Sep 15, 2010

Meeting New Friends at the Minnesota State Fair

Old friend, Joe Quinn, and I spent another day at the Minnesota State Fair this year, and we came across this well known Minnesota Senator meeting and greeting fair goers.  Since retired judge Joe and I argue politics most of the time we're walking around the fair, this was a welcome reinforcement for my side of the argument.

Aug 27, 2010

More Alicia and Alfredo

Cruising friends Alycia and Alfredo are still bicycling around the U.S., going from Tucson, AZ, to Florida, and now up to Montana.  Here they are taking a break from the bikes and hiding up into East Glacier Park before heading west to Washington and then back down to their boat in Guaymas, MX,  Typical of their many adventures is an email exerpt describing camping in Glacier:

Friday, August 20, 2010 7:53 AM   ..... at the last camp ground, Cosley Lake, there was a grizzly bear that came to visit just after we got in the tent and the neighbor was chased up a tree by a black bear about 6pm. How exciting! The weather was perfect the last 5 days and we arrived to the Chief mountain trailhead which was only 100 yards from the Canadian border. 
It was a great trip. We hitched back to our bikes and our hosts in East Glacier and we will probably leave today heading west.We are now on the northern tier bike route, heading to west Glacier, Columbia Falls, Eureka, Troy, MT. then Sandpoint, ID. and then into WA.

Alicia and Alfredo

Aug 7, 2010

Summer in San Francisco for Sea Story

 Before we got to California, we caught a nice tuna near Magdalenna Bay, off the Mexican coast of Baja. We estimated his weight between 15 and 20 pounds.  Good eating, but the hard part was having to clean him with a sharp knife on this pitching deck. (Photo by Connie LaBounty)

The trip up the California coast was tough this year.  Rough weather persisted longer than usual, and it took a long time to get from San Diego to San Francisco.  As usual, we had some great folks for crew members, so the boat was well manned.  But, a stubborn high pressure area off the north coast, kept sending us those short, steep waves that make progress difficult when you're sailing into them.  Net result was a trip that took 15 days instead of the usual 6, and featured layovers in Santa Barbara, Morro Bay and Santa Cruz. 
The up side of all this was the chance to spend time in these delightful ports that we usually leave too early or bypass entirely.  The down side is that I needed some time off after completing the trip and working on the things that typically need fixing after a month of bashing northward up the Pacific coastline.
So, right now, I'm cooling my heels in wonderful, summertime, Wisconsin, and Sea Story is resting easy in a berth at Richmond's Marina Bay.  At the end of September, I'll be back aboard and getting ready for a return trip down the coast to Mexico.  This time, it will be mostly downwind and riding the waves instead of bashing into them.  After nearly a month on dry land, I'm already starting to look forward to the trip.
Sea Otters are making a comback in the Monterey Bay, and here is one taking a snooze in the Santa Cruz harbor.  When they are off the coast, the wrap themselves in kelp to keep from drifting off while they're taking a nap.  Here in the harbor, they just pick a quiet fairway.

Jun 2, 2010

The Bikers

My friends Alicia and Alfredo in La paz this past winter.  This is the same couple who hiked the Pacific Crest Trail  from Mexico to Canada last summer and this year are bicycling around the U.S.  They started in Tucson, rode to Florida, up to Virginia and are now in Oklahoma.  Their plan is to end up in California by fall and then head back down to their boat, which is currently stored in Guaymas. 
Alfredo is a former Italian lingarie designer, and Alicia has sailed completely around the world, TWICE!  It's ging to be interesting to see what they do next....

May 25, 2010

San Diego and Points North

This year's Sea of Cortez season wound down  after Bay Fest for us "commuter cruisers." who come down to escape the cold winter weather and then head north to avoid the summer heat of Baja.  Last year, I left Sea Story in La paz and  then drove the van back down in November.  This year, Sea Story is going north, and the van stayed in La paz.  Of course, that meant traveling at five knots instead of fifty, but who's in a hurry?
Actually, one of the reasons I brought the boat back to the U.S. was to allow the Tradewinds Sailing Club to offer another coastal sailing trip from San Diego to San Francisco on Sea Story.   The details are included in the latest Tradewinds newsletter, reprinted below:

California Coastal Cruise!

This is a two-part trip up California’s coastline with Tradewinds Instructor Jerry Rouillard on Sea Story, a Pearson 39 outfitted for offshore cruising. It’s the perfect trip for those who want an affordable, offshore cruising ex-perience in a manageable time frame. The first section of the trip is from San Diego to Santa Barbara via Catalina Island. The second section is from Santa Barbara to San Francisco. Each section will be booked separately for just that leg of the trip. Crew slots will be limited to three individuals, or two individuals and one couple who can share the same cabin. Prices include provisions. As with any sea voyage the dates are the best we can plan in advance. If you would like to sign up please plan a day or two on either end as “just-in-case” days

Leg One: San Diego to Santa Barbara – June 5th to June 9th.

Crewmembers for this leg will meet on June 5th and set sail that afternoon for Catalina with a possible interim, overnight anchorage at Santa Cruz Island. After an overnight stay at Catalina it will be an easy hop up to Santa Barbara. With no weather delays, crewmembers will be replaced by those on the second leg of the trip. Cost: $595.00

Leg Two: Santa Barbara to San Francisco – June 9th to June 13th.

The crew will board the afternoon of the 9th of June and set sail. The itinerary will include one overnight stopover at Monterey, Morro Bay or the anchorage at San Simeon. Anticipated arrival in Santa Francisco will be June 13th. Cost: $595.00

Please Note:

Due to the nature of this trip, we’d only like you to sign up if you can be flexible by two days either at the beginning or the end of your leg. If weather conditions dictate, we may adjust the departure time by two days in either direction.

At last check with Brandy at Tradewinds, this trip is sold out, but we are planning a return to San Diego in July, so give her a call if you're interested in that trip. It's always been a great offshore experience, particularly for those who are thinking of taking off on their own boat some day.   

Another Bash Up Baja

The trip north along Baja's west coast is ruefully referred to as the "Baja Bash," not because it's a big party, but because bashing headlong into wind and wave out of the northwest is pretty much the story for the entire 800 miles up the coast from Cabo San Lucas.  This year was no exception, so it took our hardy crew - Jerry, Dennis, Connie and Mary Lee   -a full two weeks to mostly motor-sail Sea Story up to her present berth here in San Diego's West Harbor Island Marina. Of course, it really wasn't all that bad.  That two weeks included one full week anchored in Turtle Bay waiting out high winds with a dozen other "bashers" who were working their way north with us. And, cruisers being mostly social animals, we had a big party to break up the week.

This was the party at "La Palapa," the  Turtle Bay beachfront restaurant operated by the very hospitable Carlos and Mercedes who are pictured in the top row right in front of the open door to the kitchen.  Great party with our own music, singing and lots of new friends waiting out a week of strong winds on the baja outside.

Given it's location, roughly halfway up the Baja peninsula, and it's good all-around protection, Turtle Bay is a good place to hang out during a big blow.  It is pretty well off the main road, and offers only limited services (no banks or ATMs), but it does have fuel, food and beer.  The local folks are quite friendly to cruisers, and you do grow kind of attached to the place after a few days anchored in the protection of the surrounding desert hills.   Still, after a week, it was easy to rouse the crew out of their warm berths before sunrise to raise anchor and head out on Friday, the 14th of May.  We arrived in San Diego and a whole different culture three days later.

Our crew on deck at sunset in Turtle Bay. This photo was shot by our neighbor, Dr. Lou Freeman from Fresno.  We traded off hosting dinner on our boats, and he shared some amazing photos of blue footed boobies riding his lifelines in the Sea of Cortez.

Our Turtle Bay neighbor, Dr. Lou Freeman who was single-handing up the Baja coast on his 50' Swan.  Lou has done two Single-Handed Transpac races from San Francisco to Hawaii, so a solo "Bash" is really no big deal for him. 

These blue-footed boobies were Lou's companions for 36 hours in the Sea of Cortez.  He was able to approach close enough to touch each one of them during their stay.  His only complaint;they made one hell of a mess on his deck! 

Apr 23, 2010

Racing and Swimming with Sea Lions

The time here in La paz has been very active since we got back from the month-long expedition up into the Sea of Cortez last February.  Last week it was swimming with the Sea Lions out at Los Islotes, a very small and rocky island just off the north end of Isla Partida, about an hour and a half from La paz in a 20' panga powered by  a 100 hp honda outboard.  These sea lions are old hands at showing off for the scuba divers and snorkelers, and they will actually make contact with you in the water; nibbling on your flippers, or even mouthing your arm or leg just like a playful puppy...!
Butch and Cynthia on the Norseman 447, Albatross, set up the trip and invited us along.  Below are some of Butch's photos from the trip:

Before the Sea Lions, it was the annual celebration of Bayfest, Club Cruceros annual season wrap-up of fun, music, games and even a sail boat race.  Sea Story finished a respectable second in her class in the race, and I got a bottle of wine for helping with the Man-Overboard training session that provided some 40-odd cruisers some actual hands-on experience in bringing our volunteer swimmers back on a sailboat after they were in the water.  This was a lot like the Man-Overboard Symposium I helped with in Sausilito back in 2005.  And, it was a real eye-opener this time as well.  Most people just don't realize how much is involved with getting someone back on board a sailboat if they are in any way incapacitated.
The rest of Bayfest was good music, an art show, beach volleyball, seminars, card and dominoes tournaments and a lot of great socializing.  Some very good photos are available on the Club Cruceros website at
My bottle of wine award for helping with the man-overboard training.  Much better than a certificate of appreciation!

Mar 28, 2010

Back from Cruising the Sea of Cortez

It was a choppy day with moderate winds when Moorings Charter Captain Kevin Porter took this picture of  Sea Story headed south toward the San Lorenzo channel about 50 miles north of La paz.

It was a bit cooler in the Sea of Cortez this winter, but the sailing was better than last year even if we did have to wait out a couple of northers along the way.
This time, Sea Story made it all the way north to Bahia Concepcion where we were able to anchor for a couple of days in Burro Cove, a delightful spot that is also home to Geary Ritchie, who does a daily weather forecast on the Sonrisa Single Sideband Net from his palapa right on the beach.  By "right on the beach." I really mean within spitting distance of the high water line!  Anyway, Geary's card describes him as Beach Bum Extraordinaire, and it turns out he is another ex-skydiver from Sacramento.  He's also a fellow graduate from Sac State, so we had way too much in common for just a short visit. For an interesting Baja profile, you can check out Geary and his palapa on

With Geary and our fellow cruisers, Bob and Doreen Hauff, off Scottish Mist, to watch the boat for a couple of nights, we had a chance to get into Mulege to visit Dusty and Suzie Huber in their beautiful house in the often storm damaged community.  The town was still cleaning up after major flood damage from last fall's hurricane Jimena, but luckily, Dusty and Suzie were high enough to escape any damage.

On the return trip, we negotiated with Miguel for lobsters at the anchorage at Timbibiche.  Unlike his father Manuel, who usually wants tequila, Miguel preferred a cold coke and a few pesos for the still-kicking, spiny lobsters.  Wonderful dinner on Sea Story that night....

Feb 6, 2010

Making Ready to Cast Off

We've been at the dock here at Marina Palmira for a couple of months now, and it's getting to be time to cast off the lines and head up in to the Sea of Cortez. The new bimini will be finished within the week, the dingy is again seaworthy (no more leaks), it's outboard motor is tuned up; and the allure of remote anchorages, unpopulated beaches, reports of playful whales, and brilliant starlit skies are all too much to resist any longer.

The plan is to sail as far north as Bahia Conception (near Mulege) and then work slowly back down here to La paz over a month-long time frame. It's about 200 miles each way, but we do have a fuel and water stop at the half-way point in Puerto Escondido (just south of Loreto). As a point of interest, Escondido's water comes from a free-flowing creek in Steinbeck Canyon, which is named after the famous author who visited this area in the 1940's and memorialized the trip in his book The Log From the Sea of Cortez.  The book has been a great reference for some of the areas we visit.

Sea Story will be back in La paz by mid-March.  We will be entertaining visitors for a couple of weeks late in the month, and then there will be the Cruceros Club celebration of Bayfest in mid-April .

After all that is behind us, Sea Story is going to head north up to San Diego for the summer. We're sheduled out of here on the 1st of May, which should put us into California by the middle of the month. Then we'll see what adventures the summer holds.....

Jan 26, 2010

Getting Work Done in Mexico

Sergio Gallindo at work on Sea Story's stainless steel top rail in preparation for the new bimini frame it will support. Sergio enjoys a reputation as one of the top stainless steel fabricators in Baja.

One of the benefits of bringing a sailboat down to Mexico is the ability to get excellent work done on the boat at bargain prices. Many of the Mexican craftsman have worked in the U.S. and found their skills were appreciated back in Mexico where the cost and the pace of living were easier to handle. The well developed network of cruising sailors also provides plenty of work for the really talented practitioners.

La paz is particularly fortunate in this regard. With a large boating community and easy access to U.S. marine products, people like Sergio Gallindo can develop a reputation that keeps them busy and lets them support their families even when the rest of the Mexican economy is depressed as it unfortunately is now.

Sergio is a stainless steel fabricator with an artist's eye for design and workmanship. For years he worked in Alameda, California and developed an impressive reputation in the Bay boating community. Now he has his own business and still has customers from the Bay area who stop by La paz to have him work on their boats down here.

Chicago's "Cloud Gate" is one of Sergio's resume' pieces. He did finish work on this massive stainless steel sculpture, which is also known less formally as "The Bean."
This project was a family affair with Sergio's wife, Guadalupe, and his apprentice assisting him. After they finished the job, Sergio brought us a meal of delicious Chile Rellenos that Guadalupe had fixed for us; a touching and very personal gesture that is so typical of the Mexican people.

Jan 9, 2010


Just a couple of months from completing their 3000 mile, Pacific Crest Trail hike, Alfredo and Alica showed up in La paz with plans for another adventure; a bicycle trip around the United States!
We almost missed connecting. Sea Story was out in the islands over the New Years holiday when they showed up in La paz. Luckily, we did get together before they left to cruise up into the Sea of Cortez on their way back to Guaymas, where they are going to put On Verra back on the hard in preparation for their big bike trip.
I'm looking forward to posting their email updates again, and this time they have promised to send more photos to supplement the narrative.
We will keep everyone posted....