The La Paz Shuffle

There is a phenomenon boats experience when anchored in La Paz known as the La Paz waltz.  The combination of wind and current tends to make boats move around their anchor in some unique ways, not always quite as expected.  You can end up pointing the opposite way as the boat next to you, even though normally boats at anchor tend to line up with each other.  We experienced quite a bit of it on our first trip here last fall.  Maybe it is the reduction in strong  northerly winds in the spring, or our repeated  change of anchorage locations, but we seem to be doing a little less waltzing on this visit, more just shuffling around our anchor.  Which is also what we’ve been doing the La Paz area.  When we arrived from Mazatlan after fairly smooth sailing with an escort of 30 or so dolphins for 20 minutes, we found the spot we wanted to anchor at occupied by a large ketch that has the look of a boat that is going to sit in the same spot for a long time.  Various supplies, including a sheet of plywood covered the decks, and as we did a drive by an older guy poked is head out from under the tarp cover and did not return my wave.  We moved to another spot, where we were informed by another older guy on a another large ketch that doesn’t look like it is going to move anytime soon either that the port captain would probably tell us to move.  Being the weekend we decided to wait to move, and when Monday rolled around we didn’t quite get to it either.  By Wednesday I had run into a cruiser from we met in La Cruz who offered up his spot in the anchorage as he was going into a marina for a few days.  So we shuffled off to that spot which worked out well except for a lack of good wi-fi signals.  Ahh, the pursuit of the perfect anchorage.

Just a few of the 30 or so playing around our boat.

I’m not sure how an animal that can swim so fast enjoys riding the bow wake at 5 knots, but they do.

Another bow shot. Did I mention we get excited when we see dolphins?

And now, a few bird pictures I took back in Mazatlan and never got around to posting.

A brown boobie taking flight.

Another brown boobie shot. They didn’t get their fair share of pictures last time around so I”m making it up to them.

I know, I’m a geek but this makes me think of a Klingon Bird of Prey warship. Geek mode <off>

A bird diving for fish while another laments their missed chance. Do you ever wonder how the first bird decided to dive at the water at full speed?

After all that work to get into a good spot, we decided to get out of town for a few days.  Our friend Marek, who had sailed down from Anacortes at the same time we sailed down the coast, was also ready to head out of La Paz, so we buddy boated up to Ispiritu Santo, an island just north of town set aside as a national park.  We hung out for a few days and enjoyed the rugged beauty and relative isolation of the area.  There were a few boats in the anchorage the first night, and then the weekend hit and it jumped to 14 boats.  In a rather bizarre moment for us, there was a time when there were more power boats then sailboats in the anchorage.  That was a first for us.  Of course, two of the powerboats had to anchor directly upwind from us.  With the winds at night running in the mid 20 knot range with some gusts over 30 (according to another boat, I still need to install our wind speed instrument) and my experience with some power boaters skill at anchoring I was on the nervous side.  Of course, they dropped their hooks just as it was getting dark and the wind was picking up and I wasn’t eager to move at that point so I just kept an eye on them.  For some reason they both moved to the other side of the bay allowing me to relax a bit, although with that much wind you still don’t sleep all that soundly.  Our third night the wind died out and we had a flat, quiet night of deep sleep.

Typical scenery at Ispiritu Santo.

20 miles from the nearest dock – but ready when they get there!

During the day we dinghied ashore and wandered around, checking out the hundreds or even thousands of fiddler crabs on one of the beaches.  There were numerous cacti growing near the water, and volcanic rock as well as visible layers of soil and rock in the hills rising out of water.  While not the green forests we are used to from the pacific northwest wilderness, there was a beauty to this anchorage, with reddish rocks and aqua green waters contrasting to provide spectacular vistas.  We also took a dinghy trip with Marek through a narrow, shallow channel that separates two islands.  After we made it through the channel we motored down to several large sea caves.  We had perfect conditions for the trip as we were on the lee side of the island and there was no swell we easily drove the dinghy into the the caves.  What we didn’t have is a camera, so we’ll have to go back for some pictures.  We stopped and did some snorkeling in some of the clearest water we’ve been in so far, although it was not the warmest.  The biggest warning about the Sea of Cortez we heard from people was the temperature, and so far we’ve had chilly nights and chilly refreshing water temperatures.  I’ll get back to you in August…  I found a gap in the rocks that allowed us to swim from the the snorkeling area into a sea cave and took several trips back and forth in Jaques Costeau mode.

Just another scene in the Sea of Cortez.

You do need to watch where you are walking – this is not a plant I want to bump into.

Another reason to watch where you are walking. These were the slowest moving crabs I’ve ever encountered and it would be easy to step on them.

Fiddler crab close up.

At some point in every photographers life, you have to try the B&W artistic shot.

The colored artistic shot of the same plant.

One more… the way the cactus dried out into a hollowed wood with patterned holes really was quite fascinating!

A bird that isn’t a boobie.

I thought this was a dead tree from a distance, but it is still hanging in there pushing out the green leaves.

Once you start going Black & White…

Interesting to see a park sign, right next to a fishing camp.

Not a bad spot to live and work. Assuming you don’t need internet, electricity and an Oxxo on the corner.

I guess I better get in one of these pictures.

I think this is a cactus in the process of flowering. But that is kind of an assumption on my part.

I’m not sure the sun hat is helping out.


While we were anchoring the dinghy a man from the powerboat anchored a couple hundred feet out from the sea cave swung by on a paddleboard to inquire about where we were anchored and the conditions there.  His boat was not in a spot our guide book listed as an anchorage – he was essentially just out in the open a few hundred feet from the side of the island, while we were tucked into a bay that our guide book showed charted depths for, with high cliffs providing some protection from wind and waves as long as there weren’t coming directly from the West.  I gave him information about our anchorage and asked how deep his spot was.  He said he anchored in about 110′ feet, but he probably drug anchoring during the windy night because it was now 130′ deep.  I asked him what kind of sea bed conditions he was in, but he didn’t know.  For those of you in the know, you can now understand my nervous moments having two similarly sized powerboats anchored upwind from me the previous night.  He said he was going to move over to our anchorage, but somewhat thankfully we didn’t see him show up before we left the next morning.

After a few days of what we felt was a little mini vacation, we decided to run back to La Paz.  As always, there are some projects to work on including a leaky water pump in the engine I would like to resolve while we are near a large city with good marine services.  Of course the morning we left there were dolphins in the bay and even a whale that we did not get a get enough look at to identify.  We idled around in the dinghy watching the dolphins but even at dinghy level they just don’t seem to want to come over for a petting session, much to Jenn’s disappointment.  Finally we said a goodbye to Marek who is heading north to explore a bit, while we pointed south back to La Paz.   Of course the there wasn’t any wind, but we did get yet more dolphins to entertain us before we finally got enough wind to sail for a bit.  I had sailed all the way out of the La Paz channel on the way north and tried to sail back in but had to use the engine for a little assist – best not to push it around channel markers the outline a course around a sand bar.

Marek from Spica – hopefully we’ll catch up again up north.

Dolphin in the anchorage with us.

And yet more dolphins on the way back to La Paz.

We should be in project mode, but we have a chance to go get some pool time at the nicest resort in town with the very friendly crew of Double Diamond before they return home to Washington for the summer.  Sometimes, you just have to know when to go hang out at the pool.


Quick Update

This will not be my typical update. No photos, and very brief. We had a good, fairly uneventful crossing from Mazatlan to La Paz. There was a bit of a breezy night spent at anchorage just outside of La Paz, but nothing like last time we were there. 20-25 knot winds, but from the south so not a lot of wave action. It still makes for a restless night though.

We’ve been enjoying La Paz again, although it is different this time as we aren’t hanging out with people we had known for awhile. I’ve swung by the morning coffee social at the local cruisers club and recognize some blue hairs, but the few cruisers we’ve seen in our age range aren’t people we recognize. We’ll try to make some new friends, but for now we are planning to head north to an island just a few miles from here and sample some remote anchorages for a few days. We’ll probably take some jaunts from La Paz over the next few weeks and get the boat prepped a bit for some hot summer cruising with the possibility of strong summer winds in the Sea of Cortez.

For a little entertainment, here is a video for a song that we’ve incorporated into our cruising philosophy. We can’t adopt it as a theme, since our friends on Jace have renamed their boat Knee Deep. They are taking the summer off from the cruising lifestyle, but to the Doolittles, this one is for you!

Just a note on the location – we went into this bay try and anchor but it was the one spot we couldn’t get our anchor to set. We’ll try it again next time we pass by, it has a hillside of brightly colored homes that are visible when passing by off the coast.

We splashed last Friday morning, and are ecstatic to be back in the water. Lower temperatures, no ladders off and on the boat, and we can use the sink and head again. Even Minion seems more content, although after Jenn noticed he seems to be a bit pudgy and plans to cut his food ration, we’ll see how happy he remains.

After our launch we’ve continued boat project mode. Our progress was interrupted by the several hours it took me to figure out the battery monitor had gone wonky because a couple fuses blew (not sure why but the problem hasn’t reoccurred). After disconcerting shore power and the solar charger and still showing 200-300 amps coming into our system (normal is maximum of about 20 amps) according the the batter monitor I figured I either stumbled on some kind of perpetual energy or we were getting a seriously erroneous reading. Sadly, it was the latter, and after checking all the connections and checking the actual battery voltage I finally found a couple blown fuses that were causing the problems. Once solved, we moved on to solving some other electrical issues, namely not having a compass light and power for autopilot I’m going to attempt to install.

We knew all along we didn’t have a compass light. There was a bulb there, but no power to it, and none of the switches on the electrical panel seemed to turn it on. I found a random wire in underneath the cockpit with nothing hooked up to it that was connected to one of the switches, so I hooked it up to the light. But something was amiss with this wire, and it would blow fuses or dim the whole panel when turned on. Pus, it was speaker wire. So… it was time to run a couple new wires to the cockpit, one for the compass light and one for the autopilot. As simple as this sounds it took about a day of work to get these two lines run and hooked up to breakers in the electrical panel.

All this had to be moved. Out of “storage” and back in.

Minion actually found a place to be out of the way. For once.

Jenn works on hooking up some wires after I crawled in the bowels of the boat running them.

All that work made us very thirsty, and a mug of Chope bigger than your head solved the thirst problem.

All that work for a compass that lights up at night.

We had been using a 9 volt battery and LED light someone left at one of our super bowl parties years ago to light up the compass, all taped up the pedestal. It was not the ideal solution, especially esthetically. And we refilled the compass with fluid to remove a large bubble, although a small one had reappeared for reasons unknown. Further investigation is required, but will occur later.

Since the boat seems to be keeping water out after our haulout and work, we are ready to head to La Paz and should be leaving in the next couple days if the weather works out for us. I finally have batteries for the Spot you can track our progress. I’ll get some final boat yard pictures and opinions up soon, but we are happy with our experience.

It’s a Hard Boat Yard Life

It’s been a week and a day living in the boat yard.  So much for a couple days out of the water for bottom paint.  We went ahead and decided to haul out here in Mazatlan after good words about Total Yacht Works.  Not only did they have the lowest estimate for painting the bottom of the boat, they had an opening for us in a week, while the other two companies didn’t have an opening for a month.  So, it wasn’t a tough choice.  We did manage to call some boatyards in La Paz since we are headed there next, but we weren’t getting any better rates and it was difficult to communicate over the phone with our language skills.  Honestly, I’m impressed we tried and were able to get the information we did.

We got off to a bit of a bad start on Monday when we went to the Fonatur boat yard.  They handle the haul outs and manage the yard we would be staying in.  We were scheduled for a 3:00 pm haul out, but when we told them about our appointment (made by Total Yacht Works for us) we found out we had been re-scheduled for Tuesday, but no one had told us.  Back to the marina where we had just checked out and pay for another day.  We used the rest of Monday to get all of our paperwork taken care of with Fonatur, and try to mentally prepare for the haul out all over again, especially now that we had been told we had to back into the slot where the lift would pick us up.  Between my backing skills and Ventured struggling to do anything other than spin in backwards circles to port when it reverses, I was not looking forward to trying to put it between two cement piling about 20 feet apart.  I’ve come to the conclusion sailboats are not meant to go backwards and do my best to avoid that direction.

Tuesday was our big day, so we steeled ourselves and headed for the boat yard.  Just as we were pulling out of the marina slip, Bob from Total Yacht Works came by in a dinghy, and told us that at 37′, we could go into the sling forward.  There was palpable relief on both our parts, the only person more nervous than me when I try to back up the boat is Jenn.  Our entry into the haul out slip was described by Bob as “I’ve seen better, and I’ve seen much worse.”  It would have been pretty uneventful but we had a bit of a problem getting the first line tossed to one of the workers on the dock and with a bit of wind picking up, by the time we did get lines to the handlers, we weren’t quite straight in the slip anymore.  Once the lines were secured, the slings were positioned, the engine in the lift went to work, and we rose up.  And settled back down for some sling repositioning.  Then back up again and this time we started to head over dry land.  However, our forestay was not going to clear the front of the haul out lift when we were lifted high enough to move over dry land.  Given the options of dropping back in and backing into the slip with rising wind, or dropping our forestay, we chose the latter.  Note to self -reattach the forestay when we go back in the water!

Pulling into the slip for the haul out, thankfully pointy end first.

Fonatur employees getting the slings set. There is something about a woman who can drive a haul out lift.

Mazatlan, we have lift off.

Gratuitous boat name picture.

And of course, the classic haul out shot.

Once we were over land, it didn’t take long for the bottom to get pressure washed and boat set in our new home.  I guess this counts as our first nights on land since last September, even if we are still in the boat.  Staying on the boat while over pavement presents some challenges.  While we can dribble some water out a sink drain if need be, we can’t use the head (toilet for you non-boaters) and we purposely ran the water tanks low to reduce the weight of the boat while sitting on stands.  So of course our tanks ran dry a couple days into our stay.  Every morning we head to the marina bathrooms to do dishes and fill a pitcher and our Nalgene bottles with water, and the only thing worse than waking up at 3:00 am with a full bladder is having Minion jump off his shelf and landing on your full bladder.  Getting on and off the boat requires going up and down a 15 foot high ladder, and carrying bags of dishes only makes that more exciting.

I’m rather embarrassed to say I think this washed out of the centerboard trunk while the hull was being power washed.

Looking up into the centerboard trunk. Before a lot of swimming and diving on my part, most of the hull had growth like this. #BottomPaintFail

Our new home away from home, so to speak.

I’ve lost count of the trips up and down this ladder. Which for the record is not a good thing.

So, why stay for a week for bottom paint you may ask?  Well… when we came out, Bob pointed out a bit of a wobble in the rudder.  Nothing bad, but the lower shield that sits in front of the bottom half of the rudder had cracks in both sides where it joined the hull, and while Bob wasn’t instant that we fix it now he did recommend that we address the wobble before heading to South Pacific.  Even though that isn’t on our list of things to do right now, we decided to get it fixed.  Thanks to, I found a PDF file with pictures and instructions on how to remove the rudder to forward to Bob, and with those instructions it came off amazingly fast.  Luckily we made a good decision to fix it, as the lower pin the rudder sits on was detached from the support bracket, and pitted with corrosion.  A slightly larger pin has been fabricated and attached to the bracket, and the rudder is almost back together and ready to reinstall.

A sign something is a tad amiss with the rudder.

So off comes the rudder, steering is over rated. The white stripe on the hull is the concession many cruising boats make, we are raising the waterline.

The old rudder pin. I think choosing to get it replaced was probably a good call, although we couldn’t see how bad it was without making the decision to have the work done.

New pin welded to the support strut. The rounded chunk is part of a rather interesting design, it has to be sawed out to remove the rudder shaft and then glued back in.

Another piece that comes off during the rudder removal, all painted and ready to be installed to improve water flow over the lower half of the rudder.

And almost all back together, should be going back on the boat today.

There were two other projects I wanted to accomplish while out of the water.  One went quite quick and easy – installing a new transducer that will plug into our GPS and give us a more accurate picture of the bottom and our current depth only readout.  There happened to be an old, non-functioning transducer right about where the new one needed to go, so Jenn and I removed it, and had Total Yacht Works put in the new one.  They did have to cut a larger hole, and I’m happy to find our hull near the keel is over an inch thick of solid fiberglass.  They just don’t build them like they used to!  Now I get the fun part -running the wire from near the front of the boat to under the cockpit and up through the floor to the GPS.  I just love running wires through the bilge, it is almost as fun as dealing with government officials.

Nothing like a hole below the waterline to keep you on the hard.

Out with the old. I really hope I tracked the wiring right and this was not the transducer hooked up to our working depth sounder.

Minion inspects the project progress.

And in with the new. Can’t wait for our new broadband view of the bottom!

I don’t know about you, but all this work is making me thirsty!

And finally, we needed to put new shaft packing in the stuffing box (if you are a non boater, this is not nearly as naughty as it sounds).  The stuffing box should not drip while the engine is off, and have a few drips per minute while the propeller shaft is turning.  Ours dripped constantly while the engine was off, and trickled while motoring.  There are two nuts to adjust that tighten the stuffing box packing around the shaft (yes, I know this is sounding worse and worse) but they were frozen together and I exhausted the amount I could tighten them to prevent leaking.  We are not allowed to work on the outside of the boat in this yard (although no one has stopped me from hand waxing the hull despite my hope they would).  Since all the above mentioned parts are inside the boat, I thought I would tackle this project.  But with the two nuts frozen together I couldn’t undo everything to access the stuffing box.  I invited Bob aboard to consult, and after looking at the large chunk of rusted metal that connected our transmission to the prop shaft, he informed me “it doesn’t look good.”  Admittedly, the coupler had given me pause for thought when I bought the boat, I wasn’t thrilled with the condition of it.  But it was such a huge chunk of metal even if there was some rust on it there was quite a bit of metal still to go.

Bob let us know that most likely we would have to cut the prop shaft off, build a new one and install a new coupler.  On the plus side, the rudder would have to be removed to pull and reinstall the prop shaft, and our rudder was already off.  So… we asked for a summary of our bill so far, and an estimate for the shaft work while I went online to double check my bank balance.  I also tried without success to remove the coupler.  I did get out four bolts and removed a lot of rust.

You haul out for bottom paint and just never know what you’ll find.  I will say this – I love my boat, but if I’m ever shopping again I’m bringing a buyers surveyor.  But really, for a boat almost as old as I am I think it is in good shape and these are moving parts that wear out.  The items we are replacing are likely the original parts and the fact they held up this long shows the quality that originally went into the boat.

The next morning we found out our current tab was less than expected and the quote for the additional work seemed reasonable. We didn’t really want to go back in the water with our leaky stuffing box, so we gave the OK for the extra work.  Once everything came apart it turned out we needed a new cutlass bearing, which I had kind of suspected before the haul out.  Again, an item that wears out over time.  I’ll feel a lot better about being in remote areas this summer with all this work done.

Getting the shaft cut out.

And yet anther hole in the bottom of the boat.

Our old coupler from the transmission to the prop shaft (the cut silver circle in the middle).

And the other side, not so hard to see why this was not coming off without a grinder being involved.

Looking much better with the new stuffing box, the nuts aren’t frozen together and that is always a good thing.

And looking better from the outside, new cutlass bearing and prop shaft (sans prop at the moment).

I guess it doesn’t matter that we can’t steer, because we can’t motor without a prop shaft.

The one struggle I’m having (beside the knowledge I’m going to get a bill about twice as big as our initial budget for bottom paint) is that I’m paying someone else to work on the boat, when I’m trying to be an independent cruiser. Even if I had pulled everything apart, I would still have had to hire some fabrication.  Even if you turned me lose in a shop full of metal fabrication tools, I couldn’t build a new prop shaft.  I’m sure we could have tracked down a place to build one for us, but at what point is that time and energy greater than hiring someone who knows what they are doing, and has a metal fabricator at their disposal?  And as mentioned, this yard doesn’t allow us to work on our boats, and we would have had to either head for a yard that did allow us to work on the boat or wait till the end of summer when we should be near one if we make the classic Sea of Cortez loop and head towards San Carlos in late summer.  I’m watching the work and learning as much as I can, and hoping next time I can do more of the work.  Maybe it is just challenging my manliness not to do my own work, but I shouldn’t feel to bad since with Jenn’s help (and maybe a friend or two back home) I prepped the boat for cruising without hiring anyone.

And while none of them have been big jobs, I have used the time in the boatyard to get a few little projects done.  Our solar charge controller had quit displaying incoming voltage (while still, more importantly, charging), and I managed to reset it and get the display working again.  And with the challenging task of swapping a wire from one post to another on the battery monitor shunt, our incoming solar voltage is now showing on the battery monitor.  I’ve even done the typical boat project that is halfway done by mounting the foot pump so we can pump salt water into the sink for doing dishes when we are in clean anchorages.  I still need to add the plumbing end but I’m minus a part I need.  And as I mentioned I managed to hand wax the whole hull – that will cure your desire for a bigger boat!  I’ve spent quite a bit of time working on the compass, but it still has a small air bubble and no light for night sailing.  Sigh… Jenn sewed up bug nets for both our hatches so we can have air flow, sans bitey bugs.

We’ve had a bit of fun too, Leif and Jackie from Dodger Too arrived in Mazatlan a couple days ago, and we went and crashed the El Cid pool since they are in the marina there and caught up with them.  We also re-visited The Shrimp Factory with them, although Jenn and I ate beef as their carne asada is quite good.  I had it in fajita form, my first fajitas in seven months in Mexico!  We are plugged into shore power and pulling in free wi-fi with our $30 boaters swap meet bargain antenna so we’ve spent way too much time on the internet.  Get it while we can, it will be in short supply this summer in the Sea of Cortez.  Good thing all the shows we download on the internet go on summer hiatus.

Boat yard life can be stressful, so it is best to stop and pet the kitties.

We’ll probably get everything put back together tomorrow, and splash on Thursday.  We can’t wait to get back in the water!  This having the boat sit 15 feet up in the air is no fun.  When I’m standing on the deck I’m looking down 20 feet to the ground when I’m used to looking 9 feet down to much more inviting water.  While the boat yard is cement, it is dusty, and very hot.  And as mentioned before, dishes, water usage and bathroom needs are all very inconvenient.  Not to mention we have everything pulled out of the lazerette for access to rudder bolts and prop shaft so there are items stacked all over the cockpit that are normally stowed away.  And while we love the little grocery store that is just a short walk from the boat yard, we have just not caught the Mazatlan bug and are eager to move on.  Once we are back in the water, we’ll wait a day or two to make sure we aren’t leaking from any of the three holes we opened up below the water line that should all be sealed back up, then hope for good weather so we can head to La Paz.

Crocodiles aren’t awesome

Never trust a smiling Crocodile

These pictures are from quite awhile back, during our second visit to Tenacatita.  For some reason I haven’t gotten around to posting them.  I suspect it has something to do with, as much as I hate to admit it, my fear of crocodiles.  As a guy, I’m not supposed to be afraid of things (and generally I’m not, thumping on chest and bellowing) but overgrown lizards with huge teeth, claws, and a history of eating people just give me the willies.  Strangely enough, I’m not that freaked out by sharks although news of fisherman catching a 2300 lb great white shark in the Sea of Cortez last month did give me some pause for thought since we’ll be living in the water this summer.

Back to the crocodiles, in La Manzanilla there is a small cocodrillo (crocodile preserve) that costs a whopping 10 pesos to walk through.  My therapist told me I need confront my fears so I saddled up for the adventure.  Personally I think they should have paid us to walk through since we could end up helping out by being crocodile food, but I couldn’t quite make that argument in Spanish so I paid my 10 pesos.  There were plenty of crocs to see, and some rather disconcerting gaps in the fences.

Those are some brave birds!

Opps, were some brave birds. Nah, just kidding!

Poor Minion, yet another place that discriminates against pets. He was very disappointed as he had promised to keep me safe from crocs, explaining “Panthers can kick a crocs ass.” Such a good little Evil Minion.

Jenn checks out a croc.

I’m a bit more honest about my feelings.

It didn’t take long to walk through the preserve, and as you can all guess by now neither of us became lunch.  I still have no desire to cross paths with a crocodile on a hike, and even less desire to see one when I’m swimming, but at least I can hold my head high knowing I won this round.

I think this one was trying to lull me into a false sense of security by sleeping.

Who knew crocodiles are cuddly?

What is it with baby animals? I almost think these two are cute. Almost.

If I remember right, this is Gordo, about 50 years old. I really need to post pictures when details are fresh in my mind.

Jenn, one step away from a Jackass stunt gone horribly wrong.

Probably the last thing I want to see – a large gap in the fence right next to the path.

Just to show I’m not a complete hater, I’ll end with a cute picture.

Boobies Are Awesome

Have you ever gone on a hike and hoped to catch a glimpse of some wildlife?  Imagine going on a short hike and not going more than a few seconds without seeing wildlife so close you can touch it.  Granted, said wildlife was birds and lizards, but it was still pretty amazing to always be seeing something, and most of the time you were mere feet from the animal you were looking at.

Just an idea how thick the birds are on land and in the sky.

This marvelous nature hike occurred at Isla Isabela, which is about 20 miles offshore between San Blas and Mazatlan.  It is a bit out of the way since we don’t usually venture so far offshore for coastal hops, but it receives great reviews from fellow cruisers and we wanted to see it for ourselves. We skipped this island as we were heading south in December because we were on a bit of a timeline -never a good thing for cruisers. We were also a bit hesitant to go before, because along with the rave reviews of Isla Isabela came some anchor warnings.  It has a bit of a reputation for occasionally not letting your anchor back up off the bottom, and isn’t exactly a protected harbor at 20 miles off shore.  But with a few months of cruising under our belts now, we are a lot more confident in our anchoring then we were back in December.  So when we left Mantachan Bay we headed for Isla Isabela.  Of course, as we closed in on the island, the wind was blowing directly at us so we cheated the last few miles with the engine.  After setting anchor in the small bay on the south end of the island, we decided we weren’t happy with the swell and proximity of some large rocks.  We moved to the second anchorage on the east side of the island where we found less swell, and the possibility of dragging anchor would move us to open ocean, not a rock shelf.  I did some snorkeling in some of the clearest water we’ve seen while cruising, and found our anchor was not dug nicely into a sandy bottom like we were hoping.  Rather, it was sitting on some rocks and hooked into a little fissure.  To save you the suspense, it held just fine and retrieving it did not involve scuba diving or having to use the trip line we had rigged.  It just pulled up as normal when we were ready to raise it.

A young frigate bird (I think).

Since I was already in the water and it was mid afternoon, I decided to check the bottom of the boat a bit more.  The visibility was much better than our last stop, but I still didn’t see any real damage from our grounding.  I did see plenty of bottom growth so I spent some time trying to clean it up a bit, as our boat speed is waaaay down.  By the time I was finished and evening was rolling around a couple more boats showed up to anchor both in the bay, and out by the spire where we were anchored.

The next day we launched the dinghy for the first time in what I think was about a week and headed to shore.  What you hear about all the birds on this island doesn’t really prepare you for just how many birds there really are.  The area we started in was mostly frigate birds, as well as a rather surprising basketball court and a semi abandoned building.  Later as we were leaving, we saw people hauling camping gear towards it but lacking language skills to ask, I’m going with my guess that they were researchers or students visiting the island.

An adult frigate bird (pretty positive).

One of the more randomly placed basketball courts in the world.

An elder imparting some wisdom to the young.

Not sure what the wing spreading behavior is all about, but my completely uneducated guess is for cooling off.

Bed head bird.

Isla Isabela isn’t hasn’t completely gone to the birds.

Grumpy old man lizard.

Lazy birds don’t even fly up to a tree branch to roost!

Hanging out in nest all day must be exhausting.

After checking out the area around the dinghy landing, we set out for a trail that would take us to a long awaited boobie area.  First we had to climb over a ridge and walk through some wooded areas where there were less birds, and the almost constant rustle of lizards scampering across the leaves on the ground.  We hiked by a small lake, then again climbed over another a ridge before dropping back towards the shoreline.  Suddenly, right in the middle of the path, was a blue footed boobie sitting on an egg. I really can’t say why, but I’ve had a fascination with boobies for awhile, especially blue footed ones. I’ve never seen one up close and personal before and suddenly we were surrounded by them.  I even had one try and chase me at one point.  We did our best to keep hiking without disturbing them, but we were surrounded by boobies.  We made it out to the stretch of beach  our boat was anchored just off of and walked along the water checking out the several species of boobies nesting there.  Besides the blue footed boobies there were a few brown boobies, that looked so sleek they almost looked like a movie special effect.  Jenn soon decided to quit pushing her luck with not having anything fall out of the sky and land on her so we headed back to the dinghy.

Jenn models our new boat hats in front of the small lake.

A nesting boobie.

I think this is the Boobie mating dance. I didn’t stay to find out.

Not much of a trail, but at least there weren’t any birds nest in the path here.

Close up of Boobie.

Jenn misunderstood when I said I was taking Boobie pictures.

They really do have blue feet, honestly one of the darnedest things I’ve ever seen.

Slow lizard, easy to photograph.

Baby bird sitting on a rock.

This is the trail we were hiking on, we had to be careful where we stepped.

Angry Boobie. I wasn’t careful enough where I stepped.

Dreaming of omelets.

A break from the birds.

Say what?

Sleekest bird ever.

I just one to pick on up and hug it and squeeze it.

I should give the gulls a turn.

One more gull, it kept buzzing me and I kept taking pictures. I don’t think that was what this gull had in mind.

Jenn dodging the nests on the path.

Amazingly, I took a picture with no wildlife in it.

These little guys were tough to photograph. They didn’t really like to pose.

Flying Boobie! Testing the action mode on my camera.

As we motored back a rather large sailboat that had anchored near us hailed us using their PA on the boat.  We had chatted briefly with the some of the crew on the shore.  Once they got our attention over our outboard noise with the PA they waved us over.  We swung by to say hi, and tried to decline their invitation to come aboard as we had nothing to contribute.  We were informed they had plenty and it wasn’t an issue so we tied up and climbed aboard.  The boat was a beautiful 72′ Maple Leaf, complete with a full size stand up stainless steel fridge with ice dispenser, a washer and dryer.  We enjoyed their buffet including some Costco salmon from Puerto Vallarta and some drinks.  We commented we were starting to run a little low since we had been traveling at such a leisurely pace and suddenly a concerned crew member was pressing a bottle of tequila into Jenn’s hand as she didn’t want us to run out.  I really have to appreciate how the cruising community takes care of its own!  Several other crews from the boats anchored at the island were on board, and it wasn’t challenging to figure out we had stumbled across some fairly well off sailors, and yet the question we were asked most often was how we were off cruising out our age.  While I would prefer to be a well off cruiser, it was a rewarding to have them admire what we were doing.

A nice boat to be invited aboard, but now I’m having a hard time convincing Jenn we can’t have a stand up fridge with ice dispenser.

The next morning we waited for the wind to build, hauled anchor and set sail for a next stop, Mazatlan.  Isla Isabela is certainly a stop worth veering a few miles offshore to see, and is small enough to see in a day.  We didn’t see all of it so if we sail by again I will want to stop and explore a bit more.  I’ve heard there is some good snorkeling around the rock spire were were anchored near and we didn’t check that out so I’m pretty sure we haven’t seen the last of Isla Isabela.

Small fishing village at the dinghy landing site.

Yeah, I’m a photo geek sometimes.