Whale watching again

Today we were all set to get out of Magdalena bay when we got word from our sister ship that was heading north up the Pacific to our location saying they were seeing 12 foot waves and 25 knot winds. This news was enough to make the captain decide not to head up north to the bay we were headed to. Some staff is glad, some are not, because the seas would be rough, but I would rather give it a go and see the place we had intended to see. Unfortunately with the wind and waves making it that much harder for the boat to travel we would be cutting it a little to close on fuel to make the trip. It’s a bummer, but what do you do?

Today in the kitchen was not too bad all in all. I put out breakfast with out a problem, then staff lunch and guest lunch and everything went pretty smooth. I did learn that if you are making whipped cream and you want to flavor it, you should always wait till the cream comes to soft peaks before adding it. I tried adding some kalua liquor to some whipped cream with pretty negative effects, and I learned a lesson. Nothing too crazy, but it’s a good lesson learned.

I almost forgot that I was going to start taking GPS coordinates for the record as well. Today we are at N 25 degrees 15.138′ W 112 degrees 07.224′ on the north end of the Bahia Magdalena.

On a good note there has been several whale sightings in this area, so they are not totally moving north as suspected before. A funny thing actually happened just before sunset today, I was outside on the fantail (rear lower deck of the boat) and there was a glass bottom boat full of Mexican children that had obviously come to see a whale. They were all waving at our boat as it passed by, then all of the sudden a whale popped its blow whole up right in front of them and let out a big breath of air. It caught them all so off guard that they all almost fell out of the boat. It was pretty funny.

Exploring San Carlos

Today has been a pretty big day for a couple of reasons. First is that we have completed the change over of staff and second is that I got to go explore around the town of San Carlos for a bit.

The rotation went pretty smoothly, we got into San Carlos at around 6 am this morning and I fed the guests just before they disembarked. After that the whole crew was in a whirl wind as they got ready to leave the boat and prepared everything for the next person to arrive. For the most part the general rule is that it’s best to go over everything with the person who will be taking your place so they know what is going on. Everything happens in such a smooth motion around here, it actually goes pretty smoothly. I actually came a week before my rotation so that I could train, but the people that I am here with now are “my rotation” so to speak. I’m sure I’ve said this before, but I am now the Sous Chef and I finally got to meet my boss for the first time today. His name is Jeff, and he is a pretty cool, mellow guy so I’m sure we will get along fine. It seems at this point that he has his act together fairly well, so I hope all things are smooth for the next eight weeks. It’s actually very nice to not be leading the charge for once, this is the first time in over 10 years I haven’t been the person in charge of the kitchen I was working in. It’s kind of nice.

Shortly after the guests took off this morning I had a chance to go for a walk around town here in San Carlos. It is a small town with only one paved road and not a whole lot going on. It is a fishing village that has gotten quite a bit of tourist dollars lately from people looking to see whales. There is also a fish processing plant at the dock, so there is a few jobs in the local economy anyways. Unfortunately, my walk was pretty early in the morning and there wasn’t much going on in town, pretty much every thing was closed up pretty tight. Some things that I noticed were many dogs just running around the streets doing what they pleased, and the fact that most people that had cars took absolutely no trouble to maintain them what so ever. I would go out on a limb and guess that probably half the cars I saw driving around had no mufflers due to rust, and most of them had serious amounts of bird crap and dirt on them like they hadn’t been washed in months. On side streets there were several places that either looked to be uninhabited or torn down all together. I’m not sure of why, but it seems like the town used to be quite a bit more populated at some other time than it is now. Other than that I noticed two small grocery stores, one liquor type store, three or four hotels and several restaurants and not much else. This will be my last time stopping here in San Carlos on this boat, so I’m glad I got to see the town at least a little bit.

Other than these couple of things there’s not too much to report. I haven’t had a chance to talk to my wife or kids in a couple of days, and it looks like it will be 3 more or so before I will be able to. I hope that they are doing ok, I miss them a bit today. I can’t wait to get down to Cabo so I can talk to them again, but I know the next couple of days are going to be amazing so it will be ok.

San Carlos

Today has been a pretty mellow day, we are parked just outside of San Carlos. All of the rotational staff is heading out tomorrow, so there has not been a whole lot going on. Mostly just a whole lot of cleaning and that’s about it. On a good note, my bread turned out great today, I’m pretty happy about that. I can’t even explain how complicated making bread professionally is. No two ovens are the same, no two flours are the same and even if the climate is different can screw you up pretty good. I’ve been dealing with all of that this week, so now I feel I have over come it. In the next couple of weeks I will make some new deserts and get a good chance to test my pastry skills, which in my opinion are pretty bad. I’m excited about it, because it’s a great chance for me to build up my skills and become a better chef. Very good for me.

It seems that yesterdays touching of the whales was the last of the season, all the whales have headed north for the summer. It’s pretty cool that I got to touch what amounts to the last whales in Magdalena Bay for the 2008 season, that makes my fun yesterday even better. That was a big check on the old “list of things to do in my lifetime”, actually pretty darn near the top, right up there with seeing polar bears and penguins, and watching the Aurora Borealis. I plan on making it back down here, probably for a drive with the kids some day, so I can take them out to see this. I’m sure this would give them much more than any trip to Disneyland could ever give them.

Tomorrow I meet the new crew, the people that I will be with for the next 8 weeks. I really don’t know much about any of them, most of the people that are here now don’t ever work with them, being on opposing shifts. I just hope I’m not stuck in the Galley with a couple of people that have a bad attitude and like to throw things or whatever. That’s my biggest fear at this point. Only time will really tell.

I’ve been thinking about the trip up the coast to Alaska, and while I don’t really want to get sea sick or have anything bad happen to the boat, it would be pretty cool to run into rough seas on the way up there. I here it happens most of the time, and it would be pretty crazy to live through being on a boat floating over 15 to 20 foot waves. Either way, it will be cool to see the coast line from a different perspective. I hope to get some pictures of places that I can pick out along the way. Maybe the Golden Gate and the Redwoods. I’m going to have to look at the map real good and see where we will be during the day to get a better perspective.

Boca de Soledad

Today we parked in the Hood Canal just north of the town of San Carlos for some whale watching. In the afternoon I went for a ride on the zodiac to see what they are all about and when we first headed out into the boca de soledad there was absolutley nothing going on, no whales at all, so we actually started to head back to the ship. About two minutes into our return we got a call on the radio that another group had found a couple of whales that were willing to play, so we b-lined over to their position near a beached fishing boat. Once we got there, sure enough, I ended up getting to see a playful mom and her calf up close and personal. I guess the trick is that you get the boat up as close as you can to their position, then when you see them look at you, then you splash and tell them you want to touch them. We were circling and playing for 20 minutes or so when the leader told us we would need to head back, but no one had been able to actually touch these whales yet. Not in our boat or the others in our group. About 2 minutes after that the mom swam RIGHT under our boat and then the calf stuck his head out right next to me. I splashed the water at it then I actually ended up touching the calf! Whales feel absolutely nothing like the look, to be honest with you I had no idea what to expect. Their “skin” is like velvet almost, very soft and not overly smooth. After that the trip was over, so we headed back to the boat, then back to work like nothing had happened. I’m still buzzing off of the high I got off of that.

All things have been pretty mellow on the boat today, I made a dessert called Tres Leches that is a cake that is soaked in a cream sauce and then topped with whipped cream. Pretty good stuff, so good in fact that I really need to watch what I’m doing, because this stuff is adding to my gut in a serious way now. That combined with the lack of real excersize that I get here is not such a great thing for my body. I hope to continue my post dinner work out tonite, I felt quite a bit better this morning thanks to last nights. Most of the crew is going to San Carlos about a 1/2 hour boat ride from our current position for an appreciation night type of deal, it’s a reward for the crew that will be ending their 8 week stint here on Saturday. I’m not going to head out, because it will probably be way too much fun for me, plus I will have a chance to explore around town on Saturday when everyone is either coming or going.

It’s gotten a little cloudy out and being on this side of baja is quite a bit cooler. It’s not quite shorts and sandals weather any more, but it still is much different than snowing and raining.

Bahia Madalena

Today we headed up to the nursery for whales, Bahia Magdalena. As soon as we got into this bay the whales were out in droves. Dolphins were riding our bow waves and wales were breaching the water at many times, this is like a play ground for them. I’m pretty spoiled by seeing the things that I see now, it’s kind of cool to literally look out the window or over the water at pretty much any given time and see either wales, dolphins, or sea lions at any time. We also passed through the Hull Canal as well, this is the northern section of Madelena Bay that is very narrow and completely unique. Very interesting to see sand dune formations and interesting plant life growing along the edge of all kinds of lagoons and narrow pathways.

As far as work goes, my schedule is coming together a bit now for me. I get into the Galley at 5:30 and start the dough for the bread. Once that is mixed up I put it into containers and let it rise. After that I start on breakfast, a simple deal really. Three types of scrambled eggs, bacon, and french toast, crepes or pancakes. From there I start on the dessert for dinner. At about 10 or so I get going on prep for both the staff lunch and the guest lunch, with the staff lunch being whatever I can throw together for the most part, and the guest lunch being a fairly complicated meal either served buffet or family style.I will also form the bread into loaves and get them ready for baking later in the. After putting out both lunches as noon and 12:30 respectively, then dinner prep begins. Dinner prep is similar to the lunch prep, being that there is both a staff meal, and a guest meal. The bread is generally baked off at this time as welll. Generally the food is outstanding and the guest meal is a sit down affair. Guest dinner is served at 7:30 proceeded by the dessert that I made earlier in the day and then clean up the kitchen at around 9:00 pm or so. The only saving grace is that of the two cooks, one gets a break in the morning and one in the afternoon for a couple of hours, so that one can take a ciesta or whatever.

I’m starting to feel the lack of excersize now. I have decided to come up with a routine (which is normal for me) that I can do every day. Basically stretches, push ups, sit ups, pull ups and jumping jacks, just to keep my heart rate going for at least 5 minutes with a warm up and cool down period on either end. It’s not much but it’s all that I’ve got. I hope that once I get a little more settled I will be able to get few trips to the beach in with the guests (which is encouraged by Lindblad) and that will give me a chance to hike, and I definitely am needing that now.

Los Islotes and Cabo San Lucas

Today, I’ll post up two days worth of Journal entries so I can be all caught up. I’m still struggling with posting the pictures on here. It’s just not going to happen I guess!!!

3/24

Today I woke up so amazingly refreshed. I knew that a good night of sleep was all I would need to get back on my feet.

Yesterday we went as far north in the sea of Cortez as we were going, so we are headed back south now down to Cabo san Lucas. The water has been pretty smooth so far, I haven’t gotten into the real rough stuff yet, but I’m sure there will be some coming. Right now we are anchored off of a couple little islands called Los Islotes that are what seems to be a hot spot for sea lions and seabirds to hang out at. At this stop they let you go snorkeling and swim with the sea lions. Other than the sea lions, the rock formations of the islands are interesting and the water is full of other crazy sea creatures. While we were just setting up shop for the snorkel with sea lions I looked down into the water to see one of the biggest Jellyfish that I have seen, I’m guessing it to be 3 feet around, and pretty interesting looking.

As I was prepping for dinner, I looked out the window of the Galley to see 10 or so dolphins swimming along side of the boat. Curious animals, I have much to learn about them. Either way that sure did put a smile on my face. I’m hearing that once we get onto the other side of the Baja peninsula there will be whales galore, it’s time for the mothers to give birth so they are there for sure.

The staff on the boat is crazy. I will most likely not work with many of the rotational staff that I am right now, plus a couple of them including the current chef and sous chef are heading over to the new Lindblad boat (the National Geographic Explorer) when they fire it up for the first time in June. Needless to say, they are very excited about there new journeys. The life of a sailor is an interesting one, I hope to find place in the whole thing here shortly.

I’m starting to learn my way around the kitchen a bit better now, I can already see that my first week on my own is going to be interesting, though. It’s kind of hard to learn a menu when you only see things once a week, but I’m sure that it’s nothing I can’t work out. I’m not quite sure if the chef that will be coming a board next is good and or forgiving, but I sure am going to find out.

3/25

I’m getting more into the rythm of things on board now, so that is a good thing. I also am starting to be more comfortable with the galley and what is going on there.

We made our way into Cabo san Lucas today, smack dab in the middle of Spring Break. There were people partying everywhere, and all of them were having a good time. It’s a beautiful city, quite different from La Paz. Actually I would say that it would be 180 degrees different. La Paz was poor and down home, where Cabo is money and very stuffy. I didn’t really get a chance to look around Cabo very much, but the next time I will hopefully get a chance to see a bit about of it. I’m just not a big city and flash type of person, so no big deal for me.

On the way over to Cabo I did get to see some whales do an outstanding dance for me. They were chugging right along, then when we caught up to them they just kind of circled around for a little bit then started playing. It was so cool, there is no way to describe just how graceful the huge animals really are. There was about 10 of them in the group and they got some great cheers from all on board that were watching. Just as soon as they had come and started playing they were gone. It’s amazing what a sight like this can do for your day. I wouldn’t trade it for a thing.

First day on the Sea Lion

Yesterday was my first day on the Sea Lion here in the Sea of Cortez. My first day on the boat was a pretty good day. I got onto the boat at 8:30 and went straight to work in the Galley, the kitchen is bigger than my last one by quite a bit and very well stocked with every tool a cook would need. That was a relief. The food is pretty crazy, I’m definitely not used to this style of cooking, so it’s going to take some time for me to adapt. Basically, I will get up in the morning at 5:27 and make a 3 minute commute to the kitchen up a flight of stairs, then from there start bread and begin to work on breakfast. After the bread is started the breakfast buffet is set up and put out by 7:30. From there I have to do all of the prep for lunch, a staff lunch at 11:30 and a guest lunch at 12:30 as well as work on the bread some more and help do prep for dinner. After that it’s time to start prep for dinner and then bake off the bread for the night. Dinner is served at 7:30 and all kitchen staff helps with plating and to get the food out in an orderly fashion. Dinner is the only meal that is not buffet style. There is typically 25 staff and 70 guests to feed at each seating. Tomorrow is an outdoors Barbeque on the beach type of thing, but I’m not quite sure how that works. More on that tomorrow.

As far as my co-workers go, it’s an interesting lot. 60% female and 40% male, the ratio is a bit higher than I thought it would be. There are two classes of employee’s on board now. The full time employee (which I am) works 8 weeks on and 4 weeks off and the contract employee works for 6 months straight. At this point in time the full time employee’s are about to rotate off the boat, so they have been on board for 7 weeks now and you can tell they are a bit frazzled. Every one so far has been very nice, I don’t see any problems forming at this point for me personality wise. That may change next week when the next rotation arrives, but I hear good things about all of them as well.

My first nights sleep was completely horrible! I had so much trouble sleeping, it sucked. I blame it on too much coffee, too much nerves and adapting to sleeping on a noisy rocking boat. It’s going to take a bit to get used to always being in motion, but I know that I will. Luckily I haven’t had a problem with sea sickness, this was a concern. I think I’ll be ok, we have good windows in the Galley and that helps.

I’m a little beaten down at this point, but I’ll get used to it for sure. A good nights sleep will make things much better.

I’ve got internet on the boat now, but it’s slow, expensive and uploading pictures is not feasible, so when I get into town I’ll stop at an internet cafe and put a bunch of pics in my photo book.

La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico

I finally made it down here for some exploration and adventures. I almost can’t believe that it all came together, but it has. It looks like the next 4 weeks I will spend exploring the waters around the southern portion of the Baja Peninsula. This I can handle. Actually, I really like this town, but I knew that I would.

After spending the day in the rain and cold weather yesterday, I was looking forward to shorts and sandals. La Paz did not disappoint. I made it into the local airport here at around 1:30 pm and was actually quite surprised by how easy it was to get through customs and what not. In just a short time I was out of the airport and in a taxi to the hotel that Lindblad had set up for me. Oddly enough taxi prices seem to be about the same here in La Paz as they were in Seattle. It was $30 US to get to the hotel.

One of my concerns about coming down here was the money conversion. It seems that $1 US is equivalent to $10 pesos, though that seems odd to me. Times they are a changing. Anyways, right off I found an ATM at a bank to get some Pesos out of. I took out $200 pesos, then bought dinner a dos XX and a couple of sodas and I still have $50 pesos left. Not too bad, especially since it cost $3 USD for a soda at LAX earlier today.

I managed to cruise up and down most of the beach part of town and quite a bit of the first couple of blocks in as well, and to be honest with you this place is great. I could see myself living here someday….maybe.

Tomorrow is my first day on the boat, the National Geographic Sea Lion, I meet up with it at 8:30. There are two other ladies here at my hotel that are joining the crew as well, so we have a had a few good conversations about the work. Mostly the general thought is it should be hard work, but a great thing to do. I’m excited for sure.

It’s 10pm now and I’m fading quick after my 4am start, so that’s all for today. Adios!

My day in Seattle

Well…it’s been quite a day here in Seattle, WA! I’ve come to the conclusion that the $100 digital video/still camera that I picked up just before the trip is Junk!! Oh well, that’s what I get for buying a cheap camera, but I just didn’t want anything too nice because I have a problem with dropping and breaking things, or even better just plain leaving it somewhere, which is exactly what I did with my cell phone! I left it in a cab. My dad always used to tell me that I would lose my head if it wasn’t screwed on, and boy am I sure feeling that now. I’ll have to look into some kind of strap for the it or something. I should actually learn to live with out it, God knows they cost way too much, but it’s also way to easy to depend on technology to the point where we completely deny ourselves of our natural ability to do things for ourselves. I hate feeling helpless, but I hate it even more when I feel helpless and I really shouldn’t. Now there’s something to work on, I tell ya.

Anyways….I had a little time here in Seattle before I had to take care of some business, so I did some touristy things while I could. When I was thinking of what to do I thought about the things that Seattle is famous for. Four things came to mind; Ferries across the Puget Sound, the first ever Starbucks, the fish market, and the Space Needle. Luckily I got to scope out all of these today. I had actually been on the ferry to Bremerton, WA before, but I went over to where they take off and had a look.

Next I went over to the Pike Place Market to see if I could find the first ever Starbucks and the famous fish market where they throw the fish and scream at each other. I found both and both were not disappointing. I got a cinnamon dolce latte in the coolest Starbucks I’ve been in and I felt a little better about knowing what they are all about. Unfortunately all of my pictures turned out so horribly I can’t even describe it, so you will have to take my word for it’s coolness. After that I walked around the market for a while and scoped out all of the good food and crazy things for sale. This is definately a one of a kind place that is worth seeing if you ever come to the area.

After that I got a little walk in and made my way to the Space Needle. It’s pretty hard to miss, so I just kept heading towards it and the next thing I knew I was there. After paying the $16 for a ride to the top I decided to hang out for a while and take some pictures. HAH! There were a couple that turned out OK. It was pretty cool up there, but more that anything it’s just something that needs to be done when one travels to the area.

After all this I made it to the office of Lindblad and had my orientation. What a great company, all the people are awesome that I have met so far. I’m looking forward to the next 8 weeks, I know that it won’t be easy, but I am ready to try my hardest to make it work out. The next time we talk I’ll be in Mexico for the first time! Adios!

I’m on my way now

I made it up here to Seattle, Washington tonight. I’ve officially broken off from the norm, and from what I know is safe now. It is very redeeming, and I feel a great sense of joy inside of me. Tomorrow I go in for an orientation, my first person to person contact with my new employer, Lindblad Expeditions. I’m still amazed that I have been given this opportunity to go some places and see things that many will never see. I can’t wait…

For now, I am super excited about being in Seattle for a couple of days. I’ll let you know about anything cool I find while I’m here!