Friday, July 27, 2012


Santa Rosalia is our last provisioning stop for the remainder of hurricane season.  The months of August, September and October will be spent in the remote northern Sea of Cortez.  We will be able to buy provisions in the village at Bahia Los Angeles, but this place is so far off the beaten path that everything is very expensive. Veteran cruisers have stressed to us time and again that we need to stock up in Santa Rosalia.   
Some scenes around town:

Each day we walk into town with a shopping list and return with bags of food.  Interabang does not have a freezer, so perishables like meats and produce will only be available to us for a couple of weeks from the dock.  We stock up on staples and load every available space to capacity.  Fishing and clamming will soon become our main source of protein.

Beer is another challenge.  How much beer will be needed for three very hot months?  How are we going to get the beer from the store to the boat?  These are challenging questions.  When Eagle and Time Piece arrived at the marina they were also looking to stock up on beer.  The three boats got together and determined that we each wanted five cases.  Fortunately for us, my friend Carlos at the Deposito (beer store) resolved our delivery problem.  I have done a fair amount of business with Carlos and developed a good relationship with him.  He speaks absolutely no English so negotiating the deal took time and strained my limited Spanish and Carlos’ patience.  After a couple of trips back and forth between the marina and the Deposito, Carlos and I worked through the details and shook hands.  He would borrow his friend’s car and deliver fifteen cases of beer to the marina at ten o’clock the following morning.  The next morning at a quarter of ten, I was in the cockpit putting on my shoes when a smiling Carlos came walking down the dock.
Derrick on the dock with the beer delivery 
One of the greatest things about cruising is the way cruisers help one another.  Our outboard motor was overheating and Rick from Hotel California diagnosed the problem as a bad impeller.  Bob on Nirvana, the boat next to us in the marina, was going home to Sacramento for a couple of weeks and offered to bring the part back for us.  The part was shipped to Bob’s house.  Bob’s plans changed and he got delayed, but he remembered that Bill from Beyond Reason (another boat in the marina) was also visiting the Sacramento area.  Trisha found Bill’s email on the Beyond Reason blog site and emailed it to Bob.  Bob contacted Bill, arranged a rendezvous, and handed off the part.  Bill showed up at the marina with the part a day earlier than originally planned.  The outboard is now back on track.

Finally, Trisha and I want to give a big thank you to Ed and Connie on Sirena.  They were kind enough to loan us their air conditioner after they left for California.  Santa Rosalia is quite a hot and humid place.  Thanks to Ed and Connie, we spent most of our days here in luxurious comfort.  We’re going to miss that air conditioner when we’re gone.
Final installation of the air conditioner

Santa Rosalia

On July 4 at 0600, Interabang and Hotel California began the forty-five mile trek from Bahia Coyote to Santa Rosalia.  We planned to spend a night at anchor somewhere along the way thereby breaking the trip into two short hops.  Once out of Bahia Conception, Interabang sailed slowly along and ran the water maker while Hotel California scouted ahead.  Rick and Pam took a look at the anchorage on the north side of Punta Chivato and reported that the southeast swell was wrapping around the point causing an uncomfortable roll.  Sweet Pea Cove on Isla San Marcos was our next option.  Hotel California was anchored at Sweat Pea and relaxing in the cockpit when Interabang arrived.  Unfortunately, the anchoring didn’t go so well.  We dropped the hook five different times in various places around the cove, but the anchor wouldn’t hold.  The Bruce Anchor dragged each time we powered the boat in reverse to test the holding.  Frustrated, we decided to sail the additional ten miles to Santa Rosalia and grab a slip in the marina.  This is Rick and Pam’s second year in the Sea and they were excited to return to one of their favorite towns.  Hotel California led the way.

The gang heading into town

Santa Rosalia is a charming old copper mining town originally operated by the French.  The quaint downtown area features European style buildings and houses constructed with wood shipped down from California.  Food is a big part of the Santa Rosalia experience and we were lucky have Rick as our culinary guide.  After we got tucked into the marina, Rick took us to a great pizza restaurant.  The next day, he took us to an excellent street vendor where we had the first of many fish taco breakfasts.  Another popular street vendor served bacon wrapped hotdogs.  We could only handle eating these fatty treats on a couple occasions.  One night we hiked up the hill with Rick and Pam from Hotel California and Ed and Connie from Sirena for some really good Chinese food.  It was difficult for Trisha and I to get used to the Chinese restaurant staff speaking to us in Spanish.

Fish taco breakfast (picture courtesy of Pam on Hotel)
We took a tour of the mining museum which is the old administrative building for the mine.  A very friendly fellow who spoke no English was our tour guide.  He showed us the antique furniture, fixtures and equipment.  He showed us maps and photographs from the old mining days and led us into the vault where the city records have been stored for more that a hundred years.  We didn’t understand half of what he was saying, but he gave a great tour.

The big cultural event was the Mariachi concert held in the main town square.  A professional mariachi band was touring with a stop in Santa Rosalia and played for a couple of hours.  We attended the concert with Rick, Pam and, apparently, everyone else in town.  We had a great evening of music and people watching.  Rick and I took turns fetching beers from the Tecate booth.  As the concert was starting to wind down, we noticed a couple drops of precipitation.  Next thing you know, we were racing back to the marina in heavy rain.

The crowd enjoys the show
For those of you with a good internet connection, here is a video clip from the Mariachi concert (turn up your volume):

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Bahia Conception

On the morning of June 30, Eagle, Hotel California, Seychelles and Interabang left La Ramada and began a forty-five mile passage northwest to Bahia Conception.  A light wind pushed on the extended mainsail as we motor-sailed with two fishing lines in tow.  Several miles past the mountainous rock at Punta Pulpito, a nice sized dorado hit the cedar plug.  Trisha was very excited to see the beautiful bright green fish as I hauled it to the stern and grabbed the gaff hanging from the radar pole.  The fish was jumping and fighting wildly.  After a failed gaffing attempt the fish suddenly made a twisting lunge out of the water and slipped the hook.  We didn’t get another bite the rest of the day.  The good news was that a flock of boobies soon arrived to provide entertainment.  About twenty birds flew all around the boat and hovered over our fishing gear occasionally diving and tugging on the lures.  Luckily, none of the birds got hooked.  One booby landed on our bow pulpit and put up quite a battle as Trisha tried to persuade him to leave.

The wind piped up considerably as we altered course to the west and began rounding Punta Conception.  Interabang was flying along at seven to eight knots.  Once clear of the point, we sailed past the boats anchored in Bahia Santo Domingo and continued south into the bay.  We navigated our way through the shallow water with one eye on the depth sounder.  There were several stretches where Interabang’s keel was five feet from the bottom as we made a long curve west around a big shoal to Playa Santispac.  We found a spot to drop anchor and once the boat stopped moving we were slammed by the stagnate hot air.  Veteran cruisers had told that they were never as hot as they were in Bahia Conception and now we were getting first hand experience.  The water temperature had increased to 88 degrees and the heat was suffocating with no wind in sight.  We headed to shore with Hotel and enjoyed a meal onshore at the local restaurant.  At dinner, a young man joined our table – he had ridden his bike from Canada all the way down to the Baja peninsula!  After dinner we wilted in the cockpit.  After midnight it was still not cool enough to go below and get in bed.

We came to Bahia Conception for the annual Fourth of July party in Burro Cove.  The party is hosted by Gary, a gringo resident who provides the cruisers with the weather forecasts on the morning radio net.  We had heard stories about the hazardous after-party fireworks show, so Hotel California suggested that we drop the hook out of the line of fire in nearby Coyote Cove.  The wind came up and helped a little with the afternoon heat, but the water was too warm for swimming.  By the morning of the Fourth we were tired of being hot and not so interested in doing a potluck.  We decided to celebrate the Fourth by heading to Santa Rosalia.

Friday, July 13, 2012

La Ramada Rocks

It was June 25.  When the sun came up in San Juanico we were happy to have a long night of rolling behind us.  We pulled up the anchor and motored a mile or so to the northern end of the bay in search of better protection from the heavy southeastern swell.  Hotel California arrived first and found a sweet spot in shallow water tucked in behind some big rocks.  We were unable to locate a similarly protected patch of water that was deep enough to accommodate Interabang’s nine foot draft.  Then we remembered seeing our friends on Eyoni pass by San Juanico the day before presumably headed for La Ramada, an anchorage just two miles further north.  Trisha was able to call Eyoni on the VHF radio and learned that the water in La Ramada was flat calm and there was plenty of room for more boats.  We were soon on our way with Hotel California close behind.

Interabang and Hotel California joined three other boats already at anchor in La Ramada including Eyoni.  We enjoyed a peaceful night’s sleep.  The next morning we took the dinghy to the beach and hiked over the hills back to San Juanico to visit the cruiser’s shrine.  We soon found the tree where cruisers have been leaving mementos for many years.  There were several pieces of sandstone carved with dates from the early 1980’s and countless other trinkets and pieces of artwork in various states of decay.  Interabang’s contribution was a rubber duck we picked at a Baja-HaHa party.  We used a sharpie to add our boat name and the year 2012 then attached the toy to an inner branch with stainless seizing wire.  On the hike back to La Ramada we found several pieces of obsidian that have come in very handy for holding down playing cards during windy Baja Rummy games.

The tree that is the "Cruiser's Shrine" in San Juanico
Interabang's contribution to the shrine
Obsidian rocks
The following day, I stopped by Eyoni and asked Ethan if he could teach me how to make the replacement bands for my spear gun.  When it comes to spear fishing, Ethan is the best of the best.  He came aboard and I handed him the obviously well-used gun.  He was immediately impressed with its design and quality.  He looked it over carefully giving me several repair and fine tuning tips.  Using his own material, he made me a couple of new spear tethers.  Then he showed me how to make the bands.  Ethan was a great help!!!  All he asked for in return was a cold beer now and again down the road.

That afternoon, we took our snorkel gear to the beach to try our luck at a little clamming.  On our way north, we had been coached by several cruisers on how to spot a chocolate clam hiding under the sand.  It took about an hour of studying the sandy bottom and several trial and error dives to finally come up with the first clam.  As the name implies, chocolates are brown in color.  They are about the size of a pack of cigarettes and buried under an inch or two of sand in four to eight feet of water.  After a couple hours we had collected thirty clams.  That night Trisha made her famous linguini and clams dish.  It was fabulous.  We did a little more clamming the next day.  After two days of practice, Trisha had become a clamming champ regularly adding to the haul.  Just as we were going to call it a day, I found a huge yellow clam.  It was great fun showing off the big guy to the other snorkelers, but Trisha let it be known that she found the monster quite intimidating.  After a brief photo session we tossed him back in the water.

Bucket of chocolate clams
That is one BIG clam!
The highlight of our five days in La Ramada began one morning when a northbound ketch sailed into view from behind the point.  She was a little over a mile offshore and flying a spinnaker.  We watched the boat for quite a while and when it was about three or four miles away we noticed that she had lost control of her kite.  The sail was now flying horizontally from the top of the mainmast.  The boat turned around and slowly starting making its way to the shelter of La Ramada.  Eventually the spinnaker was back under control but obviously badly damaged.  The crew was unable to get the sail down.  When Karmasea finally arrived at the anchorage we saw that the boat was singlehanded.  The spinnaker was still hoisted with tack and clew tied together.  When the ketch passed close by I ask if he needed a hand.  He said he really could have used me an hour ago but now would be great.  As soon as the boat was anchored I jumped in the dinghy and went aboard Karmasea to meet Pitt.  Pitt was an unusual guy with short hair and a beard made up of three braids.  Pitt got his gear together for going aloft and began climbing the mast.  Ethan from Eyoni and John from Seychelles quickly arrived and we went to work getting things squared away.  It wasn’t long before the damaged spinnaker was back in the back in the bag and Ethan, John and I were on our way.

The excitement for the morning in La Ramada
Later that day John on Seychelles organized a BYOB happy hour on the beach for all of the boats in the anchorage.  The new arrival, Pitt on Karmasea, had volunteered to provide the entertainment as a thank you for the help he had received.  Come to find out Pitt is a balloon- twisting fire-eater.

All of the dinghies showed up on the beach for happy hour.  As the drinks were drunk and the snacks disappeared, Pitt was busy making balloon art for the kids and the ladies.  He does impressive things with balloons including a very entertaining sword swallowing act using a sword fashioned from a balloon.  Finally it began to get dark and twenty or so people sat together on the sand waiting for the main event.  When Pitt started lighting his torches everyone was captivated. There is something fascinating about seeing fire in the dark.  Pitt put on a very impressive show while telling great stories about how he had learned his art.  When Pitt finished his last act and the last flame was dowsed a vigorous round of applause ensued.  Suddenly, as if choreographed, the space station could be seen sweeping by in the sky.  It was a magical night.

Pitt makes balloons for the kids from Eyoni and Pura Vida
Trisha is happy with her Pink Panther balloon
Trisha, Jeanne (Eagle), Kyra (Nyon) and Nicki (Seychelles)
The show begins at dark

he is winding up...
and he eats the fire!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Loreto Area Part II

On June 16, the morning after the palapa party, the weather forecast called for a day or two of light winds.  We were optimistic that the winds and seas would be calm enough for an extended visit to the open roadstead anchorage off of Loreto.  We sailed the six miles from Isla Coronados back to Loreto, got the boat squared away, and headed into town.  There was much to be accomplished and we stayed quite busy.  That afternoon, Trisha and John from Seychelles got their hair cut at a beauty salon.  We enjoyed cheap and delicious street tacos at a hole in the wall restaurant called Del Rey.  This place is all the rage with the cruisers.  We visited six different tiendas searching for the items on our shopping list.  The best deal in town on beer and tequila was found at Cactus Licores (Liquors).  Trisha unwillingly made multiple visits to the Ferre-Mar, a combination tackle shop and chandlery, where we found replacement bands for the spear gun, fishing lures, and replacement rubber straps for attaching our snorkels to our masks.  On Sunday, we went to the weekly farmers market with Nikki where we bought a flat of thirty eggs and a couple of bags of produce.  Sunday evening we met Hotel California, Just a Minute, Seychelles, and True Companion at Auggies Bar and enjoyed the hamburger special.  We felt very lucky to enjoy two consecutive calm nights at anchor in Loreto.

Thinking we may be pushing our luck at Loreto, we motor-sailed ten miles to the well-protected Ballandra anchorage on Isla Carmen on June 18.  As readers may recall, this is where the dreaded windlass repair project was completed.  Ballandra is a lovely little anchorage where we enjoyed wonderful snorkeling and semi-successful fishing.  The islands are protected and spear guns are not allowed in the water.  The best part of our Ballandra stay, besides getting the windlass fixed and hanging out with Hotel California, was being hailed by Tom and Jeannie on Eagle to join their float party.  We arrived a bit late and the rum was already flowing freely for the attending boats: Camille, Eagle, Nyon, and Timepiece.  It was a fun group of people with a rum bar precariously balancing on a paddleboard.  One hand for the board and one hand for the drink, we all made quick friends and celebrated the miracle of rum.  At the sun went down, more than one partygoer celebrated the miracle of the birthday suit.  A good time was had by all.

On June 24, the windlass was working great and we were ready to make the twenty-six mile passage from Ballandra northwest to San Juanico.  Hotel California had left for Isla Coronados the previous day, breaking the trip into two legs.  When we pulled up the anchor about 0700 and began motor-sailing, Hotel California had a ten mile head start.  As we left the protection of Isla Carmen, a heavy southeast swell made the ride less than comfortable.  About a third of the way through the trip, the wind piped up so we turned off the engine and enjoyed a nice reach the rest of the way.  When we arrived at San Juanico, Hotel California had been anchored for a while.  We were soon tucked in behind them with the southeast swell wrapping around the point making for a rolly anchorage.  We didn’t launch the dinghies and stayed put on our boats.  That night at 0100, the rolling became unbearable and I went on deck to rig the flopper stopper.  This device hangs in the water from the boom and reduces the rolling by fifty percent.  The forecast called for days of south winds meaning that there was no end in sight for the southern swell.  We would need to find a better anchorage.  

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Loreto Area Part I

On June 9 we left Bahia Salinas and sailed north along the east side of Isla Carmen.  The rugged coastline with its colorful cliffs and rock formations reminded us of Death Valley.  Once around the island’s northeast point, we made our way west to a little cove called La Lancha.  The sandy bottom provided good holding for our anchor, but the rocky shoreline offered little in the way of a beach.  The snorkeling was excellent.  We spent two days at La Lancha and each afternoon the south wind would howl across the island, through the cove, and out to sea.  A steady blow of fifteen to twenty knots cooled down the boat from a long day of sunshine.  On the second morning we resumed our counter-clockwise circumnavigation of the island, and headed south to Puerto Escondido.

The busy harbor of Puerto Escondido offered a nice taste of civilization.  We bought a few groceries, topped off the diesel tanks, and did laundry in an actual washing machine.  The highlight of the stop was getting back together with Andrew and Rebecca on Andariego, friends we first met in Los Gatos.  Their cruising days had come to and end for the year.  Andrew was heading back to the States for work and Rebecca was on her way home to Australia.  Andrew was looking to sell his spear gun and knew we were in the market for one.  We got together a table outside the marina tienda where Andrew went over the gun’s operation and gave an impressive firing demonstration that left a big dent in an environmental education sign.  The South African manufactured gun had seen a lot of miles and killed a lot of fish.  It would require some maintenance in the way of oiling and replacing the 5/8 inch thick latex bands that launch the spear.  After a couple rounds of negotiations, we agreed to a price of $50/USD.  This was a screaming deal compared to the $250 to $300 we were planning to spend on a new gun.  The price of fish just went down.  

On the morning of June 13, we left Puerto Escondido and followed Seychelles north to Loreto, the only large town in the area.  The fair weather anchorage at Loreto is described as an ‘open roadstead’ offering essentially no protection from wind or waves.  We wouldn’t have considered anchoring here without the encouragement of our friends Patrick and Laura on Just a Minute.  The weather report called for strong winds building from the south, so we were in a big hurry to drop the anchor, stock up on provisions, and get on our way to better protection.  We were dragging our loaded cart and several bags of groceries back to the dinghy when we noticed that the wind had piped up considerably.  By the time we got to the dinghy we saw that large waves were building and causing Interabang to do some impressive hobby horsing.  Once we got the dinghy along side the boat, we had to coordinate our movements with the waves to safely get ourselves and our booty transferred from the dinghy to the boat.  It was a wild ride.  As quickly as possible, we got the anchor up and started a six mile sail north to Isla Coronados.

The main anchorage at Isla Coronados
Isla Coronados is a beautiful island formed by a volcano.  The Loreto park service maintains several nice palapas along the beach at the main anchorage.  Each morning the pangas start arriving loaded with tourists from Loreto.  We enjoyed the beach and hiking the treacherous volcano trail.  One afternoon, after all the tourists and pangas had left for the day, Rick and Pam from Hotel California, John and Nikki from Seychelles, Gravel and Natalie from True Companion, and Interabang got together on the beach for a little palapa partying.  True Companion and Hotel California had purchased a yellow tail tuna from a panga fisherman earlier that day and they were kind enough to treat us all to sushi, complete with soy sauce, wasabi, and pickled ginger.  After the food was gone, a rowdy game of liars dice broke out that was finished by flashlight.  Pam won, as usual, but a good time was had by all.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Picture time!

We have an internet connection this week, so to celebrate, we will post pictures (and one video at the end of the post).

The first set of pictures are from a few days at Isla Coronados:

Taking a hike up to the top of the volcano

Derrick has a new hobby
View from the very top
John and Nicki from Seychelles
A friendly game of Liar's dice
And more from our days in the central Sea of Cortez:

Millions of fish enjoying the shade of our boat
Pam and Rick of Hotel California taught us to play Baja Rummy
The chores need to get done as well (laundry washed in a bucket)

Lobster dinner purchased from a panga fisherman in San Evaristo
Trisha trying to reason with a Booby who landed while we were underway
Cruising is not always fun and games
If you have a good internet connection, this is a (30 second) video of our passage from La Ramada to Bahia Conception.  We went through a huge pod of dolphins :

Working on a boat in exotic places

Interabang’s windlass has been a nagging problem for about six months.  A windlass is a heavy piece of machinery that raises and lowers the anchor.  The electric windlass on Interabang consists of a large motor below deck that turns a vertical drum on deck that engages the anchor chain.

In the early days of our windlass problem, the drum would occasionally slow to a crawl for just a few seconds.  Over time, both the frequency and duration of these slowdowns increased.  Eventually, the windlass would just barely spin for extended periods of time.  We called the manufacturer for help with our problem and were told that there must be a bad electrical connection.  All of the connections were taken apart and cleaned, but there was little improvement.  Not sure what to do next, we lived with the problem.

The months went by and then one day the drum stopped turning altogether.  The windlass was silent except for the clicking sounds made by the solenoid.  This was really bad news and we feared that we might need to go all the way back to La Paz (125 miles the wrong way!) to get it fixed.

Much of the following day was spent checking connections, testing voltage, and head scratching.  Finally, Rick from Hotel California stopped by to see how we were coming along.  We were stumped.  Rick suggested holding down the ‘ON’ switch and hitting motor with a hammer.  Hammer in one hand and remote control switch in the other I gave windlass power and gave the motor a whack.  The windlass immediately came back to life, indicating that the motor was the problem.  Fortunately for us, Rick had recently been in Loreto with Patrick on Just a Minute looking for someone to work on his windlass.  We were able to contact Patrick and get the windlass repair guy’s phone number.  The next morning I disassembled the windlass and Rick used his phone to call the repair guy in Loreto (Interabang no longer has a phone).  

The really bad news was that, once the windlass was disassembled, the anchor must be manually pulled up hand-over-hand.  This is really hard work, especially in the heat.  So, hand-over-hand the anchor came up and we made the ten mile trip from Puerto Balandra on Isla Carmen to Loreto.  Rick came along to lend a hand.  The windlass repair guy met us at the dock and we handed over a fifty pound motor/gearbox assembly.  An hour later, Rick gave him a call and learned that the springs holding the brushes were broken.  The repair would be completed the following day.  The seas were getting pretty rough and we needed to get Rick back to his boat.  Hand-over-hand the anchor came up and we headed back to Puerto Balandra.

The next day Trisha and I got an early start back to Loreto, without Rick this time.  Hand-over-hand the anchor came up.  We picked up the repaired windlass and some provisions and headed back to Puerto Balandra.  Hand-over-hand the anchor came up.  When we dropped the hook back in Balandra, Rick came by to give us a hand getting all the pieces back together.

The windlass is now working better than ever and the muscles in my back and legs are slowly returning to normal.  There is an old joke in the sailing community that defines ‘cruising’ as working on a boat in exotic places.  After three straight days devoted to diagnosing and repairing the windlass problem, we see that this is no joke.

A big thank you goes to Rick and Pam on Hotel California for all of their help and support!