Adventures

I have created this blog with the hopes that you, my friend, will follow me as I sail around the world (figuratively or literally, not sure yet) with my parents on their Contest 48. Whereas I hope to keep you updated with exciting adventures of exotic ports and epic waves, keep in mind that cruising - that is, traveling by boat in a leisurely fashion - tends to be filled with days of intense boredom, punctuated by moments of sheer terror. Please keep this in mind as you read these entries, for this platform will be just as much an attempt for me to maintain my sanity (and connection to the California-based world), as entertainment and reassurance for you. And so, follow me as I sail the world.

P.S. All material on this blog, words and photos alike, are copyrighted by me. Copyright 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018. If you decide that this material is worth re-publishing, please give me credit and lots and lots of money.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Unos Fotos

Hello, my friends. Many of you have been asking me to post more photos to my blog. Whereas I would love to post a few with every entry, the internet here is....um....slow... particularly with uploading images. However, for you, buen amigo, I will make it happen. Enjoy!


Wendaway (Uncle Mark and Aunt Wendy's boat) and Rutea (our boat). It was fun having them as neighbors for a few days.




Que colores! La Cruz has a great Sunday market where you can get delicious foods and beautiful artwork, clothing, hats. This is the nuts and candy stand. Best candied walnuts here.




EXHIBIT A: PINEAPPLE EXPRESS




Boat maintenance! During this project I learned how to solder wires, use a volt meter, take apart a bilge pump and swear like a !@#$% sailor (although I'm still working on the last one).



Some fierce sailing action out in Banderas Bay. Fun!!!!


I hope you enjoy these few glimpses into my life... wish you were here! I have an album on Facekook with more pictures... check 'em out if you wanna!






Thursday, January 27, 2011

On the Virtues of Banderas Bay

In the words of Peter Griffin, Banderas Bay is "freakin' sweet." From waves to whale watching to great restaurants to nice windy afternoons that make for great day sailing conditions, this place is sweeet.

On the northern most point of Banderas Bay is Punta de Mita, which is a cute surfing village and also home to the Four Seasons, which makes access to the waves out on the point very difficult, and still somewhat of a sore subject with certain people. The bay is nearly 20 miles across and 20 miles deep, with a steep mountain range that surrounds it. The clear blue water with the green, jungle-ish covered mountains protecting the bay make it a very picturesque place to be.

Banderas Bay is also home to Puerto Vallarta, which 50 years ago was a small fishing village but now has built up around tourism. It is a charming city where you can eat fresh fish on the beach while Mariachi bands serenade you and little kids try to sell you trinkets. There are clubs and bars for those interested- the night life in Mexico is pretty solid. I remember spending a few months here when our family cruised Mexico 15 years ago, and it has been fun to revisit some of my favorite places, although I have yet to go back to the really gross water park where I had my 8th birthday (maybe for my 23rd...?! You're invited!).

Right now we are staying in the marina at La Cruz. I like it here much better than Paradise, as La Cruz has more of a cruising community and it actually feels like Mexico (a plus). And it is a much easier bus ride for me to get out to Mita to surf and hang out.

Yesterday I was hanging out at Punta Mita at La Escuetlita- the surf shop/school of mi amigo Antonio. Another amigo, Pelon, decided to cruise over to his friend's house. I was curious to see a local's house so I went with him. Even one street off the main drag in Mita (which is short), the whole scene changes. It goes from tourist friendly, English signs and a well-paved road, to dirt roads, stray dogs, and little kids hanging on the sidewalks. Houses with kitchens on the front porch are turned into little taco stands in the afternoon, where you can get delicious, seven-peso tacos (50 cents).

As we walked into the backyard of Gabriel (amigo de Pelon), about 20 roosters started crowing in their small wire cages. I had just walked into a rooster farm on which Gabriel raises cocks for cockfights. He tried to show me pictures of the most recent fight on his cell phone but (fortunately) I couldn't see. Whereas I am morally opposed to cockfights, I held my tongue and commented on how beautiful they were.

Chatting with Gabriel, I learned that his family had lived out at the point of Punta Mita, and when the Four Seasons came in they essentially bought everybody living there off the land. He said, "con el sangre de Emiliano Zapata, este es Mexico." I couldn't agree more. When Pelon and I returned to the street he took off running after a pick-up truck, and I followed. The truck stopped and the back opened up to reveal five huge baskets filled with fresh pan dulce. We stuffed our faces with fresh pastries right there on the street. Que sabroso.

I love traveling, as exhausting, exasperating, and scary as it can be sometimes. But I also love going someplace new and staying for a while, getting to know the locals and learning my way around on my own. The first time doing something is always the hardest, but if it is possible to stay for a while, it gets easier. The first time I took the bus on my own I ended up going in the wrong direction for 45 minutes. Now I ride the busses around here like a pro. I don't get lost as I walk down the jungle paths to get to my favorite wave, and I recognize people out in the line-up.

Most of the time we are cruising we will not stay in one place for so long, but we are preparing the boat to go across the Pacific. Boat maintenance, boat cleaning, and boat polishing are all ongoing chores that will forever plague the boat owner/beneficiary of. We have also been day sailing to practice heaving- to and flying the spinnaker. On these day sails I usually convince Mom and Dad to anchor or heave-to while I jump off the boat and get a few waves. Its pretty cool to essentially jump out of my house and into the waves (with a little paddling involved, of course).

OK, I have totally lost my train of thought. Oh yeah. Banderas Bay: freakin' sweet.

I hope all is well in the other bays: San Diego, Monterrey, San Francisco, East Bay, South Bay, etc., etc. Those places all hold a special place in my heart and I look forward to coming home to them someday!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

ABANDON SHIP

Let's hope we never have to, but one has to prepare for the worst.

Today Mom, Dad and I attended the first seminar put on by the Pacific Puddle Jump group, a group that (attempts to) prepare cruisers for the passage to and cruising the South Pacific. Hopefully future seminars will be more fun, like "provisioning for a 30 day passage" and "rigging and sails" (yeah!), but this one was heavy. Titled "A Whale of a Close Encounter- Surviving a Sudden Sinking during the 2009 Ha-Ha", the seminar was given by a woman whose boat sank off Baja after hitting a whale. Although she had a great sense of humor about the whole episode, was informative, and the story had a happy ending, it was gnarly. Here is a link to the article if you are interested: http://www.latitude38.com/lectronic/lectronicday.lasso?date=2009-10-29&dayid=344

The moral of the story: be prepared. Shit goes down in the ocean, regardless of how safe or cautious one tries to be. We have to accept the fact that anything could happen out in that big ocean. And so, while I intend to surf and hang out with the locals at Punta de Mita for the next two months, we will also be doing lots of day sails. On these day sails we will practice putting up storm sails, heaving-to, man overboard drills, and fun activities like that. We will also test survival gear: life raft, EPIRB, the ditch bag, and so on. Everybody hopes never to use these things, however, if we ever have to use them, 1. we need to know how to use them, and 2. we need to know that they work. Yikes.

On a lighter note, we are now staying in the marina at Paradise Village Resort. This place is kind of ridiculous... more like a Gringolandia compound than Mexico. Huge pools with water slides and waterfalls where they play "tequila volleyball" every day at 2:00, spas and saunas, a gym (no gracias), Starbucks, Subway, etc., etc. This is my backyard for the next...well... we are not sure how long we will be here. I want to go back out to Punta de Mita to surf and kick it with my amigos there, as well as visit a few other places in Banderas Bay, but I can't lie, life is pretty luxurious here. The waves on the beach have potential- this morning I went out to check the surf and perfectly peeling, barreling waves were coming through- but they were about 6-18 inches. Triple over toes, I like to call it. Like I said, potential.

Bueno amigos, it has been exactly one month since we left San Diego. I thank you all for the comments, emails, and messages you send me, as it proves that you have not forgotten about us yet. Send more! I love them.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Day in the Life of a Fool

Or rather a day in the life of a cruiser. This varies from day to day, some being the longest and slowest of my life, and some, well, I will just have to let them speak for themselves.

Today I woke up around 7:30 a.m. to Dad's booming voice over the cruiser's net. I couldn't really complain about it as I went to sleep around 9:30 p.m.. 10 hours of sleep, albeit slightly uncomfortable due to the multiple jejene (blood thirsty demons from hell, also called no-seeums) bites I have, as well as it being rolly due to the fact that we are anchored a few hundred meters from Punta de Mita- a very nice right point break. I can't really complain about either of these afflictions either, because they both mean good things.

The bug bites are from when we stayed in Matanchen, which despite the biting demons was a pretty cool place. It allegedly has the longest wave in the world, but I am sure there is more than one claim to that. I saw a wave breaking at the rivermouth but once I saw what was in the river, I decided against surfing it. Rrivermouths produce good waves because the rivers deposit sand bars on the beach, and they also deposit things like crocodiles, snapping turtles and anything else that swims in mangroves on occasion.

We saw the aforementioned creatures on a jungle tour of el Rio Tovara. With our guide Joel (pron. ho-el), we glided through the mangroves over sheet glass water, stopping to look at interesting birds, snapping turtles sunning themselves on logs, and lots of little crocodiles. Crocodiles like to lay in the sun with their mouths open. Why? I do not know. Not very friendly looking. At one point we were taken to the "crocodile sanctuary" which was flimsy looking cages holding huge, 8 foot long crocodiles. These things were so gnarly looking... one of them looked like the one in the movie Hook. Except this one was alive.

Along with the crocodiles were some warthog looking animals, a few frightened deer (go figure) and a very pissed off looking jaguar. I could have touched this magnificent animal if I wanted...to loose a finger. It even hissed at me, but it was very tempting.

Ok, out of the jungle and back to the boat. I need to hurry up because burgers are on the grill.
Tough life, I know. It gets better.

Two days ago we pulled into Punta de Mita, the northern point of Bahia Banderas, also home to Puerto Vallarta. It is a kind of a rolly anchorage because it is not very well protected from the swell, but I have learned to sleep hanging on and when I can't sleep because the boat is rocking so much I remind myself that these are the waves I surf.

A friend of the family, Antonio, owns a little surf school called La Escuelita on the beach here. We met up to surf yesterday morning; I was so stoked to have a buddy to surf with, not to mention he knows every wave in a 50km radius, is a local everywhere, and rips. And he is a really nice guy. (Y guapo tambien.)

He took me to surf Litibu, an open, steep beach that had thick, fast, heavy, semi-closed out, shore-breaky waves. Not my favorite, but I got a few waves...and took a few on the head. After that I told him I wanted to surf a nice, easy wave (my reward), so we drove to a beach and hiked down a muddy, jungle ravine (in flip-flops and boardshorts, of course) that opened up onto a beach with perfect little waves peeling across the reef. Quite a contrast in waves, but I was stoked on both. Beers on the beach under a palapa, la comida, a game of Scrabble, and then a dormir.

Today I wanted to surf and watched waves at La Mita (what the locals here call Punta de Mita), and I watched them with binoculars from the boat for an hour. I was hesitant to go because there was nobody out and the waves were breaking over dry rocks. Mom told me she saw people from another boat go over there yesterday to surf so she and I went over and introduced ourselves. We met the guys on the boat: Mattie, a 20 year old Aussie, Tommy, an eight year old boat rat/surf grom, and his dad, Eric. They told me they were going to surf the point in a few hours, and would come by our boat before they did.

Mom and I headed back to Rutea, did cockpit yoga, and then I made chilaquiles for lunch. Just as we finished eating the guys arrived and I hopped in their dinghy with my board, conveniently excusing me from doing dishes. Now I'm stuck doing them tonight.

Punta de Mita. Today: 2-3 feet, fair form, strong off shore winds, 72 degree water, visibility 15-20 feet. Reef covered with moss and the occasional urchin. Best to stay off it, but hard considering the water was about 4 feet deep where we were surfing. Not to mention the dry rocks sticking up everywhere. Good practice for turning. Aside from losing my fin and stretching my leash 1 foot longer than it used to be, good sesh! Fortunately I have a back up.
After surfing Mattie and I had the obligatory post-session cold beer and chips on the boat. Went for a swim in at the beach, said 'saca el churro' to Antonio, and then ate a delicious dinner of hamburgers. Now I have to do the dishes.

This all sounds like a blast, and it is. But its not all fun and games... I promise. I write about the good times because they are more fun to recall and write about than the not-so-good times. And, because nobody wants to hear me complain about feeling insecure about living with my parents, missing my friends, my total independence, feeling lazy and unproductive, etc. I try to keep in mind: the salty makes the sweet all the sweeter.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

I didn't die!

I didn’t even throw up. But as we were bashing into 6-8 foot swells an hour out of Cabo with 35 knots of wind in the teeth (going straight into the wind) I had thoughts about life and death. We were even in sight of land, only going about 20 miles north to the anchorage of Los Frailes, but it was nasty.

The swells were not the nice rollers that I look forward to surfing, but the close-together, chopped up, box-shaped waves. Go up one wave, look down into the trough of the next wave, watch it wash over the bow, cover the windshield completely so nobody is prepared for the SMASH into the next wave, which as Dad says, rattles the fillings in your teeth. Good thing I only have one. Nonetheless, it was the first time I have been in weather like that in a very long time, and I was a bit scared. I kept thinking, how am I going to cope with conditions like this when we are thousands of miles from any land? Let’s just cross our fingers and hope that we don’t run into conditions like that again (which weren’t really that bad and unfortunately, I am sure we will run into much worse).

There is not much in Los Frailes, but we were all very happy to arrive in a nice safe anchorage to stay for the night before we crossed the Sea of Cortez to get to the Mainland. There were, however, hundreds of batrays jumping out of the water as we pulled up. Nobody knows why they do this, but batrays will jump 6 feet out of the water, flap their wings, and smack back down in the water. At one point we were so close to the things that I could see their gils and little eyes, not to mention their white bellies and dark backs. I liked seeing them from the boat, but I am not sure how I would feel about coming up on one in the water.

I did not even have a chance to get in the water, as we left Frailes and headed for Mazatlan around 7 a.m.the next morning. The crossing from Baja to the mainland can be a bit treacherous (as proven by previous experiences) but we had a good weather window. Very good. In fact, we were able to sail about 150 of the 163 miles, all in about 25 hours. A sailboat being able to sail an entire passage?! Unheard of.

Although it was a bit rolly and very hard to sleep before my watch, after keeping myself awake from 2:30 a.m. til 5:30 a.m. by playing chess against the IPad (a mean opponent), I slept soundly and woke up in Marina Mazatlan. After scrubbing the boat AGAIN (and I will admit it did need it after that nasty passage to Frailes- so nasty that I found a dead squid on the deck that had been stranded by a wave that washed over the bow) I was naturally ready to find some waves. It is usually difficult to find a good wave for the first time: where is the beach? are there rocks/urchins/scary things under the water that I should know about? how do I get there? And there are rarely maps that make it obvious. Even with the power of the internet it can be tough. I know, I know, wah wah wah. I’m sure you feel sorry for me.

But don’t. Although the first beach we came up on was flat, a guy selling parasailing trips who also surfs told me about La Bruja (The Witch) which is known as Cerritos to the locals. His girlfriend offered to give me a ride there, and I was all over it! In the States I would think twice before getting in the car with a complete stranger (minus hitch-hiking in Santa Cruz), but here I did not. Mom, who has become my best friend/surf buddy (we are going to get her on a surfboard soon enough!) came with me.

Cerritos is a peaky beach break that had solid chest high waves coming through, and my only complaint is that it was crowded with spongers (boogie boarders). But they were relatively friendly and didn’t drop in on me too much. Funny, just a week ago I would have given anything to have somebody to surf with, and now I would give anything for my own wave... Ah, the ironies of life. All or nothing.

Mazatlan has a very cool old town which actually feels like old Mexico (I assume). There were very few tourists in the big Mercado central, where you can buy everything from produce to fresh tortillas, whole cow’s heads to T-shirts and love potions. We bought shrimp and had shrimp and garlic sauce for dinner. I eat very well, better than I have in years. Four and a quarter to be exact.

Tomorrow we are leaving Mazatlan and heading for Matanchen, which according to some has the longest wave in the world. We will see if it is even breaking when I am there. It is also known for the bloodsucking Jejenes (no-seeums) that plague the area. Eeeks.

And so, wish me flat, calm seas and a brisk breeze while en route, and a nice south swell and no wind when I arrive. I hope your winter quarter has started well, your winter break is still kickin’, you job is fun and interesting, or you are chillin’ out maxx and relaxin’ all cool (maybe shootin’ some b-ball outside of the school.... and so on...).

Paz e amor.

P.S. I have been trying to upload some pictures to make things a little more interesting, but Mexican wi-fi (pronounced wee-fee) is not working so well today.. or yesterday...

Saturday, January 1, 2011

On the tip...

Of Baja you can find many wonderful things: most famously Los Arcos (the famous arches of Cabo San Lucas) touristy bars, great restaurants, epic surf (on a south swell), a few marinas, tons of sport fishing boats and salty, salty sailors (and not so salty sailors).
We arrived here a few days ago and I have already lost count, which is a sign of a good sailor. I have surfed a bit, we spent our New Year's eve with friends we met a few hours before dinner, and have been on many an adventure, all in a few days time.

After an overnight passage from Bahia Magdalena we arrived in San Jose del Cabo around 8 a.m., which means it took us about 25 hours to go 140 miles: light speed! We got fuel and then headed to our slip. As we were pulling in the reverse gear decided to stop working which was a major buzz kill. Dad was just about to tear into the transmission but Mom, with her most excellent rationality, suggested he start with the most basic of problems. This means diving the prop to see if anything has fouled it. He took her advice, and came up seconds after diving in with 10 feet of plastic sheet that had been sucked up by the prop. Problem solved.

Now you might ask, what is the first thing you do when you get into town, after being out in the rugged wilderness that is Baja for 12 days? Hit the showers? The nearest bar? The beach?? Wrong, wrong, wrong. Obviously, the first thing you do is scrub the boat- inside and out. After this task was done, I got to play, and have not stopped since.

We got a rental car for provisioning, dealing with laundry, and of course, surfing adventures! Our second day in Cabo, Mom and I went on a quest for waves (she was not looking for waves, but she helps me look). Unfortunately, the south swells that light up the tip of Baja only come through April-October; it looks like I just missed the season. Not to be deterred, Mom and I headed up to a town called Todos Santos on the Pacific side of Baja, about 100 km north of Cabo.

A funny note about industrializing countries: you can have beautiful 2-lane highway for miles, only to hit a patch of dirt road without any warning... our poor rental car took quite a beating.

M and I navigated our way to and through Todos Santos, drove for a half hour down a very remote dirt road, not sure where we were going or even if we were going in the right direction, until we found a beautiful little beach complete with whales in the distance. Although the waves were not epic, I got to surf in clear, warm water for the first time in a very long time. And, I can say that I surfed Todos Santos, although it is not the same one that comes up when you type "Todos Santos" into Google Images (but who cares about specifics?). I surfed twice in Cabo since the dirt road adventure and it has been okay, but the urchin covered reef that looks very shallow on account of the clear water and the fact that it is very shallow (in places), is kind of intimidating.

Our New Year's eve plans did not fall into place until a few hours before...midnight. No, just kidding, I did not make it up til midnight. But it is amazing how easy it is to make friends in the cruising community. We caught the dock lines of a boat as they pulled into the marina, saw that they had 2 kids about my age on board (18 and 20- close enough), and invited them to a New Year's dinner with them. They accepted, we had a nice Mexican dinner with a few cervezas and margaritas, and then I went to sleep. Slept right through the fireworks. I'm telling you, I have adapted to the cruising lifestyle quite well. And there were a few firsts this year: this is the first year I have not stayed up until midnight in 15+ years, and this is the first year I have not woken up with a hangover in 10+ years. I think it's going to be a good one.

And so the tip of Baja entailed everything I hoped it would: surfing, meeting new friends, good food, adventures, unas cervezas, clean clothes, and a well stocked fridge. Tomorrow we head to Los Frailes and from there we will jump off for the mainland. Mazatlan, here we come!

Wishing you a year full of happiness, prosperity and adventure.