Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Sea of Cortez, finally!!

11:00, Sunday 4, January 2015 Fonatur Docks, Guaymas

Happy New Year to everyone. As you can see from our location we have not moved. Our plans to leave last week and cross to the other side were dashed, yet again, by a stubborn engine and bad weather. Pura Vida did leave but returned a few hours later with an engine overheat problem that was quickly sorted out but they then decided to stay and celebrate New Year’s with the dock gang. Fran is making a birthday cake for one of the cruisers here and we will be going out to the Dougout (founded by Doug something or other) for a birthday party lunch. The special there is crabmeat, already shelled. 1 Liter container with cucumber, crackers and tostados for about $12, plenty for 2 people (note: They were out of crab!!! Had to settle for shrimp meat instead, oh darn!)

We are missing the kids but are keeping in touch by Facebook. Mike and Dove just celebrated Ukrainian Christmas and Chris and our grandson, Kyle are at a hockey tournament in Pembroke, ON. Kyle has a nasty cold but is the scoring leader for his team. His team is doing very well and should be in the finals later today. We are proud grandparents!!

Over the past few days it has been blowing like stink for a few hours then calm for a few hours before starting up again. Last night it began about 20:00 and blew 18-28 kts until about 04:00. Temperatures lately have plunged with this northern Arctic flow reaching all the way down here. The min-max thermometer in the salon was reset a few weeks before Christmas and has recorded a minimum of 52F (11C) (last night was the coldest) and a max of 72F (23C), the normal daytime temp, but it does feel warmer outside in the sun. Everything is pointing to a big change for the better in the weather next week. Hopefully it will get warmer. Water temp here is 53F so swimming will definitely be curtailed. What a difference from the conditions we had in Panama last year! Friends in Mazatlán and PV are reporting much warmer, even hot conditions.

New Years was a quiet affair with a small party on Gitana, featuring a tequila tasting from Janis and Greg’s stock. By 21:00 everyone was ready for the sack, and most retired early but Fran and I stayed up to bring in the New Year, watch the fireworks and make a lot of noise with our air horns. It was nice to see the Mexican tradition of launching hot air balloons (essentially a plastic bag with a heat source) into the night sky. The winds were light so they rose quickly and floated high above the city until the heat source died. They then fell back to the ground and added to the litter. We also heard gunfire at midnight, another Mexican tradition (but now illegal) but it wasn’t machine gun fire like our mechanic heard from his house.

04:00, Thursday, 8 January, Sea of Cortez, enroute to San Juanico

Yes, the engine is working fine and we have finally escaped the clutches of Guaymas. Seems our problem was a loose fuel line connection so we over-reacted and replaced all the fuel lines and the electric fuel pump. Take that gremlin!! Tuesday’s departure was delayed by weather and our first attempt yesterday afternoon was thwarted by a high gearbox oil pressure. The only work done on the gearbox this season had been a replaced cooling hose so that was the focus of our attention. A call to Omar re-enforced that assumption so a replacement set of hoses was obtained from a local hydraulic hose shop and quickly installed. No difference, but, oh wait! Don’t you have to bleed that system too? Nothing in the manual but what is there to lose but a few squirts of oil, huh? Sure enough, that fixed the problem. Didn’t need the new hoses after all but they will be another ‘piece of mind’ issue and we’ll have a spare set that we will never need.

Earlier yesterday Pura Vida departed but returned a few hours later, this time with an auto-pilot problem. They are hoping that their repair can be done in a few days. (Note: a broken gear in the control arm means an indeterminate wait until a new part arrives) Meanwhile, Goldenheart (Lee and Cynthia) are in Nogales waiting delivery of their engine parts so that they can leave. It almost felt like a technical problem epidemic on that dock.

We are half way across the Sea and should arrive by early afternoon tomorrow. We left in grey skies with a few scattered showers, very rare here for this time of year. We now have clear skies and a moonlit night, just past full moon. Sailing conditions are close to ideal with a beam wind of 10-15 kts, 3 ft seas and we are actually sailing with reefed sails as is our habit for night sailing and there have been no contacts since we left the harbour approaches. We are averaging about 4.2 kts. It could be warmer, but we are bundled up and have lots of hot coffee. For the next 10 days we will be hopping down the coast and staying at our favourite anchorages on our way to La Paz. We’ll have to save our visit to Conception Bay for our return trip later this spring after our jaunt to Mexico City.

22:00, 8 January, Anchored in Caleta San Juanico

We are at anchor in this beautiful bay, with 12 feet of crystal water below the keel. There is only one other boat in the next cove, a few kayakers and a truck and camper on the beach. It is perfectly still and quiet. What a difference from Guaymas! This is certainly the reason we wanted to leave. It is with relief and apprehension that we spend the first night at anchor each season. Being afloat and relying on our own power sources, supplies and water, away from the security afforded by a marina, without the internet that we have relied on these past months and having to make do with our own ingenuity and skills takes a bit of getting used to.

Juvenile Ospreys on a nest on a rock in the anchorage

20:30. 12 January, Anchored in Agua Verde

The weather has remained quite mild for the past 5 days and we have visited many of our old haunts. During our stay in San Juanico we visited the cruisers’ shrine where cruisers leave a personalized memento of some kind. They vary from inscriptions in the sandstone rocks to hats, flags, carvings and more. We were hoping to find the painted shell we left 3 years ago but it has either faded or weathered away. There are lots of blank shells. We will be looking for something more permanent to leave when we return in a few months. We were sad to see that Doug and Trish’s (Ke-Em-te) shell had also disappeared.

Since San Juanico we have stopped at Bahia Ballandra, Honeymoon Cove and Yellowstone beach before arriving here at Agua Verde. We explore every beach for shells that Fran can use for her jewelry making. As we head south the beaches seem to be more and more devoid of nice specimens. Because of its isolated location and north facing beach we expected Yellowstone Beach, on the northern end of Isla Monserrat, to be excellent but it proved otherwise. 5 years ago that was the place where I endured 4 hours of excruciating pain after being stung by a cone shell. Shortly after, almost as compensation, we also found a pristine cone shell (empty) , but this time, apart from a dead turtle, there was nothing of interest.
Sunset Puerto Ballandra
Honeymoon Cove
Yellowstone Beach (yellow cliffs)

We have been very surprised to be the only boat in most of the anchorages. We are early and there will definitely be more boats here in a few months. On arrival here, however, there was a small “Un-Cruise” cruise ship, the Safari Endeavour, that a friend we met in Guaymas works on as a steward. As we rounded the ship’s stern Jordan came running out and greeted us. Nice! The ship will be leaving later this evening to continue their cruise. It is a small ship (max 85 pax) but prices for a week are exorbitant and way out of our price range.
M/V Safari Endeavour

Agua Verde has seen a few changes. There are a few more huts on the beach adjacent to the north anchorage and an odd fenced in compound with a solid roof covering a few tents. Some of the occupants are dressed in camo gear and have powerful looking binoculars and sighting scopes trained on the hills above the bay; mysterious…. On the beach in front of the tiny village are several gringo campers, a new sight on these remote beaches. The local goat population wasn’t wandering the beaches this time but we were assured that they are still in residence by the owner of a small tienda, in the village where we bought some of the local goat cheese. We were surprised how mild and “ungoatly” it tastes. Fishing here was great! Another trigger fish and a cabrillo sacrificed themselves.
Anchored in Agua Verde
Police or Army or .....
Trigger fish

21:00, Thursday, 15 January 2015 Anchored at San Evaristo

We left Agua Verde after 2 days. The forecasted weather is not good for the next 2 days so we opted to miss Los Gatos this time (no lobster for Fran) and head directly for San Evaristo and wait out the predicted gale force winds. We departed in a freshening norther and increasing seas and made it to San Evaristo by mid-afternoon. Even in this well protected refuge we were battered by 15-20 kt winds that night and the following day. One of the 5 boats in the anchorage, a Canadian vessel from Nanaimo, Tradewind Seeker, re-anchored close by the next day. We had Roger over for supper. Fran had baked bread this afternoon and it went well with the turkey breast.

19:00, Saturday, 17 Jan Anchored in Caleta Partida, Isla Espiritu Santo

We haven’t lingered very long in any of the anchorages over the past few days. With our scheduled arrival in La Paz, tomorrow we wanted to get closer to cut down the time it will take to get there in case the weather turns. So far the winds are predicted to be in the 18-22 kts range as they have been for the past few days. Today we even had a brief rain shower.

We are now in a comfortable, sheltered, anchorage surrounded by beautiful sandy beaches with azure blue water below us. We spent last night in another beautiful bay 4 miles north of here, Ensenada Grande. This entire island system is a national park and the authorities try to keep it as pristine as possible and it appears that they are succeeding. Apart from a few fishing camps that pre-date the park the only visitors are cruisers and a few tourist boats that make the trip from La Paz for paying passengers. Yesterday we were 4 miles north in another similar anchorage at Bahia Grande. There are more boats now. As we get closer to La Paz we are seeing more cruiser traffic on the water enjoying these wonderful anchorages. In another few months there will be many more boats as the boats that are now further south begin to migrate north with the arrival of the warmer currents and higher temperatures to this area.

Tomorrow, La Paz and in a few days we will be joined by the “kids”. We are looking forward to the company.

22:00 Tuesday, 20 January 2014, Alongside Marina Palmira

Night # 3 in La Paz. We had a wonderful sail from Caleta Partida, arriving here by early afternoon. As we entered the bay we stopped for fuel at another marina, Costa Brava where they have a 500 ft dock with several pumps. We were the only boat there but almost directly across from the fuel dock was an impressive sight, the largest single-masted sloop, (OK, Super Yachct) ever built, the M5, formerly the Mirabella 5. She is made entirely of composite material, 250 ft long, 50 ft beam, 30 ft draught (13 with the retracting keel in place), 270 ft tall rig, and 816 ton displacement. The mast and rigging were recently replaced with carbon fibre technology and eliminated 30.5 tons of rigging weight. She was the largest and last vessel of a 5-vessel fleet built for the owner of the Avis rent-a-car company in 2003 but is now privately owned by a Texas oil billionaire. At an estimated $50 million original cost she was originally chartered for $ ½ million per week.  She is certainly worth a google search.
M5, Impressive!!!

We are back at our favourite marina in La Paz. We have stayed here several times in the past and have met several old friends, including Damon and Erin, formerly of Rose of Erin and now of Nomad, a large trimaran. Nothing much has changed but there is a new enterprise, Tech-Mex, run by Kim and Rob Cross, BC cruisers from Victoria who offer full mechanical, electric and rigging services, something that was sorely lacking here in the past. Last time we saw them was a few years ago as we were working on refloating Little Fawn from a beach at Agua Verde.

We had a big shop today, thanks to Damon’s generous taxi service and we are ready for our next adventure with Mike and Dove who arrive tomorrow night. We should be departing in a few days for the Islands and hope the weather stays as nice as it has been these past few days.