Thursday, February 16, 2012

Thursday, February 16, 2012 - Coming into Bahia Bonanza

On Saturday morning Align Leftwe drove down the east side of the Baja, so called East Cape, to the airport at Cabo San Jose. It was a lovely ride, about 2 1/2 hours. It ended at the airport which can only be called a zoo. There is no place to sit and wait for arrivals. Passengers are left to their own to run the gauntlet through the crowd of vendors who line the way to the exit. Outside they are met by tour organizers with signs and two kiosks selling drinks. I had forgotten how confusing the airport was and had neglected to warn Charlie. His flight was about 20 minutes late and had the additional confusion of arriving at the same time as a large flight from LA.

45 minutes after they landed I approached the security guards and asked if I could check on a older passenger who had not appeared. They was very kinds and directed me to a back door. While I was gone of course, Charlie came out the front door. He had had the immense good fortune to encounter friends at the gate in Denver and they had helped him navigate the immigration, baggage claim and customs. After introductions and hugs all around, we left the zoo known as Cabo as quickly as possible and headed back up the East Cape.

There are few things as wonderful as showing friends places one loves, and our trip with Charlie has been perfect. First driving up the Cape he was able to see how like the American Southwest Baja is except for the few valleys that have water and are green. We stopped at a little beach town, Los Barrilles, for a typical Mexican lunch of shrimp cocktails sitting on the ubiquitous white plastic chairs in the open air. Then we drove on to La Paz, dropped off luggage at the boat and drove to the airport to drop of the rental car which allowed Charlie a brief glimpse of the town.

It was early to bed - as always- after a very American meal of burgers and ice cream.

Charlie has not spent much time on a boat, so everything is a revelation to him. Earl proudly showed off all his toys and I think we may have corrupted Charlie who has always refused to have anything to do with computers. He was impressed by Earl’s ipad and seemed quite happy to read the New York Times on it.

Sunday, We cruised north along the Baja shore headed for the little fishing community of San Evaristo. It has about 20 families, a school, a very small tienda, and a water desalinization plant - a very typical village of the sea. We saw no marine life, but the rock formations did not fail us. They were, as always, spectacular. While Earl ran the boat, Daisy made sure that Charlie felt at home.

The next next day we headed north for Los Gatos, a particularly beautiful anchorage where we hoped to find Manuel to sell us some lobsters. We were lucky enough to run into a pod of pilot whales on the way. Earl slowed down and circled them so we really got a good look, although my photos are not the greatest!

We arrived at Gatos in the early afternoon and took a brief trip to the beach to look at the red sandstone formations up close. Daisy was in heaven, racing back and forth and stretching her legs while we sat on the rocks and drank in the scenery

Manuel appeared and stopped by a nearby sailboat. He was there quite a long time. Then he came by and gave us big hugs, and, as usual, a tale of woe. Apparently “Bandidos” have been stealing outboards: three, including his, at Casa Grande, and others at Evaristo to the south and Loreto and Juanico to the north. The outboard is probably a pangero’s most valuable asset. Without an outboard, he cannot really fish. As best I could understand, a good friend (Manual has many amigos including us) has agreed to make him a good deal on a gently used 25 horse motor. He is currently using it and will need to make three payments of 10,000 pesos (about $760). For Manual that is a huge chunk of change. He promised to return the next morning before ten with lobsters. He went off to visit (or hit up) other amigos.

The next morning his panga appeared at 8:30 and made a long stop at a neighboring boat. Then it was our turn. He came in for a cup of coffee and told me he had saved us three lobsters,although the other boat wanted to buy all his catch. Earl was downstairs in the bathroom and Manuel sat upstairs drinking coffee, waiting for the Senor to conduct business. I finally called to Earl that he needed to appear or Manual would never leave. We over paid for the lobsters and gave him an additional 1,000 pesos toward the new motor. I imagine that others will be doing likewise. After yet another round of hugs, he left in search of more amigos and we took off for Agua Verde to the north.

Just outside of Agua Verde we encountered a bunch of porpoise. They were feeding and did not come and play with us, but we did get a good look at them. Once into Agua Verde, Earl and Charlie went off for a dingy ride with Daisy. There was a little too much surf to land at the beach and the water was not as clear as usual so they were unable to see any fish below. They did stop by a sailboat.GIA, anchored near by and invited the occupants to come for a drink.

Desiree and Damian were a cute couple, probably about 40 - which is young in the cruising crowd. Donovan is from Albany, Oregon and Desiree from Palisade, Colorado near Grand Junction. They had met in the Coast Guard in Newport Oregon. She had spent 4 years in the service to qualify for the GI bill and get her education paid for. He put in 8 years. They have spent 9 years sailing the Pacific. First they circumnavigated Vancouver Island and then came south, eventually getting to Ecuador. Finally they sailed north via Hawaii and on to the NW - just long enough to ‘get rid of their freckles’- before heading back south to the Sea of Cortez. Her parents have given them some land in Palisade and they are going to leave the boat on the hard in San Carlos in March and go to Colorado to build themselves a 800 square foot home with solar power. They are planning to spend 6 months on land and 6 month sailing for the foreseeable future.

Earl had insisted that Charlie bring shorts with him. (Earl loves to tell people what to do.) Anyway, in accordance with some variant of Murphy’s law, it has been unseasonably cold. In fact, Charlie shivered all night and on waking found that the temperature in his room was 55. Obviously the shorts have not been used.

We left Agua Verde early, for a long run down to Isla San Francisco. On the way we did get to see a larger whale, we think it was a minkie. I had thought we could anchor off the SW side of Isla San Jose and take Charlie though the mangrove jungle, but it was not to be. Earl deemed the winds wrong, so we went around to our beautiful anchorage on the S of Isla San Francisco at the Hook.

Earl had the blue underwater lights on. When he went out to look, there was a large school of ballyhoo behind the boat. These are a wonderful bait fish, about 10 inches long with a bill. Earl had been able to buy them once, and since had searched in vain for them. And there they were, a gift from the sea gods. First Earl tried to catch them with a jig, but that did not work, so he resorted to snagging. It worked, but was a smelly and bloody process. When he was finished, Earl had about 20 of them flipping around in a bucket and blood all over himself and the back deck. The smell was reminiscent of salmon gurrey. Yuk!

We spent today running south, first to Los Islotes to see some sealions and then down the east side of Isla Partita and Espiritu Santo to the anchorage at Bonanza. I think this may be our last night cruising. We want to save a little time to show Charlie some of the land sights of Baja.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Thursday February 9, 2012 - Costa Baja Marina

Hard to believe that not only is it 2012, but we are already well into the month of February. I believe that I have caught a bad case of the local malady “manana”. It is easy to do when it feels as if all deadlines are completely artificial and self imposed in our current life style. So everyday I have blogging on my to do list, and everyday passes with much of list untouched. Today is a get it done day! We got our rugs cleaned after five years of spills. What a difference! While they were out in the sun, I got the floor beautifully clean and defrosted the freezer. Now to blog!

Time has been flying for us. We left Mexico in early December for a snowy and cold Anchorage holiday season. It was both unusually cold and unusually snowy this year and perfect for feeling Christmasy.

We lost no time in decorating both inside and outside the house. Inside we brought up boxes from the crawl space. There were all the decorations that we put away three years ago, many of them with special memories associated. Bella helped decorate a wonderful smelling tree. She is seven and quite tall which was helpful and she no longer hangs everything in the same small area, instead distributing ornaments well over the tree. She was completely into the Christmas spirit. Outside Earl set up a couple of artificial trees with LED lights which do not melt the snow. They end up looking like colored sno cones.

My sister Cricket came to spend Christmas with us. This was her third Anchorage Christmas and she came prepared to take wonderful photos of trees covered with hoar frost against blue skies with her new camera. Of course the result of this preparation was constant snow and overcast skies during her visit. It was wonderful to have her with us, so hopefully she will come again and hope for better photographic conditions.

We took every possible opportunity to see our children, grandchildren and friends. It was wonderful. The grandchildren are all growing fast, with little Amelia turning three in January. Sara is expecting her brother, currently called Baby Ned by by Amelia, and everyone else, on April 1. We are very excited!

After a very snowy month in Anchorage, we flew down to La Conner Washington, and we brought the snow with us. I then went on to Boston to check on our remodeling project in Stockbridge, and I brought snow there are well. I decided that if it snowed in La Paz I would look into getting an exorcist.

Earl arrived here January 18th and spent the next couple of days doing tasks. We now have five new batteries. The original ones had never really recovered from being drawn down to nothing for an extended period when we first moored in La Conner and left for 5 weeks with the power improperly hooked up. Earl is very happy with the level of the battery voltage in the morning when we are anchored. He also fixed the dingy rank on the top which had nearly proved fatal several times in the past. We now lift if off when it is not in use. What a difference it makes to the usefulness of the boat deck!

We had hoped that the windy weather would disappear in 2012. So far it has not. We seem to have real winds every few days and the weather is far cooler than we had hoped. It has rarely hit 80, and although the water temperature is in the upper 60’s, we have not been tempted to swim.

We caught up with our friends John and Maria Luisa. They have new - for them- boat. The Viking Spirit is a 65 foot Ocean Alexander and is very nicely laid out. A large back deck, big salon, pilothouse with dinette and kitchen, three nice state rooms, and a wonderful boat deck. I think they will love it and we look forward to spending time with them there.

Then finally off we went, with no particular destination in mind. We spent several days making our way up to the Hook at Isla San Francisco, which was lovely as always. There were quite a number of sail boats keeping us company. For whatever reason, we have found more company this year than in the past. We were joined by an enormous expedition yacht - the type that can and do travel the seven seas, complete with a helicopter and a 40 foot run about on deck. It is nice to feel petite!

The next day was calm and we ran up the west side of Isla San Jose to a point called Salinas to look for nautilus shells. It was a special day. We saw no shells on the beach so we meandered back and forth in the dingy in the shallow water looking down in hopes of spotting shells on the bottom. The water was lovely and clear and we saw many star fish but no shells. It was one of the those wonderful times when you know it is special even at the time.

Eagle eyed Earl saw some sea gulls diving on something in the water’s edge and we went over to investigate. There was a Humbolt squid, about 3 or 4 feet long, flailing in the shallows. It had evidently been hurt, probably by a whale, and was missing several tentacles. We decided to harvest it. Since our knowledge of squid morphology was limited we were not sure were to start to kill it. Earl finally just started stabbing and cut off the mantle which was lovely white meat about an inch thick.

We were very excited to try it. The few times we have had really fresh calamari, we loved it. I took a look in my fish cook book and read that one must be very careful not to overcook squid - unless you decided to stew it. It is tough when raw and tough when overcooked, so there is an just cooked point to go for. We pan fried strips. I was not impressed. I found the flavor a little odd and the meat decidedly. We have since tried it was fritters, which I passed on and Earl eat. Of course, as he says, “he likes that kind of thing”. I hope so, because we have 5 more large slabs in the freezer.

After a quick stop in La Paz to get some milk, eggs and veggies, we headed south for Bahia de los Muertos (Bay of the Dead) which has been renamed by a developer Bahia de los Suenos (Bay of Dreams). It is about a days run south of La Paz and we fished all the way down, catching only skip jack which we released. The Bay is a wonderful north wind anchorage and we were joined by three sailboats, two coming from the south and one which followed us from the north.

We spent several days there. The couple which had come from the north (Roger and Karen) have spent a number of years in the Sea. We told them about our search for nautilus shells and found out that we had been looking for the wrong thing. What we may find at Salinas are not the nautilus shells that I had seen before, but ‘paper nautilus’ which the internet informed us were the eggs cases of a type of octopus. They are about 3 inches across and extreme fragile. Now that we know what to look for, perhaps we will do better another time.

We spent a nice evening with the couples from the other boats who were on their way to La Paz having spent the summer in La Cruz. Although it was extremely hot and humid, they loved being there, as one of just a few boats in the marina. They really had the chance to make friends in the town with locals. They had spent the prior summer up north in Bahia de los Angeles which was hotter, but far less humid. Scott showed us some of their photos from that summer. Apparently there a a number of whale sharks resident their and one of their special joys was swimming with them. On Sunday we all met at the little restaurant on the beach to watch the superbowl game. Earl got his fix!

On the way back into La Paz we looked for whale sharks near the entrance to the town harbor. We found none but did enjoy visits with some very mellow porpoise.

That night I woke to wind and pouring rain. At least I thought it was the wind until Earl pointed out that it was thunder. It rained most of the next day leaving huge puddles around town that will take a while to disappear. There is little drainage here.

Now we are looking forward to receiving a special visitor. Our friend - for close to 50 years - Charlie is coming from Denver to visit. We never dared dream that he would ever take us up on our invitation and we are thrilled to be able to show him this part of the world with which we have fallen in love.