Down the Coast of Baja, Part Two
08 December 2013
NOVEMBER 30, 2013
BAHIA TORTUGAS TO BAHIA ASUNCION
We left Turtle Bay on lobster pot watch and with the scent of Maria's empanadas wafting through the air. They were sweet bean empanadas made with cinnamon and I was heating them in the oven. Yum.
Today was a good day. We didn't catch any lobster pots. There was no wind to speak of, but the seas were long swells from the NW gently pushing us down the coast. They were anywhere from two to four feet to six to eight feet. The larger waves would lift Cadenza up and along and then set her down, gracefully, in the trough. It was a fun ride.
Jay tried fishing again. This time he barely got his lure in the water when a great big Tuna hooked on and made a run for it. (We know this because we saw him jump clear out of the water.) He was gone before Jay could even grab the pole taking with him our brand new lure and 300 yards of 80 lb. test - every inch we had on our reel!
Oh well, try again later.
Next try was much more successful. He caught a 15", 15 lb., black sea bass. Only we already had plenty to eat (we were getting down to the must eat food - before it went bad) so we decided to throw him back. He was kind of squirmy, though. Oops! He landed in the dinghy! No worries. Don to the rescue. He put his gloves on and jumped into the dinghy with the fish. If only I hadn't put down my camera.
The days are beginning to run together so I'm not clear if there were any lobster pots off the entrance to Asuncion. Still, anytime we enter a new anchorage, our new procedure is to scout for pots. All went well.
We arrived in daylight and so we were able to see a sprawling town. Now keep in mind this is relative to Turtle Bay so that isn't saying much, really. There were houses scattered about. A big, blue church in the center of town and a guano warehouse off to the right. There was definitely life here. When the sun went down the motor bikes came out and raced up and down the beach for hours. I could hear a hint of music coming from town. It was Saturday night, after all.
We contemplated staying long enough to visit the town. We decided against it. There didn't look like there was all that much to see and we were anxious to move on. The next question then, was, do we go to Punta Abreojos (50 nm) or Bahia Santa Maria (185 nm)? Originally, we had planned on stopping at Punta Abreojos. Especially if we could have a chance at seeing the whales. (Every year they migrate to this area and have their babies.) But it was too early. Even though they say migration season is December to May, it was much too early. The tours don't even begin to the middle of January so we decided to skip Punta Abreojos and make a run for Santa Maria.
DECEMBER 1 -3rd, 2013
BAHIA ASUNCION TO BAHIA SANTA MARIA
This time when we head out of Asuncion, Don is the lucky one to cook breakfast. It was quite the balancing act. The seas were mixed and rolly and knocking him about. Oh, but the omelets he makes! Yummy! Eating a good, hot meal is such a treat underway.
Eventually the seas calmed down and since the wind was elusive, we motor-sailed into the night. We were on two-hour shifts. Two on, four off. Most people like to do at least three-hour shifts as they can get more uninterrupted sleep. But in the middle of the night, three hours seems endless. Even with my two-hour shift I was stretching and doing exercises. And at 3 am I was so desperate to stay alert, I resorted to dancing in the cockpit. Hah! You should have seen that!
Morning came and as we were nearing Bahia Santa Maria, we heard the yatistas (whom we had met in Turtle Bay) on the radio. There were three sailboats and they were buddy-boating down the coast. We could see them on the horizon too.
Two of the boats had children on board. Two girls on each boat. Their ages ranged from eight to fourteen. They were on the radio playing twenty questions. We didn't interrupt but we were doing our own fair share of guessing. A good way to pass the time.
A little later, the boys were on the bow and I was at the helm. I just happened to be looking at the right place at the right time and I saw a whale jump straight out of the water and back in, slapping his tail. It made a massive sound. I screamed in delight! I think there were two of them. We could see their spray but no more showing off for the day.
As we gave Punta Hughes a wide berth, we turned into Bahia Santa Maria. This is a big, beautiful bay. Along the west side were mountains sprinkled with green brush and to the east was a long, low-lying sand spit separating it from Magdelena Bay. Tucked into the NNE corner was the estuary. To the south and west of the entrance lies a fishing/surfing camp, a restaurant (that is sometimes open) and a few cottages. I understand there is a little village inside and along the estuary but we never made it in. The break was incredibly high with one wave after another and we weren't up for dinghy surfing. Maybe if I was thirty years younger.
Dinner was Pedro's lobster tails. We were pleasantly surprised. Absolutely some of the best lobster I have ever had. No wonder Pedro was so proud of himself.
The sun set and it was another early night after a long two-day journey.
Tuesday was a rest day. Jay was thinking we would leave on Wednesday, but I objected. We need one rest day and one play day, I said. He and Don agreed and in the end, I think they were glad. On Tuesday there was 15-20 knots of wind and we were just too tired to get the dinghy down and I certainly didn't want to fight the wind in the kayak. We considered showers (we were conserving water and had only one shower left), but thought better of it since we were hoping to go swimming on Wednesday. So instead of exploring the bay, we just relaxed; reading and napping and eating.
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 4, 2013
BAHIA SANTA MARIA
It was dawn and I was kayaking. Behind me, the sun was just rising and brought with it vivid colors of orange, yellow and blue, causing the puffy white clouds to temporarily shift in hue. The air was soft. The sea was flat. I headed toward the mountains where the rocks went straight into the sea. There was no beach on this part of the coast but for a little alcove with a spit of sand that one might land their dinghy. But where you would go from there was anybody's guess. It was rugged and undeveloped and steep. There were more rocks too, about one fifty feet from shore, all clumped together, with jagged edges peaking out from the sea. This is where the lobsters are and this is where the fisherman go. Today was no exception.
Just as I got closer to the rocks, a panga came jetting out from the shore and crossed my path, slowing down right in front of me. I paused for a moment, waiting to see what was up. There was one lone fisherman on the panga with his bright yellow rubber overalls and a big round belly. He smiled and greeted me, "Hola! Buenes Diaz!" I responded in kind but continued to row in the opposite direction. Curious, but not wanting to appear rude or nosy, I tried to slyly keep an eye on him while pretending to study the scenery. He wasn't buying it. He held up a lobster. "Lobster!" He yelled, joyfully. "Oh, si?" Thinking this was an invitation, I rowed my kayak to his panga.
He pulled up several pots and held up his lobsters for me to see. "Fantastic!" He said as he pulled out about ten lobsters and threw them into the boat. He asked me my name and said his was Marco and he was "pleased to meet me." And that was all the English he knew.
I sat there watching him for several minutes as he put more "carne" in the cages as bait and lowered them back into the water. Minutes later he was starting his engine and with a wave of his hand and a wish for a good day, he motored off to the next set of lobster pots.
If only he had offered to sell me some.
I spent the next half hour just drifting along the coast in my kayak. I was reminded of the time we went to Frenchy's Cove on Anacapa Island for lunch. Our friend, Margy, was with us and she and I went kayaking. Margy is an artist and so she looks at the world through an artist's eyes. She sees the contours of the rocks, and notices color and how the light reflects on the water.
"Most people think of the ocean as blue, green or turquoise." She tells me. "But look at it today. It is almost black." She goes on to name all the birds that live on the island. This was her husband's favorite place, she tells me, with a tear in her eye. "We brought his ashes here to rest."
She sat there that day, drifting in her kayak, contemplating sweet memories of the past, just as I was doing now, in Santa Maria Bay.
Soon I headed back to the boat where the boys were sitting on the bow, waiting for me. They were having their coffee and watching out for me, should I get into some trouble. No trouble this day. Just a delightfully quiet moment with nature, along with meeting a new friend.
Later we lowered the dinghy and went off to explore the bay. We ran into our neighbor boat who were in search of their dinghy. Seems it wasn't tied up correctly and it drifted off sometime during the night. They were especially sad because they built "Split Pea" themselves. It was a green, wooden, dinghy that split in two somehow and folded up to stow while cruising. We offered to keep a lookout while touring the bay. Unfortunately, we never sighted it, nor did our friends.
We did give it one last try, however, when we saw a panga with two fisherman working the lobster pots. We drove over, and in our best Spanish, asked them if they had seen the dinghy. I guess our Spanish wasn't so good because we didn't end up with a dinghy but we did end up with four lobsters for three sodas and a bunch of chocolate candy bars!
So this is how it's done.
And then we jumped in! After days of no showers, we were feeling pretty stinky and icky and yucky, so the sea water, cool as it was, was incredibly refreshing. We splashed and laughed and then took a solar shower on deck. What an amazing afternoon.
It was time to do chores again, when another panga came by our boat and asked us if we wanted to buy lobster. "No gracious." we said as we already had some. They also asked if they could give us a tour of the estuary (Wish I had been topsides when this conversation happened.), but the boys said no as we had chores to do to prepare for our two-day journey. (Darn!) They asked us for cigarettes, but as none of us smokes, that was a no. Finally, we sent them off with two Gatorades and a bunch of chocolate. I guess they like sweets.
Lobster for dinner. Again. Yum!
DECEMBER 5th & 6th
BAHIA SANTA MARIA TO SAN JOSE DEL CABO
For the two days we were in Santa Maria there was a Navy boat anchored just outside the bay. They didn't come in to check anyone's papers. Not sure what they were doing. They did however get some lobsters from Marco. We saw him zip his panga over to their boat as we were leaving Thursday morning. Maybe that's why he wasn't offering me any. He was feeding the Navy. Smart man.
"Neutral!" Jay yelled as we were passing the entrance to Mag Bay. "I've got a fish!" Sure enough, he caught us a tuna and this time we kept him as we were running low on food. Great lunch of grilled tuna over a cabbage salad. Lobster & tuna. Now I feel like we've really arrived.
"Neutral!" Don yelled just an hour later. "I've got a fish!" Another tuna. Wow! Are we in luck! But this one we all agreed to throw it back. We had enough food for now.
"Where is all the wind they were promising?" I asked. The weather reports all said 17-20 knots from the NW. We were hoping for a good sail but we were motor-sailing again. Careful what you wish for.
It was 2130 and my turn to take the helm. The winds were 13-15 knots from the north, northwest but we were still motor-sailing. It was pitch black and with just the three of us, we weren't up to raising the spinnaker. Jay suggested I take it off of autopilot and give it a rest. I did. And as soon as I did the wind picked up to 17-20 and the seas were about 6-8 feet. (This we guessed by the rolls we took in the trough.)
I have to be honest. I haven't done a lot of night sailing. Night motoring, but not night sailing. I couldn't see a thing. Not the sail. Not the water. Not in front of me. Not behind me. I had no perception as to what was going on around me. I was trying to set us on course. It was hard for me to steer. Suddenly, I felt dizzy. The boat was zigzagging. It wasn't dangerous but I wasn't really in control at the moment. Jay was telling me how to steer.
"You take it!" I said, grumbling. "It's really hard to handle her right now."
I don't think he believed me. Two minutes after he had taken the helm, I proved my point. The auto pilot went back on and we got back on course. Needless to say, it was a long and tiring night. Finally, the blessed dawn arrived.
Now we can see Cabo Falso, the tip of Baja. Cabo San Lucas is right around the corner and just beyond that is our port of call, Puerto Los Cabos in San Jose del Cabo. A welcome sight. Then, about twelve miles off of Cabo Falso, the engine stopped. (You didn't think we were going to get all the way down here without some kind of drama, did you?) We are out of diesel.
Okay. Before you get a good laugh in, let me explain. We have two seventy-five gallon tanks but we have no way of computing how much is in them. There is no gauge. The way we figure out how much diesel we have used is by the engine hours. Our engine hour meter had been a bit temperamental this entire trip so we couldn't count on that. But I kept accurate records of how many hours we used on which tank. Or so I thought.
I looked over my records. Maybe I made a mistake. We switched tanks. Nothing. It wouldn't start. Jay and Don are trouble-shooting. I, meanwhile, am sailing and loving it. Who cares if we don't have any diesel. We have a sailboat for crying out loud! Jay and Don pour in our five-gallon stash of diesel and we keep it for when we need it to go into port. For now, we'll sail.
We started out wing to wing, but after no sleep, that was just too much work. Oh, the heck with it, Jay says. Let's just jib and head out to sea. When we get far enough, we'll jib again and head into Cabo and get some fuel.
We had a fabulous sail! The wind picked up to about 15-17 knots from the NNW and we had a blast. It was a beautiful day and a beautiful sail. We saw humpback whales. We saw dolphins. We saw lots of fisherman on their boats cruising the waters for tuna and marlin. We have arrived!
I was at the helm for a couple of hours but then the Captain said he wanted to sail past the arch. He did and it was beautiful and we made a toast to our trip and for arriving at our southern most destination to date. We turned on the engine and went in to Cabo San Lucas to get some fuel. What a crazy port! Pangas going in every direction, Jet Skis, two cruise ships, fishing boats. People everywhere. "Loco Americanos!" Our attendant at the gas station called them.
In the end, we did still have about 15 gallons of diesel left in one of the tanks. Only we think air got into the line when we drained the port tank, keeping us from getting the fuel to the engine. Despite that, Jay was able to bleed the air out of the line at the high pressure fuel pump and get her started.
We have reached the last leg; Cabo San Lucas to San Jose del Cabo. The whales are in abundance, making us feel so welcome. The finale; a grey whale jumps out of the water and does a 360 degree turn right in front of the boat. Not one of us has ever seen this in person. Only in pictures or on film.
Wow! Welcome to Mexico!
We approach Puerto Los Cabos at dusk. We have traveled 268 nautical miles. We are tired. Elated. We have succeeded in reaching our first goal But not without a lot of help. Many, many people have helped us along the way. Thank you.