Back onboard!

After 3 months away, we are happily ensconced on Happy Dance once again.  However, truth be told, it’s not all that settled OR comfortable in our boat sweet boat – yet!

What many people don’t realize is there is no such thing as getting off an airplane, getting on the boat and setting sail for paradise. Nope, first there are chores.

One of which is figuring out what to do with all the new stuff! It’s one of the realities of being a vagabond. Each year we leave the boat with two small bags and come home with multiple large suitcases crammed full of toys and equipment for Happy Dance. In addition to the clutter we brought home with us, there is already a large muddle from having put Happy Dance to bed in readiness for the hot sun and hurricanes of summer in the Sea of Cortez. The v-berth is full to the brim with sails, kayaks, chairs and every other thing that was on deck before we left.

In addition to all the clutter we (we, meaning Marty) have a couple of issues to resolve. The freezer is on the blink (and of course we always discover this AFTER we buy lots of frozen stuff). The faucet that we bought to replace the leaky one in the galley has different (French boat, Oui?) threads and won’t fit the existing hoses, so we have no water. Hopefully these will be the only glitches, as we get ready to leave the dock and start living the dream once again.

Timing is everything in making space and reorganizing a boat. First things first, Happy Dance needs a bath. You’d think that with all the torrential rain we’ve been getting that the decks would be clean, but unfortunately it’s going to require some scrubbing in addition to rinsing. Once she is clean then we can start unloading the v-berth, bending on sails, inflating kayaks, etc., so that we have room to maneuver inside. The rest of the chores are things that can be done at any time, but rigging, engines, water, freezers, and cooking all take top priority.

So….it’s great to be home!  Soon we’ll get back to that living in paradise stuff.  Now if someone would just turn down the heat!

Highway 101

For anyone who’s lived or traveled in the Northwest, Highway 101 is a familiar route along the majestic Pacific Coast. We all have our special memories of winding through the narrow byways, crossing arched bridges perched between cliffs, peering over the edge of the road down to the crashing waves on the rocks, and gasping as the car squeezes through trees so tall you can’t see their tops and being quite sure you’ll hit their massive trunks.

I was about 9 years old on my first road trip from Seattle down the coast with my family of 5. I remember motels and delivery pizza, ocean swims and getting rolled by the waves, trying to wrap my arms around the redwoods, riding the elevator to the Sea Lion Caves, and of course, Disneyland. Later when I was 15, my 18-year-old sister and I spent the summer driving the highways in a mail truck named Mehitable that Mom had transformed into a chartreuse camper van complete with bunkbeds. In high school, my best buddy and I tent camped our way down the coast of Oregon, hiking the trails, watching the rain, cooking over the campfire, and enjoying the carefree life of a teenage summer.

For Marty there were family camping trips when he was 15, visiting Gold Beach, Avenue of the Giants, riding the jet boats, and picking blackberries for Grand mom’s cobbler. Years later with his own kids in tow, he camped in many of the same places, meeting up again with parents and grandparents along the way.

All these trips along with plenty of others in between have given us masses of memories that have been jarred loose as we rumble down the highway in our Galloping Goose. We’ve visited many of the same places we saw as kids, and have enjoyed similar moments of awe as we look out across the wild coast or walk under giant trees. We’ve also looked back on our shared memories from our trek down the coast 25 miles west of Highway 101, as Happy Dance transported us south from Alaska three years ago.

So where have we been this trip? Since leaving Ventura and starting our travels north, we’ve stayed mostly along the ocean, with a few inland excursions. We’ve ridden jet boats on the Rogue River, climbed around blow holes and tide pools at Cape Perpetua, walked on silent carpets of needles through the Redwoods, said hello to Paul and Babe, battled the winds while walking on sandy beaches, and been dropped into a 300’ sea cave to see one (yes “1”, they like to be outside in the summer) Stellar Sea Lion.

Enjoy the highlight reel…

The Avenue of the Giants

We camped in the tiny town of Myers Flat and spent most of our time wandering along the many trails through the big trees.  If you’ve never been to see the giants it’s definitely a must-do item for your list.  Standing under trees that are 1,000s of years old, is mind boggling to say the least.  After craning your neck to look up at the tree tops you then look down to see a carpet of giant ferns and tiny shamrocks everywhere you look; you feel so tiny in a silent world of green.

Gold Beach and The Rogue River

Marty has always talked about how much fun he’d had on his trips up the Rogue River via the jet boats that were once used to transport mail up to the isolated towns up the river.  It was finally my turn and we opted for one of the 80 mile trips that left in the morning.  As it turned out our skipper was a grandson of “Jerry”, of Jerry’s Rogue Jets fame, so in between crazy 360’s, banging through rapids, and dodging waves over the bow, we were entertained with plenty of great stories from the good ol’ days.  The weather was perfect; a chilly foggy morning that broke into a warm sunny day – perfect for getting drenched, followed by a yummy home made meal served on the patio at the historic Lucas Lodge.  An awesome day – oh and Marty was r-r-r-right!

The Oregon Coast

We spent many nights along the coast in different campgrounds, enjoying foggy mornings and warm days and crazy winds in the afternoons.  We stopped at lots of roadside viewpoints, a few tourist traps for good measure, and took many short hikes along the coast or down to the rocky cliffs.  There were a couple spots that we really enjoyed.  Cape Perpetua with its crashing waves, tidepools, Thor’s Well, Cook’s Chasm, and Devil’s Cauldron was spectacular on the incoming tide.  We drove out to Cape Blanco Lighthouse and were nearly blown off the cliffs; it was cold, but oh so beautiful.

The Mighty Columbia

We spent a couple of nights at Cape Disappointment State Park, which is located next to the northern jetty on the Columbia River.  It’s another fantastic campground and we were parked within a few steps of the beach and the crashing surf.  We walked down the beach and out to the end of the jetty to see the Columbia Bar and watch the ships come in.  Even on a flat calm day, there is a large swell running in and when the tide changed so did the swell, we could only imagine how intense it would be on a stormy day.

One of my favorite people moments on the trip was watching Marty and a campground neighbor giving each other tours of their motor homes. For this to be even the slightest bit interesting I need to set the scene for you. Picture my cute grey haired Marty in his cheery MA Graphics t-shirt proclaiming his Happy Place, while talking to a tough looking Mexican 20-something parked next to us, dressed in a Bob Marley t-shirt, with tattoos for sleeves, knife on his belt, pony tail and low rider jeans. Pretty soon they are both laughing and sharing stories, and Luis is explaining; ”I’m not gonna lie, I’m a farmer”. What a riot listening to Marty learn about pot farming. I love moments that bust us away from stereotypes.

We’ve also learned a few things on our first RV trip; Oregon State Parks rock, sand dunes are hard to walk across with a new hip, a group of puffins is called a probability of puffins, Lucas Lodge makes the best fried chicken and biscuits, and camping is much more expensive than sailing! We’ve also learned (or maybe been reminded) that we’re really spoiled; we like our lonely anchorages where the only footprints on the beach are ours or the coyotes, we like only having to fill the gas tank once or twice a year, and we like swimming in water that is warmer than 50 degrees. There’s a lot to be said for RV-ing and we’re excited to continue exploring, but we’re also getting antsy to return to our life on the sea.  It’s kind of hard to complain though…life on the water, life on the road…both are awesome!

 

Keel to wheels

If you’ve followed our travel blogs for very long you’re aware that we tend to change plans fairly often. Or as sailors like to say, we write our plans in the sand at low tide. We’ve made plenty of U-turns, schedule swaps, destination diversions, and now we add to our list, an unexpected move from keel to wheels!

Since moving onboard Happy Dance 4 years ago, we’ve taken summer vacations in cooler climes and this year is no different. After leaving Happy Dance tied to the dock in La Paz, we flew north to leave behind the heat of the approaching Sea of Cortez summer. A few hours of flying, a long stroll through the airport and then poof, we found ourselves in the time warp of the Customs Hall and entering the fast lane through a set of one-way doors.

After visiting a few family and friends, and satisfying our food cravings (gotta have that rib eye!), we did what most people who are on vacation from vacation do; we bought an RV! I know, it seems a bit crazy, but considering that this will now be our annual vagabonding home on terra firma, it makes perfect sense!

Our new 6-wheel, no keel home is 30’ long and rolls down the road without the use of wind power. She’s tentatively named the Galloping Goose at this point, so we’ll see if that sticks after we’ve lived in her for a few months!

However, sometimes even perfect plans comes with a few speed bumps. In this case it wasn’t totally unexpected, but the timing was a bit more sudden than we’d anticipated. Following a visit to see the Dr. about my hip aches and pains, I was suddenly scheduled for surgery and now sit here with a brand new titanium hip! Whoohoo! My horizons shrunk for a few weeks of recovery to the welcoming walls of the McD estate in Ventura, and now have expanded a bit more to the limits of my cane-assisted walks, but I expect to be climbing masts and paddling around the boat again in no time.

After getting cleared by the Dr. to head out on the highway looking for adventure or whatever comes our way, we left the Ventura Highway in the sunshine and pointed the Galloping Goose north to points unknown. So far we’ve boon-docked in a primitive campsite above San Simeon, mingled with the big coaches in Costanoa, and now we’re parked under a canopy of trees along the Russian River! We’re learning the basics of this RV lifestyle, and adding lots of must haves to our shopping list.

All in all, the RV life seems at first glance to be an easier version of the sailing life. The only weather reports we monitor are the hurricane alerts near Happy Dance in La Paz. Parking is easier without wind and current to deal with, we have a really big deck every night to enjoy, we can have campfires and we don’t have to worry about whales running into us! So far we haven’t had a pool, and we can’t take a snooze while on autopilot, but hey, it’s an escapade and that’s what we like!

The plan at the moment is that these wheels will keep on turning (rolling, rolling, rolling down the highway) until October when we return to keel based adventures and our boat sweet boat. Stay tuned to this blog channel for updates from the Galloping Goose, crazy Captain Marty and his crazier crew!

Morning Coffee

Morning coffee in the cockpit is a daily ritual on Happy Dance. While the coffee is perking we’ll pull in our email hoping for news from home (hint, hint), listen to the daily weather report via SSB, and maybe join in on a local radio net on the VHF depending on our location. Once the coffee is ready we head out to watch the day unfold. The anchorage is quiet and as Happy Dance floats around her anchor we get a 360-degree view of our surroundings.

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This morning we find ourselves in Caleta Partida, a favorite anchorage that sits inside the crater of an extinct volcano, and is actually set between two separate islands that are nearly connected by a narrow winding passage running east to west. The steep red and pink cliffs that encircle the main portion of the bay are full of caves and crazy rock formations. The northern end of the bay is shallow, filled in with white silt and sand that shows off the aqua marine color of the water. There are rays practicing their quadruple flips, pelicans splooshing into the water for breakfast, vultures creating shadows on the cliffs, oystercatchers noisily chasing each other along the shore, and frigates silently floating high above us.

We’ve been here nearly a week now, enjoying our last days on the hook before we “head to the barn”. Summer is coming and that means that the double H’s are on their way; hurricanes and heat! We had intended to sail down to Banderas Bay and spend the summer months in La Cruz on the mainland side, but as they say; plans are written in the sand at low tide! We’ve now decided to stay in Marina de La Paz for a few months, while we hunker down for hurricane season and do some LOL (Labors of Love) on our Happy Dance homestead. We’ll be traveling north of the fence to visit family and friends, renew Visas, gather more treasures and replacement parts, and enjoy the good life! It’s a theme you know, this permanent picnic is something that we are so incredibly thankful for.

These past six months in the Sea felt a bit like a farewell tour because our current plan is to leave the Sea of Cortez in 2017 and head further south to Costa Rica and Panama. As you may have noticed though, our plans are somewhat liquid, so where we actually end up remains to be seen!

Since our last post from Bahia San Juanico, we’ve been enjoying a slow ride south through a few of our favorite anchorages. We stopped for fuel and propane in Puerto Escondido, then planned (that “P” word again…) to head to Agua Verde for a few days. As we rounded Punta Candeleros, trying to sail in some fluky winds, our radio lit up with a call from Ken and Sheri on Cake! What a great surprise to hear their smiley voices calling us. As it turns out they saw our rather distinctive solent rig in the distance heading south as they were heading north and thought it might be us! We did a quick U-turn, back through the channel, and rendezvoused in Los Candeleros. What a treat to drop anchor next to our buddies!

We spent a couple of days in Candeleros sharing laughs and catching up on the news with Cake, and getting to know new friends Marne and Brett on Leahona. One day we all snorkeled around the boats in about 10’ of water trying to fill our bags with chocolate clams, but the bay was filled with a dense almost muddy bottom that made it very hard to dig out the clams. With little to show for our effort other than lots of jellyfish stings, we soon gave that up. Marne persisted though since she had a wet suit and weight belt, and won the hunter gatherer award, collecting a bag of the larger white clams usually reserved for chowder. I cleaned them all and handed the clam meat off to the chefs’ onboard Cake who turned them into yummy clam fritters! It was a team effort for a fantastic feast and lots of fun.

The next morning when the wind started piping up from the east, we all weighed anchor and headed back out the channel for the short sail north to Bahia Marquer.  It was a beautiful sight to see our three boats sailing north between Isla Carmen and Isla Danzante with white sails shining in the sun.

After getting settled on course the deck crew on Happy Dance decided it was time to “loose the goose”! We furled the Genoa and then Marty headed to the foredeck to rig the Genaker. He soon gave me the thumbs up that he was ready, so with the autopilot set, I began hauling in the sheet  while Marty raised the sock to the top of the mast, and whoosh, the goose is full! Happy Dance picks up and flies as soon as the wind fills the sail; you can actually feel the hull lift and surge forward, it’s awesome.

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With the wind directly on our beam it was a tough angle for the Genaker, so we furled the mainsail and managed to keep the leading edge of the sail flying, as Happy Dance did the quick step through the waves.  As we entered the channel the funnel effect caused the wind to build a bit and start blowing a bit more forward of the beam, so that we were having to alter course and point toward the island in order to keep the sail from collapsing. Pretty soon it was apparent that we weren’t going to clear the point, so Yep, time to douse the sail! Down came the goose, and out came the Genoa. We didn’t bother rolling out the mainsail since we only had a few miles to go, and we were already doing 7 knots with headsail alone, in a gusty 15-18 knots of breeze. A fun day of sailing!

We pulled into the lee of Carmen Island and set the anchor in 18’ of beautiful aquamarine water set against the white sand beach and beautiful yellow cliffs of Bahia Marquer. We all gathered on Happy Dance for happy hour and some more laughs. The rays put on quite a show and we enjoyed a red sunset over the Sierra Gigantes and Loreto.

The next morning it was time for a paddle to shore with the girls and a walk on the beach, then sadly we all weighed anchor and headed separate directions. The one great thing about cruising is meeting up with friends along the way, and that’s the one tough part about cruising too – heading off in different directions! We know we’ll run across our friends again though, so no worries.

Agua Verde

We made a run to Agua Verde for a night, then a longer 50-mile run down the San Jose Channel to a favorite anchorage on the southern side of Isla San Francisco. Along the way we were treated to some great dolphin shows. There is nothing that makes us smile more than when we get to sit on the bow with our dolphin friends riding our wake, and jumping and leaping for joy in front of the boat!

Dolphins on the bow!

Isla San Francisco is one of the most popular anchorages around La Paz, which is why we were surprised to be the only boat in the bay when we arrived! That soon changed of course, but we could sure tell that the season was winding down since there were so few cruisers around. We spent a few days enjoying swimming, hiking, agate collecting, beach walking and snorkeling around Isla San Francisco, and watching the boats come and go.

We also celebrated McMartyManDay in Isla San Francisco.  Chicken enchiladas and carrot cake…how else can I say I love you to the man who I adore?  We walked over to the other side of the island where the beach is rocky instead of sandy and there are a zillion agates.  Birthday agates, carrot cake WITH cream cheese frosting, and a walk across the salt ponds…ah, a perfect birthday!

From Isla San Francisco we sailed down to Caleta Partida where we are now. When we rounded the point we were again pleasantly surprised at how few boats were in the anchorage and we even scored the primo anchoring spot just inside the tip of the western corner of the bay. The winds tend to funnel through Caleta Partida and the bay opens to the west, so by anchoring just behind this small finger of rock we were protected from most of the westerly wave action making for a quieter stay.

Our week in Caleta Partida has been filled with lots of laziness and reading in the shade along with a different excursion every day in the lulls between the morning easterly and evening westerly. One day we paddle boarded to the beach and walked from one end to the other laughing at the gazillions of fiddler crabs on the beach. We saw a huge jack rabbit bounding up the slope, and watched the hummingbirds zipping all over. Another day we kayaked out to the reef, one of my favorite snorkeling places that once again didn’t disappoint with lots of different types of fishies swimming all around me.

On another day’s paddleboard trip we headed out into the middle of the bay and found ourselves in amongst three huge turtles! They let us come quite close and just kept their heads up watching us. What a treat that was, we’d never seen them so close before.

I ventured part way up a canyon trail one day and was treated to a completely different side of the crater. It’s so quiet when you get away from the water, and then you start to hear all the songbirds and the rustles in the dry leaves. A chipmunk with some sort of nut or fruit popped out in front of me, then led me up the steep rocky trail a ways. I kept looking for another jack rabbit but only saw the little piles of pellets; evidence that he’d been this way before. The views from high up are awesome as you can see the water depths and different colors. It was pretty amazing to see Happy Dance all by herself in the huge bay. What a treat!

Our last night at anchor was a blustery one, with rolling thunder in the distance and a few rain squalls passing through. We were treated to a full rainbow stretching across the bay as the sun went down. It was the perfect ending to a perfect week.  Now it’s time to weigh anchor and head into the big city.

Tomorrow we’ll be having our coffee in our slip in Marina de La Paz, where Happy Dance will stay for the next few months. We’ve always avoided La Paz since it seems like there is some sort of evil vortex pulling the cruisers in…you can check out but you can never leave.  It’s a little scary, but we’ll make sure to keep the dock lines loose so that we can escape when it’s time.  In the mean time we’re looking forward to getting to know the area a bit, enjoying the local cuisine, and meeting some new friends. We’ll keep you posted on what we learn with our morning coffee in the cockpit!

Life in pictures

Sometimes it feels as though we’re living inside a travel magazine, where the glossy photos have sprung to life and the flowery descriptions of a picture perfect world are in fact recounting the lazy minutes of our days. As you turn the page, the photo spread shows a sailboat floating over its shadow in the white sand, but the gentle ripples that are skimming the water have come to life as a cool breeze softly touching my face. The seemingly over saturated aquamarine colors of the sea seem dreamlike in the photo but are true in my eyes and reveal the various depths around us. The wispy clouds against the deep blue sky are the background for birds that certainly must have been photo-shopped there; it’s just too perfect, but then why do I hear the chirping call of an osprey and the descending notes of a wren?

It’s one of those mornings of flat calm and total silence; I must be out there. I grab my paddleboard, snorkel, sunglasses and hat, and head out to the reef that is a stone’s throw from where we’re anchored, then venture all the way to the point. Once in the water it feels a little like being in an aquarium, but someone removed the glass. The schools of yellow striped Sergeant Majors are not worried by my presence and mill around me as if I must have something more to offer than bubbles. The blue gray tangs with their graceful fins and large black eyes monitor my movements as they harass the schools of tiny gold striped reef fish. Then there is what I call the fans, feathers and ferns of all varieties growing on the rocks, creating a beautiful feast that moves in the current.

Brittle starfish with their five skinny arms are attached to the rocks in crazy arrangements, like some solo twister game, alongside chubby red starfish covered in thorns. Blue green parrot fishes with big puffy lips and an orange outline of each guitar pick sized scale are very shy but oh so pretty (and oh so tasty if I could grab one!). The balloon fish, porcupine fish, and puffer fish, with their polka dots, big eyes, and silly grins, and the court jester diamond designs on their backs seem to be the goofiest of the group. Triggerfish are aptly named for the sharp spike and tough skins that they wear, but when watching them in the water their grey delicate fins move like satin flags on a gentle wind. Ouch! A sudden wee sting from a transparent jelly surprises me; they’re not in the magazine photos!

Yellow striped angelfish, and pointy snouted butterfly fish always seem to grace the covers of the travel magazines and today I was treated to a show by many of these colorful creatures. But when I came upon a school of dinner plate sized yellow tail sawtails I actually stopped short and said (while underwater), Wow (then came up for air and coughed for a few minutes)! I had to return to the boat to look up their names, but I’ll always remember their iridescent grey bodies with black spots, white and yellow stripes, and bright yellow tails. When the sun hits them just right all you see are their tails and for a minute I thought I was back in the mountains watching the Monarch butterflies! These guys definitely won my prize for outstanding fish display this morning.

While paddle boarding back to the boat I came upon what I thought must be rocks below the surface but when the dark patch started to flutter and slowly move under me I realized I was looking at a National Geographic moment; a mob of mobula rays, 100’s of them, gently flapping their gigantic wings and enticing me to follow them around the bay. The rays lazily moved as one, sometimes near the surface, sometimes deeper, but always within reach. I put on my snorkel and lowered myself into their world of silence and sunrays, and felt as though I’d been transported into some other realm; or maybe I’d fallen into a deluxe edition of a Jacques Cousteau special! As I watched the rays turn this way and that, the sunlight reflected on the white undersides of their wings and around their eyes and mouth, adding flashes of light to a mesmerizing display of layer upon layer of rays floating ever so slowly beneath me.

Then the quiet motion changed to one of alertness as the rays started leaping into the air one after another, returning to the sea with loud slaps. Being so close to the multitude as they’re flying through the air it was like being treated to a front row seat of the Olympic synchronized diving competition, though this contest includes a top prize for best belly flop. Some rays do end over end forward flips, some jump for distance and some for height, and some just fly into the air shaking their bodies wildly to seemingly rid themselves of the suckerfish that are riding on their backs. Their dark bodies as they leap out of the water are shiny and smooth, and they seem to float in air for a second before falling back to effortlessly swim off to deeper water.

This travel brochure that we’ve found ourselves in is so full of photos that simply can’t be real, but we keep discovering that they are! So we eat, sleep, breath, and play in magnificent 8 x 12 glossy tour photos, and along the way we are creating our own life log, full of memories and mental snapshots.

P.S. – Where are the pictures you say? You’ll have to check with National Geographic or Jacques Cousteau. Ours won’t transmit from our brains onto a screen (or via SSB radio).

Baja Norte

Here are some visuals to go along with our previous post about the last three weeks up in the northern Sea of Cortez.  It’s a magical place that we’ve now explored twice but we know that there is still so much more to experience.

Even though this trip was interrupted a couple of times by some nasty “steep gradient cold fronts” that moved into and out of the anchorages we were in causing sudden and severe weather, the calm days in between the blows were amazing.  Solitary anchorages under star-studded skies, fascinating flora and fauna, and a feeling that Steinbeck expressed…

“Some quality there is in the whole Gulf that trips a trigger of recognition so that in fantastic and exotic scenery one finds oneself nodding and saying inwardly, “Yes, I know.” ”

(*read more about our trip in the previous post)

(**click on a photo if you’d like to open the gallery)

 

A few of our anchorages…

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA       Bahia de Quemada

 

Isla Salsipuedes looking south        Isla Salsipuedes

 

           Puerto Don Juan

 

           Animas Slot

 

Leave if you can

Salsipuedes is the name given to a 5,000′ deep channel in the northern Sea of Cortez that runs north and south between the Baja Peninsula and a string of rocky barren islands about 10 miles off the coast. When tidal changes and currents combine with strong and unpredictable wind patterns, the resulting large square seas can make for a very unpleasant trip; hence the name, Canal de Salsipuedes, or Leave if You Can Channel.

We’ve been skimming the edges of Salsipuedes for the past week or so, enjoying and sometimes enduring, the changeable conditions in the northern Sea. Up here the feeling is quite different than in the southern or central Sea of Cortez, in that it’s more isolated, more challenging, and more rugged. For whatever reason, few cruisers venture this far north. This is our second trek around the northern Sea and it’s a place that holds its own magic.

Our first night we anchored on Isla Salsipuedes, a small rock pile about 12 miles offshore with an indent that passes for an anchorage. We dropped the hook next to a 400′ wall of rock and splashed into shore on our paddle boards to explore the island. Our little bay was covered in 1000’s of grebes that would swim in tightknit packs, suddenly diving and reappearing as if of one mind. It was a riot to watch and listen to, as they all did a lovely synchronized swimming dive together, then they’d pop up a little ways away to start the whole process over. The colors, the bird life, the isolation…all perfect.

We timed our departure with the incoming tide so as to catch the tidal current for our trip north across the channel back to the coast and to a favorite anchorage called Animas Slot. The channel is formed by huge underwater canyons that drop steeply from sea level to over 5,000′, and when we passed over the underwater cliffs it was wild to see the glassy sheen on the water bordered by tide rips that are created by the huge up welling rising from the depths. Think of a fire hose being aimed at a brick wall, with water shooting up the wall to the 5th or 6th floor.  Our speed over ground would slow by as much as 3 knots when we went through the back eddies from one of the upsurges, and when the current was behind us we were making 8 knots. I wouldn’t want to venture through the channel against the current or with an opposing wind.

Salsipuedes…Leave if you can.

The narrow slot south of Punta de Las Animas (Point of Souls) is a one-boat cove that we had visited on our first trip into the northern Sea two years ago and we knew we wanted to spend time there again. Two rocky points that jut into the Sea protect it from the running swell, and once inside there are a couple of hidden reefs that limit your swing radius. We dropped the hook on our previous mark, paid out enough rode to avoid the rocks but make us feel comfortable for a few days, and popped an anchor beer. The wind was pretty gusty when we arrived so we settled in to watch the boat turn, check the depth a few times as the tide went out, and get a happy feeling that Happy Dance was well and truly set.

Then it was time to explore. We hopped into the kayaks and headed for a look-see around the bay. It’s a beautiful white sand beach fringed with lots of colorful craggy rocks. There was an osprey nest on the northern point with an osprey sitting in the nest and another one circling or resting on a nearby cactus keeping watch. They’d take turns fishing and never came back to the next with empty talons.

At one point we were just coming out into the cockpit for some sunset watching, and slightly off the point a humpback leaped completely out of the water and performed a 180-degree rotation before splashing back into the Sea. (I gave her a 9.3, but the East German judge only gave her an 8) Then a baby started practicing his leaps, once, twice, take a breath, try it again…nice job! Momma had to show baby how it was done so she started up again. Wow, you have to love the sunset cocktail shows around here!

We happened to be in Animas Slot during the full moon, so we decided we should have a bonfire and howl with the coyotes. We gathered all the wood we could find, along with any and all of the garbage that had been left on the beach, and had ourselves a roaring good time. It was a beach clean up bonfire with a little magnificent moon watching thrown in. The salty beach wood sizzled and sang, just like when I was a kid at Three Tree sharing beach bark fires with my grandmother. “Sings the blackened log a tune, learned in some forgotten June”…

Salsipuedes…Leave if you can.

Our next stop was the “booming” village of Bahia de Los Angeles or Bay of Angels. The only booming we noticed was the sound of the loud music coming from the beach where tents were being set up for the upcoming off road race event, but we tend to enjoy the Mexican tunes floating from shore – that is until it’s 2am! We went to shore to visit our favorite restaurant in Bay of LA, called Guillermo’s. Shrimp tacos, shrimp omelets, a couple of cervezas, and then it was time to walk to the Mercado for groceries.

Bay of LA is looking pretty sad since our last visit, with buildings much in need of repair after the hurricane and many houses either closed up or abandoned. It’s too bad because it really is a beautiful spot with plenty of islands nearby to explore and a fairly well protected harbor. The problem for us was the threat of the nightly west winds that can blow over from the Pacific and gain strength as they blow down the sides of the mountains. We’ve experienced the “elefantes” before and didn’t need to repeat the occurrence.

We’d planned our arrival in B of LA to meet up with our buddies on Cake whom we hadn’t seen since leaving La Cruz. They were helping Sheri’s brother drive a chase vehicle for a race crew in the NORRA 1000 pro-truck rally, and were going to be staying overnight in the village as the rally worked its way south. We were so excited to hear their voices calling us on the VHF, and then to get big hugs after we dinghy-ed to shore. We shared a couple beers and tried to catch up on all the haps in a short time, but unfortunately duty called and Ken and Sheri had to head to the camp site to get dinner going for the racers. We were bummed not to be able to join them, but without wheels it was going to be hard to follow.

So we headed north and anchored in one of our favorite spots for the night, a little indent between the impressive tall red cone of the volcano on Isla Smith and the rocky cliffs of Isla Mitlan, about 8 miles NE of Bahia de Los Angeles. The anchorage is open to the NW, but since we were only a little over a mile from the peninsula we didn’t expect a huge amount of fetch with the light 10 knots of westerly that was forecast for a few overnight hours.

Wrong! Around midnight the forecast of light west winds became a gusty 20+ knot blow right down into the anchorage creating breaking waves all around us, and put us onto a lee shore. In addition to the wind was a full moon tidal change that held Happy Dance abeam to the wind for a couple hours, captive by her deep keel in the current so that she couldn’t point nose into the lumpy waves. The combination of beam to the waves made us heel clumsily in the gusts creating a very unpleasant ride. I tried to point us into the wind by steering Happy Dance on bare pole wind power, but as soon as the bow was almost pointed into the wind, the incoming tidal current would push us back abeam.

When dawn arrived with enough light to see the reef, we weighed anchor and departed and made for the protected anchorage of Puerto Don Juan about 8 miles south. It was a wild ride, with gusts in the 30’s and steep 6-8′ wind waves, so we rolled out our storm jib and headed southeast. As we made the turn around the point into Puerto Don Juan, Happy Dance made one final crazy roll as we slid down a breaker, then suddenly we were inside, the heavy seas were outside, and the flat seas of the safe harbor beckoned. Take a breath, drop the hook, and back to bed!

Salsipuedes…Leave if you can.

We spent two nights in Puerto Don Juan that couldn’t have been more different. The first night was a blowsy one, with winds in the high 20’s to low 30’s, but since we were protected from the waves and there was no current to deal with, it was much easier to manage. We still didn’t sleep too well with the wind gusts howling through the rigging, making Happy Dance do the twenty knot two step.

Our second day and night boasted much better adjectives; calm, flat, quiet, amazing. We spent the day hiking around the bay, exploring the beaches and climbing up to get a view back to Bay of LA. It’s such an amazing place to explore, with coyotes on the beach, Grebes in the bay, and sea gulls dropping clams on the rocks looking for breakfast. As night fell and it was still calm, we both agreed that it was just teasing us, setting us up for another sleepless night. Thankfully we were wrong yet again. It stayed flat calm all night, Happy Dance didn’t move, and neither did we until nearly 9am. We are usually up by 7:30am to hear the weather report on the SSB, so it was a shock to see the clock and realized we’d slept soundly all night.

So now we’re working our way in and out of the various anchorages in the Northern Sea between San Francisquito and Bay of LA. We’ll take our time enjoying the incredible views, the lovely silence, and the life all around us. It’s such a privilege to be able to slow down, to watch and listen; to hear the breath of a turtle when he comes to the surface, to see a line of 200+ dolphins leaping and playing as they travel along, to watch a heron stalking his prey in the shallows, to hear a wall of water thunder back to the sea after a whale breaches, to watch an osprey skim the water and come out with a fish, to listen to the eerie call of coyotes on the beach…

Salsipuedes…Leave if you can.