Force of Nature

While holed up in Escondido we met up with kid boat "Lola".
We had crossed tides with them them briefly, 'round about the time we connected with Eyoni but never got to really hang out as we were called back home to pack up our house. They and another couple of child- laden boats were moving North into the Sea for the season- and the lucky ducks spent the summer with a  flotilla of happy kids, riding whale sharks in the Bay of Los Angeles.
We were bummed not to have been up there with them, but the upside of hurricane Paul was, he drove us all into the same hideout and we were able to reconnect.
As soon as the moody clouds moved on from the peaks of the Giagantes we suggested a hike with all the kids- up the canyon to the swimming holes. 
What a change!
Everything we expected to see was completely transformed by the rains.
We have been studying "erosion" with Kai in his Earth Science book- but I think we can toss that text now, having seen, first hand, the power of water and its ability to transform a landscape.
Not only were our favorite swimming holes completely full of rubble, the entire gorge was unrecognizable. 
Hurricane Paul sent such a deluge of water coursing down the canyon that it completely flooded the narrow water-way and filled it with about 20 feet of rock and sand.
We got to explore an entirely new canyon with the good-vibe crew of Lola.
They're an affectionate, sporty young family-Swedish-British, blonde and tan, as fit and happy a tribe as you could possibly come across.  Mama Rosanna was a sure- footed climber, with adorable baby Poppy on her back and Papa Peter ( pronounced pee-der) bounded along behind their ridiculously cute, toe-headed, five-year old, Teddy.  
Hunter  and Teddy made fast buds and little Poppy had a soft spot for the gentle Kai and we all had a blast climbing up to a forty foot waterfall.
The crew of Pura Vida had actually scaled the same cliff once before, when it was dry; free-climbing the tight-squeeze, up a thirty-foot high, hollow chute. 
Now, it was a towering torrent of fun, with a  pool at the bottom, shallow enough to stand in. 
Kai disappeared underneath the crushing falls-he was gone before i could protest -and not a moment later, I was terrorized by the sound of him screaming. 
We couldn't see him behind all the water and Jon dashed to rescue him only to realize,  he was just shouting for us to follow- he had found a way past the rushing gate of water, into a private chamber behind the falls.
BIg smiles all around...and a  just few more white hairs for mom.

Boat kids

Lil' Miss Poppy

Teddy drives our dingy

Whole new hike!

There USED to be a swimming hole!

Fearless friends
Kai leads the way
Big fun

Exiting Kai's cave
Hunter takes a shower

One of Hunter's many pet refusals

The next day our thoughts drifted to where to go next.
The winds were favorable for heading South but we were also hearing new rumblings of something starting to brew in the tropical kitchen- down by Guatemala.
Lola was heading to the mainland to surf, so she decided to make the four-day crossing straight to Puerto Vallarta and beat whatever  low pressure system might be coming.
THat was a tempting call for us but we had some things to take care of still and an offer from Manta for some more diving-no way we were gonna pass that up!-so we swapped emails with Lola and made a plan to hook up again, somewhere around Punta Mita. 
We look forward to sharing some waves-and smiles-with them in a few weeks.

None of us was in any rush to break company with Manta.
As long as they kept offering days filled with diving and good tales and good fun-Dawn even invited us aboard for an unbelievable turkey dinner complete with all the fix-in's and a VAT of mashed potatoes...well, my crew on Pura Vida wasn't going to be going anywhere in too much of a hurry.

Manta filled their spare tanks with air for us and Dive crew Pura Vida went back out for some more action.
I discovered a beautiful speckled Moray and Terry showed me how to hand feed him- laughing at me when I chickened out and poked the scallop towards the creature, rather than letting him take it from me.( If you saw how lightening fast those things can move out of their holes for a snatch-n-grab you might understand my hesitation). Of course, Terry thought it was hilarious that I was afraid of something so small but he looked big to me!
Hunter and Dawn even managed to catch a lobster free-diving and Jon found another while hunting near our boat .
What luxury to think up new and interesting things to make out of lobster for dinner...every other night!
Party on Manta

Boat kitty Tigger dressed to kill

Kai tries the appy's 
I finally quit farting around and started to take more seriously my free-diving ventures. 
The kids did school work, while Jon and I went hunting on our own and unencumbered by my pups, I settled into a good rhythm, breathing up for sixteen breaths and practicing my mental yoga-relaxation before following Jon down.
I was finally able to break my previous limits of depth and nerves and metal noise and a whole new world opened up for me as I passed thirty feet.
Diving with terry and Dawn with the tanks actually has helped a great deal with free diving.
I had to learn to relax in a new way , down there at 100 feet and somehow that mind set has translated into other things, as well.
Plus, with the aid of tanks and Terry and Dawn's guidance, I now know what to look for when i'm down there so i'm much better at discovering octopus caves or following a large spotted eagle ray as he glides past Jon and I at 25 feet...

Hunter's biggest discovery happened yesterday, while on a solo paddle board mission-
exploring the perfect little anchorage of Hooneymoon Cove, she noticed the worlds biggest hermit crab, shuffling along the white crescent of beach. 
Oh, the joy!
Lately, Hunter's been besieging us with-a full-court-press, for a pet; kitten or puppy, iguana or parrot....the daily list is endless.
On this day, though, there were no parents present to loom and gloom on her parade.
"Hermes" the Hermit Crab, was immediately scooped up and brought aboard.
Upon arrival he was given his choice of bucket or box, berth or hammock, sleeping bag or drawer...He finally settled for Hunter's finger.
Not having internet and therefore not knowing  the preferred diet of a Hermit crab, he was fed everything available in the galley-chicken and roast beef, lobster and broccoli-he finally showed a  distinct preference for Nutella.
The seemingly unlimited affection that a seven-year old girl, (desperate for a pet) can shower on a crustacean, is a thing to behold.
"Hermey" as he is called by his "family" is actually the ultimate boat pet. 
No need for a trip ashore, no litter box, he's happy to eat scraps and i have to admit, he's got quite a large personality for something with six legs.
Hermey has the run of the boat, he's very good at climbing ropes and halyards and he has excellent manners- very social and loves to hang around on Hunters braid.
He also loves iced tea.

And then we were... five.

Shelter from the Storm

No one got any sleep that night in the motel. 

The four of us were crammed into one bed. The coming storm kept us tossing and turning, wondering what daylight would bring.
As it turned out, daylight didn't bring much in the way of light at was a dark-grey-black-portend-of-doom-looking thing.

We had a handheld VHF radio in the motel with us to keep abreast of weather.
We learned from the last storm we spent in Escondido, that power and internet would go out soon...
That much we could count on.

At five am the radio started squawking.
Hurricane Paul was coming our way-and he was coming fast.

The weather models predicted various paths Paul might take, the majority had him swinging inland from the Pacific coast, around Magdellena bay-
The same bay that Kai celebrated his 10th Birthday in last March- 
and then heading on over our way. 
He could turn North or he could slam right into us.

Paul was upgraded to a cat 3 in the wee hours and now he was tossing out 150 mph winds and moving at 20 mph. 
Magdellena Bay is about 70 miles across the Baja peninsula from Puerto Escondido.
Time to get moving...

Jon jumped into his clothes and raced to the dingy to pump it out. I gathered the kids and within a half hour we were heading back to the boat.

The night before, I weighed the options about the safest place to be with the kids.
The motel in Tripuli is rustic and low profile...nestled at the bottom of a long, low valley beneath really, really steep mountains. Given the choice of battling a flash flood or a mudslide and trusting the structural integrity of a hotel who's pool was overflowing and had no power or communications (or any other guests, for that matter), or taking our chances aboard Pura Vida,  who was moored in a safe harbor with Jon at the helm- I choose to bring the kids back to the boat.

Jon had borrowed Terry's dive tank the day before and checked the mooring and added extra lines to secure us.
He had also pulled our headsail down the night before and made the basic preps for incoming weather.

We motored through a choppy sea, sideways rain and building wind back to the boat. The clouds whirling over our heads were dark and purple-tinged, my ears felt plugged the barometer was dropping so fast.
On every boat in the anchorage, people were on deck making their gear as secure as possible.
Larger, luxury yachts and even huge commercial shrimpers were coming from far-off ports, squeezing through the shallow entrance to the channel.
We had recorded 8feet on our depth sounder as we motored in the other day. I have no idea how the 60 foot shrimper snuck in here-but she did.

By 9am everything was starting to look pretty secure.
The solar panels were down, the bimini was off, the paddle board was stowed, every bit of of our  deck-side gypsy-life gear was safely tucked back in the boat; solar ovens, dive gear, solar showers and fishing poles and tackle boxes...
Jon put on a mask and fins and jumped into the swirling dark water to recheck the lines.
Only this time, he found a rather troubling issue with the thimble of the huaser line that he had not caught the day before- it was crumbling to bits.
Given that the winds were rising and the boat was spinning around on her mooring, there was not much he could do, other than put a new line through the swivel and double loop it to make it secure. Thank god, he caught it or it might have caused us a much bigger problem.
Jon climbed back aboard and added butchered plumbing hoses to the lines on deck to help cut down on chaffe.

Riding out a hurricane on a boat is busy thing to do.

The VHF radio was buzzing with traffic all day.

The local power and internet were out in Escondido and everyone could only get weather updates every 3 hours from the SSB.
The cruisers all tuned to the emergency hailing channel 16 to keep track of info. Until someone left a mic open, so 16 became a dead channel. The rest of the day, everyone surfed around, mostly on channel 22, swapping info and tidings and giving heads up and help to those who needed it.

Our friend Terrry ( and every other experienced cruiser) had warned us to watch out for chaffe.
A boat swinging on her lines in high winds can saw through even the strongest ropes in half an hour.
So every half hour ( and sometimes every five minutes), while the storm closed in on us, and the winds whirled around, we checked and re-checked our gear.

Several boats in our vicinity were having trouble with riding over their mooring lines in the big gusts of wind.
The lines were tangling under their keels.
This is a bad business on a boat. 
You need to have your lines doing what they should and holding you in place, not fouling under your keel.
When an older cruiser, a friend and a neighbor, was badly tangled and needed assistance, Jon threw on his mask and fins and freed the boat from the mess -just as the winds were starting to really pick up.
(He thanked us with a bottle of champagne the next day).
Everyone looked out for each other and kept an eye out for anyone who needed help.

At one point during the storm, a boat near us broke free from their mooring lines ( not checking chaffe !) and there was a nail biting few minutes as everyone in the vicinity desperately tried to hail them on the radio.
The renegade boat  was headed straight for the boat next to us and the couple who owned the one about to be T-boned, were on deck, yelling and waving their arms.
The wind swung around in a forty plus gust and the drifting boat started to head straight for Pura Vida.
Another skipper was on deck, blowing his ships whistle like crazy and finally, the sleeping captain of the stray ship woke up.
He had gone to bed when the storm started and turned off his radio!
Luckily, they got their engine going at the last moment and managed to find a new mooring and no one had any to suffer any damage-other than maybe a bruised ego.
-The snoozy skipper made a sheepish apology over the radio later that night.

As it happened, the hurricane was broken by the high mountain ranges surrounding Escondido and we were spared the worst of Paul.
I never recorded anything more than 40 knots around the boat although others had higher winds close by.
All in all it was a good practice run for us, and Jon especially, and once again Pura Vida and her crew survived, all in tact.

We were able to gain some confidence from the venture and even managed to pull off a smoked pork chops, mashed potato, peas and...gravy. A comforting dinner once the worst had passed.

The next morning brought high winds and clearing skies.

We dried out our very wet gear in the sun and put our girl back we worked and chatted that old question came up, again...

Where will we go next?

Captain Jon prepares ship and crew for foul weather

kids snuggled in for the storm

The next day brought clearing skies
drying out

Rosalia and back again

Beautiful days

Well, the Northern sea was just not to be.
Not for us, not this time, anyway.

It's part of the deal with cruising -if the winds are not in your favor, you will just have to come back someday and see what you missed- the first time around.
We listened to the weather from Rosalia and even though we were tempted by the proximity-only 150 miles or so stood between us and the cruising grounds of the upper Sea-the forecast did not look good.
The winds would be against us.
Not wanting to use our old engine any more than we have to and obviously preferring to sail , the prospect of motoring into the wind and then having to duck and hide in anchorages dictated by those same strong North winds did not seem like a very cruiser-y thing to do.

"What if we get a jump on the season and head South early?" I said to Jon.
That seemed like as good an idea as any.
We began to flip through the pages of our Mexico mainland cruising guide.

We don't have an exact plan at the moment but there are several appealing and adventurous options out there.

As winter approaches, the sea of Cortez will cool off.
I do not like much about cool weather.
Everyone else was suffering in the heat and I loved it.
Never mind the heat rash and the constant sweating...
My skin never looked better!
I can take showers on deck at midnight and lay naked under the stars all night.
We now wake to  77 degrees in "the cabin" and about the same in "the pool".
"Freezing!"  I yelp.
"South!" I plead-and everyone just groans and rolls their eyes.

Many cruisers  in the Sea will head South, following the warm weather, to La Paz and then cross the Gulf of California.

Some will work their way down through the Mexican Rivera;  Puerto Vallerta and Bandaras  Bay all the way as far South as Acapulco.
After that, you can either turn around, before the Hurricane season and high-tail it back to the safety of the Sea of Cortez, or, sometime around April you make the jump across the "puddle'.
Cross the ocean and head for the South Pacific -and beyond.
There are other options, too; Central America, the islands off of Panama, the Panama Canal over to the Caribbean, South America and Ecuador, the Galapagos, Easter Island, Pitcarin...

Your decision about where to go depends mostly on the colors of your soul but weather, sea worthiness of your vessel and of course, money enter the equation.
Work and the subject of when and where and how we will manage is part of the variable...
but that part of our lives is so out of our control at the moment, we simply shrug and sharpen our fish hooks and ready our lines and ponder the stars.

At this moment in our lives, any one of those itineraries is a possibility for us.

It's a rare and delicious feeling,  to lie awake in your bunk and imagine all the places you could go-tomorrow- 
If you have the guts to go.

Jon wants to go-everywhere.
He and Kai lobby for New Guinea, the Galapagos, Chagos, a compressor for scuba tanks, sailing to Peru and hiking the Andes...
I want to surf.
Hunter wants a kitten and princess shoes.

Life was settling back into what it is when we are on the hook...
Pura vida's running well, Jon is a confident skipper and our crew is proving itself at the helm.
We can sail into an anchorage now, surf through shallow channels in 25 knot winds and 6 foot swells, set our rig in any variety of combinations and do better than our Max boat speed in anything over 15 knots.
We are also much, much better at surviving off the land. 
This is certainly due to the fact that  we have had some great teachers along the way.

Last week, we caught up, again, with Manta, in San Jaunico. 
We dove more, learned more.
They taught us to hunt and gather scallops-of course we used tanks with them but our free diving is improving and knowing what to look for sure helps!

Jon is deadly, free-diving with his new speargun and snagged his biggest grouper yet-12 pounds-perfect for several meals for us.
Kai set the "meat hook" out  as we rounded the corner into Punta Chivato and managed to snag our first Dorado.
We got our first lobster, unaided-Jon skewered him with the sling.
We had been taught by Terry how to twist of it's tail and break off an antenna and poke it up its butt to dig out the back vein-Um, that is not a Suki job, yet, nor will it ever be, probably, since the lobster is still kinda alive when you do all this.

I'm much better at making him into curry than the whole evisceration business.

Little Hunter hand fed a scallop to a Moray eel while she was snorkeling with Dawn...
What a girl!
What a life.

Boat school is rolling along again, the kids write and read everyday and do pages and science and Spanish when we aren't sailing or exploring.
We are growing fresh sprouts in jars and cooking with the sun.
Life is pretty tranquilo, in the Sea of Cortez.
Or at least it WAS for about four days...

We woke up three days ago to some musings on the SSB.
The skippers were talking about the predictions.
A cyclonic activity South of Cabo...
Weather from the...South.

Jon and I looked at each other. 
Here we go... again.

Within 72 hours of the first whispers of weather... we had PAUL-a cat 3 hurricane headed directly for Baja.

He's a bit of an anomaly, old PAUL, a late season storm but thanks to weather forecasting-everyone has a heads up on him.
Once again, were forced to run and seek shelter.

Lucky for us,  the forecast gave us plenty of warning, so there was no panic.
We had time and the wind was in our favor, still, blowing from the North.
We had a rockin downwind' sail in 25 knots. We set the sails wing on wing and ran for over thirty miles without ever touching a thing, averaging 7.5 knots.
We anchored for one night in a beautiful cove on Isla Carmen, had a morning scuba dive (in unlimited visibility) and then the clouds came in...
Time to go.
Back to Peurto Escondido.

There were 20+ boats when we got there and 30+ by the next day.

Something was definitely heading our way.

This morning, the sideways rains came in, a portend of what's off the coast.
The predictions for the sea tomorrow is 40 knot winds and 20 foot seas.
But we are safely anchored in a sheltered harbor.
Thank you, satellites...
I think of all the sailors that came before us and wonder at their fortitude.
I wonder if they ever hid under blankets.

Today, the radio is a-buzz with boats calling news and forecasts, checking on friends and boats coming in for shelter.
The storm models always have variables and the old timers have good advice on what is most likely to happen but it's Mother Nature and no one ever really knows for sure.
We cleaned the boat and closed the hatches tight, her sails are stowed but not off yet as we are still waiting for a closer prediction but we are watching every hour now.
Don't want to leave that sort of thing to late and risk having canvass up if it's really gonna blow.
Just when we got her all tickety-poo again, too.

We were owed a free night by the Tripuli motel and the kids and I decided to take it.
At the moment, we are curled up, watching Mexican TV and Lord of the Rings on our computer.
Jon went back to the boat to secure things again and check in with the other captains and we will see in the morning what's coming our way.

I will open a bottle of wine and look out the window at the billowing sheets of grey rain and wonder again... what tomorrow will bring.

hooking up!

Setting the hook!

The fight begins

serious fisher dude

Awww,,,Just another Bonito


A good kill with the speargun

Kai's Dorado!

Dive team Pura Vida

Kai makes me a turkshead

neat fillets

perfect kill shot to the head-not wrecking the fillet!


Dive team Manta

Thai food with fresh catch of the day

Proud boy!

Sailor mom

Mom's happy galley
banana pancakes with whip cream.mmmmm!

Happy kids

Jaun the fish-monger