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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Lightening Strikes

May 30, 2005
Agua Verde, Baja California del Sur, 25o 30' N 111o 03' W
About 90 miles North West of La Paz

We spent an afternoon at the sand spit on Isla San Jose to take the lagoon river trip. The weather had been kind of over cast and humid all day and after we had been anchored at Isla San Jose for half an hour or so we started hearing the distant rumble of thunder. There was a big power boat anchored close by and they started pulling their anchor around the time the lightning started. The problem with being anchored near a sand spit is that we had full visibility of the lightning all around, so it looked like it was much closer then it actually was. Anyway, the power boat was pulling his anchor but not really going anywhere. At one point we heard him make a comment about 'staying near the lightning rod', which we figured was supposed to be our aluminum mast sticking 50 feet into the air. Linda and I sat in the companionway watching the lightning and hoping that we wouldn't become the protection for a power boat worth 10 times our little boat and finally it became apparent that the storm was going to pass far to the south of us.

With that bullet dodged the big power boat motored off into the distance and we got ready for our Jungle River Trip. We loaded up snorkeling gear, fishing pole and other water toys and headed into the 'river'. A friend had told us that there was good fishing in the inlet so I put out a lure and sure enough something started chasing it. I got a strike and hooked a small fish that I was delighted to find to be a small rooster fish, my first ever. I've been 'dreaming' about catching one of these since I'd read about them before my bicycle trip with Mike Green in the '80s. This one was pretty small though, so it didn't put up the huge fight that rooster fish are known for and in a few seconds I had him next to the boat. Unfortunately he got off the hook just as we were getting ready to take his picture. The rest of the river trip was pretty uneventful. The channel is very short and it ends in a lagoon that doesn't inspire much awe. Maybe if the weather were better... Soon after we reached the lagoon the weather started closing in again so we high tailed it back to NAKIA to get near some higher ground, this time however we didn't get nearly as much lightning as the previous storm so we were much more relaxed.

Our destination was a short run across the channel to San Evaristo where we spent two nights with three other boats; SolMate, Secret O' Life and Mutineer V. There are supposed to be a couple small tiendas in San Evaristo so we went ashore one day to see if we could find them (we're getting pretty low on fresh provisions). The first store turned out to be closed so we went on down the road to the reported location of a second store which turned out to be a few small shelves in the kitchen of a local's house. After putting the owner through all the trouble of showing us around we felt like we should buy something, so we bought 18 eggs at a cost of about $1.50. Big spenders. The next day we took a hike up the hills overlooking the anchorage where we found the crews of SolMate and Secret O' Life already at the top. They had started after us but took a shorter route. Oh well, we beat them sailing all the time so I guess they get to win the hiking contest (just kidding you guys!).

We left San Evaristo and had a great sail to Bahia Rincon (corner or nook bay). What an awesome place! It's one of those places that not too many people stop because it's close to a lot of other, better anchorages but they're the ones missing out. It's a little cove out of the wind surrounded by high cliffs, several hundred feet high. There's a smooth sandy bottom about 35 feet down and good fishing all around (I caught a leopard grouper and another bottom fish). We only stayed one night but probably could have stayed several as long as the wind continued to come out of the south.

The next morning we left around 10 to make it to our planned anchorage at Los Gatos around 2pm. Of course when we got to Los Gatos we were wishing we were back at Bahia Rincon. The southeast swell was rolling directly into Los Gatos and no matter where we went in this little bay we couldn't find any place out of the swell. Our backup, a spot around from the point nearby was equally bad so we bit the bullet and made for Agua Verde, another 20 miles away. In the end we had a great sail getting there, even if it was a little longer than it should have been. A few weeks ago I hooked the autopilot to the GPS, so the autopilot will actually take us from waypoint to waypoint without us having to tend the course. We just have to watch for traffic. This works great as long as I enter the waypoints into the GPS correctly, which in this case I was off by about 3 miles on one of the waypoints. The autopilot did as it was told and steered us about two miles past my 'intended' waypoint before I noticed and corrected the error. Good thing I was pay attention, those machines will get you every time if you don't watch out. We pulled into Agua Verde two hours before sunset to a welcoming from several rays jumping in the late afternoon sun. I guess it's not all bad.

Today is Memorial Day and there's going to be a potluck party on the beach. We're taking a cabbage salad and were going to be taking cupcakes until we found that the cake mix we've been saving for so long is a little too old to be good now. Guess we shouldn't have saved it for so long!

John and Linda

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Exciting times

May 24, 2005
North end of Isla San Francisco, 24o 50' N 110o 35' W
About 40 miles NE of La Paz

We played 'find the best anchorage' at Isla la Partida for a few nights last week. After leaving No Name Cove #7 we moved into Caleta Partida which was much more protected, as we hoped. The problem was that there were a few other boats there and since we'd spent a few nights there with Megabyte a month ago we felt we 'knew' the anchorage and were kind of bored being there.

The highlight was taking the dinghy through the shallow gap that separates Isla la Partida from Isla del Espiritu Santo and out into the wild blue Sea of Cortez. It was a perfect day and our destination was a sea cave which we'd been told had a sand beach inside it. We searched up and down the coast and could only find one cave that was deep enough to enter in the dinghy. It didn't have a sandy beach inside, but it did have some pretty cool snorkeling in and around it. We anchored the dinghy inside the cave and were rewarded by spotting a banded guitar fish (like a cross between a shark and a ray) lounging in the shade of the cave.

However, a few nights in the familiar Caleta Partida were enough, so we moved around the corner to El Cardonal. Literally around the corner, but once again we were anchored by ourselves. Our first night was more or less tolerable, given the fact that El Cardonal is much less protected from the evening La Paz wind known as the Coromuel, and we spent the next day snorkeling on a reef outside the anchorage and exploring the beach near NAKIA.

The afternoon was topped off when Linda noticed the Dockwise* ship passing the island. We knew it would be carrying our friend Dave and his boat Megabyte so while Linda called Dave on the VHF radio I went out in the dinghy (it was seriously flat calm) to take pictures and wave good-bye. Definitely a cool way to bid so long to Dave and Megabyte.

Of course we should have known that the flat calm I took the dinghy out in was the proverbial calm before the storm. Just before dinner the wind started coming up and it was blowing directly into the anchorage. By sunset we had 25 knots and a 2 ft wind chop bouncing us around and threatening to blow us onto the beach behind us. Reluctantly we pulled anchor and, with the light of a 3/4 moon, motored back around the corner to Caleta Partida. This was no easy feat, the wind out in the channel was blowing over 30 knots and the seas were much higher. We were towing the dinghy, with the motor mounted on it (something we almost never do, even in good weather), and NAKIA was only able to make 1-2 knots into the steep Sea Of Cortez chop. We had a well laid out route on the GPS though, thank goodness for computer charting, and made it in with the worst part of the trip being the huge amount of salt spray covering the boat.

That was about enough of Caleta Partida for us, we decided to move to Isla San Francisco the next day. We sailed most of the way and pulled into the anchorage in the late afternoon to find our friends Stan and MJ on SolMate already anchored there. After five or six nights of getting blown around by the Coromuel we decided to pull as deep into the 'hook' as we could, since this would provide the best protection from the SW. We dropped the anchor in a very thin 10 feet of water and backed down hard to ensure that we wouldn't drag. All this preparation was a good thing because as soon as we got back from cocktails on SolMate the wind piped up and the Coromuel blew with a vengeance. The next night was more of the same, except with the added inconvenience of a rolly swell that came into the anchorage which kept me awake all night. Time to move on.

We'd heard people on the radio talking about the north end of Isla San Francisco and our guild book described an open anchorage there so we decided to take a look. It was a quick evening run from the 'hook' to the north end where we found three other sailboats and a powerboat anchored. We followed our herd instinct and anchored near the sailboats and felt secure for the evening. The Coromuel blew like always, but we were well protected. However, once again we had the nagging roll of a swell which swept the anchorage all night long. That'll teach me to follow my herd instinct. The next morning we broke ranks and found a nice little nook where we could be out of the swell and get even better protection from the wind. The remaining swell was easily handled by our rocker-stopper and we finally got a good nights sleep.

Tomorrow we plan on moving across the channel in the morning to explore the estuary on Isla San Jose, a 'Jungle River Trip' which is supposed to be very scenic. This is just a day anchorage however, as the no-see-ums are terrible there and anyone staying past sunset is looking to get eaten alive. We plan to move to San Evaristo long before the sun reaches anywhere near the horizon.

John and Linda

* Dockwise is a company that makes its money transporting yachts all over the world. Their ships are designed to sink deep enough to allow the yachts to drive into and over the ship's cargo deck. Divers then build steel supports under the yachts, (underwater!), and then they pump the water out of the ship, raising the yachts out of the water. The ship then drives to its destination carrying the yachts. When it arrives the ship is sunk again and off come the yachts. It's expensive but wear and tear on the yachts is very low and the ship makes very good time.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Cruising again

May 17, 2005
No Name Cove, Isla del Espiritu Santo, 24o 30' N 110o 23' W
(Approx 20 mi NE of La Paz)

As usual, because we were 'in port' I let the blog go for a while. Sorry about that but I can't seem to get motivated to write when there are things like movie theaters, super markets and restaurants within walking distance.

The boat was in La Paz for almost a month after we returned from our foray into the Sea of Cortez with M/V Megabyte. Here are the highlights from that month:

April 17
Arrived La Paz, docked in Marina Palmira
We needed someplace to keep NAKIA while we took a trip back to the US and Marina Palmira has a good deal where you buy as many days as you like and then you can use them up over the next 8 months. We paid for a month of moorage and plan to come back in on our way south next fall.

April 19-27
Bus trip to San Diego
This was a biggie, our tourist visas were going to expire at the end of April so we needed to go back to the US to get new ones. The trip to San Diego involved a 23 hour bus ride. The bus was very nice, complete with bathroom and 4 DVD movies (half of which were in English). We arrived early in the morning on the 20th and went to Chula Vista to take our friends Ron and Anita to the airport. They were nice enough to let us use their car and sleep on their boat while they were in New Orleans for the jazz festival.
Instead of getting new tourist visas we got FM-3 visas, which cost $136 USD each and let us stay in MX up to a year without renewing them. Hopefully this means fewer long bus rides back to the US.
We also spent a lot of time and money shopping for things we can't get easily in MX like boat parts. This turned out to be the largest expenditure of time, as we ended up waiting for some engine parts to be delivered.
The bus trip back to La Paz was just like the first, except we left in the evening instead of the morning, so we arrived late in the afternoon on the 27th. Of course for this trip we had bags and bags of boat parts and supplies, the cause for much worrying about Mexican Customs which in the end was a piece of cake.

May 1
NAKIA, leaves Marina Palmira to anchor at 'El Magote'
One requirement for getting our FM-3's was to declare a domicile in Mexico, this turned out to be a week long process involving much paper work and some very un-becoming photos. It didn't cost any more, but it was going to take an extra week for processing so we decided not to use up our marina days and moved NAKIA out to the anchorage where we began our own 'La Paz Waltz' (the 'dance' boats do in the La Paz anchorage which is caused by the stiff currents that run through it).

May 6
Moved closer to town, internet access no good at 'El Magote'
Strangely enough, just about the entire La Paz anchorage is covered by wireless internet access. We had spotty service out at El Magote so moved closer to town to get better reception.

May 15
Depart La Paz
Our FM-3's complete, our good-byes said, we left the last big city we'll see until we return 6 months in the future. From here on out the towns are smaller, less prosperous, and farther apart then other places we've been in MX. Our favorites from La Paz: 1) fish tacos from Super Tacos of Baja California Hermanos Gonzales, 2) Arrachera beef from Rancho Viejo, 3) $2.30 USD for movies at the first run, first rate movie theater, 4) last but not least, hanging out with our friends Dave and Debbie from Megabyte and Rich and Jan from Slip Away.

We departed La Paz at about 0700. When we told one cruiser what time we planed on departing he was shocked and asked "Why so early?" I explained that a fair wind blew in the morning, which we could use to SAIL to our destination. This seemed a novel concept to him, even though he owns a sailboat. Like most sailors in MX, he prefers to wait for flat calm so he can motor to his destination. This summer we plan to make sure we sail as much as possible, even if it means going from anchorage to anchorage at less than 3 knots.

On the way we received a radio call from our friends Mike and Kay on Finisterre, who were anchored in Bahia Balandra. Without thinking I said we were already past Balandra and that we'd have to catch them another time. Of course if I'd looked at the chart, I would have found that we were right next to Balandra and all we had to do was turn and anchor to spend some time with them. Of course an hour later I was looking at the chart and noticed that we were then 5 miles from Balandra so we brought the boat about and began sailing for the anchorage where we did indeed have lunch with Mike and Kay. (We did almost the entire trip under sail too, including anchoring under sail, the only time we motored was to get away from the dock at Marina de La Paz).

Balandra is very pretty, but there's also a road that comes from La Paz, so it was crowded with tourists and we decided to stay only one night. The next day we hauled anchor and moved up the islands looking into anchorages trying to find one we liked. The first one was too small, the second one was too big, the third one, you guessed it, was just right. Un-named, and also uninhabited, cove #7 on Isla del Espiritu Santo was perfect. It has a small beach which we can easily swim to, goats roaming the hills backing the anchorage, fish jumping in the evening, and best of all we've spent two nights here without another boat in the anchorage with us so we can swim and bathe without the encumbrance of clothing. Nature boy and girl strike again.

The downside to #7 is the wind blasts into it at night making for a very uncomfortable place to sleep, so we plan on moving around the corner to one of the other more protected anchorages later this afternoon. I guess we have to get our swim suits out now.

John and Linda