Saturday, 21 February 2015

Losing Liam and Fishing In Mexico - Peter

I thought I was going to loose Liam. When I looked down through the companionway he was unconscious and shaking. I can’t begin to describe the feelings of panic and fear I felt in an instant.

We were anchored in San Juanico. A beautiful, secluded anchorage miles from anywhere. We had arrived the day before and planed on staying for a couple of days. This was one of those ‘no internet access’ anchorages. Internet is available wherever there is cell phone access, and that is pretty hit and miss in anchorages on the Baja peninsula. In order to get work done, I need internet, so I try to space these anchorages so we are not more than a couple of days without it.

The weather was due to turn windy, so we were going to whole up here until it blew over. Mr. Liam likes to watch his movie in his bunk at night, and then get up pretty lazily in the morning, usually a few hours after I have put in work. This morning was no exception. I was in the cockpit having a coffee listening to Liam laying in his bunk blabbing on about planes as he usualy does. After an hour or so of this he got up and climbed the companionway steps to look at a plane that was passing over. I followed his gaze up.

The next thing I new I heard a loud crash and Liam was gone from the steps. I jumped up and found him laying in the galley on his back, shaking. ‘Liam, Liam’, I shouted. He stopped shaking and opened his eyes. He did not know where he was and what was going on.

We checked to make sure nothing was broken. However, he fell from two steps up and into a small, confined area. He had a large scrape on his back. He acted groggy and had pain in his neck and his back.
We concluded that he had been pretty lazy and got up to fast, and immediately looked up. He then just passed out and fell. It was not the passing out that worried me, but the fall.

The rest of the day he was tired, groggy, and in some pain around his neck and his lower back. I suspect he had minor shock. The neck pain was in the muscle, and so it seemed that there was nothing broken. And I was in a bit of shock too. I don’t think I will ever get the image of seeing him passed out and shaking out of my head.

We went for a walk on the beach a later, but he was tired and so we did not push it. Later in the day Liam wanted to go dinghy trolling to catch a fish for our dinner. So we got the dinghy all set and went out. I was not really expecting to catch anything, but on our way back after an hour, low and behold Liam caught a nice big fish for our dinner.

We brought it back and he cleaned it and I fried it up. It was a good way to end the day.

The next morning we headed off to our next destination, Isla Coronados. We stayed in the lee of the island for the night and had dolphins and whales around us.

We heard on the radio that there was a whale tangled in fishing line just a few miles away from us. It was getting dark and no one could do anything to help, at least not until the next day. We listened on the radio. I thought of the whale and how people were powerless to help, and how sometimes things happen we have no control over.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Night at Sea- Liam

We have finally left the Guaymas area after two weeks of preparing for the crossing, our plan was to pull out of San Carlos just after noon, and arrive the next day in Bahia Concepcion at sunrise. Once everything was ship shape, we left. The seas were very calm and we had around 12 knots of wind, it couldn't have got much better. One of the greatest things about the Sea of Cortez is the sunsets out at sea, and that night we got it. Once it got dark we were cruising comfortably with both sails up, no engine at seven knots.

 My first shift was 4:30 to 6:30 PM, then we had dinner and after I slept from 7:00 to 9:00 PM, once I got up my shift was 9 PM to 3 AM, so I had a long night ahead, the way I like to spend my crossings is get food and blast Coldplay all night, this is how I make some of my best memories from our trips. At one point the win died so I had to start up the engine, but once it picked up again I adjusted the sails, killed the engine and we went flying over 7 knots. Where ever you are in the Sea of Cortez, once night comes the sea fills with phosphorescent, these are a very small plant or algae that when disturbed lights up in a green turquoise colour, if you have seen Life of Pi you would know what it is like, when the whale breaks through the surface. But it is much cooler in person then through a TV, especially when there is something in the water.

 During the crossing at around 1 in the morning we were joined by a group of dolphins, by this time the phosphorescent were very strong, so the dolphins swimming next to us were not grey or blue, they were green. It looked like something from a dream, these green dolphins just swimming next to the boat, it is something you really can't picture as impressive as it really was. The boat would also pass through the occasional school of fish, but it wasn't only the water being lit up that night, all around us there was lightning the whole night coming from different places every hour. We ended up arriving ahead of schedule when it was still dark so we had to sit outside the bay for a while until the sun rose. We anchored in Santo Domingo in Bahia Concepcion, from the boat the area didn't look like much but the sunset again was incredible.

 I decided to go see how the beach was, and it was definitely not what I was expecting. The beach was wide and long white sand, the water was crystal clear and warm, it was definitely not what we thought it would be like from the boat. That night we had a fire on the beach with the two other boats there, Harmony and Rosalita, we cooked food on a grill and then ate as we talked with sunset. The next morning we set off for our next destination further south, San Juanico.

 We rounded the point of the bay and started heading south. I was making some noodles down below, my dad was also down below so I stuck my head up to look around and make sure everything was ok, but when I looked up I caught a glimpse of something. I continued to look and then I saw it again, and we were heading straight for a blue whale. 
We put the boat into neutral and slowly drifted to where it had just been, after a while we realised that the whale was circling us, we put the boat back into forward and eventually it took off, throughout the trip we saw the occasional blue whale, and then a pod of pilot whales. We arrived at the next anchorage 8 hours later, I went for a kayak ride, went fishing and caught a puffer fish, ate dinner (not the puffer fish,) then sat down and rote this blog, now I have to go do the dishes so bye.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Rain in Paradise - Peter

It rained here last night. Like ‘really’ rained. That is unusual when you are in a desert. The boat was dirty; full of dust from the dirt-yard marina it had been in for the last ten months.

I could draw a metaphor about how the rain washes the past away and leaves a clean surface to begin anew. However, this is not a tropical garden, and the sun did not come out after the rain. This is a desert, and the rain feels out of place here. The sky is grey and sullen, and it makes the desert below seem little more than mud.

The boat did get washed, but the funny thing about boats is they leak, not from the water pushing up underneath, but from the water washing over the deck. There are many more holes on the surface of a boat than there are underneath, and the water on the deck finds ways of getting in - in through the old windows with the dried-out seems, in from the miss-fitting hatch over my bunk. We are litteraly sinking from above.

We left the Singlar Marina, the main marina in Guaymas, and headed out to the ‘Almost Free Marina’ (thirty pesos a day, about $3 Canadian). It is nice there because it is behind a mountain from Guaymas, so even though it is only thirty minutes away, it feels like you are in the middle of nowhere.

Liam wanted to get off the boat and take pictures, which we did. From the top of the mountain by the marina you can see the Sea of Cortez, and Liam started pining for heading out to sea. But before we could do that there were a number of projects that needed taking care of on the boat.

So we hoisted the sails, did an oil change, as well as a number of other jobs. Liam’s job was to try to catch fish from the dock with the new line and lure we got in town.

There were only two other boats here. I recognized them both from the previous year. Both are Canadian, and they winter in Mexico at this marina every year. “I just go back up to Canada in the summer to get by asshole fixed, I get it fixed every year” - so said the fellow on one of the boats who came over to talk to us while we were putting our sails up. Liam looked at him out of the corner of his eye. In the course of the couple of visits to us while we were working he told us he hated Leach and McBride - the folks that made the sails for our boat, he hated Mitsubishi - the maker of our engine, and finally “You guys are pretty small, that is too bad, sorry to see that”. Liam later commented that he was “not too sure about that guy…”.

The Almost Free Marina was nice, but after a day it felt like we had seen it, so Liam pushed me to make the passage to San Carlos, about 3 hours away. I was a bit nervous as the boat was not really ready, and you could see the storm clouds heading towards us from the south. But we had not been to SC before. In the end the passage was good, and it was nice to finally be out at sea.

And we arrived just in time. We picked up a mooring buoy, and within ten minutes the rain began. Liam made dinner, then made popcorn and watched a movie. I spent the evening I staring at my computer screen, listening to the rain, wondering if the boat, and I, would be washed clean.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

In the water - Liam

After about ten days of getting the boat ready we are finally in the water, getting the boat ready the last night was mayhem, but we got it done. The next morning I was dragged out of my bed by my dad at 8 in the morning to help him get the boat ready... again. Getting the boat put in the water is pretty stressful, you can always tell that their machine hasn't been updated in a few years, and the fact that they are lifting your boat with all your personal belongings in it is not very reassuring.

 Ever since our trips began, my brother and I have taken advantage of not having to get up early for school, so we have always gotten up around 10:30-11. Even tho my brother is not here I have continued to take advantage of this. The only problem is my dad thinks I should be getting up much earlier, so he has always come up with ways to get me out of bed, or at least to wake me up, while being innocent. Some of his methods are knocking on the side of the boat, doing the dishes, or putting the stereo on full volume while the morning cruisers net is on. He also sometimes complains that there is too much stuff on the stairs, and he cant get out, he does similar acts to get me out of my bed. At this point I wouldn't be surprised if he starts getting coffee beans instead of grindings so that he can grind them next to my bed every

Even though the passage from the yard to the singlar marina was only 20 minutes, it felt really good to finally be back on the  water. Even in a garbage filled bay we still saw a sea lion, and lots of different birds, we docked at the singlar and got straight to work on getting final provisions and laundry and anything that couldn't get done once we leave.

That night we went out for tacos and ended up eating a meal we didn't know what it was, it was a hard shell filled with some type of meat and salad. They never tell you what kind of meat you are eating, and according to my dad "were in mexico, for all we know it could be dog." Today was the same, getting the last things we would need. We went to a fishing store to get some lures and line, it was a very strange place, first of all it was in the middle of the slums, and the building obviously did not belong in the area, secondly the people working in the store seemed that they couldnt care less whether we bought anything or not, these people were definetly not being paid based on what they sold. Everything was done incredibly slow, they did not try to make us feel welcome at all, and we had to wait for around ten minutes for god knows what to actually buy the stuff. Tomorrow we are leaving to go to an anchorage on the other side of the mountain, although it is still in Guaymas, you wouldn't notice because of the mountain blocking you from society. Once the weather is good, we will leave Guaymas and cross the sea, this is where our trip really begins.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Doing Time in the Yard - Peter

Liam and I have been at the boat for a week today. We are still 'on the hard'. That is, we are still a boat on stilts in a dirt yard. 

What is wrong with me that I cannot remember people's names. I tried the trick of repeating a name back to the person after I have been introduced, but it does not help. Hi, I am Bob. Nice to meet you Bob, etc. etc. I can talk to someone day in and day out and not remember their name. Liam remembers - "were you talking to Frank?". Who is Frank I ask. "Oh my god, you talk to him every day, I remind you of his name everyday". It is difficult holding a conversation with someone that you have spoken to for days and in the back of your mind know that you have no clue what their name is. 

There are some people here in the yard that I can remember their names, but not many. There is George. George is a nice old timer. He lives on his tiny sailboat, and as far as I know he has never had the boat in the water and does not have any plans to. He comes down every year and spends the winter on his boat, on stilts. He knows everyone, and everything that is going on in the yard. 

There is Minnesota. I remember his name because Liam heard that he was from Minnesota and so we call him that. Don't know what his real name is, but I don't have a problem remembering him as Minnesota.

Ted (his real name) I have met every time I have been down here. He is working on his 50 foot wooden boat. It actually looks like it is coming along. Unlike a number of other boats here that have been worked on for years, if not decades. 

We have been here too long, in the boatyard. I am feeling the inertia settling in. A couple came down the other day, a day after us, and have already launched their boat and are gone. That is the fastest I have seen anyone launch. The couple on the boat behind us came down mid December. They tried to fix one thing, then they would find something else that needed fixing. They have to be home by April 1st. They are not sure yet if they will launch at all this season now. 

Still, it is better than many. When I stick my head out of the hatch in the morning there are a number of silent sentinels perched around us like vacant ghosts of someone's abandoned dream. Boats that have not moved since I first came here what, over five years ago now. They have been packed away, as though left for the season. The owners went off and have not come back. The boats are now soulless avatars perched on stilts like heads on a stick to warn off other would-be dreamers. 

When we arrived back at the boat we went to sleep at night hearing the dogs having their barking session, or as George said, having their "dog wars". In the morning it is the roosters screaming out as though they know today is the day they are getting their necks wrung. "The dogs have been attacking the baby sheep" George said. I have not heard them in the last couple of days I said. "Oh, they put out poison the other night to get rid of them. Just as well, they were starving anyway". 

Minnesota likes his beer. I am not sure what he does. He is relatively young - 38 - for the marina. At that age most guys here are just passing through. Minnesota isn't going anywhere soon I don't think. "Hey, you should come over for a few beers" he said. "We are going to get a drunk on n' go carousing". Carousing I said, where are you going to do that around here? "Oh, I don't know, maybe some of the old guys will let their wives off their boats tonight...". 

I had to change the transmission. If there is anything I have put into this boat to ensure that I do not have to worry about it, then I can feel pretty confident it is going to break. The engine, three times, the rudder, twice. Now the transmission. It was new five years ago. They are suppose to last for decades. In any event, I had to put a rebuilt one in. I thought it would take me days. I was pretty impressed with myself when I had the old one out, and the new one in within six hours, though it is pretty much just a heavy Lego job.

Later I climbed down the ladder to do an inspection thinking we could get the boat in the water in a couple of days, I found a problem with the rudder. It was full of water and had delaminated. The rudder I had made five years ago. Three years ago it had fallen off the boat. Now it needs fixing again. It is either time or money, or just something to try to forget. "Oh, just F&*king go sailing" said Dustin. Dustin is the guy two boats over - at least that is what Liam and I call him. "Just call him Dustin, Dada, he looks like Dustin Hoffman". OK, I said. And of course I remember that. 

Maybe we'll just go sailing with the rudder as it is. Last year was the windlass, this year the transmission. Next year can be the rudder. Hopefully it won't break. That sounds fair to me. Liam wants to get going. He has his heart set on running along the beach in Punta Chivato. A beautiful deserted anchorage we were at last year.

Liam and I watched the Shawshank Redemption on the computer the other night. Good movie. Tim Robbins goes to prison for a crime he did not commit. He just wants to run off to Mexico, but spends over 20 years in Jail, walking around 'the yard'. I bumped into Minnesota at the washroom this morning. "Hey, if your kid is getting board just have him swing by my boat. I have a bunch of porno mags he can borrow...". 

Hopefully we will make our break before we give everyone in the yard a name I can remember.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Finally home-Liam

After ten months were finally back on the boat, or as I would say finally home. The trip down was great but long. We had to get up at 5:30 to catch a bus to Buffalo, followed by a day of flying to Tucson, with connections in Philadelphia and Phoenix.

After a night in Tucson was another 8 hour bus ride to Guaymas, which is where our boat is kept. We arrived at the boat around 4:30, the rest of the night we just relaxed and were glad to finally be on the boat. 

The next morning was a late start for me getting up at around 11:30, but the rest of the day was work. For the past couple days I have been working on the boat and school work, my dad would disagree with that because he’s always too busy drinking his beer and relaxing.

It was really nice to finally be back by the ocean, and especially Guaymas because it is one of my favourite cities in Mexico. Now I’m just looking forward to getting the work done, and putting the boat in the water. 

Another great part of finally being back in Mexico is the food, after ten months of being in Canada and eating the same food over and over again, eating tacos off the street is a huge privilege. Every time we come to Guaymas we go to a restaurant that sells stuffed potatoes, they are filled with cheese cream beef corn and peppers, and they are absolutely delicious! 

But Guaymas is one of my favourite cities because it has the ocean the mountains and the people. Everyone is Guaymas is really friendly and even if you don’t speak Spanish they will help you out. 

Now I am just excited to get the boat in the water and cross the sea as soon as possible, but for the most part I'm just happy to be back on the boat even if it means lots of work.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Traveling to Mexico by bus

I am sitting in the salon of Outrider, 8:30 PM Monday, February 2. The end of mine and Liam’s first full day back at the boat. Earlier we were invited to a boater’s potluck. After dinner I played the guitar while Liam marveled at what his photo’s look like on the laptop. I am trying to relax, but the past month has been a blur without much time to stop. It seemed that there was so much to do in order to get here. Rent the apartment, do the boat-show talks, get caught up with work, clean and clear the apartment, get Kai’s submission for art school in, get boat parts, get passports. Then get the bus, get across the border into the US, get the planes, get another bus, get across the Mexican border, get to the boat.

It is warm and sunny here. We heard there is a snowstorm back in Toronto. It seems so far away already.

Saturday morning we had to get up before the sun came up in order to make it to the bus that would take us to the Buffalo airport. Elisabeth drove us and dropped us off for the 7 AM ride. It was good to finally get going, but not nice to leave Kai and Elisabeth.

The bus ride was to Buffalo uneventful. The US boarder was the usual questions. I recognized the boarder guard from last year when we crossed. ‘Why was Liam out of school’ she wanted to know. She had the same look of suspicion and dissatisfaction with my answers to her questions as she had the previous year.

We got to the airport and had to wait for four hours for our first flight. Liam busied himself taking pictures of planes with his new camera and texting friends on his phone. He had an app that told him about the flights. “Our flight has been delayed” he said. I did some work on my laptop. The time for our departure came and went. I asked Liam how much longer the delay was and suddenly realized that his answer was a bit obscure. I got up and quickly went over to the departure board and was shocked to see that the status of our flight was ‘on time’ and was suppose to have just left two minutes ago. I yelled to Liam and we ran across the terminal to our gate. The plane was boarded and we were the last of a couple of people to rush on. We had almost missed our flight…

As we boarded the plane I asked the stewardess if they ever allow kids to check out the cockpit anymore. She went to the Captain and Liam was immediately invited to go to the cockpit and chat with the pilots. When the plane landed they let him sit in the captain’s chair.

From Buffalo we flew to Philadelphia, from Philadelphia to Phoenix, from Phoenix to Tucson. We arrived in Tucson close to midnight and walked the half a kilometer to our hotel. All the boat parts I had ordered, including a rebuilt transmission from the UK, were waiting for us there.

The next morning we got the bus that would take us across the border and into Nogalas, Mexico. Crossing the Mexican border by bus is a crap shoot. This would be our third time doing it, and each time was different. The first time the US side had asked the kids if they were being taken across the border against their will. The second time the bus did not stop at customs and immigration on the Mexican side (it was closed that day…) and so we were barreling into Mexico without a tourist visa before I realized what was going on. This time around I had this 30 pound boat transmission, and this time Mexican customs decided to go through our stuff. And the fellow who went through our stuff was not happy. I thought he was going to confiscate the transmission. In the end he got his supervisor who casually said “is no problem” and waved us on. Un-happy customs guy looked even less happy, but we were through.

Next it was on to immigration down the hall. We were the only non-Mexicans on the bus. Our visa’s were $28 US each. No problem, except they only took cash and we only had $48. I had to run around Nogalas, Mexico looking for an ATM that would take my bank card while a bus full of people waited for us back at the boarder. It was Sunday,and the bank machine the immigration guy sent me to six blocks away was, not surprisingly, out of service. Miraculously there was one a few blocks further that was working and gave me cash. I ran back to the border, out of breath. “Only exact change”. It was 640 pesos for the visas. “It is OK”, the nice immigration guy said, “I take 700, it no problem”.

Boarding the bus and have it pull into Mexico was a massive relief - we had made it over the last major hurdle. Liam was sleeping as the bus pulled into Guaymas at 4:30 PM. I woke him and we got a taxi to the boat. It was still light out when we climbed aboard. All was as we had left it almost 11 months earlier.

Liam’s excitement at being back at the boat is palpable. It is to be back at the boat, it comes as the cost of leaving people we care about behind.