Sunday, October 28, 2012

Summer in the Sea

Interabang in the Bahia de los Angeles End of Summer Regatta
(photo courtesy of Karmaseas)
When we arrived in Mexico nearly one year ago, Trisha began telling fellow cruisers about our plans to spend the summer in the northern Sea of Cortez.  The typical marina cruiser responded with warnings of unbearable heat and widespread misery while sheepishly confessing that they, themselves, had never actually spent a summer in the Sea.  Fortunately for us, we met actual veterans from past summers in the Sea who were infinitely more knowledgeable and helpful.  These folks became good friends and mentors.  As we reflect upon the adventures and struggles of the last three months, we raise our glass to those who coached us to success: Scott and Monica on Scott Free, Patrick and Laura and son Jack on Just a Minute, Chuck on Jacaranda, Rick and Pam on Hotel California, Rich on Third Day, Ethan and Nancy on Eyoni, Alan and Barbara formerly on Native Son, and Kevan on Alex II.  Thank you all for your patience and eagerness to help.  We endeavor to pay it forward with the same wonderful spirit.

One of our favorite summertime anchorages: La Mona in BLA
As many of you noticed, we did a poor job of keeping up with the blog during the summer months.  For this, there are several good excuses: the weather was too rough, it was too hot, and hunting and gathering food took too much time.  While all of these are true, it would be more accurate to confess that we spent too much time hanging out with friends, playing Baja Rummy, exploring beaches, and generally enjoying ourselves.  We understand that reading about parties, card games, and beaches can get really boring, so we will focus on the first set of excuses.

A bonfire on a white sand beach with our friends Conor and Lanea of Moondance - Priceless!
When it comes to rough weather, we were most concerned about chubascos (large storm cells that randomly strike) and hurricanes.  During a happy hour gathering in Loreto, Laura from Just a Minute stressed to us that it was not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’ we will see fifty knots of wind at anchor.  This freaked us out a little and kept us on our toes.  During chubasco season, basically the month of August, every night we raised the dinghy, folded and stowed the shades, and put away all the toys in preparation for fifty knots of wind.  Now that we have been through two chubascos, one with gusts over sixty knots, we have become religious about hunkering down nightly.  We are very grateful to have missed out on seeing a hurricane.  Hurricanes Miriam and Paul had us rushing to the shelter of Puerto Don Juan, the nearest hurricane hole.  Thankfully, both of these storms weakened and arrived as remnants.  Thanks to our chubasco experience, riding these out was no big deal.
When the wind blows - no problema - just use rocks and shells 
to keep the cards from blowing away
The heat was a much bigger deal.  Each morning we covered the boat with white tarps to shade the deck and cabin from the blazing sun.  This helped, but the temperature inside the boat regularly climbed above 90 degrees.  Fortunately, Hotel California had some fans they wanted to sell.  We never would have survived the summer without the four additional fans we installed in the main cabin and galley.  With the heat also came electrical challenges.  In addition to fans running constantly, the refrigeration ran around the clock struggling to keep the box cold.  With all of this extra demand for electricity, the big surprise came when we learned that solar panel output declines as temperature increases.  Talk about adding insult to injury.  We had to run the generator twice a day to keep the batteries charged.  Just one final note about a summer in the desert, heat rash.  Enough said.

Times like this you forget the heat
Even when it’s hot and miserable, the crew still needs to eat.  We keep the boat well stocked with rice, pasta, dry beans, and canned goods (beer falls into this category).  There is no freezer on board, so when it comes to protein we have to go out and get it.  Our trusty spear gun has paid for itself over and over again in this department.  Every two or three days, I would go out spear fishing and return with two or three fish.  Trisha frequently made requests for certain species: “I want a grouper and a trigger fish.”  It is not unusual for us to eat fish twice a day.  Favorite dishes include fish tacos, breaded fish, fish fried rice and our most favorite dish, fish bowl.  Fish bowl consists of fried fish over steamed rice with soy and Sriracha sauces and is a great dish for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  When available, we gather clams and Trisha makes a fantastic linguini with steamed clams.  Late in the season, Trisha discovered an awesome stuffed clam recipe for the larger chocolate clams (named for their brown color).  I now spend hours scouring sandy bottoms for chocolates.  A real treat is scallops when we can find them.  These were the most plentiful in the very remote Puerto Refugio.  Unfortunately, our total scallop haul for the season provided only six dinners.
Chocolate clams we gathered about to become...
Overall, spending the summer in the Sea of Cortez is a truly wonderful adventure, but not for the faint of heart.  One must be prepared for chubascos, heat, bug bites, rashes, and a limited menu (unless they have a freezer onboard).  With this gauntlet of misery mastered, a cruiser is free to enjoy the countless anchorages, beautiful scenery, abundant wildlife, and camaraderie of fellow cruisers.  At the end of summer party on Sept 30th in Puerto Don Juan, it was apparent that this handful of sailors shared a special bond: we had survived the summer in the Sea together.

BLA End of Summer Regatta Banquet
(Gypsy, Karmaseas, Moondance, Interabang, V'ger, TanTori, Ula Lena, Harmony, Golden Eagle)
Nancy on Eyoni, Pam and Rick on Hotel California and us at the
End of Summer Party at Don Juan


  1. Glad you survived and enjoyed the adventure!

  2. Sounds like a good summer. It looks like you passed the Chubasco tests with flying colors. Don't forget that pulling your dinghy every night is a good idea wherever you are. Glad to know also, that my dire words were proven true! Reading about the bug bites and heat rash, I completely sympathize. They surely suck, but there is plenty of compensation for the trouble. Planning another summer?