Friday, March 28, 2008


Tidepools, Easy Knitting, & Moving on

Low tide + nature enthusiast son Ryan + a beautiful sunny day = Tidepool exploration! Ryan guided us around the tidepools explaining what we were seeing and the life cycles of each individual critter. If you study the close-up photo, you'll see all sorts of interesting sea life.

We also managed to squeeze in a kayak trip back into the canals behind the marina on our 2-man kayak. Ryan is so strong that I never had to paddle - now THAT'S the life! We saw lots of large water birds (many different heron species, greebs, plovers, etc.), lizards and giant iguana! The iguanas were just hanging out on the rocks and let us drift up to within almost touching distance!!! GIANT - as in 5 to 6 feet long! Wow - they were beautiful with spiky crests on their heads, red striped tails, and that wobblely thing that hangs down under their chins. It looked like it was made out of gold lame fabric! No photos as I was scared to take my camera thinking that we may tip over, but we stayed dry.

But too soon it was time for Ryan to fly back to the states.
I graciously escorted Ryan off the dock and up to his waiting taxi (those bruises on his ankles from me clinging to him as he tried to leave will heal in no time). Bye buddy! Come back soon!!

In my continuing quest to use up my yarn stash, and at the same time keep the kids of the Akkol orphanage in Kazakhstan warm, I've been doing some easy knitting. Sometimes I just have to kick back and just knit. No designing, no worry about gauge and size, just knit.

The natural colored Watch Cap is made from natural colored Wyoming Rambouillet Sheep. So soft! Yep, those are the color of the animals who donated their fleeces. Ryan went home with one of these hats knit in the "Badger Gray" medium brown color. I like to keep my babies warm too!

Next up...a small cap with more of the Rambouillet wool, and topped with Noro Kureyon.

Then there's the socks that I knit while riding the busses and trains to Copper Canyon last week. These are fingering weight, toe-up socks knit with yarn that I hand-dyed a few years back - kinda a watercolor effect of blues, violets, and pinks on an Opal natural base.

For the bind off at the top of the leg, I unvented something to make it more stretchy. With my goal being to add just a tidbit of extra yarn to each stitch, I did a backwards loop over the working needle instead of a plain wrap. Sure, there's a little flare at the top, but it stretches marvelously! After knitting these and comparing them I realized that the colors were different! I think I remember that I dyed the yarn "in the skein" for a
clouded effect. Oops. Oh well, they'll keep some kids feet warm next Winter.

Swatch Vest: And last but not least, I've started working on an adult sized vest from some leftover Lopi wool combined with new colors that Ryan brought down to me last week (good boy - thank you!). I've put together a simple vertical fair isle type design for this vest. As an experiment, I plan to combine different colors along the way to see what will work for a future sweater project.

Tomorrow morning at the crack of dawn we'll be sailing out of the Mazatlan Marina - destination: Bahia de los Muertos on the Sea of Cortez coast of the Baja California. This will be a two full day's passage, which means I'll be knitting on the overnight "watch". We've been working hard to get the boat ready this past week.

Next up: a couple of months of cruising the remote coves of the isands of the Sea of Cortez. We'll be out of touch for a few weeks until we head into La Paz to reprovision and can access WiFi. We've had a wonderful stay here in Marina Mazatlan - excellent staff and beautiful facilities.
Adios Amigos!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Copper Canyon, Mexico

There's a whole lot of Mexico that we don't get to see when we just travel along the coast. So, we took a long 4-day trip into the high altitude mountains of Mexico to Copper Canyon. Our son, Ryan, flew down to Mazatlan to join us on this inland adventure. No reservations - just went and did it.

It took a full day of bus travel just to get from Mazatlan to where the train starts in Los Mochis. Most of the way was through massive corn fields as far as the eye could see to the volcanic mountain peaks beyond. So THIS is where all those yummy corn tortillas are born! Mile after mile, hour after hour, we whizzed past cornfields with a sprinkling of tomatoes, peppers, and beans mixed in. I knit socks.

Upon arrival in Los Mochis, we grabbed a taxi at the bus station and asked him for a cheap hotel. Not only did the driver take us to a large, clean hotel ($40 for 3 people), but he also made arrangements to come back at 5am the next morning to take us to the train station. Los Mochis is a large city - typically Mexican with no tourists. We walked along the busy streets and people watched.

At 5am taxi-guy showed up and we took off to the train station and stood in line to buy tickets. Finally, at 7am, we boarded the train and settled in for the full day's ride. Because it was Easter/Spring break the 1st class (gringo) train was fully booked. No problemo - we took the "El Chepe" 2nd class (economica) train which is first come-first served.

This train route was hewed from the Sierra Madre mountains at the turn of the century so that Texas could have a Pacific seaport. The Panama canal came only a few years after this line was completed, but freight and people still travel on the train. Along the route, we saw quite a few freight rail cars down over the edge. Yikes! Yes, we managed to stay on the rails! Along the route between Los Mochis and Creel (our destination) there are 86 tunnels and 39 bridges, some quite high up! We stopped at several very tiny villages and even some places where there was nothing except a passenger to get on or off.

Finally, in the late afternoon we arrived up in Creel - about 7000 feet in altitude. The temps sure were cold! We quickly found a hotel/hostel in town that rented us a room in the owner's private home - $60 total for 3 people which included dinner and breakfast.

The conversations and company at the meals were marvelous! We chatted with backpacking students from all over the world. Many were there to hike down into some of the canyons - I sure wish I could have gone with them. But, we only stayed one night and boarded the return train the next day at noon.

Along the train route are Tarahumara Indians who are easily recognized by their colorful clothing. They make and sell pine-needle and other baskets as well as colorful woven belts and tote bags. Yes, I did by a basket and a belt from this adorable little Tarahumara girl in Creel - wouldn't you have done the same?

The train makes a quick 15-minute stop in Divisiadero to view canyons from an overlook, shop for baskets, and buy some yummmmmmmy food. Burritos and fat gorditas were cooked to perfection on top of 55-gallon steel drums. I liked the blue corn gorditas with beef, cheese, and potato. We grabbed our plastic foam trays of food and got back on the train to continue the trip down the mountains. Of course, I had to buy a few more baskets.

For a change of pace, we decided to spend the night in the town of El Fuerte rather continuing on the train to Los Mochis. We easily got a beat-up Chevy stationwagon taxi with a cowboy hat wearing driver. He took us to the same hotel/hostel (Hotel Guerra) where the other passengers were already had reservations.

Great choice!! The little hotel was located right in the center of this historic town in a hundred year old building. The room was nice, cheap ($45) and breakfast was included, served in the open aired patio. I managed to snap a photo of Jonesy and Ryan relaxing over their breakfasts of coffee, scrambled eggs with tomatoes, refried beans and whole wheat toast. Old relics - cattle brands, horse bits, etc. hung along the walls.

We set out to explore the Fort that this city was named after. Not only did we find it, but we also stumbled across the beautiful town square lined with palm trees. The fort, built in 1601, is long gone, but they erected a replica on the same hilltop site. The views were marvelous. Ryan and Jonesy got chewed up by some biting flies though - really itchy! So we found the local bus to take us to Los Mochis where we found another bus to take us back to Mazatlan.

As luck would have it we arrived in Mazatlan at night - just in time for the wild Easter Week partying in the Golden Zone of hotels. Agh! Traffic was at a stand still - and there were almost naked girls dancing in the back of pick up trucks or wriggling (that's how I descrbe it) down the street holding beer cans. Not gringos - Mexican teenagers. Finally we found a Pulminara - an open aired VW based taxi and got a ride back to the marina. Ahhhh....back on the home-sweet-boat.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


Up to Mazatlan

We've arrived safely here in Mazatlan!

On our last day in Chacala, we shopped for a few food supplies at the little local store. As the sun set, we motored the dinghy back to Niki Wiki and finished preparing for the next day's long journey north to Mazatlan. At daybreak, we hoisted the anchor and set off.

The routine of leaving an anchorage and heading out to sea has become so much easier because it is just that - a routine. As we sailed along that day, we began to write up the list of all the little tasks we do to prepare for sea. It surprised us as to how long the list is - things like close the ports (little windows in the hull), remove the pelican preventor wire thingy on the bowsprit, and put the dish liquid soap down into the sink so it won't spill.

As usual, I took the night watch. Sitting in the cockpit, wearing an LED headlamp, and knitting, we motor-sailed along in light winds and flat seas. Finally, another easy passage! We arrived at the Mazatlan marina at around 8:30am - got fuel, then motored into our assigned berth without incident. The staff at the marina was on the dock waiting for us (we called on the VHF radio as we came in) and helped us secure the boat.

A successful 26-hour trip of about 140 nautical miles under our belts. Not bad.

Hats for the teenagers in the Akkol orphanage in Kazakhstan were my knitting projects. First, another fancy brimmed hat - this one is edged in Noro Silk Mountain boucle yarn held with another strand of wool. Then just plain stockinette with 2 strands of wool. Such a stash buster!!!

Then it was time to use up some more small amounts of wool. So along came 2 different versions of the same pattern - the Alpine Hat - as named by Jonesy. Both of these hats are knit exactly the same - same # of stitches, same patterns, but just different yarns. One uses some of my hand-dyed yarn mixed with a natural Wyoming Ramoulet wool and the other uses some solid colored yarn.

Next project was the Rhapsody Hat. The same pattern repeated 3 times. Details include a picot hemmed edge and a little tassel. And, being the knitting knut that I am...I wrote up the patterns for both the Alpine and the Rhapsody Hats and they are available on my Sailingknitter Liann Originals website.

So, we are in Mazatlan. We gathered up the laundry to drop off at the laundry service store (Lavandaria). Ooops! One of the bags was wet! Why? We searched the head for leaks - nope not that. Oh, then I remembered that the rear toilet had filled to the brim with seawater at the beginning of our journey. I had forgotten to shut off the valve that brings in the seawater to flush the toilet and while at tossing around at sea, we had sucked up extra water which had splashed out of the bowl and soaked the nearby bag of laundry. Eeeewwww! It smelled so bad! Add that task to the check list for leaving an anchorage!
Jonesy took the 3 laundry bags up to the Lavandaria. Whoops, he left his sunglasses there so about 10 minutes later he walked back up to get his sunglasses. As he walked in he noticed that the gals were starting to work on our laundry and they were wearing masks! How embarrassing!!!

Soon we will shop the big Mega stores for all sorts of goodies! Whooo hooooo! Jonesy is already happy with the shopping right here in the little marina store - Pacifico beer comes in 8-packs!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Land & Sea Gansey Sweater DONE!

Here's Jonesy in his new Land & Sea gansey sweater!

Life has been good here in Chacala. We spent the afternoon yesterday on the beach with all the other cruisers in the bay - a total of 9 gringos. We sat at a large table under the thatched roof and socialized, exchanged books, knit (ok, just me), and chatted for hours.

Before we went back to the boat, Jonesy and I took a walk along the beach to work off those chips, salsa, guacamole and beverages. The little village of Chacala is getting ready for the huge onslaught of vacationers who will invade during the 2 week stretch of Semana Santa. Folks are building little stalls along the beach and roads to sell food and other treats.

Semana Santa is the week before and after Easter Sunday when everyone in Mexico goes to the beach. We'll be up in Mazatlan by then, if our plans hold up.

Monday, March 10, 2008


Ahhh...Chacala & Wool Socks

We left Barra de Navidad Sunday, March 2nd waving good-bye to our friends and hearing "farewells" on the VHF radio as we maneuvered out the narrow channel. It was one of those chamber of commerce weather days - sunshine, mild temperatures and a light sea breeze.

I settled into my favorite seat in the cockpit and picked up my knitting - pair #3 of the crazy heavy worsted weight socks for the Akkol orphanage in Kazakhstan. Jonesy manned the helm and with fair winds, calm seas and a few large swells, we had an easy 7-hour motor-sail north up the coast to Chamela Bay.

Along the way we saw streaks of "red tide" in the water - large algae overgrowths which changes the sea color from saphire blue to yucky red-brown. Maybe you can see the color difference in the photo above. Of course we also saw plenty of turtles and a few whales. The cruising life is heavenly - why isn't everyone else doing it?(hmmm, keep reading...) Our plan was to spend one night in Chamela and then continue our voyage north the following afternoon.

Upon arrival in Chamela, we noticed that some coolant had escaped the engine somehow. How? Where? The hoses looked fine. Crap. There's a HOLE in the engine's heat exchanger. Yep, a hole in the metal. Not all that surprising given that this place had been repaired earlier by some previous owner. It just decided to give up again now. Now, in this isolated stretch of coastline.

So early the next morning after the engine had cooled, Jonesy dug out his 2-part expoxy, and made a quick fix. Then we had some drama. I got stung by a bee for the 1st time since I was 4-years-old. That last time I went into a coma. Medical Emergency! We got out the bee-sting-kit and I took various drugs. We laid out the Epi-pen just in case I went into shock and needed a shot of epinephrin. Then we waited. No problems! I could breath just fine! What next? Geez!

So in the mid-afternoon, we headed out to sea again. As we sailed out of the bay, we noticed that there was a tear in the main sail. Not bad - just a split seam, but that's never a good thing. Then, about an hour and a half into the trip Jonesy discovered that the engine was still spitting out coolant. So we turned around and went back south to Chamela, limping back into the bay with our tail between our legs. This is why cruising isn't for everyone - we spend a lot of time and effort on repairs and the conditions can be uncomfortable at times. But is sure beats working at a job!!

Thank goodness for good-hearted, knowledgeable cruisers. By the next day, we had a different type of epoxy on board, the advice from 2 engineers, and a helping hand from Roy on the sailing vessel Saucy Lady. Roy and Jonesy isolated the new location of the leak, patched it, and even looked like they were having a good time doing it.

I sat on the bow and tackled the split seam in the main sail. As I was working, Roy (with many cruising miles and years under his belt) came and took a look. Why aren't you using a "sewing awl" he asked. A what? So, he jumped into his dinghy and blasted over to his boat to retrieve this special tool. What a cool tool!!! It makes sewing through thick sails so much easier and creates a secure stitch.

Because of the really big swells which produced really big waves on the beach, we couldn't go ashore in Chamela Bay. It's dangerous to try and land a dinghy with it's outboard engine through the big surf. So we stayed on the boat...watching the beach vacationers, smelling the seafood cooking at the little thatched roof beach restaurants (palapas), and listening to their music. It was like driving all the way to Disneyland only to have to sit in the car all day staring out the window at everyone else having a good time. So, I knit pair #4 of heavy wool socks.

We had to let the new epoxy cure for 24 hours. So exactly 24 hours later, Jonesy refilled the coolant and started the engine. So far - so good - no leaks. Sail fixed and engine fixed, we again left Chamela Bay for long passage up to Chacala.

We completely by-passed Banderas Bay and Puerto Vallarta and sailed for 26 hours to the tiny beach village of Chacala. This passage was rough - around the notorious Cabo Currientes. So far, we're 3 for 4 on this bad stretch of coast...3 smooth passages and now, 1 rough ride. The winds blew steadily at at least 18 knots and gusted up to 25 - right off our nose! The swells, combined with the wind waves made the Niki Wiki rise up on the swells, then crash straight into another, stopping our forward motion. We were making only a little over 3 knots of true speed. Heck, we could have WALKED faster. So much for weather forcasts...nature has it's own way every time. If we had been able to leave just one day earlier (on schedule) we would have had a smoother trip. As it was, we tethered ourselves to our life jackets and the boat at all times and rode it out. At least the stars were magnificent!

Along the way we encountered a group/pod/herd/flock/whatever of GIANT black Manta Rays! They were frolicking on the surface, flapping their "wings"! They must have been 6-feet across in size at least! Reminded me that just before we left Barra de Navidad we were riding in the dinghy at high speed in the lagoon when a ray jumped right up out of the water in front of us. He was black with bright white spots!

Slightly before dawn, I went down for a nap after my "watch" and Jonesy zig-zag sailed through the islands of Banderas Bay, chatting with some of our cruising buddies on the radio who are in the Puerto Vallarta area. He even got to talk with our really good cruising friends on the sailing vessle Baraka who are in PV making repairs and picking up crew for the big trip out to the South Pacific later this month.

I pulled the overnight watch as usual and knit another pair of heavy wool socks (pair #5). These socks work up so fast! I tried the "afterthought" heel on the first pair, but then switched to the "Turkish Heel" for the last 3 pairs. I love it! This old dog has learned a new knitting trick. All this knitting of firm stitches created a sore spot - then a peeling callus on my left index finger! A knitting injury! I had to wear a leather finger guard to keep on knitting. My stash of leftover wool yarns & sock yarns is slowly shrinking as I knit up these socks. It's challenging to find colors to coordinate with each other and with the leftover sock yarns. The stripes on this last pair were the result of some hand-dyeing I tried a few years back where I made a giant skein to get larger stripes.

We arrived the following afternoon in Chacala. Ah...Chacala. Small, serene, beautiful beach village of Chacala. There were only 2 other sailboats anchored here, probably because this anchorage has a bad reputation for being "rolly". The swells come in off the sea, bounce off of the sides of the small cove, and create a washing machine effect of bumpy swells. Sure enough, the first night after the breezes stopped, we rocked and rolled all night. A stern anchor that Jonesy set the next day solved most of the rocking (but not all). Oh well, it just makes walking around the boat and cooking a little difficult but it doesn't bother my knitting so it's no problem.

So...finally! The following day, after 6 days on the boat either at sea or at anchor, we got to put our feet on firm ground in Chacala! Another sailboat, Hooligan had come into the bay with a burnt-out altenator. No altenator, no power. No power = no refrigeration. Of course, you couldn't possibly buy a marine part of any kind out here in the boonies. Now it was our turn to help. Jonesy suggested that they go into the nearby town of Las Varas and just buy a regular automotive altenator, modify it, and use it as a temporary fix until they could get the right one (marine) later. So - all four of us picked up the "taxi" (really just a van, see the photo of my view from the makeshift bench seat along the rear doors) and rode the 6 miles into town.

While Jonesy and Tom from Hooligan visited various auto electric shops, used gestures, broken Spanish, and held up the old altenator, Barbara and I toured the town and the local market shopping for essentials (shhhh...and other stuff). Jonesy had Tom buy an altenator, then they took it over to a repair garage (more like a lean-to shack). There they instructed the mechanic to take parts off of the old marine altenator, attach them to the new altenator and thus, created a temporary fix.
On the trip back to the boat, we had a private taxi so we were able to stop at the large fruit stands along the highway. These giant fruits are jack-fruit or locally known as jaca. The flesh tastes like banana flavored peach! We just got a pineapple, a mexican papaya, a couple of homemade banana muffins, and some peanut candy.

Back on the boat, I continued knitting, now to finish up Jonesy's Land & Sea sweater. As I've been reading the book "Knitting the Old Way" by Pricilla A. Gibson-Roberts, I decided to try a new-to-me technique for securing the crew neck. I used her half-graft to graft the live stitches of the neck ribbing to the inside edge rather than binding off and sewing down the folded over edge. The result is a much more elastic neckline! There's always more knitting tricks to learn even after 30+ years of knitting. I'm so thankful that I have the time, materials, physical and mental capacities to indulge in my passion for this craft.

Sunday, March 02, 2008


Off we go!

Got fuel, got water, got food, and everything works so off we go! We'll be coastal cruising north along the Mexican coast here for 2 weeks or so. Next internet access will be at the Mazatlan Marina where we'll spend a week. Actually, the boat will spend the week - we're going to ride the train up into the Copper Canyon! Adios...

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