Sunday, November 16, 2014

Eco Alianza - working with young people for the future

Here in Loreto, often important social occasions are linked with fund-raising events to benefit local organizations and this past weekend it was the seventh anniversary of Eco Alianza celebrated with a buffet dinner and silent/live auctions at the beautiful La Mision Hotel overlooking the Malacon and Marina in the center of town.

Eco Alianza as an organization has a unique focus of providing education and experiences to the children of Loreto, introducing them to the natural environment and instilling them with conservational values to protect and preserve that environment for the future.  With Loreto at the center of a protected Marine Park that extends for 35 km on the Sea of Cortez, much of the Eco Alianza focus is on that Ocean and the surrounding waterways that replenish it.   As such, Eco-Alianza is also a member of the Waterkeeper Alliance and part of the network of Waterkeepers of Baja Californias, whose primary mission is defend and protect the local beaches, watersheds, and ocean for the benefit of our communities.

Photo courtesy of Eco Alianza
While it might be reasonable to assume that kids in a place like Loreto, historically a fishing village and on the coastline of a body of water that the famous Jacques Cousteau once proclaimed as "the aquarium of the World", would grow up intimately familiar with the natural world and particularly the sea life that surrounds them - but in fact the reality is very different.  I was surprised to learn that  the vast majority of young people in Loreto may have never been on a boat or visited the nearby off-shore Islands - let alone snorkeled in the gin-clear waters that surround us here.


Photo courtesy of Eco Alianza
In addition to an extensive education program where the children are taught about the environment with a focus on conservation and sustainability, and learn about the rich sea life that surrounds them - much of which is endangered elsewhere, Eco-Alianza also celebrates environmental events where the community is invited to enjoy contests, games, clean-ups and workshops in the schools. Top-rated environmental movies and documentaries are presented, creating wonderful occasions where entire families can be together and enjoy learning about our environment and about the natural values and importance of the Bay of Loreto National Park.  Through these activities the child oriented focus of the organization opens direct access to the extended families of the participants, which in turn multiplies the effect and influence that Eco Alianza has on the larger community.


To support these good works I was one of the over 150 people who arrived last Saturday evening at La Mision Hotel for one their largest fundraising events of the year.  The tables in the beautiful Mezzanine Dining Room were decked out with special linens and centerpieces and as people arrived they were checked off the reservation list, issued a numbered bidding paddle and could purchase drink and raffle tickets for the evenings activities.  Most of the cocktail time before the buffet dinner was used to preview  the large numbers of silent auction items displayed on the two balconies off the main dining areas.    

There were displays of locally made silver jewelry, home decor items, artwork, pottery and pewter and they were attracting lots of interested bidders.  Along the main bar of the lounge section of the dining room was another collection photos and descriptions of other high end items that would be offered later during the live auction portion of the evening.  Many of these were experience opportunities including things like a private glass bottom boat excursion, a getaway at a locally famous waterfront estate for a party of 10, a private plane tour of the area surrounding Loreto including the off-shore Islands, a half day charter on a 65' yacht, a dinner party for 10 at a Beachfront home - any one of which could make memories that last a lifetime!

As dusk fell and the full moon rose over the Sea of Cortez, bathing the Malacon with its silvery light, people found their places at the tables for 10 that filled the Mision dining room and then made their way to the buffet line where they helped themselves to salad, steamed veggies, chicken and fish as well as vegetable lasagna and Mexican style rice.  As the delicious food was being enjoyed some of the more avid bidders returned to their favorite items to check on the silent auction's progress before it was closed at the end of the meal.

After Tom, the Master of Ceremonies, explained the mission and goals of Eco Alianza and told about the important work that was being done in Loreto by the organization, a group of children that were involved in the year long program  were introduced and, through one of their facilitators, shared some of their highlights with the program.  It was made very clear that an important part of the success of the program was the focus on the youth who, with education and guidance, can extend the influence of what they learn to their family and friends, thereby multiplying the impact the environmentally sensitive message that Eco Alianza spreads.



When we were all better informed about the good works that were made possible by the organization and the many volunteers and advisors that contribute their time and efforts to make it happen, it was time for the highlight of the evening and the live auctioning of the many special opportunities that had been contributed by local businesses and individual supporters.  The bidding was lively and many items quickly surpassed the $1,000 dollar mark netting a significant windfall that will underwrite a strong and growing role for Eco Alianza well into the future of Loreto and its spectacular environment.

When the final items were sold and the crowd congratulated itself and the many organizers and contributors that had made this special evening possible, people gathered in the registration area and began the somewhat complicated process of sorting out who had the winning bids on auction items and then paying for them.  As we left the beautiful nighttime Malacon and made our way back to Loreto Bay, I think all of us in the group of Homeowners I had attended with, felt good about the evening and the good work that would be possible because of it - enjoying a special evening and helping to preserve and protect the beautiful surroundings that brought us here is a perfect combination when you are "Living Loreto"! 

P.S. If you are interested in finding out more about Eco Alianza or making a donation to them online please visit their website: www.ecoalianzaloreto.org

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Bi-Cultural All Hallowed Eve

Last weekend I was invited to a Halloween house party here in Loreto Bay which proved to be a great opportunity for many of the Homeowners who have recently arrived back here to get together and celebrate the beginning of a new Season and renew connections in our Community.  Halloween has become a more universal festivity than the mainly child-oriented event that it was "when I was a boy", and that trend was certainly in evidence here on this All Hallowed Eve!

That is not to say that Halloween in Loreto Bay is an exclusively adult occasion.  There is a small population of mainly younger children who live here, often their parents have businesses here and they choose to own or rent in Loreto Bay. For these younger "Trick or Treaters" there was  a circuit of homes that were occupied and whose Owners had stocked up on goodies to distribute, as well some of the businesses along the Paseo that were open and handing out treats, including the Wine Cellar that had organized an open party and encouraged people to spend the evening there and enjoy the kids in costume who stopped by for Halloweening.  I also saw several car loads of costumed kids, who were obviously "candy commuting" from town, under their parents supervision, and were apparently enjoying some sweet success in their pursuit of treats in Loreto Bay!   

I have observed this popularity of costuming here on other occasions in the past, and the party I attended was no exception, with 90% of those in attendance in disguise - which speaks to the planning and preparation, or in some cases, resourcefulness and creativity, of many of the people who had the forethought to bring costumes and/or accessories with them.  Particularly considering that many of them had made space within their limited airline luggage to bring these things with them for just such an event.


The scene of the  party was the large beautiful home of Dave and Sherry in a completed cluster of homes in Agua Viva, with the pathway approach lined with traditional luminaria (paper bags, weighted with sand holding a candle).  Inside the spacious courtyard area was decorated with other Halloween themed decorations and there was a table full of savory and sweet treats on the dining room table that had been catered by "Mrs. Baggets", a bakery and sandwich shop in the town of Loreto which has recently come under the new management of Jupiter and Laura.  The adjacent kitchen was (as usual) a popular focal point of the party where guests fixed their preferred beverages and visited, but I soon discovered that the real "action" was upstairs on the large second floor terrace where most of the ghouls and goblins congregated in the mild evening air.


While some of the costumed guests were "incognito" and maintained a mysterious presence most of us were more or less recognizable, if not immediately, then during the ensuing conversations.  Recent arrival dates and length of stays were a common topic as people resumed friendships or made new acquaintances, and a number of the conversations I had during the evening confirmed my earlier impression that more Homeowners are here earlier in the Season and planning on staying longer than in past years.

While these Halloween traditions that were familiar to us, and had been successfully transplanted from where they had been a part of our holiday calendar since childhood, my observation is that since I have been here there is more attention being paid to the celebration of Halloween than I was aware of when I was newly arrived.  This higher profile Halloween takes the form of numerous parties, both public and private, and even the availability of some basic costume pieces and decorations available in local stores (including pumpkins, which I don't think I've seen before).

But of course Mexico has their own traditional celebration at this time of year, Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, which traces its origins here back hundreds of years to the Aztec culture, and is celebrated in the days following Halloween.  There is also some overlap with the observance of All Saints Day in this predominantly Catholic country.  Here in Loreto the public observance of honoring the deceased is mainly evidenced by the appearance of elaborate displays of artificial flower arrangements that seem to "blossom" around town and are offered for sale in the weeks leading up to the end of last month.

 These flowers are an essential part of paying respect to family members who have passed away, as it is the tradition to visit and maintain their grave sites over this holiday, tidying the site up, painting doing necessary repairs etc, decorating it with new floral arrangements, fresh remembrance candles and even leaving token gifts of favorite possessions, food
and drink - often culminating with an overnight party at the grave- side for family and friends of the deceased.  I took the opportunity of this holiday to visit the Loreto Cemetery on the day after the 31st and saw what I'm sure was an unusually busy scene (for a normal Saturday) of Loretanos doing their annual maintenance of their ancestor's resting place in preparation for this uniquely Mexican tradition.  Which significantly also extends to the many roadside shrines that are a sobering feature of Highway 1, marking the scene of where accidents have taken lives in the past, and now are the destination of annual pilgrimages for the families to pay their respects.


And so another holiday celebration passes, as we who have come to adopt Loreto as our winter home bring our own traditions, create some new ones, and see the influence and evolution of those traditions here in our new home on ourselves as well as the local residents, whose own traditions are making an impact in turn on us.  Combining the appeal of our North American festival of dressing up in costumes with the age old traditions of remembrance and respect for family and friends who have passed away is just one more unique aspect of "Living Loreto".

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Doctor's Point - good for what ails you!

Last weekend I took part in a relaxed hike that was organized by Norm who started an informal group about a year ago of ex-pats from in and around Loreto, who get together in the Fall and Spring for outings into the areas around Loreto, and occasionally further afield on overnight expeditions.  I have been following the announcements of these hikes with interest for some time, but up until now I had not been able to participate due to timing conflicts (yes, some of us have to keep to schedules even in paradise!).  So when I received word of this, the first hike of the new Season, I made sure I was free to join them.

Norm and his wife Maxine live on the north side of town and these outings often begin at their home, which is where I was heading, driving along the Malacon in town, when I saw a cruise ship anchored offshore of the town Marina.  Loreto has been a cruise ship port for years now, but this Season there are more stopovers than in past years, with 15 scheduled between this October and next April almost all of them belonging to the Princess Cruise Line.  With thousands of passengers on each ship, the impact is definitely felt in a small town like Loreto, when these tourists come ashore and can be seen strolling the streets, stopping in stores and restaurants and photographing some of our historic sites.

I was the first to arrive at Norm and Maxine's, but we were soon joined by their daughter, who was visiting from the US, and two other hikers.  Norm commented that last year about 20 people had shown up for the same outing, but he never knows how many of the 100 or so people on his email list will participate in an event.  We left in two vehicles and headed further north of town on a rough dirt road heading to our destination: Doctor's Point, a rocky point of land across from Coronado Island, just past Picazon Restaurant, which I have written about in past Blogs like: http://livingloreto.blogspot.mx/2012/10/in-swim-picazon-to-coronado-ii.html

After a short 20 minute drive over what would only be called a "road" in the Baja, we came to a somewhat structured parking area at the edge of a well maintained chain link fence.  After everyone (including the two dogs who were our companions on the trip) collected their stuff out of the cars, we paralleled the fence as we climbed a small rise heading towards the Ocean.  Just before we reached the shoreline there was a passageway through the fence that we crossed through and then continued north along the shore towards the point of land ahead that was our destination.

Sometime in the past apparently a Doctor had purchased this rocky outcrop with a 270 degree view of the channel separating it from Coronado Island.  The Doctor had started to build an ambitious home of natural stone which featured a high domed roof that became a landmark for sailors passing by (hence the name, Doctor's Point).  But the building was never finished and was apparently abandoned for years before a Developer purchased a large tract of land, including Doctor's Point, and erected the perimeter fence around 2008 - just before the global Real Estate crisis - since which, any future development of the area has been on hold.     

The reportedly beautiful beginnings of the stone residence are now long gone, and in its place is a rather utilitarian long low concrete building with a thatch roof apparently built by the current Developer/Owner, half of which is devoted to a couple of bedrooms and the remainder is a storage room for several boats and other equipment.  Although the building is well maintained, except for some damage to the thatched roof which may have occurred during the recent storms, there was no evidence of recent usage and our group of happy wanderers were grateful for a shady place to rest after our half hour hike from the parking lot.

After a snack and something to drink, the rest of the group headed down to the shore for some snorkeling while I enjoyed wandering around the shoreline watching crabs scuttling over the rocks and hundreds of butterflies drifting with the breeze and lighting on the odd flowers that have blossomed since the rains this Fall.  Thanks to Norm, I am including beautiful shots of some of the fish he saw while snorkeling the rocky shore, in addition to which there were several large eels, an octopus and a lobster spotted.

After the snorkelers came ashore we gathered up our belongings back at the building, we made our
way back the way we had come and drove the cars the short trip back to Picazon, where we rewarded ourselves with cold drinks under their Palapa, enjoying a cool breeze off the water.  There was some discussion at the table of future destinations for hikes, and plans for some overnight excursions to come.  But mainly it was a pleasure just to enjoy meeting some new people, seeing some new sights and enjoying a drink at one of my favorite spots in the Baja.    

I hope to be able to participate in more of these outings in the future, time will tell how busy a Season it will be in Loreto Bay Real Estate, but I enjoyed the simple pleasure of getting out and going for a "stroll" (we all agreed afterwards that "hike" was too strong a word for this outing), see some new sights and meet some new people - all in the beautiful surroundings that I never want to take for granted - this was another wonderful way of "Living Loreto"!    

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Feliz Cumpleanos Wine Cellar!

As more Homeowners and Visitors arrive in Loreto Bay daily, now that the Season has begun, the social season is beginning here again as well.  This week the Wine Cellar @ Nopolo had an indoor/outdoor concert to mark their fourth anniversary of their operations here in Loreto Bay - my how time flies (especially when there is socializing and alcohol involved).  Over the past four years Will and Cynthia, the Wine Cellar Owners and Loreto Bay Homeowners, have become a cornerstone of the Loreto Bay Community and an important meeting place for long term Residents and short term Visitors.

Along with their staff, headed by Bartender Urbano, Will and Cynthia can almost always be found in the Wine Cellar six days a week (closed Tuesdays) from mid-afternoon usually until the customer rolls out the door well past Baja Midnight (that's anytime after about 9:30pm) and they keep the place open through the hot summer as well, closing in September for a well deserved get-away from Loreto Bay. 

Along with one of the best wine selections for miles around (hence the name) there is a full bar, (Urbano makes a fine margarita) and in the compact efficient kitchen their cook Margarita prepares a good and tasty selection of Tapas ranging from cheese plates to chicken wings - bringing a Mexican flair to typical Bar food.  On special occasions Cynthia brings in her own home made chili and other specialties to tempt the customers.

In addition to a variety of different sports broadcasts on multiple flat screens located around the bar, the Wine Cellar has become an important live music venue on occasion - hosting open mike nights as well as musicians both from town and Loreto Bay itself.  Undoubtedly the most frequent (and probably most popular) of these musicians are the several incarnations of "Los Beach Dogs", originally a pick up group of Homeowners who enjoyed playing classic rock and blues covers together, and who, over the years, have morphed into several combinations of players under a variety of stage names including "Stray Dogs" and most recently "Street Dogs". 

This week it was the "Street Dogs" with two original Beach Dogs and three local Mexican guitarists making their first performance of this new Season at the Wine Cellar anniversary party.  Due to the anticipated numbers of people expected, it was decided to partially block off the traffic circle entrance at the Wine Cellar corner. This allowed the band more room to set up and provided extra tables and seating on the street outside to accommodate  the crowd and enjoy the cooler night air outside. 

Rich, a Homeowner and one of the original "Dogs" had told me that they have added more PA equipment this Season for improved sound and a hot new keyboard that adds some new riffs to their repertoire of classic covers, as well as a growing list of very popular original compositions, mainly focused on the stories and experiences many of us have shared in our discovery of, transition to, and settlement in our new Community here in the Baja.  The band members were setting up when I arrived at the Bar in the late afternoon and then started their first set to a growing crowd of fans mingling in and out of the Wine Cellar.  The sound was improved as promised and the "Street Dog" configuration rocked on - with some great guitar riffs from the newest members who appeared to be in their teens, but played like grizzled veterans!


Although the crowd was mainly from Loreto Bay, there were some "Townies" present, including Jill, a friend of mine who had a display set up and was telling people about an upcoming charity fundraising event, the seventh anniversary and annual dinner and auction of Eco-Alanza, a local group focused on environmental education programs benefiting youth in Loreto to be held at the beautiful Mision Hotel in town on November 8th.  For more information and tickets you can check out their website at:    http://www.ecoalianzaloreto.org/events.html

As the crowd grew in numbers it divided into mainly two groups, those inside the Cellar, many of 
whom were enjoying food selections from the tapas style menu, along with some sports fans who were watching an NFL game on the big screens.  Outside more of the music fans were sitting at the temporary tables that had been set up on the street corner where they enjoyed the Dog's "howling" in the comfortably cool evening air.  There was a third group in between, filling the small patio area at the front of the Cellar with "box seats" for the musical entertainment on the street in front of them - something for everyone!

During the evening I met some early season Visitors who were renting Villas in Loreto Bay, but by far the majority of people here at this time of year are returning Homeowners, so any get together tends to become a sort of Homecoming event, with friends and neighbors seeing each other for the first time in months and catching up on their summer news.  In many ways it is sort of reminiscent of the "back to school" feeling of getting back in touch with people after a summer away and a great atmosphere for a party!

I trust I am not going to be accused of being too "boosterish" when I say, that my impression following this first big get together of the Season, is that there is the most positive air among Homeowners here in Loreto Bay that I have experienced so far in any of the past Seasons.  And, I think, with good reason!  Loreto Bay has never looked better - with the extensive landscaping more established each year, more homes receiving fresh paint and cosmetic maintenance, and with the Posada Buildings continuing to show good progress towards completion.  All of which is being appreciated by more Residents arriving earlier in the Season than I think I have seen in past years, and so it begins!


So Feliz Cumpleanos to the Wine Cellar and many happy returns, you got the new year off to a great start and we look forward to many more memorable (and sometimes not so memorable, whoops!) evenings as we all enjoy "Living Loreto"!   

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Season Seven begins!

And so begins my seventh year of publishing posts to this Living Loreto Blog . . . I remember reading somewhere that we replace every cell in our body over a seven year period, so I guess that means that I am by now "reborn" as a quasi-Loretano - a "new man" since I began writing the almost 200 postings that make up the archive of Living Loreto!

Having stayed in Loreto until the beginning of July this year, and returning around the third week in September, this summer get-away was a month shorter than I have taken in past years, but enjoyable none the less. I spent about half that time returning for a few weeks in Calgary before travelling around British Columbia in August.  The rest of the summer was spent travelling to and from Canada, including my return trip down the west Coast of the US over the final three weeks, towing my summer "home-away-from-home" the 32' travel trailer I live in when I leave Loreto.  Because I store the trailer just north of Tijuana in Southern California, I do not haul it over the Mexican Highway #1 the thousand kilometers between Loreto and the border.

My trip north to the border with a travelling companion was more enjoyable than driving Highway #1 solo, but when we arrived at the border crossing in Tecate MX, about an hour east of San Diego CA, on the Sunday afternoon of the July 4th weekend, we encountered the longest line up to enter the US I have ever seen at this crossing.  Obviously, there were a "ton" of people returning to the US after spending the Holiday weekend in Mexico and it took us three hours to make the crossing - compared to the hour or so it has taken on recent previous trips.

However, on that drive north I stumbled on a neat idea that made big difference passing through the half dozen or so Highway checkpoints that are located between Loreto and the US border.  Although I have never had a problem at these Federal Army Checkpoints on my many previous trips back and forth on this highway, I do feel some stress each time I encounter one - due in large part to my lack of fluency in Spanish.  Although the soldiers manning these checkpoints are professional and just doing their job - that is, mainly checking for contraband drugs and guns - it can be a bit intimidating being asked questions in rapid Spanish from well armed, uniformed soldiers.

In preparation for their questions (which are basically; where did you come from, where are you going, and why), I had prepared a crib sheet in Google translated Spanish, to refresh my memory as I approached each stop.  However, at the first Checkpoint stop I came to I felt a bit silly reading from my "cheat sheet" so I simply handed the Officer the slip of paper on which I had written:  "Me voy a volver a Canadá, viajando desde Loreto a Tecate" or "I am returning to Canada, travelling from Loreto to Tecate".

As simple as that is, it proved to be one of the better I ideas I have had to handle the language challenge of passing through these Checkpoints - the soldier seemed a bit surprised at first when I handed him my slip of Spanish, but as I watched him read it he broke into a smile, chuckled, handed it back and waved me through!  I got the same effect at each of the other stops on the trip north, in most cases I didn't even have to get out of the car, and if there was any inspection it was minimal and I was soon on my way again.  Thinking about this during the trip I came to the conclusion that the questioning of barely bilingual Gringos was probably as trying for the Soldiers as it was for me, and my elementary "cue card" made it easier for both of us. 

I also think that the sheer novelty value of something different was part of the effect as well - it has to be mind numbingly boring for these guys to be standing at the roadside in the middle of "Nowhere" Baja asking the same questions over and over again - and this simple translation sheet seemed to amuse them in a GOOD way!  So I did the same thing on my return trip south, preparing myself beforehand with a version from Tijuana to Loreto - with the same enthusiastic response. 

Following these experiences, on future trips I will probably travel with a Spanish crib sheet again (until I am more "Spanish confident"), and I would encourage any of my loyal Readers who will be travelling Highway #1, and whose Spanish is somewhat shaky (particularly under stress), to try their own version this on their next trip and see if it smoothes the way for you as well!

Speaking of my return trip here last month, many of you will be aware that the Baja has had a record number of Tropical storms and Hurricanes this Fall, including "Odile" the biggest Hurricane on record to hit the Baja.  As the planned time for my departure from the San Diego area back to Loreto drew near, I was watching the weather reports closely, and although actual road reports from travelers were hard to find due to the Internet being down in most of the Baja following the storm, I was eventually able to confirm that the road had re-opened to regular traffic, before I began my trip about a week after the storm had hit.

Most of the damage from Odile was at the southern tip of the peninsula in Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo, due mainly to the high winds and secondly the heavy rains that accompanied this storm.  Further north from Cabo, La Paz experienced some damage as well, but fortunately this area around Loreto was relatively unharmed, although many trees and bushes here in Loreto Bay were blown over and there was some initial flooding, within a few days of the storm passing things were looking pretty much back to normal when I arrived back here. 

My drive south was actually one of the easiest I have made, with any storm damaged pavement having received temporary repairs and noticeably fewer vehicles on the road than normal, although there were a large number of empty flatbed trucks heading north, presumably after delivering their cargo for the recovery work around Cabo of heavy equipment and replacements for the thousands of power poles damaged by the storm.

More impressive than the aftereffects of the storm was the lush green landscape from about 500 km south of Tijuana through to Loreto!  This is the third year in a row that the area around Loreto has received at least 3 or 4 times the average annual precipitation during our rainy season that runs from mid-August through mid to late October!  Call it Climate Change if you like, but if these recent trends continue, someday we may become closer to a rain forest than a desert here!

Within a few days of my arrival there was another tropical storm that passed over the Loreto area, bringing with it heavy rains and the most powerful lightening storm I have ever experienced!  What started as distant thunder quickly came closer and before long the lightning flashes were simultaneous with thunderous cracks - meaning we were directly under the passing storm!  It was at this point that I began to wonder if I had in fact closed the sun roof on my SUV when I had parked it after a trip into town earlier in the afternoon.

I was almost sure that I had closed it, but I WAS sure it had been open to cool the car while I was driving, and I couldn't shake the lingering doubt as I watched the heavy rain slashing down and listened to the thunder claps on top of the lightning flashes.  However, what was obvious was that if it was open the interior of the car was already thoroughly soaked, and I wasn't going to venture out while the lightning was still happening all around the house.  The center of the storm passed as quickly as it had arrived, so it was not too long after that, when the electrical part of the storm was distant again, that I thought it would now be safe to venture out and hopefully confirm that the roof had been closed.   

Although the lightening had all but stopped, it was still raining hard when I ventured out with an umbrella to check on my car which was parked on the street nearby.  Between the wind and the heavy rain the umbrella was of limited use, mainly keeping my head and chest dry, but within a few steps I became soaked from the waist down and was treading through a couple of inches of water on the flagstone sidewalk to the street.  The street itself was overflowing the curbs and the rushing water had submerged the "tope", or speed bump - but the GOOD news was the roof of the car was closed - and I was so relieved that I didn't mind getting soaking wet to find out!

In the couple of weeks that I have been back that was the last storm we have had and I have seen the daytime highs drop 5 to 10 degrees with the humidity down to 60 - 70% from 80 - 90% when I arrived, so as Homeowners begin to return again for another Baja "winter" the weather is returning to almost ideal conditions again to welcome them home.  Seeing Loreto return to normal again, after coming through one of the most active rainy seasons on record, makes me appreciate even more "Living Loreto"!  

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Blog reflections on Season Six

Well, it's that time of year again.  This is the last Blog posting for this the sixth Season of Living Loreto and it is time for me to thank you, my loyal Readers, for your continued interest in my thoughts and experiences about the place I live. 

With almost 200 postings to date and a total of almost a quarter of a million words, this Blog has become an important part of my understanding and appreciation of my life here - and, in fact, sometimes an important part OF my life here as well!  Writing these posts on a weekly basis is occasionally a challenge, looking for a topic, particularly when personal commitments or lack of "events" are factors, and can result in what I have come to refer to as "Seinfeld Blogs" - or Blogs about "nothing".  But ironically to me, sometimes these "Seinfelds" are some of the most popular posts I write, based on website stats and feedback that I get from some of you.

The (self-imposed) pressure to "publish or perish" on a weekly basis has at times been the incentive for me to do things, or go places, that I might not have, without the need to have another story or experience to share with you.  It has also imposed a degree of intellectual discipline in my life that I think has been beneficial and has lent some structure to it as well.  But my list of benefits from this would be incomplete without including that through persistence and repetition, writing this Blog has been a do-it-yourself course for me in learning about how to write.

And for all of that, I have YOU to thank!  'Cause as the saying goes: "Without no audience, there ain't no show!"  Over the course of the past 6 years, I have taken perhaps too much statistical interest in the Blog audience data, but I do get a lot of satisfaction from following the number of "hits" I get from week to week, and year to year, and one of the things that strikes me is how consistent the figures have been at about 20,000 hits per year, or an average of around 500 per week.

While I am here I write between 30 and 40 weekly posts during the winter season, but the Blog also continues to get hits year round, throughout the summer months.  To some extent this "off-season" readership contributes to another Blog Nerd statistic, and that is the on-going popularity of certain posts, all of which can be found in the archives at the top of this page.  Apparently the Blog title can be a factor in its popularity, as can some "key words" that may be searched and attract hits, as well as popular subjects or areas of interest.  For example, one of this Season's posts: "A Whale of a Tale"  http://livingloreto.blogspot.com/2014/03/a-whale-of-tale.html, is now the most viewed post of all since the beginning of the Blog, although it has only been available online for two months!

In addition to being interested in what interests you, I also find it interesting to know where you are reading from, because it is the World Wide Web, after all!  While it will probably not be surprising that over the life of the Blog by far the largest number of hits have come from the USA, at double the combined numbers  from Canada and Mexico which are in the second and third spots.  (Although, I believe that the Mexico number is mainly made up of US and Canadian readers who are Loreto Bay Homeowners accessing the Blog while they are here in Mexico.)  However, some of the next most frequent sources may surprise you: Russia and Germany rank 4th and 5th, and while the UK and France may not be surprising as next in the order, I for one would not have expected Latvia, Ukraine and Slovenia to round out the top ten!

Something else that has evolved over the life of the Blog is the number of contacts that I have received from Readers.  From a small handful in each of the first few years, that number has grown dramatically doubling year over year for the last several years.  Those contacts fall into three main categories; people looking for information and/or advice - often prior to a visit to Loreto, "fan" mail from people who just enjoy reading these posts, and Real Estate inquiries, which is the fastest growing group - reflecting the positive changes in this market in recent years.

And so, although I am not actually leaving Loreto at this time and I expect to be here for another month or so, I am beginning my "summer hiatus" from writing the Blog, as Loreto Bay transitions from the busy winter season to the much quieter (and hotter!) summer.  I trust that you will understand that for the next few weeks that I am here, but not making new postings, I will still be enjoying the uncommon experience of "Living Loreto" without writing about it!

Thank you again for your continued interest in these pages and I look forward to writing for you again this Fall, starting sometime in October if you want to diarize a reminder to check back, but until then I hope some of you will continue to look back at past posts and enjoy keeping in touch with "Living Loreto"!


Hasta Luego!   

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Glass Bottom Boat launched in Loreto!

Last weekend I had the opportunity to join a preliminary excursion on what will be the next new "on the water" attraction for Loreto - Loreto Coastal Expeditions' "WANTOSEA" Glass Bottom Boat!  This project, which has been in the works for over two years, is the "brainchild" of Tim Yarbrough, with assistance from his son Brandon, who are both "serial entrepreneurs" here in Loreto.  Tim is an experienced stainless steel fabricator, has an organic market garden business supplying local vegetables in season, and a  composting business - as well as a sideline in delicious kettle popcorn, while Brandon supplies Loreto Bay with a wireless internet service as well as providing other computer related services.

But their true love is the Glass Bottom Boat project that started to come together when Tim found a previously owned 26 foot life boat in San Diego and transported it to his fully equipped workshop on the main floor of his custom designed home in Loreto, where he began the transformation that conservatively took over 1,000 hours to complete. 

I met Tim and Brandon and their Skipper Noe at the Marina in Puerto Escondido and we departed the harbor shortly after I boarded the beautifully rebuilt boat.  As we got underway, Tim explained that the whole interior of the boat, except for the original seat bench that ran down both sides, had been newly fabricated out of stainless steel and fiberglass, including the large "bimini", shade structure that covered the entire boat from bow to stern. 

I quickly understood the importance of shading the interior of the boat when I looked into the mate black steel well that filled the center of the boat and through the four laminated glass panels that made up the bottom of the boat.  Without shade from the sun's reflection, it would have been impossible to see through the glass bottom.  I will admit that, to begin with, it was a bit unnerving to be staring at the somewhat murky bottom of the Marina harbor area through the bottom of the boat, but after a brief explanation from Tim I understood the principle behind the design.

In the first place, each of the four glass panels are two 3/8" thick sheets of safety glass laminated together - like a vehicle windshield, more than strong enough to resist breaking under all but the most unlikely direct hits or rocky collisions.  But even in the event of a panel becoming damaged, the rectangular steel well that surrounds the glass panels would contain the water up to the boat's waterline (about 2 feet) after which the boat would continue to float.  This was demonstrated when they did in water test of the hull, without the glass panels installed, and the water rose only about halfway up the surrounding well and the boat continued to float stably  (see video clip).

video

I have mentioned before in these pages that I am not much of a "water baby" and not a strong swimmer, so although I have snorkeled occasionally I do not really enjoyed the experience - but this was different!  Imagine snorkeling in IMAX with 42 square feet of underwater view, and without worrying about water temperature, currents - or breathing! 

As we made our way out of the Escondido harbor we paused over a few underwater rocky outcrops where I discovered another unique aspect of glass bottom boating - the view of the bottom is magnified, so that a submerged rock that looks a foot or two below the glass is probably more like four or five feet deep.  Comforting to know that while the shallow 2 foot draft of this boat is well above any potential rocky hazards, the view from above is even more dramatic due to this magnification effect.

We lost sight of the bottom in more than about 10 or 15 feet of water, depending on how clear it is in a particular place, as Tim explained that many factors including rising and waning tides, temperatures, currents  etc. can affect the water clarity.  As we picked up speed and made our way across the channel towards Ilsa Danzante, there was a stream of bubble turbulence from the bow running down the center line of the glass bottom, giving a different, almost hypnotic sense of speed that I found hard to look away from, in spite of the beautiful scenery surrounding us above water.

The rest of the morning was spent "gunkholing" around the shore of Danzante checking out underwater features and spotting schools of dozens of tropical fish, dark grey Parrot fish (delicious!), long skinny Trigger fish and Manta Rays "flying" underwater.  Even when there weren't fish to watch there were many large colorful Starfish and plate sized Scallops clinging to the underwater rocks.  I was surprised how these fish tended to congregate in specific areas in large numbers, and then in similar "terrain" 20 or 30 feet away, not a fish to be seen.  The boat was also an ideal viewing platform because we hardly disturbed the marine life as we floated above them and so we were able to hang almost motionless for minutes at a time observing an underwater world that has been the sole preserve of snorkelers and divers previously.       

Meanwhile, for Tim, Brandon and their Skipper Noe, this was a scouting trip to develop the itineraries for their future excursions, finding the best locations for spectacular underwater views and where best to find fish to observe.  Time passed quickly, and after a couple of hours we headed back to Escondido where they dropped me off, and then headed back to the Loreto Marina where they would pull the boat out again until the next trip.  Now that the boat has been successfully tested, work is underway putting the final touches on the marketing plan that will make this venture a going concern and exciting new adventure activity for Loreto.


Brandon is building a website presence under the www.WANTOSEA.com name, which should be launched (no pun intended) in the near future, and  where they will be accepting reservations for one, two or six hour cruises, probably with a main focus on the islands of Danzante and Carmen.  I am grateful to have been invited along on this early "shakedown" cruise, and, while there are still a few logistical details to be worked out, I have no doubt that this talented and hard-working Father Son partnership will "launch" an exciting new attraction to the waters around Loreto and bring unforgettable memories to their many future passengers!


Getting to know better, two fascinating people, embarking on their long held dream, which will bring the mysteries and secrets of the "best" part of the part of the Sea of Cortez to the eyes of Visitors and Residents alike - this was a special day, "Living Loreto"!      
 
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