JANUARY 28TH, 2012
Jacaranda Passage Note #43: 2011 - A Baja Year in Review
Goodbye 2011 and welcome 2012! It's been a while since we wrote - about a year to be exact. To make up for our lack of correspondence, this Passage Note will look more like those annual holiday letters you no doubt have been receiving at this time of year.
First, we'd like to announce our new and improved website, jacarandajourney.com. It's gotten a new facelift and redesign from son Joe who started his website business, Kitchen Sink Creations (kitchensinkcreations.com). If you need a website, he is the creative and affordable man to see!
Last winter of 2011 saw Jacaranda in an uncharacteristically sedentary mode, comfortably ensconced in Don Jose Marina in La Paz, Baja California, Mexico. It started out with the need to do a whole list of boat projects and was followed by a decision to stay and experience the Baja winters - which we knew would be cold but the mainland reports were that it was not much warmer over there this year.
So La Paz - the beautiful Mexican working town, capital of Baja California Sur, became our home for 6 months. And it lives up to its name - "The Peace". Every Paceño uses the same word to describe this beautiful town of 250,000 people - "tranquilo" say the taxi drivers, the store owners, the university students...."calm". So tranquil and safe that it is rumored to be the vacation /second home playground of many a major drug cartel leader's family. After all they too need a break once in a while from their daily business. La Paz - 2nd largest city in Baja, 5 marinas, huge bay, close to several islands (the jewel of Espiritu Santo), home of Carnaval and the Baja 500 off road race; town of streets with no name, a beautiful malecon with golden sunsets, a major university specializing in ecology programs, seafood tacos, whale shark-watching central.
And the winter was indeed cold - blankets, sweatshirts, heaters, and lots of yummy tortilla soup dinners. We had boat work to do and La Paz is the best place in Mexico to find supplies, parts, and skilled craftsmen. It has a few well stocked chandleries, lots of ferreterias (hardware stores) and other specialized supply stores, is more easily accessible to getting parts down from the U.S. one way or the other, and has some very resourceful welders, woodworkers, canvas makers, etc.
Jacaranda got new coats of varnish on the cockpit combings, deck repair, new paint on the deck and toe rail, new jib cover, other various canvas coverings, engine riser replacement, new wiring for our Bebi anchor lights, shocking the water tanks, install of an AIS system and new battery charger, radar repair as well as general routine maintenance and clean-up. Chuck also decided to do the "W" word and worked for three months for his old employer, Computer Science Corporation, remotely from the boat (using phone and internet).
Linda was absorbed with art and community events. She is continuously busy now trying to keep up with the demand for her beaded necklaces which are selling at the Museum of Arts and Design in NYC. In addition she started a some new artwork - fabric mosaic wall hangings - textile collages embellished with embroidery, beads, ribbons, etc. She volunteered at two fundraisers - Subasta ("Auction" for needy Mexican kids in La Paz),
and Club Cruceros' annual BayFest where she helped get donated gifts from local merchants, gave two seminars on art, and organized a presentation about pearl culture in the South Pacific and in La Paz (which included a tour of our friend's La Paz Pearl Farm). A big milestone for her was becoming a "hamster" - passing both the tech and general exams to earn her Amateur Ham Radio License and call sign KJ6NYI!
A visit from son David In April was much enjoyed - strolling down the malecon with the locals in the cool evenings, long beachwalks with the destination of palapas offering big seafood cocktails and cerveza, and introducing him to our favorite and oft-visited street taco place. In February we traveled to Austin, Texas to visit son Joe, fell in love with the city, and did our part to "Keep Austin Weird". We ate great barbeque, got to hear Joe play several music venues, and explored.
La Paz knows how to throw a good fiesta and what better way to get immersed in the life of the town! At Christmas we enjoyed an excellent Folklorico dance troupe from Mexico City who performed outside at the brightly festooned government center. It was great fun to be in La Paz for Carnaval in February. The parade of floats and bands marched the length of the malecon for three consecutive nights and we watched from a balcony above the crowds and at street level with the crush of people. This year's theme was the natural environment so floats included giant sailfish, jaguars, and flowers. The costumes were elaborate and glitzy. May Day (May 1st), which is the day that honors workers in just about every country but the U.S., was celebrated with long parades of school buses, taxis, sanitation trucks, police cars, and dump trucks (with their truck beds tilted up in salute), rolling past a grandstand filled with city and state officials. El Dia de Los Muertos, one of the most beautiful Mexican rituals of honoring ancestors and loved ones who have died, takes place in November. The Teatro Ciudad (City Theater) Plaza was filled with homemade altars, traditional food vendors, craft booths, and strutting Catarinas (women - and some men - costumed in fancy dresses and matching hats whose faces and bodies were painted as living skeletons in the tradition of the celebration) who were vying for coveted first place in the Catarina contest.
With the coming of warmer weather and the approach of summer (and the hurricane season), our thoughts turned toward spending another summer in the northern Sea of Cortez - our FOURTH!! We finally said our goodbyes to our many friends, untied our dock lines, put away our fenders and left Marina Don Jose on May 12. By 1 p.m. we were swinging on the hook at Bonanza Beach on Isla Espiritu Santo. After six months at the dock we had almost forgotten how great it felt to be in an anchorage again!!
Soon we were poking our way slowly north, stopping in many favorite bays and island anchorages - Isla San Jose, Los Gatos, San Telmo, San Marte. On June 8 we were able to sail to Isla Catalan off the beaten path and had favorable weather to stay for a week at Water Tower Bay on the southern end. What a gorgeous spot and we had it all to ourselves!! Wonderful snorkeling with the best visibility we had all summer, scenic hiking among the largest barrel cacti in Baja (5 feet and more), and good fishing. In fact, we caught our first dorado of the summer here - the precursor to an incredible season of dorado fishing. In fact that became the highlight of the summer of 2011!! They were plentiful and everyone was catching them! We were eating fresh dorado every night until we became sick of it! Now that is being spoiled! Chuck must have caught at least 15 or 20 from the dinghy - one even in the inner harbor of San Francisquito!! One day he was fishing in the outer San Francisquito Bay and caught a nice dorado for us (and to share with others) for dinner. On his way back to the boat he caught another and decided to take it over to the Mexican naval boat parked nearby as a gift. Boy, were those sailors appreciative - they all ran out on deck and were so excited!
The social scene was not lacking again this summer - Geary's annual 4th of July party (too hot in Conception Bay for us to attend), net controller's party at Guillermo's in Bahia de Los Angeles, and two Full Moon Parties. Linda won first place for her "Blue Ringed Octopussy" costume at the September Full Moon Party in La Gringa. It was a masterpiece that she worked on for two weeks covering floaty noodles with silver lame material and making the "hat" out of an aluminum foil covered colander from the galley, all decorated with sparkly blue pipe cleaners for the rings and suckers. Like in years past, the much coveted first prize was a DVD movie - "The General" with Danny Kaye in spanish, no subtitles - a premium award!!!! (Thanks to Jake on "Jake", the party king!)
Weatherwise, we escaped another year from any hurricane warnings and avoided the jockeying in Puerto Don Juan that these warnings entail!!! BUT - we did have some nasty chubascos - sudden winds from the east mainland that reached forty knots a few times - in San Francisquito, Isla Partida Norte, La Gringa, and La Mona when the big ones hit! In the last one we were anchored in front of our friend Mary's house (Baja Gal) and were covered with brown dust and sand from her beach as 50 knot winds roared over the hill !
Our fourth summer in the Sea was much fun with many old friends and "regulars" and new ones too! We did miss those of you who were not there this summer and you know who you are!
At the end of the summer with hurricane danger mostly past, we headed south and made our way back to La Paz where we left Jacaranda to return to the States for our annual Family Thanksgiving on The Farm, outside of Phila., Pa. We had an extra reason to anticipate this beloved gathering this year - a surprise 80th birthday party for Linda's Aunt Aileen!
On Dec. 29, we arrived in Banderas Bay after a three day sail from Los Frailes, Baja, welcomed by breaching humpback whales and a large school of "popcorn" manta rays jumping like flapjacks all around the boat. We spent New Year's Eve in La Cruz which has gotten very upscale since we were last there one and a half years ago. We are sending this Passage Note from Puerto Vallarta where the call of little yellow Kiskadees remind us how much we love this place! The weather is perfect now - warm and humid - no more desert; the smell of jungle is pervasive.
Remember you can always tell where we are by copying the following address into your online favorites. It should drop you into our most recent report. We update our location each time we move to a new spot.
From Jacaranda, we wish you all the best in 2012 - may it be a year of happiness, health, laughter, love, beauty, and great adventures.