Wednesday, April 27, 2011

La Paz to Santa Rosalia

It has taken about 2 weeks to sail the 220 miles between La Paz and Santa Rosalia. We visited some old familiar anchorages and a few new places, which we will share briefly through some pictures.

In Caleta Partida, the anchorage between Espiritu Santo and Partida islands, we rigged the hammock given to us by Peggy and Brian Storey back in October when we were married. It fits nicely when strung between the shrouds and the roller furler and is very comfy. Thanks Peggy and Brian!

Rani tests our new hammock

At Isla San Francisco I took our dinghy, Annie, out for a sail while we waited out some strong northerly winds. Although the picture looks like it is calm, I came close to capsizing that day with winds gusting past 20 knots in the anchorage.

Sailing 'Annie' at the hook in Isla San Francisco

North of Isla San Francisco, we sailed close to Isla Coyote where a few familes live year round, fishing in the local waters. The island is a tiny rock packed with their dwellings. It is protected by reefs and lies a few miles from the mainland. The same families have lived here for generations, the children going to school by panga on the mainland.

The village at Coyote island

We anchored next at the north end of Monserrate Island after an exciting spinnaker run from Isla San Jose, where we maintained 7+ knots for a couple of hours. Here we went for a hike with Michelle and Mark off Cheers. They have recently left their positions as captain and naturalist with the National Geographic cruise ships that sail in this area as well as up to Alaska and in the Med. They are now off for a year or two to explore the world on their own vessel. We found fossils in this arroyo and the cardon cacti were in flower.

Ran with, Michelle, and Mark off sailing vessel 'Cheers'

Fossils in the boulder seen in the picture above.

Cardon cactus flowers

We then sailed to Isla Carmen, stopping at Pericho, Cobre (Copper) cove, and Painted Cliffs anchorages. The picture below shows Rani looking down on Ladybug anchored in Cobre, where we spent a morning hiking up a dry river bed (arroyo) and across a tableland. The agave flowers were an unusual sight for us, perhaps because these plants usually bloom May-July when we are back up north. The nopal cacti were also in bloom in the arroyo below.

Overlooking Cobre anchorage - note the green (oxidized copper) colour of the rock at the far side of the bay.

Agave flowers near Cobre anchorage

Close up of agave flowers

Nopal cactus flower

Buds on nopal cactus

We stopped next at San Juanico, anchoring around sunset off the rocks that protect the south end of this anchorage. The winds were very light on this passage and were to remain so until we reached Santa Rosalia, with the exception of one passage off Isla San Marcos where we had to beat into a 15 knot headwind for an hour or two.

Sunlit rocks at the south anchorage in San Juanico

The next passage saw us finally getting north of San Juanico for the first time in two years. We had a very interesting ramble through an old mine site just south of Point Concepcion. We found the foundations and walls of several buildings including what we believe to be the manager's house, worker's buildings with adobe walls, and facilities for extracting and processing manganese ore from the surrounding rock. This site has been abandoned since world war II, when it was a source of chemical grade ore.

Examining the ruins of what may have been the mine manager's house.

Offloading facilities? 

Adobe walls - possibly from living quarters for workers.

Overlooking the main mine site.

Beautiful stone work in the walls of a large building.

The platform in the foreground contains a fine dried slurry.

A piece of unprocessed rock.
The beach where we landed had an elaborate panguero (fishermen) settlement with a nicely thatched shelter and a view from the hillside over the anchorage (note the deck chair).

A panguero camp at |Los Pilares

Just south east of Santa Rosalia is Isla San Marcos where there is a large gypsum mine, in operation since 1925. Some of the gypsum is shipped from here to California, where it is used in the building industry (e.g., for wall board). We arrived the day after easter Sunday and after the Semana Santa celebrations were finished. There was a small shrine outside the village and a chapel overlooking the mine pits as well as a church made of gypsum blocks in the village itself. It was a holiday, so we avoided choking on the gypsum dust, which usually drifts over the village when the mine is in operation.

On the beach at the south end of Isla San Marcos


Small chapel overlooking the quarries

Rani poses beside balloons left over from the previous night's dance.

Gypsum church - built of large blocks of soft white rock.

Near the loading facilities where gypsum is loaded onto ships via conveyor belts.

We saw a lot of sea life on our trip north, including humpback, pilot, and fin whales. We had two close encounters with the big fin whales who seem to rest on the surface more than other whales. On one of these occasions, the whale surfaced just in front of our boat and dived immediately under us, turning on its white belly as it went. The second meeting happened a week later near Concepcion Bay when a huge fin whale surfaced just off our starboard beam and again dived immediately. It was so close that we would have collided, had it not dived.I think all three of us were equally surprised! Last night at San Marcos Island  we watched a humpack mother and calf swimming together in the soft light of the setting sun. On the previous day, while sailing little Annie into the beach, a pod of dolphins came over and swam with us for a few minutes. We have some video footage and will try to post this when we have figured out how best to process it.

We will reprovision here in Santa Rosalia and then explore the northern sea for a week or 2 before we haul out in Guaymas. We are excited about seeing a new area of the Sea of Cortez and enjoying some isolated anchorages.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Mint chutney surprise

I woke up this morning and went into the galley to make us some coffee only to get a surprise when I opened the saucepan I normally make coffee in!

Tamarind pods soaking overnight - their resemblance to something else was a shock first thing in the morning!

The tamarind is added to mint, onion, chillis, and spices to make a delicious mint chutney.

Mint chutney - goes well with stuffed rotis (parathas).

Pictures from Ian and Mint

With their permission, I am posting a few of the excellent pics that our guests took during their visit with us on Ladybug.

Putting away the main sail. Jib is poled out for a downwind run.

Jumping rays

Another jumping ray

And another...

And a ray jumping duet

Dolphins swimming near Ladybug's bow

Pelican fly-by

Ladybug at anchor in San Gabriel, rowing ashore in Annie

Rani sailing Annie

Beating back to La Paz on our last day out. Rachel is enjoying the wild ride.

Mint and Ian on the uphill side of the boat - last day out.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Cruising with guests

We and our guests, Ian, Mint, and Mint's 13 year old daughter Rachel survived a week together on Ladybug.

Mint and Ian climb the trail at Isla San Francisco
The good - lots of wildlife sightings including schools of jumping rays, porpoises, and colourful reef fish. We had a good if somewhat challenging hike on Isla San Francisco as well as an expedition to see the 100 year old pearl farm on Isla Espiritu Santo (Click here for more info on this farm). We also had some excellent sails, having little occasion to run the motor.

Rachel and Rani on Isla San Francisco. The Sierra Giganta mountains on the Baja are in the background.

Rachel looks happy with her own creation for lunch. 

The not so good - Captain Curmudgeon's water rationing was not easy for Mint and Rachel who both have long hair. My offer to cut their hair with the number 4 attachment on my trimmer was not well received... We did our dishes in salt water and everyone was so careful with the water (being frightened by Captain Curmudgeon)  that we came back with our tanks still partly filled. Fortunately we brought along plenty of tequila and juices to supplement our supply of drinking liquid.

Rani at the pearl farm on Espiritu Santo island.

Chris holds an oyster shell. In the background are piles of shells and the pearl culture raceways built out of un-mortared stone.

We had some rough nights at anchor with the local Corumel winds making most of the anchorages noisy and a little bouncy. These winds are a fact of life in the islands north of La Paz, but they seemed particularly strong this time out. Mint and Ian were sleeping in the V berth near the anchor and were subjected to a bouncier and noisier ride than Rani and I who had the smaller quarter berth further aft. Rachel had the berth over one of the water tanks, which would slosh around when things got rough, so she lost some sleep too and had to move onto the settee across from this berth one night.

Annie under sail with Chris at the helm.

Ian sailing Annie in Caleta Partida

Ian enjoyed the sailing and we had some decent sailing breezes on 5 out of the 7 days. Ian has sailed with me before and both he and Mint have taken sailing courses, so they know enough to be helpful crew. Ian also enjoyed sailing little Annie in the Caleta Partida anchorage. Mint and Rachel were good sports, and despite feeling a bit queasy at times during the first few days they did not complain.

Adolescent frigate birds in the mangroves near the pearl farm.

More immature frigates.

Privacy can be a bit of a challenge on our smallish boat, especially when the head has a curtain for a door, so it was no surprise that bodily functions that do not usually get discussed were a topic of conversation most days, especially with a 13 year old on board.

Ian enjoys a nice 10 knot breeze on our last day out.

Hopefully it was a positive experience for all and we have learned a few things for the next time we host friends on board.

Friday, April 1, 2011

La Cruz to La Paz

A few notes on our recent crossing to La Paz...

We celebrated Chris's birthday a few days early with Jo and Rob in La Cruz.

The birthday 'boy'

We arrived safe but tired after an 8 day crossing ( 4 days straight at the end)  from La Cruz to La Paz,  beating into light winds. I wish I had taken a photo of the chart plot of Ladybug's wanderings over those days. She seemed to be heading anywhere but La Paz, tacking east and west. On our last day we ran the motor as the wind died almost completely and we were running out of time. Usually we wait for the wind to come up but this time we were expecting company on March 31st in La Paz.

En route, we anchored in the San Blas estuary to visit our friends Rich, Lori, Amy and Jay on their new 36 foot sailboat Third Day. Lori and Amy were busy painting mermaids and fish on the bottom.

Bottom Painting Third Day
We took time out to hike to the old fort which was built in 1770 to defend the town's extensive sea trade with the Philippines. Behind the fort are the ruins of the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary built in 1769. The church once contained the bronze bells that are said to have inspired Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem "The Bells of San Blas".  For someone who never actually visited San Blas he recalled the town's bustling past quite vividly.

Church of Our Lady of the Rosary

Inside of the church - beautiful stonework
It was fun sailing up the estuary in our little dinghy before celebrating Chris's birthday on the actual day with the Boren family on sv Third Day.

Local paddling in a pirgue type boat 

Back to the trip up to La Paz:

Passing through the San Lorenzo Channel north of La Paz in the moonless night was not as bad as I had anticipated since we did not have to dodge any tankers or ferries. Chris, to give him his sailors' due, did put up the sails for a quarter of an hour but the light head wind was no match for the strong current against us and he had to call it quits to save the sails from wear and tear.

 And, now, we are off to the islands - Islas Partida, Espiritu Santo and San Francisco. A couple of friends and their 13 year old daughter arrived from Victoria last night. They will be our first guests to live and cruise on Ladybug II for one week, if they do not mutiny first! Chris and I went to pick up the groceries yesterday after Chris planned the week's menu - all vegetarian except for the odd tuna/squid sandwich to prevent withdrawal. We hope that the pristine beaches, turquoise waters, dolphins and whales will more than make up for cramped quarters, lack of privacy, a vegetarian diet and Captain Curmudgeon!

We shall report back when we return as to how we all fared and maybe even bribe our guests to send their feedback.

Longfellow's poem, The Bells of San Blas:
They are a voice of the Past, 
Of an age that is fading fast, 
Of a power austere and grand; 
When the flag of Spain unfurled 
Its folds o'er this western world, 
And the Priest was lord of the land.
The chapel that once looked down 
On the little seaport town 
Has crumbled into the dust; 
And on oaken beams below 
The bells swing to and fro, 
And are green with mould and rust.
Then from our tower again 
We will send over land and main 
Our voices of command, 
Like exiled kings who return 
To their thrones, and the people learn 
That the Priest is lord of the land!
O Bells of San Blas, in vain 
Ye call back the Past again! 
The Past is deaf to your prayer; 
Out of the shadows of night 
The world rolls into light; 
It is daybreak everywhere.