Cruising  ~ The Cat’s Meow Style ~  January, February, March 2010

A Whale of a Winter


                                                             View from The Cat’s Meow of the Sierra Gigantes


Yes, it has been a WHALE of a winter….a working winter for us on The Cat’s Meow. After enjoying the holidays, friends and family visiting, so much good good food…….. it was time to get to work. We had some major projects planned for the winter months, while we turned on the mooring ball, here in Puerto Escondido: new flopper stoppers (they help keep TCM stable while at anchor), a new water tank, installing the generator purchased while we were in the US during the summer, and re-fiberglassing and painting the main deck decks. Whew! A LOT of work.


So. Martin and friend Ray built a new water tank in the engine room. Fiberglassing is a messy, stinky business. Fiberglass fibers get tracked all over the boat, epoxy gets spilled and dripped, and it is just generally not fun. Plus, being in the engine room with all of those fumes can be rather daunting…… but the water tank did finally get completed, and now we have almost double the water tankage we had before this project.


Martin did the most of the fabrication of the new flopper stoppers at the boat yard here at Pto. Escondido, which cut down the mess here on the boat. Thank the gods. At this writing they are still at the boat yard, with just the last bits of work to be done. Soon. Maybe soon.


While we expected to install the generator we brought down the Baja with us, we ended-up purchasing yet another generator, this one actually better suited to our needs and ready to use.  Now, we had two generators to get into the boat and secured. Hmmmm… does one DO that while out on the water?? Well, Martin hired a crane. The crane lives on the outskirts of Loreto. The crane had to be driven the almost 15 miles, on a windy, hilly road, to Puerto Escondido, to the boat yard. TCM was moved to a rickety “work dock” alongside the boat yard.  The galley floor had to be removed, and a few other items moved around inside. Then…..the head of the crane was brought right in through our main salon door and into the galley…..Robin was closing her eyes at that point……so that first one and then the second genset could be lowered into the hatchway and down into the engine room. Martin was down in the engine room, directing the generators as they were lowered. Elvin, of P.E.M.S in P.E. (the proper name of the boat yard) was directing and assisting the whole time, too. Robin kept her eyes closed…. 



                        Elvin, of P.E.M.S. in PE, assisting with the heavy work                                                   Head of the crane in our galley!



                      Crane placing the generator thru galley floor to engine room                                             The aftermath…and lots more work for Martin


The great news is that now we have a working, quiet (well, as quiet as generators get), easy to use generator again – for the first time since our sinking experience!! Robin likes that part  J 


Ya know, we just can’t – and we don’t want to – work all of the time, especially here in such a grand place with such wonderful people around. Friends on the sailing vessel DrueAnn, Rob and Robin, decided it was time to “tie the knot”, and what better time and place to do that than right here? The Porto Bello Restaurant played a big part in the whole celebration, thanks to proprietor Pedro, and Ray (Adios) got himself “papered” by the World Church just in time. On Januray 18th, we all had a wonderful time celebrating the union of R & R, and we must say: Fun was had by ALL!!! 


     Robin, Louie, and Rob with “Reverend Ray” during a really fun wedding ceremony 

                                                                                         (photo by Sunlover Connie)


This winter was a strange one in terms of weather. It sounds like weather was purrrty strange in many parts of the planet, as well. The north winds, we call ‘em northers, just would not rest. Every few days, another one would blow – sometimes very heavy gusts, up into the 40+ knot range. And, we had some rain, which just does not happen in the Baja during the winter. Most of the vessels stayed-put, but every once in a while, one would decide to go on a walk-about, and then the captains of many boats would hop into their dinghies and race to help move or secure the boat needing assistance. 



                                            Strange but gorgeous weather in our port                                                 Manta, broken from its mooring, getting lots of help in the wind and rain


When the sun was out and the winds calm, we had very mild temperatures. It was cold, too, way too much of the time, when the north winds were blowing.  It was difficult to work outside in cold strong winds, so the deck work did not progress as we had planned. Robin did persevere when she could, and ripped-up the old deck fiberglass on the bow, and then later on the aft deck. Then the wood was repaired and prepped for the new fiberglass. This took months, and we are blaming that on the weather!


 Deck at TCM’s bow all torn-up – Robin’s handywork


One late afternoon, the snow birds (mostly from Canada) that populate Rattlesnake beach, a few minutes south of the port, invited some of us from Pto. Escondido to a bonfire on the beach. A potluck ensued, with plenty of hot dogs and interesting dishes to accompany them. We brought the makings for s’mores – yummm. The fire was warm and toasty, the winds were down, and we all had a good time. 


Relaxing on Rattlesnake beach of an evening



After working nonstop for about two months, we decided we needed some warmer weather and a change of scenery. Besides, our shopping list for La Paz was getting longer and longer.  We loaded the cats into the RV and headed to La Paz for a little vacation. Some other folks from Pto. Escondido had the same idea, evidently, because we all saw each other in La Paz! Most of the time, we visited friends and our favorite haunts in “the big city”. The winter Olympics were being held at this time, and we were able to view some of the TV coverage while enjoying some good inexpensive food and drink. 



                                    Lisa, Merry (and Robin) visiting Roberta in La Paz                                       Toes enjoyed seeing some of his best pals, too,

                                                                                                                                                                        here with Dennis (Two Can Play)

There was one rather funny thing happening in La Paz while we were there: a gigantic catamaran had been built in one of the boat yards and was ready to launch. This thing was so big that a fence had to be removed, and other special efforts made to get it down to the launch ramp….and then the problems really started……..   The catamaran was stopped by a small lip at the end of the ramp, and it might have had six inches on either side to get all the way down the ramp, into the water, when they finally got moving again.



        First, this HUGE catamaran was built in the boat yard……and taken to the launch ramp…..that is when the problems started…..   OOOOOps….. Stuck. For four days!



Yes, we had a WHALE of a time this winter! At the end of our visit in La Paz, Susan and Dennis (Two Can Play) joined us for a whale watching day in the village of Puerto San Carlos, which is on the Pacific side of the Baja, inside Magdalena Bay. We contacted Enrique, who we knew to be an excellent whale tour panga guy. The following morning we were in the panga and on the water before 7:30 a.m., heading out into the Bay. Enrique stopped one of the shrimping pangas (we didn’t even know that they shrimped by panga!) and purchased a load of fresher-than-fresh shrimp. Then, we headed for one of the locations where Enrique knew the whales would be hanging out, stopping by the local “bird island” on the way.        



                              Bijillions of birds take off when Enrique takes us to their beach                      Dennis & Susan (Two Can Play) enjoying the panga ride



Enrique showed us the sights for about 4 ½ hours! We saw whales spyhopping and breeching in the distance, and we were up-close-and-personal to some others, with one going directly under our panga! Whale tails are quite difficult to photograph, especially with the digital cameras, but we managed to get a few decent shots. 



                                     One whale of a tail  (by Robin) up close and personal!                                                          Another whale tale (?) photo taken by Dennis


We took a lunch break in the very small village of Magdalena. While the four of us were having a cold beer, Enrique disappeared, only to appear in a short while with a huge platter of cooked shrimp – the very shrimp he had bought earlier!  Wow, did we ever dine fine! Lobster tails and shrimp. Not bad.



                                                      Enrique and the shrimp he bought and cooked for us                     Robin holding our lunch, just before they were cooked


After that great La Paz and whale watching break, we both returned to our respective boat projects. The northers continued. We worked. Then, one sunny and warm Sunday, Martin joined a few others for a hike up Steinbeck Canyon, located just behind the harbor, in the rugged and beautiful Sierra Gigante mountains. What a great way to spend a day! 



                                   View up Steinbeck canyon, just outside of Pto. Escondido                                         Another view of the canyon…. What fun!!


Friends Merry and Dave of Air Ops needed to drive to the village of Constitucion, located in the middle of the Baja – an agricultural area – for some items they needed, and they wanted to see Puerto San Carlos. A great excuse to take another day-trip! All four of us scoured the banks of the bay for some very pretty shells (both Merry and Robin make jewelry and other crafts with the shells) after a delicious and downright cheap meal. A school for oceanographic research is housed in this tiny village, and we were fortunate to meet some of the university students who are studying the bay, the whales and other sea life. 



              We enjoyed a great lunch with Dave & Merry (Air Ops) in tiny Puerto San Carlos, where there is also a teaching/research school for oceanography


One evening, here in Pto. Escondido, a very interesting man by the name of Colin presented slides and a discussion about the whales seen right here in the Sea of Cortez. We had heard that the gigantic blue whales and the almost-as-large finbacks, and others, came to the Sea during the winter months, but we had never been here during the winter before. After listening to Colin’s presentation, we decided to go with him and a marine biologist, Fernando, the next week on one of the whale watching panga tours right here, in our own back yard. WOW. Fernando will only take up to 5 persons in his panga, he leaves at 8 a.m. sharp, and we stayed on the water for six hours!! We saw blues, finbacks, humpbacks, and three orcas with a bryde’s whale.  WOW!!! These two guys are sooooo knowledgeable about the whales. They even recognize many of the individuals by their markings, and have names for them! The most exciting part of the day was when the orcas, who kill whales by ganging up on them, seemed to be chasing or bothering the bryde’s whale. But then, the bryde’s turned and seemed to be chasing the orcas!! And, he swam on his back, many different times, seemingly for fun and right along our panga! Fernando and Colin were both very intrigued, as this is unusual behavior and the bryde’s whale is hardly ever seen because they are so shy. This one stayed with us for almost two hours!! What a whale of a good time we had!!



      Whale watching in Fernando’s panga                                          Yet another whale tail – this one a blue whale, Sea of Cortez



We ended the first quarter of the new year with a hike up into another canyon, this one down the road a piece and back about three or four miles from the road. Six of us made our way up hill, following the riverbed, for a few miles. The hike was not strenuous and it was very pretty. We found a few pools of fresh water, and some of us were willing to jump in and swim to cool off. 



                 Molly watches Morris take the plunge…                                                                            ….and she just could not stop herself!!!


And, that is how we spent the first few months of this new year, 2010. We had a WHALE of a GOOD TIME, too!!!! We hope 2010 is a banner year for each of you, and that you, too, have a whale of a good time! Come on back and see what else we get into, Cruising ~ The Cat’s Meow Style…….