Tuesday, May 14, 2013

From Cabo to La Paz

In the last posting, I covered our trip down the Cabo San Lucas, with photos of us entering Cabo harbor, and a photo of the town. I mentioned how I radioed in to the marina and found out it was only going to cost us $42 a night to stay there, a lot less than we thought it was going to be, so we decided to stay there a couple of nights.

We had three great days at Cabo San Lucas. We did three loads of laundry, filled our water tanks with the excellent drinking water at the dock spigot, washed the boat down, fully recharged our batteries, bought lots of fresh food and ice, ate Hagan Das ice cream, visited with Lane and Vicki, and got some much needed rest. I persuaded Lane to go to the marina office with me to get a quote for what they would charge him for his 42 ft boat. Turns out it was only about $65 per night, so after one more night anchored out, he bought his boat in to the marina. And just in time! That night a rare rain storm blew in from the south, and it was absolutely torrential. I’ve never seen it rain harder. Within 20 minutes the streets were flooded, and where they came close to the harbor, huge rivers of water were empting into the bay. We were visiting Lane and Vicki on their boat at the time, and they were sure glad to be in at the dock! Turns out Inkatu arrived that afternoon, and anchored out during the storm. They said it was the worst night they’d ever spent sailing. A few years ago a southerly storm had swept many boats anchored there on to the beach, where they were wrecked. This time, though, the wind was not so strong, and the boats anchored there were OK, even if it was scary for them.

One other thing that happened in Cabo is that we finally got internet access for the first time in nearly two weeks, and received a series of increasingly concerned emails from my father and brother, ending in one saying they had contacted the Australian Rescue Service, who had contacted the Mexican navy, reporting us missing at sea! I Skyped my father and brother straight away, and they contacted the Rescue Service saying we had arrived safe and sound in Cabo. Still, I kept getting concerned emails, for a couple of months after this, from cruising friends who had heard that we might be missing at sea. Strangely, though, the Mexican navy never caught up with us. I had a talk with my father and brother, which I really should have done before I left Ensenada, about how the anchorages in Baja often don’t have internet, and one might want or need to stay at a particular one of them for a while until the right weather window opens up for the next leg of the trip. I’m confident they understand this now, and that they'll give me quite a bit more time in the future before reporting us missing. It is good, however, to know that they are keeping track of us when we are out at sea. When we went back to Ensenada to pick up my car, one of the places where it was announced that we were lost at sea, one of my friends from there joked: “We had a wake for you, and spent $200 on food and entertainment. Now that you’ve shown up alive, we think you should refund us the money.” I said, “Email me some photos of my wake, and I’ll send you the money!”

We headed off ahead of Adesso for the “Other Cabo,” San Jose Del Cabo, which was a very pleasant short day sail away in a gentle breeze. The sea was smooth, the sun shining, and all along the shore between the two Cabos were miles of luxury apartments, built very tastefully in dessert yellows and reds to blend in with the landscape. Casey and Diane on Inkatu were already at San Jose Del Cabo, so we docked right next to them at the marina. We only stayed one night, though, as they charged $45 per night for a slip with no power, and no bathrooms! A full service slip there would have been $65! There was a great restaurant there though, that had amazing fish tacos — with big juicy pieces of grilled fish and wonderful salsas and salads and other trimmings to go with them — by far the best fish tacos we’d ever had. After one round of these, I thought that even if they were pretty expensive, maybe we could do with a second round anyway. Turns out they were only 12 pesos ($1!) each. You can be sure we had more of those fish tacos!
Next day we set sail for Bahia Los Frailes. This was a long day’s sail, tacking into the wind most of the way, and we didn’t arrive until after dark. It was the first time I’d attempted to anchor in the dark, but other boats there helped me find a good spot, radioing their directions. Next morning the most gorgeous anchorage we’ve ever been at revealed itself to us! Here we are on the beach at Los Frailes:

There is a trail up the 750’ high headland, and here we are, about a third of the way up, looking at the anchorage. The Witch is the third boat from the left:

Then here we both are at the summit. What a glorious view it was!

The next bay north of Los Frailes, that you can see in the above photo, is a marine sanctuary containing the only remaining hard coral reef on the whole west coast of the Americas. The reef actually continues around the corner into the north end of Bahia Los Frailes. On this photo taken from near the summit of the headland you can see the reef as a darker area of the bay closest to the headland we are on:

We snorkeled on this reef, and saw very nice coral, and huge numbers of a wide variety of brilliantly colored tropical fish. That was amazing.

We met new friends here too. Two men single-handing their boats. One was an Australian, Pitt. He also had an electric motor in his boat — only the second other such boat I’d run into, and the other was still in the process of conversion. Pitt was also quite the character. We were at Los Frailes for the end of the Mayan Calender, and the people camping ashore held an “End of the World” potluck which they invited us to. Pitt performed a fire eating, fire breathing, fire twirling act that he has done around the world to help keep him in funds on his travels. Here is Pitt swallowing fire:

Here is one of the campsites of people who come down from Canada to spend the winter there:

Here is a hole where a clutch of turtle eggs hatched, and the turtles crawled out and swam out to sea:

We were able to buy fresh food in Los Frailies. Twice a week a truck comes to sell food to the campers. Here we are just after having done our shopping from this truck:

Inkatu also stopped at Los Frailes and loved it. We went snorkeling with them, and had a meal of fresh caught shrimp aboard their boat. But Adesso sailed right on by, and spent time at Los Muertos.

We  spent a week at Los Frailies, and loved it, but finally we left for Bahia Los Muertos. We left about midnight at the same time as Pitt, and had to tack into the wind all the way to Muertos. But the Witch is good at sailing into the wind, and we got there about noon the next day, just as the afternoon wind came howling in. It was a sheltered anchorage, but not nearly as nice as Los Frailes. Our other friends arrived that afternoon except for Pitt. He had some trouble with his boat, and had got caught by an unfavorable wind change after having gone way out to sea. He didn’t arrive until a full day later. We were getting worried about him, and were sure glad to see him finally sail in. We stayed in Muertos five days while a howling northerly blew through. It was a slow five days, though we did do some visiting with friends and had a big driftwood fire on the beach one night.

Then, in the narrow window between when the wind calmed down a little, and when it disappeared altogether for a few days, we headed off on the final leg of our trip — to La Paz. It was Christmas Night, December 25. We left at dusk to sail though the night. Instead of going through the Ceralvo Channel, between Isla Ceralvo and the Baja peninsular, I plotted a course outside the island. Since we had to tack (zig-zag) into the wind either way, I decided it would be easier and safer to do just one big zig and one big zag, way out to sea, rather than doing many many little zigs and zags in a narrow channel and risk running aground if I happened to nod off to sleep for a moment. Because of all the howling wind the previous few days, there were five foot high short, steep waves on the Sea of Cortez that night, and the wind, which was meant to be about 12 knots was more like 20 knots. With a single reef in the mainsail, the boat was leaning over quite a lot and powering into these short steep waves. We’d go smoothly over one, then crash with a huge thump into the next, so that the boat shuddered, and gallons of sea water came flying back into the cockpit. Bashing into these short, steep seas soon made me terribly sea sick. I thought I well and truly had my sea legs — I hadn’t been seasick the whole way from Winchester Bay in Oregon! I discovered the hard way that having your sea legs for the long rolling swells of the Pacific Ocean, doesn’t help you much when you get into the choppyness of the Sea of Cortez! Also, I’d had somewhat too much to eat for lunch, earlier in the day. Fortunately, Karen was not sick, and was able to keep watch while I lay there in agony on the leaward bunk and glanced up at the GPS every now and then to make sure we were still on course.

Fortunately the wind kept a steady direction, and the autopilot was able to steer the boat through a night of this unnerving thumping. We kept up a good speed of five knots, despite the thumping of the waves, until we were past Ceralvo Island, and could go about onto the tack that would take us into La Paz. Somehow I managed to drag myself out into the cockpit and bring the boat about onto the new tack, and set the autopilot to sail directly to the next waypoint. This was important, as we had to sail between the north end of the island, and a dangerous reef to the north of it, and we didn’t want to risk running into either one! As soon as we went about, the waves were coming from our side, and lurched us over, alarmingly, each time one passed. But not having to thump into the waves, and being able to ease off the wind a little (it was beginning to shift around a little to the north form the NNW it had been earlier), the boat raced off at six and a half knots — the fastest it can go if it’s not surfing down a wave. As the first light of dawn appeared we raced by the top of Isla Ceralvo, right on course between the island and the reef. I was beginning to feel a touch better now. We reached Lorenzo Channel, the entrance into La Paz Bay, just as the sun was rising — good timing, because the presence of reefs to the north and south of that channel makes it unwise to traverse it at night. It was also good timing because the wind was already beginning to die down to nothing, as forecast. Soon the sea was calm with only a breath of breeze, and I started the electric motor to take us the last few miles to the first marina in La Paz, Marina Costa Baja, where Lane and Vicki on Adesso had been for a few days. They had left Muertos a few hours before we arrived there. With the calm seas, my sea sickness suddenly went away, and I really enjoyed these last few miles. We steered in close to the various anchorages on the way in, and even saw Mushroom Rock at Balandra. It was such a relief being here! Finally we were at La Paz! It had been our destination for two years! And now, on the day after Christmas, we were here.

Despite the rough night, Witch of Endor had actually performed very well. Few sailboats can keep up five knots while bashing into such big steep waves. Part of achieving this was to keep rather a lot of sail up for the wind strength, so the boat would have the power to plow through those waves and not be slowed down much by them. And, with all these forces working on the boat, nothing broke! Good work, Witch!

We stayed a week at Costa Baja, then spent four months at Marina de La Paz, right in the heart of downtown La Paz. It’s been a busy blurr of Spanish lessons, working on my writing, boat repairs, sight seeing and sailing out to the nearby islands. Now I am up at Marina Palmira, half way between the other two marinas, where it is quiter, and the air is fresher. We hope to sail up into the sea of Cortez in June, where there are many more beautiful anchorages.

And now, to finish off this post, a few photos, with captions, from our time in La Paz:

Mi amigo Lane and I at a restaurant in La Paz

Mis amigos Casey and Diane on one of the fairly
common stepped sidewalks in La Paz

Rocks and cactuses in the dessert, while driving
up to get our car from Ensenada

The deck of our hotel room in Bahia Los Angeles, where we
stayed while driving our car back to La Paz. It had a kitchen,
too, and the free use of kayaks to paddle on the bay!
All this for only $50, since it was the off season!

A whale skeleton on the beach at Bahia Los Angeles.

Wild horses on Mexico 1

Bahia Conception, which has many gorgeous anchorages,
including this one, is at the far end of the trip up into the sea
we are planning for June.
San Javier Mission up in the mountains of Baja, the second
oldest mission in all of the Americas

One of many over-100-year-old, gnarled olive trees at
San Javier Mission. A cooperative called "Living Roots"
is again producing olive oil from these trees. This mission
is in an oasis, where there is plenty of water.

A rancher in the mountains who I had a wonderful conversation
with in Spanish, and from whom I bought a jar of the most
delicious fig-like fruits soaked in cane syrup from sugar cane
he grew himself. He also gave as pieces of sugar cane to chew.
The road south through the mountains. I found out later that
this road was used in last year's Baja 1000 off-road rally.
Our Subaru Outback, fortunately, had no trouble with this road!

The famous Hotel California sung about in the popular song, in
Todos Santos, where "You can check out but you can't leave!"

Inside the Hotel California

A Mexican conservation poster in the Hotel California. It says:
"Our Mother is happy when you care for Our Planet."
One of the many life-sized bronze statues on the Malecon in La Paz

The Malecon, in La Paz, at night

Bird in the mangroves at an anchorage near La Paz.

A famous surf beach south of Todos Santos at Pescadero
On the beach at paradise! The Witch is anchored out in
the distance.

Pelicans taking off

A blue starfish on some coral

Another piece of coral

A La Paz sunset

Anchored out in La Paz Bay just after sunset.

The Witch was at Marina de La Paz for 4 months, but her new
home, and mine, is Marina Palmira. Here is the view ashore
from the Witch at Palmira. There are birds in the trees that
chirp in the morning, and the big tree gives me shade for a while
in the morning. And there is a good swimming beach nearby!
Greetings to all of you who are following this blog, from Karen and me!

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