What could be more wonderful, then days spent weighing anchor (after coffee), sailing to secret dive sites, suiting up, jumping in the water and having a whole new universe unfold around you.
An hour on a blue-water dive, is ten years of meditation, four hits of acid, six thousand dollars of therapy, five trips to Disneyland( minus the tourists) and you come through it all wanting only to giggle and chat about what you saw and then have a really fat nap and dream about doing it again-tomorrow.
Terry and Dawn gave us the opportunity to explore sites that would have taken us years to get certified for.
We always had lessons and lots of discussions about currents, safety, how to be a good dive buddies.
We learned about looking after your gear and how to use compressors and fill tanks.
We learned how to conserve energy by scooting along the bottom and pull yourself across rocks when moving against strong current.
Oh, but what we did....what we saw...
Underwater pinnacles and sea mounts, spires of rocks rising eighty feet off the bottom.
Sometimes the visibility was seventy feet- sometimes it was seven.
There were gentle creatures, neon, purple and gold nudibraches and shy turtles.
There were grumpy and deeply poisonous things, scorpion fish, cleverly camouflaged on rocks you nearly almost touched.
There were graceful spotted eagle rays and sneaky lobsters hiding under ledges.
Terry dove us down, down, down.
Once we left Pura Vida anchored off an outlying group of rocks and a sea lion colony and rode on Manta over building waves to a secret sea mount.
The water was dark and the vis not great but the sea settled down.
Terry watched his compass and chart points and said the word and Dawn dropped the anchor.
Even though we had been in hundreds of feet of water, moments before, the anchor caught on something...
A pinnacle rising a hundred and eighty feet from the sea floor to within thirty feet of the surface.
'Ready?" asked Terry.
I looked at the water.
Dawn was staying aboard Manta with Hunter, there's no snorkeling out here.
Since I borrow her tanks, she can't dive when I do.
"are you sure you don't want to go?" I asked, looking at that dark water again.
She grinned at me. She knew I was nervous.
'"I've done this dive a hundred times...You're gonna love it."
Kai stood on Manta's moving decks with his heavy tank strapped to his back and fearlessly stepped off into the open ocean.
What could i do?
I held my regulator and mask the way they had taught me and stepped off the deck.
Terry was already down, checking the anchor set. I followed the rode down, swimming through the murk, finally catching up to Jon and Kai and when we found Terry, waving at us, we were on top of an incredible sea mount.
More fish ( BIG fish) than I have ever seen, swirled around the jutting rocks.
We sank even deeper.
I was above Kai who was falling like a sky-diver, back arched, arms and legs stretched as he plummeted towards the bottom.
I kept telling myself to relax as the rocks rose above my head and strange fish peered at me from their holes.
When I looked back up I couldn't believe how deep we were already.
The only sound, was the rhythmic, inhale exhale of my breath and the streams of bubbles blowing past my mask and tickling my face
Every once in awhile, a strand of my hair would sweep in front of my mask and scare the be-jeezus out of me-before I realized what it was.
When I finally neared the bottom, I could see Terry.
He was waiting in front of a very large black hole in the rock face.
"CAVE" he signaled.
"Cool" I signaled back.
Terry motioned for me to follow him inside.
-but he wasn't looking at me.
I don't do tight spaces. I don't do dark spaces.
Suki es no spelunker amigo, especially not underwater.
I mean, seriously?
I'm down there in the murk, eighty feet under the surface, trying to keep track of my blissed-out ten year old, who keeps tooling around, poking his flashlight into cracks and pointing out log-sized moray eels and you want me to swim into a WHAT?
I had not even touched bottom yet and Terry was positioned in front of this gaping, black maw of a cave mouth, smiling and waving for us to follow.
I'm asking myself questions;
Is this fun? Am I having fun? I think I might be having kind of like, heart failure.
Jon was grinning at me.
We can't verbally communicate under water but after fourteen years together, we have excellent ESP.
"I know, this is scaring the crap out of you..." he mentally texted me.
He smiled reassuringly and pointed at Terry.
"just follow the big guy. The big guy will not lead you wrong".
I know. He's right. Terry is the man. He's not going to let me die.
I looked at Kai, who was grinning like he had done this a million times and was giving me a reassuring "thumbs up".
"You can do this, mom".
God love a ten-year-old boy- everything is fun to them.
Terry headed into the cave... and I followed him.
He simply turned on his flashlight and into the abyss we swam.
I was very, very close behind him.
In fact, I might of been kind of hanging onto his leg a little bit.
My thoughts went something like this:
"Oh god. I am going to die...
A giant moray is going to pop out of the darkness and eat my head off...
And how DO Navy seals save people having heart attacks underwater..."
Then, after a minute, when I realized I wasn't dying, there came other, newer, calmer thoughts.
"Oh my, it's so beautiful..."
"the walls are so smooth...look at those tiny little fish, I wonder what they are..."
"I am totally in a National Geographic video right now..."
'Look, there's light coming through the end of the cave over there..."
Light at the end of the tunnel.
And then we were swimming out of the cave, through the other side where it opened into a spectacular underwater grotto-
towering rocks with a white sand bottom-an octopus's garden.
I turned and watched my boy and his dad swimming out of this incredible cave together, smiling from ear to ear and this beautiful filtered sunlight is shining all around us ...
If you could fly through the clouds and meet Ol' Zeus himself, you couldn't have had a bigger rush than I had at that moment.
I believed in God. I forgave the universe every injustice.
I started to cry in my mask-which was a bad idea, because it made my eyes burn from all the salt.
I gasped and my heart pounded in my wetsuit.
Terry had a big ol' smile on his face and he motioned for us to follow.
We swam over a crazy rock face to a cluster of large boulders with a low deep cave tucked way underneath.
"Come" he gestured.
Encouraged by my own awesomeness ( at having survived the first cave challenge), I swam in, right behind him.
Terry shone his flashlight into the dark recesses...
Very large shapes were moving in there.
A snapper, maybe sixty pounds, swam past and googled us with his golden eye.
'Wow" I nodded, pretty freaked out.
Terry signalled for me to look again.
My eyes adjusted to the darkness and I saw something I couldn't quite get my head around.
Not three feet away , a dog toothed snapper ( VERY descriptive name, there) , damn near my own size (120 pounds) was staring right at me.
His canine-like teeth were as big as a sea lions.
And here i was, squeezed way up inside HIS cave.
I don't remember moving, or anything but somehow I was back outside that cave, in like, three seconds.
As fast as I backed out, in swam Kai, worming his way inside, as far as possible.
That kid, I swear.
We made a new friend, Bruce, on SV Marionette-he is great buds with Manta and we had a nice time getting to know him.
He had a birthday and Manta, being big birthday people, planned a group buddy boat and dive with a party later that night.
We set sail to a spectacular dive site -with perfect conditions that day- but Hunter had a head cold, so she couldn't dive with Dawn.
She and I decided to stay aboard and bake Bruce a cake while everyone else dove.
I am no cake baker (when a package of mix is not involved) so Hunter had her reservations about what we could come up with.
All I had on board were carrots and zucchini so I figured we could make him a carrot cake.
Hunter was mortified that we were going to make anyone, especially someone as nice as Bruce, a cake with "vegetables" because that sounded "awful" and was "inconsiderate"-especially on someone's birthday.
I managed to convince her with the idea of cream cheese frosting enough that she was willing to give it a try.
After diving, we all buddy boated back to Escondido and then we rafted with Marionette for the night .
That was our first time rafting with anyone, so there were lots of jokes about Bruce being our "first" and he taught us how to do it right.
With our boats tied together, we also had a bigger platform to have a party on.
There was a good gathering of folks from all kinds of countries and Kiwi Bruce made his excellent specialty, 'Grunt Curry" and Kai made him some nice handmade rope shackle pulls and we had a grand time and met some other really neat cruisers.
And the "vegetable cake" turned out just fine.
The next day we were off again, with Manta and spent another week having great dives and learning lots of tricks and getting real local knowledge of the area and Terry guided us off the charts, through reefs and rocks and showed us shortcuts and taught us how to be much cooler sailors and gave Jon lessons on electronics and soldering and Hunter and Dawn and Tigger and all of us just had a really excellent time.
We even got chased off a potential lee shore one night when the wind changed and had a night sail with them under a nearly full moon to a safe anchorage.
We loved them and they loved us but finally, after one last lovely dive, the time came for us to go our separate ways.
It was tearful good bye but in typical Manta fashion, they made it a laugh by mooning us all on the way out of the anchorage-
the bawdy crew of Pura Vida responded in kind and dropped trou in a return adieu -all except shy Kai (who has much better manners than the rest of us!).
Hunter cried for four hours straight after leaving Terry and Dawn and Tigger-cat.
We look forward to the day we meet again.
And, so, we were off...once more.
Wanting to cheer our sad little Hunter, we asked what could be done and she informed us it was Halloween in two days.
She wanted an anchorage with lots of boats- for trick or treat!
We set our course for La Paz and much to our dismay discovered that our autopilot wouldn't wake up.
I took the helm for six hours while Jon took it apart again and again and tried everything known to science and man to get it going- but there was nothing to be done.
Kai set a line and caught and landed the biggest Dorado yet.
We set down our anchor in Isla San Fransico and swam in crystal clear waters and Hunter and I explored the new flora on the beach and collected puka shells to make jewelry with.
Jon and Kai filleted the Dodo and when Hunter and I got back from our adventures ashore we pan fried him in butter and Sake and finished it off with a drizzle of wasabi-mayo.
-Dorado is the same as Mahi Mahi -and this is an easy, excellent way to serve them, by the way!
We sat around drinking lemonades and watched the sunset when our friends on SV Tortue pulled into the anchorage.
I tucked the kids into bed with their books while Jon dingied over to Tortue and questioned the very seasoned captain Mike about our Autopilot.
He agreed to have a look in the morning but first a captain's bargain was struck and sealed with a grog.
Mike was losing boat speed and figured the culprit was a mucky bottom.
His ears were bad from years of diving and being in the water was not an option for him.
Dive team Pura Vida was ready and willing to take the job.
We agreed to scrub his hull of barnacles and growth and he would lend his expert eye to our buggered system.
The next morning, Mike and Jon pulled the thing apart to get to the workings of the ancient old motor that powers the automatic steering arm. When they opened it up to look at the brushes that drive the motor, it turned to dust in their hands. Literally, dust. I'm not even kidding.
Lucky for us, this was happening only thirty miles from La Paz and not in the middle of the Pacific!
We packed it away with lots of advice on who to call and what to do but for now our cruising plans would be waylaid until this can get sorted.
The kids suited up and we four dove Tortue and cleaned her bottom and Mike and the lovely Miss Melissa made us bloody Mary's and the kid's apple juices before they headed off for Los Muertos. They would wait for the weather there and then cross to the mainland, where they run a business in Mazatlan.
We waved goodbye, wishing we were going too-instead of heading to La Paz for repairs.
Mike called us later, on the radio, to say he had his missing half a knot of hull speed back.
Well done, dive team!
It was Halloween, so while Jon steered us towards La Paz, Hunter and I decorated the boat.
It was about this time, we noticed Hermey seems to have gone missing.
This is not too alarming...yet.
He ate about eight whole Bananas in the short week he's been with us and I'm sure he's just hibernating somewhere( like my underwear drawer) growing into a very large an intimidating thing.
We have left several larger shells lying around in case he feels like he needs a change.
Hunter had decided to go as "Haunted Heidi" for Halloween.
"who is Haunted Heidi?" I asked her.
"Oh..." She said, her blue eyes glinting.
"She's like the real Heidi, only if her grandpa had been mean and didn't take her in and just left her to die in the snow..."
I don't know where she gets this stuff.
Kai was a pirate, of course.
Anything, so long as it did not involve him having to change or brush his hair.
That left us with the options of homeless person( which I objected to on moral grounds) or pirate.
The only difference from his usual, daily dress, was that he opted to wear a belt so his pants did not fall down-like they usually do.
The last time we were in La Paz we were in the very swank Marina of Costa Baja. That was back when we were newer, flush-er cruisers and not looking to scrimp and save and eek everything possible out of our meager savings so we can just keep on cruising
(I think this might be the grown-up equivalent of not wanting to brush your hair or wear a belt).
This time we would anchor out in the Magote - just off the city.
There's a colorful mix of the old and new, the hardcore and the derelict in the Magote.
And it's wonderful.
Hunter was very, very pleased at the number of boats anchored in La Paz
We decorated the boat and hung paper bats and pumpkins form the black coral and dug out my one remaining tube of make-up and got ready for dingy trick or treat.
Last week, Hunter and Dawn had made cards to give out as tricks -in case certain unaware cruisers did not realize it was Halloween.
You open the cards and they said things like...
YOU DIDN'T TREAT HEIDI! NOW YOU WILL BE EATEN IN YOUR SLEEEEEEPPPPPP!!!!"
We are a hardened bunch, us sailors- we don't mess around.
And not everyone expects to have their hull knocked on in a remote corner of Mexico with two gringo children hollering "trick or treat".
First we hit up the charming Marina De La Paz, where we knew some other cruiser friends staying on their boats.
We strolled the docks and got all kinds of lovely treats and and were invited aboard for glasses of juice and the kids were cooed over.
After the sun set, it was time to putter out into the wilder, woolier Magote.
The boats were new to us, some were friendly, some... not so much.
I think more than a few machete's were hidden behind backs as people crept on deck in the dark to see who had sidled up to their boats.
Maybe, the ghouls of the IRS haunt more people in Mexico than little children in Halloween costumes.
Our kids are fearless, so we approached every boat, as long as it wasn't half sinking on it's anchor.
We saw more characters out there than you would see at a hundred Halloween parties.
And none of their costumes were rented.
We had the full gambit. ..
French ladies on elegant sailing skiffs, filled their bags with Giradelli chocolates and Ancient old Crust-Balls on listing wrecks, handed out half eaten bags of prunes that had probably been in the bilge since 1967.
The kids yelled JOYEUX HALLOWEEN at everyone, no matter, that it's a French saying.
It's true what they say about kids and languages, the more you let them just be around it, the more likely they are to just start talking.
Cruisers come from everywhere so we hear a lot of languages, all the time.
At a boat party the other night, the kids were listening to a conversation in French being spoken by Argentinians to a couple from Brazil.
So, now, here we are, back in La Paz.
No plan for the future, once again, we are at the mercy of the fates.
Only this time it's shipping parts to Mexico and not the winds.
Just another lesson in cruising...
We've been in La Paz three times now, so it's getting a little familiar-which is nice.
And it has internet. :).
|Buddy boats Manta and Marionette|
|Elephant rock -on the left|
|Sea Lions with Pura Vida in the BG|
|Terry and suki ready to dive|
|Rafting with Marionette|
|We love you Manta!|
|...Who cried all the way to Partida!|
|Flying our flags|
|Just another lovely beach...|
|...all to ourselves.|
|Exploring the newly green world...|
|Finding flowers is a rare treat!|
|Hunter with a Terry's old knife|
|Boat school-Jon teaches math!|
|Looking for Pukas|
|Kai's fish-It looks small in this shot!|
|mom and dad|
|Solar showering on deck-in a baby bath!|
|lots of masts means- a good anchorage for trick or treat!|
|Hunter gets crafty|
|Haunted Heidi and the world's nicest pirate|
|Haunted Heidi gets scary|
|trick or treating in the Marina|
|Sunset over the Magote|