Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Adventures with Mike and Dove

1300, Friday, 30 January 2015, Anchored at Mangle Solo, Isla San Jose
We are tucked into a wide bay at the northern end of Isla San Jose, about 60 miles from La Paz where we began our latest adventure last Thursday. Mike and Dove arrived a few days before we left and, since then, we have moved steadily north stopping at Bahia Grande, Isla San Francisco, San Evaristo and, last night, the Salinas anchorage just south of here. It has been a blustery trip so far with northerly winds whipping up to 30-35 kts at times so progress has been slow.
Mike hiking Isla San Francisco

The wind abated overnight and the clouds have increased to a point where you could swear that you were in the inland waterways of BC in late summer complete with misty shorelines and fog, very un-Mexican weather for this time of year. It has been raining steadily for the past 2 hours and we have rigged the rain catcher Fran made in Panama last year, the first time it has been used. So far we have collected about ¼ of a jug of water. Better than nothing but necessary with 4 people sharing Gosling’s 120 gallons of water. The salt we have collected from the salt ponds at Isla San Francisco and Salinas and laid out to dry on the dash is collecting humidity instead of shedding it….
Rainy and windy
We finally met up with Bill and Linda (Tanque de Tiburon) in San Evaristo and spent 2 evenings practising our pot luck skills. They are now headed for La Paz where we will join up in a few weeks. (Note: Their gearbox failed shortly after departing and they eventually had to be towed to La Paz.) San Evaristo was a good stop this time. On our second day we went for a walk along the beach looking for more agates and the elusive paper nautilus we have heard so much about. Fran found a very nice specimen and Mike and I found broken shells amongst the flotsam, plus a small bucket of agates that will end up in Mike’s tumbler back home; more shiny rocks to litter the house. You see strange sights along the coast and then other day we had a panga come through the anchorage with 3 tourists and 4 goats….

Large but damaged paper nautilus
Salinas was another interesting shore walk, through the remains of an old salt production facility where the salt pans are still producing but only cruisers are collecting. The old machinery, which consists of abandoned trucks, a tractor and a bull dozer are rotting away. It is amazing to see how much they have deteriorated in the past 5-6 years from the photos in Sean and Heather’s Guide to the Sea of Cortez.

The weatherman has predicted another day of strong northerly winds but this rain is telling a very different. Already the wind has abated and turned to the southeast. The next 3 days are predicted to be good for heading north and then turning to northerlies for our return trip – ideal conditions, if it happens.
20:30, Wednesday, 4 February 2015 At anchor, Salinas Bay, Isla San Jose

Even though we are just a few miles from where we were last Friday, we have not been still. Shortly after the above was entered on the computer the southerly winds increased drastically forcing us to leave the anchorage.  We also got more heavy rain and managed to collect another half jug of rain water. The system moved through as we headed north to Los Gatos and by the time we got there is had blown itself out and we were left with a nice breeze from the SW. Meanwhile Tanque de Tiburon, 30 miles to the south was under sail battling headwinds up to 30 kts and 4-5 ft seas with a duff gearbox.
Los Gatos is another of our favourite spots, with its smooth sandstone shoreline and 3 very nice beaches. We stayed long enough to snorkel and do more beachcombing. The evening before we left we were visited by our old fisherman friend, Manuel. He still looks good after all these years and knew definitely that we were last there 4 years ago. We asked him for lobster but he claimed not to be able to dive anymore because of his health but the following morning he showed up with 2 lobsters, one a spiny langusta and the other still remains a mystery, but was it ever sweet; the flavour very similar to the Atlantic lobsters we are used to up North. (Note: Later identified as a rock slipper lobster) That night we were amazed to see the thunderheads on the mainland lighting up the sky. The SSB nets tell of quite a rainy few days along the mainland coast as far south as Manzanillo  - very unusual.
Los Gatos
Manuel and losters

 Rock slip Lobster

Chef Mike and tail meat from the rock slip
From Los Gatos we headed to the hot springs a few miles north of Agua Verde for a short dip then back to Agua Verde for a few days. We found a new tienda on the south shore that was quite well stocked. We asked for tortillas and were told to come back in 30 minutes after the owner made them up. Mike went hiking up the arroyo to see if he could find the source of the town’s water supply. He did find some deep pools but was unable to reach the waterfall where the town’s 3 inch, 8 km, water pipe starts. That evening we had our first raft up of the season with the boats in the anchorage; Sparx, Little Laura, Touchstone and Dirigo II, a beautiful 1937 schooner from Friday Harbour that we have met in several places over the past week.
Hot springs dip

 Dirigo II sunset

Agua Verde water supply mountain pools

We left yesterday headed for Timbabiche where Mike and Dove wanted to explore the lagoon. As we rounded the first headland we had indications of an alternator failure. We decided to pull into Bahia San Marte, replaced the alternator with one of our spares and continued on to Timabiche, reaching there at sunset. By that time I had come down with a full blown case of prostatitis and I was out of commission for 24 hours leaving Fran and out new crew to anchor the boat. This morning after Fran, Mike and Dove completed their excursion into the lagoon we weighed anchor and sailed south to where we are now. We had a very nice sail in 15-17 kts of wind with only the genoa up reaching 7 kts. What fun!! I am feeling much better already.
Lagoon manroves

The alternator failure was another first for us and explained why we had been using so much battery power over the past week. Overnight expenditure was almost 3 times what we were used to but we put it off to heavier usage due to the extra company but after the replacement we were back to normal so we realised it had been failing for some time. Who knew that a bad alternator would drain a battery system! Another lesson learnt.
Tomorrow more lagoons to explore then decide on the last few stops before heading back to La Paz.  
2200, 9 February 2015 Alongside Dock 430, marina Palmira, La Paz

After Timbabiche we returned to the Salinas anchorage, where we had been the previous week. The excursion ashore yielded yet more salt which we hope to process back home into some of those expensive designer salts that have gained so much popularity. The following morning we sailed south and around the next point, anchoring for a few hours off the entrance to a mangrove lagoon that Mike and Dove had wanted to see. We then moved south towards Isla Partida and stopped in Ensenada Cardonal for the night. Our target destination was still an hour further south so the following morning we set out early and arrived in Ensenada Candelero in late morning.
Abandoned salt pans

Salt crystals

Of all the beautiful coves and bays on Isla San Jose, Ensenada Candelero is our favourite location. The water is a light aquamarine colour, a slight bit warmer because of its shallow shoreline and the two islands have a multitude of fish and other sea life, colourful coral and superb visibility for this time of year. We snorkeled there for a few hours, until our shorty suits ceased to protect us from the cold. We showered on deck with our ‘hot’ sun shower bags and sailed off, once again for another bay. Safari Endeavour had arrived a few hours earlier and were disgorging their guests by the boatload. Good time to leave.

 Above photos taken seconds apart show a trumpet fish camouflage technique
 Schools of fish at Candelero

Moorish Idol, Candelero
Ensenada Gabriel is the most southerly anchorage on Isla San Jose. It has the prerequisite super beach and is the location of an old pearl oyster fishery. It is also the jumping off location for a hike to Bonanza beach, on the other side of the island. We set off across the island the following morning, through a desert landscape. The vegetation was very interesting with many varieties of cactus, scrub trees struggling to exist in the parched ground, different bird species from the coast and a few shy squirrels and rabbits. When we finally arrived at Bonanza, 90 mins later, we had to admit that it was worth the trek, however we could have done without the espinosas, small bundles of thorns that stick to the soles of your footwear. They actually look like miniature spikey sea urchins or the classic sea mines seen in war movies.  If you have thin or soft soled shoes you run the risk of getting the longer thorns through into your feet. Yours truly can attest to that. Thank God it was only one thorn in my foot but I have picked several dozen from the soles of my crocs.

Hiking across to Bonanza. Agave flower.

Bonanza beach
Juvenile urchin found close to old pearl farm
San Gabriel sunset
We were back aboard Gosling by 1400, weighed anchor and headed to our last anchorage before returning to the marina. We arrived at Puerto Ballandra an hour later and decided that the wind conditions were adequate to stay there for the night. In reality, the wind was in the 12-15 kt range on arrival but died off after sunset. The swell continued to roll us for part of the night but eventually smoothed out allowing us a decent night’s sleep. Mike and Dove took advantage of their last afternoon at sea and spent a few hours exploring the bay with the kayak.
Sundown was a special event for the kids last evening at sea. Fran had brought a jar of preserved hibiscus flowers she had found at the market on Saltspring Island last summer. She had also stashed away a bottle of champagne, (actually it was the bottle we didn’t have for New Year’s Eve). She mixed the two together for a truly unique and memorable cocktail. Later, after dinner it was another Downton Abbey evening. Games night was the previous evening – Fran’s rules….
Cocktail time

Cocktails in the cockpit....

Yesterday we were away by 09:30, fueled up on the way into the harbour and arrived at Palmira by 11:30.

We are back to where we began our trip with Mike and Dove only 2 weeks ago. How time has flown! Mike and dove left this afternoon to spend their last night in the comfort of a hotel room before flying home tomorrow. The V-berth, with its separate beds was not an option for their last night in Mexico.

It has been a great 2 weeks with them aboard. They pitched in to the routine of the boat from start to finish. They decided where we would go and their choices were welcome as we had not been to many of their chosen anchorages.

Mike: sans moustache

It was sad to see the kids leave but our next few days will be full with equipment to send ashore for servicing, sorting through 156 e-mails and getting ready for our trip to Mexico City. I will have Javier, a local boat worker, redoing the teak around the cockpit and aft house top and I will be re-bedding 2 port-lights before we leave Thursday. Never a dull moment.
Happy happy!

Never too many sunset shots