The following pages chronicle the journey of the sailing vessel Pelagic and her crew. We are a family of 5; Michael, Amy, Zander, Porter and Anakena, taking our 42' Hallberg Rassy as far as we can comfortably go in three years. We left Oregon in September 2014, participated in the 2014 Baja Haha, continued on through the Panama Canal, into the Caribbean, up the coast of the US to Maritime Canada and from there crossed the Atlantic. After an arrival in Ireland we toured Scotland, then sailed down to France, Portugal and on to Morocco. In January of 2016 we slowed down considerably and enrolled the kids in a local Spanish school in Sanlucar de Guadiana for a few months. In the spring of 2016 we crossed the Atlantic towards the Caribbean. We are now in the Pacific, officially on our way home, albeit via a very circuitous path. We are currently in French Polynesia and looking at weather windows to Hawaii before finally making landfall back in the Pacific Northwest.

Currently our exact location is not available. Our spot coverage will pick us back up in Hawaii towards the end of May, 2017.

Our favorite sailing quote:

"If anythings gonna happen, it's gonna happen out there boss!" Captain Ron

Monday, February 23, 2015

Visiting Spider Monkeys, February 23, 2015

Our visit to a colony of wild spider monkeys, albeit pretty habituated. The unofficial caretaker of the forest the monkeys live it showed us around, including a call to bring the monkeys in.

the naughty monkey, (which one?)

Sunday, February 22, 2015

El Salvador, February 22, 2015

El Salvador.  
Getting here was so easy at first, and then we hit the Guatemala/El Salvador border and somehow the predicted light winds turned into 25 knots of solid wind, gusting to 30 for over 24 hours.  When it first hit us it was on the nose and as we plowed into waves, we watched the GPS go down to 1-2 knots and it was pretty frustrating.  Soon after we had a wind shift and we able to sail fast along the El Salvador coast.  El Salvador is the most densely populated country in Central America and the coast was lit up like the coast of Southern California.  All those people must eat a lot of fish, because there were hundreds of small fishing boats out all night.  Of course none of them have AIS, they are mostly small fiberglass boats that don’t show up on our radar and of course they don’t have any running lights.  Most often all they have for lights is a high power flash light that they flash if you get too close, but it is a little unnerving racing along at our top speeds hoping we don’t hit some sleepy fisherman.  The marina we decided to stop at (one of only two in the country) is located behind some shoaling rocks, with a narrow entrance, the guide suggests you call the marina for a complimentary pilot boat.  That would be great, if the marina answered their radio or email.  When we got there before sunrise and after anchoring out for a few hours, we decided we had the way points to thread through the sand bars and rocks and find the channel.  We got to the third waypoint and there didn’t seem to be an opening in the crashing waves.  It just didn’t look right.  We anchored again and decided to wait until we finally reached the marina or Port Captain.  Turns out all the charts and the two guides we are following through Central America have not been updated and several years ago the channel took a complete different course and is drastically different.  Eventually we did get someone to respond to us and we had a pilot boat guide us through the channel and up the river.  We are currently moored in a private marina for El Salvadorian boat owners.  Boat owners include the super rich of El Salvador that come in, mostly, by helicopter or plane, and go out for a few days on their super swanky fishing boats.  It is a strange mix of the super rich and the sailboating riffraff that have their laundry hanging from their rails and look like castaways themselves.  There are only 3 other non El Salvadorian boats currently moored out and we asked one of the workers and he said there have only been 4 other boats that have come and gone in the last 10 months.  Apparently we didn't get the memo and the "other" marina is where the cool kids go!  We were a little disappointed at first, but we have been treated like gold and have the place to ourselves.  Coincidentally, 14 years ago when we were last through, we helped out in a nearby village that had been devastated by an earthquake that occurred while we were there.  Another boat took the lead and spent 6 months, based out of the marina, working and soliciting help from other boaters to help rebuild the village. They provided resources and medical services (from the cruisers with medical backgrounds).  We only spent a couple of days on the mountain chipping bricks and clearing debris, certainly nothing important, but because we were here for the earthquake we have been included in that elite group that made such a difference locally and have received som VIP treatment. The workers have invited Z to play soccer with them in their daily afterwork soccer game.  He's a little intimidated, but hopefully before we leave he'll jump in.  Maybe I'll have to show him how its done!  

Although we aren't spending much time in El Salvador, we are making the most of our time here.  On our first day here we traveled into the nearby "big" town during market day, and experienced the frenzy of an El Salvadorian market.  The produce was amazing and everything was huge and looked fantastic.  We saw cabbage that rival those grown in the midnight sun, carrots as big as your arm, huge radishes the size of apples and lots of tasty fruit.  We loaded up on cantaloupe, watermelons, oranges and bananas.  We also had some of the best chile rellenos we've ever had in a stall in the market on plates I'm pretty sure weren't washed between customers.  Nothing like boosting the old immune system with a minor dose of Hep A. The boys are keeping a list of the sketchiest things we eat.  On the top of the list of things they wanted to eat and we vetoed was a frigate bird egg we found cold on the ground and a 4 inch fish in the stomach of a larger fish we caught.  Zander, in particular, likes to see if he can gross other people out.  We recently ran into a cruiser we had met in Baja and he retold the story of wanting to eat a frigate bird egg and he was totally encouraged by her response and look of complete disgust "It was Awesome Mom, I think she threw up a little in her mouth".  Anyway, living with almost teenage boys in a small space continues to be fun!  Back to El Salvador.  On our second day we hired the marina's driver and spent one day touring the country side.  We visited San Miguel, the only active volcano in the country with a little steam billowing out of the crater top.  We went through several other villages and fields filled with sugarcane, banana, and cocoa and hillsides covered by coffee plants.  All the coffee had been picked, but Mike bought some green beans in the market and has already roasted them himself.  The best of the beans go to export and since El Salvador does not historically have a culture of drinking coffee, what is left for local consumption is second rate, but adequate.  We did find a few beans that had been dried in the sun on the coffee plants and we threw those in with the others, so we can technically say we picked our own beans and roasted them.  We also found some cocoa trees and Z was super anxious to try and make chocolate, but alas, we missed the season there as well.  All the pods we found were very young and not ready to be picked.  He did buy some raw pods in the market and if we can find a grinder in Costa Rica he is going to try roasting, grinding and making his own chocolate with cream and sugar.  I told him I will help him with anything, as long as he blogs about his experience!  
Lastly, and probably the highlight of our trip, was a walk to a nearby forest to see wild spider monkeys.  Because the country is so densely populated El Salvador has only 3 percent remaining natural forests and the smallest concentration of spider monkeys in Central America.  In fact the only population of Geoffroy's Spider Monkey in the whole country is about a mile walk from out boat.  We took a short walk through some banana plantations and into a wooded area full of Giant buttressing Ceiba trees, towering Mangos and plenty of others I could't identify.  As we walked through the little path a caretaker of sorts met us.  He introduced himself and started calling "Pancho".  Apparently he has somewhat habituated the patriarch of a group of about 40 monkeys.  Wild, but used to a few visitors, the monkeys started swinging high over head through the forest canopy.  It was amazing to see the distances they could swing/jump between trees.  Larger monkeys would make a monkey bridge to help baby monkeys cross.  We were able to toss them ripe bananas, and watch their theatrics.  The boys would throw a ripe banana up in the tree above their heads and seconds later a peel would rain down on them. They had one monkey locked up for his own safety, apparently he doesn't play well with others.  He may not play with well with other monkeys, but he was incredibly social with humans.  He shook our hands, turned for back scratches, even scolded Michael for giving him a green banana.  

All good things must come to an end and we are going to spend tomorrow readying the boat for another, potentially, windy crossing to Costa Rica.  If the weather cooperates we may take a short side trip into the Gulf of Fonseca where El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras share a gulf of water.  Technically we are supposed to go directly to Costa Rica, but why ask for permission when you can beg forgiveness!  We can always claim mechanical problems!  

Monday, February 16, 2015

Tehauntepec, February 18, 2015

Day two and the mighty Tehuantepec looks like a mill pond! Although, superstitious as I am, I am not vocalizing that, just writing it. We still have the rest of the day to get out of it.

Our trip started out with a little bit of excitement. The starter motor burned out, two hours into the trip, and we were left motoring, but wondering if we would be able to start it back up if we turned off the engine. Considering we were going into a hot spot, we decided the prudent thing would be to head back. We turned around and Mike pulled out the spare starter and started working on it. Sounds easy, not so. I think the kids learned a few more 4 letter words, but he eventually got the new motor in. Nothing is easy when the engine is still hot, you are in constant motion and those pesky bolts keep dropping into the bilge. We did get it working and since our ignition switch was the faulty party, Mike decided to hot wire the engine and skip that step altogether. We are now motoring towards the Mexican border and we feel pretty confident in the new starter. We are enjoying flat seas, so we are able to cook and read and life is pretty comfortable. A Frigate bird landed on our windex at the top of the mast and as Mike was trying to scare it off with the Spinnaker halyard, he lost the halyard, more 4 letter words. Our kids are learning so much from this experience! The kids and I were just singing praise that we were not the ones to leave the ignition switch on, or lose the halyard! In any event, we can't measure the speed of the winds or throw up the spinnaker, but otherwise we are none worse for wear.

Sorry if this is a bunch of minutia. I often wonder if I would want to hear about how someone has a faulty garbage disposal and spent the day fixing it. Probably not, but fixing things is such a constant cruising, it just becomes an integral part of life out here.

Several days later...

We had a fantastic trip down from Zihuatanejo; sea turtles, dolphins and calm seas, it couldn't have been easier. As we closed the coast we started seeing deserted white sand beaches and beautiful little bays. We dropped the hook after three nights at sea in such a bay and crawled into our bunks excited for an uninterrupted night of sleep. Morning brought a fresh enthusiasm for exploration from the whole crew and we packed up and readied the dinghy to go ashore. The steep beach was covered with sea turtle tracks leading up to multiple depressions in the sand. The depressions had baby turtle tracks crisscrossing them, egg casings and even a few baby turtle shells from unlucky immature turtles. Later we found an adult sea turtle skeleton, including a complete skull. The biologist in me wanted to take the skull, but the Mom in me decided not to set a precident for bringing partially decomposed animals aboard our boat. Oh, and it's probably illegal as hell!

As we were returning to the boat Porter scared a Coatamundi (related to our raccoon) off of one of the nests. We went to check out what he had been digging around for and we found 4 newly decapitated baby turtles. Very sad! If we weren't law abiding citizens (national park, endangered species) we might have picked up the other dozen or so turtles and helped them to the water to rescue them from a almost certain death by coatamundi. I bet they would have been pretty cute scurrying down to the beach to the waters edge and paddle walking in to the surf. It would have been pretty amazing to swim out in the perfectly clear water and watch them stick their heads up for air and then dive back down. Too bad the endangered species act prevented us from doing any of that!
Later Zander and Mike went diving and brought back stories of colorful coral and the best reef they have seen, thus far, in Mexico. Zander is pretty proficient with the diving gear and I have a feeling I will be schooled in everything I'm doing incorrectly next time I decide to dive.

We were very much looking forward to traveling inland for a few days to visit Oaxaco and some of the interior of Mexico and colorful textiles, amazing cuisine and ancient towns. However, there is a weather window that will be opening and then closing very rapidly and we feel obligated to try and get through it. Otherwise we could be here for another 10 days or so and we don't want to stay that long. Oh, if only we had infinite time! Instead we are going to brave (as if we have a choice in the matter) the Golfo de Tehuantepec. The weather engine that drives the famous Tehuantepec gales actually comes from the winds in the Gulf of Mexico, on the other side of the continent. The predominate winds blow across the isthmus and are funneled through the mountains, creating a venturi (sp?) effect and accelerating the winds. 40 knots of wind is not uncommon and when we look at the color coded weather maps, the rest of country is in shades of blues and greens and the Tehuantepec is always highlighted in angry reds and oranges. Even the weather faxes look scary! We have no desire to bring our home through a Tehuantepec blow, so we are hoping to slip through this weather window and have the gulf behind us. Because it is a gulf, you instinctively want to take the rumbline (direct line) and save miles, but in this case the prudent course is to hug the coast and if the winds do pipe up, the seas don't have time to build. We are expecting to have an easy passage, although we are taking all precautions; we have stowed the dinghy on the deck and moved all the toys inboard from the outer rails. Mike dove on the boat, checked every square inch of the hull, did all the regular preventative maintenance checks on the engine and filled the fuel tanks. We are ready!

We are hoping to sail all the way to El Salvador on this leg. There are a few places to tuck in if we need to, but we would like to make it the full 500 miles. We would then rest in El Salvador for a few days and wait for the weather to cooperate for the leg to Coast Rica. Northern Costa Rica has some knarly winds as well that we will have to wait for. Porters Birthday is February 23 and he is really hoping for a zip lining experience on his birthday. Not sure we will make it, but we will try. We will keep the spot on and update our position daily.
Swim call somewhere off the coast of Guatamala

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Back at sea, February 11, 2015

Blue Marlin on the line, multiple sea turtle sightings and swimming with dolphins.......ho hum! Who said passages are to be feared?

We've been dreading the next few weeks and all the long passages we will need to make. I constantly worry about sleep deprivation and making poor decisions, having to feed and entertain the kids all day long and keeping seasickness at bay, throw in a general fear of the unknown and it doesn't make me look forward to the longer passages. However, this 350 mile passage has been great so far. This is the longest, all 5 of us, have been at sea without going into port, thus far. We've done a number of overnighters and a handful of two night trips, but the winds are light down here and this will be three full days at sea. The wind generally picks up about noon and dies down about midnight due to the land sea influence. We sail as long as we can and when the wind drops, late in the evening, we throw on the old iron mainsail and motor until it picks up again. Today we hooked a Blue Marlin on one of our hand lines. This one wasn't nearly as dramatic as the Striped Marlin we caught in the Sea of Cortez. In fact we didn't even know we had it on the line right away since there is no line to run out when you are using a hand line. Eventually you just end up dragging the fish and tire it out that way. It is probably not the most sporting way of catching a fish, but we are less about the sport and more about feeding our bellies. It fought Mike at the surface, as he was trying to remove the hook, but eventually it jumped and broke free of the hook and swam away. A little tired, but hopefully fine.
Every morning while the seas are glassy we spot sea turtles and record them in our data sheets. Occasionally we divert course and try to sneak up on one, but they are not very social and dive quite quickly. Just today we have recorded over 30 sea turtle sightings.
We regularly have dolphins passing by, but with the flat seas and warm water temperature (86F) the kids convinced us to stop the boat and jump in for a swim. Mike and I are always leery of jumping in over deep water. When the closest land is a mile under you, it is a little intimidating. The boys however, have no such fear. They donned masks and jumped right in, getting glimpses of fast swimming dolphins streaking past them. The water was cobalt blue and visibility was great, perfect for taking a dip with the local dolphins! This was a very spontaneous decision, so unfortunately, we didn't have our underwater camera ready. Next time we will get the go pro out and try to record some of these interactions. Zander made a a rope ladder and it works great since the dinghy on the davits blocks our access to the swim platform on the stern. Now it is much easier to get back on the boat.
I'm also happy to report that after the third night at sea, I actually feel more rested than I did after the first. This does help pacify my fears about going offshore. There is a rhythm to being at sea, and once you fall into it, the days don't seem so long and instead of just trying to survive, you can actually thrive. We've got about 900 miles more to go to get to Panama, but we are finally starting to tick off some of those miles and that feels good.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Leaving Zihuatanejo February 8, 2015

It is with mixed emotions we set off on the next leg of our trip. Before the first of March we will have four legs that are 2-3 days in duration. We need to start making tracks, but we will say goodbye to good friends and a cruising way of life that has become quite comfortable.

Zihuatanejo is a great little Mexican town. The main economic stimulator is tourism, but many of the tourists are American and Canadian tourist and they call Zihuat their home for many months of the year. It has a great ex pat community, which means services are usually good and reliable along with a vibrant commercial market. In the market you can buy cheese from a guy who walks around with a giant ball of Oaxcan cheese (much like Mozzarella) and will unroll a few strands for you, a fantastic produce market, meats that, once you get past the flies and the non refrigeration, are really quite good. In that same market you can buy a machete, any plastic utensil under the sun, and almost anything else you can think of. Before we had Walmart, we had the Mexican market. There is also a food court, with the most fantastic pozole, chile rellenos and tamales. Large cast iron pots of mole, soup and other stews simmer on the makeshift stoves while women hand roll tortillas in sweltering conditions. Many tourist miss out on the tasty foods that come out of those food stalls. What's a little explosive diarrhea when you can experience authentic cuisine. OK, TMI, and we have actually been super lucky and have not been sick yet. Knock on wood!

Zihuatanejo is growing on us and we know where the best wifi can be lifted, where to find the tacos with the carmelized onions and pineapple wedges, and most importantly, the best ice cream stalls (boat freezers don't freeze ice cream well!) The town is family friendly and we even let the kids take the dinghy into town by themselves and grab a treat or play basketball. It is a great little town and we have really enjoyed our time here. We'd stay longer it we didn't need to move down the coast.

Highlights of our stay in Zihuat have been our continued buddy boating with Family Circus, I'm not sure who will be sadder, the kids or us to leave. They are awesome and we are excited to follow their journey across the Pacific. Other highlights include an evening on the beach when we were interrupted by an Olive Ridley Sea Turtle making her way up the beach lay her eggs. The boys got to release the same species in PV, so they were pretty excited to see the full spectrum and the life cycle of a sea turtle. Zander also studied and mastered his PADI open water dive certification. He did awesome, he studied hard, took it really seriously and aced the test. He now is a legal diver and Mike is excited to have a buddy to dive with. He has to go with an adult until he is 15, but otherwise is fully certified. We also entered our little home in our first ever sailing race. Thank you to all those wonderful people, who with less than 24 hours notice, sent hundreds of dollars to "Para Los Ninos" a charity that helps the impoverished school kids in the Zihuat area. It is a great charity with a huge ex pat volunteer base. In an effort to legitimize our slacker lifestyle, we along with other cruisers took paying passengers out to race and raised money for the kids. We didn't take home any prize, but it was a fun experience and we had lovely guests that made the day very memorable. Several days before we left Zihuat, there was a 30 boat parade, full of more paying passengers that toured the bay and sailed up to Ixtapa. We opted out of taking out own boat since we were in the midst of provisioning and it was pretty torn up down below, but we contributed some life jackets and joined 12 passengers as they toured around with our friends Family Circus. It was a great afternoon, with just a tad bit of boat envy on our end. Our next cruise may have to be with a catamaran!

Just prior to leaving we had a little engine scare. Mike noticed the engine mount had cracked completely through and the engine was sitting at an angle. It was a little unsettling, but Mike scoured town and with the help of some of the other boaters, found a welder that fixed the piece on a Saturday. With another stroke of luck Michael was able to get the mount installed by himself and we were only delayed one day.

Anyway, it is a bittersweet goodbye to Zihuat. Most of the cruisers we have met along the way will not continue south, so the parting is sad, but we are excited for the next chapter in our journey. Up next is one more town in Mexico and then the "forgotten middle", the area along the Central American coast where few cruisers stop. We are still not sure where we will make land falls, some of that depends on the winds, but we could stop in Guatamala, El Salvador, Costa Rica and then on to Panama.

We will have radio email capabilities, so the texts will keep coming, but it may be a while before I can load some pictures. From now on our wifi will be very limited.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Two more days in paradise, February 7, 2015

Cruising:  "Boat maintenance in foreign ports."
Doing his pre-cruise check, Michael found that one of the engine supports had broken.  Bummer, but hey, we could be stuck in a worse port.  We love Zihuat! In fact, if I thought the kids could have sabotaged the mount, I may have suspected them.  They are quite content here as well.  The good news is, Mike has already pulled the broken support out, and had it welded with a local welder and on Monday we have someone scheduled to help him get it installed.  It should just be a two day delay, not too bad in the big scheme of things.  Who knows, we may even get a little more wind by then.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Watching for dolphins on the Bow, February 3, 2015

We finally made it to Zihuatanejo.  We have arrived here just prior to sailfest, a festival  of sorts, where cruising boats converge on one spot and spend a week celebrating and raising money for the local impoverished schools.  In the last 12 years they have managed to raise tens of thousands of dollars each year and it is a great charity to be, even peripherally, involved in.   While the economic situation in Mexico seems to continually improve, they still have such a long way to go, and there are so many poor villages surrounding Zihuat.  Zihuat itself is a bustling little seaside village that has managed to retain most of its charm due to the fact that the resorts and club med style vacationers end up in Ixtapa, just up the coast.  Zihuat thrives on fishing and tourism, although a less invasive type of tourism.  We have signed up for a mid week race where we will take paying passengers onboard and “race” out to some outer rocks in an effort to raise money and awareness for the poorest children in town.  It should be interesting since on our best days, we are hardly a racing boat.  That said, most of the other heavily laden boats, riding low in the water, that we see in the anchorage are probably of  similar speed. 

In the midst of this festival we have managed to hit many incredible taco stands, we’ve hung out in the Zocolo, or town square, watching the locals mill in the evenings.  One of the things I’ve always loved about the Mexican culture is the evening activities they participate in.  Mexicans love to get out in the late evening and celebrate.  Celebrate life I guess, which sure beats the alternative.  The kids all run

around, seemingly unattended, but more likely watched by everyone in the “it takes a village” doctrine.  There is music being played, random performances being.....well, performed and basketball games being played.  It is a hubbub of activity, centered around families, almost like a town carnival, although it is almost a nightly phenomenon.   The Mexicans we have met are family oriented and very friendly.  Our Mexican visit is nearing its end, but it  has been a fun and informative journey down the coast with short forays into the interior to glimpse more of the indigenous cultures.  

Monday, February 2, 2015

Isla Grande, February 2, 2015

We had a lovely two day visit at Isla Grande, a small island off the coast of Ixtapa, just a few miles north of Zihuat.  The anchorage was a little rolly due to the pangas coming and going to take people to the white sand beaches from their resorts on the mainland.  The day trippers would come and go all day, but by about 4pm we had the island mostly to ourselves.  We were there with a handful of other boats, as well as SV Family Circus, the family boat we have been buddy boating with.  They have 5 kids on board; 21, 13, 12, 7, and 6.  I feel like an underachiever with just the three. Not only are they a great family, but the three tweens (and Porter) can hang out for hours, playing in the waves, wrestling or playing board games.  The three little girls also have a great time together.  We really feel fortunate that we have met them and all the kids have a playmate.  We tolerate the parents so it works out (just checking to see if they read our blog, they are fantastic people and when they return to the Bay Area we hope to continue the friendship). While we love family time, and the whole reason to do this trip was to spend quality time with the kids, we are human and it is wonderful to have friends for the kids and not have to play aquatic director all day!  We have shared many anchorages with Family Circus and it will be hard to leave them behind next week while we travel south.  They will Puddle Jump in March and head towards the South Pacific.  One of the downsides of cruising is finding other boats you really like and then going your separate ways.  Mike and I still call friends some of the boats we met while cruising 14 years ago, although due to proximity, friendship usually consists of a facebook connection and Christmas card.  Many fantastic couples cruised out of our lives leaving us forever with the memory of a short-lived, but fabulous visit shared in some distant anchorage.  Cruisers share sailing tips, parts, mechanical expertise, they share local knowledge, commiserate over blocked toilets, clogged filters and electronic failures.  During long watches, along coastlines, sometimes the only other voice you may hear is the boat several miles away telling you where the long line fisherman have left their gear or some other relevant tidbit.  

Anyway, Isla Grande was nice.  The coral beach kept the water clear and all the kids played for hours in the gentle waves.  We crossed over to the mainland and tried boogie boarding at a popular surf spot, but the waves were too big to safely enjoy.  Wrestling in the water and trying to drown the other kids seems to be the favorite activity and the rest of the afternoon was spent doing just that in the water.  At dusk we all climbed in the dinghy and made our way back to our respective boats.  Dinghy rides out through the breaking surf are always exciting.  We’ve had landings where we got it completely right and had onlookers cheer for us, but we’ve also had landings where the timing was all wrong and we found ourselves bow into the surf and drenched.  Generally the hard landings we ace, and when it is easy we get complacent and botch it.  

Isla Grande was a great little island, covered in deer and rabbits, and we enjoyed our few days there before heading to the big town (relative term) of Zihuat.