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Michael & Edi have headed out on a slow, thorough exploration of the globe.
Christmas in El Mezteno
27 December 2009 | El Mezteno
We awoke on Christmas day gently bobbing at anchor in Ensenada de La Ballena. Mid-morning we sat down to a delicious breakfast of toasted sesame bagels with cream cheese, smoked salmon and capers. Then shortly after noon we weighed anchor and headed out of Ensenada de La Ballena to continue our way northward along the west side of Isla Espiritu Santo.

Our destination was El Mezteno, a tiny anchorage just big enough for one boat, and the last one on Espititu Santo. As we passed the mouth of Ensenada del Candeloro, the bay between last night's Ensenada de La Ballena and tonight's El Mezteno, we saw a sloop and a catamaran filling the small two-boat anchorage there. They were the third and fourth boats we had seen at anchor since we left La Paz, and we talked of how crowded the area was becoming, and hoped that El Mezteno would be empty.

As we rounded the headland and could see past the cliffs and into the narrow gut, we were relieved to see that El Mezteno was empty. This is a wonderful little place; a three-quarter mile cut between cliffs and just over a cable wide at its throat, with a small white sand beach at its head across which a vee-shaped valley leads up eastward then bends and disappears northward around the cliff-topped slopes.

We came to 18 metres of chain on the Rocna anchor in 4.5 metres of water on a sand bottom about 2 cables off the beach and little more than half a cable off the cliffs on either side. The water is very clear here, and the bottom is plainly visible through the 5.5 metres at high tide. What a spectacular setting in which to spend Christmas Day!

With the sea so clear, we made water for four hours and the net 250 litres brought our gauge back up from half tank to the full mark. For an hour and a bit in the afternoon we sorted-out and rearranged the food staples in the lockers beneath the dinette and reorganized the drawers and cupboards in the pantry, replenishing as we went the smaller containers in the galley cupboard beside the stove. We are gradually finding the proper places for things.

Edi started another couple of loaves of bread; one a Friesen clove cheese and garlic with fresh basil, the other a sundried tomato, Moroccan olive and fresh basil, using the New York Times no-knead recipe introduced to us by Ray Lipovsky on one of Sequitur's visits to the Lasqueti Mint. This amazingly simple recipe, easily Googled on the net, is ideal for making wonderful artisan loaves at sea or at anchor.

We relaxed, read and soaked-in the wonderful setting, and in the evening sat down to our Christmas dinner of turkey with a Portobello mushroom gravy, couscous and fresh asparagus with mayonnaise accompanied by a bottle of Segura Viudas Cava. We topped-off our evening with our nightly ritual of cups of Rooibos tea and squares of extra dark chocolate.

The night was completely calm, with not a breath of wind to disturb the water's surface, and from overhead, the half moon and star-filled sky lit the canyon walls of our cozy little anchorage. What a wonderful cathedral in which to spend Christmas.

We laid-in for a while on Boxing Day, not the least concerned at missing the jam of line-ups at the blow-out sales. On reflection, we haven't been to a Boxing Day sale for many years, so it was easy for us to be missing another scramble and crush session at the stores. A few scattered cumulus accented an otherwise blue sky, and the still airs left the waters mirrored as we lounged in the cockpit enjoying our breakfast in the 23 degree warmth of mid-morning.

Around mid-day we baked the two loaves that Edi had mixed-up the previous day, and when they were sufficiently cooled, she prepared a picnic of sliced fresh-baked bread, sliced left-over turkey, blue cheese and artichoke hearts. This we loaded into the backpack with thermoses of cold water and we took the dinghy ashore to the white sand beach at the head of the bay.

There is a trail marker just in from the beach, which describes the route up the valley to the outlook over Caleta Partida as being 6 miles long, 4.5 hours duration and of high difficulty. We had only a little over three hours left before sunset, so we decided to take a short-cut. We angled up the boulder slopes toward the cliffs and found a route through the huge blocks, around a soaring buttress, up a shallow gulley and the chimney at its back, and in an hour we were on the top.

A pleasant ten minute's walk across the undulating slabs of the ridge top took us to an overlook down into Caleta Partida, which separates Isla Espiritu Santo from Isla Partida. This narrow channel is less than a metre deep at low tide as it zigzags between low spits that thrust out from each island. There were nine boats at anchor in the caleta, all tucked up into the northern side, probably in an attempt to get some protection from the winds that notoriously blow through the gap, funnelling and magnifying the winter's prevailing northerlies.

With a couple of hours remaining until sunset, we needed to find a route off the ridge. The ridge continued to the east, narrowing as it went, and becoming a complex of huge slabs separated by crevices a metre or so across and often two and three metres deep. This was rimmed on the south by a line of cliffs that appeared to continue unbroken for a mile or more. We backtracked and searched along the rim for a suitable chimney system to enable us to break through the cliffs. Down one chimney and around an airy ledge, we found easier going in big broken blocks that led us in half an hour to the trail in the dry river bed of the valley bottom.

Nearly an hour later, we arrived back at the dinghy on the beach, having scrambled through the overgrown, boulder-strewn shallow canyon of the river bed, through which the trail led. Many of the boulders choking the canyon were room-sized and bigger, some the size of small houses. In retrospect, it would have easier to have followed the rubble slopes and small rock faces above.

We sat on the beach enjoying a late lunch, for which we had worked-up a good appetite. As we ate, we were entertained by the antics of the pelicans diving for needlefish in the shallows. The sun was low in the western sky, so we waited for nice sunset shots, which didn't come; the setting and composition were correct, but the sky was too clear to offer any drama to the event.

We arrived back onboard in the dusk and relaxed until late evening, when I made a six-egg frittata with leftover turkey, green onions, garlic, red, yellow and orange peppers, tomatoes and tarragon. It had been a wonderful Boxing Day.

And on the seventh day we rested. It is Sunday, a week now since we left La Paz to explore Isla Espiritu Santo, and we are so filled with awe for this enchanted place that we need to take a day off to let it all soak in. That, and to allow time for our bodies to recharge from the bursts of rather intense exercise we have had ashore. Today was spa day; sunbathing on deck, manicures and pedicures, and other body work.
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