March 1999
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Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica

Guess it is about time we let you all know where we are, what we are doing, and where we are going.  We kept meaning to get an update out but somehow we were always too busy.  Yeah, hard to believe but... 

SUMMER IN THE SEA

Sea Witch, Jeff, and Gail spent the summer in a very hot Sea of Cortez.  We spent most of our time trying to find a way to cool off.  A pretty ordinary day found us sitting in front of fans with water spritzer bottles or treading water around the boat.  Sounds uncomfortable?  Well it was, however, we found diversions to keep us occupied and cool.

Jeff became a fearless hunter and spear fisherman. Except for the giant grouper he encountered, the fish were not safe from him.  He brought home everything from grouper and yellow snapper to scallops and lobster for many tasty BBQs.  We certainly did not go hungry.  Gail landed her first big dorado just out side of Santa Rosalia.  Now that she has found out how much fun it is, she may never let Jeff near a fishing rod again.  Yellow fin tuna (a double hookup with both landed), dorado, sail fish (we let go) what fun we had.

The Sea was hot, but beautiful.  The mountains were pink with scattered cactus, waters of turquoise blue, and white sandy beaches.  Sunsets turned the whole world an iridescent shade of pink and silver.  Cocktails in the cockpit, pot lucks on the beach, scuba and snorkeling excursions with cruiser friends became regular events.

Other highlights: exquisitos (hot dogs with lots of stuff on them) in Santa Rosalia, lots of islands and different coves, driving Mex 1 up the Baja to Los Angeles, taking the bus from Tijuana back down the Baja, dodging hurricanes, sleeping in the cockpit waiting to see if the Chubasco (big wind) was going to blow us out of the anchorage, jumping manta rays, whales, etc. 

So far everything sounds great.  Well, we are not without some problems.  Imagine having to remove and rebuild a transmission in 90 degree weather (the same amount of humidity)  in the middle of nowhere.  Jeff found out that it is hard to hold a wrench when your hands are so sweaty it keeps slipping out.  We had to repair a deck crack and reinforce it.  Ah, that was fun.  Fiberglass sanding everywhere.  You have to see Jeff's outfit - swim goggles, breathing mask, reversed hat and long sleeve shirt.  But, what a job we did.  That deck shouldn't crack again. It's nice and strong now.  There were other things, but we don't want to bore you with the yucky stuff. 

Sadly, the summer took its toll on some friends.  We saw two divorces and a few people quit cruising and head home.  

ATTACK OF THE SEA MONSTER

Jeff managed to get some dental work in while in the Sea of Cortez.  We were diving with the Sea Lions at Los Islotes and shooting underwater video when a 1200lb Elephant Seal attacked him.  Came right up to Jeff, over the top and then went in behind to trap him with his flippers.  Jeff struggled to get free.  The Elephant Seal bent around a number of times to try and chomp on him, but Jeff kept the metal camera housing between them.  Some good shots as he never had time to think about turning the camera off.  So, where does the dental work come in.  Well, there is some great footage of Elephant Seal teeth (side and front shots) as he chomps on the camera.  Big teeth, tonsils and even sound effects.

SAN CARLOS and COPPER CANYON

Near the end of August, we took Sea Witch to San Carlos (mainland side, near the north end of the Sea of Cortez) hauled her and left her on the hard.  After a quick trip back to Los Angeles, we drove with friends from Phoenix back to San Carlos.  Then, six of us hopped the train for an inland trip to Copper Canyon.  Took us two days just to get to the train since roads and tracks were washed out by the recent hurricane.  

The train ride was fun.  Eight hours up the side of the mountain  through 50 tunnels to get to Creel, a tiny little Mexican town just barely affected by tourism.  A few days with a 70 year old guy (no english spoken) in a beat-up old Ford van as we toured Copper Canyon.  Great views, local culture, waterfalls, Taramara Indians, etc.  Same train back down and then it was time to prep Sea Witch.

 It was still hot in San Carlos (90 degrees and 80+ humidity).  We decided to let the boatyard do the work.  Major mistake.  We spent 4 days with them doing the work and 10 days showing them how to fix it.  We ended up doing much of the work ourselves and working harder than if we had just done it from the beginning.  Live and learn.

AEROBIC WORKOUT FOR SEA WITCH

We have put Sea Witch through her paces.  She is a terrific sailing machine.  We have experimented with all of her sails in many different conditions and we are very pleased with the results.  Screaming reaches, downwind spinnaker runs, even some of that nasty beating to weather stuff.

We have definitely had some great sailing days ( and nights).  Our trip from La Paz should have been a 44 hour sail but turned into only 30 hours. We were jazzed when we arrived after spending most of the trip sailing under spinnaker just jetting through the water.  Yeah, we pushed her, and ourselves a little, but it was worth it.  Averaged just under 8 for the trip.  Reaching with the small chute up in up to 30 knots, we averaged 8.8 for a few hours and the autopilot drove the whole time.

FAMILY AND FRIENDS

Sea Witch had a few guests this past year.  Jeff's brother, Peter and his new wife Lisa-Ann came for a visit in the spring to Puerto Vallarta.

Gail's best friend Gayle and her husband David Koons flew into La Paz and spent some time lapping up the sunshine at a couple of the islands in The Sea of Cortez.  Ron Wagniere and Karen Mc Leod drove down to Santa Rosalia where we picked them up and carted them off for a ten days down the Baja coast for some fishing,sea shell  collecting and sailing.  We always enjoy having company, especially because we can catch up on all the news and gossip.  Not to mention getting our mail.  Thanks to all of you for bringing mail, spare parts, and special tasty treats.  And, thank you for just plain visiting us.  We joke with our friends about importing our own "Personal Fishing Instructor".

THE HOLIDAYS

So where was Sea Witch for all of the holidays?  Let's start with that all important holiday, Halloween.  Sea Witch sailed in to San Juanico Bay on the Baja with Gail in her mask on the bow calling trick or treat.  Ron and Karen were with us for a pot luck on the beach with good friends on the boats Amazing Grace, Irie, Golden and Sundancer II.  Great food and brownies to celebrate Halloween and Karen's very important birthday.  We also had a surprise visit from a couple of frisky kangaroo mice.  One decided to give Karen quite a surprise when it entered the leg of her pants. OOPS!  Then there was a fabulous Thanksgiving in La Paz.  We joined Wings, and Irie for a terrific, traditional Thanksgiving dinner at Club Marlin.  Beautiful holiday decorations, delicious food (and lots of it) and one of those Sea of Coretz sunsets.  We'll ignore the fact that Gail forgot to remove a dock line on the other side of the boat and we couldn't figure out why Jeff was having trouble getting the boat off the dock.  We both had a good laugh when we got to the anchorage and put down the chain and couldn't find the red mark (50' mark) that Gail had just repainted on the chain.  Seems she painted it somewhere else.  We are still looking for it.

 Ah, and then came Christmas.  18 of our cruiser friends onboard Sea Witch in Mazatlan for one of those famous, way more than you can eat, pot lucks. We rang in the new year at a restaurant in Mazatlan eating, dancing and singing with many of our great new cruiser friends we were lucky enough to collect this past year.  We all got a little wild and crazy.  What the heck it was a great year with a new one about to begin. 

FISHING REPORT

Early in the summer was very poor for rod and reel fishing.  Hunting was good with lots of grouper, yellow snapper, some lobster and some scallops.  Later in the season we managed a double hookup of yellow-fin tuna (excellent sushi and meals for a week), some good size Dorado, lots of Cabrillo and Sierra (with Ron's help), and even a sailfish that came within a few yards of spooling us.  We got the sailfish next to the boat, managed to lift him by the bill, and retrieve our lure.  We set him back in the water without hurting him.  Holding a 100lb sailfish and looking him in the eye was a awesome experience. 

GOODBYES

After some projects and repairs completed in Mazatlan it was time to head south.  The first stop was La Cruz in Banderas Bay.  A must to stock up the freezer with sausages from We Be Sausage, a dinner of the best BBQ ribs in all of Mexico at Cruise Quarters and unfortunately a place to say goodbye to many of those wonderful people we met during our year in Mexico.  Always the hardest part of cruising. 

 Next we were on our way to Barra de Navidad for another goodbye.  Boy do we hate this part.  While in Barra we ran into Bill and Jan, who used to own a Liberty 458 (same boat as Sea Witch) called Camelot.  Unfortunately they lost her to a reef in Fiji.  It was really interesting talking to them and comparing notes.   

NEW TERRITORY

Now we are really moving.  Straight on to Zihuatenjo.  Where, by the way, we were suppose to be for Christmas.  So we are a little slow.  On the way we had a slight encounter with a big ship.  Just out side of Las Cardenas, a commercial port, we had a bit of a scare when a big ol ship decided to do some strange maneuvering.  The darn thing kept turning at us.  We kept avoiding it and he just kept trying to get us.  Gail was stuttering and Jeff was stammering and Sea Witch was running.  If any one tells you one of those big ships can't turn fast, don't believe them.  We never did figure out what  it was doing, but as you can tell we lived to tell the story.  Of course this happened at about 2am in the dark of night.  Isn't that always the way?   

In Zihuatenjo we caught up with Marc and Linda on Crazy Fish.  Friends of ours who left San Diego in December to go cruising.  They too brought down a duffel of stuff and all our mail.  Again we had to do the hated good byes to the boats not heading south.  While there, Sea Witch hosted a meeting of the boats heading south.  We have now set a new record for guests aboard. 28 south bound cruisers had a  meeting of the minds.  We gathered a lot of useful information. A 33 page packet was put together with all the tidbits of info and passed out.  This meeting was especially useful for Sea Witch since we have once again changed our plans to include Panama.  We figured what the heck, Panama is sort of on the way to the Galapagos, so what the heck, might as well go there and check out the pacific islands off their coast.  Could be some great diving. 

THE MOVE TO COSTA RICA

After Zihuatenjo Sea Witch carted us off  to Acapulco for a whirlwind day of provisioning (food replacement etc.)  We took Herbie the love bug to WalMart super center, Sam's club and then dinghied (our small inflatable boat which is our car) to the beach across from the Mexican market.  All the taxis in Acapulco are blue and white Volkswagens.  There are so many of them that I'll have to guess that they have found a way to mate these little guys/girls.  That was enough of Acapulco.  We were out of there in less than 24 hours.  Acapulco is a big bustling city full of tourists and every conceivable designer shop. 

Ah, but next we arrived at a lovely place, Huatulco.  A new town built in l980.  Very clean and quiet until the cruise ship comes in.  Then it comes alive with people wearing plaid bermuda shorts, black socks, funny hats and name badges.  Guess I should be more kind, that could be us in a few years. Except for the jet skis, we really enjoyed this. 

The next big jump was the dreaded Tehuanepeckors (strong winds that blow out of the Gulf of Tehuantepec) and the Papagayos.  Well, we timed the T-peckers just right and motored the whole way.  Flat calm and Jeff even was able to swim with one of the many turtles we passed.  A quick stop in Puerto Madero for fuel and our international Zarpe and 5 boats headed out for Costa Rica.  Well, we blew the forecast and got Papagayo'd off the coast of Guatemala.  3 of the boats were close to Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala and ducked in easily.  2 of us were 50 miles downtrack and tried to head back.  We spent the night hove to in 30-40 kts and made it in the next day.  Exhausting but not too uncomfortable.  That is the first time we have ever locked ourselves inside the boat and drifted like that, however.   

Guatemala was beautiful.  Everyone wants to go back.  The people were friendly and the views were spectacular.  The port captain came to us with immigration and customs to do the checkin.  OK, so it was pricey but they provide a good harbor with lots of security.  We left the boats under the care of the Navy and took a land trip to Antigua, a 500 year old city near Guatemala City that used to be the capital.  We really needed more than one day to visit there. 

Well, our second guess on the Papagayos was good.  We motored for part of it but got in a lot of good sailing on the way to Costa Rica.  The last part saw Sea Witch reaching at well over 8 knots with us trying to slow the boat down so we could get some sleep.  3 nights and 4 days and we parked the boat in Bahia Culebra, Costa Rica.   So far, everyone is friendly and the place is pretty.  The port captain and immigration were both friendly but, after trying to deal with transportation and getting photo copies and such to do the checkin, we have to say that CR makes Mexico look efficient. 

So once again we are safe and sound, anchored in a lovely bay with three other boats that we have been travelling with.  Beautiful scenery, warm balmy weather, and fun people to hang out with.  Tomorrow we will go inland to spend a couple of days with Jeff's cousin Andy and his family who live here in San Jose.  Then, it is off we go again. Heading out for the next adventure.       

Jeff & Gail