Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tuesday, April 19, 2011 - Costa Baja, La Paz

When we left Puerto Escondido, we were headed north to Santa Rosalia which we had loved last year. The first day out we did not run far, only to Isla Coronado, because I wanted to stay in phone and internet range through the night. We were on the SW side of the island in a bay which has a large sandbar to the south and it is a lovely anchorage. We were not the only ones there, but there is plenty of room for all and we enjoyed a peaceful evening at anchor before heading north.

Our first stop, on the 8th was Bahia San Juanico. This is an extraordinary bay, with wonderful rock formations which rise around you like church spires. It has wonderful protection from the north as well as small area on the south side that would be great in south winds. And there we remained for two lovely days while the wind came up and blew 35 from the NW on the 10th.

There seemed little point in bashing into the waves when we were in such a nice place. We wandered the beach with Daisy looking for agates. I don’t think we found any, but we did pick up some extraordinary rocks which I will take home to James, our grandson. I am toying with the idea of buying a rock polisher. Some of the rocks are conglomerates of wonderful colors. I don’t have any idea if they will polish or not.

Our first afternoon, we invited a young couple that had rowed around the bay in for a beverage. They are Marni and Mike, from Sidney, Vancouver Island. They have a 37 foot steel sailboat named Picara on which they have done a ton of work. They plan to go back north to replenish their bank account, but next year they will continue their cruise. It is always a pleasure to see young couples enjoying the cruising life. They do all the more active things - like rowing around the bay and hiking the hills. I asked what Picara meant and Marni said she would like to know. They understood from the dictionary that it meant hobo or wanderer in Spanish but given the smirks they get from the local men they are curious as to whether it has a somewhat racier meaning, at least in Mexico. She hopes that it is not too wild. I discussed it with Maria Luisa and Marni can relax. In addition to meaning mischievous, naughty or cheeky, the most common meaning in Mexican slag is flirt - but definitely not slut.

The next day, the wind howled. That morning we had a visit from the smallest inflatable dingy I have ever seen - certainly no more than 5 feet long - rowed by a pretty petite young woman named Nina. She was hoping we could fill her 6 gallon water tank, which was not problem at all. She came in for a cup of coffee and we learned she and her husband are Norwegian and have been living on a 27 foot sailboat, Bica, on which they have sailed from Norway. 27 feet is really very small. Her husband is a serious writer and has published a number of novels. When I asked, she admitted that being written for Norwegians they were not light hearted. She is busy writing a book on Seppala who ran the serum to Nome by dogsled in 1925. She is from the very northern part of Norway. Seppela came from a nearby village and, like her, was part Finish, since many Finns over time migrated from their northern hills to the Norwegian Coast. Somewhat embarrassing for us having spent 30 years in Alaska, she knew far more than we about the early 1900s in Alaska and in Nome specifically. Earl had a great aunt and uncle who had lived there in 1905 so it is particularly interesting to us. We invited her to come over in the evening for drinks and she said she would bring us copies of some of her research materials, including a who’s who from Nome in the early 1900’s.

Nina brought over a portable drive. In addition to a special file that she had compiled for us about Nome, she had several thousand digital books, a translator which would put them in Kindle format, a bunch of books on tape including all the Harry Potters and some NPR podcasts. The last two should be wonderful for night watches.

We also invited over Marni and Mike from Picara and Lewis and Laura from the sailboat Cirque which was anchored next to us. Everyone brought goodies. Marni had bread and humus, both of which she had made from scratch that day. Most impressive, Nina brought some sweet Norwegian yeast bread that she had baked over charcoal in the barbecue - she said they were running low on propane. Lewis and Laura are racers and had lots of stories to tell of the Puerto Vallarta sailing regatta. They have won several years in a row and this year the race committee gerry rigged the handicapping to try to favor others - they still won. We made fun of the dour nature of Norwegians and Finns. Marni brought up the subject of Margaret Attwods books - she is Canadian- and I said I liked them but found them rather dark. Nina respond that for her it was comedy. Lots of fun. We are happy that we will be seeing Nina and Hendrik (who was busy with his manuscript and did not join us) this winter. They will be house and dog sitting in Wasilla, Alaska.

The next day the wind out of the north was gusting 35 and we decided against heading north into the seas. We will leave our visit to Santa Rosalia until the fall and combine it with exploration of the Bahia Los Angles area. Instead we headed south, back to Coronado with the wind and seas on our tail. This boat is made for such weather and we had a lovely ride.

Because of the north winds, we anchored on the south side of the island and watched the surf curl around the ends of the land, while we sat snug as could be at anchor. As predicted, the next morning, the 12th, the winds had died allowing us numerous alternatives. We chose to stop first at Loreto. Earl took me into the small boat harbor in the dingy and I went shopping for milk, fruit and vegetables. Then we headed over to a beautiful little cove on Isla Carmen called Balandra. In addition to being lovely, it gets good cellphone reception which was important. Everything was perfect, except for a swarm of thirsty bees which decided to populate our back deck in a search of fresh water. Since it did not look as if we would be able to barbecue, we took off and headed for another anchorage, La Lancha, on the north side of the island. We had it to ourselves and enjoyed the beauty.

The following day, we headed south. The forecast for the following days was for big winds from the north so we made our way to Agua Verde which is a wonderful anchorage for north winds. The first thing we saw was a man fishing from a tiny kayak. We had a chance to visit with him the next day. He is Milo from the Chek Republic and told us that he had come to the USA in 1988 as a cook on fishing vessels in Alaska. 9 years ago he retired, quit drinking, and found a young Chek girlfriend. He has been living in Mexico ever since. He had been in Agua Verde since October, living on the beach in a 20 year old white van with a blanket over the back, subsisting on fish and love.

We had a lovely time exploring the beaches on Agua Verde. The water was exceptionally clear and appropriately green and in the shallower areas of the bay we could clearly see lots of colorful fish. Daisy loves going on dingy rides. She hangs over the front like a hood ornament.

One of the boats in Agua Verde was a 46 foot Nordhavn, Discovery. We had met her last year just north of Conception. Frank was the one who returned Earl’s cap to him in Escondido and we were lucky to have a opportunity in Agua Verde to get to know Frank and Linda better. They worked in the Seattle area and a couple of years ago they cruised south in the boat which is now their home. They will continue the life style as long as it suits them both. They invited us over for drinks. Their boat is lovely. it has a large salon and a good galley. The master stateroom is in the bow which allows them lots of light and air on a normal basis while the smaller mid-cabin is available if the passage is rough.

The wind howled the second day we were in Agua Verde. In this dry desert land, we found that the wind off the land brought with it lots of red dust which coated the boat and got in our eyes. Hopefully this is an unusual thing. We have not encountered it before.

The next day, we headed south. Our friends John and Maria Luisa were headed for the Hook on the south side of Isla San Francisco and we had arranged to join them. The plan was to stop on the way at Los Gatos and buy some lobsters for dinner from Manuel. We stopped for about an hour at lunch time and called several times on the radio, but no Manuel, no lobsters. Happily, I had a kilo of small scallops in the freezer and I know there is nothing that Maria Luisa loves better than scallop ceviche. It is, additionally, simply to make. Cover the scallops in lime juice and a little salt. While they sit, chop up onions, tomatoes, jalepenos, and cilantro. Mix the vegetables with a little olive oil, drain and add the scallops, add salt and a little tabasco to taste. By the we arrived at the Hook at 4:30, we were ready to entertain. Maria Luisa, John and their friends, Guy (born in France of Danish and Hungarian parents) and Lolita, his Mexican wife, came and feasted on scallops and white wine. It was a lovely evening.

Early the next morning, the wind came up from the south so we pulled anchor and moved to an anchorage on the north east side of the island. The beach was very rocky, large cobbles, of wonderful colors, including reds and greens.

After a stop here, I pulled up the weather for Earl. To our surprise it was suddenly calling for significant east winds. If it was right, we were not in a good place. We pulled our anchor were headed south, when Earl pointed out the the forecast included 16 to 17 foot seas. WOW! Well, to err is human. The weather report was correct for latitude 24 and longitude 110 - in the southern hemisphere. Earl has significantly reduced my performance rating as meteorologist and is threatening to cut my salary.

Since we were already on our way, we headed to our favorite anchorage at Caleta Partita. Glad we did, for once again, the winds came up and it was good to be in a safe anchorage. It was blowing from the SW, so we thought we would go around Isla Espiritu Santo to Bonanza on the SW side. As we left the anchorage, we ran into bumpy seas and a south wind. After bouncing around a little, we found a lovely cove, Galina, and pulled in. It was good in a south wind, but would not be good in the forecasted SW, so after lunch we pulled anchor to head around the island. We did not get far before Earl decided that the wind was definitely more S or SE and that the Bonanza anchorage would not work. So instead we headed to Balandra, a lovely anchorage not far from La Paz. The wind had disappeared, the water was 74 and beautiful and we floated around and enjoyed ourselves. As we watched a lovely sunset, all of a sudden we had a south wind gusting to 35. It was a rocky night, and Earl was up multiple times checking our anchor and keeping and eye on the other boats around us.

Today, after having spent almost 2 weeks running from the weather, we headed back to our slip in Costa Baja. Our supplies are low, the boat is dirty, the temperature is in the 90;s and we are happy to be ‘home’.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Thursday, April 7, 2011 leaving Puerto Escondido heading north

AprilAfter we arrived in Costa Baja on February 20th, we spent a few days in La Paz getting ready to leave and then on the 24th we flew to Mexico City. Our wonderful friends, John and Maria Luisa, met us there and took us to their lovely new home in Cuernavaca. I had last visited the town in the late 60’s when the population was about 100,000. It is now about 1,000,000 and what a change. In the 60’s my aunt had a lovely house downtown by the zocolo and I remember that we would stroll there in the early evening. Back then there were a couple of sidewalk vendors selling straw baskets and it was a lovely place to sit and enjoy a peaceful drink. I had the address and we went looking for the house. It was almost impossible to believe that what had once been a lovely charming little town square was now a traffic congested place. How sad!

Although the downtown has lost much of its charm for me, John’s house was absolutely lovely, very modern, very airy with a lovely pool and patio. We had a wonderful visit. John has a couple of restaurants “Vicingos” (Vikings since John is Danish) which he started and his sons now run. So when we did not go out, he would just call and order food. Very convenient!

We took a day trip to Taxco, which is where most of the Mexican silver is mined. It is a very old town and is built up the side of a mountain. It looks Mediterranean rather than Mexican because all the houses are painted white. There is a beautiful old cathedral dating from the 1500’s. John has a branch of his restaurants there and we sat on the patio and enjoyed the view with our lunch before traipsing through town.

View of Taxco Cathedral at Lunch

Our visit to Cuernavaca was too short, Thursday evening through Sunday morning, and then we were back in La Paz to catch our flight to Anchorage. We over nighted in LA and arrived midday, March 1st, to Anchorage which was snow covered and dazzling under a lovely blue sky. The snow on the back deck was 3 feet high and Daisy found it a little overwhelming.

We were blessed with three weeks of glorious weather, and by the time we left the creeping phlox was gradually showing up where the snow was gone behind our house. It was wonderful seeing the grandchildren. The price was sharing the illnesses making the rounds of the Anchorage preschools. The down side was that we got sick. The upside was that for several days Amelia did not go to preschool and we had her for the whole day. She is two and chattering full time so we are really getting to know her.

Amelia multi-tasking- watching Dora the Explorer on the I-pad while planning her trip to Finland

Bella and I got to spend several days together as well. Our visit home coincided with Fur Rendezvous, the midwinter Anchorage festival. Among other activities, Bella got to take a dog sled ride. Then we enjoyed two trips to see an exhibit of Mammoths and Mastodons from the Field Museum in Chicago which was on tour. The second trip included Steve’s three teenagers including Elora, aged 13 + who patiently put up with being Bella’s prisoner. We saw many friends and the time flew bye. Finally, with our income taxes sort of taken care of and bills paid, we left on the 24th for warmer weather to recuperate from our colds.

Bella taking a dog sled ride

We had a long trip back, leaving Anchorage at 1 am and arriving at 4 pm making a long day for us and even more for Daisy. We were able to break her out for breakfast and a walk in Seattle, but otherwise it was a long day in her crate.

We spent the next five days getting over my cold and preparing for Roland and Nancy who were due to arrive on March 30 to spend a week with us. Apparently I was not too ill since we managed an active social schedule. We saw a good deal of Herve, who has spent 25 years in California but is originally from Brittany. His wife, Helene, had returned to California so he was by himself and easily persuaded into drinks or dinner.

We had brought two new laptops with us, one PC and one Mac, to replace the two Dells we had on board which were beginning to act up. One, the PC, will be dedicated to navigation, while the Mac will be used for other stuff, such as blogging. We had also brought a wireless modem with the thought that we could create a WI FI hotspot on our boat and use the email and internet capabilities of our I phones as well as being able to move the computer around the boat without losing the internet connection. I was supposed to transfer everything on to the new computers and get the new equipment set up. I got stuff loaded on the Mac but we are still using the old Dell for navigation. The real problem turned out to be with little cradle-point wi fi modem that Earl had found. The directions were very sparse and I was unable to make it work properly. The more I tried, the worse it got. By the time I was through, I could not even get the internet cable connection to work. I hate being the “Help” desk and my frustration did not make the atmosphere in the boat a harmonic one. Fortunately another cruiser came to my rescue. Peter, from the Solara, a Nordhavn 64, has an impressive technical background and spent two hours working on my problem. He finally found the one little setting that needed to be changed and soon I was able to create a wireless hot spot on the boat using either the cable modem or the little Telcel stick modem. We celebrated that evening at Peter’s with a bottle of champaign after picking up Roland and Nancy at the airport.

After drinks at Peter’s including a tour of his beautiful boat, we took Roland and Nancy to the Beach Club Palapa for a dinner overlooking the beach. They loved it, as we knew they would. The next morning, bright and early as is Earl’s way, we took off to spend the day exploring the Espiritu Santo marine preserve. We hit two beaches, San Gabriel which has a beautiful long sand beach and a frigate bird rookery, then Cardoncita on Isla Partita, which we had not visited before. It has a nice area for snorkeling and Nancy and Roland had their equipment on almost before we had the anchor down. Finally, around four, we moved on to our favorite anchorage at Caleta Partita. Having seen no boats the rest of the day, Nancy was shocked that we had to share the anchorage with 6 or 7 other boats. It was lovely.

Roland, Nancy and Daisy approaching Espiritu Santo

Frigate Bird Rookery in Bahia San Gabriel

The next morning we headed north to Isla San Francisco. Our plan was to catch some fish and then anchor at the Hook on the south side of the Island. It was not to be. No fish, and then a wind from the south required looking for a different anchorage. We spent mid day anchored on the East side of the island. Then the wind went down and we tried cruising around to catch a fish - still not a bite. However, we did have a thrill watching a school of small rays, mobulas, near the boat jumping and flying through the air. We ended up anchoring behind a spit on the SW side of Isla San Jose called Amortajada.

Nancy captured by the Girl who Played with Fire

The next day started with a dingy ride through a small mangrove lagoon which was impressive a high tide. We then explored a beach further north on the island at a site which was once a salt mine. There are a few piece of abandoned equipment and the salt ponds still have some salt. We could have just filled up our containers with sea salt had we wished. I had heard that one could occasionally find a nautilus shell in the seaweed here. We found none but enjoyed our walk and Daisy really got to explore and stretch her legs. Then we headed 4 miles across the San Jose Canal to the little town of San Evaristo, which boasts about 20 families, a school, a desalinization plant, a cantina and tienda (little shop), goats and mules. The fishermen were unloading their pangas and had some pretty impressive catches of yellow tail. The pangas are open boats, but the pangeros have developed a low cost model of fish hold to keep their catch fresh. It is a 50 gallon plastic barrel which has been sprayed with a heavy layer of insulation, laid on its side with a lid cut into it. Very functional - the catch looked beautiful.

Roland and Nancy check out some mining equipment

We wandered through the little town and gave Roland and Nancy a taste of rural Mexico. The tienda was quite well stocked and we were able to pick up onions and tomatoes. Nancy picked up some packages of cookies and later discovered what we already knew: Mexican cookies have zero taste.

We had cocktail hour on the top deck watching several sailboats coming in to anchor. One was no more than 20 feet long, and another was from Juneau Alaska and painted blue with the stars of the Alaska flag on its side. One of the interesting things was watching the fisherman catching bait for the next day. They use throw nets from the bow of their boat and it is a lovely thing to watch, it looks very easy and no doubt is a very difficult thing to do.

San Evaristo

A wild 35 mph wind came up that night and we rocked a good deal, but we were well and safely anchored. One of the sailboats was not so well secured and came floating by us. We woke to the sound of roosters crowing and mules braying. It was another beautiful day and we were off to catch fish.

We cruised north up the Canal San Jose and then around the island of San Jose and down along the east side before heading back to the west and our anchorage at Los Gatos. It was a 10 hour day of fishing with no fish. In fact, this trip we saw relatively little in the way of sea life. Finally, just before we anchored we saw a couple of large whales. They were not so near or so spectacular to normally have been of much interest, but we noticed another boat tracking them. Obviously they had seen little sea life as well.

We had called on the radio saying that we were the Serenity and going to Gatos and hoping to buy lobsters. When we arrived was no one else there. We anchored and went up above to have a drink and admire the beautiful red rocks. Five minutes later, Earl saw a panga coming from the south - Manuel and his lobsters were coming. We had last see Manuel just before Christmas. He had been ill and we were worried about him. He greeted us with big hugs and told us that he was feeling much better. He had been one month in La Paz and had a small operation that solved his problem. He was happy to see us and after selling us 5 kilos of lobsters for a modest sum, he sat and had a beer. He can no longer dive for lobsters, so now he catches them in a net. The problem is the market. The Canadians and Americans frequently all show up at once and he runs out of lobster, which seems to be the only thing they want. He was saving to buy a second net, which would cost close to $100. As one fisherman to another, Earl contributed to the cost, and we all got more hugs. We feasted on lobsters, leaving 3 for lunch the next day in Earl’s live tank. Earl and I retired, leaving Roland and Nancy to skinny dip.

Manuel enjoying a beer

The next day, Earl was up early taking photos of the beautiful red rocks in the sunrise. There was Manuel in his panga with a gift of beautiful little bay scallops. He came by again as we were leaving to show us his catch and the net he is planning on duplicating. I think as long as Manuel is well, we will have lobsters waiting us in Los Gatos.

It was a short run up to Agua Verde - no surprise, no fish. We arrived in time for lunch on the boat deck: cold soup and lobster salad. Roland and Nancy explored the town and visited Marie’s tienda. Earl and I had our heads into our books. Later in the afternoon we saw the local goat herd making its way across the hill in front of us.

Agua Verde Sunset

Tuesday, our last day of cruising, we ran up towards Puerto Escondido. We ran around the east side of the Isla Danzante where we finally found a pod of bottle-nose dolphins that played with us for a while. I am glad that we finally found some before Roland and Nancy left. Then our final stop before Escondido - Honeymoon cove for lunch and a swim. It was beautiful even if we had to share the cove with another boat.

Honeymoon Cove

We anchored in Puerto Escondido and arranged for a rental car for the next day. Then friends began to arrive. First, Steve and Tawny from the sailboat Imagine whom we had last seen a year ago in Bahia Conception where we spent several days weathered in. We had just started catching up with them when a dingy pulled up from the Nordhavn 46, Discovery, bringing Earl back his Nordhavn hat which he a lost in Conception to Gary who reports the sunrisa net weather. Not long after, our friends from Port Don Juan in the Bahia de Los Angeles, Gordon and Miriam from the 31 foot Golden Hind, Anwagomi, showed up. We all had a good time and it was fun introducing Roland and Nancy to some of our cruising friends.

Puerto Escondido

That night we had dinner on shore at the Portobello restaurant in the marina. The restaurant overlooks the anchorage and it is impossible to ignore how beautiful it is. Then, too soon, it was Wednesday the 6th and time to take a quick tour of Loreto before dropping Roland and Nancy at the airport for their flight home. We toured the old Cathedral in Loreto. The mission was established in 1697 and was responsible for sending out the missionaries that established the missions in California. Then Nancy demonstrated some of her power shopping skills before we had a quick mexican lunch. We came back to a boat that seemed very quiet.

Lunch in Loreto

Gordon and Miriam came over and we had a nice visit with just the two of them. Gordon is a radio ham and gave Earl some tips on getting our single sideband receiver working. We were able to hear something this morning, even though we could not understand what was being said. We will give it another try tomorrow when the weather report is scheduled.

We are now headed north and for the first time in a week we have telephone and internet available. I paid some bills, checked the emails, and will post this while we are still able to do so. Our next chance will probably next week when we are planning to be in Santa Rosalia.