S/V Hello World's Travel Log

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Jason's going for a new look - what's your favorite?

A) Invest in gel now

B) Punk

C) Psycho killer

D) Your average Jason

E) The Jack Nicholson

F) Hare Krishna

Bay of the Dead

A perfect anchorage as defined by Hello World:
1) good protection from the prevailing winds and solid holding
2) wifi available on the boat
3) remote, yet cold beer and nachos available at the palapa bar on the beach

We could seriously stay in Bahia de los Muertos for weeks on end. So we did. We hung out for 2 weeks enjoying 35 foot visibility, amazingly warm water, great snorkeling, dolphins to swim with and indulging ourselves on the world's best nachos. Even with 2 boats going up on the rocks, no Cinco de Mayo celebrations and our head breaking AGAIN, our spirits weren't dampened in this amazing place (well, maybe for a minute, but we bounced back). It turns out that the US celebrates Cinco de Mayo more than Mexico (they only celebrate it in one state here) - but as Americans, we suffered through another round of nachos and margaritas to extend the celebration. As for boats going up on the rocks, a future post will have details. And the head? Well, let's just say we're never buying a Jabsco head again.


23°59'36.27"N 109°49'37.65"W

Mexican Visas? Expired.

Amongst our regular trips in and out of La Paz, we've also been making regular trips to our local immigration office to deal with some visa issues. You see, when we came into Mexico in November, we got 180 day tourist visas (along with paying a hefty bribe). Now that we've decided to do Dockwise, that puts us about a month past the expiration date of our visas. It's not the end of the world, there are lots of options:
a) Leave Mexico and get another tourist visa on our way back in (if we had been closer to a border town, this would be easy, but from La Paz, this is either a 15 hour bus ride or a fairly expensive flight)
b) Apply for an FM-3 visa (expensive and time consuming if we're only going to use it for a month)
c) Try to get an extension
d) Go to an immigration office and tell them we just arrived by boat (illegal, but easy to get away with considering they opt for paper filing systems rather than computers in these immigration offices)

Clearly, trying for an extension was the way to go. We'd heard through the grapevine that you could get up to a 45 day extension for free. We only needed about 30, so this would have been perfect.

Attempt #1: I arrive to immigration about a month before our visas expire. Thinking, of course, that if this extension doesn't pan out, we have time to book flights in and out of Mexico in a reasonable timeframe. I talk to Jose and he tells me that indeed, it's no problem, it's free and all I have to do is come back a week before our visas expire. So much for giving ourselves lots of time.

Attempt #2: I arrive 1 week before our visas expire, hoping to see Jose. Instead, I have to deal with Paulo. Paulo tells me that I can't get an extension, sorry. I'm attempting, in Spanish, to explain to Paulo that I talked to Jose a few weeks ago and he told me this was possible. This is all made a bit more challenging by the fact that I'm not only bad at Spanish, but I really can only speak in the present tense. Again, Paulo tells me this is a no-go. But as I'm insisting again, the other lady working the counter overhears us and tells him it's possible. After a few minutes in the back room, Paulo emerges and tells me to come back 1 day before our visas expire.

This is when I start to panic. 1 day before our visas expire? What happens when I go in there 1 day before and get turned down? But I keep my mouth shut and walk out.

Attempt #3: I arrive 6 days before our visas expire, hoping that I don't run into Paulo, or that he doesn't recognize me. My plan is to walk right out as if I forgot paperwork if I see him working the counter. Fortunately, I need no such tactics and I get to talk to Lula. Lula tells me this is no problem and hands me a letter in Spanish and asks me to sign it. As far as I can make out, the letter says I give her permission to cancel my visa. Another panic attack. Was my Spanish good enough to explain what I really wanted? What happens if they cancel our visas and then don't give us this extension? Again, biting my tongue, I do as she asks and hope for the best. She asks me to come back later in the day with Jason and pick up our extension. We do, everything is fine and we're set. For no money.

It turns out, that this is not an actual extension, but just a letter from immigration allowing us to stay an extra 40 days. I'm still not sure why they needed to cancel our visa, probably just to scare the crap out of me. But the letter is only good for 40 days from when they issue it, not the expiration date of your visa, hence the reason they wanted us to come back closer to the expiration date.

Lesson learned? If you don't get the answer you want, just keep going in until you do...

Right. Nothing to do with immigration. But the funniest poster we have EVER seen in La Paz.

The Dad comes for a visit

After our slight change of plans for heading north, my dad rearranged his plans to spend a week of forced R&R on the boat instead of 3 weeks bashing north. Though Jason and I were both utterly stoked about the decision to cheat Neptune, my dad was slightly disappointed not to do the delivery. Yes, he's nuts.

"Boy Christy, this looks a little flat - couldn't we order up some 18 foot seas and 25 knot head winds to bash into?"

Dorado!! Yumm!!!!

We did, however, have a great time for the week he was here, hitting many of our favorite island anchorages around La Paz. We caught more fish in 1 week than we did all winter. A tasty dorado outside of Balandra, a nice-sized Sierra on our way north, and a dolphin. Yeah, really. A dolphin. We were sailing northbound with a handline out and the wind was slowly dying. We were making about 2 knots and talking about maybe taking the sails in so we could anchor before July, when we noticed a pod of dolphins behind us. And then we saw 2 of them right behind us - about 40 or 50 ft. The lure on our handline would have been slowly drifting down and I decided to pull it in - the last thing I wanted was a dolphin hooking on. But those dolphins, they're fast. Faster than I can pull in a handline, and next thing I knew, something BIG hit the line. It took a few seconds before the line broke and then a dolphin FLEW out of the water, straight up about 8 or 10 feet into the air not too far from the boat. This happened 5 or 6 times every minute or so. Certainly, I'm only speculating that 1) a dolphin either bit or snagged our lure and 2) that same dolphin went a little crazy since he was hurt. But we've seen hundreds of dolphins in the sea and have never seen one do what this one was doing. Of course we felt awful, but couldn't really do anything for him. We're just hoping our wild animal karma is back to even after helping out the whale.

Sorry about the fuzzy pic, but this is the best shot I got of the dolphin going crazy.

A smart dolphin that doesn't go after lures

In addition to our record-breaking fish catching, we also had record breaking sailing the week Pa was here. Great wind all week, it was most fabulous. We are too tempted lately to motor whenever wind conditions aren't optimal because motoring = running the fridge = cold beer. Fortunately, since we had just come from La Paz and filled up on ice, we had sailing AND cold beer. An uncommon combination.

We also did quite a bit of snorkeling in the different anchorages we hit, and had a perfect day to see the sea lions. But this time, we got pictures!!!

Cute sea lions!

They seem to love imitating people, and seeing if people can imitate them.

Other random pics from the week:

My parents have this thing with bringing knives out in front of my boyfriends. The first time my dad met Jason, he had a machete on him. Dad was very disappointed by (a) the quality of my knives (Ikea) and (b) how sharp they were, so we got a lesson in sharpening.

Goofballs at the salt pond.

We collected a serious amount of sea salt. Ohhhh margaritas here we come!

Pinata store and other La Paz musings

How we've been bungying in and out of La Paz for months and have just now found the pinata store, I have no idea. But the important thing is that we've found it. Kim from s/v Doin' It and I were on a bit of a shopping trip around town when we walked in to what looked like a good sized market and we walked up and down the aisles, noticed that it was ALL CANDY. It wasn't until we looked up to the ceiling and saw hundreds of pinatas hanging that we realized just what we had walked into! Of course we had to bring Jason back, he was pretty well in heaven.

After the excitement of the pinata store, we realized our outboard wasn't outputting any cooling water - less than ideal. Our dinghy is our car, especially when we're in La Paz and anchor a good way from town. And we're way too lazy to row that far. We naturally figured it's the impeller, and were quite proud of ourselves for having a spare. But, spare or no spare, if you can't GET to the damn thing, you can't replace it. After multiple attempts to take the lower gear casing off, we gave up that route. Next attempted fix was to sneak over to the marina dock and "borrow" some high pressure fresh water to force through the intake in the dark of the night. Or at least after the office closed. No go. We had only 1 day before my dad arrived, so we were getting desperate and scheduled our friend Bill on s/v Iron Maiden to fix it the next morning. For $100/hr. As we were getting a tow from Bill (before said scheduled fixing), he offhandedly suggested checking the outlet stream with a toothpick to make sure it was clear. We did that when we got back to the boat and POOF!! Raw water!! So next time you see an errant toothpick in the dinghy, you'll know why.

My dad arrived the next day - his marathon travel day including a car to the train to the bus to the plane to a bus to the dinghy to the boat. That only took about 14 hours. You know they love you when they put up with that! Once we got Dad on board, we were island bound!

Sunrise at the islands

San Gabriel

We had a few days before my dad was scheduled to come into town, so we headed out for the islands so Jason wouldn't go completely nuts in La Paz (he's got about a 3 day limit before he needs to escape). The morning we had planned to leave brought THREE trips to town for last minute ice and Dockwise faxes and preparations. Oh, wasn't Jason happy about that! But we finally took off and headed to the southern-most anchorage on Espiritu Santo, San Gabriel.

We'd hoped to meet up with s/v Sapphire, but they had gotten an on-time start in the morning, stopped by SG and were on their way north by the time we dawdled into the anchorage. And boy, were they glad they didn't spend the night in SG. The coromuel winds kicked up in the middle of the night. Coromuels are a phenomenon localized to the greater La Paz area and are winds that howl from the Pacific through a low valley on the Baja. If you've got a nice spring day in the islands, you can count on a nasty coromuel at night. This wouldn't be a problem, but the anchorages on the islands are primarily all on the eastern side, so when these western winds kick up, there's little to no protection from the 10-15 mile fetch and it makes for a long long night. It was one of these long long nights that we had in San Gabriel. Made longer by the fact that we have wires clanking around in our mast outside of any conduit. Oh, and that mast is right by our heads when we sleep.

Needless to say, we hightailed it out of there in the morning and headed to one of our favorite spots, Balandra, for a bit of snorkeling and the last naked sailing we'd be doing before my dad arrived for a week.

Rolly night for Rhino*

24°25.683'N 110°21.821'W

*Disclaimer: this was taken in Muertos instead of San Gabriel...we've had our fair share of rolly nights.

Trials and tribulations of weather

Down here in Mexico, we don't have all the luxuries of life in the US. Luxuries like continuous NOAA weather forecasts and updates at the push of a button on your VHF. Ohhh, that was the life when we had such easy access to weather. Instead, we rely on HAM and SSB nets with amateur forecasters on most days (that is, when they're not hungover and miss the net). With our Single-Side-Band (SSB) radio and a station license (simple to get via signing up at the FCC website), we've always been able to check in and participate in the SSB nets. But the HAM nets are a different story. You can listen all you want, but you can't talk unless you're HAM certified. To be certified, you need to take (and pass) a test. Now, this isn't something we felt we absolutely needed to do, but I thought we'd learn a bit more about radio etiquette and technical details by studying for said test. Plus I happen to have a bit of free time at the moment. So I signed up.

I spent a few hours studying for the test (aided by the fact that you can download the entire question pool AND the right answers off the web). There are 3 levels of HAM licenses: Technician, General and Extra. I went for the lowest of the low and just studied for my Technician test. I paid my $14, got my question sheet and started filling in circles with a #2 pencil. What I didn't know, was that once I passed that first test, the other tests were free to take. Not having studied, I was convinced by the proctor that I might as well give it a try since it was free. Sure. Monetarily free but it drove my self esteem right down the window when I found out I only got 10 right out of 50 questions. I feel vindicated by showing you, dear readers, some example questions:

Why should core saturation of a conventional impedance matching transformer be avoided?
A. Harmonics and distortion could result
B. Magnetic flux would increase with frequency
C. RF susceptance would increase
D. Temporary changes of the core permeability could result

Sure sure, of course it's because of the harmonics and distortion that you should avoid the core saturation of a conventional impedance matching transformer. WTF??? I understand the words but I have no idea what they mean when you put them together.

Another example for your viewing pleasure:

Which of the following is a reason for using an inductively coupled matching network between the transmitter and parallel conductor feed line feeding an antenna?
A. To increase the radiation resistance
B. To reduce spurious emissions
C. To match the unbalanced transmitter output to the balanced parallel conductor feed line
D. To reduce the feed-point impedance of the antenna

Yes, you ALWAYS match the unbalanced transmitter output to the balanced parallel conductor feed line when you use an inductively coupled matching network between the transmitter and parallel conductor feed line feeding an antenna. Duh.

So here's the lesson. If you plan to take the easy test, at least read through the General study guide's right answers so you've got 1/2 a chance. Or answer all (b) and you'll do better than I did.

Speaking of weather (this was my best segue - no making fun), we had a bit of wind in La Paz when we were anchored out and Jason noticed an errant dinghy floating in the channel. Hm. Maybe our chance for a new outboard*? So we made a call on the radio, but knowing whoever just lost a dinghy had no way to retrieve it, Jason set out for the rescue. He easily got to the dinghy and started towing it back to Hello World when our outboard ran out of gas. Oops. As I watched from the cockpit, he got out the oars and started rowing upwind in 20 knots. So naturally, I got out the camera. This was going to be good. After about 5 minutes of this, he was making no progress and fortunately, our friends on s/v Bliss came in for the rescue of the rescue. Quite the spectacle as the dinghy train arrived at Hello World!

* The dinghy and outboard were later claimed, so we've still got our trusty Yamaha

The dinghy parade

Our day with giant marine life - whale sharks and whales

One of the more unique things to do in the Sea of Cortez is to go swimming with whale sharks. Unique and not dangerous at all. Really. Despite their name and the fact that they're a part of the shark family, they are docile animals and don't eat humans. So we're told.

They spend a few months in the waters just outside of La Paz and the most responsible way to see them is via registered panga. We got a few fabulous recommendations to go with Deni, a researcher , aboard her panga "El Zorro". She's been studying the whale sharks in the Sea for 8 years and gave us a great rundown on our way out to their feeding ground (where they feed on plankton, not people). For $50US a head, we spent 3 hours with them and the money goes towards their research and local education, a great cause. S/v Sapphire was along for this exciting adventure as well.

As we boarded El Zorro, Deni and Paul (the panga driver), told us about a fin whale that had been stranded on the beach that day. There had been a 6 hour effort to try to get the whale off the beach and we were told we might need to go help instead of spending our entire 3 hours swimming with whale sharks. Heck yeah we'd help! In fact, we were all more excited about the prospect of helping a beached whale more than swimming with whale sharks! But Deni and Paul got word that the rescue effort had been successful and the whale was off the beach. We were excited for the whale, but secretly disappointed that we had missed our opportunity to help out.

So off we went swimming with the whale sharks. Deni would look out for their shadows in the water as Paul positioned the boat for maximum viewing pleasure. They'd ID the animal visually (the spots behind their left fin are unique to each shark) and then we'd get the go-ahead to jump in. All we had to do was catch up - and let me tell you, those suckers are FAST. They look like they mosey along, but they are moving. We had the opportunity to swim with 7 different whale sharks, sometimes getting within a few feet. Holy COW they are big (biggest fish in the ocean), and these were just juveniles.

We were too awed by these creatures to focus on taking pictures, so here's our best shot.

Photo taken by Carlos Aguilera - professional photographer!

After a trying to keep up with them for a few hours, we found out that the whale had re-stranded itself and they needed help getting it into deeper water - our opportunity at last! So we hopped in the water and swam over to this HUGE 40 foot fin whale and spent about 30 min lined up and pushing it out into deeper water. Talk about amazing. True, everyone else had just spent the entire day trying to get this beast to safety and in we come, spend 1/2 an hour and see him successfully swimming again. But the entire day was unforgettable - filed under amazing experiences for sure.

Rescuers on-scene when we arrived

Catching up to give him another push

That bump is his blowhole. The spray is from the blow!

Edit: thanks to Heidi and Stephen on s/v Narama, we discovered that this was actually a Bryde's whale, not a fin whale. In researching Bryde's whales, we found the rescue ("our rescue" if you will) documented on Wikipedia!

24°10.744'N 110°21.066'W

The Baja-Bash: a tale of cheating Neptune

Baja-Bash (noun); The process of beating your boat north, against the prevailing wind and waves in an effort to bring your floating home back to the US.

There are 3 ways to sail the Baja Bash:
* Coast hopping: motoring north whenever the prevailing winds/waves subside, ducking into port whenever the weather gets nasty
* Clipper route: sail a few hundred miles off the coast the way the old clipper ships used to sail
* Sail around the normal Pacific high pressure system which will eventually point you back to the US (aka sail to Hawaii and then tack)

There are 2 ways to cheat at the Baja Bash:
* Truck it (we've already done this)
* Ship it

When we say we "planned" to bash Hello World to San Diego, we really did have intentions to do it. My dad had rescheduled his life for 3 weeks to help us bash north. We organized a meeting of other boats also doing the bash so we could compare notes and keep in contact. We really were going to do it.

But plans change, as you well know with us.

At about the moment we walked out of the bash meeting (which scared the crap out of us), we got a last minute quote from Dockwise. Dockwise is a ship that transports boats. They literally partially submerge their ship, you sail your boat on, they unsink their ship and then your boat appears in another port. It's like magic. Really expensive magic.

As they say...nothing goes to weather like a 747

After a bit of negotiation, we came to a mutually agreeable price and *poof*, no need to do the bash. So now we have a new plan: hang out in the Sea for an extra 6 weeks, load onto Dockwise at the end of May, fly back to Seattle at the beginning of June, retrieve our boat from Nanaimo and sail her back down to Seattle. Yeah, and get married somewhere in there. Easy peasy.

Dockwise loaded up

Semana Santa

Santa, it turns out, in spanish, means "holy", not "big-man-in-red-who-brings-presents". Semana santa is holy week in Mexico and (as described by one of the gringos we met in our travels) is when the "Mexicans come down from the hills to spend the week on the beach". Being in and around the water, apparently there are a lot of Mexicans in the hills that we haven't yet met because the beaches were filled.

Bahia Falsa filled with campers and trailers for the week.

After the girls took off on the bus, we headed out of La Paz to Bahia Falsa and Bahia Balandra, both beaches a lot more crowded than we'd seen them before (hill people). We met up with s/v Sapphire once again for a beach bocce tournament, won by Luke's visiting parents who had never played before. Yeah right.

Bocce takes a new turn

Non-floating balls don't stop us

Red for the win!

It's a fine art...drinking a margarita, holding bocce balls and keeping your hat from flying away, but Megan makes it look easy.

24°15.516'N 110°19.095'W