Tuesday, April 27, 2010


From Punto Pulpito, we got an early start on our 45-mile trip to Santispac, in Bahia Concepción. We did get to sail for a couple of hours along the way, but mostly it was a motorboat ride. Santispac was kind of a letdown after the last few anchorages which were so isolated and beautiful. There is a road running along the bay, and while traffic is not heavy, the semi trucks use their "jake brakes" coming around the sharp curves, serving as a periodic reminder of the road's presence.

We (the crew of Windward and ourselves) decided to take advantage of the road by hitchhiking into Mulegé, about 15 miles north. I can see the raised eyebrows, as hitchhiking has fallen so far out of favor back in the US. We haven't done it often down here, but in certain areas it has been the only option. Mexicans are very hospitable, and we never wait long for a ride.

Mulegé is a true desert oasis, with a spring-fed river and thick groves of date palms. The downtown looked much as I remembered it from my last time here nearly 30 years ago.

We walked upriver to the 300-year-old mission, which had a nice view of the river valley, and some of the first cardon cactus (similar to saguaro) we had seen in bloom.

We also saw occasional reminders of last year's hurricane, which destroyed a number of homes here.

We wanted to tour the old penitentiary, now a museum, but it was closed for repairs. We contented ourselves with a nice lunch, and hitched our way back to Santispac, this time with a retired American couple who live here (and lost their previous home in the hurricane).

Monday, April 26, 2010

Punto Pulpito

From San Juanico, we had a short sail to our next anchorage, only 8 miles north. Punto Pulpito is a distinctive landmark visible for many miles.

We enjoyed hiking ashore, dinghying around the sea caves and rock formations.

We also took turns standing on a rock pinnacle a couple of hundred yards offshore, just for fun!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

San Juanico

Had a nice sail most of the way from the Coronados. Strange to come here - I kayak-camped here over 30 years ago, then returned 3 years ago on a friend's boat. Its still a beautiful spot, although development is creeping in, as in most of the Baja coast we've seen so far. There is some great hiking along the beaches and in the surrounding hills.

There were nearly a dozen boats here, including Speck, a Montgomery 23 with Gary and Beth from Eugene. Sure enough, it turned out we have friends in common. All of the sailors got together at a potluck and bonfire on the beach the night after we arrived.

We had one task here, to leave a memento at the "cruiser shrine" (a small tree decorated with boat names and memorabilia). Our friend Jon passed away on his boat 3 years ago. This would have been his next anchorage. He's still sailing in our memories.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Islas Coronados

We had a wonderful sail from Painted Cliffs, around the north side of Isla Carmen, and over to Isla Coronados, along with our buds Dennis and Lisette on Windward.

We have spent nearly a week at this wonderful spot, partly because of its numerous attractions, and partly because it is in Internet range, only 6 miles from Loreto.

This allowed us to stay in touch with Mark's family during his mom's surgery for breast cancer. She is doing well and has already been released, so we will probably resume our northward trip tomorrow.

The marine wildlife here has been spectacular: humpback whales breaching, manta rays leaping, flocks of grebes fishing, etc.

We hiked up the cinder cone for a great view of the island.

The beachwalking was excellent! However, the snorkeling was a bit nippy. Water temp is still only about 70F here.

Vicki organized a potluck on the beach one night. We had a good time with the crews of Topaz, Sea Change, Windward, Rutea, and (one of my favorite boat names) Tequila Mockingbird.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Painted Cliffs

From Puerto Ballandra, we motored around the north end of Isla Carmen to hook up with our friends Dennis and Lisette on Windward. We found them in a lovely and isolated anchorage called "Painted Cliffs". Luckily Dennis warned us over the radio of some dangerously shallow rocks to avoid. In the picture, Mark has snorkeled over to one of the rocks and is standing only about knee-deep in the water!

Other than the hazardous rocks, it was a beautiful anchorage, with dolphins swimming right around the boats and plentiful fish life. Vicki and I even saw some female dorados while snorkeling in the cove - a highly unusual sighting of these beautiful pelagic fish!

Vicki and I did a long and arduous hike up to a nearby ridge, in hopes of seeing the mountain sheep that live here. We saw plenty of sign and followed some nice sheep trails, but never did see or even hear the sheep.

We capped a long day with dinner in the cockpit. This is some of the nicest weather we have had on the entire trip.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Puerto Ballandra

After finishing our shopping at Loreto, we had a nice sail over to Isla Carmen, only 8 miles away. Puerto Ballandra is a picture perfect cove with room for plenty of boats. The picture was slightly clouded by thoughts of our friend Jon, who died of a massive heart attack shortly after sailing out of this cove 3 years ago. Fair winds, Jon, you will continue to sail on in our memories.

The next morning we enjoyed a long hike with the crew from Optical Illusion and Nord Sail One. We followed a beautiful wooded arroyo across the island and climbed to a ridge overlooking Bahia Salinas.

Afterwards John hosted us for happy hour aboard Nord Sail One, a truly magnificent motorsailor. In the picture, John is explaining to Bill and Mark the unusual sailing cockpit; this feature allows the boat to be sailed from topsides instead of from within the pilot house.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


We needed to get a few groceries, so we decided to take advantage of the calm weather by anchoring directly off of Loreto, one of the most historic cities along the coast. Founded in 1697, it was the capital of both Alta and Baja California (before being moved to Monterey 80 years later), and it was the headquarters for the Jesuits who built the California missions.

Nowadays, its a pretty sleepy town based on tourism and sportfishing, and a nice place to get off the boat and stretch your legs.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Isla Danzante

After two nights in Puerto Escondido, and some of the best weather we had seen for the past month, we were itching to get back out into the wilds. We didn't have to go far. Only a few miles outside Puerto Escondido is Isla Danzante, part of a regional marine park and protected area.

Vicki and I had come here once before, by sea kayak, nearly 30 years ago. It was nice to see that it was still a pristine place where you could appreciate the beauty of this magical place where the desert meets the sea.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Steinbeck Canyon

After more than a week anchored out in remote coves, it was finally time to head in to "civilization", in this case the excellent natural harbor of Puerto Escondido, currently being run as a state-owned anchorage and marina. This offered us a chance to take on fuel and water, do laundry, and check email and phone messages for the first time since leaving La Paz.

We also took this opportunity to hike a nearby canyon, heading deep into the Sierra Giganta, along with our friend Dennis from Windward.

In less than a half-mile, the canyon went from a fairly level trail to a rock and boulder scramble.

Then we had to negotiate the first of two "caves", where giant chockstones block the canyon, and the only way around was to crawl through the spaces under and behind them.

The reward was to spend a few hours in an unbelievably lush desert oasis.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Isla Monserrate

After leaving the scene of the Little Fawn recovery effort, we decided to visit one of the nearby islands. It was only 6 miles to Monserrate, and we got to sail part of the way. But the wind died as we got closer to the island. We motored along the east coast, watching a pod of dolphins near the shoreline.

Luckily the wind was fairly light, because the anchorage didn't offer much protection. However, the beach was beautiful. It is called, for obvious reasons, Yellowstone Beach.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The recovery of s/v Little Fawn

On our way into Agua Verde, we passed a sailboat that had been swept onto the beach a few days ago. Initial rescue efforts pulled the sampson post out of the foredeck, broke the mast, and dragged the boat onto some rocks. By the time we saw poor Little Fawn up close, she had a massive hole in her portside, along with several smaller rips and gouges. Jim, the singlehander skipper, was camped on the beach. A number of skilled rescuers were on the scene, assisted by members of the nearby Hidden Port Yacht Club. The boat had been turned from her port side to her starboard side, leaving the damaged area mostly above water.

Although we didn't have any significant skills or tools to contribute to the rescue, we soon made ourselves useful. Vicki gave skipper Jim a shoulder massage and along with Janet and Fran, helped organize his piles of stuff on the beach. I helped pass radio communications and ferry tools back and forth between the beach and The Cat's Meow, which was to be the tow vessel.

Meanwhile, a group led by Terry from Manta, and including Bill and Les from Optical Illusion and Jean-Guy from Gosling, got to work on patching the hole in the hull. They attached thin strips of plywood to the hull, with wood screws and Splash Zone (underwater epoxy).

We decided there wasn't much more that we could help with, so we loaded up some of Jim's tools to carry to Puerto Escondido, and sailed off to find an anchorage for the night (more on that in our next post).

The next day, we were delighted to see Little Fawn being towed by Martin and Robin on The Cat's Meow. By the time we arrived at Puerto Escondido, Little Fawn had been lifted onto the hard. The rescue had ended successfully, but Jim's work is just beginning!

It was really nice to see how the cruising community pulls together to help someone in need. We were glad to play a small role in the efforts, and hope that we are never on the receiving end!