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!

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