Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Out to the Islands Again

Dry waterfall, Ensenada del Candelero
 We spent the last few weeks in the islands again, where we met up with our friends Tanya and Scott on Kialoa, Malcolm and Dina on Good as Gold (with their guest Victoria onboard), and Arek and Ivanna on Bella Vita.

We started off in Bahia San Gabriel, where we endured our 2nd Coromuel.   These are overnight west winds that kick up a crazy chop.  Basically the boat just hobby-horses all night and so it is very uncomfortable.  The winds also put you on a lee shore, which isn't ideal.  Unfortunately none of the anchorages in the islands are protected from them, but some are slightly better than others.  San Gabriel is one of the worst.  Needless to say we headed further up the island when the seas calmed down the next morning.

Sunset at Ensenada del Candelero
Next stop, Ensenada del Candelero.  This is a lovely cove with the large Roca (rock) Monumento in the middle.  We spent a few days snorkeling around the rock.  We let Charlotte 'go feral' on the island while we snorkeled - she just followed us around and took herself for a walk.

Dingy repair on deck

Returning Kialoa's dingy
 While we were stationary for a few days, we took the opportunity to fix the dingy.  You may remember that Gary ripped one of the oar handles off the dingy during the 'picking Mrs X up from the bus station' fiasco a few weeks ago.  I was getting tired of having to treat the dingy like a SUP whenever I'd need to row to shore, so the repair was well overdue.  Despite doing the repair under less than ideal conditions (supposedly  you aren't supposed to use the glue near water [ummmm, its a dingy...where do they think we'll be repairing it!!] or when it is humid [couldn't help that one either]) we did manage to stick the damn thing back on.  Not sure how long it will last, but hopefully at least to the end of the season.

Roca Monumento, Ensenada del Candelero

Bocce on the beach, Ensenada Grande (south lobe)
Hiking trail up the arroyo, Ensenada Grande 

At least the trail was signed...
 After a few days in Candelero, we moved up to the south lobe on Ensenada Grande with Kialoa.  Unfortunately we spent the first night enduring another Coromuel (thanks Scott, for staying awake and watching our boat for us), but the rest of our time there was spent in calm conditions.

We enjoyed one afternoon playing bocce on the beach, while Charlotte roamed free in the cove.

We spend another afternoon 'hiking' up the arroyo to a lookout.  The trail started off quite gentle, so we were hopeful that for once it would be a relatively easy trail.  Unfortunately, that turned out not to be the case.  We were soon scaling 5-6 foot boulders.  Obviously not easy with for little Charlotte.  She persevered for about 40 minutes, then I decided she shouldn't go any further.  

Gary continued on up the trail with Tanya from Kialoa, while Scott and I turned back with Charlotte.  

End of the line: Tanya from Kialoa leaping off the edge

The view at the end made it all worthwhile though.

Cordon cactus

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Our first visitor in Baja

Picture altered to protect the innocent
We've had our first friend come down to see what life is like for us here in Baja.  She's declared she's leaving her job and staying full time so we call her Mrs X for the duration of the post to keep her identity secret.

After a quick flight from San Francisco she braved the bus to La Paz where she immediately experienced  her indoctrination to the cruising lifestyle.  We were at anchor and the wind was blowing hard against the current making our small dinghy more like a submarine.  After a luggage delivery that almost ended in disaster we ferried her to the boat and then gave her 20 minutes notice that other cruisers were coming for dinner.  Being the perfect guest that she was, Mrs X had her gear stowed and was dried off and presentable long before they arrived.

Puffer fish are mean even when they are dead
The next day we headed out Espiritu Santu and had a great sail much further than expected to the top of the island.  We had the peaceful anchorage to ourselves equipped with a private beach and beautiful sunset.  The full moon even rose perfectly framed in the valley in front of us.  Karina and I were happy as the memories of the first day of Mrs X's trip faded, replaced by calm warm water, sandy beaches and perfect star filled nights.

We spent two nights in Mezteno greedily anchored in the middle of the bay to keep our "one boat anchorage" a one boat anchorage.  Other boats tried to join us but our laserbeam stares with arms crossed scared them all away.  The days went by quickly with walks on the beach and Mrs X playing with her new camera.

We then headed north to Isla Islotes, famed for it's sea lion colony that loves to swim with humans.  We had a great experience there and Karina even managed to get invited to join their synchronized swimming team.  Mrs X's camera also works underwater so we got some great shots without having to worry about our waterproof camera leaking (which it always seems to do)

Swimming with the sea lions

Karina gets checked out

Karina joins the synchronized swimming team
Many endless beaches to walk on
We then sailed south to San Gabriel known for its population of frigate birds.  These graceful birds have colonized the mangroves by the thousands and are undisturbed by dinghys and pangas floating a few meters away from their nests.  It makes for some great photo opportunities.  We were even treated to the start of the chicks hatching.  In stark contrast to Karina and I, we noted that the chicks start off with completely white feathers and slowly progress to black as they age.  The male frigate birds are famous for their method of attracting mates.  They can puff up their chests and display an amazing red plumage that looks like party balloons just about to pop.  Again we had long walks on the empty beaches to keep us entertained and were treated to yet another perfect sunset.  

Our friend might have decided not to return to work

Attack of the birds!

Oh to have wings

Check out the baby (all white)

Vegetation has a tough life in Baja

The males really do get puffed up when they want to mate

More chicks
Jacques Cousteau Monument
 We then made our way back to La Paz where Karina and Libby made the long trek along the malecon into town for some quick provisioning.  It was one of the hotter days of the season so ice creams in town were especially appreciated.

More art on the malacon
Whale museum
Alas Mrs X's trip was coming to a close and it was time to for her to head back to the "real world".  We put her on a shuttle with full expectations of finding her back at the boat after our walk with Charlotte.  We recently received an email from her employer asking if we had seen her recently.  We responded that we had no knowledge of her whereabouts.

Obligatory sunset picture

Monday, February 2, 2015

Island Hopping and More Lessons Learned

Bahia San Gabriel
Layers of shells in the sand, Bahia San Gabriel
After 4 days anchored in La Paz we ventured back out into the islands.  Our first stop was beautiful Bahia San Gabriel on Isla Espiritu Santo.  This was one of the anchorages we had visited the week before, but this time we anchored in the shallow waters of the north bay.  It was a beautiful hot sunny day, so we decided to jump in and cool off in the ocean - it was marvelous.  We floated around for 20 minutes or so (a record for me). After the swim I took Charlotte to shore (or at least tried to - we were foiled by a very low spring tide), while Gary showered on deck.  I returned to the boat to find about 100 bees humming around the back deck, and Gary cowering inside.  For those of you who don't know, Gary hates bees.  He stepped on a wasp nest at his cottage when he was a kid and was chased all the way up to the cottage from the water by the angry swarm.  I guess that isn't something one forgets easily.  He still occasionally wakes up twitching from what I call "bee dreams". Needless to say, the scene on the back deck was something out of one of his worst nightmares.  Luckily I do not have a bee phobia.  I managed to get the boat tied up, got on board (on the side of the boat, not the back), then set about getting out all of our mosquito netting to put over the hatches.  The bees were totally focused on the shower bag on the back deck and weren't swarming the cockpit or the rest of the boat, so really, they were pretty easy to contain. Only when the boat was secure did Gary emerge. Unfortunately our boat was now 'marked' by the bees - we were quite popular for the rest of our time in the bay.  Weekly Lesson #1: do NOT spread fresh water on your boat on a hot sunny day... shower inside.

We experienced our first couromel winds while in San Gabriel.  These are west winds that blow off the land and turn all the nice, calm anchorages on Isla Espiritu Santo into an amusement park ride. We spent 1 night hobby-horsing at anchor - it was just like being offshore... ah, the memories.  Lesson #2: learn how to recognize Coroumel winds on the weather faxes.

Grebes helping Gary clean the bottom
Boat maitenance
The weather turned cloudy during our visit and so it was time for boat jobs!  Gary donned his wetsuit and used our hooka scuba system to clean the bottom of the hull.  Boy, did it need it!  He removed a 2 inch layer of moss from the entire bottom, exciting 2 grebes who spent the morning following him around and eating "things" scraped off the bottom.  They were quite content.  Occasionally they got bold and nibbled on his wetsuit.  He couldn't figure out why until he got out of the water and discovered he was covered in tiny tiny little shrimp.  He was literally crawling with them.  I actually made him get back in the water to try to wipe them off.  Yuck. 

After a few days in San Gabriel, and an aborted attempt to go north up to Isla San Francisco, we spent the night in the middle lobe of Ensenada Grande.  
Rock formations in Ensenada Grande

A spectacular ending to the day
This bay has the neatest rock formations. After a mostly cloudy day with rain showers, the sun finally came out at dusk and gave us the most spectacular sunset.  The colours reflecting off the red rocks was quite spectacular.

Isla San Francisco - doesn't get any better
We then headed up to Isla San Francisco.  Although the winds were only 12 knots from the northwest (and directly into us, of course), the seas were steep with a short period.  We ended up having to motor sail, as we couldn't make any way by just sailing alone.  It was a long and unpleasant passage. Weekly Lesson #3: do NOT go north of Isla Partida when north winds are blowing above 10 knots. But, it was worth it.  We sat out the next Norther in the bay.  The winds howled, but we were still able to get to shore and hike the spectacular ridge that surrounds the bay.  This bay is probably the most photographed bay in Baja as it is truly picture perfect.

First it was lost, then it was found
Our first casualty of the wind was Gary's wetsuit.  I had pinned it to the deck (with 3 clothes pins) to dry, then forgot about it.  The winds picked up, and at 5am I woke up with a start and remembered the damn suit.  Well, I guess you can't really expect anything to survive pinned to a line for 12 hours of 25 knot winds.  The suit was gone. I was so upset I couldn't sleep for the rest of the night. In the morning Gary insisted that we walk the beach (which is a big curve) just to make sure it hadn't washed up on shore.  Yeah, right, I thought, it is already in La Paz.  But, miraculously, we found it (with 1 pin still stuck in it) at the very end of the beach!  It missed going to La Paz by about 20 feet. We may never get the sand out it, but it is back on board safe and sound.  Weekly Lesson #4: do NOT pin things to the rail when winds are predicted.

Sigh, we may get this right one of these days.

Pooped puppy on the ridge
As the weather was overcast, windy, rainy and cold (well, cold for here at least - it was still 20oC), we concentrated on getting some boat projects done.  We installed a new fan in the V-berth (any one coming to visit us may be interested in that), put away our "cold weather clothes" (although we may have been a bit hasty on that), and installed the toilet in the front head.  This turned out to be a bigger job than anticipated (but what isn't, on a boat) and ended up taking us the better part of 3 days to get working. But, we did it and now have 2 working heads on the boat.  Wow, very fancy for us.

Ridge (which we hiked) on Isla San Francisco 
We then beat our way back to La Paz over the course of 2 days.  Yup, you guessed it, after 2 months of nothing but north winds, there are 2 days of southerly winds when we have to travel south.  Not sure there is a Lesson in there, but it is getting tiresome feeling like a salmon all the time.  Anyway, we made it back to La Paz and are awaiting the arrival of my friend Libby from San Francisco.  We are anchored out and are going to attempt to pick her up from the bus station in our very small dingy. Of course the winds have picked up so there is a fair chop in the bay... I think we may get wet on this one....  it will be a good initiation into the boating life for her.  Thankfully she is always game for anything.

We are headed back out to the islands tomorrow (heading north into another Norther... what else is new?).  Hopefully we'll have a few calm sunny days so we can show her some of our favourite spots.

Wish us luck!