burgeetree.jpg (15266 bytes) The Adventures of Lynn and Les on "Cottonwood"

   California to Mexico -
wheel.gif (3486 bytes)    11-2003 to 12-2003

Well, we finally got started on our adventure after a couple of years of planning. Lynn and I have two main objectives for this cruise. One, to enjoy each other's company on our 3 year anniversary, and to show that a couple over 50, with no boating experience, can, in a reasonably short period, gain the knowledge and experience necessary to take on a long range cruise of this type, safely and comfortably. If we really enjoy this cruise and the cruising life, we have even talked about upgrading our boat to one that will go across oceans and maybe visit Europe and/or Hawaii. But that is just talk at this point, and some investment performance away, and a little too far off to plan. And we are missing our children and grandchildren so. 

Well, what’s happened so far? Before leaving on our “Big Cruise”, we had just completed our shake-down cruise from Southern California to San Francisco and then up the Sacramento Delta river system to Sacramento, and back. We broke some things on the boat as expected, and gained experience of ocean cruising, rough water, river system navigation, and long periods of time with each other within the confines of a 46 foot trawler. We didn't kill each other and we thoroughly enjoyed the cruise. But, we thought, heading south to Panama is a little bit larger undertaking, and it might be enjoyable if one or two other guests joined us on the leg south, so we advertised for those interested in crewing to Panama and/or Florida. We received many emails of interest, and after interviewing and checking references, we selected Howard Kay, an ex Navy man now in the Coast Guard Auxiliary, and Sandy Rachky, from Ontario, Canada, who had just learned to sail and wanted more. Both are single, having each gone through the arduous loss of their spouse from the Big C. I can only imagine, and shudder at the thought of losing my Lynnie. But our main concern was that they didn't get too frustrated, sharing a stateroom and helping to build a compatible mini culture on a small boat, and not throw the other overboard! Well, we've been on the boat together for almost a month and other than a few aggravations, we are managing and having a good time.

 We are currently headed for Acapulco, with a few stops in between, having stopped in the main Mexican ports of Ensenada, Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta, as well as many interesting anchorages in little bays and harbors along the way. We have made several all night legs where we each take turns on four-hour watches while the others rest. Even though we have all taken courses, classes, and read many books, we are all still learning a tremendous amount about the boat, voyaging, and living together in small confines. Our main focus other than keeping the boat running and enjoying the cruise, is to place safety first. Howard Kay is the appointed “Safety Officer” on board. We have set many rules about what all must follow in order to maintain safety, and we only travel when we have a good weather forecast.

 Because our main objective for the first part of our voyage is to get to Florida, and then start the Great American Circle Route to the Great Lakes and back, we are moving a bit faster than most who journey down the Mexican coast. We need to begin the “Great Loop”  in late March from Florida, in time to make it down from the Great Lakes to Chicago and start south before cold weather descends on the northern U.S.  We could have easily spent more days or weeks in some of the stops along the way so far, and the "Gold Coast" of Mexico is just ahead of us and we must enjoy without lingering too much, because we still want to spend time in El Salvador, Costa Rica, Panama, Belize and still have some time for any unexpected adventures we encounter.

Our mini culture is developing as we cruise. And we do have some characters on board. Lynn and Howard cannot control their teasing of one another. I can’t even mention some of the nicknames they are using. Howard insists on “singing”, I use the word loosely, country western songs. His friends told him not to bring his guitar, and now we know why. We were going to put him off in Puerto Vallarta, but he did catch some fine fish, the last a delicious Dorado (mahi mahi to you gringos). So we decided to let him ride along a little longer and see what else he catches. He is our resident Pescadero. I drive the boat mostly, as I only like to eat them. Lynn seems to enjoy helping Howard land the fish and cook them, but leaves when the filleting begins, and she’s a nurse! I think it’s the killing part she doesn’t like. She made up a spray bottle with alcohol, which she sprays into their mouth and gills that calms them considerably, (and probably makes them go to their ultimate hunting grounds a little more peacefully).

Our “Token” Canadian, Sandy, is our conversationalist and resident cleaning specialist. She can keep a conversation going until the cows come home. But a couple of us on the boat are actually slobs, I am anyway, and she is a most welcome addition to crew with her penchant for keeping the boat tidy. She is also constantly sketching places and writing in her journal. I’m wondering if there isn’t a book in mind, eh?

 The only advice I have so far for any would be long range cruisers, that don’t have a brand new boat, well, maybe even if they have a new boat, is that someone needs to be able to fix things. We were told that there would be a constant variety of things to fix as they break on the boat and we can now fully appreciate this concept. As the Cap’n, and long time fix-it man, I do most of the fixin, even going into the bilge to open up the “Holding tank” and “Vacuflush” systems, Yuck! I think that should be Lynn’s job, after all she is a Nurse. But I must say, Howard and I are quickly becoming pretty good diesel mechanics.

 Lynn provisioned the boat. For months she kept bringing more and more food aboard. I kept saying that we could probably feed El Salvador if need be.  But I am constantly amazed at how good the food is, even frozen and from cans, and when fresh veggies and the like are not readily available.  But I have always liked her cooking, she is an excellent cook and really inventive, which helps on a boat. The fresh fish has been great too! Keep up the good work Howard and Lynn.

 Observations; It is so calming out here on the ocean, another boat now and then, but mostly just the sea and your little boat, cruising along, wind in your face, sunshine, music, conversation, and more adventures ahead. It is really something that must be experienced to be appreciated. But I’m not going to say that cruising is for everyone. I do believe that you must have both an understanding of the variety in the world, and a sense of adventure, to fully enjoy and appreciate this cruising life. And it is a life, when you are gone for two years as we plan. Even if we decide to call it quits when we complete this voyage, right now, it is a different life style. But to go further, adventure is probably the key word. We four really like the adventure of it, like when you don’t really know what to expect next, and you are able take it as it comes, enjoy the difference of the peoples, places, and cultures, and not get upset when things don’t go as you might expect. If you like the reliability and consistency of your life at home, and seldom enjoy just taking off without any exact plans, then this may be somewhat burdensome to your attitude and toilet habits. Every port, and sometimes every undertaking, has been an adventure, in meeting new people, trying to speak their language, find places or items you are looking for, checking in and out of Immigration, Port Captains, and other government requirements which vary from port to port, things breaking, finding a phone card to call your credit card company to cancel and renew it when you find out thousands of dollars have been charged by someone unknown, but your credit card company doesn’t know how to communicate with you in a foreign country. Yeah, every day is an adventure when you cruise into foreign countries, but we are just taking it in, and ending every day with; “Now that was an adventure!”. Oh well, Maņana is another day, and there will be more adventures to come here on the Bear-paws website. Talk to you on the next “Leg Report”. Your Cap’n of the Cottonwood, enjoying the 3 C’s, cervesa, sun, and the sea. Well, you know what I mean. Next time.

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Puerto Vallarta Plaza
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Mexico Mainland

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~ Trip Pics ~
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Baja Coast
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Cabo San Lucas
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Howard Kay
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Lynn & Les
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Les & Sandy
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Lover's Beach, Cabo San Lucas
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Restaurant in Cabo
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Mas Coronas Por Favor
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Dorado (Mahi Mahi)
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Nuevo "Grass Shacks"

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