Monday, March 31, 2008

Crossing the Equator

It is March 31 today, and we are motoring along at about 5 knots but have a counter current of a knot. The past two days have been interesting. We spent March 29 doing laundry and making costumes for our equator crossing. Later that night around 12 midnight, Steve woke me up for my watch and five minutes later I was stepping into the cockpit when I looked to my right and saw the lights of a ship. Now the ship was about a 1/2 mile away, so you can imagine my thoughts. I called to Steve and he came right up. Just then the skipper called us on the radio. We had no engine, so we had to tack through a 360-degree turn in order to let the ship pass, and that will get the adrenaline pumping. Several other boats have also had close calls with ships.

The other day I baked a pineapple upside down cake and yesterday, I baked some bread. I made a loaf and some dinner rolls out of whole wheat, and they turned out to be delicious. These treats make life better.

Unfortunately, during the past few days the winds have died down considerably so we did not have very good days--only 100 miles or so each day. Our first two days out we made 149 miles each day. Last night the wind died completely, and we ended up being carried by a current back to the north and gave up 5 miles. We have had some fuel problems, so we have not used the engine; however, Steve got the engine running, but only at low speed. It is enough, however, to get us on our way again. Everyone in close proximity to us is complaining about the same thing. We all seem to be in a hole. We had hoped to cross the equator last night, but we obviously didn't make it. We are hoping that the wind will pick up this afternoon. Steve also had to go into the water to check our prop to be sure nothing had tangled around it. He said that is was a little unsettling because of the thought of sharks; however, the water was warm and absolutely crystal clear, which helped to make it a little easier. The prop was clear, which was good news.

I have to say that one of the prettiest things about being out here are the sunsets and sunrises. During the sunrise, streaks of white light shoot up into the blue sky. It is especially beautiful when there are clouds present. During the setting of the moon, the light rays shine down through the clouds. So far we have not seen the green flash.

We will chug along today and hopefully reach the equator by around 9 o'clock. We have our party favors all ready to go and our costumes, such as they are, ready to put on. We also have the mandatory gift for King Neptune in the form of scotch and wine. I thought we could throw in some homemade bread as well. We don't want to have to wait any longer--we need to get past this milestone.

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Friday, March 28, 2008

Crossing the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ)

We are currently south of the ITCZ heading more or less due south, but the ITCZ moves north and south frequently and sometimes many degrees daily. We passed through it yesterday afternoon, but I think it is right on our tail as we see blue sky and puffy cumulus clouds to the south and nasty thunderstorms and cloud banks to the north from where we have come. During our crossing we did have some nasty gale-like weather, heavy rain, and lots of clouds; but, all in all, our crossing of the ITCZ was pretty easy, and we never slowed below 3 knots of boat speed (no doldrums. In fact, we had a pretty steady transition from 25 knots of NE trades clocking to 20 knots of easterlies and now 12-15 knots of SE winds, which we hope are the SE trades; however, they are not expected to be fully developed until 5S. A few days will tell. As of right now we are 1,015 miles from Autona, Hiva Oa, Marquesas - hopefully 8 days or so. That would make this a 22 day (I think) crossing, which is something of a good passage for a boat our size.

Yesterday, we had another breaking wave hit the stern deck and the Monitor wind vane line parted again. So we hove to once more, this time in 28 knots of wind and about 12-foot waves. Heaving to settles the boat down and makes it easier to work. We had to have new line for this repair and the closest line of the same size was our spinnaker pole halyard. Steve again climbed over the stern and onto the Monitor bracket--tethered to the boat, of course. We ran the new line and got it all hooked up. This time it took us just an hour and a half. It was a good exercise, but we would both like to be finished with that drill.

The weather is definitely warmer and more humid, and everything feels damp. At least the rain showers have provided a good washing for the boat, as she was getting pretty salty. There are flying fish on deck every morning. They have huge eyes for the size of their bodies. One morning we plan to cook some up for breakfast because people say they are quite good. Today I spotted a black fin on the water, but I am not sure what it was. It didn't swim like a dolphin, so it may have been a shark. Two days ago, we saw several whales about 50 yards from the boat. The nights are spectacular with all the stars and the moon.

Well, I have to close now in order to attend a scheduled meeting of the planning committee for Equator crossing party.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Half Way There

In addition to following a route on our electronic chart plotter, each day we also manually plot our position on a paper chart. Currently this effort is being accomplished on chart of the entire Eastern Pacific. It is a good idea from a navigational standpoint to know where you were if you had to complete a passage without the aid of electronics (yes, it can still be done). The manual plotting also creates a written record of a passage that will one day be fun to look at. There is one problem with plotting your position daily on a paper chart scaled to 1:10,000,000 - you seem never to get where you are going. With each good days travel being represented by a line not much longer than one inch on a 48" x 48" chart, it can get a little depressing; however, each day I diligently plot our position and you start to believe that maybe you will get there. If fact, today, we saw proof that it is true. At 1927Z, we were exactly half way between Cabo San Lucas and Atuona, Hiva Oa, Marquesas, French Polynesia! After 10+ days at sea, we have traveled 1,328 miles. Now a mathematically astute reader might observe that we are only traveling 133 miles per day and they might also think that 133 miles per day is not that fast. While looking at our progress on our chart of the Eastern Pacific we would be inclined to agree with both observations. That said, we are pleased to note that we are among the fastest boats this year making this passage and that if winds hold for us, a passage time of 21 or 22 days will be envied by many sailors sailing a boat in the 35-45 foot range.

In other news, we continue to have increasingly cloudy squally weather as the ITCZ gets closer. The squalls do contain a lot of rain but are not big wind makers yet. One has to be careful of squalls as they can bring short term very high winds, just like their land cousin, the Thunderstorm. We continue to read a lot, cook good meals even though this can be a very trying experience in 8 foot seas, not to mention the 18-20 foot seas we have had!

Well, I need to wake the watch so I will sign off for now

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Typical Time at Sea

Today is Monday, March 24, and we are now 1240 miles from Cabo. The other night we had a 1000 mile celebration. Steve had a wee dram of scotch and I had a small glass of wine plus we enjoyed a very nice dinner.

Our fruits and veggies are now beginning to go bad so we are thinking of creative ways to use them up. Steve hooked another fish today, but it also got off the hook. A nice tuna would be delicious right about now. Steve baked chocolate chip/almond cookies two days ago, and, you guessed it, they are gone. We were going to celebrate St. Patrick's Day; however, we were tired that night and completely forgot about it. So we had a belated St. Patrick's Day on Easter Sunday. We had corned beef, cabbage, and potatoes. We decided to have our ham dinner, which should have been for Easter, on Memorial Day weekend.

Several boats that left La Paz at the same time are on the SSB radio every night discussing the weather and the best place to cross the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone. We have also been listening to Don on the SSB radio, and Steve has even called him several times during net schedule to ask for information. Right now it looks like 05 degrees north and 130 degrees west will get us to the narrowest point to cross the zone. We hope to be at that point in 3 or 4 days depending on the winds; however, it could change between now and then. The winds have back off now to around 15 knots, so we are not making as much way as we were before, but we are moving forward, which is a good thing. I believe there was a boat last year that had a minus mileage one day. We heard of another boat that crossed the equator but then was pushed back by current, so they got to cross it a second time. Perfect example of "It could be worse."

The weather has definitely become warmer and more humid. Everything on the boat feels damp from the bedding to clothing. The other problem we had was that we had so much water on the decks because of the rough seas that one of our clothes lockers got wet. We have laundry hanging everywhere, but it is so humid that nothing is drying very fast. We have never before had wet lockers, and we have had some rough crossings with water on the decks, so we were really surprised.

Since we are getting closer to the ITCZ, we have had several squalls pass over us. Last night while I was on watch, two different squalls about 30 minutes apart passed over us. We got some rain, which was nice for the boat because a lot of the salt was washed away. We had several other showers today, so the boat is looking pretty good. The rain also cools things down but not for long.

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Good Fishing

Yesterday was an absolutely beautiful day. It had been overcast for several days, but yesterday the sun came out. Anyway, Steve had put out two fishing lines in the morning, and about 10 o'clock one line hit. Steve jumped up to pull in the fish when the second line popped. We had gone through a school of Dorado. I took that line, but I soon realized that it was a very big fish. I looked back in our wake, and I could see this fish jumping and thrashing around. I knew that I could not pull it in, so I helped Steve land his fish. He got it on board--it took two tries--and slit the fish behind the gills to bleed it. He then tied a line around the tail and threw it overboard. He does this to avoid a tremendous clean up. The fish flops around so much that blood ends up everywhere. Well, we then turned our attention to the second fish. When Steve pulled on the line, he said that it looked as though the fish was gone. When he got to his lure, only the head was left. The fish had broken the 100-pound test mono filament line. Yup, it was a BIG fish. Well, we weren't too disappointed since we still had the one lovely Dorado to fix for lunch, or so we thought. When Steve went to pull that fish in, it was gone. We have no idea what happened, but we were bummed.

We ended up having pork stir fry, which was delicious. Our fruits and vegetables have held up pretty well; however, it is definitely warming up, which means everything will ripen faster.

Now the really strange thing. When Steve was cleaning the first fish on the side deck, he noticed a cargo net with a few items in it floating by the boat. Next came a boot. Now Steve swears that he saw some of the lower leg bone sticking out of the boot. I glanced at the boot but didn't watch it go by.

Today is more overcast again. We are making good time and have been in the trade winds for several days now, so we have been lucky in picking our route so far. We are 990 miles out of Cabo and have been sailing with just the poled-out jib or wing-on-wing. Everything has settled down, and we are getting used to working with the motion of the boat. I have bruises on bruises in some places. Some things such as cooking are still a challenge. We are also sleeping a little better and trying to rest during the day as well.

Keep your fingers crossed for another Dorado!

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Tradewinds Found

Yesterday we began to see a change in the sea state with the swells becoming smaller and not so much cross chop. That definitely made the ride much more comfortable. Also, it has become much warmer, which is nice as the evening watches were a bit chilly. Last night the winds went pretty light and the Monitor was having a bit of trouble; however, we are very pleased with the way it steers the boat. The winds have been become pretty steady now, which makes life good.

We finally got a good night's sleep, and today we got some boat chores done. We found a leak that got everything in the closet very wet, so we spent the day rinsing all of it with fresh water and hanging it up to dry. We had a line full of clothes hanging all around the cockpit.

When we left Cabo San Lucas, we had met a very nice single-hander named Ernst, who is Swiss, and has been sailing for 14 years. He left 5 hours after we did, but because of our time loss due to the steering problem, he was within a few miles of us the next day and called us on the VHF radio. He and Steve have been chatting on the SSB radio every morning discussing the weather forecasts. We are both very pleased with our decision to head west and not south because the winds are very favorable for a fast crossing.

Steve caught a lovely Dorado today. It wasn't large, but we enjoyed a lunch of fish and steamed mixed vegetables. Dinner will be crab salad with fruit. We have eaten pretty well; however, some days it was just too rough to cook. Now that things have settled down, it has become much easier. We found that eating a good breakfast and eating a large meal at lunch works best. We then have a lighter meal, maybe sandwiches, in the evening.

We are fine and are now getting into a sleep routine that helps a lot. Life is good and the ocean is just spectacular.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Trials at Sea

Last night around 10:30 I was sitting on watch and Steve was sleeping below when a large wave broke coming onto the boat and hitting the stern. I heard the Monitor wind vane rattle and went back to make sure that the steering was all right. One of the steering lines had broken and come out of the guide tubing. Steve came up into the cockpit, we began to hand steer and get the boat hove to or stopped. Steve then had to tether himself to the boat and climb over the rail and onto the Monitor frame so that he could feed the line back through the guide tube. While he was doing this, the waves were causing the stern to go up and down forcing Steve to get dunked up to his waist. He was able to feed the line back through and then connect the line back to the steering wheel.

In order to pull the boat out of the hove to position, we decided to start the engine. You guessed it--it wouldn't start. We had run it earlier in the day to charge the batteries so we had no idea what the problem was. Steve went below to check the engine and found that there was salt water in the engine oil. He found that the sea water had filled the crank case. He changed the oil, and when we tried it, the engine did start. We ran it for a few minutes and then shut it off. He then took the hose off the water muffler and plugged the exhaust pipe. We think that the following seas and large waves caused the problem. He will change the oil again tomorrow to see if it will run again and check it out completely. Hopefully, that will take care of the problem.

We waited for dawn and then poled out our jib so that we could balance the sails a little better. That took another hour since we had gusts up to 23 knots, a rolling deck, and were pretty tired. When that was done, the boat settled down a bit and the Monitor was steering well. Unfortunately, the northwest winds that were forecast (great for us) did not materialize, but northeast winds did (not so good for us). That means a very rolly downwind ride.

I have to say that Steve did all this work last night after having slept only a few hours over the past few days. He was finally tired enough to really get some sleep, but it was not to be. His ability to fix a problem and keep at it until it is finished, no matter what, amazes me. The good news is that despite our setbacks, we are making very good time. Now we will just have to wait to see if the winds might shift more in our favor. We will be optimistic.

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Weaving through the Islas Revillagigedo's

This morning, traveling SW, we passed to the north and west of Isla San Benedicto and Isla Socorro, and will pass to the east and south of Isla Roca Partida late tonight. We gave all of these islands that form the Islas Revillagigedo group a wide berth as there are significant charting inaccuracy with Mexican charts. I tried to spot Isla Socorro, the largest island with a small Mexican military outpost, but with the large seas we are having, there was no way I could see it; in fact, I would be surprised if we could see a container ship until it was 1/2 a mile away. Compounding the navigation issues, there are a large number of sea mounts that rise from 6000 feet to a few tens of feet of the surface. The water over these sea mounts can be very rough and dangerous, especially in wind, current, and wave conditions like we are having. We are working hard to avoid these too. In 2 days, all the navigation hazards will be behind us and we will have deep open water all the to the Marquesas.

A very strong high pressure system of 1034 mb has been forming up north and the effects had been predicted for our area. While we have been sailing along nicely, this afternoon the swells and wind predicted showed up. The swells are now 12-14 feet with a 10 second period. On top of the swells are wind waves of 2-4 feet. There are while caps but generally the sea is pretty well behaved. The winds were originally predicted to be up to 35 knots but the maximum we have had are in the low 20's with the majority of the winds being 15-20 knots which is very good. We have reefed and un-reefed the sails today trying to find out what works best. With a deeply reefed main, in the bottom of the swells the sail loses the wind and along with it, boat speed. We have settled in on double reefed main and a partially furled jib. This configuration has allowed us to keep our boat speed up in the low 7 knot range without too much overpowering.

We have traveled 270 miles SSW of Cabo San Lucas in the past two days and except for a lot of salty wet close and some tiredness, all is well. In fact, at our current pace we could break a 20 day crossing! That would make us quite happy!

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At Sea

We left Muertos, Baja Sur on the 13th and ended up motoring down to Frailes, Baja Sur to spend the night. We needed to make water so the motoring allowed us to fill our water tanks. We anchored around five in the afternoon, had dinner, and crashed early. We wanted to get an early start so we pulled our anchor at 4 a.m. on the 14th and headed for Cabo. We had decided that it was silly to be so close and not stop to get fuel since we might need it to motor across the ITCZ (doldrums).

We found ourselves motoring again, but it was a beautiful day, and we saw more whales, seals, and rays. We discussed going into the harbor with the boat and pulling up to the fuel dock; however, when we saw the bay, we said, "No way!" A huge yacht was passing right in front of us, and when we hit the wake, we buried the bow and a huge wall of water went up and then came down on top of our boat. Luckily, I had just closed all the hatches. There were tour boats, fishing charters, water taxis, 2 cruise ships, jet skis, and para sails everywhere, and I mean every where. The Mexican navy was also present.

We finally found a spot to anchor so that we could unload the dinghy to go into the fuel dock using our jerry jugs. Steve took care of that while I stayed aboard in case we drug anchor--it was pretty windy. We checked weather faxes and grib files and also listened to Don, who does the weather for the Sea, and decided to leave after resting for a few hours. It looked as though we would have higher winds on Sunday so it was best to leave now.

At 10:50 in the evening, we pulled anchor and headed out for the Marquesas, and I can't think of the words to describe our first evening at sea. The winds were in the 20 to 25 knot range with gusts to 28 or 30. Now we have been in that before, and it wasn't a problem; however, the seas were rough. We estimate the waves to be 8 to 10 feet (we are really trying to be accurate) and some were breaking. We had waves and spray coming into the cockpit, and we were soaked. We ended up in our foul weather gear with wet clothes underneath. For several reasons we decided to leave the sail double reefed with a small jib. Our speed was around 7.5 knots, but we saw up to 9.1 knots several times. It was a heck of a ride. In the middle of the night, all I could think of was the song, "I'm on a Highway to Hell."

This morning (3/15) we were able to triple reef the main and pull in more jib; consequently, the ride became much better. We corrected some things that we spotted last night that needed to be tackled and had a good lunch. The winds today have been down around 10 knots so we have slowed way down. They should pick up again tonight and tomorrow and then back way down.

The boat, as usual, handled the conditions very well, and we were very pleased.

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Leaving Muertos

We decided to spent a day in Muertos putting away the last few items that were loose on the boat and enjoying the anchorage. We have never been here before and found it to be a lovely bay and easy anchoring. We took the dinghy ashore to drop off some garbage and found fishermen cleaning beautiful yellow fin tuna. We returned to the boat to relax for awhile before dinner. There are four other boats in the anchorage with us, all of whom are crossing. and we all decided to have an early dinner ashore at the Giggling Marlin. Steve and I went in around 3 o'clock to have a cerveza and enjoy the beautiful view from the palapa restaurant. The others started arriving and by 4 o'clock we were all ready to order. Steve and I split one order of fried fish, which was exceptional, and one order of garlic shrimp. It was a great afternoon, and we all talked about things other than the crossing.

There are varying ideas about the best route to take, and several discussions have taken place. Steve and I decided before we left that we would round the cape at Cabo San Lucas and make our departure from Cabo Falso. A point of departure is the last prominent landmark or promontory. A passage begins at the point of departure but it is not a voyage until you return to the point of departure - that could take a while. We will head southwest towards an imaginary point somewhere near the doldrums, which could be 128W and 07N,then turn due south to cross the equator. Once we pick up the SE trade winds, we will resume a great circle route directly for Atuona, Nuka Hiva, Marquesas in French Polynesia. So far the weather forecasts look good for this route.

We left the anchorage around 0900 this morning with virtually no wind. We have seen turtles today and more whales. It is a beautiful, clear day, but we have very light winds. We needed to make some water, so having to motor is not a bad thing, except that we are burning precious fuel. The wind is slowing picking up so we hope to be sailing in a short time. If the wind builds enough, we will continue past Los Frailes anchorage and continue on to Cabo San Lucas overnight. We don't want to stop at Cabo unless we have to get more fuel, but right now, it looks as though we will have enough.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Finally Underway

Last night the cruisers on our dock at Costa Baja had a happy hour to say bon voyage to us and some other cruisers who are heading out in different directions. It was really nice to talk with these great people. People we had just met here were giving us all sorts of great gifts--wine, peanut M&Ms, sour dough starter, and one surprise gift for when we cross the equator. A good time was had by all, but we finally had to leave so that we could finish putting things away on the boat and get ready to go.

We were up at 3:15 and at 4 o'clock we pulled away from the dock. Robert and Cynthia from Summer Rain actually got up to help us shove off and take pictures. Wind Dancer left with us. We didn't mind leaving before dawn because the channel into the marina is well lit with red and green buoys. Well, the buoys weren't lit (perhaps they fear that a boat will skip out on its bill), and it was a bit stressful to pick the buoys up in the dark with 9 feet showing on the depth sounder, and we draw 6 feet. Actually, it is probably closer to 6 ½ now that we have loaded all our food on board.

We had to motor for the first few hours until we went through San Lorenzo Channel and headed down Canal Cerralvo where the winds finally picked up, and we were able to sail. Then, of course, the winds died so we put up the spinnaker. It took awhile to rig every thing, but we did pick up speed. Shortly thereafter the wind died, and we were bobbing around like a cork. We finally decided to motor for just a bit until the wind picked up again, which it did about an hour later. We got a great down-wind sail the rest of the way, reaching a top speed of 7.7 knots several times. We also got to see several whales moving up the channel--one even breached the water.

We pulled in to Ensenada de los Muertos and set the anchor without a problem. Gingie had come in yesterday and Wind Dancer and Prairie Oyster pulled in a little behind us. These boats are all planning to cross to French Polynesia this season. We will check the weather tonight to see if we will continue tomorrow or wait a day for some wind. It was a good first day on our voyage, but we did get a little sunburned.

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Friday, March 7, 2008

The Final Days

On Tuesday, our friends Dwight & Karen were passing through La Paz as part of a month-long RV caravan trip down and back up the Baja. We spent the better part of two days wandering around La Paz, sitting in the hot tub, enjoying local cuisine, and just getting caught up on news from home. Dwight & Karen also dropped off a pretty good load of last-minute items they brought from Albuquerque. It was great to get the stuff, but by now the boat is getting pretty full so finding space for storage is not easy. It was good to see them!

As we quickly approach our departure date, there are so many things to do. We completed the first official step to leaving Mexico. On Wednesday, we received our “Certificado de Sanitacion,” which is good for six days before exiting Mexico. This requirement appears to be necessary only in the La Paz district of Baja California, Sur. Chris from WIND DANCER and Dianne for PRARIE OYSTER and I started the process by taking a bus and then walking to the Edificio de Salude and coordinating our inspection appointment time. Other boats had found that the inspectors would make their inspection within 2 days, but two inspectors were at our boat within 2 hours. Both were very friendly and asked to inspect our provisioning lockers, galley, and head. They asked if we had seen rats or mice. We assured them that there were none on board. Sitting in the cockpit, two forms were completed, stamped, and signed by all present; and after paying our 200 peso fee, the process was complete. Yesterday, after repairing the dinghy floor and cleaning the cockpit enclosure, we went to La Paz for some errands. We met Alisa from PALAGIC, who needed to make a copy of one of our charts, made multiple copies of all our official documents (to make future clearance procedures easier), visited the bank to pay for our tourist cards, got Linda’s hair cut, and picked up the first of our perishable fruits and vegetables. We did find time to eat a couple of Tacos at a taco stand near the square.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Adventures in Baja

Since Steve and I have been doing mainly boat projects, we decided to take a break and travel to San Ignacio to view the whales along with their new calves. On February 27 Anita and Ron from Liberty Call II left in their own car and then on February 28 we rented a car along with Gary and Judiee from Reverie and headed north. San Ignacio is an 8-hour drive up Highway 1 (two lanes all the way) through Baja. We have traveled up the coast in the boat, but we have never driven it.

We left at 7 in the morning, stopped for coffee and donuts, and enjoyed a lovely drive to Loreto where we stopped for lunch. We ate delicious fish tacos and then proceeded on our way. We were about 30 miles out of Loreto when Steve heard a noise. He said that he thought he saw something fly out from under the car. A few minutes later we heard another noise, and then the engine started to overheat. Steve found a place to back down off the road, lifted the hood, and found that 2 out of 3 belts were missing. Now I have to take a minute to say that the car that Alamo rented us was a mid-90s or earlier Nissan Sentra that had seen its better days.

Luckily, a fisherman named Jorge stopped to offer help. Steve went with him back to Loreto while Gary, Judiee, and I made ourselves comfortable. We opened all the doors and allowed the nice breeze to keep us cool. About 2 hours later Steve was back with a new belt and a crescent wrench as he said that the people at Alamo had not been very helpful. At the same time he arrived so did a Federal police officer who asked if we needed help. We asked him if he would wait for just a minute. Steve paid Jorge for his help and then tried to fix the problem, but the bracket nut wouldn’t break loose. The officer found some tools in his car, but nothing worked.

When we realized that we wouldn’t be able to fix the problem, the officer called requesting a mechanic and tow truck. Gary and Judiee went with the officer back to the Alamo office in Loreto while Steve and I stayed with the car this time. After about an hour a Toyota pickup appeared with a car dolly. Guiermo introduced himself and then loaded the car on the dolly. On our way back to Loreto with Guiermo, the police officer found us and reported that our friends were at the Alamo with another car and that every thing would be taken care of. We thanked him again for all his help and headed for Loreto. On our way into Loreto, Guiermo stopped by his house and introduced us to his daughters, Rosita and Carla. We really enjoyed that. Gary and Judiee were at the Alamo office, and this time they were very helpful. After Alamo filled another car with gas (a much newer car!), we left to have dinner. We decided that we needed to continue to San Ignacio even though it meant driving at night—not a good idea in Mexico. When we went through the military check point just north of Loreto, it was the fifth time for Steve, and I think they were beginning to wander what was going on. We had a good highway all the way and arrived around 11 p.m. It took us just 16 hours to make an 8-hour drive.

We checked in at the Ignacio Bed and Breakfast and went to our rooms. Actually, it was a yurts, which is a small structure made of a wood frame and canvas walls and roof. It was very nice and large inside was decorated in an oriental theme. There was a hot tub just outside and behind it was a lovely lagoon.

The next morning we had a delicious breakfast of French toast, eggs, and bacon or ham. We left on a van at 8 a.m. to drive out to San Ignacio Bay, which was about an hour and a half drive. There were 10 people on the van, and we were enjoying the drive until we had a flat tire. The van had no spare and no tire iron so the driver had to call for someone to bring one to us. That’s two! A van arrived pretty quickly with our tire and tire iron so the flat was changed, and we continued on our way. We came to a camp that was used by Antonio’s Eco Tours. We put on our life jackets and headed down to the water and into our panga. The six of us, Steve and I along with Ron and Anita and Gary and Judiee, were in one panga with the rest of the people in another. We headed out into the bay to look for whales.

We spent about 90 minutes in the bay. We would spot a whale, and our guide Jesus would motor close to it. We would then watch as the whale and her calf would swim close to the boat and surface, at least most of the time. The calves were so amazing, and one of the whales actually pushed her calf up toward the panga. They like to be splashed with water, so we all did our part to oblige them. It was just wonderful watching these amazingly large mammals swim so gracefully. We saw several whales breach the water. We were able to get close to at least 3 or 4 of them. Steve was able to pet an adult. The one that I was petting was a baby, and it suddenly blew, which soaked my face and glasses. What an experience!

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After the tour, we had a wonderful lunch in a house on the beach and then returned to the B&B. Steve and I enjoyed the hot tub for awhile and then the others joined us in our yurts for a drink. After that we walked to the dining area where we were served a wonderful dinner. After dinner everyone came over for a soak in the hot tub. We were pretty tired after the long day the day before, so we called it a night.

We had planned to see the cave paintings the next day; however, it meant another long day in a van, so we decided to just relax and enjoy the morning. The lagoon was beautiful and had some fog on it. We enjoyed the hot tub one last time and went to have another great breakfast. The four of us checked out around 11 and headed into San Ignacio to walk around the plaza and see the cathedral. San Ignacio is a lovely little Mexican town with a river and a lovely oasis. There are date palms everywhere.

Anita and Ron continued north to San Diego while we headed back south. The road winds up the side of a significant canyon with sheer drop offs. We had driven this part during the night so we had no idea how perilous it was. We had planned to stay in Santa Rosalia but decided to continue on to Loreto. This turned out to be a mistake since it was Saturday night and there were no rooms available. That’s three! It turned out that we drove all the way back, arriving at 9:30 that evening. That’s the second time we drove at night in Mexico. The four of us decided that we had pushed our luck and would not do it again. We did, however, get to enjoy the beautiful scenery of Bahia Concepcion during the day.

It was good to spend a few days with some of our friends and enjoy this beautiful area and the amazing whales. The experience was definitely worth the hassles that we had. We also appreciate all the help that we received from the locals and the Federal police.