Saturday, December 26, 2009

Back to La Paz

Merry Christmas/Boxing Day and a very prosperous New Year in 2010 to all our friends and family!

We are back in La Paz for a few days after more than two weeks in the southern islands and the lower inside coast of the Baja. Some of the anchorages were ones we have seen before and we explored a few new island anchorages. There is always something new we see in each place and this time we snorkeled and hiked with our old friends, Rob and Jo, from Blue Moon and new friends on Balena, Randy and Gina.

We visited an island with some amazing cacti, both barrels and cordons.

A huge cordon cactus, probably several hundred years old.

A huge barrel cactus - about 9 feet high.

An unusual double barrel cactus.

At anchor near an elephant rock.

We did some rock hunting along the coast, finding geodes weathering from the cliffs.

Geodes - some we found already opened, and a few we opened with hammer and chisel.

Closer view of geodes.

Chris chipping out a stubborn geode.

We have visited El Gato before both in the spring and earlier in the fall. This time we hiked the beaches with Jo and Rob and climbed the cliffs to get some great views up north.

On the beach at El Gato.

Hiking El Toro - El gato is in the distance.

Chris on the bluffs near El Gato, looking north toward Punta San Marcial (behind which lies Agua Verde).

Our next stop was San Evaristo, where we hoped to re-provision with fresh veggies, fruit, and staples.

Sailing downwind towards San Evaristo

We were to be disappointed! We arrived on December 16 , which turned out to be the feast day of the Virgin of Guadalupe. This marks the start of Christmas holidays and although we stayed here for 5 days, the small tienda never did open up. Our groceries were running very low, but fortunately, between Ladybug, Blue Moon, and Balena (who joined us here) we were able to gather enough food to hold several potlucks and to keep our larders from running dry. We also got together for several jam sessions, with Chris on uke and Jo on guitar - great fun.

We sailed out for a day trip to Isla San Jose where we toured the abandoned salt works at Punta Salinas.

Abandoned truck at the old salt works on San Jose island.

Salt works on San Jose. The ponds used to be filled with sea water that was let in through a bulldozed channel from the beach each year. When the water evaporated, the sea salt was collected using large wooden rakes and packed in sacks.

The women get together for a group shot on Balena after one of our potlucks. Jo, Gina, and Rani.

After hiding out at Evaristo waiting for food to arrive and for the strong north winds to abate, we finally gave up and left for La Paz, via Islas San Francisco and Partida shortly before Christmas. At Isla San Francisco we hiked up to the ridge that we last visited in the spring.

The stunning 'hook' anchorage at Isla San Francisco

At a look off on Isla San Francisco. Isla San Jose is in the background to the north. It was very windy on this hike ( note Rani's Medussa look! )

Rani and Rob perform some modern dance steps on the ridge overlooking the 'hook'.

From here we sailed to Caleta Partida where we spent two nights before a final run down to La Paz. We were able to sail almost the whole way, running our engine for a couple of hours only to recharge the batteries while making water.
On Partida we hiked again up the arroyo, this time coming down the cliffs above the anchorage. I'm afraid we did in Rob's knees on this hike and he is still nursing them here in La Paz!

We had a big potluck on Balena and Ladybug at Christmas, Blue Moon having her galley torn apart to repair a water tank. It is amazing what one can make on a small galley stove, especially with a well stocked grocery store within walking distance!

Jo and Rob at the Christmas potluck. Chris's hat got good reviews and was tried out by all.

Ardy and Marv from Odyssey joined us at Isla San Francisco and we sailed together for La Paz.

Dressed up for the Christmas potluck.

Gina and Randy of Balena.

Gina playing charades after the potluck.

Rani made these fish bookmarks as presents this year.

We are off to visit our friend Maleh near Mexico city tomorrow and will be back in the new year.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Steinbeck Canyon videos

Rani rhapsodising about Steinbeck's canyon near Puerto Escondido

Rani, Rob & Jo hiking in Steinbeck's canyon near Puerto Escondido

More hiking in Steinbeck's canyon

Islands Near Puerto Escondido

It's been an incredible few weeks since our last entry, exploring new islands, makine new friends and re-uniting with old ones. We met Andy and Amy on their sailboat " Rosalita " through Gary and Beth on "Speck" and we all buddy-boated for a few days. Isla Coronados is a little volcanic island in the Loreto Bay National Marine Park. We hiked up to the highest point of the extinct volcano ( only 965 feet high but the rocks and pumice spat out eons ago by the vulcano was rough walking ) and then soothed our tired feet by a lovely swim in the turquoise waters below. Andy is an avid fisherman like Gary and that day they caught 4 cabrillas and a Sierra, so we gathered in the evening aboard "Speck" where Andy had taken over the galley, frying fish, to be served with a potluck of potato and coleslaw salads, followed by a yummy dessert of Banana and Hazelnut Nutella dolloped over Graham Crackers and topped with sliced banana. Even I, the lone vegetarian, was persuaded to go over to the darkside by tempting crumbs of fried fish dipped in lip-numbing hot sauce and wasabe.

Andy and Amy

Gary and Beth invited us to go to the farmers' market in Loreto on Sunday. We motored in Speck and tied up at the government marina off the malecon. The market consists of a couple of dozen stalls set up in large arroyo selling mainly fresh produce. It was a treat buying quality vegetables and fruit. On the return trip to Isla Coronados, we sailed, Chris steering Speck while Gary fished. Within a few miles of Loreto, Gary hooked two Sierra mackerels, sleek silver fish with golden spots on their bodies. The bloodbath that ensued in the cockpit convinced me to remain a veggie-lover! Chris, however, was very happy to fry up a couple of Sierra steaks in butter and garlic that evening.

After a breakfast treat of Cafe du Monde beignets aboard " Rosalita ", courtesy of Andy and Amy, we left our companions to travel south to Monserrate Island to meet Dennis and Lisette on " Windward ". As the wind was rather blustery, the anchorage was quite rolly at Monserrate, so we all sailed to Agua Verde, a very beautiful bay nearby with a tiny village where we hoped to buy fresh veggies and goat cheese.The tienda was sadly short on produce but we located the goat farm where they promised to make some cheese to be picked up later that evening. It was fun walking back along the shelf along the shoreline to our beached tenders, picking up dead tarantulas ( don't ask! ) and watching the Sally Lightfoot crabs scuttling on the rocks. When we returned at 4pm, the cheese lady removed a huge wheel of fresh cheese from a cement block press and it was delicious!

Piglets hiding in the shade of the palm tree - Agua Verde

It was sad saying good-bye to Dennis and Lisette, but they headed south while we set off to Isla Monserrate again. The changing winds chased us all around this beautiful island over the next two days. We were enjoying a quiet first evening on its southwest side after a long walk on the sandy beaches and occasional bluff hikes when a small group of 20 feet long Drascombe longboats arrived manned at the oars by young people in their twenties. They belonged to the National Outdoor Leadership School and we found out later that they were out for eight weeks learning leadership skills and environmental ethics. They set up camp on the beach and we did not get a chance to chat as we made a hasty exit at midnight when winds blew from the west. Our night entry into the northern anchorage brought us much too close to a reef; lack of sleep causing a dangerous misreading of the depth sounder. The calm water soon soothed us to sleep and we woke up to the view of an expansive white beach fronting some marbled sandstone cliffs. A kyak excursion to shore allowed a closer examination of the fossils embedded in the bluffs and shellcombing to design pretty sand tiles for our future bathroom.

Later that night, with the wind now coming from the north combined with the swell refracting from the west, poor Ladybug rocked until we could stand it no longer. We picked up the anchor at the first light of day and motored to the eastern side of Monserrate. The shallow bay just around the corner from our previous anchorage had one small patch of sandy bottom, the rest being rocky. We set the anchor and paddled ashore to check out our new locale. There were dozens of pelicans, gulls and cormorants fishing nearby. It must be a great place to snorkel but we decided to walk in the arroyo instead. Along the way, we saw several brightly coloured birds, the Northern Cardinal, and sweet little black and white birds which we have not yet identified and lots of Monarch butterflies fluttering over clusters of daisy-like flowers.

The calm did not last long, so we set sail for Isla Danzante, off Puerto Escondido, to rendezvous with " Speck " at Honeymoon Cove. Only a couple of miles out from Monserrate, we lost the wind and had to turn on the engine. We used the opportunity to run our watermaker as we were running low in our tanks. Surprisingly, Chris remembered most of the steps and we made 12 gallons in 2 hours. Approaching the southern tip of Danzante, a wild westerly blew in on our nose and we sailed at hulls speed, dodging major reefs off the Candeleros ( Candlesticks ) and Danzante. Honeymoon Cove is not one of our favourites as we have dragged twice in there in the past and it looked rough in there when we peeked in for a look at Speck. We spoke with Gary and Beth on the radio as they were walking on the beach and said adios since we could not find a good spot for anchoring.

It was a short sail to Puerto Escondido, a gem of a harbour at the foot of the El Gigante mountains, and we anchored before sunset in the Ellipse, a tiny cove outside the main harbour. The next day we met a couple, Rob and Robin, who offered us their mooring ball in the Ellipse, as they were moving out for a while. It's wonderful not worrying about the anchor dragging or being too close to the other sailboats and we have finally corrected our sleep deprivation.

We made contact with the Brown family who live nearby and arranged to take them for a day sail to Isla Carmen on Tuesday. It was a really fun day with everyone enjoying the sailing, snorkeling, swimming, hiking and fossil-finding. Ann and Doug have sailed in the past in the Mediterranean and one could see the passion on Doug's face as he held the tiller and steered Ladybug out of Escondido to Carmen. We know that it won't be long before they buy a sailboat! Their children, Chandler and Henry, were delightful, revelling in this new experience.

Our friends, Rob and Jo of " Blue Moon ", arrived on Wednesday and we had a curry dinner to welcome them and thank the manager of the Singlar Marina, Constanza, for helping us with a postal problem. It was nice to hear Blue Moon's travels since we had last seen her in January. Yesterday, we took Rob and Jo on a hike in Steinbeck's Canyon- a full day spent walking and climbing in the lush canyon, listening to the water cascading down chutes, cataracts and waterfalls, swimming in emerald pools, photographing spotted frogs and purple butterflies, returning home tired of body but buoyed in spirits.

I feel as though we have discovered paradise and hope to spend many more months in the Sea of Cortez.

Evening stroll at Salinas Bay, Isla Carmen

Making shell tiles in the sand

Bumphead Parrotfish seen snorkeling in the Baja

Northern Cardinal seen in the canyon on Isla Monserrate

Panamic Sargeant Majors

Ladybug anchored at Isla Monserrate

Beautiful little black and white bird on Isla Monserrate

Cacti seen in Steinbeck Canyon

Pelicans cruising on Isla Monserrate

Sunrise over Catalina Island, Baja California

Paddling to Ladybug in our cute Helios

Listening to the call of the ocean, Isla Monserrate with the El Gigante in the distance

Shell designs in the sand

The lengths she will go to collect shells!

Rich tapestry of smooth shells and shell bits tumbled in fine sand

Helios beached on Isla Monserrate

Arachnophiliac - Lisette and pet Tarantula :)

Goats and kids - Agua Verde

Ladybug in Agua Verde

Lisette and Dennis, SV Windward

Decorated for American Thanksgiving

Calliope Hummingbird

Cortez Angelfish

Reef Cornetfish

Western skink - a smooth blue tailed lizard seen on Isla Monserrate
Northern Cardinal

Giant Hawkfish

Cortez Rainbow Wrasse

Dark clouds gather over El Gigante

Fresh goat cheese, Agua Verde

Ghost village at Salinas Bay on Isla Carmen ( houses and remains of the salt mining operation abandoned in the 1960's )

The Brown Family on Isla Danzante

As much as I would like to claim otherwise, the photos of the fish and birds ( other than the pelicans and the black and white unidentified one ) used in this blog were not taken by us :(