Thursday, May 5, 2016


April 23, 2016

Don decided he needed to refill his prescriptions before we set off, so he took a taxi to the Mega to attend to that while I got the boat ready to go.  I stripped off the canvas covers and filled all the water jugs.  The clear, collapsible jug and sun shower were green with algae, so I scrubbed them out with a dish brush and then added a few drops of bleach in when I refilled them to prevent that happening again.  I topped off the water tank, lowered the dinghy onto its cradle, and lashed down the jerry cans.  Don was gone some time because he needed to go to four pharmacies before finding what he needed.  Still, we had time to say a reluctant farewell to Jake and Jackie on Hokule’a and check out before noon.
Fuel Dock at Marina Palmira

We motored up the channel to Marina Palmira to buy fuel.  Having finally succeeded in isolating the forward fuel tank and pumping it dry, we wanted to calibrate the new dipstick so that we could tell how much fuel was in it going forward.  This process required three people because the pump with the meter was on shore.  We needed the attendant to tell Don when he reached each five gallon increment.  Don turned off the flow and then I dipped the stick and cut a notch at each level.  Of course I had to explain all this to the attendant in Spanish.  Everything went fine, however, and the attendant was very patient and helpful with the process.
Hurricane Wrecked Boats at Yard Next to Palmira

After leaving the fuel dock, we had to decide where to go.  Strong southwesterlies were predicted for that night and most of the anchorages were open to the southwest.  The only anchorage we could reach before dark not open to the southwest was Puerto Balandra.  The guidebooks warned that, while not a lee shore in a southwest wind, swells would wrap around and make it very rolly.  We elected to go there, anyway, since caffeine had kept me awake until 6 AM the previous night and I could barely keep my eyes open.  Sailing 42 miles to San Evaristo, our next good anchorage, was out of the question.

We arrived in Puerto Balandra and dropped the hook at 15:00.  Puerto Balandra was a large, gorgeous anchorage with white sand beaches and turquoise water.  Much of it was very shallow and looked like a great place to play in a dinghy on a hot day.  The best anchoring spots tucked under Punta Diablo were already taken by other sailboats.  We anchored as close to the point as possible.  We had our celebratory beer and a snack and then I napped until nearly 19:30.
Puerto Balandra

The wind had one southwest as predicted by the time I got up.  I made pork tacos and salad for dinner.  It was too rough to barbecue, but didn’t get really crazy until poor Don was trying to do the dishes.  The wind increased to nearly 20 knots and the swells were hitting us on the beam and rolling us mercilessly.  Despite a margarita with dinner, I had a hard time getting to sleep and then woke around 2:00 with what felt like whiplash in my neck. I lay awake until 4:00 when the swells started to abate somewhat.

April 24, 2016

By 7:00, I was tired of pretending to sleep and got up and made coffee.  I wrote and drank coffee until Don got up.  We readied the boat and pulled out of the anchorage about 10:30.

Sailing Past Isla Espiritu Santo
It was a gorgeous, clear day and we had a nice breeze in the morning.  We put up the sails, shook the reef out of the main, and sailed across the channel and up the west coast of Isla Espiritu Santo.  All of the usually popular anchorages were completely empty because of the southwest winds.  Our breeze died about noon, so we rolled up the jib and continued north under motor.

We took the scenic route between Isla Ballena and Isla Espiritu Santo.  Then we passed the shallow passage between Isla Espiritu Santo and Isla Partida and continued north past the previous day’s intended destination of Ensenada Grande and then struck out across open water for 15 miles to Isla San Francisco.  Except for the lack of sailing wind, it was a perfect day.  Don made us oatmeal for lunch.  I took a little nap.  By 15:00, we were approaching the island.  

"The Hook" at Isla San Francisco
Isla San Francisco was a small island with a curving arm that created a famous, turquoise blue anchorage known as, “the Hook.”  It was a beautiful spot, but unfortunately open to the southwest.  We anchored on the other side of the arm which, while not blessed with sugar sand beaches and a white bottom, was still a pretty anchorage and protected from the wind.  Most of the boats at Isla San Francisco had anchored in, “the Hook,” even though it would be a lee shore.  There were only two boats on our side.
Comet on the Back Side of Isla San Francisco

We took a swim in the somewhat chilly but beautifully clear water.  I did nine laps around the boat and then took a nice solar heated shower.  The sun was warm, but there was enough breeze to avoid turning the place into a reflector oven.  We relaxed all afternoon and then Don barbecued actual Polish sausages that we had found at Chedraui while I made curried cauliflower and salad.  We ate in the cockpit and sat sharing a bottle of wine and listening to music while the nearly full moon rose in the east.  The night was mild and we enjoyed being outdoors in the bug free air, feeling like geniuses for having predicted the nighttime shift of the wind to the southwest that provided us with a comfortable and secure anchorage.

April 25, 2016
Salt Pond on Isla San Francisco

We wanted to go ashore and take a hike up to the top of the ridge above “the Hook.”  We got up early and were coffeed up and ready to hop in the dinghy by 9:00.  There was no swell whatsoever on our side of the island, so we had a very dry trip to shore and an easy landing, although it was a job to haul the dinghy up the steep, soft, pink gravel beach.  We walked up the sand dune separating the two bays and then crunched across a dry salt pond in the center of the isthmus.  Everywhere, we could see lizard prints looking like bicycle tracks in the sand.  We crossed over to the pretty beach on the other side and followed that to a trail that led up the ridge.  Climbing to the ridge was an easy hike, but following the ridge to the end of the arm and the “summit” required some boulder hopping.  We had a snack on top and then followed the arm down to the tip of the spit that formed “the Hook.”  We took lots of pictures and then ambled along the beach and back over the isthmus to our dinghy.
Don on the Ridge Above Isla San Francisco

The Ridge Above Isla San Francisco

                                                                                                                              We had worked up an appetite, so I made pancakes upon our return to Comet.  I took a nap and we spent a lazy day until Don decided to go snorkeling.  Unfortunately, he found the water full of tiny jellyfish.  They didn’t sting him, but he got out just to be safe, quashing my intention to swim to shore later.  Instead, I played the guitar for a bit and Don constructed a new leg for the cockpit table, which had been out of service for some time.  Then we had a beer and relaxed until dinnertime.

For dinner, Don barbecued salmon and I made mashed yams, broccoli, and salad.  We felt very civilized, eating with a table in the cockpit.  After the dishes were done, it was very dark and we sat in the cockpit, all alone in the anchorage, enjoying the multitude of stars and listening to music.

April 26, 2016

Isla Coyote

Rocas Focas
We didn’t have far to go, so there was no need to rush.  We had coffee and still pulled up the anchor by 10:30.  We headed north around Isla San Francisco and then cut across to the San Jose Channel, passing Isla Coyote and Rocas Focas (Seal Rocks) along the way.  Isla Coyote was an anomaly because, despite being a tiny island surrounded by sheer cliffs on most sides, it was one of the few inhabited islands in the Sea of Cortez.

There was plenty of wind, so we hoisted the sails and sailed across the channel.  By the time we cleared Isla San Jose, the wind was blowing over 18 knots and we had to roll up most of the jib.  We had a wet sail across, but the increasing velocity lifted us as we went, allowing us to sail higher than anticipated.  We were close enough to San Evaristo when we reached the far side of the channel that we just rolled up the jib and motored the rest of the way, rather than tacking up the coast.

We were the first boat to arrive and dropped the hook in the northwest corner of the bay by 13:00.  We put the boat away and had guacamole and chips with our celebratory beer, only feeling slightly guilty for drinking so early in the day.  Don took a swim and scrubbed the waterline of the boat, but I waited until the sun shower heated up.  A couple of other small cruising boats arrived, but they were quiet and the bay was spacious.  Eventually, I took a swim, but the water was so cold I only managed one lap.

When the sun lowered in the sky, we took the dinghy ashore.  Despite the still howling norther, there was no surf and we made a perfect landing.  We walked over the hill to check out the salt evaporation ponds on the other side.  It is also possible to anchor on that side of the point in the event of southerly winds.  We turned around there and came back, traversing the town to the Lupe Sierra’s and Maggi Mae restaurant on the far side.  All the fishermen were returning and pulling their pangas up on the beach. Dozens of gulls, pelicans, and even turkey buzzards were loitering about, hoping for scraps.  They all looked well fed and we marveled that such a sere landscape could support so much life.
Salt Ponds in San Evaristo

San Evaristo

Lupe and Maggi’s restaurant was a trip.  The restaurant sat atop a sand dune overlooking the bay with tables on a covered porch.  Everything was decorated with seashells.  They encouraged visitors to paint shells with their boat names and we saw many that we recognized.  They had even set up driftwood “trees” which were covered with more shells.  A succulent garden in front was embellished with painted rocks and curly sticks resembling snakes.  We were waited on by the son, Pepe, who spoke passable English.  Everyone was very friendly and the food was good, plentiful, and reasonably priced.  Don had fish tacos and I had shrimp quesadillas.  They told us they were expecting a charter with 26 people later that night, but there was no sign of them at 17:00.

Memory Tree at Lupe Sierra & Maggi Mae

We were enjoying cocktails in the cockpit when we saw a charter catamaran pull into the bay.  We were rather surprised that he chose to anchor in the windy middle of the bay, rather than the sheltered shallows closer to the shore, but he got the hook down without incident.  As the sun was setting, three more boats arrived from the south, the first two of which managed to anchor after only one or two tries.  All of the boats were filled with Italians.  We realized this was the group of 26 people that Pepe had mentioned.

The last catamaran arrived just as it was getting dark.  By this time there was a lot of radio chatter in Italian.  The poor skipper of that last boat was under the mistaken impression that the way to set an anchor was to drop it and back down fast.  He could not get that anchor to hold.  He kept jerking it free.  He must have tried ten times.  The other skippers kept calling him on the radio.  He was clearly stressed, snapping, “Non ancora (not now),” at them repeatedly.  He scared us by trying to anchor far too close to us in what was still a serious blow, but eventually chose a spot at an acceptable distance.

Suddenly, the anchorage was a very noisy place, with 26 voluble Italians trying to organize going ashore for dinner.  It was nearly closing hour by the time they finally got to the restaurant.  The Sierra family had a late night.  The cold wind finally drove us inside after the anchoring fiasco ended.  We read for a bit and then I retired about 22:00.

April 27, 2016

Don at Lupe Sierra & Maggi Mae
We got up too late to attempt a long passage north, so we decided to spend the day in San Evaristo.  We passed what remained of the morning chatting with other cruisers in the anchorage.  As a woman seriously considering cruising alone with another woman, I was encouraged to discover that the boat whose seamanship we had admired was sailed by a pair of retired ladies from Seattle.    About noon, we went ashore and had a leisurely brunch at the restaurant.  The Italians, who had been buzzing all over the anchorage in their dinghies since early morning, had all departed for Isla San Francisco.  We met and shared a table with the crew of Encore and enjoyed conversing about sailing in the sea.

We swam and lounged away the afternoon.  The water seemed warmer than the day before and I managed six laps, despite a nasty swell that kept smacking me in the face, before a minor jellyfish sting chased me back into the boat.  The sun shower was warm and I washed my hair and lay in the sun.  We had chicken thighs in guajillo chile sauce over rice for dinner, accompanied by green salad.  We sat in the cockpit for a bit after dinner, but it began to get very windy from the west.

The wind blew twenty knots all night.  Despite multiple efforts to quiet them, halyards banged against the mast and shrouds all night long, making it very difficult to sleep.  One of the spinnaker halyards was run through a keeper on the mast, preventing us from running it forward to the bow where it wouldn’t bang.  I stood out in the howling wind for ten minutes in my pajamas, trying to silence the noisy halyards, but didn’t think of a way to do it until I was safely ensconced in my warm bunk.

April 28, 2016

The wind had blown itself out by morning.  We got up early and were pulling up the anchor by 9:00.  All the other sailors in the anchorage had passed even worse nights than we had and were feeling pretty rough, from what we could hear over the radio.  It didn’t look like any of the other boats were planning to leave San Evaristo that day.  I had thought San Evaristo a pretty desolate place when we arrived, but it had grown on me quite a bit due to its friendly, cheerful inhabitants.


We left San Evaristo and continued north up the San Jose Channel.  We had had visions of flying the asymmetrical spinnaker in the southerly winds of the previous couple of days and had even gone so far as to rig the lines, but we found the wind on our nose instead.  We hugged the western side of the channel and poked our nose in the anchorages at Nopolo just to see what they were like.  We found them small and rather unprotected, although there were some houses along the northern beach.

Bahia Los Dolores

We continued north along a fantastic coast that looked like a soundstage backdrop for a Hollywood western.  We crossed Bahia los Dolores with the palm trees of isolated Ranhco Dolores looking like an Oasis and then passed between tiny Isla Habana to port and Islas San Diego and Santa Cruz to Starboard.  We passed the black Rocas Morenas and then tucked into Timbabiche to explore the anchorage there.  It was quite windy and didn’t look well protected, so we continued on around Punta Botella to Puerto Los Gatos and dropped the anchor at 13:00.

Puerto Los Gatos was a slightly larger and more protected anchorage with the advantage of spectacular pink bluffs on the north side making it quite scenic.  Numerous reefs in the bay required careful navigation, but provided ample opportunities for snorkeling in warm weather.  Don took the dinghy ashore after we put the boat away and I took a nap, tired after the previous sleepless night.
Sunset at Puerto Los Gatos

I got up in time to make spaghetti with Italian sausage and salad for dinner.  We conserved our rapidly dwindling supply of limes by drinking a bottle of red wine with dinner.  Then we passed a relaxing evening listening to music in the cockpit before retiring early.
April 29, 2016

We got up early and headed to shore to explore the rock formations and climb to the top of the two pink peaks north of the anchorage.  It was already windy by the time we reached the ridge.  We took lots of pictures and then hiked back down and poked around the tide pools formed by the reef.  Big black crabs scuttled across the rocks.  Moss was shockingly green in that desert environment.  We saw bleached bones from the skeleton of a small whale.  
Puerto Los Gatos

Unfortunately, the chill north wind discouraged snorkeling for those of us lacking wetsuits.
Red Rock at Puerto Los Gatos
                                                                                                                                                            We returned to the boat at 10:30, loaded up the dinghy, and pulled the anchor.  As soon as we poked our nose out of the anchorage it was blowing 20 knots.  The seas were large and hindered our forward progress.  We could only make about 1.5 knots and were getting very wet.  We quickly decided to turn tail and return to Los Gatos where we anchored tight against the northern beach in the shelter of the bluffs.

We were hungry from our morning’s exertions, so I made a big breakfast of bacon, eggs, beans, tortillas, and pineapple.  We were too well rested to nap, so I settled down to write.  All day long, boats arrived, battered by the winds and seas.  The wind gradually abated as the day wore on.  By 17:00, we could no longer see whitecaps outside the anchorage, so we decided to put a couple of more miles under the keel.  We pulled up the anchor and motored a couple of miles around the corner to Punta San Telmo.

Punta San Telmo
We were the only boat in San Telmo.  The anchorage wasn’t quite as good as Puerto Los Gatos (so named because a puma was once seen there), but it was sheltered from northerly swell and the wind was light and continued to lighten as the evening wore on.  We arrived right at 18:00.  As soon as we got the anchor down, I started cooking dinner.  We had tilapia fillets with boiled potatoes and carrots and salad.  We were able to play our music as loud as we wanted, since we were all alone in the anchorage.  Our solar panels had been working so well that Don encouraged me to use the inverter to charge my computer even though we weren’t running the motor.

April 30, 2016

Rancho Santa Marta
We awoke to a beautiful, clear morning with calm seas.  Don and I had agreed the night before to get up and go if the morning was calm.  I boiled some water for coffee and got Don up by 7:30.  We headed out just after 8:00.  We made very good time over the flat seas, so decided to explore the anchorages we were bypassing on our way to Agua Verde.  Don had been using the Navionics app on his iPhone for navigation since his GPS had failed.  Suddenly, the icon representing the location of the boat had disappeared from the screen, forcing us to rely on my phone and GPS instead.  He could not reinstall the app because we had no internet service.  I also had Navionics on my android phone, but it operated differently and lacked the automatic routing feature of the iPhone version.  Still, my version showed our current location, so we made do.  After determining how to manually enter a waypoint, we were able to plot a route that agreed with the one in my GPS.  Navionics showed more detail of depths and hazards than the chart plotter on my GPS, but all detail disappeared just past Agua Verde, possibly as a result of my failure to download the maps for that area.  Of course, this was also a problem that would require internet access to correct. 

San Marte
Our first stop was Bahia Santa Marta about 8 miles north of San Telmo.  Santa Marta was a pretty spot with a rancho sheltering in a grove of palm trees, but didn’t offer much in the way of an anchorage.  Ensenada La Ballena, the next cove up the coast, was so little indented that we motored right past it and only noticed it because of the large sea cave on the north side.  We had intended to stop there for breakfast, but continued on to San Marte instead.  San Marte was a nicely protected anchorage in the case of northeasterly winds.  Steep cliffs ringed the anchorage.  It was reasonably easy to approach from the south as long as one hugged the shore.  We dropped the hook in the northeast corner of the anchorage at 10:30 and spent an hour eating breakfast burritos and going for a swim.

Departing San Marte required backtracking quite a long way because of a reef that extended southeast even farther than noted in the cruising guides.  We motored well past the GPS coordinates for a northerly approach and were still seeing submerged reefs.  Even after we turned north, I suddenly noted a change in the color of the water and we slowed the boat a proceeded cautiously until the water got deeper again.

Approaching Agua Verde
Once free of the San Marte reefs, we had to thread our way between Punta San Marcial and the visible and lighted San Marcial reef.  Once we passed that channel, we could clearly see white Roca Solitaria on the far side of Agua Verde.  The anchorage at Agua Verde wrapped around behind a detached chunk of rock.  We found the anchorage crowded with boats.  We motored around for a while and finally elected to anchor close to the beach dubbed the “Agua Verde Yacht Club” because of the number of impromptu gatherings that occur there.  The water was as turquoise as a swimming pool and we were well sheltered as long as the wind didn’t turn to the south.

Our First Anchorage at Agua Verde
Unfortunately, the wind did turn to the south.  I made shredded chicken tacos and salad for dinner and we ate in the cockpit, keeping a close eye on the wind indicator.  The wind kept building.  We were only a couple of boat lengths off the beach.  The anchor was holding fine, but we knew that neither of us would sleep a wink being that close to the shore.   Still, we hoped the wind would die after sunset.  When we saw the wind build to nearly 20 knots, we pulled up the hook and moved to the other end of the bay, reanchoring just as it got dark.  We were lying in 30 feet of water far off shore where we spent a very peaceful night, not worrying which way the wind was blowing, although it dropped shortly after we relocated.  We sat in the cockpit, drinking margaritas and listening to the music from a quinceanera that was being celebrated in the village.  It was an elaborate affair with catered food, a band, generators, and lights that illuminated the entire hillside.

May 1, 2016

Second Anchorage at Agua Verde
The radio woke us, although it was Sunday and there was no net.  People were still inquiring about the weather.  The general consensus was that it would be light that day and windier the following day.  The anchorage rapidly emptied as boats left for Puerto Escondido or points south.  We wanted to spend the day exploring Agua Verde, so we had coffee and then I made pancakes.

When breakfast was behind us, we took the dinghy back across to the isthmus where we had originally anchored.  We beached the dinghy and climbed up the hill on the east side of the anchorage.  We took some photos from up there and then descended and climbed over the hill on the western side.  On the back side of the hill, we found an old cemetery.  The newest grave was from 1977 and many of the graves were in poor repair.  Not far past the cemetery, we came to a small, stagnant lagoon lined with an oasis of palm trees.  Downed trees and palm fronds littered the ground. It was apparent that a hurricane had ripped through there at some point.  We followed the bank of the lagoon to the beach where we could look north to Puerto Escondido.
Oasis at Agua Verde

We proceeded back up the other side of the lagoon where a maze of trails wound through the sand of a dry wash and back to the cemetery.  Then we turned right and followed the base of the hills until we reached the road.  The road climbed over the range of hills and traversed across the slope and back down to the isthmus where we had started our hike.  The views were spectacular and we stopped often to take pictures.  For once, reality was even more gorgeous than the photos in the guidebooks.
Agua Verde from the Ridge

Church in Agua Verde
We took the dinghy back to the boat and, after a quick stop to collect wallets, made our way to the beach near where we were anchored that was the location of the village of Agua Verde.   Not much of the village was visible from the beach.  There was one sometime restaurant that sold fish tacos when open and an outhouse that could be used for five pesos.  The restaurant was closed when we arrived.  We followed a dusty track into the village.  Agua Verde was a disorganized collection of dwellings scattered across a level valley.  The generally bare and hard desert earth made official roads unnecessary.  We explored the village.  Walking was somewhat hazardous as pickup trucks zoomed about at high speed and it was difficult to predict where they were headed.  There were two churches (Catholic and Evangelical?) and a tiny school with a basketball court that appeared to have been the site of the previous night’s festivities.  A slightly more established restaurant was also closed when we passed at mid-afternoon.  The quinceanera was still underway on the edge of town, the location obvious from the large collection of pickup trucks parked around one of the homes.

Maria's Tienda in Agua Verde
We located the small grocery store near the beach.  It was brightly painted in Pacifico Beer yellow but, despite all the Pacifico paraphernalia, we were only able to purchase one six pack.  The store was tiny, but had a good variety of staples and junk food.  There were homemade flour tortillas for the gringo cruisers.  They even had some produce.  We bought tomatoes, onions, and a ripe avocado.  Unfortunately, they did not have any limes.  We were out of rum and reduced to making margaritas with double strength lime Tang.  They did have that, so we bought a backup supply.

We were back at the boat by mid-afternoon.  I took a swim, washed my hair, and spent the rest of the afternoon reading and dozing in the sun.  We had hamburger patties, guacamole and chips, and bacon slaw for dinner.  We had no neighbors, so could play our music without guilt as we enjoyed the mild evening.  The previous night’s offshore winds failed to materialize.

May 2, 2016

Isla Monserrate
We got a fairly early start on Monday and were out of the anchorage by 9:30.  Winds were light and seas were flat.  We motored for Isla Monserrate and dropped anchor off the southern shore by 11:00.  The anchorage had extremely clear, blue green water, but didn’t offer much wind protection.  We decided on just a quick stop for breakfast and a swim.  I made huevos rancheros while Don swam and then I did ten laps around the boat while Don was doing the dishes.  The water was alternately very cold and almost bathtub warm.  It was very odd, but far preferable to the consistently cold water we had been experiencing.  Big black rays were leaping out of the water in the distance, but I didn’t see any while I was swimming.
Passing Las Islas Candeleros

The way from Agua Verde to Puerto Escondido is a gauntlet of rocks and small islands.  By sailing out to Monserrate, we missed the first half of the obstacles, but we still needed to cross over the chain of islands known as Las Islas Candeleros.  We plotted a course that took us between Isla Pardo and Las Tijeras and then turned north and paralleled Isla Danzante which looked like a sleeping horned toad with all its rocky spines.

Puerto Escondido (Hidden Port) is almost completely landlocked.  The 200 foot wide entrance channel cannot be seen until one is aligned with it and ready to enter the bay.  Some boats and buildings around the outer bay known as the “waiting room” can be seen from afar and provide a target.  Boats can anchor in the “waiting room.”  This is a good anchorage for deep draft vessels that might have trouble passing through the channel.    On the left, as you transit the entrance channel, is the manmade anchoring basin known as “the Ellipse”.  Fees to anchor in “the Waiting Room” or “the Ellipse” are lower than inside the main bay and are payable at the API office.  Many cruisers who have made Puerto Escondido their home have installed private moorings in these areas.  Rumor has it that the Ellipse will soon be developed as a marina.

The Waiting Room

1 comment:

  1. A wonderful narrative with great photos. Looks and sounds like you're having a pretty nice cruise. -Tom F