Christmas on Northern Ranger… a Christmas Miracle!
Sometime last year son Andrew and his wife Adrienne decided that it was time to join us for Christmas on the boat in Mexico. Our first Mexican Christmas, 2021, was fun for us, we made friends and celebrated with them together, so although I missed the family very much, it was a joyous evening and we all had a great time.
But family is family, and having them offer to join us in the boat for two weeks and give up their usual Christmas other-side-of-the-family traditions and shenanigans (not to mention leaving their beloved Aussie Shepherd Brie behind) made me very very happy! And I was even happier when our older son, who lives with us and watches our house while we are away on the boat half the year, decided he too wanted to Christmas in paradise.
We have had a few visitors come spend time with us – but they are couples and take the guest cabin which is a very comfortable little room complete with en-suite shower and toilet. Five people we have never attempted…. I figured either the pilot berth up in the pilot house or, in a pinch, the settee in the saloon would do, if we could find a topper that worked in those small single bed spaces.
That proved more difficult than we envisioned, and as the day drew near we finally found a solitary rolled up ‘egg carton’ style of mattress topper sitting untagged on a totally unrelated shelf in Walmart. Fingers crossed, we took it to the checkout and surprisingly enough it was in the system, so we paid for it and took it back to the boat. I used a large sheet, folded the egg-foam in half, and sewed it into a pocket… in our eyes, it was perfect.
I also started cooking for five, freezing meals that I thought would reflect the spirit of Christmas in the Sea of Cortez… Pozole, Mexican Christmas cookies, burritos, chicken mole…. And stocked up on chorizo and eggs and anything else the guys could use to create wonderful breakfasts for us. Because I know how much work they are and how unsuccessful I am at making them, we ordered a large batch of tamales, thanks to one of the lovely ladies in our marina office… good decision as our “let’s try a few” meal was absolutely delicious.
I emptied drawers and closets, removed all my sewing gear to the truck, and Lawrence picked up the gang from the bus station on the 16th after a blissfully uneventful flight from Vancouver BC and bus trip from San Jose del Cabo.
Andrew and Adrienne had decided it was time to start a family, and originally I thought they were Thinking about after Mexico, but! Baby had other plans so when they arrived onboard she was a beautiful 6 months along, and looking forward to two weeks of sun, beach, and introducing baby to everything Mexican ( except cervesas and tequila and all that good stuff of course). We had stocked up on ‘all that good stuff’ for the guys but we also invested in a soda stream, which we brought down from home along with a spare CO2 cartridge. In hindsight – best idea ever!
The parents-to-be stowed their stuff in the forward cabin- they have come down twice to travel with us so know the ropes. Christopher lacked a space to call his own, which I knew would happen and which I hoped wouldn’t bug him too much. The first night he decided to try the pilot house, giving him a modicum of privacy, so his suitcase and laptop and everything else went up there.
First dinner was dorado tacos, much appreciated and a great way to get into the mood. After dinner we started up what was to be the Christmas tradition on board…some card games and Rummy Tiles, followed by a Christmas movie.
I was just sooo excited to have them all there. The only flaw in the plan was of course weather, over which we have no control. The wind was coming up, which would close the port, and the clouds were rolling in, which was a downer for all! However it didn’t stop us from having a great time at the dock waiting for a good window to scoot out to the islands. After all, as we were sitting in our bathing suits by the pool enjoying our favourite tipple, back home there was an arctic bomb hitting the interior and the west coast and giving us temperatures in the minus 45 Celsius range… and also below zero where Andrew and Adrienne live, on the coast. With snow… and ice….So no worries mate!
We were enjoying what we had! Second night dinner was courtesy of Andrew and Adrienne at the Spanish restaurant, with our favourite waiter from one of the previous eatery iterations. Fabulous meal, and it’s always nice to be remembered by the people who work there!
The pilot berth was a hard no for Chris, and he moved his stuff to the saloon and spent the rest of the trip sleeping on the starboard settee, definitely more comfortable but a bit problematic when the rest of the family likes to get up at 6 or 7 to make coffee. But he endured it with good humour and didn’t complain (after all – Mexico?! Sunshine?! Cervesas?! Dad’s margaritas?!?)
The port was closed the next day still so it was back to the pool for some quesadillas and cervesas…and a photo op as the sun went down.
Family time is fabulous!
On the 18th a small weather window appeared, and we took it. It wasn’t perfect – they seldom are – but it was good enough for us to leave the harbour, and throw the fishing lines in the water, put on bathing suits and sun screen and enjoy the back deck (and top deck). The fishing gods smiled on us and we had a fish on within half an hour. Christopher did the honours, and within a short time he landed his first Mexican fish – a gorgeous dorado! Huge smiles (and a celebratory tequila shot with his brother) all round.
We emptied what ice we had into a large bag and slid the fish in, wondering again why we haven’t got ourselves a kill bag yet ( maybe it’s the name? A bit off-putting? But with our cooler full of food and actually too small to be of any use – probably would be a good investment).
The seas picked up as we headed towards Espiritu Santu, but our destination was Isla San Francisco… so the seasoned boaters on board just found somewhere pleasant to sit and enjoyed the ride.
Isla San Francisco is one of our favourite spots, big enough for a large number of boats, with a beautiful long white beach, great snorkelling, and good hikes for those so inclined. Years ago we were often almost alone in there, but recently, as the charter industry has exploded in the area, we have often been surrounded by forty other boats. These include huge yachts with all their toys racing around in the water, alongside charter cats, and the usual fleet of Haha sailboats and Cubar power boats. So we were pleasantly surprised to find ten boats anchored in the bay when we arrived mid afternoon. We had pretty much our choice of spots but had to consider the wind (which of course was coming up again). We like anchoring in shallow water, so if we snorkel around the boat we can check out the bottom easily. As the big power boat charters left just before sunset we were able to work our way into the more protected part of the bay, closer to the good snorkelling… and settled in for a few days.
There were no beach parties, where boat staff set up tents with provisions for the lucky passengers on the large boats.. so we mostly had the beach to ourselves (except for the dog walkers! Dogs aren’t allowed on the beaches at the park anchorages such as Espiritu Santu – so Isla San Francisco is a popular spot for doggy parents! )
We had the big dinghy in the water and were able to move our own beach party supplies in- snorkelling equipment, new beach chairs and umbrella and beach towels, some cold drinks and a bag of pistachios. And lots of sunscreen.
We snorkelled, tried out the new paddle boards, hiked, read, and lazed off and on for three days, between the beach and the boat, ate fresh fish tacos, tamales, and chicken mole for dinner. Chris took me up the hillside, in a direction I’d never gone before, giving me a different view of the caldera that is the bay. Absolutely beautiful!
The weather had started out being cloudy but by the time we hit the islands it was clear and warm! However it was promising to get windier and we decided to head down to Espiritu Santu for several days, so that the trip back to the marina wouldn’t be as long and potentially bumpy as the trip up to San Francisco had been. We were pleasantly surprised to find the anchorages as deserted as SF! We pulled into Cardonal, with just a few sailboats for company, and settled in for several days, kayaking, taking dinghy rides out to explore, and casting lines into the water as we watched leaping dorado chasing schools of silver fish…
Chris took the dinghy out one afternoon to see if he could get one of those dorados, while we sat on the back deck and spied on him with the binoculars. Andrew told me that it looked as though he could be playing a fish, but he was way out by the mouth of the bay so it was hard to see. We did see some large splashes close to the dinghy that could have been a fish on, and then as I watched he raised his arms in the universal signal for “hooray I did it!” And we knew! When he got back to the boat there was a 16 pound dorado in the bottom of the dinghy. Pretty impressive, as he had tied up his own lure, and was using the spinning reel on a light rod. Lawrence had that thing filleted in no time, we washed blood off the deck yet again, and we had another feast of dorado tacos that night – the night before Christmas Eve! What a memorable day!
We headed back to the marina the next morning, a much calmer trip than before, and arrived back in time to don bathing suits and head to the pool to see Martin and have a celebratory margarita. Christmas Eve dinner was home made pozole, the fabulous tamales, Mexican eggnog, and the Christmas Yule log fireplace crackling in the background on the TV.
Christmas morning was our traditional croissants, and whatever else we could rustle up (we’d been out for a while and our provisions were running low!), stockings were dived into.. Andrew and Adrienne had bought us all golf shirts for our Christmas picture – but the best present of all was having everyone there.
We baked a Turkey roll and roasted a large chicken with all the trimmings for dinner, all hands on deck to help with preparations… Christopher was the head chef and we sat down to a delicious, more Canadian-style dinner that night. Adrienne and I had gone off for a spa visit, which made me feel a bit guilty as it was Christmas Day and they were open but it was much appreciated! I made an appointment for the next day to get my hair cut… seemed like a good opportunity to tidy myself up before we headed across to PV.
The next day Andrew went golfing ( he’s been hankering to play the Costa Baja course for a while!) and Adrienne drove the cart and took pictures. I had my hair cut.. felt very spoiled and pampered, and it looked great…until I washed it of course!
We went out for our last dinner together that night – we had planned to go to the sushi place but after being seated and then ignored for fifteen minutes we opted for our favourite Azul. And that was a much better choice! Wonderful meal together – l am always excited to go out for dinner and that place never disappoints.
Next morning was a flurry of packing and collecting phones, iPads, computers, and the accompanying chargers… repeated queries of “where’s your wallet? Where are your bus tickets? Where are your passports?”were heard. Luckily for all of us Andrew married a nurse who is not only super organized but also a seasoned traveller, and I had complete faith she could ensure the three of them arrived where they were supposed to be at the assigned time.
And then it was time for the gang to cram into The Little Red Truck (no room for me) after hugs and farewells, and Lawrence drove them into town to catch the bus to San Jose del Cabo for the flight home.
Next time we see them, there will be a new family member, and I can’t wait! We will probably go home and spend time at the lake for Christmas, and go down to the coast to visit the kids.
Ch-ch-ch-changes…it was bound to happen, and although I have been enjoying the holidays down on the boat I am excited to usher in this new chapter of all our lives!
And then… we untied our lines, headed to the fuel dock, and continued on our journey, down the Sea and across to Banderas Bay and La Cruz de Huanacaxtle… weather window appeared and we took it!