Monday, December 22, 2014

Family Circus visits Jurassic Park

I am not sure exactly what we expected when we headed to Isla Isabel but it turned out to be completely out of this world.
The Island is known as the "Galapagos of Mexico" and sits 43 miles off the coast- halfway up between Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan. Its remote location and lack of commercialization has kept it very natural and its inhabitants show no aversion to modern man.  Mexico designated it a National Park in 1980, and it became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2005- quite a thing for an island that is less than one square mile in size.  It was also apparently a favorite of Jacques Cousteau- who filmed the island extensively.
Given its remote location- we wanted to get there early in the morning to enjoy the day, which meant an overnight trip from Mazatlan- thankfully our autopilot worked fabulously and we enjoyed a great sail most of the way there.  As we approached at sunrise from about 4 miles out, we started being visited by Frigate and Boobie birds that got much closer than usual - and as land came more in to focus you could see clouds of birds circling the island.
Isla Isabel doesnt have a great anchorage, meaning its hard to set your anchor very well- but thankfully it was a very mellow day on the ocean and we jammed our anchor in some sand and under a rock in 15 feet of water.  There were two other boats anchored, and on shore you could see a small colony of fishermen huts.  Hundreds of birds continued to circle the boat
After homeschooling we got in to expedition mode loading the dinghy with food and water, and many of us wearing real shoes for the first time in a while.  We beached our dinghy, dragging it up out of the waterline and started exploring.
True to Jurassic Park form, there is an abandoned research station here, and with no clear trails identified we ambled in the direction of a rooftop that stuck out over short trees.  As we started walking the experience started to unfold- as we all almost tripped over iguanas that were laying out on the ground, and seemed to have no interest in moving.  As we approached the short trees we realized they were laden with Frigate birds and their nests, and aside from giving us an estranged glance, these large birds werent moving because of us.  The trees were probably 8-14 feet tall, and you could literally reach up to the birds level-we even saw inside several nests and saw the eggs that the birds were warming  As we wandered on- hundreds and hundreds of Frigate birds swarmed around, collecting building materials for nests and engaging in mating rituals.  The male frigates have giant bright red sacks that they inflate massively to attract females, and they have a warbling noise that they make in their throats- all adding to quite a noise.

The kids were all wide eyed as we trekked on- passing an abandoned basketball court that had a dilapidated volleyball/fishing net stretched on it- complete with Frigate birds sitting on the posts- all within arms reach.
Sitting here now, it is so hard to describe how surreal the whole thing was- EVERY tree seemed to be packed with these large birds and as we walked under them they would sometimes flap their wings loudly, or drop "special gifts"- sending our children running for cover.  With no real map we just wandered through old bush trails and it was a fabulous site to see the Family Circus family adventuring all alone through the experience. It was definitely a "this is why we are doing this trip moment"

We made our way to the far side of the island to a rough volcanic bay, and were able to spot our first blue footed Boobie birds up close- their webbed feet are a spectacular sky blue, and with their eyes close together have a very unique, dorky look.
Not finding a path forward there we backtracked and asked the fisherman for directions to the "Lago" which is the lake that has filled in the volcano crater. We found a surprisingly well defined path we ambled on, and Amaia continued counting Lizards and Iguanas.  You have to picture here saying every few seconds "136 Lizards and Iguanas, 137 Lizards and Iguanas......" as we scaled up and down the island path.  After finding the lake and exploring some more, we headed back to the beach, dodging Frigate birds overhead as we did so.
We ate some lunch and almost loaded in to the dinghy before we looked at the large rock outcropping right next to the beach and realized there was a huge brown and yellow footed Boobie colony established.  We wandered over slowly and started walking amongst them- moving within inches of them as we navigated their nests on the ground.  We all delighted in seeing the white fluffy chicks, as well as the juvenile birds that were still white but slightly larger, still without developed wings.  The adults would look at us and tilt their heads and beady eyes, and the kids would mimic them.

It was a real National Geographic moment as we sat down and just took it all in.
It was also here that we spotted "Cosmo" - a bright green lizard that took an interest in my GoPro camera as we filmed him.  Cosmo was happy to be picked up and carried and now is the latest crewmember on Family Circus.
It came time to go, but it was reluctant leaving, as I am not sure when we will see something like that again.  We are leaning toward not going to the real Galapagos any more, as the distance is great, and the island cost for seven is high, and the visit is restrictive.  I am sure the experience would be awesome, but I am also thankful that we got to be the only people on Isla Isabel, exploring with no real trails, maps or guides.  I hope the pictures and videos help do the experience justice and give a sense of uniqueness of Isla Isabel- they certainly will help keep great memories for us.

To maximize our play time, we decided to leave at sunset, after I dove and pulled the anchor from under the rock, and we completed another nice overnight sail to the beachtown of Chacala to celebrate Lexi's birthday.  Its great having Mykaela to stand night watches with Heather and I as it makes the overnights quite manageable.  I hope you are all having your own great adventures!

Isla Isabel.... What an amazing island

I am sitting here with Chris and we are racing to see who can post first on our visit to Isla Isabel... yes it has come to that... This is our entertainment.  Cup of coffee in hand, dolphins in front of our boat swimming in circles here in the marina, and all the kids sleeping.. what more could you ask for on a beautiful morning in La Cruz.

Since Chris is telling you about our amazing Bird and Iguana island I will skip and move onto our next stop.  What I can say is that this Island was so inhabited with these creatures it was amazing.  They weren't startled by you, in fact I'm sure they were actually annoyed that we were walking on their island.  We could get so close to them and they would just look at us.  It was so awesome for the kids to see the wildlife up close.  My favorite was the Blue and Yellow Footed Boobie Rockery... There were so many baby birds to see.  

We came down yesterday from Chacala... what a sweet little town with a perfect wave break for boogie boarding, pina coladas on the beach and guacamole... my perfect day.  We anchored there for 2 days to spend Alexia's 12th birthday NOT out at sea.  This is her one request.  She loved it.  We had lunch on the beach, a Mariachi band play for her and then had her special dinner of Avgolemono soup.  This is her favorite soup of chicken, egg, lemon and rice.  So tasty!  HAPPY BIRTHDAY BEAUTIFUL GIRL!

We motored down to La Cruz in the morning, it was a smooth ride down, we caught 4 fish and only kept 1.. the others are the skip jack which we throw back immediately.  We are now at the La Cruz Marina and it is nice to be dockside to get some organizing and cleaning done.

Last night we walked into town... 2 blocks :@) and at a the Black Forest Restaurant.  Alexia had never had shnizel before... low and behold there is a german couple that ended up here in La Cruz and opened a restaurant... It was actually very good food.

So now we are getting ready for our first guests... trying to make more room for them in the boat and storing stuff away... The one thing I can't believe is all the laundry that we are ending up with.  It seems to be one of our bigger expenses right now. I thought that being down here in the warm weather we would have less laundry.. it doesn't seem to be the case.  Everything just gets wet and moldy smelling on the boat... and I don't have enough room to air it all out on the lines during the day.   Granted I haven't busted out the 5 gallon bucket on the front deck yet and we are using the laundering services that are available.. call me lazy but doing all this wash is just to daunting a task right now.

We are all so excited to see my sister and family.

Here are some pictures of Isla Isabel... and I will post more onto shutter fly when I get a better connection.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Hugs and best wishes..


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Sitting in Mazatlan....

Hi Everyone,

It seems so long since I have written.  Chris keeps posting and it is so nice to see him putting up some insights to our trip.  I love reading his blogs :@)  There has been so much that has happened since the last time that I wrote.  I will try to quickly summarize it and spare you some of the boring details..

We left Escondido and tootled our way back down to La Paz.  We realized that when we left Puerto Escondido that our auto pilot was acting a little cranky,,, it wasn't a big deal then... we didn't have any overnights to do and they were short day sails to La Paz.  We had a great time at some of the chorales we did.  The weather has definitely turned colder and a lot of people had told us that the cold weather and northerlies will chase us out of the northern part of the Sea of Cortez.... well I guess it did.  Unfortunately it is such an amazing, majestic, tranquil place that I can now see why a lot of cruisers come to La Paz and the Sea and stay.  I really do love this place and could easily come back and visit for a very long time.   Chris and I are both worried that we are making a mistake and rushing through Mexico to quickly.  I just can't say enough about the communities/towns/villages that are located on the Sea.  We are so welcomed, there isn't a day that goes by where we are offered assistance from a local to help us find our way, open doors, carry my groceries... etc.  Everyone goes above and beyond to help each other out.  So refreshing... to have complete strangers try to lend a hand... not that it doesn't happen in the states... I am just saying that it definitely occurs at a much higher rate down here.  Boy do they ever love big families and kids... thank goodness :@)

Chris was battling that ear infection so we returned to La Paz early to have him see a doctor.  Once we had changed our plans we thought that we should make our way over to Puerto Vallarta earlier.  Tristan and I were talking and passing the time while on a watch and we thought lets go to Mazatlan and then make our way down the coast from there.  It isn't much farther and we could see a few more places.  So here we go again with the provisioning, systems updates, oil changes for the engines... fueling and then off we go.

I really hated to leave La Paz... I know it sound silly but that town really grew on me.  Or maybe it was just that I was getting comfortable... I knew my way around town, knew where to go for laundry, food, and fun.... we were happy with the amazing people in the cruisers network.  These people really make you feel at home and are incredible in helping in anyway they can...  The kids were happy with their friends there... Amaia had met up with a really good friend on a boat that was on our dock.. They were in the Baja Ha Ha with us and these two little girls were inseparable for 3 days.  Amaia was in heaven... even attempted an overnight.  Amaia decided to try to stay the night on their boat... now granted she usually does okay staying the night at peoples houses.. but so far we have had two failed attempts at overnights on other peoples boats.  One was during the strong northerlies... Chris and I had to put on our foulies to dinghy over in the dark to go and get her... and this one.

So I woke to a little pitter patter on the boat at 2:30 and thought to myself.... someone is on our boat.  Low and behold Amaia had decided to come home because she had a nightmare.  Unfortunately she didn't tell Karen (the mom) that she wanted to go home... she just left.  So I had to write a note and sneak over to their boat, climb on board and try to tape this note on the stair way so they would see it in the morning and not be worried that she fell overboard or something.   Karen was so good about it the next morning... I just felt bad for josintha..... Amaia ended up going back over at 7am when she woke to start their day together.

So with that said on our last day there Chris and I both realized that we felt we were leaving home .... again... and moving on.

We left La Paz and made our way over to Mazatlan... not such a fun trip.  I am realizing that I am not enjoying the overnights as much as I thought... or maybe it was just because autopilot wasn't working and you truly get exhausted standing up there for 3 hours or more at a time driving the boat.  It isn't just like you are sitting in your car seat steering.  When the boat is rocking and you are constantly trying to keep your balance, the wheel was hard to turn after awhile with the force of the waves on the rudders... my arms really got sore after this trip... I was just plain exhausted.  I felt like such a wimp!

We have had a great time here in Mazatlan.  As it turned out we ended up in a marina that has several of the Baja Ha Ha boats.  One has 2 boys Tristans age and a little girl that is close to Alina's age.  Then there are 2 boats here with girls Alexia's age.  They are now having a sleepover one of the girls boats.  Amaia has made another little friend, Hannah and they played in the pool all day today.  It really is amazing how the kids come out of the woodwork and find each other and become instant friends.  It is really fun to meet up with the parents and have the kids on one boat and the parents on the other... a little playdate and adult conversations are fantastic.  Tomorrow we may try to get together for a cookie exchange.  It just doesn't feel like christmas with out it.  I miss you Jamie Smith and your cookie party!

Speaking of which... I think the walmart christmas decoration section got sea sick on my boat.   The kids and I decorated to try and bring the christmas feel but... it really isn't the same.  We love the lights.. all the stockings are hung... except yours Kava!  and the christmas tree is decorated... but... something just doesn't feel like christmas.  We seem so busy and I am not hearing the christmas music everywhere we go... It almost feels forced.  But the kids love it and it is nice typing here with all the lights on.

We visited the old part of Mazatlan yesterday and had a blast going through the traditional market where you can buy anything from Vanilla to sneakers, to baked goods, to pigs heads... The fruits and vegetables were the best I have seen anywhere in Mexico so far and the fresh meat (really fresh meat) looked amazing...  The kids had a good time going through there and seeing what they could buy for very few pesos... We ended up eating in the restaurant section of the market upstairs... and when I say this I mean there were several rooms each with a different family cooking things and trying to get you to come in and eat in their room.  The kitchen was literally a cooktop, crockpots, and OLD cooking kettles.. plastic glasses and when we ordered... they would send someone down to the market to buy the ingredients and then they would bring them back up to cook them.  No need for refrigeration... a little sketchy but we all came out without any stomach issues... YAY!

I do have to say it was fantastic and the kids really enjoyed riding in the back of the truck on the way there... playing in the market and just roaming the town.  We passed by a drive thru Pacifico ... Gotta Love Mexico...

The kids have switched rooms now.... We decided it is only fair to give each of them an opportunity to have some space to themselves... Now that Tristan is with Lexi... and lexi is a very deep sleeper, poor lexi wakes up like this most mornings... You're so funny Tristan :@)  NOT!

Tomorrow we are off to a little Island known as the little Galapagos... It is as close to the galapagos that you can get without actually going.  It is 93 miles away.. and should take us 12 hours to get there.  We are trying to time it so we don't get there in the dark.. not a good approach when you can't see.  After that we will be heading down to our next stop and Marina in La Cruz and will be there until the new year.

I will try to upload more pictures to our picture page.... tomorrow... it is now 2:30am and since we are leaving tomorrow and we have to do night watches... I am not going to be in the best shape. :@) Hope our auto pilot feels like working tomorrow.

I hope all is well for everyone and the holiday season is going well and you are able to enjoy yourself and have a little merry cheer.

Hugs and life is good...


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Yes- you too can have a custom Onesie!

As we snorkel around various amazing places, one small downside can be small to invisible jellyfish and other water nuisances.  Snorkelers and tropical divers often use Lycra suits to help keep them safe and a bit warmer.

On our last visit to La Paz we have heard strong recommendations about a woman that made custom lycra suits to measure.  We knew we needed these for the kids, and had enough time this time to go see "Katty".

Katty works out of her home, and was wonderful to work with.  On one appointment we flooded her house with our clan, and looked at her turtles and cats - and also got measured and got to pick out material colors.  On the next visit a few weeks later, we got to pick up the completed superhero suits!

The kids loved looking at all of the choices of lycra (it reminded me of a bad biker short period in the Eighties) and Katty did an amazing job with all of the suit sizes.  More so that the outstanding product or price,  our favorite memory is of the loving, open, accommodating person - similar to so many great people we have already met on this journey.  Hugs for Katty from everyone and we needed to head out to Mazatlan- but if you know anyone that needs a Lycra Onesie, and who doesnt, really? - please call on Katty! (612) 140-4930

Katty and the Family Circus Superhero Crew!