Sweet Pea Cove to San Carlos

The refreshing breezes in Sweet Pea Cove, on Isla San Marcos just outside Santa Rosalia, was a respite from the blistering heat and we were sad about ending this cruising season in San Carlos. There were days where it’s so hot and the freezer so warm that we just wanted to go into a marina, check into a hotel, bask in air conditioning and down ice cold margaritas, but we were still enjoying ourselves. It’s been amazing exploring Mexico, enjoying the sea, and getting outside of our comfort zones. It’s been ten months since leaving San Francisco and we’re still excited about continuing this experience. There’s still so much more to explore.

We had to carefully time our Sea of Cortez crossing to minimize the risk of getting caught in a storm in open water while still arriving in San Carlos in the daytime. This meant getting up at around 1am to check if there were any developing storms on the mainland that were going to make their way west towards Baja.  The first time we tried to make the crossing we didn’t like what we saw on EEBMIKE.COM and aborted. This turned out to be a good thing as a couple of hours later the winds and waves picked up considerably at Sweet Pea Cove. We went through our routine again the next night and this time there wasn’t any significant activity on the weather radar.

Although we were very careful about planning around the weather for the crossing we and the boat were strangely unprepared when it came time to go. The sea has been remarkably glassy the past couple of months but this night we had lots of swell. Sam went without his seasickness medication and threw up all over. I forgot to stow things away in the oven and our pizza stone broke. We were both cranky from lack of sleep. When we finally pull into Marina San Carlos in the middle of the afternoon we were exhausted and both ready to go right to bed.

We knew San Carlos would be very hot. I mean, we were told, but wow, it’s really really hot here. Plus, we’re at a marina and marinas are hotter than anchoring out, where your boat always points to the wind. We managed to go five days without air conditioning before our boat neighbor knocks on our hull, calls us outside and yells, “Get in my truck. I’m taking you to Home Depot to buy an air conditioner!” Thank you Dan from m/v Island Time! Using some trash bags and the box it came in I constructed an enclosure for the AC to funnel cold air right into the middle of the cabin. What a difference it made!

Our time in San Carlos before our trip to the states hasn’t been just confined to staying inside our boat. We volunteered for kitchen duty at a kid’s camp helping out local kids, we checked out the restaurants nearby (actually kind of disappointing for the most part as San Carlos is geared to gringos), and who am I kidding, we basked in air conditioning on our boat!

Juniper will be in San Carlos until the middle of October. We’ll be leaving the boat here in the marina, flying back to the states, and coming back and readying the boat before we start cruising again.

Until then, hasta luego!

Bahía Concepción

July, 2016 – After leaving Isla Coronado we headed towards Bahía Concepción and El Burro cove, where Geary holds his annual Fourth of July BBQ. It’s a long trip and would require an overnight stop. On the way, we spotted Orcas, about a half mile out. We watched them through binoculars for a long time and I unsuccessfully tried to convince Scott that we should alter course to get closer to them. He wasn’t into my idea. Even though they were half a mile away, you could see that they were huge! I really wanted to see them!

The trip was one of our better ones. We had to motor for a little while, but we ended up finding some good wind, altered our course just a little bit to keep it, and ended up sailing all the way into Bahía Concepción. This was some of our best sailing yet!

As we entered Bahía Concepción, we noticed two Blue-footed Boobies enjoying the wind against our sails. They used it to stay aloft without expending too much energy, and would dive bomb into the water for food. They stayed with us until we took the sails down to anchor.

Once in Bahía Concepción, we wanted to anchor in El Burro since that’s where all the 4th of July action would be but we counted six boats already anchored and it’s a small cove. Playa Coyote was empty and separated from El Burro by a reef and was a brief dinghy ride away, so we decided to go there. We were blown away by the beauty of the place. The water was so clear that you could easily see the bottom. It gets really shallow in both coves and we almost ran aground as it goes from 30 feet to 8 rather quickly!

Anchoring in Playa Coyote felt like we were in some fantasy version of sailing. A “this was what the brochure promised” kind of thing. No one around us, clear blue waters, an impossibly bright blue sky and incredible scenery. We snorkeled around the reef separating Playa Coyote from El Burro and found ourselves having the best snorkeling experience of our trip so far. When we weren’t snorkeling we were swimming around the boat or just floating on our pool noodles in the warm water. It was pretty heavenly.

While we found El Burro a bit too crowded for comfort, it didn’t stop more and more cruisers from anchoring within it and at times, I had a bit of FOMO since everyone was over there, but we had Playa Coyote all to ourselves and that was amazing (it wasn’t until the day of the BBQ that we had neighbors). We met a lot cruisers, many of whom we recognized thanks to the Amigo Net. We had a great time meeting everyone and playing Mexican Train all day long with Liz from S/V Espiritu. Thank you Geary for hosting such a wonderful event!

After July 4th, everyone started to head out and it was time for us to move on as well. While Bahía Concepción has been amazing, it also has been searingly hot and both Scott and I needed a break from the intense heat. We stopped for a few days in Playa Santispac, Santo Domingo, and Punta Chivato before heading out of Bahía Concepción and over to Sweet Pea Cove on Isla San Marcos, where we would be on the lookout for chubascos (squalls that come over from the mainland to Baja, typically late at night) before crossing the Sea of Cortez to San Carlos where we would keep Juniper for the peak of hurricane season.

Isla Coronado

After leaving Puerto Escondito we briefly anchored in front of the nearby town of Loreto to reprovision. At two hours round trip, we were impressively quick. We also bought way too much food and had too many heavy bags to carry back to the boat. Scott filled his comically large backpack full of beer and beans and was buckling under its weight (I should have taken a picture!). It was at that moment that we were offered a ride and, for the first time in either of our lives, we accepted a ride from strangers (sorry mom and dad!). A huge thank you to Gary and Mel, fellow boaters, who not only drove us back to the dinghy dock, but drove all the way to the end of the pier in their 4×4 so that we wouldn’t have to lug our bags any further in the heat! Then, while we were loading up our dinghy, a fisherman offered us two bags of ice! I cannot stress how unbelievably hot it was that day and how thankful we were. We were beyond ecstatic and once we got back to the boat, quickly filled our cooler. Ahh the joys of ice cold drinks!

By the time we arrived in Isla Coronado, we were wiped by the heat and our earlier errands and were greeted with 20 knots plus of wind. For a while, we and another boat were the only two there but as the afternoon went on, we were joined by other boats, all of which we were quite familiar with if only because we heard them on Amigo Net every day.

Starfish

The bee struggle here in Isla Coronado is real, folks. We heard on the net that people were inundated with bees in their cockpits, but thought it was an exaggeration. Nope. We woke up the next morning and they were all over the deck and the cockpit being complete menaces. We tried to tough it out, sitting outside and shooing them away, but they were very persistent in their search for fresh water and would not leave us alone. When we launched the dinghy, they eventually left us alone until we reached the snorkel spot. Then we got swarmed again. I leaned over the side of the dinghy to drop our anchor and made the mistake of sitting back down without looking and sat right on a bee. My first bee sting ever and it’s right on my butt. Sigh. That hurt!

While that was zero fun, nighttime brought us whale sightings, bioluminescence stirred up by fish, and a night sky filled with stars. Isla Coronado is a very beautiful place.

As much as we like this beautiful place, the bees were completely harshing our mellow. Time to head out and over to Bahía Concepción and Geary’s Fourth of July BBQ!

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 Coronado!

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!