Well it has been way too long....however. We are of course back home ...we returned to the great northwest in late May which was an adventure in itself but first things first....our time in the Sea.
We stayed at Marina Palmira just long enough to get our 500 hour engine service check and our new water maker up and running. Both jobs were completed but not without a few issues....nothing a few extra dollars, and a couple of extra days in the marina wouldn't solve.... it is a boat I keep telling myself that, however, it would be nice not to be constantly reminded! The delay allowed us to have an incredible unforgettable experience. We were invited to go see the whale sharks with Mike on his beautiful catamaran "Orion" They are the largest fish in the sea...feeding on mostly plankton and they hang around the Sea of Cortez in the shallow waters off of La Paz during the winter and early spring. There were many small pangas with tourists doing the same as we were and there were lots of whale sharks in the water. It is tricky maneuvering the boat amongst them as the water is very shallow (less then ten feet) and the creatures swim rather aimlessly. Although the sharks appear to be slow they actually are gliding through the water between 5-6 knots. When the opportunity came to jump in there was little time to hesitate and I was in the water up close and personal with this very large amazing creature...I had one of those encounters one never forgets...a once in a lifetime.... a forever moment! I could not believe how big the animal was in depth as well as length. As it swam by me (I was close enough to touch) I couldn't move, I watched the thing swim by and then I realized I couldn't keep up....the powerful tail, which I needed to avoid, making large sweeping motions!
Almost as soon as the experience began it was over but still wowsome!
Underway finally by 2 PM we head north from La Paz bypassing a favourite anchorage as we suspected the westerly winds would be strong during the night and also we were trying to catch up with friends who left early that same morning! As we got closer to where we thought our friends were anchored we tried to hail them on the radio...no luck. We ultimately made the decision to tuck into north arm of Port Ballena as it was getting late and we weren't sure we could get up to Ensenada Grande (where we thought our friends were) before dark. Both anchorages are exposed to the west however we hoped Gallo and Gallina islands just off to the west might provide us a little protection.
The westerly wind did kick up as expected, however it wasn't as bad as it could have been so we were able to have a good sleep...Early the next AM we were again underway heading towards Isla San Francisco with a thought to go to little village San Evaristo on the Baja as better protection from south westerlies could be found there. As we passed Ensenada Grande we finally were able to make radio contact with our friends Jane & John on "Salish Sequel"...very little arm twisting was needed and soon our anchors were dropped in San Evaristo with the plan to go back to Isla San Francisco the following day when the night west winds would be minimal....(we did not want to pass by one of our favourite spots as we headed north....we were in no particular hurry and Isla San Francisco was only an hour away).
Arriving in San Evaristo we were able drop the hook in our preferred spot..well protected from any wind direction however it wasn't necessary...the night was uneventful wind wise. As no cell phone coverage could be found even after climbing up the road to the "telephone booth" (a spot not well marked....a narrow path winds its' way from the village below to a hill top overlooking the anchorage and surrounding islands. There is a comfortable rock to sit on and we were told a cell signal could be obtained there....not) Although disappointed with the no cell coverage the view was great and the hike up the hill was good for us all! The next day we headed back to Isla San Francisco, a short 7 nm run.
Paddle boarding and kayaking and hiking kept us occupied. I stayed with the water sports while Dick, John & Jane decided to go for the hike....a couple of hours later I noticed Jane on the beach...alone. she had left the men to continue on their hike. As afternoon plans required some prep for happy hour she had abandoned the hiking needed to get back to her boat...so it was Anne to come to the rescue with paddle board and kayak which somehow I managed to collect (not without some minor difficulties...when you stand on a paddle board still attached to the boat it sinks enough to make it impossible to untie...get off the paddle board and untie it then back on and realized I forgot the paddle....back off and then while getting back on, drop the paddle which then drifts away and of course trying to retrieve it I drift away...now paddling rather frantically with hands as I was pulling the kayak I finally catch up to the paddle and breath sigh of relief ...somehow I managed to get to the beach to complete my rescue mission... did I mention that the water was coolish...like about 70 C which is like our BC ocean in the summer so I really did not want to go for a swim. The dinghy was left on the beach as the boys needed a way to get back to the boats when and if they ever managed to get back to the beach from their hike. The boys by this time were somewhere up high up on the ridge no longer visible and Dick was wearing flip flops...what can I say. We were pleased to finally spot them another hour later finally working their way down from the cliff edge.
We stayed at this anchorage two more days and visited with friends and met new friends before we moved on to... Los Gatos another favourite. Los Gatos can be a beautiful magical place however it seems everybody was there...more and more boats kept coming in! When small anchorages fit for about 5-6 boats, fill up with 30 or more as well as two tour groups it is time to move on. With southerly winds expected it was on to Aqua Verde and with luck we managed to be the first boat to drop the hook in the south anchorage. a small spot not big enough for many, another favourite. In many ways the places had not changed since we had been there four years before but we did notice a reduction in the numbers of tropical fish and an increase in the the number of tourist boats. What had caused the the diminished number of fish we weren't sure ...overfishing, cooler water, too many boats .....
The goatherd was still there...I love the sound of their bells & bray as that make their way round the rocky headlands between the beaches. While at Aqua Verde we got a radio message that our Nova Scotia friends were anchored close by at the north end of an island we had never been to, so we decided to head there for a night or two and say farewell to John & Jane for a few days. Yellowstone Beach on the north end of Monserrat ...beautiful, a new favourite spot, and we and our friends were the only boats there.
The anchorage is exposed, wide open from all directions except the south so it is really is a place for quiet or expected quiet no wind days as we soon discovered when a south westerly wind kicked up during the night and lasted well into the next morning. At one point the wind was so strong (about 30kts) we weren't sure we could row back to our boat, anchored only 500 feet away... Fortunately we made it back, our anchors held and we had wonderful time.... a long day playing with the all the water toys (kayaks and paddle boards) etc. hiking, visiting and eating a great meal provided by Karin the chef extraordinaire!
With the strong SW wind we decided we could have a great sail to Isla Carmen with our spinnakers given the windy conditions however it was not to be ...we were no sooner underway with spinnakers launched and the wind died...completely....but not before a few pics were taken.
By the time we arrived on the north east side of Isla Carmen the wind had picked up again only this time from the north so we choose to anchor in a little bay with good northerly protection, Perico. Although a rocky beach and not sand like Monserrat it was still a very picturesque ....for some reason the water felt warmer here so nice swims were had by all.
The next day we said goodbye to our friends for a night or two and headed to Isla Coronados a favourite island, remote and beautiful yet a spot where you can still get a signal from the cell tower in Loreto. Also we needed provisions and we knew we could easily get to Loreto from there.... by anchoring off the town in the AM, before the afternoon winds kick up, supplies could picked up and we could be back in the either anchorage the by early afternoon...perfect.
We watched dolphins and the mantas leaping both during the day and by moonlight... even a blue whale ... just off the anchorage for awhile, an amazing experience. We caught back up with John & Jane there and after a lovely get together they decided to head north that evening with the full moon and make their way to Guaymas where they planned to leave their boat for the hurricane season. The next day we went around to the north anchorage and continued to enjoy our time there. On the paddle boards it was fun and challenging to snorkel especially in spite of the wake from the high speed pangas whizzing by, loaded with tourists looking forward to an opportunity to spend time on a remote wide sand beach. The water is very clear here although still a bit chilly 70 deg, however, in spite of the temp Dick was able to get in the water and clean the boat bottom...I couldn't get over how much growth had attached in spite of all the coats of specialized product on our boat bottom and prop! In the process of cleaning both ourselves and the boat we had our first encounter with the local water hungry bees...oh my...within a couple of hours we had hundreds of buzzy bees in the cockpit ...many overdosing themselves on the fresh water either drowning or possibly too heavily burdened with water to fly!
We finally connected with Lynn & Doug on Miramar and headed over to Ballandra on the west side of Isla Carmen to have a nice visit and get away from the bees...within five minutes underway the hundreds of bees left us...thank goodness. To avoid future encounters we came up with several strategies to avoid similar encounters many of which worked (i.e. showering on top of the paddle board or in the dinghy beside the boat instead of in the cockpit...tricky but doable)
Once again the westerly winds kicked up at night and as we knew this would be the case for the next several days we headed to Puerto Escondido to pick up a mooring. This would give us opportunity to get into Loreto for a longer period, clean the boat, fuel up and wait out the wind event before heading back out to the nearby islands. This seemed to be our strategy for much of our time in the sea. Unfortunately the wind events were frequent so we didn't get back out the islands as frequently or for as long as we would have liked however many of our cruising pals who we had not seen for some time kept showing up in Escondido! As a result we had many great visits, finally got to hike the Steinbeck Canyon,
went up the mountains to one of the oldest missions on the Baja at San Javier a couple of times
and had several trips into Loreto and the outdoor organic market.
Eventually we did get to circumnavigate Isla Carmen, anchoring at Bahia Salinas
and Bahia de Cobre,
both beautiful spots and believe it or not we had both anchorages to ourselves for at least one night! You can see why Bahia de Cobre gets its' name
We did get to go back to Isla Coronados at both the north
and south anchorages, however the winds never settled enough to head back to Isla Monserrat. All in all we enjoyed our time the sea very much .... enough to want to go back.
Around the beginning of May with the arrival of yet another wind event we decided to use the breeze to work our way south to La Paz, initially sailing from Isla Coronados to Aqua Verde. We had lovely sail and managed to tuck in just behind the reef giving us good protection from the north east wind and swell.
While there we hiked with friends for a couple of miles trying to find the caves with ancient rock paintings..it was a good walk but we had no success finding the caves. As an aside we made up for this several days later while we in La Paz.... we had a guide who was very knowledgeable about rock art take us out on a directed desert hike into the hills ...a excellent guide and a fun day.
After a couple of days and with the next strong northerly wind event we continued south. "Auto" our autohelm struggled to keep "Full & By" on course as we sailed down through the San Jose Channel testing us and our sailing skills with large short following seas and big wind ...fortunately it didn't last long!...we seem to have become more complacent and very spoiled by our auto over the years! Back in the south anchorage at Isla San Fransisco along with far too many other boats and tourists we decided to leave early the next day, stopping at Bahia Balandra for a swim before heading in and tying up to the dock at Marina Palmira where we stayed to await a good weather window and fuel up for the crossing back to Mazatalan. We decided to sail down to Muertos, shortening the crossing to Mazatlan, rather than leaving from La Paz......it turned out to be a wise decision. The Plan was to leave from Muertos at first light ....when I got up, Dick already in position to raise the anchor, I observed ominous clouds and serval lightning strikes just east of us precisely where we were going to be! We aborted the original plan and and decided to wait it out. We left 12 hours later and during the night we were still able to see lightning off in the distance but fortunately by then it was way ahead, travelling at a much faster speed and away from us. We sailed all the next day and no matter what we did it seemed we couldn't slow the boat down....it was a wonderful sail. It was one of the best crossings we had ever had however we arrived at the entrance to El Cid at 0400 AM. As we waited for first light before entering the narrow channel, we realized it would be low tide...not good. By delaying our crossing by 12 hours instead of 24 hours bedsides having to to be at sea for two nights instead of two days our timing was off by 12 hours! We kissed the sandy bottom just as a big surfing wave pushed us in between the breakwater rocks ....fortunately it was just a light tap and Captain Dick was able to easily manoeuvre Full & By into the channel and slip at the ole El Cid Marina. It felt like home...wonderful to see and be greeted by all our pals.
The next day we started the tough work of putting the boat to bed....our adventure over or so we thought...we had driven down, so getting home would not be quite the same as hopping on an airplane. Our friend Nancy was due to arrive on "Moondancer" in Mazatlan in a few days after sailing up from Huatulco. We had told her we could take her and her new rescue puppy "Popeye" home with us to Canada if she managed to get to Mazatlan before we had to leave the country (Mexican tourist visas are only good for 180 days and you must leave Mexico before they expire).
A few days later Nancy arrived. By then we had settled into our summer slip at Marina Mazatlan. Stay tuned for our land adventure sequel as the "Full & By" crew along with Nancy and Popeye drive home from Mazatlan to Vancouver.