Bahia Candeleros and Puerto Escondido

Bahia Candeleros is a beautiful bay dominated by a huge resort, Villa del Palmar. Our friends on SV Marilon joined us in the bay and we all fully enjoyed the outdoor dining area with its cold beverages and tasty food. I also enjoyed a massage and a facial at the spa, which possibly has one of the best wet areas I’ve ever been in. Candeleros, with its clear waters, also has some good snorkeling which Scott and I enjoyed. The bay was alive with all sorts of fish, and one in particular, a trumpet fish, hung out around our boat all the time. At night, we’d come outside into the cockpit and see dozens of them around our stern, but only the one fish during the day.

It’s starting to get really hot and humid now. It makes us want to do nothing but lay around the boat in the shade. Little is getting done. There’s a strong breeze blowing through here now and then, but sometimes it comes from the wrong direction and blows hot, like a hair dryer. Unpleasant.

We said our goodbyes to SV Marilon, who were done for the season, and headed off to Puerto Escondito where we were able to fill up our fuel tanks. Puerto Escondito, which means hidden port, lives up to its name. It was pretty cool to be in what seemed to be a secret hiding spot. It was easy to look around and imagine what it would have been like to stumble upon this cove 200 years ago. It must have been a treasured spot for the indigenous peoples.

While here in Puerto Escondito we got to meet up with other cruisers who are stationed here for the summer (it’s considered a hurricane hole). They were incredibly welcoming. We also got to meet Jake, the net controller for the Amigo Net (a daily radio net where cruisers let others know where they are and share info on weather and such) and I was happy to volunteer to be a net controller. Really excited to be a part of the cruising community in this way!

Next stop, Isla Coronados!

Agua Verde

We left San Evaristo towards Agua Verde, motoring because there’s so little wind. After we dropped the anchor, backed down, and attached our snubbers, I heard what sounded like a sarcastic “hello”. I turned around to see a man standing on the bow of his catamaran about 450 feet away, with arms akimbo, also known as “bitch wings” within the cruising community. Did he think we were too close? Puzzled, I walked back to the cockpit and motioned to Scott, who turned and waved at the man who then promptly went inside his cabin. We checked on radar our distance from his boat. As the catamaran was 450 feet away and not downwind of us nor would be, we weren’t sure what was up, but it did sour our evening a bit as we’ve never been “welcomed” in this way.

Juniper in Agua Verde, notably at least 450 feet from any other boats.

Juniper in Agua Verde, notably at least 450 feet from any other boat.

The next day we explored a bit and visited the little tienda to stock up on some food, beer, and snacks. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any fresh goat cheese, something that Agua Verde is known for, but we did snag a dozen cajeta-filled empanadas!

One of our best experiences here was one where we stupidly left all of our cameras back on the boat. We took the dinghy to the small south cove with intentions to snorkel. But when we got there, we paused and watched as cows with their babies walked along the beach, with the calves cautiously walking into the water and then running back out. Then, a pack of mobula rays swam by the dinghy, not once but several times, just around and under the boat. They filled the little cove and swam all around. It was beyond cool to see.

Viviane enjoying Agua Verde

Viviane enjoying Agua Verde

Next stop, Bahia Candeleros!

San Evaristo

San Evaristo is a quiet little fishing village. Very calm and beautiful. As it’s late in the season, we were one of three sailboats in the bay, one of which were our friends Michael and Tiki on S/V Marilon, who we met in Isla San Francisco.

Juniper at anchor in San Evaristo

Juniper at anchor in San Evaristo

There’s a small restaurant on shore, Lupe Sierra’s and Maggie Mae, that caters to cruisers and it’s where we met the folks from S/V Willful Simplicity who actually live full time in San Evaristo. They love the community of people and decided to make a home here. We enjoyed some very cold beer and freshly prepared food by Lupe and painted a seashell to add to the collection that makes up the cruiser’s monument around the restaurant.

Lupe from Lupe Sierra's and Maggie Mae.

Lupe from Lupe Sierra’s and Maggie Mae.

Garfield, the house cat at Lupe Sierra's and Maggie Mae.

Garfield, the house cat at Lupe Sierra’s and Maggie Mae. Most cat’s are setting a trap when they let you pet their bellies, but not Garfield. He loved it.

The boat shell we left at Lupe's.

The boat shell we left at Lupe’s.

The vibe here in San Evaristo is peaceful and we enjoyed just hanging out either at the restaurant or in the cockpit. Despite how hot the days got, the breezes were very cooling. We did do some hiking, accompanied by two local dogs who were eager to turn us into a pack, but the waters were too cold for us to enjoy any swimming.

Morning mist

Morning mist

The reef around the north point of San Evaristo

The reef around the north point of San Evaristo

The salt ponds at San Evaristo

The salt ponds at San Evaristo

While we could stay here in San Evaristo for a lot longer, it’s time to get moving north. Next stop, Agua Verde.

Isla San Francisco

Isla San Francisco is an island known for “The Hook,” a gorgeous crescent shaped bay with crystal blue waters and burnt red rocky cliffs. We took one look at the swell heading into that gorgeous crescent shaped bay and noped out to the east side, a smaller, less picturesque anchorage, but one that would afford us protection from the wind and waves.

Juniper on the hook at Isla San Francisco.

Juniper on the hook at Isla San Francisco.

And boy, did it! The waters were so calm that we slept like babies. The last time we slept in waters this still was back in a marina. And because it’s so calm and quiet we got a lot of work done! I polished up the chrome on the windlass and the bowsprit and did a whole bunch of laundry. We made a minor repair to our mainsail, raised our staysail and furled it again, and played with our spinnaker for the first time. With no wind at all coming into the anchorage, raising sails was a piece of cake.

We’re not the only boat here. Michael from S/V Marilon stopped by earlier in the morning before our errands to say hello and later stopped by with freshly grilled fish! We were so grateful because despite having all kinds of fishing gear, we’ve yet had the courage to put out a line as we’re hesitant to kill our little fishy friends.

The beautiful beach at Isla San Francisco.

The beautiful beach at Isla San Francisco.

Nautilus we found on the beach.

Nautilus we found on the beach.

The east side is only a half mile hike away from the Hook. We explored the salt flats that separate east from west and walked the beach. I found a beautiful nautilus and some other nice shells for my collection. It was such a nice day! We are enjoying this lovely place and how calm it is. After all of our rolly anchorages, we are soaking the calmness into our souls.

Ensenada Grande

We left Bonanza in search of a calmer anchorage with protection from the southern winds. Ensenada Grande, on the northwest side of Isla Partida, seemed like an excellent choice. This place is beautiful. Desert-like, with reddish rocks surrounding the anchorage, it feels like you’re in the grand canyon, but with water. We arrived to find calm waters and no one around. Ahhh!

Sailing the east side of Espiritu Santo.

Sailing the east side of Espiritu Santo.

Approaching Los Islotes

Approaching Los Islotes

Los Islotes

Los Islotes

We wake up the next morning and while it’s windy and a bit rolly, it’s nowhere near as bad as Bonanza. It’s been a long time since Scott and I have stepped off the boat and we’re eager to do so. Unfortunately, Scott tweaked his back and can’t get off the boat, so I inflate the SUP and check out the place. It’s really neat, with the rock walls meeting the waters, providing wonderful snorkeling.

At first, we were the only boat here. By the time we went to bed we were joined by a small powerboat. By the afternoon, a few tour boats pulled in and a handful of charters dropped the hook and the vibe changed. People were waterskiing and filling the waters. By nightfall, twelve boats in all were anchored and the “oontz oontz” began as the powerboats flicked on their pink and blue underwater lights and partied. It’s like a mini Cabo.

We made pizza on the grill (Oaxacan cheese is a good substitute for mozzarella), popped open a bottle of Round Pond Prop Red (we’re down to our last three bottles of really good wine), and enjoyed a night in the cockpit, turning our music up to drown out all the other tunes pulsing into the night. Yes, let’s blast some Regina Specktor and Imogene Heap. That will confuse everyone!

I could have stayed an extra day or two here, despite the crowds and the nighttime coromuel because the waters are warm and clear, and clearly there was good snorkeling here, but Scott was completely over it. So off we go in search of a quiet night.

Playa Bonanza

Bonanza is a lovely anchorage with a two mile long beach on the southeast side of Isla Espiritu Santo. What’s special about this beach is it’s loaded with shells and it makes for wonderful pickings. Scott and I spent some time walking and collecting. It’s also great for snorkeling as there’s a few reefs here and scattered coral in the clear waters of the anchorage.

The beach at Playa Bonanza.

The beach at Playa Bonanza.

Just after setting down our anchor at Playa Bonanza.

Mobula Rays abound here as well. So much so that the dark patches in the middle of the bay that we thought signs of deeper water were actually schools of Mobula Rays! These dark patches would move as a whole, sometimes part, and occasionally would pass around the stern. While the water lacked more than a few feet of visibility, it didn’t prevent me from slowly lowering the GoPro with hopes of catching them on video. We might upload something once we find some decent bandwidth.

The rays are most active at night and they start jumping out of the water around sunset. It’s really cute when they gather right below the surface, their fins sticking out of the water in such a way that it looks like ears. Then one will break and start jumping and the others sometimes follow. It’s unknown why they jump. Some researchers theorize it’s to rid themselves of parasites while others think it might be for fun. They are intelligent fish, so we’re leaning towards the latter.

Because Espiritu Santo is uninhabited, the night sky is quite vivid. The milky way is clearly visible, and there’s phosphoresce in the water. Agitate the water, and they flicker and glow, which Scott couldn’t get enough of.

We actually came to Bonanza twice. First, only for two days back in May. In May, we met the awesome folks on S/V Coastal Drifter (Debra, Phil, and Ethan) and this time we swung by S/V Mambo (Peg and Tony), although we didn’t get to spend time hanging out with Mambo as planned. On our second day here, we awoke to a rocky boat and then all hell broke loose as winds picked up to well over 20 knots. We poked our heads outside to see S/V Mambo leaving the anchorage and the other boat that had anchored overnight gone as well.

The setting sun lights up the mountains behind SV Endeavor.

Peg from Mambo radioed us, urging us to leave and follow them. There was just one problem. The night before, we had rigged up our two awnings and had no way of getting them down with winds blowing like they were. Unlike most of the awnings one sees out there that are attached to the boat via a halyard, tarp-like, these have carbon fiber poles running through them that attach to the lifelines of our boat so that they are freestanding. They’re actually awesome because you can walk under them and it’s like an additional shaded living area, but they take time to put up and down, and unlike the awnings that are held up by a halyard, it’s not so easy to just “drop and run” like we wanted to.

So there we were. Everyone else had abandoned the anchorage and we were standing around wondering what we should do while the carbon fiber poles within the awnings banged against our shrouds and dodger, making an awful, stressful noise. We were not unsafe in this anchorage, just uncomfortable, and these awnings removed our ability to choose to leave if we wanted to.

The kicker? It was also our one year wedding anniversary!

So what did we do? We made the best of it. I baked cookies, we popped open a bottle of champagne, tied up the awnings the best we could to minimize noise and banging, and waited it out. After a few hours we were able to take down the awnings before the winds picked up again (the very strong awnings which can withstand 30 knots winds had a few tears). We actually ended up having constant 20+ knots of wind for three additional days. The upside is that by wind generator alone we got our battery charged to 100%!

We are so over the coromuels and strong winds in this part of Baja. Looking forward to moving north and away from La Paz and the strong summer winds found in these parts. Onward!

La Paz

We departed Puerto Balandra for Bahia Falsa, just a short distance away. Bahia Falsa isn’t as beautiful as Balandra but it’s peaceful and we’re looking forward to some restful nights of sleep. I went to drop the anchor and after letting out about 30 feet of chain, it stopped paying out of the locker. We’ve had issues with the chain getting castled (the building up and piling of chain) in the anchor locker which impacts us when bringing up the chain, but we don’t have issues with letting the chain out. Turns out a big knot of chain was stuck in the chain pipe. In dislodging it, the rubber chain pipe fell off, and the chain runs through it, so pulling up or dropping anchor would be challenging without it in place. We quickly pulled out of the anchorage and back out to the sea, giving ourselves time to pull 30 feet of chain back through the pipe and reattach it. Once anchored at Bahia Falsa, we immediately go to work to alter the shape of the pipe to allow the chain to fall free and clear into the locker. If we’re in a bad situation, having this pipe fall down or prevent us from raising or dropping anchor could be dangerous. We haven’t had any chain issues since making our alteration.

There’s not much to do here in Bahia Falsa but relax so that’s what we do. There’s a little restaurant at the beach serving cold beer and decent guacamole. The beach, Playa El Tesoro, is mainly visited by locals and really pleasant.

Ferry leaving Bahia Pichilingue

View from Bahia Falsa of a ferry leaving Bahia Pichilingue.

After a few days, we head on over to La Paz harbor, where we drop anchor in the El Magote anchorage. Being anchored in the harbor is pretty interesting as it’s dominated by the ebb and flow of the tides which produces powerful currents due to a large body of water and a narrow harbor entrance. It’s a phenomenon and has a name – the La Paz Waltz. Boats swing around with the currents, some in different directions due to different hull and keel shapes. Once anchored, you’ll be facing one direction and start to notice that you’re very slowly turning completely around and facing in the opposite direction but the boat next to you is pointed sideways. It’s weird.

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Boats facing all directions in La Paz.

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Some rare calm waters in the La Paz anchorage.

We’re anchored not far from Marina de La Paz which offers use of a dinghy dock so we come into town often. La Paz is a good-sized city and we’ve enjoyed eating out, having tacos, ice cream, raspados and walking along the Malecón, a waterfront walkway that follows the bay for a number of miles.

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On our way into town from Juniper.

This is what Viviane is so eager to get into town for.

This is what Viviane is so eager to get into town for.

View of the anchorage from the Malecón

A little sailing dinghy we see around the anchorage now sitting on the beach in front of the Malecón.

The best thing about the bay is the marine life. Tons of fish, frigate birds, and pelicans that dive bomb your boat, gobbling up the fish hiding underneath. The best is that there are dolphins in the harbor and we’re anchored not far from their mating area. Every day, pods of dolphins pass by our boat, usually about twice a day but sometimes 3-4 times a day. They don’t get too close to the boat that often, but there are schools of mackerel in the bay and there’s usually a school hiding under our boat, no doubt hoping the dolphins aren’t interested in swinging by a bunch of humans. Four times already we’ve had dolphins come right to our boat to feed on our fish friends. The most memorable experience was when a dolphin broke from the pod and swam over to the boat and flipped onto his side right next to boat where I was standing. I looked right into his eye. He then swam 20 feet away, head out of the water seemingly gesticulating, and swam back to where I was standing, thumped the dinghy that was in the water with his tail, swam 20 feet away again but this time jumped out of the water, and then swam back to where I was standing, on his side, to look at me again. There’s no words to express how excited I was! It was the coolest thing ever! There could be many reasons he did this, but of course I’m thinking he wanted me to play with him!

Some fish hiding from pelicans under Juniper. This does not fool the dolphins

And here come the dolphins

We loved seeing these guys every day.

Despite all the dolphins and other distractions, we managed to work on some projects on our boat. Which is good because like we’ve been told, La Paz can suck you in and we’ve been anchored here for what seems like forever. We’ve been here for so long that our anchor chain accumulated a lot of growth! We’re looking forward to visiting Balandra again. Yes, we’re going back because it’s a short sail away and just too darn beautiful. We’re watching the weather closely to avoid any nighttime antics and heading over as soon as we can. Fingers crossed!

Puerto Balandra

This anchorage is beautiful. It’s the most beautiful anchorage we’ve seen so far. Gorgeous turquoise and clear waters. Little beaches along the shore. It’s stunningly and ridiculously beautiful. We can’t help but laugh at our good fortune in being here. It’s that insane. We enjoy the end of the first day, have a glass of wine in the cockpit and go to bed. The first night at a new anchorage is always a bit of a restless night, as we get used to new noises, pay attention to our anchor alarm, and check on our anchor snubbers. This night is no different. A little windy, but nothing we haven’t dealt with before.

On day two we launch the runabout. We marvel at the color of the water. We just cannot get over how beautiful this place is. The water is so shallow in places that you can just walk across it from one beach to the other. At one point, we ground the dingy and Scott gets out and walks us off the shoal, dodging sting rays hiding under the sand. We stop on one of the beaches, lay down our blanket, and enjoy some Pinot Grigio* while gazing at the water.

Checking out the beaches of Puerto Balandra

Checking out the beaches of Puerto Balandra

Back on the boat we enjoy a nice dinner in the cockpit and are treated to a gorgeous sunset of red and pink streaks across the sky. We amble to the bow of the boat, wine glasses in hand. There’s a slight breeze that’s picking up. I’m feeling a chill in my tank top and we head below.

All hell starts to break loose. The boat is lurching, hobby horsing, and it feels like we’re on a particularly rough passage in open seas. We hear the wind rattling through our rigging, the swells are moving us around pretty hard, things are shifting inside the boat as we move from port to starboard, starboard to port, and buck from bow to stern. It is so bad that we can barely move around the boat, much less go to sleep in the v-berth at the bow. Scott and I pull out the lee cloths and sleep in the main cabin. If you can call what we did sleep, because the both of us were kept awake by the noise, the motion, and the constant need to check on the anchor alarm that keeps giving us false alarms.

The rocking and rolling and nausea inducing hobby horsing doesn’t stop until late the next morning, 11am to be exact. And then all that motion is replaced by a placid calm. After exchanging conversation with Scott that’s mutually embedded with profanities and frustrations (What the HELL is up with this place?! We’re not staying here another night! This place is NUTS! OH.MY.GOD I DIDN’T SLEEP.) we stepped outside and just had to explore this bay again. I mean, this can’t happen again, right? RIGHT?

We launch our runabout and head to a different beach. We’re alone and it’s a gorgeous day. We set up our beach umbrella, break out the blanket and the wine. Scott goes for a snorkel, and while I watch him, a whale breeches in the sea behind him, a good distance away.

Puerto Balandra is not too shabby.

Puerto Balandra is not too shabby.

Back in the boat, we enjoy a nice dinner in the cockpit, another beautiful red and pink sunset, and then the hobby horsing begins. This time, in preparation for craziness, Scott launches our flopper stopper (a product that disrupts the harmonics of the roll and motion of the swells), but as the night goes on, the rolling back and forth gets more pronounced, not as bad as the previous night, but more rolly even, causing us to roll back and forth in our bed. Scott manages to fall asleep but I cannot adapt to the movement, and instead move to the main cabin and wedge myself against the lee cloth.

We wake up the next morning to calm seas and discover that our flopper stopper is gone! I immediately jump to the conclusion that it was stolen while Scott assumes that the pressure on the line attaching the flopper stopper to the boat was so great from last night’s adventure time that his cleat hitch got worked off. We take several looks around the boat and don’t see it at all. Because the water is so calm and clear, I decide to hang out at the bow of the boat and see if I can eventually spot it. After a while, I spot the flopper stopper by our anchor chain, in 20 feet of water.

By the time we get ready to lower our runabout into the water, the wind starts to pick up. By the time we’re both in the runabout, the waves begin. We row upwind in a vain attempt to reach the spot where the flopper stopper is resting in the sand. While I think we managed to find the spot, we don’t know for sure as we’re unable to maintain our position and the wind and waves are increasing. Frustrated, we row back to the boat. Back at the bow, I can no longer spot the flopper stopper in the water, as the wind and waves make it impossible to see clear to the bottom.

Scott drops a waypoint on the chartplotter as to where the flopper stopper is resting with hopes that when we come back this way the water will be clear enough and calm enough for us to spot and retrieve it, assuming no one else has. We pull the anchor up and head out, frustrated by the loss of this expensive product, and frustrated by the Jekyll and Hyde nature of this devastatingly beautiful anchorage.

*Bright side: at least our freezer/fridge is working as a fridge right now. We’re still troubleshooting, but we’re able to keep things at a safe 40 degrees.

Bahia de los Muertos

We left for Bahia de los Muertos at the same time as two other boats also anchored at Los Frailes. That means we were racing even if the other boats didn’t know it. We arrived first, finding one other boat already anchored there. We were barely settled when the anchorage filled up with more and more sailboats, one of which was Due West. Manned by Heidi and Kirk, we were well acquainted with the boat and their adventures, having been following their blog for quite some time now. We were very excited to see them anchor, and I was looking forward to meeting Heidi in person, a Facebook friend and fellow member of Women Who Sail, a group dedicated to women sailors.

Viviane and Heidi from Due West

Viviane and Heidi from Due West

Heidi and Kirk came by our boat and we spent a lovely day talking and enjoying a really cool restaurant at the Gran Sueno resort (Bahia de los Muertos, which means Bay of the Dead, is transitioning to being named Bahia de Suenos, Bay of Dreams. I get it, but I like the history of why it’s called Bahia de los Muertos). The restaurant, Centro de Trenes, is beautiful and has a train track with working model trains elevated high over the bar and restaurant seating. The restaurant also has really good ceviche and an amazing salsa made of guajillo peppers and roasted tomatoes that I really wish I could eat every day. Plus, they were very gracious and welcoming to us, a salty bunch of folks in flip-flops and sandals who wander up from the beach into this fancy resort!

We finally launched our runabout! We’ve been waiting for calmer winds and waters to launch the dinghy for the first time. Outside of us busting an oar lock (seriously, how lame), it went well, and we made it to shore and hung out at the Palapa restaurant 1535 for a spell.

We’re still settling into life on a boat. Showering has been… um… sporadic so far. We do have a watermaker onboard (it takes seawater and makes potable water through reverse osmosis) and we’re working on getting into a rhythm where we’re keeping our tanks full and conserving water. We brought a solar shower along and want to use it, as it’s much more economical compared to using our built-in shower, but it’s been cloudy in Los Muertos.

The freezer/fridge is still on vacation, but is managing to draw a lot of power from out batteries with little results. It’s a freeloader at this point, but Scott is working with a rep on troubleshooting it.

Los Frailes

Making our way from Cabo to Los Frailes was all upwind motoring and a very wet, annoying ride. Once we arrived and anchored, we discovered that our sheets, comforter, and blanket were soaked at the foot of the bed located at the bow of the boat, by the anchor locker. We were not in a good mood.

Los Frailes ended up being a pretty quiet anchorage for us. We just relaxed.  The anchorage had a lot of marine life. We saw Manta Rays jumping every day and a school of fish (I think the same one over and over again) would roil the water right by our boat, rise to the surface, and then beautifully motion below before finding another place to surface. Over and over again, the water clear enough to see at least a hundred fish making up this school rise and fall and move across the bay. You could hear the splashes when they surfaced.

We accidentally locked Sam the Cat outside overnight! Thankfully, he did not go overboard, but he was mighty vocal when Scott finally opened the companionway in the morning!

Still dealing with the freezer/fridge. Hitting up the bunches of pesto I made back in San Diego. Lots of pesto pasta happening here.