Friday, April 3, 2015

More northerly in the Sea of cortez

0730, 5 March 2015, Anchored at Puerto Los Gatos, BCS

We are, once again, anchored in this lovely little bay, the third and last time this season. We are finally on our way to the northern part of the Sea of Cortez, and, as usual, the weather is holding us at bay. We departed La Paz 5 days ago and made good progress with favourable winds until yesterday when the northerlies filled in once more.

We are in company with Pura Vida, Mike and Judy, our friends from Guaymas who had been delayed so long at the Fonatur dock there with technical problems. They arrived in La Paz shortly after we returned from our excursion inland and decided to match their schedule to ours for the next few weeks.

It was another busy week before we finally slipped our lines and left the dock at Marina Palmira. The main task was finishing the job that Javier had begun. His refinishing work for the teak trim was quite well done and the application of a few more coats of varnish has made it look even better. After remounting all the windshield hardware all that was left to do was the teak-to-gelcoat filler, a very messy job but a necessary one. It took a while to remove Javier’s failed attempt and develop an effective technique but, once the job was done, there was a collective sigh of relief onboard and we were able to concentrate on our final preps for departure. The other outstanding task was to get the SSB functioning and that was accomplished by Victor, the ICOM technician, in La Paz, that SaM and David, on Islena, had recommended. He found a problem in the tuner and I laid out a new copper ribbon to the hull-mounted ground plate. That combination has improved our ability to communicate close to the capability we had a few years ago but we still have a high level of static for some reason.

It was difficult to bid farewell to the many old and new friends in La Paz but we had to move on if we wanted to get to the northern part of the Sea before returning to Guaymas. The weather predictions were ideal for the following few days and, with Fran is now wanting to haul out in early April, time is of essence.

For the first few days we retraced our path up the coast, stopping in at several anchorages we had already seen this season and trying to get as far north as we could while the favourable winds were with us. Day 3 saw us leaving Isla San Francisco towards the anchorage at Salinas hoping that the predicted 15-20 kt northerlies would be delayed. As we passed by San Evaristo the wind was still from the south but the sky was a heavy overcast with a threat of rain. We decided to take advantage of the southerlies and continued on to Los Gatos, where we are now. The rain did develop and was, by far, the most intense we have experienced in many years of travelling this coast at this time of year. It was a regular downpour for the better part of 3 hours and we used the rain-catcher to collect as much as we could.

We arrived at Los Gatos, to an empty bay and tucked ourselves as deep as we could to get as much protection from the northerlies that were surely coming and, sure enough, they arrived the following day blowing 18-25 kts from the NW. We were fairly comfortable but the wrap-around effect at the headland meant an uncomfortable night. Surprisingly the wind died in the early hours of the morning, completely defying the SSB weather predictions. We stayed an extra day enjoying this lovely bay and hoping that Manuel, our fisherman friend, would make an appearance but we were told by a couple of land cruisers that his wife is ill and he has taken her to medical facilities inland. We had some gifts for him that will now have to wait till our next visit, whenever that will be.

07:30, Sunday, 8 March 2015, Anchored at Agua Verde

The weather predictions are still calling for strong northerlies but we have been experiencing very calm conditions over the past few days. Agua Verde in getting more crowded as the season progresses. We arrived to a group of 5 boats and have seen the arrival and departure of several boats over the past few days. Today will be our turn as we continue to head north, this time to Puerto Escondido.

We have finally heard from Saren Sea. They arrived in La Paz a few days ago from the mainland and we expect them to join us in the next week or so. We have not sailed with Angus and Rolande since 2010 when they still had Pericles. Since then they sailed Pericles across the Pacific, sold her in Australia and, last summer, they bought Murray Grey from Jim and Bonnie, (who are now concentrating on raising their herd of Murray Grey cattle) and renamed her Saren Sea. (note: The following week we heard tat Saren Sea crossed over to Guaymas to take advantage of favourable wind conditions. We will have to see them back home this summer)

Yesterday we took advantage of the calm weather and went fishing near the big rock, Solitario, with Mike and Judy. We brought back a load of triggerfish, a cabrillo and a sculpin, but, as I was ashore cleaning the lot a local fisherman arrived and sold Fran a huge Cabrillo. I guess we are having fish for supper….. And it was superb!!!

17:30, Wednesday, 11 March 2015. Anchored in the southern area of Isla Coronado

The following morning we noticed that the shrimper we had seen on previous visits was, again, anchored in the bay. An elderly local man was paddling his panga out that way from the beach so I offered him a tow. It just so happened that he was the brother of the shrimper captain. We got 2 kg of big shrimp for our Good Samaritan work…..
Our trip up to Puerto Escondido was uneventful. It was another motor sailing cruise for the two vessels in very little wind and calm waters. We had not been to this spot in 4 years and little had changed except that the mooring buoys have just recently been re-established and the restaurant opened the night before we arrived. We had forgotten how beautiful and serene this harbour can be. We experienced absolutely calm conditions the entire time we were there. It was great to finally be able to reconnect by internet, have big water showers, do laundry, fuel and water up over the 2 days we were there.

One of our aims on this trip is to see as much wildlife as possible and, even though we have been quite fortunate with many species, we had not seen any whales. The day we left the morning radio net announced that there were whales just outside the harbour and shortly after we left we saw some telltale spouts in the channel. We got as close as we could and witnessed a sight we had never seen before; one family pod and several single blue whales! Conditions could not have been better. There was no wind and the sea was absolutely calm and they were visible for miles. We saw several others on our way to Loreto where we hoped to re-provision but by the time we arrived to anchor off the entrance to the harbour the wind had come up to 15-18 kts.  We quickly abandoned that idea and motored up to the southern side of Isla Coronado where we anchored in a relatively calm waters sheltered from the northerly wind that continued until after sunset.
 Big blue.
Going deep!

This morning we set out early to return to Loreto. Even though the wind came up we were not to be deterred from our shopping this time. We spent a few hours in town and had lunch at a small restaurant close to the harbour called the Giggling Dolphin. It is owned (or was) by a diver from San Diego who had set up a dive touring business in Loreto. I was blown away by one of the diving/nautical paraphernalia that was strewn about the place. Just beside our table was a hatch cover that looked familiar. Indeed it was a hatch cover from a Canadian DDE, specifically, the hatch to 12 mess on HMCS Yukon, on which I served in the early 80’s. HMCS Yukon is now resting on the bottom near San Diego, having been sunk as an artificial reef some years ago. Small world!  How the hatch ended up here will remain a mystery for now.

Couldn't block out the "The" unfortunately.
Naval vessels do not have the "The" prefix.

Our return to our anchored boats was difficult and retrieving the outboards was an even greater challenge in the 3-4 ft seas that had built up while we were in town but we did manage and headed back to the south side of Isla Coronado for another night. We are confident that the weather will change for the better tomorrow and we will be able to reach Caleta San Juanico before the next wind event arrives.

One feature that cannot be underestimated is how this part of the rugged coastline of the Baja has been transformed by the unseasonal wet weather. Everything is so much greener than we have ever seen it.

21:00, Friday, 13 march 2014, Anchored at Caleta San Juanico

We made an early departure from Isla Coronado into calm seas and no wind for the 19 mile run. 4 hours later we were anchored, once again, in this lovely bay along with several other boats, some we had met before. Our main aim here was to create a more lasting memento, at the cruisers’ shrine, of our visits over the past years. We had thought this one over and had noticed that the modern ‘petroglyphs’ of names carved into the local sandstone seem to have lasted best. I found the proper tools in the toolbox, a hammer, an old file (used as a chisel), black paint and a suitable candidate stone and within a few hours the task was done. Gosling’s stone will remain from some time to come.

Tomorrow, on to Conception Bay. Wind predictions are favourable but the ‘predictors’ are often wrong.

15:00, Thursday, 16 March 2015, Anchored at Santispac, Bahia Conception

We arrived here last Saturday after an 11 hour run up from San Juanico, once again, battling 12-18 kt headwinds all the way. As we approached Punta Conception the water was red with plankton bloom and directly ahead of us a huge blue whale sounded. We were too late, again, with the camera to catch it on video but it was a sight to remember. As we entered the bay we heard a rattling noise from the front of the engine. Everything was working fine so we deduced it was a noisy bearing on the alternator. It was replaced the following day with one of the 2 rebuilt spares. At the same time we also replaced all of the belts on the engine – preventative maintenance….

This is our second stop here at Santispac. We are just off a beach full of RVs and within ear shot of the main highway that runs the length of the Baja. It can be noisy at times with the big trucks using their engine brakes as they coast down the hill but once we settle down for the night (and I remove my hearing aids) I hear nothing. It has been hot and breezy during the day but absolutely still at night with cool temperatures making it easy to sleep.

We stayed here 2 days the first time, long enough to replace the alternator and partake in the pig BBQ on Sunday night at Armando’s restaurant. We also learned that Wednesday night is the BBQ rib fest at Anna’s, the other beach restaurant. Yes, it seems we are motivated by pork feeds…..

Bahia Conception has many anchorages for cruising boats to enjoy so after 2 days we moved down the coast to Bahia Coyote to join other Guaymas friends on Ashira and Windsong. Ashira had a kayak for sale and Fran had been on the prowl for one. We are now owners of an inflatable Hobie Mirage 12i, foot pedal operated (and paddle) kayak. It is quite the piece of kit but will take up a lot more room than the hookah we sold in La Paz. So much for downsizing…. While there, we did spot a whale shark cruising the shallows. We also found the ‘warm’ spring indicated in the guidebook and found the water to be fresh enough to use in our deck shower bags and filled a big bucket for washing clothes.
Warm spring

The following day we moved a bit further down the coast to Playa Santa Barbara. We were last here with Trish and Doug in mid-April 2011. We have bittersweet memories of that visit knowing that Doug’s ongoing battle with cancer is not over. We have just learned that he is undergoing another intensive bout of chemo-therapy. We stayed for part of the day, had a good swim and enjoyed a feed of scallops before heading back to Santispac for the rib fest. The ribs were excellent but do not hold a candle to those of Fat Fish in Mazatlan.

Today we took a ride into Mulege for fresh veggies and some internet work. Looks like we will be departing tomorrow for points north. We will be leaving our buddy boat, Pura Vida. Mike and Judy will be heading directly to Guaymas from here to lay Pura Vida up for the summer, then home to Portland Oregon. In a few days all of these beaches will be invaded by hordes of campers getting into the swing of the Easter holidays. The 2 weeks on either side of Easter are crazy times in Mexico and beaches are best left to the locals. I pity the land-cruisers that will remain here. One local told us that there will be over a thousand visitors to this beach (Santispac) with their tents, generators, screaming kids, motorbikes, watercraft and banda music boom boxes, each trying to drown out their neighbours.

One aspect of boating that is still bothering me after all these years is the lack of good charts in Mexico. In the past few years I have preferred to use the I-Pad with the iNavX program and the Navionics charts produced by Fugawi as my primary chart-plotter.  iNavX is a superb program but the navionics charts leave much to be desired for the cruiser. I supplement these charts with much better and more accurate electronic charts of the areas most commonly used by cruisers produced by Shawn Breeding and Heather Bansmer, a cruising couple who produced the guide books that are now most used by cruisers. They have since digitized the chartlets they produced in their guides and they can be accessed by the I-NavX program for an extra fee which I was happy to pay. I am very dissatisfied with the product available from Navionics. It appears to have been digitized from a sports fishing chart. In Conception Bay, for example, they have several islands that do not exist and are missing vital reefs and shoals. These companies want cruisers to buy their products but seem to be doing very little to satisfy our needs for accuracy in the areas we use the most, the inner coastal waters. By the way, Shawn and Heather are now in the Pacific Northwest producing guides of the Salish Sea and Puget Sound. There is no doubt that these will be very popular guides.

This morning we heard on the SSB net that our friends, Ron and heather, on Sun Dancer, had been towed into Huatulco by our other friends SaM and Dave on Islena. Last we heard Heather and Ron had departed the Galapagos on their way to Easter Island and then on to the Marquesas. A few days after leaving they lost their radar dome, generator and later their engine quit. They felt they had no choice but to head back to Mexicio to get repaired. Their plans are unknown but it sounds like they may be in Huatulco for a while.

20:45, 23 March 2015, Anchored at Bahia Santa Theresa

Our trip up from Bahia Conception was done in light winds and cloudy skies. We were glad to have left when later that morning we watched thick rain clouds and a thunder storm track down the coast to the west of us, right into Bahia Conception. We arrived at the Fonatur marina at Santa Rosalia in mid-afternoon. There were several other boats there some old faces and some new. Next to us was an Austrian registered boat, Cayenne with Hannes and Anna and Outrider who we had met in Puerto Escondido. We also met Kashmira, Whiz and Pegasus.


As we arrived in Rosalia, Ron of the schooner Gold Eagle,came to visit and tell us his sad tale of the tragic loss of his vessel to the hurricane last fall. From our berth we could see her spars above the water at the old marina across the bay. The following day we took a few photos of her sitting upright on the bottom at what was left of the old marina ramp of the decrepit marina where so many boats were severely damaged or lost. Ron has given up trying to raise her. She is too badly damaged and he is stripping everything he can before he leaves for Guaymas in a few weeks aboard a lesser damaged Westsail which he now owns.
Gold Eagle, RIP

We would have liked to stay another few days in Santa Rosalia. It is a lovely town, built on the mining industry. Ownership and management of the mines has changed much over the years. The French extracted the bulk of the copper between 1885 and 1954. Since then a Canadian company had an interest but now a Korean company has control. Didn’t see any Kimche but there is a Korean only restaurant on the top deck of the Fonatur building now.

It has been a long day of motoring against headwinds to get to the next safe anchorage north of Santa Rosalia. We left just after 5 AM and arrived here as the sun was setting, 13 hours later. Luckily we had a flood tide pushing us all the way. Yes, tidal currents are a consideration now that we are heading deeper into the Sea. If we play our cards right we will have favourable tidal currents for the next few weeks.

15:00 Wednesday, 25 Mar 2015 Anchored at Puerto Don Juan

We didn’t delay at Punta Santa Theresa. The SSB weather reports were for some strong northerlies so we left there the following morning and headed north. The winds didn’t materialize so we had a nice 8 hour motorboat ride to this lovely, but over-rated anchorage. We had a super flood tide pushing us along and, at one point we were being pushed 2 kts faster than our actual hull speed.
Hull speed on the rear indicator, GPS speed on the I-Pad.

In contrast to the lovely colours of the mineral rich shores between La Paz and Santa Rosalia the shoreline up here isn’t that remarkable, quite drab and much drier. We arrived in this bay in mid-afternoon and were immediately beset by large numbers of yellow-brown wasps and small flies. Thankfully we have a screened cockpit to take refuge in. This morning we braved the onslaught and ventured out in the dinghy to get clams and explore the beach. We quickly discovered that the wasps loved the dinghy for some reason. After collecting a sack of clams we had to share the dinghy with the wasps until we began to plane and the wind blew them away but on arrival at Gosling we were inundated again. We have spent the remainder of the day cooped up in our cockpit, Fran reading and I blogging. We will be out of here tomorrow AM and headed for the village of Bahia Los Angeles. Hopefully we will have internet there.

With our date for arriving in Guaymas set at April 4th we will have to dally up here a bit looking for some wasp-less anchorages and hoping for some north winds to push us back across the Sea. We have a few possibilities but I fear that this wasp thing might be unavoidable up here.


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