Final Sea Crossing: Reflections Through Kaleidoscope Eyes
28 May 2019
We crossed the Sea of Cortez for our third and last time on an overnight sail to San Carlos, Pinocchio's final Mexico destination where our eight-month adventure will come to a close.
Winds were from the northeast, so we set sails for a reach, making for a nice eight-hour sail averaging 6 knots. As it became dark and the wind lightened, we kept sailing at 2 knots to enjoy every last bit of the Sea's beauty.
As Pinocchio sailed slowly through the night on my watch, the stars shined in the clear, dark skies like crystals. I could hear dolphins nearby and see their shadows illuminated as they darted through the bright, phosphorescent water. I had time to reflect back on this adventure, and in a bittersweet way, slow down the close of it.
We traveled as far south as Manzanillo on the mainland and as far north as San Carlos in the Sea of Cortez. Each anchorage and cove had it's own unique beauty. The little towns and larger cities we visited also had their own flavor and personality.
If I had to choose one word to describe Mexico it would be "vibrant".
The Mexican people have big smiles and big hearts. Their festivals, music, and art are full of life, color, and noise. They proudly display and sell their handcrafts of colorful talavera pottery and blanket weavings made from yarn dyed with vivid hues of crushed plants and seeds.
Mainland Mexico has lush, green tropical trees, bougainvilleas of every shade, and brightly painted homes decorated with colorful inlaid tiles. Diego Rivera style frescoes and modern murals adorn the walls along the cobblestone streets. The warm, clear Pacific waters sparkle with all shades of blue.
Dry, craggy, rocky cliffs, walls and sea caves found on the Islas in Sea of Cortez have striated layers of reds, oranges, purples, and yellows. The land's palette of dramatic, desert hues contrasts with the vivid aqua and turquoise waters of the Sea. Dramatic Sunsets seen from Islas Danzante and Carmen illuminated the Sierra La Giganta mountain range.
Mexico is a kaleidoscope of vibrant colors and life.
At around 2 am on David's watch, the wind kicked up pretty good. David put in a reef. We neared our destination of Caleto Lalo before the sun came up. Between the choppy seas and strong wind, it was difficult to see the small entrance between the two prominent reefs. I was awake by that time and we both were on high alert, looking at the silhouette of land ahead, the chart plotter, radar, and Navionics on our IPad. In the end, the radar helped us to shoot the entrance between the two reefs. We surfed our way into the cove, just like Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. What a great finale!
Yesterday, as we entered Marina San Carlos to begin the process of dismantling Pinocchio for truck transport back to San Francisco Bay, our mileage log read 3,534 nautical miles.
This is my last blog entry for Mexico's Chapter of Sail Pinocchio, "Adventures of Two by Sea". In hindsight, I should have titled it "Adventures of Three by Sea". Pinocchio was the most important crew member, performed well under pressure, and never, ever complained!
Perhaps more chapters to follow...
20 May 2019
We spent almost 1 week circumnavigating and anchoring in the bays and coves on Isla Carmen.
Refugio Cove, otherwise known as "V" Cove, was spectacular. Sheer, white rock bluffs surround both sides of the cove. The striated, horizontal layers that uplifted over time reminded me of a cross-section of human flesh, starting with the top layer of epithelial tissue, then adipose tissue, muscle tissue, capillaries, and bone.
The sea caves here were composed of craggy layers and rocky overhangs of greens, reds, yellows and purple, different from the conglomerate rocky caves on the east side of Isla Espiritu Santo.
We spotted a brightly colored parrotfish while snorkeling, among the other usual suspects of fish species we've already seen.
Our next stop at anchor was at Bahia Cobre, also known as Copper Bay. Here we enjoyed the picturesque beauty of the tall, colorful layers of sandstone cliffs. Light hues of green, pinks, and browns came alive at sunset. We did an evening hike from the beach, through the drainage pass, and up to the ridge overlooking the other side of Isla Carmen. The almost-full moon guided our way back to the beach and Pinocchio.
19 May 2019
Isla Danzante is a small narrow island with anchorages only on the northwest portion.
Honeymoon Cove is the most popular because of weather protection; however it's a pretty small anchorage. After poking Pinocchio's nose into Honeymoon Cove only to see that it was full of large motor yachts and catamarans, we decided to try another cove just 1 mile south, known to some as "Divorce Beach"! We decided to take our chances.
Divorce Beach is just a perfect little spot: cozy, private, pretty, and fairly protected from weather. It's really a one-boat anchorage and could handle only one divorce at a time.
Dolphin came every morning to and evening like clockwork to feast on the little reef fish and act as mediators if needed. Pelicans would do fly-overs daily and judicially stare down their long beaks at us. Turtles would swim by with their watchful eye, making sure all was well.
We kayaked and paddle boarded along the rocky shores for hours, exploring all the nooks and crannies. Snorkeling in the clear turquoise water, provided us quite a show of fish, colorful coral and bright red star fish.
Just a few days shy of our 8th wedding anniversary, we stayed two wonderful days at Divorce Beach without a glitch. It's peacefulness and beauty re-affirms what's important in life. Maybe this Beach should be called "Second Chance Cove".
12 May 2019
Anchored off the east side of Isla San Francisco, I tried my best to ward off the "lemming effect".
This phenomenon happens when you are the only boat anchored in a fairly good size anchorage with lots of room, and then comes another boat and anchors right next to you.
It's a subject brought up many times between sailors. Each having their own definition on just how close is too close. One fellow sailor we met along the way, referred to the proper distance between boats being "Piss-Off" distance. Meaning that he is far enough away from another boat to be able piss off the side of his boat, without offending the other.
Other cruisers we met in the Pacific Northwest shared their strategy. When they sense another boat getting ready to anchor to close, they take off all of their clothes and go about their chores.
We've experienced the lemming affect and close proximity of boats, especially larger boats several times on our 7 month cruise,(compared to little Pinocchio, all boats are large!)
Recently, with our sailor friend Carlo on board, we anchored off Isla Partida in Partida Cove, pretty close in and near a rocky wall, thinking no one would consider anchoring any closer in. Later in the day, a Lagoon 42 catamaran, anchored between us and shore, just 100 feet from us. We tried to not let it's close proximity wreck our day and evening, but we really felt encroached upon. We thought of moving, but we were really happy with our spot and anchor's holding.
It happened again on May 5. David and I went up to Isla San Francisco. The west side is the more popular side and as we neared, we could see that there were already 3 boats anchored there. We decided to round the south end of the island and anchored on the east side where there was no one. It's only a 1/4 mile hike between the two coves. We found a good place to stay for a few nights and all was great. No sooner, we see the same Lagoon 42 that overcrowded us a week earlier coming our way!
To David's amusement, I took off all my clothes and stood on deck. David was in the dinghy checking out the bottom, Pinocchio's bottom, not mine! hahaha. As the Lagoon neared, David let out a big laugh! "He's naked too Susan!" Here is this morbidly obese man, 300+ pounds, butt-naked at the helm. He "out-naked-ed" me! No surprise, they anchored right next to us. Here's a screen shot of our GPS, showing their proximity to us. We are the boat Icon, the Lagoon 42 with the big naked guy onboard is the red triangle. The triangle goes from green to red when boats are too close to each other!
Lucky for us, we now know the boat's name and they have AIS transmitting. If they are nearby our GPS will pick them up. Wherever they are, we are going in the opposite direction.
Suggestions and strategies to avoid lemming effect are welcome!
12 May 2019
May 4, Isla Partida
Back to Isla Partida again, but this time the east side of the island. As we explored all of these beautiful islands in the Sea of Cortez, we noticed that each area has its own unique land formation.
On the back side of Partida there are beautiful, conglomerate, rocky sea caves. Large rocks defying gravity hang precariously from the cliffs, connected only by some sediment, looking like they would come splashing down at any moment into the sea.
We took a chance with fate and dinghied into a few of the dark caves and marveled at the mother nature's rock formations and colors.
The rocks awash just outside the caves appeared to be alive. As we neared, giant mangrove crabs scurried into crevices and holes for protection from the smaller, aggressive black crabs. Isn't it the truth, that it's the smaller of species that are the feistiest and most feared!
While snorkeling just outside the caves, the clear waters provided us a wonderful display of colorful fish. We notice as we head further north in the Sea, the water is getting cooler. The ambient temperature has been pretty warm, so taking a plunge into the refreshing sea is welcoming, at least for now.
I've been working on improving my swimming strength and stamina by swimming back to the boat after snorkeling. David follows along nearby in the dinghy if I get tired out and need a rest. On this snorkel day, Pinocchio was a few miles away. As I approached David in the Dinghy and readied myself to grab ahold, he would quickly row just a hand's reach away, just like any "personal trainer" would do! For his entertainment, he repeated this several times. I swam a bit farther and was proud of that. But I think my "personal trainer" needs some talking too....
04 May 2019
April 23 - May 1, 2019
The Sea of Cortez has me so absorbed in its beauty, I am speechless, wordless and thoughtless. It's been a time to just be silent... so peaceful.
Our friend and fellow sailor, Carlo, joined us for a five-day trip out to Isla Espiritu Santo and Isla Partida. One of the first things that caught our eyes were the amazing layers of rock formation on the island, defining time over millions of years. The weathered, rock walls creates little caves which make for great nests for gulls, boobies and other sea birds. Cactus thrives in these craggy rocks, slurping up any bit of water Mother Nature sends its way. The vibrant, desert colors of rocky cliffs juxtaposed with gin-clear turquoise water creates a palate of eye candy!
Isla Espiritu Santo is a protected island and National Park now. Thanks to organizations like SeaWatch, www.seawatch.org, ("Espiritu Santo is Party de ti"), it has been recognized as one of the best managed protected areas in the world by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature ICUN. As you SUP or kayak along the shore, fish of all varieties can be seen. Snorkeling in these clear waters provided us a beautiful scene of all the underwater rocky caves, rock formations, healthy coral, and colorful fish. Further offshore from the Islands, there are recorded sightings of large schools of mobula (rays)spanning 5 miles long and 40 ft deep feeding off plankton; Just last week Orcas were seen feeding off the mobula. There were also sightings of whale sharks and fin whales. On this trip, we spotted small schools of mobula jumping out of the water and doing aerobatics.
Life aboard Pinocchio with Carlo on board was a treat. Carlo loves to cook. Need I say more...We stocked our refrigerator with meats, chicken, fresh fruit and veggies, and pantry with flavorful sauces, herbs and spices. The rest was up to Carlo to create fabulous meals, which he did. Three on a 33 foot sailboat requires the "sailboat shuffle" choreography, especially early in the morning and late at night.
One day, Carlo and I decided to take the kayaks out to the other side of Isla Partida through a shallow cut through. Going there was fast and easy as the wind was behind us; After reaching the other side, we both dreaded the long return to Pinocchio. Soon enough, we spotted a dinghy motoring a full speed towards us...it was David to "save the day". We tied both kayaks to each side of the stern and off we went. Our kayaks are yellow. I'm sure it looked like David was towing two little ducks back to the "mothership".
Stand Up Paddle boarding is still challenging for me. Especially because our SUP is an inflatable. It blows easily off the wind and it's high off the water, making for a higher center of gravity. Needless to say, I took a few dunks, but I am getting better at it. David took to it like a pro. I guess his surfing days in his younger life has payed off.
On the return back to La Paz, we had our fishing line out. No bites, except for one big, I mean really BIG catch! As we headed south toward La Paz, we came upon another sailboat that we knew. SV Tenacity, sailed singlehanded by Marshall Peabody. As we neared Tenacity which was under power, we realized we still had our fishing line out. In the attempt to reel our line in fast, we snagged Tenacity's rudder and prop. Not a good thing. David has a talent of somehow getting lines into a knotted and tangled mess. I call him Charlie Brown. I think we should rename Pinocchio "Sir Knots A lot"! David dove into the deep, blue water with snorkel gear hoping to the clear the snag off the rudder. Earlier, David had mentioned he felt like going for a swim; he got his wish. After several minutes strategically manuevering Pinocchio and David's perseverance untangling the knotted mess at the prop, it was cleared. Tenacity headed north and Pinocchio headed south. Note to self: when we come close to another sailboat under power, reel in fishing line beforehand.
Once back to La Paz, we cleaned up and went for a delicious dinner at NIM, named for the fragrant Nim tree (Indian lilac) which all along we thought were pepper trees. It felt odd to be back to asphalt and sidewalks at lively and busy La Paz, after our magical time at the islands.