Monday, December 13, 2010


As I settle in for my 16th winter in Alaska, I notice the novelty of it all is starting to wear thin.  I can't decide, though, which is worse the cold or the dark.  Granted, 6 degrees isn't that cold, but 5 hours of daylight isn't that much either.  So, what do I when it gets cold and dark?  First, I grumble.  Then I go to Hawaii!

This year I decided to try getting out early. Usually, I wait until after the holidays.   Granted, November is full on winter here, but the gamble here is that when I return, the days will still be getting shorter.   And there will still be a good 4 months of winter left.  Hey, if we get 2 feet of snow at the end of April, I'm calling that winter.  Time will tell if this is a good move or not.  But mark my words, this will be my last winter in Anchorage.  (Please, someone mark my words.  And if I'm here in Anchorage this time next, someone  please hit me with a largest cast iron frying pan within arms reach).  Call me what you will,  a wimp, a snow bird, whatever. I don't care.  I need sunshine.

Speaking of sunshine, there is tons of it in Hawaii!  It was great!  I woke up at 6:30 every morning (OK, 7:00) and the sun was already up and the birds were chirping. With the fragrance of Plumerias hanging in the air,  I'd grab a cup of coffee and head down to the beach, I wondered down to check out the morning colors and the waves. I'd shoo the wild turkeys milling around out of the way as I made my way across the out of business golf course that is now, instead of green and lush, brown weeds and red dirt. On the bright side, no worries of a concussion before breakfast from a soaring golf ball.

 Days were spent on the beach snorkeling and soaking up as much vitamin D as possible. And if I got too much sun, I just marched over to the aloe plant and applied liberally. By the next day, I was good to go.

In the evening, we would all scramble to grab an adult beverage and bamboo mat to head back down to the beach to watch the sunset. This was the only time in our day that we actually had to rush.  Sunsets are quick in winter in  Hawaii.  Opposed to Alaska where they start at sunrise and last all day long. Though short, they are sweet.  Hues of orange and red melting into gold and peppered with shadows of palm trees, as we wait, hoping to witness the green flash that only occurs with sunsets on the ocean.  Shortly after, Venus would appear, followed my countless other stars, all visible with the lack of light pollution. It was magic.

And my oh my, the fruit.  We had fresh papayas, mangoes, bananas, oranges, limes, Tahitian  limes, lemons, star fruit, and passion fruit, to name a few. Everyday! Then we had fresh kale, arugula, cilantro, cilantro pesto, cucumbers, avocados, and mixed salad greens.  And  Poke, which is one of my favorites.  Poke (pronounced pou,k'ei) is a traditional Hawaiin dish that consists of cured  ahi sashimi (raw yellowfin tuna) marinated in sea salt, soy sauce, sesame oil, and chili pepper with some Maui sweet onion, seaweed, and garlic.  It's typically eaten with chop sticks and is dee-lish!  Other gems I tried were cilantro-pesto, made with cilantro, lime, garlic, olive oil, and pine nuts.  It was great on pizza or pasta salad with sun-dried tomatoes, feta cheese, and olives.  Massaged kale with tamarind and avocados washed down with Hibiscus, lemon grass and mint iced tea made the favorites list.  As well as Coconut Porter from Maui Brewery.  Yum.

Thanksgiving dinner was a real treat for me.  We had dinner outside on the porch over looking the ocean.  I think that was my only Turkey Day dinner eaten out of doors. I loved it. Until a felt a centipede scamper across my foot.  I still enjoyed it after that, but wouldn't put my feet down.  I may be a tuff fisherman, but I don't like creepy crawly things on my toes.

Molokai Sea Cliffs

After about 10 days on Molokai, we flew out on a Cessna Caravan, which held 7 passengers, on our 25 minute flight back to Maui.  Due do wind conditions, which were about 25 knots out of the North, we flew over the north shore of the island.  It was spectacular!  We went right over Kalaupapa, the Leper Colony ( and next to the tallest sea cliffs in the world, rising over 2000 feet from the ocean with some truly magnificent views of the 1, 750-foot Kahiwa Falls.

After that, just a few more short days in Maui were spent soaking up rays on the beach and snorkeling checking out the many varieties of coral and fishes.  Below is a photo of Ahiha-Kina'u Natural Area Reserve near Makena on the south shore of Maui.  Great clear water and old lave flow that goes right into the beach!

All in all, it was a spectacular trip, just what the doctor ordered, fun in the sun.  Now, I'm back in Anchorage, refreshed and busy writing.  Until next time......

Mele Kalikimaka

Happy Holidays

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Anchored Down in Anchorage

After spending the last five months or so in Cordova, I'm back in the big city.  It's quite a transition to be back.  Driving here is the hardest to get used to.  Compared to other cities, Anchorage is relatively mild to drive around, we don't even have any freeways.  However, compared to Cordova, where there isn't even one traffic light, Anchorage might as well be the moon.  I feel like I'm racing around like Mario Andretti, yet cars are passing me like I'm standing still.  And I miss the beauty of Cordova.  But, I don't miss the rain.  Don't get me wrong, it is good to be back, it's just taking some getting used to.

And I have been writing more.  Writing lots, actually.  And reading and writing and  rewriting and rewriting and rewriting.  I'm also pleasantly neurotic now, so I must be making headway as a writer.  I keep thinking "who would ever want to read this shit?"  So, from what I understand from other writers, I'm right on track.  Unless, I am actually right and every word that I have ever uttered is all garbage, then what?  Well, this is when I lie to myself and say it's not that bad and keep writing anyway.  I try to ignore the little voice in my head that tells me, with every letter that I type, that its all horse shit. I continue to ignore that little voice that gets louder, also with every letter I type, until it sounds like Tom Waits is singing with a megaphone and I hope the neighbors don't call the cops on me as I'm sure this voice is real and making quite a ruckus.    But then I think if the cops did come and arrest me, that would be a welcome distraction from this cycle of nonsense I am engaged in.  Oh sure, there are times when I am at peace with all of this, like the other night when I got so drunk I couldn't remember my own name.  I was quite pleasantly oblivious of that little voice then. :)  Anyway, I'll keep typing and keep yelling "Shut-up!" until they come to take me away.

Good news!  I found a mentor.  Though, he doesn't know he is my mentor, unless he reads my blog.  He is an old boss, well, I only worked for him for about 4 days.  It was back in about '94 or '95 when Prince William Sound opened up for herring for the first time since the 1989 Exxon Valdez Oil Spill.  Everyone was all excited and everyone showed up.  Everyone, except, unfortunately, the herring.  It was a total bust and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game shut it down and has not reopened it since.

The boat I worked on was the Quinn Delta and the skipper's name is Mark.  As fate would have it, I bumped into Mark this summer while in Cordova.  I think it was the first time I'd seen him since that dismal herring opener.  We visited and caught up with each other.  Turns out, Mark and his wife Nancy have been sailing all over the place for the past ten years or so and writing about it.  They even sailed around Antarctica. You can check out their blog for yourself at:  Its good stuff.  Anyway, I told Mark what I was up to, writing and what not.  Since then he's been kind enough to give me advice on writing, trying to point me in the right direction and the like.  He even did some editing for me!  Check it out.


It’s obscenely early on a Monday morning, what’s likely to be a typical fishing day.  My alarm sounds-off at 4:00 am, but it barely gets in a single ring before I bound from the bed, my feet landing on the cold wooden floor of my tiny rented room at the old abandoned cannery now known as Fisherman’s Camp.  Stumbling around as quietly as possible so as not to disturb my neighbors on the other sides of the paper-thin walls, I gather up the clothes I’d laid out the night before: a blood stained sweatshirt and course brown-duck Carhart jeans, oil stained and rent with holes from battery acid, a product of the endless maintenance that is much of a fisherman’s daily work.  Cold as I pull them on, my simple raiment puts me in the fishing mood as I tip-toe down the dark oiled wood hallway, willing my footsteps to be silent.  Silent not in consideration of my neighbors, but of stealth.  Just as one pulls up the anchor as quietly as possible to steal away from the anchorage, I slip out the door, hoping to leave unnoticed in order to get a head start.

My car, a well traveled ‘82 Subaru with faux zebra-skin seat covers and luminescent stars pasted on the headliner that I’d bought from a sixteen year old girl whose dreams of luxury could never be satisfied by such conveyance, starts instantly with the push of a button.  The faulty ignition switch had long since been replaced by fisherman’s ingenuity.  But my concerted efforts at stealth prove futile.  The engine roars to life, greeting the day’s work through an exhaust system nearly as full of holes as my jeans. I put it in reverse and hear the rumble of the wooden planks of the pier on which the old cannery has stood for decades.  Fearing I’d just awakened the entire camp, I finally turn on to the paved road and head for the harbor in the pitch dark, a full constellation of paste-on stars glowing above my head.  This is the time I love the best because of the stillness. I find it  consuming and comforting.  I pause and savor the tranquil moment, knowing that all too well my world will soon be in constant motion from the instant I step onto my boat until I tie up again secure in my slip.    But for now the succlent moss and trees of the dense forest of Prince William Sound are an eerie, unnaturally dark green.    The town remains still and quiet.  Mount Eccles stands above me on the left, the ocean lies beside me to my right.............

Thursday, September 30, 2010

End of the Season Highlights

The Copper River Salmon Fishery 2010 has finally come to an end.  It finished up a few weeks ago.  After our grueling 60 hour openers, we finally got a break.  There is usually a break between the end of the reds run and silvers showing up and this year was no different.  I had time to catch up on life things and mend nets.  Then silver season hit full swing.  Though it wasn't as grand as we had hoped.  I kept hearing rumors that there was a flood during the parent year of this run and it washed out many of the eggs.  Silvers was pretty good if you went to the east end of the Flats.  We did OK.  We stayed on the west side but managed to scratch a season out of it.  And, the weather was nice. Nicest silver season ever, I reckoned. Cordova even set a record for the most sunny days in a row.  15!  Beat the previous record by 1 day. (In case the reader is curious, it is not currently sunny in Cordova right now.  Matter of fact, its a down right snot storm.  48F, blowing about 25K gusting 35K and of course, rain.  It's the kind of day where it will rain in your ear.  The marine forecast = East 50 and 32' seas.)

The season is over but the memory of the season is still lingering. I want to share some of the highlights that I jotted down.  Most of the following are either bits of conversation from the boat or what we heard on the radio or the docks.  Enjoy!

Skipper: "Hey, there is your buddy, corking us.  I want you to curse at her and I mean curse.  And get to choose your words."

"I wonder if its too late to get a seine job?" One gill net skipper to another, referring to the epic pink run in Prince William  Sound.

After we take off and start running east.  Then we do a 180 and head west.  I ask Skipper "What's up?"  "My plotter's tellin' me I'm going the wrong way."

"Skipper, you used to crab.  What was it like?"  Skipper: "... just set me down in a chair and beat me with a club."

Native elder to Skipper years ago.  Skipper: "Do you have a tide book?"  Native elder: "Tide book?  Tide comes in, tide goes out.  You don't need no book to tell you that."

"Yeah, he sounds like a pro but has a rookie hair cut."

"We only have 55 fish, but at least I don't have a pipe pole sticking out of my head."  Skipper after I accidentally hit him in the head with the pipe pole about 5 times before I realized what was happening.

"Well, looky there.  It's almost working."

"What about that fish?  You gonna call that a humpy?"

Fisherman who just returned fishing 64 and 80 hour openers in Prince William Sound: "I had to stick my whole head in the pencil sharpener.  I had hair and whiskers out to here. My girlfriend came up to me and asked "is that you?"

Same fisherman referring to getting jelly fish in the eye: "The dull pain of soap in the eyes is refreshing compared to the searing ice pick pain of jellies."

"The same could be said about all of us, but he's worse."

"Don't tell him what we caught, I don't want to make him feel bad."

"What's he doing runnin' from the fish?  Well, good luck.  Hope you get some."

"Look at this f#@kin' net.  I can't even believe it." Referring to crazy top current that kept collapsing the net despite our best towing efforts.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) when asked what being on a boat was like: "It's like prison, with a chance of drowning."

"It was the damndest thing I've ever seen.  And this is a true story........."

"It's lookin' pretty dead.  I hope they're hittin' deep.  They like to tickle their backs as they go under."

"Them coke years was a mother-f*#ker.  Ain't nobody can survive that shit..........again."

"He went dry, dumb son of a bitch."

"We ain't got no water. The only pace we could go dry, we did."

"Don't ever ask if it can get worse.  The answer is always yes."

"When fishin' you hit that stage of exhaustion that you can't imagine, unless you've been there."

"Me?  I hide my weed in my Froot Loops."

"And we didn't even have to call for a baby."

"We're gonna f*$k him.  He's been there long enough."

"I gotta get the combine out I got so much grass in my net."  "Yeah,....  There's so much of it, it looks like a freakin' blanket.  Ain't no way I could go outside."

"I was broke down. No heat.  No way to cook.  I ate canned salmon and cold corn.  It sucked."

"Cut him some slack.  He went swimmin' in the Bering Sea in the winter.  In his underwear."

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Fish Tales

Can you friggin' believe it?  Some twits from Maine corked me on my own book title.  I saw it in this month's National Fisherman or some fish rag.  We were running, Gordon was driving and all the sudden I yelled some free flowing litany of curse words.  So much the Gordon stopped the boat to see what was wrong. "Someone stole my book title!!!"  Gordon didn't respond, he just reved 'er back up againkept running.  The book, Fish Tales: Sustainable fish, blabla and Recipes or something to that affect is about just that, I guess.  I couldn't bring myself to read the rest of the article, I was too pissed off and assume that they found my blog here and stole my idea.  Oh well, I'm over it now.  I'll just have to come up with a sexier title.  I also decided to nix the idea of putting recipes in my book, thinking now that its just too namby-pamby.  My book will be more gruff-n-X-tra-Tuff than that.  I don't think those guys are even fisherman.  On the flip side, there is a book out, by actual fisherman called "Fishes and Dishes".  These gals, who I met years ago in SouthEast, crab, pot fish cod, tender and whatnot wrote a fishing cookbook.  It can be found at
OK, moving on.  I've been fishing the Copper River Flats since mid May now and the fishery is in full swing.  It's now wide open and we are fishing two 60 hour periods a week.  This is just one of the many changes since I last fished here.  Back then, a 48 hour period was about the longest we would have to endure.  Now, for those of you who have not done the math yet, two 60 hour a week openers puts you at a minimum of a 120 hour work week.  That makes for a grog filled head, to say the least.  And my left pinky does this weird twichy thing which I find very annoying.
Fisherman are never happy, we always have something to wine about.  Not enough fishing time, too much fishing time.  Whatever.  So, we fished our 60 hours, went to town.  Left the next day for another 60 hours.  Went to town for less than 12 hours and went for another 60 hours.  Lack of sleep starts to set in and a sub-humanness starts to take over.  You get this 1000 yard stare.  Tempers flare.  And you start not to care.  Everything rhymes, every time.  Ok, enuf.  Where's my Xtra-Tuff?  But, skipper decided we needed an R&R, go to the bank, and other things we haven't been able to do for weeks.  So we took of yesterday and ran to town.  I got home and found that I literally didn't even know what to do with myself.  I was tired, hungry and is desperate need of a shower.  So the question is, which do you do first?  I didn't know, so I had a beer.  Then I wandered down to my friends house for a shower.  Ran into a fellow fisherman who was done for the season.  He fished Prince William Sound, where they were fishing a 60 followed by a 84.  That leaves 12 hours between openers.  He had had a few days to rest up and regroup.  He understood where I was and offered to make me dinner.  We had this incredible meal of mashed sweet potatoes, tri-tips on the grill, this killer blue cheese and avocado salad and a nice red wine.  Thanks Mark!!  That super hit the spot.  Soon after, I took a 11 hour coma.  When I work I had an amazingly strong cup of coffee and am on my way to reducing my 1000 yard stare.  I think I'm about at the 350 yard line now.  By tomorrow, I should be right as rain.  Just in time to go out and do it again!
But before I go, I want to try to share with you some photos from the Flats. 
Jen and a King Salmon

Friday, June 25, 2010

Fishin' Again

Wowza. Bad blogger. Father, I have a confession, its been 61 days since my last blog. Sorry folks and followers, I fell of the wagon there. And speaking of falling off the wagon, I fell of the wagon of being a recovering commercial fisherman. Yup, I'm fishing again. I knew coming back to Cordova for the summer would be like an alcoholic walking into a bar. Its just too tempting, but, then again, I wanted to be tempted.
I decided to pack up and head over to Cordova for the summer. I figured I could do some net mending and see what happens. I got myself a trailer, filled it to the brim with everything I might possibly need, eat and drink the next 3 months, threw the cat in and took off. I caught the Whittier tunnel with 5 minutes to spare, hopped on the ferry and settled in.
Life has been cozy for me and the cat, Hunter in a 6x12 foot trailer. But all is good. Its at a beautiful location at the base of a ski hill. That's not to say life doesn't have its challenges, honestly, cooking is a pain in the ass, but do-able.
I've been busy mending nets and was on the dock one day mending when a buddy of mine drives up with his boat. He leans out the window and asks "wanna go fishin?" I say "yeah" he says "wanna go Monday?" Again, I say "yeah". And the rest, as they say, is history. That was over a month ago and that's all it took, I've been fishin since.
I'm still mending on the closures and fishing the Copper River Flats twice a week. Fishing is a little slow, but we grind away and make a go of it.
So, that's the haps here. Will have pix soon!

Monday, April 26, 2010

On the Bright Side

When sailing, you have to fly the flag of the country you are from and the country you are in. This is the Mexican flag. As you can see, it has taken a beating and symbolizes how we are starting to feel. Don't get me wrong, sailing is great. But after a while, the salt and sun start to take is toll, on everything. Even my bobbypins are rusting. Plus, it's a lot of work. And life on a boat is work. Things always need to be at least adjusted if not fixed. And things are just starting to wear down, like this flag.

The skiff has a few small leaks and the seats are being held up by tires. We are down to one oar, well, three, technically, since one is in two pieces. The fresh water pump stopped working. The air mattress has a slow leak that's gaining speed. The sails need repairs, the lines are starting to fray, the solar shower fell over board months ago. We've been using a 2 liter Coke bottle with holes in the bottom. And, the worst of all, the coffee situation hasn't been the same since a French gal accidentally deep sixed part of the coffee pot in Panama. Otto dove on it twice to find it, but in 30 feet of murky water on a cloudy day, it was lost to us forever.

We limped along OK with various efforts of making coffee. We found another percolator pot, but it was small and was difficult to use. Sometimes its hard to make coffee before you've had coffee. Then we went with the cone route. We found filters, but no cone. Now we are rolling with cowboy coffee. Where you just throw in a few tablespoons of coffee into water. Shut if off as soon as it boils. That worked OK with the good Costa Rican coffee. But now that we are back in Mexico........We are both staring to feel a bit like this flag. Still flying, but the sun and salt are taking its toll.

So is limited funds. No money equals no fuel. No fuel equals no charging the batteries. No batteris equals no navigational equipment, no lights, no fridge, no toilet, no recharging the ipod. Things are getting skinny here in the Crystal Blue. Lucky for us, its near a full moon so we can run at night without lights. Sorta. When ever we get close to a boat, we run down and turn them on until is passes. Its risky, running without radar at night, but we are betting everyone else is. Besides, men have been sailing thousands of years before it was even invented. And, on the plus side, since the water pump broke, Gary installed a foot pump, so we at least have water again. And we had to use the last of the ice before it melts. Yum. Vodka and Passionfruit Kool-aid coctails. Maybe things aren't so bad after all...........

Monday, April 19, 2010


Its a good thing sailing is easier than posting pictures on this blog site! I've tried every approach I can think of and can't seem to get it right. However, I don't want to deprive you, dear reader, of a nice visual experience, so bare with me.

Red Skies at Night, Sailor's Delight

Red Skies at Night, Sailor’s Delight,

And we were indeed delighted to finally be off and sailing again! With only a few minor injuries from pushing the skiff through the surf (mine was very minor, a scrape on the shin, but it left a funny purple scar visible now when I wear a skirt) we were ready to pull anchor. We, as in Gary. That’s his job. He heaved-ho by hand the 35 lb Dansforth anchor and 100+ feet of anchor chain and line. Just in time, too as we could see a black cloud coming our way. Not weather, but soot from burning sugar cane. We motored away just as the black ash started to sprinkle the decks.

We motored out of the anchorage, dodging boats left and right. Clearing the point, we raised the main sail then the jib. Killing the engines, always a moment I savor on any boat, we found our course. A 700 mile straight shot at 359 degrees takes us to Huatulco, Mexico.
Well, the saying “Red skies at night, sailor’s delight” was wrong. It wasn’t long before we were in 25 knot winds with gusts up to 35-40. Lessons learned sailing in a gale:

1. How much power the wind has
2. That it’s all but impossible to steer a 55’ cat into the wind when 1 engine won’t start
3. How much noise a sail makes as its getting ripped to shreds
4. What an accidental jibe is
5. That one will toss a 6’4” man around like a ragdoll
6. That even getting almost launched overboard in gale force winds and 4’ seas still doesn’t cause Mr. Laidback California to lose his cool.

After we got our asses handed to us, we did finally manage to get the main down, and it stayed down for 2 days until it finally let up enough to repair it. Sailing with only a jib didn’t get us very far, but we didn’t have a choice. Once the wind stopped, we raised the main, accessed the damage and got out the repair kit. We had three significant rips to patch up. We worked as quickly as possible so we could finish the necessary mends before the wind picked back up. And the next 8 days were spent with a fully raised main and no wind. While it’s frustrating to sail slower than one can swim, there are some perks. Viewing lots of wild life is one of them. We were practically sailing through turtle soup! We saw about 50 turtles a day, nearly running over most of them. And dolphins by the dozens would come and swim next to the boat. One was an amazing acrobat. It would jump about 10’-15’ out of the water while doing flips! It was quite a show. Another appeared off the starboard side of the boat and spy hopped, which is a slow and controlled movement akin to a human treading water. The dolphin raised and held position partially out of the water, exposing its whole head and look inquisitively at the boat, and perhaps me. We also had a few stowaways of the feathered variety. One even made himself at home down on the chart table for the night. Lets us little presents, too.

Limited money equals limited fuel. Limited fuel equals limited motoring. We sailed as much as humanly possible and only used the motor to charge the batteries of the boat and when absolutely necessary. Like during my 4 AM wheel watch when I had to stare at a red light on the beach that never moved past us after three hours. I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life gawking at the red light. I had to fire up the engines and motor past it. Turns out, we were stuck in a river current and would probably still be there had we relied solely on wind.

Taking a straight shot from Costa Rica to Mexico allowed us to bypass Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. We wanted to avoid the infamous red tape of entering these countries, especially the Nicaraguan Navy, who will board you and site you for anything and everything. But, we were 60 miles off shore when we passed Nicaragua, so we were safe.
After nine and a half long days of sailing and round the clock wheel watches (OK, we did get to tie the wheel off a few times and both get a nap) we arrived Huatulco, Mexico. Well, we arrived seven miles off shore of Huatulco. Under normal sailing conditions that would take less than an hour. With our lack of wind curse, it took us a maddening eight hours. Finally arriving just outside the harbor, we dropped the sails and fired up the engine to motor in. After docking, we checked our fuel levels and discovered we didn’t have any! We must have motored in on fumes. Later, we had to haul our fuel jugs, by foot, up to the gas station for diesel. Returning to the boat by Taxi with a trunk full of diesel, we lugged them back down to the boat and fueled up for the next leg of the journey.

Entering Mexico in Huatulco is about as pleasant experience as it gets. Instead of running around to various offices, everyone comes to you. We had Immigration, Customs, International Health, and someone government office aboard, all at once! This may sound intimidating, but mostly it was young giggly girls who flirted with Gary as they gave us all our proper stamps and paperwork. The trip to the Port Captain, on the other hand, was a different story as was the usual hassle. Nevertheless, we got all checked in and it felt good to be on land again after almost 10 days of sea.

Huatulco is a tourist town in the southern part of Mexico, in Oaxaca State. Unlike most Mexican towns, Huatulco exhibits signs of city planning and landscaping. It’s freshly groomed, trimmed, and hedged. Almost like a Mexican version of San Diego. After spending a few days exploring, (most of which, I was still rocking) we had our fill of burgers and beer, we grabbed some grub and were ready to take off. We both took one more nap and left at 11:59 PM so we wouldn’t get charged for another day at the marina. And we were off for Zipolite, Mexico!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Sailing North, up the Pacific Coast

After spend about 30 seconds in Anchorage at the end of January, I decided to head back to the tropics. I cashed in my miles account and flew back to Mexico. It was great to be back in the warm and sunny. I visited with my friends, Molly, Eric, and Sully in Puerto Escondido, a hip surf town. Its always fun to see AK friends in other parts of the world. From there, I scooted over to Zipolite a small beach town with yoga. I met some amazing people and did some great yoga. Also got killer massages from Molly. Her place is the top floor of a building right on the beach. One wall, no roof. I actually saw a whale once during one of my massages. Got rained on a lil' bit too, but its all good.

From there, I flew back to Costa Rica to get back on the Crystal Blue Persuasion, the 55' catamaran I'd been sailing on. It was good to be back, though a little deja vu-ish. After a few days of hanging out with Gary, the captain, and prepration, we are ready for our 700 mile sail north to Mexico. Just need the exit papers.

Things happen differently down there. Red tape is an understatement. We were jumping through hoops left and right to get all our paperwork done. First, the Port Captain. No, no no. You need 3 copies of this, three copies of that, you don't need this, you will need that. No you can't make copies here, go across town to the Grocery store. Then you need to go to the bank and pay your exit fee. Immigration, then Customs. Customs is in another town, 45 minutes away. We go to the bank, but its closed because their computers are down. Gary hops of the bus to Liberia, for Customs. He gets back just in time for Immigration. But the office is closed. No info is posted as to when they will re-open. We go back to the bank. Oh lucky day, its open!

We (we as in Gary) row our water-logged skiff back through the surf with the one oar he has left and we go back to the boat for the night. We try again the next day.

Immigration is still closed. I think, hey! Lets go to Immigration in Liberia, otherwise we are stuck here another day. We have to hurry, though, as the Port Captain is closing early today. We just missed the bus. Lets take a cab and catch the bus. There's the bus, catch it! No can do, cabbie wants the whole fare and drive slow. We take a cab the whole way. 15 bucks. We wait in line. Wrong line. We finally talk to someone. No no, can't do that here. Paula will be open today in Coco Beach. Go there. She'll be there at 2 pm. We cab back deflated. Another 10 bucks and 2 hours wasted.

2 pm. No Paula. 2:30, no Paula. 3 pm, finally Paula. Then another boat captain corks us. Slippery bastard. Finally, its our turn. Its 3:45 and the Port Captain closes at 4. And we still have to walk across town to get there. We need this, we need that. No, no. This is no good. Make new copies. No, you can't make copies here, I'm out of paper. (She was literally saying this as she was grabbing a scene of paper!) Go to the grocery store and make new copies. OK, this is fine. Do you have your papers from last year? Do you have your 5th grade report card? No! We don't need those. Yes, you do. No, we don't. OK! OK, fine, these will do. Hey, Gary. Gary? Hey Gary. I'm very thirsty. Very thirsty. Can you go buy me some water? No, not that kind, this kind. No, not that store, go to this store. I'm so thirsty.

Finally, finally, finally, she signs our papers. But, its after 4. OK, come back if the Port Captain's office is closed. We practically run to the Port Captain's office. Closed. But, she will return in just over an hour. We go back to Paula. Oh, yeah. The Port Captain will re-open. She just had to take her son to little league. I can't do anything for you, you'll have to wait for her. We wait. We are so close to finally leaving. We have been at this since 9 am this morning. Well, since yesterday, really. But who's counting? OK, we are. Shit!! We remember high tide and the skiff.

I head back down the beach while Gary waits for the Port Captain. I see the skiff, the tide is up to it already and I'm about 300 feet away. Just then, swoosh! It goes out to see and gets caught in the surf. Then another wave comes crashing over it! Oh no! Its going to be smashed to pieces!! Then how will we get out to the boat? I start running down the beach, all our groceries flopping along with me. I watch, helpless, in horror, as another wave smashes over our skiff.

Just then, I see some local kids dive in after it and retrieve it. Thank you, thank you. Have you seen the oar? Over there? Great. Thanks again. We lost the baler, but that's no big. The skiff is still in one piece. Barely.

The surf is building as Gary comes down the beach, paperwork in hand. Oh, happy day! Finally! We put the groceries in the skiff and can only push it through the surf as we dive under it. Gary scampers aboard, but I don't have the strength and am afraid I'll roll it. I cut my leg in the attempt. Here, just take my shorts, I'll just swim out to the boat. Lets just get out of here!

Finally, finally, after 2 days of running around for paperwork and buying thirsty clerks water, we can pull anchor and leave Costa Rica for Mexico.

Now, the adventure begins!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Pics from the sailing trip (take 3)

Obviously, the proof is in the puddin'. I don't know how to post pics. But, perseverance, my friend. I will try again. If I could just will the text to come first........or figure out how to add the text after I posted a picture. Or, even, figure out how to add anything after I accidentally hit 'preview'. OK, so technology is not my forte, nor my friend right now. Neither is organizing my sock drawer. But hey, I get by.
So pics are of: The Crew. A pirates grave in Isla Mujeres, Mexico. Door knobs, Mexico. Portrait from a Smoker. Mama's of Colon, Panama. Self Portrait in front of the Centennial bridge (formerly known as the Bridge of America). A man relaxing in Roatan, Honduras. Fish delivery in Quepos, Costa Rica. The Centennial Bridge. Beach in Costa Rica. Stowaways. Cleat during a squall. Sails.

So, these photos will be out of order and sans explanatory text, so it is up to you, dear reader, to go that extra mile and put the pieces together yourself. I know I am asking a lot, but I have full confidence that you can handle that task. I know we are used to having everything spelled out for us these days, and it is my job as a writer to make things easy peasy for you. So please forgive me for dropping the ball this one time. Besides, this could be a new adventure for you. But, as I said, I have full confidence in you. More so than I do in myself on figuring out this task. I'm already over it.

Pics from the sailing trip (take 2)

Sorry folks if you got all excited by the titles promising pictures of my trip to see only two. Technical difficulties on my end. However, I believe I have them sussed out and can now deliver what I promised. Pictures! But, the proof is in the puddin'!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Changes in Latitudes = Changes in Attitudes!

I went from latitude 61 down to 7. Jimmy Buffet was right! Changes in latitude are changes in attitude! I went one month without wearing shoes! And loved it! Now when I walk out my door and look under my carport, my world seems so ugly compared to walking out the door and seeing the ocean everyday for 5 weeks straight.
5 weeks ago I found myself on a 55 foot catamaran in Isla Mujeres, a small island off the coast of Mexico near Cancun. I found this boat from my new favorite website: The skipper, Gary (though since he is a sailor, he refers to himself as captain. Just one of a few distinctions between commercial fisherman and recreational sailors. To call a commercial fisherman a captain is a bit on an insult. Not as bad as calling one a cowboy, that’s the ultimate. (Who tied up this boat, a cowboy?) But, still an insult. But not in the sailing world. A captain is a captain, one in charge, so there is pride in it. I can’t explain, only convey.)
Anyway, I was already heading down to the Yucatan when I saw this boat was looking for crew. I partially said yes, but wanted to check out the boat before I got onboard. All I knew of the crew was Capt Gary and Bill from Vegas. Oh, that Bill.
So, after several days of travel (coming from Alaska, you can’t get there from here) I arrived Cancun. Took a bus, a taxi, a ferry and met the two of them at the ferry terminal. I told them they could recognize me from my Alaskan tan and red backpack. When I met them, they seemed normal enough. We walked down to a cement pier with a little skiff tied to it. We hopped in and Gary (the Mexican outboard) rowed us to the s/v (sailing vessel for those still learning nautical terms) Crystal Blue Persuasion. I looked clean and sturdy enough. I said “Yes! I’ll do it”.
The plan was to sail down the coast of the Caribbean side of Central America, through the Panama Canal, then back up the Pacific Coast. The boat was going back to California. I didn’t have that much time, but committed to 10 days.
The three of us hung out in Isla a few days and drummed up a few more crew. Then, on to Cozumel and then Mahahual, Mexico. We picked up a few more, lost one then took off for Utilia, Honduras. We picked up one more, and now we were 7. From there, we sailed to Roatan, the next island over. We were only going to stay a day, but the Port Captain there wouldn’t let us leave for some unknown reason. He kept telling us the weather was too bad. 4 or 5 days later, we finally had our clearance.
We had good winds and headed south to Shelter Bay Marina near Colon Panama, a very dodgy town. From there, went through about a mile of red tape and finally had clearance for the Panama Canal! This was the part of the trip we were all waiting for!
The first night we went through the first set of locks. There are 3 locks and each lock raises you up about 27 feet. It’s quite exciting! I was one of the line handlers that first night. Mostly just pulling in slack as we go up. Sounds easy enough, but there is a lot of tension on those lines. Careful not to get your fingers pinched. Plus, we were rafted up to a brand new 1.8 million dollar catamaran with a French crew. It’s tricky to keep everyone heading in a straight line. We almost crashed against the cement wall only once.
From there, we anchored in Gutan Lake, the largest manmade lake in the world. When we pulled the anchor the next morning, it was hung up on a tree or something. We finally got it up, but tweaked the mast about 10 degrees in the process. It took several hours to traverse the lake. It’s probably a lot like being on the Audubon on a bike. A 55 foot boat seems very small compared to 1000 foot cargo ships. The most narrow spot of the channel is 400 feet. But we made it to the second set of locks. It’s the same process, only in reverse. Each lock drops you down about 27 feet then you are on the Pacific.
This time is was daylight and there are webcams. It was super cool because I could chat with my sister on Facebook as she watched us go through!
From there we stopped near Panama City for the day and most of the crew ended taking off in every direction, as travelers tend to do. We were down to the 3 original amigos, me, Gary, and Bill from Vegas. My 10 days turned into 5 weeks!
We very quickly learned how the Pacific Ocean got its name. Something I never knew, having only experienced it in Alaska., where at times it is anything but passive! We could literally jump off the boat and swim faster than we were sailing at times. I was about 3 miles off the shore from Costa Rica when my flight for home left Cancun. When I miss a flight, I miss a flight!
But, I did eventually find my way back home. And I already miss the ocean. As I mentioned, the city seems so ugly now. There is something very primal about being on the ocean. Your day consist of food, shelter, safety, and weather. Nothing else much matters. Life in the city seems to trivial now…….