Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sailing with Fred and Faye

While I was away, Vicki had a great time enjoying the run-up to Christmas in La Paz. As soon as I returned, we cast off the dock lines and headed out to Isla Espiritu Santo for a few days. The weather was pleasant for sailing and anchoring, if a bit on the cool side. We snorkeled and hiked the beaches and canyons, packing as much in as we could before heading back to La Paz for Faye and Fred to catch their flight home to Oregon.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

La Paz

On the morning of December 20th, after 5 days of relative solitude, we finally came into Internet range as we neared Isla Espiritu Santo. My email held the sad news that my mother had passed away 4 days earlier, on the 16th. This followed a long illness and a month in hospice care, so it was not unexpected. I made preparations for a quick trip back to the USA. Vicki had to stay with the boat, as we had guests coming the next day. Amazingly, I was able to book a flight on short notice, avoiding a 22-hour bus trip and cross-border connections. I flew "home" to Mexico on Christmas Day.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

San Jose Channel

Winds remained light most of the day after leaving Los Gatos, so we thought we would try anchoring somewhere along the coast of Isla San Jose. However, as we reached the narrowest part of the San Jose Channel, the winds increased to nearly 20 knots, so we decided to "go with what we know" and head for San Evaristo. This anchorage is nearly bombproof in prevailing northerlies.
The next morning dawned perfectly clear and calm ("Charlie-Charlie" as we say on the radio), so we motored 3 miles across the channel to Punta Salinas. There is an old salt-mining operation here, which makes a hike along the beautiful beach all the more interesting.

Next, we motored another 3 miles south and anchored off the mouth of one of the largest mangrove swamps in Baja, called Amortajada. There is something surreal about gliding along in a swamp that is surrounded by tall cactus and red rocks!

We almost got trapped in the lagoon by the falling tide, and had to use our river-running skills to keep from running aground on the way out!

Next stop: Isla Coyote. This is another spot best reserved for calm conditions, so we hadn't been able to visit during all of the windy weather we experienced last spring. Unfortunately, this time around, while weather was favorable, we found the island nearly deserted for the upcoming holidays! We still enjoyed the whalebones and the view of surrounding islands.

We finished the day by anchoring at Isla San Francisco, where we experienced our first coromuel wind of the season. A sure sign that we are nearing La Paz!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Los Gatos

This calm weather anchorage had eluded us last spring, so we were particularly keen to stay here this time around. Sailing along the coast from Agua Verde is like taking a trip in the Grand Canyon.

When we got to Los Gatos, we found our friends Rain Shadow and Sea Horse had left us plenty of room.

We enjoyed a hike along the colorful shoreline, and discovered while snorkeling later why there are so many birds here.

The water was full of fish! However, our underwater camera doesn't seem to be very waterproof, so we'll content ourselves with photographing above water for now.

Los Gatos is a beautiful anchorage, even in silhouette.

The next morning, we had a beautiful sunrise and excellent conditions for continuing our southward passage.

Agua Verde

After a couple nights at Coronados, we motored south on a perfectly calm sea to Puerto Escondido, the only fuel dock between Santa Rosalia and La Paz. We fueled up and left as soon as we could, as we wanted to take advantage of the perfect weather. As we headed toward the Candeleros, the wind piped up and we raised the sails. However, the wind constantly changed direction, due to the high mountains nearby. We found ourselves running downwind at one time, and beating to windward a minute later. It was quite a workout to keep trimming the sails in response to the fickle breezes!
We decided to revisit one of our favorite anchorages from last season, Yellowstone Beach on Isla Monserrat. This anchorage is only tenable in calm conditions. There were no other boats at the island, and we enjoyed walking on an untracked beach. The stars burned brightly that night, undimmed by any city lights.

The next morning the wind came up early, out of the south, and we found ourselves beating to windward to reach our next destination, Agua Verde. As we closed the shoreline, the winds eased, and a large pod of dolphins came by to swim along with us for a mile or two.

We discovered a week later that this was the exact hour at which my mother passed away, several hundreds of miles to the north. However, being unaware of this at the time, we enjoyed a very nice stay at Agua Verde, with far fewer boats than during previous visits.

We snorkeled off Roca Solitaria, and later saw a pair of spotted eagle rays and a swirling "baitball" of barracuda right next to the boat.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Isla Coronados

From San Juanico, we made our way south to another favorite anchorage. Isla Coronados is protected, along with about 50 other islands in the Sea of Cortez, as part of a Biosphere Reserve. Jacques Cousteau once characterized this area as the "aquarium of the world." You need a Park Pass to visit the islands, and there are regulations similar to protected areas in the US. Our friends Ron and Maryann on Whirlwind left a few hours after us, and had a much more exciting sail in higher winds. Later in the afternoon, the wind came up and we moved to the south side of the island for better protection. We were treated to a spectacular show of dolphins leaping and somersaulting about the anchorage, presumably in search of food.

The next morning we moved back to the main anchorage to enjoy its turquoise waters and sugary sands. We did yoga, hiked along the desert shoreline, and had a nice potluck with the other boaters in the cove.

Monday, December 13, 2010

San Juanico

Two days of nice downwind sailing brought us to one of our favorite anchorages in Baja - San Juanico. I first came here 30+ years ago by sea kayak. It hasn't changed much, but development seems imminent, to judge from the survey markers and "private property" signs. For now, at least, it remains a welcome respite from civilization.

We left a couple of mementos at the "Cruisers' Shrine" for departed sailing friends.

And we went on a nice hike over to "Rancho Santa Ana" on the other side of the bay with Ron and Maryann from s/v Whirlwind.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Santa Rosalia

We spent 5 days in Santa Rosalia while I graded papers and finished other chores related to my teaching assignment. We like this town - it has a distinct personality that has not been "tarted up" for tourists. There are tons of interesting shops, great taco stands, and lots of places to walk. We were lucky that the winds were not too strong this time - it can really get dusty when it blows here.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Passing of a friend

This morning we learned that a sailing friend from last season had passed away yesterday afternoon. We first met Gary and his wife Lorri in Oceanside, when we were checking out marinas by car. We were impressed by their friendliness, their beautiful boat, s/v Endless Summer II, and their dog Buster. We didn't meet up again until Chacala, where we spent a couple of nights anchored, and then sailed onward together to Punta Mita. Gary was a retired firefighter and had been a para-rescue jumper in the military - the very picture of strength, bravery, and ability. He also was one of the friendliest cruisers in the pack, and a gifted storyteller and writer. We were always happy to come into an anchorage and see Endless Summer II.
Toward the end of a very successful first season in Mexico, Gary learned that he had leukemia, and headed home to California for treatment. He, Lorri, and the doctors fought it with everything they had, but the disease prevailed, and the world lost another wonderful human being. Fair winds, Gary, we'll always remember you fondly.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Feast of Santa Barbara

We happened to arrive in Santa Rosalia the day before the Feast of Santa Barbara, who is the patron saint of the local church. So this evening we went in to town to watch the procession and share in the feast. While we were waiting for the procession to begin, we had some great homemade tamales, tacos, and a thick yummy drink called champurrado.

The procession was led by a local marching band, but unfortunately I didn't get any good pictures of them. After the band, there was a group of dancers. They had great costumes, but I'm not sure of the meaning or significance.

The youngest dancer tripped over a traffic cone during the routine, but mom rushed out from the crowd and set him back in line before anyone knew what happened.

They were followed by a Yaqui Deer Dancer. Again, not sure what this has to do with Santa Barbara, but it was the highlight of the procession.

Next were some young girls dressed as Santa Barbara. We looked up the story of this saint - a rather gruesome story!

The entire procession made a turn through downtown, and ended up back at the church about 45 minutes later. The band played for awhile outside the church door, the dancers danced, and finally everyone went inside for mass.

This is the church which is supposedly designed by Gustave Eiffel, before he did the Tower. It's made of prefabricated metal, and dates from the late 1800s, when the whole town was run by a French mining company.

We shared tonight's festivities with crew from Third Day, Hotspur and Escape.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Northern Crossing

We got back to San Carlos on Tuesday after a week in California visiting Mark's mom. The temperature has really gotten colder, and we can't wait to head south. However, its the end of the term, and Mark needs an Internet connection for grading papers and exams, so options for moving are limited for the next week. We almost just stayed in San Carlos, but when we heard the weather report, it was too good to pass up a chance to sail the Northern Crossing to Santa Rosalia. Plus our friends Dennis and Lisette on Windward were planning to go.
So we got up at 3 this morning, dropped the mooring lines, and motored out of the bay. It was a very dark morning, with the last crescent of moon just coming up, so we used radar and a spotlight to find our way out without hitting any rocks or moored boats.
There was a little wind coming down the Sea from the NW, and after a couple of hours of motorsailing, we shut off the engine. After the sun came up, the wind continued building until we had to tuck in a reef, and still we were making over 7 knots. It was a great ride while it lasted. We were joined by pelicans, boobies, and dolphins along the way.
Unfortunately, by the time we came abeam of Isla Tortuga, the wind had veered to the north and lost strength. We motored the last 25 miles to Santa Rosalia, where we are tied up at the Singlar Marina. We went out for dinner and found some great street tacos.