the journey

january 2007: Baja, Mexico

January 30, 2007

Current Location: Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Current Position: Approx. N 20° 39', W 105° 15'

"The dolphins are here again, do you want to get up and see?" Nicole whispered in my ear as I lay nuzzled in our seabirth, sound asleep at 3:40 a.m. It took a minute to get my bearings. Dolphins? Where am I and what time is it anyways? I groggily pondered.

I unclipped the fastex buckle that held my canvas cocoon in place, keeping me snug and preventing me from launching across our boat if the boat suddenly pitched or rolled unexpectedly. As I entered the world we call "reality" and left the dreamtime behind, I realized I needed to hurry if I was to see our flippered-friends again. I arose to an immense star-filled sky and found my way to the bowsprit of the boat where Nicole was whistling and greeting our visitors with appreciation and joy in her heart. The dolphins were everywhere, flying through the water leaving bioluminescent contrails, much like you would see in the sky with jets flying in all directions. At least 6 or 7 of our visiting friends were jostling for the prime location on the bow, the best surfing that our boat would provide. They were jumping, splashing, and darting everywhere, sending glowing sparkles around our little world. It was our last night crossing the Sea of Cortez on our way to Puerto Vallarta and a treat to have such a welcoming committee from some of the creatures we both love so much.

We had left La Paz three days prior and traveled south down the coast back to Bahia de los Muertos, an anchorage we had stayed at before on the way up from Cabo to La Paz. The day was pleasant, and fairly uneventful. We had a bit of wind from the north, but not enough to really give us a great sailing day on the water. But the weather was warm and sunny and we were ready for a new adventure. I spent most of my time reading "The Pearl", by Steinbeck, and Nicole antagonized over her photo processing software on her laptop most of the day. When she finally gets her photoshop commands written correctly to reduce her images for our website, there will be some fantastic shots up that she has taken. Unfortunately, almost all the images on our site so far are from my small point and shoot, so hang in there and you’ll see some of her work soon!!

We woke in Bahia de Muertos the day after leaving La Paz and pointed Dreamkeeper east across the sea towards P.V. After an hour or so of motorsailing out away from land, we started picking up the north-westerlies the weather forecast had promised, raised our big red asymmetrical spinnaker for the first time ever and took off! Our spinnaker is about the last thing on our boat we still hadn’t played with and figured out yet, and it was time. Our big red kite filled with the 10-13 knots of wind on a sweet downwind broad reach we were on and combined with a new bottom-paint job meant only one thing, we were hauling ass! Dreamkeeper picked up the pace and had us cruising at between 7- 8.5 knots all day, all night, and most of the next day. The waves were a little rolly, but not too bad, maybe 2-4 foot seas but overall we were super happy as our boat punched through the choppy swell and we were comfortable.

My dad keeps asking if we've caught a fish yet, and of course, he wants proof. I grew up fishing. As a little tike, I used to hike into the mountains and fish for trout with my grandpa. On the Puget sound in Washington State where I am from, I used to troll with my dad for salmon. I remember often having many large salmon in the freezer, and was raised with a love and appreciation for the fish. In college, I fished on a boat in Alaska and in Hawaii I crewed sailboats where we would sometimes haul in a big tuna, ono (wahoo), or mahi-mahi. We would all take home huge fillets after handing out the prized steaks to our friends at the Maalea harbor.

Before we left Sausalito, our number one fan, Roger, gave us some great fishing gifts. Roger had sailed around the world on his own boat some years back and had brought us over his old handline (who needs a fishing pole), plus some new lures and hardware to attach it all. We sat in our salon one day after having had a beautiful sail on the bay with Roger, and he showed us how he makes his lure and leader setup. We all put together some gear and Roger told us some great stories about his past adventures fishing and sailing in the big blue. Thanks again Roger!

So why haven't we been catching fish yet? Well, truthfully, we haven't been fishing much. Down the coast of California and Baja, we only put the line out a few times. We had stocked up on lots of food and already had an abundance of meat in our freezer onboard. Plus, we were still learning about our boat and some of the new systems quite a bit. It often felt a bit overwhelming to have a line in the water too. And the last reason is because we are so damn aware about ocean issues, especially all the over-fishing going on in Baja right now. Nicole and I often feel like it can really suck to have a big heart and "care" about how we are treating our natural world. So we often have these intense moral debates over what we believe and how we should act as people who want to make a difference and walk our talk.

So fishing??? Nicole and I both eat fish, but only certain kinds that we know are fished in a sustainable way. If you eat fish, you should check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch to learn about the different options and why some fisheries are better then others. Remember how there used to be millions of buffalo on the prairie??? Well, that's basically what's happening to the fish and shark populations around the world, they're being decimated.

With awareness in mind, but still wanting to eat good food and eat fresh food if possible, we are fishing for the bigger surface fish that aren’t as threatened as some: tuna, mahi, bonito, wahoo, barracuda, etc…by trolling lures behind our boat when underway. So the first day crossing the sea, we hook up with a small jack. Pretty small, maybe 10" long. We probably could of made some fish tacos, but it was pretty small, we weren’t starving, so we gave it another life. The last day of the passage, only a few hours outside of Punta de Mita, our final destination, we hooked up with a big fish. I yelled down to Nicole, who was having a little morning nap, and asked her to get the gaff hook ready as I brought the fish in. The fish jumped and the green and blue colors were a dead give-away, it was a mahi, and probably about 25-30 pounds. I slowly hand over hand brought the line in trying not to give her any slack to wrestle away the hook, and as it came close to the boat, we noticed it wasn’t alone. There was another mahi right next to the one I had caught, swimming side-by-side and not afraid of us, or our boat at all. Nicole and I looked at each other with sadness and guilt in our eyes, both feeling like we just know too damn much again!! Mahi-mahi, also called Dorado, are thought to mate for life. Could we haul out the fish and kill it with it’s mate against our hull watching the slaughter? We both knew the answer today. I told Nic to put the gaff away and I would try to haul it on board myself and then pull the hook. As I started lifting the mahi it struggled and flopped with all its strength, finally loosening the barbed hook and line, and swimming off to live another day.

So we have modified our fish-taking selection again. If we do catch another Mahi, which I’m sure we will, we will have to feel out the specific situation and make a choice again. It might not be possible to save it, or maybe it will mean fresh healthy food for the first time in many days or weeks, and it will feel justified. We'll do our best.

January 23, 2007

Current Location: Big Abaroa Boatyard, La Paz, Sea of Cortez, Baja
Current Position: Approx. N 24° 09.10', W110° 19.39'

DreamKeeper, our boat, our home, our cars, our, dare I say, our baby is being taken out of her element today. We have scheduled a haul out where she is lifted by two slings from the water that cradle her, carrying her up into the air, across a graveled work yard and down onto 7 jack stands and two wooden crates under her hull.

This makes both of us nervous. Boats are supposed to stay in the water. Bottom paint, serious boat work or a desire to store the boat out of the water all necessitate this change. Thankfully she is going into the yard, not because she has any serious issues but only needs some fresh bottom paint and well, I confess, to get her waterline raised a bit.

Some cruisers say don't carry the extra weight, keep your waterline, others continue to raise their waterlines with every haul out. We're hoping to be somewhere in between. We've chosen to pack tons of spares, food to last us many months, full water tanks, extra fuel, a decent supply of sailing resource books, marine biology resources, and good novels, travel games: cards, chess, scrabble and cribbage boards, a beauty kit (nail polish, hair cutting scissors, and leg wax included), toys (camera and video equipment, surfboards, dive equipment),most likely too many clothes and not enough bikinis (my fetish).

We can't imagine adding more, and after our first season will recognize all of the extraneous things we thought we needed and don’t. Right now, the waterline is too low and she needs fresh bottom paint. DreamKeeper was growing a beard of brown algae around her waist. This simply wasn't working for us. Unless we scrubbed her daily, she was stained with a brown ring around her middle and little hairs growing in all directions.

So, now she sits in La Marina del Palmar yard, otherwise known as Big Abaroa. As we set off this morning for the haul out our neighbors warned, expect to be there for twice the time promised. After a quick panic we committed. Since then, we have been gratefully surprised. By 11 o'clock she was in on jack stands surrounded by boats with the names of Sweet Destiny, Mistress, Nueva Era, and Last Hurrah, first in line to be re-launched. We were grateful to be put in this order, fearing that if we were in another location she may be passed over for days without any work being done as time ticked on and our deadline to meet my folks in Punta De Mita loomed closer. By 5pm her waterline had been beautifully raised, sanded, and primed, and the first coat of bottom paint applied.

Day two in the yard, she has a first coat along the waterline, a second on her hull and we are getting the topsides waxed. By tomorrow, we should be ready to relaunch her back into the water relm. Grateful to be ahead of schedule, we're off again.

January 23, 2007

Current Location: Internet Cafe, La Paz, Sea of Cortez, Baja

"When are you going to stay in one place for a while?" Our new cruiser friends asked us over tacos last night. We laughed. In the world of sailboat "cruisers", we have been moving fast. In less then 2 months of traveling on our boat, we have been from San Francisco to La Paz, Mexico, and the longest we have stayed in one place has been a little over a week or so. In the "cruiser world", that is really fast.

However, in the San Francisco world we have just left behind, it seems so, so slow. All is relative, right? Maybe we can find some ritalin sandwiched next to the abundance of strong pain meds and antibiotics in the gigantic first aid kit we have onboard to help out with our transition. But most likely it will just take time. Our cruiser friends said it took them 6 years to finally adopt the pace...

So here we are still in La Paz since arriving for the first time a couple of weeks ago. Looking at our website log, you may be wondering what we’ve been up to these past 15 days or’s some highlights:

*A week with our great friends, Billy and Deanne, from Boulder, Colorado. We had a few really fun days in Todos Santos, on the pacific side of Baja, surfing at Los Ceritos, eating every kind of imaginable taco, and relaxing in our little strawbale house we rented surrounded by a cactus forest. We also went out to the local protected island of Espiritu Santo for a couple of nights...snorkeled with sea lions, hiked in the pouring rain up a desert arroyo, and played some competitive scrabble while drinking cold cervezas and listening to the rain clean off our boat.

*Nicole and I spent four days out at Isle Espiritu Santo enjoying the blue-green water of the Sea, exploring the underwater world, and re-connecting with Sausalito neighbors. The first night we sailed into Ensenade Grande anchorage we were met with a familiar VHF voice, Mark, the captain of the SEA LION, one of Lindblad Expeditions boats. Mark, and his wife, Michelle, were our neighbors at Pelican Harbor in Sausalito, and even though we were all so busy to ever connect together in California, Mark invited us to the beach and bonfire dinner with all their on-board clients. Feasting on ahi, salad and sangria, on the intimately sculpted yellow-sand beach, we caught up on our travels, learned about their jobs and shared some good laughs and stories. Mark even gave Nicole and I a tour of their boat, quite an amazing operation they run down here. We really enjoyed finally getting to connect with them both, so funny that it took until we got to Baja to make it happen!

*The days we've spent in La Paz have been mostly about logistics: laundry, writing, and boat maintenance chores like changing the engine oil, polishing all the stainless steel on deck, and cleaning the interior. We've also enjoyed taking long walks down the waterfront, enjoying the mocha and cafe ice cream at La Fuenta, and eating at our new favorite taqueria, Rancho Viejo. The prize selection being the kilo of carne aranchera, grilled onions, and a pile of corn tortillas. Read Nicole's story below for a little more detail. :)


La Paz has its hold on us for a variety of reasons; among them are their tacos. Tacos are as well known as in Mexico as a sandwich is in the United States. They are served in all sorts of places, from street stalls to counters in front of a small grill to large taquerias.

We have been indulging in eating tacos not as they’re meant to be eaten, more like a snack, say one or two but lots. Not only are we eating tacos but anyone who knows us well might say, they must be eating fish tacos, maybe pork, but I doubt it.

It's confession time again, not only are we eating many tacos but we are also eating tacos del pastor, marinated pork tacos and tacos del arranchera, citrus marinated skirt steak, yup cow. Not only is this tasty, Gar and Billy and Deanne (our Colorado visitors) would argue amazing, but it is a specialty of our new favorite local spot, Rancho Viejo. They are served with grilled onions, four salsas including chipolte, chopped tomato, onion, and jalapeños, as well as a mysterious creamy green salsa, and a condiment tray of shredded cabbage, grilled peppers, cucumbers, and sliced pickled purple onions.

I can rationalize eating Tacos del Arranchera because I have promised to enjoy or at least try local specialties. Additionally, I argue with myself that the once abundant fish population in Baja has drastically diminished, thus again removing one optional protein source, leaving only beef or pig.

Ha, we're headed out of here soon. Hopefully, leaving our addiction to tacos in our wake.

January 19, 2007

Current Location: La Paz, Sea of Cortez, Baja
Current Position: N 24° 09', W110° 19'

A journal entry from Miss Deanne Buck, La Paz crew diva:

"Let's charade one thing from today. You can pick anything, a view, a cactus, food, something we saw shopping, a character, someone we met on the street or passed by. Deanne you go first." I jump up and begin acting out the first image that pops into my head, a cactus we encountered down the bumpy, dirt road- we ARE in Baja after all- on our way to surf.

Not really having a plan, only a snapshot, I begin to act out the blue vodka-bottle ornaments sculpting the cactus' arms. Charading the individual elements is easy, but materializing an entire moment in time proves more difficult. Like an American speaking in a foreign country, I repeat my actions louder and louder, more exaggerated each time. As if by somehow slowing down and moving my arms wildly, I can communicate what can't ever be understood. This time it works though. This time some one gets it. He remembers. He too saw the cactus. Because of man's mark, this cactus became more memorable than the thousands of others that skimmed our vision that day.

Baja, California, home of the Tropic of Cancer, Cabo San Lucas, sandy beaches, and for this week, us. Billy and I joined Gar and Nicole in the harbor city of La Paz. Time in Mexico meant time with our good friends. Though, the lure of unlimited hours of sunshine was not far from our minds, either. We have soaked in the former. As I type this journal entry, the rain drops lull me into a zenful state of nothing, sunshine has not been our companion this trip.

We said goodbye to bone chilling artic cold on Saturday, January 13th desperately turning our faces to the Mexico sun to save us from our winter demise. Winter 2007 in the Colorado Rocky Mountains has been a record-setter, and we are only into early January. Mexico was our savior from the tunnel that used to be our walk and the ice skating rink we once called our driveway. A break was all we wanted, a break from the cold and, of course, some time with our friends.

Driving up Mexico Highway 1 in our rented white two-door Ford Ka, aptly christened “Casper” by Nicole later that day, we rolled the windows down warmed by pure belief that we were now in Baja. The short 2-hour journey to La Paz passed quickly, and, thankfully uneventfully. Never one to splurge on extravagances, I confidently declined Mexican insurance when the man behind the car rental counter inquired. The adventures we envisioned when we purchased our plane tickets did not consist of police, dents, or dead cows. Why invite them into our lives by purchasing insurance, I reasoned?

We navigated the streets of La Paz with ease. It took one "4 Altos" sign for Billy to translate driving ground rules. One never really stops when the playing field is equal- 4 Altos. This sign can be interpreted as roll with a perfunctory tap on the brake to engage the tail lights. Just an "alto" without an indication that all directions are playing the same game, means go forward and if there are no other cars in your peripheral vision, keep moving. During his diatribe, I contemplated the extravagance of insurance.

Rolling into the harbor, I drank in the salty smells and unlimited horizon. Now it was time to find our friends. We reasoned we would have more success with this goal than the seeking the sun grail. Dreamkeeper is not hard to find if you know Gar and Nicole. For me the wind generator and solar panels gave her away. Billy, who is more intimate with her, recognized her form- simple, beautiful, and clean. We quickly schemed onto their dock and were soon at home once again with the world travelers.

I write this at the end of our stay in La Paz, on Dreamkeeper, and spending time with Gar and Nicole. Mexico has been our savior, not because of the sunny skies and tropical weather, of which there has been none, but because time with Gar and Nicole- seeing a day through their perspective, swimming unbashfully into the wonder of the ocean and the challenge of a surfing wave, measuring time through the movement of the clouds, and recognizing a snapshot in time can tell a lifetime of story- theses are the adventures we were searching. As for the guidebook covering Baja sun we were searching . . . I've heard New Zealand in the spring is a good place to visit.

January 17, 2007

Current Location: Isla Espiritu Santo, Sea of Cortez, Baja
Current Position: N 24° 33.40', W110° 23.46'

Normally I wouldn’t be excited to be awakened by the sounds of heavy breathing. But it’s 2:40 in the morning and I am in the Sea of Cortez. I drag myself up the companionway and out into the still, dark night.

Standing in my underwear, shivering, I hold my breath, waiting. Tonight I see stars in the sea. Green trails fall across the Bay, signaling their presence before their rhythmic breathing breaks the surface. The dolphins are here. Tonight they have come to feast.

It is a perfect night to witness this hunt. The clouds are low, it is pitch black, and the water is filled with bioluminescence. Bioluminescence, sometimes referred to as phosphorescence, is the emission of light by microorganisms, mostly dinoflagellates in the water when disturbed.

Large bright green masses, pulse towards the boat like creatures in a black lagoon. The dolphins pursue, shooting off like comets. I can’t see the dolphins themselves, only the shimmering light trails they leave underwater.

Their meal tries to escape. The dolphins herd them on both sides. The school of what look like green fish is surrounded. A few lucky individuals escape, scattering like shooting stars, flying off in different directions. The water around us glitters green as fish and dolphins come closer to the surface. The silence is shattered and the night is filled again with heavy breathing.

I don’t know how long I am privileged to watch the show. Yet it ends as quickly as it began. The light trails fade as the dolphins spiral into the shallows continuing to pursue their prey. All that is left are rare sparkles of green glitter and the loud thumps of my beating heart.

January 5, 2007

Current Location: La Paz, Sea of Cortez, Baja
Current Position: N 24° 09', W110° 19'
Next Destination: ?

Total Miles Traveled Since San Franciso, CA: 1425 Nautical Miles

The VHF crackled, a scratchy female voice on the other line, saying something about turning into the marina after the big white motor yacht....she'll be waving from the dock leading us into our slip. A few more scratchy words we can't understand and then "watch out for the strong current". We've been fighting the current the whole way through the La Paz channel already. It's strong, maybe 2-3 knots strong, ebbing out the way we've just come from. Nicole looks at me with questioning eyes, "are you sure we can do this?" I'm thinking, its a marina...big slips, plenty of room to's not like a med mooring in problem. "We've got this, no problem, just get ready to throw a line, " i say to Nic.

As we round the corner of the big white motoryacht, we see our passage is not actually into the middle of the protected marina, but on the outside, a side-tie, between the breakwater and the rocky shore. As i turn our boat, i feel the current grab forcefully and quick and push me sideways towards the breakwater. It's strong. I realize right away i need some horsepower to manuever our 25,000 pound home where i want it to go, realizing at the same time that i'm coming in hot and i'm not sure what's around the next corner.

Our helping marina friend is gone now, most likely awaiting us at our "slip" that is hidden behind the big catamaran and even bigger steel motoryacht side-tied to the dock in front of us. I swing our craft around these two boats and finally get my first glimpse of our final destination. There's an adrenaline rush you get when you play and live with intense situations. Big walls i've climbed, snowy cliff's i've launched off of, waves too big that i've dropped in on...these situations i've put myself into create these "moments" where reactions are spontaneous and instinctual, little room is left for errors. At the time you are only "there", fully living in the present, completely alive and aware only of your immediate choices.

You may be thinking that pulling into a marina in a sailboat is nothing like dangling from your grimy, taped up hands 2000 feet up a granite face, but you need to realize that our boat is our whole world. It's our home, our vehicle, and our life. If we slam our girl into another boat, or pile her up into a bouldery breakwater, and she goes down, our whole life will change and the whole journey will probably end. The rules are pretty simple. You just don't crash your boat.

I immediately focus on my goal. The current is shoving me hard towards the rocky wharf and i'm supposed to "parallel park" our girl right in front of the very large, steel (steel is much stronger then fiberglass by the way) motor yacht and behind a small fiberglass sailboat. I have about 50 feet or so of space and our boat takes up about 42 feet. Gonna be close...

I pull her quick to starboard, nose aiming towards our new steel neighbor, then quickly back to port. As our beam slices through the water only a foot away from the steel yacht, i see a female face appear in the porthole window right next to me with fear streaked through her face. "Holy Shit!" Our steel yachtie friend screams at me. "Holy Shit!" is exactly what i am thinking too! Everything is now a blur. I spot 4 or 5 people on the dock waiting to help. I faintly see Nicole throw a line. Someone yells, "Reverse! Reverse!" I throw the tranny the other direction and push the throttle. I'm coming in hot. Too hot.

Slam! We hit the marina wooden breakwater wall. I keep the throttle down in reverse, but still needing to bring my rear end into the dock before she swings out and crashes into the rocky breakwater that is way too close. I quickly reach over and toss my stern line to a helper. He wraps a cleat and pulls me in.

I jump onto the dock with Nicole and assess the damage. Nothing. It looks like we hit the dock with our bobstay, the wire cable stay that comes from the bowsprit down to the waterline at our bow. It must of sprung in a bit, but bounced back out. No cracks or damage could be seen. Phew!!! A little too close. The rush is over. Welcome to La Paz!
January 4, 2007

Current Location: Punta Lobos, Isla Espiritu Santo, Sea of Cortez
Current Position: N24° 27', W110° 19'
Next Destination: La Paz

The strong northerly winds were coming. We were heading into La Paz to tuck in and wait for the weather to mellow again, but knew it wasn't coming until the next last minute decided to stop enroute at a beautiful bay at the island of Espiritu Santo. It was a fantastic decision!

We entered the bay next to Punta Lobos on the east side of the island. As we neared our intended anchorage in about 3 fathoms (18 feet), the water increasingly grew more and more green. Sea of Cortez green like you see in the pictures and postcards. Not only was the water beautiful and captivating, it was framed by a huge yellow sandy beach and surrounded by an intriquing desert landscape. Steep hills and cliffs of orangish-red sandstone loomed above and beyond.

We rowed our dingy to shore to get an extra little workout, and poked, prodded and soaked up our new Sea of Cortez world we were in. The cactus were diverse and different then the deserts i've known and spent time in. We saw the familiar cholla, prickly pear, and hedgehogs (my favorite cause they're just so darn cute), but also huge saguaro like cacti and crazy spidery cactus swirling around the ground. The expansive three-ish mile long beach was made up of millions of small shells, a beachcomers paradise. We walked and walked and felt the sun on our bodies. It felt so good to be there. We had finally reached the Sea.
January 3,2007

Current Location: Bahia Los Muertos, Sea of Cortez
Current Position: N23° 59', W109° 49'
Next Destination: Punta Lobos, Isla Espiritu Santo

January 1, 2007

Current Location: Los Frailes, Sea of Cortez
Current Position: N23° 22', W109° 25'
Next Destination: Los Muertos

We finally made it around the southern tip of Baja!! Winter weather is here and we've been getting some strong northerly winds coming down the Sea of Cortez making it difficult, sometimes almost impossible to travel north. A few days ago we attempted to make this same leg from Cabo to Los Frailes. We were about 15 miles out when we got hit with some strong 20 knot winds and steep, short choppy seas that reduced our speed to about 1-2 knots an hour. It was bumpy and very uncomfortable. We decided to turn around and b-line it back to Cabo and save ourselves from an all-night thrashing. We pulled a 180 and flew back to Cabo under 20 knots at our back, slicing through the water at 7-8 knots.

After a few more days floating around the Cabo bay surrounded by parasails, jetskis, and motorboats pulling big yellow banana's in circles around us, we awoke to the new year and took off again. Round two brought calm seas and much lighter winds along the coast as we sailed and motorsailed past San Jose del Cabo and up to Los Frailes Bay.

Los Frailes is a small bay that emerges from a deep submarine canyon right offshore. There is abundant sea life in the area, as well as the only coral reef in Baja, Cabo Pulmo, right around the corner. The day after we arrived we launched our faithful dingy, "milolo", and dawning stinky wetsuits, took off up the coast a few miles for the coral reef. We dropped our little dingy anchor in a couple of different sand patches next to pieces of the reef, and jumped in the "chilly" water with snorkel gear. The water was pretty murky, but we still had fun swimming with large schools of tangs, some parrotfish, a couple of sting rays, and a 2 foot long green moray eel. It felt good to be swimming in the water finally even though it was definitely not a tropical temperature and good to be off our boat.

That evening we had our new cruiser friends, Cat and Rich, over for some Posole Chile Soup (Thank you Mern!!! We love your recipe, still!!!!), freshly-baked cornbread, and a green cabbage salad for dinner. It was fun to hang out with our new friends again, and nic once again performed her magic in our tiny galley!