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July was full of ups and downs, two countries, six states, two oceans, several rivers, sailing, flying, bussing, metros, taxis, and lots of walking. It was frantic, go, go, go, hurry up and get there, all month long. But having said all of that, as usual, we had a great time through it all, and we got to see a bunch of places, and lots of family that we had not planned on. The beginning of the month we were up in the Sea of Cortez exploring some island anchorages. We were in a bit of a predicament as we had gotten word that Nancy's dad had decided against any further life support... what to do? Do we continue with our plans (that were already about two months behind where we had hoped to be), or do we race back to Virginia. It could be two days, or two months. We decided to continue on until we heard more. We were trying to fit in the most important spots that we wanted to get to, just in case we had to leave quickly. One island anchorage that we wanted to revisit had an interesting phenomenon happening, as it did the last time we were there in 2004. In the evenings, there were squid propelling themselves up onto the beach o. We think that it must have something to do with reproduction and then a die off. They make all kinds of interesting sounds as they projectile launch themselves up on the beach. We all got hit several times by these flying squid. Also, in order to move, they expel a large stream of water and we all got hit with this too. We were all running and squealing and having a good time. We did take one of these squid home with us to enjoy the next day for dinner. Earlier in the day, as we pulled into this spot, Isla Coronado, there were huge schools of manta rays o. We would dingy up close to them and then jump in the water to snorkel with them. It was really something. The sea was black with them. You would see these huge masses of dark water, and then realize that it was a mega school of these critters. Amazing. These rays also like to jump out of the water o. Sometimes it sounds and looks like popcorn, with one jumping, then another and another. This island is also one of our favorite spots for collecting some small clams that we call wedgies. We must have collected about 200 of them between the four of us. We enjoyed them for dinner a couple of nights later. (You need to let them soak for a while to expel all of the sand in them.) We are so glad that we made it up to this fun spot. The next day, we began to head south. We stopped in Loreto to pick up some food for the 4th of July potluck, and had lunch at a great fish taco stand that we always liked. Along the way sailing to the next spot, we caught a nice Mahi. Now you can see why we like the Sea so much... calamari, clams, scallops, Mahi, lobster... We were only up in the Sea for a couple of weeks, but we sure did eat well! For the 4th, we had planned to be at a spot that we had spent the 4th five years ago. This is a small beach community that many North Americans have settled in over the last 20 years or so. We woke up and had red, white and blue pancakes before the kids went wake boarding with a couple of other kid boats. They had a fun day. Mid-afternoon we all went into shore for the festivities. One family in this community has taken it upon themselves to organize fireworks and a big potluck every year for this celebration. They also do inner-tube boat rides for the kids. It is always a good time. We saw many people that we knew from years ago and met some new ones also. The following day we were up early to begin to head south to get closer to an airport. While we stopped to get some fuel for the boat, Nancy was able to make a phone call to the states. Her dad was resting, but everything was still fine. A couple of hours later, while we were underway, we checked email on board and got the message that her dad had passed. Now it was a race to get to the closest place to leave the boat, get the pets settled, and get flights out. We did an overnighter, with the tides and winds against us, to get back to La Paz. While underway, we were trying to power through the last few days of school so that we could finish all of the tests before we left and be done with school for the year. We finally pulled into La Paz, and right when we stepped off the dock we saw someone who could take care of the boat, and they recommended someone to watch the animals. Now it was just a matter of trying to find a flight, find clothes for all of us that were appropriate for the occasion, and getting school finished up before we left. We ended up flying out of San Jose del Cabo, a two and a half hour taxi ride away. We would be flying standby (thanks to Mike's sister getting us the standby passes), and we had a connecting flight. This is always a bit sketchy, especially for all four of us. We all made it the first try on both flights. The first flight we were all in different rows spread from the front of the plane to the very back. The second flight we got three of us in the same row and one a couple of rows away. We were very pleased.
We arrived in Virginia very tired, but very grateful to be able to get there. We all helped out around the house for a couple of days before the funeral. The house sits down a long, pretty driveway. In the back it opens on to a small lake o that feeds into the James River. It is a very beautiful area. Mike and the kids had fun (really, they did) doing yard work. That is one thing that we all really miss on the boat, having a yard. So, they raked, mowed, pruned, straightened and kept very busy outside. Nancy kept busy making phone calls, helping to get the program ready for the funeral, and working on the picture boards. The day after the funeral, we drove up to Maryland to stay with one of Nancy's brothers and his family. They have a beautiful home just north of DC. On the way there, we drove past some of Nancy's old haunts from when she lived in that neighborhood, and went for a long walk along the Potomac River o. We had a great visit and shared a couple of delicious meals. We spent the days touring DC. The first day we did the mall, ALL of the monuments o, the Holocaust Museum, lunch at the American Indian Museum, and finally, the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum o. The next day we visited the Capitol o, the Supreme Court, the Library of Congress, the National Gallery, the Ford Theater (where Lincoln was shot) and the house across the street where he died, the White House o, and finally the National Archives. That night we moved over to stay with one of Nancy's cousins in Northern Virginia for a couple of nights. Again we had a great visit and some great meals. Our last day in DC we started at Arlington Cemetery o, moved on to the American History Museum, and finally the Natural History Museum. This was the hottest day yet, and we were quite exhausted by the end of it. For a three day tour of DC, I think that we did pretty well! The following day we headed out of the DC area to go to western Virginia (not West Virginia) to visit some other cousins from the kids mom's side of the family. On the way we stopped at Manassas Battlefield o, where the first engagement of the Civil War took place. From there we drove over the Blue Ridge Mountains along the Shenandoah Parkway. We did a hike to a waterfall o, saw many deer, a bear and a woodchuck along the way. What a beautiful part of the country. It was raining on and off all day, but it stayed dry for most of our hike. We arrived on the other side of the mountains to our destination in time for dinner. We had a great time hanging out with these cousins too o. The next day we drove back to South Eastern Virginia, stopping at Montecello (Thomas Jefferson's home) along the way. We also stopped at a farm stand and got a peck of fresh peaches, a peach pie and even some peach donuts. Yea, so we went a little crazy there with the peaches. After hitting a huge traffic snarl in Richmond, we finally made it back to our home base for a few more days of helping around the house, and seeing the many historical sites that were right there in the neighborhood. We went to Jamestown (the first English settlement in the US), on to Williamsburg (where the American Revolution started) o, and finished up the day at Yorktown (where the final battle of the Revolution was fought). The next day we went to the Mariners Museum and got even more Civil War history learning all about the civil war ironclad vessel the Monitor. We even had time to race through the Living Museum to see a bunch of local critters and birds. Whew, what a tour we had. This was a trip that Mike and Nancy had always wanted to take the kids on. Even though the reason for going East was not the best, we are very grateful that we got to share this part of the country with our kids.
We arrived back in Mexico, again making all of our standby flights. Instead of a taxi, we rented a car for the ride back. We drove up the Pacific coast of southern Baja, stopped for lunch in a little beach town, and got back to the boat in time to open it up, clean it up, and even go get the animals. We were so happy to be home. The next morning, since we still had the car, we picked up some parts for the boat and did a big shopping trip. It is so much easier to do with a car, rather than by bus! Early the following morning we headed out to some islands off the coast of La Paz. This was on the way out to head south and our last chance to enjoy an island anchorage. It was kind of bitter sweet since we will soon be closing this cruising chapter of our lives, moving ashore and selling the boat. We anchored and went to the beach for a swim. The following day we moved the boat to another anchorage to get closer to a dive site. We went out to Los Islotes where Mike and Nancy did a SCUBA dive and then Nancy and the kids went snorkeling. It was very beautiful, although the currents were quite strong. We swam with sea lions and saw lots of big fish since this is a marine reserve. After our morning dive, we headed back to the boat and then into the beach o. The kids built a raft out of driftwood o while Mike and Nancy hiked to the interior of the island. What a nice last day in the Sea of Cortez. In the late afternoon, we began our crossing to head back to mainland Mexico. We had a very smooth sail that first day. We were estimating 3-4 days to get to Puerto Vallarta. The worrisome thing is that it is hurricane season. We kept a close eye on the weather as we moved south. We had dolphins with us almost the whole way. There were huge mega-pods of spinner dolphins. Both Izzy and Hopper love the dolphins o, and so do we. At night it was fun, you could see the bio-luminescence all around them as they sped through the water. We caught a nice albacore along the way. Nancy really wanted to make some sushi with it, but she was too seasick to get the supplies out, let alone make it. She was able to coach Mike through making some delicious, lightly seared fish dinners. Oh my gosh was it good. On our last day out, we had quite a fright. We thought that Izzy had gone overboard! We searched everywhere. We stopped the engine and were getting ready to turn around to see if we could spot her. Mike thought he heard a faint meow. We kept searching. Then Nancy thought that she heard a meow, again very faint. We did not know if we were imagining it, wishful thinking, or if we really heard something. We were frantically searching everywhere. We were about 150 miles off shore, but we thought that if we did a reciprocal course maybe we could spot a little kitty in a yellow life jacket. Chances would be slim, but Mike was getting ready to turn the boat around and go for it. Fletcher was searching in the back of the boat, under and between things when he saw Izzy, in the dingy. How she got there we do not know. How she got there without falling overboard is amazing! It is quite a leap, on a heeled over boat, on slippery and unstable surfaces. Boy, were we relieved. We continued on and had a beautiful sail into La Cruz never letting Izzy out of our sight for a moment. By about 9:30 that night we were anchored out in our new home stomping grounds. The next day we visited with our friends, checked in with the Port Captain, took laundry in, and went out for our favorite taco stand dinner. After dinner all of the kids played around town, running back and forth to the town square, while the adults enjoyed a beer and some live music at a favorite cruiser hangout. We also started to put feelers out for a car, and a house to live in. It feels good to be home.
Please click to enlarge!
Isla Coronado projectile squid, and huge schools of rays!
Scenes from Virginia, Maryland and DC: rowing and fishing on the lake behind the house, the Potomac River, Washington, Vietnam, and Lincoln Memorials.
Roosevelt Memorial, Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, the White House, the Capitol, and Arlington Cemetery.
Manassas Battlefield, waterfall hike, hanging with the Hatton cousins, Colonial Williamsburg, a cute woodchuck.
Back in the Sea of Cortez anchored off of Isla Partida, kids build a raft, Izzy admiring the dolphins on the sail back to the mainland.
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