December 16th, 1998

Season’s Greetings,

We’re currently docked in the Mexican port of Santa Rosalia, waiting for the northerly storm system to pass through so we can undertake our last passage of our cruising adventure. Our destination is the port of San Carlos on the Mexican mainland, where we plan to put Spirit “on the hard” waiting to be trucked back to San Francisco bay. Once safely situated, we plan to take the ferry back to the Baja side and begin living in and driving “Harvey the RV” north, back to Silicon Valley and begin making plans for re-entry into reality as you are familiar with. I suspect our perspectives will never be quite the same though. It has been a wonderful opportunity for us to able to “drop out” for a couple of years and explore Mexico’s Baja peninsula, both by sea and by land.

We’ve picked up a few words of Spanish, met a bunch of great people (mostly other cruisers from California, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Utah, and Western Canada), and successfully learned how to live happily in “Manana land”. I expect we will take the time to enjoy the port of San Carlos and the city of Guaymus during the holiday season before beginning our journey back. Spirit’s crew, Marsha, Steve, and Cindy, the bark at all the pangas watchdog, are all well and fit. I didn’t update our web page since last year because this year wasn’t grand adventure, just cool living. The following is a brief synopses on how we spent our “second year cruising, summer vacation”.

January: Living on Spirit in Marina Palmira enjoying La Paz, Baja California Sur, and spending time with many friends we had made over the past year while they prepare to sail across the Sea of Cortez to the Mexican Riviera, Golden Coast ports of Mazatlan, Puerto Viarta, etc. Swapping videos was a favorite pastime during the cool evenings where we had to occasionally wear long pants. Spent some time doing research on digital cameras and digital books at the internet cafe. We ran the computer users group once a month over the winter, out of Marina Palmira’s cruisers annex. I felt this was an interesting juxtaposition in our lives, since while in our past life in the computer industry, as Sierra Point Yacht Club’s first race committee chairman, I organized their beer can racing events once a month. It was a comfortable forum for people to bring their machines, solve, problems, flop swappies, and drink beer. It was interesting to see the advancement in the types of computers cruisers were bringing down since one year ago.

February; Living on Harvey while touring the southern peninsula, Todos Santos, Cabo San Lucas, San Jose Del Cabo, Las Frallis, Ribera, and Los Berrilas. Read a bunch of novels. The trade a book libraries at the RV parks are as good as the marinas. Shot a few hundred digital pictures.

March: Back on Spirit (through October), we spent the month catching up on boat maintenance that for practical purposes had been neglected since we left the states. Labor rates are much cheaper than the states and you can get good help. We enjoyed the company of many other friends that did spend the winter in La Paz, and helped others cast of their dock lines bound for the South Pacific. More videos and books. I attended several of the Wednesday afternoon writers meetings held upstairs at the Hotel Los Arcos downtown. That was a great way to meet fellow cruisers with prolific pens. That’s where I first met Jennifer who with her husband, Russ’s artistic touch, published the first edition of the Sea of Cortez review.

April: The “Uma low pressure system” which marks the end of the winter northerly winds hadn’t occurred yet. Too soon to head north. Spent a 10 day shake down cruise in the anchorages north of La Paz with a buddy boat. Did some sailing, caught a lot of fish, experienced some good (wet suit) snorkeling and diving, and learned our alternator (our main source of electricity) was worn out and about to fail completely. We also learned an article I’d written about Sea of Cortez Chaubascous from our web page on our first year of cruising, http://members.aol.com/searspirit/index.htm had been published in the first edition of The Sea of Cortez Review.

May: Back in Marina Palmira, experienced the “Zen of waiting for boat parts”. Experienced a most enjoyable visit from friends, a couple from Silicon Valley. They helped with the new (higher output!) alternator install, and subsequent testing via a cruise north to one of our favorite anchorages, Bahia Candellaros. Erik caught his first fish, two Pacific Porgies, and Victoria got to experience my snuba rig ( an air compressor floating on an inner tube with two 40 foot hoses and regulators ) running out of gas while at a depth of 30 feet. Both got to go scuba diving off a nearby island, courtesy of another friends power boat. We spent the latter part of May enjoying the anchorages between the jurisdictional ports of La Paz and Loreto, most notably Caleta Partida, Isla San Francisco, Bahia Everesto, Bahia Aqua Verde, and Puerto Esdondito.

June and July: Enjoyed the island anchorages in the proximity of the Loreto Cruising area, Carmen, Danzante, and Coronodo. A couple of cruiser friends were so kind as to drive Harvey north to Puerto Escondito so we had wheels for provision trips to Loreto, and to pick up another couple of visiting friends from Silicon Valley at the airport (cruisers call visiting friends Aliens) for a fun filled week at the Murquer anchorage in Isla Carmen. We renamed this place “Linguini Beach” because it was so much fun diving for “Chocholotie” Clams and cooking them with pasta, onions, parsley, basil, hot sauce, olive oil, etc. We think Jim and Joanne had a great time tucking this visit in-between an African safari and spending the rest of the summer trout fishing in Montana. Our friends on many other boats started catching up with us by this time. We experienced a great “Gringo” 4th of July, eating grilled hot dogs and playing Frisbee in a huge spring fed swimming pool in the mountains, inland, south of Loreto. Cindy caught on to the action and was a hit. The “Harvey taxi” was full.

August: As you know from our previous Christmas letter, by now last year, El Nino’s effects on the sea temperature had made the local conditions unbearably hot. That was the reason we purchased Harvey, a 20 year old, 23’ class C RV, left Spirit at anchor in Puerto Escondito, and left the Sea of Cortez until mid October. As a result of that happening last year, most cruisers had left the sea already, over 400 boats were on the hard in San Carlos. Our plan had been to enjoy the sea until it got too hot, then cross the sea, put Spirit away and split. But this year, El Nino’s reverse effect, La Nina, kept the water temperature much cooler. We found the weather enjoyable, the 9 extra fans we installed over the winter worked great. We decided to stick it out longer and sailed north to Santa Rosalia with several of the other remaining boats, enjoying new to us anchorages along the way. Our favorite was a small cove, Bahia Ramada, just north of the northern point of San Juanico Cove. The water was crystal clear, the snorkeling great, it was like staying at a 10 star resort. I learned how to dive for rock scallops there.

Sept. - Oct.: Again, Harvey was waiting for us when we arrived in Santa Rosalia due to cruising friends needing to drive north, taking care of things before crossing the Pacific to Polanisia. This made it convenient to reprovision and prepare for our crossing to put Spirit on the hard. But it still wasn’t getting too hot and we were already half way through the summer. We had checked out with the Santa Rosalia Port Captain with our destination as San Carlos, but while anchored on the west side of Isla San Marcos for a few days, one thought led to another and we changed our minds, deciding to weather out the rest of the hot season in the north sea. We started out with an over night cruise of 80 miles to Bahia San Franciscito with 2 other boats. After resting up for a day, we experienced some of the best snorkeling yet. That’s where I speared my first lobster, which made a delicious addition to the Choipino dinner the 6 of us were brewing.

The rest of the journey to the Bahia Los Angeles area consisted of day trips and new and unique anchorages until we finally reached Puerto Don Juan. Here, we lost all interest in the Chocholate clams we dove for on Linguini Beach. Here’s how you harvest butter clams. Anchor your boat in 6” of water at low tide. Step out. Reach down into 1 - 2 “ of water with both hands. Collect 3 - 6 clams ( throw out the random Chocholote ). In 10 minutes, without moving your feet, your game bag is full, read feed 10.

Cruisers listen to the Chabasco Net weather on the hamm radio each morning and when hurricane Issis was predicted, all of the boats in the north sea raced back to Puerto Don Juan, the only “hurricane hole” up there. 21 boats, all that braved the summer (except for one anchored further north in Rifuggio), were hunkered down waiting for the storm. As it turned out, there wasn’t even enough rain for a decent fresh water wash down. The joke afterwards was Issis spelled backwards reads Sissi. Since everybody was collected in one place, we all participated in a delicious clam pot luck on one of the cozier beaches there. On that same beach, we were also treated to another pot luck, lecture from a doctoral candidate doing his theses on turtles and the local ecology, based out of a research effort near the town of Bay of LA.

Provisioning was sparse there, they couldn’t even keep enough white wine in stock. We had to switch to Tequila and powdered lemonade. Not too bad in the heat. Our Alder Barber Super Cold 12 Volt fridge was just enough to keep up with an ample supply of ice. There are about 19 different anchorages in the Bay of LA area. Heat of the air temperature in the shade remained in the 86 - 92 degree F range. Clothing was optional. We lived off the sea, foraging for food, never using the beef left we purchased in La Paz last May. Our high point of the season was I learned how to catch blue crabs during a 16 day stay at Isla Alcrataz. I kept a running total, 61 males. Two was more than enough for one person for dinner. Funny that nobody else figured that our. We shared. We also taught the other cruisers how to make fish jerky out of trigger fish. The Mexicans call this fish Cochiba and think we were crazy for liking them, but they like snagging mullets our of the marinas. Trigger fish are ugly as sin, but have a firm lobster like texture and a crab like flavor. Great dried, steamed, pan fried, and in fish tacos. One day, we caught 6 trigger fish right off of our boat while at anchor.

October: All fun has to end, it was cooling down, the north wind season was rapidly approaching, it was time to begin heading south back to Santa Rosalia. Spirit and Laughing Buddha were two of the last boats to leave. It took us 4 days of consecutive travel, mostly motoring, to get there. Though a bit dusty, Harvey was waiting for us, safely, back at Marina Santa Rosalia.

November: Two more set backs delayed our final passage to San Carlos. Our original plan when we left La Paz involved ferrying Harvey across to the mainland and driving north from there. Mexico doesn’t really consider Baja as part of Mexico but on the mainland you have to import a vehicle and time limit is 6 months. For example, one day last April, while having lunch at a sidewalk cafe in La Paz, Marsha $ I invented a license plate game. While looking in traffic’s opposite directions, we were trying to see who could count the most cars that didn’t have license plates. I counted 12. The mainland Mexico doesn’t want people bringing down US cars and selling them. They put a sticker on your windshield and only they can remove it when you exit. This is the only way they know the vehicle is not on the mainland and when past due, you face potentials fines and possible imprisonment and confiscation of your vehicle. So, a month overdue, we take a 3 week RV trip south. Once the sticker was removed in La Paz, we visited friends in town and Los Barralies, and spent Holloween in Todos Santos, then back to Mulege, then spent a week beach camping and then staying at new friends house at Punta Chivato. Cool Place!

Back in Santa Rosalia, we were making final preparations for departing to San Carlos, even had a third crew person, a Canadian retired professor / wine vinyard owner willing to help with the solo overnighter (74 miles). When checking the engine fluids, I discovered the transmission was full of sea water. The transmission oil cooler heat exchanger had corroded inside and was trashed. Well that was the final delay, it’s fixed now, and here we sit waiting for the weather to improve. Well, not actually here, the 30 knot winds are blowing dust all over the 3 remaining boats in Santa Rosalia, it’s extremely uncomfortable, we’re waiting out this northerly storm on Harvey in a beautifully landscaped RV park nestled in the palm oasis on the river in Mulege. I just picked a lemon up from the ground next to my reading chair and used it in preparing a couple of rounds of Tequila Bloody Marias.

Cheers,

The crew of Spirit

P.S. This message finally got emailed from the Internet Cafe in San Carlos. It was a safe and rather uneventful overnight 15 hour passage.