Sunday, December 28, 2014

Getting ready for Christmas on a boat

Being on a boat does not prevent one from celebrating holidays.

Just like last year, Grace made a Christmas decoration and then decorated the tree with minimal help from her mama. Her favorite sentence now being, "I got it!"

We always have to watch out for room on a boat so we bought "mini" stockings at a local store that we hung from the ceiling. Grace was very disappointed that she couldn't wear what she thought was her new socks but she did admit that it was pretty!
Papa helped hang the lights and our home was all set for Christmas!
And after such hard labor, a movie night with buttery popcorn was in order!!

The Sea of Cortez

We took two weeks to explore the Sea of Cortez as we made our way up north to Guaymas, Sonora which we will write more about later.  We left on a relatively calm day just after the latest norther had passed and headed out of La Paz about 20 miles to the near by island Isla Espiritu Santo.  We spent the afternoon on the beach collecting shells and playing in the sand.  Espiritu is a large island that is mostly uninhabited though there are various fishing camps which house transient fishermen, their gear and the pangas.

Isla Espiritu Santo Sunset
The next day we set out again for another 20 mile trip towards, unfortunately the north winds began to pick up leaving us beating our way north to the next anchorage, it took us about 8 hours to make 20 miles in these conditions but we managed to sneak in before dark and get a good night sleep. 

This particular anchorage at Isla San Francisco is supposedly considered one of the twelve most beautiful beaches in the world, we didn't quite see it but maybe the lighting just wasnt right that day so we opted to move on a few miles north to some really awesome mangroves on Isla San Jose. 

We had to drag our dinghy across the beach in about 2 inches of water and then push it through ankle deep water against a strong outgoing tide to access the mangroves but it was well worth it, we explored around for over an hour with the dinghy looked at some birds, saw some fish and Grace even got to drive the dinghy a little which she loved.

The following morning we left for another short trip towards Agua Verde, though we had to cut short and head towards another anchorage at night fall since we were once again beating slowly against the wind and waves.  The Sea of Cortez is notorious for these so called square waves which are entirely wind driven and intense northern winds, well we certainly found ourselves in the thick it.  We saw 5+ foot waves at a period of about 2 or 3 seconds and going into a head wind of about 25+ knotts.  We tried sailing and tried tacking our way back and forth for a while but as things started to escalate in the afternoon we simply were not comfortable with the sails up and beating against these square waves, the constant surging stresses seemed like a recipe for trouble so we put them all away and ran the motor the rest of that day which didn't make for a more comfortable ride but did make it a little safer and a bit easier on skipper and crew.

You might be wondering, if you have not sailed on the Sea of Cortez or a large lake, what square waves are I know that we certainly had a hard time picturing it.  The waves are not actually square shaped really, they are just very steep and very fast moving compared to regular ocean waves which are somewhat regulated by currents, tides, and other things.  So what ends up happening is that you either end up hitting the waves quite squarely as if almost hitting a wall or you end up riding up the wave and almost literally dropping down the back side of the wave only to be greeted by the next equally vicious wave.  Now repeat this cycle every 2-3 seconds and that is what this is like. However, Reprieve handled it like a champ and even in the worst of it we were still making a steady 3 knots!

But, on to more interesting things.  We stayed at that cozy little anchorage for two days until the winds died down a little (not much) and made our way up to Agua Verde.  Maybe we were picky but everyone said this place was beautiful, we were not super impressed.  We met some nice people but only stayed a couple of days before making our way to Puerto Escondito.

Puerto Escondito was a nice little stop over, though there was no free anchorage available the paid anchorage is cheap, very comfortable, includes wifi, showers, water, and there is even a small store that sometimes has fresh fruit.  We stayed two days or so, filled up on diesel and water and continued on.

On the final leg of this trip we made only two over night stops, one at a relatively boring but nice anchorage about 20 miles out from Puerto Esconditio and another at an abandoned construction site for what was maybe planned to be a hotel.  It was basically ruins but we had a good time anyway.

Shortly there after we got tired of beating our way north and figured that we could run a straight course to Guaymas at about 45 degrees to the wind, we put out the sails and headed off across the sea.  That day the waves had settled out a little and we were able to sail a fairly constant 6-7 knots into 15-20 knot winds and 3-5ft waves, and during the late night we even managed up to 9 knots for a period with the wind at a constant 20-25.  We actually covered the approximately 100 miles quicker that we had planned and found ourselves just outside of Guaymas at about 2am, we decided to take it easy and put the sails away and motored the last 5 or so miles at about 1-2 knots until day break when we could see better the harbor we were entering.

Bread making

It is funny the things that you had never thought would be part of your daily routine, and yet...

For 2 months now, I've been making (almost!) daily bread. At first, the idea that a loaf of bread would be good for 2 days since we only eat bread for lunch but that was too good to be true! (pun intended)

When choosing a bread recipe, we had two criteria: 1) It had to be easy to make with easy-to-find ingredients and 2) the time in the oven had to be minimal as to conserve the propane.

We found that the recipe we like the most comes from The Galley Cookbook. I only changed the amount of yeast and salt to get a taste we liked better. So here it comes:

3 cups flour
2 tsps. sugar
1 3/4 tsps. yeast
1 tsps. salt
1 tbsps. oil
1 cup hot (110 to 120F°) water

In a plastic bowl, add 2 cups of flour, sugar, yeast, salt, oil, and water.
Mix together with your hand for at least 5 minutes to develop the glutens. The dough needs to become elastic and almost smooth.
Then add up to a cup of flour. I usually don't add that much. Add just enough so the dough is not sticky anymore but you want to add as little flour as possible so your bread is nice and not heavy when you bake it!!

Clean your bowl and cover it very lightly with oil. Add your dough and roll it around so the dough is coated with a very thin coat of oil. Cover and let rise until it doubles. The time can vary depending on how hot it is. If you put it outside in the Mexican sun like me, it is usually good to go within 30 minutes.

Knead the dough for at least a couple of minutes. Don't hesitate "to be rough". (The toddler getting into the flour and making a huge mess is usually a good incentive!)

Preheat the oven at 350F°
Put the dough in your loaf pan, cover, and let rise again.

Bake for 30 minutes or until the temperature in the middle of the bread reaches 190F°.
Take it out of the pan right away and let sit for a couple of minutes to cool down

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Adios La Paz

We left La Paz November 30th and only miss it slightly. 
It is a rather convenient destination with a wonderful community of other cruisers.  Club Cruceros located in Marina de La Paz has very active members who can help you with about anything. There is a cruiser's net on VHF 22 every morning at 8 where you get weather and tide info and can ask anything that you might need help with! Anchoring in front of Marina De La Paz meant easy daily access to a dinghy dock for the incredible rate of 15 pesos per day which also includes trash disposal and all the fresh and clean water you want.  In addition it is centrally located, with a short walk to some nice beaches, restaurants, and various stores for provisioning and if you want to go further than that 10 pesos buys you a bus ride to just about anywhere in town (if you can figure out the bus system).
Marina de La Paz is very cruiser friendly. They have a playground, a restaurant overlooking the docks with wifi, help with propane filling, and (mostly) English-speaking staffs. If you are not docked there, you can buy shower access for 15 pesos/shower. They also have laundry service
for what I believe to be 50 pesos per load if you don't want to do it yourself, or you can buy tokens to do your own laundry which is 20 pesos to wash and then another 20 pesos to dry.
Overall, La Paz is a very cruiser friendly place to be but we were ready for more adventures and a little more excitement!