Category Archives: Living on a Sailboat in Mexico

Every diver knows it’s important to keep a log of all scuba dives! My early logs are on paper, but here are some of my most recent dives since 2014 in Mexico and the South Pacific.

7/4/2018, 2:00 PM, Fakarava South Pass, 75 feet, 42 minutes
We planned to dive at the apron, but when the outboard motor had issues on the way to the dive we decided it would be safer to flood in on the incoming current of the pass instead of going outside the atoll. The current was light and sharkies were few. I got two excellent videos of a large titan triggerfish feeding on coral. What a great scene to shoot in low current! These fishes are active subjects, who break off big pieces of coral looking for food. An entourage of smaller fishes surround the large Triggerfish, hoping for a scrap as he roots around in the reef.

7/5/2018, 2:30 PM, Fakarava Apron, 80 feet, 49 minutes
We went diving at the dream site, and instead of finding the normal sand hallway we kept swimming far past it, and eventualy ended up on a coral plain at around 65 feet. It wasn’t the prettiest place, but then we saw a huge turtle feeding on green moss on the sea floor. We approached within five feet. The turtle continued eating and never showed signs of fleeing. What a beautiful and trusting creature! It was a memorable encounter, and I got an excellent short video of the turtle feeding.

7/6/2018 – 8:00 AM, Fakarava Apron, 75 feet, 52 minutes
Flooded into the pass from the outer wall. I especially love the long, white sand section leading into the pass. Sometimes I could see the sand fluttering around in the strong current, and it’s easy to imagine how this area is scoured with the strong incoming floods. Excellent video of schooling sharks and coral at the beginning of the dive. It’s always very sharky at the start.

7/6/2018 – 5:30 PM Fakarava South Pass, 45 feet, 32 minutes – First night dive with sharks! We stayed near the starting buoy so we could dive with the sharks outside of the current. It was extremely exciting. I wrote a blog post all about it.

7/7/2018 – 10 AM Fakarava Apron, 82 feet, 42 minutes – Flooded into the pass from the outer wall. Brian had the camera and got an excellent video of me petting a shark! I met a divemaster who enjoys petting sharks sometimes and showed me a video of a shark tolerating it. But this shark did not seem to like it and swam away after I gently caressed its tail. It felt great to swim without my camera, and simply be a diver instead of a videographer today. I enjoyed the life around me instead of shooting a lot of videos like I usually do. We saw a giant manta ray flying at the edge of visibility in the south pass. What an incredible sight! A divemaster told me they are never seen at Fakarava’s south pass, only at the north pass. I think this was a very unusual sighting and it was super exciting to see it cruising down the pass.

7/8/2018 – 10 AM Fakarava Apron, 89 feet, 42 minutes – Best wide angle video yet of the shark aggregation in the pass. Conditions were clear and beautiful, and I have truly lost my fear of these peaceful sharks. I swam a few feet away from them, surrounded on all sides by Gray Reef Sharks, as long as I am. They allowed me to join them and get close up videos of at least 200 swimming into the current all around me. Wow! I also got a nice wide angle video of an eagle ray, but I feel the other lens (medium, or lemmy lens) captures the beauty of the eagle rays better. When showing the vast number of sharks in the pass, the wide angle lens is best! Soooo many sharks today!

7/9 – 10:30 AM Fakarava Apron, 72 feet, 49 minutes – Brian had the camera today, and we drifted on a strong current over the apron and into the pass. We drifted through the entire pass. A great dive. The first time for me to try swimming for a wide angle video in the shark aggregation while Brian films me with the GH5. Trying to be graceful and swim smoothly through hundreds of sharks, without my camera between myself and them, my face just a few feet from thiers. Some of them flee from me as I approach them, none respond with any aggression. A nice video of me close to the sharks will be a great addition to my documentary. I want to show how the sharks respond to me as I swim near them.

7/10/2018 – Fakarava South Pass 11:30 AM 75 feet, 32 minutes – Brian had the camera and shot videos of me swimming with the sharks, this time with a wide angle lens. I love these animals! This is a tough shot to get, and we still may need to try again to get everything just right. The best is when Brian is in front of me, with sharks between us, and I swim toward him.

7/10/2018 – Fakarava South Pass 12:15 PM 45 feet, 39 minutes – Shallow second dive, since the current was so strong our prior dive was a little short. Brian had the camera with the wide angle lens and shot videos of eagle rays, sharks, and me swimming with the shark aggregation. Saw a huge school of Fusiler filling the entire pass! Beautiful sight!

7/11/2018 – Diving under boat – 9:00 AM, 40 feet, 12 minutes – I grabbed my tank and set up my gear to jump in and try to locate a part for the outboard motor Brian lost over board a few minutes before. I searched around until my tank dropped to 300 psi, a new record for me, then headed slowly for the surface and the boat. I always surface with 500 psi or more, but wanted to keep searching and knew it was a shallow dive.

7/11/2018 – Diving under boat – 1:00 PM, 40 feet, 49 minutes – It was a stressful day of working on the outboard, so we went diving under the boat instead of diving in the south Pass. There were hundreds of fish and several sharks. It was a great scene, and a nice change to do a dive without current where we just swam around taking photos of critters. A highlight was a gigantic Crown of Thorns starfish, at least 3 feet wide, perched right under Magic. We both got great photos of it!

7/12/2018 – Fakarava South Pass 40th Birthday Dive! 90 feet, 40 minutes – Brian used the medium lens to get our best yet video of me diving with the sharks in a bikini. The ultimate highlight is a memorable and beautiful 9 second segment of me enveloped by 50 sharks as they swirl peacefully around me and I swim at the camera. Success!

7/13/2018, 11:30 AM, Fakarava South Pass, 89 feet, 32 minutes
We plan to leave Fakarava tomorrow and head to a nearby atoll, Faiite, for a couple days. Today we focused on enjoying the dive and not getting videos of me swimming with the sharks. It is definitely a different experience when you’re focused on getting a certain shot with animals who flee and generally don’t take direction all that well. 🙂 We got great media yesterday and today was a time to relax and celebrate the beauty of the pass. It was a wonderful dive with schools of Fusiler again, and some interesting Silvertip Sharks in the mix.

7/13/2018 – Fakarava South Pass 12:15 PM 45 feet, 39 minutes
A shallow second dive, since we had only used up half our tanks on the first. We have found the Eagle Rays usually spend time at the shallower depths of the pass, and by doing a second, shallower dive with them we can maximize our time with them. And we did see them today! The highlight of the dive were three juvenile Eagle Rays and two adults! The juveniles were very friendly and I swam right alongside them, getting amazing videos of them. They appeared to be swimming the gravel of the sea floor, searching for things to eat.

7/15/2018, 1:30 PM, Faaite Apron, 60 feet, 52 minutes
Beautiful coral and fish, no sharkies! Brian was using the camera, got a fun video of me swimming with marauding parrotfish, tangs, and other critters.

7/18 – Fakarava South Pass, 2 PM, 82 feet, 49 minutes
Light flood in the pass and lower visibility than normal. Excellent titan triggerfish video! Saw several titan triggerfishes excavating in the pass.

7/19/2018, 3:15 PM, Lagoon dive near Magic, 45 feet, 50 minutes
The pass was ebbing so we found an interesting place in the lagoon and dropped in to see what we would find. We saw many friendly fish on this dive and a couple sharkies. I got a cute video of some eye stripe surgeonfish following Brian around and trying to eat or play in his bubbles. It’s interesting that some fish seem to love bubbles and perhaps enjoy the feeling of the bubbles tickling them as they swim through them. It was fun being followed around by an entourage of dinner plate-sized fish, as we provided all the bubbles they could handle.

7/21/2018 – Fakarava South Pass, 6:30 AM, 85 feet, 40 minutes
The pass was flooding lightly, a beautiful dive with the creatures beginning to act differrently in the daylight. Eagle rays were majestic, and I got a video of them swimming with light beams coming in behind them. Awesome! I love diving the pass at different times of the day. It is a dynamic place.

7/21/2018, 5:30 PM, Fakarava South Pass, 48 feet, 45 minutes
My second time night diving with the sharks in Fakarava’s South Pass. Instead of staying in the eddy near the start of the dive we ventured out into the current and drifted along with the sharkies. I felt a lot more comfortable with them this time, and we drifted along at a shallow depth with them feeding all around us. It was a bit difficult staying away from Brian and it seemed the current was often pushing me right into him. Also this was only my third night dive ever, so I am not used to this. But we did well and I only ended up kicking him once. I felt bad, but he later insisted it’s common for this to happen during a night dive, especially one with current. By getting so comfortable with diving in general and with the support of my wonderful dive partner and husband, I was able to push the envelope and do this really intense videography dive. I got fantastic media for the documentary. Seeing so many sharks darting around in the dark was a crazy scene and it sticks in my memory. One of my best dives ever.

7/22/2018 – Fakarava South Pass 8:00 AM 85 feet, 32 minutes – A great dive with sharkies. I love them so, Brian is getting a little bored with them.

7/22/2018 – Fakarava South Pass 8:45 PM 45 feet, 39 minutes – A shallow second dive with a new tank. We brought all three tanks with us in the dinghy.

Need to add some dives here, logged on paper and not written up digitally yet…

7/26/2018 – Fakarava Apron – 9:30 AM, 90 feet, 30 minutes – We’ve seen baby gray sharks schooling at 80-90 feet the last couple days at the apron, but they are usually far away and hard to film. I have become obsessed with getting footage of them in a way that shows how tiny they are. They are like one-foot long copies of the adults. They are especially adorable when they are in a big school together, and today they were more precious than ever. I wanted a video of me swimming with them so Brian had the camera during this dive and didn’t get much footage of me with my baby sharkies. The current pushed us away from them and they started to flee, so we cut the dive short and went back to see them again. I am obsessed with these baby sharks. There were 20-30 of them schooling together today against a backdrop of magnificent coral at 90 feet. It was an amazing scene.

7/26/2018 – Fakarava Apron – 10:15 AM, 1 foot, 2 minutes – We were both in the water and ready to descend to see the baby sharks again when a large, bold Dusky shark started following us around at the surface. We drifted a short distance on the current, the dusky persisted and followed us, doing close passes. We aborted the dive. The Dusky was not acting particularly aggressive, but it was showing a heightened interest in us and was uncomfortably large.

7/27/2018 – Fakarava Apron and South Pass 9:45 AM, 80 feet, 45 minutes – A strong current pulled us all the way from the outer wall through the entire South Pass, an absolutely perfect journey through so many beautiful areas. A fantastic dive with great visibility! Very few Grouper are in the pass for the full moon spawning event. But the sharks were beautiful and I made it through the entire 45 minute dive using the 80 (smaller) tank. My air consumption is getting more efficient. I feel so relaxed diving these days. Plus the current carried me along on this dive and I didn’t even have to swim much.

7/27/2018 – Fakarava Apron and South Pass 10:45 AM, 80 feet, 35 minutes – Our last dive was so fantastic we went back and repeated it. We started at the apron again, being careful this time to not spend much time at depth because we absorbed a lot of nitrogen on the previous dive and had only taken a 15 minute surface interval. I kept a close eye on my computer to be sure I was not nearing deco. A strong current pulled us all the way from the outer wall through the South Pass. Another fantastic dive in Fakarava! We’ve been here for a month and I’ve grown immensely as a diver and videographer by spending a lot of time with the captivating and chill creatures of Fakarava. It’s been great to do the same dives over and over, because usually we are always exploring new spots and there are many things to pay attention to when diving somewhere new. Diving the same old reliable places has allowed me to focus on videography and expanding my dive skills.

IMG_2189 (Large)Dive Sept 23, 2014 10:15 pm
Max depth – 35 feet
Water temp – 86 degrees
Dive time – 40 minutes
Location – Rock off east end of Lalo cove, San Carlos
Critters – Fish, stingrays.
I haven’t been diving in over 10 years! Now that we have a compressor on-board, we’re looking forward to a lot of diving this winter all over the sea. It felt great to get underwater again, and Brian is an amazing dive buddy. I wondered if I would remember what to do, it’s been so long. I’ve always loved diving and I remember how great it felt to join the underwater world for a brief time. As soon as I was in the water, it all came back to me and felt natural. It also brought back many happy memories of previous dives.

IMG_2283 (Large)Dive Sept 25, 2014 4:45 pm
Max depth – 45 feet
Water temp – 86 degrees
Dive time – 55 minutes
Location – Rock off east end of Lalo cove, San Carlos
Critters – Many eels (at least 6), stingrays.
We have been referring to this dive as the “eel garden” because there were so many eels of different species, sizes and colors. The first and smallest eel we saw was the size of a sharpie marker. The various eels progressed in size all the way up to a fat, green moray eel which was several feet long.

IMG_2346 (Large)Dive Sept 26, 2014 4:45 pm
Max depth – 50 feet
Water temp – 86 degrees
Dive time – 1 hour 5 minutes
Location – Rock outcropping near Marina Real, San Carlos
Critters – Free swimming Jewel Moray Eel, many other eels in burrows, stingrays, octopus.
The free swimming eel exhibited some interesting behavior as it lazily made its way along the rocky bottom; it did not appear to be hunting. The octopus was nestled in a crack in the rock at around 15 feet so we did our 3 minute decompression stop while taking turns gently petting its tentacles. As we touched it, it gently petted us back, perhaps feeling us just as we were feeling it.

IMG_2362 (Large)Dive Sept 27, 2014 2:30 pm
Max depth – 35 feet
Water temp – 86 degrees
Dive time – 65 minutes
Location – Rock outcropping near Marina Real, San Carlos
Critters – Many schools of fish, many stingrays, two eels in burrows.
This site had surge and many fish swimming in large schools. I began to notice some ear discomfort during this dive, and the next day began to have some mild pain and tenderness when I pressed on my outer ear. This is probably “swimmer’s ear” from what I’ve read. It is caused by the ear remaining warm and wet for too long, allowing bacteria to grow. I’m treating it with a solution of half white vinegar, half water, and will lay off diving until it improves. Hopefully soon!

IMG_2425 (Large)Dive Oct 1, 2014 10:30 am
Max depth – 50 feet
Water temp – 86 degrees
Dive time – 55 minutes
Location – Southwest side of Isla Venados near Bahia Algodones, San Carlos
Critters – We saw hundreds of fish, including two large puffer fishes. One puffer was chasing the other, perhaps trying to convince it to mate.
My self-diagnosed swimmer’s ear is better after treating it with vinegar and water, and I was excited to go diving again. This dive had the best visibility so far in the sea – about 60 feet! Wonderful! We surfaced halfway through the dive to check my regulator. It would occasionally make a gentle groaning sound when I inhaled, although it delivered air normally. It’s never done that before so we tried to reproduce the groaning sound with no luck. We practiced sharing air and then continued the dive without hearing the noise again.

IMG_2456 (Large)Dive Oct 2, 2014 9:15 am
Max depth – 45 feet
Water temp – 86 degrees
Dive time – 75 minutes
Location – Southeast side of Isla Venados near Bahia Algodones, San Carlos
Critters – Five plump Green Moray Eels, one free swimming between rocks! We also saw the first Nudibranch of the season, a very small, neon colored beauty hidden in a sea of coral and rock. A purple octopus retreated to its lair quickly after being spotted. On the rocky bottom sat a red and black sea star feasting on a huge, dead lobster. We saw hundreds of fish, too. It was a long, mellow, shallow dive with many fun critters.

IMG_2553 (Large)Dive Oct 4, 2014 9:15 am
Max depth – 48 feet
Water temp – 84 degrees
Dive time – 65 minutes
Location – Southwest side of Isla Venados near Bahia Algodones, San Carlos
Critters – We saw dozens of stingrays swimming around a large sandy area. I saw one flutter up out of the sand right next to me. We also saw a couple lobster, one eel, and hundreds of fish. There was a bit of surge and current at this site.

IMG_2027 (Large)Dive Oct 20, 2014 9:30 am
Max depth – 48 feet
Water temp – 78 degrees
Dive time – 65 minutes
Location – Southwest side of Isla Venados near Bahia Algodones, San Carlos
Critters – We saw hundreds of fish, one Jewel Moray Eel and one lobster. The lobster and the eel were both skittish and retreated to their caverns when we peered at them. Brian spent some time hovering around a very docile Scorpionfish. This particular fish tolerated us for several minutes as we enjoyed its grizzled appearance and Brian took a dozen photos of it. The water temperature dropped noticeably after two weeks away from the sea. It went from 84 to 78, and we could really feel the difference. Bikini diving season is coming to an end and soon we’ll be wearing neoprene. Algae seems to have bloomed recently in the sea, reducing our visibility to about 25 feet.

IMG_0109 (Large)Dive Oct 21, 2014 9:30 am
Max depth – 48 feet
Water temp – 71 degrees
Dive time – 42 minutes
Location – Small, isolated rock outcropping near Isla Venados, Bahia Algodones, San Carlos
Critters – We saw hundreds of fish, one Moray Eel and one huge hermit crab, with a shell about six inches long and a cute, captivating face with tiny, buggy eyes. The coral was the best we’ve seen in the sea this season, probably due to the strong currents at this site. When we were behind the rock the current was strong but manageable. However, once I rounded the corner and left the protection of the rock I had to find something to cling to so I wouldn’t be carried away! I felt like a rock climber as my fingers searched for a tiny hold to latch onto. I’ve only done one other dive in such strong currents. It was in New Zealand on a guided drift dive at the Poor Knights Islands. After we returned to the anchor line we decided to surface with over 1000 psi remaining in our tanks because the current at this site was much stronger than expected. We felt we handled the current safely with Brian using a line and reel to ensure we didn’t drift too far, but we also don’t want to push the envelope too much with strong currents and diving from an unmanned boat.

IMG_0181 (Large)Dive Oct 21, 2014 12:30 am
Max depth – 36 feet
Water temp – 78 degrees
Dive time – 61 minutes
Location – Southwest side of Isla Venados near Bahia Algodones, San Carlos
Critters – We saw hundreds of fish, two Moray Eels and a beautiful black flatworm with yellow and white spots. There was some mild current but it was nothing like our earlier site. It was a mellow dive as we meandered along on gentle currents and enjoyed many interesting sea critters.

IMG_0190 (Large)Dive Oct 22, 2014 12:30 am
Max depth – 46 feet
Water temp – 77 degrees
Dive time – 69 minutes
Location – West of Lalo Cove near red striped rock wall, San Carlos
Critters – Just a few minutes into the dive we spotted a beautiful, three foot long Snake Eel slithering across the rocky bottom. Its skin was orange, brown and cream. This was our first time seeing a Snake Eel in the sea. We also saw many fish and at least twenty stingrays. At one point, we were in a formation much like a hallway with rock walls on either side and a sandy bottom. The stingrays loved this hallway and they were fluttering all over the place. At one point I was swimming a couple feet up from the sandy bottom and four fluttered out of the sand right beneath me. Great dive.

IMG_0237 (Large)Dive Oct 24, 2014 2:30 pm
Max depth – 46 feet
Water temp – 77 degrees
Dive time – 48 minutes
Location – Near the southern tip of Isla Venados near Bahia Algodones, San Carlos
Critters – We were swimming back to the anchor line looking into rocky crevices when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw two tiny eyes peering over the top of a rock. It was a small octopus, exactly the color of the rock! This intelligent animal watched me closely, then watched as Sue and Brian also approached. The octopus remained tolerant of the three of us staring at it from close range, but the moment I touched one of its tentacles it retreated to its lair and placed a shell at the entrance to block us from entering. It was a memorable encounter with a sentient and watchful sea creature. We also saw many eels and fish. This was my first time diving with my mother in law, Sue. The photo is of she and I.

IMG_0348 (Large)Dive Oct 26, 2014 10:30 am
Max depth – 46 feet
Water temp – 77 degrees
Dive time – 48 minutes
Location – San Pedro Island near San Carlos
Critters – One moray eel, a few sea lions, and some Trigger Fish showing interesting behavior. There were many horizontal cracks in the rock and coral, and when we approached the trigger fish for a better view they would turn on their sides and shimmy into a crack, wedging themselves in tightly. The visibility was spectacular – about 80 feet. It’s the best we’ve seen in the Sea of Cortez this season. Wonderful dive.

IMG_0380 (Large)Dive Oct 26, 2014 3:30 pm
Max depth – 46 feet
Water temp – 77 degrees
Dive time – 48 minutes
Location – San Pedro Island near San Carlos
Critters – Two moray eels, many sea lions, one tiny lobster and an octopus! Sue found the octopus right at the end of the dive. Brian and Sue attempted to hold the octopus but it was not in a friendly mood, and inked them before it darted away to find peace and solitude. This dive was late in the day so there was not much light in the water, however visibility was great and it was an enjoyable dive with much to see. I got chilled on this dive for the first time this season. I think it’s time to begin wearing some neoprene.

Dive Oct 27, 2014 3:30 pm
Max depth – 46 feet
Water temp – 77 degrees
Dive time – 28 minutes
Location – San Pedro Island near San Carlos
Critters – One moray eel, many sea lions and fish. Tim saw a gigantic lobster. About 15 minutes into the dive I found myself feeling increasingly uneasy about the darkness of this late afternoon dive, poor visibility (only about 30 feet today) and sea lions. Brian, Tim and Sue had all experienced aggressive sea lion behavior at other sites on San Pedro Island, so I would watch the behavior of the sea lions closely while diving with them. The water was dark and large sea lions would appear suddenly out of the darkness, swoop quickly through the water near me, and I didn’t like that one bit. After a few minutes of feeling uneasy, I decided I wasn’t enjoying this dive at all and didn’t want to continue. I wrote this on my tablet and showed it to Brian and Tim, who already knew I was a bit uneasy about the sea lions and their aggressive behavior: “I don’t like this. It’s dark and vis is poor.” I gave the hand signal to turn around and we swam back to the anchor. We began our ascent and stopped at 15 feet depth for a 4 minute safety stop. During this safety stop a medium sized sea lion charged us repeatedly, and once it came at us with its mouth open wide, showing its yellow, jagged teeth. I huddled against Brian with my limbs tucked in, not moving. Tim fended off the charging sea lion with his large dive light, being careful to never turn his back on the animal. We completed the safety stop and I was glad to ascend. This was not my favorite dive but it was a valuable opportunity for learning to deal with discomfort underwater, staying calm, and remembering the importance of the safety stop when I really would have just preferred to surface and get away from the charging sea lion.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADive Oct 28, 2014 3:30 pm
Max depth – 36 feet
Water temp – 77 degrees
Dive time – 48 minutes
Location – San Pedro Island near San Carlos
Critters – Many non-aggressive sea lions and fish. Once again visibility was poor, so we decided to stay at shallower depths so there would be more light and the sea lions would be easier to see. This worked well for me and I felt comfortable diving with them in these conditions. They were in a very playful mood and exhibited no aggressive behavior today. I relaxed, enjoyed their underwater acrobatics, and shot many photos of them. At least a dozen sea lions swirled around us and they seemed genuinely pleased to share their underwater world with us! When they are being nice, there is nothing better than diving with them and seeing them up close. Sea Lions are the only animals I have ever been in the water with that seem genuinely interested in interacting with divers and also the only animals who seem curious about the stream of bubbles flowing out of a scuba regulator. I’m so glad my last dive with them on a high note, instead of leaving San Pedro with memories of that sea lion charging in dark water.

Dive Oct 30, 2014 3:30 pm
Max depth – 47 feet
Water temp – 75 degrees
Dive time – 55 minutes
Location – Red striped wall near Lalo Cove, San Carlos
Critters – Stinging jellyfish, sting rays. We cut our dive short after Brian got stung several times by a jellyfish. When we ascended, there were tentacles strung out along the anchor line, too. Gross! There are a lot of jelly fish and visibility is poor (30 feet). We’re done diving here.

IMG_0387 (Large)November 8 1:00 PM
Max depth – 52 feet
Water temp – 78 degrees
Dive time – 63 minutes
Location – Rocky point of the bay at Puerto Ballandra, Loreto area
Critters – A lot of Sargeant Majors, Cortez Angelfish, Parrotfish, and many other busy reef fish. We crossed the sea and found much better diving conditions on the other side! We named this dive The Aquarium for all the fish and the great visibility here (60 feet).

Max depth – 38 feet
Water temp – 78 degrees
Dive time – 68 minutes
Location – Island near Puerto Ballandra, Loreto area
Critters – Many eels and fish on a shallow reef. In the photo at left are two eels with homes right above and below each other on this busy reef! We saw plenty of colorful fish including sergeant majors, leopard grouper, parrotfish and coronet fish. We took the dinghy about a mile from Magic to explore a small island and found great visibility there.

Max depth – 59 feet
Water temp – 78 degrees
Dive time – 64 minutes
Location – The Aquarium near Puerto Ballandra, Loreto area
Critters – We love seeing Nudibranchs on our dives. Our favorite critter this time was a dark blue nudibranch with prominent, feathery gills and antennae and bright yellow spots. A school of Golden Trevallys swam right by us early in the dive, and must have been two feet long. The combined mass of them was easily 15 feet wide. They were briefly interested in us.

IMG_0437 (Large)November 10 6:15 PM
Max depth – 25 feet
Water temp – 78 degrees
Dive time – 43 minutes
Location – The Aquarium near Puerto Ballandra, Loreto area
Critters – We saw many creatures that are never around during our daytime dives, like dozens of four-foot-long sea cucumbers, sea hares, sea cucumbers, and big sleeping fish. It was fun to get a closer look at several huge fish which would normally never let me get near them while they are awake. The parrot fish pictured here was really cute, suspended in a little cave with a toothy grin on his face! The fish sleep with their eyes open and are so entranced that we could swim right up and touch them.

IMG_0449 (Large)November 12 10:15 AM
Max depth – 59 feet
Water temp – 79 degrees
Dive time – 64 minutes
Location – Candaleros Islands, Loreto area
Critters – Colorful gorgonians (coral) in red, purple, blue, white, and orange. Many eels and fish. I was stung by a jellyfish late in the dive on the arm. The pain was pretty intense, but the beauty of the dive made up for it. I need to wear my protective skin for all dives now, apparently.

IMG_0487 (Large)November 13 10:15 AM
Max depth – 50 feet
Water temp – 78 degrees
Dive time – 57 minutes
Location – Candaleros Islands, Loreto area
Critters – We enjoyed many colorful Gorgonians again, and spent quite a bit of time taking photos of them. This is the best coral we’ve seen anywhere in the sea! We also found many small fish hidden among the large corals.

Max depth – 54 feet
Water temp – 79 degrees
Dive time – 55 minutes
Location – Isla Los Islotes, La Paz area
Critters – Los Islotes always has many fish, but the side of the island we chose seemed to have fewer fish than usual. We saw a couple sea lions during the dive, but they were not interested in us. As we ascended at the end of the dive, we saw a couple sea lions chewing playfully on the anchor and anchor line as if it were a chew toy we brought just for them.

IMG_0611 (Large)November 15, 2014 1:15 PM
Max depth – 52 feet
Water temp – 79 degrees
Dive time – 109 minutes
Location – Rock near Ensanade Grande, La Paz area
Critters – Brian pointed out a Snowflake Eel toward the end of the dive, which I had never seen before. It was beautiful with yellow and gray markings. Brian saw a sea lion, but I was watching fish intently and missed it. That was ok with me.
IMG_0635 (Large)This dive featured a scattering of small coral heads around the area where we did our safety stop, and as we peered into these coral heads we saw an amazing number of small critters using them for shelter. Many colorful crabs and small fish entertained us for quite a while, and Brian took many macro photos as we explored the coral heads at a depth of about 20 feet. That is the reason this dive was 109 minutes long. It is probably our longest dive to date!

November 17, 2014 9:35 AM
Max depth – 26 feet
Water temp – 78 degrees
Dive time – 63 minutes
Location – San Gabriel, La Paz area
Critters – Schools of fish, many Moray Eels and one small ray. This is one of our favorite snorkeling spots near La Paz and there are always many busy fish swarming the coral reef. The orange coral heads are large and flat on top, offering a perfect opportunity to peer into the coral and see the small creatures who call it home.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANovember 18, 2014 9:04 AM
Max depth – 33 feet
Water temp – 78 degrees
Dive time – 66 minutes
Location – San Gabriel, La Paz area
Critters – Plenty of fish here, as always. We also saw several Moray Eels and some larger fish. We went out to the point at San Gabriel, but it never truly dropped off and we remained at around 30 feet. Although this site is best done as a snorkel, we knew it would be awhile before our next dive since we’re headed to the US for the holidays. We enjoyed the fish, coral and plenty of light in the water.

IMG_0820 (Large)March 2, 2015 9:46 AM
Max depth – 54 feet
Water temp – 72 degrees
Dive time – 51 minutes
Location – Marietas Islands, Puerto Vallarta area
Critters – At the beginning of the dive Brian found a Zebra Moray Eel, which was very exciting. I had never seen one before. We enjoyed it for awhile, and then moved on and I spotted yet another Zebra Moray! What luck! We also saw schools of fish and at the very end of the dive Brian spotted a flounder camouflaged in the sand. Its small eyes were poking up from the sand, and that gave it away. This was our first flounder encounter in the Sea of Cortez. This fish begins life with one eye on each side of its body, and as it matures both eyes move to one side, allowing it to lay flat in the sand with both eyes watching for prey.

IMG_0957 (Large)April 1, 2015 7:52 AM
Max depth – 54 feet
Water temp – 72 degrees
Dive time – 66 minutes
Location – Mona rock outcroppings at Isla Isabel, Puerto Vallarta area
Critters – We saw many large fish, including a school of shiny, silver jacks. They always caught our eye and never allowed us to get close for photos. We saw a wonderful ruffled nudibranch with neon blue antennae. We also saw many small fish and enjoyed good visibility for Pacific Mexico (30-40 feet).

IMG_0949 (Large)April 1, 2015 12:20 PM
Max depth – 42 feet
Water temp – 72 degrees
Dive time – 18 minutes
Location – Isla Isabel, Puerto Vallarta area
Critters – We went diving right under the boat. I was trying out Brian’s dive gear, and found it did not fit well so this was a short dive. I currently use a bulky women’s jacket-style BCD which I bought over ten years ago. It is still in good shape, but is larger than it needs to be and has a “cummerbund” that often shifts around and comes loose. I wanted to try Brian’s backplate style BCD. I found I really liked the way it floated, and it makes it easier to float horizontally. However, the un-padded straps cut into my shoulders and began chafing my skin a few minutes into the dive. I would like to get a backplate style BCD, but one that is cut specifically for women and has a bit of padding so it’s comfortable against my skin. There is nothing better than a bikini dive in warm water and I want the BCD to be comfortable without a shirt under it.

IMG_1098 (Large)April 1, 2015 1:08 PM
Max depth – 17 feet
Water temp – 75 degrees
Dive time – 29 minutes
Location – Isla Isabel, Puerto Vallarta area
Critters – We saw many fish and a surprising number of lobsters. Most lobsters were small, some were medium sized. They seemed to like being in a group. A wall with many rock ledges gave them many places to hide. We also saw moray eels under these rocky ledges. We had already used a portion of the air in our tanks on the previous dive, so we used our remaining air on this short and shallow dive.

IMG_1057 (Large)April 2, 2015 8:40 AM
Max depth – 49 feet
Water temp – 75 degrees
Dive time – 61 minutes
Location – Punta Bobos, Isla Isabel, Puerto Vallarta area
Critters – This was our last dive at Isla Isabel and I spotted my favorite eel hiding under a rock! A Zebra Moray is always an exciting find. We also saw many fish and green moray eels, and the caves and arches underwater were fun to explore.

IMG_1179-1 (Large)April 19, 2015 12:06 PM
Max depth – 45 feet
Water temp – 73 degrees
Dive time – 58 minutes
Location – Isla San Francisco
Critters – We were surrounded by huge schools of fish for most of this dive. We also had great visibility of about 50 feet. This was one of our best dives in the sea so far. A large turtle even cruised by, about 30 feet away from us. It was exciting but we didn’t get a close look at it. Many of the fish swam near us, curious and photogenic.

IMG_1027 (Large)April 20, 2015 11:37 AM
Max depth – 52 feet
Water temp – 73 degrees
Dive time – 50 minutes
Location – Isla San Francisco
Critters – Fish, eels, plenty of current. I had a funny encounter with a large eel. I was clinging to a rocky outcropping to avoid being swept away by the current, when around the corner comes this huge eel. He’s swimming really fast right toward me, flying on the current. Then he spots me. He was about 5 feet away. He froze and then began swimming backward, in reverse, eyeing me. If an eel could show emotion, I could see a surprised look on his face as he slowly backed away from that very strange creature emitting bubbles!

IMG_1282-1 (Large)April 22, 2015 7:59 AM
Max depth – 40 feet
Water temp – 69 degrees
Dive time – 53 minutes
Location – San Marte
Critters – We took the dinghy about a mile from Magic and anchored next to rock. The bottom was large, course boulders and coral. This dive was really nice. We didn’t move around all that much but there was a lot of macro life. We saw two nudibranchs, one pictured and one with black skin and tiny multicolored dots. They are such fascinating macro creatures. A large Moray Eel lived in a nice crevice surrounded by different colors of coral. I posed for some photos next to this giant, and made sure I kept a safe distance from his special crevice. This was a very colorful area.

IMG_1363-1 (Large)April 24, 2015 10:43 AM
Max depth – 63 feet
Water temp – 70 degrees
Dive time – 52 minutes
Location – Rock near the north tip of Danzante. We snorkeled and saw a wall dropping off steeply and decided to dive there.
Critters – Golden Grouper, fish, great macro wall with many things to see. We found a thermocline at around 55 feet, and I got very cold when I dropped below 55 feet to see a small cave filled with colorful coral and fish. I didn’t respect the cold, and continued with my core temperature very low. While trying to get into position for a photo at the end of the dive, I flailed my arms and cut my fingers on some coral. Usually I move very gently and carefully underwater, and suspect my coordination suffered as I got colder and colder, resulting in my less-than-graceful movements.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAUgh. Yesterday evening we experienced the worst ocean storm either of us has ever seen. It was fast and furious. It appeared out of nowhere, clobbered us for a couple hours, and then left just as quickly as it arrived. It wasn’t in the forecast, but after the storm Brian found websites to view satellite images of weather which clearly showed a horrible storm was headed our way. We’ll be monitoring these satellite images closely in the future. The Mexicans refer to this type of storm as a Chubasco. We’re nearing the end of the summer monsoon season, which is when these storms are active.

Hurricane season. Chubasco season. What an adrenaline filled honeymoon it’s been.

It had been a calm day. The breeze was light and the ocean was nearly flat. I stayed on Magic and worked while Brian went scuba diving. He returned and the sky clouded over. I took a short nap on the trampoline and woke up to a light rain. We ran around closing hatches and bringing things inside. Within an hour, the light breeze had increased to a tropical storm force wind (39+ MPH). Our wind meter is broken so we will never know just how strong the winds were, but we both agree they were well above 40 MPH.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe rain became so heavy it stung my skin painfully. There was thunder and lightning. A few brave pelicans rode up and down the huge crests and troughs of the waves. Some of the waves smacked the bottom of the catamaran with a loud boom, which has never happened before. A few things fell over inside the boat, which has also never happened before. Magic rode out the storm with grace, her four corners dipping into the ocean occasionally. She’s a blue water boat made for crossing oceans and she felt safe and stable in these waves.

However, we were anchored only about 300 feet away from a very rocky shoreline and we didn’t have a lot of options if the anchor started moving. In the worst of the storm, Brian adjusted the anchor to let out more chain. This brought us a little closer to the rocks but it was the best thing to do because it made the anchor hold more securely. When I watched him at the bow of Magic, leaning over to adjust the anchor with the boat pitching forward so much his arms were in the water, I felt pretty nervous.

He returned to the cockpit and said, “I’ll be really glad when this is over.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe storm was over within a couple hours, and then the huge, rolling waves continued into the night. We haven’t seen any other cruising boats out here, which is eerie. Last season we saw a lot of cruising boats all over the sea. Does everyone else know something we don’t? Are we out on the Sea of Cortez a little too early? We were so eager to get out on Magic and begin diving that now we’ve gotten to experience both hurricane and chubasco season. Lucky us!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe love remote anchorages, and the photo to the right is our current location on a calm, sunny day. We’re surrounded by mountains, beaches, and cactus and we’re close to nice places to dive. However, after this storm we talked about tying up at a marina until these extreme weather seasons calm down. We can use the dingy to go diving when the forecast looks good, and enjoy the safety of the marina when things get ugly.

morning_of_fleeing (Large) (2)We’re going back to Phoenix for a few days until Hurricane Odile passes. Our plan was always to drive down to Mexico, drop off scuba gear and a huge compressor at the boat, drive back to Arizona, and then take the bus down for an extended trip so we don’t have to leave our car in Mexico. Mexico’s Baja Peninsula is a scary place to be right now. Odile, a class 4 hurricane at sea, became a class 3 hurricane as it raged up the Baja Peninsula near Cabo San Lucas and La Paz this morning. To the left is an image from this morning of hurricane Odile’s path up the peninsula, with a red heart near the current location of our boat.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe’re postponing our honeymoon for a bit, or maybe this IS the honeymoon as we work together to deal with this hurricane that threatens our boat. I was more anxious to leave than Brian and more concerned about the hurricane. We checked the hurricane forecast together every few hours, even in the middle of the night. We secured the boat, loaded all our toys inside the main salon, and tied everything down tightly as we waited for the big winds to come.

I was getting more and more worried about the hurricane and wanted to go back to Phoenix to wait it out, the sooner the better. Brian wanted to stay and protect the boat. We talked about my taking the bus up to Phoenix alone but I couldn’t bring myself to leave my husband in this storm, and especially during our honeymoon.

Brian is a wonderful partner who respects my comfort levels and wants to keep me safe and comfortable on these big adventures we enjoy. When I read reports that Hurricane Odile could be “historic” and “record-breaking” and I saw it heading up the peninsula instead of staying out in the Pacific Ocean, I wasn’t sure what it would do next and didn’t want to be anywhere near it. I have no experience with hurricanes, all I know is they can be unpredictable and this was a very, very big one. Brian wasn’t worried about the storm, but he was still willing to go back to Phoenix so we could stay together.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is one of the reasons I love this man so much, feel so safe with him, and want to experience life with him. He’s incredibly brave but he accepts that sometimes I’m not. When I’m apprehensive, we figure out how to make things more comfortable, which in this case meant leaving Mexico for a bit until this big hurricane dissipates. We’re also waiting to see if another disturbance in the ocean turns into a hurricane within the next couple days, which is likely.

Also, I am reaching my stress threshold. Our wedding was fantastic but intense, and then we drove all the way from Idaho to Mexico only to be greeted by a “historic” hurricane. We are really looking forward to our honeymoon cruise with plenty of relaxation, scuba diving, fresh fish, pina coladas and colorful sunsets, but that may need to be delayed a bit. At least I have a 90 minute massage to look forward to in Arizona, hot yoga, and just plain relaxation before returning to the possibility of hurricanes and more ocean drama.

It’s been a very active year for hurricanes in the East Pacific Ocean and now with the Sea of Cortez getting nice and warm (which is great for scuba diving) it tends to draw storms toward the Baja Peninsula. The latest hurricane, Odile, was especially strong. It caused plenty of damage, but at least no casualties have been reported at this time. We’re so thankful our friends in La Paz are ok and we’re waiting to hear how much damage has been done to the city.

I’ve learned a lot about hurricanes lately. We’ve been really thankful for the efforts of the US National Weather Service and their hurricane forecasting website. The brightly colored cones showing the predicted winds both frighten us and comfort us, but at least we are informed and can move away from a big hurricane if needed. Advanced weather forecasting data is one big reason we recently got a device for satellite internet on the boat. Our new device, made by Iridium, is new and pretty exciting. I’m looking forward to seeing how well it works for us. It will be a low bandwidth connection, but we can use it to work occasionally and check weather forecasts while we’re in remote places without any cellular service.

IMG_0988 (Large)Before we first went sailing on the Sea of Cortez in our Great Dane 28’, we looked at a big, beautiful catamaran named Magic. It was for sale in La Paz, Mexico. Magic seemed like a palace with four bedrooms, two bathrooms, teak floors and a full kitchen with pantry, fridge and oven. Magic reminded me of a luxurious RV, compared to our current boat which is a bit like living in a floating van.

We went to sea and bounced along on small ocean waves in the little 28’ boat. We enjoyed some great snorkeling and beautiful anchorages, but the boat was pretty tiny for two people on a long voyage. After 10 days of cruising in the little boat Brian asked if we should make an offer on the big catamaran. He wanted to see if I liked cruising before getting the big boat and he had also been thinking about buying a catamaran for a couple years. His dreamboat (no, not me, haha) just happened to be in the right place at the right time. I had already tasted the sweet cruising lifestyle on the little boat, and I was ready to cruise on the big, beautiful catamaran! Sign me up!

We returned to La Paz and started the process of buying the boat. It was very similar to buying a house, with an initial offer, counter offer, then a full week of inspections. After the inspections, the seller fixed a few items, and finally the closing took place today at a title company in the US. We never had to leave Mexico and our brokers at La Paz Yachts were very helpful.

The first inspection was called a “sea trial”. This was our first time test driving the boat, unfurling the sails, and firing up the motors. Brian loved driving the boat. It moved through the water gracefully. I made sure to carefully evaluate the lounging areas on the many decks and trampolines. I did drive the boat for a few minutes, too, and it was an amazing feeling to be behind the wheel of a big boat. The hull survey was scheduled for the next day.

Our hull surveyor was a legend in the La Paz area. 89 year old Cecil knows everything there is to know about boats. When we told our friends at the marina he had been our surveyor, they were so excited and told us we had gotten the best surveyor in all of Mexico! Cecil has a long history of building boats and has sailed all over the world. He was so spry and enthusiastic, ambling all over the boat, squirming into the engine cabinets, wiggling around on the floors to peer into the bilges, and giving us a great deal of valuable advice.

IMG_0985 (Large)The next portion of Cecil’s process was the hull survey. This involved a huge crane hauling the catamaran out of the water and setting it gently on the ground. Then, Cecil went all around the bottom of the boat (the “hull”) and tapped it with a funny little hammer that looked like it belonged in a cartoon. He was listening for hollow spots in the hull. Cecil gushed about how great the boat was. It only had a few rough edges, as he put it, but is in great shape for being 22 years old. His enthusiasm for the boat and for surveying was delightful and he was a joy to spend time with.

Next it was time for two different mechanical inspections of the boat’s engines. The boat passed the inspections so we moved forward to the final (and most fun) part of the process – getting the paperwork notarized to close escrow on the boat. The nearest American notary was a one hour drive away in Todos Santos, so we rented a little car from Thrifty and hit the road. We arrived in Todos Santos and found our way down dirt roads to an orange, two story house where the notary lived. She was a blonde woman from Minnesota who greeted us with a friendly smile and showed us inside her colorful house with Spanish tiled floors. As we chatted, her large dog wiped drool on our clothing as he demanded attention with much persistence. A fluffy cat lounged on a red couch.

We sat down at her kitchen table with the dog hovering nearby. After just a few minutes, papers were signed and notorized, we paid her 250 pesos (about $20 USD), and we were on our way.

IMG_0982-2 (Large)Now it’s official! Magic is our boat! Here I am, expressing my love for her with an exuberant kiss. We will enjoy a few days this weekend cruising the Sea of Cortez islands aboard Magic, then bid her farewell for a couple months while she waits patiently at the marina in La Paz. We will return to the US February 20.

IMG_0790 (Large)Our sailing trip got off to a windy start but then the weather calmed as we continued to explore and enjoy the islands in the southern Sea of Cortez. We decided if a norther, or strong wind, is in the forecast, we’ll head to La Paz or Puerto Escondido for shelter. We’ve anchored in some gorgeous bays, enjoyed some good snorkeling and also visited the famous Sea Lion colony, Los Islotes! When we pulled up to the round, tan, rock island of Los Islotes and saw a huge National Geographic ship anchored there, we knew this would be a great place to see animals.

We left early in the morning for Los Islotes and when we got within a mile of it we began to hear the cries and belches of hundreds of Sea Lions. They bellowed loudly as they luxuriated and flopped around on land.

IMG_4595 (Large)Off in the distance we saw an amazing sight – flying manta rays! The sounds of them loudly belly flopping into the water first attracted our attention as we cruised a half mile away from them. Brian pulled the boat up next to them. They would launch several feet out of the water with wings flapping wildly in mid-air as if they felt confused about their location. Land or water? Can I fly away if I flap hard enough? They were very entertaining. We saw them a couple more times at sea after this, doing the same thing.

Within a half mile of the sea lion colony, groups of curious sea lions approached the boat at the surface of the water. These creatures couldn’t wait to play with us. When we finally anchored next to the National Geographic ship and jumped into the water, several small sea lion pups immediately swirled around us in the water! They were very cute and curious.

IMG_0845 (Large)As we swam toward Los Islotes, groups of young sea lion pups circled around us and swam right at our faces, blowing bubbles and changing course right at the last minute to avoid head butting us. I looked down and saw a pup chewing on one of the fins on my feet with big teeth! I felt a little nervous. Other sea lion pups were chewing on ropes. How do I know they aren’t going to chew on me? Brian explained only the small pups chew on fins, and they do this to humans because they also chew on each other’s fins. There were some very large sea lions in the water, and thankfully they were not interested in us at all. I would sure not want one of those big bulls nibbling on me.

We stayed in the water for at least an hour enjoying their company and I grew more and more relaxed with them. After all, they are used to tourists visiting their home and they seem to like us as much as we like them. After our Sea Lion encounter, we moved the boat to Ensanada Grande in some pretty big waves – bigger than the boat. The boat just bounced right through them. This small boat is made for big waves with a 4,000 pound piece of lead in the keel to keep it upright. I find sailboats to be pretty amazing.

IMG_0902 (Large)Ensanada Grande is a turquoise bay surrounded by peach colored rocks. We ended up having only one boat with which to share the anchorage, and later in the evening the captain, Clif, rowed over in his dinghy to invite us to have drinks on the beach with he and his girlfriend Giselle later than evening. These young sailors had just sailed all the way from Juneau, Alaska to La Paz, Mexico and had some exciting sea stories to share. They are currently living on their 34 foot sailboat and cruising around Mexico for the next couple months, snorkeling, diving and hiking along the way.

IMG_0898 (Large)As we chatted on the beach, the sun set and a small black rabbit visited us. He sniffed Giselle’s finger and hovered around our little beach party for at least an hour. Clif and Giselle planned to visit the Sea Lion rookery the next day, so we went again for a second day of playing with them! This time we rode to the rookery in Clif and Giselle’s boat and then they returned us to Ensenada Grande afterward. I wouldn’t mind yet another day with the sea lions, but the next day we did a great sea kayak and hike on Ensenada Grande. We boulder hopped up a rocky valley, avoiding prickly plants. We got to the top and enjoyed a great overlook of the Sea of Cortez. Doesn’t it look calm and glassy today?

IMG_4547 (Large)We left La Paz on a calm morning, excited to make our way out to Isla Espiritu Santo. As we motored on glassy water, bottlenose dolphins jumped in playful arcs around the boat. One of them swam right next to the bow and peered up at Brian. These wonderful creatures are sentient, form tight and long lasting family bonds, and are highly intelligent. They visit our boat often while it’s in motion, swimming laps around it and jumping into the air as if to say “hello” to our little boat and to get a better look at who is aboard. I love this quote about dolphins:

“For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much—the wheel, New York, wars and so on—whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man—for precisely the same reasons.”
― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

IMG_0427 (Large)After about five hours, we arrived at our anchorage on the main island. That evening we kayaked along one side of a tiny nearby island, admiring huge sea birds at close range. Blue Footed Boobies, Cormorants, Frigate Birds and Pelicans all find safety on this tiny, isolated island. We jumped in the water and snorkeled along the other side of the island, enjoying wonderful fish life with many beautiful Triggerfish and some very skittish Grouper. The Grouper are a delicious game fish which are commonly hunted by spear fisherman, which may explain the skittishness. That night we went to bed early in calm conditions, the flat water reflecting the orange light in the sky. Turtles surfaced for air and we strained to get a look at them in the fading light.

IMG_0601 (Large)The next day we snorkeled around the shallow bay. I saw an eye peeking out of a shell amidst red, wrinkled skin. Immediately I recognized it was an octopus, one of my favorite sea creatures. Brian swam over and bravely poked his finger gently into the shell to touch one of its tentacle covered arms. He gently scooped the octopus out of its shell and placed it in my hands. It was about the size of one of my hands, dark red in color, with soft, slimy skin. I felt such reverence as I held and stroked this beautiful, intelligent creature. I’ve always loved octopus and admired them from afar while diving, now I was holding one in my palm as it tasted my skin with its tentacles. Its arms moved slowly across my palm with a hundred little suction cups squeezing and releasing quickly on my skin. After a couple minutes, it began to nibble my ring finger gently with its beak. It didn’t hurt, but I could feel the animal’s desire to get free and I wondered if it would bite harder the longer I held it. We let it go and it swam away quickly.

A few minutes later we found yet another red octopus. Brian once again scooped the little animal from its hiding place, this time a piece of coral. However, this one was rowdy and did not like being handled. He squirmed out of our hands, landed with a plop in the water, and released a cloud of dark brown ink. He then swam away in a fury.

IMG_0925 (Large)Around 10 PM a strong wind began blowing and increased throughout the night. In winter, strong winds from the north, called “Northers”, are common on the Sea of Cortez. These winds start in the US and blow all the way down the sea, creating big waves with frothy tops. Thankfully we were anchored in a bay off the main Sea of Cortez. The weather forecast mentioned a small craft advisory for the next day on the main sea. This means being out in the main sea is dangerous for small boats like this one.

The wind blew all night. I didn’t sleep at all. It gusted up to 40 knots and our little boat rocked and rolled dramatically. Terrible noises echoed through the boat. I heard thuds, creaks, and splashing waves. The boat would swing around over and over again in the bay, blown by the wind. In my mind, I imagined the force of the swinging boat ripping the anchor from the sandy bottom, and the boat being swept out into the main sea and clobbered by big waves. Brian assured me he had set an alarm on the GPS which would beep if the boat moved more than 50 feet. With each thud, I imagined parts of the boat coming apart in the gusting winds. Brian was very sweet and tried to comfort me as my entire body would tense up when a gust of wind rocked the boat or splashed the side with waves. After a couple hours of this, my back and neck felt sore.

I felt composed and aware during this whole episode, and grateful to be near shore and not out in the middle of the big, furious Sea of Cortez. I fantasized about returning home. La Paz was less than a day’s sail away with an airport to whisk me away to safety. I had envisioned a mellow ocean cruise where we would see whales and snorkel with beautiful fishes. This night was anything but mellow and I can’t remember a time I felt more frightened. My thoughts kept returning to the octopus, though. That had been one of my best encounters with a sea creature and left me wondering what else I may see here. I wanted to experience the Sea of Cortez so badly. Wasn’t there some way to avoid storms like this and make this a mellow trip after all? I laid there torn about what to do in these unexpected circumstances.

For a long time, I was afraid to leave the bed and look at the sea around us. I just stayed in bed and hoped for the best as the boat rocked, rolled, and made terrible noises. Eventually, though, my curiosity got the best of me and I poked my head out of the cabin. To my surprise, the waves were not large at all and the boat was still in one piece. The thudding noises were the sea kayak and surfboard shifting around on the deck. The splashing waves were only a couple feet tall, but sounded bigger because they were hitting the boat from the side as it swung around on the anchor. Out on the main sea, I could see big waves with whitecaps in the distance but in this bay the waves were small. Also, it was comforting to see the shore only 100 feet away. I could easily swim to safety if necessary. I returned to bed with a new realization of what was going on outside, and I knew that as long as the anchor held we would be ok. We weren’t in any real danger, but since I was so new to this activity the experience had felt a little intense.

IMG_0620-2 (Large)I felt happy to finally see the sun come up in the morning. Although the gusting winds continued throughout the morning, at least I could sit up on the deck and see what was happening. Somehow that was comforting.

The wind gusts slowly died down throughout the day, but started up again at night. We were relying on text messages on the satellite phone to tell us the wind speeds in the forecast. The latest message hadn’t been so good. Today wind speeds were still forecast above 30 knots and the next two days they were forecast in the 20s. We didn’t have access to a detailed forecast since there was no cell phone access at this location. We hoped the next morning it would be calm enough to move the boat a few miles to an anchorage with cell service so we could see what weather was coming next and form a plan to stay safe and continue the trip.

1560761_783527178329518_2129763375_nThe wind was forecast at nearly 20 knots today in La Paz, Mexico. Most whale shark tours were cancelled. The sea was lumpy and most tourists wouldn’t want to swim around in big waves with huge sharks. However, this would be our last day in La Paz and possibly our last chance to snorkel with the whale sharks. We called around and found a tour company who would take us.

Brian and I were the only tourists on the small motor boat. We bounced a couple miles across the ocean to reach the feeding area of the Whale Sharks. Our guide got very excited when he saw several huge, dark shapes in the water.

IMG_0529 (Large)The Whale Sharks are easy to spot. They often feed right near the surface on plankton and sometimes tiny fish. Their size was surprising and a bit intimidating – at least 30 feet long. They are the world’s largest fish, and some were easily as long as our boat.

We put on our snorkeling gear and jumped into the waves. It was easy to swim right up to the sharks and appreciate their beautiful, spotted skin, fluid movements and tremendous, gaping mouths. It’s forbidden to touch them, but in surging conditions like this one of them gently brushed the tip of its rough tail against my hand as it swam slowly nearby. Its firm skin felt like the finest grit of sandpaper.

IMG_0551 (Large)Ocean waves rolled over us, filling my snorkel and mouth regularly with salt water. I didn’t care. I was too enthralled with the largest sea creatures I had ever encountered. Thankfully they only wanted to eat plankton and had no desire for human blood. As I floated at the surface, spitting sea water out of my mouth, the whales bobbed a few feet away. Their bodies were often vertical, mouths outstretched toward the water surface, bobbing up and down.

Our guide swam with us for the first 30 minutes. As he got close to a shark to take a video of its huge undulating body, a strong current pushed his torso against the middle of the shark’s body. The shark didn’t like this unexpected contact and curved its body away from the guide, swished its tail powerfully, and was gone in an instant while the guide was tossed off to the side like a rag doll. Our guide was unhurt, but it was a powerful display of the speed and strength of this large fish.

IMG_0536 (Large)We got back on the boat. Our guide’s brush with the whale sharks made them skittish and they moved on to feed in another area about 100 feet away. The boat’s captain drove over to the new location for the sharks, then allowed Brian and I to swim with the sharks unsupervised. Our guide said this was one of the best days he’s seen for snorkeling with the whale sharks, with at least 5 feeding right near the surface. He wanted to give us some extra time with them. By now, I felt relaxed and at peace with the huge sharks. As long as we stayed out of their way, they would just go about their business of feeding and we were free to watch them. We floated around admiring their graceful curves until we got cold. During the boat ride back, we were glowing from the close encounter with these magnificent animals and excited to tell our friends back at the marina all about it.

IMG_0362 (Large)I thought cruising was supposed to be relaxing. For the last two days we’ve done nothing but work on the boat from sunrise to sunset. We’ve taken many trips to stores for supplies, spent hours scrubbing grime from every surface, and Brian completed many repairs and upgrades. Finally the work is done and we leave tomorrow morning for a couple relaxing days on the Sea of Cortez. We still need to return to the marina for a sim card for the satellite phone, which was somehow delayed by FedEx. I’m excited to enjoy the boat and just snorkel and relax rather than scrubbing it for hours.

IMG_0359 (Large)I’ve washed every interior surface of the boat and added feminine touches throughout, and it’s starting to feel like home. The living room needed the most work. To the right is a photo of the earlier stages of the living room cleanup – scary! And this photo was taken after the cleanup had already begun. The boat is well built and in good shape overall, but it was certainly earning no style points. Here is my earlier blog post about arriving at the boat late at night and seeing it for the very first time, then sleeping in it and deciding it needed an extreme makeover before it became our home for five weeks.

IMG_0373 (Large)To the left is the living room post-makeover. I’m so happy with how it turned out. The new seat covers, pillows and clean floor give this room a whole new look and now it’s a pleasant place to hang out as the boat rocks gently here in the Marina De La Paz. After plenty of cleaning with orange scented Pledge wood cleaner, the boat even smells nice.The cabinets and seats have great storage space and we’ve filled them to the brim with food and supplies. We won’t have access to a good store for several weeks, so yesterday at the grocery store we filled the cart so full we could barely push it. We’ll be eating well, but simply. There is no refrigeration on the boat.

IMG_0372 (Large)To the right is the bathroom. It has a composting toilet which works well and is pretty convenient in the middle of the night. There are two compartments – one for pee and one for poo. The toilet is remarkably skilled at separating the two. The pee compartment gets emptied into the ocean every week or so, while the poo compartment is large and probably won’t need to be emptied this trip. It contains compost and a crank on the side of the toilet mixes it after each use. It doesn’t smell at all. This composting toilet is awesome. As you can see in the photo, we’ve stuffed all storage areas of the boat with food items, including the bathroom.

IMG_0364 (Large)Here’s the marine stove, which swings around on two strings attached at the sides. A couple scuba weights hang from the bottom to counterbalance the weight of a pot on top. The cooking surface stays level even when the boat is rocking. Beneath the stove I’ll be storing our very few cooking supplies – one pot with lid, one frying pan, a cutting board, plates, bowls, cups and utensils for two. Nothing fancy is needed aboard this boat, it’s just like van cooking only the stove moves with the boat. Very interesting setup.

IMG_0379 (Large)Here is a better view of the living room, showing the cabinets and our maps set out to plan tomorrow’s course. We’ll be going just a few miles away to a bay to relax and ease into the sailing trip gradually before returning to the marina on Friday. This will be a good test run for me; I’m excited to try sailing and hope I won’t be seasick or frightened by big waves.

Our next adventure will be five weeks of cruising in Brian’s sailboat in Mexico on the Sea of Cortez! I have never sailed and have no idea what I’m getting myself into but that is usually how most of my adventures begin.

I hadn’t even seen a good picture of the boat I’d be living in, just an exterior photo from a distance and some of Brian’s vague descriptions of the features of the interior. It has a “composting toilet”, a “v-berth”, and a “marine stove” which hangs in mid-air on two strings. Fascinating. I don’t even know what these things are.

Off we went to Mexico. We arrived at the boat around 6 pm after a long day of flying. We took a cab from the airport to the La Paz Marina, where Brian’s boat has been waiting patiently for over a year. From the outside the boat looked great. It’s much bigger than the van we live in and seemed to have plenty of windows. Both of these discoveries delighted me.

20140105_164022 (Large)When Brian opened the door to the interior, it was hard to feel excited about making this our home for the next 5 weeks. Everything was pretty dirty but at least when I scanned the interior with my headlamp I found only one old spider web and no insects. The cushions on the sleeping area (the “v-berth”) were dirty and stained, and all we had between us was one thin, stiff sleeping bag with a rusted zipper and two limp pillows. The floor of the boat was covered in huge batteries – 8 of them to be exact. Navigating around the boat required acrobatic moves from couch to doorway to avoid stepping on the batteries.

We settled into the v-berth. I left my clothes on, not wanting my skin to touch the crusty cushions. A strange crackling sound filled the cabin of the boat. We listened closely and finally decided it must be the nocturnal shrimp in the ocean below. They had come out to feed and socialize in the dark. Brian had heard this same noise while scuba diving before. I loved the shrimp’s gentle sounds as they fed and communicated below the boat in the darkness. This night was getting better already.

As I lay there on the v-berth that night, I decided this boat needed an extreme makeover. I could see it had a lot of space and potential for being comfortable, but this was one serious bachelor pad.

The next morning Brian jumped out of bed at the first light and started removing all the batteries and filling big, black garbage bags with trash. Bless him. When I emerged from bed a couple hours later I found the boat looking much better. I started to fall in love with her as I noticed all the nice wood, well designed cabinets, ample couch space and abundant storage areas. Yes, this boat could make a good home.

20140105_165622 (Large)We organized the boat and then went to Wal-Mart, where I bought some nice bedding and ten pillows. Brian was very sweet to indulge my desires for soft, fluffy things aboard. When we returned to the marina, I pushed a huge cart full of assorted pillows down the deck and joked with our very friendly neighbors that I cleaned Wal-Mart out. I bought all their pillows. They laughed and watched me unload my new pillow collection. I went to work on the bed and after covering it with a mattress pad, new sheets and a pretty comforter the boat started to feel much more like home.


About the Author

Hi, I’m Lisa. I’m a tall, blonde superhero and I live in a van and on a sailboat with my superhero husband, Brian. I do it all. I rappel big waterfalls, scuba dive with sharks, dodge encounters with bears and wolves, and work remotely as a full time computer programmer.
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About the Van

Hi, I’m Vanifest. I’m a big, 4x4, off-the-grid van complete with solar panel for power. I'm a 2000 Dodge Ram Van and Lisa has had me since 2009. Read more about me here.


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