Tag Archives: homeschooling

Loreto: an Eco Tourism Mecca

There is so much to see in Loreto ! Where to begin?!

Loreto is a small town with about 15,000 people, 2/3 rds the way down Baja on the Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California) side. As the starting point for the California Mission movement, the town offers a lot of rich history and sightseeing opportunities. In the last 15 years+, Loreto has become a mecca for its Eco-Tourism.  The Sea of Cortez and the desert of Baja can be described as a melting pot of marine life and a rich desert ecosystem.  There are flora and fauna here that can not be found in many other places. The eco-tourism offers ways to see these spectacular sights with minimal to no impact on their ecosystem. As a family living on a sailboat, we are able to have our own eco-tours on the ocean, but finding land based activities are more of a challenge.  Thanks to our friend, Sara, who helps operate Loreto Sea and Land Tours, we were able to explore a snippet of Loreto’s land based ecosystem and other tourist sites.

Loreto was the first Spanish Colonial settlement of “New Spain” on the Baja. The Jesuit missionaries built the first of the California Missions there, Mision de Nuestra Senora de Loreto Concho,  in 1697. Loreto offered a fresh spring as a perfect resource for the missionaries to build and provide food to offer for the local Cochimi tribe and offer Christianity in return. This was a peaceful movement at the time. In 1769, the quest to explore the northern areas and establish missions along the way started.  As time passed the territories of missions fell in control of the Franciscans and then later, the Dominican order and divided into two regions, Baja California and Alta California. Alta California became the California we know today in the United States. I could go on and on about Loreto’s history, but I wont. If you are feeling the need for more of Loreto’s history click here.

June 4th, 2017:

After exploring the town of Loreto, we ventured up into the mountains, named Sierra de la Giganta, to explore the desert and visit San Javier, the second of the California missions. On the way up we stopped to hike to a very old and lonely fig tree growing up a rocky hillside. Of course everybody had the urge to climb it!

Further up the road we pulled over to get a view of the original “El Camino Real”! We had no idea that the “El Camino Real” in California had originated in Loreto. We saw the first road that brought the missionaries from Loreto up to San Javier and eventually up through modern-day California as the path of the California Missions!

Mision San Francisco Javier de Vigge-Biaundo was founded just 2 years later, in 1699, but took many more years to build. It was fully functioning by 1758. Water was more abundant here than in Loreto and the location was better protected from hurricanes. It was for these reasons that San Javier became the primary mission. The Cochimi tribe was drawn to the church and Christianity for the food and kindness they provided. The mission was successful with its community and agriculture for many years. Unfortunately, European diseases from the Spaniards spread among the tribe, eventually leading to the decimation of the Cochimi. Their culture and language became extinct by the 20th Century.

If you find yourself in Loreto either by boat or land and wanting to see sea life, land life, and culture, we highly suggest using Loreto Land and Sea tours. Not just because they are friends of ours, because they offer a plethora of different ways to explore the area and ways for the sailing community to explore inland history and culture: scuba diving, snorkeling with seals, fishing, hikes and many more options for adventures. Finding someone who can share so much local knowledge is a prized opportunity for our family as well as for many other cruisers.  We get to check off History of California Missions from Ellamae’s  4th grade boat-school curriculum, one year in advance!San Javier Mission (Mision San Francisco Javier de Vigge-Biaundo)Mike, aboard S/V Easy joined us along the tour. Taj can’t resist the temptation to climb another tree.

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Crossing the Sea of Cortez: from Mazatlan to La Paz 

We left Marina Mazatlan May 14th around 7:30 am, timed with the tides again. The swell was down, unlike coming in, the timing this time around was not as crucial. We had a minimum 2 day if not possibly 4-5 day crossing ahead of us, so an early departure was not necessary for the purpose of timing our arrival. Mike on SV Easy departed just before us to buddy boat across. We planned on communicating via predetermined SSB frequencies once our VHF was out or range.

The first day out was pretty mellow. We were forced by the wind to make a more north, northwesterly point of sail, which was fine. We motored for about an hour, just enough to get out past Isla Pajaro and catch a zephyr of wind. It was Mother’s Day, the sun shown brilliant, and dolphins came to swim off of our stern. Christian tried to join them in the water by tying himself off with a rope and filming with the goPro. We are pretty convinced that dolphins can hear our heartbeat, because as soon as he got in the water they swam away. When he just had the goPro in, they stuck around. Me with my Happy Mother’s Day smile after the dolphins visited.

The next day, was my birthday. I turned 36 and it was my first birthday celebrated out at sea. The day started out calm. I had planned to talk with my travel nurse recruiter via Satellite phone to try to pin down a travel job for the summer. We had already been conversing but nothing was final. I knew I needed to get something pinned down, but we were ready to set sail, so IridiumGo to the rescue! I had my nursing recruiter call me via satellite phone to secure a job while in the middle of the Sea of Cortez. I was shocked at how well the reception was. The call was dropped a few times, but we were able to get what needed to be done done and secured a job at Kaiser San Francisco for me in the summer! That was a pretty good birthday gift. This is where we were mid day on my birthday.

The kids loving Birthday cake in the middle of the crossing.

Later on that afternoon, the wind picked up to the mid 20’s and by evening was in the high 20’s with gusts of low 30’s on a close reach (upwind). We were double reefed with our Mainsail and furled in jib to about 90% for most of the night and the next day. Despite that our boat was handeling it well, and the hydrovane kept us steering perfectly, I got a little sea sick. The kids did too, but thankfully, no one reached the point of vomiting. They still were able to eat my birthday cake. Although I was able to maintain good spirits I was rendered almost completely useless. I can’t go down below to cook at all, let alone help the kids with anything. Tacking, trimming sails, steering is fine though and is actually helpful, so I don’t mind being “on watch” when I get sea sick. By nightfall I was feeling fine as long as I stayed focused and outside. I did end up taking a Bonine to help me keep from throwing up and fall asleep during my limited time off watch.     Love this “tilt boat’n” action! Water spilling over the rail, SV Shawnigan holding strong and steady.

The kids just relaxed or slept in off under the comfort of our dodger or they clipped their harnesses on and went outside for fresh air. No boatschooling was happening this crossing. So far no one on our boat has gotten so sea sick to the point of throwing up since we left in August 2015. I’ll take it as a sign that we’re getting the hang of it. All clipped in on the aft deck, singing songs into the wind to pass the time. Ellamae lounging in the dodger.

By the end of the third day the wind had us going north again, north of Muertos off of Isla Ceralvo. We tacked up before being able to tack back towards La Paz. We made it up until the channel below Isla Espiritu Santo before turning on the engine for that last hour. We made to Anchorage just north of La Paz, called Caleta Lobos, just after dark. Fortunately we’ve anchored here many times before, so coming in at dark was not ideal, but ok. The anchorage was flat and we slept so well!

More pictures:

 Taj fell asleep, clipped in to the back stay! Then again in the dodger…Nina perched up in a hammock on our first day out, while it was calm.

Mike on SV Easy at Caleta Lobos (just north of La Paz).
Stay tuned for our adventures in La Paz and up the Sea of Cortez via the east coast of Baja.

Mazatlan: round dos

First, our sail from Isla Isabela to Mazatlan: May 5th-6th, 2017.
We sailed off the hook from the east anchorage on Isla Isabel and headed 330 * North toward Mazatlan. With about 90 miles to travel we planned an overnight passage. We drifted the first 3 hours. Then the wind barely filled in, but enough to commit to sailing on. Early afternoon, the wind picked up to a more steady 4-8 knots out of the NW. We saw tons of sea turtles. By nightfall we’d barely gone 25 miles, but the wind kept up. Over the night there were a few drifting moments, but for the most part we had enough wind to cover 40 miles. The wind slowly switched out of the west and even the south for a little bit. We saw more sea turtles the next day, probably a total count of over 40. On the way in to Mazatlan we were cruising with winds up to 12-15 over our port beam. We dropped the hook on the East Side of Deer Island @ 1600 on May 6th. 2314.238 N , -10627.679 WSV Easy off of Isla Venados (Deer Island)

The next morning we timed our entry to the mouth of the harbor to arrive at 07:30 am for a good reason.  The SW swell was rolling in at 3 feet, 0800 was high tide and the bar at the entrance to marina Mazatlan and El Cid is shallow enough to break all the way across, so we needed that peak incoming high tide. We motored close to the entrance and timed our entry between the sets. SV Easy waited just behind us.  We made it through without any problems, but if we had not been careful we could of had breaking waves! 

We came into Marina Mazatlan and we’re immediately greeted by the dock guards, who lead us to a slip. We had been to Marina Mazatlan before and liked it, but man does it burn through the pocket book fast! We’re not use to this daily fee. The funny thing about Marina Mazatlan is that it’s cheaper to pay for 8 days than it is to pay for 4 to 7. We had a few things we wanted to do on the boat while docked, we would be there a few days anyway, to pick up Ellamae from her stay with her Papa, so we paid for 8. OUCH, but we made every bit of it count.  Taj found his new #1 seat on our Mantus Anchor.

Both times that we’ve been to Mazatlan, we’ve thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. This time was a little different than our last visit here around the same time of year last year. We only went to the “old-town” in the city once. We went bowling twice, swimming with our friends at El Cid Marina once, we met up with some very long ago family friends that live in Mazatlan, and spent the rest of the time on boat-schooling and boat projects. Catch and release cat fishing.Taj’s new friend at the tienda (snack shop) at the head of the dock.

The trip to the city was more to stretch our legs and get outside. We ended up walking at least 6 miles along the malecón and through town. Nina and Taj skateboarded, which made the trip a little more tolerable. Everyone was a little sore the next day. It felt great! 

Bowling was fun. Not affordable by any means ($20-30 per family for an hour), but fun nonetheless. The bowling alley is in the Liverpool mall, which is walking distance from the marina. The first time, SV Raireva took us. The second time we went with SV Easy and the family on SV Riki Tiki Tavi. What a blast!

Swimming at the El Cid was fun, but the water was not very warm and the place is a wind tunnel. Oh and they don’t let kids under 12 in the hot tub, boo 😒. Our time spent there was short. 

I mentioned meeting with family friends from long ago. The Lonsdale’s, were friends with my parents when they lived near Mammoth Mountain. This was before and maybe a little after I was born; wait for it ….. 36 years ago.  They are also world travelers and have done quite a bit of relief work all over the world. They ended up moving to Mazatlan over 8 years ago and starting up 2 Looney Bean coffee shops; one in Downtown Mazatlan and the other one in Cerritos, a town on the very north end of Mazatlan.  Looney Bean originally came out of Mammoth Mountain, so when we saw it in Mazatlan, we were super excited. They roast their own coffee down here and it is sourced responsibly. They even donate 10% of the whole bean coffee sales to families in need in local areas. Before we led the coffee shop, we left our boat card with our number and email and sure enough, a few days later, Heidi, the owner called me. She was so excited, as was I, to make the contact after so many years had passed. Long story short, they invited us for dinner and we had a great time with very good people reminiscing and talking about traveling life. We are hoping to stop by on our way back south to spend more time with them, including surfing the local spots together! In front of the Cerritos Looney Bean with one of Heidi and Tom’s daughters. Ellamae and I Sporting the Looney Bean shirts.Heidi zipped off on her scooter. Love this lady! Tom and Heidi with myself. Can’t wait to see them again next fall!

Fondue dinner on SV Easy.

  My dock yoga shipshape time on the dock. Getting “grounded” after so much water time. 

Isla Isabel (Isabela)

Sail to Isla Isabel: left San Blas at 0515. Buddy boating with Mike in SV Easy. Ellamae was in Florida with Papa. We motored 1.5 hours out then sailed with offshore winds until about 1030, we got to fly the kite. Then we drifted for a bit. Around 11:30 the wind switched to NW. The typical close reach toward Isla Isabel. We sailed until 5:30. Then motored 2 hours to the island to get there before sunset. We ended up anchoring at the east anchorage of Isla Isabela. It was flat, beautiful and calm. Anchored in 27 feet on sandy bottom, near Las Monas pinnacles.  Our anchorage position was 21 60.891N , 105 52.715W . 

Sv Easy (Ingrid 38) underway.

We got to snorkel a lot, Taj kayaked, and Christian got to surf 4 times! The south swell was coming up and hitting the south east point just perfect. He had to dodge a few rocks, but had a blast!  

We swam and kayaked to shore to explore the island. As we brought the dinghy to shore the bird conservation group out of Mexico City greeted us and gave us a run down of how to help protect the nesting birds on the island. They were very welcoming. Las Monas pinnacles and Shawnigan and Easy anchored next to them.Rebecca, who is spending her post doctorate helping to conserve the island’s birds, teaching us a few things. Above: the camp of the students that spend 2 weeks stretches on the island helping to protect the birds.

It was awesome to see all the nesting Blue and Yellow Footed Boobies as well as the Frigates. There were so many of them protecting their eggs, as well as juveniles and newborn babies. There were also iguanas roaming around everywhere. All the wildlife here is magical, they let you get so close!  There’s a baby under there!There are eggs under this Booby.

 Yellow Footed Booby guarding a nearby nest. The male and female take turns with this role.

There is no wonder why Isla Isabel(a) has been quoted as “Mexico’s Galapagos”! The island was declared as a national park in 1980 and has been preserved as such ever since, protecting its flora and fauna. 

I would have to say that Isla Isabela is one of our top places we’ve sailed to so far. This was actually our fourth time there, but our first time exploring on the island this time of year. I’m so happy we got to experience the nesting birds In the dry season. Baby Frigatebird in its nest.

Albino FrigatebirdI love this picture; Albino Frigate in the foreground, the fishing village and Las Monas in the the background. Mike From SV Easy photo bombing the Blue Footed Booby picture .  Mike on SV Easy sailing off the hook toward Mazatlan. 

Chacala to San Blas

Well, we did it… we actually came in to a Marina and paid for a slip. We hadn’t paid for slip or moorage since we left San Carlos 5.5 months ago! All of the anchorages we’ve stayed at have been free. At only $10 night with access to water, pool, showers, internet, and most importantly LESS NO-SEE-UMS AND MOSQUITOES we decided to go for it. Mike Jacoby on SV Easy came along with us as well. We love buddy boating with him.

  1. Mike on SV Easy and the kids ate the obligatory Pan de Banana (Banana bread). And of course we did the La Tovara Crocodile tour and fresh water park. We highly recomend taking the tour from just east of the river bridge heading out of San Blas vs the one from the official Tovara tour site (the one closer to Matanchén). The tour is longer through the mangroves, the captain of the panga will speak english and you get to see more wildlife. Plus I like supporting a smaller family business.

There is a bird in there. Kudos for any comments identifying it. Owl or hawk? What type?the fence that keeps the Crocodiles out of the fresh water pool. Rafael, our awesome guide!


San Blas is worth the stop. Despite all of the bugs, which it in notoriously for, we enjoyed our visit. There is a lot of history is this town to explore, which we did on our last visit here last year. The town square is lively in the evenings. We happened to stumble upon “Dia de Los Niños” this year. They celebrated Friday and Saturday with song and dance in the square. The local ballet company performed with dances from the adults and the kids. The next night they had tons of vendors out around the square and a parade with decorative floats. 

As mentioned before, San Blas is notorious for its mosquitos and no-see-ums (called jejenes here in Mexico). Last year we anchored in Matanchen and they were much worse. We had the no-see-um netting up and even gave into the not so natural bug spray and we were still eaten alive! This year, at the dock, it wasn’t nearly as bad and the natural bug repellent seemed to work.  Later, we found out that the marina sprays the property, especially around the boats that are hauled out. For this, we were glad our visit was short. Coconut oil with citronella, clove, and grapefruit essential oils. Start with 10 drops of citronella, 5 of clove and 5 of grapefruit. Double it depending on how much coconut oil you use. Doubles as sunscreen and even extra sunscreen if you add zinc powder. 
Next up: Isla Isabel

La Cruz to Chacala

Now that I’m finally getting back on track with posting, we will be leaving cell and wifi reception. I will do my best to plan my posts out a bit. I’m still a few weeks behind, as e left La Cruz on April 24th, but it’s better than months behind.

We finally made it out of La Cruz and started making our way North. We first dropped Ellamae off at the airport in Puerto Vallarta to go spend time with her biological father, Jason. That same afternoon we sailed off the hook to Punta de Mita to get us further out of the Banderas Bay. First thing the next morning, after breakfast we set sail, actually motored for a few hours, around the point and headed North for a 30 mile day. Mike on SV Easy  was buddy boating with us. The wind didn’t pick up for about 3 hours, but the weather was beautiful. We saw tons of sea turtles and enjoyed a pleasant sail north.

We’d been to Chacala before and arrived in the mid afternoon. Just enough time to hit up the surf spot! Just what the doctor ordered.  That night we had Mike over for dinner and and a good nights sleep was had by all.

The next day included school, checking in with the port captain, more surfing, and beach time.

Then more surfing and a hike to the extinct volcano crater, and more beach time the next day. We met a fellow Nor Cal family and spent some time with them. The mother owns a house there and rents out bungalow through Airbnb

Chacala is beautiful and we wished we could have stayed longer. Hopefully on the way back down.

La Cruz to Barra de Navidad and back, the trilogy. Back to adventures! Part 3 of 3

If you missed part 1 click here.

If you missed part 2 click here.

Now for Part 3. Back to adventures!!!

With a few days back together as a family and a few days before we started to head north again, we decided to fit in a Colima Volcano tour. Christian had energy for an adventure!!! Our good friend Edgard, whom we met in Barra last year, offered to be our tour guide. He leads tours for his business there, so it was only fitting to hire him.
March 21st, 2017: The day started early. Unfortunately Nina was sick, so she stayed in Barra under our friend’s supervision. Edgard picked us up at 8:30 am from the Hotel Sands (his family’s business), which is where we normally tie up our dinghy when we go to town anyway. The drive to the town of Colima was about 2 hours. We drove to a quaint town called Comala, then up another hour(ish) toward the 12,533 ft Volcán de Colima.  If you have more than a day, we recommend staying a night or two at El Litchi Hostal Colima and hiking its neighbor, Nevado de Colima (14,015ft), to get more of an adventure out of it. We didn’t and wished we had. 

We stopped for produce along the way and found our way to the first of many Coffee plantations/cafes. I indulged in coffee for the first time in 10 days! Watch out here I come!!!! Christian stayed strong and refrained.  An americano was $20 pesos. 1 dollar coffee! How could you pass that up? 

Further up the road we stopped at Laguna la Maria. We’d planned on going for a swim, but after seeing the silty brown color we were hesitant. Then a local came up to us to tell us why no one was swimming. Apparently a “devil lady”, Maria, haunted the lake. The myth is that many years ago, Maria asked her parents to go out with her friends. When her parents said no, she snuck out and drowned there and was never found. Ever since, people who swim have been known to disappear as well. Pretty creepy story. Supposably divers have gone down without finding the bottom. Some theories are of tunnels that have a vacuum effect. We may never know… Needless to say, we didn’t go swimming.

Taj with his Teeny Tiny Optics.

We drove further up the road to place called Laguna Verde. It was basically the end of the road for us. To mark the finally spot, another coffee plantation! Yay, a double dose day! The volcano was in the distance, but still magnificent. The cloud cover started to form by the time we got there, though we could still appreciate most of it’s magnitude.  

We had a pretty quick turn around, as we were doing all of this in one day. We stopped in Comala again on our way back down to eat a late lunch and buy a couple souvenirs. What a great day. If you’re down near Barra de Navidad or Melaque (San Patricio), give Edgard an email (ramseszava@hotmail.com) and tell him we sent you!🌋
A few days later we started making our way north again to La Cruz. We love Barra de Navidad. Our 3.5 weeks there flew by, but it was time to get moving again. First stopping at “Secret Cove” , then Tenacatita again, and lastly Bahia Chamela again before rounding Cabo Corrientes to Banderas Bay (Puerto Vallarta area).

⛵️🏄🏿
We went to Secret Cove with our boat friends on Scavenger and Luna Azul. Christian and the men from the two other boats got some surf in. I was happy just to be out anchored somewhere new. Last year there was a 8-10 ft crocodile who was sighted many times there without any incident of hurting people. No one reported seeing him this year, so we swam. Taj jumped off the bow polepit for the first time! Ellamae helped scrub the waterline on the boat. We spent time picking urchin out of Scotty’s foot. Tip: hot vinegar soak alternating with dripping melting beeswax on each spine. It’s a good thing we have a lot of beeswax on our boat. This has come in handy a few times already.
Tenacatita, always guarantees a good time. We did the mangrove tour again. This time with people from SV Easy, SV Cat2fold,SV Luna Azul, SV Scavenger, and SV Wings! Gathered Coconuts to drink while we played on the beach. Nina had a boat friend sleepover, we went spear fishing, and did yoga in the beach. Sv Empyrean and Mango Mango arrived for the party too!
The sail up to Chamela was nice. A sail off the hook and back on the hook day (meaning sailing off the anchor without starting the engine and then setting the anchor using only sail power). Love those no engine days. We did see some gusts of wind in the low 20’s, but our boat handled it well. We arrived before dark. Buddy Boating up the coast with us was Empyrean, Cat2fold, Mango Mango. Mango Mango kept heading north to round Cabo Corrientes while the rest of us spent a few days having fun in Bahia Chamela. We went to the bat cave again thanks to Cat2fold shuttling us on his boat. Some more swimming of course. And finally, we got to go see Brian and Cat2fold sing and play guitar at Scuba Jazz Cafe. He plays there regularly during the season on Friday nights. Scuba Jazz is a must if you’re cruising through Punta Perula.
Next was our epic sail up the coast around Cabo Corrientes to La Cruz. It could have only been more perfect if it was blowing a southerly.
Once back in La Cruz, we had a few items on our list to check off before finally heading back North, into the Sea of Cortez: Go see the Lyme doctor, get braces put on Nina, stock up at Costco and surf. The Lyme disease doctor in PV is amazing!!!! If you know anyone with Lyme, send them to Puerto Vallarta! He supported Christian’s naturopathic treatment options, and will help with more medical treatment if and when we want to seek it. He spent over an hour discussing Christian’s lab results. Nina had her braces placed, painlessly in the sense of ease in getting X-rays and appointments, but not so painlessly for her. See her post about it here. We love how affordable dental care is in Mexico.

Of course we went surfing and a lot more this time around. Christian had more energy and we had to get as much in as possible before heading up into the Sea of Cortez, where there is no surf to be had. It’s been a huge relief to have Christian’s energy coming back.

The Shawnigan Plan update:

We originally “planned” to keep heading south this year, with hopes to make it as far as Ecuador. With Christian’s illnesses, we decided that sticking around Mexico was a safer plan. So instead of South, the new plan is sail back North and into the Sea of Cortez again, but this time going further north into Bahia de Los Angeles (Bay of LA) and then up to Puerto Peñasco (rocky point). Then, come fall, we’ll make our way south.backstay hand stands #shipshapethe SV Pickles kids! And Riki Tiki Tavi kids