Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Three months since we left La Paz (picture time)

We left La Paz in early April and have been slowly heading North.  We are currenlty anchored at Isla San Marcos, near the town of Santa Rosalia, and have a good internet connection (we pick up internet by being in proximity to a cellphone tower).  Here is a picture summary of our last few months:

Interabang at anchor in Agua Verde - we are the boat in the center.
Derrick hiding behind a cactus on Isla Danzante.
A view of our boat at anchor (tiny white speck 3rd cove from the left)
 at Isla Danzante.
The crowd at Loreto Fest in early May 2015
Scott from Scott Free performing for the crowd at Loreto Fest
A view from a hike on Isla Coronados near Loreto
Derrick takes his hiking seriously, very seriously.
Photo taken from our boat in Puerto Escondido when
 Tropical Storm Blanca was passing through on  June 8, 2015.
We saw a peak gust of 50 knots - not so bad.
Beautiful view of the Sierra de la Giganta
from our boat the morning after Blanca passed through.
The photo does not do this Cardon cactus justice,
it's the largest we've seen in our travels. 
All in a day's work.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Where’s the Head?

Once again we spent the winter in La Paz fixing stuff on the boat.  The big project this year was overhauling the little diesel engine used for making water and charging the batteries.  The project was in limbo for two months while we waited for replacement parts to arrive from the states.  Finally, our mechanic found a Mexican guy who was driving down from California.  Unfortunately, this delivery driver’s trip was interrupted when he found an opportunity to earn a few pesos working at a whaling camp along the way.  The good news was that our parts were finally in Mexico.  The bad news was that they were in the trunk of a car on a remote beach on the Pacific side.  Such is life on the Baja.

With the engine back together we were free again.  Itching to get going somewhere, we decided to get an early start on the journey north for hurricane season.  By mid-April we were in the Loreto area.  In past years we did not make it this far north until June.  We quickly found that two months make a big difference.  The weather was still cool and comfortable.  The wind was fluky and inconsistent.  The water was too cold for swimming.  And the fish were not biting.

Just because the fish didn’t want to bite does not mean that there was no fishing.  We fished and we fished and we fished.  We were hopeful that our continued investment of time and energy would be rewarded but the payoffs were few and far between.  The fish we did catch tended to be species with which we were unfamiliar.  Fortunately, looking them up in the fish book provided additional entertainment value.  
Giant Hawkfish
Pacific Creolefish
The cool weather also makes for great hiking so we continued our explorations on Isla Carmen.  As you may recall, last year we were excited to discover a watering hole used by bighorn sheep and wrote a blog with a few pictures of sheep fleeing the scene.  This year we found something a little more disturbing.

The heavy rains delivered by hurricane Odile last September sent torrents of water down the island’s arroyos (canyons) unearthing much of the prickly vegetation and sending it out to sea.  Arroyos that were impassable last year now provide clear rocky paths that can lead deep into the island.  Exploring one such arroyo we started in a large rocky wash that was about a quarter mile wide at the beach.  The farther we went the narrower it became until the path was only a few feet wide with high steep walls.  At the mouth of this steep section we discovered the freshly cleaned bones of a bighorn sheep.  The spine, legs and ribs were all scattered about, but the skull and the horns were conspicuously missing.  The obvious question: Where’s the head?

Trisha surveys the bighorn sheep bones
The head is by far the most desirable part of a bighorn sheep carcass.  Considering this, there was a good chance that a hunter or hiker had made off with it before we arrived on the scene.  Nevertheless, it seemed mandatory that we have a look around trying to locate the skull.  After a more detailed scan of the area we noticed a cave high up on the wall of the canyon.  

I climbed up the wall to have a look inside.  There, propped up like an evil spirit guarding the entrance, was the prize.

My first thought was to take the head.  As I envisioned this really cool piece resting neatly on our coffee table back home, Trisha chimed in with more realistic thinking.  Practical matters such as the smell of decaying flesh were raised.  We were also concerned about the legal penalties associated with the possession of bighorn sheep parts.  They might find it in our luggage at the airport.  Long story short, the skull was left guarding the cave.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Gone Fishing

This year the water clarity in the northern sea was unusually poor so the spear fishing wasn’t particularly fun or productive.  Fortunately we were able to pick up the slack with many hours of intensive dinghy trolling.  With Trisha playing the pole and me driving, we catch a lot of fish.  Most of the fish we eat are in the cabrilla or sea bass family including grouper, sand bass and panama graysby.  Occasionally, we stumble upon a school of fish known as firecracker yellow tail wich are excellent served raw as sashimi or in poki.  Later in the summer, we were catching Sierra and this quickly became one of our favorites.  Once in a while we have a day on the water that yields a good fish story.

(Photo courtesy of Harmony)
One day we were out trolling and Trisha got a BIG hit.  The fish took off and the fishing line was screaming off of reel at an incredible speed.  She handed the pole to me and I slowed flow of the line by gently squeezing it against the pole with my hand.  With the line now paying out at a crawl, the fish was towing our dinghy at an impressive pace.  I killed the outboard motor and let the fish expend its energy.  There was just a little line left on the reel so I started pumping the pole: pulling up and reeling line in on the way down.  After several minutes I had recovered nearly all of the line and we were anxiously looking into the water for this monster fish.  When the exhausted fish surfaced we were disappointed to see that it was a Crevalle Jack (best used as pet food).  Anyway, by my estimate the fish was a good four feet long.  Trisha agrees that it was longer than three feet.  I removed the hook with a pair of pliers and the fish slowly headed to the bottom, hopefully recovering to fight another day.
I forgot to take a picture of the fish but
here is the yield of a good day's fishing for Sierra.
A couple of weeks later we hooked another big fish trolling in the dinghy.  This time it was a Dorado (known as Mahi Mahi on a restaurant menu).  After Trisha hooked it, it took off and jumped clean out of the water four different times during the fight.  Since we do not have a net, we had to get a little creative with the landing – we don't need a flopping fish snagging our inflatable boat with one of the hooks in its mouth.  Trisha slowly drove the dinghy to a nearby beach while I played the fish.  Once on the beach I jumped out of the dinghy and continued the fight from shore.  Once the fish was reeled into about a foot of water I gave the pole a big heave and pulled it way up onto the cobble beach.  The unhappy fish was flopping around wildly, so I picked up a softball sized rock and slammed it in the head.  It wasn't pretty, but it worked.  The Dorado was about three feet long, not as large as the jack but very edible.  With no freezer available, we enjoyed four Dorado meals over three days.  We also got a little sick of fish.

Derrick holding up Trisha's Dorado...

Monday, October 20, 2014

Our third summer in the Northern Sea of Cortez (picture time)

Just a quick wrap up (in pictures) of our summer in Bahia de los Angeles.  This year was more challenging with more heat and humidity and a direct hit from Hurricane Odile (downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it got to Puerto Don Juan). 

This is what it's all about.  Lunasea sailing to El Quemado
with Isla Angel de la Guardia in the background.
This was our "year of hiking" and I'm taking a deserved rest.
Isla el Pescador in Bahia de las Animas.
Three of us in el Quemado (Interabang is on the far right).
Another hike break.
Derrick is a friend to the birds, once again.  This fellow hung out on
our boat for an afternoon and then flew off.
We hiked from Los Rocas to the East anchorage on Isla (Smith) Coronado.
Boats at anchor in Puerto Don Juan, two days after Odile passed through.
What to do after the storms passes?  DINGHY RAFT-UP!!!
(photo borrowed from Del Viento)
Eleanor of Del Viento is having more fun in the water
during the raft-up in Puerto Don Juan
Ray of Sea Note sharing some words of wisdom.
This ray is jumping for joy (?)
The fleet anchored at La Gringa for the Full Moon Party
Fun with noodles while floating down the estuary at La Gringa.
(Picture courtesy of Harmony)
Terry and Diane of Harmony enjoy their floaties.
A picture is worth a thousand words.
(Picture courtesy of Harmony)

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Hurricane Odile

Hurricane Odile has come and gone and our little fleet of thirteen boats in Puerto Don Juan experienced no damage. We are saddened to hear the daily updates on the Amigo and Sonrisa radio networks about the devastation to the eastern Baja, especially in La Paz, our home base in Mexico. Our thoughts and prayers are with our fellow cruisers who are left dealing with the storm's aftermath.

This is our third straight year making the 350 mile pilgrimage up the Sea of Cortez from La Paz to Bahia de los Angeles (BLA) for "hurricane season." The probability of a storm reaching this far north, especially at hurricane strength, is quite low. In the event a storm does head our direction, we take cover in Puerto Don Juan, the local "hurricane hole." With its narrow dog-legged entrance, Puerto Don Juan offers nearly 360 degrees of protection from waves for thirty or so boats. In a hurricane, the winds can be very uncomfortable but the real danger comes from the big waves.

With Hurricane Odile as with all hurricanes in the eastern Pacific, we began monitoring the storms progress from time of its formation hundreds of miles southeast of Cabo San Lucas. We knew that Odile had made a direct hit on the Cabo area as a category three hurricane. The worst storm ever to hit the Cape region of Baja. After Cabo, La Paz was slammed bringing devastation to the cruisers at anchor. There was at least one death and three people still missing. Thirty boats were either driven up on shore or sunk. Next on the path was Puerto Escondido where several boats got loose and ended up on the beach or in the mangroves, several with significant damage. Two hundred and thirty miles to the northwest of Puerto Escondido, we took refuge in Puerto Don Juan on Sunday, September 14. By the time the storm arrived, there were a total of 13 boats:

Dream Catcher
Dream Ketcher
Del Viento
Jade Purl
Sea Note
Take Five

who came to Don Juan. On the morning of Tuesday September 16, Odile had been losing strength and it traveled over land and had been downgraded to a tropical storm. At 5:00 am, the storm arrived and the wind began to blow and the rain began to fall. We felt fortunate that we would see Odile during daylight hours, others along the way experienced the storm in the dark. The first couple hours the wind was not too bad, only about 25 knots (a knot is a little longer a mile, for instance, 40 knots of wind = 46 mph) but the rain started coming harder and harder. We've never seen such rain. Torrents of water were cascading down the surrounding hills. The winds built over the next few hours and went to the 30's and then the 40's with gusts to 50 knots. The rain and wind were so hard that we could barely stick our head out of the hatch to look around without getting completely drenched. Derrick had to go up top to fix things a few times - the dinghy on the foredeck tried to take flight, check the anchor and snubber, etc. Each time he came back completely soaked. Overall, we came through fine. We only had the wind for about 6 hours and then it died. We were very fortunate.

In the village of Bahia de los Angeles, the electricity has been out since the storm and roads into and out of the area are not passable. There is no word yet about when power will be restored or the roads repaired. Those of us on boats will be without internet, gas and diesel, and perishable groceries until power is restored and the roads repaired. Most boats have stores of food and plenty of fuel on board. Many have water makers and solar powered battery banks so we will not suffer but merely be inconvenienced. We are very fortunate.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Bighorn Sheep on Isla Carmen

On our way north we spent much more time in the Loreto area this year and had a chance to enjoy several of the anchorages on Isla Carmen.  One of the fabled attractions on the island is the bighorn sheep.  The sheep were relocated here from the Baja years ago and have done so well that the government sells a limited number of permits for hunting.  Until this year we had only seen the sheep in pictures.

On one of our morning explorations we were hiking to the back of an arroyo (canyon) when we stumbled across one of the sheep’s watering holes.  Judging by the presence of the sheep and many bees, the water must be brackish.  It was suggested that Trisha have a taste to find out, but she was unwilling.

Anyway, as we approached the watering hole we could hear loud movements in the brush.  Next thing you know, we saw several bighorn sheep scrambling up the near vertical wall of the canyon.  It was quite a sight.  We came back for a repeat performance a couple of days later and brought the camera.

Monday, July 28, 2014

We're back! (picture time)

As we begin our third summer in the Northern Sea of Cortez, we hope you enjoy this picture blog showing what we’ve been up to for the last few months.

In the Spring, Trisha made a visit to Buffalo to see her family and it was great to see brother Paul and his family who were soon in the process of moving to Helsinki, Finland.

Back in La Paz, spring has sprung and the birds and the bees were hard at it.  The humming bird nest was a big attraction on a little used fishing boat.  The bees suddenly took up residence in our cockpit one afternoon.  With a little help from the guys at the marina, they moved on the next day.  

An early stop on the way north is one of our favorite destinations: Agua Verde.  We always have a good time there. 

Trisha with a new dog friend, Lola
Derrick with a beach bovine

We spent many nights at Bahia Marquer on Isla Carmen in the Loreto area.  The summer was already heating up and in the water was one of the best places to be.  A big thank you goes to Rick on the sailboat Regardless for taking the snorkeling shots.  Rick is back in Alameda, California for the summer.

Even the turtles were cooling off

For July Fourth, Jake and Sharon, from the sailboat Jake, were gracious enough to give us a ride to Bahia Conception for Geary’s Fourth of July party.  We didn’t plan on attending this year because it is always too damn hot.  This year we enjoyed a round trip ride in an air-conditioned rental and clouds and rain during the party.  Geary noted that after nineteen years of throwing the party this was the first time it rained.  After lunch, Derrick presented Jake with the coveted Green Shovel Award.

The crowd at the big party
Jake accepting his award
We have been buddy boating with our friends Diane and Terry from the sailboat Harmony.  Time to move on!

Harmony underway