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.

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