Sunday, June 17, 2012

Bahia Salinas (Isla Carmen)

Sailboats traveling up and down the Baja Peninsula between Loreto and La Paz frequent a handful of popular anchorages distributed between these two cities.  These ports see several boats come and go on a daily basis.  Our trip included all the usual stops along the north bound milk run.  Suddenly, we had a hankering for a little time off the well beaten path, and a detour to Isla Carmen seemed like just the ticket.

Before we could get underway on June 7, we spent a fair amount of time studying the charts and guidebooks making certain that we knew how to make safe passage through the rocks and reefs that lay between Los Candeleros and Isla Carmen.  We pulled up the anchor and slowly made our way into open water.  After a little more than an hour, the hazards were well behind us and we were on our way to Bahia Salinas.

Bahia Salinas is a huge bay on the east side of Isla Carmen where a large salt mining operation ran until the early 1980’s.  As we approached the anchorage we could see many buildings on shore.  There were the industrial ruins of the salt operation, a little white chapel, and a couple of new lodges built for fishing and hunting (longhorn sheep) tours.  We dropped anchor about a quarter mile away from the only other vessel in the bay, a large charter boat.  There were several guests swimming off the stern and the crew was busy ferrying others to and from the beach in a couple of pangas.  By the time we got the sails tucked away, the boat tidied up, and opened a couple of beers, the charter boat had closed shop for the day and headed for home with the pangas in tow.  We had this giant bay with its beautiful long beach all to ourselves!

All alone in this big, beautiful bay!
The next morning we got an early start and headed off to see the dilapidated salt mining operation.  During the night we had seen a light burning in a cabin on shore so we expected that the caretaker was around.  The caretaker has been known to charge a small fee for exploring the grounds.  As we approached the buildings, we made it a point to say hello to the few men we saw and had a friendly exchange with the dog.  No one asked us for money or told us to go away, so we took our time touring the place.

Interabang at anchor in the background
Wandering along the salt flats
Abandoned machinery

On the second morning, the topic of food came up again.  We had some chicken on board, but we needed to get more protein for our meals if we wanted extend our stay on the island.  The unfortunate thing about being the male member of the team is that, by process of elimination, hunting and gathering falls on your shoulders.  After proving to be woefully inadequate in the line and hook department, I decided to try a new tactic.  Snorkel on my face and fins on my feet I started working the waters off the beach.  Rooting around in the sand, I suddenly came up with a butter clam a little bigger than the size of a quarter.  This was a breakthrough.  I worked the surf line for a little more than an hour and filled my pockets with about twenty-five clams, some bigger some a bit smaller.  I headed back to the boat with my catch.

Trisha was very excited to see that I had accomplished something, but was certain that I could do better.  She jumped in the dinghy with me and we headed back for more.  It took some time, but we managed to find another twenty or so clams. They spent the next couple of days hanging off the side of the boat in a mesh bag, purging themselves of sand. 

Moments before being added to butter, garlic, white wine...

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Bahia Agua Verde and Los Candeleros

On June 1 we made the short seven mile hop from Punta San Telmo to the large anchorage at Bahia Agua Verde.  With south winds forecasted for the next several days, we headed for the south lobe of the bay and joined several other boats already taking shelter there.  While looking for a good spot to drop the hook, we were hailed by Rick on Hotel California.  Rick and Pam are old friends from Gate 11 back in Alameda.  Once we got settled, Rick stopped by to say hello and invite us to a party on Just a Minute, a big catamaran anchored nearby.  We had a great time at the party and felt very fortunate to meet the group of veteran cruisers: Eagle, Eyoni, Hotel California, Just a Minute, Kasasa, and Third Day.  What’s even better was that four of the six boats will be spending the summer in the Sea of Cortez this year.  We owe Rick a big thank you for getting us connected to this great group of new friends.
View from above Bahia Aqua Verde
The next day Ethan from Eyoni asked if we would like to meet the group at the north end of the bay for a hike to the see the cave paintings.  It was a long and challenging hike, especially when considering the previous night’s partying, but the caves were a big reward.  After about three miles of hiking we came to a cliff where we could see the caves above.  We hiked up a steep and narrow trail to the entrance.  The paintings were at the entrance and were essentially red hand prints of different sizes in various orientations.  It is just amazing that they have endured through hundreds or even thousands of years.  As we explored the inside, we disturbed a large group of bats that began flying all around.  Back at the entrance while enjoying the view of the coastline, one couldn’t help but try and imagine what life was like for the people who left those hand prints on the wall.  

The group heading out on the hike
A cemetery we came across along the way
Rick and Pam from Hotel California
The cave paintings we came to see - very cool!
The group outside the cave, you can see we are on a steep hill
Our next stop was Los Candeleros where we anchored in front of a huge resort.  This anchorage was previously seldom visited, but now that the resort broadcasts free Wifi it has become all the rage.  Life here is pretty cushy.  The tienda (grocery) is a well stocked and many of the cruisers meet for the daily happy hour at the resort pool.  Hot afternoons are much more bearable at the pool.
Enjoying the pool

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Los Gatos and San Telmo

Hunkered down in San Evaristo, we were waiting for the north wind to subside when a stout little sloop came in and anchored behind us.  The next morning we stopped by and met Dale on Let’N Go.  Dale spent eight years building the steel boat in San Rafael, California.  Derrick was very impressed by his steel cable standing rigging and galvanized steel turnbuckles.  Dale is a great guy and we agreed to buddy boat north to Los Gatos at first light.
Beachcombing in San Evaristo
Happy with his summer haircut
At 0630 on May 29, the twenty-nine mile passage to Los Gatos began.  Dale was already gone by the time we raised anchor and started motor-sailing in the light wind.  We soon caught up with Dale and had a brief chat as we passed by.  Within a couple of hours, Let’N Go was just a speck on the horizon.  At 1300, Interabang joined one other boat anchored in the spectacular scenery of Puerto Los Gatos.  We wouldn’t see Dale again for several days.

We took the dinghy ashore to explore the colorful rock formations.  While climbing on the rocks, we met the young couple sailing Andariego, the other boat in the anchorage.  A friend had loaned them the 1970’s vintage Columbia 26, for a couple of weeks of Baja cruising.  And we thought we were scrappy cruisers.  These kids seriously raised the scrappy bar.  When we met them, they were gathering wood.  For cooking?  They asked if we could spare any fresh water.  No problem.  After our hike, we stopped by their boat and picked up a five gallon and two one gallon water bottles.  When delivering the water, we found them cooking fish over an open fire in a coffee can.  The boat had no refrigeration and no electricity.  Interabang developed a symbiotic relationship with Andariego.  Whenever they needed their Kindle or cell phone charged, they would show up with a freshly speared fish.  For the record, parrot fish is delicious.

Andariego and Interabang anchored in Los Gatos
Parrot fish courtesy of Andariego
On our second morning in Los Gatos, we observed a couple of bees inside the boat.  Baja bees search for fresh water and frequently find it on boats.  Hoping to avoid the horrible swarms we’ve been told about, we started eliminating the water supply by drying dishes, spigots, sinks, and drains.  The number of bees steadily increased while we worked.  Convinced that we had sufficiently dried up the water, we left the boat praying that the bees would leave.  Hours later we returned to find that the bee count had increased to over a hundred.  The group of bees produced a haunting buzzing sound inside the boat.  During our outing Andariego told us that bees dislike bleach.  Armed with a spray bottle filled with water and a dash of bleach I engaged the bees.  Once sprayed with the bleach solution most bees would leave the boat as quickly as possible, but there were a lot of bees and the just kept coming.  After about an hour of splitting my efforts between the head and the galley I was starting to make progress.  It was another hour before number of new bee arrivals diminished to a trickle.  As the sun dropped below the horizon, the bees were finally gone.  Based on our conversations with the bee specialist Steve on Go for Broke, we knew that the bees would be back first thing in the morning.

As the sun came up so did our anchor.  We were off to San Telmo, a sweet little spot just a mile and a half up the road.  Hopefully, that was a place where the bees would not find us.  We were the only boat in the beautiful anchorage.  When Manuel stopped by on his daily panga visit, he asked if we wanted lobster and wanted to know why we left Los Gatos.  I made a buzzing sound and he nodded his head and said “no bees aqui.”  That was good news.

At anchor in San Telmo - we had the anchorage to ourselves!

The amazing view from our boat

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Starting North

Today is May 28 and it has been just over a week since we left behind Marina Palmira, access to the internet, and cell phone service. We are disconnected. For the next six months (hurricane season), our travels will take us north into the Sea of Cortez where internet access is a rare luxury. The single side band radio (SSB) is our primary means of communication with the outside world. With the SSB, we can communicate with other cruisers, exchange emails with family and friends, and post this blog. The bad news is that only small files can be transmitted over the radio and we will be unable to post pictures. We will catch up on the pictures when we find an internet connection.

The SSB also provides our weather information. Until recently, we depended on the daily cruiser nets for our forecasts. This was frustrating. Sometimes we would get busy with something else and forget to turn on the radio. Other times the signal was weak and we could not hear the forecast. We needed a better way to get the weather. Trisha took on this challenge. In her research she found a very helpful article posted by Chuck on Jacaranda, a veteran cruiser out of La Paz. We owe Chuck a big thank you for helping Trisha get everything set up. Weather forecasts are no longer a problem. Each morning Trisha sparks up the SSB and downloads emails with current weather forecasts for the Sea of Cortez and hurricane tracking updates from NOAA. If there is a tropical storm brewing, she uploads the NOAA tracking information into a piece of software that generates a storm tracking map for the Eastern Pacific. During the rise and fall of Hurricane Bud, the tracking map provided daily updates on where the storm had been and its projected path.

The last seven days were spent anchored in San Evaristo where we have pretty much seen it all wind wise. Upon arrival, we anchored in the south end of the bay to get protection from the southerly winds and waves coming up from La Paz. By midweek the coromuels were done. The daytime winds went light and it got hot. The nights brought vicious westerly winds screaming down the mountains. One night we saw a sustained 25-35 knots from about midnight to 0430. As we got ready to make the passage north to Los Gatos, strong northerlies came. We re-anchored Interabang in the square slot on the north end of the bay and spent a couple days hunkered down behind the hills.

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