Pearls of Sea Cortez

 

Growing weary of boat projects and daily school work, we were ready for a break.  The Pearl Farm in Guaymas, Sonora, Mexico came highly recommended from multiple cruisers so off we went!.  Before going to the pearl farm, we looked up its website, (Perlas Del Mar De Cortez).  After watching an 11 min video we thought we may have spoiled the visit by knowing too much about the farm.   We were pleasantly surprised to find that there was so much more learn, touch, smell, and see.  This trip was truly educational and if anyone happens to be in the area they should certainly not miss this… it is one of four naturally regenerating pearl farms in the world.

 

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The pearl farm is located in a great naturally protected bay called, Bahia Bachochibampo.  It is protected from the north, east, and south and therefore serves as a great sanctuary for pearl oysters.

 

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Floats in the bay.

 

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Our English speaking guide Daniel gave a wonderfully informative presentation about the farm and its operation.

 

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Palapa where the oysters are painstakingly cared for and sorted.

 

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Where the surgery takes place. The nucleus made of mother of pearl is inserted into the mature oyster.

 

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Nets of various sizes that house the maturing oysters from its gamete state of 1 month to harvesting stage at 4 years.

 

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When we entered the palapa there were a group of workers sorting out oysters to assess how many died from recent Hurricane Newton, which brought large waves into the bay.  The oysters are kept at 60 ft below water during the summer months to maintain consistent temperature, but even there, large swells can damage the sensitive oysters.

 

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Daniel tells us that he can handle the oysters and it won’t immediately close because these oysters are accustomed to getting handled by humans from its infanthood.  One cannot do this with wild oysters.

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Much of the farm work is done here.  Daniel explains that the workers are trying to assess how much of the oysters were damaged from Hurricane Newton.

 

Here is Anna’s journal entry for this visit.

September 29th, 2016 Our Trip to the Pearl Farm

The road was long, bumpy and the sun was beating down on us when we pulled up to a big building. We got out of our manual Chevrolet Aveo (rented from Sixt, a rental car place), walked up some steps and went in.  Inside, a big dolphin skeleton greeted us from the ceiling, though the skeleton seemed out of place.  We got a guide who spoke English and he led us outside to a palapa, a palm frond covered structure.

Here are some facts I learned:

  • Pearls are not in fact made by grain of sand.  A natural pearl is made like this: a worm eats through the oyster shell and then starts eating the flesh, but to defend itself, the oyster coats the worm in nacre (the hard shiny coating on the inside of the shell). The nacre hardens and becomes an attached pearl. The detached pearls are made by the eggs the worm releases. The oyster throws nacre over the eggs and over time it keeps putting more layers on.
  • Oysters that are younger than two years are all males.  When they become two they are females and reproduce.
  • This pearl farm is one of the four in the world that grows the oysters.
  • At the age of two, a little ball of mother of pearl is placed in them to take the place of a worm egg.
  • One out of 10,000 oysters contain a natural pearl.
  • Oysters live up to five years.
  • Oysters have to be cleaned of barnacles every two months.

After the palapa we went inside again. We looked at all the jewelry. Our guide told us that the pearls that didn’t meet their standards would be thrown back into the sea.  I learned a lot from this trip! The end. ”

 

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This is Pteria Sterna (or rainbow lipped pearl oyster), that creates the beautiful green, blue, pink and black shaded pearls. Its range includes the Sea Of Cortez.

 

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The boat school class diligently listening and writing notes.

 

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Diorama depicting the nets held underwater by the floats.

 

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Pearls of the highest quality are harvested to be made into jewelry. Within this small batch there are quite a bit of differences in shine, shades, and roundness thus varying quality.

 

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This was my favorite but at $77,100 MX (about $4000) it was out of our price range.

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Attending a Mexican School

posted in: Attending Mexican School | 12

 

We made the hard decision to hangout in La Paz, Mexico a little longer for the girls to attend a Mexican school.  It seemed like a daunting task to find the right school among the numerous that seemed to be situated about every third block.  Fortunately, we ran into an expat whose daughter goes to school here.  It’s an alternative private school under the philosophy of Freinet Pedagogy.  Read about Freinet here.  With its relaxed view on uniforms, only two different shirts required, and project based learning, we thought it was a good transition from their Montessori background and possibly more opportunities to learn Spanish as the kids work in groups.

 

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First day at school in their school shirts.  98% excited and 2% concerned.

 

 

Although we wanted them to attend for at least a year to become fluent Spanish speakers, two more months of high moorage fees and a pretty good exposure to the language seemed like a good compromise.  No, they are not rattling off in Spanish but they are definitely picking up phrases and words at three weeks.

 

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School starts at 7:30 and we have about 25min walk so we get up before sunrise.  In the mornings it’s cool enough for jackets though by pick up time it heats up to 90s on some days.

 

 

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Tuesday and Friday are PE days so they wear these snazzy coolmax shirts.

 

 

As a family it’s been really interesting having the girls go to a local school here.  We are up by 6 and out the boat by 6:45.  All four of us walk to school and observe the local life begin to wake up.  Typically we see a few women sweeping front of their “sidewalk”. By privatizing these sidewalks some are paved and glitzy with fancy tile work while others are unpaved with heaps of sand. In addition to the ever-changing “sidewalk” terrain, we are greeted by guard dogs behind fences, walking along side us at times, and on the roof tops barking to tell us that they own the streets.  We try to keep our eyes open and be aware of where we plant our feet.

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Walking out of  Marina de La Paz.

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Some streets are very nice with beautiful topiaries.

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Love these mango trees on the way to school.  They are one of the highlights of the walk to school. It will get even better once these green mango ripen in a month.

IMG_20160415_065635426 Papaya trees.

 

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Just one more block and it’s our school.

 

When we have errands in town or just tired of walking in the heat, we take the bus home.

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Feliz Pascua! (Happy Easter)

posted in: Feliz Pascua! | 5

 

Christ has risen! Lent is over and now is for the celebration of Christ’s resurrection!  We decided to hang out another week in La Paz to attend the Holy Week masses and services at the local Cathedral. I have been told that most Mexicans take two weeks off during this time, called Santa Semana (Holy Week), to go out to the coast  and party. La Paz is a popular destination during this time and as a result saw increased police presence on the malecon, the main road along the coast.

 

Our Holy Week church attendance wasn’t as we would have liked but we made good attendance overall.  We missed Maundy Thursday because our watches weren’t set correctly.  We were disappointed to realize our errors during dinner on Thursdays.  Too bad we didn’t get to see how Mexicans celebrate the washing of the feet. 

Nonetheless, we made Palm Sunday mass which was the Sunday before the Holy Week of Easter.  Usually in the states, palms are given to you at the church.  Here in Mexico, there are vendors outside the church selling highly decorated palms to be blessed.  For 20 pesos, I bought a small one.  Before entering the church for mass, the congregation gathered outside for the blessing of the palms. 

Display of palm crafts

Highly decorated palm fronds and crucifixes made from palms.

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Since we missed mass on Thursday, we were determined to do good on Friday (ha ha, get it?) by attending church twice that day. The bulletin said Vis Cruz (had no idea what this meant) will start at 9AM.  Well, not much was happening at church at that time so we decided to walk around for a while.  Then we heard chanting in the church and found out it was the Stations of the Cross. We joined in at around 9th station. Better late than never, right?  The night before, I made copies of the Spanish missal along with the English missal, from The Breaking Bread, so that we can figure what to say somewhat intelligibly. Not understanding mass is really unfortunate.  We are getting better at what to say when but we are still missing the full understanding of the homilies.  This is bad for two reasons: 1) I’d like to know what the priest is saying when he starts getting really loud and fast in his speech.  It must be something good and 2) some of these homilies last 30 mins so it would be nice to understand why the priest has so much to say.

 

 

Saturday Easter Vigil started at 8PM with the blessing of the fire outside of the church.  The congregation gathered around a bonfire while the Easter candle was light from the blessed bonfire and the candle was also blessed with the inscription of alpha and omega (signifying Jesus as the beginning and the end) and the current year on the arms of the cross.  From that main Easter candle individual candles were light.  As each candles were light our hope and our salvation that epitomizes Jesus’s resurrection was being light in our hearts.  The symbolic tradition of blessing of the fire and lighting of the candle is so rich on so many levels for me and heightens the importance of Jesus’s resurrection in Christian faith. Once the candles were blessed they were blown out and the church lights came on. 

Then the readings came.  Normally nine readings from the Bible are read from the Old Testament  and the New Testament, highlighting all that God has done for us.  In La Paz, only four readings were read.  Then, the baptismal vows came.  Also different from the states, no one was getting newly baptized.  In the states, the members of RCIA (Rite of Catholic Initiation for Adults) who have been studying and discerning to become catholic for most of the year are initiated as Catholics during Easter Vigil through baptism, confirmation, and then first communion.

Finally, we had our celebration of the Eucharist. I am most moved during this part of the mass. Knowing that Jesus died for me and that I have just received Jesus’s body makes me feel intensely grateful and blessed.

At our vigil mass, there was a large group of teenagers seated together.  Here in Mexico, kids and younger people are especially encouraged to shake the priests’ hands during “exchange of peace” part of the mass.  This night, the large group of teenagers all went up to the alter to hug and kiss the bishop as a sign of peace. One normally says in Spanish, “La paz de Jesus” meaning “the peace of Jesus” be with you. As the mass concluded, the same group of teenagers sang exuberant songs including the motions.  The bishop came out and sang with them for a while. He was obviously was very pleased by the young people’s energy and love for Jesus as I was.

 

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Easter Sunday alter at Catedral De Nuestra Senora De La Paz (Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace)

 

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To finish the celebration we attended the Easter Sunday mass.  Many kids were dressed so beautifully in their whites and much joy was present throughout the mass.  Having been to quite a few masses in Mexico now, I noticed that the hymns sung during mass are quite different from the states.  There are basically two types in the states: traditional hyms and the modern Christian music.  Here in Mexico, the songs sung reminded me of popular children’s music by Elizabeth Mitchell or Lisa Loeb.  With simple and innocent melodies, their music reminded me of the verse from Mathew 19: 14 – Jesus said, “Let the children come to me.” We should be more like children when we approach Jesus.

 

 

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Invasion of the Easter Egg Eyes.

Visit with friends from Bellingham, WA

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It was so good to see old friends.  Our family friends from Bellingham visited us in La Paz, Mexico.  They were really patient with us and finally met up with us after having to change plane tickets once already.  The story behind that was that we were for sure we’d be in La Paz area by late December 2015.  Well, those who have been following us know that we didn’t cross the border until the second week of January.  Considering the distance we have covered, dodging the winter storms on the Pacific Coast, and outfitting our boat with a little more reality check in San Diego, our arrival in La Paz, Mexico in February 2016 didn’t seem too bad.

 

After all this anticipation we met our friends at our marina, Marina Palmira.  We have known these guys for a long time, around 9 years, when Anna was at Blossom Daycare. They also have two girls same aged as our girls. We first got to know each other at Anna’s 2nd birthday party and have been kindling our family friendships over birthdays, playdates, dinners, skiing, and family camping trips.  And now, an international trip meet up can be added to our family encounters.

 

Water Taxi

The girls enjoying the water taxi ride to Paraiso Del Mar Condo to meet our friends.


Enjoying paletas

The girls enjoying paletas (fruit filled popsicle of numerous variety) with friend, Mara in Michiocana.  This is a chain that exists all over Mexico and their specialty is cold sweets.

 

While they were staying in a condominium on El Magote peninsula, we commuted almost daily to their condo via a water taxi shuttle service.  After a few days of settling in and provisioning, we took off to Isla Espiritu Santo.  Abundant in beautiful aqua colored waters, white sand beaches, tropical fish, sea birds and corals galore Isla Espiritu Santo is a magical place.

 

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The girls enroute to the islands.

                                            Interesting yacht design

Spotted this very interesting mega yacht. It may be bigger than the mega yachts we saw in San Diego. The rumor has it that it’s Steve Job’s boat- now his wife’s boat.

 

 

 

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                                                 Anchored at Gallita cove.

 

jumping off boatJumping off the side of boat

Dave and Anna taking the plunge off the boat. Kim and Dave told us about their time with Outward Bound, an outdoor education program,  when they were guides/leaders for the groups they took out on these wilderness team building outings.  They used to have to wake up at 5AM in the morning to take a plunge in the icy cold waters of Maine. In lieu of coffee, that was a very effective way to wake up. Inspired by this story, Anna took a plunge with Dave.  For the record, Kim was the bravest by taking the first jump.

 

Turtle shell found

Underside of shell

The kids, Dave and Kim went off on their own to the beach and returned with a large green sea turtle shell.  It seemed to be the remain of a freshly dead turtle. The inside of the shell wasn’t dried out and sun bleached.  The shell was returned back to the beach where it was found.

 

 

Our dinner feast

Good eats for the gang: Lime drenched cucumber salad, yellow chicken marinated in Mediterranean flavors, and baked potatoes.

 

Pictures from Trekking on the Island.

 

Trekking up the hill

Caves

 

Dinghy crew

Happily trailing along in their own dinghy.

 

kids looking at the colony

male frigate birds

The girls are checking out the frigate bird colony in an old abandoned pearl fishery on the island.  Pearls from Sea of Cortez has been over fished since the 30’s. I have read that there are attempts to revive the pearl industry by artificial seeding of pearl clams.

 

 

Family Photos

 

kids playing on dinghies

 

Kim and Dave

Looking good in paradise.

Looking at the bay of Gallito

 The waters of Cortez Sea are amazing with unbelievable clarity.

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Great time with soft sand.

 

Eating palets

Some more paletas together.  We have found that the creamy ones drip faster than the ones without.

The Girls

Last night at their condo. We miss you guys!

Sun Rise in Espiritu

A break of dawn to start new adventures, new friendships, and new places.

 

 

 

Bahia Tortugas

posted in: Bahia Tortugas | 0

Bahia Tortugas’ waters were clear blue.  We were beginning to feel like we were getting closer to what we have seen in those glossy photos of the guide books. Looking at those pictures when we were at home, these destinations seemed so far away. In fact they were but now the paradise was now in our grasp.  We were making it!  From our Sandy Point home to Bahia Tortugas, we are amazed at the distance we have covered and the locations we visited, the starry nights with large glowing moon that we sailed under, and of course some of those rough moments.

The next day the local fishermen greeted us with lobsters in their boat.They quoted the price in dollars and wanted some double A batteries. We got a deal with these guys. I have never cooked lobster before but figured maybe I can cook it like shrimp (big shrimp). Turned out tasty.

Here in Bahia Tortugas, there were several of us who departed San Diego around the similar times. Of these were Carramba and Zimmovia, the kid boats, and Buena Ventura I from Victoria, BC.

Finally arrived in Turtle Bay

Arrival in Bahia Tortuga and set foot on the beach.

Jeff and Louie working out a Diesel Jerry Can Relay

Jeff and Louie (from s/v Carramba) ran a complex diesel jerry can runs to the nearby Pemex station by hiring this truck. 

Kids hanging out in Maria's restaurant

Logan and Hunter from Sv Carramba passed the time at Maria’s (local restaurant) while the captains of the two boats were doing the fuel run.

Jeff Commissioned the water maker

This is Jeff’s systems room where we have most of our critical systems such as water heater, the head tank, fuel filter, Webasto hydronic heating system, access to the rudder steering, solar power chargers, and last but not the least our beloved water maker.  This is a picture of Jeff  after a successful commissioning of our water maker.  This is HUGE!  This means we can be out in the middle of the ocean with unlimited drinking water, as long as your water maker is operating. And, I don’t have to be without a shower if there are no marinas nearby.  This feature on our boat makes it feel less like camping. 

Sun Rise

Before Sunset

Sunset and clouds

As the sun sets.

Finally Departing San Diego for Ensenada, Mexico

It felt like we spent months in San Diego. Actually it was over 2 months.  Though it seems like we were stalling our departure, we had good reasons for the long stay.  During this time, family visited us in San Diego and we traveled to visit family.  Three major winter holidays were spent here: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year’s day.

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Our Christmas decoration on Luminesce.

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Anna’s handmade Christmas gift for Jeff, a cardboard (toilet paper roll cylinder) replica of our boat, Luminesce.

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Anna is using a kayak bilge pump to pump out the dinghy after an unusual rain fall in San Diego. 

Along with letting the girls play in our dinghy, Jeff entertains the girls is by creating these illustrations with stories to go a long with it. 

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The top says, “Welcome to world famous J Mouse Café. Try our flaming Cheetos and tartin. 

Along with our small holiday celebrations, Jeff was able to finish important projects and acquire critical equipment and spares.  We now have extra solar panels, a wind generator, an auto tiller pilot, a water maker, and auto windlass in a box.  After all these were loaded and mostly installed on the boat, we felt we were ready to depart once the weather was favorable for our departure.

As a part of the preparation for a long passage, most people check their equipment on top of the mast and the rigging. 

Anna up the mast

Anna enjoyed the view from atop.

Looking down on deck

The view of our boat (green sail cover) and neighbor boat, s/v Sirena.

View of the public marina

Bay of San Diego and the Shelter Island Public Dock.

Right before departing San Diego we met quite a few wonderful cruisers. SV Fantasia was owned by Jeff and Anne who were cruising again after several years.  They cruised with their kids when then were in middle school years and really enjoyed their experiences.  Fantasia had many words of wisdom.  They left San Diego about a week before we did and they sent us emails about good marinas, weather and sea conditions on their passage, exchange rates, and even price of diesel.

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A picture of s/v Fantasia from our mast.

That favorable weather window showed up on January 10th 2016.

Heading out to the pacific again

On January 10th 2016, we set out into the Pacific after more than 2 months of being in San Diego.

Just after one day out in the open ocean again, Jeff noticed that our trusted Hydrovane was about to come undone.  The bottom section of the bracket where it is bolted to our hull was missing a bolt and the rest were about to follow suit. Although it’s pretty dangerous to be on our stern swim step while we are under way, the bolting needed to be addressed.  With two lanyards tying him to the stern stanchion and Monica steered while handing Jeff the new bolts, washers and crescent wrenches. 

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Another boat we met was a cruising family with two boys, S/V Carramba, from Olympia, WA.  We hung out a few times and had immediate affinity for their family.  We decided to buddy boat down the US coast into Mexican coast together.

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Our buddy boat s/v Carramba is way ahead of us.

Squid aboard

Squid found on our deck after a rough night.  Sudden waves splashed into our cockpit carrying our little friend.

Hoisting the Mexican Flag

Hoisting the Mexican flag in Ensenada, Mexico.

Despite our delay, both Carramba and Luminesce made it to Ensenada within 30 mins of each other.  The recommended marina  in Ensenada according to SV Fantasia was Cruiseport Village Marina.  Due to high winds, there were reports of boats damaging their Sampson posts on their bow and failed docking lines.  Cruiseport Village Marina was reported being more protected from this weather due to their stalwart breakwater. Once we tied up to the dock, we gathered our papers and crew to head into town for Immigration and Customs check in.  The marina had cars and agents ready for us and heralded us through the many step process in checking in.  After about 2 hours, we were checked in and now legally in Mexico.  Carramba crew and we decided to head into town for a real Mexican meal.  We were all too tired and dehydrated to figure out the best place to eat in Ensenada as we drew near the dark dinner hours.  After much walking, checking our map apps on our phones and paper maps,  and passing some bars and other undesired places and looking at our paper maps, we decided to take a chance on Tamrindo Restaurant.  It looked clean and there were some locals already eating so they were all good signs.

The second night, we got recommendations from other cruisers.

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Dinner with Carramba.

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The younger crew members of Carramba and Luminesce.

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Open kitchen of the Taqueria. She uses a 1 1/2” pvc pipe to roll out her tortillas.

View of Ensenada Marina

Leaving Cruise Port Village Marina, Ensenada.

After two nights in Ensenada, we left for Bahia Tortugas to catch the weather window.  Strong winds were predicted soon after.  On our way to our destination, we met some of those strong winds, approximately 20kts.  The boat was lurching and we were rocking side to side.  Having learned to “heave to” from a book and dvd written by the Pardys, loaned to us from s/v Sirena, we hove to and waited about 12 hours as we drifted slowly.  This technique is used when sailors want to wait out a bad weather or to provide rest for the crew.   Thanks to s/v Sirena we were able to wait out the weather better than we would have otherwise. By the time we arrived in Bahia Tortugas, Carramba had been their about 12hours ahead of us.  They told us that they hove to for a little while but decided to keep pressing forward despite the uncomfortable swells.  We  may have taken a more conservative approach to the weather but we were at our destination safely.

A Fashion Spread: Shelter Island Winter Collection

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Shelter Island Winter Collection

The girls begged us to buy them some fabric to make dresses. So we did and the following are the dresses we came up with.  It was a joint effort by the girls and Monica. One trivia about our boat: Luminesce carries two sewing machines on board- one for sewing sails and other canvas work  and another for just sewing for fun like these dresses. The crew had fun sewing these dresses in a few hours while other critical boat related activities and installations were in our captain’s hands.

Anna’s is in a sheath dress with a sloped round neck line and slight capped sleeves .
She loved playing with this scrap of tulle we got at the fabric store.  Finally, it seemed fun to try to blow it in the wind but this low budget photo shoot couldn’t afford a wind machine.
The dress is perfect for a Sunday brunch but yet comfortable enough for a ride in a dinghy.
Woe to me for working with these  models who had no respect for the stylist/photographer’s artistic directions.  Asked for a pensive look but got a mischievious look holding a chin while her partner prances around in some native dance ritual.
Can’t they just pose naturally? At least one got the idea while the other one will just have to do for now.
Always happy to include Cutip as a prop for any photo op.  Cutip, not so much.

Late November to Early December 2015

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Our Time in San Diego (Part I)

We arrived in San Diego November 19, 2015 to the public dock in full sunshine.
During our close to two month stay in San Diego, a lot has happened: lots of new installments in our numerous boat systems; many meals cooked, eaten, and cleaned; quite a few visitors and visits; many new friends made; and too much money spent.

San Diego Part I

The day after our arrival was a Friday. We were glad to find that we didn’t enter the harbor when all of San Diego comes out for a race in the harbor entrance. It seemed too small for all the boats vying for that perfect wind spot for that fraction of speed they might gain.

Now the views of the Shelter Island and the surround hotel marinas and Point Loma were magnificent.

As for church, we visited St.Agnes several times but found the Virgin Mary statue quite unlike others we have seen.

Has anyone else seen such a statue of the Virgin Mary holding a boat?  St.Agnes seemed to have some historical ties to the Portuguese community who had a great part in San Diego’s fishing community. Wish I had found out more about it.

On our walk back from St. Agnes, about 30 mins walk, we found tropical fruit tree plants in the church neighborhood. Banana tree with bananas growing, pomegranate, avocados, lemons, oranges, and lime trees. Would love to have these type of trees in my yard one day.

Walking back to the boat on Shelter Island Drive. Anna’s hair is way too long.
Sophia and Anna both have this idea that loitering is against the law and those who loiter usually have their  baseball caps work backwards.  Perhaps it’s these signs outside of grocery stores.

We didn’t make such a hoorah about this year’s Thanksgiving.  We spent it wishing many of our family members Happy Thanksgiving from our boat.

Thanksgiving Dinner was pretty low key, too: marinated chicken, green beans with turkey bacon bits, and some left over dessert.  It was hard to get super festive just ourselves.  Besides, the inspiration of cooking really didn’t hit me this day. But, it was definitely yummy and we thanked God for all our blessings, opportunities that allow our family to be close, and for our great friends and loving families.

A visit to Midway Aircraft Carrier

We all anticipated greatly for Jeff’s parents to come and visit us in San Diego. With them we decided to visit the famous Midway.

Hmmm… General Purpose Bomb.  How would one categorize general purpose in the military or is a code name for “dummy” bombs.
There was an intense curiosity about the brig, the ship’s prison.  The girls wanted to go back to the brig more than once on this visit.  They look very guilty of  court marshall type offense.. Just look at those eyes.
Anna enjoyed sitting in the aircraft. Would be so cool to actually ride one of these.
This robot dude is supposed to be a copy of the real admiral that served on this carrier.  It was a little creepy to watch him tell you what he does and about the carrier.  His arms and torso moved about just like  the 80’s robot dance move but seeing his facial expressions change was really fascinating but creepy.   He  furrowed the skin between his eyebrows.  Sophia watched from the corner suspiciously.

November 12-16.2015

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Alamitos Bay, CA

We left Santa Barbara with thoughts of returning someday.  Not sure if it was the beaches, stucco houses with red-tiled roofs, palm trees along with citrus fruit trees in neighborhoods, or the weather.  It’s hard to pin-point the reason but it was certainly an enjoyable stop over.

We knew our next passage to Alamitos Bay would include an overnight passage.  We waited until early afternoon to set out so that we would arrive in daylight, and it turned out to be a good thing we did.  We raised our sails in calm seas with 10 knot breeze.  With days getting noticeably shorter evening soon arrived.  But despite a new moon the night was a bright one, with city lights blazing all along the coast.

Look Ma! No hands!   The Hydrovane takes over as we sail out of Santa Barbara with a 10-15 kt tailwind, leaving us with more time to admire the oil rigs.

At dawn we approached Port of Los Angeles- another major commercial marine traffic area- and made it through without too much stress.  Then there was an endless rock jetty that eventually opened up to allow us passage into Alamitos Bay… which is where we suddenly found ourselves in a sea of blue crab pot buoys.  Nice color choice!  Wouldn’t have had a chance with these in the dark.  At the Alamitos entrance markers dolphins welcomed us in.

We pulled into a nice end tie guest slip among beautiful mega yachts.  I think our boat of 44′ was smallest at the dock.  We immediately received a warm welcome from the owners of the 61′ Starbuck, a sailing vessel, as they came out of their cockpit to help us tie up.  We have been in fishing marinas and resort marinas but Alamitos was of a different variety.  This was a marina for pristine mega yachts, mostly 50′ or more.  And we soon found out why they are so pristine.  Most of the boats had hired help cleaning and doing maintenance on their boats.

I know it’s hard for many non-Asians to tell apart which Asian countries some of us are from.  People usually guess wrong about my Asian heritage.  It’s OK if you get it wrong.  I don’t know and guess wrong most of the time myself.  So, when I saw Isabelle who came out of Starbuck to help us tie up, I wasn’t sure if she was Japanese or Korean.  She confirmed that I had guessed wrong- she too is Korean.  I was happy to chat her up in my unpracticed Korean mother tongue.  But why did she just stare back without a sound? Was my Korean that bad? After a half a second of insecurity about my Korean, I was relieved to know that the delayed response was due to the sudden unexpected demand to speak Korean. What was clear though was that we were happy to learn that we had something in common.  Isabelle lives on Starbuck with her husband Bill, and I of course am cruising with my family down south along the West Coast.  Let me elaborate here.  I’ve never run across another Korean doing what Isabelle or I do.  Koreans own boats but they don’t live on it as their home or go cruising.  So, we immediately became friends and Isabelle lavished us with a delicious Korean dinner.  It turns out that Bill had Starbuck custom-built after having previously sailed and cruised another boat down to Mexico.

I finally get my fix for Korean food.  That chicken dish was really yummy. I should have asked her how she made it.

Through Bill’s many boating connections, we were able to get good discounts on some boat equipment, numerous advice on boat systems, plus stories and tips on cruising.  Their friends Ramer and Fay joined us another evening for more useful advice and lots of laughs too.  Jeff and I have been told more than once that cruising community is really friendly.  People are eager to help and share knowledge.  We can attest to that.

Seal Beach
Girls are content after getting their fix at the beach.
Miss Muffet Cutip, a rare picture of Cutip almost smiling.
We found this lion statue near the entrance of a Chinese restaurant as we walked around town.  Jeff has almost an exact picture of this when he was a boy travelling with his family in Thailand.  Both Jeff and Anna tried to pry the rolling ball out of the lion’s mouth without success.
Newport, CA

The stay at Alamitos Bay was especially pleasant because our family was able to meet up with my brother’s family from Arizona in Newport.  It was a nice break to get away from our boat for a couple days, plus Tony brought along some special requests, like a 50 lb bag of Korean rice.  The way we go through rice the 50 lb bag is not going to last very long.  Tony’s family was recently blessed with a new member, Christopher, just 5 months old. We love chubby babies and he had a lot of chubs to love.

Chloe and Anna were happy to be playing together again.  They are the same age and when Chloe lived in Seattle these girls played together often.  We missed those days when 2 year old Chloe and Anna would run through our house screaming and giggling as Uncle Tony tried to teach them the robot dance.
Chloe is a talented gymnast. Check out her abs! Her sister, Clare, looks on.
Christopher, you are so chubby and such an easy baby, unlike your sisters and cousins.
Cross girls and Koo girls. Why not call them Koo-Cross girls! Claire, now that you are the middle child we can exchange notes once you have a few more years as the middle child.
The whole gang. Thanks Becca and Tony for hosting us at the villa. We had so much fun.

It nurtured our souls to see family again.  I have never been particularly dependent on my community or family before. As I get older, however, the meaning of life sinks in a little deeper every year.
It’s really important to surround oneself with a close knit network of family and friends. We are really blessed to have wonderful people in our lives, though not close by.

One dish that I have been waiting to try was this fried chicken recipe.  I don’t enjoy frying food but love eating it. I wasn’t ready to try this on the boat, so I waited until we met up with the Koos at the villa’s kitchen.

Extra crispy chicken.  It was good despite having forgotten the chili peppers.

We said good-bye to our new friends at Alamitos Bay. It’s easy to get sucked into these stop-overs especially when there are friends and nice weather.

We hope to meet up with the Clutes again in our journey.
Leaving LA in a nice orange haze sunset, on our way to San Diego.

November 7-11.2015

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Arrived in Santa Barbara CA

After two days of being at sea Jeff and I are beat.  Being at the helm at all times and trying to dodge the weather window create a pressure similar to a deadline we are all used to in our professional lives. Once we overcome the stress of coming into a new marina, fueling and docking, we can finally relax and turn off our engine. Though not ideal we arrived in Santa Barbara marina at 1AM.  Later that morning the weather was calm with 5-10kts of breeze and sunny with temperatures in mid 70s.  It was a perfect welcome after two days of toil we just finished. Heard lots of great things about Santa Barbara and they are all true.

The rest of the day was spent at the beach.
Jeff was lured into the sea by the girls with promises of warm water but found the water not warm enough at 65F.  Compared to the 50-55F water in the Northwest, the water here is considered warm by the girls.
They created another pool that is warmer than the ocean.
Where are Anna’s feet?
Sunday, we visited the Old Mission Santa Barbara.  This is the 10th mission in California.  It sits on the mission hill and overlooks the rest of the town down to the ocean.  What a beautiful location.  Although our main purpose was to attend mass, its history and the grounds were a full day of education.

Front of the church.  This mission is run and maintained by the Franciscan monks.  More about Old Mission Santa Barbara
From its nave looking to the alter.  Flash photography is not allowed so a little blurry.
The statue below the crucifix is the statue of Santa Barbara.  The Spanish landed on this land on December 4th, the feast day  of St. Barbara. I learned that among other things she is the patron saint of sailors.  Nice.

The mass was beautiful and the homily carried the message of filling our emptiness with Christ’s love instead of worldly things.  In the back of the church the professional choir sang in the balcony.  All the hymns were very familiar but sounds were of angelic nature.  After mass we hung around for free donuts and coffee. After the museum tour, we met the pastor of the church, Father Charles, who welcomed us so warmly and invited us back on our way back up the coast.  We would love to be back in Santa Barbara!

In front of the Sacred Garden.
Sacred Garden is where the monks come to work, and contemplate.  One senses a definitive serenity, peace, and beauty here.
 The Island of the Blue Dolphins

It was serendipitous that we picked up a Newberry Award Book called The Island of the Blue Dolphins from a used bookstore in Eureka.  Not knowing that it had close ties to Santa Barbara, it was a nice surprise to read this book and be able to relate to a place we visited.

The following is Anna’s summary of the book and the visit to Old Mission Santa Barbra:

Daddy, Sophia and I have just finished reading Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell. It is about this girl who gets left behind on San Nicholas Island which is located off the coast of Santa Barbara in the Channel Islands. She lived there for eighteen years by herself.  The story is pretty much real. She finally comes to Santa Barbara when some people from Old Mission Santa Barbara  come and take her away to Santa Barbara. You can see where she is buried if you get a tour of Old Mission Santa Barbara.  But, people do not know exactly where she is buried because they did not use grave stones at that time.  She is buried in the cemetery of Old Mission Santa Barbara. You should really visit that church.  First, it is good to go to church. Second, the church is really cool because monks live there and after mass you can talk to the priest, who is a monk.  Sometimes there are some other monks walking around in their brown robes.  Also, they have a crypt in their church, but they hardly ever open it because it is so hard to open.  When you get a tour, you can see the Sacred Garden, which is very pretty, the cemetery, the museum, and you can also watch a movie about the history of Old Mission Santa Barbara.
By Julianna Cross.

In front of the Juana Maria’s (name given to the girl in the above mentioned book) plaque.
Sophia’s treasures found in our walk through Santa Barbara.
Walking toward the historic Court House. Notice how Sophia carries her found treasures.
Inside the courthouse full of Moorish architectural influences.
It’s great that Santa Barbara has preserved a lot of its historical architecture. For a moment, I felt like I was back in southern Spain.
The highly decorated mural room in the Courthouse.
At the top of the Courthouse a 360 deg view of Santa Barbara.
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