk to her litter box, made it a few steps and collapsed. We immediately got on the VHF radio and polled the fleet, looking for recommendations of a better veterinarian, someone who could help us in our emergency. A call came back; a strong recommendation of a young local veterinary surgeon with excellent english and modern education. We immediately called her, then jumped in a taxi.

sad kitten on the way to the first vet

sad kitten on the way to the first vet

The new vet was amazing, putting Alice immediately on an IV of saline and glucose and trying several procedures to assist with whatever was blocking her intestines. We stayed with her until after midnight, until the vet said there was nothing further to do but wait and see if the procedures would take effect. She offered to take Alice home with her for the night for observation, and let us know in the morning how things went.

We went home and slept fitfully, knowing that our kitten was in the best possible hands and wishing with all our might that she'd recover... but in the morning we were met with a the worst possible news. An email arrived at 9am, saying that Alice had had a terrible night, and that she was not expected to live through the morning. In the vet's opinion, she was now too weak to survive surgery, and as such she recommended euthanasia. With extremely heavy hearts, we discussed it and ultimately agreed.

Alice was perfect in her imperfections, and she made her way instantly into the hearts of any who encountered her, either in person or through Miya's and my regular Facebook blatherings. She was opinionated and audacious, and brave until the end. We were able to take her in from probable death on the streets of Mexico and give her everything a kitten could possibly hope for - but sadly, our time with her was cut far too short. In five short weeks Alice changed our lives for the better, and we miss her deeply.

goodbye, Alice - you were the perfect sea-gypsy kitten

goodbye, Alice - you were the perfect sea-gypsy kitten

Dec 042012
 

Ok! Part four of updates, and then hopefully I can return to a more regular style of blog posts. I know I keep saying that. *sigh*. Without further ado:

gorgeous weather in La Paz

gorgeous weather in La Paz

The summer brought some intense weather shifts, including some of the first rain we'd seen since our arrival in La Paz in February - I guess I should have been tipped off by the cactuses and tumbleweeds, but the amount of precipitation here still took me by surprise. Once the season shifted into high summer however, the heat of the day combined with the extremely warm water (sometimes it would be 38º outside and the water would be 23º, warmer than most swimming pools!) made for some crazy meteorological events. We were treated with regular lightning storms and sudden shifts in wind speed and direction, not to mention a couple of hurricanes that narrowly missed us.

In this photo, a storm cell is crossing nearby to the south. At the time this photo was taken, the wind was blowing briskly towards the cell, but about five minutes afterwards the wind abruptly died and then within two minutes was blowing probably 40kn in the opposite direction! We were caught unprepared, and several items blew off the deck and I had to dash out in the RIB to retrieve them.

 

*sigh*. pay attention to polarity, Drew.

*sigh*. pay attention to polarity, Drew.

 While I was in Canada, I ordered a low-power Fit-PC3 computer to build into the walls of the TIE Fighter. The Fit-PC3 is a 12v-native computer very light on power consumption - set up with an internal SSD drive, it draws only  6w (1/2 an amp) at idle. I paired it with a two-terabyte external drive that automatically spins itself down when not in use, and am quite happy with the results.

Unforutnately, when I went to install the machine I didn't pay close enough attention to the polarity of the power supply, and hooked the power connection up backwards. Immediately there was a flash and a pop and suddenly the air was filled with the acrid smell of burning electronics.

electronics repair on the new inboard computer

electronics repair on the new inboard computer

Fortunately I'm no stranger to electronics repair, and with a bit of research and an email to the manufacturers of the Fit-PC3, I learned that the component that had exploded was a simple ferrite bead, meant solely to keep stray radio-frequency energy out of the computer. This bead is just a failsafe, sort of like a fuse, and I could just 'jump' over the section with a bit of wire for the time being. An hour or so with the soldering iron, and the computer lives.

...of course, that computer also now lives in a cupboard with a strong radio. I still need to track down a replacement ferrite, as I've seen three crashes so far when I've keyed up the mic on the ham radio on certain frequencies.

 

a swarm of bees overtakes the TIE Fighter!

a swarm of bees overtakes the TIE Fighter!

One morning as we left the boat in the RIB to go for coffee, we realized we'd forgotten something at the main boat so we turned around. When we arrived at the TIE Fighter, we found the boat swarming with bees! We estimated around 10,000 honeybees in the air around the boat.

Not knowing what to do, we went for coffee and solicited opinions from a few other cruisers, who brought to light one very important point that we somehow hadn't thought of... if the bees were to get inside the boat, they might not want to leave! We had to return to the boat immediately to close up the doors and windows, hoping that they hadn't already moved in.

 

the bees, landed

the bees, landed

When we arrived back at the boat, the bees had landed... but outside. The internet tells us that this means the queen bee is somewhere in the middle of the literal pile of bees on the boat. We figure they were stacked six or seven deep in this photo! Fortunately, they decided that the boat wouldn't make a great spot for a new hive, and within an hour or two of this photo they'd all moved on.

 

Miya's dirty knees from painting the decks

Miya's dirty knees from painting the decks

While I went back to my day job schedule, Miya undertook the massive task of painting the TIE Fighter's decks with anti-skid paint. We had collected a large pail full of white sand from a nearby beach, and then sifted and washed it, allowing it to dry overnight in the boatyard on a clean sheet of plywood. In the end though we decided that we'd get a better-looking result from "marmolina"; fine crushed white marble available at the local fereterias for about $0.50/kg.

 

the lights of 16 de Septiembre

the lights of 16 de Septiembre

The celebration of 16 de Septiembre (Mexico's Independance Day) came along, and rather than hole up in our little box on the ocean, Miya and I decided to brave the crowds and go see the fireworks display. The display lacked a certain... safety standard? that we had grown accustomed to in North America - the main celebration was in a town square flanked on three sides with two-story buildings, and the fireworks were launched from the roofs of those buildings, exploding directly over the square!

 

more generator maintenance, this time cleaning the carburetor

more generator maintenance, this time cleaning the carburetor

Our Honda EU2000i generator has given us incredibly reliable service for the past four years or so, but apparently one should not leave it for a Mexican summer with a third of a tank of gasoline... when I went to start it up for the first time in many months, it would not start. I quickly realized what the problem must be, and using this very well-written step-by-step howto, I tore the generator apart and cleaned the carburetor. Just like that, the little Honda purred back to life.

 

Miya swimming with a school of something (sardines? herring?)

Miya swimming with a school of something (sardines? herring?)

The heat of the summer was intense and constant, and often we had to spend the hottest portions of the day in the water just to maintain our sanity! The underside of the TIE Fighter made for a convenient gathering space, and using a series of ropes and floating toys and platforms we created a place of refuge from the afternoon sun.

In this photo Miya is swimming with one of the schools of fish that regularly gathered under the boat. Actually, if I go looking I bet I have a video that might show the situation a little better:

Crazy how you can see them avoiding the anchor line! We'd like to identify the species of fish, and then see about catching some for grilling or pickling.

avoiding the heat under the TIE Fighter's wing

avoiding the heat under the TIE Fighter's wing

Miya found an inflatable toy at one of the swap meets; three inflatable bladders joined at the center by a square of mesh, forming a floating recliner. This, paired with a Canadian Tire 'Party Platform' that we picked up on clearance just before leaving Canada in September 2011, formed the seating portion of the underwing. You can also see my Traynor TVM-10 cordless rechargeable guitar amplifier in the nets above, hooked up to an iPhone and playing appropriately chilled house music down into the watery tunnel.

flips off the TIE Fighter

flips off the TIE Fighter

Of course, with freshly-added antiskid on the topsides, the boat herself - having a good meter of freeboard - made an excellent water toy. Miya had only really learned to swim in the last year or so, but managed to learn to dive in one day!

 

 

She was so impressed with her diving that she decided to try her first-ever backflip off the boat also... to a little less success.

 

Mal serenading us on his banjo

Mal serenading us on his banjo

One of my absolute favourite parts about the cruising lifestyle is the willingness of the participants to pick up new musical instruments and throw themselves into learning. Our friend and neighbor Malcolm, an Australian vagabond living on 'Wind Pirate', picked up a banjo in a trade with another boater and within days was plucking away.

 

driving the long, lonely highway from La Paz to San Diego

driving the long, lonely highway from La Paz to San Diego

When we heard about the Wasteland Weekend festival in California, the idea immediately spoke to both of us - a four-day party in the desert, sort of  like Burning Man but more Mad Max themed, if that even sounds possible. With our Wilderness First Responder first aid certifications, we figured if they were interested in having us on as volunteer medics we'd kill a few birds with one stone; go on a road trip, pick up some much-needed supplies from the states, get some practical medical experience and go to a rad party! We rented a car and prepared to head out... but of course, what with it being hurricane season, a tropical storm had formed south of the peninsula and was threatening La Paz. We couldn't leave the boat unattended until we were sure that it wouldn't turn into a hurricane.

Fortunately, the system weakened, but not before dumping rain on southern Baja - and if you haven't seen what a major rainstorm does to a desert, it's a crazy thing indeed!

In this video, we have been stopped by a washout - the road in front of us has been replaced by a river of brown water flowing at a pretty fast clip. We watched as a compact car was swept a few feet sideways - but in the true spirit of "drive 'er like a rental", we decided to take the risk and we crossed. If you watch closely you can see water come up over the hood of the car at one point!

 

Wasteland Weekend 2012

Wasteland Weekend 2012

We arrived late to Wasteland Weekend but wasted no time whatsoever getting into the groove of things. Having come internationally we had no weapons to defend ourselves from the mutant / zombie uprising, and so we decided that we were clearly 'wasteland aristocracy' and as such had no reason to carry large weaponry of our own.

 

meeting the Party Hard Corps, fellow wasteland nobility

meeting the Party Hard Corps, fellow wasteland nobility

With this thought in mind it wasn't long before we ran into some kindred spirits, fellow patricians of the aftermath, with whom we shared libations and cheer. The Party Hard Corps crew are a fascinating group of partiers, gamers and drinkers from the midwest, who like us traveled to the desert for a few days of debauchery.

 

winning the archery competition

winning the archery competition

There were many (semi-)organized events, including robot battles and jugger matches, but the one event I was most looking forward to taking part in was the archery competition. The rules were fairly simple - scoring was based on points awarded for your five arrows to a mannequin about thirty paces down a range. I was relieved to find they had bows available for loan, as I hadn't owned my own bow in many years.

There were three divisions, for different sorts of bows: recurve, compound and crossbow. I can say proudly that out of about forty or so competitors, not only did I win the recurve division, but I also had the highest score over all three divisions - 28 out of a possible 30. The prize was a little disappointing however; a large black t-shirt. Not my size and I refuse to wear cotton t-shirts. In retrospect I should have taken the shirt and re-gifted it to one of the Party Hard Corps guys or something.

In case you're wondering, we did stop at an archery supply store in San Diego on the way back to Mexico, purchasing two bows so that we can practice on the beaches. At some point in our travels we met a guy who swore by iguana meat; as we get further south we're thinking maybe that might be a good source of free protein...

 

professional medical attention at Wasteland Weekend 2012

professional medical attention at Wasteland Weekend 2012

Our medical shift was Saturday night from 10pm until 4am - arguably the worst possible shift if your goal is solely to party, but we got enough of that in during the previous night and the Saturday afternoon, and as both the new jacks on the scene and late to the party to boot, we were happy to help out and glad to feel useful. We were surprised at how few emergencies there were, to be honest - the partygoers seemed to self-regulate very well, and aside from a few scalds from fire-show screwups and a few cuts and scrapes, we weren't actually very busy! There was always something going on, but we never felt overwhelmed.

 

Miya at the San Diego Zoo, riding an eagle.

Miya at the San Diego Zoo, riding an eagle.

After Wasteland Weekend, we had a couple of days to spend in San Diego - we slotted one of those days to provisioning and shopping, but the second day was spent touring the San Diego Zoo. This was something Miya had wanted to do ever since we left Vancouver but somehow we hadn't found the time during the two months we spent in San Diego back in December 2011. Many photos were taken, but surely if you'd like to see a photo of a giraffe you can find one on Google Image Search. ;)

 

Scott from s/v Sojourn displaying a feat of flexibility

Scott from s/v Sojourn displaying a feat of flexibility

After a long but uneventful drive back down the Baja Peninsula, we settled back into our routine by immediately having people over for another party. In this photo, Scott is demonstrating his ability to do a full split!

In the foreground of the photo, next to our friend Mike, is one of Miya's margueritas, made in the "proper Baja style". For a perfect Baja cruiser marguerita, combine:

  • one part decent tequila (100% agave only, José Cuervo is NOT acceptable!)
  • one part triple sec
  • one part freshly-squeezed lime juice

That's it; serve with ice cubes if you have them. Do not blend. Do not rim with salt. Do not use lime bar mix or Fresca. Do not add simple syrup. Mix and enjoy!

 

catching fish and shrimp in the party platform

catching fish and shrimp in the party platform

Whoops - we left the party platform deployed under the boat while we were in the states! When we pulled it up, the side-pockets were full of life. If you click on this photo, you can clearly see the large fish at the top, and several big, transparent, shrimp-like invertebrates swimming around in the captive pool.

 

the new addition to the family!

the new addition to the family!

There's a really sad story here - but before it was sad, it was a very happy story. We adopted a scraggly little Mexican street kitten and added her to our boat-gypsy family. I'll tell the story of little 'Alice' in another blog post.

 

zombie walk La Paz 2012

zombie walk La Paz 2012

It turns out that the 'Zombie Walk' phenomenon is wider-spread than we'd previously thought, and La Paz actually played host to an entire horror-themed film festival entitled 'Morbido La Paz'. There are few things that Miya and I like better than an excuse to get dressed up and silly, so we put together the best zombie costumes we could with our limited boat resources and shambled out into the town.

Best part: wandering around for at least an hour looking for the meet-up point for the zombie walk, soliciting help from the other boaters over the VHF radio and getting drastically contrasting reports of where to find the rest of the undead. Fortunately when we finally did find the other zombies, we found to our surprise that instead of the expected dozen or so fellow walkers/biters, we found a huge herd of probably two hundred! We moaned and shuffled our way through the night in search of cerebros...

 

Alice assisting with the refrigerator build project

Alice assisting with the refrigerator build project

One of the things we brought back to La Paz from San Diego was a long-coveted item - an icebox conversion kit which would turn our little built-in icebox into a proper refrigerator, complete with freezer! The kit cost an arm and a leg, and came as a box of parts and a series of cryptic instructions, including a bunch of crazy tool requirements. I had to track down someone in the boating community who would be willing to loan me an industrial vacuum pump and a set of refrigerator manifold gauges. As it turned out, none of the tools were far away and even though the build took much longer than expected, our friend Bill on s/v Wandering Puffin was a huge help in getting the system up and running.

Now, for the first time since moving aboard in 2009, we have the ability to store food for longer than a couple of days at a time! What a huge step forward... though admittedly so far my favourite use of the fridge is making ice cubes. Sill though - just because nothing in our world can ever be completely normal - the fact that our fridge is a top-loading icebox means that we're forced to use an expensive vertical ice cube tray.

going-away party at the Libertatia apartment

going-away party at the Libertatia apartment

One of the sad facts of cruising life is the realization that no matter how much you like your new friends, everyone is traveling, and sooner or later we all have to pull up the anchor and move on. This photo is of some of our friends from the summer; Malcolm and Lowell left on s/v Libertatia for California, arriving recently in San Francisco, and Mike and Nia left La Paz for Mazatlan in their boat s/v Azul, making it across the Sea of Cortez without incident... and without an engine!

Well, I think that pretty much brings us back up to current. More updates to come soon!

Cruising the Sea of Cortez

 Posted by on November 8, 2012 at 3:21 am  Baja, Sea of Cortez  Comments Off
Nov 082012
 

We arrived in La Paz back in February with the intention of staying a month and then moving on into the Sea of Cortez for further exploration.  Nine months later we finally found the momentum to carry us north.

Our original goal was to leave La Paz on Thursday evening after completing a few final tasks. At the last minute Drew was offered the opportunity to play music at a local spot, The Shack, so we decided to leave early on Friday instead.

We didn’t have any specific plan for where we were heading other than “north”. Once we got under way and out of the La Paz channel we discovered two things. One, the wind was certainly not going to be any help getting us north, and two, the sea was so choppy and rough that motoring was going to be a frustrating and uncomfortable method of getting us anywhere. The decision was easy – we would pull into Isla Espiritu Santo, which was a short 3-hour motor, and try again the next day. We anchored in a little cove called Bahia Gabriela at the south end of the island.  We spent the afternoon fishing from the dinghy and deciding where we would venture to in the morning.

We made it out of the anchorage by 7am and up to Isla San Francisco by late afternoon. Upon arrival to Isla San Francisco we were immediately bombarded with tiny biting bugs, motivating us to get an early start and venture further north to Bahia Agua Verde.

On the way to Agua Verde we had beautiful calm waters, hundreds of little yellow butterflies surrounding the boat, and I caught my first fish of the trip. On the recommendation of Mary from S/V Hot Spur, we were hoping to buy some goat cheese in the nearby village but when we arrived they informed us that unfortunately the newest batch wasn’t ready.

Our final stop north was at Bahia Candeleros. It was my favorite. The bay was the most beautiful shade of blue and the beach led so gradually into the sea we could walk for what seemed like half a kilometer before entering waist-deep water.

We swam everyday and fished and finally made time to clean the bottom of the boat. We were even inspired to practice with our bows. Currently I am only able to hit the target on about 2 out of 3 shots. My bow is a 30 lb, which is just slightly over what I should be using but I am hoping by using the heavier bow I will gain strength in my arms and will ultimately be able to shoot harder. This will come in handy if I ever hope to use it for hunting.

Our time in the sea was filled with the most relaxed and beautiful days that I can remember but eventually we had to leave our little paradise. For the first time since this sailing adventure began a year ago, I wasn’t really ready to leave. I am usually the first to get stir crazy in a new anchorage, but Candeleros was still new and exciting for me. It felt peaceful and perfect.

We set sail in the early afternoon. We had a bucket full of chocolate clams waiting to be cooked for dinner but I threw my fishing lines out anyways. I ended up catching 3 big fish right in a row.. Every one of them fought so hard they nearly pulled me off the side of the boat, then promptly threw the hook and got away. Luckily I didn’t lose any lures. About 15 minutes later I hooked a 4th fish and managed, with the help of Drew, to get it on deck. I have never tried filleting because usually I go so long between catching fish that, when I do, I want to make sure I don’t destroy the meat, but since we had all those clams waiting anyways, I decided to give it a try. I had my handy book in hand for reference (this book has taught me everything I know about fishing), and I got started. I’ll cut to the chase – I butchered the fish, and not in a good way. I was shocked at how little usable meat I got from such a big fish and I felt pretty guilty for killing an animal and then wasting so much of it. I think I will wait to try filleting again until someone with experience can walk me through it.

At the end of the day, I made fresh salsa and Drew barbequed. We ate our beautiful dinner on deck just as the sun set.

I love the sea.

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