notes from the boat
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Dudmans do Baja - 15th September 04
On September 15th we headed back to Puerto Escondido for the exciting and long-awaited arrival of Catherine and Tony who unfortunately had timed their arrival to coincide perfectly with the arrival of hurricane Javier. This hurricane was the one to watch out for as it was predicted to head closer to the Sea of Cortez than any of the others so far this season. We were on radio alert monitoring the weather every twelve hours as Javier moved closer and closer. Between Catherine's severely blistered feet resulting from her 26.2 mile (marathon distance) walk for breast cancer, Carl's bruises from the car accident and the imminent arrival of hurricane Javier, it seemed like a few days rest might well be in order.

As we've mentioned previously listening to the radio for the weather report takes place each morning and evening. The Mexican government had issued a hurricane warning, all the boats were heading for hurricane shelter and we decided to stay put in Escondido for a couple of days until we knew what was going to happen. Just as well we did as the next night we encountered one of the now familiar chubascos. Lots of rain, 40 knots of wind and welcome to the Sea of Cortez as we all sat in the cockpit drinking hot chocolate, rain pouring down on us reflecting on how much like Scotland it was.

Days pass slowly when waiting for weather. We lay around eating, drinking and sleeping. Hot, we'd swim from the boat, swim back to the boat, swim around the boat. Winston and Carl learned how to fetch sticks thrown from the dinghy. Tony and Carl went fishing, we all waited for news of Javier, and Carl and Tony went fishing again. The fish weren't biting and so we had to resort to eating Chicago pizza from Loreto. It wasn't bad. Carl made margaritas, Tony made margaritas. We all slept. After a pint or two of margaritas, Cocktail Cove seemed like a good idea so we fired up the dinghy and arrived late and loud. Perhaps something we said however as people started leaving not long after we arrived.

The good news came, Javier had been downgraded to a tropical storm and we celebrated with another trip to Loreto, McLulu's tacos all round. Tony had tried a few different tacos, carne asada, chile con carne, shrimp and more, all excellent. One bowl stood untried and when asking what it was we were informed it was Chicharrones. Perhaps the closest description is deep fried pork rind. Lulu, a large Mexican woman, then thought for a moment and decided that no, in fact it wasn't Chicharrones but didn't choose to enlighten us further. Apparently that was enough information for Tony who ordered one immediately. Take a nice crispy pork rind, add sauce and what was crispy rind becomes not-so-crispy fat. To top it off, sometimes the odd pig bristle gets left behind which Catherine, while accepting a bite, discovered so it was a hairy, fat taco Tony very slowly, almost reluctantly it seemed, enjoyed!

The remnants of the hurricane finally arrived and we enjoyed a sleepless night with swirling winds. Nothing close to a hurricane itself, but enough to make us realize that we didn't want to see the real thing.

We finally had the all clear from Radio Don and with great excitement, we headed south from Escondido. We stopped off at Honeymoon Cove on Isla Danzante for breakfast, snorkelling and bottom cleaning. This of course, refers to the cleaning of the hull (as opposed to the after-effects of the hairy, fat taco), a tedious task selflessly, generously and brilliantly undertaken by Carl and Tony as there are barnacles, sea lice and of course, the inevitable stinging jellyfish and others are reluctant to do the job. Leaving Danzante we headed off to Agua Verde, actually managing to sail for a few minutes despite the unpredictable winds. Catherine and Tony have joined us on Indigo Moth in Marina del Rey and spent several days with us in Ensenada without the boat actually moving so we felt we should prove we could sail the boat. While not the best sailing, at least we moved.

As the name suggests, Agua Verde (Green Water) is a particularly nice bay where we'd previously enjoyed the goat feed. The fish are plentiful and the snorkelling excellent. On the way to Agua Verde while the fish were being unusually shy (now named the Dudman Curse), we did see many mantas rays jumping and somersaulting out of the water, something it seems impossible to tire of.

Two Sierra (Spanish mackerel), one Dorado, one Rooster Fish, a Triggerfish that slipped away and several Yellowtail later and the Dudman Curse was lifted. More fish than we thought we could eat (but it's amazing what you can do when you try), Sierra for lunch and then an evening barbeque on the beach featuring Tony's 2 feet, 4 inch Dorado (now that's a fish) with rice and corn. Tony built a fantastic fire pit, Catherine marinated the Dorado and grilled it to perfection over the embers, a glass of wine and an evening to remember. We'd moved the boat earlier to a more protected area as the swell had picked up and so we had a long, slightly wet dinghy ride across the bay with amazing phosphorescence to light our way. Literally, a brilliant end to the evening!

It was during the successful fishing expeditions in Agua Verde that Carl became known as The Butcher of Baja. Having tried several methods of killing fish quickly and efficiently, the day Carl bludgeoned a roosterfish almost to death with Winston?s stick (having forgotten any other tools,) he rightfully earned this title. We delicately turned our heads away as the stick was wielded, Winston averted his eyes and winced, the roosterfish gasped its last breath or five, the dinghy anchor replaced the stick, thud, gasp, gasp, the bottom of the dinghy (now renamed the Abattoir) awash with blood, gasp, thud, gasp. The Butcher's job complete... final gasp... gasp... absolutely final gasp. Silence from all involved.

Tony and Catherine had generously arrived with an enormous (2.5 cubic feet) block of peat moss for our friends on Ventana (the ones with the composting toilet.) We decided we should let them know their troubles were over as we checked into the Amigo Net one night. Carl had been perfecting Margarita Madness and decided to add crew member, Peat Moss to the list. Chris and Julie on Ventana were relieved and we arranged that Peat would travel north to meet up with them on board "Pelican" with John. John very kindly understood that Peat would not be pulling his weight as a crew member and would spend most of his time reclining on a spare bunk! Too much tequila, perhaps?

Too soon it was time to head back towards to Puerto Escondido despite the obvious temptations to stay. On the way back conditions were as we expected them to be in the Sea of Cortez, wind on the nose all the way but it was heading back to the Hidden Harbour (as Escondido appropriately means) that it was strike after strike on the fishing rods. Tony landed two large Skipjacks, one after the other. Skippys are the fish we've come to hate as they are completely inedible and strike more than anything else. They put up a fantastic fight though and have to be landed in order to get them off the lines, hopefully retrieve the lures, then back they go. Strike three and Catherine decided that this one was hers and a big one it was too. Not wanting to disturb the Dudman marital peace, it may have been slightly bigger than Tony's but of course, it's not the size that counts! We thought that was a successful ending to the Dudmans doing Baja. We decided to spend our last night together in Escondido where we could buy beer, ice and tequila (all the essentials having run out). Tony decided to let the lobster off the hook (not quite literally as he didn't get the hook anywhere near it) and we were all ready for a good night's sleep.

The next morning Tony inspected the brakes to the truck and discovered that brake pads were no longer in evidence. Facing the prospect of an eighteen hour drive to LA, Catherine and Tony decided that brake pads were necessary and so a trip to the local mechanic was in order. We'd caught Reuben on a good day apparently, not hung over and quite jovial. We asked if we could return in a couple of hours and he nodded, si, si, return in two hours, or three if we wanted to. We left the truck, not entirely sure the repair would take place but liking Reuben's approach, we could return in two hours if we felt like it and hopefully the repair would be complete.

We took the opportunity to fill up the gas and diesel tanks and heading to the grocery store we ran into John and Barbara from Songline. They had been north in the Sea of Cortez for weeks and had lots of exciting adventures to tell. Two or three hours later the brake pads installed, food and fuel bought and it was getting late in the day. Catherine and Tony decided to stay just one more night and a good one it was too as John and Barbara joined us for dinner and the margarita recipe was perfected a little more. 5am the next morning, the Dudmans were up, packed and off. We waved goodbye and hoped they made it back safely. It had been fantastic. Catherine and Tony had mastered all the challenging idiosyncrasies of boat life, shutting the fridge door very quickly so the beer stays cold, using the toilet only when absolutely necessary, turning off anything consuming power as we?re solar powered, using a teaspoon of fresh water to shower and so on.

Catherine's email upon returning follows:

Trip home was exhausting. Got pulled over for speeding, luckily we didn't get a ticket or give up any cash. Then we nearly rear ended someone, and my right foot smashed the windshield!

On top of that, we got food poisoning from East Wind on Sunday night, so we were both fighting for the bathroom from about 10 pm Sunday night till 9 am on Monday.

So all in all, the perfect trip!

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