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Thursday, July 27, 2006

Puerto Refugio

18 July 2006
29 33' N 113 34' W

Fishing report: John caught one 36" male dorado about five miles out of Isla Angel de la Guardia as we made our approach.

We only had time to anchor here for two nights on our way back to the village at BLA, but we're very glad we decided to include this stop. We were leery of staying here because everyone we know has been chased out by the jejenes, or no-see-ums, the bites of which drive John loco. We exercised extreme caution in the evening and morning hours (socks, long pants, long sleeves, bug repellant sprayed on all screens, and mosquito coils burning), and while hiking on shore (bug repellant and long sleeves for John). So we suffered from being fully dressed in the heat, but we departed with only a few bites between us.

Despite our biting insect paranoia the area more than lived up to its reputation for scenic beauty. The West Bay, where we anchored with SolMate, was swimming pool blue and clear. There wasn't a huge variety of fish but we saw lots of grouper and trigger fish and three turtles over the two times we snorkeled. It was so fantastic to be able to snorkel in warm, crystal clear water for a change.

We took a short walk on Isla Mejilla the afternoon of our arrival. Covered with the most organ cactus we've seen in one area, it was too bad that a fish camp or kayakers have left unsightly garbage along the beach. Today we all took a morning hike on Isla Angel de la Guardia, walking up ridges with views into the East Bay anchorages. This is a very active bird nesting area and we were at the tail end of the season. The gulls had all fledged, but there were still a few young pelicans walking around that didn't seem quite ready for flight. The ground was littered with dead pelicans, but there was a healthy population of juveniles hanging out at the middle bight in the East Bay and we have no way of knowing if this was a good or bad year for them.

We'd like to return for a longer visit but we hear that it gets hotter as the summer progresses. We're very glad we made the stop early in the season, and maybe we'll go back up in September before we cross to San Carlos for our haulout.

Linda and John

Friday, July 14, 2006

North Country

14 July 2006
Gonzaga Bay (29 45' N 114 18' W)

Yesterday at 5 AM we raised anchor at Isla Smith, off of BLA, and mostly motored the 65 miles NW to Bahia San Luis Gonzaga. We didn't drop the anchor until 6 PM which meant that John got to check in as an underway vessel (which take priority and get to go first) to all three radio nets - Sonrisa (HAM), Amigo, and Southbound (both SSB). John tried hard to get some sailing in, but we knew we had a long way to go and what wind there was was from directly aft (which is a very slow point of sail for us) so we only had the engine off for a couple of hours. The rest of the time we had the main up and we rolled the big jib in and out all day long whenever we thought it could help give us a push. We always motor with the main up, for shade if nothing else. We thought we might get an assist from an 8-12 foot flood tide (depending on whether you look at the tide table for BLA or Puertecitos farther north), but just because the beach gets huge at low tide doesn't mean you get any current out in open waters. The only place we really noticed it was exiting Canal de Ballenas that morning.

And the only interesting thing of note during the whole slow long day was a shark sighting. John looked aft and saw something big checking out his fishing lures. When it came to the surface we could clearly see that it was a 6-7 foot shark of some kind. John never felt any tension on the hand line, but after the shark departed and John pulled the line in, there was no lure and the 150 lb test line looked like it had been cut with a razor.

Our other shark story which I forgot to tell you about was when we had our really slow sail from Esta Ton on Isla Angel de la Guardia to Ensenada Alcatraz. We had the spinnaker up all morning making no headway, and by 1 PM we were actually just drifting, the spinnaker hanging limp. I had been thinking that a long day of slow sailing is fun when there's lots to see, but can be pretty boring when there's not much wildlife around. John stepped up to the starboard rail to give Mr. Winky some fresh air, and I looked to port from the cockpit when I heard a sound like an approaching wave in the glassy water. I whispered, "John, John" when I should have just screamed, "Shark!" This 7-8 foot monster made a direct bee-line for the cockpit end of the boat before rolling on its side to pass about two feet from the port side of the boat. Then it went around the bow to do the same thing on the starboard side. I guess I didn't really need to worry about scaring it away before John could see it! It was just incredible when it rolled on its side sort of looking up at us with a big eye in a very huge head. Friends of ours said it was probably a black fin, but it all looked dark gray to me with a big pointed head, so we thought maybe it was a mako. Good thing we hadn't decided to jump in for a refreshing swim before the wind filled in.

Anyway, we're now the farthest north that we've ever been in the Sea of Cortez and, boy, is it hot! It was over 90 degrees when we arrived and it was over 90 degrees when we woke up this morning. The good thing is that the humidity has been in the 30-40 percent range. The water temp is in the low 80's and we had a long soak before dinner last night. But the evening breeze felt like it came from a blast furnace (and is so dry you can't look directly into the wind or your eyeballs dry out), and every time I woke up during the night I was sweating even though we had two fans pointed at the bed. We are drinking liters of water at a time, and I even dreamt last night that I was snorkeling in cool water.

This morning we met SolMate on the beach at our usual 8 AM rendezvous time. (I had debated about making coffee when I got up at 6 AM, but I couldn't not have my morning cup in spite of the heat!) We took a leisurely walk through the section of "vacation homes" above the beach here. Much more primitive than at Punta Chivato, but I think that's because this is even more difficult to get to by dirt road (there's no water or power to these places, and they have dirt airstrips for private planes). There were lots of impressive solar arrays, but they all looked brown with age. The best part was when we got back down to the huge sandy beach exposed by low tide and found all kinds of small shells in the tidal runoff. The boys had to drag the shell collectors off the beach to return to the boats in time for a late breakfast.

Now we are hibernating in the heat of the afternoon. Tomorrow morning we plan to go a bit farther up to Bahia Willard, aka the other hurricane hole up in the Sea.

Linda and John

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Eight Miles in Five Hours

11 July 2006
Mitlan anchorage, Isla Smith, Bahia de los Angeles (BLA)
29 04' N 113 31' W

Well, it would have been eight miles if we'd come directly here from Ensenada Alcatraz instead of trying to sail. You'd think between two boats and four sailors that one of us would have realized we'd burn less diesel by putting the pedal to the metal as soon as we left the anchorage. We all knew that we were soon going to be bucking an eight foot flood tide, and the reason we were leaving in the first place was to find a better refuge from the strong south easterlies that came up by mid-morning for the past two days.

But instead, intrepid sailors that we are, we sailed out of the anchorage hoping for more wind to take us south. Two hours later we had the engine on at low RPMs and 20 minutes after that we cranked it up to full cruising throttle after we realized we'd never make the new anchorage if we didn't beat feet. Even so our best hourly average speed over ground was only 3.0 knots, and we ended up covering 15.5 nautical miles.

But the new anchorage is calmer, though still windier than I'd like for swimming. At least there's not much in the way of wind waves so we'll be able to get out in the dinghy. Yesterday we didn't leave the boat at all. Instead John made a new wind scoop to replace the old nylon one that finally ripped in the previous night's high winds. And we watched a movie in the afternoon. He was able to go fishing before we left this morning and caught his first yellow tail jack of the season. He caught a second one but we already had enough for dinner so that one got thrown back in.

The weather had been hot and dry after a humid period, but this morning we woke up to soaking wet decks and 77 degrees in the cabin (was usually about 83). We've been doing a lot of hiking in the mornings with Stan and MJ from SolMate, and I got one nice warm snorkel (water was about 84 degrees on the surface) in at a place called Esta Ton at Isla Angel de la Guardia. That was a beautiful little anchorage (both boats had to bow and stern anchor - it would make a better one boat anchorage), but we got chased out by the no-see-ums. All of the anchorages on this island are notorious for the no-see-ums which is a shame since the places at the north end are supposed to be very pretty. But John is very susceptible to bug bites and we've already had a bad report of bugs up there, so we're probably going to give it a pass.

It was fun to visit the village of BLA again after being away for almost a year, and not much has changed. Laundry is still exorbitant (they wanted 250p for three regular loads - wash, line dry, and fold - but we talked them down to 200p which is still higher than anywhere else in Mexico). There's one additional tienda to add to our list when it's time to search for vegetables, and it's still easy to find most of what you need.

So it should be a good summer, and we're looking forward to seeing the rest of our friends up here soon.

Linda and John