03/29/2012, Marina Palmira
Our guests are aboard and we're re-provisioned. The engine check is complete and we're about to hit the sack for an early departure.
I mention this simply because we will, in all likelihood, be out of touch for two weeks or so. I foresee no opportunity to communicate until we shuttle off our guests for their trip home, and I even wonder about then since we have no idea where we'll be staying or the Wifi accessibility at that location.
At any rate, we'll take care. We'll be traveling longer distances that we had planned since our guests now wish to make the trip a bit shorter to reduce the hours of bus riding prior to flying from Mexico. That requires that we push a bit harder and collapse two travel days into one.
See you all!
03/27/2012, Marina Palmira
Today, we had our first Anchorage visitors! I taught the children of this couple and they became friends through all the parent-teacher conferences through which we all sat. Their youngest son was the only student whom I sent to the office during the last 12 years of teaching! He's a biomedical engineer for NASA at Johnson Spaceflight Center, so he turned out OK. The other children are engineers or IT professionals, so these two are good parents.
So, to the couple. They own time shares in the same Cabo San Lucas resort as do we, and we've been friends for many years at this point. Chip and Georgiana are bright, successful, and interesting people, so when they contacted us from Cabo and asked if they could visit, we enthusiastically agreed. Great!
They arrived a bit early, so we were still completing the boat-cleaning tasks that needed doing. Answering to their Southern heritage, they immediately had a potty break to allow us to complete our cleanup. How genteel! Conni had prepared fresh tacos de camarones, shrimp tacos, for lunch, and visited hours over cold drinks and shrimp.
At some point, I mentioned that we had to fill our propane tanks, and in typical Chip fashion, he immediately offered to drive me to the propane refilling location, where ever that was.
And, therein lay the problem: we got incorrect directions from two sources. They weren't badly wrong, but when driving in late afternoon Mexican traffic, a little miss goes a long way. At some point, we became "guys on a mission", and guys know what that means. Georgiana wanted to start back to Cabo at 4 PM so that they would not be on the road with its construction, at night: Reasonable, were it not for the guys's mission. As the car's clock rolled past 4, Chip looked at me and gave me the "Oops, now I'm in trouble" look.
After driving up and down the same section of the Cabo/La Paz highway several times, we finally got a fix on the location, and the enormous, white and blue Caligas station sprang into view. Getting the tanks filled was fast and convenient, to say nothing of being cheap. Our tank are the standard 20 pound tanks, and filling them cost US$8 each. Wow!
The inevitable phone call protesting our non-arrival and questioning both our sanity and our location, arrived as we headed back, mission completed. Flush with success, vindicated, we oozed back into the seats and cruised back to the marina where Conni met us with a cart and Georgiana took my place in the car. In less than a minute, we had unloaded the two propane tanks and placed them in the cart, hugged, said goodbyes, and they roared off toward Cabo.
Adios, friends, and thanks for the propane.
03/24/2012, Marina Palmira
Since it was the last morning on the hook, we lazed around until late morning, talking politics and roasting non-present family members. It was a great time! We finally got the hook up and started toward civilization.
I had sinned again and eaten pineapple for breakfast, giving myself a strong dose of nausea and vomiting. Philippe continued to advise that I eat more pineapple to confirm the problem. Good science if not good fellowship! I suppose that the combination of coffee and acidic tropical fruit is now a bit much for my stomach, although I don't recall the problem before now.
I helped with the sails and we motor-sailed south. As I lay below decks again, we made good time south and in no time were in Bahia Balandra, scene of our 2011 Christmas card photo. We stopped long enough to have lunch, then jetted back to Marina Palmira, arriving before dark, thankfully.
We checked in, all took much-needed and greatly-enjoyed showers, and headed into town for dinner at Rancho Viejo, a local favorite.
Debbie and Philippe leave tomorrow morning and we'll stay around for 3-4 days to prepare the boat for our next set of guests. We'll take them out for 1.5 weeks. It'll be fun but crowded: three more people aboard is a lot!
My list of tasks is extensive but doable.
For those of you with interest, we will have fairly good Wifi while here, as well as phone service.
03/23/2012, El Mezteño
We had decided to get moving early this morning so that we could hike and visit Isla San Francisco before leaving. With that in mind, we arose at 7:30 and began the day's activities. I wired the solar panels so that they'd produce all day while we were away, and then got to the coffee. With the dinghy already in the water, it was fast to pack and load up. It took only minutes to motor to the island. Again, the Sea Cow behaved superbly.
We started by hiking to the far end of the white crescent of beach to find the trail leading to the southern ridge line. After a quick hike, we arrived at the ridge and were rewarded by spectacular views in 360°. Far to the south were the islands to which we would return that afternoon, but we had many hours before us to enjoy the sights.
We climbed the ridge toward the west until several members were satisfied that they had done what they were comfortable doing, then we turned around and hiked toward the other beach by taking a trail along the ridge that headed east, then north. The views of the multi-colored layers of volcanic soil were stunning, as were the views of the sea, 200 feet below.
We were still seeing the vivid green band of rock that we saw several days ago when we visited an ancient volcanic crater, Caleta Partida, now fallen in and a popular anchorage. The layers there were more discrete and thinner there, but that they were the same layers is obvious. I wish that we had a resident geologist aboard.
We enjoyed the cactus plants of different sorts, and Conni recognized the ocotillo plant from small, indoor ones that she'd seen elsewhere, but that grew to huge size outside here.
We continued on the ridge line and then dropped down to agate beach. To rest from our exertions, Conni broke out a beer and I broke out (literally!) a coconut. We swilled beer and nibbled coconut while sitting on awash rocks.
Beachcombing for a few hours readied us for our return to the boat. We had made plans to gather some sea salt for boat use, home use, and to give as presents, so we loaded a few kilos of sea salt into packs, and headed back. D and P braved the cold water and snorkeled a bit, but by 3 PM we had pulled the anchor and were underway.
After lifting the dinghy and stowing the solar panels inside it, we were quickly underway. We hoisted the main while leaving the bay and soon had the jib out and were sailing along at a good clip. We crossed the intervening waters between Isla San Francisco and Isla Espiritu Santo with quickly. Although we peaked into several promising anchorages, all were full of other boats until we arrived at EL Mezteño, a lovely small cove that was blissfully empty. We dropped the hook just as darkness overtook us.
I grilled arrachera, a marinated flank steak, and a few remaining pieces of fish, and we had our cena ultima, our last dinner, aboard.
03/22/2012, Isla San Francisco
We arrived in this lovely bay around 3 PM. It's so lovely that the authors of the Baja Cruisers' Guide chose a photo of it for the cover of the guidebook!
I decided, mistakenly, that it was time to get the wind generator running and took entirely too much of our waning afternoon in putting all the pieces together. Alas, all my efforts were in vain since the wind died soon after Philippe and I got the damn thing hoisted in the rigging. Ah, technology! I'm becoming a convert to solar since one sets out panels, connects them to the batteries, and they just work: No moving parts, no assembly, no hassle. We get 15 amps from the two panels when they're in mid-day sunlight, enough to run the reefer and charge the batteries, too. What's not to like?
Trying to salvage as much of the light as we could, we hurriedly got the solar panels out of the dinghy (their storage location) and splashed the dinghy. We motored to shore without mishap, the Sea Cow starting easily and running well.
The western bay is a 1.25 mile across and encloses an almost perfect semicircle of white sand beach. There are rough volcanic ridges on two sides, and a salt flat connecting our bay from the one on the other side of the island. We pulled the dinghy far up the beach and started across the salt flats since the guidebook indicated that the other beach had agate deposits. Wow!
About halfway across the salt flats, we came to several obviously human-created dehydration depressions full of sea salt. The salt was 10 inches thick in most places and of excellent quality. We decided to return the next day and try our hand at excavating the salt and taking it aboard.
On the other beach, we did find some agates, but shells and other pretty rocks, too. Shells here were particularly thick, we all thought. We saw an Oystercatcher with its characteristic red beak. It was a beautiful beach. With the entire area composed of volcanic debris, there were strata of green, red, and black igneous rock, as well as some obvious pyroclastic flows and pumice. As the resident amateur geologist, Conni thoroughly enjoyed herself.
We ambled back to the dinghy and returned back to the boat in time for cocktails and dinner. We had freshly caught grilled tuna, nopalitos (peeled, sliced, and boiled prickly pear cactus, a Mexican favorite), and a bottle of Mexican white wine. Delicious! With two kinds of rum to sample, we completed a fine dinner.
After dinner, we discussed plans for the last few days. Since D and P leave on Sunday, we need to be closer to La Paz, but we also wanted to enjoy a bit more of Isla San Francisco. We decided to stay and enjoy the island, but to have the anchor up and be moving by 3 PM.
This is a truly magical place and I understand why it's one of the most popular anchorages around.
03/21/2012, Esconida Grande on Espiritu Santo
We spent Solstice in this lovely bay on the west side of Isla Espiritu Santo. Although there was a fairly large camp of tourists who were kayaking, snorkeling, and diving, they stayed to themselves and we stayed to ourselves. Large pangas would periodically ferry a load out to a nearby reef for diving and snorkeling, or a group would pass us in kayaks. I wonder how much a few-day's stay was? It seemed a nice setup.
We arrived in early afternoon after a short morning of motor-sailing, and dropped the hook in 19 feet of water: deep!
And, the wind was still howling. Here's the process. In the Four Corners section of the American Southwest, cold temperatures cause massive volumes of cold air to descend toward the ground. There's a slope all the way to the Sea of Cortez, and that's where the air goes, causing strong, cool wind that can last for many days. We experienced gusts of 28 kts, with steady wind in the high teens. We got great anchor sets, but the boat would fishtail around all night.
During lunch, I ate something that disagreed with me so I was vomiting all afternoon and was less that useful. Still, we managed to get the dinghy over the side, get the solar panels producing, and dropped the Sea Cow onto the dinghy so that Debbie and Philippe could get to shore.
They hiked to the top of the nearest ridge where they came upon a large metal cross dedicated to an American family that had experienced some deadly bad luck, losing a son to a climbing accident, a few more to auto accidents, and most of the rest in a plane wreck. Terrible! They saw black jack rabbits, and oddly, some large shells toward the top of the mountain. Did they get carried by birds? People? What? We saw Blue Herons, some hawks, and lots of gulls and pelicans. My favorite, the Frigate Bird, appeared now and again, soaring high above the sea.
Nature does NOT make any species perfectly adapted! It can't! Disney movies were wrong and it required a bit of re-learning to get over that piece of propaganda. The best that evolution can do is make a species "good enough" since the selection pressure wanes at that point. Frigates appear to me to belie that statement by seeming to be the minimalist bird, having nothing but the barest essentials for its niche. They're pelagic, so have less need for large swimming feet. They have bodies and wings that seem designed to be the perfect glider. I am always impressed with their design and cannot imagine anything to add or delete.
I motored D and P over to a secluded and tiny sandy cove, and they went hiking and snorkeling for several hours. Conni stayed in the cockpit, drinking cocktails and reading in the sun. Happy Conni! I stayed below decks, sleeping and groaning.
We had given D and P the handheld VHF so they called for pickup which was accomplished with few problems, and we enjoyed a fresh shrimp dinner, although I was more subdued than usual. Distressingly, they found that pleasant! D and P had never even spoken in a VHF but Debbie called us with good radio etiquette and used "over" when she was done. Not bad!
It was a lovely place to stay, and the wind finally dropped and allowed an undisturbed night of sleep. Conni and I, of course, are a bit on edge when the boat's not completely safe and tend to worry through the night. We had a great set on the hook, so Wings didn't budge. Never the less, it gets us on edge to have her in even possible danger. I am reminded of one of those little "encouragement" posters that used to appear in schools in the nineties. This one read, "Ships in a harbor are safe, but that's not what ships are made for." Yes, true, but I still like my boat to be safe.
We left late on Thursday morning and headed for Isla San Francisco.