Thursday, December 31, 2015

Terrapin ....memories from 2015

It's the last day of the year already? It's true, time flies when you're having fun. We've thoroughly enjoyed the past 11 months living in Mexico and have grown to truly love this gorgeous country and it's generous people. One place we can all agree that has stolen our hearts is the Sea of Cortez, leaving us wanting another sailing season in Mexico. Each of us has taken the time to reflect on 2015 and recall our favorite memory and our not so favorite memory.

Favorite Memory; Anchoring at Isla Isabel because of all the wildlife. I loved the beaches because half the "sand" is black lava rock and the other half is white crushed coral.  I loved hiking up to the caldera.  I also loved going to San Miguel De Allende for the summer.

Least Favortie Memory:  Our first real passage to Turtle Bay when I got sick. Also, having to turn around at Hualtulco. I was really sad that we weren't  going through the Panama Canal.

Favorite Memory;  The 5 days we spent in Agua Verde with YOLO. I loved wake boarding, hanging out with friends, eating fist tacos and just chillin'.  I also loved the sail from Cabo to Isla Isabel, it was glorious! A broad reach for almost 24 hours was Heaven.

Least Favorite Memory:  Turning around at Hualtulco. Coming to the realization that we weren't going to see Central America and the Caribbean on this trip.

Favorite Memory; Watching daddy swim with the humpback whales at Isla Isabel. I loved Isla Isabel because of the huge sea turtle we swam with and the blue footed boobies.  Swimming with the sea lions! I loved seeing all the babies. Check out the video of daddy swimming with a mom and baby humpack whale!

Least Favorite Memory:  When the people came up to our boat in the night at Acapulco...I was scared.  (For those who don't know, a panga with 12 men approached us at night with no lights and wanted to tie up to us, then asked us to leave...they were all highly intoxicated and it was hard to understand exactly what they were saying. Phil and I held them off with bear mace and a mag light for about 15 minutes before they decided to leave. As soon as they left  we pulled up anchor, and in the dark we sailed away.) Another not so good memory was when we were going to Hualtuclo, the waves were really bad and I was really scared.

Favorite Memory:  The two times we anchored at Isla Isabel. Snorekling at Isla Isabel is nothing short of amazing...turtles, sea lions, whales, eagle rays, boobies...  Isla Coronados was another amazing place. White sand, schools of manta rays gliding under the boat, breath taking views from the top and fantastic snorkeling....can't wait to go back!

Least Favorite Memory:  Holding Jessica and being able to feel her heart pounding out of her chest and feeling her little body shake with fear as we headed into Hualtulco. Watching Emma sob as she learned we would no longer be heading to Panama. The good news? Emma's only 10 and still has a long life ahead of her. 

We're currently anchored in La Cruz (near Puerto Vallarta) and will be here for most of January. We are getting excited about our trip to Guatamela in a few weeks and sailing back to the Sea of Cortez in early Spring. 

Here are a few pictures of Las Posadas which we were able to experience while in Barra Navidad for Christmas.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Snorkeling with Terrapin

After watching the movie Splash, I quickly grabbed the salt and headed into the bathtub with high hopes off growing a mermaid tail. I've been an ocean freak my whole life.

Phil spent the better part of his childhood ignoring his grandmother's calls to come in from the ocean hoping to have more time in the waves.

Jessica wasn't but 18 months old when she'd know we were at the beach, grab her binky out of her mouth and scream, "beach mama! beach", then thrash out her car seat in a fat hurry for the ocean.

When Emma was a baby, she would cling to Phil screaming bloody murder as he'd hold her in the ocean. I remember thinking, " she's going to have a miserable childhood with us ocean lovers".

This week Emma had me nervous as she was showing me how she easily she could dive 20 feet down and grab shells off the ocean floor. Times have changed!

Days like we had earlier in the week, jumping off the boat and snorkeling a cargo wreck has confirmed, we made the right decision to hang in Mexico for another season and move slow. I hadn't realized just how many miles south we had sailed till sailing all those same miles north! We've almost sailed more miles since October than all of last season. 

Kayaking between snorkel spots....just keep the flippers on

Just slithering along

Flips off the boat? Count me in!

First time seeing blue coral.

Perfect form and a Trump face to boot.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Cost to Cruise...November

To our surprise, we didn't too bad this month considering the amount we spent on diesel bolting down the coast to make it to El Salvador in time for Christmas...or not.  Another reason we're happy to be heading back into the Sea of Cortez, it's easy on the budget.

Thank you to those who bought us a beer

Mark and Stacey Teague
Atlantic Construction Management

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

We're heading NORTH to resurrect good times.

It's often said that a sailors plans are written in the sand at low tide. To the outside world, sailors must appear to be a group primarily made up of disorganized people with serve cases of ADD, as we often say one thing and do another.  Last week a huge wave came crashing ashore and completely wiped out our plans for the next year or so. We are no longer sailing south towards Panama.

For about the past month, we've all been feeling a little strange. I can't quite put my finger on it, but for numerous reasons all of us have had doubts about our sailing plans. Getting within 5 miles of the Huatulco marina and having to turn around and run with it was our final straw. The trip trying to get to Huatulco was indicative of what we'd be facing for most of our Central America sailing. We had planned to slow down our trip which would have left us looking for a place near Panama to spend hurricane season (aka dodging lightening bolts) before beating into the trade winds trying to cross up to Cuba. At the end of the day, this isn't what we want to do.

Our promise to our girls was that we'd venture as long as we were all having fun and had money to do so. With no one really having fun lately, we had a few family meetings that led us to decide to head back up and hang in Mexico. All but Emma was relieved at our decision. Emma had herself a good cry as she's disappointed we won't be discovering new countries and transiting the Panama Canal, which is on her bucket list.

This adventure is to be all about spending quality time with our daughters, making memories to cherish and opening our daughters eyes to a life most people only dream about. The fact that Emma has a bucket list of impressive adventures most kids her age don't even know exist is proof at one point of this trip we were "doing it right" and that we need to keep "doing it right".  For now, we're excited to get back with our cruising friends and spend more time relaxing and enjoying each others company. We have a reservation at the marina in Barra Navidad for Christmas and a trip to Guatemala (by plane) in January we're looking forward to.

So what's next, after sailing season? Your guess is as good as our....just 5 days ago we were headed to Panama and now we're not.

Let's be honest....Captain Fluff insisted we stay in Mexico.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

What to expect when you're expecting.. (Pacific Mexico)

Sailing the Pacific side of Mexico has proven to be challenging for the Terrapin tribe. Since leaving the Sea of Cortez about 1000 nautical miles ago, we find ourselves thinking, "hmmm, this isn't how I remember sailing".  We've had to make changes and adjust our expectations as this is a new way of sailing for us. Gone are the days of expecting that an 18-hour passage will actually take 18 hours (give or take a couple hours). We've said "adios" to nights full of sweet dreams, waking up refreshed the next day. The Sea of Cortez or as we like to call it, "The Disneyland of sailing" has spoiled us. 

For those who don't know, the Sea of Cortez has almost zero swell and offers one amazing anchorage after another, close in proximity, making passages easy. It would be a shame for anyone to sail Mexico and not sail the Sea of Cortez. Would you go to Paris and not see the Eiffel Tower? 

Decent anchorages are few and far between when you get south of Manzanillo, notice I'm not saying "good anchorages"...lately we've just been searching for decent.  Just about every anchorage is rolly and faces south towards swell. Most of the anchorages that look amazing in the guide book are smaller coves with tremendous swell forming into huge gracias. Then there are the anchorages that look inviting, but the bay is so deep and rocky with a very narrow sand shelf right where the breakers start. Unfortunately, our favorite guidebook is not much help south of Zihuatanejo, as the authors admittedly did not venture this far south. It's been disappointing to say the least. We set out for what was to be an 18-hour passage and about 90 hours later we finally set the hook...we did take a small nap in a bay near Aca-puke-o, but had to keep going. It's not that we can't handle a 90 hours passage, we just weren't prepared. 

When expecting to sail the Pacific side of Mexico, forget everything you know about sailing coming from the Sea of Cortez. Reset expectations. Make enough passage food for days, not hours. Throw homeschool out the window, no one is learning anything. Insist on rotating shifts, while we would take turns throughout the day, Phil would offer to sail us through the night on a 12-18 hour passage as he loved being alone with his Kindle under the stars (and I can use extra beauty sleep)...not anymore! If an 18-hour sail can take up to 90 hours, you have to take shifts to ensure everyone gets enough sleep. 

We knew when we splashed our boat in October, we'd be early in the season. What we weren't expecting is to have only seen 6 boats in the past 2 months. 6 boats...... Where is everyone? Every boat we see is headed North....maybe that's a sign. 

On a positive note we've been anchored in Puerto Angel, a somewhat cute town with clear water and good snorkeling, here are a few pics. Oh and what's the deal? Is Oaxaca the marijuana capital of Mexico? There hasn't been one guy who's spoken to that isn't puffing on a joint.  Everyone keeps asking us if we'd like to buy some weed, to which our response is always, "no thanks dude, we've got a boat full". Just Kidding!

Always making friends

This is what it looks like when someone says, "Comin' in HOT!"


Friday, November 27, 2015

You should know about Zihuatanejo

Here we go again, falling in love with another Mexican "Z" town. First it was Zacatecas delighting us with its 8000-foot elevation and vibrant International folklore festival and now Zihuatanejo. 

Zihuatanejo is everything we love all wrapped into one. Long, clean beaches near a cool little town (without the huge resorts) Zihuatanejo is everything other cruisers said it would be and has quickly become our new favorite. 

This Mexican beach town has only been sprinkled with gringo influence so that you can shop at the local veggie market then grab a cold $1 beer and watch an American sports game at a local cantina. The people here seem especially friendly and very welcoming. On several occasions, locals have told us how much they appreciate Americans coming to visit and thanked us for being here. With an international airport only 8 miles away, there's no need to head to dirty overpriced resorts elsewhere, come to "Z-town" and thank us later. 

Our most memorable time in Z-town will be the releasing of baby turtles. The experience is spectacular, you feel happy and sad all at the same time. Happy that the little babies are headed home and sad knowing that only one in a thousand has a chance to see adulthood. We'd love to stay in our new favorite town, but we must head south as we have plans to be in El Salvador for Christmas. 

If you cruise here, be sure to let Alfonzo assist with your dingy. He doesn't ask for anything but certainly appreciates a few pesos thrown his way for a cold cerveza. One day we forgot to take the kill switch with us and Alfonzo kept it for us while waiting all day for our return. 

Phil and Alfonzo

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Sailing with precious cargo

Returning to the boat after a summer in San Miguel de Allende seemed like a good time to have another "stranger danger" talk. Inevitably the girls would want to have some freedom from us just as they had before while sailing.  For a minute, I thought having this same repeated conversation with girls ages 10 and 12 might be a little overkill....boy was I wrong.  I was floored with their justifications as to why they would help a stranger "find their puppy". 

We've made it pretty easy for the girls in any situation. Just say, "I need to stay right here, my parents are coming".  Fast forward a month.  We're anchored at an island off Ixtapa, it's hot as usual and per usual Phil and I are cooling down with a cold beer, apparently taking too long. The girls had asked if they could kayak to the beach by themselves and swim. Sure, no problem.  

We watched as the girls made their way to the beach and saw that someone had helped them "park" the kayak out of harms way. Through the binoculars we also saw our girls making their way under a huge palapa and disappearing with whomever had helped them pull of their kayak.

Within a nanosecond Phil splashed our kayak and we were headed towards the beach so fast we created a wake you could waterski behind. As we got close to the beach our girls reappeared with smiles that quickly turned to looks of, "Oh crap, we're in serious trouble."  For as long as  it took us to reach the beach I'm almost certain Phil was speaking in tongue through his clenched teeth. Dad was pissed.

For the next 10 minutes our girls received a stern talking to, leaving one in tears and the other with her jaw on the sand. Where we lack in our ability to explicitly detail why someone would want to take our girls and explain what would happen to them in the hands of a stranger we make up for it with long, emotional "don't ever do that again" talks. Their justification? He was wearing a restaurant t-shirt from a restaurant on the beach. Honest mistake.

As I gathered the girls and Phil stowed our kayak, the restaurant employee who had helped the girls with their kayak and then showed them the "better beach" on the other side of the island appeared and profusely apologized. Phil felt bad for this man, it wasn't his fault our girls failed to stay put. In his best Spanglish, Phil tried to explain why we were upset and that it had nothing to do with him. After a few minutes the man understood as he too has children.  

Is Mexico that dangerous?  Absolutely not. Gone are the days of telling the girls to stay between the light pole and the stop sign. Almost every day we are in a new place with unfamiliar surroundings causing us to be somewhat "alert" of where the girls are and who they're with.  

The lesson taught isn't that everyone you meet is untrustworthy. If the world were filled with untrustworthy assholes, we wouldn't have left on this adventure. If anything, our adventure thus far has restored our faith in humanity, everyone has been more than extremely nice and helpful. 

We have safety procedures for living on our boat that extend beyond "stranger danger". One night, curiosity got the best of me and I ended up reading all of the piracy reports on noonsite. In addition to loosing sleep for about 2 weeks, I also learned the different ways in which thieves will attempt to board a boat. 

One of our many safety rules, is that if ever a panga comes to the boat innocently asking for water, the girls are to not take their eyes off the person and yell to either Phil or myself to come up deck. Honestly, the chances that either of our daughters would be alone in the cockpit is nill to start with.  We also have a "code word" that if either daughter is to yell, either Phil or I will be charging into the cockpit ready to spray an intruder in the face with bear mace. Our safety procedures on the boat aren't much different than when we lived on land. I certainly can't say, "Don't open the door for strangers".....our procedures have changed to accomodate a new living situation. 

After our beach "discussion" the rest of the day was spent ordering drinks and food from the restaurant employee who we felt bad for and snorkeling at a gorgeous beach. 

The girls and Oscar the restaurant employee.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Cost to Cruise October 2015

Here's the cost to cruise for October, lots of hotels, eating out and splashing the boat back into the Sea of Cortez. Here's hoping that Central America will be a little easier on the budget.....then again, thinking of the inland tours we have planned, probably not.

THANK YOU to those who have "bought us a beer"

Nancy and Ral Smith
Atlantic Construction Management

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Sailing the Baja Peninsula to mainland Mexico

We finally made it across the Sea of Cortez and back to mainland Mexico! First our engine died leaving us adrift and needing to be towed into Puerto Escondido then once we finally got sailing towards mainland we had to divert to Mazatlan due to weather. Always an adventure.

We decided to skip the blog post with rambling run-on sentences in 4th grade grammer and go straight to an awesome video we hope you'll enjoy.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Adventures on Anxiety

I figured with Hurricane Patricia looming it would be a good time for a post about what it's like to sail with a child who has anxiety. 

Jessica has always had anxiety. As soon as she was old enough to be subject to state testing at school, she'd be the only 8 year old walking into class with a huge mouth sore from relentlessly worrying and losing sleep over the test. When we're at a restaurant, if anyone takes "too long" to use the restroom, Jess will create her own search party.

One doesn't need anxiety to feel a little uneasy living on a boat. Squalls can pop up out of nowhere and suddenly you're running around pulling everything off the rails, battening down the hatches and hoping your anchor doesn't drag.  When we're actually sailing and the boat begins to heel is when Jess starts to white knuckle it and begs that we ease the sails. When anchoring, Jess is the first to worry about our depth and outgoing tides. The worrying is never ending. 

As someone who grew up with anxiety, I get it. There are times that I look at Jess when she's nothing but a ball of anxiety and I see myself as a little 12 year old girl.  Trying to console a child with anxiety isn't easy unless you've been in their situation. Repeatedly uttering "it's okay" or "we'll be fine" doesn't register with someone who has anxiety. Anxiety doesn't like reason. 

So what do we do? We've started the "Tiny but Mighty"  mantra. Jessica is a 12 year old with a mouth full of baby teeth, yet to break 70 pounds that I've knicknamed "mini me".  Recently she's been mistaken as the younger sister although she's 20 months older than Emma.

When Jess is having a panic attack we remind her that she's Tiny but Mighty. We've shown Jess some ways of being able to help control the situation she's in, which helps with her anxiety. Jess has learned to read weather files with Phil each morning. Together, they discuss what we're expecting for the day in terms of wind speed and direction. Jess has also learned how to adjust sails and is able to help create comfort if we're heeling "too much". 

We have an agreement on the boat that if our depth reaches 8.5 feet we'll re-anchor. Believe me, Jess is watchful of the depth meter and will let us know when it's time to move. When the anemometer  reads close to 20 knots, Jess knows we'll reef a sail. We've established "boundaries" in advance so she doesn't have to worry about "when" things will happen to ensure we stay safe.

Then there's Emma, cool as a cucumber, the yin to our yangs. Emma is the type of person who would be looking at how beautiful the eye of hurricane looks over the boat while the rest of us are kissing our butts goodbye!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Cost to Cruise --Sept. 2015

The past 3 months haven't been true, "Cost to Cruise" as we haven't been cruising. We've still tried to maintain our budget which has proven to be difficult, especially since we bought a stupid mini van. When looking for a way to get us, our belongings and a 16-year-old cat to San Miguel De Allende all the way from Guaymas it seemed that our best option was to buy a car. We scoffed at the idea of spending $700 to rent a car, each way. That would have been way too expensive, or so we thought. 

Hindsight is always 20/20.  We had no idea that we would haul out for the summer and seek refuge from the heat. We had honestly thought we were going to just float in the Sea of Cortez all summer. Had we known we were going to haul out, we would have just left our Nissan Pathfinder (which we sold 2 days before setting sail) in Guaymas waiting for us. Oh well. It's just money....down the drain.

Needless to say, we can't wait to actual cruise. We sail off back into the Sea of Cortez Friday.