About Us

Welcome to our blog, describing our voyage aboard Bravo, a Kelly Peterson 46 sailboat with homeport in Seattle, Washington. We headed south in 2010, destined for Mexico and beyond. Cheers, Adam and Cindi


"As for me, I am tormented by an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts." -Herman Melville, 1844


Monday, May 23, 2011

Swimming with lions

Sea lions, that is!
Bravo is on the move again! A few days ago we left La Paz and headed north. Great to have a steering wheel again!!! Went back up to Caleta Partida, which we'd enjoyed so much with David and Diana. Explored the area by kayaks, including the bay to the north. We spent two nights here, leaving yesterday in the early morning for Los Islotes, a pair of small islands with a very active sea lion rookery. The early start was the ticket, as we had the islands to ourselves, before other boats began to arrive.
After anchoring offshore, we loaded snorkel gear into the dinghy and headed, rather gingerly, in toward the island, which was covered with barking sea lions...babies, females, and large bulls. Several jumped in right away, and began to swim around us. We put on our gear (black wetsuits really do make you look a bit too much like a sea lion!!!) and jumped in. The water was spectacularly clear, the best we've had yet on the trip. And there was a tremendous assortment and quantity of fish all around. (We could see why the sea lions enjoy the place, with their meat locker so well stocked!!!)
But the star(s) of the show were certainly the sea lions themselves. Showing no fear of us, they seemed to enjoy swimming around us, at us, above and below us. It was fantastic! They seemed completely unaggressive and not at all unhappy with our presence, but rather wanted to simply have a swim with these new visitors (remember the black wetsuits???). It was an extraordinary experience for both of us humans. (We don't flatter ourselves that it was so extraordinary for the sea lions!!)
After 45 minutes in the water we began to get cold, and reluctantly piled into the dinghy for the trip back to Bravo, anchored close by. Just at that point, several other boats arrived, disgorging their dinghies and snorkelers into the water. We were really glad to have had the time to ourselves with these playful critters.
Weighing anchor, we headed over to Isla San Francisco, perhaps 15 more miles to the north. There's a beautiful protected bay here, and we had a great hike today to the surrounding ridge with 360 degree views before swimming in the turquoise blue, crystal clear waters. All in all, a great day. We'll stay here another night, before continuing north tomorrow.
Sorry about the lack of photos (or videos!). We are out of range of our internet service, and will be posting via ham radio until we get a inet connection again (might be a while, as we enter the more remote areas of the Baja). At that time we'll upload some photos (and underwater video of the sea lions).

Friday, May 20, 2011

La Paz update

Right after our arrival at Los Muertos, we got to experience one of the unique weather patterns of the Sea of Cortez..."the norther".  These weather systems, bringing high northerly winds down from the US south west, can blow for several days.  And this one did!  Even anchored snugly in the cove, it blew 20-30 knots steadily for over two days.  No worries, the anchor held solid, and we got a lot of reading done, movies watched, and navels contemplated as we waited for the wind to die down.  We had a local panga fisherman take us ashore, as it would have been a very wet dinghy ride, especially with the four of us.

Eventually the wind died down, and we made our way up toward the national park of Espiritu Santo.  On the way, while tacking the boat, we snapped a steering cable....a bad sensation indeed as suddenly the steering wheel just spun around like a pinwheel with no control of the boat.  Happily our auto pilot is a completely independent system, so we were able to continue on using just Otto, our trusty pilot to steer.

Made it to a large, pretty bay, San Gabriel, at the bottom of Espiritu Santo, and anchored near two other boats, Taking Flight and Panta Rhei, both from Seattle.  The water was picture perfect, light blue over coral sands.  We hadn't seen this color water all the way down the Mexican mainland.  Of course it demanded exploration.  Toys were quickly deployed, as we set out kayaking, snorkeling, and hiking.  Did a fun desert hike with the other boat crews across the island to the east side bay called Bonanza.

A strong wind came up that night out of the south.  This is another local weather phenomena, seen only in the La Paz area, known as a corumuel.  It blew 25 knots all night.  The wind wasn't very strong, but the short chop it created, perhaps 5-7 feet, really made the boats hobby horse at anchor.  Taking Flight took a wave over the bow and down the hatch, dousing their bunk.  They boogied out at around 3 a.m. for a calmer bay to the north, while we stayed put, as we didn't want to move on without a steering wheel!!!

Fisherman trying for a bigger fish!


The next day, we moved north to another bay at the north end of the island park, Caleta Partida.  Here we had a great time exploring, and bought a lobster and some fish from a local fishermans beach camp.  Tasty business!!!
Fossils in beach rocks.




Old greybeards never give it up!!!

  It was now time for David and Diana to fly home out of La Paz, so with that, we headed south to the city.  As luck had it, there was a festival in swing when we arrived, with dancing on a street stage, and the start of an off road desert race, the Dos Mares 500.  A good party for everyone, with the malecon packed full of racers, wannabes, and fans.  Hard to resist!!!


Geriatric mariachis!!!

Guys looked beat after 500 miles in the desert!
























D&D flew out after a great visit, and we settled down to get our steering fixed.  We needed parts from the US, and Edson, the manufacturer claimed less than 50% success shipping to Mexico.  Best solution...Cindi flew up to visit her brother and his family in L.A. for a fun weekend, and was our "mule" for carrying boat parts back across the border.  Just took a couple of hours to fix the next day, and yeeee-hah, today we'll be getting back underway, heading north to explore the Sea of Cortez for the next several months......stay tuned!!!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Baja Bound!

After leaving Urique (again via a rather rugged bus ride...several lost their tacos on the ride up out of the canyon!!) we headed by bus for the town of Posada Barancas.  This is another stop on the CHEPE railroad, located at the canyon rim.  We found a great guest house run by the Diaz family, and then set out to explore the dramatic cliffs in the area.

 


 

Check out the guy sitting and meditating on the ledge near the top.  Talk about exposure!!!
It's great here how accessible the cliffs really are, unimpeded by the typical guardrails or safety glass seen in the U.S. to save the errant tourist from an ugly splattered demise.  Here we were, immediately adjacent to a 5 star hotel (Hotel Mirador), and we could stand (or crawl) right to the canyon edge.  Very cool!!!

 The next morning we took a beautiful 6 mile hike down into the canyon, where we caught the tram back to the rim, and then the train back to El Fuerte.  We backtracked our route to Mazatlan, where we got the boat ready for the 200 mile crossing to Baja.



 

Tarahumara ranch passed on the trail

Cindi negotiating the "summit ladder"





Dramatic views through glass floor!



 


Mazatlan cliff diver...a steep learning curve!!!


Here are a few parting photos of Mazatlan, before the four of us untied the lines in the morning to head across.
 
Diver said he's been at it for around 6 months...kids, don't try this at home!

A bike with air bag, no worries!




We had a great crossing, enjoying some excellent sailing the first day.  That night the winds became light and variable, and we motor sailed much of the rest of the night and next day, as we made our way to Los Muertos, a pretty bay south of La Paz, arriving at around 5 pm.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Copper Canyon Rambles, part 2: Off to the Races

Returning hot, dusty, and dehydrated to Urique after the Naranja hike, we were more than ready for a cold shower and colder "fluid replacement therapy".  We got word of the Second Annual Urique Horse Races and mariachi "Battle of the Bands" being held that evening in an open field across the river.  Further word was that they had cold fluids available in the otherwise dry town.  No further invitation needed!!!

"Mr. Ed" wasn't wild about racing today!

Local jockey on right ended up in the winner's circle
The venue was fantastic.  Surrounded by the canyon rim all around, the riders raced in a straight line on a soccer field, w/ Tecate tents set up for shade.  Riders started out of a mobile trailer mounted chute, some bareback, some in full jockey regalia.  (The guy in the jockey suit was from out of town, and lost handily to the local boy, much to the crowd's delight!!!)

What's a horse race without a mariachi band???


"I just click my red shoes together, and repeat, "there's no place like home"!!!

The horse people were in a great mood, and it was really fun to hang out in a place with no other gringos, but in a true "family at the races" atmosphere.  As David remarked, "they sure didn't throw this party just for us!!!"








Folks arriving by foot or truck

Crowd control?????  Yikes!

Parking striping is taken seriously around here!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Copper Canyon Rambles, part 1

Joined by Seattle friends David and Diana, we recently returned from a week long adventure exploring the Copper Canyon.  No easy junket, the journey's travel stats included: 2 trains, 10 buses, 4 taxis, 3 trucks, 1 tram, and at least 26 miles of hot, dusty hiking!!!  This was round trip out of Mazatlan!!  Was it worth the effort?  Absolutely!  The Copper Canyon is truly a spectacular region.  Encompassing 6 major canyons in the SW part of the Mexican state of Chihuahua, the entire Copper Canyon is both larger in area and deeper than Arizona's Grand Canyon. 


We began our trip by bus, taking two buses the first day to El Fuerte, where we spent the night.  This pretty, historic town, high over the river (though not high enough to thwart a major population of ravenous no-see-um's) is a stop on the Chepe (Chihuahua Pacific) Railroad, and we boarded the train the next morning. 













The train offers both 1st class and 2nd class fares, but 2nd class only runs 3x per week, so we went first class as we wanted to "make tracks" for the Canyon.  Prices shown are in pesos...divide by app. 12 for $USD prices.  We rode from El Fuerte to Bauhuichivo, around a 6 hour trip.



The Chepe train is a fantastic bit of engineering.  Taking over 100 years to complete, the route takes 39 bridges and 86 tunnels to wind the 390 miles from Los Mochis on the coast to Chihuahua.  Check out the map...the "s-turn" on the upper left.  The train runs along the river, makes a hairpin turn over a bridge, then vanishes into a 2.5 mile tunnel.  A few minutes after entering the tunnel, we come out the other end, pointing in the opposite direction!!!  Pretty cool!


Someone's gotta yield here!





 This is where the train is running along the river to the left.  After crossing the bridge, and doubling back on the other side, it will enter the tunnel and come out on the track up above, heading the opposite direction.   Neat trick!!!
Karaoke conductors

Cindi and Diana join in....."Let It Be" will never sound the same!!!
The views are spectacular as the train makes it's way up into the mountains.  A lot of fun as they allow passengers to ride between the cars taking pix or just enjoying the scenery.
 




 We arrived in Bauhuichivo in early afternoon, and eventually found a bus heading to the bottom of the Canyon, in the town of Urique.  The Copper Canyon is the deepest canyon in North America, and Urique is it's deepest point.  The road from Bauhuichivo is some of the most dramatic bus travel anywhere, as the entire 54km dirt road is single lane, steep, and nearly non stop hairpin turns down into the canyon below. 


Our bus, work release style!!!
Guardrails???  We don't need no stinkin' guardrails!!!

Heading home



Taking nearly 4 hours, we stopped often seemingly in the middle of nowhere, to let out one of the native Tarahumara folk, who would then head off on foot, presumably for a village or home some distance away.

Adam at the sleeping cabin.
Urique proved to be an interesting town.  Far off the "gringo trail", tourism is not at all a mainstay of the local economy.  Set in this spectacular canyon, the main economic engine is probably marijuana farming, or "support industries".  (As one guidebook said, the locals didn't buy shiny $40,000 SUV's selling baskets at the train station!!)  We were told that the trails were safe to hike, however we were always aware of a rather different vibe than we've experienced elsewhere.  Not at all hostile, there was nonetheless a sense of indifference to travellers.  We stayed at a fun spot, Entre Amigos, owned (and built) by Keith, a part time expat from the Pacific Northwest for the past 25 years.  Part hostel, part individual cabins, the unique homestead setting with it's communal kitchen serves as a focal point for adventure travellers from all over.  (We enjoyed chatting with Nathan, a Brit who has ridden his bike here from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, and plans to continue on down to Tierra Fuego).








We arrived in Urique during the festival of Semana Santa, which is the Thursday, Friday, and Saturday before Easter.  We had heard that the festival is a major deal to the indigenous Tarahumara people in a village above the valley floor, Guadelupe. 
Although the main event evidently begins on Friday night, and involves a lot of alcohol and some peyote, we hiked up there on Saturday morning and things were still in relatively full swing.  Actually we're not quite sure what "full swing" means!!! 

We never did get a great understanding about the meaning of the ceremonies that we witnessed.  People were running around in the square outside of the church, many of the men still in costume from the night before.  They rolled around on the church floor, flooded with water, before burning an effigy of Judas outside.  We were not only the only gringos present, but likely the only folks not from the village or region. 



 





 
But it was good if confused fun, and when it was over we happily hitched a ride with a vegetable truck back down to Urique rather than repeat the 6 mile trek as the temperature climbed over 100 degrees.


The next day we went for another hike to a "town", Naranja, around 6 miles up from Urique.  The trail was steep, and again the temp climbed over 100.  Finally reaching the top of the endless switchbacks, we found that the town was merely a settlement of perhaps six houses and a church...all extremely poor, with little in the way of thirst quenchers.  (did I mention that the day was HOT???!!!)

Panorama of Naranja
  We made our way back down via the road.  On the way a brand new red Chevy Suburban passed us.  No license plates.  Stopped, rolled down the dark tinted windows, the three young men gave us a stone faced once over, and headed on by.  Not even an "hola".  Hmmmmm.......

The views on these hikes were certainly spectacular.  We took the trail up on the left hand side of the valley, and decended via the road.
Although our boots were hard on our tender feet (we've been in sandals for the past 6 months!!!), it was great to get deep into such remote and stunning country.






In the next segment, we'll be going horse racing, Urique style, and will explore a bit more of the Canyon before making our way back to Mazatlan.  ARRIBA!!!