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12. Apr, 2011

Baja Cruising aboard the Taks

Baja Cruising aboard the Taks

Been almost a month since the last blog post… we’re back! After crossing Mexico we joined maties Sara & Stof aboard their s/v Takalani in west coast town of Puerto Vallarta. Plans changed slightly and epic Galapagos crossing was changed to a more mellow crossing to Baja Peninsula where the last couple weeks have been spent exploring a small part of the beautiful Sea of Cortez.

Major change in scenery from the jungles of Guatemala to the ‘karoo by die see’ desert landscape of the Baja Mexico coast. This is the stereotypical mexico where you expect a pistol-wielding bandido to jump out from behind a cactus! Unfortunately we met no bandidos but instead were faced with a more terrifying sight of captain Stof in his ‘thread-bare’ mankini!

The deep clear blue Sea of Cortez ocean is really dramatic against the mountanous desert landscape. The barren landscape is in contrast to the amazing sealife below the surface. We encountered everything from flying manta rays, schools of dolphins to breaching whales and strange fish of the deep!

We found some great anchorages around Isla Sancti Spiritus and days were spent spearfishing, hiking, braaing and playing epic games of Scrabble and Black B**ch fueled by some delicous Mexican beer! Big muchos gracias go out to the Hillrats for a great time aboard the Taks. Follow their adventures across the pacific here…

And for dad… the Takalani is a great cruising boat, very solidly built. Crossing from Puerto Vallarta was long as we had to beat straight into the wind and ended up taking almost four days. From then on the winds were very variable with some days very light (managed to get the spinnaker up once) and couple of sails with decent stronger winds (one night sail we were flying at a good 7-8knots!) Our last day on the water was beautiful and we cruised along at a steady 4-5 knots into the town of La Paz, the finishing point of our sailing adventure!

23. Mar, 2011

Tikal Guatemala

Tikal Guatemala

Armed with way too much accumulated luggage (we had to buy another huge bag!), we have now headed off on the overland part of the trip to reach the Pacific coast. We are meeting friends Sara & Stof for part of their adventure aboard their vessel The Takalani – more to follow! Check out www.stofnsara.com

One of our main stops en route has been the amazing ruins of the Mayan City, Tikal. Its one of the biggest ancient Mayan cities, an eerily beautiful place in the middle of the jungle with ruins dating back to as far as 700BC.

Its right on the ‘gringo trail‘ of Central America so the crowds can get intense but we sneakily planned our visits for late afternoon, and then again early the following morning and surprisingly felt like we had the place almost to ourselves! The mosquitos might have partly explained why!

We managed a 4.30am start to catch the sunrise, climbing to the top of the highest temple which was really magical (even though there was no sunrise due to a cloudy horizon!). As it starts to get light the jungle becomes alive with sounds of animals, particularly the howler monkeys (which make a sound more like a lion roar!) with different troops answering each other across the tree tops. Other animals join in the raucous and as it becomes lighter you start to see the outline of these amazing temples emerging out of the jungle below. Felt like proper Indiana Joneses! (insert soundtrack here… da da dah!)

Next stop Mexico City en route to the HillRats!

05. Mar, 2011

Never a dull moment!

Never a dull moment!

We are currently in Belize and leave soon for our last hop over to Guatemala where we will head up the Rio Dulce river and where, with mixed feelings, we will bid farewell to Pako. As if in anticipation Pako has thrown us a few curved balls over the last couple weeks to keep us on our toes! There are four words we have used OFTEN on this trip at the end of the day (generally with a stiff drink in hand)…. ‘never a dull moment!’

Two recent ‘never a dull moments’ are worth a mention. The first was as we were weaving our way down the shallow waters of Belize, we were approaching a narrow cut between two islands which required us to turn on the engine to motor through. Unfortunately after a few splutters our engine died and refused to come back to life. Without an engine, and approaching a narrow shallow cut we were only left with one option as the winds were not in our favour to get through the main channel. We had to sail through a narrow gap on the opposite side with a charted depth of 0.5ft less than our 5.5ft draft!

Luckily the tides were in our favour but even so the depth gauge dropped to 5ft and the alarm was going mad as we skimmed our way through, leaving a muddy wake behind us… Next challenge was getting into a harbour with no engine but luckily we sailed to the harbour entrance and finally some friendly staff came to our rescue and offered us a tow in! Not a moment too soon as we were getting blown very close to some nasty rocks ashore.

Then about a week later with a repaired engine we ventured off to the beautiful Sapodilla Islands in the south of Belize. As we are approaching our anchorage we managed to hook a nice fish, but not surprisingly drama was to follow. As we pulled in the fish, in a last frantic attempt to save its life, it flapped madly and managed to get the large lure hook straight through my finger! We now had a flapping fish and my finger attached to the lure, and Nicky had to use her vice grip to pin the fish down to avoid my finger getting ripped open. We finally managed to remove the hook from the lure, but then with no pliers on board strong enough to cut the hook bard off we were forced to sail another hour to a nearby island (with a small settlement) with the hook still firmly embedded through my finger.

After some desperate radioing by Nicky we were met by one of the locals as we anchored and they whisked me to land on their boat for ‘surgery’. The operating theatre was a chair under a coconut tree and the procedure involved some solid bolt cutters and lots of sympathetic bystanders! Never felt such relief in my life!

I was then given a lift back to the boat where Nicky was still heroically battling to lay a second anchor on her own as we were dragging anchor and getting dangerously close to a shallow reef. It was hard not to burst out laughing at this stage as Nicky was frantically paddling little Pakotini with anchor in tow, trying to reach Pako. Aah man… never a dull moment for true!

22. Feb, 2011

The day we went hungry!

The day we went hungry!

We had some good luck with fishing in Cuba. Unfortunately there are also a lot of Barracuda which are not great eating and can be poisonous. On this occasion we pulled in half a barracuda, and it soon became apparent why with its BIIIG bro following the line determined to finish the poor fella off. Was really surprised to see a Barracuda eating another! Definitely made us a little more nervous when we spotted Barracuda snorkeling… they have some serious fangs!

18. Feb, 2011

Cruising Cuba Video

Cruising Cuba Video

We put a couple clips together of some highlights of our 2 months cruising the Cuban coastline. Check it out below

13. Feb, 2011

Caption Competition

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Nicky and her Cuban amigo! Who’s brave enough to come up with a caption for this pic?! Prizes galore!

08. Feb, 2011

Havana Cuba

Havana Cuba

A couple pics from our time in Havana Cuba, awesome city! Man, i love these cars! The city is definitely the cultural heart of the country and we had a great few days exploring its streets, listening to live music and even going to the ballet!

30. Jan, 2011

Floating Bushes

Floating Bushes

The last couple of weeks have been spent with some fantastic new crew on board, the Bush seniors! The journey started in little colonial town of Trinidad with a good day sail to Cienfuegos to test the new crews sea legs. All went swimmingly with a steady offshore breeze and flat seas, but the real test for everyone on board was yet to come!

After a couple days in Cienfuegos, at a dirty marina with filthy toilets (and some equally dirrrty city taxi drivers), there was a general consensus that it was time to hit the open seas and head for the offshore islands of Cay Largo, a 12hr night sail away. All started off well with some delish SA wine (the first we’ve had in months!) toasted as the sun set on our voyage out of the Cienfuegos bay, with a good breeze to get us on our way.

Unfortunately before long, as we headed further offshore, the sea became very confused and we started an uncomfortable roll for most of the night. In a series of ‘rail grabs’ followed by associated retching the Bushes began to fall, seniors and junior alike. The only Bush left standing was the liddlest of them all, yup, the master marinero Liddle Bush herself was left to take care of the giddy crew!

It was a sunrise like no other as we tucked into calm waters in the lee of Cayo Largo. The days that followed were however bliss, and well worth the ‘runway model dieting technique’ we tried on the way over. The days were spent exploring the surrounding islands, snorkeling, drinking more fine SA wine, feasting on some excellent boat meals and enjoying great company!

11. Jan, 2011

SPECIAL: Norwegian Guest Writer!

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So, if you thought African time was bad, Cuban time is even worse. And our two South African adventurers have truly adapted to the local environment and rocked up one week late in Trinidad. After weeks of communication with Cubans I was told upon arrival in Havana that it is not legal to transfer people at sea so my dream of sailing in Cuba has to remain a dream, for now. Havana was a cool spot, but getting out of Havana and exploring the Vinales wally was amazing. It’s know as a great climbing spot, but I explored it by foot and horse together with other travelers that I met waiting for the bus or going home from salsa class. Then I took a taxi together with five Polish tourist to Trinidad. The female taxi driver didn’t leave my legs much space, but as punishment she got a speeding fine. I booked a hiking trip in Trinidad and got a horse back ride…Great adventure to a beautiful waterfall, but my body didn’t quite manage to find the right riding technique to avoid a very stiff back and buttox. Then finally out South African adventurers arrived at the harbor and we met up at a humongous, tacky hotel at the beach. Great to see Nicky and Adrian again!

Got invited to stay at Pako and got served amazing lobster and whatever was left of the dry food in the boat with a good bottle of white wine. They are great hosts, so if you just manage to meet up with them I really recommend making an effort! Sadly we only got two days together before I had to leave for Norway, skiing and no sun. But hopefully I have managed to talk them into coming to Norway for their next adventure.
Thank you for amazing days in Cuba! Jannike

10. Jan, 2011

Lost in Jardine del la Reina

Lost in Jardine del la Reina

Feliz Navidad & happeee new year! The blog has been a challenge the last couple weeks as we have been in the remote offshore islands off the Cuban south coast, called Jardine del la Reina (Garden of the Queens). The descriptive name of the islands definitely relates more to the underwater gardens than the topside, as they are largely mangrove islands with a couple deserted beaches. Very beautiful and remote, and amazing diving and fishing… yup, we are still managing to catch fish, the luck continues and we have been eating nothing but fish and lobster for the last couple weeks (with the odd tinned food meal thrown in for variation)!

Our first impressions of the islands was not the finest though. After a two day sail from Santiago de Cuba we had to tuck into a small mangrove cay which is used as a local fishing station and weathered a strong ‘norther’ wind for two days in a terrible narrow anchorage. Woke up in the wee hours of the worst weather day to notice our anchor had dragged and we were very close to running around! The only saving grace was the two lonely fishermen posted to this outpost who showered us with lobster and fresh fish daily, expecting nothing in return but a little company!

The islands got progressively better as we worked our way north (Cayo Cuevo, Cinco Bales etc.) with highlights definitely being the amazing snorkeling, diving & fishing. We lucked into doing an amazing scuba dive with a diving charter that happened to be in the area (one of the only boats we saw in 2 weeks) that ended with about 20+ silky sharks (some very large!) circling us as we surfaced from the dive. We tried to play it cool but unfortunately Nicky got a badly-timed flipper cramp on the way up and was making like a flailing fish… so we beat a hasty retreat to the safety of the boat!

After running out of fresh water and rations we are now back in ‘civilisation’ in a beautiful old colonial town called Trinidad, meeting the folks who have come out for a visit. Tonight we are spending our first night in over 2 months on land at a local ‘casa particular’ (B&B) in a bed that does not rock, feasting on anything that we do not have to kill, gut and cook and taking a much-needed long HOT shower! Aaah, the small pleasures… such softies!