Monday, December 07, 2009

The Sweet Sixteen Baja Ha-Ha

Clark & Nina joined Roz & Russ Worrall aboard “Worrall Wind”, their motor-sailing ketch, for the Baja Ha-Ha. This annual cruiser’s rally is sponsored by the popular sailing rag “Latitude 38”. A record 193 boats signed up, only one of which was a power boat (gasp!). On October 26th, about 165 boats crossed the starting line at the mouth of San Diego Bay. Excitement was high, spinnakers were loosed, crews whooped & hollered as they passed the Port of San Diego’s photo/news boat. We were off and rolling (literally)! We crossed the finished line on November 5th, but continued around to La Paz a few days later, stopping along the way.

Warm sun, fresh fish, sandy beaches, new friends. Sleepless nights, big and bumpy seas, relentless rolling, bruises, spilled coffee...

Our most enjoyable memories of the journey down the west coast of Baja California are of the spectacular skies. We reveled in glowing sunsets and sunrises, softly lit clouds at dawn, a sublime full moon rising over Bahia Santa Maria, night sailing in bright moonlight, jeweled clouds over Cabo. We were fortunate to see the green flash at sunset too! We did not imagine it– several other sailors reported seeing it the same evening, including Roz. Russ unfortunately missed it.

Not so enjoyable were the rough seas of October 28th. Clark managed not to get seasick while steering, cooking, making coffee & using the head by taking Meclizine. Nina, who is very prone to motion sickness, wore SeaBands® and dosed herself every 4 hours with Dramamine. She kept her stomach busy digesting raw nuts & kept her head as still as possible by hunkering in a spot in the pilothouse with the least motion, on the centerline of the boat with good visibility of the horizon. She used the head as quickly as was possible under the conditions. Night sailing would have been sheer torture for her. It was good we decided to dive into the large bay south of Punta San Carlos. Even so, she kept up the preventive regimen even at anchor.

We had fun exploring the capitol city of Baja California Sur, La Paz, on foot. The sidewalks held much of our attention due to two things… every few yards the construction & design of the walkways would change in very artful & creative ways, and they were treacherous to navigate due to holes, elevation differences, chunks missing, and uneven surfaces. The people were very friendly & several stopped to greet us as we rested on benches. Our Spanish is nonexistent but we managed to communicate in a small way. The malecón, a waterfront promenade, is extensive and is adorned with many lovely works in bronze. It was a pleasant place to people-watch. We noticed how very few Mexicans own dogs. We saw only one, a chihuahua, on a leash, though there were a few obvious strays. All other pet dogs were attached to gringos.

In La Paz, we found the stores fascinating as we wandered down the many narrow streets. The dress of the women was quite flashy, sexy even. We looked at crafts and weavings but we purchased only provisions at the Costco in Cabo and at the Super Mercado Aramburo in La Paz. We did not buy anything to eat except a cup of coffee– no ice cream, no tortillas, no restaurant fare. We came home without any souvenirs though we do regret not being able to haul back a gigantic chunk of New Zealand butter we found at Costco! We turned just $30 into pesos & spent most of that on a taxi ride, tips, the coffee, and groceries at the mercado.

If we decide to travel to Mexico again, we will learn to communicate in Spanish. We were unable to talk to the drivers of the Marina Costa Baja free shuttle, unable to ask questions of anyone unless they spoke English. Truly pathetic. We had a little Seiko translator and it helped us figure out a few words, but it was inadequate. Next time, we will also bring fewer and lighter weight clothes!
Cabo San Lucas is inundated with families of obvious poverty hawking cheap silver jewelry, whistles, trinkets and assorted tacky items. They are positioned every few yards along every walkway & it’s difficult constantly waving them away with a polite, “No, gracias.” When we managed to get a decent number of blocks away from the hotels and the marina, this distraction was minimized. Even so, most of the goods for sale were ugly, gaudy or crass, such as the frog coin purses. We did not see this type of hawking in La Paz. There were established “booths” along some streets such as the plaza in front of the cathedral, but we only saw a couple of artists with their finely made macramé jewelry laid out along the sidewalk. Nina was tempted to purchase a necklace but we merely commented on the quality of the work and walked on.
We've published a small website about our "Month to Baja by Water" at
Rikki-tikki-tavi is patiently waiting for us in Roche Harbor. We'll return to the Pacific Northwest in the Spring.
Clark & Nina

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

May at Chatterbox Falls

Rikki-tikki-tavi began his cruising season at his very favorite spot– Princess Louisa Inlet! His crew, Clark and Nina, reveled in the serenity and beauty of this most spectacular of places while Rikki-tikki rested quietly at the dock behind Seaweed. The first two weeks were typically drizzly and misty, which only accentuated the splendor of the mountains that stream with a myriad of waterfalls. Then the sun came out! The weather was deliciously warm and bright, the skies and waters pellucid. Chatterbox Falls is the glorious centerpiece of Princess Louisa. The flow of the falls constantly changes throughout each day in response to temperatures and rainfall. Fascinating. We kayaked, harvested shellfish (which is open until May 30th), visited with cruisers, and bathed in the sun.
Nina made four hats– one for granddaughter Eva, one for Clark, a special "9ah hat" for Sandy who was having a birthday, and a sunhat for herself. Rikki-tikkii also celebrated a birthday. May 10th was the fifth anniversary of his launch into the Sacramento River! Nina scrubbed the sail cover and polished windows in preparation. Sandy and Loren contributed a bottle of champagne to our meal of prawns, pickled oysters, and steamed mussels. Clark blew out five candles inserted into cashew/coconut nut balls. It was a perfect day.
The 22nd through the 28th brought some large tidal differences with one large ebb during the day. This means that the ebb currents through Malibu Rapids were delayed significantly due to the huge volume of water exiting the inlet. Most boaters depend on the Canadian Hydrographic Tables' corrections for the timing of the slack current at Malibu, which is taken off of the tide station at Point Atkinson. The corrected time is, we want to emphasize, an average of all the current slacks over time. Folks were not taking the tidal differences into account and many entered the rapids too early only to face unexpected strong currents and turbulence. Boaters came to the dock with horror stories. Two boats actually aborted halfway through and turned around! They were traumatized along with other boaters (not only small boats, mind you!) who made it through by the skin of their teeth, so to speak. Thankfully, there were no tragedies. We want to remind those who travel the distance to lovely Princess Louisa Inlet to pay attention to the tidal differences. In times of large tides, Malibu Rapids may be up to an hour-and-a-half late on the ebb. Take care.
There are no more BC Parks mooring buoys at MacDonald Island. The anchor chains had all rusted completely through and the buoys floated freely away from their stations. We learned that three large powerboats had tied to the last two that had stopped near shore on the north side of the inlet. A Nordhavn rafted to a second yacht shared one of these overnight. Yikes! Fortunately there were no strong inflow or outflow winds during their visit.
Rikki-tikki-tavi plans to make annual visits to Princess Louisa Inlet. Clark and Nina find it the perfect starting point for a season of cruising in British Columbia. Long live "The Princess"! Thank you, Mac. Photographs copyright 2009 Nina Courtney Wagaman and Clark Wagaman. All rights reserved.


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