Archive for December, 2005

Amberjack tacos with homemade “tortillas”

Tuesday, December 20th, 2005

So far we’ve caught a lot of bonito; yesterday however (uh, that was around Dec. 14th), during a gnarly full-day sail in 30+ winds and steep chop, we somehow managed to get a 30-inch amberjack on board. We got into Los Frailes around 8pm but were starving so we cooked up about half the fish for dinner (typical bedtime occurs around 7pm ’cause we’re dorks). The other half we saved for breakfast Fish Tacos.

Preparation of the fish (Joshua the master fish flayer expertly sliced the thing into about eight fat filets)
* Mix together some oregano, cumin, and chili powder and sprinkle over the filets
* Dredge the filets in some flour
* Put a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan and once hot, add some smished garlic. Let this sizzle for 30 seconds and toss in the fish.

Cook covered until perfectly done, maybe 3 or 4 minutes on each side. While this was going, we started cooking the tortillas.

Tortillas. I don’t know how to actually make tortillas but a random package left over from San Diego revealed a shockingly simple ingredient list: flour, water, some sort of fat (lard, vegetable shortening, whatever), and salt.
To make six 8-inch tortillas, use 1 cup flour, two blobs of fat (I used this weird margarine stuff we ended up with from Bahia de los Tortugas), a healthy pinch of salt, and some water. First I mix the flour and salt, then cut in the fat until it is evenly distributed, then add water until the dough is The Right Consistency. The Right Consistency is soft like cookie dough but more bread dough-like; it should go together in a ball very easily and be soft but not too terribly sticky. I kneaded it a bit (I have no idea if this is what you are supposed to do)—maybe 10-15 kneads to a minute or so. Then divide the dough into 6 balls.

** Internet research right before posting yields this possibly crucial step: knead 1-3 minutes, then divide into balls, THEN let the balls rest for 10-45 minutes before rolling out into flats (there are many methods evidently…I haven’t tried them yet).**

Now on a floured board, roll out the dough balls into tortillas. I have been using my muddler and trying to ignore the fact that I haven’t had a chance to use the muddler yet for mojitos. It works okay for the tortillas though and I keep in mind my mojito moment will come.

When tortillas are ready to go, just pop them on a hot griddle (I use the fantastic flat iron skillet previously mentioned in the Naan “Let’s Cooking”). The griddle should be hot enough so that they immediately start to bubble; don’t burn them though because, well, duh.

hand made tortilla on the stove

That’s it! Put together your tacos with whatever is lying around: pico de gallo, hot sauce, chopped cabbage, avocado.

La Paz

Saturday, December 17th, 2005

Arrived La Paz at about 3:00 PM. We’re headed to shore in search of tacos and tequila.

More later…

Bahia Santa Maria

Monday, December 12th, 2005

We decided to forego Bahia Magdelena altogether and anchor just north at Santa Maria. Notable is that now the water is blue, not black or gray or greenish gray, and we finally saw a frigate bird. Jeff had been increasingly put out by the lack of frigate birds. It started when he announced a few feet inside the Mexican border, “First person to see a frigate bird gets to buy a bottle of tequila!” We didn’t see one by the time we got to Ensenada and had to buy a bottle of tequila to quell the fear that something was not right in the world; according to Jeff, there should be frigate birds everywhere. Leaving Ensenada, we bought a few more bottles of tequila just in case we saw a frigate bird but weren’t near a store. We ended up having to break into those too in an attempt to forget about how we weren’t seeing any frigate birds. At last, evidence was observed on the beach at Bahia San Quentin: a dried-up frigate bird skull; we pondered this important clue over some tequila. Jeff’s unease increased steadily until, at last, not only was a frigate bird seen but also some flying fish, another creature whose absence was causing great anxiety. All remaining bottles of tequila were subsequently drained in preparation of being able to purchase a bottle of tequila once we arrived in La Paz.

We spent two days at Santa Maria wandering the beach and trying not to collect too many sand dollars (with which the beach is heavily littered). This place has everything: mangroves and marshy critters, a tranquil beach that goes on as far as you can see (and has the sand dollars), deserty mountains covered with cacti and other shrubs that will skewer you given half a chance, and a vast area of sand dunes; then on the other side is another beach that goes on forever, this time exposed to the open Pacific so there are massive waves crashing and different sorts of beachcombing loot. Like turtle skulls (of which we seem to have a couple bouncing around in our aft trampoline pocket).

We took off for los Cabos in late afternoon; the wind was ‘eh’ and the waves were fairly flat. Night was very iffy and we debated turning the motor on numerous times. The next morning was out and out pathetic, windwise, and after nine or so hours we had succeeded in traveling all of eight knots mostly in the not-towards-Cabo direction. Mutiny was afoot and the motor thus started.

We snarled our way forward in the right direction until a puff of wind convinced us that we were being fools! Using up precious gasoline when here was the wind, free for the taking. We hoisted both sails and watched them flop irritatingly around. Then we dropped the main and put up the gennaker. When that at last managed to hold its own, we ran both the gennaker and the 170% sail off the forestay (that’s another big lightweight sail—not as light as the gennaker—that takes up supposedly 170% of the triangle between the top of mast and the forward tip of the boat). One on either side. That lasted all of 10 glorious minutes where we managed a maximum speed of four knots and of which no photos were taken (looked kind of cool). Ah well. Here’s one of a sunset.

Sunset on the outer baja, mexico

Another night went by of flopping around, little sleep (flopping sails make a hell of a racket when below), and general irritation. Finally the sun rose to reveal major fish action (sadly we didn’t catch any of the damned things), whales, and the visual espectaculo that is Los Cabos. Wheeeee!

Rounding Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Cruise ships at anchor in the bay at Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

We carefully picked our way through the jetskiers and parasailers and Baja!Fun!Sports! tours at Cabo San Lucas, waved briefly at Bogtrotter, who were monkeying around with their anchor and looked like they had had a hell of an evening, and moved on.

The wind was mostly dead so we still had the 170%. Then it perked up to 30+ knots! Ayyyy! Down with the 170 and up with the storm sail! And a reef! Then it died! Stormsail down, reef out, and Mule up (that’s the ~100% normal sail). But that was too conservative and we soon swapped it for the 150. Then the 170. Then the wind died. Again. Then it was perky (Mule! Arrgh!), then not (150! Crappenshit!). Then it picked up considerably and, exhausted and having just actually caught a fish, we decided to anchor for the night off the beach just west of Punto Gordo where there was shelter from the sea if not the wind, which blew off the land. Once anchored, the wind began to howl, then died mostly in the wee hours.

The next morning began with a freakin’ gale. I was on anchor watch from around 3am to sunrise and measured a steady 20-25 with gusts over 30 around daybreak. We hid below reading pulp fiction and bitching about the noise but around 8 or 9 o’clock, it mellowed right out. We wandered about the boat in a daze for a bit, enjoying the sun, then pulled anchor and headed in the direction of Los Frailes.

At approximately 10:00am, the wind died. Died. But there were big ol’ waves remaining from the previous day’s wind, making everything totally annoying. (Imagine being in a giant boat-shaped rocker machine run by powerful yet senile dwarves. Senile dwarves with ouzo hangovers.) On the horizon, one could see… could it be… a herd of buffalo…? Huh. A herd of white buffalo, foaming at the mouths. Ayyyy! We watched with grave curiosity as the spectacle swallowed the horizon and crept slowly towards us as only a herd of foaming white buffalo can. At last, the windstorm smashed into us in all its splenditude catching us halfway down a reef, a storm-jib hastily hoisted (the stormjib is a wee puny looking sail that is mega thick material and very tough), and the discarded mule splayed all over the inside of the head/dressing room area. The wind was probably around 30, but we didn’t measure. This wouldn’t have been so terrible if it wasn’t coming from exactly the direction we wanted to go (north) or if it hadn’t been accompanied by very short choppy steep waves that smashed into us and brought us to a near-standstill with every direct hit. Therefore we had to tack back and forth a zillion times making a simple 20-mile journey more like a 60-mile one. Bleargh. I was driving initially, which wasn’t so bad aside from the obvious and numerous (and frequently conflicting) steering tips being cast in my direction (“Try to point up more” “Don’t point so high”) or the general radiating sense of unease exhibited by the crew when I was at the wheel, er helm. I relinquished the wheel late afternoon and preceded to have the daylights freaked out of me every 30 or 40 seconds when it felt like Joshua was going to tip the boat on some freaky wave. I guess it’s different when you are steering. Joshua and Jeff acted like this was fairly typical ho-hum weather and cracked jokes and basically appeared fairly comfortable. I, in turn, was completely irritated because I thought I steered better, my ass was hurting (sat on a winch accidentally and managed to grow a bruise so fantastic that it showed through my clothing), and it was getting cold and my foul weather gear was wet on the inside from spray hitting my face then dripping down. Then I had to pee and the prospect of being seasick in addition to being wet and having a big black bruise on my ass was just not sitting well. It got dark and although we could see the lights of Los Frailes, we still were hours away. The wind kept up but finally slowed to ~25 knots around 7pm. We came into Los Frailes anchorage around 8:30pm and dropped anchor alongside ~12 other boats.

Miraculously Joshua had managed to pull a fish aboard around sunset (a big ol’ amberjack no less!!) and once soundly anchored, we were thus inspired to fix a proper dinner before passing out cold in our bunks.


Saturday, December 3rd, 2005

We took the inner route along the beach inside the reef. There were lobster trap buoys everywhere here and panga guys buzzing around to attend them. I don’t know exactly what they are looking for but when they empty a trap, they throw back a lot of lobster (carrying eggs? undersize?); Jeff counted 19 lobsters thrown back from one boat. The fashion trend amongst the Abreojos lobster fishermen is a balaclava-type headdress made from an old t-shirt with eye and mouth holes roughly cut; a look reminiscent of the Elephant Man with a bit of Mexican wrestler. One boat that had been working near us came close, circled us once or twice then just tossed five lobsters onto our trampoline (we had to tell them to stop, since we are well aware that four is the absolute maximum three people can consume in one sitting). We were too surprised at our luck to get our act together enough to find some fresh, intact t-shirts in a reasonable amount of time. By the time we came out of the cabin with the shirts, they had motored away.

lobster in a bucket

The anchorage at Abreojos was bumpy and unprotected and we were considering just heading back out after we got some supplies but ended up running into Tim and surfer crew Sean and Carlos from Bogtrotter who were inundated with shrimp and various impressive fish they had caught themselves. We ended up at their boat where we had an awesome seafood stew and yellowfin sashimi. I made a firm decision to catch a yellowfin (but I’d settle for a yellowtail, or in fact anything but another bonito) but we still haven’t caught any sort of tuna at all. So much for firm decisions. Tim is an astute man whose bilge is stocked with about 50 cases of that finest of fine wines—the infamous Two-buck Chuck—and after an evening washing this down with tequila, we abandoned any thought of taking off until late afternoon the next day.

Abreojos, Baja California Sur, Mexico

(Ospreys nesting on the tops of the telephone poles in Abreojos.)

Bahia Tortugas

Thursday, December 1st, 2005

We arrived a few hours after sunset on a moonless night and anchored way out beyond all the other boats and beyond any reasonable rowing distance. Therefore, the first thing we did in the morning was move as close to the beach as possible. The second point of order was obtain the lobster from the lobster fishermen whose movements we’d been carefully tracking all morning through binoculars as they checked their traps in the bay. We waved at one of them as they came in, bought six lobsters from the guy and ended up with seven. Then we went to shore for the inconsequentials, like water and fuel.

The beach at Turtle Bay, Baja California Sur, Mexico

Turtle Bay, Baja California Sur, Mexico

(Makes you want to go that way, doesn’t it?)

Hand painted sign. El sabor de la buena leche

Turtle Bay is a lovely little place, the first civilization since Ensenada and we were charmed by the derelict vehicles and mangy doggies. We promptly found the dustiest street in town and followed it up to the first of many little random tiendas to get supplies.

We ate lobster for dinner and it was plentiful and excellent. So great, in fact, that we had it again for breakfast the next morning. We stayed at Turtle Bay for two days doing minor chores and provisioning and major sitting around and beer drinking.

Cooking Lobster

After mopping the bilges dry and puzzling over just how the water was getting in (a long story that resulted in several completely hackneyed theories, most of which we’ve ruled out by now), we then headed out for Bahia Asuncion. The winds were very light and it turned out that we would not end up at Asuncion by any reasonable hour and so we continued on towards Abreojos.

Cheyenne Weil, Joshua Coxwell