Monday, December 22, 2008

La Paz

In The Log From the Sea of Cortez, Steinbeck wrote in 1941: "La Paz grew in fascination as we approached. The square, iron-shuttered colonial houses stood up right in back of the beach with rows of beautiful trees in front of them. It is a lovely place."

It is so lovely that I think many boaters just wash up here and never leave. There seem to be a lot of extremely relaxed people in flip flops, strolling back and forth on the docks; their boats look like they haven't been sailed for years.

I have already fallen under its sway and find I can sit on the deck watching Pelicans for hours, doing face plants, fishing just a stone's throw from our boat. I never get tired of watching them come up, their fleshy lower beaks full of squirming fish. In the morning they sun and preen on these nearby pilings.

A curious bird is the pelican

its beak can hold more than its belican (Ogden Nash)

There are wonderful bronze sculptures along the waterfront. I love this one. It's called El Viejo y el Mar? The Old Man and the Sea?
There is a poem with it. I've translated it (crudely)

I have a paper boat.
It's made of a page
on which I wrote my dreams.
It has no anchors or moorings.
I want to sail the seven seas and the eighth
where I will run aground in the longed for port.
Has anyone seen the bright beam of its lighthouse?

Guillermo Gomez Mac 2004

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Images from Magdalena Bay

   We rounded Cape San Lucas at the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula yesterday around noon.  It was a little strange.  Houses, condominiums and hotels cling to the cliffs and beaches of the cape as thickly as intertidal life on the deserted beaches to the north.  We are happy though to be able to tie up to a dock, and to catch up on sleep and correspondence!  Tomorrow we head north for the first time since we left home. Onwards to La Paz, where we'll pick up Lindsay, Sophie, and friends for holiday-making. 

Snowy Egret, mangrove estuary

About a Boat

Okay, I can see why a blog about a sailing trip might eventually talk about the boat.  Circadia is a J120.  It is 40 feet long, 12 feet, three inches wide, with a 7 foot draft. It is a little unusual to cruise a J120--they are mainly known as race boats. She is fast and light and has an extendable bow sprit from which a spinnaker can be launched easily.  In high winds, like we had one night coming down the west coast of Baja, she just keeps on sailing, but tends to surf over chaotic seas rather than dig in as a heavier boat would.  I have to admit, I'm still not used to these kind of conditions and still feel like I've survived a near death experience...But back to the boat: unlike most race boats, the interior is pretty, (white, with wood trim) and comfortable.  There's a double berth in the fore peak and also aft.  The salon has cupboards and lots of book shelves.

the fore peak; note sprit (spinnaker pole)

The main salon

The Galley is small, but everything is in arms reach! There's a two burner propane stove with oven. We don't use the oven much, although lately, sailing in remote areas, Kim bakes bread. Our eating habits are a little different from home. Less red meat, more fish (which has been easy to get from local fisherman on the west coast of the peninsula).  Hardly any butter, lots of olive oil; very little sweet stuff, plenty of wine (which we loaded under the fore peak boards in San Diego).  We bought an ingenious little 12 volt fridge before we left the US, which to our delight is just tall enough for a bottle of white wine. 
Kim in the galley

Monday, December 8, 2008

Living in the Light

San Juan Capistrano, Edgar Payne, early 1900's

It has rained twice since we left Vancouver Island in mid-September. At first the blue skies were like drinking champagne every day. Eventually I longed for rain. Some mornings I would wake up and imagine the sound of the snapping shrimp under the dock was the light patter of drops on the skylight, but then I’d stick my head out the hatch and there was the San Diego sun, sometimes veiled with sea fog, but climbing resolutely out of it by mid-morning.
I used to love fall. You know that old “My sorrow when she’s here with me thinks these dark days of autumn rain are beautiful as days can be…” But in recent years my sorrow moved in around mid-November and by January even she was getting kind of pissed. So I was pleased to check out of a whole winter of rain, which where I live would put everything under three feet of water if it didn’t run off or evaporate.
And it’s not exactly like I miss it now. It just feels weird. I start thinking about how much of what we are is where we come from. For instance, what would Neil Young have been like if he didn’t come from that town in North Ontario, where he had nothing to do but stare at the blue windows behind the stars? Would he have felt so helpless, helpless, helpless, helpless, if he grew up in San Diego?
Maybe Jesse Winchester, shivering in his Montreal flat, put his finger on it when he wrote that song to a lover, fled to California: “if you are never cold girl, who’s gonna keep you warm, you’ll take the sun for granted, you’ll run from every storm.”
Still I can see the appeal. I recently went to a show of California paintings from the early 1900’s. I don’t know what California painters are painting now, most contemporary painting seems kind of tortured, but back then they were called the California Impressionists, painting landscapes (which would be considered sentimental now) bathed in that gorgeous light. I think they were happy.

Monterey Cypress, Edgar Payne, early 1900's

Even the California poets seem less morose than most. Kay Ryan, the Californian who was recently named American poet Laureate writes:

“The Best of It”

However carved up
or pared down we get,
we keep on making
the best of it as though
it doesn’t matter that
our acre’s down to
a square foot. As
though our garden
could be one bean
and we’d rejoice if
it flourishes, as
though one bean
could nourish us.

I’m sure people suffer anxiety in California. Judging from the cosmetic surgery advertisements in local magazines, at least some of it seems to go along with trying to look as good as possible in skimpy clothes and the unforgiving light. But let me just say (except for perhaps the homeless men who seemed to inhabit every public bench, which is another, sadder story) I didn’t see much evidence of it.
Which brings me to my final question. Do we each get a standard amount of happiness? Do we either take it measured doses, as we might living in sunny latitudes. Or do we use it up in spurts, running on empty in our northern winters, and guzzling it down in the summer?
Me, I guess I’m too old to give up my existential angst very easily. It may have been doped by all this sunshine, but I can feel it, like some desert plant, biding its time, waiting for the rain.


Circadia at anchor, Turtle Bay, Baja

We left San Diego a week ago and are now sailing down the west coast of Baja (which is long and mostly deserted). Many wonders along the way though: pods of bottle-nosed dolphins, estuaries full of northern breeding ducks, grebes, geese on their wintering grounds; my first ever sighting of a Burrowing Owl in the wild.
Plan to be in Cabo in a week or so…