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Don’t tell PETA, but it is beyond funny to watch the cats try and use their litter box during heavy weather. We ran out of real litter after failing to find some in San Blas and had to resort to using beach sand, the only positive aspect being that it is free, and even this does not make the resulting sand-covered cockpit  worth it. In order to stop the relentless spread, we decided early that the litter box was not going down below, at least not if we could possibly help it.

So, during the two days we beat furiously to windward, taking consistent spray over the bow which, with no dodger, continued unabated into the cockpit, the poor cats had to venture outside and somehow wedge themselves into pooping position on a bucking, bouncing boat while simultaneously not taking a wave to the face. Absolutely hilarious; not so much when the little missiles missed their target.

We left Mantenchen Bay on Wednesday, May 21st: weighed anchor under sail and set off into a freshening breeze. We made good progress, pirate-racing our friend Eddie on Disturbia for a while (result: Disturbia disqualified for using a motor), but we still failed to make our destination, uninhabited Isla Isabella, before nightfall and so naturally decided to carry to La Paz.

It was a hearty, six-day upwind journey to La Paz, excellent for giving the boat a good wash.  On the third day, in order to cool off on a number of levels, I jumped into the middle of the Sea of Cortes for a swim. During night number four we had a near miss with a tanker when Michael mistook the big ship’s running lights for the two masthead lights of a schooner because he thinks it’s the year 1853. Michael is now an expert at determining the nighttime course of these giant vessels using only their navigation lights, which came in handy as we dodged many more tankers while closing with the Baja coast. On the fifth night three dolphins led us in, sparkling green comets in the ubiquitous bioluminescence.

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It took three days for the mountain ranges of bug bites, souvenirs from Mantenchen Bay, to finally stop itching. San Blas and Matenchen, built on a swampy estuary, are notorious for vicious mosquitos and jejenes and we were told by virtually the whole cruising community to beware. We absorbed this information and proceeded to wear absolutely no bug spray, little clothing and made sure to do most of our jungle path walking at sunset, when the little biting beasties are most active.

Why present such a flesh buffet to the bugs? All in the noble quest of finding a good wave to surf. We tried but didn’t find any waves in Chacala, but in Mantenchen we quickly discovered that we could dinghy to the beach at Las Islitas, park, paddle in and carrying the surf boards around the corner to the more constant break at Stoners.

Amazingly, the first time we did this we totally forgot to bring shoes. Forgetting your shoes is a strange side effect of living on a boat, and after three scorching hot sand beaches into our journey we were cursing our forgetfulness and seriously thinking about turning back. Thank goodness for Mexican beach trash; a quick search turned up five discarded old shoes and with a bleached hiking boot on my right foot (thoroughly shaken out in case of scorpions) and barely-holding-together sandal on my left, we walked the rest of the way in relative comfort.

We now own three surfboards: an Al Merrick short board purchased from our neighbor Chance in Vallejo (we still have it, Chance!), a ‘Fish’ – a funboard we call the Watermelon, shaped and glued by our good friend Walter Graen in La Paz, and finally a nine foot long board, purchased from and still branded with La Escualita, the small surf shop run by our buddy Antonio in Punta Mita.

Learning to surf is a commitment, especially for two kids who grew up on powder and pack instead of water and waves, but, goddamn, it is an excellent sport. You have to learn to paddle and how to catch a wave before you even learn how to ride it; in the beginning you earn those few seconds of bliss with many, many tumbles in the washing machine. But time favors the persistent, and we are getting better.

The Mexican mainland pairs surfing and sailing like cheese and a fine wine; in Punta Mita one can anchor within a stone’s throw of a break aptly named El Anclote, and it is this proximity of good surf that we are already beginning to miss, especially now that Hurricane Amanda is sending up deliciously surfable swell up and down the coast. Ah well, we’ll be back next year and in the meantime we will have to mini-quest across the Baja in search of waves to ride.

 

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