Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Monday, February 21, 2011 - Costa Baja Marina La Paz

Thursday, February 17, 2011 – Underway from Barra to San Blas

Yesterday around 11 am we said good bye to Stu and Teri, left them behind at the Grand Bay Hotel in Barra to kill a few hours before going to the airport, and we headed north. We are trying to make a fast trip back to La Paz so as to fit in a quick visit to our friends John and Maria Luisa in Cuenavaca before heading back to Anchorage on the 28th of February. The weather forecast was ideal, and, delightfully, has proved to be accurate. We had about a knot plus of current going our way, and, as we made our way toward Cabo Corrientes and Banderas Bay, we were running at over 7.7 knots. The sea was glassy and there were lots of turtles and whales to entertain us. The turtles were about 3 to 4 feet across but I don’t know what type. We had planned an overnight run around Cabo Corrientes and into La Cruz in Banderas Bay, but sometime yesterday we decided to skip La Cruz and save some mileage by running to San Blas. It is now 9 am, the seas are glassy and we have about 20 miles to go. We will have come almost 200 miles in 25 hours.

Earl suggested that I include some lessons learned about cruising this part of Mexico. First, bring some bug spray and use it. We finished our favorite and I did not put any on when we were in Barra. I am covered with bites – from my toes to my forehead. Second, unless you want to drink only bottled water, you need a high tech water filter to fill your tanks or a water maker. We have been spoiled with the reverse osmosis water in La Paz. Third, the anchorages on this side have far more swell than in the Sea of Cortez, so a flopper stopper of some type improves sleeping conditions. Fourth, communications are always an issue. We have AT&T phones with the Viva Mexico plan and have pretty reasonable telephone communications. Don’t plan on using an IPhone for data. Earl did and even with a Mexican plan we had a $300 bill last month. Wi FI connections at marinas are sometimes weak and I am going to look into getting a signal amplifier for my computer. The telcel stick works okay if there is a signal but is never very fast.

This winter is apparently unusually cold. We noticed it is about 10 degrees colder than last year, both air and water. Perhaps this accounts for the lack of fish, which others have noticed as well.

Friday, February 18, 2011 –Isabela and Mazatlan

I took a nap and returned to find that that we were now headed to Isla Isabela instead of San Blas. Isabela is 20 miles further north and we arrived there at 2:30 in the afternoon. Once again we saw tons of turtles today. They really show up when the water is so glassy. We anchored south of Las Monas right behind a panga. The pangeros were anchored and cleaning fish. Later they all took naps, apparently giving their nets time to set. It reminded me of gill netting in Cook Inlet when beautiful glassy seas inevitably meant slow fishing and dozing in the sun. Off our stern small rays jumping, five or six at a time, entertained us. It was a lovely stop.

The plan was to start off again early the next morning. I foolishly thought that meant five or six am. Oh no, 1 am Earl pulled the anchor. I slept till he told me it was my turn at 3:30. Again, it was another beautiful day. I pulled up the weather and it promised good weather until Saturday night. We decided to make the best of it and just keep going to Baja. First we had to stop in Mazatlan to get some fuel. We had a couple of hundred gallons which was plenty, but Earl wanted more weight in the boat in case we got into rough weather.

We got to Mazatlan around 3 pm, after a 95 miles run. We were greeted by boobies and frigate birds that circled the boat and tried to land on us. The radar seemed to keep them off. Once into the estuary, we headed for the Pemex station. It was off the main boat basin and we discovered that we had picked one of the lowest tides ever to come in. We had stirred up mud by the time we were tied up and after taking on 400 gallons, we had no water under the keel. Fortunately the tide was coming in and the bottom was soft, and with the help of the fuel dock personnel we got turned around and headed out for La Paz.

Actually, we are planning on heading for an anchorage on the SW side of Isla Espiritu Santo called Bonaza. We should arrive around midnight on Saturday, + or – several hours depending on the current. There we can rest and make an easy run into the marina on Sunday morning. Docking there will be a challenge since the thrusters are partially clogged with marine growth and will be of no help. As we left Mazatlan, we had gone about 300 miles and have about 250 left to La Paz.

Saturday, February 19, 2011 – Crossing the Sea of Cortez

Last night was beautiful. We have a full moon and perfect weather. Aside from a couple of ferries, we saw no other boats. We are finding that between 4 and 5 hours is as long as either of us can stay awake on watch at night. If we did more of this we might even get into the routine of breaking our night’s sleep into segments.

We have been fortunate to have a current with us. Without a current at 1800 rpm we cruise at about 6.5 knots. With the current against us, it can be as slow as 5 which is a significant difference. Fortunately so far we have been going faster, sometimes as fast as 7.9.

Around noon, we were cruising along at 7.5 knots on glassy seas about 85 miles off shore when we started to see marlin. Earl quickly put out his fishing gear. I guess it is only the journey when there is no fish – if there are fish, it is the fish not the journey. Within 30 minutes he had one on and I was immediately transformed into the helmsman and photographer. The fish took at least 300 yards of line and started jumping as we chased him. Of course I was too busy driving to get any photos, but it was spectacular. Earl, of course, was yelling directions: go right, no left, no straight, in gear, out of gear, move everything off the back deck immediately. Daisy understood just how excited Earl was, and started yelping in sympathetic excitement. At one point, her noise was really getting to Earl and he kept insisting that I kick her to shut her up, which I refused to do. Then when we thought we were finally gaining on the fish, we saw it jumping way off. That was discouraging until we saw our fish jumping much closer and realized that it was an unhooked fish in the distance. Finally after playing it at least half an hour, Earl had it up to the back and then scared the daylights out of me as he went out on the swim step to release the fish. Half an hour later, he was still talking about it. app

Sunday, February 20, 2011 – Marina Costa Baja

We arrived at Bahia Bonaza at 1 am and anchored for what was left of the night. With the full moon lighting up the sandy beach, it was a beautiful sight and we felt that we had finally arrived home -we were only 3 hours away from La Paz. By 8 am Earl had the anchor up and we were off for the last leg of our trip. At 11 am, one hour short of 4 days (we changed time zones on the way north) we were tied up in the marina. During that time we had stopped for 10 hours at Isabela, 1 hour at Mazatlan and 7 hours at Bonaza. We had come 541 miles in 77 hours of running, averaging over 7 knot per hour, with beautiful seas and the full moon at night. A wonderful trip!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sunday, February 13, 2011 - Leaving Ensenada Carrizal underway to Barra

Sunday, February 13, 2011 - Leaving Ensenada Carrizal underway to Barra

My recent silence is almost entirely the fault of Stieg Larsson and a girl with a dragon tattoo who played with fire and kicked a hornet’s nest.

It has been almost three weeks since I left for Boston for a visit with my sisters there, in Stockbridge and in New York. It was a busy week, and very snowy and brisk, especially after being in Mexico. My sister and I have been doing some renovations to the cottage in Stockbridge. What started as minor cosmetic work on the second floor – removing a dropped ceiling – has resulted in something rather more. The dropped ceiling removal revealed a damaged and mouse infested ceiling above, which when removed exposed inadequate support for any ceiling. We don’t know why it had not fallen down on its own. Anyway, there is now no ceiling on the second floor and we are free to gaze on the underside of the old roof. While the old structure has a certain beauty, the project does remind me of the Tom Hanks movie, The Money Pit.

While I was north, Earl and Daisy held down the fort, or rather the boat. They were anchored in Barra for a number of days, but that got old, even with daily visits from our French baker, and they eventually headed out to Tenecatita where Earl made friends with a number of sailors who liked margaritas.

Getting home proved rather more difficult than the trip north. There was one of many storms that the East has experienced this winter due to arrive the day I planned on leaving. I was scheduled to leave from La Guardia at 6 am and made the silly assumption that since the weather in the city the day before was unexceptional that the plane would be in NYC and ready to depart. My sister, bless her, woke me at eleven with the news that the flight had been cancelled. After an hour on the phone with Continental I made reservations to leave from Newark at 6:30 am on what turned out to be one of the very few flights to leave the city that day. At 3 am, a brave cab driver drove me through ice covered streets to the airport where I finally boarded the plane a couple of hours late. I immediately went to sleep, only to wake two hours later still at the gate. After the most through de-icing I have ever had – it lasted almost an hour – we finally took off for Phoenix, a run through that airport and on to a flight for Puerto Vallarta, which is about 130 miles from Barra. I opted for a cab ride home to Earl rather than trying to find a hotel in Puerto Vallarta. It cost $200 and took four hours including a stop in the dark on the side of the road for the driver to fix a flat, but by 10 pm I was at the water taxi station at Barra with only one last leg, a panga trip to the boat, to go before getting home. I did not realize how tired I must have appeared until Earl told me the next morning how much better I looked.

Our son Stuart and his wife Teri were due the next day, so I took the bus to the little grocery store (oddly named Hawaii) in Melaque that seems to have most everything and, most importantly, delivers to the boat, and stocked up on fruit, vegetables and milk.

Our time with Stu and Teri has flown by. We were anxious to explore some of this area with them. The first morning we took off from Barra and headed north to Tenecatita which is a beautiful stop. The seas were a little bumpy and the short two hour trip was long enough to make poor Teri sick. She was very stoic and as soon as we got into the bay and the water flattened out, she was ready to play. Down came the kayaks, and Stu took Teri off for her first kayak trip.

We managed to talk Earl into spending two nights in Tenecatita. Since it is literally all about the journey with Earl, that was quite a feat. We all enjoyed this quiet time together. But you can’t keep a good man down, so on Monday the 7th we were off again, heading north. On the way out of Tenecatita, we finally got a fish. Stuart hooked a large jack cravelle which gave him a pretty good fight. They are not particularly good eating so after getting a photo, we let it go.

I had hoped we could stop at the picturesque town of Cayares with its brightly painted houses, but Earl remembered too well the night we anchored there and he had been force to sit up all night. Instead we made our way to the islands in Chemela Bay where we had scoped out possible anchorages on our way south with Joan and Clark. The first one was full of people and pangas. Being the closest Monday to February 5th, one of many revolutions that the Mexicans celebrate, it was a national holiday and the locals were enjoying it. We anchored off the smaller island which had a good size colony of boobies and frigate birds. Stuart explored by kayak and took photos.

The next day we moved a few miles into the bay and anchored in front of the little town of Perula. Teri and Stuart were enjoying the fresh orange juice and local fruits and our supply was running low. Earl dropped us off in the water off the beach. There is a bit of a swell in front of the town, and he was taking no changes with his dingy, so the drop off was literally in the water. Off went the three explorers hoping to find some vegetables and fruits. We walked through several yards looking for the main road. In one we walked by a darling little half naked boy, aged about 2, who gave us a big hello while the family dog lay nearby not moving a muscle. Once on the main road we started stopping by any open door that looked remotely like a tienda. We met a Canadian couple who were renting an apartment in town and asked about buying fresh fruit and vegetables. The news was discouraging. We were told that the best bet were the trucks that would come through town from time to time. They always had loud speakers and would announce what they had for sale, but there was no schedule and no way of knowing if any were coming into town. According to them the little shops were not likely to have much. After that warning, we were delighted by how much we found in the first shop we encountered. We loaded up on oranges, pears, onions, bananas, tomatos, mangos and peppers. A little further on, we bought a pineapple, and then some tortillas and strawberries, and finally some shrimp. This is not a place where one goes to shop for anything specific, but it is great if you are an opportunistic shopper.

We stopped at a place with four tables out front for lunch. The menu consisted of some paper signs on the wall each advertizing one dish. Stuart had enchiladas and Teri and I had cheese quesadillas. They were wonderful. The best part was a bright green salsa that had a wonderful fresh taste. I told the proprietress that it was best salsa I had ever had and asked for the recipe, which was simplicity itself. Take five or six fresh jalepenos, cut off the stem, and put them in the blender with a clove of garlic and some olive oil and salt. We later tried it on the boat with great success.

While we were there a young man – rather nice looking and studly but with far too many tattoos for our taste – sat down at the table next to us. He spoke no Spanish so I helped him order some orange soda and we started talking. He turned out to be Norwegian and one of the stars of a Norwegian reality show being filmed nearby. Teri and I quickly took the opportunity to have our photos taken with Nicholas.

The next day we started off at dawn, with Earl determined to catch some fish. We ran about 20 miles off shore and encountered our first group of spinner dolphins which were quite spectacular. Stuart managed to get a video of them near the boat and one can hear Daisy’s excitement in the background. The seas were lovely. Earl ran the generator and the water maker all day. Teri and I did a huge load of wash and hung most of it out to dry on top of the house. Then we had quesadillas with our new salsa for lunch while watching another group of dolphins. They were followed by some whales who put on quite a show for us. It was a lovely day, with one exception - no fish. After 7 or 8 hours, we headed towards our anchorage. The wind was coming up and it seemed like it was time. Just then, Teri called out “fish on”. Stuart and I ran back while Earl ran the boat. The fish was taking out line, but we could see it on the surface. As Stuart pulled it in, we were more and more puzzled. At first we thought it might be a skate, then a shark, then a piece of plastic. Teri was the first to identify it as a purple lululemon XL on a hanger. Stuart had caught his own tee shirt which had blown off the top of the boat. We never had more fun with any fish!

We anchored in Carrizal. It is a small anchorage and reminded us of Alaska. There are steep sides and no sign of civilization other than a couple of sailboats. After the long day before, Earl was content to stay put and we had time to enjoy the anchorage. Stuart went snorkeling and reported there were more fish than he had seen before. We explored the cove by dingy and kayak and found two blowholes which made a goodly noise. It was a peaceful night, no rocking. Earl got up in the middle of the night and was excited to hear whales nearby, until he realized it was the blowholes.

The next day we ran a few miles down to Las Hadas at Manzanillo. Las Hadas is very picturesque, with steep hillsides are covered with white buildings and multicolored flowers. It is lovely. Stuart, Teri and I went off to explore the town of Manzanillo. We opted for a cab for the ride to town and were lucky to have a wonderful driver who went out of the way to show us the sights. The port is one of the busiest in Mexico and huge. The town is about 120,000 and very pleasant. I had the chance to show Teri and Stuart the large public market, and we were all delighted with the beautiful displays and fruit and vegetables. The meat stalls, however, took care of any desire to eat.

That evening we went out to eat at the Paradise which overlooks the anchorage. It was lovely. An open air setting that included a lovely 6 month old cat, Negro, who came by looking for food and love. Even though it caters to Canadian and American tourists, it was very reasonable.

The next day was spent at Sandiago, around the corner to the north of Las Hadas. The beach is covered with multi colored beach umbrellas and is obviously very popular. It was Saturday and the locals were out in force. Stu and Teri took kayaks into the beach and landed in the surf. They strolled through the restaurants and small shops and were impressed that they seemed to cater to the locals. How refreshing when compared to the Cabos of the world. We were visited by the couple from the sailboat Sirroco whom we had met somewhere last year. It was nice to catch up with them.

Last night was our final night at anchor with the kids. We returned to Carrazal which did not disappoint. Now we are on our way back to Barra for our last couple of days with Stu and Teri – still no fish.