Thursday, December 25, 2014

Feliz Navidad! Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all of our family and friends. We miss you all very much.

Christmas this year is obviously very different for Jan and I. We really miss our traditions and our family. But honestly, I am very much enjoying this year. I have always had a huge problem with the commercialization of our Lord's birthday celebration. It is a rare thing to hear someone rejoicing about the true "reason for the season". It is all about presents, shopping, Christmas trees, etc... and not about the single most exciting event of human history - God sending his son to endure sin, ridicule, and a most horrifying death to save a group of people that routinely spit in his face. Every time I find myself looking for a definition of love, that is where I end up. Whether you are a believer or not, you cannot argue with this being the true definition of love. So the next time you get angry/frustrated/upset/??? with a person that you "love", stop and think about the true meaning of love.

When in Rome.... This year we tried a new Christmas tradition - a Mexican tradition. We made 60 (yes, 60!) tamales.

Tamale Party
It was a lot of fun! Unfortunately we don't have pictures along the way as it was quite a messy operation. Honestly, it was Jan's idea from the start. And she insisted that we make them the traditional Mexican way - with pork lard (yikes!). I fought it as best I could... "lard?, honey really?". But in the end Jan won out and we bought a huge tube of pork lard. It was kind of funny because these lard rolls showed up in the grocery store a few weeks ago. There were hundreds if not thousands of them piled all over the store. I had no idea what they were, but figured a lot of people must be looking for them.

It turned out to be quite a learning process in many ways. Since we got to Mexico I have been struggling with how/where to buy meat. So far we have not had to buy any meat. We have been eating a lot of fish that we have caught and we brought some meat with us in our freezer. But eventually it will run out and we will have to figure it out. I will not go into the meat situation here in Mexico now, but let me just say that I am VERY concerned! Anyway, the learning process came when we went to buy a pork butt for the tamales. I have looked for large cuts of meat several times and have never found them. The ad flier for this week had pork butt listed so I went to the butcher counter and used my best spanglish/finger pointing I could muster and finally found out they keep these types of things in the back. Yes!!! So he brings out the biggest pork butt I have ever seen. "Half will be just fine senor". Half of the butt was almost 8kg - huge! We had to cut it in half and run 2 batches in our crock pot. So the lesson - you can get big hunks of meat - they are in the back!

We spent several hours that night making tamales. Who knew you could assemble 60 tamales in our galley. It was really a very fun experience. Jan and I worked an assembly line rolling them out while listening to Eric Ludy on the radio - it was really a very fun evening.

To continue with the Mexican tradition, we planned to give a lot of them away to our friends. The first person I contacted was a friend (Peter) that I work an HF (high frequency) radio net with each morning. The HF net is a lot of fun - right now I am feeding weather information every day to a 72 year old man that is sailing his 38' boat by himself from Canada to Hawaii. He is currently about 2/3 of the way there - about 1000 nautical miles to go. It is really great to hear his voice each day (and my guess is he is really glad to hear my voice as well). Anyway, I called Peter on the radio and asked if he and his wife would like some tamales. He said "do they have meat in them". Well, of course! But... yeah, you guessed it - he and his wife are vegetarian.  Better luck next time I guess.

Merry Christmas to everyone wherever you are! Remember, God loved you so much that he sent his Son to die for YOU!

And a parting shot... good morning Jan :-) I said "YIKES!" and she said "I worked on it all night".

Jan Christmas morning - "Do I look a fright?"

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Surf's Up!

I have to say that I am pretty anal about weather. Weather takes on a whole new meaning when you are cruising. First, you can't just turn the TV on at 5:10PM and have someone tell you what you should wear to work tomorrow. Television is a luxury when you can get it, and certainly not something to rely on when on passage or at anchor. Second, when you live on a sailboat on the ocean, weather is a lot more than just a sweater and an umbrella tomorrow - it is your life and comfort. The Lord wasn't messing around when he created the oceans. This stuff is for real.

That being said, I do tend to get a bit lax when we are tied up in a marina. So I knew the surf was getting big (not a good time to take the dinghy out fishing) and I knew it was likely going to rain yesterday (I marked that off as one of the 10 days of rain I expect this *year*). My main concerns these days are: can we go fishing in our dinghy and will we have to close the port lights and hatches on the boat to keep the rain out. So I was caught a bit off guard when my mom called and asked if we were okay. I thought... yeah, I have enough sense to close the windows and leave fishing for another day. But then I got a couple of emails asking the same question. That is when it dawned on me that maybe I should check into this.

As it turns out, a major storm was ravaging California and was heading south. So that explains the growing ocean swell and the coming rain storm. Funny thing about ocean swell - it can grow to significant heights from storms hundreds if not thousands of miles away. So with this big storm just a couple of hundred miles north, we were definitely going to feel it.

The marina we have chosen only has a single breakwater. Don't get me wrong - I am REALLY happy to have it!!! But when the swell gets big, it still surges into the marina and causes the boat to "dance" quite a bit. It is not really a problem, it just makes Jan and I feel more at home.

The storm finally did hit Ensenada yesterday morning shortly after the net (VHF cruiser radio net - more on that later) closed down. I clocked 20 knots maximum wind here in the harbor. I estimate it was 30 to 35 outside the breakwater. We also saw heavy rain (sideways rain of course) associated with the cold front. The wind and rain lasted about 30 minutes and then went almost dead calm and showers the rest of the day. The big change was the temperature - we had been in the low 70s and now the coming week is forecast in the mid 60s... bbbbbrrrrrrrrrrrr (yeah, right!).

Today, the day after the storm, it is another beautiful sunny day. So Jan and I took the camera and went out exploring. There is a good 15 knot breeze blowing and the surf is pounding hard. The waves appear to be 8' to 10' on average.

I guess the birds still have to eat
This is one day that we are really happy to be tied up!!!

We found a little cove that has a gravel beach. After a big wave crashes up the beach it quickly retreats. We were amazed at the sound of the rolling gravel as the wave retreated. It was really loud! We sat there for quite a while taking in the sights and sounds of the raging ocean.

Beautiful afternoon at the beach... in DECEMBER!

Jan enjoying the breezy day


One of our favorite shots - the selfie

Being from the Pacific Northwest we have a certain view about things. And there is an architectural oddity here in Mexico that baffles both Jan and I. We first noticed it while riding our bikes in town. Neither one of us said anything at the time because we were riding in a line, but we both noticed it. Unfortunately we didn't take any pictures because we didn't have a camera with us. But while walking over at the university we came across another example so we took a picture. Can anyone from the Pacific Northwest tell us what is wrong with this picture?

I'll give you a hint - this is a gazebo with picnic tables and benches. The structure we saw downtown was a bus stop with a similar oddity. Any idea..... there is no roof! It is only slats. The bus stop benches had a structure over them without a roof also - just slats. Not only will this NOT keep the rain off of you, it will collect it and then drop much larger drops on your head. Holy cow man - what is the use of something like this? We just don't get it...

When it rains in the desert, everything comes to life! Last week it was just some cactus ground cover. This week...

I will leave with the shot of the day.. God bless you all!!

Sunday, December 7, 2014


I have said it before, and I will say it again - we LOVE the pelicans! They are really cool birds and there are a lot of them here in Ensenada. There is a large group of them that live here at Marina Coral. They generally hang out on the breakwater. But when the bait fish come in the marina they come in to fish. It is the most amazing thing to watch. They line up on a dock and then take turns heading to the sky. They circle about 50 feet in the air until they spot a fish they want. Then they put their feet down to slow and prepare for the dive. Then they point their beak straight down and dive at full speed toward the water. Then at the last second they pull their wings back, hit the water, and gulp their fish. As soon as they hit the water the seagulls swarm them hoping to steal their lunch.

Jan took the camera out today and got some good shots of the feast.

Take Off

Fish spotted, feet down, ready to dive sir


Oh dear, this is going to hurt

I have you now... LUNCH!

Ouch! That hurt


Another successful flight and kill. Back to the roost.
And that is Jan's pelican story.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Rockfish Galore

This will be a short post as Jan is hot and heavy in the galley fixing cheese burgers and fries - yummy!!!

We have discovered rockfish! And we are oh so excited. We have been doing a lot of fishing since arriving in Mexico. It is such a pleasure fishing here. The laws and rules are simple - buy a fishing license and go see what you can catch. You don't have to be a Harvard lawyer to figure out when/where/what you can fish (or if it is raining on Tuesday after a partial solar eclipse...). The other fun aspect is fish are everywhere!

We started out fishing from our dinghy. We originally went after lingcod out off the breakwater outside the marina. Fishing was slow but we did bring in some really tasty lingcod. Then I did a lot of studying and found a kelp forest about 4 miles out. We have done really well in that area as well. We have caught bonito tuna, yellowtail tuna, and barracuda in that area (and I have some ideas for future trips).

Yesterday we decided to take Rapture out for a sail and try some fishing farther offshore. It is really late in the year for yellowtail tuna but they are still catching them (they are called "old guard" - the old fish that don't migrate south). The fish count reports have shown constant good numbers and the "guts" barrel up at the fish cleaning station regularly have remains of some very large yellowtail tuna. So we secured the boat and headed out to Islas de Todos Santos (Todos Santos Islands). They are about 10 miles out from Ensenada and are a real hotspot for fishing. All of the yellowtail reports have been from Todos Santos.

The day started off great - we hit 2 bonito and 1 yellowtail trolling on the way out to the islands. Then it all died. We spent almost 3 hours drifting and jigging the west side of the islands with not even a bite. This is where all of the huge yellowtail have been reported. Finally we got discouraged and decided to start back. But on a whim we decided to give Punta Banda a try. This is a point that extends out from Ensenada bay and creates somewhat of a choke point between the mainland and the islands. So we diverted.

A couple of miles off the point we shut down and started jigging. About 5 minutes into it Jan reports a bite but no fish. A few minutes later I get a bite. Then all of the sudden the flood gates opened. I would drop my line and have a fish on by the time it hit the bottom. The first fish Jan pulled up was about as ugly as you can imagine - clearly a rockfish. And that was how the next 45 minutes went - fish after fish, all rockfish. We really wished we had more time but we were just barely going to make it back before dark now. You really don't want to be out in Ensenada bay in a boat after dark. There are lobster pots EVERYWHERE and none of the are well marked. A Mexican lobster pot buoy is just about anything that floats. I have not yet seen a styrofoam coffee cup for a buoy, but I have seen everything else. And most of them are really hard to see in the daylight, let alone the dark!

The thing about rockfish is they are very ugly but taste great when you eat them. They are generally a flakey white meat that is usually firm. The other thing is there are a lot of different varieties. You can generally tell it is a rockfish by looking at it, but which species is a different story. So we took pictures of each different species that we caught for later identification. So here they are in no specific order.

Yelloweye Rockfish

Yellowtail Rockfish

Blue Rockfish
One thing I can tell you for sure - we are going to be heading back out to Punto Banda REAL soon! BTW - we made fish tacos out of a small piece of Mr. Yellowtail (he was HUGE - the picture doesn't do him justice) and they were great!

Jan and I have become the "fisherpeople" in the marina. A guy from down the dock decided to drop a line in the water here in the marina because of all the fish he has seen Jan and I bring in. Well he caught a fish.. and then didn't know what to do. He came running down the dock with his fish wrapped in a towel yelling my name. I came running outside to find out what was going on and there it was. He had no idea what it was or what he should do. So I brain spiked and bled the fish for him (he had to turn away and couldn't watch - he is a very sweet man!!). Then we went inside and I looked the fish up for him. Turns out it was a croaker. I have never heard of or seen one, but there it was. Then Paul said he had no idea what to do next so I walked up to the fish cleaning station and filleted it for him. It has become a common question when we walk by people.. "what did you catch today?".