It's getting hot. So hot you feel like your body is filled with cement and most things needing doing, tend to get done before the sun is up for more than an hour. Even after it's set, it's still 95 degrees.
It's awesome.

Hunter and I have a girl day and the boys go out fishing...

Kai talked the ear off a legendary fisherman that he met here the other day. Tony, life-long pro and winner of countless tournaments retired down here. Unable to resist Kai's enthusiasm for his passion-and to shut him up- he offered to take him out on his boat and and teach him how the pros catch the big ones.

They left before sunrise and were back by lunch with over 100 pounds of fresh meat. We fit what we could in our freezer and the rest went to new friends on the docks.
Kai lands a big one

Kai's yellowtail-he can't lift it.

Dad holds Kai's fish for him
Tony teaches Kai some pro tricks

The kindness of strangers

Los Candeleros turned out to be an excellent stop for us.
We had been very much off the grid and on our own and enjoying every minute of it, although now, three and a half weeks out and low on supplies,  we were also badly needing an internet signal to check in with matters from home. We had heard from another boat in Agua verde rumors of a hotel with Wifi around the bend and there was also, reputedly, a pool and a bar.  Little and big kids aboard Pura Vida agreed we were all ready for a day or two of chlorine and "something cold to drink". Hard as it was to leave the fish filled waters of Agua Verde, we weighed anchor and puttered on up the coast.
We navigated ( well, captain did) the shallow, reef-strewn passage to Candeleros and as we came around the bend into the bay, to our amazement, a giant 6 story Hotel loomed up out of the desolate nothingness of the desert. Normally, this sort of mega-swank resort would strike me as a defilement in these pristine surroundings- but after a month with nothing but water and lime juice in our glasses, I would have gladly sat on a barstool made of albino elephant tusks as long as they were pouring tequila.
We anchored and did our best to gussy up a bit and flatten our salt-dreaded hair into something resembling normal and dingied ashore. The kids were in the pool in ten seconds flat and Jon and I toasted our sobriety with icy cold cervesas and ordered fresh guacamole as we downloaded the 1,456 emails that awaited us... 1,446 of them turned out to be from a Christian singles dating service that had somehow spammed us.
We met other cruisers at the bar-easy to spot as we all have matching hairdos and sticky clothes-and swapped stories, while Hunter belted out Adele songs on the Karaoke machine dressed in her bikini and a pair of Elton John-sized sunglasses. A very cute young couple, clearly guests of the hotel-not at all sticky-were gamely singing along and encouraging Hunter. Turns out they also were rom Vancouver. In fact, Steve, the husband had even lived on Bowen on our friend Frank's boat for six months. No one was suffering much that night at the bar and friends were made easily and we invited Steve and Lauren aboard pura Vida the next day for a sail. We were out of supplies and unable to accomadate feeding guests, so Steve gamely offered to drive to Loreto and bring back provisions and libations and cook dinner for all aboard. I had bought some fresh scallops off a local panga fisherman who had knocked on our hull that morning-ten dollars, a used UCLA sweatshirt and a can of green beans got me twenty huge scallops-so that would be the extent of our contribution, the rest Steve and Lauren provided. There was beer and tequila and Steve seared scallops in bacon and served them with charred corn and avocado and he grilled a flank steak and made fresh beet salad with vinagrette and we all sat on deck enjoying dinner and drinks. A very strong corumel had kicked up preventing us from taking them on an evening cruise, so we sat around laughing at Hunter and Kai trying to launch themselves off the foredeck by holdng a very large flag between them in the howling wind.
The next night, at the same bar, we met two other couples, also staying at the hotel, who were on their way back to California. Once again, Hunter entertained the crowd, this time with her newly aquired salsa-dancing skills, while Kai regaled everyone with fish tales. The two guys were very SERIOUS about fishing, having just finished up a two week adventure in the Baja and the more Kai talked the more they started smiling about something. I don't know what they were mixing in the drinks at the bar but once again... we were lucky recipients of the kindness of strangers as these guys bequeathed Kai and Jon ALL of their fishing lures. It was an impressive cache. Hand tied flies and deep trollers-at least 200 dollars worth of feathers and bangles so beautiful that I'm tempted to turn them into earrings if the fishing does't pan out.
After two lazy days in the anchorage, we decided it was time to move on. Heavy winds had us thinking about the hurricane season upon us now and a plan of trying to add 130 feet of chain to our ground tackle was foremost in our thoughts.  We wondered if Loreto would be able to supply such items-and as we also needed a new starter battery- so it was worth a try.
It was on to Escondido, the closest safe anchorage to Loreto, and a well known hurricane hole. Steep mountains line the coastline and the bay is nearly landlocked save for a 200 foot wide entrance to the main harbor. We coasted in, with a keen eye on the depth sounder-it was reading eight feet and a bit and our minimum draft is seven was...interesting...but we managed to squeak through with no paint off the keel. We moored in what looks like a very large pond with a blazing sun setting behind the spectacular mountains surrounding us. The gov't has  capitalized on the natural protection of the anchorage by filling it with mooring balls but they  also subsidized the nice little marina with showers and a laundry room -oh the joy. Enough fresh water to wash AND rinse one's clothes!  We rented a car the next day and drove the 30 KM. to Loreto to restock. Loreto is cool. It's sleepy and slow, in a crumbling Spanish colonial sort of way and graced with an artsy feel. We loved it and the fishing shop and store had all that we needed, including marine supplies and batteries-so we were stoked. One unfortunate incident we had to endure in the last few weeks was that we had broken our Bodem-our french press-oh the suffering! -as this is the only way to make coffee on the boat. I had devised an interim with the martini shaker and a fine meshed sieve but it wasn't the same. As we were cocktail free, we sorely missed the morning hand grind and press. Paradise was somehow compromised by this latest development. In Escondido, there's a fir number of boats, so we had the brilliant idea to put it out there on the morning cruisers net. After weather and check-in there is a swap/trade and local assistance chat. If we could ask where one could replace AGM GROUP 27 Deep cycle marine batteries in the middle of nowhere, surely one could inquire about a french press? Ask and you shall receive.
I had no sooner given my call sign and request than a voice came across the radio and said...
"Sure thing, little lady. I'm a landlubber now and boat-less but I live close by and I'm a fellow caffeine-junkie, so i thoroughly understand yer dilemma".
Within the hour a salty ol' fella met Jon at the marina store, with a brand new bodem and a bag of the best beans to be found "anywhere in the Baja" and a basket of freshly picked cherry tomatoes from his garden. No charge. No money accepted. He just made us promise to stop by for a spaghetti dinner if we find ourselves anchored in the cove near his house.
No problemo, amigo.
Lauren and Steve make us dinner

 Agua Verde

Grand canyon on the sea

entering Escondido

Capitan y Marinera

sea caves

what me worry?

Nuestros Hija

hard to beat

art in Loreto

another big one

good goobers

the kids put on a play for us

Kai snags another monster

we discover a rare whale off the bow

baby gaga

Lures lures lures....

Why I'm not a badass yet

In my imagination, before this trip, I thought I would be all things boat. All things Baja. All things badass.
I would change the fuel filters on my own, navigate with higher math, I would stalk the reefs with a speargun flung over my shoulder looking for things to kill and gut and feed to my family. I would also read the hardest books known to man. Authors deep and dry ( I  really did, I brought Aristotle with me!), I imagined I would devour Spanish, learn it quickly and speak it well and I would learn to read tablature and not just play the same six songs on my guitar over and over.
I would also write a novel and free dive to sixty feet and...Oh, God, the list goes on.
Jon still does everything on the boat that is cool or hard.
He stalks the reef and I don't gut the fish, unless I absolutely have to.
I've  suntanned and napped on deck and not been inspired to read anything but Captain Voss' Venturesome voyage and Kontiki and some paperbacks I found in a marina laundry, Phillip Roth and Stephen King and Brett Easton Ellis and I've slogged through a bunch of high brow science fiction and I've read Hunter's books when she was finished so we could talk about them, Island of the blue dolphin and the black pearl... and I still play the same six songs but now the kids know all the worlds to Marguritaville so everyone sings along.

Los Islotes

We are late in the season for cruising the Baja as far as the standard yachtie iternieries go. We are just arriving and most folks are already heading back from cruising Mexico and laying up in La Paz or hustling North to haul out for hurricane season. We are behind this pack, also heading North but at a snail's pace. We have an ear tuned daily to the weather forecasts and reports of tropical depressions and we mark the hurricane holes on our charts and stay within spitting distance of safe anchorage. The benifit of our plan, is that many of the most popular anchorages are relatively empty these days-although we are by no means the only boat looking to enjoy the infernal heat and unbelievable sea-life that awaits us further up in the sea. The higher the latitude, on this stretch, the less populated it will become. Commercial fisherman have nowhere to sell their catch, prefering to stay within the proximity of tourist hubs like Cabo and more populated cities like La Paz, so the ocean is teeming with life. Colossal and (hopefully) docile, whale sharks-the largest fish in the sea, reaching a length of fify feet-spend their summer gorging on plankton in the Northern Sea of Cortez. The chance to swim with these big fellows is very high on the list of the reasons why we are willing go against pack mentality and our insureance companies' waivers and choose the path less traveled- even if it means we chew our nails a bit, while pouring over hurricane preparation manuals. Fortunately, the worst of these historically dissipate before they get as far North as we plan to go.
We had the great luck to be the only boat when we first arrived by dingy to Isla Isolotes. We had left Pura Vida, on her own for a few hours, swinging gently on her anchor on a calm and windless morning on what we call a "lunch hook"-a term used for an anchorage that doesn't provide adequate protection in all conditions and therefore isn't suitable for the usual 20 knot evening corumel but in settled weather can be perfectly fine for exploring a nearby site. Islotes is famous for its sea lion rookery. The animals  on this small rocky outcropping, a mile off the coast, are certainly not tame but over the years have become familiar (and tolerant) of divers attracted by the abundant sea life in the deep water surrounding the islands.  We suited-up and had one last dive down to the anchor to check that our holding is secure- this was our first time leaving our girl unattended -  and then climbed in the dingy with go-pros and waters and snacks and head out to the island of lions. 
We heard them long before we got there. 
The sea lions are deep in round two of the mating and pup season- the earliest being born in March and the last will arrive in May-the mothers and youngest animals group together in nurseries in the shallow tide pools where they are regualrly patrolled and jealously guarded by the giant, bad tempered, 600 pound males. I certainly would not want to climb on their rocks but at a respectful distance -about 15 feet off the shore-you can dive and they will come out and observe YOU. The males are so paranoid about losing their spot on the rocks, and far too preoccupied, barking at one another and gloating, whiskery noses pointed in the air, to bother much about what's going on in the water. We sat on the edge of the dingy spitting in our masks and observing the action on the shore. Little H. was a brave sport as she gathered the nerve to climb in the water- Sea lions where everywhere, rushing and tumbling past us, from the surface, they looked very much like incredibly large, unpredictable and aggressive dogs. 
" You're our little pup..." I told her. We have come to learn that many animals sense size difference-we have noticed this with larger, more aggressive species of fish in the water. When Jon is close the big, heavy-toothed, parrot fish scoot back into their holes and hide- but when it's the kids or myself, they rush at us again and again, defending their territory and showing off how fiercely protective they are of the eggs and females they guard.
"Stay close to daddy and you'll be fine" I said, slipping into the water to have a look around.
The first thing I saw was so stunningly beautiful, I gasped in my snorkel. Not five feet from me, in the deep emerald green water, two sea lions danced a pas de duex. They were upside down, noses touching, flippers holding one another in an embrace, bodies arched and folding together like a continual, fluid double helix. I stuck my head up out of the water to tell Hunter to get in but she was already gone. I dove back under, swam about fifty yards and spotted Jon and both kids fifteen feet below me, framed by a moving wall of brilliant yellow and blue Cortez Angle fish. A young sea lion hovered by Kai, the two of them staring at each other, curious as two kids from different neighborhoods. The Sea lion did a slow back flip, spinning backwards and twisting his head around like it wasn't attached to anything, watching Kai the whole time. Kai waited a moment, then did the same move- minus the neck dislocation. Some invisible language barrier was broken. The signal for PLAY was sent loud and clear. The sea lion frolicked and twisted, showing us moves far superior to what we and our awkward fake flippers could come up with. Sea lions LOVE to show you up. Once they have satisfied themselves that you totally suck at swimming they rassle with each other and speed past at impossible angles and when they have tired of you disappear too deep for you to follow. Jon was a huge hit with the young females. They surrounded him, like a mob of adolescent girls around the cute new lifeguard at the community pool. With younger siblings in tow, they teased and cooed and snuggled and nipped at his fins, until Jon was nearly overwhelmed in a swirling soup of fins and fur and friendly- but still very large- teeth. Kai had just as good a time stalking the outrageously huge fish that slunk around in the protected reef. Not worried about being harassed and pursued by hunters, these fish had no fear. We saw just how big Groupers and Bass can get if allowed to live and grow to maturity. I felt an urgent tugging on one of my fins and expected to find Kai, desperate to point out a golden phase leopard Grouper but found, instead, a downright crazy-looking sea lion. He or She had a particular sort of google-eyed expression which reminded me of the guy at the park you were always told to stay away from as a kid. I kicked backwards and went to find Jon. A few times the huge males would jet past us, their bulk that seemed so comical on land was not at all funny down here. Snorting streams of bubbles at Jon as they passed, sending a message; "you've looked at my ladies long enough buddy, now piss off". 
Which we a jiffy. 
There is footage of the day which we will post, eventually but none of it will ever do justice to what we saw that morning beneath the waves. 
We motored back to Pura Vida, who waited for us, proud on quiet on her anchor, in the stunning cove that we had utterly to ourselves. We climbed aboard and ate cold tortillas and drank lime juice and smiled at each other and no one could think of a thing they would rather be doing.









Art, science and the sound of one hand clapping

Someone once said that sailing is the perfect marriage of art and science.
I think it is the marriage of art and science and..self realization.
It's a three-way.
It's true, that there is an awful lot of math...and I'm very glad yo soy es only the Marinaro on Pura Vida and not El Capitan because if we were relying on MY calculations, we would be off course, out of diesel, up you-know-what's creek and dragging anchor with a boat on the beach.
But where there is art, there is room for some interpretation and where there is self realization there is room for some intuition.
I am cook and therefore responsible for the feeding of our crew. Traveling as we are there can be many weeks between stops and re-stocking, we have limited supplies of water and cooking fuel, our refrigerator is run by solar when we are at anchor we cannot ask more of it than a good chill.  It's 110 degrees and we can only run it twice a day . These are all things that can require math skills- which i lack in the most comprehensive sense. Never-the less, we have been out for three weeks and a bit, without seeing a single grocery store or a resturant and we have never had the same meal twice. I do not make numerical lists when I provision, I just eyeball things and think about how much milk so and so drinks and how many times I will probably bake muffins.  Just as I don't quickly compute scope (anything multiplied by seven has always vexed me) but usually I  can set an anchor and approximate how far she will swing by the feel of the boat when I back her down and look around-although Jon, who has no trouble with equations, especially ones that even Hunter can do, is always the final word on scope. 
There is a renaissance aspect to sailing. Most things aboard a sailing vessel serve a function and are in their nature also graceful. The turkshead knot on our steering wheel,  helps us center the rudder and at the same time I never tire of the Escher-like symmetry of it's continual braid. It took patience and skill ( and a few hours with the knot book on his lap) for Jon to make it. The rushed and the sloppy have no place here. There's an old cruiser's rule that one should never do more than a single project  on a given day.  There is a certain "chill" required to achieving attention to detail. When i watched the Mandala painters in Lhasa, saffron-robed monks, bent over their silken canvasses creating masterpieces of multilayered imagery from deep meditations I doubt they were thinking...
'Oh, Lotus-Born, I gotta hurry up and finish this mandala and get over to the temple to translate some scripture before dinner" .
Nope.  They weren't stressing. They didn't have like a huge "to do" list.
Just one thing, done well, that's enough for sailors and monks. 
They know, this moment, is everything and nothing.  
No beginning, no end. Like Escher and the Turk's head on the ship's wheel. 

Jon tests our watermaker

laundry day 

lookin for stuff

stingray-shuffle your feet!

The "hook" in Isla San Fransisco

how we almost got a cat

NO roads lead to Nopolo

Jellyfish vodka

We were about an hour into an excellent reef dive today, Jon and Kai were hunting off the shelf and Hunter and I were bobbing around the ledges trying to find a small turtle who had zoomed by us several times. He was a very sneaky turtle. 
There were plenty of rainbow Blennies and tiny spotted pufferfish hiding in the coral but the turtle was a champ at hide and seek.
The current was strong and I was just beginning to wonder about how tired Miss H. must be getting about now, when I heard her screaming through her snorkel. 
We usually swim together, holding hands,  diving the shallower ledges. When we see something deeper, that we want to investigate, we call one of our boys to tow us down. Jon and Kai wear weight belts for deeper exploring and spearfishing, wetsuits are too buoyant to get very far without assistance.
Hunter had slipped from my side to swim around a large rock and see if thats where turtle was hiding, but now, unable to see her, I could only hear her frightened squeals and cries. 
Jon must have psychically heard the distress of his girl from the bottom of the sea because by the time I got around the rock to her, he and Kai were right behind me.
'What"s wrong?" We three, cried, in unison.
There was no obvious danger, no shark or eel or stingray but H. was clutching at her neck. 
" My throat hurts!" yowled Hunter.
We collectively breathed a sigh of relief. She was tired and the crash was upon us.
"low blood sugar" I whispered to Jon.
" poor muffin" said daddy, trying to calm her. "mommy will swim you back to the dingy"
" my neck!" screamed Hunter, her face turning dark as she clutched at the neck of her wetsuit.
I brushed the tangle of blond hair aside and looked more closely. Huge red welts were forming on her soft little neck. 
" Jellyfish" I mouthed to Jon so as not to alram her.
Of course ,Hunter heard me and she began crying in earnest and gagging on salt water.
The current was with us and we were back to the dingy in no time. Hunter peeled off her wet suit and her neck looked like it was on fire.
" Don't worry, honey" I said. " Mommy knows how to fix this." 
I used the casual and capable-of dealing with anything voice I use when I am alarmed but want to appear not so.
'You do? " sniffed Hunter. Hot fat tears streamed down her sunburned cheeks.
I did not actually KNOW how to fix my darling child screaming in pain but I had a PLAN-which is second best in cases of emergency.
" Of course". I  smiled reassuringly, fished around in the dingy-locker and pulled out a bottle of... Vodka.
Hunter, understandably, eyed me rather skeptically at this point.
"This stuff fixes everything" I told her.
Amazingly, the vodka in this story was not actually for me. 
Before Jon and I jumped on the wagon last month, we managed to polish off what tequila we had aboard but couldn't quite muster the half bottle of vodka. In order to avert the inevitable temptation of a nice cold screwdriver two weeks into our cleanse, ( it's half juice, right?) i had stashed the vodka in the dingy. 
Just to be clear -we are not such lushes that this radical step was the ONLY way we could restrain ourselves from hitting the sauce. Well, maybe that was part of it ( we do live on a boat with two children) but  the real reason I put the Vodka it in the tiny, water-tight locker in our inflatable dingy was because I had been told to carry it at all times by my lovely South African friend Joan, who, herself had sailed the world with husband and three small children.  
"Vodka is the best cure in the world for venomous bites".  she told me in her charming, lilting accent.
"alcohol nuetralizes the acid straight away...just make sure it's a good proof". 
Joan had counseled me, over big frothy lattes, one bitter cold and snowy day last winter. We sat together, in the cosy cafe she owns on Bowen Island and she gave me tips on countless matters having to do with boats and children and big hairy adventures.
I had listened carefully, taking copious notes about everything from provisioning to dealing with...well...venomous stings.
The wind howled and rattled the windows, in far off Canada and the potential-poison-jellyfish-day had seemed a million miles away but now, here I was, on this rocky reef in the middle of nowhere with my  shocked and shivering daughter waiting for me to fix her.
I looked down at the un-pronouncable Russian Vodka I clutched in my hand and couldn't see what the proof was. It had cost us a fortune in Cabo-so I was hoping it was the good stuff.
The livid streaks on Hunter's neck were swelling and I worried about alergic reaction to venom on so small a person.
'Hold still, sweetheart, everything's going to be fine" i said cheerily, praying it would be, while dousing her neck in capful after capful.
Hunter squeezed her eyes tight, trying her best-brave wee thing.
Several moments later, she stopped squirming and her breathing calmed down.
"How's that?" I said,  holding her and stroking her hair.
She open one rascally eye and looked up at me. 
"I smell like a booze-can". she said in her raspy voice.
I did wonder how she picked up the term, "booze can" but I didn't care. 
She was laughing and seemed totally fine - just as Joan said she would be.
So, I just wanted to say, three weeks into my meditation cleanse-
Thank you, God. Thank You, Joan and...Thank you, Vodka- I still love you.
Sierra de la Giaganta

brotherly love


tide pools of Los Gatos

Buying lobster

The Turtles of Partida

Many Native cultures share a belief that human beings have something called a "Totem animal".  I'm not exactly sure what this means...but i'm thinking mine might be a sea turtle.
Somewhere, latent and unlikely in my Scottish ancestry, lies a profound affinity for turtles.
I was not aware of this until recently.
In early life, I was not drawn to turtles in any particular way.
Sure, there were  occasional visits to the aquarium, when I would stand in front of the turtle tank, face pressed against the glass and grin and say things like;
"awwww....Turtles"-like everyone does.
But out here, in the big Baja, my 'turtle-sense" vibrates. It hums and I glow-faintly green, with turtle-stigmata.
I wake, in the middle  of the night, drawn on deck by the electrifying moon and they surround the boat.
They burp and snort in the dark water and I know that they have called me.
I sit and watch and learn the Turtle Sutra, the Way of the warm sea.
The next morning, I paddle, on my own, around miles of coastline.
In the shallows, I follow a leopard sea eel winding his way across the white sand bottom.
An electric stingray glides under the shadow of my board and we watch one another with wary eyes.
I spot something ahead,  it bobs on the shining mirror that reflects the Nothing and blue of a cloudless sky.
At first, I think it's a jellyfish.
In the Baja, the stingy and pokey things populate land and sea; bees and rays, cactus and snakes, armies of pufferfish-
constant reminders that we humans are a soft and shell-less species, ill equipped for permanent occupancy here.
What I see ahead, turns out to be nothing more than refuse (the trading blanket of our tribe), an empty plastic bag.
Watching nature shows with Kai has taught me that these things are deathtraps for turtles, they mistake them for jellyfish and when they eat them, they choke.
I paddle over to it, fish it from the water and stick it on my board.
I stand back up, look down and see a HUGE turtle sitting below me on the sandy bottom. We're in about four feet of crystal clear water and we can see each other perfectly.
I expect him to scoot away because usually they're very shy but this one just sits there, looking at me with his half-lidded Yoda-eyes and I know...
He is my turlte-guru.
I wonder if I should genuflect or something (i've never had a guru before) but since i'm on a stand-up-paddleboard, I opt for staying erect-and afloat.
The turtle tells me a story but there aren't any words.
I listen and when he has finished, the wind catches my board and spins me away.
I look over my shoulder, as I drift away and am surprised to see, he is following me.
He has an urgent look on his turtle-face, as if he has forgotten to say something.
I pull my paddle gently back and he slides up beside me, raising his wise green head from the water...
"You stole my Jellyfish", he says. 
His English is perfect  and he sounds a little like Jeff Bridges.
Then, with two strokes of his flippers, he disappears.
This is how it happened in the Baja.

Hunter Om shanti

My Guru is elusive

Jon's morning hike

Jon and Hunter return from taking out the trash-biodegradable only!

Another perfect day ends

proud fisherman come home with dinner

It's never enough enough with fishing for Kai

The crew goes looking for breakfast-trigger fish!

looking for lunch

Partida's perfect water