Friday, 9 March 2018

Bahia Concepcion to Punta Chivato

Eco beach at Playa Escondida

We spent eight days in Bahia Conception. It reminded me of a Scottish loch with ridges of mountains rising along both sides. Instead of pine trees and heather there were tall cacti and prickly bushes. No waterfalls cascaded down the gullies because there is no rain until the hurricane season begins.

RV's at Playa Coco
Playa Santispac has a beach bar and a restaurant. We went to Ana’s for lunch and met up with Tamara and Andrew from Veraison.  Our next anchorage was at Playa El Coco. We were the only cruising vessel there, perhaps because there was no restaurant. Nearby is the eco beach of Playa Escondida, where we met former world cruisers, Katie and Jim, who used to own S/V Tenaya. Now they have a motor home.  From here there are good trails over the hill to Playa El Coco and out to Highway 1. We think we found a warm spring, but it was so depleted and half full of debris that neither of us felt like touching the water.
All alone at Playa Coco
The strong north winds abated for a day, so we headed to the southern anchorage of Isla Requeson. We crossed a sandspit that joins the island to the mainland in the dinghy on our way to the hotel and restaurant at Playa Buenaventura. We met land travellers, Stu and Norma, on the beach and had lunch with them. The food was good and plentiful and the owner was friendly. It was worth paying a little extra for the amazing seafront view.
The sandbar and the anchorage behind Jeremy, from the top of the island
The afternoon wind had risen while we ate and we had a wet ride in the dinghy back to a pitching Sal Darago. A motor boat arrived and anchored in quiet water in the shallows. We took the dinghy to the island and followed the trail up to the top. Like several before, the trail petered out or there had been rock falls and we had to pick our way over rough and slippery ground avoiding the prickly bushes waiting to grab our legs as we passed.
On top of Isla Requeson
On Saturday 3rd March, we motored northwards and anchored in our favourite bay, Playa El Burro. Naturally, we had to follow the “beautiful trail” we had read about in our cruising guide that started just across Highway 1. It took us a while to find the start (not a good omen). Then we had to scramble over rocks and boulders until we came to a slippery, zig-zag path. The views over Bahia Coyote and Bahia Concepcion were good at the half-way point. Further up the trail came to an abrupt stop. Jeremy climbed up large rocks and saw a path on the other side. When he came down, he searched for the trail and found it hidden behind a bush. We carried on and finally made it to the top. The view was spectacular.
Nearly at the top of the trail
On the way down, I wore supports on both knees, like before. Jeremy fell full length when his feet slipped away beneath him. He was luck to hurt only his thumb. Bertha’s restaurant was a welcome sight at the bottom of the hill. Tamara met us inside and gave us a quarter of a fruit cake she’d made. Thank you, Tamara. We had it for dessert later. Lunch at Bertha’s was good, affordable and pleasant.

Playa El Burro and Playa Coyote from the top of the trail
We really thought we had been transported to Scotland when the amplified sound of bagpipes playing Amazing Grace echoed across the bay at 8.00am. We learned that this was a daily ritual, but it was particularly loud on Sunday. We went ashore to look for Amerindian petroglyphs which were meant to be near the trailhead. I suppose it’s not too surprising that we didn’t find any, as we’d had such difficulty finding the trail. We walked along Hwy 1 to have a look at Playa Coyote. Much of the beach is not accessible and there were signs saying “Privado”. A dog ran out at us barking and growling - not very welcoming.
On the way back we stopped at Bertha’s tienda and bought some bread, red wine and tomatoes. Nearer to SD we had a fish taco lunch at JC’s.
Mision Santa Rosalia de Mulege
The next day we went ashore to have lunch at Bertha’s restaurant. It was closed on Mondays. We met Errol who used to play in the Stone Canyon Band with Rick Nelson. He gave us a lift to another Bertha’s next to the tienda. Although the cold north wind blew into the restaurant, the chicken and fish dinners were huge and great value, along with a pint of beer each.
Museo Regional de Historia
Tuesday 6th March was our last day in Playa Burro. We hitched a ride to Mulege in the back of a pick up truck. It was quite scary at 60 mph with no tailgate, but we covered the 14 miles quickly. The town is pleasant, not touristy and had lots of date palms on the banks of the freshwater river. We went to the historic Mision Santa Rosalia de Mulege and the Museo Regional de Historia. The latter was housed in the former prison.

Hitching a ride
We had an excellent lunch at Los Equipales, an upstairs restaurant with a tropical feel. We watched humming birds just outside the window, when we looked up from our phones. We had WiFi for the first time in over a week and there were many messages to read. After shopping for the next few days, we returned to Hwy 1 and started hitching. One ride dropped us off next to a speed bump and a row of shops. After about half an hour, a woman and her daughter picked us up and drove us all the way to Playa Burro.
Los Equipales
On Wednesday 7th March, we weighed anchor before 0700 and motored north to Punta Chivato.
Dawn exit from Punta Chivato

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Loreto to Bahia Concepcion

Loreto was once the capital of Baja California Sur. The anchorage is an open roadstead exposed to N, S and E winds. Fortunately, there was a fair amount of West in the wind when we anchored off on Monday 19th February.

We went ashore in the dinghy and tied up in the small boat darsena. It was a short walk into town, where there was a large, pedestrianised area called The Plaza with several restaurants and many shady trees. Close by is the historic mission church, Mision Nuestra Senora de Loreto and the Museo de las Misiones. From here, twenty-three missions were built throughout Baja California.
View from the top of Isla Coronados
We had lunch at a popular, roadside, open air café, where we sat at plastic tables on a dirt parking lot enjoying beef tacos. Afterwards, we stocked up our supplies at the two supermercados, El Pescador and Leys.
It was calm overnight, so we stayed off Loreto and motored down to the marina at Puerto Escondido the next day. A large investment has been made at the marina providing pontoons, an office, a shop, a laundry and hot showers. Sadly, it was too expensive for us at 90USD per night, so we chose to go on a mooring ball in the lagoon for 18USD. Each time we went ashore it was a 7-10 minute dinghy ride depending on the wind waves.
Inside view Mision Nuestra Senora de Loreto
The wind blew strongly from the north and it was cold. Out came our fleeces and thermal socks once again. Ashore, only the office with a work area for cruisers and the shop gave shelter from the cold wind. The food in the restaurant was good but it was open to the weather on all four sides. We had three nights at Puerto Escondido. There was a Cruisers’ Net every morning at 0800 on VHF 22A with a good five day weather forecast.
Mision Nuestra Senora de Loreto
The data on my phone had stopped working at Puerto Ballandra, after only 12 days’ use of the 30 day contract. Soon afterwards, Jeremy’s data stopped working as well. Jeremy topped his up online translating the Spanish instructions. I was not prepared to give the phone company any more money, so I used the Wi-Fi at the marina office to book flights and some of the attractions for our Canada trip in May.
Picking my way down from the volcano
Early on Friday morning, 23rd February, we left Puerto Esdcondido and motored back to the anchorage off Loreto in a very light southerly wind. When we returned having had lunch and been shopping, the wind had turned to the NE and the wind waves were building. Sal Darago was bouncing on her anchor. We knew strong northerlies were coming, so we weighed anchor and motored seven miles to Islas Coronadas. The only other vessel at anchor was a catamaran called InnCredible.
On top of Isla Coronados
The gas ran out as the pressure cooker was coming to the boil. Fortunately, we had more cylinders on board. The NNW wind blew to 24 knots, wind waves were breaking on the beach, so we did not go ashore. We spent the day navigating and booking rental cars, hotels etcetera for our land trip. We ventured outside for sundowners in the late afternoon and it was cold in the wind.
The lighthouse and darsena wall Loreto
The sea was quieter on Sunday and a few pangas landed passengers on the beach. We went ashore in the dinghy and decided to hike to the crater of the volcano on Islas Coronados. The first part was easy walking on a path through the sand dunes. The middle part was a scramble over rocks and boulders and the last part was a slippery, slidy path, which zig-zagged upwards. The spectacular view at the top was worth the effort. I put my knee support bandages on for the downhill crawl.

Moorings in the lagoon Puerta Escondido
On Monday 26th February, we had less wind and only 22 miles to go to Caleta San Juanico. The swell through the inner passage between Islas Coronados and Baja was quite big, but it was long with no breaking waves, so SD glided over the sea giving us a comfortable ride. All this was to change by mid-day when the 5 knots of WNW wind shot up to 19 knots from the north. Yes, we were going north. Short, sharp, breaking waves smacked against the hull.
One of the windows in the lagoon
Two hours later, we reached the shelter of Caleta San Juanico. We saw a yacht aground and heeled over on a reef near the shore. It was S/V Veraison with Andrew and Tamara on board. They had offered us a lift into Loreto when we were in Puerto Escondido. We anchored behind S/V Quick, launched the dinghy and went over to help Veraison. Nothing more could be done until high water. On the way back to SD, we saw a motor cruiser, named Suzie, from Yellowknife, Canada. Our friends of five continents, Ann and Barry from S/V Cat’s Paw IV, come from Yellowknife, so we had to stop and say hello. Janet and George invited us on board and soon we were drinking tea, eating scones and talking about the games of Bridge, we had all played, at different times, with Ann and Barry.
Early start. Marina Puerta Escondido
At high water, the combined efforts of many cruising men and women careened and tugged Veraison off the reef, just before dark. Thankfully, she was not taking on water.
Tequila Sunrise!
All the weather forecasts told us that the next day, Tuesday was the best day of the week for going north. We left at first light at 0620 in 3 knots of wind. By 0900 we had two reefs in the mainsail, a tiny genoa and 20-26 knots of wind from the WSW. Jeremy was soaked by a wave as he went forward to adjust the reefing line. For a short time it was almost calm. Then the wind changed direction and gave us 22 knots from the SSW. S/V Quick called us on the VHF radio to ask us about the weather as we were about an hour and a half ahead of them. They had also been surprised by the gusty conditions.
Playa Santispac Bahia Concepcion
We turned into Bahia Concepcion and managed to put the mainsail to bed in a brief lull. Several yachts were anchored off Playa Santispac in Bahia Coyote. We dropped the anchor off the white, sand beach lined with RV’s as large as buses. A bar on the beach was starting “happy hour” but we were too weary to launch the dinghy and go ashore.

Monday, 19 February 2018

Honeymoon Cove to Puerto Ballandra

Honeymoon Cove, Isla Danzante
Isla Danzante
Honeymoon Cove
Where would you go on St Valentine’s Day? We headed for Honeymoon Cove on the north end of Isla Danzante. We had the south cove to ourselves and stayed for 2 nights. The snorkelling was excellent and the short hikes up the hill were on good trails, except for the one up to the highest point, which was almost vertical in places and very slippery on loose stones and gravel. We turned back and slithered down. 
Walking on Isla Danzante
An American catamaran called Goblin was anchored in the middle cove with Alan, Jennifer and Katie on board. They invited us for a cup of tea and we enjoyed chatting and exchanging sailing adventures. Sarah from the 65ft MacGregor, Illusion, whom we’d met in Bahia Ballandre, near La Paz, joined us for a while.
Isla Carmen from Isla Danzante
Isla Carmen
We had decided we would definitely go into the marina at Puerto Escondido, 3 miles away, on Friday morning. Just before leaving, Jeremy suggested circumnavigating Isla Carmen and going into the marina on Tuesday, as not all businesses are open at the weekend.

Sal Darago in Honeymoon Cove
 We rounded the north of Isla Danzante and the south of Isla Carmen and anchored near S/V Maiwej in Punta Colorada. 

Puerto Colorada
Just before we lost our intermittent mobile phone signal completely, I received a message from my sister, Pat, saying our 92 year old Mum had been taken ill that day and her care home had sent for an ambulance. Pat and my other sister, Sara, were about to go on holiday and did not know if they would get away. After two anxious days, our phone signal returned as we came round to the west side of Isla Carmen. Mum is OK. The paramedics were able to bring her blood sugar back up and Pat and Sara were able to go on their holiday.

We snorkelled on the excellent reef at Punta Colorada and walked along the pebbly and rocky beach. Jeremy broke a dinghy oar rowing ashore. He was able to do a temporary repair so I could row gently back to SD. Later, a permanent repair was made and now one oar is two inches shorter than the other.

Full cupboard, but the house is demolished?
Bahia Salinas
Yesterday, Saturday 17th February, we spent the night at Bahia Salinas on Isla Carmen. Catamaran La Ballanos Too with Jim and Chris on board was the only other vessel on anchor in the huge bay. They had been our kind and helpful neighbours in Marina de La Paz. It was good to see them again. 

Two wheels on my wagon ....
Jeremy and I went ashore in the dinghy to explore the ghost town and the vast salt pans, where 200 people lived and worked until the mid 1980’s. Some of the  buildings have been converted into a hunting, shooting and fishing lodge. This part is private. As long as you respect that and ask permission to look around the ruins from the caretaker, you are allowed to wander about for as long as you like. 

It is not snow, it is salt
It was fascinating trying to work out how the factory buildings operated and how the salt was transported from the pans to the jetty. On our return, we stopped at La Ballanos Too and had a cup of tea and a long chat with Chris and Jim.

The church
Puerto Ballandra
It was quite a bumpy ride in the swell as we rounded the north end of Isla Carmen this morning. Strong north winds had been blowing for the last two nights. The wind had calmed but the sea always takes a little longer. Here in the southern part of Puerto Ballandra there is not a breath of wind and it is raining. We have both had a swim and think the water is as cold as Calgary Bay, Isle of Mull, Scotland in midsummer. I have seen two big horn sheep on the nearby cliff which are as big as the Scottish mountain goats.

Tomorrow, we re-enter civilisation at the town of Loreto, once the capital of Baja California Sur.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Isla Espiritu Santo to Bahia Agua Verde

Someone took the water away

Isla Espiritu Santo
We anchored for two nights in Bahia San Gabriel. A long, white beach lined the anchorage. During an afternoon siesta, we awoke to the sound of buzzing. A small swarm of bees had invaded the cockpit and the saloon. After some persuasion with the fly swat, they retreated out of the saloon and we put all our insect nets in place. The bees stayed in the cockpit. Our cruising guide mentioned that bees can come looking for water and we had a bucket of La Paz fresh water on our side deck. No wonder we were being invaded. No-one was stung and once the water was removed from the deck many of the bees went home.
Beware pricks when walking
It was with some trepidation that we ventured outside later with our snorkelling gear and portable shower and headed for the shore. On our return, all the bees had gone but we kept the insect nets in place.

There is a trail that leads from Bahia San Gabriel, across the island to Bahia Bonanza. The next day, Thursday 8th February, we donned our walking shoes, forgot our walking poles again, and set off into the desert. Before long we were following footprints and feeling a little like Winnie the Pooh as we followed them round giant cacti and prickly bushes towards our distant destination only 2 miles away. I think we walked quite a bit further. Anyway, we made it there and back safely.

On our return, the tide had gone out a long way. Fortunately, our dinghy has wheels, but it was a long haul across the sandbanks to deeper water.
Striated cliffs at La Raza
Ensenada de la Raza
In the afternoon, we motored four miles north past Isla Gallina and Isla Gallo and anchored. We snorkelled to the northern shore. I found that my shoulder was too painful to swim front crawl and had to use breast stroke arms at a slow pace. (My sore shoulder is as a result of being rescued from falling in at La Paz.) I wasn’t sure that I could swim back, so Jeremy swam ahead to fetch the dinghy. Soon afterwards, a turtle swam beneath me, gliding along effortlessly. I realised that all I had to do was keep moving my arms and legs and I would make it back to SD. I was almost there when Jeremy arrived with the dinghy. I kept swimming and made it safely back to the boat.

Was the view worth it?
Isla Partida
On our way to Ensenada Grande we motored between Isla Ballena and Isla Partida. It was a journey of 7 miles. We anchored off a cove adjacent to a large, white fishermen’s cross on the hillside. Ashore, a number of kayakers had set up camp. We decided to hike the “well marked” grade 3 trail, assuming grade 3 was probably about average. We had our walking poles and we followed the markers. Very soon we were clambering over boulders and snaking upwards along a dry river bed. I had to put my knee support bandage on. It was hot, strenuous work. The trail ended at the top of cliffs on the other side of the island, with good views. The return hike was just as strenuous and I decided at the bottom that the view was not worth the effort. Now that a little time has passed, I think that it probably was.
Yet another San Francisco and no bridge
Isla San Francisco
The southern anchorage here is picture postcard perfect with a curved, white sand beach at its head. We went in the opposite anchorage, Agates Bay, as southerly winds were forecast. S/V Lucy was the only other vessel anchored with us with Christian and Karen on board. Christian had caught too many fish and gave us a grouper, which was delicious a day or two later, when we had finished our beef stew. We snorkelled the eastern point and walked across a dry salt pond to view the southern anchorage. The south winds did not arrive and we pitched in easterly swell until morning.

La Coyote, microscopic village on tiny island
San Evaristo
Our next destination was ten miles away on the Baja Peninsula. Ashore there was a small tienda and a desalination plant. It was Sunday, 11th February, so we deferred going ashore for food and water until Monday. S/V Amelie, registered in Jersey, with Steve and Debbie on board was the second British vessel we’d seen since leaving San Francisco. We were invited aboard and spent the afternoon exchanging sailing adventures over a few drinks. The next day, we took the dinghy ashore and learned that the tienda was closed as the owner had gone to La Paz for supplies. We returned to SD with 20 litres of fresh water, but no fresh food.

San Evaristo church
Los Gatos
We weighed anchor straight away. Northerly winds were forecast and our next anchorage was 25 miles north at Timbabiche. We sailed for a while in easterly winds and a swell built up from the south east. It would be too uncomfortable at Timbabiche, so we continued for a further 3 miles to Puerto Los Gatos and anchored between two reefs in the southern part of the bay. We both had a swim. The water was fairly cold.
Sunrise at Los Gatos
Bahia Agua Verde
The next day was cloudy and calm. We motored 18 miles to Bahia Agua Verde seeing 10 dolphins on the way. A large ray jumped out of the water a short distance away. We anchored in the northern cove with three other visiting vessels. By evening there were 10 or 11 boats and it was becoming crowded. Ashore, we found a well-stocked tienda in the village. We bought fresh fruit, vegetables and some beef steak. The local speciality was goats’ cheese, so we bought some. Then we were shown local needlework and bought a cushion cover sized piece of fabric showing an embroidered turkey. Emily will love it or perhaps Simon will prefer it?

Leaving Agua Verde at dawn, Roca Solitaria