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Thursday, September 29, 2005

Local Attractions

September 22, 2005

We left La Mona early in the morning, sailing off the anchor using only the drifter. We only had about five nm to go to get to our destination, and with all day to get there we didn't mind going slow. Everything was going well, we only had another mile or so to go, when I noticed the unmistakable sound of bees buzzing around the boat. The sound grew stronger and stronger, but I couldn't really locate where the bees were. Finally I looked up at the top of the mast and saw a swarm of 25-50 bees buzzing around up there. The wind was very light so they were easily able to keep up with NAKIA. We watched them for awhile and then decided we had to do something. They were starting to land and looked like they were getting ready to set up housekeeping. We started the engine and motored toward the only wind we could see. Slowly the bees dropped away until all of them were gone. Too bad we weren't able to sail all the way but at least we didn't have a bee hive in our mast.

After dodging the bees we headed into the anchorage in front of the town of Bahia de Los Angeles, population approximately 500. Commonly referred to as 'The Village' it has about five stores, one paved road, and one stop sign. It's the only place within 80 miles to get provisions and while the pickings are usually slim, if you're patient and go to all five stores you can usually find enough fresh veggies to keep you happy. We didn't really need fresh food so we went for the other main attraction. Two for one margaritas, and tacos from the roadside taco stand. Our social director, Jo, decided that to avoid the rush we'd go have 2 for 1 margaritas at one of the motels first. By the time we finished there, and had walked down the road to the taco place, it was 8:10 PM and the proprietress had closed up shop and was backing out in her truck to go home. We walked on a little farther to a place that another couple had recommended for hamburgers and fries, which was still open. Our six orders took awhile to prepare but everything was good and worth the wait so we didn't mind.

The next morning we had a date to meet at 8:00 for two stops, 1) breakfast at the motel with the two for one margaritas and 2) a visit to the local museum. The breakfast was excellent (yes we had breakfast, not margaritas)! Linda says it was one of the best meals we've had anywhere. She had chilaquiles, which are basically pieces of tortilla fried up with onion, mixed with salsa and cheese, and can be topped by two fried eggs. Yummy. The museum was nicely done for a place this size and had a great collection of shells and their identifications. Now we know what we've been picking up off the beaches.

That evening we finally got to try the fabled tacos, but we both thought the adobada (marinated pork) and carne asada were a bit greasy and fatty. Guess we'll have to go back to the motel for more chilaquiles and margaritas instead!

John and Linda

Jacuzzi at La Mona

September 19, 2005

We pulled anchor after four nights in Quemado and set sail (literally) for La Mona, inside Bahia Los Angeles. The sailing in this area is pretty nice. Winds in the morning are generally light, but destinations are usually very close (we sailed 8.7 nm to get from Quemado to La Mona) so we don't mind spending all morning going slowly. The best thing is that once you get in the bay, the water is usually very calm. There's no swell and the chop is low or non-existent. It's like sailing on a lake! Our trip to La Mona was one of the faster ones we've done, taking only two hrs to go 8.7 nm (4.3 kt average) and we did it almost entirely under sail. We only had to start the motor for the last 100 yards or so to get the anchor down.

The big attraction at La Mona is the 'Jacuzzi', a small lagoon behind the beach that fills with water during high tides and then empties, creating a whirling stream of water where beach goers can sit and be massaged by the soothing flow. Or so we were told. We got to La Mona a couple of days after the highest tides and, not knowing exactly when to go or how to sit and be massaged, we arrived near the top of the flood. The incoming tide at this point could hardly be referred to as a 'stream' so we splashed about in the water near the beach and planned to come back during the ebb. Then we thought for sure we would be massaged by the soothing flow. We arrived back on the beach having had lunch and headed directly for the Jacuzzi. Imagine our disappointment when we saw only a small stream of water making its way from the lagoon. Surely, THIS isn't the soothing flow, we thought, but we entered the water anyway and attempted to make the best of our situation. Desperately hoping that we didn't look to the other beach goers like two kids sitting in a street gutter after a rain storm.

After returning to NAKIA we decided we needed professional help (no, not that kind of professional help). We enlisted our friends Stan and MJ from SolMate, who are veteran Jacuzzi goers, to come and show us how and when to be massaged by the soothing flow. They arrived the next day and we prepared to have the best beach day possible. We packed a picnic basket, set up our beach umbrellas, put our beach chairs in the sand, put on sunscreen, and waited while the lagoon filled to its maximum height. Then waited more, with the pause at high tide stalling the eventual ebb, only increasing our anticipation. Finally the ebb started and, the critical moment having arrived, we placed our bodies in the stream for maximum relaxation. The ebb built to a mild stream and we had a good time drifting down and sitting in the water. It was fun, to be truthful, but not the soothing flow we'd been expecting. It turns out that two or three days ago, when the tide was at its maximum, we really would have had something to talk about. But the tides were not so high now and as a result we didn't really get the best of the Jacuzzi. Maybe next year.

John and Linda

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

More Fishing

September 16, 2005

The reason we went from Alacran to Quemado was to celebrate Jo's (Milagro) birthday. Lance, Jo's husband, secretly sent out emails and radio messages to other friends so we could have a surprise party on the beach. Of course Jo figured it out when all these boats that she hadn't seen in a long time started arriving in the bay, but we had a good party even though it wasn't much of a surprise. The men gathered up a bunch of wood and we set up a table on the beach for a potluck. Dinner was wonderful, as all potlucks are, and Nakia served brownies for Jo's birthday cake. We didn't have candles so I held a miniature butane lighter for Jo to blow out after we sang Happy Birthday to her. Cruising is all about improvising...

My main entertainment is fishing. Sometimes I get up early in the morning and troll along the shore to catch grouper and trigger fish, other times I wait for dusk and try for yellow tail and rooster fish along the beach. Well, one morning I went out looking for whatever I could catch, working in and out of the shore. I was catching a few fish, but mostly trigger fish which I wasn't interested in keeping and barracuda, which I wish would find some way to get themselves off the hook so I don't have to handle their slimy bodies. I was about ready to give up and go back to NAKIA when I hooked a pretty big fish, it started pulling line off the reel, and then far back behind the boat I saw a fish leap from the water. At first I thought I'd hooked a large yellow tail but it soon became clear that it was a dorado, hooked within 50 ft of shore! I fought it to the dinghy, identified it as a female, about 38-40 inches long. I don't like keeping female dorado, one female fish can make a lot of baby fish, so I decided to release it if I could. I finally got ahold of its tail and got the hook out and then went about the process of reviving it. When you fight large fish to exhaustion it can take a long time for them to recover, usually I hold the fish horizontally in the water and move it's tail back and forth like it's swimming. This is supposed to stimulate water flow over the gills and help it pump blood to weary muscles. The problem was that it wasn't working, this fish was not waking up. Not only that but a sea lion had noticed me and was swimming around under the dinghy just waiting for me to let go! I tried for another few minutes and finally came to the decision that either the sea lion could eat the dorado or I could, and I'd much rather I ate it. So off to NAKIA we went for a date with the fillet knife.

John and Linda

Saturday, September 24, 2005

The latest

Well, it's been awhile since I've updated the blog. I'd like to say it's because we've been too busy, but I know you all would just laugh at the outrageousness of that (how can two people without jobs, kids, or schedule be too busy to do anything). So I'll just say it's because I haven't been in the creative writing mood lately.

After our crossing from San Carlos we met up with Milagro and SolMate at Isla Partida. There's another, better known, Isla Partida just outside of La Paz but this Isla Partida is special in it's own right. It reminded me most of the island of Molikini off shore from Maui. It has the same shape, almost as if it were once a volcano and one side of the crater washed away opening up a 'U' shaped bay. We rafted up to SolMate when we got there to pass off all their treasures from the States as well a few 'bonus prizes' we brought back with us. Milagro came over too, and we had a little party watching Stan put together his new fans. Unfortunately the wind came up out of the north (that's where the 'U' is open) and we had to leave the next morning because of the chop driving into the bay.

Our next stop was Ensenada Alacran where we spent four peaceful nights. Backed by a large white sand beach and a small eco-resort (10 yurts and a hut) Alacran was a great place for fishing, swimming and diving. Of course I'm not qualified to do the latter so I was happy playing support crew for Lance and Stan while they swam around in the briny deep. One of their dives was for large 'free swimming' scallops and they managed to bring back enough so each couple could have 4. Now 4 scallops doesn't sound like a lot, but these are BIG, one scallop gives 3-4 ounces of meat, so four is about all two people can eat. When Lance brought his load up to the dinghy he began examining them closely, explaining that when one is down on the bottom it's hard to tell if the scallop is alive or just an empty shell. He threw out a few empties and gave me four which seemed good. We took them back to the boats to clean them and having done my first three easily I started puzzling over the fourth. The first three opened without much of a fight but the fourth wasn't even starting to open. As an experiment I put my knife in at the hinge of the shell and gave a twist and the shell popped right open. However, the inside of the scallop didn't look like the others, in fact it looked like something else entirely. Gently opening the shell, I peeked inside and found a small octopus staring back at me with several egg sacks attached to the inside of the shell. The octopus was holding the shell closed as hard as it could, presumably four legs on the top half and four on the bottom. I showed my discovery to Linda, and then slipped the expectant mother and her brood back into the water where they can finish their development in peace.

There are places to stay all over in this area, probably 30 anchorages in a 60 square mile area. So the next spot 'down the road' is usually only 5-10 miles away making it easy to sail from one spot to the next. This is just what we did to go from Ensenada Alacran to Bahia El Quemado, a whopping six nautical mile jaunt. Amazingly, we actually passed a third anchorage on our way, El Pescador. Since we weren't going far we decided to sail the whole way, even if it meant having to go very slowly. We set our nylon drifter and sailed at speeds anywhere from 1.0 to 4.5 kts and made it to Bahia El Quemado in two and a half hours sailing 7.0 nautical miles to get there. We used the engine when pulling the anchor, but dropped the anchor under sail. All this slow sailing was very amusing to our buddy boats, Milagro and SolMate. We were the brunt of several comments about being purists. That's okay, I'll get them back when they have to lug diesel fuel from the Pemex to their boats in jerry jugs when they have to refuel.

John and Linda

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Travel Log

I've been thinking about our visit to the USA and thought you guys might be interested in some of the statistics.

We traveled approximately 4000 miles.

We bought 15 tanks of gasoline for two different cars.

On our return trip we carried approximately 1000 lbs of food and equipment in our truck including:

6 gal of motor oil
75 ft of anchor chain
5 ea 70 lb batteries
25 lbs of cous cous
25 lbs of granola
32 cans of Albacore tuna
8 swimming noodles
10 splash bombs
50 lbs of cat litter

We started and finished in San Carlos, Sonora, MX and made stops at the following cities:

Tijuana, BC, MX
San Diego, CA
Long Beach, CA
Redwood City, CA
Weed, CA
Grant's Pass, OR
Milwaukie, OR
Vancouver, WA
Seattle, WA
Winslow, WA
Pendleton, OR
Bend, OR
Fremont, CA
Redwood City, CA (return trip)
Tracy, CA
Oxnard, CA
Tucson, AZ
Nogales, AZ

We slept in one bus, one boat, three campgrounds, one hotel, seven houses, one apartment, and one motel:

Mexican Bus 1 night - August 5
Patti's house 1 night - August 6
Sharon's boat 1 night - August 7
Oregon campground 1 night - August 8
Washington campground 1 night - August 9
Seattle hotel 3 nights - August 10,11,12
Linda B.'s apartment 1 night - August 13
Lucks' beach house 1 night - August 14
Leslie and Tom's house 4 nights - August 15,16,17,18
Oregon campground 1 night - August 19
Frank and Lynn's house 4 nights - August 20,21,22,23
Eliza's house 4 nights - August 24,25,26,27
Patrick and Gina's house 1 night - August 28
Len and Norma's house 2 nights - August 29,30
Tucson motel 1 night - August 31

Thanks to all our family and friends for their kindness and generosity during our mega visit to the wonderful West Coast - we couldn't have done it without you!

John and Linda

Friday, September 09, 2005

Back in Baja

8:00 AM September 9, 2005
28 degrees 45' N, 113 degrees 02' W
Underway from Bahia San Francisquito to Isla Partida (Norte)

We moved out of Marina Real on September 5 as planned, after unloading and stowing everything from the truck, and buying more provisions to fill the larder. We used to list to starboard but now we really list to port because of the five batteries for SolMate stored on that side. After wrapping up all the final arrangements for storing the truck, and getting everything we needed before we left the big city, we departed the San Carlos area on September 7 for an anchorage 20 miles north (Las Cocinas). This gave us a better start position for the crossing to Baja.

John talked to Don Anderson, S/V Summer Pasage, (aka The Weather Guy) and got an all clear for no chubasco activity forecast for that night, so we were underway at 9:30 PM. It turned out to be a very monotonous motor trip with glassy seas all night and the next day. The only event to break the boredom was another 30" male dorado which John brought aboard at 11:00 on September 8. We didn't get any wind until we approached the anchorage at 1:00 PM, and then there was a good land breeze creating too much chop to swim in the cool water - 80 degrees!

Last night we didn't get much sleep when the boat started to roll sideways to the swell at around 11:30 PM. We got up at 3:00 AM to get underway for Isla Partida, where we're meeting SolMate and Milagro with their goodies from the States. It's been another long motor sail today and we're pretty tired after two nights of not much sleep. We're really looking forward to staying put in one place for several days after we get to Partida!

Linda and John

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Hola from San Carlos

Well, we made it back to Mexico safe and sound and without having to pay any duty at the border. The only hiccup was the hour and a half it took us to get the Temporary Import Permit for the truck. It should have been simple, but we didn't have our passports, or our original birth certificates, and they didn't like the copies we presented. John finally stressed the fact that we already had our FM-3 visas, and he eventually got the TIP.

It was 95 degrees down in the cabin, but except for a fishy smell from the chain locker, all is well with the boat. We put some things away, but are saving most of it for what we hope will be a somewhat cooler morning.

Just a quick one to let everyone know where we are again!

Linda and John