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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

La Paz again

We're anchored in Ensenada de la Paz, off the Magote, which is a peninsula protecting the harbor area from the more open Bahia de la Paz. The anchorage is subject to a hefty current flow, which often acts counter to the winds. Evening corumels blow through here and provide cool nights. The resultant dance is called The La Paz Waltz,in which boats gyrate with either the current or the wind -- or a combination of both. We're fortunate to have a 120 lb. Spade anchor and lots of heavy chain, and have our anchor bouyed, letting us see where the boat sits in relation to it, sometimes in front, sometimes at the stern, usually to port or starboard.

We spent our first week at Marina Palmira as we debated the various anchorage options. Lucy the Goose, a Palmira refugee and now guard goose, entertained us. We had some lovely times with our buddy boat's owners, Phyllis and Erwin, especially the evening spent watching the two of them play pool with another boater. Erwin is a master at the game, though Phyllis looked really professional with that cue in her gloved hand. I can't imagine being able to announce that your ball is going to hit five various points before it scoots its object into a pocket -- and have your announcement result in performance. Amazing.

Marinas offer fun things to do, but anchorages give us the opportunity to keep cash in our pockets while we stay cool and independent. Our solar panels are performing beautifully. The solar shower delivers lots of hot water: I learned last night that one doesn't use it until the water has had an hour or so of dark to cool down. I, who love hot showers, had to mix it with cold from the boat's tank via the shower head so as not to scald myself. Of course, if one waits too long, one has the opposite experience. Michael likes a cool shower: he experienced cold.

The dinghy is now our means of local transportation. We tie up cheek by jowl with other dinghies at Marina de la Paz's dinghy dock for the princely sum of 15 pesos, which at 13 to one is just slightly more than a dollar a day. From there, it's about eleven blocks to the CCC, the closest grocery store. Parts suppliers are all within easy walking distance, and Club Cruceros, right at the marina, provides the lending library of choice.

Sunday found us heading out into Bahia de la Paz to make water and wash clothes. A few miles offshore we parked the boat with the wheel hard over, intending to drift. Well, we did drift, with the current, slightly, but we were obviously hove-to, as we created a lovely slick on the water to windward when the afternoon breeze piped up. We made over 125 gallons and washed four loads. Wonderful dry air cut the drying time to minutes.... We had intended to listen to a podcast sermon while out there, but the generator's noise (needed to run the high-output watermaker) precluded this. Instead we had a worship service of praise for the glorious creation and then heard a sermon once we returned to the anchorage, where another sunset accentuated our desire to give thanks where thanks are definitely due.

If it weren't for the flu scare, we'd be thrilled with life. Yesterday's trip to the market showed closed schools and face masks everywhere. There haven't been any confirmed cases here in Baja, but that doesn't mean folk aren't sick. We're not eating out these days, which is probably healthier anyway. Considering that the virus seems to have jumped borders and oceans, I'd suggest everyone take care.

Do check our pictures on the link at the side. I've never seen so many gorgeous sunsets and we haven't even been here a month.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

More Thoughts on Mexico

From our first months in Ensenada we noticed it. And from frequent trips across the border, we noticed the lack of it.

Happiness. Contentment, in spite of life lived with less than the average American would consider a sustenance wage. Choices made to honor family, to delight in children, to honor whatever faith they know. Choices made to be content with what they have.

Smiles handed with impunity to strangers. Offers of help without a price tag attached.

And once we escaped the gringo influence in certain boatyards, a work ethic to be admired. In Mazatlan, the Mexican mechanics who repaired our engine did so with an eye to excellence and a care of our boat that couldn’t help but please. The gentlemen who did stainless work for us took obvious pride in their design efforts and seemed embarrassed to request additional funds for changes and extras we requested. The workmen spent a hot day adjusting, fitting, welding…all the while joking and laughing together and with us. The young sons of the man who worked on removing old varnish from the boat spent hot afternoons teasing one another, full of joy. The owner of a car parts shop joked with Michael as he searched to meet our needs. All smiles. Very little capital changing hands. Taxi drivers in Ensenada gave way to pedestrians or other drivers and smiled when they did it. Across the border everyone scowled.

I know there are problems. There are dinghies that go missing from anchorages. We’ve been warned about the one we’re in right now. But what we saw this morning was a family in their motorless panga that they maneuvered with one paddle, line fishing probably because they don’t own rods or nets. And they were laughing and playing as they did it. If they live in the shack by the water’s edge that we’ve noticed, they probably were fishing for their food. But they were laughing. Happy. The impulse might come to avail themselves of some rich gringo’s dinghy. It might. To them it would be worth almost a year’s wages. So, we keep our dinghy on deck. In the States, there were areas near our marina where we might fear for our lives. We’ve never felt that in Mexico.

Perhaps if we lived in Tijuana or one of the other border towns where drugs abound, it would be different. Why do problems exist there more than in, say, Mazatlan or Ensenada? Could it be that the market for the drugs, the US, is just across the way? Which makes one wonder if the problem is them or us. Why do we make such an issue of drug areas in Mexico and ignore the blight in our own cities?

Just a thought or two.

Bahia Falsa

Bahia Falsa
Easter Sunday
He Is Risen!!!

Cacti silhouette the hills’ edge. Silence, except for the distant drone of traffic on the road into La Paz and the laughing folk in a panga nearby, graces the sunlit day. Sea Venture turns on her anchor, the scenery changing with the breeze.

We’re so glad to be at anchor again, away from near-neighbors at the marina. We’ve loved making friends, some for a lifetime, at each marina home, but our spirits crave this aloneness where God’s nature becomes so evident in His creation.

Church this morning was a sermon downloaded from Smyrna PHC entitled, “A Penny for Your Thoughts,” taken from Psalm 40:17: “…I am afflicted and needy, Yet the Lord is mindful of me.”

God hasn’t forgotten us, no matter what it looks like ‘round about. His thoughts are on me. And on you. Whether or not you know Him, His thoughts are on you, for you, calling and drawing you. When we feel afflicted enough and needy, unable to conquer the world on our own, unable to fix what’s wrong in our life, unable to sustain joy without some outside aid, then we can call on Him and know He will answer. Even if you think you’ve tried to call before, if you imagine you’ve heard only silence in the air, it may be because you weren’t ready. Because His thoughts for you are for good. Always. He has promised that joy comes in the morning. When the storm rages and the wind blows at 50 knots, it may seem as if all of nature is conspiring to batter you, and that the Lord is silent.

I’ve wondered why faith comes so easily to some and why others of us have to work at it. Why we go through so much of our life straining at bonds, thinking ourselves smarter or more sophisticated, thinking we need nothing more than we can find on our own. Until that moment—or moments—when all our striving turns to ashes, when our health or our wealth or our relationships aren’t sustainable through our efforts, when we finally recognize that we’re not sovereign after all. I suppose that’s the moment when we’re ready to admit that there must be more and that we are needy enough to ask and receive the more God has just been waiting to give us.

We’re listening to Marcos Witt sing “Gracias,” one of the most beautiful renditions of a Latin worship song I’ve ever heard. Gracias Senor for this place, this life, for all the riches of love. For holding me in Your thoughts, in spite of myself, in spite of what I’ve done or been, in spite of my lack of faith when it’s blowing 50, in spite of the times I’ve run or fainted. Gracias, mi Senor, mi Dios, Jesus Cristo, who died and rose again for me and for you and for all who will call on His Name.

A Mess at Sea

Thea Renee buddy boated with us across from Mazatlan. Here she is to starboard in the last rays of Friday's windless day, her owners unaware as we were that in less than an hour these placid moments would become a vague memory as they struggled to keep her dinghy from breaking loose and sinking into the great, dark oblivion.

Sunset on the Sea of Cortez. Beautiful,with no hint of what was to come.

That's what the weather was like at 6PM Friday, Land ho! on the Baja side. By 7 PM, we weren't in a position to take a picture of anything. See that spit of land? All we wanted to do was get around Isla Cerralvo so we could head in the direction of the Canal de San Lorenzo, perhaps with an overnight rest stop at Isla Espirito Santo. Instead, we stayed at about that same latitude and longitude all night long.

It’s one thing to be on the ocean, miles out, and have the wind at your stern, blowing you at a screeching speed toward your destination. The boat handles the huge waves, the autopilot does the work of keeping you on track and fiddling through the wind/wave gyrations. It’s a completely different thing to know you’re stalled in 35-50 knots of wind and pounding waves, the boat speed dipping to zero and only climbing just above 2.5 knots at its zenith. You’ll not outrun the gale, and the autopilot has a hard time keeping you in good position to the wind and waves.

We would have hove to if we’d had more warning and more sail up when the mess started. But the wind had played hooky all day, the sea had been mirror calm, and we were complacently motoring with only the mizzen flying to stabilize our trip. Michael had been doing a photo shoot with the big camera of our neighbor’s boat, Thea Renee, as she caught the last of the sun. Dark descended and a full moon slipped in to illuminate a sea that had grown suddenly raucous, with waves slamming against the hull as the wind flipped into high gear.

Before leaving, we’d downloaded grib files and weather reports. En route, we’d received weather reports via SSB radio. No one had mentioned winds higher than 20 or seas higher than 2 to 3 feet. No one had suggested a gale. Sure, one was expected in the northern sea on Sunday, not Friday night. And there was a slight chance of one of those southerly winds that like to mess with the La Paz area, but it would be a light one, blowing no more than 20. Southerly would have pushed us northwest to La Paz. Southerly would have been welcome.

Instead, winds slammed down on us when we were about 50 miles southeast of the channel into Bahia de la Paz. Out of the northwest, they were cold and brutal, giving us no chance to hoist the staysail to park our boat and ride it out. I suppose with more and stronger hands, we might have wrestled with sheets and backwinding, but we didn’t want to let those waves find our beam, which meant Michael had to concentrate on hand steering, while I became ornamental and worried.

I tried not to. I tried to let faith well up in me to give me peace. Eventually it came, but as a work in progress, I don’t get there without effort. I kept remembering the disciples in their rocking boat, and Jesus asking where their faith was. About the same place mine had gone, I’d guess. Still, at least it showed up eventually. And we got through the night, better able to handle things because there was moonlight. Michael was to thank the Lord many times for that illumination.

By daylight, the wind has fallen, blowing between 25 and 33. It continued to lessen. By the time we approached the entrance to the San Lorenzo channel, it was only in the lower twenties, and the waves were much more manageable. Just as the dawn approached, the waves had subsided to the point where the autopilot could take over so that Michael could rest while I kept watch.

It’s over now. We’ve slept and eaten and are anchored at Bahia Falsa, outside of La Paz. The force of pounding waves slamming into the bow pulpit smashed our beautiful new bow blanking as well as the through-bolted anchor lock downs. The only section left on board is a small half moon at the tip of the pulpit and one other small fragment toward the aft section. It’s a testament to the force of the water.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Lunch at Playa Mazatlan

I thought I'd post a few more pictures taken at our latest day out, when we rewarded ourselves after having our skin zapped of funny things at the dermatologist. Poor Michael. He not only zapped the bad guys, but also got a sore on the top of his head.

The restaurant has placed posts about ten feet out from the tables, obviously to keep vendors at bay, but you can look down at the local merchants who ply the beaches. One woman, loaded with shawls, stopped. Really, they were lovely. By the time she'd unloaded the lot, I felt compelled to bargain with her. I came away with a lovely black shawl that has colorful dragonflies on it -- for 130 pesos, whichis close to eleven dollars at today's exchange rate.

In another picture you can see a parasailor coming in for a landing. The pangas take folk up, give them a quick 4-7 minute ride, then drop them off at the beach.