Tuesday, March 22nd Gail and Jan of Joy of Life (from Alaska) took us into Loreto for provisioning. We wanted to take them to lunch to thank them. After a ten minute drive to the "best" place around, we found it closed on Tuesdays! The next spot they picked was the 'campground restaurant'. We are fairly certain it is the same RV campground in downtown Loreto we stayed at with Darren on our land trip down here many years ago. We'll have to check our Baja campground book when we get back home - that would be pretty amazing. They also took us to a Mexican bakery. Dennis has become fond of Mexican baked goods so he was in heaven. That afternoon we went aboard Otter (the Island Packet one) where Randy and Gayle shared cruising guides and stories of their three years in Central America, Ecuador, and the Galapagos. They pointed out that it is 5 days to the Galapagos from Costa Rica and since it is about that same amount of time to make the passage as we had planned from Ecuador, a new idea is brewing. If we head over from Costa Rica to the Galapagos, we would have a better chance of getting there by early May before our cruising permit for that area expires. Then we can head "backwards" to mainland Ecuador, maybe go down to Peru, and then up to Panama and other areas we skipped by jumping off in Costa Rica. And it remains open then as to what point we would leave from to cross the Pacific to the Marquesas next season. But as always, plans remain flexible. The four of us then met up with Mary Lee and Lewis (s/v Merry Lee) for dinner. We had a great time. There were only a few customers besides us and we got a lot of attention from the owner/waiter. Pedro was a very charming man - well travelled in Europe and South America. Always multi-tasking, we ran back and forth to the laundry room during dinner as we were headed south the next day and wanted to get all clothes and towels clean.
Wednesday, March 23rd. Happy Birthday Virginia - a big one. Dennis announced it on the local radio net in the morning and she got the traditional radio clicks salute. We headed out of Puerto Escondido to Timbabiche. About four miles out of Puerto Escondido we saw two humpback whales breaching. Virginia got a bit of video on them, but it was so hard to predict where they would come up next that it won't be anything like the real thing. We got to sail some that day, but only to 10-11 knots of wind. The predicted 20-25 never materialized. About an hour after we anchored in Timbabiche, Manuel in a panga approached us selling langosta (lobster). We bought 4 grande ones for $100 pesos each and he threw in a fifth for a Coca Cola Light (Diet Coke); then we traded him 1 gallon of gasoline for his panga for a 6th one. Virginia haltingly told him in Spanish that it was her birthday and we would be celebrating with his lobster. We had leftovers for lobster cocktails a second night. We were the only yacht in that beautiful anchorage.
Thursday, March 24th we sailed, with spinnaker, to Isla Spiritu Santos, Bahia San Gabriel. As we neared the anchorage, we caught another Bonito (fish) - which supports our theory that the engine scares the fish away (but other cruiser friends of ours make the opposite claim, so who knows). We planned on making one more day trip south to Muertos and heading across to mainland Mexico from there, but the weather predictions were for good sailing conditions Friday and Saturday, with not much wind on Sunday. We decided to head straight across from Isla Spiritu Santos on Friday. Even though it would be a longer passage than from Muertos, we wanted to sail.
Friday, March 25th we started out at 3:00am for Mazatlan. We did get to sail, with spinnaker, most of Friday. That evening the wind died and it stayed relatively calm until we reached Mazatlan. But at least we got in the one day. We had a little activity that night to keep us alert - passed two large fishing boats and two cruise ships. We could see the glow of La Paz as we left and the glow of Guaymas to the northeast Friday evening.
Saturday, March 26th we arrived in Mazatlan at about 3:00pm, thus it was about a 36 hour passage. The channel was relatively narrow and shallow in areas; a dredge works constantly to clear away the sand that accumulates (sound familiar Santa Barbarians?) and was working overtime as a result of the tsunami impacts felt in Mazatlan. It was about mid-way to low tide and Dennis felt us plow through a shoal at the entrance. We met a very nice couple, Mary Lou and Joe Upton (s/v Anna), on the dock right next to us, as they returned to their boat from a bike ride.
Sunday, March 27th since we had mentioned enjoying bike riding in La Paz when we saw them ride up yesterday, they advised us this morning of a semi-organized "bike to brunch" ride happening today. Dennis had 30 minutes to assemble the bikes and off we went. We joined Mary Lou and Joe, and Darlene and Roy (s/v Scrimshaw) for the bike ride. It was quite pleasant and ended at a palapa restaurant on the beach. In addition to their cruising activities, Darlene and Roy also own a condo in Mazatlan so they spend a lot of time here and were a wealth of information about the local area. We took a bus into old town with Mary Lou and Joe that afternoon and the four of us spent the rest of the day walking tour of town. We went to the outdoor Mercado and looked at all the fresh fish, meat, and produce; a priest was saying mass right in the middle of one of the aisles for the benefit of the workers that couldn't get off to go to church. We toured the Cathedral, the beautiful plaza nearby, some quaint streets and courtyards, the malecon. We went to the rooftop restaurant at the Hotel Freeman and had a wonderful view out over the city as we sipped Limonade (limeade made with mineral water - delicious and so refreshing). Around 5:00pm we were headed back to the bus when we noticed a stage set up in the plaza across from the Cathedral. They were having a children's dance contest. It reminded us of Fiesta, slightly. They weren't doing flamenco, however; it was the type of dancing that the cheer squads do at college sports these days.
Monday, March 28th we made contact with Joyce and Scott Ross (s/v Life is Good) who were our neighbors in the Ventura marina. They have been here for a month or so and are soon headed south. We agreed to meet that evening for dessert and music at Tres Amigos rrestaurant nearby. Early in the morning we rode our bicycles to a bike shop for a lube and tune-up to protect them from the salty sea environment. Instead of the one hour timeframe we had been told to expect, he needed to keep the bikes all day as he was quite busy. So we hopped on the bus outside the shop and went into downtown again to do some errands: locate an upholsterer for a new piece of foam for one of our cushions, find a surf shop that had boogie boarding fins, etc. Once we finished those tasks, we still had plenty of time to kill so we went to the Aguamarine (Aquarium) which also has an aviary. It was quite nice and we would recommend it; unfortunately we did not have time to take in the seal show and the bird show which we are sure would have been worth the wait if we could have fit it into our schedule. We took the bus back to the shop to collect our bikes. As we were riding to the marina, enjoying the marked improvement in the operation of our bikes, Dennis caught something in his front spokes and went down hard. He didn't hit his head or break anything, but he has road burn on his hand and leg. It was amazing he wasn't hurt more. That man knows how to fall - just tucks and rolls. In the early evening we got together with Mary Lou and Joe aboard Anna to trade notes as we were cruising in opposite directions. We got some good hints about places south of here and we shared our experiences in the Sea. We were so surprised to have someone ask us for hints; the tables were turned for the first time. Guess that was a significant milestone in our cruising life. We took a taxi to Tres Amigos. Joyce and Scott brought 4 other friends and we had an enjoyable time visiting. They are headed to Isla Isabella next, as are we, but they are leaving Tuesday and we are waiting another day or so hoping for some wind.
Tuesday, March 29th was a day of chores, preparing for the next passage. Did laundry (actually just dropped it off at a service - getting lazy), provisioned at the local Mercado, took the bus into town for a few errands including using an ATM to get more pesos. Dennis tried to attend a Rotary meeting but got the run around (on his bike at night) about the location and never did find it. Virginia checked the weather forecasts and got caught up on Internet work.
Wednesday, March 30th we kayaked into the estuary. It was a nice leisurely kayak through a section of very large homes, a golf course where they had to stop playing as we kayaked by as they were hitting over the water at that hole, a preserve where we saw lots of birds. We took the bus into town to do a few errands at Home Depot and couldn't figure out which bus would take us back, so we hopped onto a Pulmaria (golf cart type open taxi). We did some overdue polishing of the stainless steel hardware and lifeline. Tonight around 6:00pm we are going to take a short jaunt out of this marina into Stone Harbor, the anchorage across from the commercial port, so that we can get an early start tomorrow morning without worrying about navigating the narrow channel out of the marina.
Tuesday, March 15th we left Puerto Escondido a bit later than we had planned as we were busy posting our last blog and sending an email to Kira and Devin (our granddaughters) - got to keep our priorities straight. About four boats left ahead of us and we followed them north. Wind and sea got a bit uncomfortable a few hours out as the wind was from the north and we were motor-sailing -again, not making much headway. The boats ahead of us had no sails up and also appeared to be having a rough time so we headed for shore as we were near an anchorage named Mangles and thought we might be able to sit out the afternoon there. But as we scoped it out we found that it was too shallow to get protection from the swell and in the meantime the wind and sea had calmed a bit. So we pressed on to Caleta San Juanico. We saw a whale along the way; Alegria (whom we had met and lunched with in Puerto Escondido) was about an hour ahead of us and alerted us on the radio to keep an eye out for it. As we entered Caleta San Juanico we were glad we had continued on. It was a beautiful bay with some interesting rock formations jutting out of the water on one side of the bay. There were seven boats on one side of those jutting rocks (deeper into the bay) and one boat on the other side. We decided to head for the less crowded area. As we approached, Randy and Gail on Otter (the second boat by that name we had encountered, this one an Island Packet) hailed us on the radio to say that there was plenty of room for us near them on a nice sandy bottom. That made the decision even easier. They came over in their dinghy after we had anchored and introduced themselves. We agreed to meet up again before we both left and visit more. That night we heard a saxophone playing. It resounded throughout the calm anchorage. It was hard to identify the source, but we think it may have been Randy or Gail. It was beautiful. We never did get to have that visit though as the next day south winds were forecast and Randy and Gail moved over to the other side of the anchorage for better protection.
Wednesday, March 16th in the morning, Mary Lee and Lewis (sv. MerryLee) came over and invited us to hike on the island with them. They had also been a part of that lunch group in Puerto Escondido. On the shore where we started our hike was the "Cruisers' Tree". Cruisers make art projects with their boat name on them and either hang them on the tree or lay them underneath -there were hundreds of contributions. At one point on the hike we were on a dirt road that had black obsidium stones scattered throughout. We picked up a few and will have to think of a good souvenir project for those. It was a nice hike up to the top of the hill to get the panorama view of the anchorage. When we got back to the boat we baked cookies, got our weather grib files for the next day, and did some chores. We invited Mary and Lewis to join us that evening after dinner for a dessert of cookies -they couldn't resist. Lewis came by briefly to show us his piece of artwork that they would add to the tree -a piece of bamboo with the name of their boat in maroon toenail polish, further decorated with dried starfish. They brought some special "sipping" tequila. We had that with the fresh cookies. Dennis couldn't drink more than one sip as straight tequila brings back not so pleasant memories of his bachelor party. We had planned on playing a game or watching a movie, but Mary and Lewis spent the evening describing the various places they have visited on mainland Mexico with Virginia taking good notes about where to find the grocery, laundromat, butcher, and most importantly the music and dancing. We shared our weather info with them as they don't have SSB. We were headed north and they were headed south, so we bid adieu for the season.
Thursday, March 17th. Happy St. Patrick's day. We listened to the Amigo and Sunrisa nets in the morning for the weather reports and decided all was well for heading north to Bahia Concepcion. On our hike up the hill yesterday, we found a red adobe tile fragment and Dennis had etched "Libertad" on it with the dremmel tool. He kayaked our art project over to the Cruisers' Tree and we pulled up anchor. Just before rounding Point Concepcion we were approached by a panga full of fishermen. Dennis had been trolling for over a week with no luck and we were longing for fresh fish, so we struck a deal for what we think was a 10 lb Flag Cabrilla -as best we could tell from our fish guide. Dennis spent the next 10 minutes gutting and filleting. There was no wind until we got near the entrance to Bahia Concepcion, but then we had good wind for sailing down into the bay. Along the way this day we saw a pod of about 100 dolphins that turned and all headed for our boat. We are still not very practiced with the video camera (our first one) but we got a bit of footage of that marvelous scene. The channel down the bay was very shallow at points; we were following another boat in and found ourselves too near the western shore (7.5 feet under us at one point and our keel is 6.5 feet!). Virginia kept an eye on the depth sounder and Dennis piloted us to the anchorage. We chose to anchor in Coyote Bay - the Playa El Burro anchorage. There are several anchorages in Coyote Bay and Virginia chose this one after reading in the guide book about all the fun things available there to do. We went ashore to the one restaurant, Bertha's, and had dinner. The waiter, Steve - an American and a very amicable character, invited us to an 'end of winter' party at his palapa/bus on the beach in the next cove over the following day - Friday. To entice us, he mentioned that he had prepared 100 jello shots.
Friday, March 18th at around 0800 someone was playing a recording of Amazing Grace - the bagpipe version, very, very loudly. It resounded through the anchorage. Beautiful. It sounded like it was coming from Gary's palapa. Gary is a local weather guru who does the weather reports on the Sonrisa net each morning. You can identify his palapa by the large HAM antenna. We decided we should do a few chores before we played so Dennis rigged thimbles on the cabin roof port and starboard handrails so when at anchor we can secure the main boom to the side for better solar panel exposure, without obstructing the deck. Virginia cleaned the oven. We then kayaked over to the next cove, Playa El Coyote and a bit beyond, searching for a hot spring. We saw tropical fish - beautiful small striped ones, a large turtle floating in the swells, a red starfish with about 20 legs but no hot springs. There was one boat in the anchorage and the owner was kayaking up to it just as we passed. It was Eric aboard Sea Genius, homeport Santa Barbara! He had lived in the Santa Barbara anchorage south of Stern's wharf and occasionally in the marina for three years to be near his daughter who was attending UCSB. About three years ago he headed down here. He pointed out the hot spring which was actually submerged along the shoreline so it was a saltwater hot spring. The wind was coming up so we decided to head back to the boat for lunch rather than experience it. In the early afternoon we had planned on hiking and attending the party, but the wind whipped up to 25 knots and so we stayed aboard doing chores and reading -Virginia was so looking forward to those jello shots. We had hung our sleeping bags over the booms to air out and you can guess what happened in the increased wind..... When we went up to secure some flapping halyards we found one was hanging over the lifeline and the other was floating about 20 yards from the boat. Dennis hopped into the dinghy and quickly rowed over to retrieve it. Oh well, too warm now for sleeping bags anyway (average daytime temp in the 80's, night time, high 60's). About 1700 the wind died and we decided to get in our hike up the hill. That was a great decision as it was a marvelous trip. We saw the petroglyphs that the guide book mentioned, which really pleased us as the trail was not well marked at the beginning and we were just rock climbing when Virginia spotted some. Depicting animals and undecipherable signs, these pieces of prehistoric art were pounded into large rocks with smaller stones. Each one would have taken days to complete. As we headed up the hill, the guide book also had us looking for 'bell rocks' -these rocks formed from volcanic heat contain a lot of iron and ring like a bell when you strike them. We knocked on several rocks on the way up the hill and after a while we decided we weren't going to find them. When we reached the top, Dennis climbed the pinnacle to get a good photo of the area and upon stepping on certain rocks, they produced a clang -he'd found the bell rocks! Now that we knew what they looked like, we found others on the path back down the hill. The sun set as we headed back down and we reached the bottom just as it was getting dark. An evening hike turned out to be perfect as much of the hillside was shaded. It was a fabulous hike - highly recommend it. We hadn't taken any water so we took a detour to the roadside café and treated ourselves to some Cokes. To top off the day we grilled some of the fresh fish we had bought from the fishermen it was very mild and tasty.
Saturday, March 19th we headed out of Bahia Concepcion and south again, in preparation of heading over to mainland Mexico. We want to do it from a point further south than Concepcion and we missed many of the islands and Baja mainland anchorages on our way north; we want to catch a few more on the return trip. We baked some bread this morning as we motored along. We saw three whales on the trip. We anchored at Punta Pulpito. We were all alone - no other boats, just a group of 5 dolphins. Dennis went up on deck after dinner and called down to Virginia "wow, you've got to see this". This was the night of the 'super moon' where it was 14% brighter than normal, a phenomenon that apparently only happens every 18 years. We were in a perfect spot to see it out here away from any city lights and under a clear sky. It was spectacular. The sky was so bright around it that you couldn't see any stars near it, yet across the sky you could tell that there were stars out. We had heard about it on the radio net that morning but then had almost forgotten about it.
Sunday, March 20th we started to put our kayaks in the water to explore the shoreline which offered several sea caves when the wind came up so we decided we had best get started on our way to Isla Carmen. About an hour out, a fishing boat came alongside and asked if we wanted to trade a yellowtail for a 'cheap bottle of tequila'. We only had wine aboard and still had fish in the freezer, so we passed on that offer. Besides, it's just not much fun cleaning a fish you didn't catch. But we do love yellowtail so it was tempting to bargain. As soon as we anchored at Ballandra cove, we put the kayaks in the water and paddled to the point, then we slowly worked our way around the shore checking out the tidepools and underwater sea life through the very clear water. We saw urchins, bright red starfish, part of a shipwreck, crabs, beautiful tropical fish about 4" in diameter which were black with bright orange and white stripes, a school of adolescent barracuda, and lots of sea plants. Unfortunately though, bees would fly around us spoiling our serenity. They seemed to be especially attracted to Virginia's sun tan lotion. There were two couples in a dinghy also cruising the anchorage. As we neared them, they explained that they were trying to escape the bees which had 'taken over their boat'. They were from Reno and Truckee. One couple has a palapa near Puerto Escondido and stay here most of the year. The other couple was headed home soon. They were aboard Impulse. When we got back to Libertad, we did have a few bees, but we went below, closed most of the hatches, leaving a couple smaller ones open for some air and we were soon bee-less. In the early evening they disappeared and we opened up the boat again. For dinner we decided to make our own papas rellenos, a new dish we had in La Paz (potatoes 'stuffed' with chorizo). We are running low on fresh produce. I think we have one orange, one banana, one tomato, and some cabbage left. We plan to return to Puerto Escondido to stock up as we plan to be there a few days because the forecast is calling for some serious NW wind over the next two days. They also have internet access so we can catch up on bill paying, our email, and postings to our website. We'll also return/swap some books that we blew through on our trip north -Dennis has started reading!
Monday, March 21st we motored the short distance from Ballandra on Isla Carmen to Puerto Escondido. We dinghied into shore to take showers and walk to the small tienda in Tripui to see what produce they might have (not much, only got limones and jicama). We decided to have lunch at the restaurant there as we had enjoyed it last week when we were here. We ended up visiting with Gail and Jan from Joy of Life. They are from Alaska and have spent winters here for the past 26 years. They look about our age (or younger). We mentioned that we intended to take the bus to Loreta tomorrow to reprovision and asked if they knew where to refill propane tanks. They kindly offered to give us a ride as Jan was headed there tomorrow in their van and yes, they knew where to get propane. The wind whipped up and we headed back to the boat to do some internet work, including posting this blog and hopefully some photos.
Saturday March 5th continued - we did make it to the market - and found a watermelon (had to go all the way to Walmart again however). We only had our backpacks and got too enthusiastic about shopping with all the good produce there. After biking all day, loading our backpacks full and getting back on the bikes was a bit uncomfortable on our bottomsides for the long ride back to the marina. In addition, Dennis' backpack unzipped ¾ of the way back and the watermelon fell onto the malecon. It miraculously only cracked and we were able to salvage the majority of it. It was a good one.
Sunday March 6th we decided to leave La Paz in the early afternoon as we were going to nearby Isla Spiritu Santos and wind was projected to be better for sailing later in the day. We treated ourselves to brunch at the marina restaurant. We talked with a woman on our dock in that marina - boat name was Swell, but she liked to say it was "Jasdip" (just another shitty day in paradise). She and her husband were in the planning stages for early retirement and cruising life when he died at the early age of 51. They had already purchased the boat and were well along in their preparations so she decided to go it alone. She has picked up crew at times, for instance when she did the Baja HaHa one year. But a lot of the time she is single-handing (and it is not a small boat), as she did when she brought the boat on the initial leg of the journey from the San Francisco Bay area down to San Diego. Our trip out to Isla Spiritu Santos was pleasant. We anchored in Ensenada de la Raza behind Rooster and Hen islands. Only one other (a powerboat) shared that anchorage with us that night.
Monday March 7th we moved further north on the west side of the island to Caleta Partida. This is an anchorage that is actually between two islands. While the two islands are referred to collectively as Isla Spiritu Santos, the northern smaller island is actually Partida. As we arrived, before our anchor was even down, a dinghy from another sailboat came rushing over to us to ask about the weather out on the sea towards La Paz. Evidently they had a medical emergency aboard, a diabetic woman who had run out of insulin and was going into shock. We gave them our experience (15 knots of wind right then in the 'wrong' direction for them) and the forecast we had gotten early that day which predicted a calming in the afternoon. They decided to wait a few hours before they left. Right around noon they left the anchorage and we could see that the conditions had calmed down considerably. We were glad our weather report was accurate for them. We didn't hear back from them again, just hope all went well. We got out the kayaks and had a nice trip through the small winding channel that leads to the other side of the island at high tide. There was a big kayak tour group camped in this cove. Pangas delivered their meals to them. By the evening we had 9 other boats in the anchorage with us, but they were all on the 'other' side of the bay (which turned out to be the 'wrong' side when the wind shifted in the evening). We wanted to hike the ridge as mentioned in the guide book but couldn't find any good access. Instead we put up the shade structure and sat in the cockpit perusing the cruising guides to select our next anchorage. What an overwhelming task that is in this area; there are so many anchorage choices on the Baja coast and the numerous islands in the Sea of Cortez. We ate dinner in the cockpit as the sun set and birds played in the water beside us.
Tuesday, March 8th we sailed with spinnaker flying for the first half of the trip up to Isla San Francisco with the wind out of the southeast. The wind came up in the last hour and moved around almost 180 degrees so we took down the sails and motored the rest of the way. We anchored in the 'hook' of the island. It is a popular place - 14 boats already there when we arrived and a few more came before nightfall. This is a small island about 20 miles north of Caleta Partida and immediately south of Isla San Jose. It was too windy for kayaking so we dinghied ashore and hiked the ridge - what a fantastic view of the Baja mainland, Isla San Francisco, and Isla San Jose. A northern wind was blowing consistently in the 15+ knots range since we arrived. When we checked the weather data it appeared that it was going to hang around through Wednesday, so we decided to stay at Isla San Francisco another day.
Wednesday, March 9th looking out into the channel early morning, it seemed calm enough but the radio net weather reports confirmed the 'northern' so we decided to stay put and have a project day. Four of the boats in the anchorage were in a little bit more of a hurry and headed out. We could see them rocking back and forth as they worked their way into the channel and then as they headed north they were making little to no forward progress - three of them returned to the anchorage. Dennis worked on the weatherfax machine again and I did some sewing, repairing the bag that holds the man overboard sling (had a slight tear) and tear in the spinnaker bag. I made line bags to hold the reefing and main halyard lines that Dennis routed back to the cockpit. Only finished the starboard side ones. Made some cookies and watched a movie that night.
Thursday, March 10th the wind was light in the early morning and Don Anderson's weather report forecast light winds in the sea all week, so we headed out for an anchorage on the Baja mainland. We planned to make it a longer day and get some miles behind us. But the wind got higher than expected and was on our nose as it was from the north, again, so we took one of our alternate plans and decided to change to the anchorage at San Evarista. We had some radio communication with some of the other boats in Isla San Francisco anchorage and passed on the weather report information as they had been unable to hear the morning radio nets. It was only about a 2 hour trip that day. Three other boats (Char Ann, Althea, Otter) from the San Francisco anchorage joined us and anchored nearby. We hiked the ridge above the anchorage, scrambling up goat trails. Jim and Jeannine from Char Ann came by on their dinghy and after a brief conversation we discovered that they had been in our same marina in Ventura for 6-7 years - but our paths hadn't crossed until now. We went ashore with them and Charlie and Sharon from Cast Away and walked the dirt road that led back to the salt flats and a small oasis - lots of trees and shade. We were joined by a couple of very friendly local dogs. Perhaps a bit too friendly as they decided to welcome both Virginia and Jeannine by peeing on them! We visited the tienda (small grocery store with staples) and bought a few things. That night we invited all the boats in our part of the anchorage (5 of them) over to Libertad for appetizers. We ended up talking for more than 2 hours, right on through the dinner hour. All very nice people with interesting stories and backgrounds.
Friday, March 11 pulled up anchor at 0600 and headed out for a planned 6 hour trip to Bahia San Marte - about halfway to Puerto Escondido. There was lots of gel-like seagrass on the anchor that took some work to clean up. Virginia got to practice her technique for filling up a bucket with seawater when in motion - learned that it takes just the right flick of the wrist to get the bucket upside down and then a quick pull to raise it so it doesn't bounce and all spill out. We made such good time that we decided to go a bit further to Agua Verde instead as Char Ann had been there before and was really talking it up the previous night. It is known for its beautiful green water. On the way we saw a whale spouting 30-40 feet in the air - figure it must have been a blue whale. As we kayaked around the anchorage we saw that Althea and Otter had also changed their plans and joined us in Agua Verde. On the radio today the talk has all been about the earthquake in Japan. Ron and Melinda on Morningstar II are here. They have been at other anchorages with us, but we didn't meet then, so we kayaked over to visit. They have Sirius radio and filled us in on more earthquake details. They are from Reno and are headed to Guaymas to put their boat on the hard for the summer.
Saturday March 12 we departed for Puerto Escondido. We tried lots of sail combinations using the drifter and spinnaker but could not get enough out of the wind to sail - another day of motoring. Puerto Escondido has an anchorage with mooring balls, showers, internet, and a local cruising club (Hidden Port Yacht Club). About ¾ of a mile up the road is Tripui a mobile home and RV park with small tienda. Dick and Marsha Rowland from our boating club have a place there and will be down here mid April - so we'll miss them. As we came into the anchorage to pick up a mooring ball, the first boat we pass is another 1983 Amel Maramu, hull #24 (ours is #121), Dave and Mary of Airops. Over the radio they warned us off the ball we were headed for as it was spoken for and directed us to another. Dave dinghied over and helped us retrieve the mooring line; these moorings didn't have the familiar float & stick (as we were used to from Catalina) and the line was submerged under the mooring ball -very difficult to grab from the foredeck, so we were grateful for his help. Spent the afternoon figuring out where we would check in the next day and tidying up the boat. We met some of the folks from the Hidden Port Yacht Club who invited us to the potluck to be held the next day.
Sunday March 13. Happy Birthday to my sister Marilyn and brother Patrick (no they aren't twins). This was quite a day for socializing. Virginia really enjoyed that. When we went ashore for showers and check-in we hooked up with Gary and Phyllis for a walk to the store in Tripui. They sailed in the South Pacific many years ago with their four children. They are planning to go back and do the northern islands that they missed on the previous trip. Mary Lee and Lewis were also walking that way. They live in Marina del Rey aboard MerryLee in the summers. Their house there is rented out. They travel back down here each year in the Fall. They did the 08 HaHa with us and that is when their cruising started. We had lunch with them in the restaurant at the small hotel in Tripui. Three of their friends joined us: Lizette (husband Dennis back at the boat working on projects) and Tom and Alicia aboard Alegria (also on the 08 HaHa). They all "season" down here. Walked back to the boat, made cashew chicken salad for the 'chicken' theme potluck and went ashore. There were about 30 people there. We met Joyce and Odus Hayes who live in Tripui. They said they not only know of Dick and Marsha Rowland, but they are their new next door neighbors (in A26). After the potluck we followed Mary and Dave to Airops to see the changes they have made to their boat and then they came over to ours to do likewise. It was such a coincidence that they not only have the same model and year Amel as us, but they also bought it the same year we bought ours. It was great to visit with them and compare notes.
Monday March 14 we rented a car with Mike and his son Tom on Up On The Wind for a visit to Loreto (14 miles north of us). It wasn't recommended that we bike along highway 1 (and after making the trip we see why and appreciate that advance warning). We forgot to take the camera! We had lunch at a small outdoor restaurant, walked the central historic plaza to see City Hall (Loreto was the first capital of Baja, but after a significant storm damaged the town many years ago, the capital was moved to La Paz and has remained there ever since), and the mission. This mission was the first to be built in Baja. It is smaller than the cathedral in La Paz by far and there is no stained glass, but it has a beautiful altar and statues throughout. We walked around town. We scoped out the three mercados on foot to determine the best for our shopping which was our last stop with the car. We found the Post Office and mailed some documents to Ventura county to prove that we have the boat abroad. We happened upon a small chandlery and scored a new hand pump for our dinghy! As mentioned in an earlier blog we had searched all over La Paz without any success and had almost decided to order one from the states and have it shipped to Puerto Vallarta. We enjoyed Mike and Tom. Mike and his wife live in Tucson. He is retired and trying to convince her to retire so they can cruise more. Tom and his wife live in North Carolina. He is a chef. His wife grew up in Santa Barbara - we didn't meet her as she was home with their two young children.
Tomorrow we will probably try and head our relatively early for a 'longer' day and target Caleta San Juanica, about half the remaining distance to Bahia Concepcion.
Sorry, we don't have the pictures for this leg ready to post...have to wait for next Internet location.
At anchor, 0800 Friday morning, February 25th, we listened to the La Paz cruisers VHF radio net to find out what was happening in the boating community here. For about 30 minutes, they have announcements for tides (significant info for getting in and out of La Paz), weather, and current and upcoming events. They announced there was a propane fuel run from the marina and we have one empty tank so we needed to get settled into our slip by 1030 to take advantage of that service (the only refills are out on the edge of town and would be a long walk). During the 'goods and services' section of the net we got some recommendations on where to go for an air pump; our dinghy pump broke while hurriedly re-inflating the fenders in preparation for docking in Cabo San Jose (remember, right after we won the race) and the backup foot pump is quite slow - we want another hand-push one. For dinner we walked the downtown area looking for Corozon restaurant as we saw a write-up on it. Circled the blocks in the supposed area but didn't find it. We ended up at a little place across the street from the ocean and malecon/promenade which was great. Virginia ordered BBQ chicken, hoping for the roasted chicken on a spit we've had in Ensenada. They were very busy and they appeared to be short-staffed. The waiter delivered BBQ pork ribs. She queried "pollo"? He responded "si", -hmmm, there's more than a language barrier here. Pork is the "other" white meat but this? She was hungry so she ate it. It was tasty, but she still needed her chicken fix. Dennis had papas rellenos - stuffed potato - a new one for us. It is a layer of mashed potatoes with meat of choice on top. He said it was delicious. We each had two margaritas - that's really partying for us.
Saturday, February 26th, we went to the morning meeting at Club Cruceros - a group for cruisers in the La Paz area that meets in Marina de La Paz each morning (except Sundays), which made it quite convenient for us. They are a great group. We have joined them almost every morning to get information on the local area - where to buy things we need, what they recommend we see when we head out to the local islands (very much like the Channel Islands in SB), etc. They have DVD and paperback book collections for loan and we took advantage of those. We walked to the Saturday organic farmers' market - they didn't have any produce just arts and crafts, but we found the Corozon restaurant we had been searching for so we had brunch there - a couple of omelets and naranja (orange) juice, mmm good -most restaurants fresh squeeze their orange juice daily. It was a very cute restaurant, using the heart (corozon) theme throughout. We then walked to the middle of town to the Anthropology and Historical Museum. There were three floors of interesting exhibits. All the signage was in Spanish so we made good use of the Lingo handheld translator that Virginia's staff gave her as a retirement gift. Most of the exhibits were out in the open where you could touch them, with just signs asking you not to - very different from US museums. Having toured several historical museums, Dennis couldn't help but critique some of the exhibits as requiring some updating based on recent archeological discoveries. Next we visited the Whale Museum (Museum de la Ballena). A young woman gave us a personal tour (we were the only ones there when we arrived and she probably was happy to have something to do). She knew enough English, coupled with our minimal Spanish, to make her descriptions understandable. We learned quite a bit in a very short time. She was very sweet and really motivated to teach us what she knew. We saw several neighborhoods enroute to these museums. All the houses in La Paz, no matter what size, seem to have cinderblock and wrought iron fence with a gate across their front yard, with a front porch just beyond.
We next hit the open air Mercado where they sell fresh meat, fish, and produce. Dennis suggested we get some cucumbers, which surprised me because at home in Santa Barbara he didn't like them. But funny thing, here in Mexico he had some at a restaurant and he has decided they taste like little watermelons! Back at the boat we spent some time posting photos to our website and BBQ'd chicken from the freezer for dinner.
Sunday, February 27th, Dennis went looking for a small water leak that was bugging us as the bilge pump would go on just briefly, periodically. Found and fixed, hooray. I think we reported earlier that due to Dennis' excellent packing skills, we were able to bring our mountain bikes along, but they required some disassembly, breaking them down into the smallest possible parts to fit in a hold. So when we want to use them, they require reassembly. He did that today and we enjoyed biking around town to do our chores. La Paz is quite flat and should be a biker's paradise but the car is king and we did our best to stay off busy streets. It appears that all traffic laws, signs, and stop lights are merely "suggestions." Keeps you on your toes whether on foot or on a bike. We spent some time preparing the boat to be hauled out tomorrow. Dennis checked with the boat yard to determine where to enter and was instructed to head for the ramp rather than the hoist.
Monday, February 28th, took our boat to the Abaroa yard to have the bottom painted. Dennis was relieved that they would take us out on a ramp/rail system rather than use a lift this time (a lift requires removing the backstay which now is complicated by the SSB antenna) but having never seen this system work, he was a little apprehensive. We needed to go out at high tide so we arrived at 0830 as instructed, but they weren't ready for us so we did circles for about an hour. They put three line handlers on the boat via a panga, much to Virginia's delight as she was now relieved of her assignment. When they had us enter the cradle of the ramp it was about 0930 and no longer max flood tide....the keel started to scrape before we were half way into the cradle. They stopped and told us that the other rail was deeper so we backed out, waited at a slip while they got the second ramp cradle ready. It proved to be deep enough. The ramp system is very labor intensive vs. the travel hoist; it's hard to understand why they preferred us coming out on it. They took a lot of time and were very careful about securing supports under the boat, which required two men working in the water for the next two hours without scuba gear. They must have drawn the short straws. They only had on what looked like biking jerseys and shorts and they were shivering uncontrollably by the time it was over. Three hours later, we were sitting up high and dry. We were higher than any other boat in the yard so we had a great view out over the boatyard, nearby marina, and the channel (and a long climb up a wooden ladder to get onto and off the boat).
In search of a new air pump, we took a long bike ride this day - over to Walmart shopping center, then to the Sears/City club center, then to the open air Mercado. No pump but we picked up some good produce. The exercise felt great. Along that route we saw numerous schools, all in good condition as with other schools we have seen in Mexico. One of them had a vision and a mission statement painted on the front outside wall.
Dennis intended to go to a Rotary meeting at the Hotel del Arcos that night so he wrote a short introductory speech and translated it via Google Translator into Spanish. We walked along the malecon to the Rotary meeting location to find that the Hotel del Arcos was deserted and shut up tight. Apparently it's been like that for three years as a result of a strike by the hotel staff. Three years would seem to be long enough to advise Rotary Int'l of a new meeting site don't cha think? It's a pity because the hotel is a real landmark, right in the center of all the beach business. For consolation, we walked the downtown area and had some gelato.
Tuesday, March 1st, oh dear, we turn 60 this month.
Riding our bikes again - this time to the Cathedral Mission, Post Office, a supposed Tuesday farmers' market which we could not locate, and several marine stores. We also visited Ibarra's Pottery - a family owned business where we saw members of the family painting designs on the pottery on site. It was beautiful. They don't allow any photography as they don't want anyone copying their designs. Some degree of marketing at work there as we did not see anything particularly unique. Not practical to store pottery on the boat so we just bought a cabinet knob.
Dennis has been trying to fix the weather fax machine that came with the boat for some time now. "Professionals" in marine electronics have told us to dump it as it is a museum piece, but we always felt it would be good backup to our computer weather tools. On the radio net today Bill on sv. Makahiki offered help. Dennis had a radio conversation with him later that morning and in just a few minutes they had narrowed the problem down and Dennis had a better idea of things to try.
We rode our bikes down the malecon about 3 miles to Marina Palmira for another Rotary meeting. This one was happening and it was a great group of folks (all men, but they were very gracious to Virginia). It was the Rotary club of La Paz Balandra. Two visiting speakers that night a Brazil project, and a La Paz prosthetics project. We also learned an interesting local tidbit, namely that there is a sculpture on the malecon called Christus Conche (Christ holding a large shell) and that there is matching sculpture at the bottom of Balandra cove. That is the cove we had anchored in on our approach to La Paz, but it was totally dark there during our visit as we arrived at night and left as the sun was rising, so we didn't see it - darn.
Wednesday, March 2nd we did not get the boat back in the water - boatyard delaying one more day to finish painting the few spots underneath the supports. They used black paint this time; they didn't have the brown/red that we have used in the past. It looks nice. There is another boat in the yard that discovered hundreds of blisters on his bottom and will be here for awhile repairing those. We have decided to go to Marina Palmira, closer to the start of the channel into /out of La Paz this time. It is 2 miles out of town, but the malecon runs all the way there, as we discovered when we went to the Rotary meeting, so we can still ride bikes into the Club Cruceros 'coffee' gatherings in the mornings and get our errands done easily.
We took another long bike ride again today. Went to the Marina Palmira to choose a slip, did some errands, and visited the prosthetics clinic we had learned about at the Rotary meeting. It is challenging finding places. Street signs are intermittent; directions give the closest cross streets, not a specific address (and there aren't visible addresses on the buildings anyway). You are lucky if the name of the business is provided. There are lots of one-way streets. It seems like you have to circle the block a lot either to get to a street going the right direction (when biking) or just searching for the establishment. One of the locals (a Dr. at the clinic we visited) said he is part of a campaign to make it more bike friendly. The malecon is great but no streets have bike lanes and can be quite narrow. But biking is fairly easy here given that it is fairly flat.
Thursday, March 3rd we got the boat back in the water in the early morning. It was questionable for awhile there as they were having trouble getting the rail's engine started. But once it got going, it was a relatively quick process to lower us back into the water - much quicker than the haul out for sure. It was a short trip up to our new Marina. It is a nice facility, but the showers and restrooms are a long way from the boat - we'll use our bikes for those trips. Did some 'house' cleaning today. Then more errands via bikes into town. On the way to Cabo San Lucas, we discovered that under certain following seas and wind levels, the blades of the wind generator hit something -not sure what. Dennis thinks stiffening the mounting bracket will cure it. Many of the trips this week have been to find yet another hardware or marine store in search of the aluminum rivets that Dennis needs for modifying the support bracket. Today we had success finally!
We had arranged to meet Bill Grinder and his wife Selene (who speaks only Spanish) at The Dock restaurant at Marina de La Paz for some cervezas as a thank you for helping with the weather fax machine diagnosis. He is from the bay area and has been down here since 2004. During the conversation, before he knew we were from Santa Barbara, he mentioned that he attended UCSB "when they were burning the bank". Turns out all three of us were at UCSB 1969-73. He got an engineering degree. What a small world. After two margaritas he turned into quite a character. We walked the streets of Carnaval with them and their scotty dog (who kept having panic attacks because of all the activity and loud noise).
They close down the street along the waterfront and line it with games and rides for the children, booths selling food and wares, and bandstands. During the day, only a few booths are open and there are very few people milling about. In contrast, at night the crowd fills the street and it is all lit up with many competing bands and folks selling their wares at the top of their lungs. The blanket salesmen were especially interesting - like auctioneers with constant chatter. We saw some elements in common with Santa Barbara Fiesta, such as cascarones, parades, churros, and food booths. Along the malecon it seemed to be arranged such that one end had the childrens' games and rides and the other end had the liquor booths. We're told it's a lot crazier beginning Friday night, so we'll come back.
Friday, March 4th, we reprovisioned today for the next leg which will be out to the islands and up to Loreto at least, maybe as far as Bahia Conception. We have fond memories of that bay from our land trip here with Darren years ago. We of course used our bikes for the trip to supermarket along with the bike trailer that Darren and Carrie gave us, now that our granddaughters are too grown up to ride in it any longer. The produce nets are overflowing. We went to a bookstore to buy "THE Sea of Cortez cruising guide" as recommended by the folks at Club Cruceros this morning. Virginia got caught up on the laundry at the marina laundromat and had a nice chat with Mora from Whitewater (who had been on the 2004 Baha Haha with us). She and Harry are from San Diego. They left their boat here since that 2004 trip and come down for several months at a time when they can get away from their landscaping business. They didn't have such a pleasant trip down in 2004. They are enjoying sailing out to the islands and around the Sea here, but are not sure long passages are for them so they are going to go with John and Amanda Neil on Mahina in the Marquesas this July. That sounds like a great strategy. She also talked with a group who had just gotten back from a kayak tour of Isla San Spiritus which got her excited to get over to the islands. Too bad the water is too cold to snorkel; the kayakers tried it with wetsuits and said it was still too chilly. The net weather report said there is a 'norther' coming in today and Saturday and so we'll wait until Sunday to head out.
We visited Carnaval again for dinner and enjoyed all the music.
Saturday, March 5th. Today Dennis will go up the mast and modify the wind generator support and then we'll cruise town on our bikes one last time in search of a watermelon. The weather has warmed up while we have been here (it's over a week now!). Today it is supposed to be 89. It's not humid though so it is quite comfortable.
We'll post an update about our island adventures in a few days.
Send us your news!
We now have our photos posted and labeled up to the point that we arrived in La Paz. Note that if you place your mouse/cursor over a photo you will get a short label. I wish it showed up next to the picture, but that's not how this site works. I learned some new things like using Picaso to downsize the pictures, how to sort them into a logical sequence, and then how to label them - so that's my excuse for taking so long to get these posted. Also I see that as soon as I create a new album and start posting pictures they appear for all to see. So if you get into an album some time in the future and note that there are no labels or that things seem to be out of order, that means it's a work in progress.
We are in Marina de La Paz for awhile working on a few projects and exploring the town. Dennis is assembling our bikes and we will ride them to the grocery store today, towing our cart that Darren and Carrie gave us (thanks Kira and Devin for growing up and giving it up!) We walked there and it's not that far, but today we expect to have a load to carry.
Tomorrow we are having the boat hauled and the bottom painted. Not sure how long that will take. We were thinking a couple days, but other cruisers are telling us to expect at least a week. But there's plenty to do here.
We'll post more about our LaPaz activities along with pictures later in the week....manana.
Friday, February 18th, finished up clearing into Mexico with a visit to the Capitania de Puerto. That turned out to be a breeze. After submitting our papers which were quite in order, the official asked if we habla espanol and Dennis cautiously responded un pequeno (a little -which is some distance from the truth). She proceeded to rattle off a lengthy explanation of what we needed to do next and all we could identify was "Mastercard". So focusing on that word, we were able to discern that we could use our Mastercard for the port entry fee, avoiding a second round-trip trip to the bank which was now across town rather than across the street (as it was from Immigracion) and the embarrassment of ultimately revealing no working grasp of Spanish. We were out of there in less than 30 minutes.
We had hauled our dirty clothes ashore to use a self-service laundromat but the charge for us to use the machines was 90% of the price for them to do the "complete service" - $10 for two loads. So it wasn't a hard decision to spend that extra $1 to give us all afternoon to ourselves. We had gotten directions to a tackle shop (Dennis needed to replace the lure he lost on the lobster pot and having no luck on fishing up to this point, wanted some pointers). In searching for the shop we were directed to, we discovered a second tackle shop, Minerva's (side note: the directions included a strip joint as a landmark which provided Dennis some material with which to have fun with Virginia). The first tackle shop was full of customers, so we headed to Minerva's. This shop had twice the gear and half the customers of the other. Dennis explained his lack of knowledge to the woman behind the counter, expecting her to direct him to the "fisherman" owner. To his surprise and exposing his sexism, she suggested we come back with our rods at 5pm and she would give us a lesson on setting them up. We thanked her and asked her name, she responded "Minerva". We returned as requested and it was wonderful. She was so nice, so knowledgeable, and didn't try and push a lot of expensive gear on us (the previous customer's bill came to $900!). What a delight. Odd that she had so few customers, perhaps machismo is still alive and well and Mexican fishermen are reluctant to take fishing instructions from a woman. We walked through the outdoor shops selling wares. Dennis bought a leather belt and Virginia bought a sundress and wrap. We took a three mile round trip walk to Walmart as we were told they would have 3G cards for internet connection. They didn't have the cards, but it was good exercise, felt good to stretch the legs and warm the body in the hot sun. It was shorts weather that day until late in the evening. We also went to the Super Mercado and bought some produce as we were all out of fruit. Quite a productive day. Our fold up handcart got its first workout hauling two large Rubbermaid containers (which normally house our sheets and towels) of laundry and groceries; it worked out quite well. I think it was Liz Copeland's book that suggested those containers as great all-purpose bins for storage, hauling, hand washing laundry, etc. Glad we brought some.
Saturday, February 19th weather report says we will have very mild north winds and not until the afternoon so we decided to make our short 15 mile hop to Puerto de los Cabos, in Cabo San Jose, after lunch but unfortunately not before the API officials dropped by to extract an anchoring fee. Not reading about this fee in any of the guides or current Baja HaHa notes and having not been confronted with it in the last three trips to Cabo, we were somewhat skeptical that they were official. After several minutes of negotiation, it appeared that they were legitimate and that this was a new fee as of January, $10 per night. Better let Richard of the Baja HaHa organization know about it to set the fleet's expectations for next year. We had a reservation at the new marina in Cabo San Jose (no anchorage available). As we readied the boat to head out, we saw the Cabo San Lucas jr. lifeguards doing exercises and practicing rescues on the beach near us. It appears that red shorts are the international standard for lifeguards.
We didn't have much wind when we left and when it did fill in it was not from the north, but on our nose so we had to motor. About an hour or two outside Cabo San Jose, the wind picked up and with most of the afternoon at our disposal, Dennis decided to sail, turning off the motor and tacking our way to the marina. Another sailboat was doing likewise so of course Dennis considered it a 'race'. We had to reef as the first mate insisted after 20+ knots apparent and heeling 30 degrees - but we still 'won' -the other boat having quite a lead on us to start but Dennis seemed to make the most of the more favorable tacking angles. We saw some more grey whales as we neared the harbor entrance. We had a quiet night in the marina. There was a small restaurant there, but it was kind of late and we had eaten out a lot in Cabo San Lucas (returning to some of our favorites as well as sampling new spots) and were ready for some home cooking. Plus we had a strong Internet connection there and needed to catch up on bill paying, blog posting, and such. The marina is still under development. They have a "Dolphin Discovery" pool where you can swim with dolphins but the restrooms and showers aren't built yet, using temporary buildings with one shower for the whole marina (men and women share). But from the landscaping, complete with an extensive malecon/promenade around the edge of the marina with informational plaques and sculptures, you can see they have plans to make it a destination spot. The staff were very nice and helpful. At $110/night for a slip it was kind of expensive, but that's Cabo for you. Slips without power were half price and three times the distance from the office and restrooms/shower.
Sunday, February 20th. The wind is supposed to be fair today, but getting a bit stronger the following day, so we decided to head out immediately for the next anchorage, Los Frailes. We left about 0730 after giving the boat a fresh water rinse. Dennis noticed that the waypoint in the cruising guide is off about 60 miles for Frailes - fortunately he always double checks on a paper chart. We aren't using our electronic chart plotting tools (Capn and Visual Passage Planner) yet. Dennis had it all set up on the older laptop in San Diego for the first leg of our trip and then the laptop screen went black and we had to power down without closing/saving anything. Now the charting products are not happy on that laptop and we'll need to contact tech support to straighten it out. We had it all installed on our newer laptop as well; Dennis just needs to set up some of the particulars again. He decided not to use it for this basically coastal sailing. We'll use it when we head to the Mexico mainland.
We motored all the way, most of the time in 20 knot winds, which increased as we got closer to the anchorage so the last few miles seemed like they took forever; we were only making 3-4 knots headway and lots of spray over the bow -so much for the fresh water rinse! The strong wind had arrived a day earlier than predicted - weather predictions are after all really just that. We saw two humpback whales frolicking for a long time. The still digital camera didn't catch them breaching, but you can see one the whales slapping its tail on the water - an exercise it kept up for some time. We're going to keep the video camera closer at hand for times like that. We saw another pair later, but they weren't as active. It was a nice diversion from the beating we were taking. There were three other sailboats in the anchorage when we arrived and two powerboats followed later. The anchorage was not protected from the wind so it gave us a good opportunity to test our increasing skill at dropping and setting the anchor in less than favorable conditions. But the anchorage was well protected from the swell so we were comfortable, listening to the wind howl in our rigging all night and giving our wind generator a good workout. The conditions prevented us from venturing ashore or visiting other boats. There were tent campers on the beach. When we talked to our son that night on the sat phone, he said "there are palapas on the beach" - he had seen our position report and zoomed in on the Google Earth view while he was talking with us. Our last family vacation with Darren, when he was just out of college, was a camping trip to Baja. He was enchanted by the beach palapas we encountered on that trip and that visual reminder stimulated his deja vu.
Monday, February 21. Since the wind was predicted to persist (about 12-15 knots, but we would be headed straight into it), we decided to spend an extra day at Los Frailes and wait for the 5-8 knot wind predicted on subsequent days. Watching the whitecaps develop out on the Sea of Cortez beyond the point protecting the anchorage, we were glad we had stayed put. Another sailboat and one of the power boats did likewise. We thought if the wind did calm down we would kayak to the landmark living coral reef (the only live one in the Sea of Cortez) later in the day, but we didn't get that lull so we spent the day reading, cleaning the boat, and baking brownies.
Tuesday, February 22nd we left at first light (0630) to motor in light north winds to Ensenada de los Muertos. At 0715 we caught our first fish! As Dennis was busy cleaning it on the cutting board he cleverly installed on the swim step off the stern (no blood and guts in/on the boat!), Virginia watched a pod of about 30 dolphins and a whale off our port. While cleaning, Dennis cut his thumb, so he'll be excused from dishes duty for a few days. Dennis got the fish and boat all cleaned up and encouraged that fish were hitting his new rig, he put the lines back in expecting to catch a BIG one. At 0745 just a few moments later, whammo - another one on the line. We think these were either bonito or amberjacks. The second one was bigger but we just snapped a picture and released it as we had enough for a few days from the first one. A bit later we caught a third one, much smaller (also released). It was a helluva day at sea!
Muertos is a beautiful protected cove. We kayaked around the bay, over to the point, and out to visit another sailboat. Fred and Cindy of Songline, a 38' steel-hulled ketch, are from Alaska. They had planned to take our intended route, down mainland Mexico, Central America, Ecuador, Galapagos before heading to the Marquesas, but they got "started late" (boy that sounds familiar) and so they are headed back to Cabo to make the jump to the Marquesas. They had been in LaPaz for a few months and gave us some ideas on where to stay and services. We also went ashore to the "yacht club" - an outdoor restaurant - and had a beer and some nachos. The cruising guide explains how the developers didn't think "muertos" (buried anchors, aka "dead men") created the right atmosphere so they renamed the area, Bay of Dreams (which is inscribed on the arch over the club path). It was deserted - we were the only ones there. That night we had bbq'd fish (what else!) - yummy.
Wednesday, February 23rd, we left at sunrise for La Paz. Predictions were that we would be sailing into light north wind. Just past Muertos we passed Isla Cerralvo. As it is the furthest island south in the Sea of Cortez, we felt like we were finally in The Sea. Again, the wind cranked up and by noon it was quite uncomfortable and the wind was continuing to increase. Dennis headed us towards shore and anchored us in a little, unnamed, cove just south of San Rosario. There was a single house on the beach surrounded by a large field of cactus, and a nice big rock cliff to provide protection from the WNW wind and swell. A catamaran had been following us from Muertos, but they soldiered on. We had a peaceful lunch and stayed there for several hours but as the wind clocked around to the north the cove became uncomfortable and with a lee shore condition. We considered our options - beat on to La Paz or go back to Muertos. It was getting later in the afternoon and often the wind would lighten up as the sun set, so we decided to wait another hour. Fortunately, it died down enough that we were able to comfortably resume our leg to La Paz at a clip of 5.5 kts. We cleared the treacherous San Lorenzo Channel as the sun made a glorious setting but we didn't want to traverse the entrance channel to La Paz at night (it's a narrow, shallow, four-mile long channel), so we tucked into Balandra Cove just past the San Lorenzo Channel. We had the place to ourselves and it was quiet and peaceful when we arrived. We had dinner and watched a movie. We didn't get to finish our movie as our LCD panel fizzled midstream - bummer! Another project for Dennis when we arrive in La Paz. Then the wind came up blowing 15 knots out of the west and we got so much swell we started porpoising. Again on a lee shore, we decided to keep an anchor watch. Dennis took 2200-2400 and Virginia 2400 to 0200. The anchor seemed to be staying set so we tried to get some sleep after that. We had fitful rest for the next few hours. At one point Dennis had to awaken Virginia who was having a nightmare and screaming 'Dennis help us' (she and one of her sisters were being chased in a warehouse) - too many mystery novels on her Kindle!
We were up at first light, 0530, and headed into the La Paz channel. It was beautiful watching the sunrise over La Paz. A big freighter was anchored at the entrance of the channel that is marked with navigation buoys so we had to go around him. We knew from the charts and past experience that the channel itself wasn't very deep (30 feet) and it was very shallow outside the channel so Virginia kept a close watch on the depth gauge as Dennis maneuvered around the freighter. It was clear that we weren't going to make the first two buoys and Dennis knew this might be trouble so he slowed down. Only a few feet from being inside the buoys when Virginia sounded the alert that the bottom was getting shallow fast, Dennis put the boat into reverse and scraped a bit of paint off the keel as the depth reading was just a bit over 5 feet (for our 6.5 foot boat) and we could feel the boat starting to drag across the bottom. Fortunately, reverse gear spun us around and dragged us off the shoal and finally into the dredged channel. We listened to the local VHF net on our way in and duly reported ourselves as newcomers when requested. By 0830 we were anchored off downtown La Paz in a calm anchorage with lots of other boats. Before we had the boat all in order with sails and lines stowed, our neighbor, Robert in a nice, wooden 32' ketch with a bowsprit, had come by to welcome us to La Paz.
We had planned on getting some sleep once we were anchored, but decided we could do that any time. We were in La Paz and ready to explore! We dinghied ashore and made arrangements for a slip in Marina de la Paz for three nights. We'll spend this first night in the anchorage. We checked on the price of getting the bottom of the boat painted and will likely have that done before we leave here. We walked the downtown area, had lunch, bought some produce at the farmers' market, picked up some ice cream bars and some groceries (including warm fresh tortillas) at the Mercado, and headed back to the boat to prepare this blog so that we can post it manana when we have wifi in the marina. We have also now organized our photos for this first part of the trip and will try to post them as well.
We are still enjoying ourselves, thoroughly!