Thursday, January 12, 2006

Captains and Masters License, Navigator, Electrician,Mechanic, BN, Plumber and Fish cleaner
Admiral, Purser, Chef, Communications Officer, Coordinator, Maid, Cocktailmixologist and Fish Catcher
Deck Sweeper and Watchcat
Play Kitty and Schmoozer
Lazy, don't do anything
Ericson 36 C "Paradise" (for info click here: Paradise)Our big dream was some day to sail around the world. It's no longer a dream, we're doing it. We left Los Angeles in 1997 and it took us over 4 years to get to North Carolina on the East Coast. The first leg from Catalina Island to Ensenada took us a whole two months and we earned our first nickname the "Turtle Express", which we now use for our newsletters.

The next leg was 737 miles from Ensenada to Cabo San Lucas, which cruisers usually cover in 4 days and for us another month. Hey why rush it we're cruising! Sailing around the point in Cabo was a long dream of ours and we did it with a proud spinnaker run at sunrise and celebrated it with a nice bottle of champagne. It was the most spectacular sight to round the Lands End. From Cabo we headed up to La Paz and since hurricane season was approaching we headed up into the Sea of Cortez out of hurricanes harm. We spent 6 months in the Sea of Cortez which is still our favorite cruising grounds. We never knew what we had for dinner until just after we got done snorkeling (bass, tuna, triggerfish, gabrilla, sea snails, chitons, murexes, crabs, lobster, clams and rock scallops) and found the most remote anchorages. As hurricane season ended it was time to head back to La Paz.

From there we headed across to Mazatlan. The trip across started with a beautiful day. Only 30 minutes out at sea we had a nice Tuna on the hook, yeah sashimi! It was a pretty rough trip for most of the 3 days and we were glad to arrive safe and sound in Mazatlan as our steering box started to come apart, due to the rough seas. We spent 4 weeks exploring Mazatlan and as we headed further south towards Puerto Vallarta, we expected to reach more tropical places, but it stayed pretty much a dried out desert until Chacala. That was unforgettable; we arrived with a setting sun and a spectacular moonrise over the palm trees. We sailed as far south as Tenecatita, our favorite anchorage on the Mainland of Mexico. The mangroves made for fun dinghy rides and the palapa restaurant at the beach served us ice cold 60 cents beer and 2 dozen fresh oysters for 3 bucks. They don't come any fresher as they are picked to order.
As the next hurrican
e season approached we headed north to PV and settled down in the Paradise Village Marina in Nuevo Vallarta, a 5 Star Resort. As Marina guest we had the same privilege as the hotel guests did, including the free Tennis lessons. It was a great hurricane hole and we lived the life of the riches.

We had a wonderful 2 years in Mexico, so it was time for new destinations further south. We spent 2 months in Zihuatanejo and wished we would have spent all that time in Acapulco instead, what a kewl city. Huatulco was our last Mexican Port before crossing the feared Tehuantepec and had smooth sailing al the way to El Salvador. We were the 2nd group ever to enter the Jiquilisco River by boat. Juan Right, owner of the Barilles Marina, spoiled us rotten. We also had TV coverage for a full day while doing a helicopter tour around El Salvador and climbing Volcano Santa Ana, what an adventure! We felt like celebrities.

It was time again to leave and our next 2 day sail took us to Costa Rica where we stayed 4 months. We witnessed the change from dry season to what they call "Green Season". Within 2 weeks the baran trees turned into a lush jungle, now hiding the Capuchine and Howler Monkies which could easily be seen from the anchorage. While anchored in Playa Panama we celebrated Manuela's 40th birthday, which was quite a sight. From here we also did an inland trip, passing through two volcanoes to the country side for some horse back riding, then to Vulcan Arenal. From our hotel we could see glowing lava rocks tumble down the hill and could hear the hissing and burping of the volcano. We finished the trip by visiting the Cloud Forrest which is full of wild life. The highlight of Costa Rica was visiting our friends Bill and Jeanette in Guastamatal. They own a huge ranch with cattle and we learned to brand the calves. The coastal area of the Gulf of Nicoya is very pristine; no wonder so many American's move here. The beautiful Islands inside the Gulf however are a contrast to civilization as they are still without electricity or paved roads. In Jimenez, across from Golfito instead of sparrows in the trees you will find red macaws, here we visited the Corcovado National Forrest, the real jungle. Our 4 months visa ran out and we sailed into Panama.

The Pacific side of Panama is pretty undeveloped, primitive and very beautiful. The only way to get into Bahia Honda is either on horse back or by boat. The thunderstorms in this part are very fierce. Then another milestone for us as we sailed into the Panama Canal, which is still our biggest excitement of our cruising adventure. Watching these huge gates close behind you, water rushing in, gates opening and heading into the next lock, just amazing. Sid did the transit 5 times, Manuela 4 times, helping other cruisers and each time was a new experience. Two locks up across Miraflores Lake is, what we call the "Rusty, Rustic Pedro Miguel Yacht Club", a favorite stop for cruisers. We stayed for a whole month enjoying the usage of the Club, not to mention the wonderful shopping in Panama City. Completing the transit was even more exciting, especially sailing into Caribbean waters. Due to some boat repairs we spent one month in ugly Colon before heading to Portobello, probably THE historic place. Columbus gave this place the name. Drake used it as a base to rob Spanish merchantmen. The riches plundered from the natives nation of South America was brought across the isthmus where the Canal now is. Portobello would get so full of gold that silver ingots lay in the streets unguarded.

San Blas was our next destination and our other favorite next to the Sea of Cortez. It's kind of like a miniature South Pacific. Kuna Indians rule these Islands and the women sell the famous Molas. They live on the little islands surrounded by reefs but live off the river, growing plantains, using the river for laundry and for drinking water. They live in huts and the outhouses are built over the water.

Our last Latin country was Colombia. We enjoyed beautiful Cartagena for 4 months while waiting for the next weather window to head back to the US. This city is full of history; you can't get bored here, besides how can you get bored while shopping for an Emerald. The galley was closed for the whole duration; it was cheaper to eat out than cook on the boat. From here we visited Vulcan Totumo which is a mud volcano. It was a real fun experience to take a cool mud bath with massage, while the volcano burped mud bubbles.

May 2001, it was time to leave and we found a very good weather window for our 6 day sail to the Cayman Islands. On the 3rd day out we saw the most incredible green flash as the sun was disappearing on the horizon. The Cayman Islands were fun to dive and snorkel with the stingrays; otherwise it's a pretty boring, flat island. After another 5 days of sailing we anchored off the Dry Tortuga Island in the Keys for some more snorkeling before heading to Key West. What a culture shock to be back in the USA. Especially the prices of everything. In Florida we learned that they don't like boaters very much, they think we're trailer trash, what a shame. The Intra Coastal Waterway (ICW) was quit a challenge as we got stuck 8 times in just 10 traveling days between Miami and Jacksonville, Florida. There is a lot of water but just not deep enough. Knowing that Georgia's ICW was even more shallow we decided to sail the rest up to North Carolina and ended up in New Bern which became our home for 2 years. New Bern is a beautiful little town with lots of history. Summers were awfully hot and winters very cold with blizzards and frozen river, we had to use two heaters to keep warm and slept with socks and sweats on. We definitely took North off the compass here.

Everybody talked highly of the Chesapeake Bay so we headed up there for one summer. We didn't like it that much, couldn't go swimming due to too many jellyfish and when we had a beautiful sail in the middle of the bay flies bit our ankles. Most of the anchorages were to shallow and the thunderstorms always brought a lot of wind, but we still had a good time. We went us far up as Baltimore when Hurricane Isabel hit. Baltimore got caught with their pants down, they did not prepare for her. The local weather station even predicted only 45 mph winds. Well, they were way wrong, for several hours we got beat up with hurricane force winds. Paradise was pitched out of her slip, a very scary sight. We were lucky Isabel was during low tide; otherwise we would have gone over the piling. The trip back to New Bern was very cold. Our friends threw us a great Bonvoyage party and we were underway again to Jacksonville, Florida.

The first night at anchor we woke up to a layer of ice on the boat. Had engine problems. A freak 50 knot wind gust out of no where blew us on a bank. Ran over a crab trap, got stuck in Myrtle Beach for Christmas due to that. Finally when we saw the opening to the ocean in Charleston SC, we took a B-line and sailed the rest to Jacksonville. The 10 months plan to stay in Jacksonville turned into a two year nightmare. We lost our cat Crystal to liver cancer, couldn't find a doctor for Sid's back surgery, Sid injured his neck in a car crash and now has a herniated disk in his neck us well, had to battle one hurricane after another, including a fierce microburst, and Manuela broke her little toe. Finally drove to Los Angeles to get Sid's back operation, which was a success. Then another record braking hurricane year. In the time span of 11 months we were in 3 north eastern quadrants of a hurricane. First was Isabel in Baltimore, then Francise in Jacksonville followed by Jeane 10 days later. Hurricanes are stressful as you don't know where they will hit until just the last few hours. We take an earthquake over any hurricane. Luckily we escaped both years with only shattered nerves and a few less pounds on our ribs. The plan was to leave Jacksonville December 1st to sail south into the Caribbean. Unfortunately Manuela injured her foot in July and needed surgery in November to remove bone spurs. The foot was a bit stubborn to heal so we're still in Jacksonville but hopeful by the end of this month we'll be able to cut the lines and head south where it is warm and to be where the hurricanes start and not end up when the next season arrives. Our future plans are to sail the Caribbean for the next 3 years, go back through the canal, head south to Ecuador, Galapagos Islands and finally to the South Pacific. But that all is still written in the sand. To be continued..... (Follow Turtle Express Newsletters link bar).