We left Puerto Balandra around 11 a.m. and motored towards La Paz. There isn't much wind and we are only 1 ½ to 2 hours away from La Paz so Greg doesn't even bother putting up a sail. We pass El Merito Cove which Captain Rains has an interesting story about in our Mexican Boating Guide book. A few years ago, he and his wife anchored there and went for a swim after dark, enjoying the phosphorescent sparkles swirling around their bodies and the dazzling stars in the sky. The next morning they snorkeled the shoal again and to their horror, 8 baby sea snakes (poisonous) raced out of the reeds and poked repeatedly at the glass in their facemasks. With my snake phobia, I don't think you will be reading about me snorkeling in unfamiliar coves any time soon. No way Jose.
We pass several more little coves and a larger bay where the ferry terminal is located. There are great big ferries that run from here to Mazatlan every day. Greg and I are talking about maybe going on the ferry (22 hour ride) to Mazatlan to check it out before we sail there in December. It might be nice to get off the boat for a day or two. Maybe we could stay in a hotel and watch the Oregon/Oregon State game on TV even.
We also pass a Pemex oil refinery and I notice the highway from Balandra goes right through the refinery. Right where the oil tankers unload their oil is where the La Paz channel starts. We go right by the end of a tanker to enter the channel. (I don't think they would have this kind of setup in the States.) The La Paz harbor has a very shallow shoal running through it so you have to hug the shore in the (I assume) dredged channel for several miles to reach La Paz. We pass a couple resorts and a huge water slide complex but everything seems deserted. We see very few people on the beaches at the resorts and no one using the water slides.
We are staying at the Marina Palmira which is only a little way down the channel and about 5 miles outside the downtown area. Shawn has called ahead and reserved a slip for us also. It is a pretty nice marina filled with lots of boats flying their Baja Ha-Ha flags. There is one more official function here in La Paz for the Ha-Ha which is a party on Thursday so there are quite a few Ha-Ha boats here as well as at the other marinas in town. Someone later told Greg that a month ago there were only 8 boats in our marina and now it is full. Not only from the Ha-Ha boats but the cruising season has begun this month also. When the hurricane season ends the first of November, there are lots of power and sail boats that come from California to spend the winter months here.
We are happy to be back again to shore power, water, laundry facilities, internet and of course, showers. Shawn and I go up to the marina office to get checked in (I remember to take all our paperwork with me this time.) The marina has 6 docks and where they connect to the shore is a long tiled promenade with planters of coconut palm trees and flowerbeds along the water side filled with hibiscus and lots of other flowers I forget the names of at the moment. There are also shops along the way but almost all of them are empty with for rent signs on them. There is also a hotel and two restaurants within the marina. We get use of the hotel swimming pool. We might even use it while we are here. At the north end of the promenade is where the office, laundry, showers and a small mini-market are located.
After showers we eat dinner at one of the restaurants in the outdoors section. There is a cat begging for food at our feet so of course Greg and I slip her nibbles. The next night when we are eating at the other restaurant there is a half grown orange cat begging for food and when I feed it, it is so hungry it claws at my hand. I think orange cats are more aggressive anyway. I remember my sister Sylvia's cat, Tucker.......After dinner back at the boat I try to get on the internet but for some reason the marina's wifi keeps denying my password. Guess I'll just have to wait to tomorrow.
Greg and I are both awake by 5:30 so Greg starts the coffee and soon discovers a bunch of other boats are already leaving. He decides we better get going too so I finish the coffee, get dressed and go up to help pull the anchor and get underway. I love these early morning departures when it is just getting light and we can watch the sun come up. I like sunrises so much better than sunsets. They seem to be so full of promise. Oh yeah, before I forget, I actually had goosebumps on my arms this morning because of the chill in the air. I haven't felt a chill in the air since about Turtle Bay. I am becoming acclimatized and the heat is not bothering me as much as long as there is a breeze. We have our fans for down below on the boat too which also helps.
Shawn on Althea is going along with us today as our "buddy boat". It is nice traveling with him as he has already sailed these waters, albeit many years ago. It makes Greg very nervous being in unfamiliar waters and the charts for Mexico are not the greatest.
We have to travel through Cerralvo Channel this morning and we are going against the current and there is no wind, so we are not making very good time. Cerralvo Island is to the east of us and is 16 miles long with some pretty high mountains. There are lots of gullies and ravines which make the mountains look wrinkled, kind of like my face. Our cruising book says the south end of the island is an ancient burial ground of native sea gypsies called Vagabundos del Mar. While alive, they roamed the Sea of Cortez in dugout canoes powered by sails or paddles. They lived in small family groups and avoided outside contact except for minor trading. When they died supposedly their bodies were brought here. Ray Cannon's 1966 book "Sea of Cortez" says fewer than 300 Vagabundos were still alive then, yet he found crosses, gravesites and lighted candles on the island. I say a little prayer as we motor by.
The day passes slowly as we motor along. Because the engine is running, I can keep the computer plugged into power and I spend most of the day below playing my game and doing some writing. I went up on deck when we passed Punta Coyote as I was curious if this point resembled a coyote or if they hung out there. It just looked like another point of land, maybe browner than farther south. We pass through San Lorenzo Channel in the early afternoon. This channel is between the Baja peninsula and what everyone refers to as "the islands". The islands are Isla Espiritu Santo and Isla Partida and are supposed to have some of the best anchorages in Mexico. Our plan is to go into La Paz for a week or two and then come out and explore the islands.
We reach our destination for the night, Puerto Ballandra, around 3 pm and it takes my breath away. It is a beautiful cove where rocky arms encircle a brilliant white, sandy beach backed by mangroves and smaller beaches tucked in little niches around the sides. There is a rock called Mushroom Rock where the bottom is eroded away making it look like a mushroom. The hills above the beach are sprinkled with cactus (the fun kind that have the arms). We can see people wading way, way out in the turquoise water so it must be shallow for a long way out from the beach. We are anchored in only 15 feet of water so we can easily see the bottom and all kinds of fish swimming around. Our guide book says that on weekends 100's of people drive to this beach from La Paz. Today the only people are from the dozen boats anchored up. Shawn caught a couple tuna on the way here so we make the rice and head over to his boat in our dinghy for BBQ fish, salad and rice for dinner. It is fun to have some more company and listen to some new stories.
We are only a couple hours away from La Paz so we don't have to leave the next day until late morning. Greg goes exploring in the dinghy while I decide I would rather wash my hair in the cockpit. We will stop here on our way to the islands and explore it then. On to La Paz!!!
Have arrived in Muertos Cove and discovered there is a restaurant with wifi here so I get to check out our email, internet, etc. (Go Ducks!) and I don't have to cook dinner. A definite win-win situation. Will write more when we arrive in La Paz which should be Tuesday. Having a great time.
We made better time than Greg expected and we arrived in Muertos Cove at 3:30 in the afternoon. As usual, the bay was full of Ha-Ha boats, just not as many as at Los Frailes. (I think they are starting to disperse a bit.) The trip was pretty much uneventful. We motor-sailed the whole way with light winds out of the northwest. The only marine life we saw were porpoise which were on a mission and did not come over to our boat. We had the fishing line out but no luck. We are pulling dinghy along behind us and I think all the fish thought he was a big fat shark.
Greg was very tired and did not want to put the outboard on dinghy so we could go ashore. We have not been off the boat in three days and Rocky and I are chomping at the bit to get off the boat and be on land for a little while. Besides, there is a restaurant on the beach and that means no cooking & dishes for me. I also heard people on the radio saying there was wifi at the restaurant. Greg quickly decided life would be much worse living with a pouty wife for the night than going to the trouble to go ashore. Shawn on Althea arrived soon after us and we stopped on our way to shore to invite him to dinner with us. I told him about the wifi and his eyes lit up too.
Muertos Cove is much smaller than Los Frailes but it is full of pangas. There is also a hotel at the south end of the beach which I heard later is owned by some football player. There is a game room at the hotel that is full of football memorabilia as well as slot machines, video games, pinball, etc. There are also 2 swimming pools and the hotel is cruiser friendly. (Some are not cruiser friendly as we are a pretty scruffy lot and don't spend a lot of money.) We are only staying here overnight as we are anxious to get to La Paz so we don't have time to explore this trip. We will be back when we go to Mazatlan though. Hopefully we will plan on staying a day or two. There are also some very fancy houses (even one villa) out on the northern point. There is also a golf course that wraps around the beach. My preconceived ideas of Baja being desolate, barren and undeveloped are quite a bit off for this area. Ever since Cabo San Lucas there has been lots of development. Its spread out more this last 50 miles, but it's still there. Lots of fishing resorts as well as fancy houses. One thing I notice about the houses is that even though they are large and expensive, they all have dirt roads leading to them.
The dinghy dock by the restaurant is next to an old dock from the days this used to be a port for shipping out silver from the mines. The dock floats and is tied to land by a couple lines so the surge moves it back and forth as well as bounces it up and down. I am getting pretty good at judging when to step off these kinds of docks. I just wish I was more graceful getting in and out of the dinghy.
When we arrive at the cantina it is already full of Ha-Ha boaters. It feels good to be greeted by people we know as we wind our way through the tables. The first thing I do is get the laptop out and connect to the internet. Email first. I am disappointed that there are only 2 emails from friends and family. Thank you Ann and Veronica. I promise to answer the next time I have internet access. Please feel free to email us anyone who wants to. It is our only real connection. The next thing to check out is how the Ducks did Saturday. I am relieved again to see they won and are still #1 (still can't believe that one) but I'm surprised it was such a low scoring game. I sure hope it was just a fluke. Next we check weather and I check another blog that I've been following. It is Yodersafloat and is about Stephen and Lulu Yoder from Silverton Oregon who have also started their cruising life on their Westsail 28. I emailed them a long time ago as I was curious about which Yoder clan they are attached to and if I am related to them. I didn't get a very straight answer other than he comes from the Whiskey Hill Mennonite Yoder's. (That doesn't narrow it down much.) Anyway, he writes a great blog and it is on bloggers.com.
Greg is rushing me as he wants to get back to the boat before dark so I quickly send an email to Sylvia and one for Rocky to his lady. I forgot to bring Jody's new email address so I can't send one to her. Sorry Jody. When we get back to the boat it is almost completely dark but with not too much trouble, we get the outboard mounted back aboard and things cleaned up a bit and put away for tomorrow. We are all very tired and Greg goes to bed before 8 o'clock. I have to force myself to stay awake until 10 most nights or I will be wide awake and up by 5 in the morning. I can only make it to 9:30 tonight though. Today was a very good day. Tomorrow we head out early again for Puerto Balandra which is about 40 miles away so we will have another long day.
Cabo Los Frailes is our first real anchorage without the Baja Ha-Ha fleet, although we are sharing the anchorage with about 25 other Ha-Ha boats. The weather report is predicting a "Norther" in the Sea of Cortez with 20 knot winds between us and La Paz so Greg decides we'll just sit it out here until it ends on Sunday. The journey to our next anchorage is 47 miles and we do not want to have to beat into the wind for that distance. Otter doesn't do well nose to the wind. Too slow. I don't mind staying a couple extra days as this is a beautiful anchorage.
The beach runs about 4 miles from the Los Frailes cape back to the west. There is a small ridge along the back side of the beach on the east then an open valley in the middle and more ridges to the west with a few very nice houses spread out and a small hotel complex at the west end. In the middle of the beach is a fishing camp with a couple dozen pangas. The guide book tells us there is a RV camping area behind the fishing camp. Back behind all of this are mountains running along the west side of the valley. Everything is green which I didn't expect. I guess this is the end of the wet season and maybe by spring everything will be brown but for right now, everything is a lovely shade of green.
Greg and I get the outboard mounted on dinghy and away the three of us go to the beach for our first "surf landing". Because there is hardly any surf on this beach (today anyway), the landing goes smoothly. It's when we are leaving the beach that we have a couple problems. We didn't coordinate very well and we got some water in the dinghy and we all got a little wet. Good thing we had our cameras in dry bags. Anyway, we explored the beach looking for shells and walking barefoot in the water. Ummm.......We also walk back and up on the ridge to see what is behind. Actually the guys climbed up on the ridge and I waited below to see if there was anything worth climbing to see. There wasn't, just more ridges. We notice cow and horse manure in the ravine we walked in. There is a ranch a little farther back from the beach and the animals must wander down here on occasion. (The next day I saw a mare and her foal walking along the bluff eating.) Even though it is morning, it is already getting hot and we are soon ready to go back to the boat.
The sailboat Althea arrived the second day we were here. Shawn was sharing the same slip with us in Cabo. He comes over in his dinghy to visit. We had stopped by Red Sky to visit on our way to the beach, but have not really gotten to know any of the other Ha-Ha boats that are here. On Friday Shawn comes over again and takes Greg to the beach with him as he heard on the radio there was a truck selling produce and groceries at the fishing camp. The truck was gone by the time they got there but Greg did buy some fish from a panga for our dinner. Two red fish that we have no idea what they are but they tasted pretty good.
Saturday we were boarded by a park ranger who thank goodness speaks English quite well. He wanted to collect park fees of 50 pesos per person per day but was so apologetic about it I wasn't sure he would collect the money or not. I hadn't realized this side of the cape was also a national marine park. That is why there have been improvements made on the beach. The only living hard-coral reef system in the Sea of Cortez and only 1 of 3 such reefs in North America is located on the other side of Los Frailes rock. It is a very popular dive area and is protected by the Mexican government.
The north winds are subsiding so we are planning on leaving for Muertos Cove at 6 am Sunday morning. We have not been off the boat the last 2 days so even though this is a beautiful anchorage, I am ready to move on.
We left the Cabo San Lucas marina mid morning and began motor sailing to our next stop, the Puerto Los Cabos marina about 15-25 miles away (distance depends on which cruising guide you read) along the bottom of Baja. We had read in our cruising guide books that the small town next to the marina, San Jose del Cabo, was well worth exploring. It was described as "old Mexico". After Cabo, that sounded great to us. I was completely astounded by all the resorts along the coastline. The entire distance was packed with resorts and condos, crammed right next to each other, one after another after another. Some of the architecture was truly amazing (and some, not so amazing). I don't know what you would call the styles but they seemed to fit right into the land, almost like they really belonged there.
It is nice to be back out on the water again. Cabo was an interesting place but the noise and commotion and people out all hours of the night kind of got to us. The loud lousy music all night long was irritating and then there were jackhammers going at a construction site across from our boat all day long. Enough noise. Also the frenetic, "Have I got a deal for you" vendors everywhere you went got old really quick. Even the restaurants had hawkers out on the streets trying to get you to go to their establishment.
Greg's brother, Rocky seems to be handling the heat okay. It was in the mid 30's when he left Juneau and it has to be in the upper 80's here in the daytime and low 70's at night. I still have not adjusted to the heat here. It is too damn hot!
We arrived at the Puerto Los Cabos marina in the early afternoon. It is full of Baja Ha-Ha boats headed to La Paz. We elect to moor at the special Ha-Ha rate dock, no wi-- fi included. It is also on the opposite side of the marina from the office, showers, bathrooms and little bar/restaurant. They have to send a golf cart over to pick up new arrivals to bring them to the office to sign in. The ride must be a half mile or more but it is interesting to look at all the landscaping they have put in. Lots of statutes and sculptures dispersed throughout the landscaping of cactus, palm trees, bougainvillea and lots of other plants I don't recognize. It's a shame they didn't invest in power hookups, showers and bathrooms on this side of the marina instead of landscaping. But then the rate would be $92 per night instead of $30. This marina is part of a "top of the line" resort which is way behind schedule in construction. The parts that are finished are very, very nice but there is much left to build. What a mixture of boats here. There are all the Ha-Ha sailboats, lots of fishing boats from small to extra large, and right across from our dock there are three mega yachts tied up. We are talking $10+million, huge, fancy things. Wonder where they come from and what the people are like.......I doubt they will ever come over and talk "boat talk" on the docks with all the other guys.
I' m disappointed to learn that the quaint old town of San Jose is 1 ½ miles away from the marina so we will have to take a taxis instead of walking as I don't think I could handle the heat for that long of a walk. Greg & Rocky couldn't handle it either. I'm embarrassed when I am waiting to register at the office. Another sail boater is registering before me and he has brought all his boat documents which the clerk is going through. I didn't bring anything but my credit card and a few pesos. The marina manager comes into the room and I mention I didn't bring any papers from the boat. I told him in Cabo all they wanted to see was my money. He laughed and said if I knew the boat's documentation number that was all they needed. Luckily I have it memorized now. (Can't remember where I put anything, but I remember the boat's silly documentation number.) We don't need a dock gate key on our dock, but we will have to ride the dinghy across the marina to use the showers and the docks require a key card on that side. They want a $50 deposit for the key card which I don't have with me so I will have to come back later. I don't mind because the office is air conditioned and I think I could sit there all day long.
A pleasant surprise was that our cell phone works here. I called Jody and my mom to let them know where we were. Greg and Rocky discover a small grocery store just up from our dock and both arrive back at the boat with the largest Gatorades I have ever seen. They both promptly drink their whole drinks.
The next day we call the marina office on the vhf radio to request a taxi and off we go to town. The part of town by the beach is all expensive resort stuff so we head for the back side of town where the tourist area is. There is a large, lovely square with a stage for music and dancing, a beautiful church with bell towers and lots and lots of shops and restaurants. I had hoped they would ring the bells while we were in town but no such luck. We ate breakfast outside on a patio (hot cakes with pineapple & cinnamon for me. Yum. ) and checked out lots of shops (just what Greg loves to do). After a couple hours we were ready to go back to the boat for naps or reading or both.
Late in the afternoon I walked along the road that went back out along the entrance to the marina. I found a very steep beach with people fishing with nets and poles. I decided I had to at least get my feet wet in the ocean and discovered the water is warm. Very nice on the feet.
We are leaving for Los Frailes (The Friars) early tomorrow morning as light winds are predicted and we will probably have to motor most of the way. Los Frailes is 38 miles away at the very eastern tip of Baja.