On the 17th, we anchored outside of Loreto and Earl and I took a quick run to Pescador, the local grocery store. Since Earl was involved, it was quick- a sprint through the store. The man really does not understand the concept of shopping. We did manage to get most of the essentials, some milk, fresh veggies, red wine and tequila. We also picked up some ice cream, but in our rush to leave the store, it was forgotten at the checkout counter. Tragedy!
Then we ran down to the south west corner of Isla Carmen to anchor for the night. Bahia Marquer was a pleasant place. Since it is so near more popular anchorages such as Honeymoon Cove, it is apparently little used. I read in the guide book that the Mexican government has transplanted dessert big horn sheep to this island. They hope that herds here can be used to replenish stocks which have declined in other areas which are under more pressure from development. We will need to look up on the internet the diet of these animals. Certainly the rocky hillsides of cactus did not look friendly. Howard spent some time looking thought the binoculars looking for signs of sheep, but he saw nothing. The next day we headed south to Aqua Verde, which we have visited before. We ran further offshore than we had in the past and stopped for lunch on the north side of Isla Monserrate, at beach called Yellowstone. It is off the beaten track and lovely. The rocks were an extraordinary color. We also had a good time beach combing. Both Louises added to their shell collections. We saw a great many dead lobsters on the beach and wondered what the story was. Later a pangero told me that in April and May the lobsters shed their shells and that was what we had seen. It is extraordinary that the shells survive the process so intact.
When we arrived in Agua Verde the northern anchorage that we normally use was pretty full. Since there was little wind of any kind, we anchored in the southern part of the bay by ourselves. Shortly after we dropped anchor, along came a panga with lobsters for sale. We put the shrimp back in the frig and, at my suggestion, Earl cooked the lobsters on the grill. The ones that John Zimmerman had cooked for us in Agua Verde a month earlier had been delicious. Earl was disappointed with his results and regretted not having steamed the lobsters as usual, but we all enjoyed them anyhow. It was a merry evening, and a lot of wine was consumed. Louise was very impressed by a large sailing ship approaching though the dusk that was revealed to be a large rock. That rock will henceforth be special for us.
The next morning while Earl waiting in vain for a panga to bring him some of his prized ballyhoo for bait, Louise and I went to explore the little community of Agua Verde. There is a maze of dirt roads threading through the little houses and it took us several tries to get the correct one to the little tienda where we were able to pick up some fresh veggies. Later, we stood on the beach waiting for Taxi Earl to pick us up and watched a local pangero casting his net for bait. It was quite beautiful to watch – as is anything that is done with such skill.
The next day we had a short trip to Puerto Los Gatos so we swung out and did some fishing on the way. There was great excitement and something of a Chinese fire drill when we hooked something. The ‘crew’ did everything wrong which made it more exciting. The result was a fish we had never seen before which we determined was a Black Skipjack. It was quite a beautiful fish, blue silver with stripes on the back. The fish handbook warned that the flesh was very dark, but that it was reported to be good eating. It was not on the menu that night since we had shrimp from the prior day to eat. Earl filleted it and we were very impressed by how dark the flesh really was - a very, very dark red brown, almost black.
Puerto Los Gatos is a popular and beautiful anchorage. The rocks on the beach are an extraordinary color red which looks all the more special against the teal colored water. Luck was with us. A panga arrived with lobsters to sell, irresistible for us. We put them on the ice for the next night since we really could not keep the shrimp too long.
The next day we cruised down the east side of the Isla San Jose, new territory for us. It is a beautiful rugged coast and we saw few other boats all day on a way into the Hook at Isla San Francisco. We had the fishing lines out and we rewarded fairly early. This time the crew’s performance improved, although the captain felt that more improvement was needed, and Howard landed another Black Skipjack. Since we had not yet tasted the one we had kept the day before, we thought it best to let it go. Our reward was to catch another, and another and another. I think that we had 8 or 9, we lost count. One time we even had two on at once. With all this practice, our performance improved to almost satisfactory.
Later that afternoon Earl grilled some of the prior day’s black skipjack, and Louise, Howard and Earl tasted it. I could not overlook the color enough to try, but the others agreed that is was okay. Louise said about 6 out of 10, while Earl said it was as good as Ahi. There was some regret that we had released everything that day, except that we had lobsters waiting for us. This time we steamed them and they were wonderful, definitely a better way for us to prepare them then grilling.
I had promised Louise some good shelling at Isla San Francisco. That evening we went swimming instead of going into the beach. Louise believes in tormenting herself and getting into the water in half inch increments, but I think that she enjoyed it once she was in. However, I regretted that we had not gone to shore because that night, the wind which had been almost nonexistent for our entire cruise arrived from the south. The hook at San Francisco is a wonderful anchorage for north winds, and a very poor one for winds from the south. Earl was up much of the night watching, and Howard and Louise in the front stateroom had a very bumpy night. The weather forecast for the next few days was wind from the south west. We had to abandon our plan to spend the morning at the hook and the afternoon at Ensenada Grande and instead we headed down the west side of the Isla Partita and Espiritu Santo. There was a pretty good chop until we tucked into the shelter of the islands, but it was pretty smooth thereafter.
One the way we had a pleasant surprise. We passed a sailboat coming north and it hailed us. It was our friends from Vancouver on the Black Dragon. We had met them coming down the west coast and had last seen them in La Paz in November just before they headed south for the winter. They will be staying in the Sea of Cortez until July and we will try to catch up with them in Loreto on May 11th.
Howard caught another of his fish, as we are calling the black skipjack, but then he was rewarded with a dorado. The color was a delight to Howard and Louise who had never seen one. Later the taste was also a delight. I had made a marinade of butter, orange juice and soy sauce which gave it just a subtle flavoring and Earl grilled it to perfection.
We anchored off Bonanza, a beach at the south west end of Espiritu Santo. It is a beautiful long curved white beach. We had brought Stuart and his family here at Christmas and had been alone then. Again we had the place to ourselves except for a party of kayakers who came in after we anchored. We did a little beach combing and Daisy explored to her heart’s content.
That night the wind gusted to 30 from the west but we were as snug as could be in our anchorage with practically no waves to move us. It was still blowing in the morning. Howard said with the skylights open in the front, they had gale force winds in the bathroom. Since we were obviously not going to go anywhere in the boat, we decided to hike across the island to Bahia San Gabriel, the wonderful beach to which we had taken Bella. Since the sand there is very white and the water is so shallow, the color is extraordinary. The guidebook promised a trail and we foolishly believed it. Earl dropped us off and we set out. What was supposed to be a two mile walk took us an hour and three quarters to get across the island. Initially we wandered in semi circles around various kinds of cactus and through burrs which stuck firmly to our soles. Poor Howard was wearing sandals and the burrs attached his socks. Then we walked though bright red rocks, and then later green ones. The final stretch, which seemed endless, was over enormous beds of shells. The area is flat and obviously storms are able to blow shells well across the island. Finally, we were there. We sat, drank water and enjoyed the view. Louise found some almonds in her back pack which she shared and then up and off again we went, Howard breaking trail. We had learned a little. We found traces of a path part way and found that by sticking close to the rocks on the north side we were able to avoid most of the cactus and burrs. We saw occasional footprints and Howard said we were fine as long as we did not see any skeletons. The return trip took only an hour and a quarter. Earl was relieved to see us – he had been getting ready to call for a rescue team. We were delighted to see Earl and indulge ourselves with food and drink!
Another lovely evening, but sadly our last anchored out with the Esslingers. Today we are on our way into La Paz.