Itemizing the ditch bag in case we have to abandon the boat while at sea.
Honestly, the preparation is a whole lot of work!
All aspects of the boat and sails must be in good working condition and spare parts for repairs need to be on board. Planning meals and buying enough food for the passage plus extras in case we encounter delays, or restricted land access (thank you Coronavirus) requires organization, many trips to the grocery and time finding and recording storage locations on the boat.
A pretty sunset prior to leaving the dock at Paradise Village.
However, the real answer to the actual passage experience depends on your vessel, the weather and sea conditions you encounter and the crew on board.
We were confident that our crew was excellent and experienced and that our HH55 Catamaran is strong, fast and comfortable. Our variable would be the weather.
The unique circumstances created by COVID-19 made us especially cautious about our health once we left mainland Mexico. As a precaution, we sailed from Puerto Vallarta to San Benedicto Island, part of the Revillagigedo Islands, about 320 nm off of mainland Mexico. We spent six days in this completely uninhabited marine park waiting for a good weather window and insuring that none of us had any symptoms of the virus.
Revillagigedo Island with buddy boat Kalewa at anchor. (Photo by C. Stich)
While anchored at San Benedicto, we once again enjoyed some excellent scuba diving and relished the opportunity to see the giant manta rays again. It was fun to share this special place with Clayton and Connor.
Mary Grace swimming with giant mantas. (Photo credit s/v Migration.)
This time we saw more sharks at San Benedicto and perhaps because there weren’t any dive boats, they seemed to hang around TTR more than the last time. Surprisingly the sharks swarmed when I dropped some lettuce off the back of the boat. Perhaps these were vegetarian sharks??
That’s close enough, Mr. Shark. (Photo by C. Stich)
Once we were confident we all felt well and we saw predictions for good weather and wind, we upped anchor and departed for the remainder of our 2660 nm adventure across the Pacific Ocean.
We are often asked if we stop at night during passages and the answer is no. We are always moving and we must have someone on watch 24 hours every day. We settled into a pattern of 3 hour watches per person when the weather was good. If we anticipated big seas, winds or storms, we had two people up for six hour watches with a ‘primary’ watch person at the helm for 3 hours while the alternate slept in the salon. For the last three hours, the twosome would switch roles.
All in all, the watch schedule worked well and the vast majority of the time we only needed one person awake. I had the easiest watch schedule of 7-10 am and pm. I think they gave me the easy watch because I planned the food and we ate very well.
Clayton cutting the dessert pizza.
Clayton and Connor made a dessert pizza with a layer of Nutella on the bottom, then half of it was topped with cinnamon-apple and half was blueberry pie topping. Delish!
We are also asked what we DO ALL DAY while “stuck” on a boat, but the days go surprisingly fast. One reason the days go quickly is that being constantly in motion is tiring physically and mentally and all of us rest, if not sleep, more while underway than when at anchor.
There are duties that must be accomplished often:
- enter the log: lat/long position, boat speed, wind speed, wind direction, state of battery charge, water levels, etc (every two hours)
- check the bilges of the boat and make sure they are all dry
- run new weather reports (think slower than dial up data speeds)
- manage water levels
- manage boat energy levels
- take watch
- prepare meals
- watch the skies and seas in case unusual weather develops
- check the sails, lines and attachments
But what do we do for fun? In addition to reading, watching movies, playing games, listening to books or podcasts, how about a little fishing?
Connor has something on that line.
A small Mahi but enough for dinner and sashimi.
Connor created a pistachio crusted Mahi! YUM
He who catches, gets to cook the fish and Connor did an amazing job after Frank expertly filleted it! Many thanks to those back home who helped with the recipe because it was fab. I told you we ate well! Farm to table right there.
When surrounded by water with no land in sight, watching the nature that surfaces or flies into view is interesting.
Clayton caught this Booby as it dove for a fish!
Dolphins always bring a smile and everyone awake goes outside to watch them.
This pod of about 10 dolphins stayed with us for 20 minutes. (Photo by C. Stich)
This trip we were absolutely blessed with excellent conditions. We had manageable winds with only one night of rain with winds gusting up in the high 20s. For the majority of our passage, the wind was between 11 and 22 knots. We did have several days of cloud cover which made for cool days. At night it was cold enough to require long pants and a jacket and that was excellent for sleeping when off watch.
The moon was waxing and became full during our passage.
I seemed to have the luck of catching some spikes in the wind during my evening shift and at one point as we surfed down a wave and I saw 17.9 knots of boat speed! You’ll have to trust me on that as everyone else was asleep. (25k wind, R1 main, genoa)
Interesting shot of TTR blazing along. (Photo by C. Stich.)
We had engaged the services of Bruce, a weather router, for our planned trip to French Polynesia, so instead he helped us with the trip to Hawaii. We think having Bruce advise us was helpful to anticipate weather troughs that were not predicted through our PredictWind weather service.
Based on Bruce’s forecast of squalls and unstable, increasing winds, we had our main sail reefed for about 30% of our trip. In actuality, we missed the unstable weather and in hindsight the reefs were mostly unnecessary. But better to be prepared than caught overpowered.
Sunrise is welcome and beautiful when on watch. (Photo by C. Stich)
Even with our conservative sail plan, the whole trip took a total of 14 days and we averaged 8.2 knots. Pretty impressive considering we want for nothing and were able to cook meals every night.
Since Hawaii was an unexpected destination, I was trying to read a book our friends Katie and Kevin of s/v Kalewa had lent us when we were at the Rev Islands. Trying to figure out where to go on each island was slightly overwhelming. Also, we were concerned we might be restricted to one island once we arrived and we wanted to choose a good place to hang out for an extended stay.
Frank studying sunset from the galley. (Photo by C. Stich)
I suggested we each take a Hawaiian Island and give a presentation on that island. This idea quickly became a competition of who could best “sell” his island to the others on board.
Clayton and Connor delved into their personal skills. Clayton drummed up some long forgotten high school expertise and made a power point presentation about O’Ahu. Connor was very secretive about his presentation for Molokai and I knew I needed to step up my game…. I have NO computer skills, so I thought I would draw pictures of rainbows, waterfalls and unicorns to demonstrate how wonderful Kauai is. BUT I have no drawing skills either, so I quit after drawing the rainbow and instead tried to paint with words! Frank was the straight man and his presentation about Maui was filled with facts and persuasive reasons to make Maui our island of choice.
Clayton hammed up his PowerPoint presentation!
Turns out Connor had written a poem about Molokai which I have copied and put at the end of this blog post. I’m sure a compendium of Connor’s poetry will soon be available on Amazon!
Lest you think life on a passage is all rainbows and unicorns, like on Kauai, I will tell you we did have one rather interesting event. Prior to leaving, we had tried to determine why our steering system was making a noise that was continuing to grow louder.
Frank testing and retesting the steering system.
Frank was in touch with the maker of the steering system and several other experts. After trouble shooting and trying the suggestions, the noise remained, but thankfully no one thought this would create an issue…. other than making it hard to sleep on the port side where the master cabin bed is. Imagine having Chewbacca mouthing off every 5 seconds behind your headboard while trying to sleep and you will understand what we heard when resting. Thank goodness for earplugs to dampen the sound!
One clear afternoon about 10 days into our trip, Frank was on watch and Clayton and I were chatting when the boat suddenly rounded up toward the wind. Clayton looked up and said, “Where ya going dad?” Frank’s unhappy response was, “I don’t know!”
We had lost all steering!
Talk about all hands on deck! We quickly rolled in the genoa and centered the main. I took the helm, started the engines and kept us into the wind. Clayton opened the port engine compartment and Frank and Connor took the starboard, all trying to diagnose the issue. Somehow the bolt of the steering rod on the starboard side had completely backed out and we had no steering!
Frank and Connor after replacing the steering bolt.
Fortunately the bolt, washers and nut were found in the engine compartment and within 15 minutes we had steering again! At least now I know what happens when we loose our steering while under sail!
This issue was completely independent of the Chewbacca noise which stayed with us the whole trip. (Now we think this is an issue with the roller bearings but we probably need to have TTR out of the water to attempt this fix.)
Frank on the foredeck at sunset. (Photo by C. Stich)
We expected to have unstable conditions as we approached Hawaii, but instead the wind died, the sea flattened out and we had enough of a rain shower to wash the topside of Ticket to Ride! Except for when we were fixing the steering, we only used the engines for the last portion of our trip – about 16 hours of our 2600 nm trip.
The verdant hillside of Hawaii was a welcome sight.
Even though we had a great trip, land was a welcome sight. Knowing we would be back on U.S. soil during these turbulent COVID-19 times was an added benefit.
A quiet and relaxing view in Radio Bay, Hilo.
This trip was exceptionally easy especially for two weeks of ocean travel. We could not have asked for better weather, wind or sea conditions. The crew was pretty special too!
When we arrived at the seawall in Radio Bay, s/v Moondance and s/v Kalewa were there to grab our lines and secure Ticket to Ride to her check in space. While we couldn’t greet our friends with hugs or touch of any kind, seeing their smiling faces was joyous.
Surprisingly, what I most enjoyed about coming to rest was not the lack of motion, but the quiet. My ears tend to be sensitive and two weeks of noise from the rushing of water and the wake created by TTR was very tiring for me. I ended up wearing noise cancelling headphones at times during the passage to give my senses a rest. The hush of Hilo was magical.
During our trip, several friends reached out via IridiumGo to say hello and let us know they were watching our progress. I found great pleasure in these short messages and looked forward to the little “pings” announcing a new message. Thank you so much for keeping me company as we traveled and for having us in your thoughts and prayers. Your messages warmed my heart and added a lift to my days! A special thank you to Laura who made a concerted effort to contact me every other day with newsy notes that were entertaining and more welcome than she realizes.
- Banderas Bay, MX to San Benedicto: 320 nm, average speed: 9.2 knots or 10.6 mph
- Total time from Banderas Bay to San Benedicto: 1 day 10 hours
- San Benedicto to Hilo, HI: 2500 nm, average speed: 8.2 knots or 9.4 mph
- Total time from San Benedicto to Hilo: 13 days, 2 hours
- Total distance Banderas Bay to Hilo, HI: 2820 nm or 3,245 miles
- Total under engine for both segments: 16 hours
- Highest SOG to Hawaii: 17.9 knots or 20.6 mph
A special thank you to Clayton Stich for most of these great photos!
By Connor Jackson
*This poem includes some inside TTR passage jokes and might be confusing.
WOW, if you made it through this looong blog, thank you. We appreciate you taking the time to share our journey. If you have any questions or comments, please reach out or add them to the comments below. Stay safe out there!
OK, that is a dramatic headline, but certainly COVID-19 has affected nearly every part of the world, including those of us living on water.
Here on Ticket to Ride, we have kept our ear to the water, so to speak, while still preparing to sail across the Pacific Ocean to French Polynesia. We have spent many days preparing the boat, stocking up on information and supplies, buying food and preparing meals that can be reheated in case of rough seas, etc.
Yesterday, March 18th, I visited the Port Captain to prepare our departure paperwork and we scheduled our appointment with officials to sign us out of Mexico today at 11:00 am. We were excited and ready to depart.
However, this morning we were informed that this port of Mexico will not issue us a zarpé to French Polynesia. (Zarper: Spanish verb: to set sail.)
The information we have gathered from Polynesia concerning sailboats entering the country is contradictory.
Tuesday we learned:
- All arriving into FP have a 14 day quarantine for the Coronavirus.
- Boats would be restricted to the island where they enter the country.
- Inter-island travel for residents is restricted to work, family emergencies or returning home.
Wednesday evening we learned:
- Passage time will count toward the quarantine time for sailors.
- FP will not allow incoming air travelers.
- Non-residents will be repatriated.
Thursday (today) we learned from our entry agent:
- Cruisers can enter the Marquesas and Tahiti to fuel, provision and leave.
- We do not know any news about the Long Stay Visas yet. (We have preliminary LSVs but we also have to reapply when we arrive in French Polynesia and now that acceptance is questionable.)
In addition, there are other sources of information stating stronger restrictions and some stating fewer restrictions and still others saying the restrictions do not apply to sailboats.
The only constant is change, therefore our plans are fluid.
Are we still leaving for French Polynesia? Will we stay in Mexico and if so, where? If we leave but don’t go to French Polynesia, where will we go?
The answer is, we just don’t know. Here are the options currently on the table:
- Stay in Mexico.
- Sail to Hawaii then a: leave for FP when it opens or b: sail to Alaska after exploring Hawaii.
These are great options to have and we definitely consider ourselves blessed to be in this position.
However, juggling the information and determining our destination is a serious decision. We must consider the length of the trip, the sea and wind conditions, where we can land, if we will be welcomed and how the Conronavirus is affecting our destination.
One huge blessing on our side at the moment is having Clayton and Connor aboard TTR; their experience, intelligence, energy and enthusiasm are greatly appreciated.
So there you have our current non-plans. Look for a quick message on Facebook once we decide to depart. Until then, we will continue to consider our options.
Wishing all of you good health and calm surroundings.
As always, thank you for visiting our blog. Our prayers are with everyone affected by COVID-19. All the best from Ticket to Ride.
Suppose you were going to take a three week trip and while you were on that trip, you were going to be completely self sufficient. You wouldn’t stop for any reason: not for any supplies or for directions, regardless of the weather or how tired you were or even if you were sick. On this trip you do not expect to see any people other than those with you and your path is unmarked and without signage. Oh, and if you have any problems, you must fix them yourself using only the supplies you have on hand.
Welcome to sailing across the Pacific Ocean!
This description sounds really dramatic but it is actually pretty accurate.
Of course, we do have electronic charts on board Ticket to Ride to help with directions. We do have a satellite phone system (IridiumGo) that allows us to get weather updates or place emergency phone calls. We have safety equipment and emergency medical supplies. We are well informed and have taken classes to improve our knowledge (100 ton Captain’s licenses and Safety at Sea courses). We will have two extra crew members on board to help us with this trip.
We have done our best to prepare but the truth is, once we shove off, we are on our own for 3000 nautical miles until we reach Nuka Hiva, Marquesas.
So, although we have been having a fabulous time here in Mexico, much of our time and energy is being invested in preparing to leave Puerto Vallarta and sail to the Marquesas Islands.
The trip of about 3000 nm is probably the longest passage we will complete as sailors. TTR is a pretty fast boat and, if the weather cooperates, we hope to complete our trip in just 16 days!
On average, most sailboats take three weeks or more to complete this crossing. When considering passage time, we are fortunate!
We are not alone in our preparations as many other sailors are planning to sail to French Polynesia right now as spring is the best weather window for the trip. Unlike a road trip, we cannot stop along the way if the weather gets bad, so departure timing is important.
Drama aside, this is a big passage and preparation is essential. Fortunately I married an eagle scout who truly embraces the “Be Prepared” motto. Together we are tackling our To Do Lists and getting Ticket to Ride in prime condition.
If you are interested, here are a few of the items we have been and continue to address:
Long Stay Visas for French Polynesia. As non EU citizens, we are allowed to enter FP and stay for 90 days. However, we would like to be able to stay longer, so we have applied to the French Consulate for a LSV which would allow us to stay for one year. Applying for the LSV meant gathering a mound of paperwork, including a police report stating that we are citizens of good standing, financial information, proof of health and boat insurance… well just a bunch of things. Then we had to travel to Mexico City to visit the French Consulate and apply in person. We completed that appointment on January 29, 2020 and anticipate the response this coming week – about a six weeks processing period.
Crew: although Frank and I originally planned on making this passage alone, we decided that having crew would make the passage safer, faster and more fun. To our delight, our youngest son, Clayton, is joining us for this passage! Clayton has plenty of sailing and water experience, plus he is a mechanical engineer and will be very helpful in case of any issues. Our second crew member is Connor Jackson. Connor is a friend of Clayton’s and a very experienced sailor who crossed the Pacific two years ago in his 31’ Hunter sailboat. Connor’s experience and knowledge are valuable additions.
By adding Clayton and Connor to the crew, we have lowered that average age on board TTR by 1/3 and I imaging the energy level will increase by an equal amount.
Every sailboat is like a tiny city that must produce its own power, refrigeration, water etc, so it is essential that all parts are working consistently and reliably for our passage.
For example, we have a water-maker aboard TTR and we rely on this for our drinking water. Frank has checked and triple checked the system to make certain it is working well and we won’t be thirsty while offshore. (We will bring some bottled water in case of a system breakdown.)
Rigging/sail inspection: inspecting our rigging and sails is very important since we are relying on them to propel us across the ocean. In addition to making sure the sails are holding up well, Frank has cleaned and waxed the mast, inspected the rigging and connections, oiled the sail tracks, greased winches, inspected blocks and made adjustments to lines and sheets. (I just had to hoist him up and down the mast.)
Spare parts: Walmart cannot be reached! TTR is full of spare parts and tools to insure (hopefully) that we can repair any issues we find.
Reviewing and changing boat insurance to cover us while in the South Pacific. Because insurance companies suffered huge losses during hurricanes these last few years, obtaining insurance is more difficult than one would expect.
Reviewing medical insurance: international travel requires special insurance and our LSV requires us to have coverage in place for the duration of our visas.
Route Planning: gathering information about the best route to take, where it is best to cross the ITCZ, weather patterns on both sides of the equator, determining how/if we can stay in touch with other boats who are crossing, etc.
Navigating in French Polynesia: more and more sailors are relying on electronic chats and imaging as aids to navigation, especially in areas where the charts are not current and where Google images can be overlaid on charts. Fortunately, Connor has used many of the electronic charts and has graciously shared his knowledge with us and friends who are also heading across the Pacific Ocean.
Food Planning: so this could take a whole post unto itself. But the short story is that we have to have enough food on board for 1.5X our planned passage time. In addition to planning and buying the food, I need to have several precooked, frozen meals available in case we aren’t feeling well or the conditions are rough and cooking from scratch is not possible. Three meals a day, plus snacks and considering that at least one person is up and on watch 24 hours a day…. a lot of food and snacks are required.
Favorite foods: traveling to other countries means we get to try foods that are unique to those countries and are unfamiliar to us. That is a fun aspect of travel. However, when this is your full time lifestyle, you begin to miss foods you cannot find away from home. So, we are trying to stock up on a few special items that probably won’t be available after leaving Mexico.
Expensive/hard to find supplies: along the same lines of favorite foods, there are some items that are reasonably priced and easy to find in one place but cost and arm and a leg or can’t be found in other places. We are trying to flush out this information and stock up on some of those items. This can be as varied as motor oil and canned tomatoes or self-rising flour and alcohol.
Storage: once buying food and spares and tools is complete, we have to find places to store all of our extras. We are very fortunate that TTR has many convenient storage areas, but for long term trips like this one, we have to get creative. Often this means opening up the beds, the floors and the seating areas to store things below them. Pretty much wherever we can find safe and open spaces could be used for storage.
PPJ Meetings: Puerto Vallarta is a popular jumping off spot for sailboats making the Pacific Puddle Jump. As a result, there are many formal meetings where speakers present topics of interest: reading weather files, how to avoid storms, provisioning for long passages, medical emergencies, communication at sea, etc. Frank and I have attended several meetings and enjoy the information and getting to know others who are in the throws of preparing to jump.
Clean your bottom: boat bottom that is! Sailboats routinely need to have the bottom cleaned to prevent soft and hard growth from accumulating. Not only is the growth unsightly, it slows the boat’s progress through the water. Although we have an excellent bottom paint on TTR, growth still occurs and we will make certain her bottom is clean and smooth before we leave for the Marquesas.
Corona Virus: A unique aspect to our trip in 2020 is the unexpected and very fluid requirements and restrictions pertaining to the Corona Virus. In the past week the requirements for entering French Polynesia have changed depending on how you are arriving. Needless to say, we are staying informed about this and we are preparing to get additional health certificates as the requirements change.
So there you have it, a glimpse into our preparation for sailing across the Pacific Ocean. Needless to say, good preparation is essential and we are doing our best to be very well prepared. Frank and I are thankful that Ticket to Ride is a strong, fast and reliable sailboat. We look forward to completing the preparations and actually beginning this voyage since it has been part of our distant plans for years!
Our goal is to depart within the next two weeks depending on finalizing some last items, completing our provisioning and finding the proper weather window.
If you would like to follow our progress, you can look for our location on this blog page: look on the right hand column for our location.
Thanks for reading our blog. If you have any comments, we would love to hear from you. We will try to figure out how to send an update or two as we are crossing the Pacific, but no promises at this point.
I am trying to catch up on a few places we have visited but about which I have not written. We actually visited Isla Isabel back in January!
Isabel is a small island of only 1.94 square kilometers and is host to a huge number of sea birds. This uninhabited island was declared a national park in 1980 and in 2005 was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Isla Isabel is sometimes called the Galapagos of Mexico and Frank and I decided it was a must visit for us. So after our brief stay in Mazatlan, we pointed TTR south and slightly west for a quick 93 nm hop to Isabel.
We left Mazatlan around 4 pm and the next morning we dropped the hook in the southern anchorage of Isabel. Approaching the island, we could see many birds riding the wind drafts and once closer we could see many others roosting on the nearby rocks.
In 1975, Isla Isabel was featured in a Jacques Cousteau documentary called The Sea Birds of Isabela, and after visiting, we understand that title completely!
The wildlife on Isabel has been free of human aggression and as a result was completely unfazed by our presence. In fact, we were able to get so close to the birds that I could have easily touched several of them while they were sitting on their nests.
There are several loosely marked paths on Isla Isabel and I think we managed to walk all of them. It felt a bit like walking into Jurasic Park as we ducked below and squeezed by branches. The birds continued to call to one another as we traversed, but not in an agitated or warning voice, more like normal bird calls. Similar to the fact that the birds just looked at us as we passed by rather than flying away, the tenor of their calls made it seem like they were not the least bothered or concerned by our presence.
Neither of us are “birders” but we enjoyed seeing the frigate birds and hearing some of the males beat upon their inflated pouches as they tried to entice a mate. Several years ago we took a frigate bird tour on the island of Barbuda and the frigates were in full mating mode during that tour!
At Isabel we caught the very end of the season and saw only a few males with inflated gular pouches. Hopefully they were eventually successful!
The boobies were our favorite birds, specifically the blue footed ones. Isla Isabel is host to blue, brown and red footed boobies. The color of boobies’ feet and the intensity of the color is dependent upon the diet of the birds.
We only saw blue and brown boobies on Isla Isabel and we noticed that the blue boobies sort of ‘displayed’ their feet when they walk.
Turns out, the more blue the feet are, the more attractive the bird is considered to be.
Boobies are also known to “skypoint” to attract females. Skypointing means that while flying, the male throws his head back and points his beak to the sky.
Come on ladies, you know that is totally sexy!?!
We also saw some brown booby birds and while their feet weren’t as pretty as the blue footed boobies, their dark fur was interesting because it really showed the outline of the feathers against the bird’s head.
Birds were not the only interesting aspect of Isabel.
As we walked we saw a variety of fauna, iguanas, an interior pond and shores that were sometimes high and grass covered and other times shallow with ocean refreshed tide pools.
Although Isla Isabel is basically uninhabited, there is a good deal of activity. We saw two boats bring a photography class to Isabel where the students spent the nights in tents and during the day wandered the island honing their photo skills.
We also saw a couple of shrimping boats out working their nets and later they anchored nearby for a much needed rest.
We found Isla Isabel to be a fabulous immersion into nature after being in the large, busy city of Mazatlan. We spent four nights at the island and wished we could have stayed longer.
As always, thank you for dropping by to read our blog. If you would like to hear from us more often, please follow our FB page.
Having the kids home for Christmas is a wish come true, so Frank and I were thrilled when Hunter and Clayton decided to spend the Holidays with us on TTR.
Having a real Christmas tree is unrealistic on Ticket to Ride, but Frank’s mom, Jackie, made us a festive and pretty lighted Christmas tree mural that we hung up in the salon of TTR. Although Jackie hasn’t been to this boat yet, she managed to make the tree the perfect size – and it’s easy to roll up and store!
The Christmas tree Jackie made for us is perfect!
Initially we thought the kids might enjoy being in La Paz where they would have access to local restaurants, the Malecón and nightlife, but we were mistaken. The focus of the trip would be sailing, sports and family time…. the usual Stich agenda!
Just one area of many festive decorations on the Malecón La Paz
Although we consider ourselves to be fairly energetic people, the activity level increased significantly with everyone on board; and it was a blast.
We toured the local farmer markets in La Paz for some fresh food and dinghied to Magote for a kiteboarding session. We also strolled along the Malecón and had a delicious dinner at Mesquite Grill.
But then it was time to get active.
Between us and the gear, the rental car was packed!
Kiteboarding is always a focus on TTR especially for Frank and Hunter, but Clayton is an avid surfer so we wanted to find a few good waves. Since the wind did not look promising for kiting, we rented a VRBO in Todo Santos and drove there for a bit of surfing and boogie boarding.
This Toto Santos beach was pretty and had good waves!
Toto Santos is a charming little town and the surf beach is really pretty! We spent two days and one night in Toto Santos enjoying the surprisingly warm surf. In fact, the water in Todo Santos was a good 10 degrees warmer than it was in La Paz.
My handsome Clayton waiting for breakfast at La Esquina in Toto Santos.
There is a turtle sanctuary in Toto Santos and every day in December they release hatchlings at sunset. I was excited to see the little turtles crawl to freedom and all my guys were surprisingly interested as well. Apparently many other people wanted to watch the turtle release too as there were about 50 people mulling about!
A little glimpse into the incubation tent.
The turtles are hatched in a large incubated tent monitored mostly by volunteers. Just after sunset eight plastic containers holding a total of about 100 hatchlings were released near the surf.
I had no idea that only one in 100 turtles survive to adulthood! Thinking about it though, I can understand why – there are predators at every step of the turtles birth.
Look how small and cute these little babies are!
First the egg has to hatch before some animal steals into the nest and eats it.
Next the hatchling has to walk from the relatively protected grass across the open sand to the ocean surf, and it is exposed and defenseless to prey during that slow, awkward crawl.
Driven by instinct, turtles scrabble toward the light of the setting sun they see over the ocean waves. However, these days the artificial lights used by humans can disorient the baby turtles causing them to go away from the ocean instead of towards it, creating another obstacle to survival. For this reason, flash photography and flashlights were not allowed.
That is a long, dangerous crawl for these hatchlings to the ocean.
Once the hatchling reaches the ocean, it must swim for three days without food and catch a specific ocean current that will carry it on its first journey. And of course, many sea animals think baby turtles make a delicious snack, so again the little things are in danger!
IF the turtle manages to reach the current without being killed, it can relax and eat the plentiful food also drifting on the current.
I also learned that sea turtles ‘imprint’ the beach where they hatch and will return every year to the same location to lay their eggs. Researchers do not know how the turtles record their particular beach or how they navigate back to the same spot.
After catching waves in Santos, we headed back to Ticket to Ride in La Paz and planned on sailing to some local anchorages, initially Colita Partida. We set out one calm morning before the wind had filled in. The sea surface was a flat, mirror of steel gray as we slowly motored away from La Paz.
How beautiful is this giant creature?
But very shortly, the smooth surface was broken by whale sharks!!
Clayton is a fraction of the size of this whale shark!
We shut down TTR’s engines and grabbed snorkeling gear. Since Frank and I have already had the whale shark experience, we stayed on board while the kids jumped into the water.
We launched the dinghy so Frank could get close to the whale sharks to let the swimmers jump in, but we found the whales didn’t much care for the engine noise. So we dropped the paddle boards and the guys were able to paddle right up to the sharks without disturbing them.
They swam SO close to TTR!
Even though I stayed on Ticket to Ride, I had a perfect view. You can see from this video I took from the deck of TTR that the whale sharks swam very close to our drifting boat.
Seeing and swimming with these whale sharks was a rare gift!
Their markings are distinctive and stunning.
It’s pretty hard to beat the excitement of seeing those whale sharks, but the weather decided to show her stuff and prove that she is worth respecting. Nothing bad happened, but the day was interesting. The weather changed from flat calm to breezy, then to about 28 knots of wind and dark clouds. We quickly realized that anchoring in our original destination of Colita Partida was not going to be comfortable and we set our sights on Isla San Francisco or San Evaristo.
A very vivid double rainbow one rainy afternoon.
After about 25 minutes the wind dropped off and the clouds drifted away. But an hour or two later, more clouds developed and another wind system blew through. The wind shifted about 40 degrees in the blink of an eye and we decided the all around protection of San Evaristo would be a good choice in the shifty conditions. Plus the wind was expected to be from the north for the remainder of the week and we could sail our way south as anchorages opened up.
Hunter pulls Clayton for a foiling session.
San Evaristo is a quiet anchorage with a quaint and usually active fishing village that was inactive due to the Christmas Holiday. But we managed to enjoy ourselves with a mixture of foil boarding behind the dinghy, SUPing and snorkeling.
And we celebrated Christmas by exchanging gifts and giving thanks for our blessings.
I love how Clayton is cheering for Frank’s successful foiling!
The wind forecast was showing excellent possibilities for some good kiting in La Ventana, a well known kite hangout around the corner from La Paz. Although a good place for kiting, La Ventana is not an ideal anchorage. Instead we wanted to anchor TTR in Muertos and use a car to drive between Muertos and La Ventana.
So we sailed back to La Paz and dropped off half the crew who rented a car and drove to Muertos, while the other half sailed Ticket to Ride to Muertos. We spent the next several days anchored in Muertos and split our time between Muertos and La Ventana.
Clayton checking out the mainsail and Hunter kiting in the background.
The days were filled again with kiteboarding, swimming, snorkeling, foiling behind the dinghy, bits of boat maintenance and having shore time at the only Muertos restaurant, Cafe 1535.
Hunter kite foiling in Muertos
New Year’s was a WILD night…. exhausted from another active day in the water and wind, we sipped champagne at dinner time and went to bed by cruisers midnight – 9 pm!
Once in a while there was some rest time.
All too soon vacation time was over and we had to sail back to La Paz. All of us were surprised how quickly the two weeks passed!
In concluding this post, I must be honest and admit that saying goodbye to my kids is hard for me. Sometimes I long for the more ‘traditional’ lifestyles my friends have back in Texas, where their families live nearby and they see each other on a routine basis. I miss the traditions we had with friends and neighbors at Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years – sharing meals and parties – but especially spending time reminiscing about our histories together and creating new ones for later.
But then I have to be realistic…. if we lived in Texas, Hunter and Clayton would still live in California and we would see them less often than we do now. It is much more interesting for them to come see us in unusual places on the boat than it would be to visit in Dallas. Over the last few years we have spent Christmas together in Bonaire, the Turks and Caicos, the British Virgin Islands, etc. All of these places add a uniqueness to our celebration and because we don’t see each other very often, we relish and appreciate the time we do spend together.
Just one of the gorgeous sunsets in Muertos.
So when those days pop up and I miss seeing family and friends on a regular basis, I stop those thoughts and remind myself that this opportunity to travel with Frank on TTR brings blessings of its own. We love exploring both well known and more remote places on this planet and we get to meet new friends with whom we also create histories. And hopefully our long time friends will find time to come visit us on TTR.
We hope your Holiday Season was filled with the love of family and blessings from above. As always, thank you for stopping to read our blog. If you have comments, we would love to hear from you. And if you would like a more regular glimpse into what we see, please check out our FB page.
On Christmas Eve the wind was calm as we motored away from La Paz, MX. On the glassy water surface, we saw something in the water that we thought might be rays skimming the top of the water. But it turned out to be a very large something…. a pod of whale sharks!
We turned off the engines and watched them move along the water in was seemed a leisurely pace. This gentle, beautiful creature swam right next to Ticket to Ride!
What a wonderful early Christmas gift to be able to see these pretty beasts!
The kids jumped into the water for an underwater view, then we launched the paddle boards for an above water show. The wales sharks didn’t like the sound of TTR‘s engines, but they didn’t seem at all bothered by us in the water or by the paddle boards.
So big but so gentle!
This was such a fun experience and a nice Christmas gift to share with our kiddos.
Time and internet have been limited, so this is just a quick post to share this very fun whale shark sighting. We hope you had a very blessed Christmas and wish you an adventurous and happy 2020!
We departed Turtle Cove early in the morning for our sail to Bahia Santa Maria, a journey of slightly more than 220 nautical miles. At the beginning of this leg we jibed several times because the wind was directly behind us, but a few hours into the sail, the wind shifted and we were able to take a tack about 15 degrees off of our rhumb line and slightly out to sea. The result was a very comfortable and pretty quick run down to Bahia Santa Maria.
s/v Ravenswing flying her kite.
Three boats arrived in Santa Maria before TTR: a J122 named Day Dream, s/v Ravenswing which is a Farrier 36’ trimaran and s/v Kalewa, a 50’ custom catamaran that is light and built for racing. Kalewa was the fastest boat in the HaHa fleet and owners Kevin and Katie are as much fun is Kalewa was fast.
As soon as we dropped anchor, we hailed the crew on s/v Day Dream and invited them over for celebratory cocktails. Day Dream had four gents aboard and no dinghy, so Frank picked them up in Day Tripper and brought them over. Needless to say, the guys were very happy to see iced drinks because, though they were comfortable and fast on Day Dream, some of the luxuries aboard TTR were not available on their boat.
Several boats from the HaHa fleet spoke of a storm that brought rain and reports of wind up to 37 knots but none of the early boats, including TTR, saw any of that rain or wind.
The HaHa Fleet anchored under a full moon in Bahia Santa Maria.
According to Charlie’s Charts, Bahia Santa Maria is four miles wide and 11 miles long, and this small anchorage offered us a range of fun activities. Mindy, Ron, Frank and I spent a quiet morning exploring the sand dunes a few miles from where we were anchored.
Sand strewn with shells and dollars.
The shore is fine sand littered with sand dollars beyond which are mounds of wind swept dunes.
The four of us spent a couple of hours looking at little creatures in the sand and climbing the sand dunes.
Frank was a spec on a distant sand dune.
I like the sharp sand edges created by the wind.
Landing and launching the dinghy can be challenging in Santa Maria and on our way off the beach we managed to take a decent wave over the front of Day Tripper. No injuries or problems occurred, but we did take on an unexpected guest.
This little black bird was swept into our dinghy with the waves ~ notice his duck-like feet!
We gently captured “Nevermore” from the water sloshing in the dinghy and gave him time to dry out as we motored back toward TTR. By the time we were ready to vacate the dinghy, Nevermore was also ready and he flew off to rejoin his friends.
One of the very first songs played at the Beach Party!
The HaHa Rock n Roll Beach Party at Santa Maria included plenty of food, beverages and live music. It was fun to mix and mingle, dance in the sand and hang out on shore with the other boaters.
As usual, Mindy is having a terrible time.
HaHa-ers finding shade on the stoop of a local’s home.
Santa Maria has a long, shallow sandy bottom that becomes visible at low tide. In the two pictures below, the tide is already low and you can see how much of the sand is revealed as the tide continued to go out.
Notice the wave breaking midway out in this photo.
Now sand is revealed all the way to that wave break.
This shallow area also creates some fun, small waves before the tide gets really low. Frank, Ron and I took advantage of the smooth floor and soft waves for SUP surfing and body surfing. We, along with a few other HaHa cruisers, delayed our departure from Santa Maria to spend some extra time playing in the waves.
We really didn’t want to leave Bahia Santa Maria, but the HaHa had a schedule and we were expected at the next stop, Man-o-War Cove, just 27 nm down the peninsula.
I’m pretty certain TTR was the last boat to leave Santa Maria, because you know, we couldn’t stop surfing just to arrive early at the next stop! Still, we arrived and anchored in Man-o-War just prior to sunset and in time for the Great Raft-Up held behind the Grand Poobah’s boat s/v Profligate.
We quickly dropped anchor, gathered beverages and a sharable appetizer, launched Day Tripper and motored over to the Raft-Up. We tied up to the gaggle of about 40 dinghies and enjoyed the musicians and dancers showing their talents on Profligate’s beamy transom.
We hung out until the raft-up ended about and hour later. By then we had met our neighboring dinghies, shared food and swapped stories about our travels thus far.
As is the case with sailing, we are captives of the weather and although the HaHa had a schedule, mother nature decided to make us stand up and pay attention. A tropical depression was developing south of Cabo San Lucas and the Grand Poobah was concerned for the safety of his 153 boats.
Many of the HaHa boats had made marina reservations in Cabo, but since we prefer anchorages, we did not have a reservation in a marina. The storm was forecast to hit Cabo from the south and the Cabo anchorage does not have any protection. We decided to stay in Magdalena Bay and see how the storm developed rather than face an undetermined storm in an open anchorage.
The majority of the fleet left but about 20 boats decided to stay in Man-o-War and see how the storm developed before leaving Magdalena Bay. In the end, the Tropical Storm Raymond moved much more slowly than originally forecast and mostly dissipated before arriving in Cabo. However, the port captain did close the Cabo anchorage and we would have had to quickly sail north toward La Paz had we moved to Cabo as planned.
Our gathering spot in Man-o-War Cove.
The 20 HaHa boats who remained in Man-o-War dubbed themselves the HaHa Hijos (HaHa children) and made the best of the situation. There is one restaurant in Man-o-War and we used it as a gathering spot. Some folks took pangas (small local fishing boats) to the nearby city of San Carlos where they shopped or dropped off crew who had schedules to meet.
We explored Man-o-War on foot and quickly covered the town.
Ye old lighthouse is a bit worse for the wear.
A hike to the cross.
Man-o-War from the anchorage ~ notice the lack of green vegetation.
The exterior of the church.
People often ask what we do all day on a boat. Our time in Magdalena Bay is a great example of how we spend idle time since Tropical Storm Raymond delayed our departure by five days. The account of our days while watching Raymond will give you an idea…
Chart from “Charlie’s Charts Mexico,” 13th Edition.
Unlike the other HaHa Hijos boats, we decided to move TTR out of the relatively open Man-o-War anchorage and seek shelter from the anticipated winds in another part of Magdalena Bay. After consulting the weather forecasts and scanning the charts, we moved TTR south and east toward “Sector Navy” or the Navy Base.
Motoring past Sector Navy before we were chased out of the basin.
We poked TTR into the basin just south of the Naval Base and very soon three men in a Navy inflatable came roaring out to us and made sure we weren’t planning on anchoring in the basin. We had considered it, but the guns they were carrying convinced us we weren’t welcome.
So we motored TTR to a secluded spot away from the Navy Base where we would be protected from both wind and waves.
The rain set in and we spent the days playing games, evaluating the weather, observing nature, exploring nearby points and wondering how our friends were fairing in Cabo.
We ended up spending four nights in the SE part of Magdalena Bay and changed anchor spots three times in response to the revised forecasts. These moves weren’t strictly necessary, but they allowed us to see other parts of the Bay. And let’s face it, we weren’t very busy.
We kept in VHF contact with the other HaHa Hijos boats in the bay and, as we expected, the long fetch into Man-o-War anchorage allowed a good bit of chop to build up. Those sailors had a couple of unpleasant days/nights at anchor so we were very happy we had moved and had such a calm place to wait out Tropical Storm Raymond.
Ron made the official toast to Neptune.
Adult beverages were a bit low on TTR so we created a rum punch concoction that left much to be desired. Since it wasn’t going to be drunk, we made an event out of a sacrificial offering to Neptune and asked for protection and safe travels. (But I also made sure God knew it was all in fun!)
Hoping our offering would bring fair winds.
One day we dropped Day Tripper to explore our surroundings and went to visit the fishing village of Alcatraz. Fortunately we were not incarcerated but were allowed to freely walk the streets.
Alcatraz is one of the most primitive towns we have explored. Mindy’s Spanish was the best of the bunch and she spoke with a local lady to determine there is not a restaurant in Alcatraz. There was a small tienda, the size of the cockpit on TTR or maybe smaller. We didn’t buy anything because we didn’t want to take goods the locals might really need. Having struck out on a restaurant and tienda, we asked about a place to buy cervesas.
I’m not sure what Jose was running for, but he probably won.
“Oh yes, go down this road until you get to the horse. Turn left at the horse and follow that road. Soon you will see the blue house where you can buy a beer.”
I have to admit, that is the first time a horse has been my cue to make a turn!
A successful quest for cervesas.
We found the beer which was sold from a man’s home. It wasn’t particularly cold, but it was a novel place to buy a beer!
A pretty place to sit and swap stories and plans.
Other things we did to keep busy while on the boat with almost nowhere to go? Sat on the trampoline and enjoyed our surroundings, took care of a bit of laundry, cleaned a bit, made some soft shackles, baked bread and generally enjoyed the company of good friends and a safe, beautiful place to wait out a storm.
The Baja wears green after it rains!
Remember the picture of those dry brown hills from earlier? Well look how green things became after the rain! The landscape popped into a lush green almost overnight after the rain of TS Raymond!
Sunset after the rain.
TTR and the other HaHa Hijos boats left for Cabo five days after the main HaHa fleet. Tropical Storm Raymond turned out to be all thread and no punch; which is exactly how I like my storms! Cabo had a lot of rain and some wind. The ports in Cabo and La Paz ware closed and apparently there was some sewage spillover (yuck) in Cabo, but no damage to speak of.
Magdalena Bay had even fewer effects from the storm. However, I think we made the prudent decision based on the weather information we had. Raymond moved much more slowly than originally predicted and caused us to remain in Magdalena longer than expected. If we had known Raymond would fizzle out, we would have made a run for La Paz or Jose del Cabo so that Mindy and Ron would have had more time in the Sea of Cortez before they returned to Guatemala.
But those thoughts are based on hindsight. I believe our cautious decision was a smart choice.
We arrived in Cabo around 4:30 am and spent the day re-provisioning, getting a sense of the touristy areas as well as parts that felt more authentically Mexican.
We found some very authentic food in a back street of Cabo.
We met up with the Grand Poobah aboard Profligate where the stragglers were given awards form completing the HaHa. This is the first time the HaHa has faced a tropical storm so I’m sure it will be a memorable one for Richard.
HaHa Hijos group aboard Profligate.
We celebrated with others from the Haha, then happily returned to Ticket to Ride, ready to get a good night of sleep after our 4:30 arrival.
HaHa members celebrating their arrival in Cabo.
The end of the 2019 Baja HaHa concluded our second ever sailing rally. Our first was the 2016 Sail to the Sun Rally aboard our first sailboat, Let It Be. The two Rallies were incredibly different!
Baja HaHa completion… not sure what our 3rd place was for.
The Sail to the Sun Rally is an eight week journey down the Intracoastal Waterway in the company of 20 boats and every night we stopped in the same marina or anchorage with the other boats. None of the sailors knew each other before beginning the 2016 STTS Rally. In two months we had plenty of time to cement friendships with every boater on the trip. After the STTS Rally ended, we continued to travel with about seven of those rally boats for several weeks. We traveled with Laurie and Ken of s/v Mauna Kia for six months before Mauna Kia was tragically lost in Hurricane Irma because she had engine trouble and couldn’t escape that terrible storm.
By comparison, the Baja HaHa is a quick event of less than two weeks and included 153 boats this year! There are a few events before the start of the HaHa, a concluding event or two at the end and three stops along the journey. Although I do not have the numbers, it seemed that many of the boats hailed from the same marina or sailing club and knew each other before beginning the HaHa. The number of boats, the fact that many folks knew each other already and the short duration of the HaHa made it difficult to get to know many people during the HaHa.
For us, the true value of the HaHa is meeting sailors whose travel plans are similar to ours. We think the HaHa is actually more valuable after its conclusion because as we come across other sailors who were part of the Haha, we have an “excuse” to introduce ourselves to them. In fact, in less than a month since the conclusion of the HaHa, we have met people from a dozen HaHa boats in anchorages along the Sea of Cortez.
This is not to say one Rally is better than the other. We had and excellent time on both rallies but they felt radically different.
Both the Sail to the Sun Rally and the Baja HaHa Rally can be seen as a safety net for folks who don’t have a lot of offshore experience and the rally give them confidence to cut the lines and go. The rallies also act as deadlines for some sailors who might continue to put off departure unless they had a specific date they had to meet.
We have only good things to say about the HaHa and our experience. We are very glad we participated and having Mindy and Ron share the HaHa made it even better.
Mindy and Ron had very little time left in Mexico, so we yanked up the anchor after only 24 hours in Cabo and headed into the Sea of Cortez to give them a glimpse of the wonders it holds.
An hour into our trip we spotted a few whales! So hopefully the SOC will share some of its unique beauty before Mindy and Ron have to fly away to Guatemala where s/v Follow Me is patiently awaiting their return.
As always, thank you for reading this (rather long) post! We would love to hear your thoughts if you want to share them in comments. If you want to hear from us more often, please find our FB page.
Hola from Mexico! It has been forever since I have found time (and WiFi) to sit down and actually write about our travels.
Frank and I were quite busy the last few weeks before the start of the Baja HaHa. We spent our last weeks in Long Beach, CA preparing to leave the country for an extended period of time which means we tried to buy some things we will need/want for the next year or two. That means we have ordered a LOT of spare parts for TTR and stocked up on some routine things that we like to have and may not be able to find in another country (think favorite spices, shampoos, lotions or potions).
For anyone who owns Amazon stock, don’t be surprised when their monthly earnings drop after our departure! 😉
Our departure date was a firm one of November 4th with the 2019 Baja HaHa. The HaHa is a casual rally of boats that departs from San Diego and makes two or three stops on the way to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. We joined the HaHa to meet other cruisers and enjoy the camaraderie of fellow sailors.
This is where we are going!
We left Long Beach and headed south to San Diego where our dear friends, Ron and Mindy of s/v Follow Me flew in to join us for the 2019 Baja HaHa Rally. Mindy and Ron left their boat in the Rio Dulce, Guatemala and joined us on TTR for the Rally.
The first official HaHa event for the four of us was the BBQ and Costume Party. The parameters for our costume were: 1. it must be easy 2. it must be comfy 3. it must not take much time to assemble.
Our costumes aren’t great, but they are met our criteria!
The result was our “Three sheets to the wind” attire. Happily, everyone knew what we were and assembly took less than 15 minutes.
Perhaps our favorite costume was s/v Kalawa’s. Kevin and Katie were Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un. I believe they were the funniest costume of the event.
Another favorite was the buoy and anchor chain!
Big kudos to Richard Spindler, the HaHa Grand Poobah, who put on quite the start for the 2019 Baja HaHa Rally.
We trailed the HaHa pack and had a great view at the start.
As the 153 HaHa boats left San Diego, we had a Coast Guard escort, a mariachi band playing from a boat and a fire boat to celebrate the HaHa kick off; thus establishing a festive atmosphere for the Rally.
Love this fire boat!
Serenaded as we motor sailed out of San Diego, CA.
The first leg of the Rally was the longest. We had great conditions for sailing and immediately threw up the Doyle cable-less reacher and main sail. The wind speed and direction were perfect for a spinnaker but we do not have one on TTR. The spinnaker would be too large for Frank and me to handle along, so instead we use the Doyle cable-less reacher which we had cut deeper than usual. We can pull the reacher tack toward the windward bow and increase the wind angle range for this sail.
Pretty decent speeds for a cruiser boat and less than 11 knots of wind.
Also, Frank had a small stay sail made by Ulman Sails just before we left Long Beach. This sail helps funnel the wind between the main sail and the reacher. It worked very well and added about a knot to our deeper angled sailing.
Pretty soon we were toward the head of the fleet and had a beautiful view of the kites.
Neck and neck spinnakers.
Fishing on this first leg to Turtle Bay was excellent and the VHF was full of reports from HaHa fleet boats who were catching tuna, dorado, skip jack and more.
Frank and Ron managed to land two tuna.
Sunset our first night out.
Mindy and I took the first watch and enjoyed seeing this colorful sunset. Ron and Frank took over at 1 a.m. so Mindy and I could sleep until 7 or so.
Our first HaHa stop at Turtle Bay was two nights. The first night we invited the four gentlemen from s/v Day Dream to join us for sundowners. Since they had no dinghy or ice, they eagerly accepted our offer for a ride and chilled drinks.
The next day we strolled around town admiring the unique flare the locals have for appointing their homes.
An interesting combination of beads and curios at this home.
After “walking up” and appetite, we found a local taco spot and indulged in lunch and cervezas. Frank was truly happy to reacquaint himself with food from the Baja!
Cell towers trump pavement.
Ambling toward the baseball field.
We also participated in the annual Baja HaHa Cruisers Against the Locals baseball game. The baseball game was silly and fun without many rules. I was amazed how often the cruiser first baseman “missed” a catch! The game allowed the local kids to show off their prowess on the diamond and some of these kids were very talented!
Preparing to play ball!
Once the game was finished, the cruisers donated their baseball equipment and each of the kids was allowed to choose a piece of equipment to keep. I wonder if they agree to play just to get the new equipment? Not really though. The kids were engaging and enthusiastic. I think they had as much fun as the HaHa folks.
Sunset at Turtle Bay.
This was the extent of our brief first stop of the 2019 Baja HaHa. I’ll share the remainder of the HaHa in our next blog.
In the mean time, thank you for stopping by. I am truly sorry for the lapse in posts, but travel plus preparations to leave California severely limited my opportunity to write. Hopefully things will settle a bit and I can catch up on some of the things I missed, like our hands-on safety at sea class in Rhode Island!
All the best from Mexico!
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Nighttime Santa Barbara from TTR’s cockpit
After Santa Cruz, we headed to the lights of the mainland at Santa Barbara for a quick visit. We only had one full day to explore Santa Barbara, so out came the e-scooters for a tour around town.
Exploring by e-scooter
Santa Barbara was very clean and pretty. It’s impossible to see it in one day on an e-scooter, but one place we stumbled upon in the midst of the city captured our regard.
There is a one square block park in the heart of Santa Barbara that is a nirvana of green space ~ Alice Keck Park Memorial Garden.
The property where the park lies has traded hands several times since the inception of Santa Barbara in 1850. In 1903, Mary Miles Herter built a grand home with beautiful grounds on this block. Upon Herter’s death, her sons transformed the home into a hotel and they built bungalows all around the main hotel. “El Marisol” became THE place for wealthy folks to mingle and find retreat.
In 1920 the property was bought by Frederick Clift who maintained the gold standard of El Marisol until he sold it in 1940. For the next 35 years, the property changed hands and its use varied.
In 1975, Alice Keck Park anonymously purchased the property and donated it to the city of Santa Barbara with specific instructions that it was to be used only as a public space. She also specified that her identity was not to be revealed until after her death.
Shade and sun dapple the park.
Alice Keck Park’s original gift of the land included enough funds to turn the then neglected land into a beautiful park and maintain the grounds going forward.
Birdsong was louder in the park than the sounds of nearby traffic.
Today the park is a bubble of beauty with pockets of themed gardens like the butterfly garden or the water feature overflowing with turtles and ducks. Within the park is a sensory garden area where visually and physically impaired visitors can enjoy the variety of scents, sounds and textures.
This is a brugmansia arborea or Angel’s Trumpet.
Angel’s Trumpet close up.
A special thank you to my SIL, Emily, who told me the name of this plant. Em also informed me that the flowers and leaves are poisonous…. I cannot believe that here in California there wasn’t a giant sign warning about this tree!!
Giant palms towered over flowering bushes.
Although we stumbled upon this park, it was so pretty and serene that we ended up spending about an hour just exploring the various areas and soaking up the peaceful atmosphere.
To the left was the pond with the butterfly garden beyond it.
A map showing the 75 different types of trees within the garden.
One final picture to share from Santa Barbara…. we scootered past this house and it was so cute and quirky that I had to snap a photo.
This is so inviting but I’m sure the plants would die under my care.
We left Santa Barbara early the next morning and sailed to Point Dume. We anchored off of a small cove where some friends live. Point Dume was also a quick stop but it was full of fun thanks to Sydney and Michael whose hospitality was amazing!
Sydney put together a really delicious dinner on the beach and we enjoyed sharing their company while watching the sunlight disappear.
The views from TTR while anchored off Pt. Dume were gorgeous in the morning light.
Looking east from TTR
Love the circle of light in the clouds.
The little beach where we had dinner is on the left.
Frank and I took a long walk and saw some pretty homes and pretty views from the cliffs.
The view looking out to the water instead of in from the ocean.
Last year when we were traveling in our RV, fires were ravaging many parts of the west where we visited. Our plans were altered to avoid the fires and we never really saw the results of the fires. While walking in Pt. Dume, we were stunned by the remaining evidence of the fires California suffered. The capriciousness of the fire witnessed by the path of the destruction and how the fire destroyed one home and didn’t even touch another was shocking.
Many homeowners have yet to begin the rebuilding process. It is truly sad to see the homes that were destroyed and imagine the lives that were lost and permanently altered.
Next up for us is a visit back to Texas, followed by the Annapolis Boat Show then a quick stop in Rhode Island for a hands on safety at sea course where we will actually use our PFDs (personal flotation device), deploy and climb into a life raft, and gain hands on experience with other safety equipment. The safety at sea class is part of our efforts to make sure we are as prepared as possible for our sailing adventures, though we certainly hope never to use any of this particular knowledge!
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So last week, Frank and I had the opportunity to do a little sailing and explore a bit more of California. We left Long Beach and headed directly to Santa Cruz Island, which was about 70 miles.
Sunrise over Long Beach.
We started the day early and motored until the wind filled in about half way to our destination. Once the sails were out, our speed increased and we managed to arrive at Santa Cruz around 3 pm.
Santa Cruz is 22 miles long and varies between 2 and 6 miles across making it the largest of the eight Channel Islands. We were able to spend 5 nights on Santa Cruz and we anchored in three different anchorages.
Our first stop was Potato Cove because it was a very calm day which is needed to stop there. We were the only boat and we dropped the bow anchor and a stern anchor, prepared to stay the night in the beautiful isolation of this tiny bay. But between the noise and smell of the birds and sea lions, plus the pestering of insects, we decided a different location would be better.
A decent view while lounging on TTR in Little Scorpion.
Instead of staying in Potato Cove, we motored over to Little Scorpion and dropped the anchor. We spent two nights anchored at Scorpion and relished being back on the hook and feeling like cruisers again. The anchorage was very pretty and the light during the day and at night was crisp and clear.
Full moon rising over Santa Cruz while anchored in Little Scorpion.
We took a couple of great walks that offered fabulous views as you can see from the pictures below.
That anchorage is Little Scorpion but TTR is tucked in near shore and out of sight.
Looking west from up high on Santa Cruz.
There is evidence that Santa Cruz Island has had human occupation dating back 10,000 years! During the mid to late 1800s, ranching and farming were introduced to Santa Cruz Island. Pigs and sheep were raised on the island and both olive trees and grapes were planted.
I’m not certain, but I believe the combination of difficult terrain and the challenges of transporting goods needed and for sale soon caused a collapse of the farming on Santa Cruz.
The sheep and pigs that were abandoned on the island became feral, they multiplied and caused great damage to the vegetation on Santa Cruz. In addition, the chemical DDT caused the shells of native bald eagles to become too fragile to incubate which decimated the bald eagle population on the island. With the demise of the bald eagles, Golden Eagles began hunting on the island to feast off of the piglets and foxes.
Basically the natural balance of Santa Cruz was destroyed by the introduction of the new non-indigenous animals and plants.
Several decades ago, efforts were begun to restore Santa Cruz to its’ natural state by removing the feral pigs and sheep, relocating the golden eagles, restoring native plants and reintroducing the bald eagles back onto Santa Cruz. (Restoration information gathered from The Nature Conservancy.)
We found areas of Santa Cruz had more lush vegetation than on Santa Barbara.
The Santa Cruz Island Fox, the smallest fox in the world, was near extinction, but efforts to breed these foxes in captivity and release them on Santa Cruz has been successful. Between the breeding program and the removal of the Golden Eagles, the Santa Cruz fox is beginning to thrive once more. (The Nature Conservancy)
Our next stop on Santa Cruz was Prisoners Harbor. We met the folks from our two neighboring boats and enjoyed sharing sundowners with them. Ironically it turns out the people on s/v Fellowship had met Clayton’s friend Connor while Connor was sailing in the Sea of Cortez on his first boat, s/v Sea Casa. What a small world!!
Although I am admittedly a warm water girl, the water in Prisoners Harbor was calling me so I took the opportunity to swim and snorkel while Frank headed out on the SUP to explore the nearby landing area.
Anacapa Island shrouded in clouds.
The wind and water were exceedingly calm which was great because, unlike the Caribbean Islands, there is often very little protection in the harbors on the islands. If the wind had changed, Prisoners Harbor could have become very uncomfortable.
One of the reasons we went to Santa Cruz is that we had heard the worlds largest sea cave is on Santa Cruz and Frank and I really wanted to see it. We upped anchor in Prisoners Harbor and headed to Cueva Valdez anchorage so we would be close enough to dinghy to the Painted Cave.
How lucky are we to have this view?
Cueva Valdez is a tiny little bay that was just stunning! We spent the first afternoon appreciating it from the boat but the next day we explored the bits of beach.
Cave dinghy parking for one, please.
How cute is this little spot where we stowed Day Tripper while we climbed around on the rocks on shore? We never did see the Santa Cruz Island fox, but I’m pretty sure I saw fox prints inside the cave!
A little birdie came to nap on TTR.
The big appeal for me to head to Santa Cruz, in addition to some quiet, undeveloped anchorages, was the Painted Cave and I was not disappointed! We did make a wrong guess about which cave was the cave at first but our wrong turn exposed us a bunch of sea lions. It was early morning and the sea lions had a lot of energy.
Hey who are you guys?
The sea lions looked like a bunch of swimming gophers with their necks extended trying to figure our who we were! But when we came back the second time, they must have already had their morning playtime and feeding as they were much more chilled.
Supposedly sea lions lie around with flippers up to regulate their body temperature.
After researching the Painted Cave, I have learned that it is the largest sea cave in California and the fourth longest sea cave in the world. So, though it isn’t the biggest in the world, it’s pretty amazing!
Yep, we took Day Tripper into that ever narrowing and darkening cave!
Although the water is only 30 feet deep, the cave entrance is 160 feet high! And it extends 1227 feet in length – more than three football fields. And let me tell you, it is pitch black deep in that cave!
Colorful and narrowing.
I shot video going into the cave so you can have a better feeling for what the inside of the cave looked like….
Ignore the video quality and enjoy the cave…
The first time we went in Painted Cave, we had the motor running and the sea lions in the back were barking up a storm! I was pretty nervous because I could hear (and smell) the sea lions, but I couldn’t see them unless I shined the flash light right on them!
There was a rock shelf in the darkness and the cave split into two directions. On that shelf were about a dozen sea lions and we were much closer to them than I wanted to be when we spotted them in our flashlights!
The variety of color on the walls of the cave was surprising and really pretty.
The combination of the colors inside the cave and the tall expanse followed by the complete darkness was a very interesting experience.
Returning to the light at the entrance was very welcome!
Apparently sea caves develop along a weak area of rock which is pummeled by wave action. They can occur in a variety of rock types and often along a line between layers of rock with differing hardnesses. Painted Cave developed along a fault line which increased its’ weakness and susceptibility to erosion by the waves. (Thank you Wikipedia!)
After exploring the Painted Cave, we returned to TTR and relaxed in our little private anchorage, relishing the quiet of nature before leaving for Santa Barbara the next morning.
Five days was not nearly enough time to see Santa Cruz. There are several other places we would have liked to explore, but at least we had a chance to see a bit of this island and get a taste for its’ unique flavor.
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