La Paz and Isla Espiritu Santo and Isla Partida

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Once in La Paz, another stock up of food, booze, fuel and water was in order. The evening we arrived, we decided a night out at the best taco stand in all of Mexico was in order. To “Rancho Viejo” we went, and disappointed, we were not! If there was any whammy to the evening, it was the fact that I was SO hungry, having not eaten anything since that mornings’ breakfast. By the time we left, I was SO full, my insides were about to explode.
The next morning, we awoke bright and early to go get our grocery shopping taken care of, fill up the remaining fuel cans, and get out of La Paz and continue our journey north. Hoping to sail out of the Mogote, I raised one mainsail, and hoisted the new-to-me spinnaker that Dave from Lightspeed had procured for me while he was in La Paz earlier in the year. It took all of about 15 seconds to realize that the heading Cat2Fold was facing while at anchor was due to tidal current rather than any apparent wind. With the spinnaker billowing backwards, wrapping itself around the mast it was on, we started drifting backward towards other boats anchored nearby. I quickly got a motor fired up, and lowered the troubled sail. For the rest of the day, there was nary a breathe of wind to be found. Bahia de La Paz was as smooth as glass all day and we ended up motoring the entire way to the northern most anchorage of Isla Partida.
Isla Partida and Isla Espirtu Santo, which are virtually connected, are the most amazing places I have ever been in my entire life. John Steinbeck spent many years here, writing about the beautiful diversity of life found nowhere else on earth, and it would be an understatement to say that I can see why he did. The crystal clear waters, teeming with life, contrasted with the red, green, and grey volcanic arroyos that give these islands more secluded anchorages than almost all the rest of Baja Sur, cannot be found anywhere else on earth. Although Deidre and I spent a lot of time here back in November and December of 2011, with and without my kids Beo and Georgie, we had absolutely no hesitation about anchoring here yet again, to indulge in the secluded splendor these islands have to offer. After witnessing a sunset that trumped any other sunset seen by this humbled human, Deidre and I settled in for a night of less than perfect sleep caused by a weather disturbance that was moving in towards Baja from far out in the mighty Pacific.

Mazatlan to La Paz

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Waking up in Stone Island Harbor (Isla Piedra) just south of Old town Mazatlan, Deidre and I once again assessed the weather, our schedule, fuel and water and decided to fuel up and head across the Sea as soon as possible. The options for fuel were to either dinghy to shore and taxi in to town with all of our gas cans or motor sail 10 miles north to the marina district and fill the boat up there. With the fact that gaining 10 more miles of north would do nothing but help our sailing angle during the 230 mile crossing and feeling like taxiing with a bunch of gas cans sounded like a pain in the ass, the decision was easy to make.
When we finally reached the entry into the marina district, after missing it on our first approach and adding a couple of extra miles of motoring, while we were entering the extremely narrow channel, we found our passage blocked by a large rusty dredger at work. With no room to pass, I was lucky to have a catamaran with two auxiliary motors enabling a quick, smooth 360 degree turn on a dime to escape the potentially dangerous situation. As we were exiting, we noticed the workers were able to move the dredger to the side of the channel giving us just enough room to enter so we could get the needed fuel and water. Trying to move as efficiently as possible so we could begin our long passage, we quickly filled our water and fuel tanks and cast off from the fuel dock only to find our passage back out to the open ocean once again blocked by the behemoth dredging machine. After treading water in the tight river channel for a few minutes, we decided to help ourselves to an open slip in Marina El Cid, to mitigate the potential dangers that surrounded Cat2Fold. Being stuck in the marina for nearly 3 hours, we decided to make some lunch and work on a few boat projects that were slowly rearing their ugly heads.
At 3 pm, as we were told, the dredger moved over allowing us about 30 feet of room to extract our 24′ wide boat. Unnerving to say the least, with a pile of rocks to port and a hulking lump of rusting steel to starboard, Cat2Fold was able to squeak through without a scratch. As soon as we reached the safety of the open water, sails were raised, and we rocketed westward toward La Paz.
Reaching speeds of 10+ knots, smashing into seas of 4-5 feet, it quickly became apparent that we were going to have to slow the boat down. That moment of realization came exactly when our front trampoline dug into a wave and bounced MANY gallons of water over the central dodger directly onto Deidre, who just so happened to be standing with her foul weather gear down around her ankles, having just answered the call of nature. With our free-flying jib lowered, and our speed reduced to 7 knots, the crossing was much more relaxing. When the winds lightened even more through the night, we also made the decision to sail a faster angle with a few less miles to cover and aimed for Ensenada de Los Muertos (bay of the dead) instead of directly to La Paz. With the occasional aid of our trusty 9.9 hp Yamaha’s, we arrived in Muertos at 1:30 am. 206 nautical miles in 34.5 hours. Not too bad.

Heading North

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Wow! How the time flies. Deidre and I have already reached Mazatlan. We’re currently motoring up to the marina area of this sprawling Mexican city so we can fill our tanks with fuel and water and start the 230 mile crossing of the Sea of Cortez to La Paz.
A week ago, Deidre arrived back in Puerto Vallarta after spending a month up in the cold snowy north. After doing a major restocking of the boat, we hurried out of Paradise Village Marina excited to get out in the open and back on the hook. Not having enough time to make it out to our favorite Banderas Bay anchorage, Punta de Mita, we spent Monday night out in La Cruz anchorage. There we were able to hook up with our dear friends from s/v Convivia. We met Convivia in the Baja Haha, yet never really hung out until, my kids, Georgie and Beo, came down for two weeks in La Paz in November. Convivia has two kids on board, Ruby (7&1/2) and Miles (4), so as you can imagine, we hung out with them as much as possible. Now, we were saying our goodbyes as Convivia and crew were preparing for their journey across the Pacific and beyond. Goodbyes are always hard, but in this new world of cruising, it felt good that we at least got to bid them farewell. Some of the most amazing people ever met, enter and exit our lives as readily as the rising and falling tides.
Ok, with that goodbye dealt with, next stop…Punta de Mita! Deidre and I absolutely love Punta de Mita. It is a nice, breezy, large anchorage with the potential for great surfing directly off the bow of the boat. We had an amazing sail out there from La Cruz, catching and passing another “Haha” boat, s/v Deep Playa, who left La Cruz several hours before us. Later that evening we heard all about how slow, but comfortable Deep Playa is, however that didn’t stop the “ass-kicking” feeling that I get every time Cat2Fold overtakes another vessel.
Arriving in the Punta de Mita anchorage, and dropping anchor under sail, we were a bit disappointed to find Jack and Monica from s/v BellaVia were no longer around. However, that feeling waned quickly when we saw s/v Lightspeed, s/v Red Witch, s/v Kiora, and s/v Wings of the Dawn joining the fleet of other “Haha” boats hogging up the entire anchorage. Apparently, we had just missed a doozy of a party the night before we arrived, but we were quickly informed that tonight was to be a birthday party for kiwi Rob (66) from s/v Red Witch. We all gathered aboard s/v Kiora (a beautiful and sleek, 55’er. With about 20 people on board, we ate, drank, and played music into the wee hours of the night. It became apparent that I had had my fair share of booze when it came time to leave aboard our trusty paddle boards. Let’s just say that I got wet a few times, but finally made it back to the safety of Cat2Fold with everything intact. Luckily falling in 70 degree water doesn’t hurt at all.
The next morning, I think I woke up still drunk, because my hangover never really happened til later that afternoon. That is when 3 out of 4 of the crew from Lightspeed came over to Cat2Fold to go on a spirited day sail. With the winds blowing between 15 and 20 knots, we raised the anchor and scooted across the bay. The sailing was spectacular, and Dave, who owns Lightspeed (a Chris White, Atlantic 42) was very excited about the sailing characteristics of Cat2Fold. We sailed around “racing” any other vessel that happened to be out sailing that afternoon. And we “won” every battle! Unfortunately our friends Winston, Cate, and Indigo from Teton Valley, Idaho did not make it out for the sail. They had just arrived in Punta de Mita, where they just bought a condo. Hopefully next year we will find ourselves back there at the same as them and we can go sailing then.
Shortly after dropping the anchor, it was time for another birthday celebration. This time it was John from s/v Michaela’s 50th birthday. I took it a little easier on the booze this time, but we still stayed up well past “cruisers midnight” (which is anywhere between 7 and 10 pm) playing music once again. John has a collection of ukuleles on board Michaela, and he really does the instrument justice.
As sad as it was to make the decision to leave, the next day we pulled the hook and said goodbye to Banderas Bay for the final time of this trip. We had some good strong winds for the first part of the day, but as the day wore on, the winds lightened and we pulled into an anchorage in Bahia Jaltemba, which was 10 miles short of our planned anchorage. The next day we motor sailed with no winds up to Matachen Bay, just south of San Blas. Just as we were reaching the bay, we caught the perfect sized Sierra Mackerel. Immediately after dinner for two was procured, and filleted, to our surprise we hooked on to another fish. This time it was some sort of Sea Catfish. Since it was not in our fish identification book, and we already had dinner caught, we decided to release this interesting looking fish. Once in Matachen Bay, we were able to pull Cat2Fold into shallow enough water where we could stand on the sea floor and scrub her very dirty hull bottoms very well.
It seems as though every single day of sailing, our plans change as to where we are going and when. We initially had spoke of leaving Matachen the next morning and heading to Isla Isabel some 40 miles away, hanging here for the afternoon, then continuing through the night to Mazatlan, another 93 miles North. I can’t remember why we decided to change our plan again, but we found ourselves raising the anchor at 8pm with the goal of reaching Mazatlan before nightfall the next day. Although we had to motor sail more than I care to, we reached our destination as dusk was settling in. Now we needed to resupply on fuel and water and try to get across the 230 mile passage of the Sea of Cortez while our weather window was looking good.
…stay tuned for more about our crossing!