Monday, April 21, 2014


18 April, 2014 9:27am  17*16.570N 101*03.510W (Geography fun - where were we?)
After a night of little sleep I am in bed waiting for the head. Yes,  I’m a poet and I know it.

GRRUMBLE, VIBRATE, RRRUMBLE.  The first thought that pops in my head as I scramble out of bed is that we have drug anchor and are grinding horribly over large rocks
“What’s that!?!”
We both make for the companionway to look out and check our position for the umpteenth time in 12 hours, this time running.
“What is it?”
“An earthquake!”, Darren replies.
Darren is halfway up the companionway stairs blocking all outside view so I can only say, “How can you tell?”
“Because the trees are doing this.” He turns partway and motions with his arm a palm tree waving violently back and forth like a pom pom wielded by a cheerleader on her third can of Jolt cola chasing a handful of NoDoz.  “Let’s get out of here in case there’s a tsunami.”

My thoughts exactly. We both throw on our ‘above decks/salty’ shorts from their home by the companionway as we turn on the windlass and grab the keys. By the time I am scrawling the time (the engine meter has been acting weird so we are keeping a log of our run times as a backup) on the cruising guide that is laying open on the nav table it is 9:29 and Darren is headed for the foredeck to raise the anchor. I go out to the helm to give the engine light taps to ease the force on the windlass and get my first glances around as I watch for Darren’s hand signals. There are a couple of rock slides that are billowing dust but it doesn’t look like anything near homes and everyone looks pretty calm. A couple of pangas race by one right on the tail of the other.

Dust plumes from rockslides
Darren gives me the ‘off the bottom’ hand signal and I start easing us towards the mouth of the harbor. There is another panga heading towards us across our path so I keep it slow to pass behind them. Darren throws me the ‘out of the water, go ahead’ signal and turns to question me when I don’t gun it. I point to the oncoming panga, “I’m going behind the panga.” Darren turns to see the panga he has been too focused to notice and one of the fishermen motions the ground shaking. Darren yells back, “Terremoto!” and the fisherman replies, “Yeah, terremoto!” as his partner keeps the panga at top speed towards the shore. I open our throttle and raced (a relative term when your top speed is about 6 mph) out of the bay in search of deeper, safe water.

In deep water, on the other side of the point, we saw what looked like a cell tower and Darren took the helm so I could go down and grab the computer and banda acha (I think they call them dongles up north? – for internet service) to try and get a signal. I had 2 thoughts – see what info we could get on the earthquake (will there be a tsunami?) and, I can post Happy Birthday to Jo on his birthday! Adoring aunt that I am, I can’t promise the thoughts were in that order. The computer booted up, but even with Darren sailing towards shore we couldn’t get a signal. Finally we had to give up when the depths became too shallow to be safe if there was a tsunami. We would just have to go offshore and try again when we got to a town. Fortunately, we had posted a birthday message to Jo before we left Zihuat (Zihuatanejo). A short bit later we were about a mile offshore and we felt another rumble. Aftershock.

We later found out that the main earthquake was a 7.2 (or 7.8 depending on which article you read) that was centered about 25 miles straight inland (so no tsunami) from where we were anchored. We were about as close to the epicenter as you could be and still be in water.
After the second quake we were far enough offshore to slow the adrenaline pumping so Darren went forward to throw a few stitches in the genoa. Our original plan had been to do it that morning in the harbor before we left as the wind hadn’t been coming up til between 11:00 and 13:00 on this section of the coast. We were getting a late start on the morning when the earthquake hit as we had been awakened several times in the night by the sound of the anchor chain dragging across the rocks in the harbor bottom  and getting up to check our position . At one point the GPS alarm we had set went off and Darren sprinted to the companionway to check our position (we were fine, we had just made the alarm too conservative). 

Again, ‘sprinted out of bed’ is a bit different on a sailboat. Imagine your bed surrounded on all sides by walls except for a 20” opening by your heads to get in and out of with a ceiling 2’ tall except for a spacious 3’ tall space about 3.5’ wide at your head tapering to about 2’ wide near the bottom of your ribs. So to ‘sprint’ out of bed you sit up, pull your feet up and scooch closer to the head of the bed so you can swing your legs around without bashing your head on the low part of the ceiling (and hopefully missing your spouse) and slither off the waist high bed onto the slanted floor. You then ‘run’ down the narrow rocking corridor grabbing handholds as you fly through the salon towards the companionway. I have to add rolling Darren out of the way of the opening to get out of the bed as it is entirely on his side of the bed to my process. This results in Darren doing a higher percentage of sprints, fair enough, since his process is shorter, right?

Our first Mahi!
Later in the day we were sailing along under 89 degree blue skies doing 5.5 knots with the main and newly repaired genoa up and eating the rice mango almond bowls I had made for a late lunch when we got a hit on the handline. Darren pulled in the line while I got out the gloves and gaff. He soon had our first Mahi (dorado) on the low-side deck (don’t ask how we know this is the best place to clean a fish)! It was small but very tasty lightly pan fried in coconut oil with salt and pepper. Yum.

It looked bigger head on
As the sun got low in the sky Darren was taking his late afternoon mini shift when he spotted a freighter on the horizon headed straight for us. He turned to port figuring they wouldn’t want to go any closer to land and tried to raise them on the radio to make sure they could see us with the sun in their eyes. When they didn’t answer and seemed to turn ever so slightly more towards our new course he called me to come try and hail them. Rumor has it that they are more likely to answer calls from women than men!

After alternating  hailing them in English and broken Spanish (how do I say ‘westbound’?!), I did get an answer in Spanish accented English that they were turning to starboard to pass port to port. I signed off with a “Gracias, buenas tardes” and breathed a sigh of relief. Hopefully they were laughing and not horrified at my butchering of the pronunciation of 'unknown ship' the first time. Hey, you try saying “buque desconocido rojo” 3 times fast while a freighter is bearing down on you! Hindsight might suggest that we should have practiced the phrase beforehand but we have always had ships pass on courses that very clearly would take them out of our path. Or, more to the point, keep us out of their path!

How many sunset shots does it take to get a level one?
A sunset snuggle to calm the adrenaline and it was 20:00 - time for my night shift to start. I was alone with the normal stargazing, bioluminescence wonders and a just-past-full moonrise alternated with reading a little bit of the book ‘Two Against Cape Horn’ by Hal Roth that we had scored in a book exchange with Islena (a twin Pearson 365!) in Zihuat. Every once in a while it seemed the sky lightened almost imperceptibly and I would spend 10 minutes or so scanning the horizon for lightning but saw nothing. I had just about decided it was light from the instruments reflected off the disco ball when, around midnight, I saw a real flash of lightning in the distance off our port stern. I watched it move ever so slowly closer as the wind eased and by 00:40 the sails were slatting in the confused seas. Usually the wind waited til 01:00 to die making it easy to take down the sails during shift change. Darren came up early, awakened by the rolly seas and we took down the sails then had a tired discussion about the path of the lightening. It was a bit stressful, being my first time seeing lightning on the boat , even though it was so far away (behind the mountains) that we couldn’t even hear the thunder. For insurance, I put the handheld GPS and VHF in the oven (Faraday cage) before I tucked in to try and sleep and Darren delayed putting out the flopper stopper till it calmed down in case we had to move quickly. 

I awoke to smoke filled air and went up to check it out. We couldn’t see the flames in the predawn light, but there were obviously fires as we could smell the sagebrush scented smoke on the light breeze from shore that was filling the sails Darren had just raised.
I think I took about 60 shots of this sunrise!

Blue Raspberry Icee!
 I had an easy morning watch and couldn’t resist a swim in the gloriously clear warm Blue Raspberry Icee colored water (like what we had off the Oregon coast on the Ilwaco to Newport leg but lighter and even clearer!) during the midmorning shift change after we took down the sails (becalmed again). We were about to get to Acapulco (at the end of Semana Santa – what were we thinking!?!) and figured the water might be too dirty to swim in like it had been in Zihuat. Darren declined, but kept watch for jellies and warned me when one drifted towards me so I could clamber out of the water while it passed.

What a day.

J. – Hope you had as much fun on your birthday as we did! Happy 13th!

Moms – Don’t worry, this day was multiple times crazier than our previous worst passage. As you can tell from our posts, most of our passages are mile after mile of watching dolphins, whales, turtles, birds, endless miles of empty ocean under blue (or starry) skies and sun and moon sets and rises.

Jodi and Darren

s/v Gratitouille

Friday, April 18, 2014


Happy Birthday, J, wish we could be there to celebrate with you (and have cinnamon ice cream!)! Or, if you were here, we could go out for helado and get the frutas seca flavor (supposed to be dried fruit but tastes like cinnamon).

And, you could be livin' the good life - without the jacket and beanie!

In the bay just before Santiago, we met Fernando who is doing an experiment with shrimp in the cove there. We got to talk to him (in Spanish!) for a few hours about the project and his previous life on ships up and down the coast. We learned from him that they separate the boy and girl shrimp in the lab before they bring them out to the ocean because they grow faster if they are separated. The pen in the bay where we were (just over Darren's left shoulder) was all girl shrimp! Fernando didn't tell us how they separate the shrimp but Darren figures they put them all in the gym, play some dance music and the girls line up on one wall and the boys line up on the other!

You would love the dolphins, we saw three different kinds on our trip from Santiago to Zihuatanejo alone! At N18* 04.557 W103* 34.403 (where were we?) we saw a pod of common bottlenosed dolphins and just under an hour later we saw our first sailfish jumping! Unfortunately the pix of those didn't turn out.

We also saw a mom, dad and baby humpback on that passage! They came pretty close to the boat. They didn't breach like some of the whales do, just poked their backs above water every so often. Where were we when we took this pic at N18* 57.932 W104* 18.463?

Since we passed Cabo Corrientes we have been seeing lots of birds that we call hitchhikers. They stand on the backs of the sea turtles!

You would also love all the boats, people take basic pangas and customize them in many different ways. And here is one of the pickups that has been customized to be a full taco kitchen! (The tacos were yummy!)

                 Or we could take you to sushi for your birthday!

You might even like to live in Zihuatanejo. After all, where else can you play your weekly basketball game with a view of the harbor!?!

Or casually shop for machetes in the local Home Depot or ferreteria (hardware store)!

We miss you lots and hope you have a GREAT 13th birthday!

Aunt Jodi and Uncle Darren

Sunday, April 13, 2014


Wish we were there to sing to you and give you hugs! We got together a few pictures of some things you might enjoy if you were here.
For starters it would be a lot warmer than your birthday last year!
There are lots of art and crafts here to get your creativity going.   

We have seen several places that remind me of Montana around the lake with purple and green rock together.

AND we found where the Mexican Colbrys live! (It means hummingbird in Spanish)

We have a tropical take on rice and raisins, we add fresh mango and banana (raw) and use coconut milk instead of cow milk. If we are having it for a meal we add some sliced almond for protein! A little ginger with the cinnamon and nutmeg is yummy too!

We had the last of our Hood River grass fed beef hotdogs as bacon wrapped cheddar dogs when we found some great bacon in Guyabitos. Yum!! Well not quite wrapped, as you can see, I had the butcher cut the bacon so thick that we had to cook it separately so all the cheese didn’t melt out!


And, there are flowers everywhere

Hope you have a great birthday!

Jodi and Darren

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Adjusting Our Sails

The following was written in the beginning of January when we were still in Mag Bay and didn’t have internet. We just realized that we hadn’t posted it yet and so most people don’t know how drastically our plans have changed.

You can’t control the wind, but you can adjust your sails.  - Don’t know who originally said this, but a good friend of ours wrote it on our life ring and I happened across it the other day when I needed the reminder.

Sorry we have been out of touch for so long. We have been anchored off a small (240 people) fishing village for several weeks waiting for wind and didn’t have any access to internet or phone. Most recently we thought we would have been on the mainland a month ago but delays down the coast have added up to us being way behind where we thought we would be right now.

The upside of being in one place for so long is that we got to meet and get to know some really great people without the distraction of a town or city. The most important thing is that it gave us time to think and discuss our plans. We realized that by pushing to meet the schedule we had set for ourselves that we have been stressing ourselves out, not fully enjoying the adventure and worst of all taking it out on each other. 

After some serious soul searching we found there were 3 main reasons we were pushing to meet the schedule. First, we didn’t think we were very interested in spending much time in Central America and especially Mexico – we could easily do that by van or backpacking someday when we are land-based again. Second, sticking to the plan of saving and prepping got us here so sticking to the plan is good, right? The third took some deeper digging but we finally realized the ugly truth - the schedule was also based on fear. 

A fear that went something like this, “We only have so much in savings,  so we need to keep moving or we might run out of money before we get to the South Pacific and not be able to go.”

Fear is a tricky creature. Ignored and pushed into dark corners it grows like mold, spreading its network of spores into the folds of our souls. 
Bringing our fear out into the light allowed us to look at it from different angles and discuss how living from within the fear made us stressed out, cranky with one another and defeated all our hard work over the past 5 years. After all, we scrimped and saved so we could have the freedom to do what we want and not have to work, but sticking to the schedule was feeling a lot more like work than freedom. 

The last few weeks at Puerto Magdelena have given us the time to really think this over, discuss and open ourselves to the option of slowing down and postponing the crossing to the South Pacific for a year. Within days of voicing this as a possibility, we found it slipping into our conversations as if it were a done deal, then, correcting ourselves to say “maybe”. But each time we mentioned slowing down there was a relaxation, ease and joy returning that had been crowded out in our efforts to meet ‘the schedule’. We haven’t reached the mainland yet, so who knows if we will want to spend extra time there. We will make the decision after we check it out. Either way, we can rest easy knowing that like Gratitouille’s sails, the sails of our souls are adjustable.

Back to present day. It’s funny, shortly after we got to the mainland and some internet, we got notifications from the blogs of friends that they had posted stories of slowing down around the same time we wrote this. 
We have since reached the mainland of course, and are enjoying it thoroughly. We are definitely not going to Easter Island this year as there is just too much that we still want to see on this coast and merely moving quickly enough to stay ahead of hurricane season feels plenty fast. We are also enjoying giving ourselves the grace of a year to get settled into this new lifestyle we have taken on before we go on such a big journey.

One of our Mag Bay friends taught us to have ‘intentions’ of doing things rather than raising the ire of Mother Nature/Neptune by being so brash as to make ‘plans’. So our current intent is to continue down the coast of Mexico and Central America with a few months in El Salvador (“the new Costa Rica”) during hurricane season to work on boat projects, surf and possibly do some inland bus trips. We would like to visit Honduras, Nicaragua, the Las Perlas islands of Panama and possibly Ecuador after El Salvador (not necessarily in that order). We are thinking we will make the big jump to Easter Island about a year from now (maybe earlier) and on to the South Pacific islands from there. Who knows what will actually happen. The one thing we do know is that if you have plans (or intentions) of meeting us along the way, we'd love to see you. After all, our sails are adjustable.

Jodi and Darren