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Thursday, June 30, 2005

Outside The Box

June 30, 2005
Ensenada las Pilars
One mile SE of Punta Concepcion

Blue Moon did not leave La Ramada after all so we decided to move on instead. On June 26 we rounded Punta Pulpito and exited "the box" of tropical storm area delineated by our insurer. (There was no official ceremony, or even a sigh of relief since there are no guarantees that a hurricane couldn't still come North of the box and paste us.) We motored past a few boats anchored in San Antonio, and ducked into San Sebastian to check it out. There's a small community of gringo type vacation homes at the head of a cove surrounded by reef. Looked nice but the water was opaque and our hook didn't set on the first try in the rocky bottom so we decided to join Stan and MJ on SolMate at Punta El Medano Blanca instead. This is a nice 2-3 boat anchorage with a white sand beach and snorkeling reef.

We went snorkeling a few times during our stay there, and saw some baby Sergeant Majors on the reef. They're about the size of a dime to a quarter - very cute. Stan mentioned that he'd seen some even smaller ones by their boat, but I said we'd been seeing those regularly in Mexico and I thought they were something different because they aren't flat. They hang around our rudder right on the surface and I've been calling them bumblebee fish because they look like a miniature, bullet shaped, striped bee - fat and cute. Well, I swam back to the boat from the beach and took a closer look at the little guys by the boat (I'm swimming with snorkel and fins all the time now. Kind of cheating but I can exercise and see everything at the same time.). Sure enough they are so immature that they haven't grown into their adult looking phase yet. I wonder what they're doing so far away from the reef; most of the time they show up around the rudder almost as soon as we've dropped the anchor. I also saw an adult that was so blue that at first I thought it was another kind of fish. When the males are in their breeding phase they change from yellow and black stripes to blue starting at their head. So sometimes their front half is blue, with barely discernible dark stripes, and their back half is still yellow and black. Fun to see all the variations. I also saw my first live lobster after swimming over three molts. He was a big one down in a crack between big rocks (and yes, he was definitely moving). And I finally saw a turtle while snorkeling in Mexico. He didn't stick around long but it was exciting to finally see one under water here after seeing so many from the boat.

Although John has steadfastly maintained that we can do without a water maker, and therefore we are philosophically opposed to accepting water from other cruisers who have them, we crossed the line and let SolMate give us 35 gallons the other day. Stan said he had to run his generator anyway and that it's better to use the water maker on a regular basis, so we let him talk us into it. Of course Stan is also a representative for Spectra water makers so he may just be angling for a sale. :-)

Yesterday we went for our first hike in ages. We got a nice early morning start to beat the heat, skipping our morning coffee and the radio nets. It's an easy couple of miles on an actual path out to the non-functioning light on the point, so John decided to up the ante by climbing a steep ridge halfway there "to get some cardio." I followed him for a few minutes until I realized that it was going to be much more difficult coming down on the loose shale than it was going up. So I told him I was going back down and out towards the light. (There was a trail! It isn't often we have a nice trail to walk on, so it was kind of a no-brainer to me...) I walked on by myself and when John finally caught up to me he announced that he'd fallen coming down and hopefully his ankle was only badly sprained and not fractured. He still maintains that it's more fun to risk pain and suffering in the pursuit of adventure than it is to travel the well worn path, but I wish sometimes he'd stick to the darn path.

The wind picked up in a major way after we got back to the boat, and our conversations later in the afternoon with SolMate (who'd moved on that morning) and Dos Brisas (in a similar cove north of us) made us start to think that it was time to leave. We had a nice downwind sail, made even nicer by the fact that we were in the shade of our wing and wing sails until the wind died during the last hour of the trip. We arrived about an hour before sunset and worked up such a sweat getting things put away/set up that we had to cool off with a swim. It's so humid here that right after sunset dew started forming on the decks. Then a breeze came off the land and dried everything off. Then the wind shifted and we had dew again. And this was all in the space of about 20 minutes. Today it's still moist, but at least there's a stiff breeze blowing to keep us cool. Tomorrow we will probably move to Santo Domingo at the entrance to Bahia Concepcion.

John has been busy with sewing projects lately. He made a bug screen for our main hatch and a new version of a wind scoop for our forward hatch. We have a commercial tall wind scoop but it casts a shadow on our solar panel which we mount on our staysail boom when we're at anchor. So he's made a low profile one now, and the only suggestion I have for people making their own is not to use spinnaker cloth. It's a little noisy, but John assures me the crackly crunch will wear out of it soon.

The ankle seems to be healing, the toe is getting better, and the bee sting is only the size of a golf ball (did I forget to mention the bee sting?). As John says, he's only a mess from the right knee down!


John's Fishing Report:
I spent one evening trolling around the reefs hoping to catch a nice trigger fish or a cabrilla and had a little bit of excitement. When doing this kind of trolling, I zig-zag into and away from shore and I started noticing that I was getting strikes on the off shore runs so I changed my route to just the offshore area (maybe 200 yards offshore). I kept getting these large pulling strikes but not hooking up. The rod would bend, the drag would run off, I'd stop the outboard and start to reel in only to find nothing attached. Finally I got what felt like a solid hook up, and whatever it was didn't fight very hard, though it pulled in short strong bursts and obviously weighed a lot. It didn't take long to get it up to the boat where, in the failing light, I STILL couldn't figure out what it was. Finally within 5 ft of the boat I pulled it out of the water and found a 2 ft squid firmly attached to the lure. I netted it and took it back to show Stan and MJ on SolMate and Linda, before figuring out how to let it go. They are supposed to be good to eat but the cleaning process is long and involves soaking overnight in milk to get rid of the salty taste, definitely not worth it. In the end I had to cut part of one of its tentacles off to set it free, but that's ok cause it will grow back, I think.