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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

San Francisquito and Isla Las Animas

From Santa Rosalia we made a 15 hour, 75 nm passage to San Francisquito on July 22. We could only sail for a few hours, but John hooked three dorado, the last and smallest of which he managed to get to the boat. It was just as well that it was a small one since both the refrigerator and freezer were packed. We spent five nights at San Francisquito, all but one of them on the outside east of the entrance to the inner harbor. We went inside one night after a strong chubasco possibility was forecast, but nothing materialized and we came back out the next morning. The inner harbor is very secure and the water is flat even in a strong breeze, but with a Mexican Navy presence established just up from the beach, we prefer the privacy of being outside.

We took a couple of hikes, but couldn't snorkel because the water was too green and cold. The coyotes sang us to sleep at night and one morning at dawn I counted a group of seven of them on the beach. We waited for a period of calm weather and sailed out to Isla Las Animas on July 27. We had a terrific three hour spinnaker sail practically from anchor up to anchor down, and were thrilled to find we could see the bottom in 20' of water when we got there. This year's crop of fledged pelicans stopped their fishing practice and gathered around to see what Nakia was all about. One was especially enamored of the new potential roosting place, and we had to shoo him off the rails twice before he decided we weren't being very hospitable (the first time I actually had to give him a gentle shove underneath his tail!).

We went ashore for a hike the next morning and were relieved to see that there were not many "diaper babies" in evidence. This is what we call the ones which haven't fledged yet because they still have fat white tails and can barely waddle around. They are also the ones which make the prehistoric scream that sounds like someone's being murdered. It's very odd that after they fledge you never hear another peep from a pelican.

So unlike last year, when we visited a month earlier in the breeding season, this time we could hike most of the island without disturbing any babies. We climbed over the first ridge to the valley of the chollas but when we had to watch every step to avoid the prickly "leaves" on the ground we climbed up to the next ridge where there was also a better breeze. And because it was such a clear, dry day we got the bonus of seeing terrific views of Islas (from south to north): Esteban, Tiburon, Partida, Angel de la Guardia, and Smith.

After our hike we cooled off with a snorkel. I couldn't stay in long because the water temp was still only 74 degrees, but it was nice to see that there were trigger fish and grouper in the same large numbers as last year. We snorkeled twice the next day, and while we were there John caught a Mexican bonito and a grouper - yum.

I hated to leave the clear water but we needed to get back to San Francisquito before the southerlies picked up again so that we could do some more hiking in this area. We had a much longer motor trip back against a wicked full moon flood tide - the channel is notorious for its "jumping waters" - and it was slow going. Last night we got rolled around in the east anchorage so we moved inside today after our morning hike. We'll probably stay here until the winds calm down again.

There are only six boats (regularly checking into the nets) north of here with an anticipated 30+ coming in behind us! It's going to be interesting to see how many we actually pack into Puerto Don Juan for the first hurricane this season...

Linda and John

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Sayonara Squid Stink

22 July 2007

[I hope that's how you spell "sayonara." I guess it really should say "adios" but my niece, Mackenzie, is on a student exchange in Japan at the moment, and besides, it's alliterative!]

With every food locker and the fridge packed to capacity we are currently underway to San Francisquito, 75 miles north of Santa Rosalia. We spent the past week at the Singlar marina in Santa Rosalia and the week before that at Isla San Marcos where the water was too green for snorkeling. But we managed to get two good hikes in, and a visit to the caves where the day tripper garbage wasn't quite as bad as it was last year. The two fish camps were still just as full of trash though, so no beach walking this visit.

We made what turned out to be a day sail to Punta Chivato norte on July 11. The previous two days had been calm so we thought we had a good window for a night or two there. The water visibility was poor but we swam ashore for a walk on one of my favorite beaches. It's unique in that it has small pieces of shells polished to a glossy smooth shine - very pretty to look at and wonderful to the touch as well. We were prepared to stay the night until we heard chubascos were forecast to come into the Sea. The anchorage is fully exposed to the east, so we made the prudent decision to beat a hasty retreat back to Isla San Marcos.

When it began to sound as though the first wave of northbound migrating boats was about to overtake us we moved to Santa Rosalia while we could still get a slip in a marina. The old marina was already full of boats on extended stays - either for the entire hurricane season; for trips by bus back to the States; or waiting for parts or repairs. We anchored out for a night and then decided to move to the new Singlar marina where it would be easier to take on fuel and water, wash the boat, provision, etc., without the squid panga fleet roaring by us every night.

The Singlar daily rate is still unreasonably high ($1/foot for our 33' documented length) but their weekly and monthly rates were much better so we opted to buy a week. Carlos, Ivan and the rest of the staff went out of their way to provide services that made it well worth the slightly higher cost, and I would highly recommend their marina for anyone needing a week or more in Santa Rosalia. We wouldn't normally choose to spend so long there but John used the extra time to replace the rudder bearing, which turned out to be a two day job (thanks again, Leslie and Tom, for bringing the part down with you in February!) Interestingly, John learned that all the new Singlar marinas are up for sale to private owners. Apparently it was never the Mexican government's intent to run them after they were built.

Unfortunately July is not the best time for a stay in Santa Rosalia's harbor. It's squid season and the small harbor is full of pangas which race out before sunset and roar back in after midnight. They clean their catch just outside the harbor entrance where there's a beach littered with plastic soda bottles, and packed with kids swimming during the day. Inside the harbor they unload their catch into waiting trucks and to the north is the canning factory. With the right breeze we were occasionally awakened by a squid stench so bad that we had to cover our noses. In one corner of the harbor the surface of the water is covered with plastic gallon water jugs which the fishermen discard after a night's work.

This is all such a shame because the city itself is absolutely delightful. The French copper mining history makes its architecture unique among Baja cities and many of the wooden houses (very unusual for Mexico) are truly charming. There are several tiendas, all of them selling different, must-have grocery items, so that the serious shopper has to visit them all. There's the famous "French" bakery, the Eiffel church, Chuyita bacon wrapped hot dogs on soft flavorful buns loaded with the works, Thrifty ice cream, Splash paletas, and enough restaurants to give the ship's cook several nights off. The city is very easy to navigate, and everything is within easy walking distance of both marinas.

We worked hard to take advantage of this last stop in "civilization," but we also had a lot of fun socializing at end of the day pool/jacuzzi parties, a BBQ potluck dinner, and dock side happy hours while we were there (thanks to Doug and Jo of S/V Jenny for organizing things with the marina for many of these). Now, with a clean boat full of supplies (including a small dorado John caught this afternoon!), it's time to move north for the rest of hurricane season.

Linda and John

Saturday, July 21, 2007

A few pictures

It's hard to believe, but it has been since March that we've had a stable enough internet connection to download pictures. Here are a few to look at.


Looking back into the river at Mulege

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Mooring area at Mulege

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Village at Punta San Telmo


The deserted village at Punta San Telmo.
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Tile sea shore


This is the natural state of this sandstone sea shore around Punta Cobre. It looks like hand carved tile.
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At anchor at Punta Cobre

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Salt Flats at Isla San Jose

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Urchin shells


Here are a few of the urchin shells to be found on the beaches.
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Clam digging


John, Lisa and Steve looking for clams...
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Argonaut Shells


Here are the Argonaut shells Linda found on the beaches of the Sea of Cortez in the spring.
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The Argonaut swimming

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The Argonaut


Here's a live Argonaut that we found on the beach. I put it in a bucket and set it free out in deeper water.
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The Argonaut


Another view of the argonaut
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Burro Rider


One of the fancy horseman at El Quilete
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Roosters at El Quilete, a little town outside Mazatlan
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Tuesday, July 10, 2007


9 July 2007

We spent most of the past week enjoying all that Mulege has to offer thanks to Garth on S/V Inclination. He has bounced between Mulege, San Carlos, and Friday Harbor for over 20 years, and has spent so much time in Mulege that he's been "adopted" by a local Mexican family. He has a small apartment attached to the back of their house where he spends a few months a year fishing and diving the local waters in his panga when he's not working on improvements to the house.

Ever since we first came up into the Sea it's been a goal of John's to take Nakia into the river basin at Mulege. We knew Garth did it, but had never met him until this year when he reported a new channel, deepened by the flooding from hurricane John (in 2006), and with minimum depths of 7-8 feet. He sat down with us in the Santa Domingo anchorage to point out the route and hazards using the excellent aerial photo in our Williams guide. Garth returned to Mulege in his panga that afternoon and led another boat across the bar. At 5 PM when we heard they had made it safely in, we made a quick decision to get over there ourselves before John had to start the Southbound net at 6:45. Garth and the other people had already gone out to dinner so we were on our own, but John took it slow and easy and we made it in without bumping anything. The water was green and opaque, making it impossible to see the bottom, which may have been for the best!

Rather than rush ourselves trying to get Med moored to the sea wall before the net started, we dropped our bow anchor on short scope just aft of the other boats. John went ahead and ran the net as if there was nothing out of the ordinary while I sat up on deck to make sure we stayed put. After the net finished we pulled up the bow anchor, dropped the stern hook, and pulled in close to the wall with two bow lines securing us in position. Once everything was set it felt like we were in a marina (other than no power or water), and the best thing was that the temperature was much cooler than it had been at Santa Domingo. Instead of a hot land breeze we were now getting a cool sea breeze and even the water was cooler.

Garth was kind enough to loan his truck to the two visiting sailboats and we rode all over town in the back of this little pickup. In his spare time Garth introduced us to various members of his family, and he even drove us up to the Lookout for a lovely view of the river winding through acres of date palms and up into an agricultural valley. We did some shopping, laundry, internet, took on water, and had delicious mango and lime paletas (real fruit Popsicles) before it was time to go to Gary's for the big Fourth of July party in El Burro Cove.

The ride in the back of the pickup was wild (top speed of 55 mph) and surprisingly hot. We were amazed to feel a 10 degree rise in temperature between Mulege and El Burro Cove, and were very happy we made the decision to keep Nakia at Mulege. I counted 16 boats anchored off of Gary's beach palapa, and the karaoke machine was getting a workout when we arrived. Gary had just handed out the last of his 240 free hot dogs, so we had some of my corn bread and ice-cold 10 peso Pacificos to tide us over until the fireworks show. These started before the sky was completely dark, which was probably just as well for those of us who had to drive home. There were lots of oohs and aahs for the wonderful efforts of the volunteer fireworks committee, and an especially enthusiastic round of applause for the moment when a bunch of rockets lit unexpectedly and fired off mostly horizontally into the desert brush. We loaded everyone back into the truck for the return trip, and Garth was a prince to stop at a hot dog stand in Mulege so we could have salchichas with the works to make it a truly complete Fourth of July experience.

Linda and John