Sailing away with Nikk and Jan

Archive for the ‘Birdwatching in Mexico’ Category

Vagabonding Once Again: La Cruz to Barra de Navidad

 

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Chamela Bay looking across to Balance anchored at the tip of Isla Pajarara.

The lure of warm emerald water and isolated anchorages pulled us out of La Cruz on December 14, 2015, and south to Chamela Bay.  Balance would have sailed out two days earlier but the remnants of a tropical storm pounded La Cruz with three days of rain.  It was a final example of the weird weather of November and December – unseasonably hot and humid with apparent temperatures of 100 degrees F many days, or unseasonably cloudy and rainy.  We splashed around the cobblestoned streets doing last-minute errands and saying goodbye to our many friends.  Six weeks in La Cruz seemed like a long time at the beginning of November, and not nearly enough when mid-December came too fast.  Three friends visited for a week in early November, and my brother and his wife came for a week at the end of the month.  The advent of visitors created good times eating and drinking in our favorite restaurants in the evening, and kayaking, hiking, sailing on the Bay, walking the beaches and birdwatching during the day.  I wound up leading some yoga classes again, taking Spanish classes twice a week, exploring  the world of science on Science Fridays with the marina kids, and taking part in a stimulating Writer’s Group at the marina on Saturdays.  Nikk kept at the boat projects so Balance would be ready to head south after almost a year in Marina Riviera Nayarit.  She weathered the six hot months from May to October tied to the dock and watched over by Gonzalo, Richard, and the wonderful guards.

Finally the day came to cast off our lines and motor sail at sunrise across the Bay of Banderas 24 miles to Cabo Corrientes, around the corner with only mild chop in the usually rough area outside the Bay, and then halleluia! we turned off the engine and sailed for four hours on to our first night in tiny Ipala Bay.  Small Spinner Dolphins accompanied us for about fifteen minutes, and they really do leap out of the water and spin like a drill in the air.  That first night in Ipala Bay we didn’t even want to get off the boat and go ashore.  Balance rocked her two tired sailors to sleep that night, with brilliant stars shining above, soon it was time to make coffee and sail south with the morning sun.

Hurricane Patricia in late October spared Puerto Vallarta and La Cruz, because the Sierra Madre mountains east and south deflected the 200 mph monster hurricane.  It came ashore about twenty miles south of Chamela Bay, and we expected to see massive damage all along the coast and in the bays.  Instead many trees, cacti, and buildings miraculously survived with only some damage.  We heard that the destruction inland was much more extensive, with many people losing all of their banana or papaya crops.

Isla Pajarara lies in the middle of Chamela Bay, and there Balance dropped anchor so we could spend four days snorkeling, kayaking, and relaxing aboard our boat.

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Sunset as we paddled around Isla Pajarara

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Balance with Zoe B

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Immature Brown Booby with Heerman’s Gulls.

More fun and friends old and new awaited us in Tenecatita Bay.  Robert (the Mayor of Tenecatita anchorage)and his wife Virginia on Harmony kindly invited us to sail across the bay with them and two other couples to visit La Manzanilla (a small town in the SW corner of the bay).

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The dinghy shortly before being swamped during the La Manzanilla landing.

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Nikk with a little Crocodile buddy at the large Crocodile Refuge in La Manzanilla.

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Gordo, the 70-80 year old crocodile at the refuge.

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The Mexican who called Gordo to the bridge so we could get a good photo.

During Hurricane Patricia wave surge about ten feet high came ashore and flooded homes on the beach whose windows had been blasted out by the high winds.  We heard sad stories of homes losing their roof, or having foundations washed away.  Seven weeks later the damage was still being repaired, and one of the first places in town to be repaired was the Crocodile Refuge, because the fences had been washed away and large crocs were wandering the streets of La Manzanilla, wanting a tasty meal of cat, dog or chicken.  Luckily for us by the time we arrived they had all been rounded up and returned to the refuge (at least we didn’t see any in town!).

Tenecatita is a cruiser’s paradise.  Swimming, snorkeling, games of bocce ball on the beach, tasty meals at the beach palapa restaurant, and a two mile long estuary to paddle in our kayaks.  Robert and Virginia on Harmony organize much of the fun.  Virginia published Harmony on the High Seas:  When Your Mate Becomes Your Matey in 2011, tales and advice about the cruising life, and how to stay in harmony with your cruising partner despite the lack of space and the dire and dangerous moments.  I read the book two years ago (and read parts of it to Nikk) and I recommend it to all, even non-cruisers, for its sage advice, philosophies of love and living, and the fascinating details of how to build a harmonious cruising life.

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The Tenecatita anchorage, seen from the beachside palapa restaurant.

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Surprise! Moonshadow and Janna Banana arrive in the dinghy.

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Nick wrestling mangroves trying to get us a way through to the lagoon we visited two years ago. Sadly, he was defeated.

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Denizens of the estuary: White Ibis in a hurricane-denuded mangrove.

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A Green Heron whose relatives we see when paddling the Tualatin River west of Portland.

After four days anchored in Tenecatita Balance carefully motorsailed through the rocks and reefs to spend a week tied to the dock in Marina Isla Navidad, next to the Grand Bay Hotel across the channel from Barra de Navidad.  It’s been our goal to spend Navidad in Barra de Navidad again after the wonderful time we had two years ago.  Unfortunately I must have been very bad this last year, because Santa brought me sciatica for Christmas and I hobbled for three days.   I did manage to take a few photos of this spectacular hotel and the view of the Xmas Eve almost-full-moon.  There will not be another full moon on Christmas Day until 2034, and I wonder if I will see that one too?

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The almost Full Moon of Xmas Eve .

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Moorish architecture at Hotel Grand Bay.

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The spectacular Grand Bay Hotel from the marina.

 

50 cruisers attended the Christmas Day Potluck and the wild White Elephant Gift Exchange at the Time Out Bar overlooking the bay.  I was too busy being an elf for the gift exchange, trying to keep track of how many times a gift was stolen, and who received which gift.  Fun and hectic and no time for photos.  I can say our cruiser buddies know how to have a good time, and it was fun to see all the folks dressed up instead of in shorts and flip flops.  We did get one picture of us at the bar, so I will end with that, and with our wishes for a happy, healthy and more peaceful 2016 for all.

We are sailing south today to spend New Year’s Eve in some secluded anchorage, if all goes well, and then Manzanillo for my birthday in early January.

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Happy New Year and Prospero Ano Nuevo to all!

La Paz in December 2014

When John Steinbeck visited La Paz in 1940, on the expedition with his buddy Ed Ricketts, he called sleepy La Paz “beautiful out of all comparison”. Almost 75 years later it is still lovely, a true Mexican town, but with a population of over 200,000 that sprawls away from the historic downtown area with its shops, hotels, restaurants, markets, and marinas.

Hurricane Odile pounded La Paz September 15-16, 2014, with winds howling up to 124mph and huge surf crashing into the shores. All but five boats in the anchorage broke loose and either sank or were washed ashore. Three people on boats died. Most boats in the marinas fared well, except for boats out of the water in storage at Marina Palmira, blown off their stands and piled like kid’s toys discarded after play. Unlike in Cabo San Lucas, where looting of big stores raged for days, La Paz (which means “peace”) saw little damage to businesses caused by greedy or desperate people. Several business owners told us that some homes and businesses were without electricity for over a week, and some businesses were not able to open for almost a month. A month without income is a serious liability to anyone, so we did our best to spend money in La Paz during the two weeks of our visit.

For ten thousand years before Hernan Cortez sailed into the long, protected, shallow bay in 1535, Neolithic hunter-gatherers wandered the peninsula that is now southern Baja California. They left multi-colored rock paintings which have been preserved. El Museo de Antropologia e Historia in La Paz showcases the paintings and dioramas of reconstructed Neolithic life.
www.tripadvisor.com/museodeantropologiaehistoriadebajacaliforniasur

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Cortez wanted to name the sandy shore Santa Cruz, but Sebastian Vizcaino declared the future name of La Paz in 1595. The Jesuits came, the Spanish plundered and pillaged the land, sea and peoples, and the natives succumbed to disease by the thousands. It’s the same ugly picture wherever the Spanish conquerors landed. By the time John Steinbeck arrived in 1940 the church of Nuestra Señora de la Paz dominated the town tied to the wealth of the sea, and superstition and supernatural beliefs vied with materialism and pragmatic progress. Steinbeck’s novel The Pearl uses these themes to tell the parable of the poor fisherman who desperately dives to find a pearl that will pay for medical treatment for his tiny son stung by a scorpion. When he finds a supernaturally grand pearl his troubles begin. The book and the movie made in Mexico debuted in 1947, both already a chronicle of a bygone era because by 1940 the oysters were mostly dead, and with them the pearl industry.

One of the many sculptures on the new 5km malecon (walkway) is a huge metallic pearl.

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Our Marina de La Paz lies at the southern end of the malecon. We strolled it several times each day, finding restaurants, ice cream stores, marine supplies and places to browse. I would need another blog to list all our favorites, so I will just show the view of the malecon looking south towards our marina with my favorite mermaid/dolphin sculpture.

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Since it was the season of Navidad, Santa Claus rode a paddleboard near shore, a Katrina dressed up for the season, and some of the boats in the marina decorated themselves.

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La Paz would be seriously difficult for anyone with mobility issues, here is why:

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Of course, there are always taxis, but if you want to walk to the markets like Mercado Bravo, the indoor market with dozens of shops, or to the church and plaza, or the uptown eateries, you need legs for strong climbing and descending. Along the way street artists decorated walls with artistic inspiration.

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We managed to tour La Paz for two weeks without any breakage or spraining of limbs, and too soon our time in one of our favorite Mexican towns came to an end. On Christmas Day Balance left La Paz and sailed all the way across to La Cruz de Huanacaxtle in one three and a half day voyage of 397 miles. A new bird appeared out in the middle of the trip, a Pomarine Jaeger, that breeds way up in northern Canada and Alaska and then winters out on the ocean in the warmer latitudes.

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Before the winds came up and the seas got pretty rough for the last 24 hours, we motorsailed with calm seas and spectacular clouds. It was a Vermilion Sky instead of a Vermillion Sea, another name for the Sea of Cortez.

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Being in the midst of the stunning beauty of the sea and sky, sailing under the spangled silver stars, we came to the end of 2014, another year of adventures in Mexico and time with family and friends back in the States. Someday I may catch up in this blog.

Journeys

We must go beyond textbooks, go out into the bypaths and intruded depths of the wilderness and travel and explore and tell the world the glories of our journey.
John Hope Franklin, .

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Hope_Franklin

This week saw many cruiser friends leave La Cruz, some traveling north into the Sea of Cortez, some traveling across the Pacific Ocean to the islands of the South Pacific. We said a heart-wrenching goodbye yesterday to Kai, Eddie and Ellis on Solitary Voyager, and watched their boat become smaller and smaller as they started the journey to New Zealand. Their leaving has finally kicked my brain into writing gear, to reflect on the journeys of last December in the Sea of Cortez. Many of the adventures and explorations of this segment included Kai, Eddie and Sarah.

The journey from Los Gatos to La Paz gave us many opportunities to “go out into the bypaths and intruded depths of the wilderness”.

As we sailed into the anchorage at Isla San Francisco memories of the cracked ribs of last spring didn’t deter me from the anticipation of more exploration, but I did vow to check each step, handhold and embedded rock very carefully. This December all the boats anchored close together in the far northern part of the bay to stay sheltered from the still-blowing northerlies.

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Hidden behind the beach lies a large salt flat. Instead of the level, white expanse of our past two visits the ground was spongy, wet and orange, with minerals leaking out of the ground and Semi-palmated Plovers in their winter grounds hunting insects on the salt pan.

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Huge cliffs of green, pink, cream, tan and ocher rise from the far side of the salt pan, perfect for following faint trails alongside the bottom of the cliff, with the pounding surf nearby.

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American Oystercatchers waited for the surf to expose a tasty morsel, they are one of the more common birds seen on the Baja coasts, but only found on the southern and eastern coasts of the U.S. They are also very skittish, so it was a challenge to get them to pause long enough for a picture.

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While I waited for the Oystercatchers to pose, Nikk scrambled high above, ready to “fly like an eagle”, or actually a vulture, which soared high above on the currents of air sweeping up the cliffside.

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The next day Sarah and Eddie joined us to hike the ridge above the southern cliffs. Once again it was a brilliant blue-sky day, perfect for a hike down the long beach of white sand, up the winding trail to the top where huge boulders perch with drop-offs on both sides. Climbing through areas like this requires focus on each step and handhold, stopping to enjoy the view, take pictures, and watch your fellow hikers move through the maze, before once again carefully working yourself farther along. One of the many things I like about climbing is the necessity of keeping your thoughts in the present, where the richness of experience is undiluted by the mind dwelling on the past or future. And on this hike came the reward of vistas of many-layered cliffs, deep blue sea, and a little trail leading to further spectacular views.

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Balance sailed further south and once again we anchored in Callita Partida, the cove in between Isla La Partida and Isla Espiritu Santo, one of our favorites. Of course we visited the hidden cave with Kai, Eddie and Sarah.
I think we’re like agile hippie grandparents to them, since they are only 25 years old.

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One night we paddled over to Solitary Voyager for a shared dinner, to once again admire the results of the five months that Kai spent restoring and upgrading the Valiant 40, preparing it for the journey across the South Pacific. After listening to a few songs, we realized that Eddie had put together a sound track of 60’s music for us.

Together with ten other boats Balance anchored in the stunning emerald water of Bahia Ensenada Grande, a perfect place for snorkeling and hiking.
Unfortunately the Go Pro pictures of the snorkeling have disappeared, but not the pictures of the epic hike that Nikk and I started too late in the day.
From the beach, the trail began to climb up an arroyo, as it steepened the rocks became larger. No worries about losing our way, though, the government had pounded rebar with direction signs into the rocks. We felt like we were in the city, with left, right and straight ahead arrows posted every 40 or so feet. This was not an exploration into true wilderness. We also found information signs.

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Along the way we found a deep well, dug to supply miners, then a stone walkway that reminded me of Zion National Park, and 1500 feet above sea level another amazing stretch of steep cliffs.

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One of the reasons I write these blogs is to encourage everyone to explore the natural world, especially the places more remote. I don’t encourage anyone to go exploring late in the day, and to turn around as the sun sets.
Nikk knows I have to get to the top of wherever we’re going, but this time Goat Woman and Nikk had to hike the last mile in the dark. There was no moon, but just enough ambient light to keep us from plunging into the open well and twisting our ankles on the rocks. We were very happy to reach the last stretch of trail alongside the mangroves which had been marked with white rocks. Nikk just rolls his eyes whenever that hike is mentioned.

After Bahia Ensenada Grande it was time to sail down to La Paz, where we spent two weeks in marinas and our hiking was done on the malecon, before leaving Christmas Day to sail the 397 miles to La Cruz. A short blog of La Paz and the holiday sail will follow.

Once again, one picture got “lost”. I’ll try again, since I love this shot.

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Sailing and Hiking in the Sea of Cortez: Puerto Escondido to Los Gatos

November 27, 2014, Balance gleefully left the bay at Puerto Escondido and sailed across to Honeymoon Cove on Isla Danzante, a tiny distance of only 3.7 miles. We anchored in the beautiful shallow NW cove and gave thanks on Thanksgiving Day for a break from the wind and a peaceful anchorage. Our thoughts circled around our families so far away: living the cruising life this fall meant missing all the excitement young grandchildren generate at the holidays. Many cruisers fly home for the holidays, then return to the boat in January. Instead we ate a simple dinner and gazed up at the stars shining brightly overhead, while Balance gently rocked at anchor.

After a short paddle to shore the next day Goat Woman and Nikk enjoyed some exhilarating hiking. We conquered the small hill overlooking the other side of the island, then set our sights to the highest hill, a steep, zig-zagging scramble on loose volcanic rock. Thorny trees and spiky cacti often blocked the way. At the apex cliffs plunged steeply to the Sea in front of us, and as we looked across to Isla Carmen a pod of about 20 dolphins swam by, too far away to photograph, but close enough to enjoy with binoculars. Luckily neither one of us stumbled on the way down. We discovered 8 kayakers with Baja Adventures paddling into the cove. Back in Puerto Escondido we shared the dining room with them at the Hotel Tripui where their trip to the islands was stalled by the ferocious winds. Three days later they finally arrived at Isla Danzante.

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The next morning it was time to check the internet from the “office”; a sturdy rock on the hill with a view of surf, sea and the tower in Loreto. We wanted to be sure that another storm was not due for a few days, and with internet reassurance we headed to Bahia Salinas up at the NE end of Isla Carmen. At the tip of Isla Carmen we looked for Blue Whales, the largest whales in the world at 90 feet, but to no avail. We later learned that the Blue Whales wouldn’t swim into the area until January. Bahia Salinas is named for the huge salt ponds just behind the beach. The machinery and buildings looked old and rusting, we saw no piles of salt ready for harvest, and there were only a few Mexicans at the formerly busy operation.

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As we carefully tiptoed across the mushy salt pan, we spied a Loggerhead Shrike perched on some rusty machinery, waiting for a tasty dinner morsel of vertebrate or invertebrate. It’s a striking bird, with a large black bill, white, gray and black plumage, and a few black whiskers on either side of its bill. It prefers desert habitat where it skewers its prey onto thorns or spines, and then dines one bite at a time. (see photo at the end of this blog, after further text is typed, photos can’t be inserted, arghh)

On Sunday there was still no wind and Balance motor sailed with a reefed main down to Isla Monserrat and the Playa Amarilla (Yellow Beach, or Yellowstone Beach, as it is sometimes called in cruising guides). The shallow turquoise water with soft sand became the perfect place to anchor. When the only other boats left we once again were alone to explore the rocky shore and the striking yellow cliffs. Instead of the usual volcanic rocks, these cliffs are sandstone, and once again I want a geologist to tell us why the cliffs are so brilliantly colored yellow.

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Sweating and wilting, we continued in the heat of afternoon, from the beach to the yellow cliffs behind, and found an opportunity for one of us to pose partway up the cliff face. Can you see which one is posed on the cliff face?

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On Isla Danzante, and again on Isla Monserrat we found hundreds of black and yellow butterflies washed up on the shore. Why they wind up beached dead or dying is still a mystery to us. It reminded us of the fragility of all life, no matter how beautiful or precious the life may be, death comes for us all.

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While we searched the beach near the kayaks we found an iridescent wasp, it’s colors reminded me of the dichroic glass that I used to use to create fused glass art.

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White gypsum cliffs at the top of the hills on Isla Monserrat looked like snow as we sailed southwest late in the day. Dolphins came to play in the bow wake, gliding alongside Balance, then swooping off to surface, blow and breathe, before once again joining in at the bow. From a perch way out on the bow, you can look down at the dolphins cavorting.

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We’ve visited Agua Verde twice before, you can read about it and view some gorgeous pictures from a previous blog in 2013 The Magic of the Sea of Cortez . This time in the fall of 2014 we thought the calm, tranquil little East Cove to be the perfect spot. We pulled in near Solitary Voyager, a Valiant 40 which is a cousin to Balance. Sometime in the night the winds came, kicking up wind waves in the anchorage and by 8:30 am, after a very bouncy night in the V-berth both boats got out of Agua Verde. Solitary Voyager disappeared around the north side of the sandy island Arrecife San Marcial, while we motored east through the passage with our mainsail up for stability once again. As we turned to the south the northerly winds kicked up four foot waves that overtook us from behind. Balance sailed with main and headsail, but Helmer the autopilot failed to keep us on course and Nikk took the wheel for the next two hours until we arrived in the little protected north cove of Los Gatos at noon. Nikk placed Balance in only 11.5 feet of water, as close to shore as we could get to avoid the pounding waves wrapping around the headland. Last spring the bay was filled with boats, now we were the only boat once again until we saw a sailboat far to the east, making its way towards Los Gatos. It was Solitary Voyager! We thought they were sailing for Mazatlan, but their skipper, Kai, just wanted to sail farther out and down to islands to the south. The huge chop, with waves 3-4 feet high coming one after the other every 4 seconds made that a really uncomfortable ride, and the safest thing to do was come into Los Gatos to anchor. We got on the VHF radio to let them know it was OK for them to anchor right behind us to avoid being tossed around by the waves. Their skipper, Kai, paddled over on his surfboard on his way to the beach. Little did we know then how many adventures together awaited us.

It was a dark and stormy night…..oh wait, it was dark and bouncy, not stormy. I bounced and rolled in the forward V-berth before finally getting up and settling down on the settee with the lee cloth keeping me from pitching onto the floor when we rolled. Before dinner I had baked some chocolate chip cookie bars and after getting up in the morning, kayaked over to Solitary Voyager to deliver the treats, since I could tell that the captain and crew were pretty young. In fact, they were 24 or 25 years old, two Kiwis and a Canadian with a Kiwi father. They met at Uni in Dunedin on the South Island of New Zealand, and were traveling together in the Sea after Kai bought the boat in San Carlos and spent several months fixing her up to sail in Mexico and then across to New Zealand in the spring. Nikk paddled over to visit, too, and with lots of laughter and stories, we started getting to know this fun trio. After Solitary Voyager took off for San Evaristo Nikk and I paddled to shore to explore some more of the area, promising each other not to scale the highest hill and try to bushwhack through cacti and scrub like the first time we were here.

The geology of Los Gatos makes it look like the Southwestern United States, with red and cream sandstone bluffs, easy to climb. I wouldn’t want to try climbing them after a rainstorm when I bet they would be a slick ride.

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The last picture shows a Hermit Crab we found, maybe a relative of Pepe, the famous Hermit Crab who lived aboard a sailboat for a short time.

In the next installment we travel from Los Gatos to La Paz, with many epic hikes and beautiful anchorages.

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El Viento (The Wind)

Fairies, come take me out of this dull world,
For I would ride with you upon the wind,
Run on the top of the disheveled tide,
And dance upon the mountains like a flame.
W.B. Yeats, The Land of Heart’s Desire

The wind can be the sailor’s delight, but in the Sea of Cortez this fall the wind was more like the mariner’s curse, blowing for three or four days straight, and whipping up wave chop of 3-5 feet with only a 4 or 5 second period between waves. “Helmer”, our autopilot attached to the wheel, struggled to keep us on course, and Nikk often had to take the wheel and steer. Of course, if those waves are coming abeam or anywhere near that, the boat is rolling and pitching, the recipe for Jan’s disequilibrium to begin.
Yet “running on the top of the disheveled tide” is exhilarating, with Balance responding to the force of wind and waves. Often we were tucked away in a marina or anchorage with many other boats waiting out the blows, instead of venturing out to sail on the “bounding main”.

We left San Carlos November 9, with slight winds, as we motorsailed past the outside of the Tetas de Cabra (Goat Tits), the famous backdrop for many paintings and photographs of San Carlos.

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The sunset spectacular that first night revealed two “islands” to the north of Isla San Pedro Nolasco, which was mighty puzzling, since no islands exist on our charts. The mystery was solved three days later when we began sailing the 75 miles across the Sea of Cortez to Santa Rosalia, when the “islands” became the huge peaks of the Tres Virgenes volcanic complex, with one peak over 6000 feet.

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Several new birds appeared on this leg of the journey: Craveri’s Murrelets, that look like little flying penguins, Black-vented Shearwaters, and in the lagoon of Los Concinas, two White-winged Scoters among all the little Eared Grebes. I’d wondered if we were ever going to see a Scoter (there are three kinds), since we saw none on the Pacific Coast on our way down, and now we saw them in the Sea of Cortez.

The winds kicked up, we were rocking and rolling in the anchorages, but having fun watching the surf from our kayaks.

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The little Eared Grebes were entertaining us too. At a beach with rather large waves, the grebes were fishing in the surf, something we’d never seen before, usually they are paddling around and diving in much calmer water. Every once in a while a grebe would get lifted so strongly by a wave that it would go flying off the top of the wave, airborne like a windsurfer.

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This stretch of coast is mostly deserted so it was surprising to see signs posted on a dirt road informing us of future development; lots for homes and a huge, water-sucking golf course, right there on the volcanic coast in the middle of the desert of huge cardon cacti and rocks.

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At the north end of Las Cocinas there is a little bay, which protected us from the north winds and waves the last night. On the west side of the beach are the homes of fishermen, one a small shack, one a larger home with screened porch, guarded by a posse of about seven dogs, so we didn’t go ashore. On the east side of the beach, about 100 yards away, is an airstream trailer, and some new construction (real estate office? restaurant?). The airstream is occupied by an old guy who goes over to visit his fisherman friend in the afternoon, maybe to share a cerveza?

We hauled anchor and sailed across the Sea to find almost calm blue waters by the time we passed Isla Tortuga and were 20 miles from Santa Rosalia. We spotted spume, and a pod of five Pilot Whales appeared. Very exciting. They look very different from Humpbacks and Greys, especially the sturdy-looking dorsal fin, and they mostly cruise along the water’s surface.

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Santa Rosalia began as a French copper mining town, and evidence of its mining history sprawls next to the waterfront; old smokestacks, huge machinery, rotting buildings, railroad engines, and many buildings constructed of wood from Oregon and Canada in the late 19th Century. While wandering, a song by my friends Paul Korsmo and Mike Roberts, written in Australia in the early 70’s when we were teaching there, kept running through my mind.
Oliver Sachs calls this a “brain worm”, but it was a wonderful brain worm. You can check out Paul Korsmo and his lovely songs and voice on Sound Cloud, but the song, Oregon isn’t there. Also take a look and listen to Mike Roberts 18 at SoundCloud, or at Mike Roberts Music on FB.
My house is made of Oregon, it’s walls contain my dreams.
My bedposts guarded rivers, another place, another scene.
From skyline hooks to floating brooks, then stockpiled on the docks,
They’re leaving home to build a home for someone who knows not
How many eagles nested there
How many times, without a care,
I wandered through their majesty.
Did I know then that they were there?

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I wonder how many people think about the giants who gave up their lives so people could live inside a home of wood?

Santa Rosalia has one building made of metal, the Iglesa Santa Barbara (the Eiffel Church), designed by the same Eiffel who designed the Eiffel Tower in Paris, but built in Brussels, Belgium, and then disassembled, shipped to Santa Rosalia, and reassembled in 1897. It is still in use today, and has some beautiful stained glass windows inside.

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Santa Rosalia was hammered by Hurricane Odile in mid-September. About eleven inches of rain fell there. It is a hilly town, we probably climbed over 200 feet of elevation to some of the homes in the old section of town. From what we could see, a wall of water about four feet deep came rushing down the streets and into the bay. A car with two people in it was swept into the bay and the unfortunate people drowned. The old marina with boats moored there broke loose and boats sank. We are following the progress of one boat Gold Eagle whose owner Ron has her pumped out, but with much damage to the boat and contents. Really sad.

Because Santa Rosalia is on Hwy 1 that runs down the length of Baja, many vehicles a day drive through, right by the Marina Fonatur, where we stayed.
Crossing the highway to get up into town at night gave me a scare a few times, hoping that the vehicles would actually stop when we wanted to get across. We enjoyed our lengthy stay, though, going up into town to explore, shop, get a meal at one of the three or four good restaurants, and then going back to the boat to relax. Isabella and the other people at the marina were helpful and friendly, and they are doing work to try to restore the second floor with its pool and bar. All Fonatur marinas look alike and are falling into disrepair, unfortunately.

Somehow the osprey nest on the tower managed to survive the winds, I wonder if they had to rebuild after the hurricane?

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Santa Rosalia is where we first met s/v Good as Gold, and s/v Calypso, and here we are in La Paz in the same marina. But before we got to La Paz many more winds did blow, scenes of beauty came and went, and the two explorers on Balance had a good time sailing, kayaking, snorkeling and hiking. Those adventures will be told in Parts Two and Three, to be written as we sail across to La Cruz, 300 miles away. We leave the day after Christmas, and tonight, Xmas Eve, is the big Cruiser’s Potluck at the clubhouse here in Marina de La Paz. Time to start cooking! Feliz Navidad y Prospero Ano Nuevo to all!

Leaving San Carlos for the Sea of Cortez

It’s been a strange five months for Balance, left with hundreds of boats in dry storage in San Carlos, Sonora, up on the mainland side of the Sea of Cortez. Two and a half weeks ago we came back to Mexico, Balance went out into the work yard, and several days later was proudly sporting a new coat of bottom paint and finally back into the water in the marina. It is a strange feeling watching Balance on a giant trailer heading out onto the highway, and then being slowly backed into the water at the marina. Nikk and I did a lot of projects on the boat while she was in the work yard. Of course, when she was back in the water we were very happy that there were no leaks, the engine started right away, didn’t quit (!), and she slid safely into her slip at the marina.

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We were lucky to be able to stay with Theo and Marion, cruising friends on Marionetto, in their new home on land in San Carlos while Balance was in the work yard.

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San Carlos is definitely worth a visit. Only a few hours from Nogales and Arizona, it’s a booming retirement community, with Mexican culture still intact. Up on the hill above the marina, gringos have built many vacation and retirement homes, some quite surprising.

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We’ve had a good time here during these two weeks, despite Nikk having lots and lots and lots of boat projects. When not occupied with boat projects we’ve had a good time visiting with cruising friends, getting to know the good spots for breakfast and dinner, hiking, and finally getting the kayaks in the water to spend a couple of hours working our rusty paddling muscles going out to circle some islands in the bay.

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In the background of this picture you see the Tetas de Cabra (“goat tits”).

The first hike we did resulted in some great bird sightings, including two Green-tailed Towhees, and this little buddy just hanging out on the road.

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Today we’re leaving the marina to head up north a little ways to San Pedro, a nice little cove for anchoring and snorkeling, then up to Las Cocinas (The Kitchens) for even more snorkeling, and before big winds come up in a week’s time, we’ll sail (or motor) across the Sea to Santa Rosalia, a formerly French town on the Baja side, and then work our way back to La Cruz by the end of December. No telling whether I’ll have good internet until then, but glad I could squeeze in one more post before we leave.

Two Rescues

In the history of sailing tales, there are many stories of epic rescues from danger, and just in case family and friends got worried by the title of this blog, we did not capsize, run aground, get run over, hit by a tropical storm, or otherwise endanger ourselves in the Sea of Cortez. However, we did participate in two rescues.

After leaving La Cruz April 2, only three days after getting back from Copper Canyon, we once again mostly motorsailed in a headwind or no wind up to Mantenchen Bay near San Blas to overnight, then across the 40 miles to Isla Isabel, the island of thousands of nesting birds. ( See the post Island Mystique to see how we viewed Isla Isabel during our eight-day stay a year ago.)
One afternoon Nikk and I were sitting on Balance, watching the island, pinnacles, sea and shore, when we saw a female Magnificent Frigatebird struggling in the water. Frigatebirds have huge wings which don’t have the oils needed to resist waterlogging, so they can’t land in the water and fly off again like many seabirds do. We watched the bird flapping, hoping she would drift over to shore, but instead she was only being taken near shore by the current, and soon would be past the island. Nikk hopped into my kayak and paddled to effect a Frigatebird Rescue, and was soon joined by Ian from our buddy boat Freyja.

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It looks like the bird is struggling, but according to Nikk she was so tired that she just let Nikk fold up her wings and stow her between his legs in the cockpit of the little kayak. He did face that long beak away from this body, in case any readers were worried about Nikk’s delicate parts being in danger. Ian towed Nikk, kayak and bird to shore with his dinghy, and the bird was carried to a small tree, since frigatebirds nest in trees on the island. The poor bird was so tired that it soon fell out of the tree, and it got too dark to see her on the ground, but the next day she wasn’t there anymore. There are no predators except humans on the island, so birds can safely nest and rest on the ground. During our five days anchored at the island we watched many frigatebirds soar, and wondered if we were watching the bird we saved from a watery grave.

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On April 8 the voyage of the “vagabundos” continued across the Sea of Cortez to Baja California Sur. Ian received a weather report on his SSB that the next few days would see NE, and then light SSW winds. So much for weather reports, we had 15-20 knot winds NW on the nose, and had to motorsail first west, then north towards Mazatlan, going way out of the normal sailing course for La Paz. Instead of taking a little over 2 days to reach Puerto Ballandra, 12 miles north of La Paz, it took 2 days and 18 hours. Freyja kept falling further and further behind, due to babying their engine which had problems with fouled fuel filters. Balance had to anchor at Puerto Ballandra in the dark at midnight, surviving somewhat ferocious headwinds the last 10 miles. We kept in touch with Freyja all the way across the Sea, and they were only about two hours behind us, but the next morning they were not in the anchorage, and were without their motor, which had conked out in the middle of the night, forcing them to tack back and forth in the strong headwinds. The next morning the winds died, and they couldn’t reach the anchorage, so we headed out to tow them in the last mile to Puerto Ballandra.

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Puerto Ballandra was the perfect place to begin our weeks of traveling to desert islands and sheltered mainland coves; white coral sand beaches and clear turquoise/jade green water for snorkeling, mangrove estuary for paddling and birdwatching, rocky cliffs for hiking and scrambling, and all overarched by the blue sky, hot sun and high clouds during the day, and myriads of stars at night. Nikk helped Ian fix his engine, we enjoyed four nights at Puerto Ballandra, and then continued on our way, with no internet, no phone, and only the iPad to remind me that we had not traveled back in time at least twenty years.

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Now it’s May 2, and we are spending three days in Puerto Escondido, an anchorage with a poor excuse for a marina (no tienda, no restaurant, no friendly guards, no marina lounge). We are half a mile away at the Hotel Tripui, in the middle of the desert, we walked here today to get internet where we didn’t need to sit on metal steps while checking email. I know, I know, I’m sounding like a spoiled whiny #@*ch, Marina RIviera Nayarit spoiled me. I’ll try to be more grateful that we have a secure anchorage in the protected bay, and that it was easy to rent a car yesterday to go get provisions in Loreto, about 15 miles away. Tomorrow we are going to hike up Steinbeck’s Canyon a ways, if you read The Log From the Sea of Cortez, you can read about his camping trip with Mexicans and mules up this very canyon to see petroglyphs in 1940. The giant cardon cacti are starting to bloom, just like the Saguaro, which look similar, do in Tucson in late April/early May. I hope some will be blooming up in the canyon, drawing birds and lizards.

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