27° 03.949'N, 111° 57.660'W
Santa Rosalia was our last stop heading north into the Sea, from here on it will be all back tracking; the beginning of our journey home, about 1,000 nm away. We left Santa Rosalia on May 28 with So Inclined, both heading south and taking the inside passage between Isla San Marcos and the Baja Peninsula, around Pta. Chivato to the anchorage behind Pta. Mezquitito. It was an east wind blowing and a choppy swell making the anchorage rolly at first, but it calmed down in short order and we put the dinghy in the water to join Mike and Karen aboard So Inclined for our last evening together.
We have enjoyed our time in the Sea, and spending it with good friends makes it even more special. We will see Mike again in Oceanside and Karen again too, perhaps Oceanside? Perhaps La Cruz? But, we will! The next morning we picked up our anchor and waived our good-bys then headed south to San Juanico, 57 nm to the south.
I can't explain how this happens, but as we progressed north into the Sea we were always going into the wind. How then, can it be that when we turn around to head south that the wind shifts and we are once again heading into the wind? It seems life isn't fair and this is just the curse of the sailors; sailing to weather. We left Pta. Chivato with light winds of 3-4 out of the east, good enough. Later in the day, after passing the entrance to Bahia Concepcion we were approaching Pta Santa Teresa and it started to build, only into the 16-18 knot range, but here in the Sea and close to the points it gets pretty sloppy. The waves build to 6-8 ft and more but are closely spaced, a short wave period. That along with wind chop and it makes for a really rough ride. That lasted around this point and all the way to Pta. Pulpito and down to San Juanico. We went for the south end of the anchorage at San Juanico to get some protection from Pta. Mercenarios, the scene of our successful fishing day just a short time ago, and what a difference. Anyway, we got in at about 2000 and were happy to see Swift Current and Blue Rodeo anchored in the protection of the point.
The winds were abating and we moved to the north end of the bay with the predicted wind shift to the north by morning, at least that would save us a move. Sure enough, the winds died for a while then started filling in from the north. By morning both Swift Current and Blue Rodeo had joined us along with a few other boats, but this is a good anchorage and we all fit snugly. That following day it continued to blow, so much for spending the day with our friends or doing much of anything off the boat. By evening it had abated enough so that we all got together for one more last supper with our friends aboard Blue Rodeo. Swift Current was kind enough to pick us up in their dinghy and we didn't have to put ours down. While not the perfect day for it, it was a kind coincidence of fate. We had been trying to find these two boats via either email or HF radio for several days hoping for one last get together before we had to leave the Sea, and by luck we all ended up in the same anchorage together.
Dinner with our friends was as good as always and what a treat to see them again. After a nice evening together and some fond farewells we were taxied back to Pacifico. We were up the next morning to start an overnight run to La Paz, some 154 nm to the south.
When we started this voyage, way back in November, we had intended that Zihuatanejo would be our southerly most destination and Santa Rosalia our northerly most in the Sea. We had met these two goals, strengthened some old friendships and made some pretty nice new friends along the way.
27° 20.244N 112° 15.784'W
Our last northing in the Sea was from El Burro Cove in Bahia Concepcion to the old French copper mining community at Santa Rosalia, 48 nm north. We made the hop transiting outside Isla San Marcos on May 25 and went inside the old harbor to obtain a slip from the Fonatar's Singlar marina and were in by 1610.
Mining was begun here in the 1860s and this community was established by the French Company El Boleo in the 1880s. The harbor was built in 1922 using blocks of slag from the mining process. The French continued to operate the mines until the 1950s when it was turned over the Mexico. The mines were closed in 1986. A large number of artifacts from the French and subsequent mining operations remain and much of the original architecture has been preserved. This community is unusual for the Baja in that the French imported wood for the construction of much of the buildings and a steel church, Iglesia Santa Barbara, designed by Gustave Eiffel was constructed here. The community and mines have an interesting history that makes this place unique in the Baja. They have strived to maintain the wood facade of the community and it appears that much of the more recent construction is of cement block overlaid with wood, at least on the street side. Interesting stuff, other than that it was pretty typical Baja Mexican town!
Did I say it was hot here? Well it was, quite warm to about 100°, but we made the best of it. The marina, like all the Singlar facilities has a small pool that we took advantage of mid-day. The evenings were pleasant enough and we did the tourist thing in town, sampling a bacon wrapped hot dog from Chuyitas hot dog stand, buying fresh pan and pan dulces from the original, 1902 panaderia or bakery. We visited the mining museum and basically walked the entire town. There are no large hotels or any real developed tourist industry here, just a few roadside motels to service the motorists transiting Mexico's Highway 1, which passes through town.
26° 43.926'N, 111° 54.307'W
We departed San Juanico at 0640 May 22 to travel the 56 nm further up the Sea and into the large and beautiful Bahia Concepcion to El Burro Cove. There are quite a few coves, bays, islands and anchorages within Bahia Concepcion, which is about 21 nm long and 4-5 nm wide. Mexcio Hwy 1 runs along the western shore for much of its length and the community of Mulege is located 5 nm above the northern entrance to the bay. Mulege is described as a "date palm oasis" on the banks of the Rio Santa Rosalia. Bahia Concepcion was explored by the Spanish in the 1500's and Mulege was founded by Spanish missionaries in 1705 with the construction of the Mission Santa Rosalia de Mulege. The town has an old appearance and feel with narrow streets and many old, very old buildings still in use including the mission.
We anchored off the beach near "Bertha's Restaurant" in El Burro Cove at 1640. No sooner had we anchored that we were alerted to a whale shark or "ballena tiburon" swimming near our boats. As it turned out this was a small one, a "juvenile" at about 15 feet in length. I got into the dingy with my camera and was able to get a picture of Mike swimming with the big fellow. Very cool! They are harmless, but none the less the mouth on those things when open and coming straight at you is impressive! We were told the adults get to 30-35 feet overall, but we didn't see any that big.
El Burro Cove has a community of beach huts, small T-11 plywood cottages on concrete slabs one row deep just above the high water mark. We met "Geary" a retired American who has lived in one of these cottages for the last 16 years and does an amateur weather report on the HAM radio "Sonrisa" net at 0730 daily. We got a chance to thank him for his reports and Karen presented him with a plate of her home made cookies, for which she got an instant marriage proposal!
That evening we all went ashore to Bertha's where we learned that the restaurant is now owned by Celia, a Mexican lady who lived in Vancouver, B.C. for 20 years and of course speaks excellent English. After a few beers and Mexico tipico dinners and we were playing horse shoes, girls against the guys at the restaurant's pit. I hate to say it, but it was a long, very long game and while the guys were definitely ahead 6:1 the girls cleaned house with two ringers in a row to beat 7:1. We were only playing to 7 since none of us were any good and we knew it would take forever anyway, but it was fun. Several local customers enjoyed watching and especially at the end when C-Monkey got to hold the steak for the last few rounds. One of the families vacationing there turned out to be Italians from Rome. They were Roberto and Daniella with their two daughters and they told us they have been vacationing in this area every year for years. Roberto is a pilot for Air Italia and he lived in California for several years during which time he had the opportunity to fly to various areas of Baja California and fell in love with the Baja and Bahia Concepcion. They are also sailors and keep their boat at the Marina Lido de Ostia, outside Rome and where I had the opportunity to visit for several weeks in 2004 when I was crewing aboard "Rover" a Nordhavn 62 owned by John and Gail Maloney from Denver, but that's another story. It turns out Roberto and Daniella are interested in returning to California at some time and are especially interested in the San Clememte-Oceanside area. We had an interesting conversation and enjoyed meeting them. You just never know who you're going to meet in these places!
The next morning Celia gave us a ride into Mulege and provided an interesting commentary on the community. She set us up with a taxi for the return trip and we were on our own. We had the opportunity to visit the mission, explore the town and had a nice lunch at Las Casitas Hotel and restaurant. After that we did some grocery shopping and caught our taxi back to El Burro Cove. We could have stayed longer, but to make our final destination in the Sea, Santa Rosalia, we needed to get going, our time was running out.
26° 43.926'N, 111° 54.307'W
We bailed out on the rolly anchorage at Isla Coronado at about 0550 May 19 and headed 22 nm further up into the Sea to San Juanico, which would turn out to be one of our favorites and is described in one of the guide books as "one of the most picturesque" anchorages in the Sea. The winds out of the mountains that had been so uncomfortable turned out to be evasive. They were perfect for sailing north on, but they played hide and seek with the mountain ranges as we progressed further north. We actually got the chance to sail part of this trip and make good time while doing it.
We were anchored in 14 ft of clear water over sand inside Pta. San Basilio in one of the inner northern lobes of this two mile long 'caleta' or bay, which is well sheltered and scenic with "fantastic geology" by 1130. There are several vacation homes that have been built around the northern end of the bay and we could see the survey markers placed about the bay indicating that further development was coming. The water here was clear and about 78° which made for great snorkeling. We got the paddle board and kayak out and put them to good use as well, exploring some of the inner crevices of the anchorage as well as getting some exercise.
There is a "cruisers shrine" located ashore that is described in the guide book as a place to leave a memento of your visit at. The "shrine" is actually a big bush and it has been adorned over the years with all kinds of trinkets or mementos bearing inscriptions from the various cruising boats that have stopped here. Not to be outdone we prepared an appropriate memento to pay homage with as well, and what better than a portion of a 'Pacifico' can, signed and dated and hung like a Christmas ornament. Of course we memorialized the event with digital photography and Marisa has posted that along with quite a few others from this favored anchorage. We continued our trek ashore to explore the northern side of the point and to search for the allusive "Apache tears" or small pieces of obsidian rock that can be found in the washes along the adjoining canyons. We met several other cruisers who told us that clams and especially chocolate clams were plentiful in the shallow waters of the bay, but we didn't take any, however we did try out the fishing.
Mike and I took Pacifico's dinghy out to the outer rocks at the south end of the bay at Punta Mercenarios about 1.25 nm out from the anchorage at the south end of the bay were some pinnacle rocks project into the lower portion of the bay. The trip out was an event in itself in that we encountered a pod of dolphins. We were able to mix in among them in the dinghy and I took some movie footage of them playing around the dinghy as we were motoring out. Not to worry, they are too smart to get injured by the prop. They like to run in front of the boat playing in the bow wave pressure and even in the dinghy there was no exception. Marisa posted the video as well. Out at the rocks we bummed some pieces of bait fish from another cruiser fishing from his dinghy and snagged about six 'pargo' and two trigger fish. We actually caught most of the fish with a simple hand line, using a plastic coke bottle and a handle and a baited hook. No fancy fishing gear required here!
Back at the boats it was fish cleaning time for fresh fish for dinner. Pargo is also referred to by the Mexicans as a "red snapper", although I'm not certain of that classification it is a clean white meat fish. We all feasted on "red snapper a la Vera Cruz" aboard So Inclined that evening and had plenty for fish tacos the next evening and with plenty left over.
After several days at San Juanico it was time to pull anchor and continue north to our next intended stop, El Burro Cove in Bahia Concepcion.
25° 59.691'N, 111° 06.460'W
After Puerto Escondido we made the 22 nm hop on May 17 to Bahia Salinas where we anchored off the ruins of the salt processing facility and abandoned community. This is a large bay on the east side of Isla Carmen's northern end. There is a large salt flat that is visible in the satellite photos and the abandoned salt works and company housing area just off the beach. We anchored in good holding at about 17 foot of depth in this well protected anchorage that is open only to the south. The cruising guide says there is a caretaker living at the sight and we took our dinghies ashore to explore. We found a new floating dock facility and renovated main housing area with a sign that said "Welcome". The caretaker came out to greet us and with Karen's by-lingual assistance we obtained permission to explore the ruins and salt flats. The caretaker explained that the facility is now leased by a hunting and fishing club who operate out of Loreto. The grounds around the two main buildings were neat and clean, several buildings have been renovated and are operated as an private lodge. Fortunately for us no guests were there or we probably would have been denied access.
We walked out to the salt flats and then into the processing plant and old community ruins. The grounds are fairly well kept so that it was not so hazardous, yet quite interesting as you can see by the various photos Marisa has posted. We all enjoyed seeing the salt flats, old equipment and facilities. After several hours ashore we returned to our boats to get our snorkeling gear to dinghy out to the wreck of a tuna boat that sank in about 35 feet of water further out in the bay. This wreck was interesting, but not the best we have had the opportunity to explore down here, of course without tanks we could only look down on most of it with only a part of the deteriorated structure at surface level.
That night we all got together aboard So Inclined for Karen's home made pizza with brownies for desert and a little route planning for our next leg of the trip north. We decided to shorten the trip to our next intended destination, San Juanico by making a short hop over to the south anchorage at Isla Coronado, which I'll talk about here.
The run to Isla Coronado on May 18 was 23 nm. We departed Bahia Salinas in the early afternoon and arrived at the anchorage, an open roadstead with protection only from the north at about 1735 hrs. We intended for this to be an overnight stop only and didn't make any attempt to go ashore here. As it turned out it was a brief and uncomfortable stop. An 'unscheduled' west wind off the mountains above Loreto kicked in about dusk and by 2200 hrs. some of the boats were beginning to pull out and seek shelter. The wind was up to about 20-23 knots, but with about six nm of fetch it got pretty uncomfortable. I let out more scope, and was about ready to pull the anchor and leave myself when it moderated just enough to allow the swell to subside. None the less, we spent a rolly night and pulled out along with So Inclined at first light.
06/11/2011, Puerto Los Cabos
05/27/2011, Puerto Escondido
Bahia Aqua Verde to Puerto Escondido
On Sunday, May 15 we departed Bahia Aqua Verde for Puerto Escondido which is about 24 nm further north. This was an easy one, no seas and light breezes. This trip, like most of the others since leaving La Paz have been all motor sailing; except for the leg from Isla San Francisco to San Evaristo, when we had too much wind from the wrong direction. We are generally seeing light winds here in the Sea or 'land and sea' breezes. On some passages when we approach a point of land there is a compression effect and we can have 10-15 knots of breeze to sail in, but it is usually short in duration and before long we are rolling up the gennoa and running up the engine RPM. That and it's all from the north, which is generally the way we are going so it's not much help. So much for being a purist!
Arriving in Puerto Escondido, which means hidden port, we were surprised to find that there is an almost entirely land locked basin with only one entrance channel on the south end. The basin is about ½ to ¾ mile wide and a mile long north to south and with good depths throughout. This basin is controlled by the Mexican governments tourist board, Singlar, and they have a small marina at the south end. With only a few slips available the bay is set up with about 150 mooring balls that you rent or you can anchor, but you are charged either way, about $15 a day, which includes use of the dinghy dock and marina facilities, showers and even a pool.
This is a remote area, about 15 miles from the old town of Loreto and the mountains behind the basin are spectacular, the Sierra de la Giganta range. What a setting, only to our surprise no cell phone service and internet from the marina was 'iffy' at best. There was one restaurant at the marina, one very small convenience store and a cruiser's lounge that they call a yacht club. None the less, we had dinner twice at the restaurant and it was pretty good especially since I didn't have to cook. We also used the pool and showers. Not having a dock we were limited on cleaning up the boat to just a quick rinse off when we were getting fuel on the way out. It's always good to get the salt off.
So Inclinded was already there and Sirocco came in from Honeymoon Cove across the straights at Isla Danzante to complete the rendezvous. Mike had been joined by his friend Karen from La Cruz, also known as "some company" who having been in these regions before and speaking Spanish is a wonderful tour guide. We all took a taxi van together to Loreto the following day, Monday, so that we could see the sights and go to a real store for provisions. We also found a pretty decent fishing tackle/ marine hardware shop. We had lunch at a nice place called Las Casitas and they had wifi. We brought our mini lap top, but it was all we could do just to get through weeks of backed up emails and tending to 'real life' business, no time to catch up on blogs!
Loreto was founded in 1679 and the first of the California Missions was established there, making this the "head and mother" of the missions. Loreto served as the capital of Lower California until 1829 when it was pretty well destroyed by a hurricane and the government moved to La Paz. After a whirlwind tour of town we returned to our boats to store our provisions and meet for dinner at the marina restaurant, Porto Bello.
The following morning we were up and departing Porto Escondido with So Inclined and Pacifico keeping company to head further north while Sirocco started their trek south back towards La Paz and eventually to Cabo to get ready to head up the coast about June 1 to return to Oceanside.
While exiting the outer harbor at Puerto Escondido we saw a whale shark swimming next to the boat. I had not seen one before and was surprised at the size of the thing. They are docile and harmless, feeding on micro organisms in the water. Shortly after that we saw a shark take a ray swimming on the surface. Rays seem plentiful in these waters and I guess just about everything is food for something else. This place is full of sea life and we would find out just how common place the whale sharks are in these waters at later stops.
We sailed in company of Sirocco and So Inclined to above Isla Danzante and through the channel between Danzante and Isla Carmen where they turned south and we along with So Inclined turned north. It was nice to see everyone again and we will see them next in Oceanside, or that's the plan!
05/27/2011, Aqua Verde
San Evaristo to Bahia Aqua Verde
25°31.364'N, 111° 04.429'W
We said good by to our friends and San Evaristo on Thursday evening, departing early on Friday, May 13 for Aqua Verde, 44 nm north of here. I know according to seafaring lore one does not start a voyage on Friday and everyone knows about Friday the 13, but then again, I have bananas on board too! Anyway, we left early to make the top of Canal de San Jose before the winds could build too seriously again in the channel. As it turned out it was an easy and quick run to Bahia Aqua Verde; we were in and anchored in 16 feet of water before 1500 hrs.
As the name implies, Aqua Verde or green water is a very pretty place with clear, emerald green water much like our favorite spot on Catalina Island, Emerald Bay, only the water is a lot warmer! We were joined by Don and Kathie aboard their classic and beautiful wooden sloop "Wild Rose" out of Long Beach, California. We didn't know them well, but had met them on the dock at Marina Palmira in La Paz.
We took the dinghy to the village of Aqua Verde, about a mile across the bay from the northern hook we were anchored in. Landing on the beach has been easy here in the Sea of Cortez since there is little wave action, especially in these protected anchorages and bays. This village is noted for its goat herds and because it has a store with cold storage items. There is a wash that comes down from the mountains and it is greener here than most of the land side scenery we are seeing, no running water but it must be down there somewhere. The houses of the village were scattered about and quite a few had palm trees in addition to the desert mesquite and tamarack. We found the store by asking at a goat herder's home for directions. This store, like the one in San Evaristo was spartain and it did have some cold storage items in a large chest freezer packed with ice, but no cold beer or ice cream, just the essentials like meat and cheese. This building looked like it was purpose built and it was painted distinctively. When we got there the door was closed and no one answered. We looked around and knocked at the house behind and the proprietor came out and opened up. Produce was kept in it's cardboard shipping boxes on the floor, but they had plenty of canned and dry goods. One thing that we found which has been unavailable anywhere in Mexico was canned cut green beans. Go figure?
We walked the village, took some photos of the goats and of a few kids that were playing like kids everywhere, riding their bikes except there are no paved streets here, all dirt or packed sand trails really. Back at the boat I took the opportunity to dive the bottom to check things out. Besides a few barnacles on the rudder and keel the bottom of the boat has been staying pretty clean since we left La Cruz down in Bandaras Bay. I had the bottom cleaned twice while down south, there and in Zihuatanejo where it was really bad, but despite the warmer water we are not getting the growth here; possibly because we are moving more frequently? Anyway, I chipped the barnacles off and noticed that the little puffer fish that were swimming a round me snapped them up as they drifted down. The puffer fish seem almost fearless and swim around and right up to my mask. I didn't try to touch them, but they were that close. Other than a few sea turtles we didn't see any thing else swimming around in this anchorage. Pretty nice!
As beautiful as this place is we left after two nights to continue our trek north and to try to reconnect with Sirocco and So Inclined who we knew were in the general area of Puerto Escondido, where there is a real store, cell phones and internet or so we thought!
05/27/2011, San Evaristo
Isla San Francisco to San Evaristo
24° 54.790'N, 110° 42.410'W
On Wednesday, May11 we started off with the intention of making the 52 nm mile run from Isla San Francisco to Bahia Aqua Verde. The weather reports were good, but we hadn't counted on the effect of the Canal de San Jose, which is an about a nine mile long slot between Isla San Jose and the Baja Peninsula. This channel is about a mile wide and with the wind effect funneling through this restricted slot and current against us we had sailed, yes sailed two long tacks making about 4 nm of northing in three hours. Not good. We tried motoring into it but that was worse with the short wave period constantly slamming and slowing the boat. We were getting no where. We opted for ducking into the scenic little bay behind Punta San Evaristo anchoring in 18 feet in the northeastern most notch or anchorage that had the best north wind protection. This turned out to be a good thing. For one this was one of the better stops we have made with a good, calm anchorage and snorkeling, swimming and paddle boarding in protected waters from everything, but a direct southerly, which was not likely and we are out of reach of the La Paz coromuel winds here. There is a fishing village of the same name that even had a small tienda or store and friendly fishermen who were willing to sell us a nice red snapper or "huachanalgo". We weren't having any luck at catching our own so this was a good option.
The village had a small water desalination facility and they make ice to keep their fish and for village water, although we didn't drink any of it. The tienda was primitive by our standards, someone's home and the front room was converted to shelving, but had enough dry goods and decent produce to get us through a few days. When we found it there were a couple of saddled mules tethered out front; check out the photos, not something we encounter at home. They run cattle in these areas and without roads I guess there's no other way to go about it. The riders or cowboys were resting on the porch of the store. Not an easy life.
We had happy hour and boat tour of Endorfin with Dan, Lisa and their daughter Savannah who are from Oxnard, California and are living aboard their 55 foot heavy cutter full time. They filled our reserve scuba tank that I keep aboard Pacifico for emergencies from their dive compressor, which was greatly appreciated. It would be nice to have the room for all that equipment; ah the dilemma of a bigger boat!
San Evaristo was a good find and we were joined there by Swift Current and Blue Rodeo, but it was time to move north again; we are beginning to feel the crunch of time!
05/27/2011, Isla San Francisco
Caleta Partida to Isla San Francisco
24° 49.097'N, 110° 34.062'W
We left Caleta Partida on Sunday, May 8 for Isla San Francisco, which is about a 22 nm run to this island at the upper end of Bahia La Paz, about 42 nm from La Paz itself to give you an idea of the size of the bay. Isla San Francisco is a small island with a nice anchorage affording good protection from north, east and south winds, but not so much from the west or more importantly from the southwest, the direction that the coromuel winds come in from except for the small area at the south end in the "hook", which tends to be shallow where we dropped. Anchored in 19 foot of water with rapidly decreasing depths between us and the shore we were set for the first two nights with only a moderate coromuel condition. We are getting so good at this that we don't even use the "flopper stopper" any longer. Maybe Marisa is getting her sea-legs? The third night the winds switched to the north and we had the fetch across the bay to contend with, but still not bad. We put out some extra anchor road or scope to compensate and keep us off the beach. All was well.
This is a pretty spot, a large acring bay with beautiful clear water and white sand beach. We were joined again by Swift Current, Blue Rodeo, Endorfin, Taking Flight, Panta Rhea, Honcho and several other boats. Cirque showed up the third day and invited practically the entire fleet aboard for great appetizers and Louis' pineapple rum punch.
We took a group hike to the top of the hills above the "hook" for photo opts, then to the bay on the east side of the island to look for 'agate' rocks known to be found there. We struck out, but several others in the party found a few. This bay was a good place for paddle boarding, swimming and snorkeling at the point. Louis and Laura aboard
"Cirque" who we first met down in Zihuatanejo, came in the last evening and hosted quite a group onboard their boat. Louis is a retired Bay area school physical education teacher, semiprofessional juggler and sailor extraordinaire; probably having done more open ocean racing than anyone else that I've met before including the ill-fated 1979 Fastnet Race off the English coast that took so many lives, multiple Transpac and Tahiti races, North Atlantic races, you get the picture. They keep their boat absolutely spartan, no above deck appendages or canvas; dodger or bimini, no shade or shelter for the cockpit whatsoever. Everyone has their own way of doing things.
We were having fun, but decided to leave our group early to get to Bahia Aqua Verde, as a first stop in route to Santa Rosalia, our intended final destination of this trip and about 180 nm north of Isla San Francisco. There are many good places to stop in between and we only have a month left, time to get going.