Greetings from the sailing vessel Pablo! We are currently located in the Gulfo de California, aka Sea of Cortez. Aptly named the aquarium of the world by Jacques Cousteau back in the 70’s. Steve and I have just spent 24 days traveling roughly 126nm from La Paz B.C.S. Mexico to Loreto B.C.S. Mexico, stopping in various anchorages along the way. Oh, the adventures we have had , the wonders we have seen, the fun we have experienced. I will recount the first 15 days here and will sum up the balance of our trip in the next post. There is so much to share.
We departed Marina de La Paz on April 30tharound 10 am. The seas were flat and winds were light. Typical for the Sea of Cortez (SOC), either no wind, too much wind, or wind on the nose. All of this meaning we use our motor more than our sails. However on this day we picked up a stiff breeze about halfway to our destination which allowed us to sail. SAIL! At first using only our new roller furled jib and then our jib and mainsail combined. This may not sound like a big deal to most, but trust me when I say that they could probably hear us hooting all the way to San Diego, CA. As I said we don’t get to sail much because of wind conditions and secondly we got to play with our new sail. Whoop Whoop!
We decided to begin this trip the same way we started our first adventure in the SOC 2 years ago, making Bahia Bonanza on the Southeast tip of Isla Espiritu Santos our first stop. That anchorage was so magical for us the first time that it seemed the perfect place to restart our cruising life. However, there were only fierce winds and rolling seas this time around making eating, sleeping, and well just about everything difficult. We should have known better. You can’t recreate magical moments. They are spontanious and unexpected which is part of the reason why they are so magical.
So with little sleep we left Bonanza early and headed for a new location, Ensenada Grande on the Northwest tip of Isla Partida. We were excited to visit a place we had never seen plus traveling to this location also gave us the opportunity to see the eastern side of Islas Espiritu and Partida. Something we had not previously done. As luck would have it the winds were good and in our favor so we sailed out of Bonanza and enjoyed a few good hours under sail before the winds completely died and the engine was brought to life. It was easy to accept after such a wonderful time under sails alone so there wasn’t much fretting over the use of the iron genny (a term used by sailors for the motor. A genny or genoa is a type of sail)
Our destination did not fail to impress us with its beauty. The anchorage was calm and the surroundings were beautiful. There were places where it looked like the hills had simply melted and oozed over the edge of the cliff. On one side of the bay was sandstone that had been smoothed and rounded by the wind, leaving lacy edges where the sandstone was wearing thin. On the other side of the bay were cliffs with striated layers of rocks in various colors and texture. It was beautiful and the perfect start to a new adventure.
On the second day in this anchorage we decided to go looking for a rumored Blue Footed Booby hatchery that was supposed to be located on the cliffs of a nearby cove, but we never found it. Mildly disappointed we enjoyed a peaceful day and the dinghy exploring was beautiful and fun. Having seen and explored all we wished and being that the elusive Boobies were our primary reason for coming to this anchorage we decided to leave the following morning. Now its been a long time since we have been cruising and we were bound to forget a few things. Lessons sting when we have to relearn them as was the case for our departure.
As I said, the anchorage was calm and peaceful. Light winds and no swell to speak of. We listened to the Sonrisa Net for a weather report, as we do each morning on our shortwave radio. The wind and sea state they reported would be not really conducive for our planned travel. Somehow (and again I say, there are some things we were bound to forget) we had forgotten just how uncomfortable one could be while traveling in a boat, motoring into 4-6 foot seas, with 20 knots blowing in your face, and water splashing up over the bowsprit as you plow forward. Ugh! What should have been a 4-5 hour trip to Isla San Francisco was a 9 hour slog through really uncomfortable seas. Lesson relearned! Listen to the weather reports. Just because you planned to leave, maybe you shouldn’t if the the weather is not compatible. After all, we have no schedule. Only a long list of desired destinations. That was just plain silly.
Isla San Francisco! A real favorite with the cruising community and for good reason. You can anchor in beautiful light blue water along a wide white sandy beach. There are trails to hike on the small island, the most famous being the one that takes you to the top of a ridge where you get beautiful sunset views and idealistic pictures of your boat at anchor below. It’s a really pretty place. We stayed two nights and walked a few trails. We did not hike the ridge but we explored the salt ponds and rocky coast on the northern side. We relaxed back into the rhythm of living on the hook and felt the worry and anxiety of the previous months and year melt away.
Next stop, San Evaristo. One of our favorite places. I have mentioned this town before as we have visited here often. This small fishing community is off the grid and difficult to access via land. The road requires a high clearance four wheel drive vehicle and is a rough 4 hour drive from La Paz. However, it is a regular stop for cruisers because it offers good protection from most winds and seas. There is a small tienda (store) run by a sweet family where you can stock up on a few food items like canned goods and eggs, sometimes a small selection of fruit and veggies, you can also get ice and water from the desalinization facility. And there is a wonderful little place run by a hardworking, creative family, “Lupe Sierra’s and Maggie Mae’s restaruant”. Although now its much more than just a resturaunt.
Pepe, their son, has started a tour business out of La Paz which we have used in the past few months. While we had Pepe take us on bird watching tours, hiking tours, and whale shark tours his primary focus is bringing people to San Evaristo so they can experience the rustic natural beauty of this town and Isla San Jose just across the channel. With that in mind Lupe has built four casitas behind the resturant. They can offer their guests camping on the beach or simple accommodations in the casitas. You get a yummy breakfast, lunch and dinner prepared by either Lupe or Maggie. The day is spent snorkeling, fishing, kayaking, you name it and to close out your experience an evening by a beach bonfire. Its fabulous! We are so exciting to see their business grow.
It’s been two years since we have been in San Evaristo. We missed the easy, tranquil vibe of this community. We missed the genuine goodness and kind hearts of Lupe, Maggie and their family. It’s easy to just sit on the patio and talk about nothing and everything while watching the pelicans and seagulls harass the fishermen when they come in with their catch. It’s so easy in fact, that we managed to do just that for an entire week.
We took walks through the dirt roads of the town. Visited the salt ponds on the other side of the hill. We had one funny experience while we were seeking birdlife. We were on a narrow dirt road and bull was coming down the hill toward us. My first thought was that this could turn into a very unpleasant afternoon but he seemed as hesitant as we did about passing each other. After a few small steps toward each other we noticed him leave the road and assumed he had found a different path until we saw him peeking out from behind a tree as if checking to be sure we were still there. It was getting late and we were hot so we decided to turn around and head back to town. Ferdinand, as we now called our shy friend, was creeping along behind us keeping pace with us. Stopping when we stopped walking when we walked it was quite silly. We eventually came to a place in the road where he could pass and so he did. He manuevered his way past us and off he went. That encounter was so indicative of the gentle casual life of this little town. Every time we come it steals a little more of our hearts.
Almost reluctantly we weighed anchor and continued our journey north, heading to an anchorage that we had read about and been told not to miss, Bahia Los Gatos. Steve and I have always wanted to stay in this place but it was always too crowded when we got there and so we would pass it up. This time there was not a single boat anchored when we arrived so we had the place to ourselves. Whoo-Hoo!
Now there is always work to be done on the boat. We keep a running list and have regular work days when we do maintenance or repairs at lessure. However some jobs demand to be completed immediately. We have a combined anchor rode of 125 feet of chain and 250 feet of rope. While dropping the anchor Steve noticed that a portion of the rope was hockled (unwinding itself ) which reduces its strength and has the potential of breaking while under pressure. So first order of business before exploring this lovely place was cutting out the damaged section, re-splicing the rope to chain, and then re-tagging the depth markers along the anchor rode. All of this took several hours but once finished off we went, headed for the beach.
I am not sure that I can accurately describe the beauty of this anchorage. There are areas with sandstone rock of red and pink, most of it smoothed by the wind. There are wide stretches of sandy shell strewn beach and then there is a large area where there are rocky reefs and cliffs made up of an aggrigate of smaller rocks embedded in hardened lava. It was amazing! And as if that wasn’t enough there was the wildlife. On our first trip off the boat we saw two coyotes roaming the beach and then climbing the rocks. We had several sea turtle sighting and colorful fish at the rocky shore, but the real excitement started when the sun went down. On this clear moonless night, in the middle of nowhere, all alone, we had a bioluminescense experience unlike anything we have seen before.
It all started with the usual sparkles of green light in the water that we have come to call sea faeries. Only this time there were a million more than usual and they seemed to go all the way to the seafloor. Then we started to notice large streaks of green light. At first one or two, then five, six, ten at a time. As the night got darker we could see the streaks take shape, fish shape. Large schools of fish were swimming by and leaving green bio luminesent foot prints. We watched this go on for at least an hour. School after school of fish passing the boat. We could see it in every direction we looked, not just near us but as far as our eyes could see there were the green streaks of fish moving through the water. It was magical. Eventually we tired of the excitement and the long day of traveling and exploring was taking its toll so we trundled off to bed.
Later, at about 2:30am we were awakened by what I thought was rain. Feeling concerned I went out on deck. I called for Steve to come on deck too. To our absolute amazement we were surrounded by thousands of fish all with their little mouths at the surface of the water. I assume eating whatever it was that had hatched and created the glowing green light. There was so much movement by the fish and the water was so disturbed that we looked like we were floating in a cloud of green light. All the water under Pablo was simply glowing. And off in the distance we could see other glowing patches of water. It was so incredible and dream like. I felt light headed as I giggled at the amazing sight. I looked at Steve and said “How will we ever describe this to people?”. Here I have tried, but I do not think it adequate compared to what we experienced that night.
We stayed another day and night. We walked the beaches and collected shells. We bought some fish from a Pescador named Manuel that we had met 2 years ago in Agua Verde. But that’s another long story so I will leave it for now. We stayed up late looking for the glowing green light, but it did not appear. It was clearly a phenomenon that required the precise perfect conditions of moon, water temp, sea state and time of year. Something hatched that night and little creatures by the billions were released into the ocean most of them gobbled up by the hungry fish who were waiting for them. And lucky us, we got witness the event. We will surely never forget it.
We traveled on from here and had more adventures, more drama, and more sea life antics. I will gather my thoughts and compose a new post in a few days to complete the tale of the first voyage in our renewed cruising life. What an adventure! What an amazing life! We are so very fortunate!