Monday, November 13, 2017

Another Week In The Yard

We have been back in Penasco for a week now working on boat projects and trying to get Empyrean ready to go back in the water. It seems like the projects have been never ending but finally we are starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Last Sunday we crossed the border at San Diego/Tijuana after having enjoyed a week with family and  friends in Southern California.  After walking across the border and purchasing our visitor permits we took an all night bus back to Penasco. This was our final border crossing for the year.

It is so true how they say cruisers plans are written in sand at low tide. We never imagined that we would spend almost 6 months on the hard here in Penasco.  We have been caught up in projects, some planned and some not, most of which have taken longer than expected. Although yard time is never fun, we feel we have made the right decision to spend some extra time here since we are planning to make the big jump across the Pacific in early Spring.

Over the last week we have been working on thru hulls, raising our waterline, bottom sanding and prepping for bottom paint along with cleaning out lockers and cleaning off the much accumulated dust and dirt. Tom has also been busy trying to figure out the mounting of our new Mantus Anchor and a new anchor light. The new anchor is too big for our existing bow roller and so some modifications are necessary.

Over the past weekend things were very busy here in Penasco. We had been warned that the weekend would be rowdy as the city hosts an annual Biker Rally. As Friday rolled around thousands of bikers from all over the US and Mexico poured in. Just a block from the boat yard vendors were set up serving food and drinks and selling memorabilia.  Concert stages glowed through the nights as bands performed a variety of genres. Engines revved and tires smoked as the streets became crowded with motorcycle activity. Friday night Tom and I ventured out to take a look at all of the bikes that had begun to gather. I must say there are some pretty impressive bikes out there. The shear number of bikes gathered in this rather small city was pretty amazing. Saturday night was the busiest of all and we were able to watch some pretty awesome stunt bikes perform just outside of the yard gates. Overall I was pretty impressed with how well the invent was managed. Everywhere we looked it seemed people were having a good time.

Now Monday has rolled around and we are back to work and school here on Empyrean. It looks like we have another week in the yard. We are looking forward to getting out of here soon! Keeping fingers crossed for a pre-Thanksgiving launch!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

An Introduction From a Boat Kid by Hannah

Hi guys, I have decided to give blogging a try. My name is Hannah, I am 14 and the middle kid on my boat. I have been sailing for about 3 years and living on my boat for the last 1.5yrs. My first thoughts on living on a boat and cruising around the world were that it was "interesting" to say the least. I didn't think that it was totally crazy but I also didn't feel that it was totally sane either.  My questions about living on a boat went something like this "How do they get food?" "How do they go to the bathroom?", "What do they do to entertain themselves?" and more stuff like that. Its funny to think about that now because the answers just seem so obvious. When we left with the Baja HaHa it really hit me that living on a boat was my new life. Definitely while we were on the Baja HaHa it didn't give me that "I really want to do this" feeling. I think it was because of the weather we encountered and because of the places we stopped at. But once the Baja HaHa finished and we went on our own at our own pace things started getting much better. Especially when we got to La Cruz where there were lots of kids. At first I didn't want to socialize with any of the kids because I was very shy but after I met Nina from sv Shawnigan I regretted not talking to them sooner. I think that the boat kids I became friends with made my boat experience 100 times better.

In La Cruz, one of the things I did with my friends that I enjoyed was releasing baby turtles, that was probably one of the highlights on our trip, we got to hold and name them and then wish them luck for their upcoming journey. They were so precious I still can't get over them! What I also liked in La Cruz was just how many activities there were to do, especially for the kids. For example we ran a restaurant (which was a lot of fun), had a talent show and a sleepover on the beach that I would hands down do again. La Cruz also has a market that happens every Sunday which we went to each week. It has a wide variety of items from food and really yummy drinks to jewelry and clothes. Its a good way to spend your Sunday. I also enjoyed going to the nearby beaches for surfing and swimming.

Currently life is kinda lonely since Empyrean is in a yard in Puerto Peñasco for hurricane season. She has been under some construction for the last couple of months and now is almost ready to go in the water. We have changed the cabinetry in the galley and added a bookshelf
and she has gotten a makeover in the galley, dinette and in the forward head. She looks so good I'm really impressed on how she turned out. Next we we will get a fresh coat of bottom paint and then it will be time to splash her.  Once we put her in the water we will travel through the Sea of Cortez, heading to La Paz for Christmas. In the Spring we are planning to Puddle Jump to French Polynesia. I really am looking forward to meeting up with more boat kids soon.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

It's Been One Year

It is hard to believe that a year has gone by since we sailed out of San Diego Harbor with the Baja Ha Ha in search of adventure in Mexico and beyond. Where does time go? The girls have grown so much this past year and as a family we have learned so much about so much...sailing, Mexico life, living on a boat, living in another country...the list goes on and on. Despite all of the learning and growing, it feels as if only a few months ago we were just sitting in the anchorage of San Diego trying to imagine what our new life was going to be like. Hint: it isn't really exactly like we imagined but that isn't necessarily a negative.

Shelter Island San Diego

Yesterday we drove from Puerto Penasco early in the morning heading toward Orange County California.  We just missed the 2017 Baja Haha fleet that departed earlier yesterday from San Diego.  It was kinda surreal to be back in the city that we had left from just a year earlier.  Everything looked the same in spite of how much we have changed. We took the opportunity to pick up a few needed supplies from Downwind and Marine Exchange and then we were on our way to spend some time with friends and family. If things go as planned this will possibly be our last visit to California for a very long while.

The summer has been a whirlwind of land travels as our boat has sat in the Cabrales Boatyard in Puerto Penasco Mexico.  We have logged over 5000 miles as we have visited family and friends and traveled back and forth between Penasco and the States. We were fortunate enough to be able to borrow a car from Tom's mom, which really saved a ton since we didn't have to purchase a car or take flights. We also found that having the car allowed us much more flexibility in our travels and definitely helped us bring numerous loads of supplies back to the boat.

After the initial trip to CA in May we headed back to Penasco minus one crew member. Emily spent the summer in Huntington Beach where she stayed with friends and worked  at the Newport Beach Seabase to earn some travel money. We spent about 10 days in Penasco getting started on some of the initial projects we had planned and then we headed to Houston to spend time with Katlyn.

In Houston, Zoey went through another surgery for her scar tissue at Shriners Children's Hospital in Galveston. We had been planning this surgery for months and we are so happy to report that she did amazing and recovery for her went very well. So well, that after a month, Tom and I were back on the road to Penasco to get some more work done. Zoey and Hannah stayed behind with Katlyn in Houston.

Sanding at night to avoid the daytime heat
Penasco was hot as hell during the summer and time in the yard is never fun.  We were fortunate enough to have friends in Tucson that we could visit to get a much needed break from boat work.  We spent a couple of weekends in Tucson and the weekdays we chased rats, fought the dirt, dust and heat and made some progress on new floors, new counters and cabinets in the galley, saloon and nav station. Tom also had been working with Vesper Marine to troubleshoot AIS issues and we planned for a new autopilot since we had been having some issues with the old one that was on the boat.
We loved having friends visit us in Penasco

Family time in Virginia
It was then a trip back to Houston where we then escaped Harvey and headed east to my parents in Virginia.  Two days after our arrival they sold their home and we spent the next three weeks going through all of their belongings and helping them downsize the home that had been in our family for the last almost 35 years. Emily rejoined us in Virginia and we headed back to Houston mid September, where we spent a week before making the journey as a family of five back to Penasco.

Hard work is paying off
We have now completed almost all of our projects.  Last week I added some new color and our new logo to Empyrean and Tom completed the autopilot install.  We also added a new Mantus Anchor to help us sleep better at night when we are at anchorage.  We have been provisioning like crazy for all the things we will need and can't get in Mexico as we prepare to set off for the South Pacific in the Spring. Empyrean will get a new waterline and bottom paint when we return.

We are excited to get Empyrean back in the water upon our return and head south once again. This time we are anxious to meet up with friends from last season along the Sea of Cortez and beyond.  There will be lots of new kids as well. We hear that the Baja HaHa has a bunch of kid boats with girls on board so that will be right up our alley. It is always fun to watch how the kids just jump right into hanging out and lasting friendships develop over beach volleyball, snorkeling, tacos and sunsets.

Happy Halloween!
We are so lucky to have this life and despite the ups and downs of boat projects I am glad we have made this life choice.  Tonight our girls will go trick or treating, they will spend time here with family and land friends.  We will relish in hot showers and endless internet.  We will enjoy each moment we spend with those we love. In a week we will go home to Empyrean and new adventures will unfold.
Stay tuned...there is so much more to come!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Dreams and Realities

Three thousand...hard to believe that is how many miles we have sailed this season. Our grand adventure, dreams turned into reality, the fruits of our hard work realized. It often still seems surreal that this is our life. And is it what we thought it would be, does it look like all the pictures we have swooned over in blog posts? Well, yes and no, sometimes a lot more of the no.  In this life we are quickly realizing that when things are not working out, parts are breaking, swells are pounding, winds are howling or everyone is just feeling out of sorts... being on a 48' boat is, well,  hard.

 I wouldn't say we are on rock bottom (although with the next tidal swing who knows) but arriving in Puerto Peñasco will make the list of low points. Although we were elated to relish in our accomplishments of reaching where many cruisers dare not travel, our celebration was short lived.

We arrived on a slack tide in less time than expected after an overnight crossing from Puerto Refugio, where 20-30kn winds had been rocking us for two days. The passage was lumpy but overall good. We motor sailed the whole way to keep our arrival within a favorable tide and current window. We were unsure what to expect since we had been unable to reach any of the marinas to confirm availability for docking. We were all dreaming of hot showers, internet, phone service and a cold cerveza. The sun had risen with the harbor entrance in sight and we followed our buddy boat, watching them disappear behind the breakwater about half an hour ahead of us.

Peñasco is the place we had heard of from another couple who had ventured to the top of the sea. They had spoken of their amazing experience hauling their boat and having work done and to top it off we would be just 60 miles from the U.S. border! It would be perfect for us. We needed to haul Empyrean out and paint her bottom plus we had a project list that we wanted to complete in the off season to prep for our Pacific crossing. So we scrapped our original plan to go to San Carlos and set our sights for a late spring arrival to Puerto Peñasco, almost 500 miles into the Sea of Cortez.

We turned the corner into the harbor and we can see nothing but shrimp boats, dozens and dozens of giant shrimp boats rafted together everywhere. We slowly maneuver through the tiny waterway and spot our buddy boat, S/V Luminesce, waving us onto a side tie. We are grateful to be tied on and quickly begin to assess the situation at hand. To our dismay it appears that there are no available docks to accommodate our boats, fortunately the man on the dock says we can stay here to figure out a plan.

A meeting with the boat yard reveals we will be unable to haul out until Monday, five days away, when there is more water in the haul out slip. Here in the northern part of the Sea of Cortez there are large tidal swings that come into play.  We walk the circumference of the harbor and talk with each of the dock masters only to confirm our original speculations, the only dock available is the end tie, in all its glory (insert sarcasm here). Our arrival has been perfectly aligned with the end of the shrimping season.  For the next few months we will share the docks and boat yard with shrimp boats prepping for the next season, definitely not the neighbors we have grown accustomed to.

So this morning I am enjoying my coffee in the solitude of fish jumping, Mexican music blaring from another slip and the sound of shrimp boats being pounded, grinded and sandblasted back into submission. Still tied to a dock that may float away in the next big blow, still not showered, with no water or electricity to speak of and no hopes of any internet connection to upload these ramblings. But it could be worse and I am aware of even at the lows, I am fortunate. I am enjoying this coffee while my senses are entertained with scenery that is different than yesterday and the day before and even the day before that. My mind is free to wander and reflect, not cluttered by the endless newsflashes of yet another day of the same old ramblings on the morning news. Or worse yet, coffee wasted down the front of my shirt as I manipulate sips through a morning commute with thousands of others going through the motions of life. Life is good, not just good enough.

I leave you now with some pictures of our travels through the Sea of Cortez. And don't worry there will be more ramblings and videos of the past season to come soon. Although this season is coming to a close it is starting to feel like the door to the world is just beginning to open.

Los Muertos, Baja Sea of Cortez

After 7 days on the boat the girls were obviously happy to be on land!

Somewhere in the Sea of Cortez
Underwater in Puerto Balandra
We were all amazed by the beauty of the sand and crystal clear water
Clear water in Puerto Balandra was perfect for paddling and snorkeling

San Evaristo-a quaint fishing village in the Sea

Beautiful waters surrounded us in each anchorage

A little bit of cave exploring

Zoey doing a little "research"
Sitting in Puerto Refugio with our buddy boat sv Luminesce waiting
for a weather window to make our last overnight sail of the season

Shared the dock in Puerto Penasco with this guy, locals call him "Harvey"

Out of the water for the summer after 3000 miles of sailing this season