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Moments On The Way: 2019 Trek To Mexico

Washington, Oregon & California

The usual flurry of activity had ensued prior to us heading for the Blackball Ferry on Dec 7th. A last minute work contract for Barb delayed our departure until December, with an extra day added in to help a friend celebrate her 40th. The car was heavy, the bank account considerably lighter - Hoku Pa'a was going to have a good Christmas! All the more reason to be grateful we'd finally found renters. Once on the ferry, we could let those niggling, "what did I forget?" thoughts drift behind in the wake because it was now too late to do anything about it. (It turns out we did forget an important guidebook but were able to borrow a dog-eared copy later on.) We relaxed and enjoyed some whales passing by. Upon arrival in Washington State, the US border guards deemed us uninteresting and so were on our way.

First stop: the home of boating friends in Seattle for important cross-cultural learning - we introduced them to our Smarties. Their Smarties are what we call Rockets. The ways of marketing are strange to me but there is probably room for us to do more research regarding national differences in candies and snacks.

Bjarne's arrival had been eagerly anticipated for his electrical knowledge as consultation was needed on one of the boys' wind generator project. Apparently, not all diodes are created equal.

Canadian Smarties

USA Smarties

We took a different route this time after leaving our motel in Salem, OR (abandoning the I5 for Hwy 58), which turned out to be quite pretty, following alongside a stream and through rainforest and mountains. The sun peeked out now and again, causing steam to rise off all the damp surfaces. White clouds tangled with conifers on the hillside. We were sometimes in fog and mist and then suddenly we'd get enough elevation to burst through to a clear blue sky, bright sunshine, and views of snowy mountainsides. That afternoon we stopped a little early in Susanville, CA, so had some down time. Barb found a path along a creek where she went for a jog (keeping an eye out for snowy patches) and Bjarne seized the opportunity for a nap. Our evening's highlight was an outing to the cinema where we saw Frozen II. There were a few shaky plot points but it was fun night out, and butter for the popcorn was self-serve.


In Nevada we enjoyed a lunch break at Walker Lake. Although picturesque, our blurry photo of the lake is not. They have quite nice picnic tables set up here for which we do have a photo. If you are lucky (we weren't this time) you might spot mountain sheep clambering the cliffs. We didn't linger as we had a dinner engagement in Las Vegas.

Just before we hit Vegas, baby, an almost full moon rose and set several times over the Nevada hills. Beautiful colour gradually filled in the sky, reflecting off snowy peaks and deepening into a brilliant blaze. Although we'd hoped to be in Vegas earlier, the scenery on the way provided compensation. We managed to find the restaurant and rendezvous with Don, a school chum of Bjarne's from military college days. It had been many years so catching up was the main thing on the menu, with Barb tagging along through most of the geeky conversation.

Picnic tables and shelters at Walker Lakem Nevada

Walker Lake Rest stop

Don warned us that cheap motels in Las Vegas were downright nasty so we drove just a little farther to Boulder City where we found a Casino hotel. The casino section, especially in the evening, was full of cigarette smoke but fortunately the rooms were fine. They want you downstairs gambling so the room doesn't come with a lot of extras but the price is reasonable. Come morning, the $1.99 breakfast (bacon, toast & eggs) was more alluring than the cereal we had with us. It wasn't quite as inexpensive as we'd thought, though - the tea we'd ordered cost more than the whole meal. In order to eat at the breakfast cafe, we first had to sign up as casino members and, in an attempt to get us hooked, we were each credited $5 to use on the machines. It didn't take long to find that playing the slots was only a bit more exciting than watching humidity leave paint. More enjoyable were the games that required a bit of thinking (e.g. BlackJack), and Barb managed to cash out with an impressive $3.65 (CAD $4.75!).


We found a great lunch spot at Burro Creek Recreation area, where we were very excited to see a road runner, and guess what - it was running across the road! It was here the weather became noticeably warmer. We did well this trip with finding nice lunch spots. The next day's lunchbreak was in a park just north of Tucson skirted by a great bike path. We took vicarious pleasure from those cycling by, knowing we've given up biking for several months.

Bjarne at Burro Creek campground, Arizona
Vulture Mine Road with numerous curve signs

After driving for hours on arrow-straight roads, one really doesn't want to miss a turn on this snaking road.

That wild foray into the world of gambling, along with a stop for some groceries, had us still driving later than we'd prefer. Once again, though, we were compensated by a great sunset as we drove along the winding Vulture Mine Road. Barb was amused as Bjarne enthusiastically snapped photos of cactii silhouetted against the orange sky, completely unaware of the gorgeous full moon rising up behind him. Earlier in the day we had scoped out a place in Buckeye, which made arrival after dark less troublesome. The room was spacious but thin walls informed us when the owner's baby was unhappy with the world.

Numerous Cactii lit by orange sunset light
Cactus silhouetted by sunset
Barb and Bjarne with cactus and rising moon in background Full moon rising with cactus in foreground Cactus that appears to be giving one the middle finger

A vaguely rude cactus, telling us to stop snapping photos and get back on the road.

We'd anticipated a relaxed evening for our last night in the US. An early stop in the border town of Nogales found Barb lounging by the pool in the sunshine (a bit too cool for swimming) and Bjarne enjoying another opportunity for a nap. Just before dinner, Barb remembered to call the credit card company about why her card was not working. "Did you spend $146 at a fragrance shop?" Like the three bears, we discovered someone had been eating our porridge. It took a good hour on the phone to get this sorted out, much of the time tediously waiting to speak to one person or another. The card was cancelled and the replacement put on hold until we return to Victoria - we didn't want to risk it falling into a Mexican blackhole. At least we discovered the problem after only one day of misuse and it did serve to distract Barb from fussing about the upcoming border crossing.

The Final Leg to the Boat

At 0745h we breezed through customs. When that happens, do others also think, "gee, we could have brought more wine"? In case any border guards are reading, no need for concern, we will stick with our law-abiding approach. Ethics aside, the stress of worrying about getting caught would not be worth it. Actually, due to poor research, we had less(!) wine than allowed. No doubt we will survive this hardship. At Km 21, where the fees are paid and the visas issued, Bjarne chatted with a security guard who explained that it was good we weren't entering a little closer to Christmas - the drastic increase in travellers means it can take half a day to get through. The drive to Guaymas was great. Highway construction we'd manouevered around during other trips was virtually completed, and a new toll road allowed us to bypass the white-knuckle suspension-killing drive through Hermosillo. After a short(ish) stop in Guaymas for groceries, we pulled up to our lovely Hoku Pa'a at 1400h on Friday, December 13th. E-zed, pea-zed!

Milk powder, chocolate milk mix, rum, and juice powders arrayed in cockpit

Beginning our provisioning with important beverage supplies. The yellow container has powdered whole milk, packaged with the means to turn it brown..

In the Boatyard

Boatyard life is one of the less glamorous aspects of cruising so we'll share just a few details. Days involved installing, repairing, recommissioning, cleaning, stowing and provisioning, interspersed with an exchange of opinions, tools, materials and labour with other cruisers. Early sunsets enforced an end to activities and provided time in the evening for socializing if one wasn't too tuckered out.

Three small eggs in a nest

We discovered an abandoned nest in a bundle of line. The eggs were just a little over a centimetre long but were dried out. If you shook them they rattled.

Osprey eating a fish perched on the masthead

"Hmmm, what's that falling on the deck?" Barb wondered. It turned out to be bits of blood and fish bone, courtesy of an Osprey dining on top of the mast. "How cool!" we said, until Barb spotted the "gift" of entrails and excrement on her newly-cleaned deck. Fortunately, our crisp new mainsail lying nearby was only lightly splattered.

Osprey poop on our hatch cover

In addition to the new mainsail, one of our Christmas gifts for Hoku Pa'a was a radar.

Bjarne tying the radar on to a halyard for hoisting

Bjarne preparing to haul the radar and its new mounting up the mast. Let's be clear about this: Barb did the actual hauling.

Radar bolted onto the mast

Provisioning included searching town for things like a caulking gun (did we take it home and, if so, why?) and acetone (never did locate that although apparently we should have asked at the pharmacy), in addition to the usual things like fresh fruit.

Selection of washed fruit and vegetables drying in our cockpit

We rinse fresh produce in water with a little bleach before stowing it below, mainly to avoid bringing bugs onto the boat.

Small lit Christmas tree with wine bottle in background

A perfectly-sized Christmas tree for our boat. Wine bottle provided solely for scale.

A few Christmas activities also occupied us although we kept things very simple. We made our Christmas fudge from memory but forgot the salt in the first batch - perfectly edible but not edibly perfect. The second batch was much better and acceptable for sharing; the obvious conclusion is that we should stay in practice throughout the year. We had a few Christmas decorations including a tiny tree, courtesy of Bjarne's sister, and roasted ourselves a nice dinner (albeit chicken instead of turkey). On Christmas afternoon we joined a boatyard potluck, complete with the richest egg nog you can imagine.

Barb about to enjoy Christmas dinner of roast chicken.

Christmas dinner. Rice pudding with our now traditional jamaica-and-lime sauce for dessert.

Hoku Paa in the travel-lift

There's always some trepidation when the boat is being moved, and it isn't helped when one notices things like this tire tread, or more accurately, lack of tread! Nonetheless, we were launched without becoming a topic of boatyard conversation. Our travel lift had arrived about 50 minutes late, which would normally not be a problem but in this case we worried about the falling tide. We got underway lickety-split, not even bothering to reattach the forestay - good thing too as we had only 0.2 feet of water under the keel as we backed out of the launch dock.

An hour and a half later we were anchored in nearby Bahia Catalina, listening to loud Mexican oom-pah-pah music from the nearby trawler. Time to decompress. Ahhhhh!.

Closeup of Travel-Lift tire, showing several patches of rubber that are flaking off

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