Sunday, April 12, 2009

semana santa in puerto escondido

April 10, 2009
We left Agua Verde very early and arrived in Puerto Escondido but i don't remember when. It's a very safe place to keep the boat because it's surrounded by hills on the inside, good for no wind but makes it hot when the temps are high. There's also a waiting room anchoring area outside. Since being here we've done just about nothing except eat in the restaurant and catch up on internet. Coming in the landscape was amazing with rugged cliffs and lots of kayaking possibilities, but i have to get there first. hopefully when we leave, maybe monday, i can get out there.

April 11, 2009
Winds were light most of the night until about 3am for an hour then it blasted through the anchorage. You might wonder why I talk about the wind so much. Well it’s because it has a direct affect on how well I sleep. When the wind comes up the rigging starts to hit the mast and you hear a loud slapping against metal. And then of course it sounds like a hurricane is going over us even though it’s really only 15-20 knots. So it’s disturbing even though I’m telling myself oh it’s just the wind, wind is good, etc. So I can’t get back to sleep.
So today, we shared a taxi in to Loreto for the day. So much history unfolded here in the settlement and exploration of Baja. In 1697 Juan Salvatierra landed here to establish the first mission in Baja, “Nuestra Senora de Loreto”. In 1769 the Franciscan padres Gaspar Portola and Junipero Serra left Loreto to explore and discover San Diego and San Francisco along with establishing the California missions. Loreto grew into a political and economic force becoming the capitol of Baja until the storm of 1829 destroyed much of it and the capitol was moved to La Paz. Today it’s more of a tourist town and in the process of reconstructing itself from dirt roads and tiny curio shops to cobblestoned streets, galleries and upscale restaurants.

april 12 - easter or semana santa here. the cruisers had a nice potluck this morning and it's breezy and a little cooler. i've been sitting here at the computer all morning and i'm anxious to get out and kayak around for a bit. we plan on leaving here tomorrow and going outside to isla danzante or carmen for a day or two where the kayaking will be wonderful. from there we'll probably head south again back to la paz. i plan on flying home with jim around april 20 so i can visit with friends for two weeks and then we'll come back, prep the boat and head south to mainland mexico on our way to ecuador. so this will probably be my last post until la paz or once i get home.

the only picture i have to post here is our sunset april 2.

april 8-9 in agua verde

April 8
Because we prepped ourselves last night we were able to pull up the anchor before 8am and head out to Agua Verde. There was little wind so we motored in fairly calm conditions. A huge flock of pelicans, gulls, cormorants and terns were feeding up ahead in what must have been a large fish broil. Jim had his line out and caught and killed a pelican. It was a low point for me the remainder of the day. We arrived in Agua Verde about noon and anchored in the south lobe of the large bay. We kayaked to shore and explored the town tucked back into the hills. Such a contrast seeing the hollyhocks, sunflowers and other flowers against the dust and cactus. And so many buzzards. We stopped at the tortillaria and then on to the “restaurant” which was an extended patio in front of someone’s house. The family was relaxing (sleeping, administering insulin and watching a tv novella) and cleared off the table and brought out a chair for us. I got to practice my Spanish and almost laughed out loud when Jim said “ask them for the menu”. He had a very tasty pollo, frijoles, tortillas and salsa while I had their last Tecate (my one beer in 2 years!). The day ended with a beautiful sunset followed by a full moon peeking over the hill and launching itself into a spectacular white globe.

April 9
I kayaked in to town to buy more tortillas and make one more stop at Maria’s tienda. The tortillas were still warm when she handed them to me, hopefully enough to last us until our next opportunity for shopping. On the way back to the boat I kayaked around more of the bay and watching the reef fish. Perfect kayaking conditions. Then we took the dinghy to the other side of the bay and hiked up and over to the cemetery which looked long abandoned. It was particularly sad to see the graves of los niños only a year old. Spying palm trees off in the distance we decided to explore and found the green water which gives Agua Verde its name. Fascinating area with giant palm trunks prostrate on the ground or twined around each other in circles. We saw the goats on the hill and Jim befriended a very young baby hiding under a bush, so young it still had its dried umbilical cord attached! It was a long hot and dry walk back over the hill where we ran into Heather from Om Shanti, one of the authors of the Sea of Cortez book we’re using. We arranged to get our book signed later in the day. Jim took the dinghy back to the boat and I kayaked around the remainder of the bay in, again, perfect conditions in crystal clear water. Somehow I still had energy enough to once again reorganize down below. I find our needs change depending on weather and cruising vs longer distance sailing. It was a lackluster sunset due to overcast skies.

happy birthday to me on april 7

April 7
I was up at first light to watch the sunrise on my birthday, then took the kayak out to explore the bay, beachcomb, photograph the undulating rocks and record the sounds. It was five hours of bliss for a private celebration of my birthday. Jim wanted to take the boat back to Casa Grande and a lagoon. Once we relocated, we kayaked over to a fairly dry lagoon then took a long hot walk to Casa Grande. The highlight for me was finding a whale vertebrae which I brought back to the boat. When we returned to Los Gatos Manuel was there with 2 langustas for Jim.

april 6 san evaristo

April 6
Strong winds forced us to leave San Evaristo and tack back and forth up the channel until the winds died just after was passed Isla San Jose. Then we motored up to Los Gatos arriving near sunset in a crowded little bay. What an entrance we made. Circling the boats to find a good spot to drop the anchor Jim accidentally lost one of his shoes overboard. While he jumped in the dinghy to rescue it I continued to circle the boats and then pick him up. We continued to circle the boats as each skipper gave his suggestion how we should anchor (away from their boat). It was an embarrassing and frustrating end to a long day but we learned a valuable lesson about anchoring. As the sun began to set Manuel approached in his la lancha to introduce himself as Alex’s friend and would Jim like a fresh fish for dinner. He left promising to bring him a langusta tomorrow.

april 2-5 2009

April 2, 2009
We pulled up anchor early and headed out as a whale was spouting at the entrance to the bay. Further out we saw another couple of gray whales spouting and rolling through the water. We also saw I think a large black ray fly out of the water, and later several huge shiney silver fish shoot out of the water and twist before going back in. We cruised slowly past Los Islotes, the famous California sea lion rookery (they’re internationally protected marine mammals). Males can grow to 8 ft long weighing almost 800 lbs and females can get up to 6 ft long and 200 lbs. Females give birth to pups from May to July. We motored over to Isla San Francisco’s big crescent-shaped bay edged in a white sand beach. We anchored just in time to watch the sun set behind the rugged Sierra de la Giganta mountains on mainland Baja in light winds. True to form the winds picked up later for another rocky night in the forepeak.

April 3, 2009
I kayaked to shore to explore the beach, salt pond, tide pools and agate beach. Jim hiked part of the ridge trail. The tide pools were fascinating. I heard a cracking and crunching all around me so decided to sit for about 15 minutes watching life unfold in one small area. The tiniest crabs were moving over minuscule pebbles and tiny fish like things darted around. The pictures I took just don’t show the rich colors and shapes I watched. Further on the “agate” beach was covered in all sizes of pebbles, stones and boulders. For a rock lover like me I felt as though I’d hit the mother lode. I realized once I was over there I don’t actually know what an agate looks like but I’m pleased with everything I hauled back, much to Jim’s displeasure. I got back to the boat just as a fleet of racers (catamarans and sailboats) came into the bay. This evening we have 29 boats which is the most we’ve anchored with so far. Good thing it’s a big bay. Winds have been strong all afternoon pushing the boat in wide 180º arcs.

April 4
We were up and ready to leave by 8am and discovered the wheel wouldn’t turn all the way. Jim had to dive under the boat and check the rudder, nope. He checked the autopilot. Nope. So he spent the next 6 hours disassembling the wheel and podium because a nut worked lose into the wheel gears. Nothing’s easy. 3 screws were frozen and had to be drilled out. He eventually got everything fixed and put back together which is proof sailing is really doing boat maintenance in beautiful locations. While he was tearing things apart I was so bored I polished all the brightwork (chrome) on the boat. The La Paz race fleet that surrounded us, meanwhile, were partying in high spirits. We left about 3pm and arrived in San Evaristo at sunset with a lot of strong wind making for an uncomfortable/sleepless night.

April 5
Strong wind all day and when we realized it wasn’t going to stop we decided to dinghy to shore anyway. Met Chris and Ronnie from Victoria BC on their new boat while hiking over to the salt ponds and ocean for beachcombing. We had our first experience shopping in a local tienda (tortillas and avocados) and trying to converse enough to not appear like idiots. We discovered wafer cookies. Yum. Chris came over later for Jim’s slideshow sailing to/from Hawaii as he plans on heading that direction. Tortillas were great.

march 26-april 1

March 26 - Ensenada del Candelero
I explored the whole cove and beyond in my kayak and there’s this camp of big and small tents stretched across the beach. Motor boats come and go all day long ferrying people places so it feels like Grand Central Station. I have no idea what the camp is about as I couldn’t get anyone to come talk to me when I paddled by. We left around noon to sail with just the jib out for 3+ hours so we could make water, then came in to anchor at Caleta Partida. It’s one of the largest anchorages on the island, a crater from an extinct volcano with the western and eastern sides eroded away. The bay has strong coromuel winds that whip through at all times of the day (but mostly at night) so the boat is constantly turning in a circle on the anchor. From my hammock I get a 360 view without moving my head. First night we were kept awake with a line banging against the boom and boat rubbing against the anchor chain. The next morning, sleep-deprived as I was, I kayaked over to El Cardoncito, just north into the next cove, where I saw lots of fish in the clear reefs along the cliffs. So many snorkeling spots to chose from. I’ve been averaging 5 hours a day kayaking and can’t seem to get enough. When the winds are down the water is thick and slick and the kayak glides over the surface. When the wind kicks up it’s exhausting.

March 27
Another day of paradise with a lot of unpredictable wind. I decided to kayak over to the cove we passed coming in here, El Mezteño. Had to fight against the wind to get alongside the shore in our cove, then around the corner more head wind. I was exhausted when I got near El Mezteño and decided to try a landing on a huge flat rock. When the nose of my kayak touched stone and dragged on the sandpaper surface the rest of the kayak swung round and I started getting swamped with water. It was a tense moment or two before I got out and managed to pull myself and kayak onto higher rock away from the water without losing the contents of the kayak. Now I had to figure out how to get off the rock. I studied the wave action against the rock and realized there was a deep trough about 10” wide with less wave action, a perfect place to set the rudder of my kayak and slip out. I was proud of myself for not panicking and staying calm and figuring it out by myself. Soon as I was launched I saw Jim coming in the dinghy, heading over to attempt the hike. I headed back toward the boat and met two kayakers, Stu and Ann on Walkabout, heading over to hike and we chatted about kayaking in the area. They joined us for sunset later in the day and she shared her photos from the crest (the guys didn’t quite make it). Note to self: Don’t kayak along shorelines with waves or whitecaps. Don’t kayak on an empty stomach with little sleep, and pay attention to my energy level.

March 28, 2009
I did my first book swap with Ann. We met yesterday when I was kayaking back from to El Mezteño and they were just kayaking over to walk the trail to the top of the hill. Later they came over for sunset drinks & snacks and I visited her today on her boat. So it turns out we’ve read some of the same books but since I’ve not read any Alexander McCall Smith or his popular No. 1 Ladies Detective series she’s given me The World According to Bertie and I gave her Three Junes by Julia Glass. I was restless after reading for several hours and finally convinced Jim to kayak through the passage between Partida and Espíritu Santo to the eastern side of Espíritu Santo to see the sea caves. Should have gone at high tide but I have no idea when that is and since we had to pull our kayaks through some of it we hit low tide. Once we made it all that way the waves were too big to attempt anything on the eastern side. Drat. That was the extent of my kayaking for the day. We started reviewing the rules and playing Canasta until sunset. End of the day, light winds, chilly, and no bugs. Horray for small gifts.

March 29
Left Caleta Partida and motored for 3 hours to make water. Arrived at Ensenada el Cardonal 3pm. Windy but when it died down I kayaked about an hour to the beach. Lots of dead puffer fish and a few pelican bones, gave the beach a morbid feeling. As the wind began to build I came back to the boat and soon we had 20+ knots wind swinging us all over the place on the hook. Read and played cards but by dark winds scary and we stayed on anchor alert all night bouncing continuously. Felt like we were in a vacuum funnel.

March 30
Jim and I kayaked to the beach and hiked up a well-worn trail. After reading “Into a Desert Place” I was terrified of encountering a rattlesnake so it was a rare time when Jim was faster on the trail. Lots of photo ops with the cactus. Then we motored over to the next cove up, Ensenada el Grande. What an amazing place. Large anchorage ringed by sculptural sandstone in various stages of erosion. No sooner was the anchor set I was out in my kayak exploring the southern side. Breathtaking landscape and water so clear I could see all kinds of fish beneath me. Several snorkeling spots await exploration. Wind was lighter than night before but still lots of rocking and rolling.

March 31
Just missed the sunrise but watched the sky get lighter. No breeze and after a few minutes in the hammock I ate my last pan tosta w/cheese and launched the kayak for a spin around the north side of the anchorage. Must remember to take the recorder for those deep gurgling sounds. Drifted easily over the reefs watching fishes below and cliffs above. Feels like I’m in a sacred place. The balance of the day was spent reading and watching the kayakers with their guide. Allegro (Marlo and Scott) came by to introduce themselves from the other boat here. I suggested we meet on the beach at sunset to burn our respective trash. Trash is problematic and I refuse to just dump it overboard in the ocean as has been suggested from other cruisers. Filling bottles and cans with seawater and dropping them overboard appears to be okay as they sink and make houses for various creatures, old food can be tossed for consumption by gulls, but everything else needs to be dealt with. So an hour before sunset we loaded the dinghy with our trash bag and headed to a small beach with a big rock cave and plenty of driftwood. Marlo and Scott joined us and voila, everything burned to ash as I celebrated the toilet gods for continuing to work and we watched the sun set on another day in paradise.

April 1, 2009
I’ve been sitting in the cockpit all morning monitoring the wind waiting for an opportunity to kayak over to the cliffs so I can try out my new digital recorder. The various slurping sounds made around the cliffs is so unusual, along with the echoing of the birds flying overhead that I want to see if I can record it. I’m still waiting as the wind periodically gusts to 15+ knots which is too annoying to paddle against. Waiting paid off and I spent the afternoon with Marlo in our kayaks drifting along both shores of the bay. My recording of the gurgling among the rocks worked and we enjoyed a spectacular view of crystal clear water into the depths of the reefs watching fishes and listening to the birds overhead. Sunset was shared with Marlo and Scott on our boat with talk of what to see as we head north tomorrow.

march 22-25 ensenada la gallina and del candelero

now that i'm online again here's my journal entries with a few pictures. given my lack of time for emailing i apologize up front for not having my act together with descriptions along with the pictures. all i can say is use your imagination. basically all we've been doing is anchoring, kayaking, a little hiking and eating and sleeping (a little).

March 22, 2009
Finally we left the marina. Motored a couple miles north to Caleta Lobos and dropped the anchor in a small cove with only one other sailboat. Off the bow is a stand of mangroves which means tiny flies abound until dark. We watched the sun set and listened to the birds, mostly seagulls, roosting on a nearby rock outcrop. Frigit birds circled overhead in huge numbers as the sun was setting, looking for a place to land for the night. In the darkening light after sunset we were surrounded by pelicans splashing into the water, fish coming to the surface and the final roosting sounds from the outcrop. The wind is negligible, the flies have disappeared and now it’s quiet with only the slapping of the water against the hull.

March 23 2009
We left midmorning and motored/sailed about three hours so we could make water in ocean water where it’s cleaner. We eventually anchored in Enseñada la Gallina, one of the many coves along the western side of Espíritu Santo. Shortly thereafter I was swinging in my hammock from the rocking of the boat. We spent three nights here which gave us enough time to inflate the kayaks and explore the beach and crannies of shoreline. I kayaked over to fish camp, occupied infrequently, beachcombed and explored the man-sized cave and got my own private pelican sky diving. We explored the mangroves at the head of the cove thick with dense roots and impossible to penetrate. The air was filled with birds singing, cawing and whooping, and an egret growled as he took flight when I approached too close. Pelicans dive bombed into the water, often 4 at a time in unison. Winds were from all directions rocking the boat and swinging the hammock until last night when it all quieted down.

We arrived in Enseñada del Candalero. So here I am sitting, well really swinging, in my hammock just after sunset, listening to the pelicans ah-ah-ah-ah on the nearby rock, Roca Monumento, watching orion’s belt stars form themselves in the sky. We’ve just watched and photographed the sunset, our nightly routine, and I’m in the lotus position in the hammock. It’s like a spiritual oasis on water. Jim is below deck cooking onions and chorizo (that actually smell really good) and suddenly the Blue Brothers waft into the night. He’s bobbing his head and I’m now down below doing a modified line dance across the narrow floor. A typical evening aboard Chesapeake on Espíritu Santo.