06/19/2012, Los Frailes
We left Los Muertos promptly at 8AM under motor due to a lack of wind which was mainly on the nose. The seas were calm and the air temperature was moderated by the water temperature which seemed to still be hovering in the high 70s. We chose a line which took us about 4 miles offshore in hopes that the winds would fill and rotate slightly to make sailing possible, and, sure enough, the winds clocked around to the east and began giving us a wind from the port quarter but not yet enough to push us along. We decided to throw out the fishing line to see if anything was biting, and after a few hours, we had our first "hit." When it jumped, it was clear that it was our first Dorado, but it was not to be our first "landed" one, as he got away when he bit through the leader line right where the hook attached-something that we discovered when we reeled in the lure to check for damage. It was not a very large Dorado, about 3 feet, but it sure would have made for great dinners aboard. We replaced the lure but had no more strikes for the rest of the day. We will leave Dorado country once we reach Cabo since they do not like cold water, and that is what we will have for the entire "Bash" north through the California Current. However, this will be tuna territory, and it was on the HaHa that we caught our first Yellow Fin Tuna about ½ way down. We were then escorted for awhile by a large pod of dolphins, many of whom decided to surf our nose as we broke through the water at about 7 knots under power. It was about this time that we started noticing well-spaced swells from the southeast which eventually built where, every so often, one would be about 4-5 feet in height. However, due to the lack of wind and long time intervals between the swells, they just gave us a gentle rise and fall, causing our boat speed to vary up and down by about one knot as we continued in the 7 knot range. Eventually the winds did fill in to the 8-10 knot range which allowed us to sail for about 3 hours and took us to within only a few miles of our destination, Los Frailes. The winds then decided to drop into the 3-4 knot range so it was time to crank up the engine for the final push into the anchorage. It was quite warm, so, after setting the anchor, it was time for a dip into the water which was quite a relief. Los Frailes has southern and southeastern exposure, and the swells made their way into the anchorage, along with some wind chop with a change in wind direction to the southeast, so it ended up being a night of rock and roll (not the music type) similar to what we experienced in anchorages like Yelapa. Although the winds cooperated by remaining relatively calm throughout the evening and early morning hours, this meant a not-so-pleasant night of sleeping as we should have set a stern anchor to keep the boat pointed into the swells, but that had to wait for the morning, daylight and launching the dinghy to set it properly.
We awoke Monday morning to a most unusual sight for the Sea of Cortez-overcast skies. They lasted until late morning, and then we basked in clear skies for the remainder of the day and night. Our first project for the day was to set the stern anchor since we plan to spend a second night in this anchorage before heading to Cabo due to the G20 conference which is today and tomorrow. After Andy was able to retrieve stern anchor and rode (anchor line of both chain and rope) from the port lazarette, we mounted the engine on the dinghy, placed the anchor aboard, and Andy dropped it into the water so that, when it was drawn tight, it kept Murar's Dream more closely oriented directly into the continuing swells. Debra's job was to secure the line to the aft cleat which she handled according to plan. Andy then returned to the boat and drew the line tight so that we have remained relatively pointed into the swell well into the afternoon. After completing this task, it was time to take the dinghy the few miles around the northern point of the harbor to the coral reef national park for some snorkeling. The wind cooperated in the morning so that the dinghy only had to deal with the continuing swell and minor wind chop there and back. We each took turns in the water with the other one remaining in the dinghy since you are not allowed to anchor anywhere in the park. The visibility was marginal, but we did get to see the largest variety of fishes yet on a snorkeling dive. It is the kind of place which is worth doing but not to write home about with virtually no live corals to speak of. Upon returning to Murar's Dream, it was time for some lunch and well-needed siestas to make up for the lack of sleep Sunday night. The winds did increase as the afternoon built making the temperature in the cockpit quite pleasant though it was quite warm below deck. Dinner aboard was again conducted in the cockpit after sunset-something that the heat and intensity of the sun has dictated throughout our journey to, in and from La Paz. Once we get back into the California current and predicted headwinds out of the northwest, meals below deck will likely become the method of choice. We will leave for Cabo in the morning, and it looks like the earliest window to start the bash will probably not be before Saturday. Although we have been without internet access since leaving La Paz, the last, long-term forecast for the "Bash" was for high winds and waves at least into Friday. We are prepared to wait it out for the right weather window as neither one of us wants to pound our way back to the U.S., and we are under no time deadlines which would mandate an early return. Hopefully, the coming of summer on June 21st will bring the predicted and welcomed ease in the winds and waves in the Pacific Ocean off the west coast of the Baja Peninsula, allowing us a reasonable trip north to MdR.
|The Baja Bash||
06/19/2012, Los Muertos
Our journey back to the U.S. began in earnest today when we set off on our multiple day portion to Cabo San Lucas before starting the bash. We left La Paz and Marina Costa Baja just before 7AM in moderate, trailing wind conditions which let us sail for the first three hours all the way through the San Lorenzo Channel and into the Cerralvo Channel, generally known for its high winds due to the venturi effect as the winds funnel between Isla Cerravlo and the Baja mainland, but not today. The winds died down to about 5 knots, so it was time to crank up the diesel and motor for the next four hours until we reached the southernmost opening in the channel when the winds decided to resume sufficiently to let us again set sail. However, just before setting sail, we were treated to a nearby (within 100 ft) visit by a pair of grey whales off our port side. Our sails then took us to within a mile or two of our final destination for the day, Bahia de Los Muertos, a place that we had visited and enjoyed last November on our first trip from Cabo to La Paz. We cranked up the engine for one last push putting us at anchor alone in the bay at midday. We spent the afternoon relaxing until a large (80+ foot) powerboat joined us in the anchorage and proceeded to anchor so close to us that we had to ask them if they thought that it was too close. The reply from the man at the helm at the time of anchoring replied: "No. We have enough electronics, and we won't be here too long anyway." Well, they may have had enough electronics for their purposes, but we became concerned that, with a slight windshift, we could be tangled up in their anchor line if not coming in direct contact, so we lifted anchor and relocated about 200 feet away-a much safer distance. Sure enough, before long, the winds shifted, and, but for the fact that we had moved, we would have swung directly into them or their anchor line, either option being unacceptable. This was the first instance of truly poor seamanship we have experienced since entering Mexico, and this boat was from Newport Beach, and it was obvious from a lack of any accent that these were Californians, not the natives that we have experienced in this very friendly and inviting country for cruisers. Eventually, the boat did leave the anchorage but only just after sunset, and we were glad to have them gone from our anchorage for the night. Just before dark, we were joined by another, smaller powerboat, and they anchored well away from us in the manner that one would expect from fellow cruisers. We dined and sat on deck until well into the evening to let the cabin cool down for the night as the temperature inside was about 80 degrees and not so conducive to a comfortable night's sleep. Tomorrow we will take the kayak ashore to enjoy the resort we had found on our last visit to this anchorage. There is a restaurant, infinity pool and internet which the facility allowed us to enjoy last November, so hopefully the same hospitality will continue.
Once again, we arose Saturday morning to clear skies and calm seas. We did have a bit of a blow out of the west in the middle of the night, but the anchor did its job. We casually spent the morning aboard Murar's Dream and finally launched the kayak in the early afternoon for our paddle over to the resort. We beached the kayak and began walking up the steps to the restaurant and were greeted with new signage: "Casa Suenos Guests Only," along with a resort employee who promptly re-directed us around the main resort to get to the restaurant. Upon arriving, we sat at a nice, shaded table in the breeze blowing off the sea and had a pleasant lunch. We were able to get enough internet access to take care of a few important matters before the internet connection decided to stop working. Afterwards, we took the opportunity to play some 8 Ball on the restaurant's pool table and also tried out the table shuffleboard set. We then returned to Murar's Dream via kayak, stopping to meet the people from a large fishing boat which had anchored near us as we were heading to the resort. Although their hailing port was San Diego, they told us that the boat was out of Cabo and that they left to go fishing and avoid the crowds building for the upcoming G20 meeting which starts in a few days. This is not the first time that we have received this type of report. They did give us some recommendations of restaurants to try in Cabo. We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing in the cockpit before going down into the salon for a game of all 5s where Debra managed to clean Andy's clock. We waited for the sun to set before dining in the cockpit as the sun was still quite intense and bathing the cockpit in sunshine until it finally set. It was then another quiet evening before turning in for the night. We will continue our journey south towards Cabo tomorrow with an interim stop in Los Frailes, the site of the only coral reef national park in Mexico. We were there in November, but the seas were a little too rough to take the dinghy around the point and snorkel the reef since you have to anchor outside the park and then dinghy in or hire a ponga. It should take us about 5 hours to reach there, and if the weather holds like it did today, we will be able to snorkel this time.
|The Baja Bash||
06/11/2012, Costa Baja
This is one of our longer blogs as it covers numerous days since arriving in La Paz which continues to be our favorite city for cruising.
We awoke Wednesday morning to a forecast of 100 degree temperatures without much wind, and the forecast lived up to its prediction. Before the heat reached us, however, Andy undertook the task of polishing the exterior, stainless steel hardware which had begun to rust due to the salt deposits as a result of our trip down from Puerto Escondito. It was then time for him to tackle the generator problem. After talking to a diesel mechanic familiar with our genset, Andy checked and tightened several fittings, and, lo and behold, the generator seems to be working normally and without the chronic leeching of salt water into the cooling system. Once Andy confirmed the fix, he proceeded, along with Debra's help, to flush out the cooling system and re-load it with the recommended mixture of 50% anti-freeze and 50% fresh water. The generator was then started again to confirm that all was well, and we are now back to full usage of the generator when we leave this marina. However, we will continue to monitor the water leak problem for the next several times that we start the generator to make sure that we do not re-visit the water in the bilge problem which led us to discover the genset problem in the first place. Once the fix was completed, it was time to take a break from the heat which was building as the day progressed, and we went to the beach club for a swim in the infinity pool overlooking the bay, followed by reading in lounge chairs located in the shade and with just the slightest breeze. After returning to Murar's Dream, it was time to catch the shuttle bus into town for dinner at our favorite taco restaurant, Rancho Viejo. We found an outside table in the shade with a nice breeze which made for an enjoyable, early evening dining experience. It was then back to the marina via shuttle bus to end this day in La Paz. The forecast is for high temperatures for the next two days, so it may mean more trips to the beach club and the infinity pool.
The next few days were nothing to write home about. We just had to deal with the oppressive heat. The A/C has saved us at bedtime, cooling the cabin into the mid-70s before we turn in for the night. Each day after taking care of boat matters, it was off to the pool to moderate the effects of the afternoon heat. Unfortunately, we were attacked by mosquitoes at the beach club one afternoon, so we started going to the pool at the resort hotel which is actually closer to the boat but not as nice a view of the sea. With the continuing heat, we decided that it was time to do a bit of land exploring, so we decided to rent a car on Saturday and drive the 50 km to Todos Santos on the Pacific coast of the Baja. We made a reservation for the car on Friday when we came into town for errands, and Debra did the research for a place to stay overnight in Todos Santos.
On Saturday, we took the shuttle into town to pick up the rental car, which began with quite the experience: We noticed large #s of military personnel, fully armed with assorted weapons, throughout Costa Baja with a large contingent, complete with armored vehicle, at the entrance. We later learned on our return from Todos Santos that El Presidente was in the process of staying overnight, so it was a good thing that we were getting out of the resort which was going to be a potential security nightmare. We rented a Dodge Attitude, which is actually a Hyundai with its logo on the grill and trunk, so it looks like Chrysler and Hyundai have struck a cooperative deal similar to GM and Toyota years ago and now with Kia, badging their subcompacts with American names like Aveo. Our first stop was Walmart where we stocked up on the sipping tequila that we had discovered and that everyone who has tried it seemed to enjoy. We then ventured over to Home Depot where Andy was able to find the metric screws that he needed to fix the cockpit table light which had gone on the fritz. We also stocked up on additional diesel jerry cans for the bash back to California. It was then time to head for the Pacific coast along the recently completed, four lane highway to just outside of Todos Santos. Todos Santos has been designated one of the few "Pueblo Magicos" by the government, so it has spent money sprucing up its streets and civic improvements. Debra booked us into the Todos Santos Inn which reminded us alot of Hotel El Fuerte, an old hacienda converted to a hotel which retains the old feel. We were able to stay in one of the patio suites with a king size bed and sitting area. The temperatures in town were about 20 degrees cooler than La Paz due to the moderating effect of the California Current. The town is quite charming with a large ex-pat population. It is also the home of the Hotel California which some people claim is the basis for The Eagles song. It is located above a large aquifer, so you would not think that you were in the arid desert of Baja California Sur being amongst significant vegetation including large clusters of palm trees. This area is also well-known for its organic farms. We had outstanding meals there including dinner at Michael's Restaurant, a reservation only spot where Michael, an ex-pat, does all the cooking in an outdoor kitchen in the backyard of his art studio, while his wife waits on the tables which seat less than 30 people, total. By the time we headed back to the hotel after dark, temperatures had significantly dropped to the point that we were ready for more clothing which we had failed to bring since we were unaware of the significant temperature difference from hot La Paz.
We awoke Sunday morning and quickly went into the hotel's library where they had a television so that we could watch the men's finals of the French Open. As many of you probably know by now, the match was suspended due to rain, so we packed up to head back to La Paz with a planned first stop the other direction at El Pescadore, about 5 miles south of Todos Santos. Our first diversion was the fact that the main street of Todos Santos was now closed with armed policemen at each intersection. We spoke with one of the local residents who confirmed that El Presidente was on his way from La Paz to Cabo San Lucas to check out the newly completed four lane highway (probably for the G20 conference starting in about a week) with a stop in Todos Santos, so they shut down the main street for security purposes. This was reinforced by the fact that we observed several Navy helicopters flying overhead at various times, which appeared to be lead surveillance for the anticipated arrival of El Presidente at some point later in the day. We were able to avoid the main road through town and work our way south to El Pescadore on the main highway where we found a local, organic ex-pat farmer selling his goods, so we stocked up on some fruits and veggies freshly picked that morning including beautiful fresas 9strawberries) still on the stem. We also took a detour on one of the various dirt roads out to the coast and walked out on the beach to get a closer look at the waters which we will be navigating on the Bash. When we arrived back at the south end of Todos Santos, the road was blocked by police, but after about 10 minutes, they re-routed us through town so that we could resume our trip back to La Paz. It was obvious that El Presidente had not yet arrived in town, and at the same time, there was a motorcycle race in town, which really exacerbated the traffic, so it was interesting to experience a traffic jam in a town with only a single traffic light. However, once we cleared town, it was on to the 4 lane highway and an easy return to La Paz. We had observed one of those great Pollo Asado stands just outside La Paz on our way to Todos Santos, so we hit it on the way back and bought a couple of chickens so that Debra could make her spicy Mexican chicken casserole for dinners on the Bash and have enough chicken left over for some lunches. After one additional stop at Soriana, a Mexican superstore, for final food items, it was back to Murar's Dream and the oppressive heat. The Malecon in La Paz was also shut down to motorized traffic, so we had to detour through town to get back to the Costa Baja coastal road. After unpacking from the trip, we quickly donned swimming suits and headed for the hotel pool for some relief before dining at one of our favorite restaurants, Azul Marino, right inside Costa Baja. We finished the evening with a round of all five dominoes.
Monday started with a trip to the hotel gym for a workout in hopes of being able to watch the resumption of the French Open finals on the TV in the gym. It must have started really early since we were only able to learn the results from the completed match as we tuned in to CNN. Andy then returned the rental car and took care of assorted errands in town while Debra began cooking a few dishes to freeze for dinners on our bash back to California. We had a nice breeze build out of the NW, as was forecast on the daily weather reports that we receive via the internet, along with some high clouds, making it quite tolerable sitting in the cockpit under our bimini. Dinner will be shrimp on the barbie since we found a nice pescaderia (fish market) stand on the side of the road on our way back from Todos Santos. This will be our first dinner onboard since returning to La Paz, as we have experienced a lot of restaurants, both good and not so good, each evening that we have taken the shuttle into the city.
Finally, we have decided to extend our stay in La Paz through this week. We checked on availability at the marina in Cabo San Lucas, the closest jumping off point for the Bash, which does have availability. The G20 is scheduled to take place in Cabo from 6/18-20, so we decided not to get there too early and have to deal with the anticipated security problems which one would expect. This will also place us closer to the favorable, Summer weather window for the bash back to Los Angeles without a prolonged stay in Cabo which is not one of our favorite spots.
|Sea of Cortez||
06/05/2012, Costa Baja
After a long night of rocking and rolling, we decided that it was time to go further south to our planned, final destination of Marina Costa Baja at the northern outskirts of La Paz. We had previously stayed in this marina last November, so we were very familiar with its facilities which suited our needs best in La Paz. The first order of business was for our boat to serve as "net controller" for the daily Amigo Net broadcast, which we conducted by single sideband radio while underway. The winds were predicted to blow out of the WSW which would mean a nice day of sailing on a beam reach, but, much to our disappointment, it was another day of headwinds and waves on our nose. We zig-zagged again today to avoid the really unpleasant feeling of bashing into headwinds and seas, and this really helped. Fortunately, the winds slowly moved slightly westward and the seas subsided for the last hour of our 5 hour trip to the marina. Upon arriving, we stopped at the fuel dock to top off the fuel for our next leg to Cabo San Jose which will be our jumping off point for our "Baja Bash" back to Marina del Rey. When we will leave La Paz and start the bash remains up in the air as we are still considering various options for this final part of our journey to Mexico. Once docked, it was time for a much needed, exterior bath for Murar's Dream to remove the large amount of salt which had been deposited since the last rinse in Puerto Escondito before Rick's arrival. The last few days had brought a large amount of water over the bow, depositing salt spray from bow to stern. The next project will be to polish the external stainless steel hardware which has started to show signs of rust due to this salt exposure. After completing this task, it was time to handle other needed chores including running the watermaker (which is happier the more it is used). We also checked out the operation of the air conditioner which has had such minimal use since the heat of La Paz warranted a test of the equipment which worked flawlessly should we need it to help cool our aft cabin at bedtime. It was then time to give ourselves some needed showers before we caught the shuttle bus into La Paz for a well-deserved dinner at a fancy restaurant-something that is not so easy to find in the parts of Mexico we have visited other than in Cabo and Banderas Bay. We both agreed to check out the restaurant recommended by our La Paz dockmates, Earl and Louise Kara, from our last stay in Costa Baja. We found Tres Virgenes just where they had shown us, and the meal did not disappoint. Both of us agreed that it was probably the finest meal that we have experienced since arriving in Mexico last Occtober. After dinner, it was time to catch the shuttle bus back to the marina where we have turned in for the night. Tomorrow begins the process of addressing some of the problems and needs that we have in anticipation of our final leg back to LA.
|Sea of Cortez||
06/05/2012, El Cardoncito
We left San Evaristo early in the morning in hopes of beating the afternoon winds which were forecast to continue out of the SSE, and we were heading in that direction. We started in moderate headwinds, and, much to our surprise, the winds totally subsided by late morning, so we were excited to explore a new cove on Isla La Partida, El Cardoncito, only a day trip under motor. This was a tiny cove just north of Caleta Partida, a much larger cove in which we had previously anchored during our prior visit to La Paz last year (Can you believe that we have now been in Mexico for 7+ months?). We were the only boat to anchor in this tiny cove, and we both agreed that it was the best secluded cove that we had experienced in Mexico to date. The water was clear, and the change in color from dark blue to light turquoise as the cove shallowed was both dramatic and beautiful. We launched the dinghy and motored over to a coral reef just off the southern point of the cove for some snorkeling, and it did not disappoint. The clear water, together with the variety and number of fishes, made this the best snorkeling experience yet. We returned to the boat in anticipation of a very quiet night but were rudely greeted by increased winds and waves as the sun set. We spent the night experiencing what we believe to be a mild Corumel-brisk winds blowing at night out of the west in the area around La Paz. With exposure to west winds, it meant a long night of watching to make sure that our anchor did not drag in the 15+ knot winds, and the waves continued to grow throughout the night making it one of the more unpleasant anchorages that we have experienced in Mexico. Nevertheless, all went well as Andy set the anchor alarm to go off if the boat were to move more than 50', and he also slept on deck to be ready to handle any possible emergency due to the narrowness of the cove.
|Sea of Cortez||
06/05/2012, San Evaristo
Sunday morning began with the typical clear skies and cooler temperatures, so we left our anchorage in Agua Verde and headed south. We knew that this meant headwinds, but it was time to move on and keep working our way towards La Paz. After rounding the point east of Agua Verde, we were provided with a very special treat-our first observation of Orcas! Debra was on deck and spotted what appeared to possibly be a spouting whale. Upon closer view and when we were within less than 100 yards, the white markings on the sides and belly of the mammals could be seen through the water and when some of them started surfacing, it was obvious that this was a pod of killer whales in the act of feeding as they swirled and surfaced repeatedly. We slowed the boat for a longer view but agreed not to turn back and possibly disturb them. It was quite the site. The wind and swells were on our nose, and they continued to build throughout the day. By mid-morning, we were pounding a little more than we would like, so it was time to start zig-zagging a bit so that we were not heading directly into the wind chop. It meant a little longer day of motoring, but it was definitely more comfortable. Our planned destination of Caleta Nopolo, 38 nautical miles south, was altered to San Evaristo, an additional 6 nautical miles, when we checked out the anchorage and found that the wind and waves were bending around the southern point into the anchorage making it an unsuitable spot for the night. San Evaristo clearly provided better protection from winds and waves from the SSE. This would be our third time anchoring at this cove-not one of our favorites but definitely on our way to our final destination of this trip-La Paz.
|Sea of Cortez||