Friday, May 13, 2011

Back to Guaymas

Bahia Santa Teresa from the mouth of a cliff cave
From Santa Rosalia, we had intended to explore some of the more northern reaches of the Sea of Cortez that we have not yet visited. We sailed north towards Bahia San Francisquito in very light winds, making only 20-30 miles per day and stopping in somewhat exposed anchorages each night. There is a different feel to the big bays north of Santa Rosalia. The water looked greener than that further south and it teemed with tiny fish and hundreds of noisy, chattering royal terns and Heermans gulls.

Walking in the desert near our anchorage at Santa Teresa

On day 3, a forecasted northerly gale blew up before we had reached the protection of Bahia Santa Theresa. We had been motoring in a calm from around 8 am, but should have left earlier because we were caught about 10 miles south of shelter by sudden strong winds. The main was down and it would have been difficult to raise it and put in three reefs. Under engine, alone, we were unable to make more than 1 knot, so we rolled out a little bit of the jib and beat into this with the motor assisting. It was tense sailing with large choppy seas created in part by a strong current running against the wind. The gusts were so strong that, even with only 20% of our jib out, we were heeling 20-30 degrees. It was also tricky to tack because without the main up, it was difficult to bring the boat through the wind. On one tack I got the jib sheet double wrapped on the winch and the flapping of the jib tore several feet of stitching holding on the UV protection canvas before I could free up the sheet.

Playing primitive bacci ball with a golf ball we found

We anchored in the lee of Punta Santa Teresa off a mile long white sand beach and here we remained for 4 days as the gale blew. Outside the point, white 'buffaloes' galloped across the wild landscape. We managed to row our dinghy ashore and found a small community of Gringos and Mexicanos living at the far end of the beach and a mile or so north on Bahia San Francisquito. An airstrip and 75 mile dirt road provides access and on our first day there we saw a small private jet take off into the gale. 

Visiting with Howard

On our first walk the next day, we met Howard who rents an off the grid palapa on the beach from a Mexican owner. He invited us over for a coffee and told us a little about the area. The airstrip and buildings here were originally part of a Club Med development (his Palapa was one of these buildings) but this was long closed. We saw some small airplanes that morning and there are a few simple buildings in which pilots and their passengers can stay. Howard also told us that this area is popular with sports fishermen, although the gale must have kept them away because we saw no other boats during our stay. Howard is a collector and his palapa deck was covered in locally gathered fossils, whale bones, and copper nuggets.

Fossilized snails on Howard's porch

Big horn sheep skull with added snail 'eyes'.

The next day we walked into the desert and hills nearby where we found a cave that was probably used for shelter by the indigenous people. It looked like the archeologists had been here by the sizable mound excavated from the cave. Howard had found artifacts including several arrow heads nearby, which he had given to visiting archeologists for display in a museum in Mexico city.

Sleeping palapas for airport visitors

When the wind finally abated we had nothing but calms for two days during which we crossed the Sea of Cortez once again (our 12th crossing). The calm waters made for excellent nature watching and we enjoyed our first sightings of sperm whales. We saw pods of up to 12 whales - cows and their calves swimming slowly or lying on the surface. One whale came right up to Ladybug as we lay becalmed, rubbing itself along our side and clicking rapidly and noisily.

Here is a video of the sperm whales including 'logging' where they float like logs, a single whale moving past us, possibly feeding, and a whale that comes alongside:

At Isla San Esteban we anchored off a sea lion rookery and went for a snorkel in the chilly waters. The sea lions were very curious, perhaps because there were so many young ones, and they swam over to see what strange creatures had invaded their domain. Whenever I dived to the bottom, they would follow me and swim quite close, spiraling and turning somersaults underwater. I felt very clumsy and slow compared to these graceful creatures. I also saw my first shark on this swim - small (< 3 feet) and blue gray, sitting on the bottom in maybe 6 feet of water. Later we saw a  4 foot hammerhead as we sailed toward Guaymas.

Sea horse found at Bahia Santa Teresa

The winds remained light and we had to use the motor a lot in order to reach San Carlos. It was so calm that night that we took down our sails and put on the anchor light  while still 10 miles off shore. In San Carlos, we re-connected with Frank and Cheryl on Serendipity, whom we had last seen here more than two years ago. It was great to spend a few hours together and catch up on all that has happened in their lives.

View from the deck in Marina Seca Guaymas

Rani gathering perishable food to give away. Note folded mainsail and jib.

We had a splendid sail down to Guaymas where after two days in the Singlar marina, we hauled out Ladybug at Marina Seca Guaymas. Everything went smoothly this year despite strong winds and shallow water off the marina ways (we saw 1/2 a foot below the keel on the depth sounder at one point). Tomorrow we take the bus to Phoenix (8-10 hour ride) and fly home to BC.