Saturday, December 5, 2009

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 :(

1 comment:

Joel said...

Great to read your blog! Thanks for keeping the voyage public.

Joel, Portland OR, we met at San Everisto