Thursday, October 28, 2010

Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - Puerto Escondido

Friday, October 22, 2010 - Cruising down Cerralvo Channel

The outboard was quickly repaired, I don’t understand the technical issue but apparently the motor should now start more easily than ever before. We had planned to leave on Wednesday morning, but Earl was feeling a little under the weather. Instead, we took advantage of having John’s car and a free day and did a little shopping in the afternoon. First stop was a Ferra Mar (marine store). The stated reason was to search for a speaker that we could mount on the boat deck. Our first stop was disappointing in that area, but had lots of fishing gear which is as irresistible to Earl as the pottery is to me. Laden with new lures and hooks for him and a new hat for me, we left and tried two other stores for speakers, including the last, Yee’s. Yee apparently is the La Paz speaker store. He had a huge inventory, but not what we wanted. A final stop at Ibarra’s pottery for couple of minor purchases and we were set to go out.

As usual, 8 am meant sometime before 8, so we got an early start. Earl wanted to catch a fish and we trolled fishing gear for 65 miles over the next 10 hours to no avail, up the east side of Espiritu Santo and Partita and back again to Bonanza. We have charts that indicate the hot spots and we did see other boats fishing some of those, but we got nothing. While it was perhaps disappointing for Earl, I thought it was a lovely day. We saw the usual dolphins and a rarer group of seals. Coming into Bonanza we saw a large school of fish, probably about 2 or 3 pounds, jumping apparently chasing something. When the prey jumped in turn, we saw a school of little fish, maybe an inch or two, jumping as well, lovely little bits of silver.

Today we left early after a lovely sunrise. We have decided to go south towards Muertos since the fishing is supposed to be better in that direction. Shortly after we left our anchorage, as I put the eggs in the frying pan, I heard the clicker on the fishing rod. Great excitement – we have our first fish of the year, a beautiful 20+ pound dorado. I won’t need to defrost anything for dinner tonight.

We are now running south down a channel formed by Isla Cerralvo and Baja. We will be passing La Ventana which we visited by car with John and Maria last week. This is reputed to be an excellent fish area, so I am watching out front while Earl is sitting back with the fishing lines. I have company – Daisy is sleeping in the sun, and a white egret has joined us. After flying around the boat for 5 minute or so, it decided that we looked like a good perch. He has been sitting on our bow railing for 45 minutes now.

Monday, October 25, 2010 – Running up the west side of Espiritu Santo

We are on our way north, running up the west side of Espiritu Santo to Evaristo for the night. On Friday we ran down to Muertos, catching only one other fish over the next 8 hours. It was a bonito which we released. Muertos is a beautiful anchorage and we did not have to share it with too many others. Actually, other than pangas, there was only one other boat, a 42 foot Krogen named Hobo which the owners bought in Sitka. Since we had run 120 miles over the last two days, Earl agreed to spend a day at anchor in Muertos. I loved it. I did some housework (or more appropriately boatwork) and then we cleaned up at went to the beach for lunch at the palapa. There we met a couple from Chicago who are vacationing in a house at Muertos with their two daughters, aged 6 and 7. When hearing that we were from Alaska, the 6 year old asked if we had met Sarah Palin. Pretty sophisticated 6 year old. Interestingly the girls are going to the Lycee in Chicago. Their mother said that after 12 years of French in school, she still felt that she could not speak and was determined that her girls would have a different experience.

That evening, Larry and Lena from the Hobo came over from drinks and burgers. They are in their early 50’s. Originally from Vermont, they moved to Seattle and worked there in the environmental field before retiring 12 years ago while in their early 40s. They had a 42 foot sailboat which they pretty much took around the world, sailing first to Alaska, then down the Pacific Coast past the West Coast of Vancouver Island, to San Francisco Bay. Then on to Mexico, New Zealand, South Pacific Islands, Australia, Indian Ocean, West Coast of Africa, South Africa, Brazil, and the Caribbean. They tried living in Seattle again, and after a couple of months of winter, asked themselves why? They have spent two years down here with the Krogen and are now going to head for the Panama Canal and Trinidad.

(Just interrupted this, while Earl played with a nice Dorado. Since we had a bunch in the freezer, we let him go. I don’t know why Earl buys so many lures. I think we have caught almost all our fish on the same small lure which is called a Mexican flag because it has the same colors.)

Sunday we headed back to Bonanza. We caught and released a couple of bonitos, and now we are headed north.

The weather changed rather suddenly over the last week, for the better. The high temperatures we had been having are gone and it now is a more delightful range in the 80s. Apparently this is typical here, sometime around October 15th, summer goes away.

Monday, October 25, 2010 – San Evaristo

We are anchored at San Evaristo, a small village of about 20 families with a beautiful natural harbor. We were in here last year, later in the year. This year, it is unexpectedly green. I am once again amazed at the ability of the flora here to flourish in the desert. Our neighbors are two Canadian sailboats, and we are all riding peacefully. It has turned out to be a lovely day, not only because of the weather and scenery. We caught fish. Actually, we ended up catching 6 dorado (on the same lure) and 1 Mexican bonito, all of which we released.

Tomorrow we will head for Los Gatos. We are hoping that the lobster fisherman who fed us last year is still there and will bring us our dinner.

Before we turned in for the night, an American sailboat pulled in. The passengers were a pair of Alaskans who were excited to see our Alaskan flag. They came by and visited. Keith and Marsha are from Sitka, although Marsha taught school in Anchorage for 16 years before she married Keith and moved to the Southeast. They are an interesting couple. Keith is an artist and they make their living selling stuff to tourists in the summer, and, as a result, they can vacation in the winter. They were with an old friend, the boat captain. Keith made a big thing about Henry, the captain, sailing all over the Sea of Cortez, despite his very advance age – 80. Earl, at almost 76, said he did not think that was so unusual and that 80 is not that old.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - Puerto Escondido

We bypassed Los Gatos. According the Keith, the lobster man was not in evidence when they anchored there. Agua Verde is not very far further north. Along the way we caught an additional 3 dorado, still on the same lure. Daisy is becoming a very good fisher dog. She usually hears the clicker on the rod before we do, and she bounces up and lets us know that we have a fish on.

We saved one dorado, thinking, correctly, that there would surely be takers for fresh dorado at Agua Verde. There were some very happy sailboaters. According to one of them, you need to go at least 6 knots to catch a dorado, and 7 to catch a yellow tail - interesting, and possibly true. We were also told that the water this year is much colder than usual. The water in the northern sea did not get to the usual 90 degrees this summer which helps account for the absence of hurricanes. The hills around Agua Verde are very green right now. Apparently some areas got occasional rain storms.

We will go ashore later today and hopefully the internet connection will be good enough to post this. We are looking forward to dinner at the little restaurant here at the marina. We enjoyed it last year.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Monday, October 18, 2010 - Marina Costa Baja, La Paz

Thursday, October 14, 2010 – Caleta Partida

How quickly has the 10 days gone since our arrival. It is very easy to slip into the total vacation mode. We had intended to leave for a short cruise last week. For some reason, given our previous experience with deliveries in Mexico, we were optimistic that the part would arrive within a couple of days. It was ordered Monday, so we thought Wednesday or Thursday we could be off. We needed to be back in La Paz on Sunday morning to pick up our friends John and Marie Luisa at the airport in their car which we have been using. But even leaving on Thursday would give us a couple of days out. Every day we checked the UPS tracking and as the week progressed our optimism faded. Finally on Friday with the weekend looming, the package was finally in Mexico - Tijuana. The marina did get a call on Friday from customs about the contents of the package, but other than that, nothing appeared to be happening.

Sunday am we met our friends at the airport and gave John back his car keys. John, whose boat seems always to be ailing from something or other, was delighted that this time someone else was waiting for a part. In the meantime, we decided to drive down to Los Muertos to show John and Marie Luisa the resort we had seen last year. The resort is called Gran Sueno and the bay has been renamed, at least for advertizing purposes, Los Suenos rather than Los Muertos (dreams rather than dead men). It was about an hour and a half drive on a reasonable road. There is a long climb up and then a relatively short descent crossing a peninsula. Looking back as we climbed we had a wonderful view of the bay of La Paz. The desert was surprisingly green. It has been a very unusual summer. There have been no tropical storms in the Eastern Pacific. Locals are distressed by this. They depend on summer storms to provide rain. It is a wonder that so much can grow without much rainfall. Even more surprising are the wandering cattle which are something of a driving hazard.

Surprisingly, John had never taken his boat south to Los Muertos. I guess he thinks he has found heaven in the anchorages to the north and there is no need to go south. He was impressed by the anchorage, but both he and Maria Luisa were blown away by the resort. We had taken the precaution of contacting them the day before. When there was no answer on the phone, we sent an email asking if they were open and whether we could come for lunch and a tour. The note back said they were always open. They were ready for us. A table was set with a view over the water and a staff of three or four were on hand to serve us drinks and tacos. Of course the most wonderful thing is the trains! We apparently had not explained this to John. He was astounded at the enormous collection of train sets, many different gauges and all set up around the second floor of the dining room. The ‘train master’ was not there so we did not get to see them running, but it is an extraordinary collection all the same. After touring the grounds which include a number of guest houses, we left, with Marie Luisa trying to convince John to rent the largest house for the family over Xmas. On the way home we detoured to explore Ventana, a small town that has apparently become very popular with American expats. It is a beautiful setting, but I prefer La Paz.

John’s company imports large amounts of stuff and he does a lot of business with UPS. On Tuesday afternoon when the tracking information showed that our package was rescheduled for delivery on Friday the 15th, he made some phone calls. Magically, the package that was in Tijuana on Tuesday afternoon was available for pickup at 10:30 on Wednesday morning in La Paz. Five minutes after it was in Earl’s hands, it was installed, and five minutes later, we left the dock. At 11:15 the bumpers were up and the fishing lines were down. The air and water temperature were matched at 84 degrees and the sky was cloudless. We wandered around looking for fish while the temperature rose into the nineties. John suggested a stop a Bahia San Gabriel for lunch. On the way I made scallop ceviche. The water in the bay is a beautiful aqua due to the sand and shallow depth. We could see our anchor. After lunch with John and Maria Luisa, everyone went swimming. In my case it was more like basking. The water was warm, still refreshing, but not invigorating. After such a morning, it was nap time. The wonderful thing here is that the temperature drops quickly after the sun goes down. We ran about an hour up to Caleta Partita which is a reliable overnight anchorage and had a lovely steak dinner on John’s boat under the stars.

Today has been relaxed (we needed to recover from all of yesterday’s activity.) John and Marie Luisa brought the rest of the ceviche back to our boat for lunch, then a swim, then a nap, then Thai chicken curry at our boat for dinner after watching the sunset from the Serenity’s boat deck.

This may make it sound like heaven, but we do have problems even in paradise. The outboard refuses to start. Earl has pulled and pulled till I wondered whether I should schedule shoulder surgery for our return to Anchorage in November. Then he took everything apart, put it back together and pulled some more. We will need to return to La Paz and get it serviced. To make things just a little worse, John, who could not get his outboard started, took his apart and achieved success. Tomorrow, they return to La Paz. We will spend a couple more days out and head back on Sunday.

Monday, October 18 – Costa Baja Marina, La Paz

We left Caleta Partita on Friday morning and headed north a couple of hours to the hook at San Francisco, one of our favorite anchorages. Soon after we cleared the north end of Isla Partida, we found ourselves in the middle of a pod of pilot whales. They were feeding at the surface and did not find us in the least threatening. Daisy was beside herself. Then, after her heart rate dropped back to normal, we saw that the sea to the west of us was full of large porpoises. They swam with us for quite a while. At one point I counted 11 of them under our bow. I think they find us as interesting and we find them. Frequently as they pass the front of the boat, they turn on their side to look up at us. Daisy got her exercise for the day.

We saw a number of boats fishing including a large group of pangas anchored over a pinnacle near San Francisco. The new headgear style among the pangeros seems to be Chinese style cone shaped hats. They look rather out of place. We also saw masses of yellow butterflies, many quite far from land. This is something that we did not see last year, so it must be due to the time of year.

By the time we anchored the temperature was up to 90. The water was exceptionally clear, and from the deck we could see the bottom with occasional fish gliding by. Swim time! Nap time! Then burgers and salad on the back deck!

The wind came up a bit over night and we woke to a little rocking. Earl was itching to get some fish, so we left San Francisco and cruised down the East side of Isla Partita and Isla Espiritu Santo. Last year we had some success in this area and we were optimistic. Finally, Earl rang the bell on the back deck, the fish on signal. I was a little rusty on the procedure, but it came back to me: slow down, out of gear, turn off the stabilizer, run back and reel up the second line. Earl first thought he had lost the fish, then that it was too small. It was a dorado, and we decided it would be perfect for dinner. Once again we saw how beautiful the fish color is in the water. Earl grabbed the line to gaff the fish and it somehow managed to jump over a strut for the swim step. Earl had no choice but to grab the leader and unhook it from the swivel. As he lifted the fish up to slip the gaff under its gills, it somehow managed to pull the leader from his hand. Last seen our dinner was swimming away with one of Earl’s prized (and expensive) lures still attached.

We anchored in Bonanza which is on the east side of Espiritu Santo. Once again beautiful water was irresistible, and we actually did not need bathing suits.

On Sunday we planned on cruising south towards Ventana to get some fish. Unfortunately the wind was kicking up the water and when the wind and tide meet in San Lorenzo pass, it makes uncomfortable boating. We anchored for the day about an hour from La Paz at El Merito. The water was not clear, but it still looked good. The swim was cut short by little invisible jelly fish that chased us out quickly.

Now we are waiting for the outboard repairman. We will do our in town chores and leave tomorrow. We need to be back here for our flight on November 8th, but that gives us almost 3 weeks to cruise. I don’t know if we will go north or south- that is the Captain’s call. We have now gone over 10,000 miles.

Friday, October 8, 2010

October 8, 2010 - Costa Baja, Mexico


The summer flew, as did we, first to Anchorage where we had just time enough to be amazed at how much all five grandchildren had grown, and then to the East Coast for a couple of weeks with a stop in La Conner on the way. Paul Stone’s wedding in Vermont gave us the excuse for that trip. It was a wonderful country wedding with quite a number of Anchorage skiing alums, some with small children. We had time to stop in Stockbridge, Massachusetts where Paul and Sara’s 18 month old Amelia Kari met her cousin Cecelia who is about the same age but twice as big with much more hair. Whatever the external differences, the cousins had fun together. Their parents formed bonds over multiple summer vacation trips to Granny’s house in Stockbridge so it was special to see it carried on to another generation of east meeting west.

Then we went back to spend the ‘summer’ in Anchorage. ‘Summer’ ended up being 32 days of rain and only about 6 weeks long. Whatever the weather, we had a wonderful time seeing the kids and friends and enjoyed eating the wonderful shrimp that Brian brought us from Prince William Sound. Much too quickly it was time to go south to La Conner. We were in time to enjoy all the wonderful produce of the Skagit Valley and had a wonderful time seeing some of our friends there. I took a side trip to Stockbridge where my sister and I are doing some updating to the house, and then finally October 1 arrived and flew south, to California.

Our son Stuart’s 50th birthday is this month. Teri organized a party to celebrate and four older children were together for the first time in many years. Where the years have gone, I don’t know. The photographs that Teri had collected brought many warm memories and laughs. As we went upstairs for the last night, Stuart played “Bye bye Miss American Pie” for us, it was a special song for us the year we married.

Finally, on October 4th we made it back to La Paz and Serenity. Flying in over the Sea of Cortez, I was able to recognize many of last year’s anchorages. There seemed to be few boats – it is probably too early for most North Americans. However that may be, the bays looked terribly inviting. Clearing customs and immigrations was lengthy. Earl had more than the $600 limit of boat parts, so that required a visit to a separate area of the terminal to pay a $17 customs duty. Daisy was more of a problem. We were not able prove that she had been recently dewormed, a Mexican requirement. Earl talked at length of the vet we had visited here in La Paz and we finally wore the poor man down and he let us bring Daisy in.

Serenity looked beautiful after her summer. She had been waxed, her trim re cetoled, and washed regularly. She has even had her bottom scrubbed every three weeks. She’s never had it so good! We had dinner at one of our favorite places, the open air restaurant on the beach. We were greeted by our favorite waitress who even remembered our usual drinks and meals. It really felt like we were home.

We have spent the last few days checking things out. There’s a lot for Earl to do, and, somehow, always something that needs to be fixed. The control unit for the stabilizer is not working. This is the second one that we have had to replace. A new unit is on its way, but as usual with getting something to Mexico, it will take at least a week. After our last experience with DHL – that part never arrived- we have our fingers crossed that UPS will be better. I thought we had spare everything, but apparently that is not so.

Yesterday we visited our favorite pottery place. It was unchanged and we got a big hello from Vicki – She said business has been terribly slow. I think the drug war scare has really impacted tourism and many of the small businesses that depend on tourists down here. We have only seen a couple of tourists walking along the Malecon, which is nothing, even allowing for the time of year. We left the pottery shop with a box full of lovely things to bring home on our next trip. I did leave an order for something that I saw there that was broken so I have an excuse to go back.