Sunday, December 26, 2010

Frigates

Heading to shore in very shallow, clear waters

This morning we went ashore at Bahia San Gabriel to see if we could walk across to the other side of the island to check out Bahia Bonanza. But unfortunately, the sign on the beach said Bonanza was 8.6 km away and would take 4 hours to walk one way. As we couldn't spend 8 hours total, we only walked for about an hour to see the sights and then returned.

One lone red flower, but don't think the bush is dead - it's very alive!

On our way back to the boat we dinghied past a man-made breakwater, remnants of a long defunct Japanese cultured pearl venture. The only inhabitants visible now were a colony of frigate birds carrying on their mating ritual. We saw the males inflating their red gular pouch to attract a mate. They didn't seem too bothered to have us so near taking pictures, must have had other things on their minds?

Why are the males the attractive ones??

We pulled anchor and fished our way to La Paz catching a small mackerel then losing a brilliant green and blue 15-lb dorado (Mahi Mahi) after he put up a gallant fight. As soon as we entered La Paz harbour (N24°09.383' W110°19.731') at 18:00, Keetya I (sailors from Victoria BC), hailed us with a "Welcome Back".  Later we went for an evening meal with them, exchanging stories and tall tales.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

San Gabriel

We raised the anchor at 10:30 and sailed in a 12-knot breeze for about half way to our destination, after which we had to turn on the  motor til we reached Bahia San Gabriel (N24°25.717' W110°21.417') at 16:00. This is considered to be a day-time only anchorage, but as there were no winds in the forecast, we felt it was safe to stay overnight.


We walked the mile-long white sand beach with no one else around. After supper, with a brandy nightcap, we sat in the cockpit, looking towards the lights of La Paz in the far distance, our next destination. We were dreading the thought of leaving these quiet island solitudes of white sand beaches, and warm night air with the bright stars above.

Mamma Mia! The Coromuel winds kicked up the seas at 02:00 and rocked us from bow to stern. It was a restless night given that it was a lee shore and the lines creaked and clinked for attention. But the anchor was securely set and all was well.

Note: The Coromuel winds are a unique phenomenon to this area and blow south to southwest, thereby causing us a bow to stern rocking motion.

Friday, December 24, 2010

We can see again!

The wind was really blowing today at Isla San Francisco so we decided it was a good time to catch up on mundane boat chores (i.e. cleaning the interior). We also cleaned all the port and dodger windows with Strata Glass Cleaner and then polished all the windows with Strata Glass Polish. What a difference! Visibility is like brand new so if you don't already have some, we suggest stocking up before you head offshore. (And it even worked on our scratched up sunglasses!)

Most of the sailors gathered on shore around 16:30 for a get-together which was very well organized by SV Narama. One poor boater had no anchor or method of tying his large Boston Whaler (a hard-hull dinghy) to shore. The tide was coming in, so unfortunately he had to run or swim after his dinghy 3 times as it was quietly slipping away...but fortunately, at least he noticed it escaping!

A hearty group of boaters enjoying the evening

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Isla San Francisco

Still in San Evaristo (Mexico), we went ashore to explore. We bought a few groceries at a small store and were surprised to all the satellite dishes for TV at so many of the humble casas.

The blue circle in the background is a satellite dish for TV

There were a few goats running around and also this adorable but shy baby goat in a pen...


We left San Evaristo at 11:00 and sailed with north winds to Isla San Francisco (N24°49.282' W110°34.198'), only about 2.5 hours away. We took the dinghy ashore and hiked for an hour up a very large hill for a great photo opportunity. (Note the "comma" shaped hook at the tip of Isla San Francisco below.)

That's us second from the right

After a much quicker descent, we visited the salt harvesting ponds and collected some for our galley.


When night falls, we become zombie sailors if we're not back on our boat. As you can see from the picture, we've been caught late on land and our legs are growing to frightful heights in the setting sun...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

San Evaristo

As we motored back to Agua Verde from Puerto Escondido yesterday, Jordan worked on our recently acquired Evinrude outboard. As the impeller was damaged, he ingeniously decided to turn it upside down after which it seemed to work okay, at least until we get to La Paz where we can buy a new impeller. We went ashore, hiked up a trail, and then talked to a couple on a Canadian boat with their visiting family where we watched an AWESOME moon rise with a bright, brilliant orange colour!

View from top of hill with Sea Turtle on far left

Early this morning, we left Agua Verde to head for San Evaristo. Gap winds were blowing, at times up to 18-knots and then at times down to nothing, but for the most part we sailed with the help of SW winds on our beam. (Last year when my parents were visiting us in Victoria, we took them out sailing and heeled the boat with winds on the beam. My Mom hated it so she definitely would not have liked to have been with us this time with the wind on our beam!)

After 8 hours, we set anchor at San Evaristo (N24°54.818' W110°42.177'), alongside SV Verdia, a Canadian boat we had met previously.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

North or south?

When motoring south to Agua Verde from Puerto Escondido on Sunday, the engine was revving up, an indication of a foul fuel filter. So on Monday, Jordan changed the 2 filters and bled the lines, which turned into a 3-hour job. We then departed from the beautiful, turquoise green waters of Agua Verde at 11:15 to...continue heading south??

No. We headed all the way back to Puerto Escondido.

Why?? While changing the filters, we received a call over the VHF from a man with a dinghy outboard for "swap or trade" (in Mexico, gringos are not supposed to sell items as this takes much-needed business away from the locals).

So we returned to Puerto Escondido to hopefully get a replacement motor for our dinghy, arriving at 15:15. It's unusual to have south winds at this time of year but this was in our favour as it meant we could sail instead of motoring. After meeting up with Mike of sailing vessel Joan D III, we discovered that the motor needed a couple of parts so we struck a deal for "as-is".

We watched the total lunar eclipse (when the earth is directly between the sun and moon) from our boat. Or should I say we kept peeking out at it as it took about 2 hours before the moon was covered. I thought the moon looked much more 3-D or rounder when it was in total shadow. It looked very pretty with a soft, hazy, orange glow behind it. Another total lunar eclipse will not occur again on the same day as the winter solstice in our lifetime. But of course there will be many other lunar eclipses.

This morning at 11:30 we left Puerto Escondido...once again...to head back to Aqua Verde...once again.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Agua Verde

We left Puerto Escondido, but a few minutes later, we had to turn around and go back. We had stayed 1 more night than what we had initially paid for so of course we returned to pay for the additional stay. At 14:15, we were on our way to Bahia Agua Verde.

The south wind was only 0 to 5 knots so we motored. During our passage, we went by the Mano de Dios (Hand of God) that marks the entrance to Hand of God Cove. The Hand of God is a rock cliff facing the ocean and the natural sculpture of the rock looks like a 21-metre-high hand (~N25°42.6' W111°12.85').

Looks just like a hand

We enjoyed a colourful sunset with the moon already visible...


...and shortly thereafter dropped the hook at 18:45 at Agua Verde (N25°31.333' W111°04.407') in the dark, something that we always try to avoid, but at least there was almost a full moon shining down and we had been in this same anchorage on our way up the Sea of Cortez in April so we were familiar with it.

We fell asleep to the sound of the waves gently lapping at the shore.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Puerto Escondido

We left behind beautiful Islas Coronados at 09:30. Motor-sailed most of the time, saw a lot of red tide, and at 14:15 on Thursday, December 16th we set anchor amongst all the mooring buoys at Puerto Escondido (N25°49.161' W111°18.761'), a nearly land-locked bay.

Puerto Escondido is about 185 km northwest of La Paz and 210 km south of San Carlos, so we are just over half way back to La Paz where we will do last-minute fix-ups and provisioning before crossing from the Baja back to Mainland Mexico to continue our journey south.

Early Friday morning, Jordan went fishing and caught 2 Sierras, 1 being the largest Sierra he has ever caught. What a great provider he is - enough to keep us eating for a week!

Senora, fish for you?

Checked in with the morning radio net at 08:15 and asked if anyone was driving to nearby Loreto. Dave with SV Moxie volunteered to take us so off we went. We walked down a funky street with merchants on both sides and arched trees overhead...


I checked out a classy hotel renovated in an old colonial building that Jordan had seen on a previous holiday. This picture was taken with me standing in the hotel looking up at the bottom of the swimming pool on the floor above me.


Then we had lunch at Mexico Lindo and went shopping at Conchita's Curios, a quirky store that reminded us of Chintz & Co. back in Victoria BC. Jordan bought me a beautiful sundress, necklace, and scarf at Conchita's which I wore later to the potluck at the Marina in Puerto Escondido.

Later in the evening, we had a fun visit with our friends hosted on board SV Nautilus, probably our last as we will be leaving them all behind tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Islas Coronados

As we were alone in the bay yesterday, I had a solar shower and then lazed in the sun in the cockpit - what a beautiful day it was. Jordan worked some more on the borrowed 2-HP outboard trying to get it to run and was finally successful at noon!

We left San Juanico at 13:30 under hot sunny skies with both of us wearing our bathing suits. The seas were exceptionally calm so we motored all the way to Islas Coronados (N26°06.695' W111°17.015'), a volcanic island.

We dropped anchor at 17:00 and from that moment we could see we were in a picture perfect setting. Our anchor was clearly visible through the emerald green water over 9 m below with rays cruising the sandy bottom and fish were already about the boat. This is a national marine park that nobody should miss if in the area. We took our dinghy ashore for the easiest landing to date...just stepped out right onto the white sandy beach. There, with the other cruisers, we had appys under park thatched roof cabanas then watched the sun set over our flotilla. What a way to end a perfect day!

Is it sugar or is is sand? (photo courtesy of SV Salish Sea)

Today we went for a lengthy hike to check out the island after the guys got back from fishing (Jordan caught his 1st Trigger fish which was very tasty!) We saw a wide variety of desert vegetation that changed from one type to another as you walked along. At one point the path ended and we found ourselves traipsing over rocks with no end in sight so we turned around and returned the way that we came.

View from up top away from beach

It will be tough to leave this Caribbean-like island tomorrow, but time to move on.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

San Juanico

We departed Domingo Point of Mexico bright and early yesterday at 06:30 and motored around the Point heading south in very light winds and calm seas. We put the spinnaker up mid-morning until around noonish when the winds started to gust at 20 knots - much too strong for our spinnaker sail - so we switched to 2 smaller sails and sailed "wing-on-wing".

Flying our bright spinnaker under sunny skies

Jordan caught a 10-pound Black Skipjack but released it as unfortunately we do not think they taste very good - but it sure put up a fight!

We crossed our April 5th path as we came into San Juanico (N26°22.041' W111°25.918') and set anchor. Dinghied ashore to meet up with fellow sailors from Moonraker, Salish Sea, Southern Cross, and Whirlwind on the beach for a nightcap, storytelling, and a bonfire.

Today I went to shore with Diane and Megan to walk to the next beach. The guys joined us later, but as Jordan was heading in, he ran over some rocks in the shallow water with the outboard and stripped gears in the bottom end. As he was unable to fix it, we borrowed a small 2-HP outboard from Salish Sea and will either buy another outboard when we get to La Paz or see if the Mercury dealer there has any luck fixing ours - crossing fingers and toes!

We made a new tree hanging for the "Sailor's Tree" and strung it up (last year, we hung a temporary shell that we wrote our boat name on). This time, Jordan hammered our boat name, our names, and the date on our old stainless steel tea kettle which should last for a long time. The tree is covered in many different items such as shells, scrub brushes, shoes...anything you can think of...and also has many engraved/carved rocks, driftwood, etc. beneath it. One piece of wood is dated as far back as 1987!

The Sailor's Tree

Friday, December 10, 2010

Domingo Point

We haven't turned on the watermaker since pickling it when we left to crew to the South Pacific last April. So this morning Jordan turned it on only to discover several leaking hoses and clamp fittings after sitting unused in the heat for so long. He remedied the problem and we're back to making our own water now.

He then dove to scrape barnacles off the prop and grounding plate so we would have a little more speed moving through the water, and then at 13:30, we motored from Caleta Santispac (Mexico) for 2 hours in light NW winds to Domingo Point (N26°52.069' W111°50.807') to stage a departure for an all-day trip tomorrow to San Juanico. (Domingo Point is at the tip of the beautiful Bahia Concepción where we did not have enough time to explore more of the many bays.)

We got skunked trying to fish for dinner so we resorted to asking some fishermen in their beach shacks for some pescados (fish). But the only thing they had were some dogtype of pescado - not the best tasting - so we declined.

Fishermen's beach shacks

Thursday, December 09, 2010

A first for me

Today we did something that I have never done before in my life. We hitchhiked! Apparently this is something that most of the sailors here do to get to the nearby town of Mulegé. We only had to wait a few minutes when we were picked up by gringo Doug who drove us past his own destination so he could show us the Misión de Santa Rosalia de Mulegé that was completed way back in 1766 and is located by an oasis of beautiful palm trees.

Front view of the Mission of Santa Rosalia de Mulegé

After viewing the Mission, he dropped us off at the entrance to Mulegé and off we went to explore. We heard about a prison here that operated on an honour system (the prison is now a museum). The prisoners were let out during the day to work or spend time with their families but were expected to return back to the prison to spend the night, which they always did - no one ever took off. Amazing.

Former "honour" system prison at top of the hill

When it was time to return back to the boat, rather than pay the high taxi fare, we decided to once again hitchhike. The first mile was in the back of a pickup and the rest of the trip was with a Mexican businessman who gave us a ride all the way back to Santispac.

It was a very different day today and the night was exceptionally dark, no moon was visible. The stars were brilliant, like sparkling diamonds.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Bahia Concepción

Our next destination was Bahia Concepción, the largest sheltered bay (35 km) on the east coast of Baja California. With the wind at our back, this voyage brought to mind a passage I had just read from a book called "A Life on the Edge - Memoirs of Everest and Beyond" by Jim Whittaker which was given to us to read by our friend Stan of SV Impossible:
"...the sails up to harness every bit of energy the wind offers, you ghost along, surrounded by quiet, the ocean whispering along the waterline. In such conditions, you imagine yourself a great white bird and the sea a great blue sky."
I am sure many of you are familiar with Jim Whittaker as a mountain climber and the 1st American to climb Mount Everest, but did you also know Jim was a sailor? And that his sailboat Impossible now belongs to Stan in Victoria BC, a member of Bluewater Cruising Association.

After 4 hours, we set anchor at Caleta Santispac in Bahia Coyote (N26°45.817' W111°53.128'), a very pleasant sail that we will remember for a long time...

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Punta Chivato

We pulled anchor from Santa Rosalia at 10:00 - southward bound to nearby Punto Chivato which is about 23 nautical miles away. We were running with a moderate wind for 2 to 3 hours which turned into a very brisk wind with seas on the port rear quarter. While paralleling a reef approximately 25 m away, Jordan saw a large shark cruising the edge of the reef. He estimated the length from dorsal fin to tail to be about 3 m.

We rounded Punto Chivato (N27°03.928' W111°57.760') and anchored. However, the land is low lying so it didn't provide much dampening of the NW wind but at least there wasn't much room for the seas to build.

Early the next morning, we took the dinghy ashore to scout out all the shells as here is said to be an extraordinary shelling beach. And so it is! Shells cover the beach, layers upon layers of them - was quite a sight to see!

Millions of shells along beach

There was this adorable Border Collie dog that just wanted to play. I am sure he was impatiently saying:
"Come on man, get up, throw the stick again, come on, let's go..."
(if you look closely, the stick is laying beside Jordan and every now and again, the dog would get up and move it a little closer). And yes, Jordan did continue throwing the stick until it was time for us to leave...


Ah, what a beautiful day.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Santa Rosalia

On Friday, we wanted to leave the Guaymas wharf, calibrate the auto pilot, and anchor in front of the wharf for the night before sailing to Santa Rosalia on the Baja side of the Sea of Cortez. But as we headed out to anchor, the tide was unusually low and when we cut our lines loose from the dock, Sea Turtle didn't budge. The boat probably said:
"No, you shouldn't be leaving on a Friday."
(FYI: Superstitions consider it bad luck for sailors to leave the dock on a Friday for a long voyage or a deep sea excursion.)

Then we coaxed her out when the tide gave us a few inches but she wasn't done being stubborn - 90 m off the wharf she sat on a mudbar. Again, we waited for the tide and when we drifted off, we found some depth and anchored for the night.

We used the next day for sea trials to set up and get familiar with the new auto pilot. But it wasn't going well all day (bleeding the hydraulic lines at sea, adjusting the instruments, etc.) and by mid afternoon without having sufficient progress on dialling it in, we decided to head back to Guaymas harbour before dark. However on the way in, tinkering with the auto pilot controls, Jordan seemed to get it working. So we turned around and headed out to sea around 17:30 for an 85 nautical mile overnight crossing.

The wind was just off our nose and after motoring a short time in light winds, Jordan decided to put the mainsail up to help. At that point, the wind was starting to get a little brisk so he put a double reef in the main which turned out to be a good move as the winds got pretty strong throughout the night. As we pulled into Santa Rosalia harbour at 09:00, the sea winds were neutralized by the usual morning offshore flow.

Santa Rosalia (N27°20.401' W112°15.925') is yet another cute little town. We stayed Sunday night, the first of two nights, at the Marina Santa Rosalia so the salt could be hosed off the boat decks and sails. This marina is located in a historic wooden building which sells beer and pop from its fridge on the "honour system". If you want one, you take one, and write your name down on the paper. When you check out, you settle up. The staff is very easy-going, friendly, and not worried about the usual rules.

Jordan behind "bars" of Marina Santa Rosalia

During our stay, we wandered the town and went to see what is known as "Eiffel's Church" as it was designed by the same man as the Eiffel Tower in Paris. This church was built of pre-fabricated metal for the 1889 Paris Exposition, complete with stained glass windows too! After being moved to Brussels, it was once again dismantled and then re-assembled in Santa Rosalia in 1895 by its new French owners.

Iglesia Santa Barbara (Eiffel Church)