Bahia San Marte

We motored from Honeymoon Cove to Bahia San Marte to charge our batteries and arrived in the afternoon. It’s a beautiful place, surrounded by reefs, which we’re able to spot because of the breaking waves. As the sun sets, we’re approached by a panga with three pangueros – fishermen – asking for batteries in exchange for fish. Ok! We’ve heard about this happening but this is a first for us and we’re dying for something fresh to eat. We get them four batteries but, in the eager exchange, I accidentally drop one into the sea (Note: always exchange things from boat-to-boat over the boat, not the water). Sadly, the fishermen did not return the next day as promised.

The snorkeling here made up for that. The first spot we tried was a dud with no visibility or fish, but the next spot was mind blowing. It’s like we stumbled upon a fish city where none of the fish were too concerned about these two giants swimming among them. Giant parrotfish, hogfish, triggerfish, dorado. Hundreds and hundreds of fish going on about their day. We spent hours in their world, just watching. It was incredible and like being in an aquarium.

Parrotfish and Sergeant Major

Cortez Angelfish and Sergeant Majors

We don’t know why kind of fish these were but there were thousands of them.

Reef

Look closely, there’s a scorpionfish hanging out at the bottom of the rock.

One year ago: Almost

Isla Danzante – Honeymoon Cove

After a terrible night staying up listening to the election results, the mood was somber and we had a quiet sail to Honeymoon Cove. This place instantly lifted our spirits. What a beautiful place! The waters were ridiculously clear that when we dropped the anchor, we could see it hit the ground 40 feet below. We watched a dorado slowly swim by and spotted over twenty sergeant majors immediately taking residence around the boat.  This has proven to be our favorite anchorage thus far and we’re flabbergasted that there’s only one other boat here, Steve on MV Pacific. He hasn’t been keeping this place a secret; in fact Steve has been on both the Amigo and Sonrisa nets for the past five days letting everyone know about the clear waters and amazing diving to be found and that he’s the only boat around. Sure, there are bees and that’s likely keeping people away. Bees came to our boat, looked around and, once it was determined that we had screens on all our windows and no fresh water on deck, left us alone.

Rain over the Sierra Gigantes from Isla Danzante

Rain over the Sierra Gigantes from Isla Danzante

We spent some time with Steve, listening to his diving stories and learning the names of some of the fish we’re seeing here. He takes video of his dives and we watched and remarked on his techniques and excellent footage. He’s very nice, a good storyteller, and after learning of our refrigeration woes, shares with us some avocado, cilantro, tomatoes, bell peppers, and a bottle of merlot. We are grateful and touched by his generosity. We’re sad to learn that he’s making his way back to Puerto Escondito and heading back to the States, but happy to hear that he’ll be back in the spring. We hope to see him again.

Lovely vegetables provided by Steve from MV Pacific

Lovely vegetables provided by Steve from MV Pacific

The snorkeling has been amazing with reefs everywhere. While snorkeling, I saw a dorado swim past me and when I went after her she swam away.  I turned around and she’s right in front of me. I admired her colors – green, yellow, and blue – and realized that my rash guard had the same colors. I excitedly pointed my GoPro at her and hoped I had a good shot but the GoPro was out of batteries. Of course!

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Crown of Thorns

King Angelfish and Sergeant Majors

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Slate Pencil Sea Urchin

Slate Pencil Sea Urchin

After a day of snorkeling that concluded with Scott’s fins missing (did they fall out of the dinghy? Did someone swing by and take them? So weird!) we were excited to snorkel again the next day and look for Scott’s fins. Steve signaled to us and pointed to his dinghy. He found and dove for the fins in 25 feet of water, near where we were yesterday! Incredible!

We spent another three hours in the water, this time spotting a seahorse. We’re so excited that we repeatedly dive down, trying hard to get some footage of the shy little guy.Seahorse at Honeymoon Cove

Scott getting a close photo of the seahorse

The next day, Steve heads back to Puerto Escondido and it’s just us here. We don’t revel too long in being the only ones in the anchorage as it’s time for us to move on as well. We loved this place and are looking forward to coming back.

San Juanico & Puerto Ballandra

An early morning rise promised an International Space Station sighting as we motored over to San Juanico, an anchorage that was very disappointing to us earlier. The ISS passed by as expected and aside from some minor slaloming between shrimp boats our exit out of Punta Chivato to San Juanico was pretty uneventful.

On the lookout for boats just before sunrise

Shrimp boat at the entrance of Bahia Concepcion

Shrimp boat at the entrance of Bahia Concepcion

Motoring from Punta Chivato to Caleta San Juanico

Motoring from Punta Chivato to Caleta San Juanico. Not a breath of wind.

Unlike our last experience, San Juanico was fantastic and we ended up staying four days there snorkeling and hiking with no swells to drive us away. There’s a cruisers shrine here where, once we found it (26º 22.31′ N, 111º 25.81 W), we left our little contribution. It was neat seeing things left by other boats we’ve met in the past year.

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Here we met SV Camelot who spontaneously invited to go clamming over at La Ramada. This was a new experience for us and Uly demonstrated how to dive down, look for, and retrieve chocolate clams. While we personally weren’t successful, it was a lot of fun to try! We also briefly met SV Liahona and enjoyed some amazing freshly baked goods they kindly brought by!  They had no idea that we were without refrigeration and longing for something sweet.

SV Juniper, SV Camelot, and SV Liahona at San Juanico

After a great stay in San Juanico we decided to head over to Puerto Ballandra on Isla Carmen. As we were getting the boat ready to leave, a small number of needlefish and green jacks had a feeding frenzy all around Juniper, splashing and swimming after smaller fish hiding under our boat. They swarmed and fed long enough for us to grab the GoPro.

Once underway, we had a downwind sail to Puerto Ballandra on Isla Carmen. It was fast and occasionally uncomfortable sail, especially once we had to turn towards the entrance and the wind and seas got on our beam. We still had our sails up as we entered the anchorage and were surprised to find SV Camelot, who left San Juanico in the early morning, anchored inside. We had a challenging time finding a good spot to anchor in the protected end and we both were a little worried about how close we were to shore should the winds change direction, but we ended up being fine as the winds eventually calmed.

We spent a few nights here and did a little bit of exploring on land and hoped to catch a sighting of the bighorn sheep that roam around the island (there’s a hunting lodge somewhere), but all we spotted were hoof prints in the salt flats. The sunsets here were spectacular and once again began enjoying sundowners on deck.

 

Sunset

One year ago: No Previous First Aid Training Required

San Carlos to Bahia Concepcion – Start of our 2nd Season

After retrieving a homemade buoy that found itself caught on our anchor, we left Bahia San Carlos and had a fast and fantastic 95 mile sail to Playa Coyote in Bahia Concepcion. We had wind all day and night, traveling 6 to 7 knots, music on, spirits high. Nice to feel good about a crossing! We were actually sailing too fast, and during a night watch, Scott made a slight detour so that we wouldn’t arrive at 4am.

Literally sailing off into the sunset from San Carlos.

Viviane mid-passage (San Carlos to Bahia Concepcion)

Once in Bahia Concepcion, we snorkeled and relaxed in Playa Coyote. Later in the week, we motored over to Playa Buenaventura for lunch and met Nathan, Mark, and Olivia, and enjoyed their good burgers and margaritas. It’s quiet, and it feels like we have the entire bay to ourselves this time around.

Juniper at Playa Coyote

For over the hills at Playa Coyote.

Juniper at Playa Buenaventura

We pulled up anchor and sailed over to Punta Chivato. Last time we were here bummed us out as the town seemed abandoned and we never did get to walk what’s known as “Shell Beach” as the swell made it impossible for us to stay. This time, all was calm and I hit the shell jackpot! I collected a lot of shells, mostly for the fun of it, and then threw the majority back into the water.

Shell beach at Punta Chivato

Shell bounty

Anchored in San Carlos

We said goodbye to Marina San Carlos and, with Don from SV Windcharmer providing muscle, safely pulled out of our tight slip and motored into the Bahia to anchor. It’s quite different out here, just a quarter mile away from the marina. It’s cooler and there’s a weather phenomenon that brings regular afternoon breezes. We’re so happy to be back on the hook!

We expected to be anchored here just for the night while Scott continued working on the refrigeration system. Yes, we’ve been struggling with our refrigeration since leaving San Diego, but it’s completely stopped working. Scott has been communicating with Rich, the owner of Technautics, over email for a while now and both think they’re close to solving the problem. Unfortunately, while trying to unscrew a valve, we tore a hole in the copper tubing leading to the holding plate. Also unfortunately, the tear is big enough and in the worst possible location that the only thing we can do is get a new holding plate.

Thankfully, Technautics has a refurbished holding plate and can ship it over to us next week. We’ll make do with no cold brews or refrigeration until then. We’re kind of used to it anyway.

In the meantime, this anchorage is beautiful, the weather is comfortable, and yesterday Heidi and Kirk from SV Due West anchored right behind us. So while we had other plans, we’re happy to be among friends and all is well.

 

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 in San Juanico. 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!

We anchored in San Juanico with four other boats and were about to bring our dinghy down to check out the area when the wind and swell picked up fast. It got bad enough for us to abandon any ideas we had about going to shore. It was like this all night so we picked up our anchor at first light and made our way to Bahia Concepción.

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!