Sailing away with Nikk and Jan

By the Sea, By the Sea, By the Beautiful Sea.

Hola Amigos. Much pondering has occurred these past two weeks in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, trying to decide how to summarize our three weeks of traveling in the Sea of Cortez from Santa Rosalia to La Paz in late November and early December.
We discovered sailing in the fall over on the Baja side to be very different than sailing in the spring. In the fall the strong northerlies blow for three or four days, then there will be a day or two of calm before the next blow hits. Not at all like the calm seas we experienced most of the time in the spring. We escaped from Santa Rosalia Nov. 19. After checking out, saying goodbye to Isabela in the office, then provisioning with fruit, vegetables and fish, we finally untied the lines and began sailing at a little past noon, a late start for us. Balance captured the remaining north wind with her mainsail and head sail, giving us a good run at over six knots down inside Isla San Marcos and through the shallow Craig Channel, with Moo (the wind vane) steering. Turned past Punta Mezquitito and into Bahia Santa Ines just as the sun set over the low mountains to the west. Because the beach there is famous for its beautiful shells we went beach combing the next day.

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Here are a few of the former homes of the mollusks we found there:

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The following day we planned to go down to Punta Pulpito. Last spring we found some sea caves with emerald green water, a giant obsidian cliff, and a stunning little cove there. Unfortunately for us, the wind decided to blow from the south, making the Punta Pulpito anchorage way too rolly, and even the little cove north of Bahia San Juanico was not protected enough, although we tried it out, and then left to anchor overnight in San Juanico. We had company traveling down from Bahia Santa Ines. Another sailboat, Calypso, with new friends we met in Santa Rosalia; someone to talk with on the VHF and someone to share trying to decipher the changing winds and currents.

I’ll include a picture of Nikk kayaking at Punta Pulpito (pulpito means octopus) in calmer waters last spring:

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Bahia San Juanico filled with boats getting away from the northerly predicted to blow for the next two days, as well as campers occupying the beach, there for the winter from Canada and the US. Hurricane Odile in September churned up so much sand onto the beach that it blocked the little estuary that stretches back from the bay for about half a mile. Now the water will evaporate, providing lots of food for the birds until it goes bone dry. Maybe another storm will fill the estuary next summer or fall with enough water to carve another channel to the bay? We hiked along the estuary after paddling to shore, then up a hill above the obsidian-collecting grounds to capture a view of the anchorage at sunset. The bay looked so calm, when outside the bay the waves were foaming and rolling.

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The temperatures in the Sea were a lot colder than we expected them to be, the cold weather to the north, and the winds blowing the water south, caused the water to be in the high 70’s, which meant wet suits for snorkeling. I’d forgotten how tight my wetsuit is….I think it took me ten minutes of pulling, tugging, stretching, and sucking in my breath to pull up the zipper before I was ready to go explore around the little island in the bay. Between the island and the shore stretched a very shallow rocky area, with corals and fish. We carefully navigated in two feet of water and captured some Sergeant Major fish swimming past the rocks and coral. Can you find the one rainbow wrasse?

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The next day Balance sailed out of the anchorage, one of Nikk’s favorite “skipper tricks” when the wind cooperates. A little weather window gave opportunity to travel down to sheltered Puerto Escondido, one of Baja’s most protected harbors, with an inner bay and anchorage about a mile wide surrounded by hills and two “windows” where the beach is built up like a levee. Hurricane Odile and the storms of October created a shallow sand bar at the far northern end of the anchorage, where we usually sit during northerlies. We somehow missed the sand bar while sailing across to anchor, then suddenly the water went from 22 foot depth to 10 as we backed down to set the anchor. Hijole! Maneuvering back and forth we finally found a safe spot to anchor and settled down for the night to wait for the winds. This time the forecast was accurate. By the middle of the night the winds were howling up to 40 knots from the north, and although we didn’t get jostled by wind waves due to the protection of the nearby hills, we did get spun around, and then back, and then around again all night long while the wind howled in the rigging.

In the morning we paddled 3/4 of a mile over to the marina Fonatur dock, using our spray skirts to protect us from the waves sloshing over the top of the kayaks. All the Fonatur marinas have the same construction, with a short dock which doesn’t leave much room to get the kayaks snugged up to the dock in between the dinghies tied off in the small allotted area. The marina still doesn’t have a restaurant after raising the rent so much last year that the restaurant owner left and set up in Loreto. There is a new tienda at the marina, with snacks and a few supplies, where we could use the internet. And there is a bathroom with cold showers, just like at the Marina Fonatur at Santa Rosalia, but no tienda up the road next to the Hotel Tripui like existed last spring, it’s been bulldozed to create additional parking for the trailer park. We did connect with Daniel, who managed the Hotel Tripui last spring when we were in Puerto Escondido. He came down from Nopolo with a friend who teaches yoga, to meet us at Hotel Tripui for drinks, and it was fun to hear his plans for studying yoga and teaching.

We were surprised to find that the wind had died down to almost nothing by the time we walked back the half a mile to the marina. We forgot our flashlight, and the night was very dark, with no streetlights but many many stars above. Somehow we managed to stay on the road and not wander off into the cactus and scrub. We foolishly left our spray skirts in the kayaks to paddle back to Balance, and halfway across the wind kicked up, hurling wind and waves straight at us. The paddle took a lot longer, and a lot more muscle, and we were fairly “knackered” when we returned (thanks to the Brits for that great expression).

The winds blew all night, and blew Nikk’s kayak paddle off the boat. By the next morning we knew that paddling the kayaks across the bay to the dock was going to get us completely soaked from the chest up, so our friend Jerry on Calypso volunteered to come get us and take us to the dock in his dinghy. He and his wife were supposed to share a rental car with us that day, but the waves were getting so strong that he worried about capsizing the dinghy (and almost did, returning to his boat from the dock). He was also worried about dragging his anchor in the bay, so they stayed on board for the day, and we went to Loreto in the rental car. His premonitions were correct, they did drag anchor due to the winds, and were able to re-anchor the boat, but the dinghy flipped over, with the engine attached, so Jerry had to drain and repair the poor engine. These are the moments that a cruiser will remember for years.

The winds created eight foot waves surging onto the beach in Loreto, surrounding the beach palapas and coming through the openings in the sea wall that normally let rainwater from the streets out into the bay. We drove through a foot of water to get to our favorite little coffeehouse.

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Before going to Lays to provision we decided to take a trip up into the mountains west of Loreto to visit a little mountain town, San Javier, about 37 km away. The roads had been seriously damaged by Hurricane Odile, and there was still a lot of water flowing across the road. We counted seventeen crossings in thirty-seven km. One crossing was so deep that Jan waded across up to her knees to test the depth, then took a shot of Nikk gunning the engine and blasting through the water, sending up a wave that really washed off all the salt we collected from the seawater on the roads of Loreto.

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Jan kept a close eye on these two critters getting a drink and cooling off.

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The huge, cross-shaped church in San Javier was built in the 18th century, and the olive groves planted by the Jesuits are still there, with large gnarled trees four or five feet in diameter.

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Nikk was feeling frisky, so decided to ride a bull.

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All the way up and back from San Javier there was evidence of monstrous floods coming down from the steep-sided mountains. Heavy moving equipment like track hoes must have been working for days and days to make the road safe for travel.

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The journey to La Paz will be continued in the next blog, I am late to meet friends for a special dinner to celebrate our current visitor Ken’s birthday.

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!

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.

Steinbeck Canyon Descent

Up in the Sierra de la Gigantica west of Puerto Escondido on the Sea of Cortez side of Baja California Sur, lies a steep canyon filled with huge boulders, pools of water, palm trees and wild geology. John Steinbeck explored this oasis in 1940, with Ed Ricketts, the biologist from Monterey, CA, three wealthy Mexicans, and two native guides. I read about this canyon in The Log From the Sea of Cortez, and in the Sea of Cortez cruising guide, and knew we had to go explore this place if at all possible.
One day last May we began our hike up Canyon de Tabor (it’s other name) on a day of shimmering heat. After hiking and wading, and finding our way past boulder-choked obstructions, we came to a seemingly impossible stack of gigantic boulders in a narrow part of the canyon. Looking up, we spotted John, a fellow hiker, already on top.

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We used his shouted instructions and squeezed beneath a boulder, used a knotted rope to help us up the steep chimney, stepped onto a branch wedged between the wall and boulder, and shimmied over a protruding rock to gain the last obstacle, a tree trunk wedged as a ladder, with a helpful rope. Whew. Now we were in the oasis.

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After lunch and some exploration of the oasis, it was time for DESCENT. I was nursing a cracked rib, from a hike on Isla San Francisco two weeks before, when a suitcase-sized rock detached itself from a ridge as I pressed on it, so I wanted Nikk to go first and spot me as I downclimbed. Here he is.

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That last step took a lot of courage and trust in the fixity of that branch.

Descent

Cycle Oregon Recap At Last

The days of sun and sea, sailing the Sea of Cortez faded in memory as the days of house projects and training for Cycle Oregon took their place. I’ve ridden two previous Cycle Oregon rides, in ’97 and ’06, and usually commenced training in earnest in March. This year I started in June, and despite the many miles of uphill through forests near Mt St Helens, experienced some pangs of nerves, thinking about the 30K of vertical feet to be climbed in six days. Finally in early September Cycle Oregon XXVII took off from The Dalles, on the Columbia River between Oregon and Washington, and for the first time ever, CO rode 61 miles across the river and up to Glenwood, WA, at 1900 feet elevation. Up and up and up along the Klickitat River, oaks changing to pines and firs, providing some much-needed shade on rest stops. The legs felt fresh, the aerobic engine was chugging away with relative ease, and I enjoyed meeting new friends (like the riders who called themselves “Chicken-Fried Steaks”), and listening to music along the way.

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In the back of the second picture you can see the lines of porta potties, a necessity with over 1800 riders. The Cycle Oregon organization plans and plans, and “organized” aptly describes the paid staff and volunteers who provide food, bike repairs, merchandise, entertainment, hauling of the huge bags with personal gear, sag wagons to help those who can’t ride the whole way, and ambulances for medical emergencies. Luckily Steve and I didn’t need the services of the sag wagons or ambulances, but I did use a sag wagon to warm up when at lunch at White River Canyon Wednesday. But I get ahead of myself.

The worst day for heat was the first day to Glenwood, I think the heat coming off the pavement on the last uphill stretch was 120 degrees. I wilted. Luckily there was a water truck on one uphill stretch, and I poured water all over my head. Another time I pulled off on the side of the road and sat in the shade until my core temperature went down a bit. When I arrived at Glenwood my core temperature felt like it was about 120 degrees (I know it wasn’t, literary license there), and Nikk said my face was a startling shade of red. It was so good to see Nikk and our friend Peg there in Glenwood, welcoming me with a cold drink!

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Glenwood was the destination of extremes; after the heat of the first day, that night our tent city went below freezing, with frost greeting the waves of cyclists heading for the breakfast tent, breath puffing in clouds. I went to breakfast in the dark, and came back to a sunrise spectacular with Mt Adams looming over the CO tents.

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The cyclists soon warmed up. We rode uphill on a stretch of unpaved gravel for a little less than two miles, luckily my tires held together, others less fortunate were patching tires or walking their bike until help came along.
The road undulated past Nikk’s property at Timber Valley, I took a picture of the huge Ponderosa Pine at the entrance road, and a band of riders enjoying the downhill.

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And then much more downhill, all the way down to the Columbia River, across the bridge at the The Dalles, and back up again to Dufur. The cheerleaders of Dufur HS greeted us in red and white sequined uniforms, cheering and shaking their pom poms. I was even excited to be in Dufur myself, until I found that the main area with Rider Services, and my brother’s note about where he was camping, was half a mile away from the HS camping area. But I did find Steve, set up camp under the scoreboard, and Nikk surprised me by showing up in Dufur too. CO has a huge massage tent, and I treated myself to massage several times during the week. It made me feel like a rider on the Tour de France, getting massaged after a hard day in the saddle. Dufur is a delightful little town, too. The night was much warmer than in Glendale, and the next morning after having breakfast near the old Fort Dufur, we rode out on a day of 73 miles with three major uphill climbs.

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The first rest stop looked like a disaster area.

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More uphill, with Mt Hood beckoning ever nearer.

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Up past Tea Cup X-Country area, Mt Hood Meadows Ski Area, Bennett Pass, and finally White River Canyon lunch stop. Usually I visit White River Canyon for x-country skiing in the winter, it was strange to see the parking area filled with vehicles and bikes.

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In September the mountain waits for the snows of October to bring back its mantle of white, and the shrinking glaciers are all too apparent. A cold wind blew down off the mountain, chilly even with my trusty windbreaker which has gone on all three CO rides, so I ate lunch in the sag wagon, until it had to speed off to pick up a load of cyclists who couldn’t continue any longer. Finished lunch in the Bike Gallery’s Subaru, sitting in the sun until toasty warm. It’s a good time to mention that the sun was shining the whole week, there were no severe head winds, and except for the first day, temperatures in the 80’s in the valleys, just about perfect weather for a CO week.

The downhill from Mt Hood to Tygh Valley had some of the worst paved roads I’ve ever ridden in the first section after lunch. Every 20 yards or so the pavement would have a crack across the whole road 2 or 3 inches wide, and not level with the other side. The jolts were severe, especially with my being a bit “saddle sore” on the third day of riding. After the excruciating first section, a section of flat road ensued, and then a beautiful section of sweeping downhill, with spectacular views of spacious skies and amber waves of grain. Finally at about 7 pm I arrived at Tygh Valley, at their fairgrounds, and actually found my brother, pitched the tent, and got to dinner before they closed the dinner tent. The band that night played good old rock and roll, good old Steve and I managed one dance before heading off to the tents for a much-needed night of slumber.

Wednesday was the true test of fitness; 83 miles from Tygh Valley to Madras, with some serious grades, including one section by Pelton Dam of 14.5%! Some of the early riders saw wild horses on the way to Kah-nee-ta, but my late start meant the horses were long gone by the time I arrived.
I did arrive at lunch in time to hear what I first though to be a CD of Carlos Nakai, but instead it was a flute player from the reservation, playing for us while we stretched out on the grass above the river for lunch.

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He definitely earned his tips. He said he’d been playing for two and a half hours straight.

After lunch the route took us on a back road along the Deschutes River, and some of the riders rode down to the river and jumped in. I was running late, so just kept pedaling.

We rode across the Pelton Dam, normally the top is blocked to traffic, but they opened it just for us. And after Pelton Dam and a rest stop at a beautiful campground, it was time for a short uphill of 7% and then the dreaded 14.5% for a mile and a half. My legs were doing fine, but after about a mile my heart rate was way above the danger zone, so I reluctantly got off and pushed the bike the rest of the way. Most of the other riders were off their bikes too.

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The final mile to the grassy fields of the sports area in Madras was uphill too, luckily I had another woman to ride and visit with the last ten miles or so, and we arrived just at sunset. It was the only time I didn’t find Steve, so camped under a little aspen, with views of Mt Hood and Mt Jefferson. The next day was a blessed rest day, some people went on a ride to Smith Rocks, but I had a shower, a massage, and lunch in town, then a long, long afternoon nap in the tent.

Friday brought a different kind of adventure, when I decided to take the opportunity to raft down the Deschutes from Maupin in the afternoon. One of my fellow passengers went into the river and got bashed around on the rocks, and I will save that tale for another time since my Internet cafe is closing.

Maybe some of you have wondered “Where are Jan and Nikk?” Balance crossed over to San Carlos, on the mainland side of the Sea of Cortez, in mid-May. Two weeks of clearing out the food and other items that couldn’t stand a summer of sizzling temps, then oiling all the teak below, performing tasks too numerous to name, and Balance came out of the water and went to the storage yard alongside over 400 other boats.

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An all-day bus ride to Phoenix in air-conditioned comfort, and a plane ride the next day to Portland brought us back to stay four and a half months. One summer in sweltering La Cruz was enough for us, and there were two houses that needed a lot of work, first the rental property that was trashed by the tenant, then the cabin up by Mt St Helens that belonged to Nikk’s parents (with maybe 60 years of accumulated stuff, those of you with aging parents can relate). Now it’s three months after leaving San Carlos, and we’ve been enjoying our time with family and friends. The cabin has very, very slow or nonexistent internet, so no blogging for a long time.

Back in January I decided to ride Cycle Oregon with my brother Steve. It’s a week-long ride in Oregon, fully supported, except for providing my own tent, bike, and gear. You can read about this week’s ride, the good work and benefits Cycle Oregon provides for communities, and much more at http://www.cycleoregon.com. Most people train for months, and some ride all year, especially since this year involves over 30,000 ft of vertical climbing. I’ve only had three months to train, but staying much of the time at the cabin in Northwoods, on Swift Reservoir, south of Mt St Helens, meant many rides of climbing, climbing, climbing. The roads wind through forests of fir, pine, and deciduous trees, past foaming creeks and rivers, with views of mountains (and clearcuts, unfortunately). Nikk rode on a lot of training rides with me up at Northwoods, his aerobic engine is phenomenal (he was a very good long-distance swimmer back in antiquity). Here’s a few photos of the views we earned:

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Mt St Helens from the McClellan Viewpoint on Curly Creek Road (10% grade for 4 miles)

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A huge Douglas Fir near Upper Falls on the Lewis RIver Highway

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Mt Hood from the top of Larch Mountain, 4000 ft elevation gain and 65 miles round trip

Whew! I’m making myself tired remembering all those rides, but today I am in the tent city at The Dalles, our starting point tomorrow. There are 2200 riders who will be challenged by this year’s demanding course, all camped in a beautiful park next to the Columbia Gorge Community College. There will be entertainment by musicians onstage every night, people we will meet in towns along the way, hopefully some spectacular vistas of mountains and rivers, lots of good food to eat, and the chance to spend time outdoors for a week. I’ve been missing our life on the boat, especially the six weeks in the Sea of Cortez, on the water or land, but almost always just a few steps away from direct connection to the natural world. My goal is to write about the Cycle Oregon experience every day this week, so if you’re curious, come along with me, and also check out the CO website and FB page. I’ll leave you with a photo of my “hood”.

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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.

As some of you know, I have another blog where I post to the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge.
For those of you interested, it’s http://www.curiositycafe.wordpress.com. A site called 61 Musings “liked” my recent post, and I went to see what they had posted. What luck, it’s a wonderful site with musings on introversion. I learned a lot, and I am definitely in an introverted state of mind at present, I call it my “hermit phase”. The site had a link to another site, with a Character Strength quiz, http://www.viame.org.
Many fellow introverts scored highest with Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence, as I did. The natural world is a constant source of inspiration and connection for me, as is art, music and writing. So here are some images from the past six weeks since I returned to La Cruz from Portland.

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A broad-billed hummingbird with two baby birds in the nest

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Koi at the Vallarta Botanical Gardens

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Two gringos cooling off in the river at Vallarta Botanical Gardens

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Four-foot long Green Iguana in a tree at the marina

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Peg admiring the local “art” at Ana Banana’s Restaurant

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The Happy Girls, happy because we’re in Mexico on the beach

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A fisherman returning in his panga right before the full moon came up

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The Full Moon from the marina Mar. 16, looking across the anchorage to Bucerias.

Tomorrow we leave for a week-long adventure to visit Copper Canyon in Chihuahua, a canyon deeper than the Grand Canyon, home to the reclusive Tarahumara Indians, two bus rides and a spectacular train ride away from La Cruz. With luck we will come back with pictures and many stories to share.

Birds of the Costa Alegre

Once more the speeding train of time has swiftly moved, and here I am, back in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle after over a month in Portland, Oregon, helping my daughter’s household run smoothly after the birth in mid-December of the new, lovely granddaughter. With two older boys, 7 and 4 also at home, I was pretty much busy from 7am until about 9pm. So here at last are some pictures of the birds we saw in November and December as we explored the Costa Alegre (see the two previous posts for more about our adventures).

This post might be titled The Cacti and the Mangroves, because our closest sightings of birds occurred on the islands populated with huge cardon (?) cacti, or in the estuaries populated with mangroves. Very different ecologies, and very different bird sightings. The cacti were roosting spots for Magnificent Frigatebirds, Black Vultures, and Brown Boobies. Brown Pelicans roosted in nearby trees, and the occasional furtive dweller back in the thick tangles of vegetation would tease me with a quick sighting that defied identification. I was surprised to see Brown Boobies perched on cacti.

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The Brown Boobies were nesting underneath the cacti, and even out in the open on the occasional grassy spots, which is why Isla Pasavera is so popular with the birds, because of it’s steepness, there are areas where the vegetation is mostly grass.

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Just like on Isla Isabel last spring, the Boobies were hardly disturbed by our presence, I don’t think that too many people climb up the steep hillside above a tangle of cacti and other plants, to take pictures of the birds. We found this pair, were they greeting, courting, or fighting?

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At Punta Perala, and again at Tenecatita, there were long estuaries to explore with the kayaks, sometimes wide open, sometimes close and dense, so dense that in one place we needed to take apart our paddles and use just half the paddle like a canoe paddle, dodging the mangrove roots that closed in around us.

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After about two hours of paddling and exploring in the Tenecatita estuary, we came out of the thick growth of mangroves to find a lagoon perhaps a half mile wide, with a deserted fishing camp at one end.

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The estuaries are rich with life, the vegetation and water and air supporting all the animals, from the tiny gnats and spiders to the large herons and egrets, all part of the teeming variety of creatures there. We didn’t ever see a crocodile in these waters, I’m not sure if they have been hunted for flesh and eggs by the local Mexicans, if they are really elusive, or if we just didn’t spot any. Here are some promised shots of some of the birds we saw.

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White Ibis

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Tri-colored Heron

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The first picture was tweaked with Snapseed, to make it really green. The Great Blue Heron and the Great Egret look like they ingested green dye instead of fish. The next bird is a Lesser Yellowlegs, doing the Stroll. (That’s a dance from the early 60’s, in case you never saw American Bandstand).

In the mangroves we also saw Belted Kingfishers, Green Kingfishers, Long-billed Curlews, Marbled Godwits, Whimbrels, Black-necked Stilts, Yellow-crowned Night Herons, a Common Black Hawk, Mangrove Swallows, Tropical Kingbirds, Great Kiskadees, and we startled a Paraque, which usually is active only at night. Hope you’ve enjoyed this cactus and mangrove tour. For something different, the next blog will probably show shots of this past week, when I worked for two days in a spay and neuter clinic, and then got to do chemistry with four young friends here in the marina.

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