Northers: Under sail and at the dock


I've mentioned the "Northers" or stormy winds with a N or NW direction the rip down the sea of Cortez. After numerous warnings about them, we were cautious and observed a few of them before sailing in them. Essentially, for those people from BC or WA, a Norther is similar to a Westerly blowing into the Strait of Juan de Fuca or a Southeasterly blowing up the Strait of Georgia. The issues are the steep short interval waves that build.

Being comfortable running from the wind in those type of waves and comfortable with the strength of wind in a particular Norther (wind strength varies in what might be called a Norther), then we felt we could sail in them. So, we did. We ran the short distance from Isla San Francisco to Isla Partida (some of that distance is sheltered from the brunt of the fetch, some not). It was wet but manageable.

Here, on the other hand, is a video of us being beam to a Norther, with the fetch that builds in La Paz, at the new marina Vista Coral (formerly the Virtual Marina/Santa Cruz):

Recipe for Fun

Take a lovely beach. Arrive early to gather wood and start a fire (below the high tide line of course).

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Add one set of friends and some liquid motivation.

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Add a second set of friends and mix gently with a perfect sunset:

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Dueling blogs

Before cutting the docklines I read a ton of blogs. As these people traveled, it was fun to see photos of people from one blog show up on another blog and to see how they appeared when they weren’t editing their own photos (if you know what I mean). I like to think we post all kinds of photos of ourselves here (not all flattering) so I assume we look “pretty much as you would expect” when you see us appear somewhere else.

Recent examples include us finally meeting the Yoders and of course, on and off with Bella Star.

We have been hanging out a lot with the crew of SV Eagle lately, including more than one drink with their mascot “Lefty,” shown here wearing his party sombrero. Lefty gets more face time on their blog than they do so I thought it appropriate to show our meeting with him.

He’s a shady character, that Lefty. I like to keep a close eye on him.

Livia and Lefty at the Shack

Merry Christmas from Mexico

You might remember this photo from this post from last year.

I am delighted to report that the down jacket is stowed, the down booties are gathering dust and I have worn a sun hat much more often than a knit cap.

It is a world of difference. I wear flip flops, skirts, shorts and tank tops instead of fleece, down, and long underwear. When the wind pipes up, I put on long pants or a light jacket but I still wear flip flops.

Still, winter in La Paz is still winter. It's not as warm as it was and it isn't as warm as the mainland. It is as if we are easing slowly into the tropics. We can still sleep comfortably at night even as the sun bakes us during the day. We know that we'll look back on "sleeping without sweating" with longing in the future and so we put up with jackets at night without fuss.

Here is what Christmas clothing looks like this year. We had "Christmas ice cream" which tells you something:

Booby on a stick

Booby on a stick

Boats often received feathered visitors. While coming down the outside of the Baja coast, we had a booby who just didn’t want to leave. Carol chased him around the deck hoping to shoo him away before he pooped on something.

Booby Booby

Then he snuck up on the booby, and convinced him to get on a paddle, after which he launched him. Here they are eyeing each other suspiciously.

Carol and the booby

Ensenada la Grande

Ensenada la Grande

Ensenada la Grande has three lobes and we anchored in the Southernmost. This is probably our favorite anchorage so far in the area. Extra fun because of the excellent company we had in Navigo and Camanoe.
We did both hikes from that area with the main hike from the beach being our favorite. A lot of gorgeous desert scenery and every time you turned around you had a perfect postcard window of the anchorage.

Ensenada la GrandeEnsenada la Grande

Hiking up the arroyo was also fun – an arroyo is a rocky ravine. The hike in the arroyo was scrambling and it felt good to be hand and foot climbing on rocks again. At the top of the arroyo the caves were fun but the arroyo itself was the best scenery. Not surprisingly it reminded us heavily of Utah/Colorado/Nevada.

  Hike at Ensenada la Grande 

We didn’t take our camera with us when we went snorkeling but the entire Northern edge of this anchorage was fantastic snorkeling, our best so far in Mexico. Lots of coral, drop off walls and boulders to swim over. The visibility is less perfect than it was last month but still good.

Isla San Francisco


Isla San Francisco is where cruisers go to take pictures of their boats in the Sea of Cortez. Seriously.

Not only is it a gorgeous curved beach with a hook at the Southern end, there is a convenient trail to a ridge overlooking the entire bay so you can get a good angle on your boat, floating serenely in the perfect colors of the water. Here is the classic picture:

Isla San Francisco

Here is the perspective from another ridge:

Isla San Francisco

We waited out a Norther here. Northers are storms that funnel through the Sea of Cortez. The term is loosely used for any system that blows hard from the North.  IslaSF was as good a place as any to wait it out, probably better than most in the area. Good holding, loads of room and even in the heart of the blow we could still land our kayak on the beach so we weren’t stuck in our boats the entire time. We were glad to not be in the La Paz anchorage during it.

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We were there 6 nights. We hiked everywhere we could find a trail,examined the salt ponds on the island, Carol attempted some kiteboarding (too gusty) and we socialized with a number of boats also waiting out the winds, including the ones we arrived with (thank you Orcinius for the lovely happy hour).

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Happy Estrellita.

Pacific Puddle Jump


We did it. We signed up. Pacific crossing – here we come!

The Pacific Puddle Jump is a rally in only the loosest sense of the term. They have no dates (of departure or arrival), no ports (of departure, arrival or in between), and it is free. Latitude 38, who sponsors the event, has a good description.


If you go to the Pacific Puddle Jump main site you will see a Wauquiez Pretorien in the banner image (at the top). This is not us, but Piko, who crossed this last season and is currently in New Zealand.

Why sign up? Our main reason is that they negotiate a deal with an agency which allows boats (for a fee) to avoid posting a bond in French Polynesia. This bond is the equivalent of airfare back home for each person and ensures that we don’t become a burden on their society. If we become indigent, they ship us out with our own money. For various reasons, it is (apparently) a pain in the arse to post and retrieve your bond and the agencies essentially promise to pay for you if you become indigent – accepting the risk for you.

A secondary reason is that it is fun to announce your intentions, watch your name get added to the list and to see the list of your cohort growing.




After Playa La Bonanza we went to La Paz. I’ll write about La Paz more later because we’ll be spending a fair amount of time in that city over the next few months. In fact, these recent posts are going up because we have returned to La Paz for our second time and enjoying the wifi we can get here.


P1030304 (1280x960)After La Paz, we sailed again in company with Camanoe and Navigo back to Isla Espiritu Santo, to a bay called Candelero where spent a bit of time snorkeling (good but surprisingly chilly for the area) and explored the short hike (lovely with lovely views, but short).  

Here we had Bella Star over for a farewell dinner which transitioned into an “all boats at anchor invited” party aboard Estrellita including music, dancing, glow sticks and at least one wardrobe malfunction.

Playa la Bonanza

Playa la BonanzaWe spent a quick night at Los Muertos, without sampling its shores, and the only thing to note about that stop is that we met SV Navigo and SV Camanoe and had dinner with them. More on that crew later and hopefully we will stop at Los Muertos again and explore it more fully.

The next day we sailed in company together with Navigo and Camanoe to La Bonanza where we spent two relaxing nights. The hike was gorgeous, sweaty, included a salty marsh, a cactus attack and ended at San Gabriel – the type of bay that postcards are made from.

Sweaty intrepid explorers      P1030223 (1280x960)

Cruiser Contentedness and Farewells

Ever since Cabo San Lucas, there has been this sense of having "made it" which has been growing for us with each anchorage. Sailing to California and crossing into Mexico both caused a sense of accomplishment which Cabo San Lucas did not, but prior to Cabo San Lucas, we still felt like we hadn't "arrived South" in our Southbound journey.

Not every boat feels like they've made it yet. A number of our friends are less impressed with the desert landscape, or wish for more heat, or still feel like they are missing that elusive something that will make them feel like they have finally arrived. It's an interesting diversity that reminds us of how differently each person sees each anchorage.

Some of it is the circumstances of course (weather and wind contribute to the comfort of the anchorage and its temperature), but I think a lot of the contentedness (or lack thereof) is each boat coming to terms with what it is that they are looking for in their new cruising life. What do we want out of an anchorage? Out of a country? How hot is good hot? How hot is bad hot? It's a time of transition for a lot of the people we meet and for ourselves and it is interesting to watch each of us find ourselves in the midst of it.

We were looking, it seems, for the amount of heat that would make outdoor activities fun all of the time...for our personal heat-comfort levels. We want to hike in comfort, to swim in comfort, etc. For now, we have it. The winter in the Sea of Cortez will become cooler, hopefully not too much cooler this year as it varies from year to year. Our bodies will acclimate and we expect that we'll crave more heat at some point soon, just in time to head into the inferno that is the South Pacific.

In addition to emotional transitions, there has recently been a divergence of paths among boats that have been traveling within hailing distance for months. Many of the boats that were Southbound from WA/BC/OR met up with boats in California, and continued down with them into Mexico, yo-yo'ing with each other around the tip of the Baja and up to La Paz. Now, some boats are headed to the mainland, some staying in the Sea of Cortez. Some plan an extended or permanent stay in Mexico. Some are heading South to S America and/or the Panama Canal and some, like us, plan to head West. The packs are splitting up.

We said a particularly sad "farewell" to Aaron and Nicole on Bella Star (although, with all of our plans in transition we may very well see them again for another farewell – hopefully my liver will have recovered by then). It was our first painful cruising farewell, to fast friends whom we will watch carefully as they choose a different cruising path. From Little Star to Beautiful Star, fair winds and following seas.

Dry in December

It is December and the inside of our hull is dry.

There are at least three ways you get water inside of your boat. Salt water is the bad kind ;)

We get fresh water from rain coming down through the mast from holes at the top of it. Not much, not a big problem because it goes into the bilge and we pump the bilge dry regularly to keep the boat smelling less like...a boat.

The worst part of living aboard in British Columbia for me was the last kind of water - condensation. Our breath, our cooking, our dish washing, all created moisture which condensed against the cold fiberglass hull. This meant that the hull side of every locker was beaded with moisture which quickly became mildew and anything touching the hull joined in the mildew party. Many areas of our boat do not drain so we would also have the delight of little pools of stagnant water which had to be sponged out and bleached.

We were told that when we went South this would go away and joy, oh joy, our hull is dry. I am appreciating every day of this winter which does *not* involve scrubbing out a locker or locating a surprise batch of mildewy goods or throwing yet another possession away that was lost in the battle.

We're enjoying the islands around La Paz for a few weeks and so the next round of photoblogging catch-up will be a few weeks away.

From Isla San Francisco in a dry boat, wet only from swimming, Livia & Carol

A taste of Mexico


Like most travelers,P1030240 (1280x960) Carol and I eat our way through the countries we visit. Nice food, street food, you name it, we’re fearless. If the locals are eating it, we’ll try it.

Here is a very simple taste of Mexico that I fell in love with, which most of you can recreate easily in your home.

  • Buy radishes and limes.
  • If the radishes are small, leave whole. If large, cut into thick rounds.
  • Squeeze some lime onto the radish.
  • Sprinkle some salt on it.
  • Devour.

Absolutely delicious. Totally different than just a raw radish.


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Now that we are in the land of warm water and sunshine, the liquid motivation is going down even more quickly!

A very warm (or frosty as it were) thank you to the clickers for the ad revenue which bought us a good supply of margarita fixings. Together with the huge amount of limes we purchased, we look forward to using these bottles to make some homemade margaritas.

We leave for the islands surrounding La Paz tomorrow and these will go well with the perfect beaches at the National park that includes Islas Espiritu Santo, Partida and San Francisco.

Thank you to Donna for the “Donnaritas” recipe and to Tucker aboard Convivia for the tequila recommendations.

Los Frailes

At anchor - Los FrailesWhat didn’t we do in Los Frailes?

Within 5 minutes of dropping our anchor in the late afternoon we had the swim ladder down and were in the water.

That night we met and enjoyed the hospitality of Patrick and Dawn on Deep Playa. We hope to return the favor soon.

Sweaty hikers above Los Frailes
We hiked up 750’ to the top of the ridge to see our lovely boat floating in blue green water, from up high for the first time. By the way, contrary to the guidebook, the trail is fairly well established and marked. It can be difficult to find the start, but look closely where the trail is indicated in the guidebook for pink ribbon. I added a cairn at the start to help indicate the trailhead but I doubt it will last. Add your own cairn if you come.

We snorkeled. We attempted some kiteboarding (not enough wind). We chilled out.

The area around Los Frailes has (supposedly) the only hard coral in the Sea of Cortez.

Livia decides to catch some wee fish Don't eat the poison sac Hard Coral - Los Frailes

Cruising with a kayak

(We were hacked yesterday - apologies about the "swim caps" post.)

About once a month we get an email asking us where we bought our kayak and whether we like it. We have been avoiding reviewing it until we tried it out as a snorkel platform  because that is one of the top reasons we bought the kayak. We’re in warmer waters, snorkeling with the kayak so now we feel we can give it a better review.

We bought ours at West Marine and then later learned that it is actually an Advanced Elements kayak made for WM. You can get them on Amazon and we’ve seen them at water sports stores. Our overall review is: we would buy it again if it were lost or stolen. High praise!

  • We love the fact that we can stow the kayak in our lazarette when we want to, not an option with a hard kayak.
  • The inflatable kayak is super stable. We can stand in it which makes getting in and out of the kayak from the boat easy (especially with our fender step).
  • We’ve used it in conditions (wind, waves) where we probably shouldn’t have, especially on Vancouver Island, and it performs surprisingly well for an inflatable. If you buy one, make sure to get the backbone. We found it makes a big difference in tracking.
  • It’s tough. We’ve put several holes in our dinghy and none in our kayak despite the fact that we use our kayak much more often than our dinghy and we drag it up and down rocky beaches.
  • The sides are soft and it is very easy for us to get back into the kayak from the water without scraping our skin. It is also soft on our boat—meaning that it doesn’t bang the gel coat in the water or when bringing it aboard.
  • We like the fact that you can move one seat to the middle position as well so you can paddle it as a single more easily.
  • It can carry a lot of cargo. We can strap stuff on the bow and stern, pack stuff in by our feet or paddle it as a single with jerry cans in it.
  • Inflating and deflating is a pain in the arse.
  • The wind catches the puffy tubes and makes paddling in a straight line in windy conditions more difficult.
  • It does not track as well as a hard kayak and it takes more energy to paddle because it is less streamlined.
  • It’s wider (beamier) because of the tubes so we found we needed longer paddles than we expected.
  • I wish the seats were a bit sturdier/more supportive. Maybe newer models are?
  • The zippers get crusted with salt and are difficult to use. I’m not sure how the manufacturer could fix this.


Click on the dollar and buy Livia and Carol a cold frosty one:


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