Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Our last week out... March 21 - 31st

Our last week out… wow… an unbelievable journey, an adventure of a lifetime, an opportunity to meet amazing people on significant journeys of their own, and a lesson in life as we learn (and continue to learn) more about ourselves as individuals and as a couple. When last I wrote we were anchored in our favourite little place, Isla San Francisco. We shared that particular anchorage with SV Keetya 1 and, with Rob and Kim leading, we followed them away from Isla SF and to a place called Bahia Amortajada. There, we anchored and took to our dinghies to explore a very interesting lagoon… accessed by travelling 'up river, it seemed' through the mangroves. We had to go into the mangroves at high tide and wanted to be able to return without having to carry our dinghies over-bars so returned after a short (1-2 hour) visit to the lagoon. Our anchorage that night was in San Evaristo, just across the way and we were treated to a display of high-jumping prowess by a juvenile Humpback whale as we made our approach. Once anchored we joined 8 other cruisers for a 100 peso dinner of fresh-caught fish at Cipriana's small palapa sometimes-restaurant at the head of the bay.

We returned to Isla San Francisco the next day and (finally) caught up with our dear friends Lionel and Barbara on SV Sea Whisper. Although Sea Whisper and Shannon left Canada at the same time, Sea Whisper charged south at a furious rate (at least faster than us) and has been on the mainland for the last several months. It was great to finally connect with them and to share some hiking and snorkeling time.. as well as some delicious meals (thank you Barbara). Both boats headed south on March 26th, stopping at Isla Islotes for another dip with the sea lions. We anchored this time, on the south side and had a great view of the sea lions as they cavorted and played with themselves and the snorkelers. Lionel, Barbara and Kathy had fun swimming with them and got some great photos and even some video. Sophie and I stayed on Shannon and enjoyed watching the whole thing. Once done with the swim, we carried on south and dropped our anchors in the beautiful bay of Ensenada Grande. It's really gorgeous here and we've never been here so it's yet another new adventure. We stayed for the next day and enjoyed swimming and just generally hanging out. SV Luna Azul joined us on Tuesday afternoon. They're from the Netherlands and have been out since the 1980's. They've circumnavigated the globe and are newly arrived to the Sea of Cortez with plans to spend a next while here before moving on. The six of us had a feast of home-made pizza for dinner last night and a good time swapping stories and the like.

Today, Wednesday March 28th… it's time for us to move on… continuing our trek south. We're still in search of the perfect tuna.. maybe today :-) and our anchorage tonight may well be a place called Bahia San Gabriel. It's about half way to La Paz and looks quite beautiful in the cruising guide. We're lucky with the weather.. it's calm now and should remain so for at least the next 3 days. Yippee !! So… with that.. we're on our way.. anchor about to come up.

Hope all is well with all of you…. talk to you soon… CJ & Kathy

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A certain sameness...

We're at anchor, in the main bay of Isla San Francisco. This is such a beautiful place we just had to come back. We've even managed to secure an anchorage spot quite near the northern cliffs of the bay and, as a result, we've good protection from the north winds that continue to blow. But it really is beautiful here. The beach is a combination of sand and small pebbles (they say there are agates on the beach a short walk across the island) and there are several rough trails that lead up to the ridges surrounding the bay and from which you can see almost all the way back to La Paz. One of the trails also takes you through a natural 'cactus garden' and the old salt flats used long ago for collecting sea salt. There's lots to do for cruisers stopping to visit and the largish bay we're anchored in is one of the few 'good' places in the area that provides protection from the northerly winds. The bay can apparently hold 21 boats of various sizes and we had 17 here last night (winds are predicted to blow for the next few days).

With the exception of the cool weather (we've been assured this is an unnatural year for weather and that next year will be much calmer and warmer) we're finally feeling like we've 'arrived'… like we're cruising in the Sea of Cortez… There's a certain calming sameness to each day; starting with the 0700 and 0800 weather predictions available via SSB radio, then the challenge of producing a suitable breakfast before heading out on whatever excursion has been decided on. Yesterday we headed to the south beach where the water is shallower and (we thought) therefore warmer for swimming. We'd also heard there was a place where cruisers could burn their paper garbage. We found it all, took care of business, and then cavorted with Sophie on the beach for a couple of hours. We were joined by other cruisers (friends from Canada) who were also anchored in the bay and had a chance for a nice visit. Yesterday ended as many have, with a gathering on the beach to share a 'sundowner', meet and chat with other cruisers, and generally wind down… returning to the boats by dark to prepare something for dinner, check all the lines, and turn in.

Today will be a variation of the same theme… there's a little more wind right now so plans for an early morning fishing excursion have been cancelled… for now. But there's always lots to do. Our batteries are down a bit so I'll run the generator for a while this morning… and we've invited a few folks over for happy hour this afternoon so there'll be some house-keeping to do… and there's agates to hunt and fish to capture… and boats coming and going… many who want to anchor right on top of us (I'm learning to be a little more tactful when I explain to them what it will be like if we have to meet in the middle of the night :-) And so the day(s) will continue along this certain sameness as long as we're here.

We don't want to travel too far afield as we need to be back in La Paz by months end. There are a couple of anchorages near by we want to check out and will, provided the winds die down as predicted… hopefully this weekend. For now, we're content to hang out at Isla San Francisco, reading, writing, fishing, exploring and visiting with friends. We've finally caught up with a few of the folks we'd trained with in BC over the past several years (we know about half the boats that are currently anchored here and are enjoying catching up with old friends).

That's the news for now… hope all is well with all of you… we are content and safe living our cruising life… and enjoying the certain sameness of each cruising day. ttfn CJ

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Friday, March 16, 2012

mid-March update

Hi all... we're fine. We've had a terrific time up the coast and have stopped back at La Paz to pick up some groceries 'n grog (need both to survive don't you?)

Over the past several weeks we've visited Caleta Lobos, Caleta Partida, Isla San Francisco, San Evaristo, Agua Verde, Puerto Escondido, Los Gatos, (back to) Isla San Francisco, El Cardoncito and then back to La Paz.

Today, when we head out we're heading back north again..stopping at where ever we get to for tonight. We are determined to be back at Isla San Francisco (perhaps the most beautiful spot in all of the Sea of Cortez) by dinner time Saturday, March 17th (St. Patrick's Day and our 5th 'formal' anniversary). We have a bottle of champagne for the cooler, a fabulous new york steak in the freezer, and (now) some veggies to go with it :-) Thanks Barb M. for remembering it would be our 5th.. I think we'd lost track. Also, HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my baby sister Laura... on the 16th... she's looking great! and as she always reminds me, no matter how old she gets... she'll never be as old as me!

We have a short two weeks left on this end of our sailing adventure. It has indeed been an adventure as well as a huge learning experience and I doubt we'll ever think of things the same again... (don't worry, we're still 'us'... but we're so full of new experiences it will take some time to sift thru them all).

Praise for Engels: For those of you who are interested... we have been living with a system for refrigeration that is working very well for us. We turned our 'ice box'... you know, the one that comes with the boat with a curved bottom so nothing can stand upright, and that has little or no insulation so you're forever sucking melted ice (water) out of the bottom of it and looking to purchase large blocks of ice (that nobody sells down here).... Anyway, we turned that 'space' into dry storage and it's working quite well (how could it fail? :-). For refrigeration we use an Engels freezer (110 and 12 volt) to make ice blocks (we freeze nicely shaped juice containers - 3 of them at a time). We use the ice blocks (3 at a time) to cool one of those 5-day camping coolers and they work great. We've lots of 'flat' space for refrigerated foods and we just cycle 3 'blocks' of ice each morning. There's also room in the freezer for steak, chicken, prawns, whatever.. as much as you might need for 6 or 7 meals anyway. And we even make ice-cubes... !! The freezer draws only 2.5 amps when it's running and our solar panels can keep up with that so it's nicely balanced most of the time.

That's all for now, except to remind you that once we leave (within the hour) we'll be out of cell phone and internet range until we come back to La Paz... at the end of the month. As much as we've had and are having a great time, we're also looking forward to heading home to see family and friends... it's been a long time without those hugs!

Take care everyone... keep those home-fires burning... warm up the place if you can, we'd hate to lose these beautiful tans :-)

ttfn... CJ

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Flying fish and other oddities

Every time I spoke with Dad on the phone… on our way down the coast… he asked me about flying fish. Now I know that fish can fly (who doesn't?) and I know that fish fly over the ocean… I've even seen a few already on our last passage down to Cabo (2003). And, in response to that question yet again, I told him about the few tiny flying fish that we did find on our decks… on the way down.

Anyway, last night as I was doing my final 'walk about' before bed… that's when I walk ALL the way around our little ship and use my eyes to try and find things that will disturb our sleep and our safety overnight… Last night as I was beginning this daily ritual… I was startled.. maybe even a little frightened… by the sound of a mass of 'life' (n/k what kind) that sounded like it was not only 'huge' but bearing down on us at an alarming speed… Whales I thought… but no, the sound was far too wide and deep (like half the anchorage wide)…. a submarine I thought… but no, very unlikely.. there's nothing much too valuable in this little anchorage.. save the absolute beauty of the place… Having failed to determine what was about to assail us I did the only other thing I could…. I yelled for Kathy to come up and save us… and she did…. "Flying fish" she said, quite calmly, as if I should have known. "Oh yeah" was my learned response… and we spent the next half hour playing spot-light tag with huge schools of 'large' (1/2 to1 pounders) flying fish… all throughout the anchorage. When we hit them with the spot light, hundreds would take to the air…. it was like ballet.. only louder, wetter, and well… awesome. OK Dad, I think it's safe to say… we have seen flying fish… big ones, lots of 'em…

On another note, but still talking about fish, we learned something from one of those 'happy wanderer types' we meet from time to time. There are lots of types of boats 'n sailors that we've been meeting on our travels… and there's something to learn and /or share with each of them. Yesterday a small (25') Cal sailed into the bay (we're still at Isla San Francisco)…. dropped his hook nice and close to the rock wall (we're too new to do this.. we're still out in the middle of the bay…. maybe next year :-). Anyway, then he jumped in to his rather older inflatable dinghy and started motoring at speed (3-4 knots) back and forth along the shore and not too far out either. It was on his third pass I noticed the shimmer of nylon line and realized he was trolling something from his dinghy. Having never seen this kind of thing before we stopped by his boat on our way back from the beach and asked what he'd been doing. He told us he'd had lots of luck, trolling back and forth that way.. he'd caught yellow-tail.. even a dorado in this very bay… that way. So, add that to our list of 'ways to catch fish' in the Sea of Cortez… who knew??

This place we're anchored in is fantastic. It's… well, it's an example of why we left home in the first place. The water isn't tropical temperatures by any means… but everything else is here. White sand beach, azure water, bits of coral and exotic-looking seashells, beautiful red and green rock walls, mountains, formations, etc…. Several hikes up into the surrounding 'mountains' to places with fantastic views (we did that this morning), fish very near (about to go jigging off the point)… and some real nice folks that are anchored here with us and/or that drop by for a day or two and then carry on. We're all going somewhere (north or south) but while the weather holds, this is THE place to hang.

Pot luck on the beach at 1600 hrs. with a bunch of strangers who will be friends within moments. Sophie's doing well as are we. Hope all is good with you folks.. ttfn.. CJ

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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Heading south again... cruising the Islands

After spending a few very windy days on a mooring bouy in Puerto Escondido, we've learned that the port's reputation as a 'Hurricane Hole' may be somewhat overblown (pun intended!). The more worrying thing about this revelation is the discovery that the field of moorings have not (it appears) been properly maintained over the last few years.
One of our fellow cruisers found this out the hard way. After moving from one side of the bay to another for greater protection from the forecasted Northly, and after having spent one blustery night on the new buoy, he left to spend a night onshore with his wife who was leaving to return to Canada. That evening the winds were even stronger (maximum gust recorded on Shannon was 37.9 knots) and many of us spent a sleepless night on 'anchor watch', keeping an eye on our own boats as well as our friend's boat, making sure that her lights stayed in the same position. Sometime around 6 in the morning, we looked out to find those lights were no longer there. As we found out later, the shackle attaching the mooring line pennant to the bouy had broken off, leaving the sailboat to drift clear across the harbour. She stopped gently when her keel slid into the sandy shoal that fronts the mangrove in 'Cocktail Cove'. Fortunately, she miss most of the forty-odd boats that were also moored throughout the bay. Lesson for the day: next time we'll rely on our own anchor!
Once the winds had settled down, we were able to join our friends (Bruce & Judy "S/V Juce" and Bill & Linda "S/V Tanque de Tiberon") ashore that evening for well deserved drinks and a much appreciated meal in the marina restaurant. The next day, we moved to spend a night at the dock and had a surprise visit and lunch onshore with our RVing friends Gareth and Carol, from Maple Bay. After this, we took some time to do laundry, reprovision and top up our water tanks in preparation for leaving at first light on Tuesday morning. That evening, we had dinner with our new friends Penny and Franz of S/V Paramita. Imagine coming all this way to meet the owners of the dockside Palapa restaurant (Penny's Palapa) in Nanaimo Harbour!. The next day, we headed south and motor-sailed for 9 hours before putting the hook down into Puerto Los Gatos around 4 in the afternoon. Los Gatos is a unique bay surrounded by strikingly beautiful red rock formations and we plan to spend some longer time there on future visits. There were two other sailboats, families with very little kids who enjoyed an evening campfire on the sandy beach. We had plans to leave again early the next morning, so didn't go to the trouble of taking our dinghy off the foredeck to make the trip ashore.
We enjoyed a peaceful night at anchor and got underway again at dawn this morning. We are currently halfway to Isla San Francisco, to spend the next few days in the ancient volcanic bay, enjoying some beach time of our own. There is yet another Norther in the forecast, so San Francisco will be the perfect place to hang out and await the next weather window. Speaking of weather windows.... we have heard that this year's weather is unseasonably windy and that the Northers have typically calmed down (in strength and frequency) by now. Hopefully next year's cruising experience will be calmer and warmer for us but, in the meantime, we are enjoying the ruggedly beautiful scenery, the friendship of other cruisers, the adventure of discovering new places and learning about the Mexican culture.
We'll be out of internet / cell phone range for the next couple of weeks so, in the meantime, know that we are safe and sound and will try to provide updates over the SSB radio whenever we get the chance.
'til next time, Kathy
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Monday, March 5, 2012

Gusting 39… a short update from Puerto Escondido

It’s Saturday morning and we’ve just had quite a wild night on the mooring buoy… here in ‘hurricane hole’ Puerto Escondido.  We’re tied to one of the most protected buoys (from the NNW) in the anchorage and we still registered 39 knots of wind during the biggest gust early this morning.  The northers arrived in style yesterday and gave us an interesting ride all night.  They’re continuing into today and are predicted to continue well into tomorrow before ‘calming’ down to a mere 20 tomorrow late afternoon… Many have called this anchorage a ‘hurricane hole’.  I’m thinking it’s not the kind of HH I’d be wanting to stay in… But, it’s been an experience …  and provided us with several opportunities to re-tie our running rigging in exchange for some peace and quiet.  You ain’t heard night-noise … really… until you’ve listened to halyard slap at 35+ knots.  Even Miss Sophie sat up suddenly a few times.  But it’s all good, the sun is shining, and the waves with white caps rushing by don’t look quite so large in daylight.. :-)  We had a quick trip to Loreto yesterday… did a little walk about and met the woman who owns the B&B we’ll be staying in on our first night driving home.  She’s a vet, has a lovely place complete with small casitas and a pool… We hope to be there early enough in the day to enjoy the town and the pool…

Guess that’s all for now. We’re hoping to get away Monday but if this wind continues it may be Tuesday before the seas calm down… Hope all is well with everyone.. we think of you all constantly and hope the winter weather isn’t too too awful.  Take good care.. bye for now.. CJ