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December 2008

photos at bottom of page (text that refers to a photo is followed by o)  

The beginning of December was when our visas for Ecuador were expiring, so we needed to exit stage left.  We checked out of the country of Ecuador which had been our home for the past eight months, and checked out of the Galapagos where we had been for a month.  We stocked up on provisions for another crossing of unknown duration.  Not many people go from the Galapagos to Mexico, and we were not sure exactly what currents and winds we would encounter, or how long it would take... two weeks?  three weeks?  We left early in the morning to have the maximum daylight to go between the islands and see the sights.  Following are the underway reports for the crossing and then our time in Mexico.

Day 1-  "Pulled anchor on Wednesday, December 3 at 0600, and motored first seven hours until the wind increased. Turned North West around Santa Cruz Island and sailed wing and wing at 6+ knots between Santa Cruz and Isabella. Very comfortable with calm seas. Nancy and the kids even got through a whole day of school. Winds are supposed to stay with us for the next several days. We sailed through the night with just the genoa. By 0600 Thursday, we had made 124 miles, which is great for us. Our 0600 position is N 00'47, W 091'18. We are about 74 miles south of Darwin Island. The seas are a bit more rolly now that they are not blocked by the islands. First day out menu- fresh pumpkin spice bread with cream cheese for breakfast, chicken and cabbage sandwiches for lunch, tangerines for snack, followed by plantain chips. Dinner was fresh made pea soup. We are all fat and happy. The next several days will see us burn through our fresh food stores and then it will be on to the canned goods. It will be interesting to see what is left in the pantry after 2-3 weeks at sea!"

Day 2-  "We had another great day of sailing and motoring. It was a bit too rolly to get any school done, so we just chilled. The kids watched lots of Gilligan's Island episodes, one of Dana's favorites. We slept better the second day/night, getting more into the swing of being underway and weird sleep patterns. In the evening, we passed the last of the Galapagos Islands, Darwin. This will be our last land sighted until Mexico, about 1070 miles away! As of 0600 we are at N 2'30.500, W 92'20.396. We have winds from the SW 10-12 knots, swells from the SW 3-6 ft. In the night we had some swells that were probably about 8 ft. We made 122 miles in the last 24 hours. We are looking forward to another good day of making way."

Day 3-  "Had another great day of sailing! Winds are from the south at about 15 knots. Swells are from the south too, at about 6 feet. We are currently at N 04'22, W 093'36. We made 136 miles. This old boat is scooting across this ocean! We have just a little over 900 more miles to our destination. We are suffering from lack of sleep, but it is manifesting in silliness, not nastiness. Nancy has taken to fits of giggles, while Mike has been making silly, goofy comments. Of course one probably leads to the other, although, at times, we are not sure which came first.  Here is how our day goes... Nancy has been on watch from early morning through the sunrise. About 8am everyone starts to move and has breakfast. Nancy and Mike then try to get some sleep to catch up from the night watches. Then it is lunch time. Yesterday, we all showered after lunch. We had warm water from running the engine a bit. We showered outside on the edge of the boat. It was a beautiful day and very pleasant. It felt great to have clean hair and bodies. We then watched a movie before dinner. After dinner, the kids did dishes, while Mike and Nancy tried to get a bit more sleep to ramp up for the next night watches. Dana has watch from 8-10pm, Fletcher takes the 10-12. Mike usually goes from 12-4am. Nancy takes over then until 8 or 9am. During watch we read, watch a movie, play computer games, listen to music, look at the stars, look at the sunrise, snack and just try to pass the time. What are we watching for?  Ships passing in the night (we are so far out that there have not been any for a couple of days); if the engine is on, we check the gauges for temperature, oil pressure, etc...; we pump the bilge hourly; and at 6am we get our position. If the swells lay down a bit, we will try to get some school done, but the past couple of days were not been good for that."

Day 4-  "We have officially entered the ITCZ (inter-tropical convergence zone), lost our winds and had some rain. This is typical for the ITCZ, where you often have confused seas, shifty winds and squally conditions. Luckily, the squalls are usually pretty quick, but they can stir up some immediate winds, so you really need to keep your eye out for the squalls approaching and reduce sail quickly. We will probably be in this zone for the next couple of days. The temperatures are warming up, we are out of the cold Humboldt current that bathes the west coast of South American and the Galapagos. The water temps have risen about 10 degrees. This means the air temps go up too. The first couple of nights we were bundled up a bit, but now, warm weather clothes prevail on all watches. I think that we will take the blanket off the bed tonight and put it back in deep storage. Last night, around 1930 (7:30pm,) Fletcher caught a really nice size bull Dorado, almost 5 feet o. You should have heard the squeals, whoops and "yipees". Guess what we will be eating for the next several meals?  (Much to Dana's dismay, as she has decided that she does not like fish, even when it is as fresh as can be!)  All is well on board.  Our position as of 0600, 12-07 is N 05.43, W 94.30. We are just a bit over 800 miles to our destination, not quite halfway, but getting closer. We can't wait until we are past the half way point and can start counting down the days. Yesterday, we only made 101 miles, but anything close to 100 and we are happy. The next couple of days may be a little less, since we lost our winds."

Day 7-  "We have passed the halfway point and are scooting along. All day yesterday we had strong winds and confused seas which made it really uncomfortable. The good thing about it, is we are logging 130-145 mile days. Any task takes considerable effort. Preparing a meal requires at least two people, one to make it and the other to hold things so they don't go flying across the boat. Days like this are spent just coping (laying down, reading, or watching movies.) We are still eating the Dorado that Fletcher caught several days ago. It looks like we still have 4-5 meals left. Luckily, Dorado is a delicious fish and we are preparing it differently each time. Everything that wasn't completely secured down is now on the floor. It will take us several days to put this boat back in order, but not until it calms down. Some sad news, last night our cat, Sia, died. Nancy has been nursing her since Ecuador and it looked like she was improving but she had a relapse several days ago. Today, we will have a ceremony and a burial at sea. Hopper, our dog, is doing fine. Although, I'm sure he'd rather be on land where he can have some traction and not slide across the floor every time a wave hits us. The kids think this is pretty funny. This morning the winds have settled down a bit and the seas are a little more regular and we are still holding around 6 knots of speed. If you look at a map, we are south of Huatulco, Mexico and west of Southern Costa Rica."

Day 9-  "Today is Nancy's birthday. Yesterday the kids and Mike made a cake, and the kids decorated it this morning o. Our progress has slowed down a bit because of an adverse current that seems to be running at around 3 knots. We are moving fine through the water but not very fast over the sea floor. The winds are supposed to change direction later today and it should give us a better angle of attack. Yesterday afternoon we noticed that our compass and the GPS were not agreeing. Mike pulled out the spare GPS and compass, and compared them. Both of the GPS's agreed, and both the compasses agreed, but they didn't agree with each other. This was noticed around the same time that we got into this strong current that we didn't expect to see. We felt like we were in the Twilight Zone. When the stars came out, Mike steered towards the North star and the GPS said we were going West. He then figured that something had happened in the United States, and the military messed up the GPS system so it could not be used for an attack. Mike's mind was racing and we couldn't receive any news. He went back to the old school method of navigation, and disregarded what the GPS was telling him. When the morning rolled around the GPS and compass were back in agreement and everything seemed ok. Talk about a strange anomaly.  Yesterday, we had our first sighting of a large pod of dolphins o. We were all up on the bow, hooting and hollering. Hopper about fell off the boat and was squealing like a stuck pig. It was the highlight of our day. It was also pretty calm and we got through a day of school. For dinner, we finally had the last of that Mahi that Fletcher had caught."

Day 12-  "We are still underway, but making much slower progress. We are about 170 miles south of our destination. Our winds died, and after the high of making such great mileage for the first several days, it is frustrating to now be only doing 60-70 mile days. We have been mostly motoring, but we turn off the engine whenever there is the slightest hint of a wind. The most wind that we have seen is about 25 knots and the highest seas were about 10 feet. Not so comfortable, but not scary or horrible by any means. We still have lots of fresh food left on board, plus all of the canned food that Nancy has been hoarding for this passage. We are not sure if when we get to Mexico, they may confiscate all of our fresh meat, eggs and produce. It is a balancing game, to make it last to the end vs. using it all up ahead of time. Fletcher really wants to fish, but we told him no. We really need to eat the food that we have on board first! Hard call, but we will fish all the rest of the passages for the next five months. We are hoping to arrive into Z-town Tuesday afternoon. Then, we will have a week to get ready for Christmas. All the presents are bought, we just need to wrap them up. Really, our Christmas present this year was the trip to the Galapagos and doing a family dive there. It is so calm today, maybe we will start decorating and putting the Christmas music on."

Day 14-  "We finally made it! We arrived on Tuesday afternoon, dropping anchor at about 5:30 pm. We had been running the engine almost non-stop for three days! Even with those great winds in the beginning, we still managed to use almost all of our fuel. Yikes! Yesterday, we spent all day with Customs, we didn't even get the Port Captain out of the way yet. Two fellows came out to the boat and searched and asked lots of questions and took lots of pictures. They took some of our food, but Nancy had pre-cooked and tucked away most of the stuff they would have wanted. We did sacrifice some, just so that the customs fellows would feel like they were doing their job. We also had to take Hopper around to the vet right away, with the Customs agent. His rabies shot is good for another 2 years, and even though we have it documented that he has his 3 year shot, here, they need to have it every year. So, the Customs agent was very helpful and drove us around in his personal car to find a vet that could give him his shot right away and issue the Health Certificate. It took three tries at different vets, but we found one. Poor Hopper, his first time off the boat for six weeks and it has to be to go get a shot! Today, we will finish up with Port Captain and get some laundry done and then maybe get Hopper in to the beach for some play time. We finished decorating the boat for Christmas, lights are up and ornaments are hung, Christmas tunes are in the CD player. We are not sure how long we will hang out here, we may stay through Christmas and then move north for New Years, or we may leave a few days before that. We figure at least another 3-4 days here just to get a little caught up. Not many boats here, the locals are bummed. They all say that it is because of the economy in the states."

Our first few days in Zihuatanejo were spent checking into the country.  Zihua is not a normal port of entry, so things took a bit longer.  Everyone was very nice, it just took three days to get all of the forms that we needed and to get everything done.  We had fun going back to all of our favorite restaurants from the other times that we were here.  Our favorites are tacos pastor, pozole, and chiliquiles.  It was nice to be somewhere that we had been before, and where we sort of knew the lay of the land.  Nancy had a good time going to a big local supermarket and getting some of the great foods that are available here. We did a couple days of school before Christmas, and had daily excursions to the beach for an hour or so of water play.  Hopper was in heaven.  Christmas Eve day was spent wrapping presents, baking cookies and getting ready to go to a big buffet dinner at a nearby hotel.  We got all dressed up, dingy'ed in to the beach in front of the hotel, and then walked up seven flights of stairs to the restaurant.  We worked up an appetite, and that was a good thing, as there was a lot of great food.  Especially since we had missed turkey for Thanksgiving, it was super delicious.  There was turkey, Mahi-Mahi, beef, all the fixin's and a dessert table.  We were in heaven.  There were musicians strolling through the restaurant, and we had a great time.  After stuffing ourselves, we waddled back to the boat o and wrote a local version of  "The Night Before Christmas" (see below).   We woke up a bit late on Christmas day to the smells of gingerbread baking.  We slowly came to our senses after all of that food the night before, and had fun opening our presents.  We had agreed that we would not do many presents this year, as the big dive in the Galapagos was our big present.  Yeah, right... of course we ended up just seeing one more thing that someone could not do without.  Everyone was happy with their gifts.  After presents and breakfast, Mike and the kids went out skurfing.  Then, we all went to a beach down the bay a bit and plopped ourselves down in some lounge chairs in front of a restaurant there.  While Mike, Hopper, and the kids played in the water, Nancy got a massage.  There are white fabric tents set up that have 2-3 massage tables in them.  It is only $15 for a massage.  Quite the treat.  We splurged and had lunch on the beach.  We got back to the boat just in time to change and go to another boat that had invited us over for homemade ice cream and brownies.  We never did eat dinner that night, we were so full of all the food from the prior 24 hours.  We spent the rest of the evening trying to make phone calls to family o.

      Desiderata’s Night Before Christmas

'Twas the night before Christmas, in Zihuatenejo                                                                                                         Not a creature was stirring, not even a conejo;

The stockings were hung by the galley with care,                                                                                                       In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their bunks,                                                                                                  With visions of mermaids and treasures in trunks;

And I in my speedo and ma in bikini,                                                                                                                     Had just settled down with a great big martini,

When out on the deck there arose such a clatter,                                                                                                          I sprang from the cockpit to see what was the matter.

Away to the porthole I flew like a flash,                                                                                                                 Tore open the sunshade and threw up the hatch.

The moon on the crest of the waves down below                                                                                                       Gave the luster of mid-day to fishes down low,

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,                                                                                                         But a colorful parasail, and eight jet skis too near,

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,                                                                                                               I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

More rapid than marlins his jet skis they came,                                                                                                      And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

"Now, Paco! now, Rico! now, Miguel and Jorge!                                                                                                        On, Maria! on Rosa! on Martin y Jose!

To the top of the combing! to the top of the mast!                                                                                                     Now dash away! dash away! dash away fast!"

And as he was leaving we heard on 2-2,                                                                                                                 Feliz Navidad  and buen viaje to you.

Finally, a couple of days later, another boat with kids on it pulled into the anchorage.  We enjoyed meeting them and having daily beach time.  Dana did a couple of sleepovers there, and the rest of us had fun sharing meals and movies.  On New Years Eve day, Nancy gave everyone a fresh haircut for the new year, including herself.  She decided to go for a new look and cut her hair short.  For one thing, it is always pulled back and up because of the heat, and for another it would save water to wash a lot less hair.  Mike and Fletcher left the boat, and Nancy and Dana whacked and hacked at her hair, just finishing as the boys returned.  It turned out really cute, Mike felt like he was out with a new, younger woman.  While we were in town that day, we found a kitten that we liked. Nancy had been picturing a Calico female and even had a name ready, and there she was, waiting for us.  As we celebrated New Year's Eve with several other cruisers, we were excited for the next day when we would pick up our new kitten.  New Year's Eve is a big deal in Mexico.  Lots of fireworks and gunfire.  We spent the evening in town enjoying pizza with a couple of other boaters o.  We then walked along the waterfront for a bit before heading back to the boat.  Once back on board, we started our family new year's celebration.  Mike and Nancy had champagne, and the kids had sparkling grape juice.  We all wrote out things that we wanted to leave behind and be done with.  We then had a ceremony and burned them.  Then we wrote out our intentions for the new year.  It was very nice.  Before we knew it, it was almost midnight.  We went up on deck with our drinks and waited.  There were fireworks every where!  Three different beaches around the bay had big, organized fireworks show.  They were going off to the right, left, and behind us.  They were all spectacular and we did not know which way to look.  It was really quite the spectacle.   Hopper joined in the noise making with lots of barks.  As we said farewell to the past year, we reflecting on what an amazing year it was for us! 


Please click to enlarge!


Underway from the Galapagos to Mexico:  the big Mahi, Nancy's birthday cake decorated like the volcanic Galapagos Islands, dolphins off the bow.


Christmas on Desiderata, two beautiful kids with lots of presents; Dana on the phone looking like a teenager; and another boat kid to play with on New Year's Eve.

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