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!
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.
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.
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!
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.