Thursday, May 20, 2010

May 20, 2010 - PuntaSanta Domingo, Bahia Concepcion

As usual with Earl, we left Santa Rosalia early – too early for me. We had just gotten up and I was still in my nighty when he started up the engine and told me to hurry up, get dressed, get the lines and pull in the fenders. I got cross and grumpy – but not for too long. We had a lovely run south along the outside of Isla San Marcos. Sadly, we did not see any billfish, but we did catch a couple of black skipjacks, which we now call Howard’s fish since he caught so many.
We anchored in about 10 feet of clear water at Santa Domingo. The water is so clear that we could see small shells in the sand below us. We had a nice trip to the beach where I picked up yet more shells. I am collecting little ones which I plan to give to Bella to glue on things.
Last night, while I was in bed reading, Earl was upstairs. It seemed to me he was gone quite a while, but my book was good and I was not paying much attention. He came down triumphant. He has been gradually modifying the small bait tank he bought in San Diego so that it now pumps fresh sea water through itself. He had caught a bunch of small bait fish and his tank was now populated. This morning they were still alive and well and he is set for some serious fishing. We are on our way and Daisy is on the bow welcoming some porpoises.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

May 18, 2010 - Santa Rosalia

May 12, 2010 – Puerto Don Juan, Bahia de los Angeles

May 12th is a big day – my Bella’s birthday. It is hard to believe that she is six today. Time goes too fast. We called to wish her a happy birthday and she was already wearing the pink ‘princess’ dress which Isha and I had found in the public market in La Paz. Although I think that Mexicans girls would wear such a dress for parties or special occasions, it had all the elements necessary for a make believe dress up for Bella. She was wearing it for her birthday breakfast. I expect to see photos on facebook.

Our day in Santa Rosalia was hot and very muggy. The sky over the water was hazy and I almost melted on my two trips to get provisions in town. Two trips were necessary because I have found the eggs don’t travel well if lumped together with lots of other items. Here, except in “supermercados’, they are sold by the kilo and given to you in a plastic bag. If you want them to get back to the boat whole, they are best carried very carefully. So the first trip I went to the famous bakery, then the fruteria with the fighting cocks in the backyard and finally to the grocery store. The second trip I picked up tomatoes, mangos and eggs. We have been warned that shopping up north is very sparse.

That night we invited a couple from the sailboat Juniata to join us for drinks. They had been anchored near us the night before and we had wonderful photos of their boat against the sunset to give them. Dave and Marcia are from California but now live in their boat. They were full of good information on the northern area of the Sea of Cortez since they have summered over here for several years. Yes they say, it is hot, but they love it. Anchored out, there is almost always a breeze. There is a small community of boats that stay here and they all become friends and have fun together. They made it sound intriguing, until I remembered how hot it felt in town that day. It was dark when they left and we were surprised to see that it was pea soup fog in the harbor. We have not seen fog here before.

We left very early the next morning for the 75 mile run to Bahia San Francisquito. This is located where the sea narrows and the current and tides start to make an appearance. As we went north, the sea temperature cooled quickly to 66 degrees. The sailfish and marlin we had seen in the Santa Rosalia area are nowhere to be seen up here and there are almost no other boats around. We anchored on the south side of Punta Santa Teresa which is the south side of Bahia San Francisquito, planning to visit San Francisquito on our return trip south.

The next morning we headed north another 35 + miles to Bahia los Animas via the channel Salispuedes (leave if you can.) This is a narrow channel that is very deep and carries the majority of the water flow to the upper Sea of Cortez. The tides here, unlike further south, are significant and it is easy to see that running against the maximum it might be impossible to make much headway. We did fight a small current north, which puzzles me. Based on the tide tables the current should have been with us. We were running near shore where fishing is reputed to be better and I wonder if perhaps there was some type of eddy formed on the sides of the channel by the stronger current in middle. It remains a small mystery, but the result was a slow day north.

We arrived in Bahia los Animas in mid afternoon and opted to anchor inside the bay behind Punta Islotes. From our anchorage we looked down between the hills to the valley of Los Animas. There were no other boats nearby, but the beach is road accessible. There were a couple of shanty like camps on the beach with scruddy looking people. Neither of us felt entirely comfortable anchored alone there, so we pulled up our anchor at around six and headed north to an anchorage near the head of Bahia Los Animas, Punta El Pescado. On the way we passed a small flotilla of shrimpers. They had been anchored above us along the shore and now, in the evening, were headed out to the Sea. Apparently these shrimpers have changed fisheries and now fish for Humboldt squid at night. The squid are huge, up to six feet and 100 pounds. They are extraordinarily aggressive hunters and grow to full size in a year. They are found in huge schools and stay on the bottom during day, coming up to lights at night. Earl and I are tempted to try to catch one. Earl has the gear, but somehow we haven’t tried. It maybe because we are normally asleep after dark, however I think in part it is because we are both a little intimidated by the thought of catching one of these giants and then having to deal with it.

After a peaceful night we headed north to Puerto Don Juan, a wonderful hurricane hole on the southern side of Bahia de los Angeles. This is a lovely bowl with a long sand beach on the south side that is reputed to have good clamming. Earl is tempted, since clams are among his favorite foods. We explored the beach with Daisy and then stopped and chatted with boaters on the sailboat Amwagomi, a 31 foot ‘golden hind’. Miriam and Gordan are about our age, retired school teachers from California who have spent 14 years sailing in the South Pacific. Eager to hear more about their travels, we invited them to join us for the evening. We thoroughly enjoyed them and by the time we finished dessert, Earl was ready to leave for the Marquesas.

We were amused to find that they had also found easiyo (yogurt making packets) in New Zealand and had shipped back a large stash on their boat when they shipped it back from the South Pacific. Apparently if you ship your boat into Ensenada, no one asks what you have in it. The rest of the boat was packed with the brewery equivalent of easiyo - just mix the packet with water and sugar and in five days you have beer.

May 15, 2010 – Isla Partida, Midriff Islands.

The next morning early, while Daisy and I stayed in bed, Earl went to look for clams. He was somewhat at a loss as to how to dig these – there seemed to be no particular sign in the sand that a clam was below. Using a small gaff hook, he managed to dig up three and came back.

We pulled anchor to explore a little of Bahia de los Angeles. Our first stop was at the village of Bahia de los Angeles. It is the largest community up here, but it is still small. It has several groceries stores and we visited the largest one which was good sized. For whatever reason, we were not inspired by the town, so we got back on board and headed north to an anchorage behind Isla Mitlan and Isla Coronado, under a volcanic cone. It was a lovely peaceful anchorage that we had to ourselves. Earl steamed his clams and said they were the best he had ever had – pretty high praise. Obviously three were not enough, so we decided on an early run back to Puerto Don Juan to dig on the morning low tide. This time Daisy and I came to help. I was using a large spatula and Earl was using a dingy paddle to dig in the sand. I finally said the magical words –“There are no GD clams on this GD beach”- which, as in the past, immediately resulted in finding some. Ultimately we found the best way to dig was to run our fingers through the sand and we headed back to the boat with sanded fingernails and a pretty good haul of several different types of clams, some white and some of the type called chocolate. I think we will acquire a couple of small hand rakes for future clamming.

That night we hosted happy hour. In addition to our friends from the Amwagomi, we were joined by a couple from a 48 foot sailboat, Rupert and Judy. They live in California and are architects specializing in building “green houses”, “off the grid” etc. He is English and both of them have sailed all their lives. He is a naval architect by training and built the boat out of mohagony in England 20 some years ago. They sailed it there and in Brittany where they have a house. In addition they have crossed the Atlantic several times and made multiple cruises to the South Pacific. Apparently their business allows them to take lots of time off and they plan to sail to Easter Island next winter.

The next morning, we all took off in different directions. We headed SW to a small island that is part of the “Midriff Islands” called Isla Partida. The anchorage was tucked in between the island and a couple of little rocks which were white with guano. Three miles away is Island Roca (one of many by that name in the sea) which is a bird rookery. Apparently 90% of a species of gull, Heermann gulls, which range all the way to British Columbia, come here to nest. Before it became a protected area, it was mined for guano. We have discovered, painfully, that where there is guano, there are bobos, and this anchorage was no exception. They don’t bite, but they drive you crazy! Tomorrow we will start south.

May 18, 2010 – Santa Rosalia

We spent our last night of the cruise in San Francisquito which is a well known hurricane hole. There was some wind, and, for a change, no bobos. Then we headed south to Santa Rosalia, a 75 mile run. By the time we were half way there, the water temperature had gone from 62 degrees to 75. It is extraordinary. We saw almost no one fishing up north, nor did we see any fish or porpoise. We suspect the water temperature is partly the cause. Suddenly, about 14 miles north of Santa Rosalia, we saw a pod of pilot whales. While we were photographing them, porpoises arrived and then a sailfish jumped. We are happy to be back here and Earl is itching to get back to the area near here where we saw all the bill fish.

We are spending today at the moorage in Santa Rosalia. These trips to town are beginning to remind me of our trips to shore when we gill netted in Cook Inlet. Earl obviously loves the cruising more than the ‘porting’ and so we seem to spend the minimum time possible in towns – which is a pity. I would be happy to spend a couple of days exploring here, not just shopping – but Earl has fishing on his mind and we plan to chase sailfish tomorrow. In a little over a week, we need to be back in La Paz where we will put Serenity ‘to bed’ for the summer.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

May 9, 2010 - Heading North from Caleta San Juanico to Santa Rosalia

The afternoon that we left Escondido was beautiful, with almost no wind. The downside of these conditions was the heat, which seems to be increasing quickly. Although it was only in the high 80’s, it was more humid than in the past and even light clothing seemed heavy. If we are finding it hot now, clearly we would not enjoy the summer.

We wanted to meet up with some friends who said they would be in San Juanico. Since it was so pleasant, we bypassed Coronado and ran a couple of hours north to Juanico, arrive right about sunset. We were met by a very odd sight – a king crab boat, with small boats tied up to it. We felt like we were back in Cook Inlet, coming into to deliver a load of salmon at a tender. We later learned that the boat belonged to a NGO, maybe the National Geographic, and was doing survey work on large sharks.

Our friends were in San Juanico. We had first encountered the Black Dragon out of Vancouver BC in Fort Bragg where Tracy and her son Foster helped us tied up. Tracy, Steve and Foster came for dinner and we hit it off. Later we would run into them in Bodega Bay, San Diego and La Paz, from where they headed south to winter on the mainland. We had seen them leaving Escondido and finally were able to spend some time with them in San Juanico and catch up. Foster, who is twelve, has grown at least two inches since we saw him in La Paz in November and has become a good, if non discriminating, spear fisherman. His parents said they find some of the fish better than others. We invited them and the family from a sailboat called Evergreen for burgers and – big treat – ice cream. The couple on the Evergreen have a son the same age as Foster and they reminded me how much boys of a certain age can eat. It was fun.

That night we saw something new. With the lights off in the boat, we could see what initially looked like small lights floating in the water. It reminded me of lightening bugs. As they came by we could see that they were some type of aquatic bug that whirled around leaving circles of light around their track. We think that they were setting off the phosphorescence as they moved. It was fascinating.

The next morning early, we headed north towards Santa Rosalia. Earl has a fishing atlas for the Sea of Cortez which shows the places to fish. The trip was planned with them in mind, so we found ourselves 15 miles off shore. Interestingly, we found the water temperature out toward the middle of the Sea 4 or 5 degrees warmer than in bays close to shore. Apparently the first warm water must sweep up north with the current. With the warm water come the marlin and sailfish. We saw many of them. Sometimes they just lie on the surface with a fin in the air. Sometimes they jump, over and over, spinning. We fished all day on glassy seas. I lost two fish including a beautiful dorado which jumped and jumped for me. We did not manage to hook a sailfish, but we had one that chased our lure behind the boat for a good five minutes. It was a thrill. Toward evening we encountered a large number of porpoises going south. We ran through them for half an hour. Daisy was exhausted by the time we saw the last of them. By that time we were at the north end of Isla San Marcus which is about 10 miles from Rosalia. We anchored in a lovely cove on the west side of the island, north of Punta Piedra Blanca, where we were treated to one of the most beautiful sunsets ever.

Now we are headed into Santa Rosalia from where we will head north to Bahia Los Angeles. I am hoping to be able to skype from the marina since our phones don’t seem to work up here.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

May 6, 2010 - On the way to Isla Coronado

May 5, 2010 – Puerto Escondido

We had a couple of pleasant days in La Paz with the Esslingers. The first day, while Earl played with Serenity, the three of us went shopping to replenish our liquor and ice cream supply. I got stopped by a motorcycle cop and was told that I had not one, but two, violations. I had apparently gone through a stop sign (which I had been assured was purely a suggestion locally) and was going too fast and there was a large fine, oddly given in American dollars. What was more, by this time he had my license and told me that I would need to go to the police office on Monday to retrieve it. This being Saturday, that did not work for me. I asked if I could pay the fine to him right there. I was told no, there were too many people around, which at the time made no sense to me. As directed, I followed him to a deserted street. He came up to the car and when I tried to open the door, he told me no, roll down the window. Then he passed in a clipboard with some papers and my license and told me to put money under the paper. I grabbed my license and slipped some pesos – significantly less than the quoted fine- under the paper. After that we all agreed that we did not want any ‘trouble’ and went happily our separate ways. I had finally paid my first bribe and simultaneously made a Mexican cop very happy.

One day we drove over to Todos Santos to show off the Pacific and eat shrimp stuffed avocados at Cerritos on the beach. Louise continued a long tradition of meeting at least one other Dutch person on every foreign trip she and Howard take. There was a lovely young lady trying to sell us massages, and Louise and Howard fingered her as Dutch, which she was. Then we went back to Todos Santos and I watched Louise shop. She definitely understands the difference between ‘shopping’ and ‘buying’. She drove the poor Mexican shopkeepers crazy. One poor man reduced the cost of some tourist doodads from $5, to $4, to $3, to $2.50, to $2 and finally, in desperation, to $1, at which point Louise stopped walking out of the shop and bought some. Then, before we knew it, it was time to take them to the airport and say goodbye after a visit that went by far too quickly.

A couple of days later, we met Gene and Carol Dickason at the airport. Gene and Carol are our oldest Anchorage friends. It was in 1970 that Earl, then Gene’s coworker and friend, sent him to Anchorage. As in our case, the Alaska assignment was ‘only for two years’. Anchorage does grow on some people! Gene is a talented amateur photographer. He frequently has photos on the Anchorage Channel 2 evening news. This was particularly fortunate, since somehow all our photos were erased from our camera this morning.

The first day, while Earl played with installing the new vhf radio which Gene had carried down, Gene, Carol and I explored La Paz. They were as charmed as I have been with Ibarra’s pottery. It is pretty special to buy pottery from the family that produces it. Then we wandered town looking for a replacement rubber base for our deck chair. Vicky at Ibarra suggested a street crossing which had a hardware store on each corner. These stores remind me of small hardware stores in my neighborhood in New York when I was a girl. A small store front leads to multiple dark and dusty rooms which are apparently stocked with everything one could want. We did find what we asked for. (Unfortunately, I asked for 1 ¼ inch and Earl insisted that he had told me 1 inch, but that is another story.) We explored the Malecon and ate real Mexican food at Rancho Viejo.

The next day we headed off towards Loreto, from which the Dickasons will leave on May 6th. The wind gods were not as kind to us on this trip as on the last. Our first morning was bumpy. Fortunately, Bonanza on the east coast of Espiritu Santo was a perfect anchorage for the weather. I introduced Gene to kayaking and we enjoy a lovely evening in front of the enormous white beach. The next day we trolled up the east side of the islands on our way to the hook at San Francisco. We had no success at fishing, but Gene was fascinated, as we knew he would be, by the geologic display. (Gene’s undergraduate field was geological engineering.) As soon as we left the shelter of the islands, it was bumpy, but our anchorage was lovely – and by evening – full.

The third day was a charm. We cruised up the east side of Isla San Jose with reasonable seas. Everything was jumping – rays, porpoises, bill fish and even sharks. We saw one shark jump at least twice its height. We had no luck fishing, until Earl got technical. He got out his manuals and decided that we needed to troll faster to catch a bill fish (marlin and sailfish) which he did. Gene, Earl and I were on the front deck looking for fish when Carol gave the alarm. Chinese fire drill time! We had a sailfish on. It was pretty exciting, lots of running back and forth and confusing directions from Captain Earl who was probably more excited than anyone else, but Gene finally brought him in. Earl and Gene thought the fish was about 90 pounds. Photos were taken and Earl released the fish. It was a first for all of us, but I think Carol gets the real credit for yelling ‘fish on’. Later we lost another, complete with the lure when no one called ‘fish on’. After that someone was always on watch and we were rewarded with some black skipjack. At one point we had two on at once. We anchored in Los Gatos feeling that it had been a perfect day. It became even more perfect when a pangero came by and asked if we wanted lobster. (Does a bird fly?) He said he would return in an hour and we watched him dive not far from the boat. In less than an hour, he was back with seven lobsters. It was another first for Gene! More fresh lobster than he could eat. And since the water was boiling when the pangero brought them, the lobster could hardly have been fresher. I think they averaged less than 30 minutes out of the water.

The next day the forecast was not appropriate for a fishing trip out to Catalina for more bill fish. We went north to Agua Verde and arrived before noon. The first panga sold us shell necklaces and traded miscellaneous food items - jam, candy, etc – for some bait fish. The next panga asked if we wanted lobsters. We don’t know how to say no, so we soon had a large bowl full of lobster tails. That night, we had grilled dorado and lobster. The next day, we had dorado tacos for lunch and lobster salad for dinner. I think we are now part crustacean.

Yesterday we ran into Honeymoon Cove on Isla Danzante. For once, there was no one in the north cove which has a beautiful sand beach. Shortly after we dropped the anchor, a 25 foot whale came up behind the boat to welcome us to the cove. Later we all went swimming in gin clear water, all, including Daisy. She has been getting progressively braver about the water. It is now routine for her to jump out of the boat into water when we hit the beach. This time, she waded in well up to her shoulders and, with a little coaxing from Earl, she went a little deeper and actually swam. She got lots of positive feedback and did it several times more.

This morning as we were pulling anchor, the little rays around us started jumping. Daisy was the first to notice and alerted us all with her exciting yelping. Gene braved the bobos and got some wonderful photos of them. It was a short trip over to Puerto Escondido, just long enough for Gene to see his first flying fish. As Gene says, firsts at our age are more special than when we were younger, and we have been lucky enough to have a good many of them on this trip. This afternoon we are going into Loreto and instead of watching the boys fish, Carol and I will let them watch us shop!

May 5, 2010, - leaving Puerto Escondido

Yesterday we went into Loreto and started with a late lunch at CafĂ© Ole, where we have eaten before. The food is good, but ‘light’ is not a concept understood by the chefs. Full to the gills with heavy food, Carol and I were given a mere 90 minutes for retail therapy. In spite of the heat and the lunch, we set off to see how much we could accomplish in such a limited time window. All I can say is that we are far more efficient shoppers than the men are fisherman! We ran out of money and time almost simultaneously and made it into the back seat of the car with 10 seconds to spare.

That night we had dinner at the marina at the little restaurant. It was very congenial and tasty and we watched the sunset over the harbor. This morning, we loaded the Dickasons' luggage into the car and headed back to town. Loreto is about 15 miles from Puerto Escondido which is the only drawback to this anchorage. I had a list of miscellaneous stuff. We first stopped at a hardware store looking for mosquito netting. They had none, but told us where to go to get Earl’s fishing gear. He was looking for a fishing plug, which sounded rather benign. Unfortunately, the Ferra Mar was a boy’s toy store and it was an expensive stop. Faster than a speeding bullet Earl had found the reels and picked out the most expensive one – a replacement for one that had died recently. Before I had a chance to trip him, the sales man quickly found multiple expensive lures and then a local fisherman who spoke perfect English showed up and added to the shopping list. This shop keeper told us where to go for mosquito netting and then the only significant item needed were large band aids. We went from one pharmacy to next, each sales person suggesting another possibility until I think we had canvassed the entire town. This is not an item to be found in Loreto, but we did get to see the whole town looking. We settled for a much lighter lunch – wonderful shrimp cocktails and then, sadly, off to the airport to see the Dickasons off.

We now headed north from Puerto Escondido and plan on anchoring at Coronados this evening. It may be a long trip since Earl is on the back deck hooking up new gear and I suspect he will not be content to troll in a straight line to our anchorage.