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Dodging A Hurricane ~ Good Riddance Douglas!

I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri and I never thought about hurricanes. Tornadoes, yes. Hurricanes? I hardly even knew what they were.

Now we live on a boat and hurricanes are a determining factor in where we want to be at different times of the year and thus have a major influence on our lives.  In 2020, we had planned to avoid the hurricane season by sailing to French Polynesia in March. The plan was to stay for a while in the Marquesas Islands where hurricanes are virtually unheard of.

But like every other person in the world, our 2020 plans have changed and we are spending this hurricane season in Hawaii.

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Pretty views in Hanalei Bay, Kauai

Fortunately, Hawaii rarely suffers from hurricanes, but recently Hurricane Douglas developed and decided to head toward these beautiful islands.

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Randy and Shellie pulling Frank on the foil board.

We were happily anchored in Hanalei Bay, Kauai when Douglas began swishing about in the Pacific and heading this direction. Between swims, foiling practice and visits with other boaters, we began exploring our hurricane options. 

Most of the local boaters were taking the hurricane threat fairly lightly but since Frank and I experienced running away from Puerto Rico when Hurricane Maria hit, and we saw friends who remained suffer severe damage, we tend to err on the side of caution.

 

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That little green dot represents TTR in Hanalei Bay.

Folks who have permanent marina slips for their boats already know they are going to ride out any storm in the marina and thus go through some lengthy steps to prepare:

  1. remove sails and canvas
  2. remove any loose objects
  3. tie down anything that remains on deck
  4. tie, cross tie and reinforce all of the lines that keep the boat in the dock
  5. pray

Since we do not have a permanent marina home, our options vary depending on our location. Here in Hawaii, we had contacted a couple of marinas and they either did not have room for us or only had an end tie available. The issue with an end tie is that we can only secure TTR from one side so we have no way to secure her in the middle of a slip to prevent her from banging against the peer when winds push her in all directions.  That was not a good option as we had visions of Ticket to Ride surging and smashing against the dock.

When we were in the Caribbean, it was possible to find mangrove holes where one could anchor and secure the boat and the roots and trunks of the mangroves absorbed much of the storm, thus offering a viable hiding place during a storm.

We are not aware of such places in Hawaii.

Much like when we were in Puerto Rico and sailed away from Hurricane Maria, we believed our best option was also to sail away and avoid the storm altogether. The difference this time was that we didn’t have a destination to sail to; instead we were just sailing out of harms way and would be bobbing about until it was safe to return to land.

There were a few other boats anchored in Hanalei Bay who had the same plan, so several of us left the Bay on Saturday, 48 hours ahead of when the storm was expected to reach Kauai.

When deciding where to run from Douglas, we originally considered sailing north because forecasts showed a chance of the hurricane passing Kauai on its’ south side. But as the storm tracks were updated, it became more likely that Douglas was going to pass over Hanalei Bay or on the northerly side.

After much discussion between us and with other sailors, we decided a better plan was to sail south, thus keeping the Hawaiian Islands between TTR and Hurricane Douglas. The plan was to sail our way south on the western side of the islands while Douglas stormed north on the eastern side of the islands.

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TTR sailing w R1 in the main and the self-tacking jib.

Fortunately this plan worked well and TTR encountered very little of Hurricane Douglas’ effects.  The highest true wind speeds we encountered was 31 knots and the highest seas we saw were probably 8-10 feet.

We saw no rain and the seas were reasonable.

Frank did an amazing job of reviewing the weather reports, analyzing the wind predictions and guiding us toward the lighter wind spots. In fact, after the storm passed us on Sunday, we saw a long stretch of very flat seas and only 6 knots of wind!

When we sailed out of Hanalei Bay, we had the genoa and self-tacking jib up as foresails. We did find we used the self-taker most often and we had one reef in the main at all times.

All told, we were only out sailing about 48 hours. We left Hanalei around 9 am Saturday and we dropped anchor off of Maui at 8 am Monday.

Things I learned:

  1.  TTR is a sturdy, well designed and well fabricated sailboat. She can handle much more than I can. (Ok, I already knew that.)
  2. I love how quiet the rigging is on this HH55!
  3. Frank has a higher tolerance for speed and bumpiness than I do.
  4. Self-tackers are especially nice when short handing in rough seas.

If I were to change anything about how we handled this sail, I would have put a second reef in the main after we were behind Oahu and had a little distance between where we started and where the eye was predicted to hit Kauai. While a second reef wasn’t necessary and we were completely safe, I would have been more comfortable since we didn’t exactly know how windy it might become; especially at night when I am alone on watch.

I would like to express our appreciation to the many friends who reached out to wish us well and who followed our track as we were avoiding the storm.  I appreciated the prayers and the messages we received. It is comforting to know others are looking out for us when we are out of communication and guessing our best course.

Kuddos and big thanks to Frank for handling the lions share of the decision making. He is very good at analyzing the weather and I am often only able to listen as he tells me what is happening so I don’t get sea sick. I’m fortunate that he is so capable and that he doesn’t get sea sick!

This is a very simplified version of the decisions that must go into how to handle an upcoming hurricane. There are so many facets and it takes hours of weather watching and option assessment to come to a conclusion. Each boater must consider the capabilities of his own boat. How prepared is the boat and can it be moved right now? What does your insurance mandate? Have you filed a hurricane plan with your insurance company that must be followed or can it be changed? How much time is available to get into a safe zone before the weather affects sea conditions? How healthy and how capable is the crew? What “outs” are available if the plan isn’t working? Are communication systems up and functioning on the boat? Do you have people in place to communicate in case your weather information fails? Who knows where you are and can keep up with your location in case a problem arises? How much fuel, food and water are on board? These are a few of the factors that must be considered.

At this time, it is very important that we recognize and thank Tommy Henshaw for his incredible help during Hurricane Douglas. Tommy is the young man with whom we became friends in Kaneohe Bay.  I think he is our living guardian angel. Tommy was in communication with us several times a day during our Hurricane Douglas sail. Tommy watched our tracks, looked at weather and sent us the latest information based on images we are unable to get while at sea. He sent us messages just to let us knowhe was keeping an eye out for us. Tommy has shared local knowledge and offered information and advice that has been invaluable! Many thanks, Tommy!!

As always, thank you for visiting our blog. We would love to hear your thoughts using the comments below. If you want to hear from us more often, please look for us on FB or Instagram (hh55ttr).

Long Walks, Roaring Holes And Albatrosses On Our Anniversary.

Exploring Oahu is not easy without a car, so after we finished our two week inter-island quarantine, we rented an auto and set out to explore several parts of this island. We are having some sail work done and will remain in Kaneohe until that is completed, so Kaneohe is our base of exploration for now.

DSC07577View from the original road between the leeward and windward sides of Oahu ~ and a stop on the Shaka Tour. 

Laura Morrelli told us about a self guided tour app called “Shaka Guide Oahu” which we downloaded and used to explore a bit of the island. In addition, we have driven the shores and checked out a few locations that might be nice to anchor in for a few nights once our sails are back on board.

One morning we set out for Ka’ena Point Reserve. Shellie and Randy of s/v Moondance told us it was a great walk and that they saw some baby albatrosses there, so we decided to drive over and check it out. (Albatrosses are at the end of this post.)

P6160375Looking back toward our starting point at that white sand beach in the distance.

We chose to walk from the state park on the south side of Ka’ena Point, but due to COVID-19, the parking lot was closed which added an extra mile each way to our walk. The eight mile round trip hike was flat and hugged the coast line so there was plenty to see as we strolled along.

At one point Frank and I were startled to hear a growl coming from the rocks and we looked sharply thinking there was a monk seal nearby. But actually the noise was from a blow hole we nicknamed “Old Growler.”

Old Growler spraying mist.

Old Growler actually turned out to be two blow holes and Frank was almost sprayed while taking the second video.

Old Growler spitting at Frank

Ka’ena Point Reserve was established in 1983 to protect the natural dune ecosystem. This is one of the last unspoiled dune ecosystems in the main Hawaiian Islands and allows visitors to see what natural dune habitats found in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands look like.  In 2011, a large fence, enclosing 49 acres, was installed to prevent vehicular traffic and to keep predators like mongooses, rats, cats and dogs, out of the area. Within the Reserve are monk seals, Laysan Albatrosses and other birds and plants unique to Hawaii.

Monk seals are the only marine mammal that reside only within US Territorial waters and the majority of these endangered seals live in the remote northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

MonkSeal_1000Image from Hawaiian Ocean Project

We were lucky enough to see two monk seals; one at the beach at the start of our walk and the other on the rocks at the point. Both were sleeping in the sun and the only movement I saw was a very occasional flipper flick. Visitors are required to keep a distance of 150 feet so I couldn’t get a decent photo.

We also saw some unique plants:

P6160410The aptly name Starfish Cactus in bloom.

P6160405“Sedeveria” or “Green Rose” grew with abandon throughout the Reserve.

Our friends from the 2016 Sail to the Sun Rally know that Frank and I love to stumble upon bubbly pools and when we do, we climb or trek energetically just to submerge ourselves in those waters.

There were several bubbly pool candidates as we walked to the Reserve and on our way back we just had to stop at the one we deemed “the best!”

P6160412Perfectly clear water inviting us to cool off.

We had to scramble down some rocks to get to this little pool, but the volcanic rock was rough and not slippery which was helpful. We lounged in the water, which was the perfect temperature, and Frank took pictures of plants and fish under the water.

P6160427 Four little fishies in this picture.

Pretty quickly the waves grew as the tide came up, and this pool could clearly become rough and dangerous. We had to abandon our bubbly pool when the waves began crashing over the rocks, but it sure was fun and refreshing.

P6160422You can see the wave hitting the rocks behind us!

After our hike, we drove to Ko Olina Marina where our friends Dan and Susan of s/v Kini Pōpō and Shellie and Randy of s/v Moondance were meeting us to share dinner and celebrate our 36th wedding anniversary. Of course we stopped for a couple of bottles of bubbly to mark the occasion. It was really great to celebrate our anniversary with an excellent walk and time with special friends! Thank you Moondance for hosting and Kini Pōpō for staying awake after your overnight sail from Maui!

AND NOW, on to the Albatross…..

“At length did cross an Albatross,
Thorough the fog it came;
As if it had been a Christian soul,
We hailed it in God’s name.

It ate the food it ne’er had eat,
And round and round it flew.
The ice did split with a thunder-fit;
The helmsman steered us through!”

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1798)

Who remembers reading this poem in high school? The Rime is about an old mariner who relates his experiences to a man he happens to stop while walking along a road. I remembered little about this poem except that the sailor had to hang an albatross around his neck.

The albatross was considered an omen of good luck to sailors because it usually indicated the wind was coming up and the sails would soon be filled again. Plus birds were thought to be able to move between the spiritual world and the earthly realm so they were considered supernatural and natural.  We could discuss this poem for hours, but it is through the Rime that the albatross became a more complex symbol because Coleridge related the bird to christianity and redemption.

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Photo courtesy of All About Birds.

Anyway!  Ka’ena Point Reserve is one of the few places where Laysan Albatrosses nest and we wanted to see these mythical birds. We saw many fledglings who still had their downy feathers and were not quite ready to fly away. In the distance we saw one grown bird feeding a fledgling. Parents feed their young a thick, concentrated oil extracted from their prey and regurgitate it into the mouth of the fledgling.

P6160391Still a lot of downy feathers on this fledgling.

Surprisingly, the birds were sitting in open areas on the sand, not well hidden and very vulnerable. As gusts of wind came through we watched a few fledglings stand and spread their winds, seemly to get a feeling for just how those wings were supposed to work. One or two took tiny hops with wings spread wide, but they quickly dropped back to a laying position as if a tad bit frightened by the test hop.

Seeing how the albatross was historically important for sailors, I thought I would share a few fun facts about them.

  1. The Great Albatross has the largest wingspan of any living bird. The wings can span to over 11 feet!
  2. Albatrosses live long lives. The oldest known is a female, Laysan Albatross named “Wisdom” who is at least 66 years old!
  3. Albatrosses can fly up to 600 miles without flapping their wings!
  4. These birds can dance! Take a look at the first 15 seconds of this YouTube video and witness the Laysan Albatrosses courting through dance.
  5. Albatross take up to two years in the courting process and then they mate for life.
  6. Depending on the species, Albatrosses fledglings take between 3 and 10 months to fly and once they take off, they “leave land behind for 5 to 10 years until they reach sexual maturity.”
  7. Parents feed the fledglings until they fly and are so tired at the end that they often wait another two years before reproducing again.
  8. There are 22 species in the Albatross family.
  9. Albatrosses eat mostly squid and schooling fish.
  10. Although considered a good omen by sailors, in literature, the albatross is often used metaphorically to represent a psychological curse or burden.

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Photo courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife.

This picture was taken at Midway Atoll, HI.  You have to admit that the Laysan Albatross in this pic has really pretty markings.

So there you have it, a few fun facts about Albatrosses. Now I need to go dig out The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and see if I enjoy reading it now for pleasure more than I did as homework in high school.

Anybody want to join me?

Thanks for joining us and reading our blog. If you want to hear from us more often, visit our Facebook page. Stay well and be kind.

 

 

 

Floating In an Aquarium During COVID-19 Isolation.

This point can kick up great surf waves.

Honolua Bay, located on the northwest side of Maui, is a very popular stop for local day cruise boats. I have learned that four boats carrying 25-50 people each are often moored here for the day to allow their passengers to swim and snorkel.

“Our anchorageas seen from the road.

The Coronavirus has changed all of that. Instead TTR is sharing this beautiful bay with three other cruising boats who have also sailed to Hawaii for refuge during this pandemic. A local couple escapes here on their monohull as well.

A variety of fish anywhere we look.

Although our plan to sail to French Polynesia is on hold until boarders begin to reopen, we consider ourselves extremely fortunate to spend our isolation in Honolua Bay.

A school of Convict Surgeonfish.

Nearly every day we snorkel or swim and every time it feels as if I have jumped into an aquarium. The water is chilly enough to warrant a rash guard or a light wet suit for longer water sessions.

I love those eyes! 

The visibility in the water depends on the surf but usually it is very clear.

A Wedgetail Triggerfish – love those lips!

I am amazed by the variety of fish we see and how wide the range of colors, markings, shapes and sizes.

A pretty Pinktail Triggerfish.

I wonder if there are more varieties of fish than any other species…. no, probably insects have even more varieties.

I’ve seen a trumpetfish as long as I am tall!

Still, each time I snorkel I realize how few fish I can name and that I will never know them all.

What kind of fish is this? Part bird? Part dolphin?

Here are a few more photos taken while swimming in our Honolua Bay aquarium.

The turtle is unfazed by Shellie and Randy of s/v Moondance.

The brightly marked Moorish Idol.

Of course there are a few maintenance items we have to take care of because we do live on a boat! However, with so much time on our hands and restricted movement, these projects are pretty easy to accomplish – as long as we don’t need parts or supplies!

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Frank inspecting the anchor light on TTR.

They say timing is everything and that is proven true in the above picture. We have a few college friends who live on Maui and Dave and Nikki happened to drive by the bay while Frank was at the top of the mast. They snapped this photo and sent it to us. It’s fun to see this perspective, so thanks guys!

That’s a peak into life aboard TTR while we are restricted to one location. Hopefully the pictures will brighten your day and offer a slightly different view than one from land. If you are a cruiser who was caught away from his floating home when the pandemic hit, or someone hoping to become a live aboard, maybe these will remind you of what awaits.

We on TTR hope that anyone who reads this is staying well and safe during this crisis. Remember to be especially cautious when restrictions begin to lift. This pandemic has certainly proven that we all share this world, so let’s do our best to be patient and help one another. Wishing each person health, safety and comfort during this challenging time. 

 

2019 Baja HaHa Rally ~ Part 1

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Love this fire boat!

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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. 

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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.

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Pretty soon we were toward the head of the fleet and had a beautiful view of the kites.

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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.

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Frank and Ron managed to land two tuna.

HaHa sunset to Turtle Bay

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.

HaHa in Turtle Bay-1An 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!

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Cell towers trump pavement.

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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!

HaHa baseball

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.

HaHa Turtle bay sunset

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!

As always, thank you for stopping to read our blog. We would love to hear your thoughts and comments so feel free to contact us here. Or look for us on FB where we post more often.

One Foot On Shore And One Foot Aboard

So life aboard Ticket To Ride is great but the other day Frank and I were talking about how we feel like we aren’t really cruisers at the moment but we also aren’t land dwellers.  That old ‘not fish and not fowl’ situation.

We have truly enjoyed being in Long Beach and sailing to Catalina and Santa Barbara Islands. We have taken full advantage of on-line ordering and I’m pretty certain Amazon thinks we are the greatest customers ever.  We have taken advantage of the grocery nearby and cooked new recipes with foods we can’t find in more remote places.  We have gathered with friends to share land events and sailing events.

However, we don’t completely fit into land life since we live on a dock and we don’t have a car.  If we need to go somewhere, generally we ride our e-scooters or take the dinghy, until we accumulate a few errands that are further away, then we rent a car. Also, unlike those in stationary homes and very typical of cruisers, we scramble and scratch to find decent internet and are quite limited in our ability to stream anything. We do have a cell/data plan, but we go through it surprisingly fast if we have to use it for all of our research.

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The first “internet cafe” we found in the Sea of Cortez 2 weeks after leaving La Paz.

In some ways we have the best of both the cruising and the land dwelling world; the conveniences of US good and services, but the option to leave the dock for short escapes from the city.

One super exciting event for me was that one of my brothers, Jeff, came to visit. This is the first time he has visited us since we moved aboard in 2015.  We did our very best to make sure he had a good time and will come visit us again!

As soon as Jeff arrived from the airport, we tossed off the dock lines and sailed toward Catalina Island.  Since I live on a sailboat, it is hard to believe that this was the first time my brother has ever sailed! But he took to it like a duck on water and was soon manning the helm.

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It’s a far cry from a golf course but this pro had no problem.

Jeff has as much energy as Frank does so we keep him busy with hikes, exploring by dinghy, paddle boarding, sailing, etc.  Plus the Long Point Regatta was this weekend which was fun to watch.

The invitation only Long Point Regatta is organized by the Balboa Yacht Club and the Newport Yacht Club and includes three races; the first race was from Newport Beach to White’s Cove on Catalina Island, the second race was a return course from Long Point to Ship Rock and the third race was from White’s Cove to Newport Pier.

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A few of the contestants preparing for race start.

The race start was especially fun to watch as all of the boats danced around the starting buoys waiting for their class to begin. The fact that we had an excellent view of the start while comfortably sitting on TTR’s bow in perfect weather added to the enjoyment of watching the second race.

Here are a few highlights from our weekend:

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We tramped through some overgrown areas to get to this peak – it’s taller than you think.

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We need some serious fishing advice – no bites, no nothin’

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Surprisingly, Emerald Bay was quiet with very few boats.

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Gotta throw some rocks.

Jeff's visit

This great view is the reward for walking up the hills in Avalon .

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Race starts are a little crazy!

When we learned that the final race for the sailboats would begin just outside White’s Cove and end at Newport Beach, we decided to leave a little before the racers, under mainsail alone, and watch the fleet approach. I managed to get a few pics of the sailboats and hopefully we didn’t interfere with their route or wind.

Jeff's visit-2

Grand Illusion was clipping right along.

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I loved watching the boats deploy their spinnakers!

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All the spinnakers made me think of hot air balloons.

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Back row seat for the races.

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Cheers to not racing!

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Sunset dinghy around Naples Island.

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Checking out the houses, boats and greenery.

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Sunrise over Long Beach.

Time on TTR is a far cry from life as a golf professional in Ft. Worth, Texas, but I’m pretty sure Jeff enjoyed the change of scenery and pace ~ for a little while.  Sea life certainly isn’t for everyone and I don’t think any of my siblings would be happy with this nomadic life, but it sure was fun to have my brother aboard. Thanks for making the effort, Jeffrey!

We hope to explore a few of the Channel Islands in mid-September but until then, we are stocking up on US life and making sure we understand TTR as well as possible before we head to Mexico with the Baja Ha-Ha in early November.

Thanks for stopping by to read our blog. We will be back to sea life soon and have more cruiser-like posts. But for now we won’t inundate you with our ‘everyday’ life. Please check out our FB page for more frequent posts.

 

 

 

 

New Boats Are Not Like New Cars. Do we have issues?

ttr

TTR before her departure from Xiamen.

So let’s state the obvious first: cars are mass produced and before the first one appears on a showroom floor hundreds of prototypes have been well and truly tested.  Then a bajillion cars are made and 99% of the time, any problem you take to your local dealer will have been addressed in another car before you arrive.

Boat builds are significantly fewer in number.  The number of units of a “mass” production boat model built is still in the 100s after a couple of years.

Ticket to Ride is one of only four HH55s produced to date, and each boat is customized to the specifications of the buyer. Due to this customization, some of the issues we face on TTR are probably different from issues the other three HH55 catamarans have experienced.

In addition to the uniqueness of each boat, our catamaran is a little city unto itself that must safely carry us from one port to the next and provide all of our electrical, refrigeration, water, power and navigational needs.

Given these facts, it is unrealistic to think that every system on TTR, or any other new boat, would be functioning perfectly at the time of delivery.

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La Paz under a full moon taken from where we are anchored.

Knowing we would have issues that needed to be addressed, we decided long before Ticket to Ride was delivered that we would spend a season living on board to figure out what is working and what needs fixing.  That is the purpose of our trip to the Sea of Cortez.

First let us reiterate that we are very pleased with our boat.  The quality and precision of the interior spaces; cabinetry, tech spaces, painted or veneered surfaces, etc are excellent and we are very impressed.

Ticket to Ride sails like a dream and is more capable than we are. I’m not saying we aren’t decent sailors, but this boat has excellent performance rigging, sails and equipment and she is set up to goooo.

But TTR does have some issues and in the spirit of sometimes removing our rose colored glasses, we will share a few of our current concerns and what is driving us to return to the U.S. for warranty work.  To date we have had very good service and response from Hudson Yacht Group with our questions and concerns. 

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The nav desk on TTR.

Perhaps the most complicated and potentially problematic system on Ticket to Ride is CZone; the electronic control and monitoring system that is the brain of everything with an electron flow on TTR. CZone essentially is the replacement for the AC and DC switching panels seen on most boats plus a whole lot more. With this computer brain and the touch of a screen, through CZone we can program our electrical system to fit our current situation. For example, TTR’s CZone system has 6 programmable modes such as “day cruise” or “anchored home” that allow one to turn off and on all the systems used in those situations with the touch of only a single button.  So when we press “day cruise,” VHFs, navigation screens, winches, etc all turn on when we touch that one button. CZONE is a beautiful thing and yes, there is the potential for problems.  After many, many hours reading manuals and technical support phone time with CZone Tech Support of New Zealand, the CZone, Frank and Mary Grace are living in harmony.

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The company responsible for our electronics package is Pochon out of France.  At the time of writing our purchasing contract, we tried to convince HH to use a U.S. company for this pivotal installation. We knew the chances of having everything right from the start were slim because the system interactions and programming are complicated.  We lost that battle and now we are facing a few disadvantages because our resource for fixing the electronics is a French speaking group in France. Between the inconvenience of differing time zones and language barriers, even issues discovered during the delivery phase are still not fixed.

Explaining the details of the electrical / electronic / navigational issues is complicated and more details than we think most of our readers would like to wade through. The summary is that we are having compatibility issues between CZone, B&G, Mastervolt and the Victron electronic components.  We would really like an expert to come on board to resolve the problems. We also need that expert to communicate clearly so we can become more efficient at modifying the system to meet our particular needs.

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Half of the solar panels on TTR.

The solar installation on TTR is excellent and our 1900 watts delivers so much power that we only run our generator once in a while to make sure it still works! The HH team did a first-rate job of adding the individual solar controllers Frank requested and as a result, our solar farm is producing about 80 percent of the energy we require! (The remainder is topped up by the engines when we motor.)

The wiring, neatness, detail and labeling of our boat electronics done at the HH Factory are amazing. Sailors who come on board and peek at our tech room are suitably impressed, as are we.  However, there are a few glitches in the wiring that need to be addressed.

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That is a pretty tech space!

There seems to be a multi-pronged issue with the wiring to our air conditioning units.  Anytime we try to run the port ACs (the side of the master berth), a relay fails, the inverter/generator reads overload and the ACs quit completely. Frank has spent a lot of time trying to trace the issue and with the consultation of Jessica, HH engineer extraordinaire, he has replaced the same relay switch twice.  Both of the new relays failed immediately. Our Northern Lights 9kw generator is powerful enough to run our ACs but the inverter isn’t recognizing the power coming from our generator and consistently shows “overload” and shuts down. 

Related to this problem is that the generator and inverter/charger aren’t talking well even for basic charging of the batteries.  If we try to charge the lithium batteries using the generator, the charger always shows “float” and never reads “bulk charge”  even when the batteries are low enough to accept bulk charge. Frank has spent a lot of time talking to Victron and MasterVolt (inverter/charger and batteries respectively) and neither is willing to work through the problem with us ie, there is some finger pointing going on. Somewhere there is a wiring issue or a setting issue or a communication error in these units.  This needs to be fixed as we won’t always be in sunny Mexico where solar power is an everyday full charge event.

We really like our B&G navigation/charting system but there are a few issues with it too.  Our AIS and VHF systems are not working consistently and when they do work, they only broadcast or receive information for a maximum of 2- 2.5 miles. Considering our air draft is 88 feet, we should easily transmit and receive for at least 8 miles.

(AIS is an automatic identification system used on vessels to identify traffic. Notices of ships nearby show on the electronic chart and information about that vessel’s size, speed and closest point of approach can be seen. This is a big help when sailing at night and very important because we want large container ships to know we are out on the ocean with them.)

Our B&G autopilot, aka Jude, is mostly excellent. Jude can hold to a wind setting or a heading very well.  She can follow a navigation route too. But sometimes Jude decides to change herself from navigating a route to just holding a heading… that would be like skipping a turn(s) when following directions. 

Speaking of autopilots, we intentionally outfitted TTR with a completely separate back up autopilot system. Our primary one is on the port side and is working. Our redundant system is supposed to be installed on the starboard side but we have absolutely no reading from it and do not think it has been completely installed.

Also, we have recalibrated our electronic compasses several times and there still seems to be some discrepancies between the true compass readings and the electronic readings.  We had our traditional compasses professionally swung before we left L.A. and we are confident that the error is in our electronic compasses.  This has a bit of a domino effect and can cause calculated electronic information to be wrong. Frank is confident this issue involves magnetic interference and relocation is the answer. The problem is finding a 6 meter NMEA 2000 cable in Mexico.

Small things still need to be addressed on TTR as well. Some of these include:

~ a light switch mix up where two unrelated lights turn on/off by the same switch.

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~ the enclosure around our helm station was made sooo tight that we cannot get it zipped all around, even when we had three people working together. 

~ the oven on the stove sometimes goes out without any apparent reason.

~ there is a leak from a vent box in the engine room that allows seawater into the area when we have following seas. (HH is fabricating and sending us a replacement to fix this problem.)

This is not an exhaustive list of things that need to be corrected on Ticket to Ride, but it does give you an idea of the types of issues we need to resolve when we get back to the U.S.

We must make a very special mention of Thomas and Riccardo of the HH Team.  These two men have done an amazing job of e-mailing with us, trying to troubleshoot our issues from the other side of the world.  They have been extremely prompt and thorough in their responses and we are truly grateful.  It is their responsiveness that keeps us positive that these issues will get resolved.

We are currently achored in La Paz, Mexico, preparing to move south to Cabo San Lucas where we will wait for a good weather window to sail back north toward Ensenada, Mexico and eventually California. 

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Frank is trying to get a few things resolved on our Spectra water maker before we leave here.  Yes, there are a few bugs relating to the water maker, but so much progress has been made with it that I am not even listing it as a problem anymore.  However, kudos to Spectra WaterMaker support and Riccardo of HH.  They have been extremely responsive to Frank’s e-mails and phone calls and so far  we have been able to make water all along even with the problems!! (Everyone knock on wood, please!)

Phew, so there you have another “report” from TTR.  I promise, the next post will be full of pretty sights from the Sea of Cortez.

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Sunset from our anchorage in Isla Coronados.

Thank you for reading our blog. Our posts are pretty sporadic right now because our connectivity is hit or miss here in Mexico. I try to post to the FB page to at least share some of the beauty of this area but I am limited by access. Thank you for stopping by.

Four Months In ~ How Does Ticket To Ride Sail?

This post is long on sailing information and short on photos, but those who want to know about the HH55 Catamaran might find it interesting.

Ticket To Ride was offloaded from the container ship on January 14th and life has been busy since then…in a good way. 

The first two months were all about commissioning our HH55 and having people visit the boat.  TTR is one of only 4 HH55s on the water, and the first one on the West Coast of the U.S., therefore several people came to see the boat and sail on her.  We were happy to meet new people and help Hudson Yacht Group and Morrelli & Melvin show off their 55’ design.

On March 16th we left LA with the Newport Beach Yacht Club Race to Cabo and we arrived in Cabo San Lucas on March 22nd.

After our last guests departed on March 30th, it was time to settle into life on board Ticket To Ride and figure out just how we feel about her.

Hands down the answer is that we are pretty much in love with our new home.  We enjoyed sailing our Fountaine Pajot Helia 44, Let It Be, but we wanted to find a catamaran that was faster, sailed upwind and had a tad more space.

We found exactly what we were looking for in the HH55.  The fit and finish of TTR is great and we are very comfortable. However, some boats are built to be very comfortable but they sail like dogs.  Happily, this boat can really sail!

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True wind angle: 134 degrees, true wind speed: 10.6k, SOG: 9.3k, boat speed: 9.6k

We have now had several experiences sailing Ticket To Ride at various wind angles and we love her performance.  TTR’s sharp reverse bows allow her to cut through the water cleanly and the dagger boards help maintain her course without much slippage at all. 

One afternoon we left Ensenada Grande to sail to Isla San Francisco (Sea of Cortez) which is about a 19 nm trip. The sea was choppy and the waves confused.  The wind was fluctuating around 15 knots.  Our destination required us to sail with a true wind angle of 50-53 degrees which translated into 30 degrees apparent wind.

We were flying the main and genoa and averaged well over 9 knots!  AND we sailed directly to our destination – without slipping.  We are definitely fans of the daggerboards.

Oh and not to show off, but we made lunch and sat in the salon to eat it while we sailed!!

Another day in the Sea of Cortez, we were sailing from San Evaristo to Los Gatos and we were tucked in fairly closely to the land, which turned out to be a good thing.  Here are the notes I made after that sail:

The early sail was quite mild with 8 knots of wind and we had the reacher and full main up. Not long into the trip, the wind kicked in and we furled the reacher, put one reef in the main and unfurled the jib. 

The wind continued to climb and soon we were seeing 25 knots of wind.

On Let It Be we used to be able to “reef” the jib by rolling in some canvas but that didn’t work at all on TTR.  When we rolled in a bit of the jib, it wobbled wildly and we quickly unfurled it again.  The winds were very strong so we spilled the main a bit to reduce pressure in the main sail.  We had to keep a close eye on the main and jib sheets and be prepared to release them as we didn’t want to fly a hull!

Our true wind angle varied between 100 and 65 because we altered our heading when we had lighter winds (20K) so we could make our course.  It was a very sporty day and we saw Ticket To Ride move along at 15+ knots for much of this trip! 

Frank was LOVING the sail! I was a little nervous at first but I enjoyed the speed once we were prepared to release the main or jib if we had too much power.

I am amazed at how quickly 20 knots of wind seemed mild after bursts of 30!

We reached Los Gatos quickly and had our choice of spots to anchor.

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The beautiful anchorage in Los Gatos.

Later in the day as boats we had passed while sailing set their anchors, several called us on the VHF and asked just how fast TTR was sailing. (Did I tell you we passed several boats as we sailed?)

Anyway, our AIS and VHF are only working intermittently (at the moment) and apparently the other boats were unable to contact us or see our speed through AIS.  They were very interested to hear how fast we were sailing because they “felt like they were standing still” in comparison to TTR

Yep, this boat can move!

FYI, in hindsight, although we had a reef in the main we should have hoisted the staysail and furled the jib.  But the winds were not in the forecasts and we had no idea they were coming along. 

Here in the Sea of Cortez, we have found that the winds vary often and suddenly. The boats that contacted us on VHF were in the center of the channel and saw winds up to 35 knots. They were also caught off guard by these unexpected winds.

The fastest we have sailed TTR is 24.7 knots when we had professionals on board and pretty perfect conditions in Long Beach, CA behind the breakwater.  We have not replicated this speed on our own and I’m not sure we will try to anytime soon.

In light air with true wind angles of 85-125 degrees, Ticket To Ride often sails very close to wind speed.  It is exciting to be able to put the sails up in 8 knots of wind and sail at 8 knots!

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True wind angle: 96 degrees, true wind speed: 8.3k, SOG: 8.3k, boat speed: 8.7k

TTR feels like a race horse that wants to take the bit and ruuuunnnnn! She gallops through the water and is capable of more than I am willing to do.  Probably Frank should go out with some guys and put her through her paces just because he wants to and I don’t. 

As I mentioned earlier, TTR easily moves through the water. I believe we have less motion on this boat than we did on our Helia and the cleaner motion makes the ride more enjoyable to me.

Ticket To Ride is very comfortable to sail deep downwind, but she isn’t as fast as she could be because we do not have a spinnaker.  We decided that handling such a large sail with just the two of us would be extremely taxing so instead we bought a Doyle Sails Cable-less Reacher which is cut deeper and is on a continuous line furler.  It is this sail that we use when sailing downwind and so far it has worked well. A spinnaker would sail faster, but the reacher is manageable for us.

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L-R: Boat speed: 10.6k, true wind angle: 149 degrees, true wind speed: 18.9k.

We made a long sail from San Juanico to Bahia Conception, about 58 nm, and the wind was deeper than forecast. As a result, we were sailing with a true wind angle of 155-165 in 8-11 knots of wind.  In these conditions, we averaged between 6 and 7 knots of boat speed.

At 150-160, our reacher stayed well filled and the ride of the boat was extremely comfortable.  Frank and I spent the day cleaning the decks, doing laundry, reorganizing a closet or two, etc.

The bottom line is that our HH55 Catamaran is an excellent sailing boat and sail handling is easy with just the two of us on board.  We have high speed winches that allow us to quickly raise sails and make the large sails easy to change or adjust. TTR moves so well in light air that we find ourselves sailing most of the time, even when other boats are motoring. In fact, often we sail much faster than we can motor. 

We sincerely appreciate the excellent design Morrelli and Melvin created and the few modifications they made at our request to make TTR an excellent sailing and cruising sailboat for our needs.  The design by M&M and the fabulous build quality by HH Catamarans has resulted in a boat home we can sail easily and live in comfortably.

Please understand that Frank and I still have a LOT to learn about our HH55. We have not made an overnight passage by ourselves on TTR and we have not faced adverse conditions.  Clearly these observations and comments are based on our current level of experience with our new catamaran.  We do not expect our opinion to change much, but we still consider ourselves inexperienced on this boat.

Thank you for reading our blog. Feel free to visit our FB page for more frequent posts. 

Dolphin Reef

As Frank and I were leaving Isla Coronados on Thursday, we saw waves in the distance we thought might indicate a reef or shallow area.

We double and triple checked the charts, which are completely incorrect here. But we saw nothing.

Binoculars revealed the disturbance was a huge pod of dolphins! We estimated about 500 dolphin in this pod.

Needless to say it was a blast watching these guys swim around.

We idled in the area of the dolphins for about 30 minutes just watching them jumping and cavorting.

We could hear them chattering to each other as they swam. We were surprised how much noise they created.

Wow! I only wish I could share with you how fun it was to see these guys.

Thanks for stopping by. Please see our FB page, HH55 Ticket To Ride, for more regular updates.

Cruising Mexico with Mahalo/Women Who Sail

Dolphins in the La Paz anchorage.

After Kristen and James flew out of La Paz, Frank and I took a couple of days to simply relax and relish being back in cruising mode. La Paz, Mexico was a great place for us to enjoy being on the hook again and get to know a few people.

There is a very active cruisers group in La Paz and we were fortunate enough to get involved immediately through their daily VHF Net which is sort of like morning announcements when you were in school; but more interesting.

For those unfamiliar with a Net, they differ a bit by location but each usually has a set format that goes something like this:

The host of the net starts announcing around 8 am on the same VHF channel each day and the order of business usually includes:

~emergencies among the cruisers

~weather information

~boats arriving or leaving

~activities in and around the area

~items people have for sale or things people are in need of

~questions about where to buy something or have boat work done

The host acknowledges boats who have information to contribute on each topic, then moves to the next item.

Cruisers nets are very beneficial to boaters and it allows local businesses to let cruisers know if they have special events planned.

Anyway, the La Paz Cruisers net is very well organized and informative. It was a great way to jump start our return to cruising.

Sunset in La Paz

One of the reasons Frank and I wanted to be in La Paz in early April was that the Annual Mahalo/Women Who Sail Rendezvous began on April 6th.

In 2015, Frank and I participated in the very first WWS Rendezvous as a BYOB (Bring Your Own Boat) on Let It Be in the BVIs. We thought the coincidence that our first long trip on LIB coincided with the first WWS Rendezvous and our first long trip on Ticket To Ride matched the 5th WWS Rendezvous was too obvious to ignore.

So we contacted Captain Holly Scott and signed up as a BYOB. Holly put us in touch with Sherri and Steve aboard s/v Pablo who were already in La Paz.

I had a great time tagging along with Sherri as she used donations from the WWS/Mahalo group to buy more than 20 pairs of tennis shoes for kids living in a nearby fishing village.

Panoramic view from the restaurant in San Evaristo.

The Mahalo/WWS Rendezvous ladies contribute to one needy community each year and this year the fishing village in San Evaristo was the recipient. In addition to shoes, the Mahalo Rendezvous contributed the supplies needed to plumb fresh water from the roadside to the school.

The school in San Evaristo.

The information I received from Sherri on s/v Pablo is that the Mexican Government recently ran plumbing from a fresh water well to the roadside of homes and businesses in San Evaristo and it is up to the individual to get the water from the street to their building.

Mahalo/WWS provided the supplies to pipe the water from the street to the school in San Evaristo.

By the way, the well water only flows twice a week and each family must store necessary water between days. (There is no electricity in San Evaristo. Residents use solar panels to charge batteries and that is their power source.)

An early morning drone shot in Caleta Partida.

I won’t give you the blow by blow of our time with the WWS group, but I will share some pictures of the places we visited.

It was quite entertaining to listen to the 7 chartered boat captains and crew on the VHF net for the group. There was much laughter and banter and each net included jokes and other entertainment. It was very fun to be part of this lively group of women who love sailing and exploring.

Dawn in Caleta Partida.

A couple of ladies joined Frank and me on a little snorkel in Caleta Partida. The water was chilly but the sea life was plentiful and diverse. Much fun.

Swimming with sea lions.

One morning the fleet of boats went to Ensenada Grande where tour operators picked us up and took us to swim with sea lions. It was a blast! The young male pups are very curious and would swim nearby, then roll over like a dog asking for his belly to be scratched.

Fishermen an at Isla San Francisco.

One of my favorite sights during our time with the Mahalo/WWS group was in Isla San Francisco. I awakened early one morning to the sound of men speaking Spanish outside the boat.

Turns out it was fishermen casting their nets for baitfish in the early morning light. It was a beautiful sight and demonstrated the camaraderie of the men and the simple way of life here.

Throwing a casting net for bait fish.

The fisherman chased the baitfish between boats.

But do not misinterpret simple for easy. The people here are hard working and the amenities are few compared to life in the U.S. The villages are remote and most are similar to San Evaristo – no electricity and very little fresh water.

We traveled with the Mahalo/WWS Rendezvous until their most northern anchorage then waved a fond goodbye as they turned south and we pointed further into the Sea of Cortez.

I am exceeding grateful to Captain Holly Scott for organizing these Rendezvous. They offer excellent sailing opportunities for many women on chartered boats but also allow live aboard ladies to join the fun. Holly and her crew facilitate seeing beautiful places while creating new friendships and helping local residents.

This is truly a win win event!

I’m having difficulty publishing with so little connection and I have to work on my phone only, so forgive me typos and abrupt transitions. Thank you for reading our blog. Please check out the FB page for more regular information.

Whale Sharks in La Paz!

While in La Paz, Frank, Kristen, James and myself went on a whale shark adventure.  For conservation purposes, visitors must be accompanied by a guide which is a great idea so these giant beasts aren’t bothered TOO much.DCIM100GOPROGOPR2195.JPG

Hello fishy!

I was surprised how much swimming was involved – after spotting the shark, the panga driver would get in front of the fish and the guide would tell us to slip into the water.  Soon the whale shark would be upon us and we would swim like crazy to keep up.

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A large mouth for filtering food!

We would swim for about 10 minutes then return to the panga and repeat the process.  We had a blast!

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This swimmer gives you an idea of the size of the whale shark.

The largest confirmed whale shark recorded was 62 feet! The ones we saw were a mere 35-40 feet. The life span of whale sharks has been difficult to determine but using two methods of estimation, modeling and field study, have shown two contradictory life spans.  Modeling suggests that whale sharks live about 70 years, but field studies suggest that whale sharks could live as long as 130 years! Amazing.

As we were leaving the protected waters of the whale shark, we saw a large pod of dolphins and asked the guide if we could swim with them.  The panga driver accelerated to get in front of the dolphins and we all jumped in as the dolphins approached us.

The water was only about 12 feet deep and the dolphins swam right toward us, checked us out a little, then swam quickly below us and away.  We could hear them chattering as they swam and it was exhilarating! Sorry no photos. 😦

I have a great video of the whale shark, but I cannot get it uploaded on WP.  I will try to upload it on Facebook….

Thank you for reading our blog. We have zilch connectivity in the Sea of Cortez, so I don’t have the opportunity to write often.  This is the best I could do for now. Please check our FB page for more regular posts.

 

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