Rick and I had intended to dedicate this spring to a long and relaxing cruise through what is referred to as the “Sea of Cortez.” Actually, the Sea is a long stretch of water about 100 miles wide and 800 miles long that stretches between the Baja Peninsula and the Mexican mainland. When sailors who cruise refer to the “Sea of Cortez,” however, they usually mean the abundance of anchorages along the the east coast of the Baja Peninsula and the accompanying outlying islands that run north from La Paz up to the Bahia de Los Angeles, approximately a 400 mile stretch of magnificently unpopulated coastline and islands that are mostly dry, mountainous and rugged on land, but with gorgeous, empty white sand beaches and an abundance of sea life in turquoise waters.
Unfortunately, my increasingly debilitating pain in my hip and back made us turn towards the US for answers, and forced us to shorten our Sea of Cortez trip to only about three weeks. Thus we called it a “survey trip.” We mostly intended to stay only one night in each anchorage, trying to see as many anchorages as we could, and make notes about which ones we would like to return to when we have more time.
So, we covered about 400 miles round trip in 19 days, averaging about 20 miles per day, and visiting 12 different anchorages, some both coming and going.
Overall, it was a splendid trip: relaxing, enough wind to sail at least half of the time, and quite a contrast from the hustle and bustle of the west coast of the mainland. There are far fewer people cruising here, and far fewer people on land as well. The services and reprovisioning opportunities are far more limited so you have to become more creative about meals and beverages. The opportunities for pensive solitude and communing with nature are far greater. There was no marina to speak of in the 200 miles we surveyed; Puerto Escondido does have intermittant fuel supplies, shower facilities for cruisers and a little store, but you still have to anchor out or take a mooring ball; the little dock is permanently occupied with a few small power boats. By contrast, there was a marina at nearly every port along the west coast of the mainland. There is a substantial permanent cruising community during the season in Puerto Escondido, though, and they were quite helpful and much less pretentious than the comparable communities in La Paz, Mazatlan or especially in Puerto Vallarta. The only city we came upon was Loreto; every other anchorage was either uninhabited or had only a small number of families creating a small village with maybe one small store selling fresh produce and staples, no internet and no cell phone reception. Some of these villages were accessible only by boat; no roads lead in or out.
We absolutely loved cruising the Sea of Cortez and can’t wait to get back, especially to explore even further north.
RICK’S LOG OF THE SEA OF CORTEZ
3/24/2016 La Paz to Bahia San Gabriel, Isla Espiritu Santo
Left La Paz exactly as we planned, at noon. Lots of wind, motorsailed on staysail out through the channel and then started sailing in a strong NW breeze with the first reef in. Sailed till about 3PM when the wind died. Just before then we saw a large whale about 1/8 mile to starboard that was traveling parallel to us. He would blow and got close enough that we could hear the blow, which sounded almost like a growl.
We motored the rest of the way to the anchorage and though the wind came up again, we were chasing daylight so pressed on. Anchored in San Gabriel, which is one of the southernmost anchorages on Isla Ispiritu Santo. It was calm and mostly flat when we set anchor and we enjoyed our sunset on the bow. Just after dusk, first one, then another large motor yacht came into the bay and anchored close to us.
They were partying and trying to out do each other all night with their music and lights. We have a hard time understanding the mentality of those playing loud music in such a beautiful place. However, it was Semana Santa weekend (Easter) so such partying is to be expected everywhere in Mexico. To get away from the music, we went below and watched video of our show “Justified,” taped for us by our friends on sailing vessel Elegant Sea.
The sea kicked up from the southwest at about 04:00 a.m. so it was a bit rolly, but we stayed faced into the swell so it was managable.
3/25/2016 Isla Espiritu Santo to Isla San Francisco
Getting ready to get underway for Isla San Francisco. As we left San Gabriel, the wind was light and on the beam. We sailed for about five nm till it died out on us in the vicinity of Isla Ballena. We passed very close to the reef there in hopes we might interest a fish but no action. When the wind died out on us we started motorsailing and as we got further up the coast and past Isla Espiritu, it got calmer and calmer until the sea was like a velvet ribbon. As we passed Islotes, where the sea lions play with the tourists, we noted that the National Geographic boat Seabird was there as well. We continued past Islotes another 20 miles to Isla San Francisco.
When we were about 5 miles out, a beautiful breeze came up and we started sailing again. We were flying along with the water still smooth until we had to drop the sails to come into the anchorage. The approach to Isla San Francisco is interesting as there is a natural breakwater that protects the entrance from the south. It conceals the beautiful half moon beach that lies inside. When we got in, there were mostly large motor yachts at anchor, about 10 boats in all. Seabird was there already, an older, small cruise ship filled no doubt with outdoorsy souls with limited time on their hands for adventuring and with enough money to condense their experience into an all-expenses included cruise. Seabird shuffled its 200-or-so passengers onto shore and back again in several skiffs. All the passengers were clad in the same safari-like garb; it must be part of the cost of the cruise! We were one of three sailboats, and though the anchorage was just starting to get a bit full, we found a nice spot to anchor on the left side a hundred yards off the beach.
The water here is so clear, that looking at the sand bottom 20 feet below, it looked like the blue painted bottom of a swimming pool. After we anchored there were another 5 or so yachts that came in, and two large motor yachts were anchored close to us. My biggest concern was that there would be loud partying all night from the big boats, but it was fine. We had a very mellow evening. It got a bit rolly around midnight but not so bad that we couldn’t get a good night’s sleep. Cindy was having lots of pain in her leg last night so we are going to try and keep her from any un-needed exertion and see if it helps. We were going to have a long 40+ mile trip today but we decided to make it a short one and only sail as far as San Evaristo in order that we could afford a leisurely start.
We put the dingy in the water last night and tested it with the engine exploring the anchorage and all was well. We will be towing the dingy for the rest of the trip so access will be easy.
San Evaristo is as decribed: a sleepy fishing village inhabited by 20 families. They have their own desalinization plant though, and make ice for the fisherman to keep their catch cool. As we were coming into the anchorage, we made a tight turn to douse the sails and my trolling line got fouled on the prop. It ate my favorite Dorado tamer and half the line on my reel. We made it in OK but I had to dive the hull to get the hundred yards or so of line and lure off of the prop shaft. Also found that we had lost the shaft zinc. It took me a good hour to cut all the line away. We only have snorkel equipment so I could not replace the zinc. We will find a diver in a few days when we get to Puerto Escondido.
We took the dingy to shore and found a little tienda that had some very basic things. We were able to get some fruits and veggies. Then I walked down the playa to some fishermen working on their pangas and asked if they had any fresh shrimp or fish to sell. I was able to buy a kilo of grande shrimp to make my Camerones Diablo dish last night! The anchorage is small but by the evening there were three other yachts sharing it with us. We recognized one of the boats, “Raven’s Dance,” that we had first seen in Tenacatita on the Pacific coast months ago, and had been in Isla San Francisco as well. It is a nice Northwest type ketch of 40+ ft. It was another nice moon night, at about 90% and in the sky all night.
Today we are off to Puerto Los Gatos, about thirty miles north of here. It was a favorite stop of our friends Frank and Suzanne on “Adventure”. Yesterday we had a sweet downwind sail to San Evaristo; we hope we will have good conditions today.
Conditions and sailing to Puerto Los Gatos were excellent! We had a sweet downwind run, wing on wing and were able to sail all the way. We were averaging 4.5 to 5 knots in 8 to 10 knots of wind. It was just one of those perfect sailing days.
When we arrived, there was just one other boat, a motor yacht in the south, more shallow end of the bay. We found the perfect spot to anchor in the northern end. By the time we had the anchor down, the wind had died off and it was about 1630. We set up the dingy, got out our snorkel gear, and went for a snorkel on the reef at the north end of the bay. As we headed for the beach in the dingy, we saw a Raven’s Dance again. We had not met the sailors of Raven’s Dance yet so we stopped by to say hello as they were out on deck. The boat is skippered by Howard, and older gentleman, and his crew Lisa, a slender, attractive blonde woman, younger than Howard by at least 20 years. They were both very friendly and pleasant. After we introduced ourselves, we headed for the beach and the reef. It was a bit spooky snorkeling as it was full of dark deep pockets and the water was cooler than we expected, so we did not go very far but managed to have a nice time anyway. We saw lots of fish including one of our favorites, trigger fish, also known as poor man’s lobster. So we went back to the boat and got my light fishing rod and a skirt lure I had just made the other day. Cindy drove the dingy along the reef as I cast into the shallows along the edge of the rocks. I got several good hits but could not hook one. Then just as we were heading back I caught a small rock fish. A few minutes later I hooked something much larger and played him for about a minute before he broke my line.
It was getting hard to see so we headed back to Cool Change and went about our nightly cocktail ritual, fixed some dinner and then watched the next episode of “Justified”. We are currently in mid season 4. It is a show about a US Marshal that got transfered to his home county in Kentucky after a controversial shooting of a drug dealer in Florida. We have been having fun with it thanks to our friends Debbie and Chip on “Elegant Sea” who loaded the series on one of our jump drives.
I woke up a couple times durring the night and it was so calm I thought we were in a marina. It was wonderful, peaceful and another large moon night.
This morning I started the engine about 07:00 and was running the watermaker and downloading weather grib files on the SSB, when I heard a knocking on the hull. I poked my head outside to see a mexican fisherman standing in his panga holding onto our rail. He introduced himself as Manuel, and said he was from a nearby fishing village. The fishing has not been good for him lately and he said he was having trouble feeding his family and that the cost of fuel was high at 17 pesos per litre. He never asked but we knew he was hoping we could help him out so I gave him some pesos, enough to fill his outboard fuel tank. He was very appreciative and asked if we would be around awhile so he could go try and catch a fish for us. We told him we would not be leaving for a couple hours and he waved goodbye and was on his way. An hour later he returned with a small rock fish. He apologized that was all he could catch and be sure to get it to us before we left. To me, it was a wonderful gift from a proud husband and father caring for his family in a beautiful but challenging environment and I am so happy our paths crossed. It is only by these interactions that people get past their preconceived notions of intent and prejudice, especially in light the highly charged state of politics that exists in the USA, a breeding climate for racial and ethnic unrest and hate. We fly a US flag at our stern as our country of documentation as required and well below the Mexican courtesy flag on off our starboard spreader. So everyone that sees us knows we are Americans. I think I can say though that we have rarely ever been treated disrespectfully because we are Americans. Unfortunately the other side of the coin is that Mexicans have had to face much more challenges in our country and even in their own. For example, as foreigners, and Caucasians, we have never been challenged entering a resort, whether or not we belonged there. A Mexican would have to be recognized, have a pass or otherwise prove they belonged there to get past the gate. After Manuel gave us the fish, he wanted to know when we would be back. He said times would be better and that if we were there in May or June he would bring us lobster and dorado. Yes, that would be awesome!
So after a wonderful night’s sleep and a few chores, we shared our weather information with the crew of “Raven’s Dance” and got on our way to our next stop at Agua Verde. Raven’s Dance was headed there too, and invited us for evening cocktails after we both got settled in. It was only 16 miles north and the wind was uncooperative, so we motored till it picked up a bit and we were able to sail the last 5 miles into the anchorage.
Agua Verde is definitely near the top of the list of beautiful anchorages we have found. It has very good protection in either the north or south lobes of the bay for all wind and sea except from the east, which is not normally an issue. The weather forecast suggested that wind would be westerly, in which case, either anchorage would be good, but we decided on the north because it was just so beautiful and tucked away.
After we set the hook, the skipper of a beautiful Lagoon 450 Catamaran that was nearby, kayaked over to say hello. As we were conversing we realized that we knew him from many years ago, before any of us had ever been sailing. He was Brian Fitzpatrick, the owner of Fitzpatrick Vineyard and Winery in Fairplay near Placerville, California. We met through a mutual friend of Cindy’s that she worked with when Cindy was a Director for Bay Area Air Quality Management in San Francisco. So many times on this voyage we have been reminded of what a small world it truly is! Brian told us he and his wife Dianne had sold their winery to a Chinese family who sought to export their wines to China. He was a bit sad because he said they had effectively cut the public face of the business down that he had been so proud of, and now did not open the place to any outside public. They strictly make their wine and send it all to China. Brian and Dianne then bought their beautiful yacht, which has 4 staterooms, each with a private full bath. They spend six months per year cruising Mexico, then return North to Los Angeles area where they run charter trips out to the Channel islands. What a life! They named their boat “Inncredible Sea Lodge.” They had invited us over to have dinner with them but we had to decline as we had already made plans with Howard and Lisa on Raven’s Dance, who would be arriving shortly. So we took a raincheck, but I can’t wait to see that boat!
Cindy and I took the dingy ashore and went swimming but again didn’t last too long because the water was a bit chilly, especially with the evening setting in. Howard told us we should come over to Raven’s Dance “when the last ray of sun has left her.”
We arrived right on time! Raven’s Dance is a beautiful ketch with a hull painted midnight blue. It is a Nauticat 43 owned by an investment broker in Seattle. Howard is her captain and sailed her down here this year from The Puget Sound. Her owner, Don, meets them when he can get away from business and sails with them a bit and then goes back home. Howard has a very good gig and is very loyal to Don and follows his wishes with regard to Raven’s Dance to the letter. Don will actually be flying in to Loreto to meet the boat soon and we hope we get a chance to meet him as he sounds like an awesome personality. So we spent the evening getting to know Howard and Lisa, swapping sea tales and other lies! Haha. Raven’s Dance has very high freeboard and they have an electric lift on her stern so when we arrived, we were instructed to row over the submerged platform. Howard then flipped a switch that brought the platform and us in our dingy out of the water and up to the level of the deck about seven feet off the water. I felt like we should have brought the Grey Poupon! Lisa is a former professional bartender who herself does not drink but makes a great margarita. They have an ice machine aboard, which was put to good use. They insisted we take a bag of ice with us when we left. After they lowered us back into the water, lit the path back to Cool Change for us with a spotlight to make sure we got home OK. We invited them over for coffee and breakfast burritos this morning and we had a fun visit continuing to get to know each other. They are now off for Loreto to meet the boat’s owner there. Meanwhile, we are having a layover day in this beautiful piece of paradise. Currently we are one of three boats left in the anchorage and unusual as it is, we are the largest boat here!
Later in the day we did some exploring of Agua Verde. There is a small community here with one Tienda and a restaurant on the beach that consists of a crude palapa roof over two tables, some portable cooking equipment and ice chests. We had a soda at the restaurant and chatted with the family that owned it. We asked if we could take their photo and they were delighted. They really liked the photo but we had no way to transfer it to them – they had no email and knew no one who did; the entire town was completely off the electronic media grid. So we will see if we can make a hard copy in our upcoming visit to Loreto and bring it to them on our way back down the sea to La Paz.
It is interesting to think that the inhabitants on Agua Verde have no email, internet grid power or phone service to their town. There is one dirt road out of town that winds through the Sierra Grande mountains and connects to the main highway 25 miles distant.
On our last night there, we visited with Patrick and Elena from the Cape George Cutter 30 “Swift Ranger”. They are young professional musicians from Colorado that perform under the name “Tennis”. They have appeared on Leno, Conan O’Brian, Letterman and have toured internationally. While cruising they are working at composing new material. How inspirational! We had a great evening getting to know them but sadly they will be leaving Mexico soon as Patrick’s father is in poor health and they want to be with him over the next year. Patrick’s father was the inspiration for them getting their boat and cruising. He helped Patrick make all the improvements to get the boat ready and wanted to get and outfit a boat himself and join them in Mexico but sadly, that may not come to pass. Elena brought us a gift of a stick of incense type wood from a South American tree called Palo Santo. You hold a flame to it for just a second and it emits a sweet spicy aroma. It will have a special place on Cool Change with fond memories of these two special people.
After our evening with Patrick and Elena, we were ready to head out to our next destination of Puerto Escondido. Our plan was to buddy boat with Swift Ranger as they were heading to the same place. I downloaded weather on SSB, which showed light North winds in the morning building to 15 knots and backing to the west by early afternoon, so things looked good for the day’s travels. Swift Ranger got out a bit before us and we made a leisurely exit at 08:30. The winds were very light but would trick us into thinking it was building so we set with sails up, moving a a little over a knot for some time. By then Swift Ranger was over a mile ahead of us and we could see they had found some wind as they were heeling over. Elena hailed us on the VHF and said that they were in 20+ knot winds, building seas and were running under staysail and a double reefed main. We were starting to get some West breeze and after hearing Swift Ranger’s condition report so we put in reef one on the main, furled the headsail and set the staysail.
A few minutes later we heard again from Elena on Swift Ranger, who said the waves were building higher and they were in winds in the high 20s. They were concerned that when they made the turn to the West towards the anchorage, they would be taking it all on the nose, so they decided to return to Agua Verde and wait for better conditions. We decided to continue on to Escondito but in the interest of making the journey more comfortable, we set in our third reef on the main. This was the first time we used that reef, so it was kind of an experiment to see how Cool Change would handle as well. We slowed from about 6 knots to 3, Cool Change stood up instead of healing over, and Cindy couldn’t have been happier. It was a very comfortable sail in what otherwise could have been a very bumpy, uncomfortable ride. Just as we were shortening sail, Swift Ranger passed us from a distance going the other way, returning to our previous anchorage. They radio’d us to complement us on how “sailors from San Francisco” do it. The winds did keep building and were very gusty rather than sustained and in mid twenties for the next couple hours. As we approached the first mark where we would be turning, the winds began to decrease and soon we had switched to reef one and full headsail. The sailing was awesome for the next 7 miles to our destination, following the deep water between the various islands, rocks and shoreline along the way.
Heading into Puerto Escondido, the first anchorage you come to is called the Waiting Room. Here there were about 20 boats, most of which are anchored here long term. Some have set up moorings so they can come and go to the same spot. New arrivals passing through are shoed away to the inner anchorages. The first inner anchorage is called the ellipse, which is an open semicircle bordered by a concrete curved wall. There is room for 10 or so boats here but the holding is reported to be sketchy with mud and rock bottom. Past the ellipse is the huge main anchorage with moorings for over 100 boats and anchorage room for even more. This main anchorage as well as the ellipse is administered by Fonatur, which charges a small nightly fee to stay over. The anchorage is really well protected and though we had some north winds of a short lived Norther while there, there is no fetch so it remained very comfortable.
The only problem with Puerto Escondito is that the closest town, Loreto, is 20 km away and there is no transportation there to speak of other than an expensive 500 peso taxi ride. On the morning net we were able to hitch a ride with Brian and Sharon off of Music. They are Canadians who drive their truck down each year, infact used to trailer a boat until they bought their current 40 footer. Loreto was nice but very much the tourist location, and most of the people we saw there in the historic district were gringos. As there are some nearby islands around, it is a popular spot for ocean kayakers. There were nice restaurants and Cafes and the stores were very well stocked, so we were able to provision for the next week or so. The waterfront reminded me of Sausalito with a rock front and Malecon. There is a very exposed anchorage that would be awesome with no weather for an overnight but probably more useful as a quick day anchor to re-provision. We plan to stop there on our way back south.
Photos of Loreto:
We stayed on a mooring ball at Puerto Escondido a few more days, awaiting the passing of a Norther. We enjoyed the “circle of knowledge” gatherings every afternoon outside the store, and the taco day on Saturdays. We took this picture leaving the mooring field the morning we departed:
Once the Norther had passed, we set out for Isla Carmen anchorage of Puerto Ballandra. This place was a gem. Very well protected fair sized anchorage with only a westerly exposure. There was a handful of other boats and we found a nice spot 100 yards off the beach between two other cruisers. The crew of the boat to our left was eyeing us carefully the whole time we were setting the anchor and we thought at first we were making them nervous about our location. But later, Margie swam over a little after we had finished and explained they were trying to decide if we were a Pacific Seacraft. Margie was an interesting woman: older, but definitely the sailor in the family, who was about to take a crew position to cross the Atlantic, temporarily leaving her husband behind, who preferred not doing overnight crossings! I tried some fishing off the back of Cool change but no luck. We did not go ashore as it was close to evening by the time we got settled so we just enjoyed another peaceful night at anchor in a beautiful place.
By this time we decided that our original goal of Bahia Concepcion was probably too ambitious for this trip. It would have meant several 40+ nm days in a row to get back to La Paz in time for our flight to the US. We had found by this time that 20 nm days were much more comfortable, especially when we were weighing anchor almost every morning and moving on. But we did decide to at least make it up to San Juanico, the furthest north destination for this trip, and then turn around and head back south.
So in the morning we weighed anchor early to get on our way to San Juanico. The wind was going to be on our nose the whole way so we purposely headed east of our destination so we could get to a point where we would be able to sail once the wind filled in. As we got underway we saw our friends Rob and Nancy’s “Shindig” on AIS west of us on the other side of Isla Coronado. We hailed them and found they were headed North but were planning on going all the way to Bahia Concepcion that day. It was disappointing as we had not connected with them yet this season and from the sound of their plans, we would miss them by a week in La Paz when we fly back to the US. To make it worse, they would be leaving for the US right before we got back to La Paz! Rob and Nancy are good friends from when we were berthed in Sausalito on “B” dock. Those were the days! They left 2 years ahead of us for Mexico and will be crossing to the South Pacific next year.
So we said our farewells and hoped we would connect with them sometime before they depart for the South Pacific. An hour or so later they hailed us and said they decided to hold over in San Juanico so we could get together for a visit that night! We still had some sailing to do to get there and we arrived about 2 hours behind them. Arriving in San Juanico, we found a multi lobed large anchorage with several shoal reef areas. There were many pinnacle rocks that look like the landscape you would see in SE Asia, Vietnam or Thailand. Rob came over in his dingy to greet us and to invite us to come over to Shindig for a visit with them. So we spent the evening with Rob and Nancy catching up and hope to connect with them and what is left of B dock in August if it turns out we are in the US and Cindy is up to it medically.
We had some bad news from our friend Greg Crowley who is currently in Huatulco on the SV “Cythera”. A Dutch couple who we know and who Greg was very close friends with have died. The bodies of Waldy and Ria, who were on their way to their homeland after cruising for twelve years, were found by the Columbian military washed ashore on an island off Nicaragua in Columbian waters. Their boat, a large steel hulled sloop named Talagoa, was found overturned and minus its keel. It is not clear if they hit a reef or if the keel just failed and fell away but hopefully more news will be forthcomming. They were an older, very healthy and fit couple looking forward to getting back home and spending some years with kids and grand kids. They were on the same dock with Greg and us this last hurricane season in Puerto Vallarta and had just passed through the Panama Canal before the incident.
This morning we started our trip back South. We were going to need to provision for the trip so we decided to make for Isla Coronado, which would be a 20 mile trip, then go into Loreto the next day for provisions. The wind was light and against us and we needed to make water anyway so we decided to motor for this whole leg. Isla Coronado is right across a 3 mile stretch of sea from Loreto. Unfortunately, the anchorage on the city front is not at all protected so not good for overnight stays. The anchorage on Coronado was well protected from the North and we had a calm night. We could see the lights of Loreto twinkling across the water and reflecting on it.
We got off the hook about 0900 and started motoring for Loreto. The conditions in the anchorage when we arrived were calm but we had decided Cindy would drop me off on the public pier and go back to the boat to keep an eye on things while I went shopping. I was going to need to make two trips because there was much we needed and I needed to go to several different stores. The big store in town is Leys, which reminded me of a Save Mart in the US. Most of what I needed came from this store.
When I left I tried taking a short cut rather than walk all the way to the main street. Not a good choice as I got a bit lost! I had called Cindy when I left the store and told her to meet me at the pier in 10 minutes and it had been closer to twenty when I realized I was heading in the wrong direction. Fortunately I had my map program on my phone and I opened it to see what I needed to do. As I was standing on the corner looking at my phone, a municipal police van stopped and started asking me questions. What was my name… Was I staying in Loreto.. Where was I headed. I told them and they offered to give me a ride but as they were in a windowless van and were municipal police, I politely declined. They went on their way but stopped a couple blocks ahead of me, possibly to make sure I did not make a wrong turn at the intersection.
Once all shopping was done, we set out for Honeymoon Cove on Isla Danzante, another 18 miles South. Isla Danzante is 3 miles East of Puerto Escondito. Honeymoon Cove is at the Northwest end of the island. We were concerned that there may not be room in the anchorage because it was so late in the day. The anchorage consists of two small, one-boat lobes, and a slightly larger middle section. There were a couple large motor yachts that fortunately were anchored farther out in the deeper water, and with one other sailboat in the middle lobe we snuggled CoolChange in for the night.
As we were anchoring, a woman on the beach hollered out “hey Cool Change” and was waving her arms. It was our friend Lisa who we met on this trip from “Raven’s Dance”.
She and her skipper Howard had been anchored in Puerto Escondido with some boat issues. They had lost their auto pilot and had a broken engine mount. She had come over to Danzante for the day with a friend on another boat.
The anchorage at Honeymoon Cove was hard packed sand and rock. The night was pretty calm but I kept hearing our chain sliding on the hard bottom, which would pretty much keep me awake checking on things. Our anchor was set but I think we were just sliding around on slack chain all night.
Our next destination was to be Agua Verde. In the morning we had a southwest breeze come up and we were at the end of our chain with the stern facing shore, a bit close for my comfort level, so we got ready to leave quickly. The wind started to intensify and just as I was going to pull in the anchor snubber, our Anchor alarm went off indicating we were dragging.
We weighed anchor and got moving. The Bay off of Puerto Escondido is beautiful with lots of small islands rocks and reefs. It is a good 10 miles to thread through the bay and get back into the open water. As we rounded the Southernmost point of the bay and got headed South towards our destination, the wind came on with a vengence. It was in the mid twenties and gusting to 28 knots. The seas were against us and building. It was a wild ride for a couple hours motoring into the seas with only our staysail deployed. When it started to calm we had a pleasant sail for another hour or so till the wind died. Such is the weather in the Sea Of Cortez! actually, this was near the same region where we hit the big westerly gusts when we were heading north. A local told us that area is known for big westerlies gusting from the evening through the late morning.
Agua Verde was intended to be tho only anchorage we stopped at two times on this trip. The reason we were going there was because we had taken photos of the family that runs the little palapa restaurant there, and we had made hard photos for them that we had promised to bring by. When we got to the anchorage, we had some issues holding in the Northernmost part of the anchorage because there was lots of grass in the area that was open. On our last visit we had been able to move closer in and anchor on a good sand bottom. After 3 failed attempts to set the hook, we decided to anchor in the middle, more exposed section of the anchorage and all was good on our first attempt.
We got the dingy together and went to shore see the family we had come to see. They were very excited to receive the photos and said they were beautiful! In truth, all we could manage to do was print them on paper from a low resolution email photo but they were very appreciative and i think it was rare if ever that they would have photos of their family. While we were there Patrick and Saline from Voila arrived and visited with us at the restaurant. Selene is a retired nurse, and they told us they had eaten at the restaurant earlier. The young mother asked if they had any medicine for their child who had a bad rash. Selene recognized a bad case of diaper rash and told them they would be back with something for it. Cindy and I shared an order of fish tacos, which were delicious! As we were enjoying our meal, grandma casually pointed to the water and said “La Lancha!”. We looked and saw our dingy floating away! We had not put the wheels on so we did not pull it as far as was needed up the beach! Meanwhile, her son dashes off into the water and retrieves Jamaya before I even got to the edge of the water. Needless to say we left a very good tip!
It was a beautiful calm and clear night and we sat outside for awhile looking at and identifying some constellations. I saw two meteors shoot across the sky. Then as we were sitting there, we started hearing a dolphin blowing right off of our stern. He stayed around for about 5 minutes and we would see his silhouette as he went about his business.
We left in the morning shortly after listening to Gary’s weather on the Sonrisa Net. The weather was as predicted, 7 to 9 NW, and once it filled in, we set the sails and had an awesome downwind sail wing on wing. It was 21 miles to our next anchorage, Timbabiche. There is a small fishing village there a bit off of the beach and the remains of a huge villa called Casa Grande. There was a boatless fisherman who lived in the area in the 1920s when Sea of Cortez had a large pearl fishing industry. He happened on an oyster with a 5 Karat pearl. He sold it to one of the fisheries for enough money to buy a fleet of boats and to build Casa Grande! When he died he left the Villa to family who had trouble maintaining or deciding what to do with it so it fell into disrepair. It got scavenged for building materials over the years and now all that remains are the walls and a couple of roof timbers. Perhaps someday it will be restored but does not look likely.
It was a other beautiful star filled night with an even brighter sky than at Agua Verde due to absense of lights polluting the sky. We found several constellations again; I identified a new star as I woke up sometime after dawn. It was the only star still visible and I looked it up in our star program and found it was Vega, the luminary star of the Lyra constellation. It is the heavens’ 5th brightest star, much larger than our sun and is 25 light years away!
We decided to make San Evaristo our next stop because although we visited there on the way North, we had not known about Lupe and Maggie Mae’s restaurant, which our friends Lisa and Howard on “Raven’s Dance” told us about. Also, there is a water desalinization plant that makes ice and a little tienda where we could stock up on a couple items we needed. The water in the morning was calm with little wind so we motored the first 15 miles. With about 7 miles to go, we came into some wind and set the sails. We ran the rest of the way to San Evaristo wing on wing. Heaven.
After we set the anchor and completed our normal chores, we launched the dingy and went to shore. It was Saturday at about 4pm and we were sad to realize that both the desalinization plant and the store were closed. We got back in the dingy and we went to the south end of the anchorage where the restaurant was located. Lupe met us at the entrance and we sat out on plastic chairs on the porch of the funky little beach front establishment. In the entry is a tin roof covered porch held up with small tree limb timbers. There is a fence around the front of it made of no-climb livestock wire. Suspended from the wire are many sea shells each about 6 inches in diameter that have been painted by customers passing through. Lupe then drills a hole in the shell and hangs it on the fence. Shells also cover the timber supports and there was a table full of shells waiting to be hung up. There was a table off to the side that had many small bottles of paint and artist brushes to paint the shells. Cindy started working on a shell for “Cool Change” and when she was finished, Lupe asked her where she would like it placed and he put it up right away. While Cindy was painting I was enjoying visiting with Lupe and Maggie May’s cat named Garfield. He was a small bodied light colored siamese mixture with steely grey eyes. He was very friendly and sat purring in my lap the whole time we were there.
Inside the restaurant is a makeshift bar of sorts and lots of family photos on the wall. There were a couple of small tables inside but the best place was on the porch with the magnificent view of the bay and the boats at anchor. While we were there we watched the fishermen return in their Pangas and clean their catch under a canvas roof a little ways off to the right of the restaurant. We did not get to meet Lupe’s wife Maggie May but we had a great meal he prepared for us complete with wine and beer. Lupe asked if we had heard his broadcast on VHF in the morning, which we had. He gets on the radio and lets people know the restaurant is open for business. He transmits his message in very good English from a radio inside the restaurant that uses an antenna mounted on the roof. He said people hear him as far away as Loreto to the North, which is about 60 miles away. It is interesting that his English is so good on the radio but he started learning English only about a year ago. We think he probably had a lot of help and practice pronouncing his advertisement so well!
We had planned our next stop to be Bahia Amortajada to explore the Mangrove lined channels that lead to a large lagoon but Lupe told us that the bugs (jejenes) were very thick there and would eat us alive. Remembering how they fed on Cindy when we were in Barra de Navidad, we decided on a change of plans and set out for Isla San Francisco. As we had been experiencing some westerlies in San Evaristo, we decided to check out the anchorage on the NE side of the island. When we got there though we decided it was so unappealing compared to the beautiful crescent moon beach on the south end that we turned around and went back there. The anchorage is large and has good holding sand so we figured we would be OK even of the westerlies came up in the night. As it turned out, it was calm all night anyway. Before dark we set out on a dingy exploration of the whole anchorage and went to shore to stroll in the sand a little as well. This is one of our favorite anchorages. The water is a beautiful turquoise blue and we can see our chain and anchor in 25 feet of water clearly. We made a promise to remember the beauty here lest we get tempted by the comforts and accessability of the US.
Our last night of the survey trip! We had one last night before we would be going back to La Paz. We decided to go back to a special place we have been before in 2015. Caleta Pardida is an anchorage between the islands of Espiritu Santo and Isla Partida. The anchorage is literally in the center of an extinct volcano. This used to be one island before the sea broke through the east and west sides and flodded the crater with water. When you look up at the walls surrounding you, it is easy to see its origins as a volcano. We anchored at the North, more protected end, as the wind funnels through the gap between the islands and is amplified. The north end shoals a long way from the shore so there is not as much room as it looks like there is. We found only two boats here when we arrived so we were able to anchor on a spot with lots of room to swing and good holding. We were expecting that we might get a nighttime Coromuel, a local La Paz strong wind phenomenon that comes from the Southwest as the land on the Baja cools and draws the cooler air from the Pacific side over it.
Cindy had succeeded in making ice cubes using disposable ice cube bags set right against the refrigerator brick so we were able to have margaritas in the cockpit on our last night! As we were enjoying our drinks, a dingy came by with some folks we had met on our sail down the Pacific coast. It was Craig and Cathy from Small Crew. It was great to see them again and we chatted for a while before they headed off to another anchorage nearby where their boat was.
At dusk, we got in the dingy without the motor and went fishing. Cindy rowed while I cast a lure and we caught 3 Corvinas, which we kept, and a Mexican Houndfish, which we did not. The houndfish was kinda scary because he looked like an eel. We were able to get him safely off the hook and let him go. We got back to the boat and watched a couple of episodes of “Justified” before we went to bed. The Coromuel wind came up about 10pm and blew most of the night; our anchor alarm went off once but it was a glitch as we were holding nicely all night.
CONCLUSION BY CINDY
It was bittersweet returning to La Paz and to the marina; we knew the rapid pace of what lie ahead in the US was going to be in stark contrast to the mellow adventure of the last three weeks. So as a last goodbye for a month or so to Mexico, we discovered a fine sushi restaurant in La Paz to enjoy the view and great food before heading off the next day to the US.
Standby for an update on Cindy’s medical condition and our trip to the U.S.