About Us

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We work as ecotourism guides (as well as biologist and boat captain) often on the BC Coast, but also as far ranging as the Arctic and Antarctic. We have an insatiable curiousity for the planet; all its hidden gems and what makes them tick. That and our love of sailing is what inspired us to sail around the Pacific in Narama, our tough and pretty little sailboat.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Festive Season in the Islands

View from the top of Isla San Francisco
Each morning we listen to the weather on the Ham Radio nets. We hear about low pressure hitting the BC coast back home, bringing cold and wet weather, while we have enough warmth here for snorkeling and hiking in shorts.
On Christmas Eve we anchored at Isla San Francisco and shared a sunset drink on the beach along with the crews of nine other boats also anchored in the bay. Then on the day “Sarah Jean II” hosted us for a holiday feast that couldn’t be beat: lobster, prawns (steak for Stephen) and lots of fun stories around the table.
Whether in a warm or cold climate, we hope everyone had a joyous, festive season this year!

Christmas Cruising Crowd Isla San Francisco

Full Lunar Winter Solstice Eclipse

View at 28 minutes after midnight

We spent most of the night of the solstice on the beach at Amortajada, on Isla San Jose. With hot rum in hand we were able to witness the moon gather a shadow and the stars multiply as the night grew darker. We went ashore to try and take photos of the event and we were glad that we did despite small biting insects! We had a short nap while the moon was completely dark and once we were satisfied that it was coming back, we made our way back to Narama. We watched the final stages of uncovering thru the hatch above our heads while we lay snuggled in our bunk onboard. The last time we watched a lunar eclipse was seven years ago – also from an island in Baja. Perhaps it’s prophetic that the celestial bodies have aligned again while we are here?

Eclipse Seen from Amortajada

Thursday, December 16, 2010

South to Puerto Escondido

Narama flies her Spinnaker!
“I guess we should take the pole down before we catch a fish.” We had been running down wind with our jib poled out on our first day out of Santa Rosalia. The pole had barely touched the deck as we were about to round up behind Punto Chivato when we looked behind us and had a nice dinner-sized Yellowtail on the line. Oh its nice to be at sea again! We’ve had a lovely week or so making our way south in the Sea of Cortez. We hope that everyone has a wonderful Solstice and Christmas and a Happy New Year!
From the logbook:
Dec 10: “Sailed off the anchor with the mainsail. Then rigged and set the spinnaker for the first time in who knows how long. A light 10 knot NE breeze made for an easy sail south to Punto Mangles.”
From the Sketchbook:

Pair of Red-billed Tropicbirds.  We heard them calling before we saw them fly over-head.  NE San Marcos Island.

Santa Rosalia

Place names from our time in the Northern Sea of Cortez

Great Egret on the dock

On arrival in Santa Rosalia we were greeted at the marina by the statement that “the asylum is run by the inmates”. If they are crazy we didn’t see it, maybe we fit in there too, but what a great bunch of people. We are all eccentric in our own ways. Our two night planned stay turned into two weeks when we found out it was not too complicated or expensive to get your chain galvanized up in Mexicali. That’s a days bus ride away and I pondered where else you could send a wooden crate of chain weighing 105 kg on a bus! The transport cost was over twice the galvanizing, but we opted for speed (oh right we forgot we were in Mexico). We did get it back and a nice job was done. Our timing was impeccable as we arrived very salty the day water returned to the town after a 3 day drought, we enjoyed a wonderful thanksgiving meal at one of the “inmates” houses and sat out a few day 40+kn Northerly at anchor in the protection of the harbour without mishap. The bakery in town served as a pleasant distraction to the usual tortillas and we found more stove fuel for which we had run out and had reverted to the camping stove in the cockpit. Projects like covers for the kayak and jerry cans, sail maintenance, water pump bearing changes, varnishing and research for our puddle jump filled the rest of the two weeks rapidly. In town the old mining relics, museum, the church designed by Eiffel and brought out from Europe and of course the hot dog stand(maxed out at 3 with all the toppings) filled the local culture aspect of our visit. We were glad to spend the time there get to know everyone even a little bit, but also nice to be back on the road sailing out into the boisterous NWesterlies again.
Marina and Mining Relics in Santa Rosalia

Friday, November 26, 2010

Pilot Whale Vocals

In the deep waters around the San Lorenzo group in the Northern Gulf of California we have had a couple of fascinating encounters with pilot whales. Some of them swimming upside down checking out Narama's bottom and others vocalising.  The clip attached has the vocals of a group slowly travelling, the second sound bite is a different occasion when two groups met with far more excited calls.  The pictures are a mix of Pilot whales, Long-beaked common dolphin, Bottlenose dolphin, Whale Shark, Sperm whale and Bryde's whale.

For better picture quality use this link : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qyiFt50DFMQ

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Water Works

Baja is dry! In fact in 7 months we've only seen a few drops of rain! We ponder how the austere looking big horn sheep copes and have marvelled at the myriad of cactii that thrive here. But what about us? As we don't have a water maker, we liken the boat to a camel, some friends term it "camping", we call it home. On the longer 2- 3 week jumps away from the supply of liquid gold, we have to be careful. Especially when there is more than two of us aboard, but we can live quite happily on 50L/person/week. So what do you get for that? ...... you get: a daily fresh water rinse under the solar shower; to do dishes in a bucket of salt water (mexican dish soap handles this well) and rinse with some fresh; exercise from using the hand pump as we don't have a pressurized system (that can be vulnerable to leaks and requires electricity); as much drinking and cooking water as you need and finally to wash clothes in salt water with a little rinse in fresh, but then, we aren't wearing to many layers these days and most washing waits till we are closer to a supply. For sea passages we cut the showers to a sponge down and cook with a little more seawater. This then lasts about 5 weeks for the two of us at 5L/person/day. Keep in mind the head (toilet) uses salt water and we get to swim at least once a day when anchoring.

Where do we get water? In La Paz the highly chlorinated water available at the marina must have cleaned us and our tanks nicely, in San Everisto there was a desalination plant for the village where we had our jerry cans fillled, in Puerto Escondido they had sweet spring water from the mountain range that rises abruptly behind it, and then on three occasions we have been genourously given a jerry can or two from cruisers with watermakers that enabled us to stay out a few extra days. All small towns will have a purifacador, "the local government subsidised watering hole" who will fill your jerry cans with reverse osmosis treated water and whose facilities are always spotless. 10 – 15 pesos gets you 20L. (about $1CAD). Or as in Guaymas and San Felipe, you call a water truck and lug the 20L containers up and down the dock to fill 300 odd L if we are empty.

So thats how water works here, we do enjoy the odd day at a marina to rinse the layers of salt that accumulates after spray dries and sticks over the weeks of sailing. Recently we arrived in Santa Rosalia on the day the water came back after a 3 day drought for the entire city.... apparantly due to internal politics, the city had not paid the water bill.....where did the money go is the question...??
So next time you turn on that tap..... be thankful :).

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Angel de la Guardia

From the logbook

10 Nov: “We anchored in the little cove on the north side of Puerto Refugio. The water was so clear that we could watch the anchor hit the sandy bottom. Fresh caught dorado for lunch – what a treat after an overnight passage!”

12 Nov: “Oh how it blew through the night. We were glad that we took the time to rig the stern anchor and shoreline yesterday (over two hours!) It meant that we had a much more comfortable night, although we were both up to check and adjust lines during the night.

From the Sketchbook

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Turning South… sans Vaquita

Vaquita Statue on San Felipe's Malecon
We spent two weeks anchored inside the breakwater of San Felipe. A lot of that time was spent wandering the beautiful beach at low tide (looking at shorebirds of course) and ticking little projects off the perpetual “to do” list on Narama. But our main goal was to try and sight Vaquita marina (“little sea cow” in Spanish; Phocoena sinus is its scientific name). This tiny cetacean has the dubious distinction of being the world’s most endangered marine mammal and it only lives here in the very far north of the Sea of Cortez.

To learn more about Vaquita follow these two links:



We weren’t very optimistic about glimpsing it due to these dwindling numbers (current estimate is 250 animals left) and it’s incredibly shy behaviour (most sightings are from the deck of a ship using 20x binoculars), but the weather certainly didn’t help either. We really only had 2 and a half days of good conditions for sighting. How much time should we spend without another decent anchorage for over 100 miles? When the next northerly was forecast we took it and ran south. Our only sighting was the bronze statue on the San Felipe malecon.

This was a significant decision as we won’t likely head north again until we arrive in Australia, which is another year at least. The Sea of Cortez has been a beautiful, year-long detour on our voyage, one that we don’t regret. It will still take us a few months on our southern course to leave the sea, but as the latitude in our logbook slowly dwindles towards the equator we get more excited about sailing on to new places. We wish the Vaquita well, it’s going to need some luck to survive.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Guaymas to San Felipe

East Bay, Isla Coronado

We spent a few days anchored in front of Guaymas so we could finish re-rigging and bring on stores for a few weeks of cruising. We were then joined by dear friend Marie and headed out to an anchorage outside of the harbor for our first refreshing swim. Delightful! Arranging for someone to join us so soon after we returned to Narama ourselves was perfect. It meant that we had to get things ready fast, no time to fool around in a dusty boat yard for long.

Marie has been a great sailing companion. She agrees with our philosophy of heading off in any direction in order to fulfill our curiosity, especially when it comes to wildlife. We’ve had fun snorkeling and trying to ID every fish, birding and whale watching. We managed to show off by catching a dorado on the first day of sailing north from Guaymas, then a Jurel or Yellowtail as we approached the north end of Angel de la Gardia last week. We’ve had a few fabulous days of whale watching in the deeper waters: vocalizing Pilot Whales, spy-hopping Sperm Whales and lot’s of bow riding dolphins.  

 Sailing across the sea last week towards San Fransisquito was vigorous, with about 15 knots on a close reach. It was the first time that we’ve had someone else onboard during an overnight passage. It meant that one of us had to sleep on the floor as the forepeak isn’t conducive to sleep in those conditions! We had a few days of gunkholing in Bay of LA where we swam with Whale Sharks and found thousands of Humbolt Squid washed up on beaches and mangroves of a small island. We arrived in the small harbor of San Felipe yesterday morning in some of the worst seas that we’ve had in the Sea of Cortez. The sea is very shallow up here and so with 25+ knots the seas were breaking on us occasionally. We had set out from Gonzaga Bay the morning before, motoring in flat calm seas. Flat calm is what we wanted as we were heading north towards the Vaquita Refuge. During the night we had a light breeze for hours to sail along at about 2 knots, then it built to make any chance of finding one of these small, shy porpoises impossible. So here we sit waiting for calm conditions to return so we can continue our search.

Washed up Humbolt Squid

Guaymas to San Felipe Species List

Turkey Vulture
Peregrine Falcon
Yellow-footed Gull
Heerman’s Gull
Laughing Gull
Western Gull
Elegant Tern
Common Tern
Double-crested Cormorant
Brown Booby
Blue-footed Booby
Brown Pelican
Magnificent Frigatebird
Red-billed Tropicbird
Black Storm-Petrel
Black-vented Shearwater
Great Blue Hero
Black-crowned Night Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Brewer’s Blackbird
Wilson’s Plover
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Western Scrub-Jay
Gila Woodpecker
Northern Mockingbird
Great Horned Owl
Northern Flicker (yellow shafted)
Long-beaked Common Dolphins
Fox (Kit?)
Bottlenose Dolphins
Short-finned Pilot Whales
Sperm Whale
Sooty Shearwater
Belted Kingfisher
Black Phoebe
Say’s Phoebe
Vesper Sparrow
Common Raven
Northern Shoveller
Reddish Egret
Wilson’s Warbler
Red-necked Phalarope
Sabine’s Gull
American White Pelican
Brydes’ Whale (probable)
Eared Grebe
Common Loon
House Sparrow
Mourning Dove
Long-billed Curlew
Parasitic Jeager
Western Grebe
Violet-green swallow

Spy-hopping Sperm Whale

Magnificent Frigatebird

Bottlenose Dolphins

Brown Pelican

Yellow-footed Gulls

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Summer Heat

 What did we learn from leaving a boat baking in 40̊ plus temperatures?  In short - it gets hot; “dammed hot”, hot enough to fry a 12V battery by drying it out (we left one solar panel on each battery which was too much even though I overfilled them); to turn sun drenched plastics brown even though they were stored inside; to crack melamine and wood due to expansion contraction differences(we left 3 large buckets of bleached water  in the boat and they were all dry); to fade uncovered teak remarkably compared to covered teak and rubber bands to disintegrate. While living aboard in the yard the 35 plus temperatures inside the boat in the evenings as the heat radiated upward from the hull was a little “uncomfortable”.  The weevils however seemed to thrive on the heat munching through our bulk chick peas and pinto beans. We had eaten most of the rest of the food and left no tins aboard.  Otherwise the boat was as we left her, just with a few extra layers of dust.  The water pressure in the yard being non existent, we left the big clean up until our one day in a marina and used some of the precious town water to give her a proper rinsing.  The dusty yard and helpful crew at Marina Seca Guaymas were great and we’d go back.  The water truck comes around regularly as do other bootlegging services.  It was a 5 peso ride into town on a regular collectivo (the local public transport) and a good variety of supplies and services at hand except alcohol for our stove……we might be breaking out the camping stove shortly. The only warnings for the marina are depth. We draw 6’8” and touched on a 0.6m tide and 0.9m tide on the way out so we now sport some nice scratches in the new antifoul.  You may want to ask or find some carpet or plastic to protect the hull from the slings, they have not quite got that figured out yet. So we also have a few topside scratches which they did offer to polish.  Otherwise it is a place to easily come and go from with some liveaboards who can take the summer heat

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Summer Refilling Cruising Kitty

Where to begin…  back in Canada the economic times showed and with a fully planned season before we left Narama, we landed with no confirmed work having used frequent flyer points to return.  We were very fortunate however, and have chased our tail far and wide to fill a most extraordinary summer.  Some wonderful friends on a farm in Saanich helped us kick the summer off and we returned the favour by helping out with the animals and planting a garden while Val recovered from shoulder surgery.  A contract for Stephen on Maple Leaf running a few trips to Alaska and back materialized, while Heidi completed a solo hike on Northern Vancouver Island for the Breeding Bird Atlas.  A week of family wedding celebrations cut the summer in half, but that was in Australia.  Back on Achiever we went searching for fin whales and eel grass on two separate research contracts both centered on the proposed tanker traffic route into the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest. A couple of guest charters through that area produced some wonderful animal encounters (a cougar and very friendly humpback).   A few days with family in Northern Ontario as fall colours started was a welcome break before Stephen headed for Newfoundland to do a circumnavigation trip with Adventure Canada, while Heidi headed back to the farm to milk goats and collect benthic samples (pulling up grabs of mud from the bottom of the sea).  Well that’s a quick update and we will write soon about what we have learned about leaving a boat baking in the Mexican sun. We have been extremely fortunate over summer and wish all the best for the newly wed and newly bred that are close to us.

Photos: Grizzly on the shores of SE Alaska; Stephen sailing onboard Maple Leaf; Acheiver; Heidi getting close to a Humpback whale; Pumpkin harvest on the farm; Heidi mothering fresh ducklings

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Reflections of Mexico

A short photo essay of our final few weeks in Mexico as we played and worked on the boat before putting her to bed in 35 degree heat.  Whilst Narama basks in this, we have returned to Canada to hopefully rejuvenate the cruising kitty.