We’ve been getting a few nudges from people about the blog. People have questions. And concerns, it seems! Did you decide to ditch the blog? Did you sink? Did you sail off into the sunset, never to be connected to the internet again? Nope, nope and nope. We’re alive and kicking. We’ve just been temporarily distracted. So…this is a long one. Imagine that?!?
We are still hanging out at our current homeport of Marina Puerto Escondido, just south of Loreto, Mexico on the Baja peninsula. We’ve now been based out of MPE since late January, the longest that we’ve stayed in one place for a long time. And it has been a great and different experience. When we started actively cruising, one of my biggest concerns was that I would feel like I didn’t have a “home,” or that I lacked a community, or really, that I didn’t belong anywhere. We talked about it and decided that if I started to feel this way, we would simply stay in one place for awhile. Eventually my wanderlust and desire to see the world would take over and off we would go! What I didn’t understand at that time was that the community moves with us. And it changes. We meet new people every day, and each and every one of them adds to our daily life and experience. I wouldn’t want it any other way.
So why are we still here? Do I feel homeless? Happily, I do not. Quite the opposite actually! But we are at a moment in time when it is important for Kevin to be connected and able to work during the week. And it is hurricane season. The Eastern Pacific region has already had five named storms and it is only early July. The unanticipated experience of this stay-putted-ness is that we have added to the richness of our life, getting to know the kind Mexican people who surround us, while learning to secrets of the amazing community of Loreto. We’ve seen the seasons change in the desert, we’ve watched cactus bloom (whunu?), we have witnessed the migration of sea and bird life, and we’ve learned the waters of the Sea of Cortez. We’ve been hiking and walking and soaking in the incredible vistas. We’ve found a home. For now, that is!
Also hiking buds.
But we’ve been busy. And not busy too.
Life in the marina is very social. From our morning hikes with friends to nights out in Loreto trying different restaurants, to evenings at the marina restaurant, La Brisa, to chatting with our beloved amigos (the super cool team here) on the docks, we are surrounded by friends, smiles and happiness.
We’ve also had visitors! What a difference a year makes! And vaccines….From self-isolating in 2020, to visitors in 2021. Wahoo!
The famous and fabulous Jims were our first visitors other than our kids in a long time. It was wonderful to host them and show them our world. A visit to Mi Loreto (yum) in town, a weekend anchoring around Isla Carmen including a spectacular night at our favorite spot, V-Cove, a Loreto taco run and a morning hike completed the trip. So. Much. Fun! Jim and Jim got off of the plane looking tired and stressed. The magic of the Sea had its way though. Within a few hours of arrival they were all smiles. And we were smiling too, because they were here!
Our long-time and much-loved friend Sara and her son Sanjay were our second visitors. As Sanjay is 14 years old, a lot of activity was planned and happily executed. We fished (and caught 15+ fish, but nothing that we really wanted to keep), we hiked the volcano at Isla Coronados, there was snorkeling, swimming, jumping off of the boat deck, dinghy cruises, night-time star watching and a trip to the amazing off-grid La Picazon restaurant. Oh and thanks to the arrival of Jeremy and Hilda on N76 Seacret, wakeboarding! Sanjay, who had never wakeboarded before, was up and rolling on his third try. Impressive! Once again it was such a joy to have friends come and see our Mexican home. Love.
Four years ago, Kevin and I started a little event called NAPS (Nordhavns Around Puget Sound). You may have read about it here on our blog! Or on Nordhavn’s website. At any rate, the event grew from 9 boats the first year to 19 boats the second year. When we left to cruise, we handed the leadership of the event off to our very capable friends Bill and Emmy Baker (N62 Roxia). And as the event was growing, it seemed that we should provide the Bakers with some help. So, we recruited Shawn and Elizabeth Krenke (N43 MV Freedom) and Don and Jill Bernard (N47 Slow Burn) to form what they eventually called the A-Team. This group of amazing humans put together a spectacular event in Victoria, BC, only to have a COVID cancellation. But now it was spring of 2021 and vaccinations were happening! NAPS 2021 was ON! We had decided not to go to the event, either with the boat or via plane. But Bill Baker had other ideas. And man, he is one tenacious dude. NAPS had 37 boats plus a bunch of owners without their boats coming to gather in Poulsbo, Washington and Bill just wouldn’t stand for our lack of attendance. And because Bill is a large, imposing man, we boarded the Alaska Airlines plane and skedaddled to Seattle. We are so glad we did. NAPS 2021 was utterly incredible. Many thanks to Bill for forcing our hand. And to Shawn and Elizabeth for hosting us, and the late-night parties that seem to somehow follow us around, on MV Freedom. You two are awesome and we miss you.
I’ll just let these next photos speak for themselves. After party on MV Freedom. Shawn and Kevin, up to their usual bourbon-fueled tricks. And of course, Devin. Always the last party guest (and we love him for it).
NAPS was special because of all of the things that Bill, Emmy, the A-Team and the PAE (Pacific Asian Enterprises – Nordhavn) team did to put together a terrific event. But it lives in our hearts because of the people that were there, and the strong connections that exist between the PAE team, Pacific Northwest Nordhavn owners and friends. It is like belonging to a big boaty family. It can’t be fabricated or planned. It simply is.
After NAPS, we were heading to Ballard to do a little shopping, pick up our mail from our friend Darren, see the brand new N68 Tanglewood with friends Peter and Laurie, and we stopped at an old favorite, the Highliner Pub at Fisherman’s Terminal for lunch. We sat at our table, talking about the amazing weekend and I looked over to see….. WHO? Mamie and Leo! Mamie and Leo are our Nordhavn cruising buddies from the Broughtons (and lots of other things too). What are the chances of this happening? I mean, they are from Colorado. They were not at NAPS because of some conflicts, but we were just amazed to see them. We had a heart-filling lunch and promised to connect back again that evening when we could surprise our mutual friend, Jeff Merrill, when he showed up in Seattle as well. LOVE.
The walkway at CBX, walking back into the Tijuana airport.
We came back from NAPS and jumped right back into our Mexican life. The weekend after NAPS was the Marina Puerto Escondido Fishing Tournament and I was a part of a team, Las Pescadoras, the only all-girl team in the event. GIRL POWER! Our team consisted of Hilda (N76 Seacret), Deanna (Selene 55 Bella Luna), me and Deanna’s friend Monica, who is a serious fisherwoman and professional mariner from Santa Barbara, CA. Boat girls.
In the days prior to the tournament, sleek, speedy and really quite sexy sportfishing boats arrived in the marina filled with guys ready to ply the waters of the Sea of Cortez. They were all a bit intimidating honestly! As only yellowtail, Dorado (mahi-mahi), Marlin and Sailfish were eligible catch, we needed to pick our poison. We met with our capable captain, Froy and discussed our strategy. The big, fast Vikings would be going after marlin and with our lack of marlin catching expertise, and smaller vessel, it seemed that yellowtail was our best bet. Froy, Juan and Jose are all local experts who know these waters inside and out. Thank god they were running our boat and supporting our success!
The two-day tournament kicked off with live music, tacos and rule presentations on Friday evening. After a good night’s sleep, we were all on our boat, the Cast & Reel, on Saturday at 6 am, ready to go. The tournament included a gun shot start each morning. As a newbie, I didn’t truly understand what that meant. I was about to learn. Kevin and our friends Andrew and Gabriella (SV Journey) came out in our big dinghy to watch the start. They were about to learn what a gunshot start was too!
The competitors shifting about, getting ready to go.
All of the boats sat outside the jetty that protects the marina entrance, slowly circling in place. At just before 7 am, Enrique (one of the owners of MPE) began a countdown on the VHF radio, and the boats began pointing their bows toward the open water and accelerating. At his gunshot, the boats all surged to life. At the same time. Right next to each other. Now these are not Nordhavns. They are fast, wake making machines. It was not for the faint of heart or for anyone with a fear of the water! It was a huge adrenalin rush and I loved it – an E-Ticket ride at Disney for sure. I would do it again, and again. The price of entry to the tournament was paid in full for me the moment that boat took off.
Now, one of the last things I saw through the sprays of white wake water was the bow of our 13 foot RIB, with Kevin and Gabriella and Andrew sitting in it… they too, had an E-Ticket ride and I spent the whole day wondering if they capsized. Check out the videos linked below to see my perspective and the dinghy perspective on the start.
Check out our varied perspectives on the start…. these are super funny videos! Not edited, other than Kevin’s and Gabriella’s videos being set within one another….
Shotgun start day 1 (Alison’s view): https://youtu.be/PDn2YMUb7BE
Shotgun start day 1 (Kevin, Andrew & Gabriella’s view): https://youtu.be/tXbJeKTnh5I
Shotgun start day 2 (Alison’s view): https://youtu.be/Jx1OSqodB_g
We didn’t win the tournament, or any of the “largest fish” category prizes. But that was just fine. We caught over 300 lbs. of fish in two days and had a huge amount of fun. Each night I came home exhilarated, exhausted and sunburnt with fish blood splattered on my legs. I loved it and I would love to do it again in a minute. We’ve also been eating a lot of fish. Because, well, we have a ton. We caught yellowtail, brown grouper, cabrillo and an absolutely huge red snapper which didn’t count but tasted delicious. Many thanks to the superb team from Outpost Charters – Froy, Jose and Juan, for your expertise, your help, your kindness and your spectacular sashimi making skills. A little video clip from a morning underway to our first fishing spot. https://youtu.be/EPbRiaZhhHc
Enjoy. I sure did.
We’ve been cruising on weekends, and on some weekdays too when we choose to stay in the cell service area, allowing Kevin to be connected to work. And even though it is getting hot, it is wonderful. The Sea is calmer in the summer. The water is clear and warm (around 84 degrees right now), and the winds are lessened. It is beautiful.
One of these weekends was spent at Isla Coronados, just north of Loreto, with our friends Erin and Stu and their kiddos on SV Skookum V. Andrew and Gabriella joined us too, but not with their boat. We dinghied over to La Picazon, stuffed ourselves with fresh caught fish, and took the crew of SV Journey back to the anchorage with us. A fun weekend was had by all including a hike up the volcano on the island, an evening of Andrew playing guitar with us all singing along both pre-dinner in the salon and post-dinner on our flybridge, and the antics of little kids keeping us entertained.
Now this first series was captured by Gabriella. I think it is hilarious. 🙂 Oh hey Stu!
Entertainment by Andrew, accompanied by Lily…
Dinghy cruising with four dogs and four humans. Heading back to the boat!
We had planned to take a roadtrip to the US in July, but for a whole bunch of reasons it suddenly came to us that June would be a far better month to hit the wide open road. So, we loaded up the van with a YETI full of cold drinks and snacks, set up a dog nirvana in the back and pointed the Toyota north on Mexico Highway 1. Now, Highway 1 is a sight to behold. This road stretches from the US border to the tip of Cabo San Lucas. It is narrow. Like really narrow with 8.5 to 9 foot wide lanes (one in each direction), no center median, no shoulder (like none), random guardrails where you wouldn’t think to put one, a lack of guardrails where you might really, really want one, and big drop offs or even better, cliffs that plunge to the ocean or into a canyon. In other words, it is a highway to drive with your hands at 10 and 2 with your eyes glued in front of you and in your rearview mirror (because passing on blind corners is a national sport in Mexico). Highway 1 puts the wheeeee in adventure travel. We can’t even imagine driving a big diesel pusher RV on this road, but people do it. Apparently if you are going to drive your RV, you need to bring a supply of rearview mirrors so you can replace yours after the semis going in the opposite direction whack your mirror off. I read this helpful tip multiple times on the Talk Baja Facebook group. It certainly added to my excitement about the drive!
With all of this excitement ahead, we decided to spend the first night with the crew of S/V Journey at their new ranch in Mulege, a small and charming town just 2 hours north of us. Ranch is perhaps the wrong word, as this destination is an oasis filled with gorgeous green grass, fruit trees of every variety and a beautiful set of casitas. Many thanks to Gabriella and Andrew for hosting us!
The next morning dawned bright and sunny and we were off, driving 9 hours to San Felipe on the lovely Highway 1. About an hour and a half out of Mulege when we were working to unfreeze our faces from the air rush brought on by a passing semi, we felt a terrible clunking and chunking. Oh no! A flat tire! Of course. Never concerned, Kevin pulled off the highway into what we later learned was the entry point for Volcan Las Tres Virgenes. If you don’t speak Spanish, that means we were hanging out with our flat tire at the parking area for the Three Virgins complex of volcanos. Um AAA? I think we have a situation? Good news – El Virgen was the last of the three to erupt, which was thought to be in 1746.
Kevin of course could be a NASCAR pit boss and he grinned as he said, “time me.” In 14 minutes we were back on the road with our spare tire firmly in place, and our quite shredded tire bolted up under the van. With this new wrinkle, we agreed that we needed to find a replacement spare prior to going much further. Now, it is important to know that dead tires are quite a common sight along the shoulders of Highway 1 (well there aren’t shoulders, so just imagine sharp embankments where shoulders would be). And that in every small hamlet, town, village or simply crossroad, there is one, if not two or three Llanteras (aka tire shops). Most of these llanteras are noted by large tires painted with the word “llantera” on them, placed out along the highway. We had wondered at the need for so many tire shops… well now we know.
At this point we were driving along carefully wondering, where the @!*&@ is a llantera when you need one? Behold Llantera Chula Vista. Located at the first speed bump aka tope (perhaps a business development strategy?) entering the town of San Ignacio, Llantera Chula Vista was our beacon of hope. We pulled into the parking lot and I asked Kevin if he wanted me to get out and help with the conversation. “Nope, I speak Spanish.” Well kind of. But five minutes later we were pulling into the garage and the incredibly kind gentleman who owned the shop was changing out our spare, patting the dogs, telling me that my name was beautiful (all in Espanol) and clucking sadly at our shorn tire. He was awesome. Now of course they didn’t have a tire of the exact size we needed, but he had one that was pretty close. Pretty close? Ok, go for it. Pretty close will work if we need another spare! Spoiler alert, the van received two brand new tires in San Diego. Stylin.
The rest of the drive passed uneventfully. No more tires were blown. No rearview mirrors were surgically removed, and no one was injured in any way. The drive on Highway 1, while nerve wracking at times, is absolutely gorgeous. (And the luxurious Highway 5 with actual shoulders that comes after Highway 1). The scenery changes every 100 miles or so into an entirely new landscape. I wished I had taken more geology classes in college as the rock formations, the colors and cacti were just incredible. To break up the drive, (not really why they are there), the Mexican government has military installations along the way. These tend to happen when you cross from one state to another, or from one “county” to another. There are seven stops on the way north, and at each stop we chatted with the very polite, nice young military guys as they looked through the back of our van and Max charmed them with his chihuahua grin. There was a lot of discussion about our dogs (how old? what kind?) as the young guys enjoyed saying hello to them. Otherwise they wished us well and sent us along to meet their friends at the next checkpoint.
Now I should mention that this little roadtrip was happening on Memorial Day Weekend. San Felipe is just a little bit over 2 hours from the US border and it was packed. We had found a cool destination though – Airstream City. Airstream City is a completely walled compound with restored vintage Airstream trailers for guest accommodations. It also has several apartments, an organic vegetable garden that is shared with guests, a wood-fired pizza oven and outdoor kitchen and two friendly rescue dogs. The owner Dan is of course from Seattle. Crazy small world. Our dogs were given the run of the place, and run they did with their new furry friends. After the dogs all settled down we ventured out in San Felipe to check things out, grab some dinner and pick up a few more snacks at the neighborhood tienda.
Day three of our roadtrip brought us to the US Border at Calexico/Mexicali. The CBP agent welcomed us home and we were off to Marina del Rey. You might be thinking we were there to see our daughter Kirsten but she was not home! We did see our friends Norm and Mike and their adorable elderly pup Cooper. These guys are amazing. Not only did they lend us their vehicle when we were in LA getting our vaccinations this past spring, but they offered to let us drive the Forerunner again, but this time all the way to Seattle and back. It is hard to find a way to say thank you for such a gift, but I’ll say it again, thank you Norm and Mike. You are both princes among men.
The rest of the drive was uneventful. We met up with Sara and Jak at their home in Bend, Oregon and took all of our collective dog pack to the dog park together. We had picnics and took photos of the Forerunner to send home to its dads, “check out my SUV vacation!”
One of the reasons that we changed our trip to June was that our son Mike and daughter-in-law Jenny were going to be in Wenatchee, WA visiting Kevin’s parents, along with Jenny’s parents. We enjoyed several days hanging out with the family, visiting Leavenworth (and seeing our long-time friend Becky’s wine shop!), and hiking up at Mission Ridge Ski Area where I worked many years ago. After some time in eastern Washington we were off to Seattle! Our friend Maria took us in and gave us the run of her home on Queen Anne Hill in Seattle. She even let us host a few dinner parties, because, well, she is just an incredible human. We love you Maria. Thank you for all that you did for us. How do I not have a photo with you in it??? We spent our 8 days in Seattle visiting with friends and family, hanging out at Dig and Pam’s house one night, seeing boat people and non-boat people, and shopping for things we can’t get in Mexico. Kevin also went to work. His team had just all come back to the office full-time after over a year out due to COVID, so being there was important. We didn’t get to see everyone we would have liked to have seen, but we will be back and we will keep catching up with our Seattleites. After a whirlwind week, we set out in the pouring rain to begin the drive south. That seemed fitting. Rain, something we just don’t see anymore.
We returned the War Wagon to Norm and Mike in Marina del Rey, hung out on their awesome boat in the marina and this time, we did see Kirsten! She arrived home from a recruiting trip (her first as Coach Kirsten) to the US Rowing National Championships in Florida to be greeted at her front door by her parents. And her dogs. I think she was most excited about the dogs but it was really wonderful to hug our girl. We finally were able to tour LMU (we previously couldn’t due to COVID) too!
In the meantime, we moved on into our friends’ Tom and ubeautiful home while they weren’t even there! Careful readers might remember Tom and Shauna from the Baja Bash, in their stunning ketch, SV Spirit. Now Tom doesn’t like blogs. So hi Tom! You’re in the blog! Again! Tom and Shauna came home one night and we all ate thai food and sat around cackling like the silly boat people we are. It was so good to see them. There is something special about relationships that you make while cruising – they run deep quickly and they stay strong even when you are in different countries. Thanks so much for having us guys. We loved seeing you!
From LA we drove on south to San Diego where yes, once again, amazing friends took us in. This time it was N55 Gitana, our sistership and buddy boat. Hugo and Michelle are home in Canada, but they opened their doors to us, and we moved our traveling gong show onto Gitana for five days. It was super fun to stay on another Nordhavn, which is basically the same as Red Rover, yet entirely different. While in San Diego we took care of a bunch of annual medical appointments and tests and squeezed in an afternoon to go to a high school graduation party for our friends’ John and Erin’s daughter. John and Erin are about to take delivery of N68 MV Dragon. They also welcomed our monster pile of packages from Amazon, Fisheries Supply and others. Even the leaking box of bottom paint made its way to their garage floor. Thanks so much guys!! You are the best.
There is a trend here, and one that we continuously remarked on as we crossed the border back into Mexico and drove home to Red Rover. We have incredible, kind, generous friends. These people include folks we know from work, from boating in the PNW, from cruising in Mexico and from the Nordhavn community – dreamers and owners alike. We are so fortunate to know these people and call them our tribe. Lucky, lucky us.
We’re back in Mexico, giving Red Rover all kinds of love and getting into a new series of adventures. But we’ll save that for the next time. This was a long one!
More adventures ahead!