The Sea of Cortez, So Far

Finally heading north to the Sea of Cortez!

My impressions of the Sea of Cortez so far: It is hot. And it is only June. This worries me a bit. As for the scenery – it is beautiful in a deserted, rugged way. The best description I can come up with is it looks like someone flooded Utah and we can sail there. There is a certain oddness sitting in a sailboat on the water, looking at a barren rocky shoreline with cacti dotting the topography.

Other than our “weekend getaway” from La Paz up to Calita Partida, we remained Sea of Cortez virgins. Well, not completely, as we’ve crossed the Sea three times and counting, but crossings don’t really count for cruising and pretty much all you see is land, a lot of water, than land again. And the pages of your book (or Kindle screen, I guess I should say now) and the back of your eyelids during your breaks from the helm. Well, and some dolphins and leaping rays. But my point is that we have yet to anchor up in the cruising grounds of the Sea of Cortez.

Jenn and Minion coil up our once again empty fishing lines. We WILL catch another fish this summer.

So after a couple busy, expensive days in La Paz we were loaded up with food, fuel (diesel and propane), a new Mexican courtesy flag (that of course is still waiting to replace the half of the one we are currently flying), various supplies such as oil for the dinghy outboard and water for the batteries, and full stomachs from one last Shack Burger, we once again left La Paz. Our first night was once again in Calita Partida although we didn’t go exploring this time. Since Isla Espiritu Santo is so close to La Paz we’ll save that area for our next visit to the La Paz area.

So that is how you go to weather!

Tan Tori shows us a better way to travel.

If you look close, you can figure out why part of the island is white.

Our next stop was Isla San Francisco, which we really enjoyed. It might have been a tad bit better if we had moved to another anchorage just around the corner of the island for our second night that would have afforded better protection from the SW winds that came up, but it wasn’t the most uncomfortable night we’ve had at anchorage. There are some great beaches, hiking, and probably snorkeling although we didn’t explore that option. We chatted with a father and his two young kids and got the scoop on snorkeling for agates at one of the beaches so we’ll try that on our return. We also caught up with our friends on Tan Tori who we hadn’t seen since La Cruz (I’m thinking we last saw them the night of the big tourist party, but it is a bit fuzzy). A swing by to say hi turned into drinks, then dinner, than more drinks. They are also planning to spend the summer up north so I’m sure our paths will cross again, maybe even this evening as we are headed back to the anchorage they are currently in.

Sierra de la Giganta mountain range from Isla San Fancisco.

After seeing these teeth, I may rethink the swimming.

Just the typical Sea of Cortez scenery.

Hard to believe this was taken a few hundred feet from a sea.

Sun baked crab.

Jenn taking a beach stroll, me trying to learn some of the modes on my fancy camera.

Gotta stretch the legs on shore and scamper up to the vantage point.

From Isla San Francisco, we took a short 5 mile jaunt to San Everisto, a fairly protected bay with a small fishing village. We made it ashore and wandered around, checking out the local Tienda which had some pretty limited supplies, none of which we needed just yet after our La Paz shopping spree just a few days back. The highlight was a very cute dog we dubbed Pepe that joined us midway through our walk and escorted us for a bit till another dog proved more interesting than our constitutional. The protected anchorage was nice as we had another windy night of the local Corumels. These winds come up in the evening and often last through the night, blowing from the south to southwest (the direction many anchorages in this area are exposed to). They are localized to the (greater) La Paz area and are formed by air blowing across the Baja peninsula from the cooler Pacific waters to the warmer waters for the Sea of Cortez. While they don’t blow every night in the summer, they are frequent. On the plus side they cool things down and keep the bugs off the boat, but at 20-30 knots of wind they can test your ground tackle and can cause you to wake up frequently at night to make sure your boat is still where you anchored it. The good news is they tend to stop by the time you reach Aqua Verde, our next stop. The bad news? Elaphantes and Chubascos. And in another couple months, hurricanes. It isn’t all Pina Coladas at sunset in paradise! But now that we have successfully made ice against our fridge evaporator plate, it is more Pina Coladas.

Beachfront homes in San Evaristo.

Our friend Pepe.

Jenn gets the once over from a vulture. Maybe we were walking a little slower than we thought in the heat.

I think the truck is worth more than the house it is parked in front of.

I can’t pass up the animal pictures.

You don’t have to share the road with bicycles, but you may have to move over for a burro.

Aqua Verde was our next stop, a pleasant little village but a bit bigger than San Everisto. While the rugged Sierra de la Giganta mountains frequently come right down to the sea, here there is a bit of a flat spot with enough water coming from some where to grow some beautiful green vegetation. We went ashore to explore a bit and one of the locals bumping down the dirt road in his pickup stopped and offered us a ride when we asked him where the tienda was. While I was trying to phrase the question in my head, Jenn asked him in Spanish how many people lived there. About 150-200 people, enough to actually support two tiendas. They do not, however have any internet, although one house did have a phone he informed us when we asked about feeding our online addiction. We checked out both tiendas and again, neither was quite like shopping at a Safeway back home (and have I mentioned we would probably commit crimes for a shopping spree at Trader Joes?). We picked up some bananas and tortillas, but struck out on the goat cheese our guide book recommended finding in the area. While the town lacked the traditional square in the center many towns here feature, as we walked back to our dinghy around dusk kids began playing with a soccer ball on the basketball court that was roughly in the middle of things and several adults seemed to be strolling around the town.

Slacker goat – we could not find any goat cheese.

The next day we pushed 17 miles to an anchorage at Candeleros. As we approached from the south you have to round a small point, and there it is, a beautiful resort with a 5 pool complex, pretty much in the middle of nowhere. Sadly they have discontinued taking a boat around the anchorage in the morning with free coffee and pastries for cruising boats which they did last year, but they are still allowing us unwashed heathen cruisers to use the pool and there is wi-fi in the bay if you have an antenna (where I’ll be posting this later). We went to the office and “registered” which involved getting a wristband and card for purchases at the resort in exchange for a credit card imprint. We found out happy hour was 4-6 pm with 2×1 drinks. Even with buy one get one free, they were some of the most expensive drinks we’ve had in Mexico. But to put it in some perspective – at Las Hadas in Manzanillo they wanted 200 pesos a day to land the dinghy at their dock, and with that fee you could also use the pool. Here we can drag our dinghy up on the beach for free, hang out at a nicer resort with better service and get free wifi, and we were paying about half the dinghy dock fee and actually receiving drinks. So all in all, not the worst deal in the world. This resort is reached by driving several miles on a dirt road, and is about 25 miles from the town big enough to have an airport. If you want a secluded stay somewhere, this could be your place. If you can manage to get here.

The resort in the middle of nowhere. I really want to see the business plan for this place.

This anchorage wasn’t in our guide book and with the nearby exposed rocks I’m a little curious how these two decided to anchor here.

Sea, meet sky.

We took advantage of the resorts offer to let sailors ride their shuttle to Loreto if it wasn’t full of paying guests. Loreto appears to be a fairly nice town, with more than just basic supplies (finally). As it is kind of the hub of commerce in the area, we’ll explore it more and I’ll document it after we do. We were just kind of on a quick trip to pick up some perishables were were starting to run low on. Of course, when we arrived in Loreto we planned to take the next shuttle back, just a few hours later at 4:00 pm. But when we signed up for it, we were 18 and 19 on an 18 passenger bus. The next bus wasn’t till 9 pm and put us in the position of hesitancy to buy anything that could spoil if we didn’t make it on the bus and had to wait 5 more hours (have I mentioned the heat yet?). We made the choice to limit our purchases, and of course that meant we made it back on the bus which actually held 19 counting the front seat. Live and learn…

So far we are enjoying this area, lots of anchorages within a day or two of sailing, and access to supplies although we have to work a bit harder for them and pay a bit more for them. We’ve caught up with some boats we know and look forward to meeting some new people as we visit the various anchorages. Right now our “plan” is to hang out in this area for a bit, but we’ll eventually work our way further north as hurricanes have been know to visit this area, but historically not till later in the summer.

Just another anchorage…


Random Reasons to Love Mexico

The raw water pump on our engine has progressed from working flawlessly (after a bit of fixing up when I bought the boat) to dripping slightly to pretty much having a small stream of water exiting the weep hole while the engine is running.  Being in La Paz, with a strong local support group and multiple marine stores and repair shops, it seemed like a good place to tackle the problem.   After my initial inspection I though just tightening down the bolts and cleaning up the surfaces a gasket sat between might do the trick, but alas, it was not that simple.  The next step was tracking down a rebuild kit, which I found back in the US for $110.  Which didn’t really solve me problem of getting the pump fixed quickly so we could get out of town.  I also found directions for rebuilding the pump online, and it could be easy, or… it could get complicated if things didn’t come apart and slide back together easily.  I’m all about self sufficiency but building a home made bearing press didn’t sound all that fun.

So I put out a call for information on the morning net, and received the name of a shop that worked on pumps along with the stellar directions “On the street next to the Chedraui” (large grocery store Jenn and I have become fond of).  Armed with these directions and the pump in my backpack, off I went.  The directions proved remarkably good, and I only walked around an extra block or so because of my own confusion, but once I got on the right street I spotted a sign and even knew that seeing the word Bomba on the sign was a good thing (pump for those of you who know less Spanish that I do).  I asked the man behind the counter if he spoke English – he responded “A little.”  I was able to tell him I spoke a little Spanish, and he basically said we’ll work it out.  Sure enough, with the visual of the pump, some words in Spanish, probably more on his part in English, we were able to establish that they could fix it, I was to return tomorrow to pick it up, and it should cost just over half of the cost of the rebuild kit.  Not including somehow getting the the kit to Mexico.

As I returned to the boat, it occurred to me I had left a very necessary part of my engine with someone with nothing more than my name written on scrap of paper and a promise of it being ready tomorrow.  And based on my experience in Mexico so far, I wasn’t the least bit concerned about this.

Sure enough, the pump was ready the next day, rebuilt, polished up a bit, and priced right at their estimate.  It didn’t take long to get it bolted back onto the engine and all the hoses put back in place.  Fingers thinking about crossing, I fired it.  Not a drop of water running out!  Hours of engine running later, it is working great.  The engine even seems to be running a bit cooler, although I didn’t think it was leaking enough water to effect the temperature.  Still, I’m not unhappy with this added benefit.

Almost seems a shame to put this shiny pump on…

…/ our not so clean engine. Yes, it is on the project list.

So, engine fixed up, we should be on our way out of La Paz, but a day or so later still sitting in the anchorage I heard some commotion on the Malecon.  It aroused my curiosity, but not Jenn’s, so I took a solo trip to shore to investigate.  There was a small parade starting, although certainly not on par with the Mexican Revolution Day parade we saw on our last visit to La Paz.  Unsure of the reason for the parade, I walked along the route and finally encountered street vendor giving out popcorn samples who offered me one in English.  I took him up on it and asked the reason for the parade.  He thought for a moment and replied “blood donation.”  Hmm, not something we have parades for back home, but no reason not to enjoy it.

A little further down the road, I found a stage and people starting to fill in the chairs set up in front of it.  I radioed Jenn and told her I might be awhile longer, and waited for the show.  It turned out to be a bit of a Mexican variety show, with singers, traditional dancers, and act of modern dancers, and even a local cheerleading squad.  Since I had thought to throw my SLR camera in my pack before heading ashore, I commenced with the picture taking.  About midway through the show and tried, in my apparently worst Spanish, to ask the MC how many more acts there were going to be.  She responded “You can ask in English.”  I guess I better break out those Spanish lessons I have on my computer.  After the told me we were about halfway through, she asked about my photography, and if I would be willing to share my pictures with her.  Of course!  I stayed for the rest of the show enjoying both the acts and the photography.  Still not giving up on the attempt to communicate with locals, I was successfully able to ask another woman taking pictures during one of the dance groups if her daughter was performing.

I don’t usually do this but based on our current somewhat less than great internet service, and a desire not to abuse what is somewhat of a gift of free access, here is a link to my pictures from the show which I uploaded under better internet access.

Eventually the show finished, and I headed back to the dinghy dock.  But my entertainment for the evening wasn’t quite over as I stumbled across a group promoting one of the candidates for president in the upcoming Mexican elections.  The political rallies here are bit different.  They gather a bunch of teenagers and a DJ at an intersection with a stop sign, and the kids dance, wave flags and signs, and hand out free swag.  I scored and umbrella and a couple LED lights that will work better than anything I have on the boat for works lights, and there is pretty much no mistaking me for a Mexican voter.  But if I could, Enrique Pena Nieto just made a compelling play for my vote (not that I remembered the name, but it on all the goodies I snagged).

Not Quite The Post I Had in Mind

So… I wrote a long post with lots of pictures, and had a computer glitch that wiped it out, despite WordPress supposedly auto saving drafts of your work.  Sigh… We are leaving La Paz this morning for some cruising up around the Puerto Escondido area, and need to get the boat going so we can reach our first anchorage by nightfall.  There will be limited internet up in this area, so blog posts might be a bit infrequent, let alone one with lots of pictures.  However, I’ll try and recreate it and get it uploaded somewhere along the way – there are reports of some wi-fi here and there in the area we’ll be hanging out it.  I’ll try to remember to keep the Spot on if anyone wants to track us.