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Saturday, September 30, 2006

Mainland Ho!

30 September 2006

On Wednesday we crossed over from Isla Tiburon to the state of Sonora on mainland Mexico. This was a 40 mile trip which took us a little over 11 hours (with a 4 AM departure), only three hours of which we were able to sail without the engine. We anchored with SolMate in Las Cocinas and it didn't take me long to get in the water for a late afternoon snorkel and beach walk. The water clarity was good with a wonderful variety of small fish, and shells of all kinds on the sandy beach.

Las Cocinas isn't well protected from the swell, especially anything coming from the N/NW. It got a little rolly overnight so we departed Thursday morning for Rada el Pasito just four miles to the south. On our way there we ducked in to take a look at Ensenada Julio Villa. This is a charming and well protected small cove but it's tight for a big boat. The water was completely calm and there was a nice little beach, but John wasn't comfortable with staying overnight so we continued on.

SolMate anchored in about 25' at Rada el Pasito and we nosed around until John found the edge of rock and sand where we could get tucked in at 14-15' to keep us out of the worst of the swell. Welcome back to the mainland anchorages where it seems we are always rolling.

That afternoon we took the dinghy back to Julio Villa and snorkeled a rock outside that anchorage. Not a lot of fish there but I enjoyed watching all the small creatures close up on the leeward side. It's so wonderful to be able to float at leisure in the 82-84 degree water. I just can't do that in the winter water temperatures of 76-79 degrees! That's fine for swimming but I start to freeze if I don't keep moving in the lower temps. We walked the beach at Julio Villa and then went back to the beach at Pasito for more shelling. The greenery above the beach was full of small flowers and greenish yellow worms with a spike on their tails which MJ said looked a lot like the green tomato caterpillars/worms in the States.

By late morning on Friday we were getting big wind waves rolling straight into the anchorage so we followed SolMate out. When they reported 18-20 knots out of the SE (on their nose going south to Bahia San Pedro) we opted to turn tail for the easy sail back to Las Cocinas. There was a lot of high overcast which increased during the day making it very humid.

It felt great to finally jump in the water at 3:30 and go for a snorkel. This time we went along the south wall and reef which were loaded with a terrific variety of small fish, including sierra, ladyfish, gafftopsail pompanos, and even a golden grouper. The sandy floor in shallow depths was covered with sand dollars, and we spotted an octopus in its hidey hole. The latter really give themselves away when they litter their doorsteps with the shells of their prey! A walk on the beach turned up a treasure trove of interesting things to pick up and look at, with even more waiting in the shallows of low tide. This was a terrific stop, the only drawback being a little swell and the ubiquitous flies.

Today we got an early start to continue south before the SE wind kicks up again. We've sailed past Bahia San Pedro and will shoot for San Carlos. If it gets too windy to slog into the chop, we can always turn around and go back. That's the beauty of cruising!

Linda and John

Isla Tiburon

27 September 2006

We departed Ensenada Pescador (just south of Ensenada Quemado) at sunrise on the 23rd, and I had a little cry as the rosy desert mountains faded from sight. We both definitely prefer the Baja to mainland Mexico and hated to leave it so early in the season. I never get tired of the rugged, remote scenery and the numerous protected anchorages. The mainland has a more cultivated, civilized feel to it (could it be the jets and contrails overhead which we haven't seen all summer?), and we are cranky in the higher humidity. It's nice to see so much greenery, butterflies, and land birds again, but not enough to ever make me sad to leave it.

It took us until mid-afternoon that day to reach Isla Tiburon, four hours of which were nice sailing. We hit a lot of tidal current before Noon and had to motor against it the rest of the way. We anchored at Punta Willard (north side, east cove) which turned out to be the prettiest stop we made on the island in spite of the large amount of trash on the beach (including a few rusty refrigerators). John swam out a stern anchor to keep us pointed into the swell, and I jumped into the clearest water I've seen in months (okay, so the water visibility in BLA during the summer isn't the greatest). In just that one late afternoon snorkel I saw a nursery full of grouper with a few big adults, the biggest trigger fish I've ever seen, a nudibranch, a small moray eel, and big schools of bait fish in about three different sizes (S, M, and L). I'm sure the fishing there must be excellent.

Not knowing that this would be the best the island had to offer, we decided to press on farther east the next day to get through the channel formed by Isla San Esteban to the south. Less than 30 minutes after weighing anchor John pulled in a nice sierra for dinner. He had fun releasing skipjacks and a bonito (and we had a brief whale sighting) before we got tired of bucking the current and pulled into Bahia de las Cruces, just to the east of Punta Colorado. This was pretty, but the beach was gravel, we had to be careful to anchor in a sandy patch (there were many rocks on the bottom), and the water clarity had dropped.

We got another sunrise start Monday morning to get through Cactus Pass at low tide and calm water so that we would be able to see the reefs to either side. We took it slow and I don't think we ever saw less than 35', but we were glad that we hadn't tried it the day before when the wind was blowing hard in the afternoon. It only took us a couple of hours to rejoin SolMate who had taken the safe route around Isla Turner the previous day when we decided to stop at Las Cruces.

Dog Bay is where we really started feeling the humidity of the mainland. The bay was loaded with life - birds, at least one turtle, and fish jumping clear out of the water - but there was so much organic matter in the water that we were back to snorkeling in a snowstorm. It was so bad that when we got to where we could touch bottom we couldn't even see it very well. This makes me nervous since I'm afraid I'll run into a rock (or worse), so after a short beach walk I swam back to the boat. The flies, gnats and mosquitos were bad here so we didn't sit out on deck for long either. It seems as though that's the drawback to getting so much rain in the summer. Even the boats left on the Baja have been reporting annoying bugs in their anchorages.

Linda and John

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Farewell to BLA

20 September 2006
Ensenada Quemado (28 56' N 113 25' W)

After a couple of "last flings" Nakia has officially departed Bahia de los Angeles for the year. It's very hard to have to be one of the first boats to say goodbye but John is anxious to get over to San Carlos to begin working on the boat projects he has planned for this winter. We are buddy boating as usual with SolMate and we will take our time making day trips across the Sea of Cortez. Local fishermen are still reporting floating debris from hurricane John, so we want to avoid having to make any overnight passages.

Fortunately before we left we were able to spend time with our favorite boats. We went down to SoBLA for a birthday party, and had three days in a row of pleasant weather and competitive dart games. Our last morning there we had sunrise temps of 72 F in the cabin and 65.5 F outside, making it our coolest morning of the season so far. Maybe that was a sign that something was up because the wind built to 25-30 kt gusts out of the northwest, and we waited too long to bail out of the exposed anchorage. We raised anchor mid-afternoon and took spray across the entire boat during the three mile voyage to La Mona where we could get out of the worst of the wind waves. So much for our fresh water boat wash from the remnants of hurricane John...

The next morning we returned to the village anchorage for two more days and nights of shopping and eating out on the town with friends. I got my chilaquile breakfast fix for the summer at Costa del Sol; we had one last Sunday birria and taco night with the gang at China's; I bought my BLA souvenir T-shirt from the excellent little museo in town; I got my last dog fix on the beach with Rocky of Milagro; and we had killer margaritas and botanas at Costa del Sol for our final farewell to our friends. It is just too hard to say goodbye, so instead we say "see you down the road." As John told a friend on the Sonrisa net this morning, summers in the Sea are our favorite part of the year in Mexico, and it almost (almost!) makes us wish hurricane season was a little longer.

As a final wrap, here's a list of the BLA summer class of 2006. Hasta luego!

Adios (Ray and Jayne)
Aquarius (Jerry and Sally)
Caravan (Gene, Vicky, and six year old Fiona)
Catherine Estelle (Ricardo and Linda)
Cat 'n' About (Rob and Linda)
Ceilidh (Jay and Janice)
Elusive (Dick and Carol)
Endeavor (David and Candy)
Esmeralda (Jim and Sandy)
Java (John and Mary)
Joyeux (Rob and Sue)
Liberty (Larry and Jackie)
Maitairoa (Alex and Sue)
Milagro (Lance and Jo)
Nakia (John and Linda)
Nuestra Isla (Bob and Jennifer)
OverHeated (Darrell and Rita)
Que Tal (Dave and Carolyn)
Rhythmic Breeze (Kalen, Mimi, and six month old baby boy Taave)
SolMate (Stan and MJ)
Soul Searcher (Ray and Peggy)
Trick (John and Patricia)
V'ger (Casey and Ann)

Linda and John

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Winding Down Summer

12 September 2006
BLA Village

After spending six nights in Puerto Don Juan waiting for hurricane -> tropical storm -> tropical depression John we were all a little stir crazy and ready to get out of there. There was a mass exodus on September 5 with most boats opting for a supply run to the village, but a few headed straight for other anchorages and a handfull actually stayed on in PDJ. We enjoyed an evening out with Ceilidh, Milagro, and SolMate at Costa del Sol for margaritas and botanas. Costa del Sol is still my favorite place in the village to enjoy a very nice, though spendy, meal, and it's perfect for celebrating special occasions.

We got an early start the next morning for La Gringa. It's only six miles from the village but we decided to motor there in the cool of the morning. Most of the fleet (15 boats!) went to La Mona for the full moon jacuzzi tides, but we decided to avoid the crowd this time. Along with four other boats we played in the runoff from a lagoon to the east of the anchorage. This lagoon is much bigger than the one at La Mona so the current is very strong. It's not as laid back as the La Mona jacuzzi since it's more like one of those "river" water attractions. We had fun floating down it until it got too shallow to keep us off the stony bottom, and then we just sat in the shallows out of the current and relaxed.

We hung out there for four nights before returning to the village for fuel and water. I love the easy living here - 10 peso tacos, internet, groceries - and I also like the sand spit. It's a good destination for a swim from the boat, and once there it's a nice walk for shelling too.

This has been an excellent summer so far! The weather has been mostly pleasant and we've seen more rain than ever before (the ocatillo are even leafed out now). It's been fun, and we hate to have to think about leaving for San Carlos and boat projects at the end of the month.

Linda and John

Monday, September 04, 2006

Nada from John

4 September 2006
Puerto Don Juan
8:00 AM PDT

Just a quick update to let everyone know that we got nothing but a little rain from John. Yesterday was breezy, but only 15-20k with gusts to 25. We could have gone about as if it were a normal day, but most everyone had their outboards off their dinghies (or dinghies stowed away) and so everyone was stuck on boats. John and I even managed our late afternoon swim, although there was an uncomfortable (for swimming) chop in the anchorage.

Last night it rained, but I don't think it was even an inch if that, and I didn't wake up to any strong winds.

Sad report from Mulege this morning. They had extreme flooding along the river and in the streets in town. Some people had to swim from their homes to reach higher ground. Although no deaths have been reported, there are still some people missing. There was major damage to property on or near the river. A large camper was seen floating down the river. There's no power, no gas, and no water. After people were able to return to their homes, they found the looters had been there before them.

Linda and John

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Latest on John

3 September 2006
Puerto Don Juan
7:00 AM PDT update

La Paz: (report from Reflections) 20k winds today and some blue sky appearing; storm abating; 10' seas out in bay at height of storm.

Puerto Escondido: (reports from Cat's Meow and Blew Moon) at height of impact sustained winds up to 40k with gusts 55 (Cocktail Cove) to 80k (the Waiting Room); 31" of hard, horizontal rain over 24 hour period; today 20k S/SE; road to Loreto is washed out; Tortuga broke loose from her mooring and is in the mangroves.

Bahia Concepcion: (report from Etosha) 40-50k yesterday; 23" of rain over 24 hour period; today S/SE 20k with higher gusts.

Magdalena Bay area (report from Nostalgia): yesterday 30-40k with higher gusts; 15-30k last night; 15-20k today; 2-3" of rain total.

Puerto Don Juan: yesterday SE 15-20k; overnight light and variable; this morning NW 5k and overcast to the S.

San Carlos (mainland MX; report from Selah): 20k NE and rain this morning.

1200 GMT position of tropical storm John: 26.8N 112.4W; eye is 25m W/SW of Mulege; moving NW at 9mph; 35-45k winds from eye out to 60 miles; rain 100-150 miles out from center; 995mb; forecast to move NW at 7k.

Forecast for Sea of Cortez: Today - S/SE 20-50; 40k in northern crossing area up to Isla Tiburon (25-29 degrees N); this afternoon in far north (Isla Angel de la Guardia and Isla Tiburon to Puerto Penasco) E/SE 30-45k, then veer counter clockwise S 25-35k by Monday morning; Monday afternoon S/SE 10-20 for entire Sea of Cortez.

All is well with us, just waiting to see what's going to happen.

Linda and John

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Dress Rehearsal

2 September 2006
Puerto Don Juan
8:00 AM PDT

Yesterday was mostly clear and calm, just like the day before, with enough breeze to keep things cooled off. We've really been enjoying the low humidity after a period of cloudy, muggy weather earlier in the week. We continued prepping Nakia for the potential effects of hurricane John, and went for our usual late afternoon swim. It was another peaceful evening after sunset with little to no convection on the horizon (although this is difficult to judge accurately since we are mostly surrounded by high hills).

After listening to my John moving around on deck for awhile I got out of bed when the wind started to build at midnight. By 12:30 AM it was probably in the 20-25 knot range and everyone was up taking down sun awnings, checking anchors, and clearing the decks. Fortunately, we go to bed pretty well prepared now, and there wasn't much to worry about except for other boats.

It didn't take long for a trimaran to start dragging anchor. This was kind of ironic since their crew had already been up working on hurricane prep. It didn't help that they had two anchors out either. It's tough to get one anchor back on board while dragging/motoring through an anchorage, let alone two. So they dragged the length of the anchorage before it looked like they reset (or at least regrouped) long enough to get control. But then they came motoring through the field of 19 other boats, and it was a good thing Dave and Candy on Endeavor had pulled almost everyone's anchor buoys yesterday afternoon, or the tri could have hooked one of those.

Instead they hooked SolMate's bow. It looked like they were connected pretty well before finally separating, but Stan reported no damage or injuries this morning - yay! We were feeling awful about it since we were the ones who directed them to that particular spot when they came in to anchor yesterday. John had scoped it out earlier with the GPS and it looked like a nice hole to drop in - who knew.

No other excitement to report from here. Highest gusts reported were 46-48 knots. No rain. Lightning was off in the distance. No thunder. Lots of dirt on everything this morning.

La Paz was in the path of John with winds 50-60 knots and gusts to 78. No reports of anything other than light damage to boats, but we've only heard from a couple of people in the area and that was too early this morning to expect complete coverage of the event. Things are expected to heat up here in about 24 hours, but by then the forecast is for John to have cut across to the Pacific at Guerrero Negro, and be downgraded to a tropical depression. [0900 update: Latest forecast is for John to be a remnant low by the time it gets up this far.]

Three more boats should be arriving today, and everyone is busy completing their preparations for more high winds. Our dress rehearsal last night was good practice, and now we have a better idea of where our weaknesses are, and of who the scene stealers are likely to be!

Linda and John