Monday, April 25, 2011

Great cruising to Loreto

Doug and the Bell Rock


Apache tears in matrix - most were loose finds

Diver Fran

Fran's first photo underwater: Floating sponge

Locals harvesting Gayo clams

Gayo clams in the wild.

2030, 18 April, 2011. Anchored in Burro Cove, Bahia Conception
We are anchored in a nice quiet (at the moment) cove in the beautiful setting of Conception Bay. There is no wind and the water is a full 10 degrees warmer than anywhere we have been so far this year. Ka-Em-Te is just beside us having arrived earlier yesterday after their crossing from San Carlos. Doug and Trish are looking good and their spirits are high in preparation for their long trip back to Oregon in June.
It has been a busy 3 days since the last entry. We remained in Puerto Ballandra for another very windy day with winds up to the mid-30 knot range but shortly after midnight everything went quiet and when we got up the next morning the bay was like a mirror. We weighed anchor about 7AM and headed out towards San Juanico, arriving there by early afternoon. What we thought would be a lazy day’s motorboat ride turned into a lumpy one as the wind filled in from the north for one more blow reaching 15-17 knots at times but we only had to endure that for an hour or so before we reached San Juanico. Allegro arrived shortly after we did and we had a very pleasant evening with Scott and Marlo.
We spent part of the afternoon exploring the beaches and letting Rosie run. A few other cruisers arrived later and Rosie had a friend to chase along the beach. We visited the cruiser’s shrine at the head of the bay where boats leave a memento of their visits. There are many mementos displayed, everything from shells to shorts, all bearing the names of the boats, dates of visit and many with the names of the crew. Imagination is the key here so the more outlandish the creation the better. We saw many familiar names including Doug and Trish’s contribution of 3 years ago, a shell with their names painted on it in durable marine enamel. We’ll be passing here again so, until then, we will have to create something to mark our 3 visits. We took the time to explore 2 of the many beaches lining this beautiful bay. On one we found veins of basalt threading down to the beach from the limestone cliffs. More rocks for the collection jar....
We early left the following morning, again into calm seas. We caught 2 small Yellowfin jacks, just large enough to have a meal from each, before the wind picked up from the south. We took the opportunity to hoist the spinnaker for about an hour before the wind died again. By early afternoon we had reached Punta Conception and entered the bay. We had been calling KMT periodically but had received no answer but as we approached the anchorage areas we heard a vessel tell another that KMT was beside them in Burro Cove so we made a bee line for that anchorage. Needless to say Doug and Trish were very surprised to see us rounding their stern a short time later. The fact that they were taking baths in the cockpit may have had something to do with the surprise factor.
It was obvious from the number of tents and motor-homes filling the gaps between the permanent Mexican and Gringo palapa homes that this was the start of the Easter 2-week holiday but credit must be given to a few of the campers who put out a string of buoys to mark the swimming area and for organising a 10PM noise abatement. Too bad this doesn’t occur everywhere else in Mexico.
That evening we were invited to a pot-luck at one of the gringo residences where one of the cruisers, JC on Whiskey Charlie, was bar-b-cuing a roast of beef and one of pork. What a treat!! Luckily Fran had just baked a chocolate cake so we didn’t feel sheepish about joining the group.
We are anchored just off the residence of Geary the Sonrisa net weather man. We dropped in and paid our respects on our way to the 2 must-see sites that this place is noted for, the bell rocks and petro- glyphs. Both are a short walk away. The bell rocks are boulders with some kind of mineral content that makes them ring when hit with another stone. Once we had found and “rung” the one identified as “The bell rock” we were able to recognise several others that had similar qualities. The petroglyphs are strewn all over the hillside on boulders that must have fallen down the hillside centuries ago. Most have subjects that are unrecognisable while others depict mostly sea creatures.
1500, 20 April, Anchored in Bahia Santa Barbara
The number of personal watercraft buzzing around Burro Cove was too much so yesterday we decided to move a few miles south to Bahia Santa Barbara with an almost deserted beach. We left Bob, Pat and the Rocketman (MV Dark Side) who had just arrived the previous afternoon. Bob has been keeping us all advised on the sightings of the International Space Station sightings. The full moon and these sightings have been spectacular over the past 2 days. Whiskey Charlie and KMT also moved here and anchored close to a Canadian boat, We Rave On.
Today was one of the most enjoyable on this trip. We joined Trish and Doug on a snorkelling outing to an old wreck and then to the shallow waters near the beach. The water was much warmer than we have experienced to date, anywhere in our travels. Some locals were gathering Gayo clams and showed us how to prepare them. They have a muscle similar to a scallop’s that is primarily used in ceviche. We later had steak dinner onboard with a few gayos on the side.
After 2 days of Santa Barbara we decided to start making tracks south towards Puerto Escondido. We still have 5 days to get there but there are lots of really nice anchorages along the way. We decided to anchor in Bahia Santo Domingo near the entrance to Bahia Conception for the evening and then head out during the night to San Juanico. Santo Domingo has a very nice shell beach and we spent a few hours there and wondering what it would be like to snorkel offshore in the shallows. That will have to wait till another time. When we brought the anchor in we found a pink murex shell caught in the flukes. Now we have to convince the critter to leave his home....
We departed with KMT early this morning into a calm sea and moonlit night. We had 45 miles to go and arrived just before 1100. Rosie stood guard duty the entire way protecting us from any bad dolphins or pangas. After a few false alarms she actually saw a few dolphins but all we saw was their phosphorescent trail streaking by the boat. She is quite the different dog from last year when she hunkered down behind J-G’s pillow as soon as the engine was started. That is still her position when it is rough out or when the sails are up.
1000, Monday, 25 April 2011 At anchor in the north anchorage at Isla Coronado with KMT
It is a quiet morning in a beautiful bay, bordered with white sandy beaches and clear azure water. We woke this morning to the tell-tale “whoosh” of a whale nearby. It was a large fin whale about 100 yards from the boat feeding in the shallows. What a sight, another fin whale sighting for our log.
We spent 2 days in San Juanico with Doug and Trish exploring the beaches and shoreline around the bay. We deposited our contribution to the cruiser’s shrine. Ours is a large scallop shell with the boat name, our names and the years of our visits. Fran did a great job on it. Just hope it survives a few seasons. There are some there that date back to the mid-80s. The guide book also tells about a deposit of obsidian pebbles, better known as Apache Tears. We were able to find quite a few on a walk down the main road.
After moving to the southern anchorage we explored that coastline, found a few agates but not the clam beds we were hoping for. We’ll have to come back to this side in the future to explore the underwater ledges for lobster. We spent a very rocky night rolling in the swells that were produced by the afternoon wind.
We left San Juanico yesterday, mid-day, for the north anchorage of Isla Coronado. This has been a good choice. It was a very quiet night, no wind or swell. We are within range of the Loreto phone services so we have a good connection to the internet. Hopefully I will be able to get this blog sent with the photos that we took over the past few days.
Tomorrow we head for Puerto Escondido. We will also part company with Doug and Trish who will continue to La Paz where Doug can get some medical attention and where they can get ready for their trip back to Oregon in June.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Into the Sea of Cortez

Tidal hot springs north of Agua Verde

Anchorage at Agua Verde

Bees searching for water on Isla Carmen

10:00, 8 April 2011, under sail from Ensenada Grande, Espiritos Santos
Wow, has the last week ever gone fast, obviously a consequence of growing older. I remember when those last few weeks of school would drag on forever before the summer holidays.
We are in transit between 2 anchorages after leaving La Paz yesterday. It was a busy week. We met some great people including Jerry and Gail (Moshulu) and the people aboard Anna and Avalon, Mike on La Otra and a really weird coincidence at the restaurant on the dock where we met very good (non-sailor) friends of Lexie and Gil Ballatore who were staying at the marina motel for the night.
We went on a tour to Todos Santos with Jerry and Gail using Eduoardo’s Guide service. It was well worth paying the fee to have an in depth tour of this wonderful area. We visited the town and the surfing beach. In town we visited the Hotel California, made famous by the Eagles with their song of the same name. The town is known in Mexico as a “magic” town, one of 27 or so in the country; magic, meaning that it is a centre for black/white magic, spiritual awareness and such. The Eagles were just a bunch of your surfers and musicians at the time they stayed at the Hotel California in Todos Santos and are said to have sold their souls to the devil to have a hit song. Kinda explains the lyrics. They rose very quickly to fame after that but had a very on again off again career with many breakups. Their last and most famous reunion was in the 90’s. Don Henley, the lead singer had announced that they wouldn’t get back together again until “Hell Freezes Over”. Guess what he named the tour?? Great story, wonder if it’s true...
We finally got the stainless rails redone. It cost us more than the original job just to have the defects put right and the entire assembly polished but it was worth it. The rails now complement the paint work that was done in Guaymas. We are looking into the possibility of getting an arch made to place a lot of the ancillary equipment including solar panels and boat davits for the dinghy. That would free up a lot of deck space, something Gosling doesn’t have much of. In these waters we tow the dinghy and thus we actually have some beach space on the bow.
Along with restocking the larder and getting a few fishing bits we had a great opportunity to do a thorough cleaning of the boat. This was, in part, due to the mess the welder’s helper left after the polishing was completed but the close attention we had to the task revealed a few areas on the deck where, the paint is flaking off. We’ll have to discuss these with Francisco, our painter when we get back to Guaymas next month.
We are in a hurry to get north to Conception Bay, an area we have missed the last 3 times we have been along this coast. We bypassed it with Royal Exchange in 2007, didn’t have time in 2008 when we first arrived with Gosling and the last 2 years we have had to alter our plans because of family problems. The plan now is to get up there in the next week, spend some quality time there and then head back to Puerto Escondido for the Loreto Fest, another event we have missed. We have just learnt that KMT (Doug and Trish) will be heading there too on the first leg of their trip back home. It’ll be nice to see them again but sad to see them on their way back up the coast to Oregon.
We left La Paz just as their Bay Fest was beginning, hoping to get as far north as we can before some strong northerly winds develop on Sunday. We plan to hole up in Bahia San Francisco or San Evaristo until they pass.
As we pulled into Ensenada Grande yesterday afternoon we were surprised to see Lunautica anchored there. We hadn’t seen them since Las Hadas. Mike and Judy are on their way south and plan to bash up the outside, back to Ensenada in early May. We had a wonderful evening catching up over a great Sicilian pasta supper. They reported that Full Quiver (Pam and Steve) should be arriving in the area any day now.
2300, Saturday, 9 April 2011, Anchored at San Evaristo.
We are holed up in the northern bay at San Evaristo with Moshulu (Jerry and Gail) and 7 other boats waiting for the north winds that were predicted to arrive this afternoon to pass; problem is they haven’t arrived yet. We have good protection here much better than the conditions we faced last night.
We left Ensenada Grande after a very bumpy night with winds blowing right into the anchorage from the west. As we exited the bay the wind backed to the southwest and enabled us to sail for most of the morning. As we passed by Isla San Francisco a quick look confirmed that the conditions there were not good, in fact, Moshulu had just spent a very bad night there with westerly winds up to 25 knots and seas to 4 feet washing into the bay. A bit further north and protected from south winds is Amontejado Bay where the guide indicates a mangrove swamp accessible by dinghy. We anchored and set out in the dinghy, checked out the mangrove estuary (not very exciting), walked the beach and watched Moshulu anchor close to us. The south winds should have been a omen because all night long we had a westerly wind blow directly into the anchorage causing 3-4 ft waves and had us hobby-horsing all night. Twice J-G had to repair the snubber after it snapped. Today it has been re-designed to withstand more abuse. This morning we had confirmation that the northerly blow is still predicted to arrive today or tomorrow so we sailed across the channel to San Evaristo and are comfortably anchored in the best sheltered area of the bay.
1140, Anchored in Puerto Ballandra, Isla Carmen
This section of the blog will be a long one due to the lack of internet service along the Baja coast. We are anchored in a snug and well protected cove directly across the water from Loreto waiting out yet another strong Northerly blow. It has been predicted for the past week and just began about an hour ago. Looks like another 2-day stay and a few boat projects can be scratched off the list.
This situation is much like our stay in San Evaristo. Although the seas were quite choppy we did go ashore for daily walks along the northern beach with the occupants of a few other boats. This area is renowned for agates and shells. We found lots of agates but our goal was the elusive paper nautilus which remains “elusive”. Rosie had a blast chasing seagull shadows on the beach and got her exercise in spades. It won’t be the same here as the island is part of a national trust and pets are prohibited ashore. She needs a rest anyway as she injured a paw on the beach at San Evaristo.
Besides Moshulu there were 7 other boats there and we met the people on Santosha, Sun Baby, Westerly, Sequoia and Sunnyside. Terry, on Sunnyside proved to be a very good encounter. He is a radio expert and has written an idiot’s guides including a handbook for the ICOM 802 SSB. He guided me through the setting up of a DSC complan on both SSB and VHF. I will be looking for his books on when I get back home. Details of his books and a lot of advice can be found at:
We departed before sunrise on Tuesday and into a very flat, calm sea, in company with Jerry and Gail (Moshulu). It remained that way all the way to Agua Verde. With the blow predicted for Thursday –Friday we wanted to get as far north as we could before taking refuge again. With that plan in mind we departed the next morning with us heading for Puerto Ballandra and Moshulu for a few days in Puerto Escondido, however, conditions were too good to miss the hot springs at Cosme . We both anchored close to the location given in the Guide and took the dinghy ashore. The spring is located on a short spit between a large rock and the shore. As you land you immediately see the volcanic rock formations weathered by time but still very obvious. In the middle of the spit is a ring of rocks around a small pool where streams of bubbles can be seen oozing out of the sandy bottom and there is a faint smell of sulphur in the air. Luckily we are at low water and a zero tide otherwise the pool would be underwater. The brackish water is just warm and only about 10 inches deep but digging down into the sand gets you to a much hotter layer. After an hour of basking in the pool with Moshulu and Tioga, who arrived just after we did, we weighed anchor and continued on our way. Another, tick in the box! We had always wanted to stop at this hot spring.
As we were getting the dinghy off the rocks J-G slipped and did a number on his right shin. Fran had to play nurse again to clean the wound. It doesn’t appear to require professional help but it will look like crap for the remainder of this trip and be another cruising battle wound.
It was another motorboat ride up to Ballandra and we arrived mid-afternoon. We are sharing the bay with 3 other boats so far. We are also in a good position for internet but the Telcel signal from Loreto, just across the water from us, is a weak one.
0730, 15 Apr 2011, Anchored Puerto Ballandra
It has been a very windy night. When the wind did arrive yesterday morning it built up quickly to 20-25 kts. By late afternoon we were seeing 30-35 and that lasted most of the night. About 0300 it calmed considerably and, at the moment is is only about 8 but starting to increase again. Should be another “stay on the boat and do stuff” day. Reports last night on the net indicated that this is a fickle system. In Agua Verde, just 30 miles south, the wind remained below 10 kts all day.
Hopefully we will be able to send this out today. If there are no photos attached it will be a signal strength issue. Should that be the case, photos will be added later on. Keep posted.

Friday, April 1, 2011

La Cruz to La Paz and RIP Robyn

Cuastecomate Seafood: Botana Mixto - J-G's favourite

Fran's favourite - Ceviche

Turk's Head for the newly covered wheel

Swap Meet in La Cruz: You always buy more than you sell...

Mangoes at the Barra golf course

2300, Friday, 24 March 2011
We have been alongside at La Cruz for the past 6 days attending to a number of chores and getting ready to make our crossing across to the Baja. We have changed the engine oil, painted out the V-berth, equalized the batteries, watered up, replaced the fuse housings for the solar panels, re-marked the anchor chain and made a few other improvements but the WINLINK single side band/ham radio e-mail system still refuses to work, even after changing a broken cable. We have sent an e-mail to the experts in the hopes they can give us some advice.
We have seen several friends here including Ka’sala who will be departing here for BC via Hawaii, Matarua, also headed home via the clipper route offshore, the last leg of their round the world 11-year odyssey. This is the time of year that many of the boats headed for the Marquesas are departing. Several have left Bandaeras bay in the past few days and some of our friends have taken to challenge. Periclees, Distant Shores and Dream Away have been reporting in to the morning and evening nets. We have even heard from 2 BC boats that are transiting west from South America; Silas Crosby a single- hander from Vancouver and our friends Geoff and Linda on Curare, on their way to Easter Island. We have also learned that Naida has decided to call it quits and are preparing to ship the boat home by Dockwise in mid-May.
We have a few more items to complete before we leave La Cruz but we hope to be headed north tomorrow to meet up with Third day in San Blas before heading across to La Paz. All indications point to a respite from the strong northerlies early next week. We were hoping for southerlies and a nice sail across but, with the weather you have to take what you can get and if we have to power all the way, so be it. Looks like, we will have lots of company with many boats heading the same way.
Today we received some sad news. Robyn,our (ex) daughter-in-law succumbed to cancer this morning, less than a 18 months after she first detected it. She put up a brave fight but in the end, it was too aggressive. She leaves behind her daughter Jessica, 17 and Kyle 10.

0900, Sunday, 27 March. Anchored in the estuary, San Blas
We decided to do an overnight passage to San Blas and arrived an hour ago. We are hoping to see Rich and his family on Third Day. They have been the target of a smear campaign by Norm Goldie, the self-imposed head gringo of San Blas. Over the past few years he has succeeded in alienating many cruisers from this lovely town with his radio antics. We won’t have to deal with Norm this time. On our way in we heard Norm calling his home base saying he was on his way to Isla Isabella on a fishing trip.
We should be here only overnight and away tomorrow morning early to take advantage of the weather window for crossing the Sea towards La Paz. Don is predicting 10-15 kts. northerlies for the week, down from the normal 20-30 kts, typical of this time of year. It will not be a comfortable crossing but hopefully we will get there before the winds fill in again.
All attempts to send this off in San Blas failed so we will cover the trip across the Southern Crossing in this one as well.

Wed, 30 March 2011, At Sea.
We are 2 days out of San Blas and if all goes well we should be arriving in La Paz tomorrow. It has been an uneventful 2 days, mostly under power due to lack of wind and , when it does come up, it is right on the nose. Our main and mizzen are up so we are ready if it does shift to our advantage.
We left the estuary at San Blas early Monday morning and bid farewell to Third Day who was intending on leaving the next day and following us across. The radio traffic indicates quite a few boats underway, most headed for Mazatlan before making the crossing and another lot making the crossing from Mazatlan.
Our first day was a choppy ride into a 12-15 kt breeze. We tried to sail but after a few hours we had to give it up because of the wind angle driving us well off our intended track. It was quite a wet ride with the occasional wave breaking over the bow but not an uncomfortable one. This window will only last a few days so the more we make towards our destination the less we will have to endure the northerly winds expected along the Baja shore in a few days. There they can be quite nasty at this time of year.
In the afternoon Fran listened to Norm broadcasting his normal tirade against Rich and his family. Fran had enough and responded to him in kind. With Third day leaving we wonder who will be his next target.
Yesterday was a completely different day. There was a nice smooth south-westerly swell and little or no wind until late afternoon when a few ripples could be seen. We came across a pod of large dolphins, much larger than those we see in the Sea of Cortez. They stayed with us for a few hours. With the stable deck and calm conditions Rosie actually came up on deck and almost barked herself hoarse as she ran up and down the deck defending us against those man-eating dolphins.... Good exercise for her. Rosie seems to be more comfortable on the boat this year, Although she hides behind J-G’s pillow most of the time she has been more active on deck this season. She is eating better and drinking and therefore does her business when it is relatively calm. She was trained to do her business on the bow and she is adamant that is where it has to be done. It is funny to see her crouching down and almost airborne when we go over a wave. She is still nervous of those big flappy white things (sails) but we are hopeful that she’ll overcome that phobia.
Later on that morning we broke the dorado spell when we landed a 23 lb dorado. It was quite a fight but seeing its beautiful colours and its mate circling we decided to release it. What would we do with all that fish anyway?? Maybe a smaller one will bite today. We found a nice plump flying fish on the deck this morning. That should make an irresistible bait. Note: We did hook a large Dorado the following day but it broke the line taking J-G’s “guaranteed to catch Dorado “ lure with it. It was a biggie to break the same line we caughtthe 23 lb on.
We continue to hear lots of boats reporting in on the VHF radio. This seems to be an ideal spot for VHF propagation. We have spoken to several friends in Mazatlan and others south of San Blas and many others north of us on their way to the Baja. Rose of Erin and Naida have arrived in Mazatlan and Full Quiver and Faith are close to departing. We also heard from Optical Illusion. Bill and Janet are getting the boat ready to store bit for the summer and head back home.

2300, 30 March, At Sea
We actually sailed today!! At 0730 this morning the wind backed and came up to 15 kts. We put up the genoa and sailed as close as we could to the wind and were making 6 kts at times, and in the general direction where we wanted to go. What a bonus!! We sighted land as the sun came up and we are now approaching the Ceralvo Channel that leads to the pass we must transit to make the approaches to La Paz. It is going to be a long night...
We have been eating the mangoes we collected at the golf course at Barra. The course was built on what used to be a coconut, tamarind and mango plantation. While walking Rosie J-G brought his backpack and filled it. They have been ripening rapidly onboard and Fran has had to be creative in making mango dishes. I (J-G) think they are the best fruit going next to peaches.

0900, 31 March 2011, Alongside Marina Palmira, La Paz
We have arrived and it is already sweltering. The breakwater around the marina is a good windbreak and we could use some of the breeze we had yesterday. As predicted, it was a long night but a pleasant one. The wind died just after sunset and it remained light the rest of the way. We are hearing about quite a few vessels that have had fuel issues on this crossing. Powering all the way means fuel consumption that many boaters do not expect. As it is we arrived with 7 gallons remaining in the tank of the 66 we left La Cruz with.
We’ll be here for the next week. Fran would like to see Todos Santos and there is a daily bus excursion that goes there, We’ll also try to get the stainless work finished here, or at least schedule it for next December when we expect to pass through again.