The Further Adventures of Fly Aweigh (II)

Back on a boat after a 10-year working break, we're off on another adventure! This time, with two hulls, no timeline, and no particular agenda.

24 May 2022 | Santa Rosalia, Baja California Sur, México
13 May 2022 | Isla Coronado, Baja California Sur, Mexico
05 May 2022 | V-Cove (El Refugio), Baja California
27 April 2022
19 April 2022
17 April 2022
11 April 2022 | Puerto Vallarta/Bahia Matanchén
25 March 2022 | Costalegre
27 February 2022 | Barra de Navidad, Jalisco, México
17 February 2022 | Barra de Navidad
03 February 2022 | Somewhere South of Bahía Magdalena
03 February 2022 | Cabo San Lucas
25 January 2022 | Bahia Tortuga, Baja México
21 January 2022 | Leaving Ensenada
11 January 2022 | Baja Naval, Ensenada, México
20 December 2021 | Baja Naval, Ensenada, México
11 December 2021 | Baja Naval, Ensenada, México
01 December 2021 | Southwestern Yacht Club, San Diego
20 November 2021 | Peninsula Marina, Channel Islands Harbor, Oxnard, CA
29 October 2021 | D Dock

Sea of Cortez Part II

24 May 2022 | Santa Rosalia, Baja California Sur, México
Alison Gabel | Hot, but cool at night. No bugs!!!
The second half of our Sea of Cortez adventure is underway. We'll only get about half way up the full length of the Sea, maybe a bit less. Our goal is Santa Rosalia, but we might not make it that far before we need to turn around and start heading for home. It's not about checking boxes for us, or achieving distance goals, or even any goals. It's about getting better at being in the moment, and if the moment is good, and the weather supports the moment, then we can choose to toss out previously-made plans and just stay. Or, we can choose to leave early and take advantage of a particularly good wind for a day or two and get some sailing in. We're also still in the company of s/v Juliet for another week, and our plans tie in with things they want to share with us, or want to see. We work together to come up with itineraries and we're all pretty good at being flexible.

Our time in Puerto Escondido, from April 19 to day-before-yesterday was great. We left a few times to do things like sail to Ballandra and V-Cove, and join the West Coast Multihull Rally for four days, but in between, we sat placidly on a mooring in the flat and beautiful "lake" of Puerto Escondido, surrounded by hills and the stunning Sierra Giganta mountains. Every day we'd zoom into shore in our dinghies, the funnest car ever, to do laundry, spend some time squirreled away in the nice Captain's Lounge on the third floor of the marina, sharing table space and couch space with other cruisers all taking advantage of the wifi and the air conditioning and electric plugs to charge everything. We rented cars and drove to Loreto, 20 minutes north, to shop for groceries, boat bits, tour the town, splurge on massages, have some delicious meals. We took that wonderful cooking class. We did laundry. LeeAnne and I went running on the local trails. I learned how to make sourdough bread!

And now, we're heading north. We left 2 days ago for an 8-hour passage to San Juanico, sailing about half the time in following winds, the Creature and the Jiblet (big head sail and little head sail) working in concert with the main sail to move us along.

The night before we left Puerto Escondido, a big fishing tournament was in full swing. Huge, expensive fishing boats had come in from unlikely places like Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado and Arizona and more likely places like Newport Beach, California. The marina was filled with shiny, spotless white boats with huge fishing apparatus and some very fancy bait tanks. On Saturday morning they all single-filed through the narrow channel to the sounds of a tournament leader barking orders over a loud PA. By 4pm they were dribbling back in, or sending their giant tenders with 4 huge 400HP outboards, zooming in with the days catch, submitted to be weighed and measured and recorded on the huge whiteboards (which also announced the purse - over $577,000 on Saturday night, and climbing.) The festivities were ramping up as the evening cooled, including a pig roast and a great 3-man band playing all the best rock and roll from the 60's-70's. Wandering around, we saw a few guys carving up a big yellow tail and Allan started asking questions. The next thing we knew we were buying them beer and margaritas and they were handing us bags of fresh fish.

That fresh fish was dinner after our long 8-hour day to San Juanico. LeeAnne made a sushi appetizer, I made a sourdough baguette in my solar oven and pineapple rice, and Allan perfectly cooked the yellow tail and some zucchini on our cool Australian grill/griddle. We invited our new friends Jeff and Michelle from s/v Infinite Grace to join us, and Michelle brought homemade, still-warm chocolate chip cookies. Michelle later asked: "If you're invited to dinner on someone's boat, and they say you don't need to bring anything, do they really mean it?" Since she wasn't sure, she made cookies. After very little discussion we all agreed, the answer to the question "Can I bring anything?" might sound like "No, we have lots of food! Just bring yourselves." but actually means, "Yes! Bring homemade, still-warm chocolate chip cookies!"

Yes, dinner was fantastic, but it gets even better: a lunar eclipse! After oohing and ahhing over our communally prepared meal and passing the cookie bag around a few times, we climbed on top of our cabin roof and watched while the gorgeous full moon, unhindered by any light pollution or trees or houses or antennae or power poles rose from behind the stark, jagged hills to the east. There were a few pesky clouds threatening to blow the show, but overall we got a marvelous view of the coolest lunar eclipse any of us have ever seen. When it finally eclipsed fully, where it would rest for an hour-and-a-half as a deep red orb, everyone took their leave, and Allan and I settled into our blue West Marine folding chairs and took mini-naps until the sun once again began to glow on the lower edge of the moon. I think what was so marvelous was how overtly three-dimensional the moon looked - through binoculars we could see that in fact, the moon is NOT flat after all! It's all roundy-curvy and gorgeously globe-y, and the way the light and the lack of light worked during the eclipse, it was especially clear.

Side note with no segue: On Fly Aweigh, we have a pair of white full-length IKEA curtains that hang on a spring-tension rod between the main salon (living room/dining room/office/tv room/craft room) and the cockpit (back deck.) I originally got them when we kept the boat in San Diego, on a very busy dock. At night, we were living in a fishbowl. They were temporary, I figured, easily removed once we went cruising and were at anchor most of the time. But those goofy white full-length curtains are still with us, and have been great. They can be positioned in the morning to perfectly block that intense ray of morning sunlight. When we leave the boat for an hour or so, rather than pulling the 3 doors down and closing up the whole boat, we close the curtains. It's a signal: "We're not home but we could be back at any second." We only do this in secure places. At night, in secure places, we leave the doors up and pull the curtains closed so air can still circulate, but we have some privacy.

So that's the curtain story, apropos of almost nothing, except this: today, when I came up into the salon and opened the curtains, it struck me: it's like theater: every morning, we open our curtains on a new show, often with breathtaking staging. You never know what you're in for. Today, the colorful, striated walls of San Juanico glowed a warm yellow in the morning light, the water flat and glossy, lapping up to the white sand beach, strewn with all variety of rocks. Pelicans flew just past the stern at 3 inches above the water, followed by small flocks of brown-footed boobies and the occasional cormorant, flapping along with its long neck stuck way out in anticipation of its destination. Some days the scene is gray and gloomy, some days it's a cacophony of color and texture, with boats everywhere and motors running and people talking. It's a new play right outside our back deck every day.

Yesterdays morning show opened to a brisk wind and lumpy water all around, but that didn't stop me from kayaking ashore to get some good rock-hounding in on the beach. And I saw a gob of weird bugs or crustaceans that looked like centipedes, varying in size from teeny-tiny to 3 inches. They appear to be very shy - there's no way you could ever accidentally step on one because they skitter with great speed under rocks as you approach, and look out from under, wiggling their little antennae as you go by. If you catch one unawares before it can skitter, it freezes in place and pretends it's invisible. I guess you could step on one of those. I should have been creeped-out by them but I found them quite prehistorically fascinating. They seem to like eating the kelp bits that wash up on shore, and were in profusion at the yummy snack bar left by the last tide.

After the kayak/beachwalk I joined LeeAnne on a 3-mile run/hike which was tough - we climbed a lot of ups and tried not to twist our ankles on the downs, sweating in the hot sun and sharing a warming bottle of water, but the best part about a sweaty hot run/hike is the ocean swim afterward, chilly and fantastic. We spent the rest of the day reading and being lazy.

In the evening Charlie announced on the radio that a pod of pilot whales was swimming just past their boat. The call was heard by all five of the boats in the anchorage, and for the next hour we all stood on our decks in amazement as a fairly large pod swam all around. They came up to every one of the monohulls, right alongside, then off to the next and the next - several times they made a huge loop around the bay, stopping at each boat - but ours. After the third omission we surmised it must be that our keels are very shallow at 3 ½ feet as opposed to the monohulls, which can be up to 7 feet, so maybe they weren't seeing us on their radar screens? Finally, Allan, who likes to swim with everything, donned his swimsuit and got his snorkel gear and we dinghied over to Juliet and tied off. Sure enough, in a few minutes the fourth pass came our way and he jumped in! He got within a few feet of the pod, which was swimming very close together, touching at times. It was incredible to see his pink human self surrounded by the shiny black pilot whales, who circled him a bit and then moved on. We spent the rest of the evening watching them. As the day waned they got frisky, jumping and twisting, arcing through the air. At times we could hear them talking to each other.

Kinda hard to top that one. So we had salad and went to bed. We're now on our way to Bahia Concepción, another long day. So far, flat, calm seas as we follow Juliet. Infinite Grace is behind us a bit, also bound for Concepción, so we'll likely see them again. On the northern edge of the bay is the town of Mulegé, where we plan to explore tomorrow.

Tuesday morning:
Funny how a slight rise in temperature, a sudden lack of wind, some annoying bugs, and a desolate landscape can to blow your nice sailing high. We rounded Punta Concepción after a great afternoon sail and then, bleah. The wind died. The air warmed. The bugs moved in. We circled around inside our chosen anchorage near Santispac and felt a bit desolate. Lots of boats at anchor and lots of campers on shore. It suddenly felt so public, so hot, so yucky. Why did we leave beautiful San Juanico? What are we going to do here? I was cranky.

But, along with the rise in air temperature, the water had warmed as well to a beckoning 82 degrees - a big change from the low 70's for the last 5 months. I jumped in and my mood improved markedly, further enhanced by a great meal aboard Fly Aweigh.

The next day we set out to see the town of Mulegé, but first, lunch at the airport. We have friends who, over the years, have talked fondly of flying their small planes into the Mulegé Airport and staying at the hotel the sits right beside the dirt runway. The woman at the beach campground who mans the front "gate" (a rope strewn with orange bits of fabric that she lets down to admit new campers) called a cab for us, and 45 minutes later "Nacho" showed up, ready to take us on any adventure we wanted. We started with a nice brunch at the airport hotel and got a good look at the recently-leveled and groomed dirt airstrip, then called Nacho for the next part of our day.

He was born and raised in the small town of Mulegé, which is situated along a beautiful river, with lush palms and other green stuff, quite a change from the moon-like vistas of most of the Baja peninsula. We felt a bit like we were in Egypt, along the Nile, 100 years ago. Nacho took us to the mission, built in the 1700's, and we climbed up some of the ruins to get a wonderful view of the narrow river valley. He drove us all around downtown, which is maybe 4 streets by 10 streets wide, pointed out the good taco restaurant, took us to the market and waited while we stocked up on fresh fruits and veggies, drove us around a bit more, and then back to the campground/anchorage at Santispac. It was the perfect overview from a cool, air conditioned car on a hot, dry and sleepy day, and another time, I'd love to spend more time in Mulegé in the evening, or the cool morning. We did miss touring the old prison, which was notable because of its humane practices - letting the inmates out during the day to visit family and go to their jobs. Apparently it's only open for touring in the morning.

We had talked about exploring more deeply into Bahia Concepción, which has quite a few anchorages, but we were more interested in snorkeling and finding cooler air, so we headed for Isla San Marcos, a 9 hour trip north, off the coast of Santa Rosalia. Dropped anchor, took a short nap, then had a lovely snorkel trip to the rocky shore and shared a good vegan meal of veggie patties and solar-roasted french fries.

Our boat, being a catamaran, has different characteristics at anchor than a monohull, this is due to geometry and physics and science, and since that's Allan's bag and not so much mine, we won't go into it here. But suffice it to say that most of the time at anchor we're very comfortable. Not so that night - the boat, with only one anchor out off the bow (rarely do we find ourselves in need of adding a stern anchor) the boat wanted to lay sideways to the rolling swell that came in around midnight, rocking the boat mercilessly. We looked over at Juliet and saw that she was tidily pointing right into the waves - pitching a bit but not rolling. Why we settled 90 degrees from them is due to more pesky physics but it meant we had an uncomfortable night, so Allan decided we should put out a stern anchor in the morning and try to hold the boat into the swell for a smoother ride.

As it turned out, we decided to move instead - around the corner to Sweet Pea Cove. Nice and calm in there, so we suited up and went snorkeling, had some lunch, and then got really ambitious and got all the dive gear out for a 43-minute, 43-foot dive around the rocks. Charlie manned the dinghies, anchored above us, and LeeAnne, Allan and I explored what, at first, seemed a rather dull area with lousy visibility, but on closer inspection, was loaded with treasures. We saw a number of elusive scorpion fish, a lot of rays, huge green eels, a beautiful olive-green and teal nudibranch, and some very pretty plant life.

The back side of diving is a ton of work - well, so is the front side, actually. It's all a ton of work, but we agree it's worth it. But getting all the gear out - tanks, wet suits, buoyancy compensators and regulators, fins, masks, snorkels, hoods gloves, booties - all stored in different places on the boat - putting it all on (it takes me 10 minutes and 372 grunts to pull on my 4 mil wet suit) (oh, did I mention that the water temp dropped to 68 degrees?) setting up the tanks and gear, loading it all in the dinghy, fine-tuning our rigs once we drop the little teeny-tiny dinghy anchor in a patch of sand, falling overboard, checking the gear, giving each other thumbs-up to confirm it's all working ... then, as we sink into the cool depths, it gets easy. For 42 minutes we're flying over a foreign landscape, always in awe of the abundant life of the sea. For 42 minutes there's no talking, no human noise save our bubbles. 42 minutes of private discovery, of total escape. And then, on the back end - hauling up onto the dinghy like a huge, wet sea lion, peeling all the gear off, rinsing it all off, spreading it all over the boat to dry, refilling the tanks with our dive compressor. It's a good thing we don't really have anything else on the agenda on a given day. By dinnertime we definitely enjoyed the delicious vegetarian solar-cooked enchiladas LeeAnne made as we shared our last evening at anchor with them.

We're now in Santa Rosalia, Baja California Sur, a very interesting town with a mining history that has left it quite different from most Mexican towns. After copper was discovered in the late 1800's a French company bought the mining rights and formed the Boleo Mining Company. The town that rose up around the mining business has a distinct European flair. Many homes and buildings have ornate railings and ironwork, most in desperate need of restoration or replacement, but some are well cared-for and charming. Remains of the old mining operation abound, in crumbling iron and wood buildings, rail tracks, mining apparatus and the occasional old train part on display in the parks.

The main Catholic church in town also has an interesting story: designed by Alexander Gustave Eiffel (yes, that guy) in 1884, it was a prototype for missionary churches in France's tropical colonies - our tour guide mentioned Africa - and constructed of galvanized iron to withstand severe tropical weather and termites. In 1889 the church and the Eiffel Tower were put on display at the Paris World's Exposition, where the church (not the tower!) won first prize. It was then disassembled and stored in a warehouse in Brussels. Years later, the Boleo Mining Company bought it, shipped it to Santa Rosalia and had it reassembled.

We peeked inside the church in the cooler evening, wondering what it might be like with the blazing summer heat of Baja cooking the steel roof. But it is fun to look at. Allan, who's done a bit of riveting on airplanes, wondered if the huge rivets were all drilled out after the Paris Expo, and then re-riveted in México, quite a task.

We've had some good meals here - last night we had a "veggie burger" that turned out to be a huge pile of fresh, thinly-sliced carrots, zucchini, onions, and portabello mushrooms sauteed to perfection and layered on a huge hamburger bun. It was impossible to eat as a burger - all the parts wanted to slide around - but disassembled, it was delicious.

We managed to get a slip in the tiny marina here, even though we were told there was no room for our fat little boat. We watched Juliet glide into her slip near the ramp while we dropped anchor in the marina anchorage, and just as we finished that process Charlie called and said they had a spot - wedged into a double slip next to a lovely old Hans Christian monohull. We fit perfectly, and have enjoyed the opportunity to wash and polish the salty boat, do laundry and all that stuff that never goes away.

There's a production company that's taken up residence for 10 weeks here in the empty marina offices, creating a 6-part mini-series for Netflix called "American Jesus." ( We had fun meeting the production designer, Salvador Parra, ( who gave us the run-down on the whole story and showed us his work, quite fascinating! They've got wardrobe (ramping up the costumes today, we saw some of the things Salvador had rendered come to life, with bird-like capes and lavish head dresses), casting, makeup, production, and who-knows-what-else going on there, and it will be fun to see the show once it's aired.

We'd planned to leave yesterday morning, so the night before we invited LeeAnne and Charlie and Bubba (who abstains, preferring to Hoover the carpets and mooch snacks) to share a lovely bottle of champagne that a friend gave us before we left, exactly 6 months ago to the day. We toasted to the last almost 4 months we've had wandering around Mexico together, to the many things we learned from each other, to the wonderful adventures we've had. We proclaimed our sadness at losing our little buddy Bubba, who is so damn cute to see when they come over in the dinghy - the closer they got to our boat, the more he wiggled and danced with his front paws on the bow of the rubber dinghy, making us feel terribly loved.

And then Allan and I decided we wanted one more day here, so we had a second goodbye last night on Fly Aweigh and took ourselves out for breakfast this morning.

And now we leave for parts south, to retrace our footsteps toward Cabo, visit a few anchorages we loved and want to see again, and find some new ones. Meanwhile, Juliet heads north and then east to spend the hot summer in Puerto Peñasco while the three of them hang out in San Miguel de Allende and Oaxaca, Mexico. So farewell to the lovely Juliet, to calm and sage-like Charlie, to energetic, positive and fun LeeAnne, and to darling fuzzy Bubba, until we meet again!

A bunch of new photos in the Gallery, the album name is "Sea of Cortez II".

Here we are:

Rally Time!

13 May 2022 | Isla Coronado, Baja California Sur, Mexico
Alison Gabel | Hot! Clear! Windy!
West Coast Multihull Rally

14 years ago, Lowell on s/v Gato Loco and Ralph on s/v Moon Drifter, both Seawind catamarans, started a multi-day Seawind rally out of Loreto, Baja California. It grew year by year, and at some point expanded to include other catamarans, and some other point (I only know the sketchy background) Kurt from West Coast Multihulls, a charter company in San Diego, CA, Loreto, and La Paz, Baja California became a sponsor of the event. As new Seawind owners, it's been one of our goals this season to make it to Loreto for the 2022 Rally. And here we are, the rally now behind us and a million new stories to tell.

We were incredibly fortunate to have Chris, the former owner of our boat, join us for the rally and for a few days before and after. He's the consummate guest - not just because he's smart and gracious and helpful, but because he knows the boat inside and out. He knows how the galley (kitchen) works, how the heads (toilets) work, how the anchoring system and sails and showers and swim step and all the other weird boat things work, and a big plus, he knows where the pitfalls are. There are always pitfalls on a boat, and as owners, you adapt to them and forget to brief guests when they come aboard. "Oh yeah! Don't fall out of bed in the middle of the night! Don't bonk your toe on that 2" ledge, don't slip on the stairs, don't fall off the roof, don't use too much water!" And, he'd been part of several rallies in the past and was happy to be able to spend some time back in the Sea of Cortez and catch up with a lot of his sailing buddies.

We started with a fun kickoff Cinco de Mayo party in Marina Puerto Escondido, where we finally had a chance to meet the new owners of our sister ship, Moon Drifter. She and our boat are 2 serial numbers apart, and shared space on the big ship that brought them both (and another Seawind we know, Jolly Dogs) from Australia to their new owners in San Diego in 2008. Moon Drifter was originally purchased by Ralph and Helen, who we've never met, but who seem to be legends among the local Seawinders - Ralph having the distinction of not only helping to start this rally, but also being the hearty guy who cruised well into his 80's. And, he's my hero because he clamored in and out of this treehouse bed every night. Helen and I have struck up an email friendship as she has graciously answered a million questions I've had about these boats. It was a sad day for them, mid-Covid, when they decided their sailing days were finally over and Moon Drifter was put on the market. So it was a treat to meet the new owners, Bill, Corey and Ally, who love her just as much as they did. They even heard about how Ralph and Helen always made french toast on the cockpit griddle/grill for everyone on the last day of the rally, so they stocked up on bread, eggs, bacon, juice and syrup to carry on the Moon Drifter tradition.

The rally fleet left the next morning as a slow-moving group on a flat sea with no wind, bound for Isla Monserrate, with our token monohull, Juliet, bringing up the rear (and getting the cool photo above.) Normally, there's an unofficial race ("It's a rally, not a race" Kurt says) but with no wind Lowell or Kurt or someone decided it should be a fishing competition. Chris threw out the hand lines he'd left aboard for us after we did a few upgrades, and soon enough, had snagged some poor shiny bugger on the cedar lure. Chris held him down and measured his length while I took a photo. As soon as he was back in the water, we snagged another. And another, and a little while later a fourth. All returned to the sea because they were the less-yummy skipjack. Fishing is not my sport, for sure, I'm the one saying "Ouch! Sorry little buddy, sorry your mouth will hurt for a little while, okay, there you go, back in the water! Swim away! Swim away!" I'm also the hypocrite that will eat the fresh fish someone else catches, kills, bleeds, cleans, filets and cooks while I cower in the cabin avoiding the whole horrible and messy process. All that said, no fish were slaughtered but apparently we ultimately won the competition with the largest fish of the day at 23".

As some of you know, I've dedicated this blurb to my mother, Margy Gates, an avid sailor, painter, swimmer, snorkeler and lover of all natural things on this planet, especially if they had to do with the ocean. We lost her almost a year ago after a life well-lived. It was her request to be sprinkled in "The Channel Islands, Mexico, or Fiji, as it works out." May 6th would have been her 90th birthday, so in honor of that, I took some of her ashes on our snorkeling trip that afternoon to sprinkle on the reef. It was a beautiful snorkel and I had some private time with her, releasing her into the beautiful ocean as I thanked her for the spirit of adventure she's imbued in me, and the life we are leading here on the sea, the sea that she loved so much.

That evening, we all met for a fun potluck on the beach with a grill producing perfect chicken skewers and hot dogs, and lots of creative, delicious cruiser food, meeting new people and renewing old friendships as the sun went down and the billions of stars came out.

And so it went ... 3 fun days, going from island to island off the Baja coast - glorious stars, gorgeous sea, fun sailing, enough fishing (we finally gave up, after snaring nothing but skipjack) wonderful snorkeling (including a sunken wreck with so many fish it was just absurd) a sing along, great hikes.

Chris and I managed to survive one particularly stickery hike - we'd heard LeeAnne's story of her hike the day before in which she got a bit (okay, totally) lost on her short hike because there's no trail, so you go off in random circles trying to find a way through the spikes and brambles and truly nasty plants. She came back with scratches all over her legs, so for our foray on shore I dug out my hiking pants and we set off to climb to a small peak in the distance. And yes, there's no trail. None. Just spikes and brambles and truly nasty plants. And gullies and dried riverbeds, but we kept fast on our goal of climbing that peak, and managed a somewhat straight-ish path up for a wonderful view and some pictures, and then headed back. We patted ourselves on the back for finding a "short cut" and then realized we were way off. So we this'd and that'd and here'd and there'd, retracing our steps a few times, walking in numerous large circles, while the temperature rose, catching glimpes of the sea, and our boat off in the distance over to the right, now over to the left. We never really lost sight of it, so that was good, and finally we landed back on the beach fairly unscathed. I give Chris kudos for being a good leader on that one.

The last morning Allan, Chris and I joined LeeAnne from Juliet and Bill and Ally (father-daughter) from Moon Drifter for a wonderful hike to the volcano on Isla Coronado. This was the perfect kind of hike, in my mind - a path to follow, challenging and varied enough to be a good workout, long enough to have you wondering if you're in over your head, short enough to get it done and feel good about it, with the reward of a spectacular view from the top. Going in the morning meant we did most of the climb in the shade of the mountain, keeping things cool. And coming back down was a blast, skidding in the sandy parts of the trail, rock-hopping in others, enjoying the fresh air and the view of our boats, growing larger as we neared the end.

And then, the traditional french toast event on Moon Drifter, a beautiful segue from the old owners to the new. The group of eleven boats had thinned by then to only four, and it was a manageable gathering in Moon Drifter's cockpit and salon. And fun for us to tour the boat and see how others interpret the space, always a different take, and always good takeaways. The official part of the rally over, we all headed in different directions after the french toast soiree.

Juliet and Fly Aweigh single-mindedly beelined for another chance at beautiful V-Cove a few hours away, and were not disappointed. Our AIS showed a huge 165-foot mega yacht anchored at the entrance to tiny V-Cove, but as we neared he was pulling anchor and left us plenty of room. Other than a quiet trawler near the beach, we had the place to ourselves. Okay, that's not even remotely true: the place was mobbed. Mobbed by a massive school of bait fish that nearly filled the entire cove, bubbling and jumping. Mobbed by the happy pelicans, diving for the fish. We had a mom and a baby whale swimming at the entrance to the cove, and a myriad collection of fish under water and in the colorful caves. And we discovered the trick is to take a dive light with you into the caves, to illuminate the colors and give you a reason to exclaim into your snorkel as you encounter one beautiful unexpected thing after another.

That evening Chris cooked us a delicious pasta carbonara dinner, I made a salad with freshly sun-roasted beets, and LeeAnne spoiled us all with home made blackberry muffins in a lemon glaze. We topped off the evening with a movie, and by 10 we were all falling into our respective bunks. Well, it's hard to fall into a treehouse bunk you have to climb up into, but after all that fun rallying and fishing and swimming and kayaking and hiking and getting lost and drinking and lots of eating, whew, we were spent!

We're currently back in Puerto Escondido, waiting out a "blow" - the winds are gusting up to 25 knots for a few days. We rented yet another nice car from Alamo and drove into Loreto the other day for a cooking class at a delightful hideaway called Restaurante Canipole, but I think I'll blurb that one separately. We've now shopped up the veggies and fruits, done the laundry, cleaned the boat with the help of Chris, and (sadly) delivered him back to the airport to fly off on his next adventure. We're empty-nesters now, we'd become quite comfortable having a guest on board, but he has a life to return to and we have more of the Sea of Cortez to explore. We're thinking we'll leave Saturday with Juliet and meander toward Santa Rosalia. That's likely to be our furthest point north before we reverse course and start our return trek home. Meanwhile, there's a big fishing tournament going on this weekend here in Puerto Escondido, loads of big, fancy fishing yachts and people in nice clothes, women with pedicures (I can only dream ...) and matching clothes and clean sunglasses, tables set up for a big banquet tonight, an art show going on, the little marina market loaded with people buying ice and snacks and hats. It's been building for a few days - today marks the official start of the 3-day event, and everyone is now wearing official-looking tournament shirts.

We're just the sloppy cruisers hanging on the 3rd floor, where the "Captain's Lounge" offers us free wifi and a lovely air conditioned place to hide out from the heat and get work done. Like blurbs. So now I've blurbed and we'll catch up again the next time a good wifi signal comes my way, which might be Santa Rosalia, if we get that far.

New photos in the Gallery.

Here we are:


05 May 2022 | V-Cove (El Refugio), Baja California
Alison Gabel | Hot, but no bugs!
V-Cove. One of those places that fits in a special little niche in your psyche, and lives as a huge memory, even if you only saw it once. A place that feels like jewels. We were there just one night, and I feel lucky for that.

On Isla Carmen, off the coast of Loreto in Baja California, V-Cove, (aka El Refugio,) is, as it's nickname suggests, a narrow, v-shaped cove with room for just a few boats. We shared it for a few hours with a day-boat, who was deep in the cove against the beach. A few hours later he left, and it was just s/v's Juliet and Fly Aweigh. Hours later, a big gray yacht with it's matching tender showed up, sent it's large dinghy ashore to set up a tent and chairs on the sparkling white sand beach, and ferried guests in for a catered cocktail and dinner hour. We know, because we have binoculars. We try not to spy, but we were mostly curious how this dinner party was faring with the gusty winds and sand blowing on the beach, but they all seemed quite content. They were a respectful group, quiet, and ultimately left around 10pm, leaving s/v's Juliet and Fly Aweigh once again the sole occupants of the cove.

When we first got in, around noon, I was already in love. I have a latent geologist living somewhere inside me, and I love rocks. I love the strata, color, texture, and variety of rocks and anything stone-like. I want to climb them, touch them, put them in my house and talk to them. V-Cove was a subtle explosion of rock color, not so much the kind that screams at you but the kind that sits quietly in wait until you notice. You might at first see how the steep, stratified cliffs around the cove have creamy-colored layers of whites and subtle orange-browns. But it takes a closer look to notice the burgundy, olive, celedon, gold and black. The contours of the cove are rugged and filled with little nooks, crannies, and caves, while the tops of the cliffs are stark and fascinating against the clear sky.

We dropped anchor, had lunch, took our beloved 20-minute micro-nap, and suited up for a snorkel. The water in the Sea is cooler than normal, we hear, and 72 degrees is a chilly swim. Allan and got our exercise stuffing ourselves into our 4 mil wetsuits, but LeeAnne was going to be brave, and only had on her swimsuit and rash guard, but one jump in the water and she was out like a wet cat, donning her wetsuit as well.

It was a gorgeous snorkel, unique. The caves and little cavelets were filled with fun things. LeeAnne and I explored a big cave with our high-powered dive lights, and saw lots of fish and some vivid orange and yellow coral I've never seen before. We spotted two brilliantly colored lobsters with turquoise and orange spots and stripes, shyly hovering under a ledge. Long trumpet (or coronet) fish hung in a small gang at the back of the cave. The walls above the water were where I saw the most intense colors, and I could have just floated there marveling if I weren't getting a bit chilly.

Back on the boat Allan, who had been doing some underwater inspections on the prop had a troubling announcement: our starboard prop was loose. The Gori propellers on this boat are pricey little devils which fold and twist and are really fun to play with when you're at a boat show in the Gori Prop Booth and they have one on display. We have two of them, and we'd like to keep them - stories of loose props falling off in the middle of the Pacific Ocean were not encouraging.

So, we made a plan: in the morning, we'd move Fly Aweigh into shallow water near the beach, and Allan would go down with his dive tanks and try to fix the prop. We dropped the big bow anchor and LeeAnne and Charlie, in their dinghy, helped by setting a stern anchor near the shore, and we tightened up both anchors to keep Fly Aweigh snugly in position in the narrowest part of the V. Allan suited up and got to work, but 45 minutes into the attempt he had to cede to physics. Doing anything underwater is challenging. He couldn't get the backing plate separated from the prop assembly, and trying to bang it loose with a hammer underwater was just not working ... he needed a bigger hammer, and less water, preferable no water. It was going to be a short-term fix anyhow, as the Loctite he had wasn't the underwater kind. So it would only have bought us a little time. We decided instead to cut our stay in V-Cove short, and reluctantly yielded our spot to an incoming trawler and headed for Puerto Escondido to investigate hauling the boat out and doing the fix properly.

All of that is for another blog, since we haven't done it yet - for now, we're going to rely on the one good engine we still have, and go have a little fun on the West Coast Multihulls Rally, which starts tonight. The extra-special cherry on top is we have Chris French aboard, the former owner Fly Aweigh, nee Strikhedonia, and he's lending his intelligence and experience with the boat to help us plan our fix in a few days. Two smarty-pants brains are better than one, and it's great to hear he and Allan knock the problem around.

Meanwhile, we go play.

Photos: None! I was so busy goggling in V-Cove I forgot to take pictures. So here are Allan and Chris instead.

Here we are:

Sea of Cortez - Part I

27 April 2022
Alison Gabel
Day One: La Paz - San Evaristo

After an easy current-and-wind-assisted escape from the dock in Marina Cortez, La Paz, Baja California, México, we waved farewell to our new friend Frank, who leaves for the south Pacific in a few days, and motored to Marina Costa Baja to top off our fuel tanks. Charlie on s/v Juliet told us Costa Baja had the easiest access on their long dock, which is built to accommodate mega yachts. We filled both tanks and topped off the little dinghy gas can and we were finally on our way into the Sea of Cortez (also known as The Gulf of California.)

For me, this was the goal for the season. Well, I had two goals: the first was to catch up with old friends on the mainland of México and spend good time with them, and that was well accomplished. And the second was The Sea. John Steinbeck studied it, loved it, wrote about it. Sailors who've circumnavigated the Earth come back to the Sea and say it was their favorite place of all. But it was my own memories of the incredible sunsets, the stark, colorful vistas, the amazing color of the water, the delightful tiny towns and fishing villages that inspired me most of all - I was anxious to see it again, and see more of it.

Our timing for the northbound trip was excellent - a seasonal Comomuel wind was due to bring wind around the southern cape and up into the Sea, making the journey more comfortable. And, it was magnificent! We glided on a flat sea with a following wind, tipping our knot meter at 9 knots, the hulls so quiet on the water that if I wasn't looking at our forward progress - if I closed my eyes, I'd scarcely believe we were moving at all. Allan put out the two headsails (the jib and the Creature) in a wing-on-wing formation to grab as much of that wind as possible, and we gloried in the passing scenery. I liken sailing in the Sea of Cortez to what it would be like if the American Southwest was flooded. It's colorful, strong, clear, geologically fascinating, devoid of plant life save a few cactus, some scrubby things and the beautiful neon green palo verde.

Charlie, LeeAnne, Bubba dog and their guest Maria on s/v Juliet had left the day before and spent a night at the island of Calita Partida, and we were chasing them down for our rendezvous in San Evaristo. They made it in before us and LeeAnne had a savory chickpea stew ready to share. We like to combine efforts - Fly Aweigh is the bigger boat for group dining, and LeeAnne is a marvelous cook. It makes for a nice combo. I made rice.

Day Two: San Evaristo - Agua Verde

Our goal for the day was a fairly short (5 hours) sail north to Puerto Los Gatos, but first, a short hike on shore for the girls and cute Bubba, who longed for a walk on terra firma. Bubba is a little vacuum, capable of cleaning the floor of any and all food and plant matter like a high-powered and singular-minded Rumba. Even on the dinghy, he was snuffling in the corners and sure enough, wedged behind the anchor and the fuel line he found a squid! He popped his head out proudly with the rubbery, inky thing and LeeAnne barely grabbed it in time to avoid a possible mess. We landed by an iconic cruisers' mecca, Lupe and Sierra's, a darling palapa on the beach, its' walls strewn with hundreds of shells painted with the names of boats that have visited over the years. LeeAnne searched the collection for the one she had painted a few years earlier but it seemed to have gone missing. We took some photos and wandered along the beach, dodging giant fish heads and spines - this is a fishing village, after all, and the pangas often clean the fish and discard the remains on the beach for birds to pick at, and ultimately, to dry in the sun. It was a short stroll - the 9am departure time loomed, so I dropped them off at Juliet and returned to Fly Aweigh to prepare for the next leg.

As we pulled up the dinghy we noticed Charlie was struggling with the anchor chain on Juliet, and after watching to see if he needed some assistance, Allan finally headed over. It doesn't matter how sophisticated or well-maintained your stuff is, things on boat just like to break, jam, stick, corrode, rot, melt and fade. And jam. Juliet's chain had jammed, and jammed pretty good, and despite her strength, LeeAnne couldn't quite get the pull needed from down in the chain locker to break it free, so Allan climbed in there and had the muscle to clear the jam. This is cruising - we help each other. Up came the anchor, Allan zipped back and we stowed our dinghy and soon enough were on our way north. The wind had already begun to blow and we had another wonderful day of sailing, but toward the afternoon it started getting a bit rougher, and Charlie radio'd that he was concerned the anchorage at Los Gatos would be too rolly for comfort. Being about a half-hour ahead of them we ducked into the anchorage to assess the situation, and sure enough we saw a boat that had done the same and was bashing back out for somewhere else. Allan thought things would be nice as soon as the wind laid down at sunset, but that was hours away, and we all opted to continue on to Agua Verde, another 3 hours north. But we did get a close look at Los Gatos, which was very interesting, and made plans to try to visit on our way back south in a month or so.

Sometimes, when we're following Juliet on our AIS (that magical thing that tells us who's who and how fast they're going) we'll notice they've slowed down a bit, and we'll surmise that LeeAnne probably just caught a fish. She's an enthusiastic fisherwoman and sure enough, a few minutes later she announced on the ship-to-ship radio that sushi was on the menu that night. We dropped anchor and wasted little time getting a dinner together - I had roasted some beets in my solar oven on the passage that day, and made a big salad while LeeAnne wrapped her fresh fish into sushi rolls. As the sun sank we all faded early and parted ways, with plans for a hike in the morning.

Day Three - Agua Verde

We woke to find ourselves wrapped in a thick fog, so thick, we could barely make out Juliet, 115 yards away. Everything on deck was soaked, and we once again dug out the sweatshirts and slippers we thought we were done with for the season. Sure enough, our trusty guide book says these fogs are common this time of year, having to do with hot air and evaporation and cool air and water and all sorts of other amazing meteorological physics. It began to burn off quickly, though, and by the time we finished our oatmeal it was a clear, sunny day. I went over to pick up LeeAnne and Maria for our hike and we left Bubba looking forlorn on the deck and our husbands secretly grinning to themselves, relishing some alone-time on their boats.

I'm getting the hang of lowering the dinghy wheels, lifting the motor, and bringing the boat into shallower and shallower water until we finally have to leap out and pull the boat in, hoping the sand is firm enough to give the wheels purchase and not sink into quicksand or get stuck on big rocks. This beach was the perfect landing zone, and it all went well. Not knowing the tide cycle, and knowing we'd be gone a few hours, I tied the anchor line to the bow and stuck the little anchor deep into the sand some yards further up the beach, and off we went to find some goats.

Agua Verde is known for their goat farm, and the goat cheese and milk they produce. I have such fond memories of our last visit here and spending time with the delightful baby goats who wandered freely under the trees as we sipped cold beer and waited for our fresh goat cheese and home made tortillas. This time, well, things change. The goat farm wasn't where I remembered it, the goats were penned and looked a bit too lean, and nobody was about, save a hapless soul who had the task of slopping the angry pigs. So we headed off down the road, making a stop at the tiny tienda for a cold drink for LeeAnne. Tiendas in towns like this are typically run by a family, and are either in a small out-building or in the house itself. Babies and young children play on the porch, the teenage daughter or the abuela (grandmother) runs the cash register, the wares are sometimes small bins of over-ripe bananas, mango, papaya, apples, potatoes, carrots and onions, sometimes perfect avocados, and always a display of canned goods and processed foods like chips, cookies and gum. Some have ice boxes with sodas, ice, and maybe even ice cream sandwiches.

We continued on the dirt road, passing trucks going to and coming from the main highway farther inland. The road wound up the hillside with, at times, spectacular views of the anchorage and the harbor, and we wiled the time telling each other stories of our youth, travels we've been lucky to have, and other distractions. At the top of our hike LeeAnne decided to run - she loves to run and tries to put in 5-6 miles whenever she can - Maria and I walked back while Lee Anne ran ahead, then turned around to tag us, then ran ahead. Trucks and motorcycles passed and waved, and after a 5-mile jaunt we returned back to the beach, pushed the dinghy into the water and headed back to our boats for lunch.

After a quick veggie stir fry and the requisite short nap, Allan, LeeAnne, Maria and I motored out to beautiful Roca Solitaria, a tiny rock island at the entrance to the bay for some snorkeling. Finally, clear water! Fish, starfish, fan coral, eels, nudibranchs - it was a lovely underwater swim, albeit a bit chilly, and gave Maria a chance to try this form of swimming. (She was a lifeguard for years, and is an excellent swimmer, but new to snorkeling.)

Allan and I ended the day with a good boat bottom cleaning - he found more barnacles than he would have liked, but the CopperCoat is still doing really well at resisting furry growth. I scrubbed the waterline, which had become grimy from our time in the marina.

At sunset Allan and dinghied ashore and spent a little time at the teeny-tiny beach restaurant, taking advantage of their wifi while we sipped cold Corona's and then shared a hamburger and some french fries. A hamburger and fries! Not typical Baja food, but sometimes you get sick of fish, and forget about going vegan. So a nice half-burger and a few fries is just the ticket.

Nights have been sublime: calm, quiet, cool. Perfect for sleeping, and so far, save a few gnats, we are bug-free. I occasionally find myself scratching at a bite on my arm or something, but we haven't seen mosquitos or jejenes or even the renowned bees of the Sea. I certainly hope my gloating doesn't have any backlash.

Day Four: Agua Verde

It's so lovely here, with so much to do, we're staying a bit longer. This morning I crawled out of bed a bit after 6 to find clear air, but a thick fog bank hovered just off shore, holding back the sunrise for a few extra minutes. Clad in slippers and sweatshirt, I made my morning hot beverage, wiped the dew-strewn cockpit chair of puddles of water, and settled in to write. Allan joined me a bit later and we watched the fog bank as it slunk closer, swallowing the northern corner of the anchorage, holding fast and thick just offshore. It sparks conversation about our next leg north: our Coromuel winds have subsided, and the north winds will be back for the next few days, making northerly progress more lumpy. Best would be to leave at dawn, but with this fog, that might be a bad idea. We'll talk to Charlie later and see how he feels. They have a deadline to reach Puerto Escondido and the Loreto area in time for Maria's flight home on the 26th. Our deadline is much farther out - May 4th for the 4-day West Coast Multihulls Rally in Puerto Escondido.

I met LeeAnne and Maria at 9am for a ride to the beach and our morning hike, this time over to the north anchorage here in Agua Verde. It was a perfect morning, the air was clear and warm, with a cooling breeze, and as before, the incredible views of the Sea from the high places. Across a small spit of land at the top of the anchorage we saw a massive flock of pelicans fishing, diving straight in with giant splashes and coming out every time with a fish. And then, in a single moment, they all took a turn east and suddenly began diving into what was obviously a large bait ball, it was an amazing frenzy, which I captured on my phone. How they didn't crash into each other in the air and dive on one another in the water was a curiosity. Hours later, from our boat, we could see they were still circling, circling, diving. It must be a very rich and delicious sea.

And speaking of delicious, we had the best meal ever at the little restaurant in the center of the beach, Brisa del Mar, with a wonderful ocean view and a fresh onshore breeze. We ordered fish a la plancha - cooked in a pan - and just after we ordered, a few fishermen came in hauling a huge fish, maybe a yellowtail. 30 minutes later our lunch arrived, fresh and fabulous. We think the long wait was because they filleted THAT big fish for our lunch! While we waited, we linked into their Internet and downloaded weather, books, email, checked Facebook (yes, guilty) (how else do I find out who's getting married, who's in Greece, who's on first?)

A very active day, after lunch we took our 20-minute micro nap and suited up for another snorkeling trip, this time to the nearby Pyramid Rock, which proved to be a magical place. This time I spotted a scorpion fish, trying to be invisible among the rocks, his lumpiness and mottling and bulging eyes perfectly mimicking the mossy surrounds. We admired him for a bit and then swam all the way around the rock, spotting little rays and billions of newly-spawned baby fish. So many, I suddenly felt I had an answer to why the fisherman can come in each day with so much. Still, I wonder: out of 1000 baby fish, how many make it to adulthood? And how many live to a ripe old age without becoming our lunch?

Back to the boat for another shower and then Maria and I took a short kayak around Pyramid Rock, followed by cocktail hour on Juliet, where we had the privilege of trying LeeAnne's fabulous rosemary sourdough bread, which she's just learning how to bake. And which, in this case, was baked in the small tubular solar oven, perfectly. I'm hoping to have similar success at my first attempt tomorrow.

Allan and I closed out the night with defrosted green chile tamales while I dug into the first of The Complete Works of Agatha Christie, which I downloaded for my Kindle at the unbelievable price of $4.99! Quite a day.

Day Five: Agua Verde

This morning when we awoke the fog was wrapping around the hillsides just inland above the beach, and it looked clear out on the Sea, so that might bode well for tomorrows' move north.

Another girls hike on shore - we liked yesterdays' so much we did it again. The little old man that lives on the beach on the north end was in the same place, having breakfast on his front porch, and we again said good morning to him as we passed to check out the pelicans. We went a little further this morning, attempting a narrow path up the eastern shore, but it got unstable and steep, so we turned around. We're not as adventurous as when we were young, and we readily admit it - a twisted ankle or broken leg at any age is tough, but when you're only two on a boat and one is out of commission, and you're already starting to get stiff and less agile, well, we just try to avoid certain risks. All that said, the other day I bashed my knee in the dinghy, cut my heel on a cleat, and conked my arm on I-forget-what, so risks are unavoidable ...

After lunch, we lingered in the warm sand a bit, and Allan fell into conversation with an Argentinian man who was traveling in his camper with his windsurfer. Allan was eyeing the sail and the board hungrily, and sharing his windsurfing past. We watched as the guy launched his rig and easily stepped aboard and sailed off. When he got back only a few minutes later, he admitted there really wasn't quite enough wind, but offered the rig to Allan for a sail around the bay. Yes! We zipped off in the dinghy to the boat and got his bathing suit, gloves, and a few other necessities and were back on the beach in 10 minutes, he was off in 15. It felt so good to see him on a board again. On Fly Aweigh I we had a windsurfing board and 3 sails, but on this boat we don't have the space for them. Unfortunately it was a short sail - within a half hour he agreed - not enough wind to get on a plane and make it fun.

Back on our boats we spent the remainder of the afternoon just hanging out - it got too rough for kayaking so I invited Maria over for a game of Scrabble and then we all retreated to our own worlds for dinner.

Day Six: Agua Verde - Puerto Escondido

Perfect morning for our next leg north - clear, warm, calm. No sailing, but a smooth motoring trip up. We had Maria aboard so she could get a little taste of a catamaran. She'll join us for the next 2 nights before her flight home to Los Angeles. It was a lovely 4-hour trip, I mostly busied myself in the galley making vegetarian meatballs and sourdough bread for our dinner.

The route north is more of the gorgeous New Mexico-got-flooded scenery. We followed s/v Juliet so closely in the glassy water that we actually asked if they had any Grey Poupon.

We settled into a few moorings at the top end of the big anchorage in Puerto Escondido, I positioned my solar oven in the perfect spot for my first attempt at sourdough, and we dropped the kayaks to go for a short trip around the mangrove-strewn perimeter with LeeAnne and Bubba on their paddle board. Big, pale-colored fish with narrow, floppy, pointy top fins swam at the surface, daring us to get a good look at them but vanishing anytime we got within a few feet. Bubba took to his first ride on the paddle board very quickly, wagging his little tail and after a short time feeling confident enough to move around a bit. Allan tended to the timing of the sourdough bread but I was anxious to see if it actually rose in the baking cycle since so far it had been thoroughly underwhelming and I had my doubts. Sure enough, my attempt at rosemary kalamata sun-dried tomato sourdough in the solar oven ultimately flopped, but I'm learning. We ate it anyhow - it was delicious! Just sort of chewy and crunchy, but cooked all the way through and completely edible. Hey, it's a boat. We try not to waste resources.

Dinner aboard was fun, followed by a raucous game of Farkle, a dice-throwing game of chance that pits players against each other to a degree that made Maria, who has a very soft heart, quite uncomfortable. LeeAnne was teaching us the rules: "Okay, Maria, you have to decide now if you want to give Alison her points or try to steal them with a roll of the dice." "Steal them! Why would I steal from Alison? That's not nice!" So Maria played the game her way, avoiding any cut-throat moves, giving me points on every round, and she almost won the game with her nice-guy strategy. Inspiring.

We got Maria settled into her new digs aboard Fly Aweigh - our first overnight guest! It's been a fun and much-anticipated challenge for me to find comfortable and accessible homes for all the stuff that has heretofore resided on that guest bunk, and I did it.

Day Seven: Puerto Escondido

We awaken at 6:30 full of anticipation for the sunrise. The anchorage in Puerto Escondido is like a lake - almost completely encircled by hills to the south, east and north, and the beautiful Sierra de la Giganta to the west. I climb on the roof before the sun crests in the east and watch as the richly layered, craggy and stately mountains slowly come to life: at first, just a soft glow, warming. The very tops of the mountain begin to show their color, and then the details start to pop. I see Charlie next door on Juliet, his lean, tall form stretching out of the cockpit, taking in the morning light. The tiny mangroves at the edge of the water glow a soft green, and fish jump from the glassy surface. A light breeze begins to blow, the surface mottling the reflections of the mountains and boats. Birds begin to chatter, and I think I hear goats, but very far off.

I make myself a hot beverage and climb back into my blue folding chair thing with my laptop to catch up on this blurb, and realize it's dead dead dead. So I go back down, find an extension cord, figure out the distances from this plug, out the hatch, across the roof to the computer, or maybe this plug, that other hatch, and up. I work it out and am back in business as the sun begins to warm the back of my chair.

And so begins our time in Puerto Escondido. We have plans to rent a car and drive into the tiny town of San Javier in the mountains, check out Loreto, take some hikes, and in a few days, head back out to explore the local islands. On the morning radio net this morning the weather report - day after day - was the same: highs in the low 80's, lows in the mid 60's, winds 5-10 kts out of the south. Our mooring is calm and beautiful, and the marina is impeccably maintained, with L'Occitane products provided in the spacious showers, making us feel quite indulgent.

It's nice here, but it's nice everywhere! We're loving this whole México experience, but being in the Sea of Cortez is wonderfully detoxifying.

New photos in the Gallery!!

Position update:

The Crossing and La Paz

19 April 2022
Alison Gabel
The Crossing. Phew! I promised I'd write a bit about it, more than what I put on my Facebook page, so here's the Reader's Digest version of our 44 hours from Isla Isabel to Ensenada de los Muertos, south of La Paz on the bottom end of Baja California.

We left the island around 2pm with great optimism, confidence and anticipation. The winds were forecast to be good. A bit frisky, but nothing that wouldn't make for a great sail. The seas would be manageable as well, and we looked forward to more time with sails up than having to motor.

It started out just as predicted, we motored for awhile, then got our wind and had a beautiful sail for most of the next 24 hours. We were in contact with our friends LeeAnne and Charlie on s/v Juliet, who left a bit ahead of us. They're faster under power, we're faster under sail, so we were trying to game it so we'd arrive in Muertos at about the same time, and stay within radio range the whole time. We shared our happiness at seeing our boats sailing gleefully along, everything was good, our first night and most of the second day were lovely. Day 2, I went down for my first break after dinner from 7-9pm. I slept, but fitfully, and when I awoke, I knew things had changed. I came into the main cabin and Allan looked a bit uncomfortable - he's got an iron stomach and is rarely affected by any kind of motion sickness, but the seas were rocky now, and the wind had picked up more than we'd anticipated, and damn, he was seasick. By now we'd made contact with 2 other boats who had also left Isabel around the same time, and the four of us were comparing notes. For awhile s/v Infinite Grace was ahead, giving us real-time reports. They were doing well, managing the wind with their well-found boat but, another boat in the group was pretty uncomfortable, and pondering turning around for Mazatlan. Charlie reviewed the latest forecast with them and it seemed like it would still be a good sail across, so they stayed the course.

As the night wore on, we pulled ahead of Infinite Grace, and became the lead boat. The winds increased until we were seeing gusts up to 28kts and 3 meter seas. All of that would be manageable, but the period of the waves was short - the seas would bang against us, lift and drop the hulls at slightly different times, we'd barely say "oof!" before another would hit. It became quite exhausting, uncomfortable, and annoying. Never unsafe - for any of us, but we shared later in the debrief that none of us had been in conditions quite this challenging.

At one point, waves washed over the bow of our fourth boat, and she reported that some of the things on the bow might have been washed away. (They later confirmed that all was still lashed in place, so that's good.) On our boat, things that normally stay solidly put on the their counters, tables, and ledges, were bouncing about, flopping off their perches - we lost the ceramic vase my mom's orchid lived in - shards everywhere (I know, breakables on board, dumb.) Got that cleaned up while Allan lay in a seasick funk, barely managing a light meal of soda crackers and Coke. He finally made friends with the barf bucket and felt better after that, but not before hours of discomfort and frustration. Meanwhile, a dozen eggs jumped out of LeeAnne's secret egg-hiding place and splatted all over the galley floor. Too rough to clean it up, she left the mess to deal with later.

We reefed the mainsail early, thank goodness, and our headsail served to balance the boat somewhat, but we were still screaming along at 8.5 to 9 knots, with lots of ocean splashy sounds all around, splash, sloosh, poit, swoosh, bang. At about 4am we reported to the group that conditions were easing - the wind speed was falling and the seas seemed to be laying down, so we gave them some hope that in an hour they could all relax a bit - by now nobody had been able to get any sleep. Flying fish and squid were littered on the decks, and one even had the audacity to hit Jeff on Infinite Grace right in the face. At some point we called for the first round of drinks at the restaurant when we all got in, which was met with a resounding "Yes!"

Our message of hope for calmer seas was a disappointment, though, as the sun came up and we turned north in the lee of land, hoping the land would moderate the seas a bit, we were tortured with another 3 hours of choppy seas and now, wind in the wrong direction to sail. We motored, bashed, hacked our way north until finally, Ensenada de los Muertos wrapped itself around us and promised a calm rest.

We dropped anchor, stowed the sail, picked numerous dead squid off the deck - wedged into nooks and crannies and under lines, it was a bit like an Easter egg hunt. In the next few hours the other 3 boats came in one-by-one, and we dinghied by to say hello, and in the case of 2 of them, meet the voices we'd just spent the entire crazy night with. We made plans to meet up ashore after naps.

That evening, the 8 of us, joined by another couple, shared our individual stories, shared drinks, shared food, shared laughs. Amazing how discomfort, fear, and unease are all so quickly forgotten once over, assuming all is well, and no injuries or damage have been incurred. And, a short swim, a nap, a hot shower and clean clothes all help immensely. We feel a bit like we shared a foxhole together - we helped each other get through something we weren't expecting, offering comfort in the night, sharing the latest weather updates, sharing tactics, techniques, and empathy. We may or may not bump into the other two boats again, but we'll always remember our short time together, and if we do see them, there will be that bond.

We languished for a few days in Muertos and then gathered ourselves up for the last leg of this journey to La Paz, an 8-hour jaunt north, in the company of s/v Juliet, with Infinite Grace nearby, on her way to an anchorage outside La Paz called Pueto Balandra. The day went by quickly and easily, and we dropped anchor next to Juliet near Playa Pichilingue in the early evening, but no sooner was the anchor set than we were besieged by bobo's - little gnats that were in great profusion - covering our arms and hair and faces, we felt like horses, swishing and swatting them away as we moved about the boat. We ran around stuffing the screens in all the windows, closing up the 3 bifold cockpit doors, swatting the many flies trapped inside, but 10 minutes of this and we all agreed to leave. I dug out the net that sits over your hat and shields the face, so Allan could concentrate on moving the boat. I went up to the anchor with a big swath of white bridal veil wrapped over my head - worked great, and made me feel quite lovely and virtuous. We yanked the anchor and drove west toward Bahia Falsa, dropped anchor there, kept everything closed, swatted more bobo's, turned on the air conditioning, dropped the dinghy, and went over to pick up Lee Anne, Charlie and Bubba for dinner aboard Fly Aweigh. We stayed inside with the a/c on for awhile, sipping cold drinks, and waited - just to be sure we were safe, but as the evening breezes picked up and we felt confident the bugs were much abated, we opened the boat up and enjoyed Lee Anne's fresh sushi - made from a fish she caught just hours earlier.

The next morning we headed for Marina La Paz for a short stint on a dock to get the boat washed - get all the crusty salt and inky squids off the boat in preparation for 5 weeks up in the Sea of Cortez. There were no slips available for our width of boat in any of the 4 marinas, so I'd negotiated this brief stay for boat washing - seems the owner of the slip was gone for a few days so it was okay to be there briefly, but the marina manager was reticent to let us stay in case the owner came back unexpectedly. As it turned out, we did get a slip deeper in the marina for one night, and then were able to move next door to Marina Cortez for the remainder of our week in La Paz. (Things change quickly around here, you have to keep trying, and they almost always work out.) The Cortez digs were kind of fun - we were waaaaayyyy out on the frontier, a long L-shaped walk to the end of Muelle B, side-tied and subject to wind and current from the bay, but our view was spectacular and the air was fresh. We liked it.

La Paz has changed a lot since we last spent any time here - 2009 - and we love the changes. Much more alive and vital, with lots of new and interesting restaurants. We were fortunate to have a car loaned to us for the time we were here - (many thanks, Ricardo!) so we ran some big provisioning errands, made a few doctor visits, got things done. And now, I'm going to rush this blurb a bit as we're underway for parts north, to explore the Sea of Cortez, a long-awaited part of our season here in Mexico. LeeAnne, Charlie and Bubba on s/v Juliet await us in San Evaristo, we'll join them tonight or tomorrow as conditions allow. We're fortunate - a coromuel wind will give us favorable northerly winds and it should be a great sail. (!!)

Hasta Luego -

Isla Isabel

17 April 2022
Alison Gabel
We made it! Rumor had it that the 2 anchorages at Isla Isabel, known as "The Galapagos of Mexico" have been full to capacity and cruisers hoping to get a few days with blue-footed boobies and frigates and iguanas and other creatures have had to regrettably pass by. And as a tiny flotilla of two along with s/v Juliet, our chances of finding room in an anchorage that only holds 5-6 boats were even slimmer. But we did! And it was everything I remember it from 12 years ago when we stopped for a few days in January 2010.

The island, just under 2 square kilometers in size, is 18 miles west of the mainland coast of Mexico. A national park since 1981 and a World Heritage Site since 2003, it's home to "an enormous number of nesting birds and resident iguanas ... isolated in the Pacific Ocean and relatively free of natural predators" according to our Pacific Mexico cruising guide by authors Heather and Shawn.*

An enormous number of nesting birds indeed! We wondered if we'd see hatchling and fledgeling boobies like we did last time, as this time we're here a few months later in the year, but we not only saw scads of baby boobies but also baby frigates, in droves. The frigates were in the mating season when we were here last, the males filling their huge red neck balloons and looking quite fetching for all the ladies. This year, we only saw a few lonely guys puffing out and trying to get a mate, the rest had all scored and had the babies to prove it. The frigates nest mostly in trees, or bushes, or cactus - even just a ragged few sticks from a dead bush will hold a frigate nest, which can be more than a foot across. But mostly, they're in the scrubby trees all around the island, over your head as you walk, and crammed into the most unlikely places.

The boobies nest on the ground, and I understand they always come back to the same nest, which can be dreadfully inconvenient when it's located exactly in the middle of a narrow footpath. We had to circumnavigate many wary moms and dads, carefully shrouding their young, or their eggs as we came along the path, which was sometimes in thick bramble-y, stickery terrain with no way around. The females honk, and the males whistle, making the most darling little whistle sound ever, like they're just learning to blow on a wooden flute and haven't got the knack of it. It's breathy and small, but between the honking and the whistling, they get the message across. Mated pairs share nesting duties, and often both of them were together, guarding up to 3 chicks. Some of the chicks on the island were newly hatched, some were molting pretty gruesomely, and some were almost ready to fly.

There are other species prevalent on the island: several varieties of iguana, including the swimming kind. They're quiet - and slow, unless you try to pet them, (I always want to pet everything) then they scurry off and look indignant at having lost their sun spot. Also flying around and helping to keep the island rocks shellacked in white guano are brown boobies, red-footed boobies, brown pelicans, white-tailed tropic birds, Heerman's gulls, sooty terns, and brown noddies. (I also took this right out of Heather & Shawn's book.) It was quite an airshow as they swooped and circled and dove for fish, sometimes the frigates fly low on the water and dip their beaks repeated into the water as they fly. Sometimes the airshow included a good dogfight, with a booby, whistling as it flew, being hotly pursued by a larger frigate, the two twisting, looping and rolling, until finally the booby would land on the water for a big time-out, and the frigate would fly on past.

The anchorage was spectacular - we had a wonderful view of a craggy, gorgeous rock known as Isleo Mona Menor, with some fun snorkeling (still murky, but much better than it has been) and a lovely sunset. Regrettably, we could only stay one night, since we're trying to beat some weather coming into the Sea of Cortez in a few days, but we had two good hikes around the island and got a jillion photographs.

And to top it all off, it was our anniversary! We've had the goal to spend every anniversary on an island, and with a few exceptions, we've done that for 17 years. This one topped the list! Ironically, with all the wonderful distractions, we both forgot it was our anniversary until a day later, which gave us a pretty good laugh.

We feel incredibly fortunate to have been able to visit this unique and special place not just once, but twice. I hope another time we can go back and stay for awhile, but if it never happens, this box has been happily and memorably checked.

* Shawn Breeding and Heather Bansmer produce two guide books for sailors in Mexico, the first was "The Sea of Cortez" now in it's 4th edition, and then "Pacific Mexico" in the 2nd edition. Fabulous resources with fabulous photos and thoughtful spiral binding that lays flat while you refer to it for guidance navigating the entrances to particularly treacherous rock-strewn anchorages, of which there are many. We cross-reference their books with the other long-standing favorites, "Charlie's Charts" and "The Mexico Boating Guide" by Pat and John Rains.

NEW PHOTOS! 2 new photo albums in the Gallery - "So Long Pacific Mexico" and "Isla Isabel."

Also, as usual, keep track of our position on PredictWind here:
Vessel Name: Fly Aweigh II
Vessel Make/Model: Seawind 1160 Deluxe
Hailing Port: Channel Islands, California
Crew: Allan and Alison Gabel
Retired airline pilots exploring the world at a slower pace. 12 years ago we took two-year leaves of absence from our jobs and sailed across the Pacific on a Catalina Morgan 440, which we sold in Australia so we could go back to work. [...]
Fly Aweigh II's Photos - Main
From Puerto Escondido to Santa Rosalia - May 2022
22 Photos
Created 24 May 2022
7 Photos
Created 13 May 2022
From La Paz to Puerto Escondido in the Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California)
17 Photos
Created 27 April 2022
13 Photos
Created 17 April 2022
14 Photos
Created 25 March 2022
Life in Barra and environs in the month of February.
18 Photos
Created 27 February 2022
9 Photos
Created 17 February 2022
14 Photos
Created 2 February 2022
Week 2 of our time in Ensenada and the Baja Naval Boatyard.
9 Photos
Created 20 December 2021
Our first week in the Baja Naval Boatyard
12 Photos
Created 11 December 2021
The last, last minute things and our final departure for San Diego.
4 Photos
Created 1 December 2021
Stuff we're doing in the prepping-to-go-sailing phase of our lives.
5 Photos
Created 20 November 2021
21 Photos
Created 9 March 2011
22 Photos
Created 9 March 2011
24 Photos
Created 9 March 2011
49 Photos
Created 24 February 2011
30 Photos | 1 Sub-Album
Created 24 February 2011
29 Photos
Created 15 January 2011
51 Photos
Created 15 January 2011
20 Photos
Created 16 October 2010
28 Photos
Created 16 September 2010
20 Photos
Created 31 August 2010
23 Photos
Created 16 August 2010
29 Photos
Created 1 August 2010
21 Photos
Created 8 July 2010
And other things ...
25 Photos
Created 25 June 2010
28 Photos
Created 11 June 2010
34 Photos
Created 21 May 2010
34 Photos
Created 3 May 2010
28 Photos
Created 17 April 2010
39 Photos
Created 19 January 2010
Train trip to Mexico's Copper Canyon in Chihuahua.
11 Photos | 1 Sub-Album
Created 28 December 2009
28 Photos
Created 16 December 2009
Visit with Grant & Phyllis Gabel; Fly Aweigh's Christmas decorations
13 Photos
Created 12 December 2009
15 Photos
Created 7 December 2009
8 Photos
Created 6 December 2009
11 Photos
Created 22 November 2009
The 11-day adventure from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas
12 Photos
Created 7 November 2009
Pre-Ha-Ha days in San Deigo harbor
No Photos
Created 25 October 2009
10 Photos
Created 14 October 2009
Commissioning and Provisioning in Marina del rey
9 Photos
Created 8 September 2009