A Windy Anchorage
17 April 2018
Sure enough, on Friday it began to blow. After a quiet night, during which I had seen the phosphorescent streaks of fish in the water, the wind picked up after dawn. By mid morning, I had gusts in the mid 20 knot range and sustained winds in the teens.
I thought about rowing ashore, as I wanted to explore the beach community. I probably could have rowed the dinghy upwind, although tethered to the boat it was lifting off like a hovercraft in the bigger gusts. I was concerned about leaving the boat at anchor with this type of wind.
For the non-sailors reading this, anchoring is a subject that engenders a lot of discussion among cruisers. However, the principal concepts are that one uses a high quality anchor sized for your boat. The chain acts as a weighted anchor line and, under most circumstances, much of it lies on the bottom. A long curved arc, called the catenary, describes the path from anchor to boat. When the wind picks up and drives the boat backward, the heavy chain lifts off the sea bottom acting as a sort of spring. This keeps the boat from pulling sharply and directly on the anchor. It is usually recommended to have about 5 times length of chain as the depth of the water that you have set the anchor down in.
This was the first test of my ground tackle under these conditions. I have a Rocna anchor (considered very high quality) and 180 feet of chain. I initially anchored in about 20 feet of water and let out about 100 feet of chain. Note the accompanying picture. The top of the yellow line at the peak of what looks like an inverted mushroom shows where I dropped my anchor initially. Below is the extent of the swinging at anchor. I wanted to let out more chain, but someone came in after me. He anchored close enough and behind that I would worry about swinging in to him were I to do so.
Luckily, I had plenty of essentials on board (food, water, and books) to sustain me. I left the iPad chartplotter visible so that I could check while below that I was still swinging at anchor. About every hour, I checked on the anchor and the bridle that relieved pressure on the roller. I ran the engine for a while each day to keep the amp hours in he battery over 80% and keep the refrigeration going.
During some of those windier periods, I wondered what it must be like out in the Sea of Cortez. If the wind gusts to the high 20s inside this protected anchorage, with big hills to the north of me, it must be really strong outside.
Isla Coronados to Bahia Concepción
17 April 2018
Isla Coronados is distinguished by a volcanic cone rising over 900 feet above sea level. At the south end there is a bay inside of a long sand spit that offers protection from winds from just about all directions except southwest. The anchorage is only about 6 mile northeast of Loreto and I could see the lights of the city at night. That meant that I had a bit of cell service there and was able to communicate with a few friends and relatives.
That also afforded me another look at the wind predictions for the coming week. The Windy app was predicting a northerly blow into the 30 knot range for Friday and Saturday. Figuring this into voyage planning, I wanted to find a place to hunker down with good protection during that time period. I began to make plans to travel the 66 nm into Bahía Concepción in the ensuing two to three days.
I headed north from Isla Coronados for Punta Pulpito which has good protection from northerlies. However when I got there, the swell was running from the southeast and I was rolling quite a bit. I went another 6 nm around the corner to Bahía San Nicolás. It was on this short ride that a small Yellowtail Tuna volunteered to fill my fry pan for dinner. I must say that freshly caught fish is quite a treat. This guy yielded two good sized filets, one of which went right into the pan with some lime, cilantro, and chipotle sauce.
After anchoring in about 20 feet of water and cleaning the tuna, I took a cockpit shower. I have a heavy duty garden sprayer that has been modified with a kitchen sprayer on it. If it sits out in the sun all day the water gets quite warm. I was able to get clean using very little water and wash some of the salt and fish scales out of he cockpit at the same time.
The next day, I left early to head for Bahía Concepción. Part way there, the wind came up from behind me enough that if I unrolled the jib I got another half knot or so of boat speed. This kept up all the way around the corner into the bay. The win backed and it was coming out of the west as I headed south into the bay allowing me to continue to use the jib most of the way.
I have written before about the charts not being accurate in some parts of México. Sure enough, as I approached the Bahía Coyote where the cove I planned to stay was located, I found very thin water that was not on the chart. I could see the bottom in a place where the Navionics chart reported over 60 feet. I carefully made my way around this shoal to the entrance where the water quickly deepened. I anchored at Playa Santispac.
Here, there are houses and a couple of restaurants around the bay as well as an RV park. The reason for this is that Bahía Coyote is right on Mexican Highway 1. On my way into the bay I passed a very tall cell phone tower and was hopeful that I would have service. But alas, once anchored, I had none. I was disappointed because I both wanted to check on the windy app for predictions and to communicate with a few people at home.
Puerto Escondido and Loreto
17 April 2018
One of the things I enjoy most about this sailing trip is exploring new places. You never know what you will find. Or not find, in the case of Puerto Escondido. As mentioned in the last post, it is a great hurricane hole or place to hide when in is blowing on the gulf. On the other hand, it is pretty much the sailing equivalent of a “one horse town”. There is one restaurant and a small tienda in the marina buildings. They have essential services for boats: a fuel dock, water, showers, etc. But that is about it. And moorage at the dock is extremely expensive. I have paid less to park in front of the Empress Hotel in Victoria, BC., Pier 39 in SanFrancisco, or at Bel Harbor in Seattle.
It is, however, about 25 kilometers down the road from the town of Loreto. On Sunday, I rented a car and headed into town. I managed to find the local farmers market by following a couple of other cruisers who were on their way there. I scored some fresh produce. I bought some cilantro and then cleverly made a vase for it by putting its plastic bag in the cup holder of the car with some water in it.
Then I headed into town, parking near Misión Nuestra Señora de Loreto. I learned that construction was started on the church in 1697. It was started by Jesuit padre Juan Salvatierra and became the hub for spreading missions throughout Baja and what is now known as the State of California. It was from here that Gaspar Portola and Junipero Serra headed north to establish missions from San Diego to San Francisco. As I looked at the wooden ceiling, doors and interior window shutters, I could not help but think about their age. I also thought about the natives who were conscripted by the Españolas to build it.
So I walked about the town, enjoying the sunshine and the views. A walkway with manicured trees, topiary arches over the walk, traversed the centro historico. It led to a nice town square that held several restaurants and the first brewpub I had seen in Baja. After asking for local advice, I ended up (over)eating at La Palapa and can attest to the quality of the Pollo en Mole. The Oaxacan style mole had just enough chocolate, roasted guajillos, onion, and garlic to make a lovely blend of flavors. And they served the locally brewed pale ale. I tried to walk some of that off and then staggered back to the car, where the cilantro had survived the heat inside.
After I returned to Puerto Escondido, my friend Larry showed up on Blue Star. Because I had the car until morning, I drove him into town so that he could look around a bit. We then dined at the local brewpub, Zopilote’s. We walked some of that meal off before returning to the harbor. I then said goodbye to Larry as I was headed further north and he was waiting for crew to show up at Loreto airport in the next week. I had thoroughly enjoyed his many stories of cultural experiences in the countries he has sailed to.
Isla San Francisco to Puerto Escondido
07 April 2018
It was still blowing pretty hard when I left Caleta Lobos about 8:30 am. I put the main up with a single reef in before raising the anchor. I was going to put in the second reef, but the leech line had tied itself around the second reef line and I did not want to take that sail all the way down and start over. I sailed out of the bay and partially unfurled the jib. I was moving plenty fast under this combination most of the way past Isla Espíritu Santo. About even with Caleta Partida the wind slackened and I shook out the reef. And then, as I travelled north the wind died down to point where I was only going about 1 knot. So I took down the sails and motored. Without wind, the seas gradually calmed down as well.
Isla San Francisco is 34 miles north of Caleta Lobos and has a well protected bay inside a large hook. There were other boats there when I arrived and more kept on coming in. Next time I come, I hope to hike the ridge trail that affords a beautiful view of the surrounding gulf.
I had dined and was listening to a book when I was startled by a pounding on the hull. It was my friend Larry who had arrived late and had rowed over with a bottle of wine. I fed him some dinner and we sat and talked. This is the funny thing about cruising. You make friends and they show up in anchorages further on. In this case, we are both working our way northward in the gulf.
The next day, I decided that I wanted to make some progress northward. I passed by a number of nice anchorages in the channel between Isla San Jose and the Baja Peninsula. About 37 miles later, I arrived at Puerto Los Gatos. This nice little anchorage is distinguished by rocks of many colors, especially the red rock cliffs at the north end. A couple of reefs guard the entrance and one must fine the space between them when entering. I passed a quiet night there. As in many other places, I made a nice dinner and then dined “al fresco” in the cockpit enjoying the tremendous view.
I again moved about 18 nm northward the next day, entering an area called Bahía Agua Verde. Turning the corner at Punta San Marcial one must pay attention to reefs off the point and a long reef located about a mile northeast of the point. Here I anchored not far from Larry who was in the throes of repairing a water pump. I extended him a dinner invitation.
I got in the dinghy and rowed ashore to visit the village. It is hard to describe but pople live in small huts thrown together of corrugated metal and plywood. There is no need for windows or insulation in this climate and I doubt many of these people could afford them. I bought some bread and locally made goat cheese at the tienda and had fish tacos at a little palapa on the beach. Without exception, everyone I saw smiled and greeted me. The woman who served me at the palapa conversed with me in español.
The bay is a beautiful combination of blue and aquamarine as it shoals. The multicolored Sierra La Giganta mountains rise abruptly from the sea here. (See the accompanying picture of the approach.) The coastline is rugged with reefs and rocks interrupted only occasionally by white sand beaches. Agua Verde is connected to Mexican highway 1 by a 25 mile dirt road. The village appears to subsist on fishing and tourism.
As I was preparing pasta with arrabiata sauce, a manta ray was swimming near the boat, its wings rising out of the water in rhythmic motion as it sauntered past. The sun set as we dined and the air turned warm and humid due to a land breeze that flowed off the mountains and valley at the south end of the cove.
Traveling north from Agua Verde there were islands and hidden reefs to avoid on the way. This kept me on my toes watching the depth sounder and gps and checking all of that against the visual assessment of my position. I had the rugged Sierra La Giganta on my port side with its craggy peaks and ravines that had deep shadows. Eventually, the entrance to Puerto Escondido presented itself ahead, I entered the narrow channel that opened up into a large bay considered by many to be an excellent hurricane hole.
The Thousand Mile Journey Begins….
07 April 2018
To paraphrase the proverb, the three hundred mile journey to San Carlos begins with a ten mile cruise to Caleta Lobos. This deserted little cove is barely outside the city limits yet there is nothing on its shores and it is well protected from winds from all directions except for nighttime southwesterly coromuels.
After saying goodbye to Jane and Casey, I got together with Larry from Blue Star and we walked to Soriana Hipermercado to do some provisioning. We then shared an Uber back to the marina. Back at the marina, I was making a trade of some Thai curry paste for some coconut milk and discovered that a boat across the dock for me was one from Gig Harbor that my friend Elisa had told me to look out for. I introduced myself to Mark and Kathy. Mark and I have a lot in common and it turned out to be a fortuitous discovery. I enjoyed talking with them very much. They are preparing to ship their boat home. We all plan to connect back in the NW.
It was bittersweet leaving La Paz. I have great memories of the city. I had so much fun there. It was a great venue to have visitors because they could fly into Cabo and bus up in one day. And then, it is but a short trip out to Isla Espíritu Santo to anchor, swim, snorkel, read, etc. And the city is full of life with excellent restaurants and vistas. I hope to go back again.
Larry Mims on Blue Star pulled into Caleta Lobos and invited me to a fried chicken dinner aboard his boat. We shared his food and a bottle of wine that I brought over. The wind picked up as we ate and he rowed me home after dinner and a delightful conversation.
That night there were gusts to 20 knots and the anchorage became very rolly. I slept fitfully with the iPad facing me (to be sure the anchor was not dragging) and was up often to check on the situation. Sure enough, the boat stayed in that spot make a big yellow blob on the chart plotter as it swung about on the anchor (pictured above in morning light).
31 March 2018
So I learned a new term from my young friends here. A “Bang Bang” apparently refers to when you go to one restaurant and have a meal and then go to another restaurant to sample their food as well; Bang and Bang. Jane and Casey returned this afternoon from swimming with the whale sharks and had found a restaurant they wanted to try. So off we went.
First we went to a place called Kochi Kochi. The three of us split two plates. We ordered a sandwich made with a hamburger patty, pulled pork, jack cheese, and grilled pineapple. Also a ciabatta bun with grilled brisket, crispy onions and avacado. Both were nicely seasoned and were well presented with fries. Bang!
Then we headed off to a place where we had been watching them make their own fresh pasta. There was not a table ready for us, so we headed across the street to a Mezcaleria named La Miserable (named after the house cat who is grumpy). We tried several different types of mexcal from different parts of México. More truthfully, Jane and Casey tried them. I only had a taste of theirs.
Then we went back to Locos Pasta and ordered Ravioli with a Genovese Sauce and an Arrabiatta Fettucine. Both were superb. It amazed us that they made fresh pasta for each order. We sat outside and enjoyed the food and the ambience. Bang!
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