Mustang Sally
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In spite of the bites described below, Baja was a wonderful experience.  Skin diving, snorkeling, and suba diving is first rate.  The Mexican people are a delight, with the same differences between small town folks and big city folks.  Ahh, the girls of Baja.  dressed to kill all the time, they drag your eyes right outa there sockets

Baha Bites Thrice

Bite Uno:  While the diving has been fun, it has been getting a little annoying.  You see there are an increasing number of little pricks in the water.  As we go north, further into the Sea of Cortez, the pricks have been getting thicker.  Check out my arms in the picture on the right.  When you are diving, you feel these little pricks on your body.  An hour or two later it swells up red and itchy.  You can ignore them when they are occasional.  But iy-yi-yi, it is getting to much.

There seems to be two main types of pricks.  The single prick: these burns for an instant and itch for days.  I don't know what creature is responsible, but he must be a very little prick - almost invisible.  The second type of prick is a jelly fish. Their tentacles slash cross your skin and for an instant it feels like razor sharp barb wire, pricking your skin.  Then the sting pain is gone and all one has is a red swelling slash on the skin.

So enough to diving on the Baja - we make for Mazatlan at the earliest possible convenience. 

Bite Dos:  Our radar suppliers.  The two companies Nobeltec and Si-Tex are helping make trip un-safer rather than safer.  Seems the workers at the two companies involved have some characteristics similar to the biters in the Sea of Cortez.  And they take weeks to execute a repair and return.  Such lackadaisical service is a disappointment but it is what it is.   It is forgivable for the occasional unit to fail - hell it is electronics - but having such poor service is deplorable and a significant safety hazard for us.   Nobeltec provides the software and Si-Tec redistribute the Japanese Koden radar.  Getting service from either Nobeltec or Si-Tex is like pushing a noodle uphill.  The safety of one of their customers in Mexico is just not a concern to them. 

Bite Tres:  Good news this time.  I've been lusting after a Bruce anchor for some time.  Quite a few sailors and allot of the sailing literature recommend the Bruce as the best all purpose anchor.  But because catamarans are weight sensitive and we are a little over loaded I've been reluctant to add another anchor.  Sharon and I have a standing joke, about the need to loose 35 pounds so we can buy a new anchor.

While in La Paz, we met Dwight Thomas who had a surplus big old 50 kilo Bruce anchor (shown at left) on his new boat.  With a little encouragement from my buddy Rod,  I grabbed it and put it on Mustang Sally. Thanks Dwight! 

" Can't have an anchor too big" says conventional nautical wisdom!  Well!  Our 15,000 pound catamaran was stuck like glue to the La Paz anchorage with that Bruce.  BUT, my poor little 1000 watt windlass (the machine that lifts the anchor) nearly had a hernia trying to lift the heavy Bruce.

So we put out a call on the VHF radio - cruiser channel 22.  "Anybody want to trade a 50 kilo Bruce for a 15 kilo Bruce".  2 hours later the deal was done.  I had what I wanted thanks to Willie.  Tory (the owner of a 50,000 pound boat) had the perfect anchor for his boat.  I tell you people,  my new Bruce really bites ... the sea bottom.  Just like it should!


Esperanza Interlude

Family members are thinking of purchasing a vacation get-a-way near Cabo San Lucas.  As luck would have it, we were in the area and they invited us down for a visit.  What wonderful host they were.  We had a most enjoyable two days of high living. 

To get to Esperanza, we rented a car and traveled by land through the beautiful Todos Santos, stopped for lunch at the Hotel California (shown at left) before joining family and new friends at the resort just east of Cabo San Lucas. 

Very cool place you four.  We hope you and your families will have many years of quality time at this beautiful piece of paradise set into Baja California Sur.  Many many thanks for the hospitality and hope to see you there again in the not too distant future!


Baja California - South East Coast

The most exciting sights for this section of our voyage have been underwater.   Scuba and skin diving the corral reefs of eastern Baja has been our obsession.  Crystal clear water to depths of 60 or more feet.  Warm green water.  It takes hours of diving to loose body heat.  We have become more creatures of the water than land.

We lust for the domain of the whale, dolphin and shark.  A different world where the body is almost weightless, where we can soar high and low with a few easy stokes of a fin.  We are the eagle of the water,  gliding over the glowing coral.  Flying among the thousands of smaller creatures that make up an undersea coral reef community.  Until our air runs out we are kings and queens of the reef.  

Then, when our arms, legs and lungs begin to ache and grow weary of the submarine world, we scramble aboard the boats.  Re-living and elaborating the high points of the dive while downing ice cold beer in warming sunshine.  The turtle, the moray eel, the huge schools, the tuna.  No sharks so far - except - the one Morgan caught on his fishing line.  The shark tasted great in our tacos.

Corral reefs throughout the world, follow some unknown law of nature that says, "Coral reefs are only allowed to grow on the east side of large warm bodies of water."  Baja California is not famous for its coral, but it is there and it makes great diving.  Example:  Pulmo reef.  Situated a mile off shore,  Pulmo reef attracts panga loads of scuba and skin divers.  Pulmo is spectacular but there is more.  Ensenada de los Muorteos had coral reefs on the east and west ends with the west side providing better views.

Oh for an underwater camera.  Maybe Santa will put one in my sock for me!! Then I could share some of the delights of the underwater realm.  These clumsy words are so hard to shape into anything resembling the beauty of a coral reef.

Rod and I dingy-ed 10 miles out and 10 miles back to dive Pulmo reef.  We left Los Frailes, and round the point and out over the reef.  Skin diving and pulling the dingy along, we dove and dove on the coral and schools of fish by the hundreds.

A day or two later, we enjoyed a hard beat northward against 20-25 knot winds.  The first beat in 2000 miles.  "Beat" is a sailing term that means you make the boat go towards the wind.  It is called a beat because the boat, passengers and crew take a beating as the boat pounds toward the wind.  A beat is hard on the boat and people.

Our designation was Ensenada de los Muertos (Cove of the Dead).  Developers are working to change the name of the bay to the more Anglo friendly "Bay of Dreams".  What ever you call it, it is a fine bay.  We dove the coral reefs, feasted, and cooked diner over an open fire on the beach.  And we waited.  Waited for the contrary winds to fade.  After days of diving and dusty gritty sand pelting the boats we resumed our journey.  Predicted "light and variable" conditions turned  to contrary winds again in the 15-20 knot range - again!  Destination - La Paz.




Cabo San Lucas

The southern terminus of Baja California is punctuated by a series of great rock formations.  A fitting lands end for a thousand mile long peninsula.  The Friars stand high and protective against an interminable sea and mark the entrance to the Sea of Cortez.  We favor the name given the sea by Cortez, but on modern maps it is labeled the Gulf of California.

The Spanish Conquistador, Hernán Cortez was the first European to discover sea in 1536.  Cortez likely originated the name "California" when he landed at what is now called Cabo San Lucas.  California is said to be derived from the Spanish word 'Cala" which means a small cove of the sea, and the Latin word "fornix" which means an arch.  There is a small cove at Cabo San Lucas where a rock is pierced in such a way that the upper part of the opening is an arch formed so perfectly that it appears made by human skill.  Cortes, noticing the remarkable cove and knowing Latin, gave to that port the name "Cala-y-fornix" speaking half Latin and half Spanish.  There are other theories,  but it was likely Cortez who originated name California when he landed here in 1536.

Some of my more literary friends might recognize a phrase or two pirated from Stienbeck's "The Log from the Sea of Cortez"  Man that man can set down words in a way that takes your breath away!  I quite enjoyed his rationalization of laziness and beer  and his many observations on the human condition. 

Both Cortez and Stienbeck would recognize the geography of the area, but would be shocked to see the human energy of this place.  The bay is full of coming and going cruise ships,  glass bottom taxis, sailboats, powerboats, sea do's, swimmers and divers.  Small boats zip around in a delightful chaos, dashing in an out, daring each other to give way, rocking everything on the water, blasting music and waving and laughing.  Hotels ring out with bawdy Spanish music and exuberant celebrations of people escaping from dreary lives and winter climes.  Stienbeck would likely be nostalgic for the old town but my guess is that he would have embraced the new with enthusiasm while waxing eloquently on what it all means about today's hedonistic society.

The water is crystal clear with visibilities often exceeding 60 feet.  Divers may like a light wet suit but such is not required. The waters are warm. The scuba diving rivals anything I have seen in BC, California and Hawaii.  Diving in Cortez's cove was extraordinary. Imagine schools of fish so thick they block out the sun.  A reality at Cortez's cove.

Things are surprisingly inexpensive in this tourist town.  The people are friendly, accommodating and full of life.  Cabo San Lucas is a delightful place. 

We came for a quick two day stop and turnaround before heading deep north into the Sea of Cortez.  That was on November 14th.  A week and counting and we are still intrigued by Cabo.

Here are some slide shows illustrating life in Cabo San Lucas and area:

Caught my first Dorada - or Dolphin fish.  (Not a dolphin!)  This guy was incredibly beautiful and it seemed a bit of a shame to eat him.   Hah! - He didn't have a chance!  Great eating.  Click here for a quick look.

Cabo and the Sea of Cortez to the east offered our first opportunity in a long time to see a sun rise over water.  Click here for relief from grey skies.

Here is an interesting environmental phenomena that lit the water on fire.  See if you can determine what causes the fire in the water.  Click here.

And this is a little slide show of the area culled from our hundreds of pictures of the area.


Radar Woes

Our new - (6 months ago) radar system failed on the voyage to Cabo.   We had hoped for a speedy resolution,  but a support desk that managed two emails in two week defeated that idea.  Our friends Spike and Joanie help us out with additional contact information. The Taiwan built unit, resold twice up the food chain,  has been returned to Florida for repair and return.  We will be without it for a total of 6 weeks if the delivery and return goes well.  Cross your fingers for us!  


Skipping Down the Baja

Now we are really enjoy the fruits of our labours.  Out of the oh so urban Hotel California and Ensenada and into the raw uninhabited beauty of Baja California.   Our first stop was at a wild life preserve on Isla Todos Santos (All Saints Island) reminding us of cruising in remote British Columbia.  We stern tied in a cozy cove with crystal clear waters where the fish just love to take your bait.  Click here for a visual parade of Isla Todos Santos' delights.


A few days later we had a dolphin escort during an easy motor sail south to the wild and woolly San Quintin. (pronounced San Queenteen).  At San Quintin the surf breaks everywhere and the whales while away their days in the shallow waters.  The raw energy of the place was humbling.  Big booming breakers thundering away continuously. And not just on the beach.  In the middle of the bay and on the left of us and on the right of us.  The whole place just seemed to vibrate with energy and some of that energy seemed to flow into my veins.  Awesome display.  All this created quite a dilemma deciding where a safe place to anchor.



But the whales people, the whales.  We had observed frequent blows and  it was obvious whales were in the vicinity.  Well, a little later this big barnacle encrusted guy comes right up behind Sally with an amorous look in his eye. Sharon spotted him and just about jumped out of her skin. She was afraid that he was going to tip the boat over.

As we watched the big fellow snuggled up beside Mustang Sally, I dove below to grab my camera - he was a foot away and rolled over on his side to look us over. I guess he decided Sally wasn't his type because after a few minutes he slowly ambled away.  We couldn't believe it and kept looking at the whale pictures over and over.

For a view of some of the rest of San Quintin click here.


We had an awesome sail across the Sebastion Vizcaino Bay.  Leaving at 4:00 am to make our arrival in daylight, we began with a reefed main and full jib.  The 25 knot wind held until about noon powering us across the bay at 8-9 knots.  In the afternoon the breeze faded to 10-15 and up went the chicken chute (our littlest spinnaker). 

Then, over a 50 foot deep shoal, we came upon a pod of blue whales.  Sharon counted five of them, basking on the surface, their bodies turning huge splotches of water into a soft green aquamarine color.  We sailed amongst them for a hour,  watching them blow and amble away from the boat.  Then the dolphins came.  Hundreds of them,  leaping, bounding and and hopping right out of the water,  black and white bodies glistening in the sun,  diving under the boat and zig zagging between the hulls.  They were playfully slapping Sally's bows and hulls with their fins.  It was like they were daring Sally to slap back.  More than a few dolphins left with splotches of blue bottom paint on their fins and back!  The little guys are wearing the bottom paint off of Mustang Sally's bows!

And just to make a great day better,  this little tuna ended up on our dinner plates.


Our next stop was the extraordinarily beautiful Islas San Benito.  Thanks to Rick and Suzie of VYC for recommending it!

These are group of three islands about 2/3 way down the Baja.  This place is really out back Mexico.  I thought I would find such arid and harsh environments barren without beauty.  But I was wrong.  Beauty abounds.

A hike to the top of the highest mountain on the island reminded me of just how great it feels to hike in the wild hills.   The hike made me think of my brother George and his family who regularly spend weekends hiking in Wales.  I also realized the ankle I sprained back back in July is 100% healed.  Yahooo!   Four months to heal and regain the original strength

The town at San Benitos was an interesting seasonal fishing village.  At the time of our visit the population was eight!  Ramon, pictured at the right was fishing for lobster there.  Ramon is a pilot but flying work is scarce,  so he fishes to keep his Ensenada based family fed.  And he enjoys meeting the people who come by and helping them get to know the area. 

Click here for some buena vistas of San Benito.  If you love nature you will love the slide show.


On October 31st we are sailed to Turtle Bay which is located at just about the center of the west coast of the Baja.  As we walked through the dusty town I said to Sharon, "Why the hell leave a beautiful place like White Rock to wander around the dusty unpaved streets of a Mexican town like this?"  "Well" Sharon answered,  "Its the people and the adventure of landfalls in different worlds.  Here in Turtle Bay everyone is friendly, they all smile and some are having as much fun as us.  If it were the same as White Rock it would not be near as much fun." 

Turtle Bay is a beautiful location but the nino's - (the children) - sure got to be a pain. Their incessant bickering while begging for tips or jobs, and the chaos that would ensue each time we came ashore.  I wondered how their parents felt about their kids groveling for a few pesos.  We tried to seek advice from adults in the vicinity - such that we could get with our meager Spanish. 

Most people we met all seemed so kind and friendly.  Hortes for one,  drove me all over town and helped me chase down parts and fishing gear.  I felt I was imposing so would set off on foot,  only to run into Hortes again when looking for the next item.  He and I would laugh, then it was 'get in Amigo' and we would go bouncing through town looking for an opened store.  It happened to be on the Mexican's national holiday celebrating the Day of the Dead.

The next mornings, at 4:00 AM I awoke to the smell of diesel fuel.  A quick check of the bilges and tank confirmed it was not coming from Mustang Sally.  At 5:00 AM I couldn't sleep the smell was so strong.  6:00 AM as the sun came up we could see the slick on the surface of the water.  At 8:00 AM it was still there, so I said to Sharon,  "lets vamous".  Up anchor and outta Turtle Bay.  Click here for a virtual tour of the town at Turtle Bay.


Bahia Santa Maria provided an awesome display of rugged Baja beauty.  On November 2 we sailed overnight to arrive at this isolated and windswept bay.  We anchored 100 yards of the beach and slept peacefully that night to the gentle sounds of surf rolling up the beach.

We got soaked to the bone on numerous occasions in the Bahia Santa Maria.  We were landing and launching in the surf.  Great fun in the warm water.   To land on a surf beach,  we wait for a bigger wave moving toward the beach, then we use our motor to run up the back of the wave and try and drive the dingy as far up the beach as possible.  Just before the engine starts to suck sand into the cooling system, the engine is raised and we jump into the water to drag the dingy up the beach before the next wave swamps us.  Tricky! 

On departure from a surf beach,   you try and time it carefully to catch a lull in the waves.  Then you run like hell, dragging the dingy seaward until you are waste deep in water.  The rower - Sharon - jumps aboard, grabs the oars and pulls with all her might.  I stay in the water a little longer pushing the dingy further, holding it straight into the waves until Sharon starts pulling.  Then I jump aboard and try and get the engine started.  If you don't time it right a wave can soak you to the bone and fill the dingy with water.  If you really blow it a wave will toss you and the dingy back onto the beach like a piece of driftwood.  Good thing the water is warm. 

The Baha Ha Ha caught up to us in Santa Maria.  The Baja Ha Ha is a sailing rally.  This year about 150 boats left San Diego on October 31 and made two stops on their way to the tip of the Baja at Cabo San Lucas.   They have lots of parties, and enjoy the comfort and camaraderie of traveling in a group.  It was neat to watch the nearly deserted Bahia Santa Maria fill up with 150 boats.  It felt like we were in the Caribbean at Tabago Cays!  30C air temperature.  The 25C water temperature.  The surf.  The crystal clear water with 30 foot visibility.  Ah yes, life is good!!
Click here for a slide show of Santa Maria.



Now it is November 10th and we linger in the Bahia Magdelena.  This big bay reminds us of the Straights of Georgia with it girth and smooth waters.  We are anchored just off the village of Puerto Magdalena pictured on the left. 

We are delighted to be joined here by the crew of Maestra Del Mar from Bella Bella shown on the right.  We are like minded people and enjoy enjoying the fruits of Mexico together.

Puerto Magdelana is easy to fall in love with.  Groceries beer and limited supplies a short dingy ride away.  Both priced half of the prices back home.  Miles and miles of beaches.  Clear water, great diving.  Very hard to do it justice in this short space - but go there if you can, take your time and relax.  Everything is OK.

Wonderful friendly people that ask for nothing but offer generous hospitality and fair value for their goods and services.  Pinch me amigos, I must be dreaming.  This be the real Mexico.  A place where everyone is laid back and happy with life.  Where the one resturant opens in a few weeks when there is one visiting boat.  But if there are a few boats - what the heck, they open today!  Tomorrow - we will see!

Follow this link to tour Puerto Magdelana. 


Ensenada, Mexico - Arrived Monday October 10th

We experienced little trouble getting settled into Ensenada.  A few challenges were expected as the rules for clearing in have changed and Mexico's civil servants are well known for - ah - being civil servants.  A pleasant surprise in that all were friendly, helpful and the official clearing in was easy.  The check had an unusual twist.  Click here for a run down on procedures or if you are interested in the gory details. 

Besides clearing in to Mexico, the purpose of our visit to Ensenada is to learn some Spanish.  No lofty idea's about becoming literate,  just try get some basic Spanish stuffed into our pickled grey matter.  The good news is that there is a large friendly English speaking community here willing to provide assistance in learning Spanish.  The bad news is that there is large friendly English speaking community here to help you so you have to get out of a comfort zone to use what you learn. 

We signed up for Edith Peraza's Spanish lesson's.  She is flexible on timing and holds one hour classes three times a week.  Lunes,  Meircoles y Viernes 10:00 am at the Vendimia Restaurant.  The Vendimia Restaurant is the local yachtie hang out located 1/2 block north of the big heads.  The class size is small and in addition to some Spanish, we learn about Mexico and the local Ensenada community.  Well worth the modest fee.  Edith is available for one on one and advanced lessons as well.  Contact her at 177 8685 or through the Vendimia Restaurant.


You can have a little look around The town of Ensenada by clicking here or on the picture to the right.  We enjoyed the rough jumble jangle of the town and the contrast to San Diego.  The town includes modern elegant districts, miserable run down dives, an authentic gringo row and everything in between.  The gritty town of 400 thousand or so is a major metropolitan center of Baja California.


We were honored to tour the Kumiai Indian village at San Antonio de la Necua.  All courtesy of our friend Anne McEnany (858 77-2915) from San Diego.  The tour was orchestrated by local anthropologist Michael Wilken-Roberts whose wonderful on the fly translations helped us to glimpse a little of the Kumiai world. Michael is working to help the Kumiai gain some economic benefit from Ensenada's tourist boom.  Contact him at 646 174 6732.

What an exciting experience to have such knowledgeable people to guide us on this expedition to the mountains of Northern B.C.  (Baja California).  Senor Angel Cominguez was a informative host along with Dona Lugarda,  Senor Jorge Dominguez and many others.   We were treated to an afternoon of song, dance, traditional foods, local customs and a hike through the Baja highlands.  The days tour was topped off with a wine tasting at L.A. Setto.  Nice to find some excellent wines in Baja California.  Click here for a pictures and sounds of the Kumiai.


Mexican myth busting.  Click here for a list of misconceptions about Mexico.  We haven't been here very long so it is tough to be 100% certain,  but the link will show you  common misconceptions about Mexico we have discovered so far.


Mexico Beckons 

The boat jobs are done.   Mexican waters are cooling.  The hurricane season is waning.  We have been in the USA long enough.

We are on our way. It will be a Canadian thanksgiving in Mexico for us.  Happy thanksgiving everyone!  And thanks to everyone who helped make this journey happen.

Click here for a brief cruisers survival guide to San Diego.  We love you beautiful San Diego.

The sail to Ensenada had an interesting start at 5:00 AM involving a right of way kafuffle with a US war ship.    I didn't think a US war ship would bother with the likes of a sailing vessel like Mustang Sally.  But they were being very careful with a potential crossing situation.

I heard a hail on the radio and thought, "naw, they can't be talking to us".  They hailed "the small boat in the vicinity of marker number 2".  I thought "where the heck is marker number 2?,  naw that can't be us." 

We were busy getting the sails up,  but they persisted in calling.  Once we got the sails up they changed the hail to "small sailboat  in the vicinity of marker 2.  Small indeed! - we are a big 38 feet! 

But with Sharon's wise council not to ignore guys with nukes,  I answered their hail.  They wanted agreement to pass starboard to starboard.  I answered their precise request with "I'm cool with that!"  In the early hours of the morning, I have a reputation for not exhibiting signs of intelligence.

After that that the trip was uneventful - motor sailing in winds under 5 knots.


Tijuana - Our First Taste of Mexico

We jumped on the San Diego Trolley and rode it down to the border,  then walked across to "TJ".  We had great fun wandering around the Mexican city.  TJ was reported to have a population of - gasp - two million!  They have a cool arch (shown at the left) in the center of town and seem to be working hard to develop the town center in a authentic Mexican way.

Because of the lower drinking age in Mexico there are many diso's and bar's catering to young American.  At the left Sharon stands beside a sign illustrating the Mexican sense of humor.

Some of our American friends insist Tijuana was not Mexico.  Not sure where they though it was.  Perhaps they had not visited in w awhile or were just repeating somebody else's view.  But maybe we will learn more as we spend more time in Mexico.

We roamed the streets and enjoyed a nice lunch in a sidewalk cafe.  Mariachi music, Coronas and a nice Mexican meal for under $20!  Its been a while since we have seen those kind of prices.  It would be Portugal in 2004.  Overall, Tijuana surprised me.  I had this negative impression of the place,  based on stories I had heard years ago.  Sure does not seem like the stories.

TJ is cool.  A border town for sure, with a zillion pharmacies and markets catering to the rich gringos.  Hawkers and bars and things all packed  together in a jumble jangle kind of way.  While the hustlers try hard,  they laugh and back off when given a polite but determined "No, Gracias!

So all in all,  we were pleasantly surprised by Tijuana and recommend it for a look if you have some time.



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