Southwesterlies, Timbabiche, Bahia Agua Verde, and Puerto Escondido

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Leaving Isla Partida, we raised our sails and excitedly realized that the weather disturbance that was moving in was creating southerly winds. We were expecting northerly winds for our entire trip up to Guaymas/San Carlos, which is the norm for this time of year. With the days’ initial goal of 17 miles to Isla San Fransisco covered in just over 2 hours, and while comfortably hitting a top speed of 13.1 knots, we decided to change our plans and “make hay while the sun was shining”. The sailing was absolutely phenomenal and the seas were totally flat. With the incredibly picturesque, Sierra de la Giganta mountains as our western backdrop, we saw and heard the loud “slap” of whales breaching eerily close to the boat. After changing our minds 5 times throughout the day, we ended up sailing over 50 miles and spent that night at Bahia San Carlos/Timbabiche.
Besides a group of sea kayakers that were camped out on the beach nearby, we were the only boat in the anchorage. The wind blew from the southwest pretty hard all night. In the morning, while I was preparing to eat my freshly cooked breakfast, a local approached us in a fishing panga, eyeing my outboard motors, asking for gasoline, and warning us of “banditos”. He only spoke Spanish, but we were able to figure out that his outboard had been stolen, he was borrowing his friends outboard, and he was begging us for some gasoline. He didn’t want money, just gas. I don’t usually do handouts, so I tried to see if he had anything to trade…Pescado? Mota? He had nothing. I wanted to eat my breakfast and get moving so we said our goodbyes and untied him from the boat. He went away sad…but, oh well. You can’t please everyone.
After breakfast, we raised our double reefed mainsails and sped out of the anchorage at 8 knots. Less than an hour later, the winds died and then shifted to the more typical west/northwest. We were still able to sail the entire way to Bahia Agua Verde, and arrived mid afternoon under spinnaker and one mainsail. Immediately after dropping anchor, we paddle boarded into the beach to have a walk around “town”. We saw a couple of spotted eagle rays that had to be close to 3 feet wide, and a huge moray eel all from the relative viewing safety of the stand up paddle boards.
Agua Verde is home to maybe 100 people. There are a couple of small goat dairy farms, and a small school. However, there are no power lines, no cell towers, no wifi, no restaurants, and no stores. Very basic living for a handful of hardy families. After some amazing handmade Margaritas on the boat, and some rounds of guitar playing, we spent a very calm and peaceful night sleeping very soundly.
With absolutely no cell coverage anywhere nearby, and Deidre needing to be in touch with her boss, we raised anchor very early and snuck out of the tranquil, sleepy anchorage. As we sailed out of the bay, the day was appearing like it was going to be a very light wind day. But, less than 1/2 an hour into our sail, we were being over powered by some land effect winds, whipping down from the very nearby Sierra de la Giganta mountains. With winds blowing between 20 and 30 knots, I placed double reefs in both my mainsails as quickly and efficiently as possible. While still feeling a little puckered from the sailing conditions, I decided to hail the Agua Verde anchorage and let anyone listening know of the conditions going on just around the corner. About 10 minutes later, I was able to catch bits and pieces of the morning VHF net coming out of Puerto Escondido, less than 15 miles away. The current weather condition was announced. “Winds from the west at 1.5 knots”. Wow! Very localized conditions we were in! Within the next half hour, the winds did virtually die, and all was calm and peaceful again.
We arrived at Puerto Escondido and received our first updated weather report since leaving La Paz. With the news of some strong Northers coming down the sea for the next few days, we decided to hang tight within the nearly 360 degree protected anchorage and catch up on work and Internet time.
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Puerto Escondido and Steinbeck Canyon

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Pulling into the protected bay of Puerto Escondido, I was surprised to learn that a “per foot” charge was assessed to every vessel whether using one of their many mooring balls or swinging on your own anchor. Having gotten to the point of really trusting and loving my 22 lb. Rocna anchor, I decided it would be best if we just used it, like we normally do, rather than hooking on to a mooring whose condition was unknown and appearing to be marginal at best. I really didn’t like having to pay to anchor, but we sucked it up and paid the $13-14 USD (for a 36′ boat) per night. Well at least we paid for 2 out of 3 nights. 😉
The public Internet wifi system didn’t work. “Maybe tomorrow”. The gasoline pumps didn’t work. “Maybe tomorrow”. Seems like everyone who worked there knew at least those two English words, “maybe tomorrow”. So, with Deidre needing to get online to get some work done, we waited outside the one restaurant there at the marina that was supposed to open at noon so we could buy a drink or something and get their passcode. They opened the doors at nearly one pm. (such is life in Mexico!). With an Internet connection finally established, I was tooling around on Facebook, after posting about some Blog entries that I had just updated, and I found a personal message from an old friend I hadn’t heard from in quite a while. Mac Dukart had spent some time sailing around the Sea of Cortez in years past and had anchored in some of the same anchorages we were now visiting. He highly recommended a hike not very far from the marina that led up a canyon, deep into the Sierra de la Giganta range. Tabor canyon is the name of it, but it is also known as “Steinbeck” canyon, after the one and only, John Steinbeck. I had the pleasure of messaging back and forth for a bit that evening with my old red headed friend. I took his suggestion as more than a simple recommendation, I interpreted it as a message from “gawd”.
Two days later, we walked the 2-3 miles up the road to the beginning of the canyon trailhead. Tabor canyon is not the place to find yourself during any sort of rainstorm. It doesn’t seem like that ever happens here in this super dry, desert environment, but I guess it does on occasion, and they even call summer the “wet season” here. The hike goes up, over, around, through, and under boulders of all shapes, colors, sizes, and geologic origin. Luckily Mac had already informed us of a spot that is reached during the hike, where a HUGE chockstone appears to be blocking the trail, with no way around it. This is where the “through” part comes in. Peering into the shadows underneath the three-story house sized boulder, cairns start to emerge deep inside the smallish cave, once your eyes adjust to the darkness. Once in, the light at the end of the tunnel becomes the obvious goal out. In places, backpacks must come off and be handed up because the tunnel is just too small to navigate with such encumbrances attached to the body. Once out of the first tunnel, there is another one immediately after. All in all, that section of trail added a sense of adventure that will live long in my memory.
As we got ever higher up into the mountains, water started to appear. First in the form of an algae filled trickle down some rocks, then small pools started to show up. After hiking up the canyon for approximately 2 hours, and having reached a pool of fresh, clean water that was waist deep, we decided it was time to turn around and head back to Cat2Fold, but not before a cool, refreshing dip!
As Deidre was slowly undressing, I quickly got naked and belly flopped in before she even knew what was going on. WeeHoo! With all the route finding and down-climbing necessary, the way back down took as long and was as much effort as our way up.
Now, sitting about 20 miles north of Puerto Escondido in Puerto Ballandra while continuing our northward journey up into the Sea of Cortez, we are getting closer and closer to our final destination of San Carlos. Some parts of me are sad to see this trip coming to an end, but I am very anxious to be with my kids, Georgie and Beo. The 5 months of time I’ve spent aboard Cat2Fold on the water this past fall/winter has given me a whole new set of skills and confidence that I look forward to sharing with them and others. I feel incredibly lucky to have taken this opportunity and making it happen. Although the further north we get, the colder the water is becoming, the warm desert sun is urging me to jump in, yet again! Continue reading

Close Encounter of the friendly kind…

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We didn’t have much wind yesterday for our 24 mile sail from Puerto Ballandra to Caleta San Juanico. It started off with barely anything, then we started getting a bit of a NE breeze. At times we were sailing in excess of 6 knots with no seas at all. Very pleasant conditions. Then the wind decided to ease off, leaving us drifting along at just over 1 knot. I was able to use the spinnaker and we started seeing 2.5-3 knots again. I figured we’d start motoring when necessary to make sure we arrived at our destination before dark. We always try to sail rather than motor whenever possible. Not only is it a much more quiet an pleasant experience, it is absolutely free!
So here we are, drifting along at the pace of a turtle, music on, Deidre and I are chit chatting away, when suddenly I hear the hum of a motor behind us. I turn around and to my surprise, there is a 45′ (or so) vessel motor/sailing only a couple of boat lengths behind us, and heading right for us! I jumped up in shock, readying to alter course so as to avoid a collision, when I recognized this unique, junk-rigged, steel ketch as s/v BellaVia and our friends Jack and Monica, whom I hadn’t seen since the beginning of the month down in Punta de Mita. What a pleasant surprise! Putting their motor into neutral, we drifted along together and exchanged brief stories about where we had been, and where we were going. With Caleta San Juanico as the common destination for the night, we made a date to hang out, and have a few drinks. They slipped their boat into gear and we watched them as they slowly pulled away from us. We kept sailing (drifting) and hoping for the wind to pick up. It never did, so by 3 pm, we dropped the spinnaker and started motoring to our destination so we could arrive by 5 pm.
Cat2Fold is equipped with 2 – 9.9hp Yamaha outboard motors, and we can carry about 35 gallons of fuel. With both motors at full tilt we can cruise at just over 8 knots, but with only one going, we can still make over 6 knots while burning half the fuel. So, unless we are in an extreme hurry, or we need the maneuverability of running both, we almost always use one motor at a time, switching back and forth on different days to try and keep the hours just about even. On top of that, we try our damndest to sail to all of our destinations without even turning on a motor.
On the 20,000 lb , things are a bit different. She is equipped with a large diesel motor and 200 gallons of fuel on board. With two junk rigged sails made of plastic tarps, she doesn’t necessarily sail very well, however with their motor running at just above idle speed, Jack and Monica can cruise very efficiently at 5 knots. In fact, while motoring nearly everywhere, they haven’t had to refill their fuel since they started this cruise in Guaymas last fall! For us, trying to sail everywhere we go, we have probably gone through the same amount of gasoline as they have diesel. Interesting comparison there!
After dinner, Jack and Monica came over to Cat2Fold, where we had drinks and caught up with each other for a few hours. They are Canadians from north Vancouver Island. Jack is originally from South Africa, but moved to Canada when he was 16. I think I mentioned this somewhere here before, but Jack is probably the biggest fan of Cat2Fold that I have met. Having built his own boat, and having designed several others, he could really appreciate the amount of time, effort and engineering involved with creating this comfortable, trailerable catamaran.
Waking up to a glorious sunrise, BellaVia was already gone. Just as swiftly and quickly as they caught up to us yesterday, they silently slipped away, chasing the sunrise across the Sea of Cortez on their way to put the boat away and head back home to earn more “freedom chips”, as many of us still have to do. I’m not sure exactly when or where…maybe in Guaymas, maybe Jackson Hole, maybe up in Canada, hell, maybe only in some version of an afterlife, but I’m sure we’ll be seeing this young spirited couple once again. Cheers!