Monday, February 13, 2012

Livin' the Sweet expressed by Steve Yoder!

Keith and I are extremely happy with our cruising adventure, even though the "cruising" part is slower and less frequent than we originally dreamed and the "hanging about" in ports is way more the norm.  Sharing what this life is like was an idea I've been mulling over for the past few weeks - how to write it up and convey the excitement of a fairly relaxed and very peaceful existence.

Today I find that our dear friend, Steve Yoder, currently hanging about in Mazatlan to the east of us on the mainland, has written it for me!  Just substitute our names throughout and you have it.  Well, ok - substitute for everything except for Lulu's  beautiful micro-macrame!

My "thing" seems to be cooking and if you want some ideas about simple meals on board or good reads, let me know.  Otherwise, here's what our life is like and why we love it:
Yoders Afloat: 2/10/2010 - Livin' the life

Acrobats on a Boat? You must be kidding!

No, actually we are not kidding!

A young, athletic and very talented French couple is earning their way around the world on their small boat  with their two young daughters by performing amazing acrobatic skits on the deck of their sailboat.  The free-will offerings are split with local charities - a smart strategy which, of course, means translates to more pesos generously dropped into the "tin cans".

The couple tied their snug yellow boat "sideways", securing with her with lines to the dock and several other boats next to the small patio at Marina de La Paz, a cruisers' hangout for coffee and chat, and peformed two skits for a large crowd of cruisers and a handful of locals, too.
Pre-show:  Do you see their daughters clowning around mid-ships?
We attended the early comedy skit as we are not fond of returning to "Chamisa" after dark, even though it's an easy dinghy ride of about ten minutes. (The late performance was "romantic" and something we should have stayed to watch, too, after hearing from others who did.) The performance was a delighful pantomimed comedy reminiscent of early Hollywood antics of those from the era of Laurel & Hardy/Buster Keaton/Keystone Cops.  It was the story of a sailing couple trying to leave the dock and nearly drowning each other many times throughout the process.

They were decked out in matching yellow nylon jackets/white bell bottom sailor pants and began by leaving the dock in their dinghy, then climbing aboard and prepping to sail away.  Their crazy stunts as they pulled/pushed and nearly drowned each other while running up and down the deck, swinging crazily everywhere from the rails, lines, sails and mast were just amazing and drew huge laughs, startled "ooh's/aah's" and much applause throughout the skit.
Opposing ideas about where to start!
Saved from certain death by a "hair"!
Finally the couple manages to get things nearly set up to sail away, with raising these beautiful translucent sails - just props, don't worry as these would never really work - and she manages to do perform some graceful "high-flying" ballet reminiscent of the best acts in any circus, ballet or "Cirque du Soleil" performance anywhere!
Oops..she is saved once again as he grabs her "line"!
She prepares to spin herself gracefully into the grand finale!
Hope you enjoy the photos we took above.  Oddly, the last one is a near-duplicate of a photo from their performance last fall in San Francisco which is online in "Latitude 38", the sailing magazine from San Diego.  If you are interested in more information about the couple and a link to their website with upcoming performances as they sail onward, try this link:

Remember when I mentioned above that we are not fond of returning in the dark to "Chamisa"?  Well, here's the main reason shown below - when back aboard, we have a superb view of the magnificent sunsets!  We love having a leisurely "sundowner" (sometimes iced tea, and sometimes a gin/tonic) together watching Mother Nature at her best.  After the sun sets, the afterglow disappears and the anchorage lights appear, we wage a "Hillbilly Rummy" tournament to determine who really pays attention to the discard pile.  Some nights we read to appreciate the quiet, and other nights we watch one of our well-worn DVDs. Most of all, we reflect on how lucky we are to be here.  Who would have thought this would happen to either of us, growing up in the Midwest where sailing was not the most obvious choice for a retirement adventure?

The next excitement coming our way is the week-long celebration that marks the beginning of Lent -  "Carnaval"!  Starting this Thursday evening along the waterfront we will witness the local "mini Mardi Gras", complete with parades, free outdoor musical concerts by major Latino artists, street vendors selling everything - food, clothes, toys, CDs - you name it!  Also, there are many theatrical performances, art gallery showings and other special attractions scheduled daily throughout the city, so we plan to take in at least a few of these to share with you.

If we are fortunate, we also hope to log a few hours of decent sleep each night with moving to a different spot in the anchorage (we like our neighbors here), but that will be a challenge.  The tourists and locals already party on weekends (and even some week-nights) into the wee, wee hours without the added attractions of "Carnaval"!  Earplugs, anyone?

Friday, February 3, 2012

Chamisa "Below Decks"...What's Down There, Anyway?

If you have never been on a sailboat, this blog is for you.  If you own, or dream of owning, a Westsail, maybe you will get some ideas.  On the other hand, if you are already sailing, you may want to skip this one!

Below are photos to show you what "Chamisa" looks like below decks – and, yes, when underway, everything has to be stowed, so obviously these were all taken while at a dock.  The previous (and only other) owners, Hans and Doris Pieper, spent over twenty years building out the interior.  However, Hans was disappointed because the final product was not “nautical-looking” in his words – a common problem for home boat-builders.  Thus, he hired a young Boatwright in Ventura to re-do whatever they decided together should be replaced.  The lone “survivors” were the two armchairs and the dinette benches, and the happy result is that we have a beautiful interior composed of many different woods – teak, mahogany, and ash to name a few which is a beautiful work of a talented craftsman.  And, luckily, we found another talented Boatwright in Long Beach who honored the "look" when he did some revisions for us as explained below.

This tour takes you from the bow (front) of the boat to the stern (back) – we hope you enjoy it.

In the forepeak (which is in the front end or bow), there is a large chain locker behind the louvered doors you see just above the head (toilet).  This is where the anchor chain lives when not on the bottom of the ocean, along with various cleaning supplies and other odds'n'ends.  The head can also refer to the entire bathroom on a boat – we are fortunate to have a hot water shower, a toilet and a sink with plenty of lockers to hold the usual supplies. 
Head (Bathroom) - hot showers behind the door.
The head includes the usual toilet, sink and happily, a shower, too.  The curtain and shower head are hiding behind the door (not visible, but just behind the wall heater).  Forward of the toilet is a huge locker where the anchor chain rests when not in use, along with large plastic bins of supplies.  Just wish there had been room, power and a water supply big enough to house a washer and dryer!  That's the only thing I really miss about not having a's back to re-living college dorm life when we drag laundry ashore.  When we are in remote anchorages, we can use a small hand-crank washer and an electric spin-dryer, then hang laundry in the cockpit for that wonderful fresh-air smell on the sheets and towels.

Aft off the head, is the salon (traditionally called “saloon”) which is our living room.  We have double bunks on the starboard side (right as your face forward) that convert to a sofa....something we rarely bother doing as the upper bunk is a perfect “catch-all” for projects, including the inventory of new provisions – more on that at the end of this post. 
Bunks - Great for company, reading, naps or movies.

On the port side (left as you face forward), there are two armchairs – my favorite reading corner as these are very comfortable being "midship", and not the usual salon furniture on a sailboat.  Surrounding those, under the bunks and under the sole (floor) are numerous lockers and cubbies (the difference being doors - cubbies are open – note the fishnet we added to hold the contents inside the cubbies) where we store all the provisions, books, games, sewing supplies, CDs, DVDs, boat manuals and other goodies needed to sustain life aboard.
Super-comfortable armchairs storage all around.
Aft of the salon are the galley (kitchen) and the dinette where we spend a lot of waking hours because the dinette table also doubles are our nav station.  The SSB radio, a “baby” Garmin chartplotter (display of charts or maps of where we are and routes to where we are headed) and our laptops are all stored and used there.  The full-size Garmin chartplotter is on the bridge deck (the flat shelf-type space on each side of the companionway) out in the cockpit.  It’s a nice luxury to have the little one inside which has all the same functionality needed for planning trips, checking to ensure we are not dragging our anchor and for looking at the radar views of what is around us.  
Galley (kitchen) for one, or two if you know 'the dance' to make it work!
 The galley has a double sink on the mid-line (to keep water from spilling out when "Chamisa" heels underway), a two-burner propane stove/oven/broiler, a reefer (refrigerator), a small Engels freezer, a microwave, and storage for dishes, cooking and more cleaning supplies.

Dinette with benches on either side - like an RV.
The dinette seats two comfortably or four very close friends for dinner.  Again, more storage all around plus three big ports next to it and above the stove make it easy to watch what is going on in the "neighborhood".

Next is the aft cabin where we sleep, reached by ducking through a passageway which used to be the nav station, but we converted it to a deep locker to hold our folding bikes and other large items.  In the aft cabin, we converted from a v-berth (two bunks meeting at the foot) to a regular double bed which means we can use standard size linens - a major convenience and savings.  The cabin houses a small sink, several clothes lockers and a non-working toilet which we want to convert to a composting toilet. 
Aft Cabin - we had the original v-berths converted to hold a double Tempurpedic mattress - aaah!
The last stop is the engine room – probably Keith’s favorite spot on the boat as I rarely enter there!  The engine room and deep locker are next to each other on either side of the small passageway from the galley to the aft cabin, and they provide an excellent sound buffer between the sleeping and living area.

The engine is a Perkins 4-154, 62 hp that we are happy to say is very reliable and ensures we can move at the average snail’s pace of 6-8 knots/hr (approximately the same in mph!) so now you know why we have plans to be on the ocean for a number of years.  Keith upgraded the battery bank with four new ones totaling 630 amp hrs with a battery monitor so we know when to recharge by running the engine.  The original solar panels mounted outside do provide a small boost if the sun is cooperative, but with all the technology improvements, those are on the “someday” list for an upgrade, too.

We take the time to update our inventory when we do a major re-provisioning. This means updating the list of the boat’s contents and their location in Excel.   Yep, it’s not the best software choice, but how many of us know how to use Access or, after retiring, want to buy a less robust database application such as FileMaker Pro?  We'd rather have a few more beef tacos, another Corona or another gallon of gas for the dinghy!  Here’s what it looks like when we first bring all the new goodies aboard.

This takes patience to sort, log and then store, but in the middle of the ocean, we are glad to have it all!
So that’s the tour...we hope you can better envision the space below decks now.  Ya'll come on aboard for a visit anytime, you heah? 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Cooking and Other Fun!

The first few weeks after anchoring here in beautiful La Paz have been busier than expected. I took a cooking class with four other women cruisers in the home of Claudia Davidson which was loads of fun. She is the owner/chef of one of our breakfast/lunch favorites, Casa Trece, and a few days before the class, we met for lunch with her to plan a menu.  

Menu planning at Casa Trece....oh, what to cook?

Claudia chopping away in her cucina.

Then on the morning of the class, she took us on a shopping trip to buy all the ingredients.  This included buying chicken from the nuns (!), stopping at a very popular tortilla factory, and finally hitting her favorite Mexican grocery - WalMart!  She prefers that because prices are posted for things - something not done in the large Mexican groceries.  

Down a dirt road, into the churchyard, and voila'- a nun in the
window selling chicken!   Seriously!!
Claudia does her best to request "deboned" breasts, but no luck.

Impossible to get a "head on" shot because the parking area was filled.

One very hot, very fast operation here!  Off camera, a worker pinches off a hunk of dough from a huge mound and tosses it into a machine that turns out walnut-size balls. The guy in the background runs those through a press to flatten them into circles, then tosses those to the woman in front who cooks them.  She throws them (bare-handed!) onto the screen cooling racks on her right, flips the current batch over, then grabs the hot ones on her right and tosses them to the second cooling tray on her left.  Another guy off camera stacks and wraps them in paper by the dozen. Several minutes later, we are sold packages which are still almost too hot to hold of the "best ever" flour tortillas!

Claudia made three different dishes with ground beef , a chicken with chipotle cream sauce and two salsas (red and green).  It was all easy and  delicious.  After the first few dishes, she brought out the Tequila and that's where my recipe notes turned a bit fuzzy!  I did succeed, however, in making her albondigas soup the following week, and it was terrific. We hope to rally for another class on fish later this spring - where to buy the freshest fish and how to cook them Mexican-style.
Green salsa made in her lovely molcajete - I need one now!

How about this for some yummy "Sopa de Albondigas"? 
Can you tell we enjoyed the class?  Maybe the Tequila helped?!

We were also fortunate enough to attend a benefit concert at Claudia's restaurant, which only seats 30, given by John Davidson, her father-in-law.  What a treat that was!  If you don't know who John is, Google him.  He was a popular singer/entertainer in the 60's and 70's and had is own variety show for a few years. But many may remember him best as a guest celebrity, then host, of Hollywood Squares with a reputation as being the all-time best bluffer.  He recently turned 70 but still performs. He was super-friendly, posing for photos and talking with everyone afterward.  He used to own a 90-foot wooden sailboat - thus, he was interested in our boat and asked lots of questions.  He's a proud grandfather and hopes to buy a home here - they already have one in Florida where his other set of grandchildren live.  Happy man and happy music with a still wonderful voice!
A passionate man with a beautiful guitar.

Hmmm...must have been a b/w dress code!
Hmmm…what else?  We have been shopping at the local grocery several times now - Aramburo (roll that off your tongue!) and can find almost everything we want.  It's referred to as the "cow" store because there is a huge black and white cow figure above the door.  However, my farmboy spouse recognized immediately that the cow is actually a "bull" and wonders how to correct this misconception which is completely engrained in the community?  Sorry we don't have a photo of this yet...will have to rectify that, I guess.

No sharp cheddar cheese, but otherwise, our tummies are very happy.  We have sampled the local cuisine at several small restaurants and found a couple that we especially enjoyed - if not the food, at least the atmosphere.  Most have outdoor or open air seating of some kind, so it's very reminiscent of Albuquerque, which we still miss.  There are at least five restaurants named "Rancho Viejo", and a cabbie warned us off two of them, saying "Cena es muy terrible", or something like that - our Spanish is still lacking - so I'm sure that since we have no idea where he explained that those two are, so we'll probably find them both by mistake!

A typical day here starts at 7:30 drinking coffee and listening to a half hour of "news and other conversation" on our "audio lifeline" - the VHF radio - as related by one of the cruisers, Bill on "Wandering Puffin".  He must spend hours each day reading stories online to keep up!  Then at 8 am sharp, many different volunteers take turns hosting the local "cruisers' net" which has a set menu:  medical or other emergency traffic first, tides and weather, announcements, requests for local assistance or other information and finally swaps & trades.  We have breakfast during this half hour - usually eggs, oatmeal or dry cereal with yogurt - yum. Many cruisers chime in as needed throughout the program to share announcements, ask for help of some kind, or offer their items up for trade.

For about five or ten minutes after the net ends, there is a mad scramble of radio traffic while cruisers hail each other to follow-up with the "swaps & trades" or to meet up or whatever.  A person can't sell goods here unless they are a Mexican citizen or licensed business owner, so the swaps are done for "coconuts", meaning money.  Interesting workaround, don't you think?

After that, we often head into the dinghy dock at Marina de La Paz where Club Cruceros, the Dock restaurant, a laundry and some small marine businesses are located.  We drop off our garbage and the laundry (done for us at $4/load including soap and folding!) while we join the coffee hour at the Club to soak up information from the other cruisers.  Some of them live here year round, others have been coming "in season" which is generally November through May for several years, and others are first-timers like us, so it's a lively mix.   
A tiny building with a really big heart!
Club Cruceros is where all we cruisers hang out, pick up our mail, drink coffee, trade books and movies,and "tell lies about how fast and how far we have sailed", according to one of the net hosts!  It's a tiny portable (hurricanes, you know!) building on the far end of the Marina de La Paz parking lot with a scrap of concrete in front where one can sit under a sunshade and enjoy the view of the water. (Side-note from Keith:  if they move this for hurricanes, what about all the boats sitting out in front of it?!)

Heading downhill from the grocery for some ice cream along the malecon.
After the coffee hour ends, we walk to the grocery, hardware or other stores as needed and usually fit lunch in somewhere along the way.  Most days we stop for ice cream at Steve and Lulu's favorite spot along the beach - La Fuente - or maybe we opt for a cookie a few doors beyond there in a little coffee shop where they have the best oatmeal raisin cookies ever.

Spectacular sunsets from our cockpit every night.
If we aren't going ashore, then it's just staying aboard to handle email, call home, read, play cards or hang out in the cockpit while watching the sea life around us.  Dolphins swim up really close, pelicans and other birds swoop all around, boats of all types are coming and going, beautiful sunrises and sunsets. Life truly is peaceful here, so y'all should come on down and hang out with us for a spell, ya hear?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

La Paz at Last! (Again!)

I am sorry (again) for letting our blog sit idle through the holidays.  I think, however, I may have an acceptable excuse for doing so.  As we all hoped, a series of PT for a small tear in my left shoulder rotator cuff seems to have worked.  I was tempted to fly off to La Paz and join Keith for the re-start of our cruising adventure, but since my Mom loves celebrating Christmas as much as anyone in our families, and realizing we probably wouldn't be back in the States for a long while, we decided that Keith should fly to Florida instead for the holidays.  A happy bonus of this choice was the most direct route would include a short layover in LA over New Year's to visit our son, his wife and our only grandchild so far.  So there you have the reason for our blog "going dark" recently - family time on land for the holidays with no adventure news to report.

Now that we have resumed the big adventure, please grab a cup of coffee or any other favor libation and read on, faithful adventure-followers!

After a fast flight from LAX to La Paz down the Baja's west coast, I snapped a photo just as we banked for the landing - most likely an illicit one as we were not yet allowed to "turn on" our e-devices.  Oh, well!  At least you have a bird's-eye view of the Bay here, and if you look out the window with us, directly below the left edge of plane's engine, that area way in the distance is the beach side of downtown La Paz, and the location of Marina Palmira where we spent our first week here together.  We were docked next to S/V Miramar, a 40' Beneteau from Vancouver, Canada.  The couple aboard, Doug and Lynn Mcfarlane, watched over Chamisa for us while Keith was in Florida with me.  (More about them, their warm welcome and some recent excitement in our next post.)
Banking to Land in La Paz
We deplaned the old-fashioned way down an outside stairway, retrieved our "too-big" carry-on's and walked across the tarmac along a beautiful bougainvillea hedge and into the terminal.  The riotous colors of the hedge and the oncoming sunset reminded us we were truly in a new and different place.  A final moment of panic for me as we deplaned:  just before landing, all passengers had to complete the requisite Immigration forms, declaring among other things that we were not bringing in any contraband, especially fresh fruit.  As we walked up the aisle, I realized that I had a forbidden apple in my shoulder bag!  What to do?

With visions of being returned alone to LA dancing through my vivid imagination, I begged the flight attendant at the exit door to discard it for me.  Not only did she refuse, but, in fact, she warned me not to toss it out in the sight of any uniformed official as that could cause trouble for me and the airline!  I don't remember anything between her warning except the hedge and the happy appearance of a trash can just inside the terminal.  I discarded that evil apple ever so discreetly into said can and then glanced the other way, discovering too late that we were only ten feet away from four uniformed officers!  My heart went into "fast rapid" until I realized they were all focused strictly on the activities around the plane - not on me!  Whether they were on the look-out for terrorists, drugs, or other worries - who knows?  All I could think was "Thank you, God, for getting me into Mexico safely!"

You will be relieved, we hope, to know that nothing untoward has happened in the two weeks since.  Our time has been over-filled with new friends, new foods with very cold beers (no Tequila shots yet - working up to that!), new places to find and explore, and new places to walk, of course.

In Mexican beach towns, there is always a Malecon [mal' uh cone], or paved boardwalk, along the waterfront from one end of town to the other.  In La Paz, the Malecon is over five miles long with a huge marina at each end and every imaginable tourist need in between - restaurants, bars, ice cream and yogurt shops, trinket shops, clothing shops - you get the idea.  So, while the walk is good exercise, the temptations to expand both the local economy and your waistline run rampant if you aren't careful.  Many sea-themed sculptures, small white iron benches, public docks, a bandstand - all line the beach-side of the Malecon.  Oh, an important tourist caution - do NOT think that pedestrians have the "right-of-way" here as you will likely be squashed like a bug attempting to cross from the shops side to the beach side of the street running along the Malecon (or anywhere else here, for that matter)!  Cars give way to each other at every intersection but not to people - muy differente and muy importante!!  I quickly learned that Keith especially admires the Mermaid as she swims with the dolphin.  He now informs me that he wanted Chamisa in the background he has his priorities!
La Paz Mermaid Swimming with a Dolphin
Every day is full sun now with magnificent sunsets reminiscent of those we have enjoyed in Florida, New Mexico and California.  Keith tells me there are brilliant sunrises, too, and has even presented photographic evidence of the same.  Alas, I just can't seem to drag myself out from under our down comforter and my favorite feather pillow in time to see one first-hand.
A Magnificent La Paz Sunrise
Next time, we'll share our favorites here - already have our picks for a coffee spot, a breakfast/lunch spot and we are busy hunting our "best spot for dinner" with many candidates to interview before awarding that title. Until then, we hope you are happy to see that we are once again underway with stories to share.  Please let us hear from you and share what you are doing, too!  We see there are at least nine people reading this and hope more of you will take the plunge and sign up as "followers".  I need motivation from all of you to post more often! 
PS...if you "click" on the photos, they will show up as REALLY BIG, so please enjoy.