Monday, November 16, 2009

November 16, 09 - Costa Baja Marina, La Paz

On November 12 at the San Jose del Cabo Marina, we spend the morning at the dock. Earl had decided to get the boat washed. A small army arrived at 7:30 and went to work. They even took the cover off the dingy and washed the inside of it. They swarmed over the boat for 3 hours, leaving it looking beautiful. The cost was $60 for a job we could never have done ourselves in less than a week. When we left it was already noon and many of the boats that had taken off to go fishing that morning were already on their way back in. We found out why. Less than 2 miles from the marina we had two dorado on at the same time. Clark’s was the larger, probably about 30 pounds. Earl insisted on keeping both of them – eyes bigger than stomach issue. We now have considerable fish in the freezer. From now on, I will be a little firmer about the release part of fishing. However, I have to say, having had the opportunity to pull in one of the fish, that the catching part is great. We also have Clark’s great ceviche recipe which all our guest will have an opportunity to enjoy.

That night we anchored at los Frailes. It looked like a beautiful beach, but we did not put down the dingy, just sat and enjoyed. It is around the corner from a national marine park, Cabo Pulmo Marine Park, which has a large coral reef and is much loved by divers.

The next day, the 13th, we had a lazy day going north to the Bahia de los Muertos to anchor. This is large lovely bay. There were probably 25 sail boats there, a portion of the Baja Haha fleet, but there was plenty of room for all. The real estate developers have been busy here and there are a number of very large houses and one resort on the bay. For development purposes, they have changed the name to Bahia de las Suenas (Bay of dreams). Whatever the name, it is a lovely spot. As has become our habit, Earl turned on the blue underwater lights at dark. Boy did we have a fish show, a school of 10 inch fish, which sort of put us off swimming for a while.

That night the wind came up from the Southwest. This was our first exposure to the Coromuel, an evening phenomenon in the La Paz area. Based on the radio chatter, some of the sailors anchored near us, found it intimidating. They agreed that a northern, expected later in the week, had come in early. I am not sure how they got there in the face of a SW wind.

That day, the 14th, we took off and headed north. We had a bumpy ride to start with. We went through a narrow pass between the Isla Espiritu Santo and the Baja (Canal San Lorenzo) and then headed south toward La Paz. We stopped about 15 or 20 miles from La Paz at a charming little cove behind Isla Lobos. We had it pretty much to ourselves other than a sail boat anchored in another arm of the cove. The water was so clear that we could see our anchor on the bottom. Joan and Clark took a dingy ride. Earl and I rinsed off the boat. The water is very salty here and the short time we here in bouncy water had left a considerable deposit on the boat. We could brush it off with our fingers and Joan and I were tempted to scrape some off into bags and present our friends with bags of sea salt. Afterwards we all went for a swim – it was wonderful. After dinner, Joan and I went in again, without suits, and it was delicious. I had my first experience with phosphorescence. It is very cool. When you move your arms and legs through the water, you can see little flashes of light, like 4 of July sparklers. It is very cool. We were a little melancholy that this was our last night anchoring out with the Scarboros. Our trip from San Diego has gone too quickly. Clark, Joan and I went for a swim the morning of the 15th before heading for La Paz. It was so wonderful that we did not want it get out. Clark especially loves swimming in the sea, and it will be awhile before his next opportunity.

By noon of the 15th, we were tied up at the dock in the Costa Baja Marina, and at the end of the journey part of our trip. From now on we will ‘cruising’ with much less of a fixed target. We splurged, eating out both lunch and dinner. For lunch, we ate at a lovely little open air place on the beach. Dinner we took the shuttle bus into town and had dinner at Las Tres Virgenes, a charming restaurant in the courtyard of an old building. Heavenly!

Today, the 16th, Happy Birthday to Brian. We are off to check out the Mercado later and replenish our veggie supply.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

November 12 - San Jose Del Cabo

November 4 - underway from Ensenada toward Turtle Bay. We left the dock at 7:30 am November 3rd to get in line for fuel and pick up some ice for the cooler. We were there first and the only ones in line. Perhaps everyone else already knew, as we found out at 8 am that there was no fuel available. It was due in later in the day. Since diesel is much cheaper in Mexico, we had been waiting to fuel up till we got here and so we only had 440 gallons aboard. The Captain, eager to get going and catch some fish, did some calculations and determined that we could get by till Cabo. We shall see. We have reduced our running speed to 1650 which should give us 2.4 gallons per hour and 6 knots. Cabo is less than 700 miles. I suspect we will be getting down to fumes.

It was a beautiful day. Small swell, no wind and by 11:30 Earl had his first fish. It was a pacific bonito, which are apparently not terribly good eating, so we released it. We caught 4 of them during the day before Earl and Clark got tired. We had a good push and averaged over 7. Earl decided that we should take advantage of the good conditions and run all night. Our target is the a small group of islands called San Benitos offshore and a little north of Turtle Bay. It is off Bahia Vizcaino. The sunset was lovely, followed by a spectacular harvest moon. We are running about 20 miles off shore, so we did not turn on the floodlight. We rigged up a shield to keep the green starboard running light from lighting up the foredeck and were able to see quite well by moonlight. The Scarboros took the first watch and Earl and I did the second and got treated to the sunrise just off Punta Baja.

No sooner than it was light, Earl disappeared to the back deck and almost immediately started shouting “fish on”. I slowed the engine down and kicked it out of gear, which got Clark up in time to see Earl bring in the first yellow fin tuna for the boat. It was small, thankfully, and just the right size for us. It should make wonderful eating. We will be celebrating both our anniversary and Clark’s birthday. It is now 8 am and we have a dorado in the cooler with the tuna and have released another tuna. Happiness! We did have a scare. Daisy wanted to get in on the action and almost slipped under the web on the starboard side. By the time I got her, only 1/3 of her was on the boat. It was awful. She is now encased in her life jacket and Earl will need to tighten up the netting.

Evening November 4 - We finally arrived at the San Benitos after dark. Fortunately, there is a full moon these days that helped. Coming from the north, the most direct approach to the anchorages on the south side of the islands is through a gap between them called Peck’s Canal. It looked great on the chart and we intended to take it. However, by the time we got near it, it was dark. We have a maptech plotter on the lap top and a different plotter on the Furuno, on which the radar is also displayed. As has happened before, the chart on the furuno does not line up with the information from the radar. It makes a soul have doubts. Although we could probably have trusted the other plotter, Earl felt more comfortable taking the long way around the island to the anchorage. We anchored and had Clark’s birthday dinner – grilled fresh tuna, mixed berry cobbler and champagne.

November 5 After a peaceful night, Earl and I were up around 5 in time to enjoy the sunrise and actually see the San Benitos and our anchorage. It is a very nice place to stop and good protection in prevailing winds. We decided to pull the anchor and head for Turtle Bay right away. There must have been 200 feet of chain to pull and it certainly got the poor Scarboros out of bed early wondering what was going on.

It was a nice run past Cedros Island and into Turtle Bay. The water is now the most beautiful color blue and very clear. We saw lots of marine life. Porpoises are now pretty common. We did see big whales spouting and unexpectedly we saw some orcas. I did not realize that they would be so far south. Local fishermen are now showing up in their little open boats, pangas, and we are beginning to see lobster pot buoys. These are generally quite small, sometimes no more than gill net floats, and the line is usually floating. The water is rapidly becoming warmer. It was 68 when we left Ensenada. It went up two degrees between Ensenada and San Benito and it is now up to 72. We will need to try it soon.

We arrived in Turtle Bay around 2 and were met by an enterprising pangero offering to sell us fuel. Earl dropped Clark, Joan and me off by dingy and we explored the town. At one time it was thriving, with 10,000 people. Then the cannery closed. There are now about 1,000 people. It is heartbreaking. We stopped by a tienda that was surprisingly well stocked. Of course, there were not many visitors in the harbor, so we had our pick of the goods. It would be different if we were with the Baja HaHa or FUBAR fleets.

Turtle Bay has an enormous pelican population. Some of the local boats look like rookeries. We turned on our underwater lights and watched the gulls and pelican congregate to take advantage of the light for some night fishing. We went to sleep listening to the little fish jumping, which sounded like rain.

November 6, underway from Turtle Bay Earl and I got up at 4:30. It is 90 miles to Abreojos where we plan to anchor tonight, so we wanted an early start. We warned the Scarboros and told them to sleep in.

November 7 – Abreojos We arrived at around 10 pm. The rocks are well marked on the chart. Not marked however are the lobster pots. Earl turned on the flood light and we all kept our Ojos Abres as we picked our way in. The wind was blowing around 25 and the flying fish were being blown over the bow. We also ran into a bunch of small birds, two or three of which landed on us. We had to keep Daisy inside as otherwise she chased the poor things. Abreojos is a very nice anchorage. Since our next stop, Santa Maria Bay north of Mag Bay was about 120 miles, and we did not want to arrive in the dark, we delayed our departure from Abreojos till about 10. We took the opportunity to do some long delayed house keeping. And then, feeling virtuous, we sat around the rest of the day as we made our way south.

We have been running at about 1650 since Ensenada. According to Earl we have used 120 gallons of fuel. We have gone 392 miles, run the engine 61 hours and the generator 20 hours. Our average usage has been 1.97 gallons per hour (ignoring the generator) with an average speed of 6.4 knots per hour, and 3.4 miles per gallon.

November 9 - Santa Maria Bay, north of Magdelena Bay We arrived here about 10 am on the 8th. It is a very large bay and could obviously hold a large number of boats. To our north, we are protected by some hills, which are barren of trees or structures. However, the hurricane Jimena visited this area a month ago and as a result the hills are green, which I gather is very unusual. The hurricane did lots of damage to the little community of San Carlos at the head of Mag Bay. In addition to destroying a number of buildings, it wiped out the desalinization plant, which has created extraordinary hardship for the people of the area. We had two boats ask for water and we filled a couple of large drums for them.

I had the chance to try out my baby Spanish with the local fisherman, or pangeros as they are called. It was pretty exciting to actually be able to communicate. We bought lobsters from one boat. They only had three small ones at the time but promised to come by with more the next day. Sure enough they were back bright and early the next day, beaming. In addition to the small ones we had been promised, they had a lovely bunch of larger lobsters. These they did not want to sell to us, telling us they were muy caro (very expensive) and besides the smaller ones were more tender. We suspect that they had already promised the larger ones to the much larger and fancier boat anchored near us in the bay who was probably a better candidate for paying top dollar. Whatever, they could not have been better than ours which we feasted on that night. We had hoped for some oysters from the nearby mangroves, but apparently the tide was too high. The fisherman were fascinated that their engine had higher horsepower than ours and that we could go to Hawaii on one tank of fuel. I was told the boat was very economical. Yes, perhaps, I replied, at least after the initial purchase which was muy caro.

We took the opportunity of a day at anchor to play. Joan and Clark went for a dingy ride and then the boys went fishing. They had fun. Clark caught a sierra mackerel and a tiny tuna. The tuna was released. Earl returned wounded. He got bitten by both the mackerel and a needle fish. I tried out the kayak and managed to capsize it getting in. Hardly a tragedy in 78 degree water. I took the opportunity to determine that I could right the kayak but that I could not get back in from the water. That afternoon we saw something new for us, jumping manta rays. They were a ways off, but we estimated that they were small, maybe three feet across. There were two or three in the air at once.

Earl also got to try out his new flopper stopper. Earl and Clark found the fish easy to deploy. Even though there was not a great deal of swell, we all agreed that it made a noticeable difference.

November 10, - underway towards Cabo. Earl got up at 3 am to drive 50 miles offshore to a fishing hot spot he had heard of. It was a beautiful day, but fishing was not much. Finally around 4 Earl hooked something very large. It took almost all the line off the reel. Earl was his usual not calm self, yelling at everyone to do multiple things at once. We eventually got our act together and chased the fish so that Earl was able to retrieve some line. What it was, we don’t know. We were fishing with barbless hooks and it eventually left us. Hopefully Earl will not need shoulder surgery. Later, predictably just as supper was almost ready to go on the table, he caught a dorado. This had a better outcome, and he landed it. It was about 15 pounds. Dorado are beautiful fish fresh out of the water, a lovely yellow green. Clark is licking his lips.

November 11 – underway towards Cabo It is night and Earl and I are keeping watch. This is not a hardship under these conditions. We slept from 7 to midnight, when we relieved Clark and Joan. The seas are calm. There is really not much to run into other than a stray bit of line which we would probably not be able to see in time to avoid, so we just sit back and watch the radar for other boats. The only one so far was a large cargo ship headed to Panama. The stars are spectacular and the temperature outside is about 75, cooler than the water which is 79. Earl saw light over land which he thought might be a fire. It was a beautiful crescent moon rise.

November 11 – San Jose del Cabo– landfall at last We rounded the Cabo Falso at around 7:30 and were met by what looked like a giant fleet of sports fishing boats coming our way. We decided to go into a marina, rather than anchoring, and so we called at Cabo San Lucas about space. Yes it was available and it would only cost us 195 dollars plus tax for the night. We decided to continue 15 miles to the quieter San Jose del Cabo, where the price was about half, still high by our standards. We arrived at San Jose del Cabo at around 11. It is a new marina and still under construction. The amenities advertized, such as retail shopping, have yet to be built and the boat slips only partly full. That said, the location is great and it looks to be a high class development. Clark, Joan and I took a cab to the old town and enjoyed a walk around. The contrast with the mad house at Cabo San Lucas is wonderful, but it was almost too dead. The poor shop keepers are having a very difficult time dealing with the noticeable decline in tourism. We then went to the Mega grocery store, which was described to us as a Mexican Walmart. It was huge and we restocked.

We got home in time to enjoy some of the beer we had bought. It was delicious in the hot temperature. Then the Mexican agricultural inspectors came. This was something that we had avoided in Ensenada. Apparently the Mexicans feel our beef is unwholesome and confiscate what they find. We gave up some burger and a couple of steaks. Fortunately, we had been told to expect the inspectors and Earl had decided that the proper place to thaw the steaks for dinner was in the nicely covered barbeque. Our dinner was saved.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

November 3, 09 - Ensenada

Since we will not be able to post photos for some time, we will not be able to send photos of our plotter showing our progress on a chart. So, here are some photos of maps from the guide book. Hopefully they will help make sense of our reports (This is for you, Steve)

Monday, November 2, 2009

November 2, 09 - Marina Coral, Ensenada

We picked up Joan and Clark bright and early on Friday morning and shared our first experience together with Mexican bureaucracy. The mission was to obtain fishing licenses. Locating the consulate was not as difficult as finding a parking meter, which was in turn far easier than finding the necessary change. Of course, fishing licenses were not available at the consulate, so off we went across town. Here we were helped by a very nice young man who sent us to a 7-11 to get the required money order and then we waited for 25 minutes while he typed each license out. (He did a nice job, but speed was obviously not important.) It is somehow reassuring that someone is still using a typewriter.

The rest of the day we took a final run to groceries stores and marine stores and then collapsed after an early dinner. Saturday Joan and I took off for the Italian farmers’ market – I guess we still did not have enough to eat on board – while Earl and Clark did boat things, such as pumping out the tank. (Sometimes it pays to be female). Then Joan, Clark and I did a little touring. First we went up to Mission Bay which is lovely. It is a wonderful thing so have this beautiful area undeveloped. The weather was of course excellent, and we enjoyed a picnic lunch watching the wind surfers and kite surfers. Then we took a quick look at Old Town and returned the car. We were all up by 5 the next morning (standard time). We had decided to leave at 7 am, so in true Kari fashion we left the dock at 5:30 and watched the sun come up as we left the harbor. It was a lovely day, with no wind. At 7:15am we crossed into Mexico, 1,604 miles and 213 engine hours after leaving LaConner. We saw several bunches of porpoises, who took a little time to play with us before going back to feeding. As usual, Daisy got her exercise running from side to side on the bow. We arrived at Ensenada in mid afternoon and tied up at the Marina Coral. The tie up was not our best. Clark and I each thought the other was doing things, and there was considerable doubt until the last minute as to whether we would have a port or starboard tie. It was a Chinese fire drill. The people on the dock were very impressed when they thought we were planning to dock without any bumpers. But in the end everything worked out and the captain says he will give us another chance. This marina is a little north of town, very nice and quite spendy. They do help with all the documentation, which was greatly appreciated, since we were all clueless. We got through all the customs stuff and then almost ran to get Joan a fish taco, which I think she had been dreaming of for months.

We met a couple that had been on the Baja Haha. The fleet had run into very bad conditions about 5 days out from San Diego. This boat had the misfortune to get a long piece of ¾ line wrapped around the keel, and then broke various bits of gear. As a result, they turned back for repairs. We did hear from them that our friends on the Black Dragon were doing well, which was reassuring. Tomorrow we will buy some Mexican fuel, which is normally cheaper than US. The boys are hoping for some fish, so we will get some ice as well (which will probably result in no fish, that being Murphy’s law.) Then off we will go south. I don’t expect that we will have WiFi for a couple of weeks, so the next postings will be by sat phone and will not include any photos.

On the photo of the marina, you should be able to pick out Serenity framed by the two palm tress on the left.