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Monday, May 15, 2006

Puerto Escondido

After staying in Puerto Los Gatos for a while we started getting itchy feet and since the weather was so calm we figured we'd go ahead and make a 'big jump,' all the way to Puerto Escondido.

Puerto Escondido (Escon-Gringo to some of the more cynical cruisers) is the home of Loreto Fest, a big cruiser party, that had just completed a few days before. We really only went in for one reason, to hook up with our friends Stan and MJ from SolMate. But since we were there anyway we thought we'd go ahead and get water.

PE has great fresh water. But only one spigot. The spigot is on a sea wall about 8 ft high, and the depth next to the wall is only about 4 ft (NAKIA needs 6). However, it's much deeper only a few feet from the wall. There are two ways to get water in PE. You run back and forth between the spigot and your boat with jugs or you can Med-moor to the sea wall and run a hose ashore. Since we were coming in for a quick turn around we decided on the second method.

Before you can get water in PE, you have to call Jose. Did I neglect to mention that the water spigot is under lock and key? Well, Jose has the key. Before you can get a single drop you have to call on the radio and in your best Spanish say "Jose, necesito agua, por favor." He'll come back in his best English, "OK, OK!"

Having contacted Jose, we called Stan and MJ to take our stern line for the Med-moor. (Med-mooring is done by dropping an anchor and then backing down toward a wall or other fixed structure and then tying a stern line to the wall. It's called Med-moor because the only way to moor in many ports in the Mediterranean is by this method.) We had one problem though, we didn't have any way to get our stern line to the wall. Enter John, super sailor. I quickly tied a monkey's fist using some old line and a tennis ball and then tied a 50 ft piece of small line onto the monkey's fist. I'd throw the fist ashore with our stern line attached so we wouldn't have to get to close to the shallow water at the base of the wall.

All set, we entered the harbor and went toward the spigot wall bow first to check the depth. Finding it sufficient, I pivoted the boat around, stern to the wall and motored forward to drop the bow anchor. This maneuver got a "you're showing off" rating from MJ. Before we dropped the bow anchor, Linda and I switched positions. She would drive and I'd handle the heavy anchor while I gave directions via hand signals from the bow (this is our normal anchoring procedure). In went the anchor, back went the boat, and just before we got too close I snubbed the anchor chain and walked back to the cockpit to throw the monkey's fist to Stan (this got an "You even have a monkey's fist!" rating from Stan). He tied off the stern line and we were set. You'd think we'd done it before. After that it was short work to fill NAKIA's tanks.

For our departure Stan just released the stern line and the anchor pulled us away from the wall. The only hiccup came when I wanted to tip Jose. I put a bill in the monkey's fist and threw it ashore, but for whatever reason I did it left handed and instead of arcing cleanly to the top of the wall it went wide left and too high, almost hitting a guy in his dinghy at the base of the wall. Oh well, you can't always be perfect.

John and Linda

Monday, May 08, 2006


LTR=Long Term Relationship

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Movin' up

Well it's been a long time since our last blog, so I thought I'd try to get up to date.

We spent the last part of April in La Paz where we did two things. Well maybe more than two, but two important things. First we renewed our FM-3 visas. We're now legal residents of Mexico for another year, and it only cost $100 each :-( The second important thing we did was to attend several of the seminars at La Paz Bay Fest. This used to be a real 'to do' in the Sea of Cortez but over time Loreto Fest got bigger and Sea of Cortez Race Week (as La Paz Bay Fest used to be called) got smaller. The new format is less party than Loreto Fest, but has a lot to offer in the form of seminars and a good race. Linda attended seminars on diving and snorkeling in the La Paz area, summering in the Sea of Cortez, Mexican laws applicable to Baja Cruisers, and First Aid. John, not as interested in continuing education programs for cruisers, got a race crew together for his friend Bob on Airpower and sailed the race.

While Linda was taking notes in seminars, John was out with Bob and Airpower trying to get the crew in order to race effectively. We must have done a pretty good job, because we won the race. Not only that we managed to fly two spinnakers at the same time in the process. Everyone was suitably impressed. Bob was a true friend and gave us the winning prize of dinner for two at La Divina Uva, which was a real treat and made for a very nice evening out for us.

After we received our new visas and got finished up with Bay Fest we moved Nakia into Marina Palmira for a two night, three day scrub-a-thon. The teak and fiberglass were looking pretty bad so it was time to spruce up for the coming summer. We also managed to do a bunch of last minute shopping, thanks to Lance and Jo on Milagro who have a truck and were based out of Marina Palmira all winter.

We were back out into the wild on April 30th. SolMate told us about a large beach on the east side of Espiritu Santo Island so we headed out that way. The wind didn't cooperate, and we ended up motoring almost the entire way. The beach was as advertised though - almost two miles of white sand. Of course the wind came up right as we were entering the anchorage so we had to wait until the evening before we could take a walk. Anytime we do something like this I think of the classic singles add: "SWF seeks LTR, enjoys long walks on the beach." Heck, we just take long walks on the beach because we want to take a walk, and the beaches are, well, long.

We left Bonanza Beach after only one night (I guess we don't like long walks on the beach that much) and headed out to the north end of Isla Partida. The weather forecast looked good to stay at a little cove there. Of course right as we're within one mile of the cove a Moorings charter boat comes screaming by in front of us, cuts into the cove and drops his anchor. As soon as their anchor was set, everyone went below. I went by close to ask if they were planning on staying the night and not just the afternoon. The cove is only big enough for one boat, and even though it was pretty clear they had 'taken our parking place,' Linda and I decided to let it go. After all, they're on vacation and we anchor in beautiful coves almost every night.

We set the spinnaker, right in front of the Moorings boat, and set off to Isla San Francisco. This is Linda's all time favorite island. We posted a picture of it in the blog last year showing its incredible turquoise water and crescent shaped white sand beach. The one bad thing about Isla San Francisco is that it doesn't protect you very well from the Coromuel, a southwest wind that blows out of the Bay of La Paz nearly every night in the spring and summer. In order to maximize our protection from the southwest, I decided to get in as tight as I could in the crescent. The water in there is not very deep, and there was a minus tide early the next morning, but I managed to get Nakia in far enough to get out of the worst of the wind generated chop and still keep about 6 inches of water under the keel even at low tide. It's a good thing the Coromuel did blow, because if it hadn't I'm sure we'd have ended up hard aground until the next high tide. One useful thing about being in shallow water, when I went down to clean the bottom of the boat I was able to _stand_ on the sand to scrub. Much more leverage that way. :-)

We spent three nights at Isla San Francisco, all of them in a stiff Coromuel. But thanks to our almost too shallow anchoring spot we were snug as could be. We'll have to try that again sometime. We had a good sail to Bahia Rincon, going through the usual antics with the sails: raise the main, roll out the jib on a broad reach, jibe the main, pole out the jib, hoist the drifter in double headsail configuration, drop the main, hoist the main, drop the drifter, jibe the jib, take in the pole, roll up the jib, drop the main, drop the anchor. Sounds like a lot of work for a 15 mile sail, no?

We actually survived our night at Bahia Rincon. It was just what we expected when we got there Wed afternoon; a nice calm anchorage with the wind out in the San Jose channel blowing 12-15. We anchored in 35 ft and put out 200 ft of chain, being careful to set the anchor in anticipation of a west wind Wed night. We went snorkeling and I got a medium sized crawler. Evening was calm and we went to bed.

About 1100 the wind started blasting down a little canyon that Lance warned me about on the Southbound net. We don't have a wind meter, but judging by the spray and short fetch I'd say some of the gusts were in the mid 30s. The wind died about 0100 only to start up again at 0400. No big deal really, we were only in danger of getting blown offshore, but it was hard to sleep with all that noise!

We set sail Thursday morning with the last of the blusterlies and dropped anchor on the north side of the Moreno Rocks. There's a little protection here from the SE wind that came up _after_ we motored almost all the way here. We put the dinghy in and went ashore and walked the beach; no snorkeling, it's just too darn cold. After our walk we got back to the dinghy and noticed a large flock of turkey vultures circling over Punta Cobre. That's when we noticed the smell.

We jumped in the dinghy and went around the south side of Punta Cobre and there on the beach was a medium sized gray whale. Or at least what was left of it. We were motoring away from the scene and, swimming between Isla Morena and Punta Cobre, was a small gray whale. Obviously a baby. Neither Linda nor I thought the whale on the rocks was big enough to be a full grown mother, but what do we know, we're not whale bio-persons. We were probably underestimating the size since we were viewing it from a distance, and there wasn't much left of the animal other then the skeleton and a nasty smell.

When we went ashore the next morning to scavenge a bone for Duffy's Tavern up in BLA, it was apparent that the whale was much bigger than we had originally thought. What a sad story if it really was the mother of the baby we saw in the channel. We chased the turkey vultures off and circled the carcass/skeleton taking pictures. I'd had visions of collecting the jaw bone, but it was huge when we got close enough to really see it. Instead we settled for one of the smaller vertebra, which was still a heavy load for John to carry back to the dinghy. John tied it to the back of the pushpit where it doesn't stink as long as we face into the wind. Let's hope we don't get a true downwind sail until it has a chance to bleach out in the sun. [Addendum: SolMate reports the whale was mostly still intact when they were there a week before us. It will be interesting to compare photographs with them.]

We had a great sail up the beach about 10 miles to Puerto Gato, and anchored next to friends Bob and Jennifer on Nuestra Isla. Other than some overcast, Puerto Gato has been very nice. We've been here three nights and haven't had so much as a light breeze. I did a little snorkeling, complete with wet suit jacket, to see if there were any crustaceans crawling around the rocks. There weren't. We also met a nice couple from Colorado who were on a bareboat charter from the Moorings. We spent an afternoon hiking together in the desert and invited them over for cocktails in the evening.

One of the things we found on our walk ashore was a terrible pile of garbage which looks like it was left by kayakers of all people. So this morning we got a bucket, some kerosene and a lighter and went ashore to clean up a little. We picked up as many of the cans and bottles as we could fit in a 5 gal bucket and then picked up all the paper garbage and burned it in a nearby fire pit. We also gathered as much of the plastic trash as we could and consolidated it into a large bag. We had to leave the plastic trash behind, since we're not going to be anyplace with good garbage service for a while, but we did take all the cans and bottles back to the boat so they can be deposited in deep water (over 600 feet) on our next passage. The beach looks much better.

Well, that should bring you up to date. More adventures to come.

John and Linda