Milou is for sale!

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At anchor up the Rio Chagres, Panama

Read all about it on our sale page, here.

Espiritu Santo

Well, this is the kind of cruising we like. Empty anchorages, clear waters, stunning beauty. Nothing to spend money on. Excellent hiking, decent snorkeling. Less than 10 miles between anchorages. A couple of like-minded kid boats for company. Shazam.DSC_0314DSC_0322

We spent a little over a week cruising along the islands of Espiritu Santo and Parida, protected natural areas just north of La Paz. DSC_0382DSC_0336

Frigate bird rookery on an old pearl farm

Frigate bird rookery on an old pearl farm

This flock of diving birds was hanging out near us for a while, appearing and disappearing…

No snorkel needed

No snorkel needed

The navy leaving our neighbor's boat

The navy leaving our neighbor’s boat

For the first time, we were boarded by officials—the Mexican navy, doing double duty as park wardens. They were perfectly polite and relaxed, and we were glad we’d paid for our park passes in advance; $100 affords our family unlimited access to the islands of the Gulf of California for one year, and seems like a fair price to protect these natural beauties.

Swimming-pool quality

Swimming-pool quality

DSC_0374DSC_0326Early on, we ran into the folks on Flocerfida, with two kids; the next day, our good friends on Nomi pulled in from Mazatlan. We’re having flashbacks to those golden days in the Bahamas, where the kids rushed through school to spend the afternoons splashing around, with potluck dinners adding up to more than the sum of their parts. Our swim platform and spacious cockpit makes our boat the best one for afternoon hanging out—for the first time, we’re the party boat! Although evening dinners are better spent on Flo.

Ready.....

Ready…..

.....jump!

…..jump!

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Buddy boats in the bay

Buddy boats in the bay

Traveling among these islands is like exploring the canyons of the American southwest…except we have our whole house with us, and we’ve added an ocean. It’s fantastic to look up at the steep cliffs at night, stars glowing above them, while the moonlight shines all the way down through the clear water to light up the ocean floor.DSC_0403DSC_0407DSCF3904

DSC_0421Mainland Mexico has plenty of charm, but this is what we like.DSC_0319

Hanging out in La Paz

Our friends rented a great little house in La Paz, just up the hill from Marina Palmira, so we settled into a slip for the week and enjoyed familiar faces and land life for a bit.DSC_0347

DSC_0334La Paz is the main cruiser hub for southern Baja; lots of marinas and anchorage choices, easy provisioning, tons of good restaurants. We plan to use it as a base for the next few months–heading up the Sea for a few weeks at a time, then returning to provision, meet friends, or just take a break.

It was fantastic to hang out with another family, uninterrupted, for a full week again. Our kids span a four-year spectrum–10, 11, 12, 13–and got along famously.

Playing D&D. Nerds.

Playing D&D. Nerds.

We're soooooo tired! We need to sit doooooown! We need to take a break at this paaaaaark! Oh, and let's tear around and try these weird running things...

We’re soooooo tired! We need to sit doooooown! We need to take a break at this paaaaaark! Oh, and let’s tear around and try these weird running things…

Forcing in the culture

Forcing in the culture

Kids' table. Whenever possible.

Kids’ table. Whenever possible.

Also exciting: then new toilet pump they schlepped with them. Ours had been leaking, and getting progressively harder to flush; we’d also been having a terrible problem with occasional backwash from the holding tank…the less said, the better. With most boat toilets, the answer is generally: joker valve (probably because it’s fun to say). Instead of reconstructing the whole disgusting assembly, we just replaced the lot. All our problems are solved, and the head is a pleasant place to hang out again.

Also on the docket: piñata selection for a certain birthday.

Also on the docket: piñata selection for a certain birthday.

We almost went with the Trump one....

We almost went with the Trump one….

...but ended up with this pretty little one instead. Plus whacking stick.

…but ended up with this pretty little one instead. Plus whacking stick.

And then, of course, you need the candy to fill it.

And then, of course, you need the candy to fill it.

Fish taco situation at Tacos el Estadio

Fish taco situation at Tacos el Estadio

Every now and then, we are newly amazed at our circumstances. Hanging out with our friends last week was one of those times. We’ve been so lucky to spend time with people we love in unusual places over the past two years…we can’t imagine an alternate universe where we’d still be able to go out to dinner with A. and J. in Mexico–Mexico! Just, you know, exploring beaches and eating tacos. For sure, we’d do some traveling with them in, you know, a state park in Wisconsin, or maybe meet up for some camping in Minnesota; but planning a trip abroad wouldn’t have made it into the cards. We are so lucky to be able to share this life with friends and family.DSC_0375

I know, you guys from California are not interested in sea lions, but...these are the first pinnipeds we've seen on our whole trip!

I know, you guys from California are not interested in sea lions, but…these are the first pinnipeds we’ve seen on our whole trip!

J. uses what he's learned from the sea lions

J. uses what he’s learned from the sea lions

 

North from Los Frailes

Desert views in Los Muertos

Desert views in Los Muertos

Honestly, we feel giddy to be traveling in clear waters again. When we think about the arc of our journey, the Bahamas and Guna Yala stand out for being the kind of cruising we’ve grown to especially love–beautiful blues, perfect for jumping in and taking a look around. We’ve found that again in the Sea.DSCF3680

Our girl, anchored in Balandra

Our girl, anchored in Balandra

Michu wades back to the dinghy

Michu wades back to the dinghy

There are certain differences. First off, the food in Mexico is WAAAAAAY better. On the other hand: so far, the water has been pretty cold. Our wetsuits are going to be getting a workout. We’re also not quite away from the crowds at the moment, and haven’t seen the abundance of sea life that we’re used to…although that might be influenced by our reluctance to hang out in the cold water. The entire Sea is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, due to its variety of ocean life, and Jacques Cousteau called it “The aquarium of the world”; we’re just not exactly in the right spot yet.DSCF3687

The famous mushroom rock--"El Hongo." It was knocked over by vandals a couple of years ago, but it's such an icon that it was rebuilt with rebar and concrete.

The famous mushroom rock–“El Hongo.” It was knocked over by vandals a couple of years ago, but it’s such an icon that it was rebuilt with rebar and concrete.

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After our visitors leave La Paz, we’ll be heading deeper into the Sea, ditching the crowds (and convenient internet access–sorry, blog readers!). We don’t expect to be alone–plenty of cruising boats tooling around the area at the moment, the best kind of company; and we’re hoping to meet back up with some kid boats as well.DSCF3670

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So far, the Sea of Cortez does not disappoint.

Time-honored cruiser tradition: spying on the neighbors.

Time-honored cruiser tradition: spying on the neighbors.

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Be astonished

Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention
Be astonished
Tell about it
–Mary Oliver

DSC_0379DSC_0384We have seen such radical changes in geography in this trip, from the rocky, forested islands of the North Channel of Lake Huron; to the pastoral hills of Upstate New York; to the marshes of the Carolina lowlands. We’ve hacked through tropical jungle rainforest, and hiked in the cool mountain air of Guatemala. We’ve seen desert, a bit, in the Bahamas and southern Mexico; but now, we’re in what most Americans think of when they say desert: cactus, scrub, rocks and sand; clear air and clear skies; tiny desert flowers of shocking intensity; wind that pulls the moisture right out from your skin. I have almost no experience with this kind of climate, and the new sights are like a balm.DSC_0424

DSC_0388DSC_0414Michu finally recovered enough for a shore excursion, before we had to push on towards La Paz. DSC_0360

DSC_0423Remember in Lake Michigan, when I was considering an all-lighthouse blog? Changing to all-cactus.

I remember holding Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire in my hands when I was sorting books, and thinking, nah—no room for this. I may have even left it in a Little Free Library. Why, Me of the Past? How did you not anticipate this landscape? DSC_0408

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Blue-tailed gecko

Blue-tailed gecko

We are only a few days in to this area, and I can’t stop being thrilled with the change. I remember the crossing from Jamaica to Panama, and how the densely forested hills and howler monkeys around Portobelo were so incredibly different from everything else we’d seen. It takes time for the brain to acclimate, to accept new surrounding, and until things have become a bit dull by familiarity, I’m reveling in this arid place. Even the light around the inside of the boat has a new quality…despite staring very closely at these walls for a the past two years, they seem changed, glowing.DSC_0430

We are ready to explore.DSC_0443

“One final paragraph of advice: […] It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here.

So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space.

Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.”

~ Edward Abbey