Friday, September 30, 2011

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A week of surfing

I spent the last week out at Punta Mita, surfing every day. The waves are very small, as they always seem to be. In fact they are so very small that you run out of wave sometimes. The wave just stops breaking. It sits down and cries from the loneliness of it all. Poor waves. I'll probably go back out there again for a day and then head on towards Baja in the next week, I think. Hurricane Hilary is now a tropical storm and is becoming nothing slowly, and it is not supposed to come anywhere close to land.
The surfing is fun, especially since I don't need to wear a suit, and I can stay in the water forever. The sun is my only enemy here. I am becoming rudolph again, a bit early for christmas, but my nose is shiny and red.
I went to the islands at the head of the bay today, on my way in. The water was nicely clear, but not crystal, and it was nice to dive without a suit on, though I don't have the right weights to make that work as well. I shot a little snapper.
Here are some pictures I've taken today, but I haven't had the camera out a lot, since its so humid.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Puerto Vallarta again!

I wrote this yesterday:

Today I saw a frog being eaten by a snake. The snake was bright green and about 3 ft long, and I think it might have had fangs, but I can't be sure. The frog was crying for help, and I was wondering what was wrong, or if it was a bird, so I looked.
To look, I recall now, will change the outcome of the event, according to quantum mechanics. The Scnrodinger's cat problem! I looked, and the snake saw me and let go of the frog and slithered away. What have I done? The frog hopped down towards the sea, across scorching hot rocks, and it might have died, or might have lived, I do not know.

I came here to go surfing, which I've been doing, though the waves are very very small. The sets come through and are waist high, sometimes a little higher. The rocks underneath make me wish for a larger swell, breaking in deeper water.

The water is quite clear, even next to the break. The visibility is close to 30 ft, I think, and out to sea I expect it to be more than 50 ft. The waters all have this beautiful blue to them. And it is warm! I can stay in all day long if I want to. It is perhaps a few degrees too warm, since I am sweating when I surf, a little. I would like for a nice wind to cool me off.

I think its easier to surf in warm water. I don't just think it, I know. Everything is easier, the waves are not as scary, and you can stay in longer. Catching a wave is such a simple matter.
I am the only one out surfing, because it is so small. What a wonderful time, to be alone on an amazing point break that I can sail to and paddle to and never have to touch land! At the same time, it would be nice to have someone else around to talk to.

The journey here was nice. I finally got away from San Blas after paying more than I wanted to and put to sea right about noon on monday the 19th. I motored in order to make it to Jaltemba. I put out my fishing lines to see what was about and first caught a nice large Green Jack, which I threw back since they don't taste that good, and then a beautiful Sierra. I think there are two types, but my fish book only has one. I ate the Sierra, and brought in my lines, so I wouldn't have to kill any more fish just by catching them. I got to Jaltemba right at sunset, and there were clouds all over in the mountaintops, billowing up from the valleys. Deep Convection is the word. You can see the clouds exploding upward. There were some birds way way up there just flying for the fun of it, or caught in an updraft and sucked into the heavens, I don't know which.

Just after sunset the lightning that had begun flashing around the mountains started wandering down the hills and began attacking the lowlands. Lightning here sounds like an attack. The flash is blinding, or almost, because I saw a few and there were spots on my eyes for 10 minutes. But the thunder is an apocalypse. Everytime it explodes through my bones, I can hear the end of the world.

The storms came to the valleys and then, cackling to themselves in flashes and booms, they made for my boat. I was anchored near a small island, with about one mile of open water between me and the mainland coast, so the wind gathered strength and blew in big bad wolf style, trying to blow my little house of fiberglass down.

I am not a pig, but I was worried nonetheless. I had anchored, stupidly, right next to the island, and now I was being blow into it. I hoped my anchor would hold, and it did, but I had let out enough chain that I came within 20 ft of some rocks. Then the wind shifted, and all was well.

I woke up before dawn the next day to go to Punta Mita, and set off with a favorable wind, but then turned on the motor as the winds were inconsistent. I caught a nice sized skipjack tuna, but threw it back also, since they don't taste so good.

I can get internet here, so I checked the weather this morning, and there is a tropical storm to the south. It is expected to come north, then maybe turn and head towards land, hopefully to the north of me. I don't know what I'll do if its coming exactly, but I will probably head for Puerto Vallarta and try to tie up at a dock. It is supposed to become a hurricane soon, and have 100 mph winds by the time it is near.

I'll just have to watch and see what the storm does.

And now, since then, I've had a few more days surfing, and spent some more time diving. I need to work on my breathing abilities again. I've lost my long lungs.

I came in to La Cruz, a suburb of PV, in order to get better access to internet to watch Hilary. She is now a Major, a cat 3 storm, with winds about 115 mph. Not someone that I want to meet right now. So I am looking at what to do, and where to go. The marina here is my best bet, I think, though, if it came in as a category 3 storm I would suffer damages, I am sure. But she is forecast to go out to sea.

If you're interested, or worried, you can look at the national hurricane center website, here.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Back in the water!

Yesterday Altair was lifted off her summer legs and placed gently back into the water. It is strange, standing on a boat in the water, since I have not been in that position for a long time. A Mariner who has lost his sea legs! Today I plan on leaving the marina and testing myself against the sea again. I think I will head for Puerto Vallarta, so I can try out the surfing, and also since it is a closer trip than going anywhere else. The mosquitoes here are really bothering me, so I hope to escape them by going there.
Here are some pictures of the boat as she was yesterday. The first one is from the plane coming down, I thought the morning light was good with the olympic mountains in the background with a full moon overhead was nice. The low clouds remind me of the water.
So yesterday when they were using the crane, I got these pictures. I can't make things look good while she is out of the water, but at least you can see what she looks like again, with a blue bottom.
In order to save bottom paint, I thought I would paint LaFawnda's rudder red again. I like the contrast between the red and the blue.
LaFawnda is one of the things I need to get running again, so I will be using the electronic autopilot until then. (if you recall, LaFawnda is the wind vane, or a wind powered autopilot)
Today should be a good shakedown trip, to see what is working and what isn't. I don't want to go too far, or run into trouble, but I want to push her a little to find out the weaknesses.
Hopefully the next time I report I will be surfing!

Friday, September 16, 2011


I think today I came the closest I've ever come to being struck by lightning. I was the most scared, certainly. The morning dawned bright and humid, with some clouds, and I began to work on the boat. I was going to try to see if I could get put into the water, but today is the mexican independence day, so it wasn't going to happen. So I started working on the roller furling. There was a break up near the top, so I wanted to fix that, but its hard to work when little things are biting you all over. Such is life in San Blas, where the bugs reign. So I got bit a lot, and managed to get the pieces all ready, and I thought I had it all covered... And now its hot and sunny. When the sun comes out, it gets hot fast. So I took a small break and then started working on putting it on the forestay. This involves putting the sail on at the same time (yes its a bad design) and that means the sail will flap around all over the place if its windy. And yes, everytime that I've put it on, the wind picks up. Today was no exception, and I got it part way up, with lots of trouble and some help from one of the marina guys... A black cloud appeared on the horizon. Soon it was close, and raining, so I tied the sail up as best I could, and although I wasn't quite done, I thought it might hold against a breeze. The rain dumped down like only tropical weather can, and soon the breeze was more than just that! Lightning flashed all around and was deafening. It sounded like gods were hitting the ground with hammers, or playing baseball with dynamite. When a bolt hits close (like 1-3 seconds, or about 1/5-1/2 a mile) it shakes you, it moves your lungs. And its Damn scary! I'm up working on a thing with a long metal pole and metal strings that run straight to me! So I got down and waited for it to pass.
That storm passed, slowly, and I got up and tried to finish the job. This time, I managed to get the wire connected, so now the sail is at least supporting itself, but I didn't want to untie it and then try to roll it up, since I knew another bunch of wind was coming.
The world lit up white, and half a second later, the world shook and boomed with thunder. I scampered down into the boat, and waited for it to blow over. But this time, the storm didn't want to move. It stayed put over me and the wind blew HARD. The sail, of course, came undone, and I could feel the boat bucking a little. (Remember I am still on the hard, so if the stands come out, I fall over and that is REALLY BAD). So I braved the instant crispy death and went out to play in the ball game of the gods.
There were at least 10 that hit within a mile of me, and quite a few that were closer, some might have been 400 yards or less. I guess its hard to tell. I got the sail rolled up while the wind gusted away into the 30s or so, which isn't really all that much, but it is if you are on land....
Then I tied it down and sprinted back down, and went to join the marina guy under a metal roofed building. I could feel the adrenaline pumping, and it took me a while to stop shaking. I don't know what i would do if i got hit by lightning, but I imagine I'd be sore afterwards, supposing that I survived.
Then I waited for it all to end, and I didn't get much done today. I hope it isn't raining tomorrow, so I can get put back in the water. And I promise that I will post pictures sometime soon.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Return to Altair

I am back in San Blas, where resides my wonderful (and lonely) boat, Altair. She has missed me, I can tell. There are some signs of tears dripping into the bilge (since its full) and her nose is all clogged up from the joy of seeing me. Actually it is the head. But I will get to that.
I begin this epic saga at the end of the last. Coming back from the Enchantments, I was feeling great, though tired. I got to Seattle, posted the last post, and then had a nice evening with Danny before going to bed to wake up ass early the next morning. Danny was kind enough to drive me to the airport.
Things didn't all go as wrong as they could have, but they tried. First, my bag was too heavy, so I had to move things around to make it lighter. The plane took off and it was a beautiful sunrise, with Rainier blooming through the fog. I got a few shots of the west side (since I was not on the rainier side) and they might be coming later. Los Angeles was just waking up when we arrived, so I was happy to see that we were early. But then the plane that was in our gate was late, so we had to wait on the tarmac for a gate. I don't know how long we waited, but I was worried about my connection, but that worked out all right too. So I got to the gate and there was this long-haired guy with a goatee who looked nice, and I asked him if he was going to Mexico. He was! I found out that he lives to the north of PV, so I asked him if I could get a ride with him, and he said yes.
So after landing in Puerto Vallarta, I ran through customs and made it through unscathed, to catch up with Juan Diego (as he is called), and his uncle, who had brought his car to the airport. I put my bags in the back and got in with them, while Juan Diego and his uncle got into the front seats.
I was surprised when Juan put on his seatbelt, but he'd been living in the USA for a while, so maybe it was habit. Or maybe it was a signal that he was going to be driving extra fun today. We got started and they pulled out a joint and passed it between them, burrowing into the thick white smoke. I was a bit startled, but I just tried to breathe the fresh air out the window. Then we got to a store, where they got two bottles of beer, for the road. I've never actually seen someone drink while driving, but I guess its not that special. Anyways, they had the beer pretty visible, and the marijuana wasn't terribly hidden, so I was wondering what the penalties are down here, or if things like this weren't illegal. Then the two lanes became one, and there was a big truck ahead of us, so we hit the gas to try and make it.
All I can say is that we are lucky that the truck almost stopped, because the merge section was well over and the oncoming bus wasn't slowing down, and there wasn't room for the three of us. So I lived.
Then Juan was eager to run the corners as fast as he could, on a twisty road dotted with little crosses all over.
I was actually not very frightened of much of the driving, even the head on near miss. I guess I've gotten used to that kind of driving in China.
So they took me to Tepic, where I spent the night, and then took a bus to San Blas. The bus station attendant sold me a ticket to the wrong city, so I asked about it and then got the right one. You have to be careful with those people. I got the impression that she didn't like me, because of my skin and nationality, and that she led me astray on purpose. But I foiled her plan.
Anyways, I got to the boat, and discovered that the guy I worked with on making the contract for storage no longer works here. So that means that all the side deal, which was that I could get an extra month free, is not valid anymore. Which means that I have to pay for this month. And the rates are higher than before. 30 % higher, I think. The case of RedBull that I got in Los Angeles, and drank about 3 of them, well, it took a turn for the worse. I think water seeped into the package, eroded the aluminum cans, and they leaked energy all over the head. This energy soon turned into biology, and coated the toilet and floor. I knew I wasn't going to use them up. I should have given them away.
Its nearly clean, but it is a tricky area to work, since there are a lot of angles to clean off. And tonight the sun set nicely and the heat is still on, with a mist of humidity drifting down from heaven too. I am also being eaten by mosquitoes. If it were a bit cooler, I would be very happy. I haven't been in the water yet, so I am eager to get the boat in the water. Also I am paying, so I think I might even try to paint tomorrow. I just got bottom paint tonight, I hope it is good stuff.
Once I get the bottom painted, I think I'll hoof it pretty quick up to Baja, to try and find cooler air. And less mosquitoes.
Things are good, though. I had forgotten how good it feels to be on board.

Monday, September 12, 2011


I went hiking in "the Enchantments," which is a area of lakes up near a town called Leavenworth. My sister conceived it as a trail running weekend, where we would all do shorter runs (like 12 miles and 15 miles) to work up to the final 19 mile enchantments run. But the plan was thwarted from the beginning when the road we were going to take was not open. So we just did the final run first.
It didn't quite work out the first day, there was some communication trouble and we ended up not making it very far along the run, but the second day (sunday) we did it. Or I should say, Bryan, Monica and Abe did it, and Katrina and I just hiked it. But I think hiking is a better way to go through, since we made it in the day, and took lots of time around the lakes to see beautiful things.
I'd been to the lakes before, so I got to remember a lot of the things from the last trip, and it was neat to see them again.
I went swimming in a lot of the lakes, and they are very cold, something near freezing. There was an iceberg in one, but I didn't swim there.
This was the furthest hiking I had done in a day before, so I'm happy to report that 19 miles (or 20, I'm not sure still) is not impossible, and is actually pretty easy, if you go at a decent pace and go all day.
The first picture is Prussik Peak, seen from the upper Enchantments. I think its a cool looking peak, since its so sharp. We climbed up a gradual slope for most of the trip and then came down Asgaurd pass, which is mythologically steep. You look down it and wonder.... then you lean forward and wake up with a jolt and try not to fall.
Of course there are mountain goats wandering around the highlands, and the last time I was up there I got into a pushing war with one. It was coming across a stream and I wanted to cross also, and we met in the middle and I pushed on her head for a little bit and then admitted defeat. Goats can push hard. There were a ton of berries. Cherries, blue elderberries, currants, thimbleberries... All sorts. But no Bears (that we saw).
Just below Snow Lake there is a geyser that comes out of the mountain. It sounds like a jet, and as you come to it, you can see a little house next to it and a cave going in the rock. I'm not sure why its there, or when it was built, but a tube runs down a tunnel from the bottom of Snow Lake and then the water spits out the end, just out into the air. I tried throwing rocks into the flow and they went flying away somewhere, or were vaporized by the blast, I'm not sure which.
Here is a shot of the water blasting past a tree...

The trip was very beautiful, and my legs don't hurt too much, and I am very glad to be in Washington right now. And the full Moon is rising!
But I leave tomorrow for Mexico. I'll arrive in the afternoon and get hit by thunderstorms and hopefully survive the humidity (heat index was 127 today. That means it feels like its 127 degrees out!) and then I'll continue the journey I started a while ago.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Whatcom Falls Park walk

I went for a walk in Whatcom Falls Park today, and I think today is my last day in Bellingham.
I used to go through the park all the time with a bicycle and a fishing pole when I was a kid, and it hasn't changed that much. There is an old stone bridge where I had my first kiss when I was a junior in High School... And the main falls next to that bridge still look the same.

There are a bunch of falls, and I wandered down along the stream to see them all.

There is a place where you can go and jump in off of a cliff...

Bellingham has made most of the trails into official trails, with gravel everywhere, but there is a section of the creek that doesn't have an official trail next to it, and I had to fight my way through the small paths to get there...

And then there was a big fire in 1999 where a gasoline pipeline exploded, and the trees are still all dead.

The tallest falls are in the burnt zone, and they used to be the secret place that only the cool kids knew how to get to. You have to scramble down a steep slope to get to them. It was very bright, since the trees are all dead, so I didn't get any good pictures. Also the creek is very high right now, so I didn't walk around in the water.

Then as I was coming back, I saw a few more things.

I will miss Bellingham, this is a great time to be here, and to be outside. I'm going for a hike this weekend, which will be more like a mad run, up in the Enchantments, an area near Leavenworth. We will run or walk and try to do lots of miles each day, but returning to base camp each time. I hope it is fun. Then Tuesday I go back to the humidity. Puerto Vallarta is very hot right now and very humid. And I need to find a cheap hotel near the airport to stay in for one night if anybody has ideas....

I went for a hike up to the Bat Caves a little while ago, and it has a nice view over the San Juan Islands. With little boats sailing around!