20160331

Headin' Home -- Tues/Wed, March 22-23, 2016


We've visited our last port of call, and now Ruby has pointed her nose toward Los Angeles. It will take her from Monday night to the wee small hours of Thursday morning to cover the distance from Puerto Vallarta.  Precious hours at sea for me and Jimmy.


Hold onto your hat, mate!


In my previous post, I mentioned sleeping ten hours Monday night.  After breakfast, I slept another unheard-of two hours, my body's way of shaking off whatever ails me.  When I got up, I didn't move far, just to the balcony, where I watched the sea, alternately sitting or standing at the rail.  I was amazed to see eight sea turtles swim past, one at a time, off the Baja coast as we cruised north.  After lunch, Jimmy and I continued our Yahtzee games, till it was time to dress for dinner.  You know I wouldn't miss lobster/prawn night!


Before.


After!


All chocolate, all the way.  This would cure anything or anybody!


After dinner we posed on our way to the Princess Theater to watch the "Magic To Do" show, which was cleverly inventive, but the singing was just way too loud to enjoy.  The only other show we caught this trip was last Wednesday evening -- "hilarious comedian," Darrell Joyce, who really was both! 


On past cruises, I've always tuned in to the ScanDisplay channel on our cabin's TV.  This gives running stats -- temps, barometer, wind speed and direction, ship speed, etc., stuff I want to know.  However, it hasn't been working on this cruise till today!  Hooray, now I can follow along!  After dinner and before the show, we caught the rising almost-full moon off the Promenade Deck.



* * * * *

Wednesday:  I feel better!  This morning Executive Chef Andrea and Maitre d'Hotel Silvio gave a culinary demonstration in the theater at 10am, and they were hysterically funny! We laughed and laughed.  A galley tour followed, which we've done on previous cruises, but it's always kinda interesting to see how BIG the "kitchen" is!  


Watermelon was included in tonight's dinner.




Edible arrangements!


Executive Chef Andrea, right, and Maitre d'Hotel Silvio, left, following the galley tour.

Yesterday the sea state began as Light Ripples, which became Small Wavelets, then Small Waves and finally Large Waves.  The progression was obvious!  Love seeing the water colors change, pewter one hour and two minutes later an emerald fit for a queen.  Fascinating that it's all dependent on time of day, sun’s position, cloud shadows, and turn of head.  The sea is always the same, but it's always changing, too. Monotonous? Maybe, if that was all you ever saw, but it's not boring for me.  Mesmerizing is more like it.  We’ve seen whales, dolphins and/or turtles every day and a few sea birds.

Today is all about the ocean. Today the wind is Force 7, moderate gale, with waves leaping, crashing over the bow, spray flying!  So cool to watch. We were on a wild ride in bed last night, like being on a bucking bronco, or the tail of a dragon, whipping us up and down, the cabin shuddering as Ruby dipped into a trough. Today the waves are 11.5’ and the winds are 40-45 knots. Ruby is making 18-19 knots/hr bumping o'er white-capped seas. Temperature has dropped to 60 degrees, so we don’t see many shorts and flipflops on deck! No swimming, either; the pools have been draped with netting to keep major tsunamis from forming!

Our room steward placed the luggage mat on the bed, so we’ll have to pack it up this afternoon.  Our ten day-trip is almost over.


Tonight's dessert was the traditional Baked Alaska (on parade).  Ice cream and meringue sitting in chocolate sauce, tho it probably wasn't presented just so on the menu!  Oh yeah!


We stepped out on Deck Seven just as the beautiful golden full moon rose.  I wanted a picture, but Ruby wouldn't hold still!  Pitching about in 11.5' seas, trying to hold the camera steady was nearly impossible!  Just finding the moon in the viewfinder was problematic.  Above are a few of my tries!


Eureka!


Ruby entered the Los Angeles (San Pedro) breakwater about 5:30 Thursday morn, with the setting moon behind her.  I was wide awake and watching in my robe from our balcony.  A huge cargo ship passed us on her way out to sea as Ruby approached her pier ... it looked so close!  Disembarkation commenced after 7 am; Jimmy and I left the ship at 9ish, shuttled to LAX, flew to Sacramento, hailed Uber to Matt's house where our Prius was waiting, and drove to Nevada City.  Back home at 5pm. Did we have a good time?  You betcha!  Never mind nose trouble or cool water or any other inconveniences. It was a grand trip. 

Total distance Ruby traveled round trip from Los Angeles = 2,820 Nautical Miles = 3,245 Statute Miles = 5,222 Kilometers.

I'll leave you with this:  We encountered the colorful little dog below on deck the last day. Surprised, we wondered aloud to the man holding the leash.  He said it was a service dog for a young man with a breathing disorder (if he stopped breathing, the dog would alert his parents).  In fact, the dog didn't want to stop and visit with us ... it knew it had to get back to his boy.  Time to go home. 


The End.

20160330

South to Puerto Vallarta! Sun/Mon 3/20-21/2016


Sunday at sea was one of those laid-back days.  I, of course, was awake way before sunrise (no surprise).  Today is the March Equinox, otherwise known as the First Day of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere.  Without the "Princess Patter" reminder, we would've forgotten! Neither of us was feeling tip-top anyway, with sinus or head cold issues, so we didn't do much.  Only one notable item made it to my notes:  From our balcony, way up on Deck 15, we spotted a sea turtle directly below, swimming in the vast sea ... with a gull riding on its back!

While watching the coastline on Monday (way before the sun came up), I spied Puerto Vallarta from afar.  Later, it was neat to see Pacific dolphins cruise the ship's wake on our entrance to the bay.  Despite ongoing "nose trouble," Jimmy and I are looking forward to our excursion today!


Closing in on the pier.


Okay, now -- you have to admit this is quite a sexy get-up.  Right?  This is my new wetsuit shirt, and it works, so there!  I wouldn't recommend enlarging this picture.  Yes, we are fixin' to go snorkeling! Monday's adventure is an excursion to Mahajuitas Beach and Yelapa Island.

We met on the dock at 8am, hooked up with the Vallarta Adventures crew, and cruised the shoreline of Banderas Bay on a great catamaran en route to two island paradises.  The boat was large enough to accommodate a slew of us, and the crew? -- they were outstanding!

Morning was spent at peaceful and isolated Mahajuitas cove, which is situated on the southern coast of the bay.  Its reef-filled coastline is accessible only by boat, making it one very desirable spot for kayaking and snorkeling.  We jumped off the boat into the crystal clear water (options were snorkel, swim, kayak or SUP) and we played for a long time. Mahajuitas cove was much warmer than waters off the Baja Peninsula.  We didn't go ashore here, but we had a grand time snorkeling.  Some of the crew joined us in the water, diving down to bring up urchins or whelks for show 'n tell before returning them to their watery home.  They were hoping (me, too) to find an octopus, but didn't.


Approaching Yelapa.

Once everyone was back on board, the crew served up a delicious buffet lunch aboard the catamaran before heading on to spend the afternoon on Yelapa Island.  Yelapa is a tiny, traditional fishing village, nestled in a cove of natural beauty and reachable only by boat. It's only recently that the village joined the 21st century with electricity and even wifi.  I spent a day here way back in 1978 when the village hadn't even joined the 20th century!




Nice yellow socks!


We chose to hike thru the town and jungle up to Cola de Caballo waterfalls.  The footing was iffy on the steep trail over cobblestones or packed dirt, but we did it.  Along the way, enterprising vendors offered their wares for sale.  We looked ....  The waterfalls was lovely. A couple hearty souls entered the pool at the base and one guy stood beneath the falls, but that water wasn't very warm, either, so ... no thanx!  After the hike to the falls, we returned to the beach to cool our heels in the shade at an outdoor cafe.  We splurged for drinks:  Jimmy had a coke and I had a lemonade. 






It's a beautiful cove with a sandy beach.  Trees were blooming yellow on the hillsides.


Great figurehead on Sueños Liquidos!

When it was time to board the cat for our trip back to Puerto Vallarta, we were in for a treat -- an on-board fiesta!  Our unforgettable day was wrapped up with an open bar, music (the kind we knew the words to), dancing, and premier entertainment by the crew!  Those guys were acrobats and could they move!  Lots of guests grooved to the beat and as the piña coladas and beers flowed, more joined in!  (not us, tho)   


Iguana, anyone?  The guy in the blue shirt (above, left) carried that huge boy iguana around Yelapa beach the entire time we sat in the shade, offering it up like a talisman for you to touch and have your picture taken, for a peso or two, naturally.  Again, no thank you.  That thing had to be heavy!  The other iguanas were basking on the pier near Ruby when we got back from our excursion.  Someone had thoughtfully (or thoughtlessly?) spread torn tortillas for their lunch.  We counted five -- iguanas, that is.  Mr. or Mrs. Iguana at top, left, was smiling.  They had green feet!


Now I've seen it all.  Really.  On our way to Ruby, we encountered a big sea lion (this sea lion).  It had a man and woman on either side and it was "kissing" each one, to the click of a camera and a peso or two.  Unbelievable.  The thing stuck out it's tongue to kiss these tourists via a word from its handler!  Really and truly:  no thank you!  Who knows how long this poor thing was out of water?


Time to fess up.  An open-air farmacia was located practically at Ruby's door, so we asked about cold meds, and the lady came up with this made-in-Argentina box:  Gripe y Tos (Cold and Flu).  I took two at (exceedingly early) bedtime and slept ten hours!  I usually don't get sick, and colds are a rarity for me, but that's what must be ailing me.  I'd been fighting sinus troubles for weeks prior to the cruise.  When I told my sister I'd been on 18 different flights in the past six months, she said, "no wonder you got sick!  People love to spread germs on planes."  Jimmy, meanwhile, was on generic Allegra, which seemed to help him.  I know, I know, we shouldn't have ( fill in blank ), but we had fun regardless!


This was Jimmy's dessert at Monday night's dinner -- cherries jubilee (and et cetera!)
I tasted it, and it was YUMMY. 

We didn't have time to walk about Puerto Vallarta.  When you only have one day in a city, you simply can't do it all.  But, our excursion choice suited us to a "T" and we were happy with it.  Ruby thrust off the berth at approx 5 pm, put her engines ahead and made a tight turn to port before following the buoyed channel out of the basin.  Once out of the "Bay of Flags" [Banderas Bay], she set courses for the good ol' US of A!
  

20160329

Hello, Loreto! Saturday, 3/19/16


Generally speaking, you know that if you go to bed early, you wake up early, so I was treated to one more spiffy sunrise!  The Sea of Cortez is still choppy, but less so.  I watched as Loreto came into view ... a green panorama caught between a turquoise sea and yonder brown hills.


Time to get up!


While standing on our balcony, even before Ruby dropped her anchor at 7am, Jimmy and I kept hearing what sounded like popcorn kernels exploding, not all at one time as it does in our air popper, but now here -- pop -- now over there -- pop.  Jimmy discovered what it was.  Manta Rays leaping clear out of the water and falling back in -- splat! -- sort of a belly flop pop!  All day, repeatedly, both sides of the ship.  No one seemed to know WHY they leaped as they did, but the suggestion I favored was that they were leaping for joy.  Whales were spotted aft off the port side, too.


I mentioned in yesterday's post that we had no excursion planned for today; we're taking a rest from snorkeling in cold waters two days in a row.  Ruby is anchored in the clear blue bay; those orange and white tenders (above) will take us across the glassy Sea of Cortez into Loreto, about ten minutes from the ship.  Warm and sunny feels good!


Loreto invested in a good, clean harbor for fishing boats and tenders.




Artwork, too!


Loreto is a tourist resort, catering mainly to sport fishermen and cruise ships.  It's a small city, about 14,000+ people.  The melancon (boardwalk) that hugs the waterfront is manicured with palms and drought-tolerant vegetation and invited a pleasant stroll.  The main draw is the charming, pedestrian-only leafy ficus arcade that welcomes tourists to the commercial district.  Shops offer handmade crafts and clothing.  Restaurants feature lots of margaritas and al fresco dining.  We fail as buying tourists ... we came away empty-handed (who needs more stuff?), but we had fun looking.  We enjoyed our time in Loreto, quietly walking the melancon and the quaint "downtown."  We could easily return.




When we went ashore, dancers in bright costumes were in full swing in the plaza.


Red must be the "in" color!


Jesuit priests built the Misión de Nuestra Señora de Loreto (Our Lady of Loreto) in 1697 ... the first mission to be built in the Californias.  It's well-preserved, and still stands as an active parish.  The bell tower rises high above the center of town and has been lovingly restored.  We stepped inside the narrow church, with its cool, dark interior, and sat for a few minutes.  Below is a pic of the original sculpture of Our Lady of Loreto.




Honestly, who would've guessed?  We didn't follow the arrow to see how the RV Park looked, but if a person felt safe driving down here, wouldn't it be fun to spend a month or so in picturesque Loreto?  Answer:  Yes!




Fishing must have been good in the harbor.  Pelicans were relentless in their power dives to scoop up a snack!  The last tender left town at 5:15 and Ruby set sail shortly thereafter, setting courses out into the Gulf of California.  Again, we were early to bed.  Guess I'll see another sunrise tomorrow!

Next stop?  Puerto Vallarta on mainland Mexico!

Gaviota Island and Balandra Bay -- Friday, 3/18/16


After sailing the night, Ruby approached La Paz.  Again, my eyes popped open as the Eastern sky lightened, and I was able to watch Ruby slide into port from the buoyed channel.  So amazing to watch this leviathan of a ship execute a 180⁰ maneuver so as to bring the ship alongside (starboard side) the quay.  We are docked at a commercial pier, roughly a half hour out of La Paz proper.  The Gulf of California is packed with whales -- Gray and Blue, even a few Orca, and we see them every day.  Cool beans!


Jimmy and I booked a half-day snorkeling excursion before leaving home.  Gathering on the dock at 7:20 am, it's quite the change from yesterday's late start.  The wind is still blowing from the north (like a Santa Ana wind) which adds a "wind chill" factor to the partly-cloudy morning.  The sea is still choppy, but we boarded a real boat with a good crew, and -- hi-ho, hi-ho -- it's off to snorkel we go!


We traveled maybe 30 minutes across the turquoise water to Gaviota Island.  The captain said, "look carefully, you'll see the island is white."  One of the crew called it "guano island."  A younger girl asked what that was.  His reply:  "Birdshit."  It's a massive volcanic rock island, which makes it a natural refuge for hundreds and hundreds of seabirds:  Brown Boobies, Blue-footed Boobies, Brown Pelicans, Cormorants.  On the other side are Yellow-footed gulls and nesting Herons.






The birds are neatly camouflaged on guano island.
Dots of blue are the Blue-footed Boobies.




Fairly dripping guano!


Before this trip we'd never seen pelicans with bright red gular pouches (red necks!), but here off Baja, the breeding males are sporting these spicy-red enticements! 


Reddish Egrets and Great Blue Herons nest amid the Cholla cactus.  Baja is considered part of the Sonoran Desert and instead of swaying palm trees, the dry land is covered with spiny cactus.  Saguaros dot the hillsides, just like in Arizona.


The original plan was to snorkel first off Gaviota Island and then spend time swimming or relaxing on one of the soft sandy beaches of Balandra Bay.  Our crew switched it up, thinking later in the morning would be better for snorkeling (as in, warmer).  So, the boat continued on to this absolutely beautiful cove.


Jimmy and I climbed up to the top of the ridge, sinking in white sand, soft like talc, much like the Destin area of the Florida panhandle.  The difference is this sand is surrounded by sharp volcanic rock.  We walked around as much as we wanted and then "parked it."


Simply gorgeous.


Das boot.


The crew was handing out full-length wetsuits, which meant the water temp for snorkeling wasn't much higher than in Cabo, so we will definitely appreciate wearing a wetsuit.


Heading toward our snorkeling destination off Gaviota Island.  But first!  The rocky outcrop dead ahead is home to sea lions (one excursion features snorkeling with them), so we'll circle around for a close-up.




King of the Heap!

Yes, the water was chilly, but we snorkeled off the boat to a coral reef, alive with colorful fish.  I wish I cold identify them, but (alas) I can't ... so many pretty fish.  Plus sea urchins, sea stars, anemones, even a sea cucumber or two, along with mounds of coral, kept our interest in tooling around the reef long after we chilled.  Our adventure was supposed to be 50 minutes, but I doubt any of us lasted that long.  We sure enjoyed it, tho.  Jimmy shot lots of underwater GoPro video, but we haven't processed it yet.

Back by Noonish, we grabbed lunch and then passed out on the bed for an hour or so -- tired -- trying to get and stay warm is exhausting!  We got up to play a few rounds of Yahtzee and then it was dinnertime (so delicious).


Goodness gracious - would you look at this?  I'll tell you what it is:  White chocolate cheesecake with vanilla mousseline and strawberry preserves.  "The chef added silky smooth white chocolate ganache to the delicious cheesecake mixture.  He then created a white chocolate shell that holds a delicious mousseline and fresh strawberry preserves."  Do I know what that means?  Nope.  The thin red disk is chocolate, along with the curl.  All I know is that this exquisite concoction was one of the richest desserts I've ever had, and also one of the best.

Ruby departed La Paz at 4:30pm.  Once out of the Bahia de la Paz, she set a northerly course up the Gulf of California, aiming for Loreto.  Both La Paz and Loreto are new territory for us, which is kinda neat.  No snorkeling tomorrow ... it's a walkabout day.  So, after a turn on the Promenade Deck, we retired really early and slept well.