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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.