Saturday, October 25, 2014

Farewell Valhalla

Farewell to our Beloved Valhalla!

With Mexico in mind, Don and I found and bought a boat and within 2 years transformed her from a day sailor to a cruising boat.  September 1, 2012 Valhalla set sail, went out the Golden Gate turned left and headed down the California coast.  Taking our time, we totally realized the difference between cruising and racing.  After 30 glorious days and 640 nautical miles we arrived in San Diego. 

 Valhalla in the 2012 Baja Haha 

We headed for Mexico as a part of the 2012 Baja Haha Cruiser’s Rally along with 130 other boats.  The Haha would be our first and last race in which we accomplished 777 nautical miles in ONLY 11 days running from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas.  We will never forget the continuous 24 to 72 hour runs of beautiful downwind, warm weather sailing. Soon after our arrival in Cabo, we crossed over to the tropical mainland of Mexico.

Me and My Man
Every day was a new adventure and we stayed on Valhalla for the entire 180 days our visas allowed us. Our longest stint living on the hook was 34 days without pulling into any marinas.  It wasn’t easy learning to live the minimalist lifestyle getting by using as little as 2-4 gallons of water per day.  No matter, every day was a blessing seeing beautiful sunrises and sunsets, the moon and the stars, the dolphins, whales, sea turtles and rays.  The beauty of our surroundings and the rewards of the life experience we were gaining made it all worthwhile without question. 

Muy Tranquil at Playa Bonanza in the Sea of Cortez

Most Magnificent Sierra de la Gigantas 

We had sailed as far south as Manzanillo and then north to Mazatlan crossing through 4 states in Mexico.  We made our second crossing back to Baja California Sur to enjoy a bit of the desert climate of the Sea of Cortez before our time ran out on our visas.  Sailing the Sea is spectacular with crystal clear warm water and the scenic Sierra de la Giganta mountain range as a backdrop is spectacular.  After cruising 228 nautical miles in the Sea of Cortez, it was time to leave Valhalla on the hard and return home for hurricane season. 

April 1, 2014 we returned to Valhalla.  We gave her the TLC she needed before launching and heading north back into the Sea of Cortez.  Designated as a National Park, the uninhabited islands of Espirtu Santo are beautiful beyond belief.  We sailed north to Pureto Escondito and back south to Cabo San Lucas.  It was such great sailing with so many beautiful anchorages.

Honeymoon Cove - One of MANY Beautiful Anchorages!

TLC for Valhalla

A Trip of a Lifetime for Both of Us!

There were decisions to be made….should we stay or should we go?  It was decided it was time for us to bash back to California, USA.  Soon after leaving Cabo, it became apparent that the best part of our sailing adventure was over.  It was now time to pay our dues for all the fantastic warm weather sailing we had done.  The bash had begun and after rounding Cabo Falso it was evident that Bashing is NOT for wimps.  After a week waiting for weather in Turtle Bay we headed for San Diego in near PERFECT conditions for bashing.  Unbelievable…our last leg of the bash was calm, flat, glassy seas…what a blessing and a beautiful finish to our Mexico adventure. Our energy was flowing high and the grandeur of our last leg was emotional.  As Valhalla crossed the international boundary, we were greeted by the United State Air Force with a direct fly over of two extremely loud, fast and furious fighter jets.  It was a glorious feeling and I stood on the bow and waved to our boys welcoming US home!!!  I was so proud of myself and especially my Captain…we had done it…we were home!    

Police/Customs Dock San Diego

Now, an amazing chapter in our lives has concluded with the sale of our beloved Valhalla. We bought her with sailing Mexico in mind and she served us remarkably well. We set out on a road trip to Los Angeles to sell, transfer and deliver her to her new owner, John Berg, a blind sailor who is living HIS dream!   Soon Valhalla will be heading back to MEXICO to do the 2014 Baja Haha.  Some say the happiest days of a sailor’s life is the day you buy your boat and the day you sell your boat.  Well, I’m sure ONE of the happiest days of John’s life was the day he bought our boat.  However, for us…with some sadness, we bid Valhalla farewell.

A Happy Day for the new owner of Valhalla
Blind Sailor, John Berg - A Man Living His Dream!

For now, we will stay close to home due to family obligations.  For the next couple of years we’ll be land cruisers traveling with our new 5th wheel trailer we call Fort Fugowi.  In September we traveled almost 4,000 miles enjoying Oregon and Washington states.  After that trip, Don and I concurred that, without a doubt, cruising by land is far more dangerous than cruising by sea!

Fort Fugowi On the Hook in Washington State

In the not too distant future, we plan to buy another boat, fix her up and sail afar to the South Pacific.  Someday…we’ll open another chapter continuing our dream and sail again!

And the Sunsets on This Chapter of our Lives

We had a great time and had fun logging and blogging our entire journey.  During 2012 and 2013, we on Valhalla accomplished 2,749 nautical miles.  In 2014 we cruised the Sea of Cortez and bashed home for a total of 1,265 nautical miles. 

With sincere thanks to everyone for reading and following our sailing blog.  It truly was trip of a lifetime for us! 

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Bash

Leg #1 – Cabo San Lucas to Bahia Santa Maria

After only two days and nights in Cabo we began The BASH!  Reflections weather guru said 20 knots of wind max (Ha).  While sitting on the beach in Hawaii he suggests that we jump on this “weather window” and asks what our problem is sailing in 20 knots?  Well…were not SAILING we’re bashing against the wind and with waves on and over the bow.

   The Port of Cabo San Lucas is literally one of the busiest ports in the world.  It takes a skilled sailor to Captain a boat through the narrow channel that is congested with boat traffic and obstacles.  The entrance is full of crazy tourists on jet skis, paddle boards, fishing and tour boats.  It is very nerve wracking and Don has accomplished this task going in and out of Cabo twice now.  I’m very proud of him! 

Tip of Cabo to Mag Bay (elbow) 165 Nautical Miles
   We left warm sunny Cabo and within 3 hours we were in the thick of it. I had graduated from queasy to seasick and got wet and cold rounding Cabo Falso.  My freshly washed hair was now wet and sticky with sea salt.  I went down below long enough to take my herbal seasick medicine, wash up and change my clothes.  With a long haul ahead I had to shake it off!  I came back up and my Capitan made comment that it was time we paid our dues for all the amazing, beautiful warm weather sailing and good times that we had in Mexico.  It became quite clear to me that the best part of the trip was over.


   We were buddy bashing with some friends we made on the 2012 Baja Ha-ha, Jeff and Nelia on Reflections.  Nelia is a sweet little Philippina lady who is out here bashing and getting roughed up by the Pacific Ocean right along with her husband also.  Nelia is especially noble being out here doing this even though she fears of the water since she never learned to swim.  I truly enjoy her female companionship; she gives me strength.   The two of us have an ongoing dispute about which one of us is taller.  It’s true, I’m not taller than many people, but I’m pretty sure I have her beat by at least a quarter of an inch. Being with friends looking out for each other is a huge asset as well.  

My Friend, Nelia and her "Mahal"

After 32 hours of motor bashing north, just a few miles from Magdalena Bay, Valhalla's engine quit and we were adrift.  We hailed Reflections and informed them of our problem. My bonafide husband and mechanic diagnosed the problem that Valhalla wasn't getting fuel.  Our friends stood by while Don took out the old electronic fuel pump and replaced it with our spare in short order.  After all, Valhalla still wouldn't start.  We had good favorable wind of 14 to 18 knots and sailed the last 8 nautical miles close hauled at 330 degrees making up to 6.7 knots right into the mouth of the bay.  It was a great sail and turned out to be the last sail of our trip.  Just after we entered the bay, the wind died and we were dead in the water again.  We graciously accepted Reflections offer for a tow into the anchorage where Don could further evaluated and repair the problem.

      Manowar Cove in Puerto Magdalena Bay

We spent 2 nights in Manowar Cove after our 165 nautical mile run.  The Mayor and Sheriff of Puerto Magdalena came by in his panga offering to bring us fuel.  Marcus Antonio Arce was “elected” to his positions and boasts that he knows all 350 people who live in his town by name.  Marcus said he would return in a couple of hours with our fuel.  Well, let’s not forget we’re still in Mexico.  SIX hours later at dusk he returned with the fuel he promised.    

After much to do, Don had run a new wire to the fuel pump and Valhalla was golden again.  Getting fuel took longer than it took to Don trace and repair our fuel system problem!

Early morning we headed to Bahia Santa Maria where we could sleep a little at anchor before beginning our next run to Bahia de Tortuga at midnight.

Leg #2 - Katie's Birthday Bash - Turtle Bay to Ensenada

Due to hazardous conditions, my birthday would be postponed until landfall in Ensenada.  Bashing 255 nautical miles north in windy conditions was NOT my idea of a party.  Boo Hoo!

Bahia Santa Maria
At anchor in Santa Maria the NW wind howled from the Pacific between 24-28 knots all night long.  We’ll if this is our weather window, I guess we better go?  Don assured me it would be better out there and that some of the wind was due to a funnel effect.  Shortly after midnight we pulled anchor along with Reflections.  Once we got out there it was a little better, but high seas and plenty of wind chop made for a long road to hoe.  We had our rhumb line set on our chart plotter, but struggled to stay on it.

Charting the Rhumb Line

We were, no doubt, BASHING.  We tried to maintain 4.5 to 5 knots but crashing into and through 6 to 9 foot waves would kill our SOG (speed over ground) to 1.8 knots.  Slowly we would regain speed only to be knocked back again.  Valhalla was sucking up a lot of fuel for sure.  All the hobby horsing we were doing caused the fuel system to suck air even though we still had a quarter of a tank.  After 17 hours her engine stalled.  With 20 to 24 knots of wind, 6 foot seas plus messy wind waves, Don had to add 15 gallons of fuel in less than optimal conditions.  Then the fuel lines needed to be bled of air before she would start.  We ran all through the night and added the last of our fuel on deck in the first light of morning.  It became apparent that if conditions didn’t change, we weren’t going to make it to Turtle Bay.

    Not Hard to Sleep While Bashing After Being Up Most of the Night

During the day these conditions were bearable, but in the darkness of night it was brutal.  The sea state made the journey very tiring and made everything you tried to do way more difficult.  We learned the only way to get around the boat was to literally walk like crabs! Going down below to grab our pre-prepared food was nauseating making it hard to feed our hungry beings.

We talked with Reflections and discussed fuel consumption and needs for both boats.  We altered our course and pulled into the calmer water of Ascuscion Bay in order to offload 5 gallons of Reflection’s stash of fuel.  About midnight we anchored and launched t/t Valhalla in the darkness of this deep, mysterious bay.  I imagine our activities might have looked rather suspicious to anyone watching as we were underway again within an hour.  Now we had enough fuel to make it to Turtle Bay if conditions remained the same. 

      A Beautiful Site After a LONG Night

I'll sum it up by saying "Katie's Birthday Bash" was long, slow, wet and sloppy! After 255 nautical miles in 61 hours we finally pulled into Turtle Bay.  This leg turned out to be 6 hours longer than estimated with our detour into Ascuscion Bay and making an average speed of only 4.1 knots. That's probably enough whining about bashing for now...right?  We made it safely and that's the important thing!

Let's Get This Party Started!

Are We There Yet?

A Week Waiting for Weather in Bahia de Tortuga

Turtle Bay is the funkiest town we encountered while in Mexico.  So grateful for the reprieve from bashing, we would wait it out here for a real weather window.  I still have a visual of Reflections weather guru sitting on the beach in Hawaii with his laptop studying the weather holding a cocktail with an umbrella in it telling us “to go”.  Anyway…

Welcome to Turtle Bay

When we arrived in the bay, there were about 8 boats including fishing, motor and sailboats.  The guys from the fuel dock come over asking if we needed fuel, knowing full well that EVERY boat that pulls in there wants and NEEDS fuel.  The fuel dock itself is ancient and seems unsafe to pull up and tie to, though some boats do.  Fuel is delivered and big tipping is expected, which is fine.  They are trying to make a living here in this pretty primitive town.  No profits are spent on maintenance, that’s for sure. The main dock that takes you to the beach is long and the slats appear to be cemented together and preserved in bird poop!

Fuel Dock at Turtle Bay

After a Day In Town Provisioning

A Boy and Worker - Kalib'

Water is another story.  We had filled our tanks with 100% potable water in La Paz and it would be the last safe water we would get.  We had been carefully conserving the valuable commodity ever since knowing even the water you get in Cabo is NOT potable even if they say it is.  Via dinghy we took our 5 gallon shower water bag to fill at the dock.  The water came out of the hose is less than a consistent trickle.  It literally took an hour to fill and we knew we needed to pay for it.  The town desalinization plant had failed a few days past, but should be running again “maybe manana”.  The entire town was out of water….for DAYS!  None of it is potable and they drink bottled water delivered to town that they buy to use in their homes.  Laundry?  They say it’s machine washed, but there is no machine and little to no water.  So you know it’s hard labor and done by hand in a tub.  They have a lot of pride and will tell you what you want to hear. They have so little but seem so happy and friendly and willing to work.  (Take notes U.S.A. – State of Emergency with no water? NO…it’s everyday life!)

      Beach Front Property Complete With Palm Tree Furniture

A Nice Place to Visit

A Typical Street in Turtle Bay
A Typical House in Turtle Bay?

                                                Flat Tire?  Just Park it Here!

Internet with Cervezas, Chips n Salsa!

About every other day we would venture into town for provisions walking around to numerous tiendas.  Actually, the town is fairly large for a small town.  We were surprised to find an “internet cafe”.  The streets are dirt and many people here have cars that have pulverized the dirt into a fine flour consistency.  The entire town is covered in dust and the structure.s are reminiscent of an old western town where you could imagine vaqueros riding horses through the streets.

Where's My Horse?

Day after day more boats heading north are pulling into the bay.  The count is now up to 14 and a potluck beach party is organized and named the 2014 Baja Bash. Food made by cruisers is some of the best in Mexico.  We had fresh local caught sea bass and a plethora of other dishes.  Many sea stories were told while sipping cervezas or margaritas followed by volleyball on the beach.  It seemed like half the town attended with kid’s playing together in the surf and sand.  Later there was lemon cake decorated with burgees with all the bashing boats names on them. The weather was the hot topic of conversation and most everyone was planning the great escape for Sunday….still 4 day away.  By then the population of the bay had grown to 20 boats laying in wait.  

One evening on sky watch we waited for the International Space Station to fly over the Bay.  It was due at 2121 hours and expected to fly directly over head flying west to east.  Spotting it was not difficult as it is a pretty bright satellite flying really fast.  Within 3 minutes it was out of sight.  Another night we had a perfect crescent moon with Jupiter in perfect alignment. I remembered the wish I had made on a falling star for an uneventful bash with fair winds and following seas.

Bahia de Tortuga is a great place to visit, but…it’s time to go as the weather predicts great conditions for bashing!

Leg #3 - Ahhh - Bahia de Tortuga to Ensenada

The Last Time I Saw Turtle Bay

A few hours and miles North of Bahia de Tortuga darkness fell upon us on night number one of three.  As predicted, thankfully, the wind was mild and the moon shinned brightly on calm water.  All was well on Valhalla until we hit a convergence zone of strong currents funneling out of Vizcaino Bay at the south end of Cedros Island. Not seasick, but queasy again; something about the dark for me.  Don took the first (long) shift and I cuddled up in the cockpit under my new wool Mexican blanket.  The cool sea breeze and some sleep is just what I needed.  Taking my shift later in the early a.m. hours gave me something to concentrate on while Don rested in the cockpit.  Sea conditions were 10 times better than those in Leg #1 and #2.  The sun came up and the sight of the gentle rolling sea was so beautiful!  Looking around I realized I needed to wash my face, freshen up and SHAKE OFF this queasy feeling.  I had endured far worse conditions and it was far too nice of day to feel lousy!  

  Wake Up and Smell The Coffee. It's a Beautiful Day!

Never Give Up on the Wish You Made Upon a Falling Star!

The day just got better and better.   With overcast skies, the color of the ocean was steel grey, looking more like molten lead.   There were no mixed up wind waves and only gentle rolling seas which made it much easier to spot all the sea life.  More medicine the soul; dolphins came to Valhalla and swam along with us for 10 minutes or more.  It just makes you feel so happy inside and appreciate the world we live in.  I stood on the bow and looked into the water.  It was so clear and calm it was like looking into a mirror.   Later before sundown, we spotted several Blue Whales between Reflections and us.  We slowed down to figure out what direction they were going as we watched their blow spouts.   It seems like they are just out here socializing and not making way anywhere very fast.  Trying to keep some distance and respecting their enormous size in a small sailboat is always a good idea, but they are social creatures and are curious about us as well.  With camera in hand I have learned by now it’s almost impossible to get a good picture of any sea life…but still I try.  One passes by the stern of the boat only about a boat length away.  Occasionally one would show his tail as he dove  into the deep.  It was a beautiful day and we truly were blessed on this leg of “The Bash”.

A Dolphins View While Swimming with Valhalla
Big Blue Whale Tail
I Can't Believe My Eyes!

Back in Cabo San Lucas, s/v Windaway had put together a Single Side Band net for the 2014 Baja Bash boats that were traveling north to San Diego.  The net controller, Mark, had deputized me as "Radio Queen".  I had a lot of fun making contacts, chatting with anyone who wanted to talk and relaying information via VHF radio.  I'm thinking of replacing my cell phone with a Hamm radio when I get home!

Okay…I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; “If bashing was like this all the time anyone could do it”.  Comparatively of course, this leg of The Bash was amazing and actually enjoyable.  What a difference!  This was a REAL weather window and was so worth waiting for; that is the key, I believe.  The wind never topped more than 11 knots and the swells were only 1 to 3 feet with no mixed up wind waves.  It was smooth (motor) sailing and even going down below to fix food was manageable.  We had time to reflect back on the entire trip and what a trip it had been; all we had done and all we had seen.  Now we were happy to be going home and bringing Valhalla back to the USA…just the two of us.   We celebrated our eighth anniversary during this leg and know that we are solid happily living together for months at a time in very tight quarters.  There’s one thing we can scratch off of our Bucket List…“Cruise Mexico”. 

Conditions were such that instead of being behind schedule, we were beating our past speed over ground records by 1.5 knots.  Only 25 nautical miles short of Ensenada we pulled into an anchorage named Puerto Santo Tomas.  After almost 72 hours we were more exhilarated than exhausted, but continuing on would have had us pulling into an unknown port and marina in the dark.  Reflections pulled into the small bay first and warned it was full of kelp.  We zigged and zagged through paths that were cut by fishing pangas and dropped anchor.  There was a nice resort built on the point alongside a very poor fishing village with no electricity; quite a contrast. The resort was built but not a sole was there.  Tired, we were, and we went to bed for some real sleep and would continue on to Ensenada at early morning twilight.

                                                      Reflections in "Seaweed Cove"

                                                      Puerto Santo Tomas Anchorage

At first civilized light we pulled anchor and left Seaweed Cove.  Weather conditions were still with us and we had a lot to do when we got to the Port of Ensenada.  Pulling into Bahia Todos Santos we were treated to watching more Blue Whales and hundreds of dolphins feeding.  Thankful for daylight we pulled into Cruise Port Marina counting down the few hours left until we get our first real shower in SEVENTEEN days!  That was a hardship we had to endure because we had no water maker, but….we survived!  After our 40 gallon showers, we were escorted around town to Immigration and the Port Capitan to officially check out of MEXICO.  A couple of hundred pesos later, we were good to go, but now we had only 48 hours to get out of town!  (LOL)

During our short stay in the marina, we met the ultimate cruising family on a 65 foot VALHALLA!  From France, Pasqual, his wife, Bernadette and their 13 year old son, Guston have been living on their Valhalla and have sailed more than 100,000 nautical miles.  In a couple of years he built his custom steel ketch and set sail with his family on his boat.  Pasqual has lived on a boat his entire life and his son his being raised the same.  We asked of all the places he has sailed on earth (which is a lot) what his favorite place is and he answered with “The Grenadine Islands” where he spent much of his childhood.  Now we have a new destination for OUR bucket list.   After talking with Pasqual, Don said to me, “He is the most sailing-ist guy I’ve ever met”.  Very cool people indeed!

I had hoped to spend several days in Ensenada, but optimal weather was still with us so we would leave in less than 24 hours.  We took a taxi into town and went out to dinner with Jeff and Nelia in belated celebration of my birthday and of our cruising and bashing success in and out of Mexico! 


      We're Bustin' Out of Here!

Leg #4 – Ensenada to San Diego 

Shortly after sunrise we made our break leaving Ensenada behind.   It was day #4 of the perfect weather window we were granted after being stuck in Turtle Bay for a week.  The lack of wind and the presence of smooth rolling seas were too good of an opportunity to miss out on and we just had to keep moving north.  It had been 18 days since we left Cabo San Lucas and on this day we would enter back into the United States of America.  It was a bitter sweet feeling to be leaving Mexico with Valhalla.   Only a short 70 nautical mile run and we would be in San Diego, California.

Ahhh…conditions have been so nice it was hard to believe we were still “bashing”.  Valhalla’s engine hummed on hour after hour and by early evening we had crossed the border and the San Diego skyline was in sight.  We blew our ship’s horns as we crossed the border back and forth between us and Reflections.  Soon after we were blessed with a welcome home from the United States Air Force with a direct fly over of two extremely loud, fast and furious fighter jets.  It was a glorious feeling and I stood on the bow and waved to our boys welcoming US home!!!  I was so proud of myself and especially my Capitan…we had done it…we were home.

Back in the U.S.A.

                                                                                      Coronado Hotel

Nearing San Diego with beautiful sunny warm weather, the approach to the harbor is crowded with boat traffic.   The ocean was bubbling and a flurry of birds as we neared the channel entrance.  It was hundreds of birds, dolphins and seals in a feeding frenzy as we made our coarse change into the harbor .  Our energy was flowing high and the grandeur of our final leg was emotional.    I informed the Coast Guard that we were coming from Mexico and was given our instructions for checking back in to the United States.    We knew the procedure, but were informed that customs gents would meet us at the police dock and check our papers.   One of our bashing friends from s/v Nikko we met in Turtle Bay had beaten us there by two hours and was still waiting for customs to show.  With Reflections there were now 3 sailboats and a commercial tug boat waiting.  We were all talking and laughing on the dock for a couple of hours and then 3 agents showed up and ordered us all back on our boats without permission to leave until we were “cleared”.   It was after business hours and the 3 agents were overwhelmed with the crowd that had filled the dock.  I had to laugh when I went to introduce myself to one of the agents that had “Outlaw” on his badge.  I’m like…really?    After checking our passports and collecting an “annual user fee” (?) of $27.50 cash we were cleared and granted permission to leave the police dock.  

                                                                                                                                                                            Police Dock - Checking in with Customs                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             
We rented a car in San Diego our last day and went to Old Town and the Gas Lamp District.  It was so much fun celebrating the end of Valhalla Sets Sail.  We went and had a Margarita (of all things) at a restaurant that claimed to have the “Best Margarita in the World”.  We’ll it was okay, but a couple places we went to in Mexico had them beat BY FAR for sure!   For ate dinner at a 4­-star most delicious Thai restaurant for dinner.   It seemed like there was something to celebrate often but bringing Valhalla home was another very special occasion.  The city of San Diego is by far the coolest city in California; nautical, hip, clean and modern.  We are so glad to be home!

                                                                        Mexican Restaurant in San Diego

              San Diego Gas Lamp District

               1st Class Thai Restaurant 


From May 1, 2014 – June 162014 Don and I together on Valhalla had accomplished 1,269 nautical miles.       Our total nautical miles since we left San Francisco back on     September 1, 2014, is a grand 4,014 nautical miles.      I took the time and enjoyed so much keeping an accurate Ship’s Log and journal.  By rewriting the journal into a   Blog that I could include my pictures in, I learned a lot about myself…that I enjoy writing almost as much as I do photography.  I have over 2,700 pictures from our trip in my Valhalla Sets Sail picture file (if you can believe that). 

It's been a trip of a lifetime for us.  Both, Don and I, actually got pretty good at speaking Spanish about the time it was time to leave.   I had so much fun learning to be a “sailor” and just doing it; Total thanks to my husband, Don for making me a part of his cruising dream! 

                                                     Me and My Captain

Scenes from Valhalla Sets Sail