Thursday, January 21, 2010

December 5th-20th, 2009; Back to Baja!

Many important changes have passed since our last entry. First, Shawn successfully graduated from Bikram’s Teacher Training in Las Vegas on December 5, 2009. Congratulations! In addition to her certification, she received the great honor of being one of 36 selected by Bikram for the final yoga demonstration where she performed the entire 26 posture series, including several advanced postures, to an audience of many friends, parents, and fellow graduates. A day later, Shawn drove north to Clear Lake to begin teaching under direction and tutelage of Lynn Whitlow. We met Lynn in 2004, while practicing yoga at the Funky Door studio in Berkeley, and agree that she is one of the most inspirational Bikram’s Yoga instructors we’ve met. We promise to fill you in more on Shawn’s yoga experiences as things move forward.

While Shawn was demonstrating Full Cobra on stage at the Las Vegas Hilton, Chris was down on Tao in San Carlos, Sonora. Now that she was afloat, Tao finally began to feel like the home he remembered. They were both happy to be rid of the constant attack of dirt, dust, and the suite of toxic aerosols that life “on the hard” brings. Apart from the normal pre-sail preparations (running rigging, sails, water and fuel, etc), Chris spent his time working on several other “need to do” projects. Yes, like most boat owners, we have an exhaustive list of maintenance tasks and improvements that keeps us busy while we’re cruising. We have found that as long as we are living and sailing, we can effectively keep enough momentum to slowly make improvements. Yet, on the other hand, if we take time away from Tao, her upkeep is difficult to maintain.

Mercifully sparing our blog readers the torture of a true project list, here is a brief list of what was completed the day that Shawn graduated:
· Installed new AquaSignal 40 masthead light with tri-color, anchor light, and strobe functions. Of course this required several trips to the top of the mast and some luck. The new unit required two more wires and more footprint space than the nearly useless 1970’s antique it replaced. Luckily Chris found the end of an old triplex encased within the remains what appeared to be the previous owner’s wind instrumentation “tower” during the initial top-of-mast recon mission so no longer had to worry about worst case scenario of “pulling the stick” to rewire. A voltmeter quickly identified the three wires exiting just above the mast step on the keel. Unfortunately, the wires were little more than nubs protruding at the top, so Chris spent a good hour with a hacksaw blade cutting the pipe surrounding the wire careful not to lose what did exist. Then to make space for the unit Chris spent the rest of the afternoon discovering why it’s probably not a good idea to wield a hammer and impact driver at the top of the mast while the wakes from the continuous stream of fishing boat traffic roll under the boat. (Thankfully, he did not put a hole in the deck with either of these heavy metal items). The effort yielded a spare aluminum masthead plate, 4 badly beaten up stainless steel machine bolts, and enough space for the new masthead light. With the wiring and placement woes behind him, Chris drilled and tapped new mounting holes, connected a few wires, and installed the light.
· Other top-of-the-mast jobs: While up there, Chris also replaced windex wind indicator, untangled a jammed sheave, ran a new halyard, applied lanacote to all dissimilar metal contacts, and put sail tape on spreader boots.
· Back down in the cabin, Chris led a new set of wires between the electrical bus at the base of the mast and the 12v panel, amidships over the engine. Although the entire electrical panel and rats nest of wires behind it have to be dealt with during a future campaign, Chris was able to locate a logical set of switches, providing power and ground to the different functions of the new masthead light. He is proud to say that Tao’s anchor light now looks like a bright light, not just a distant star bobbing around in dark space. Now if he can only figure out how to keep the lights from interfering with the masthead VHF signal…

On December 6, Noah Peffer boarded an overnight ferry from Santa Rosalia to Guaymas to help Chris sail Tao south across the Sea of Cortez to Puerto Escondido. Noah and his girlfriend, Alex, are good friends that we met last year in La Paz while they were completing a new dodger for their boat Scheherazade, a Yamaha 33. Noah is currently working and writing about his epic struggle to repower on the hard in Fonatur Singlar’s yard in Escondido ( During their last two days in San Carlos before heading across, Chris and Noah finished installing teak chocks for the new liferaft, tuned the standing rigging, and spent the requisite afternoon at the fuel dock filling water and diesel while using a few wrenches on the persnickety Yanmar 2QM20. They did not forget to spend some quality time socializing with the local riff-raff; of course, topping this list were Jacob and Julia from s/v Pisces and Adam and Kris from s/v Estrella.

It was a “gentleman’s” start on Wednesday morning, December 9, for Noah and Chris. Waking up at around 7:30 AM, they were able to listen to the morning weather on the Sonrisa and Amigo nets, have a civilized breakfast, and even take the last bits of trash off the boat and shower before sailing off the anchor in San Carlos harbor at around 11:30 AM. Tao’s main came up first, followed by the 100% working jib after Noah stowed the anchor. We made course heading 184 degrees, almost directly south, for the opening between Islas Coronado and Carmen near Loreto, Baja California Sur. In total, the journey to Puerto Escondido was a little over 140 nautical miles. Wind conditions began with steady 10-15 knots from the northwest off the starboard quarter, with a 1-3 foot short period wind swell from the same direction. Although they had a slight roll, it was a relatively comfortable downwind run so far and the boat was gliding along at a respectable clip of 6 knots. Conditions remained the same during a beautiful sunset, and apart from a few fishing boats, we sailed alone in the moonless dark with low-level stratus clouds obscuring the horizon, and amazing views of the star-filled Milky Way above us as we zipped downwind through the night.

Dawn broke to the sight of the large volcanic mound of Isla Coronado off the starboard bow. Isla Carmen looked like a low lying landform directly ahead. We entered the passage between Loreto and Isla Carmen at around 9 AM, and completed our journey to the south end of Isla Carmen where it gives way to Isla Danzante. We were within a few miles of the entrance to the Puerto Escondido harbor at around 11 AM when we decided to sail into picturesque Honeymoon Cove, a well protected anchorage on Isla Danzante. We then tacked on beam reach toward the Puerto Escondido entrance, started Yannie, the engine, and pulled up to mooring ball 85 in the primary harbor. This has been Tao’s home since then. Overall we made the run in about 24 hours, with an average speed of just under 6 knots!

Upon landfall in Puerto Escondido, Noah showed Chris his work progress on Scheherazade; impressive, to say the least. Two days later, Jacob and Julia from Pisces motored into Puerto Escondido having spent a night layover at Isla Carmen on their way down from San Carlos. This visit was a surprise, as they had not originally planned to stop on the Baja Peninsula on their way south to the Mexican Riviera (Mazatlan and points south). Any questions Chris had about their intentions were immediately cleared up, when they approached in their dinghy, Pesky, and stated, “We can’t miss Noah’s famous hot dog crawl in Loreto.” Yes, you read it right, a celebration of Loreto’s secret food delicacy, an epicurean delight, the hotdog. Noah had been talking about his favorite Loreto hotdog joint ever since he arrived in San Carlos. His obsession obviously had an effect; now people were changing their cruising plans to make it to his favorite Saturday night activity. And yes, indeed, the hotdogs did not disappoint. We went out along with Noah’s local friend Wade to the king of hotdog stands (Incidentally, Wade also built Nor’West boats in the mid-70s in Alameda, CA. He did not build Tao, hull #10, which was after his time). This particular stand was family run, only open during the weekends, and located in their two car garage. For 15 pesos, what came out was not just a hot dog with ketchup and mustard, but a work of art. The hot dog and bun were just the foundation for a mountain of additional ingredients, including a number of grilled veggies, a special mayo sauce, bacon, and salsa. Yum. Following this event in Puerto Escondito, Jacob and Julia christened the first annual hot dog crawl in La Paz ( Their final report states that La Paz may give the Loreto hot dog a run for its money.

On December 13, Chris sadly left Tao on her mooring, and caught a bus from Loreto heading south for Cabo San Lucas for holiday visiting with his family at his mother’s annual time share. Flying in from Los Angeles, CA, and Juneau, AK, were his mother (Jane) and stepfather (Abe) and his sister (Sarah) and brother-in-law (Jimmy), respectively. Chris spent one night in La Paz before heading down to the San Jose del Cabo airport to pick up the rental car and Sarah and Jimmy, at around 3 PM. All three of them drove down to Cabo San Lucas proper to rendezvous with Jane and Abe at the Pueblo Bonito Blanco resort. (Coincidentally, the magnificent and well manicured Pueblo Bonito property faced directly out to the yacht anchorage in which Tao had been anchored just one year before). Time for some R&R. Over the next 5 days, Chris savored visiting with his close relatives while enjoying the royal treatment that he could only observe from his rolling cockpit during his last visit. His daily routine at the time-share included a morning workout in the on-site gym followed by a long trip to the spa, where he enjoyed the soothing effects water in the shower, hot tub, steam room, Swedish shower, and cold water plunge pool. The whole family enjoyed sun time by the pool, in the ocean, and going out on the town for several dinners. Everyone wished Shawn were there (most notably Shawn), but she was riding the post-teacher-training wave teaching her first 6 classes during that time.

The view of the sun setting during the evening flight from Cabo to Los Angeles was memorable. The next morning, December 20, Both Chris and Shawn were rudely awakened in LA and San Francisco respectively by alarm clocks indicating early flights bound for snowy Ithaca, NY and the beginning of another adventure: the first time to spend our holidays with Shawn’s family in New England.


  1. Congratulations Shawn on your graduation and honors!!!!! We hope Chris' flight back down goes smoothly, and will be keeping an ear out for his check-ins on the Sonrisa!
    Miss you guys!
    julia and jacob