Time to catch up

Sitting in Ensenada de Matanchen, a large, calm bay just south of San Blas, waiting for the winds to build for our 22 mile sail to the cute little town of Chacala, I thought it would be a good time to try and fill in some blanks…

After our initial northern crossing from San Carlos to San Juanico, we hit the proverbial liquid road after recovering from my short bout of food poisoning. Since I had stocked up my fishing tackle box this year with the hopes of relying more on nature’s bounty rather than the Mexican Tiendes, I was really hoping that the fish we caught and ate had nothing to do with my sudden, violent illness. As a kid growing up in Maine, anything seafood related would make me queasy and/or sick. I really wanted those days to be behind me, and now I wasn’t so sure they were. Luckily, we had caught two of the small black skip jacks during our crossing. One went on the grill, one in the fridge. It took a few days to gather the courage to try eating the second, but when we did, everything was fine. Hurray!
Sailing from San Juanico to the Coronado islands wasn’t happening. The winds were non-existent. So, we fired up the iron genny and motored over to our anchorage. A beautiful spot! Unfortunately, we chose an anchorage that was a bit exposed to the north, and as luck would have it, the winds picked up that evening to an uncomfortable level. Not to the point that we needed to up anchor and move, but just enough to keep my sleep level at a minimum.
Trying to capitalize on these same winds, we got sailing early the next day. The winds once again became very light, however our new drifter front sail kept us moving through the light stuff and by the afternoon, the winds had filled in again. We sailed all the way to Honeymoon Cove. With so many amazingly beautiful anchorages we get to stop and stay in throughout our Mexican journey, it’s hard to say which one is our favorite, but I think Deidre and I can both agree that Honeymoon cove is one of the tops. After dropping the hook and swinging around and setting a stern anchor also (I actually walked the stern anchor up onto the beach and piled large rocks all over it), we went for a run on every inch of what limited trails there were on Isla Danzante. With the Sierra Giganta to our west creating a rugged backdrop that rivals even that of the Tetons, our sunset that evening was spectacular (again…:).
The next morning we awoke early and hit the marina within Puerto Escondido, 2.5 miles away. We figured if we arrived early enough, we could pull right up to the fuel dock, empty our trash, use the Internet, and buy gas and a bit of food staples and then leave before any fees were assessed. Things in Escondido are slow. We were docked for at least two hours while Deidre poached some Internet and a shower. There was no gas available (which we didn’t really need) and the store never opened, so, after the trash disposal, the shower and the internetting session, we left just as quietly as we came in.
From Escondido, an anchorage called Los Gatos was in our sites. We sailed the entire 40 miles. Unfortunately, upon our arrival, there was another boat anchored in a way that didn’t allow us to sneak Cat2Fold up into the tiny protected beach area the way I wanted to. With a Norther building, we knew the Los Gatos anchorage would be rolly, and it was. With Cat2Folds wide beam, rolly anchorages are not a problem for us if we can get the boat anchored in a way to face the oncoming swells. Sadly, we weren’t able to do this, so we spent the night bouncing around a bit more than ideal. Nothing compared to the monohull anchored next to us. Just watching its anchor light sway back and forth is enough to make me sea sick.
We spent the next morning crawling all over the red, Moab like slick rock formations that Los Gatos is famous for. By mid morning, we were ready to keep heading south. San Evaristo, 30 miles away, was to be the next nights’ anchorage. By mid afternoon, with our batteries running very low, and the winds dropping, we decided to motor for a while. Upon our arrival in the anchorage, it became apparent that the starboard engine was not putting out a charge. Couple that with the fact that we were sailing south (sails shading the solar panels almost all day) with cloud covered skies for the past week, and Cat2Folds’ batteries were in desperate need of a thorough charging. I did my best to diagnose the problem with the outboard myself, and after trading out parts from the working port motor to the starboard motor with no resolve, I decided it was above my head and I would need to recruit some outside assistance.
The next day, we lolly gagged the 9 miles to Isla San Fransisco, where we spent some time paddle boarding and running on the beach. Getting close to La Paz, with a growing list of repairs and upgrades needed, it was hard for me to keep moving slowly south. We wanted to stop and spend many nights in Isla Espiritu Santo, but, alas, we didn’t have the time. With one last night spent out at the beautiful anchorage of Bahia de Balandra before reaching the noise, dirtiness, and conveniences of the city of La Paz, we hoped for a calm relaxing night. As it has in the past, Balandra’s tranquil waters turned into a swelly, windy mess. In and around La Paz, there are winds that pipe up from the west in the evenings that are locally known as “Coromuels”. The Coromuels piped up that night. Not to the point of having to leave the anchorage, but just enough to make for a sleepless and bumpy evening.
Arriving in La Paz early enough to listen to and take part in the mornings “cruisers net” on VHF channel 22, we quickly got some leads to get started on our growing list of things to do. Cat2Fold needed outboard charging help, a computer style muffin fan to help our “Airhead” (composting toilet) do its job, a new stern light, and I wanted to have two of the four cushions that make up our salon/bed redone to allow for a better setup. We also wanted to hit the organic farmers market, a regular super market, visit with a dermatologist (I had a couple of moles to remove), and go out to eat at some of the favorites- “The Shack” and Tacos on the Malecone.
Less than 30 hours later, nearly everything was taken care of. I couldn’t believe how fast we were able to get it done.
Moles removed.
Cushions cut, reupholstered, and delivered back to the boat by Rodriguez Bros. Upholstery (highly recommended).
Groceries (including fresh local organic produce), booze, mixers and ice on board.
Fully gassed up.
Water tanks topped off with known potable water.
Muffin fan purchased and installed.
Laundry done.
No appropriate stern light to be found, so after contacting Lopolight about a warranty replacement and learning that our warranty was two years out of date, they offered to ship one to my kids in Idaho for half price. I was astounded to learn that half price of one small piece of sailboat hardware, albeit, a high tech, low energy LED light, ended up costing $275. Hopefully this one lasts forever!
We also never got a hold of “Sea Otter Jim” who was apparently “the” man for outboard repairs. He was out on a chartering job and wouldn’t be back until Monday. We decided it was worth the couple of day wait to try and diagnose the charging problem. Monday turned into Tuesday. And by Tuesday afternoon, the problem was diagnosed, and the part was ordered and shipped to my kids who are coming down to PV on the 8 of December.
One detail I need to include about our stay in La Paz won me the Darwin Award for the day. I was on Cat2Fold running a bit late to go and meet Deidre at the laundry. I jumped into the dinghy with the intention of racing over to Marina de La Paz. As soon as I was 50′ away from Cat2Fold, I noticed the solar panels were facing the wrong direction and decided to quickly turn around to go and adjust them. As I pulled up to the inside of the starboard hull, I slipped the motor into neutral (so I thought), stepped up on the hull for all of about one second to turn the panel, and as I went to step back down, the dinghy had idled its way forward between the hulls and was leaving me behind to go on its own ghost ride! Split second decision…I jumped in the water swimming after the dinghy. It was only about one hour since I had been stitched up from mole removal surgery. Probably a bit too early for swimming. I was able to touch the stern of the dinghy a couple of times, but with nothing to grab onto, and having a spinning prop staring me down, there was nothing I could do to stop it. In hindsight, I should have completely boarded Cat2Fold and ran across the length of the boat, and simply jumped in to the dinghy as I reached the front net. Luckily for me, the dinghy turned to the right, and drove itself toward the beach where some folks who were watching, walked out into the water and corralled it. I swam to shore and embarrassedly thanked the dinghy rescuers, jumped in and sped off to the laundry.
We left La Paz late Tuesday afternoon, and sailed the 10 miles to Balandra. Not wanting to experience any more Coromuels, we tucked Cat2Fold deep into the bay in a protected cove in about 5 feet of water. They never came that night.
The next morning found us sailing out of Balandra at first light. With 50 miles to sail to Bahia de Los Muertos, then another 40 or so miles to Frailes the next day, we really needed to keep a move on. At one point on our sail to Frailes, I sat down in the salon looking aft. I just happened to see a beautiful Dorado jumping out of the water. Again and again. Unfortunately, we had been dragging a cedar plug fishing lure on a hand line and the Dorado took it with him. I think the lure (now being dragged behind the Dorado a couple of feet back) was scaring the shit out of him. We were very disappointed that we injured him and he was left with a fishing lure still attached. Not to mention that had we landed him, we would have had enough “mahi mahi” for more than a week. We now try and pay more attention to our lure when it is in the water.
This post is entirely LONG enough. Until next time…

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

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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