The Sea of Cortez, Part 2 and the Baja Bash

Well, here it is, mid-June and we haven’t posted a new update in awhile.  We really didn’t have the cell/WiFi bandwidth to do so for months.  We were off the grid!

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Sea of Cortez sunsets are simply…special

But now, we are in the US with loads of bandwidth (isn’t that lovely?) and it’s time to update the blog.  So.  What have we been up to?  When I last wrote, we were tied to the dock in Marina Puerto Escondido, a wonderful marina in an isolated location south of Loreto.  We completed our work with Kevin’s company in Washington and were ready to move about once again.  The challenge in this (at that time) was the myriad of conflicting messages – boaters can self-isolate in anchorages, boaters can only move port-to-port…. Or boaters should simply stay tied to the dock.  Different sources provided different direction.

We left Marina Puerto Escondido early one morning, departing just before sunrise to head a few hours north and meet our buddy boat, Gitana.  We had a 2-boat summit and decided what our shared guidelines would be as we planned to stick together for the coming months.  In order to ensure that we did not contract the virus and become a burden on the Mexican healthcare system, and to also ensure that we would not create stress for small communities with great (and valid) fears of contracting the coronavirus from individuals on foreign vessels, we would do the following:  1) we would anchor in remote anchorages, away from towns and people; 2) we would self-isolate on our own boats until we had been out at anchor for over 2 weeks each, with no close personal interaction with anyone else (unless they too were completely self-isolating); 3) we would not go into a town, out to a restaurant, to events and dinner parties, onto other people’s boats (unless they were in isolation with us for a full virus incubation period), etc. Basically, we created a bubble, and we stayed in it.  We visited with other boaters from our dinghies, talked from our cockpits, we provisioned the heck out of the boat (via a grocery delivery service at the marina) before we left to head out to isolate, and we enjoyed the comfort of Red Rover with just the two of us and the dogs.

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Zoe takes a nap, surrounded by her toys.

We began by anchoring in the bays close to Loreto, but they become more and more crowded as additional boats arrived in the Sea of Cortez with many coming up from La Cruz, their plans to do the puddle jump to the South Pacific changed by the virus and the quite valid restrictions on cruising boats in other countries.

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Sunrise near Loreto
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The dogs, sharing in an effort to get rid of some energy – with limited and short trips to shore, they found themselves a little wound up!

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Ah!  Beautiful sand.

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Three or four male stingrays around a female.
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We believe these are fish or shark or some kind of aquatic life vertebrae, found along the shoreline.

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We had to get the drone up – Coronados.  So very beautiful.
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Red Rover anchored at Coronados
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Life in our quarantine boat.
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Max!  Help with the texting please!
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Small dog peering in…
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Cleaning shells that we found along the way.

To find a little more space we moved north up to Bahia Concepcion, being careful to stay away from Mulege, a town that had blocked out any non-residents in an effort to keep their people healthy.  We have so much respect for the Mexican communities that did this, and the huge efforts they took to try to ensure the safety and health of all of their residents.  The last thing we would want to do is to disrespect them.

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Heading out farther for a little more space – with hair that is getting looooonnng!

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Anchored at the entrance to Bahia Concepcion, Bahia Santo Domingo
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The wide beach at Bahia Santo Domingo

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A hot day in Bahia Concepcion.  The third boat is Destiny, a great family we kept meeting up with.

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Standing in the water to cool down off of a small island in a shallow sandbar area.
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Even Max was so hot he went swimming!
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Cruising farther into Bahia Concepcion, checking things out.
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Zoe enjoying the flybridge – nice cool breezes!
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Bahia Concepcion – beautiful, but hot and at times, with the presence of bobos (annoying tiny bugs).

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Two bad hombres hanging out on an uninhabited small island – Hugo and Kevin.
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Dinghy raft
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One of the dog graves in what appeared to be a gringo dog cemetery on a small island in the middle of Bahia Concepcion.

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Max digging the sun in a Stidd chair

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Anchored with Gitana at Playa Santa Barbara, in Bahia Concepcion

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Hot date night on a dinghy

From Bahia Concepcion we moved back south to San Juanico, an absolutely stunning anchorage with only a few houses and rancheros along its shoreline.  An American expat recently gained control of most (if not all?) of the land around the bay, and he is working to help the local ranchers become organic farmers.  Amazing.  We anchored in a few different spots in the large bay, one of our favorite destinations in the Sea of Cortez.

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A drone view of the north end of Juanico – the gentleman who owns much of the land’s home is in the foreground.
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Gorgeous San Juanico
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Oh hey Drone!  It’s the crew of Red Rover and Gitana!

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Incredible rock formations line this bay – a geologist’s dream!

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Magic hour is truly magic here.
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After confirming with other long-time isolated sailors that visitors were desired, we trekked out to the organic farm that was selling eggs and produce to cruising boats.

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Hi friend!  This lovely fellow tried to follow us back to the boats.
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Beyond farm fresh.  And supportive of a local family suddenly finding themselves without business.
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Michelle photographs the veggies!
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Our beautiful produce from the farm.
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Northern anchorage at San Juanico, behind this super cool rock outcropping.

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Rays dancing quietly by.

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What a view off of our bow!
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Friends call this the wedding cake.

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Gitana from above… two dinghies and a paddle board belong to this good ship, one dinghy is ours.
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Calendar photo.  🙂

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Kevin had been isolated long enough for Michelle to kindly cut his long hair!
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San Juanico has a “cruiser’s shrine” tree – well really, a bush.  Cruisers decorate shells, driftwood, etc. and leave something on the tree for others to discover.  Not as cool as the Octopus Islands cruiser house, but still good fun!

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Kevin installs Red’s shell.
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Hugo, Michelle, Lola and Chili Pepper hang Gitana’s shell in the tree.

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We returned back to Coronados for a quick night, and then back to the marina (Puerto Escondido) to add vegetables to the boat before a bit more isolation.

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Not as beautiful as the produce from the farm, but still so happy to have it!  This is the sanitizing process result.

We spent a week at the top of Isla Carmen, in what would become probably our favorite anchorage, V-Cove, also known as Refugio Cove, a small and perfect location with room for only two boats.  Absolutely stunning.  We explored the sea caves by dinghy, enjoyed the sight of big horned sheep walking on the beach, read many books and relaxed. And, we watched the weather, looking for a window to head to the U.S.

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I love the Sea of Cortez and its stunning waters.

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One side of our anchorage

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Sea caves around the anchorage made for fun exploration on the dinghy.

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Dinghy ride!

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Zoe wasn’t crazy about the caves.  Perhaps she has lost her wild dog ancestral traits?

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Gitana in our two boat anchorage

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V-Cove has this gorgeous beach at the head of the cove.  One night we were joined by a camping kayaker, and we saw a stunning ram cross the beach, but other than that, with the birds and the fish, we were alone.

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A ram walking across the beach?!? Awesome! 
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Red looking pretty.

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Up above the beach the land looks like a moonscape.
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Red, from the beach.

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Red Rover anchored at V-Cove, before Gitana arrived.
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One cove, one boat.  Red Rover doing her thing.

It was now mid-late-ish May and we were looking toward our journey north to California.  Our insurance requires that we be in Ensenada or north by July 1 due to hurricane season in Mexico.  And, as we did not want to have the pressure of a schedule (always a bad idea) heading north on the “Baja Bash” we needed to give ourselves plenty of time to return to the United States.  After a few calls with our weather guru, Rich (MaritimeWX.com) we determined that we needed to move south quickly.  Of course!  What to do?  A night run!  We left V-Cove before lunch on a sunny, hot, gorgeous day and ran south, arriving at Frailles, an anchorage between San Jose del Cabo and La Paz the next afternoon.  We rested and late the next night (2 am) we headed out to start our “Baja Bash,” rounding the point of the Baja peninsula and beginning the trek north.

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Hot night fishing off the swim step
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Early morning sunrise on the way to Frailles

The Baja Bash is a thing.  People talk about it.  People fear it.  People ship their boats and hire captains to move their boats to avoid it.  Basically, if you are heading north up the west coast of the Baja you are heading straight into the prevailing winds and seas, which creates, you guessed it, a bashing movement in your boat.  Or let’s be more specific, it CAN create a bashing movement.  We work with a weather router for a reason.  While we know our boat can handle a whole lot of ocean, and we have ourselves experienced some very large seas, we don’t WANT to bash.  It’s pleasure boating, right? We have time, we have nowhere to be, no schedule, no commitments and we live on our boat.  We are home wherever we are.  So why bash if we didn’t have to?  We waited for weather, and while we did have some chunky seas here and there, we did not bash up the coast.

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Cabo Falso – not so bad!

Gitana and Red Rover cruised from Frailles up to Magdalena Bay on a 32-hour run with some fun company for part of our run.  The “Quarantine Fleet,” a group of five power boats added to the conversation on the VHF and to the spirit of the voyage.  Our 2-boat Nordhavn posse stayed in Mag Bay for about a week, waiting for a great weather window for our next stretch.  The community of Puerto Magdalena, in Man-O-War Cove, did not wish to have visitors ashore, and we understood and respected this. We took the dogs to shore well away from town. That said, they came to visit us!  Pangas took our trash, sold us fresh lobster (multiple times), brought us groceries, took us on a day fishing trip, and asked for help.  This small town was now without any means of commerce as restaurants and commercial users were not buying fish or lobster, and no tourists were visiting to see whales and go fishing.  We had a lovely older gentleman approach us, his eyes down in his boat, “Neccesito ropa para mi esposa…” – he needed clothes for his wife.  Upon further conversation (all in Spanish – we have made some progress!) we also learned that he needed a source of light for a pole that he attached to his panga at night.  We told him to return the next day and we’d see what we could find.  When he returned, we gave him a big bag of clothes including some foul weather gear, and a Ziploc with four flashlights and all kinds of batteries.  Huge, huge smiles.  We motioned him over to Gitana, where Hugo and Michelle waited with more goodies for him, his family and for the townspeople.  It feels good to help people.  And the Mexican people are full of help and love for everyone else.  We love being able to help back.

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Langosta!

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Grilled with butter, herbs, and olive oil!
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Back in Mag Bay.
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The happy fisherman.  Note the clothing change – it was COLD coming up the west coast of the Baja!
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Michelle and her grouper!
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Hugo and the grouper!
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We all had fun. 🙂
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Even I caught fish!

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Red Robert’s (aka Rover) grocery receipt.
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Turtle carcass on the beach.
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It’s spring, the desert is blooming!

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We decided that we would move to Bahia Santa Maria, an anchorage outside of Mag Bay, with the intent to stage for the next leg of our journey, a 32-hour run to Turtle Bay.  As we were pulling into the anchorage, a panga came out from the small fishing camp along the northwest shore of the bay.  They waited just off of our bow as we anchored, obviously looking to talk with us.  We thought that perhaps they wanted to sell us fish or lobster, but they had another need.  The panga, with two brothers, one of their wives and young daughter came over to chat.  They needed drinking water.  The fish camp where they were living did not have any water.  No problem.  We transferred 100 gallons of water to their large containers and added to the fun by giving the little girl some sticker books.  Her Dad assured us that he would be waking up with stickers on his face the next day.  She was so excited!  We have a crate full of things for kids that we meet along our way – sticker books, coloring books, crayons, soccer balls and more.  When we came down the coast, prior to the virus, we did not experience as much need as on our journey north.

Now, those of you who have been following us for awhile know of the challenge to get Zoe to use the potty patch on a regular basis.  She has become a pro at peeing on the potty patch, but until we arrived at Bahia Santa Maria, with its giant breaking waves on shore, she had not mastered the art of pooping on the boat.  Check that off the list! Good girl Zoe!  She enjoyed a lot of beef jerky treats on the trip north!

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The Baja Bash was so stressful that Zoe was sleeping on her back.

We left Bahia Santa Maria at 5 am for the trip to Turtle Bay.  The journey, of course, included a small stretch of choppy seas, but we generally had a lovely ride, and pulled into Turtle Bay in almost entirely flat conditions.

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Naptime. Ipad, Topo Chico and many snacks.

Upon entering Turtle Bay we were greeted by Ernesto (wearing a Last Arrow – Taco Running N60 – Vince and Linda- branded hat!)  and his sidekick Jesus in their panga, offering to take our basura, to sell us some jewelry and to bring us groceries.  They do sell diesel but they know that the Nordhavn’s aren’t needing fuel.  😊 We gave them a bag of trash and told them to come back the next day to discuss groceries.  As with Mag Bay, Turtle Bay wasn’t open to visitors in the town.  And… we were experiencing 6-8 foot SW swells, IN the bay.  The swells were on a very long period so they picked the boat up gently and put us back down… but they made shore landings for dogs quite challenging.  The solution was to take the big dinghy 3 miles across the bay to protected and shallow corner near an inactive fish camp.  Kevin tried to beat the swells with the dinghy and its 50 HP engine. No luck.

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Walking the dogs 3 miles from town in Turtle Bay

We spent about a week in Turtle Bay, again waiting on weather, with a mid-week arrival of a special vessel.  Max, being a 9-pound dog, often needs to get up in the night and go out and use the potty patch.  He does not share Zoe’s reluctance regarding this piece of astroturf.  Kevin is the designated late-night dog caretaker, and upon returning from a visit in the dark to the cockpit, he was all upset… there was a sailboat, anchored right on top of us!  Hello, there is an entire bay here!  Well, he just couldn’t get back to sleep and at daylight he went to peer out at the offending vessel, only to find it was our friends Tom and Shauna on S/V Spirit, a stunning ketch.  What what?!  Tom and Kevin have developed a back-and-forth pranking, joking and generally obnoxious game.  They like to get to each other.  Tom won that night.  Even with their unusual anchorage choice, we were delighted to see the crew of S/V Spirit, and after they moved the next morning, brought them into our posse. (Oh hey Tom, check it out, you are in our blog. Because I know you love blogs.)

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Sun!
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Red Rover and Spirit in the swells
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A friendly osprey on our bow pulpit.

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After days of rising up and down in big swells at anchor, Red Rover, Gitana and Spirit, along with two other sailboats, left Turtle Bay at 4 am, with the two Nordhavns’ sights firmly set on San Diego, a 47-hour run.  We rolled north along Cedros Island and had a calm, lovely run where we could run at 8 knots for much of the day.  The first night brought some wind and current-driven chop but again, it was entirely doable.  On our second day we passed Ensenada and said goodbye to Spirit, as we continued our focus to make it back to the U.S.  We crossed the border into the United States just after 1 am, to the Navy announcing “High speed maneuvers” and practice being executed right in front of us.  Welcome home!  We avoided being in the midst of their nighttime fun and entered San Diego harbor.  After a quick conversation with the CBP on video chat via the Roam app, Red Rover tied up in our slip at Kona Kai marina. Zoe went to shore, we plugged in the shore power, and at 4 am, we sat in the cockpit and enjoyed margaritas.  After seven months in Mexico and 4,000 nm of cruising, we were home in the US.  Cheers to that!

In the morning we woke up to find the sweetest gift.  Our friends the Potters on N62 Pendana were just six slips down from us.  Nicole had even sent us a color coded map of how to find our slip in the dark (which was incredibly thoughtful and helpful)!  Nicole didn’t stop there however… upon waking up we found breakfast, dog treats and a super lovely note in our cockpit.  What a welcome home.  We love our Nordhavn community!

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So. Much. Love.
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Zoe loves her chewy stick!  Thanks Nicole!!

What’s next?  We’ll be staying in San Diego for the summer, not at Kona Kai unfortunately, but still in the Point Loma area, working on boat projects.  We’ll drive north to Seattle (in a rental car) at some point, and we’ll also cruise southern CA, visiting the Channel Islands and Catalina.  As we’ve racked up more miles, we’ll go visit the Nordhavn mothership in Dana Point soon, and will collect our 15,000 nm distance pennant.  In the fall, if the world is in a healthy place where it makes sense, we’ll head back to Mexico.  And from there, we’re not quite sure yet.  We are signed up to do the Panama Posse, but we want to spend more time in the Sea of Cortez – it is spectacular.  So, indeed, our plans right now are written in the sand at low tide. But for now… boat projects…a second watermaker, a new inverter, solar panels, an expansion of the Maretron monitoring system and much more. Perhaps Kevin will do a write-up on that!

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Hello San Diego!

8 thoughts on “The Sea of Cortez, Part 2 and the Baja Bash

  1. Just finished reading your entire vlog. Fascinating stuff. Love your writing style, pictures, etc.
    thank you!
    We are at the dreaming stage.
    Transitioning from airplane ownership and operation. Previous blue water cruising and racing experience (NZ & Fiji).
    Wife a non-boater so lots of sceptocism and apprehension.
    Coastal first. My preference would be West coast.
    Thanks for letting us live vicariously through you.

    1. Hi Luc! Thanks for the nice note! We have fun putting the blog together and it becomes a great way to capture memories. Maybe do a few charters in calmer waters with your bride. If the west coast is appealing hit the PNW – San Juan’s and once available, the beautiful waters of British Columbia. The Sea of Cortez shares in the mainly calm waters too. A great way to get started and enjoy it vs being afraid and having a terrible time. We were dreamers for years and put 10k nm on out previous boat in the protected waters of Washington. I am super glad we started that way!! Thanks again for the nice note! Alison

  2. So happy to see an update! We’ve been wondering how you were doing in the current crazy world. Full disclosure, we’ve moored with you a few times but never announced ourselves. We’re based in Shilshole and when you were still in Seattle we saw you there, Liberty Bay, and Eagle Harbor (among other places). There were a few times when you were the only other boat around (we’re year-round cruisers) – and Rover is hard to miss. We kept saying “we should say hi to the folks in Red Rover” but never did and we always regretted it. So, now that you’re thousands of miles away in San Diego, “hi!” We have some family down there. If you ever tour the Midway my Father-in-Law is one of the docents.

    Glad you’re all safe-and-sound. We’re big fans of the blog. We’re in the process of commissioning our new North Pacific, but we’ll be sticking to the Salish Sea and Inside Passage for the foreseeable future.

    Welcome back to the US!

    1. Awww! I just loved reading your note! You should have totally come over and said hi! If we find ourselves in the same harbor again we owe you some margaritas. 🙂 Once the COVID-19 cases start to decline again (hopeful) we want to do the Midway tour. What is your father-in-law’s name? We can then say hi to him! Thank you so.mich for reaching out. I hope we meet in person someday soon! – Alison

    1. Thanks for the comment Robert! Glad you enjoyed it. There are multiple San Juanicos in Mexico. Caleta San Juanico, 26° 22.131N / 111° 25.812W is just south of Bahia San Basillio, occupying the bay between Punta San Basillio and Punta Mercenarios. Such a gorgeous part of the world. We hope to anchor at Pulpito, at the north end of San Basilio next year- also stunning!

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