Saturday, May 28, 2016

PUERTO ESCONDIDO TO BAHIA CONCEPCION

May 7, 2016

We had resolved to skip the second day of Loretofest, but we did want to attend the swap meet.  We were ashore by 9:00.  I took a shower and then hit the swap meet where we managed to escape without buying anything but some nuts and bananas.  We used the internet for a few minutes and then returned to the boat.

Honeymoon Cove
Punta Baja was very low, flat protrusion at the end of an otherwise mountainous island.  We rounded the point and headed north along the eastern shore of Isla Carmen for a couple of hours until we reached Bahia Salinas.  We arrived in Bahia Salinas about 15:00.  I had awakened at 4:45 and kept nodding off on the way.  A tuna fishing boat had sunk in the bay in 35 feet of water.  It must have been a large boat because a portion of it was visible above the water as we entered the bay.  It looked like a rock from afar, but resolved into what looked like part of the deck as we passed.  We anchored in 18 feet of blue green water off a wide, white sand beach.  There was only one other boat in the large bay.
Wreck in Bahia Salinas

I was very sleepy and spent the remainder of the afternoon dozing in the sun.  About 18:00, I forced myself to get up and make tilapia, guacamole, chips, and salad for dinner.  A day of motoring and bright sunshine had charged our batteries up to 100%.  Don authorized me to run the computer off the inverter and, having consumed a small can of Diet Coke with dinner, I was able to stay awake long enough to write after dinner.  Then I took my rum and tonic out to the cockpit to shine a flashlight into the water and watch the profusion of life attracted by the light.
Fish Attracted by Light

May 9, 2016

We slept in on Sunday morning and then had breakfast burritos before heading out in the dinghy to explore the abandoned salt works on Isla Carmen.  Isla Carmen has a low spot on its north end that reaches nearly across the island.  This depression contains a seasonal lagoon and was once the site of extensive salt works employing up to 200 people.  The operation was abandoned in 1982 and mostly just left to rot.  Between the salt and sea air, the abandoned equipment looked like it had been there much longer.  We followed the levee that had once supported a narrow gauge railway out into the now dry salt ponds.  The rails had been pulled up, but some of the ties remained.
Former Salt Ponds on Isla Carmen


Abandoned Equipment at the Salt Works
Today, there is a hunting lodge where hunters gather when the national park decrees that the herd of bighorn sheep on the island needs thinning.  A caretaker guards the lodge and chapel, which remains in good repair, stark white against the landscape.  Someone had cleverly converted old forklifts and rail cars into cactus planters.  After walking through the ponds to the lagoon and back, we poked around the abandoned buildings and then strolled to the end of the white sand beach and back.  The former supply boat, the Guaymas, sank at the pier on its final run to remove employees and their belongings from the island.  We gawked at the remains scattered along the bottom of the shallow bay near shore.
Wreck of the Guaymas

Cactus Garden

Chapel at Bahia Salinas
Comet at Anchor in Bahia Salinas

We returned to the boat about 14:00 and spent the rest of the afternoon reading and dozing.  Just as I had started to make fajitas for dinner, the couple from the powerboat that shared our anchorage stopped by to give us a couple of fish they had caught.  We couldn’t say no after they had come so far in the dinghy, but Don slipped the fish back into the water after dark and they happily swam away.  Neither of us were big on cleaning fish on the boat.  We enjoyed our dinner in the cockpit and retired by 22:00.

May 9, 2016

Southerly swells combined with wind out of the east had kept us sideways to the swell all night and we had rolled just enough to prevent me from going back to sleep once I awoke.  Having gone to bed early, Don was up and about even before I was.  We pulled out of the anchorage at 8:10.  There were only a couple of knots of breeze, so we motored easily across calm seas, rounded Punta Perico and headed up to the north side of Isla Carmen.  We passed the small indentation known as V Cove and then turned into Puerto de la Lancha, where we anchored in twenty feet of exceptionally clear water.  We could see the anchor clearly on the white sand bottom.  Don made a pot of oatmeal and we paused there long enough to eat breakfast.

Puerto de la Lancha

We were underway again by 11:30, enroute on the thirteen mile leg from Isla Carmen to Isla Coronados.  Isla Coronados was an old volcano with a large sand spit extending from its southwestern corner to embrace a shallow bay of aquamarine water and white sand that makes a pretty anchorage in fair weather.  Tour boats bring snorkelers to the island from Loreto.  The sand spit continues under water all the way across to the shore, as shallow as twenty feet in places.  We crossed at the pass recommended in the guide book, passed Little Coronado Island, and hooked back into the anchorage staying in deeper water.  We dropped the anchor in 32 feet of water near the other four sailboats in the anchorage about 14:00.
Isla Coronados

We put the boat away and then sat in the sun taking advantage of the cellular and internet service that reached us from Loreto.  I was chilled from motoring through a cool breeze.  Once I warmed up, I ducked into the screened cabin to write because bees were buzzing around the cockpit, even daring to take a sip of my beer.  Don burned some incense which discouraged them while it lasted, but then they returned.  We saw no one stirring on any of the other boats, probably because they were hiding behind insect screens, also.

Dinner was salad and tamales that we had bought from the food vendors at Loretofest.  We had been busy taking advantage of the cellular service, so ate late.  After dinner, we listened to one of Don’s radio shows until we heard our bunks calling.

May 10, 2016

We had hoped to listen to the 8:00 net from Puerto Escondido, but couldn’t hear it at Isla Coronados.  Strangely, the cell service that had been so good the day before had evaporated.  We were disinclined to go ashore with all the bees around, so we pulled out of the anchorage about 9:15 and headed towards shore, trolling for a cell signal because Don needed to return a phone call.  We hoped that getting a line of sight to Loreto would restore service, but it did not.  When we got within a mile of shore, we turned and headed for Punta Mangles.  We followed the coast about a mile offshore and saw a large pod of dolphins leaping in the distance.  We were motoring, so they didn’t approach the boat.  I was still glad to see them because we had seen very few that season.

Ruins at Punta Mangles
The only obstacle between Isla Coronados and Punta Mangles is Mangles Rock.  The chart, surveyed in 1875, said it protruded two feet above high water.  It must have eroded over the past century and a half because we never did manage to spot it.  We passed inshore of it and tucked into the anchorage just inside Punta Mangles.  It didn’t look like much from afar, but turned out to be a wonderful spot.  We anchored in sixteen feet of crystal clear water over white sand.  We arrived about 11:00 and I made bacon and pancakes for brunch.
After the dishes were done, we decided to swim ashore to explore the ruins of an abandoned hotel project.  The water was so clear, that we donned masks and snorkels to snorkel to shore.  We didn’t see any fish on the way in, but there was lots of plant life on the many rocks that I swam over because my snorkel refused to stay attached to my mask and I ended up having to use one hand to keep it out of the waves.  It was tough to swim in a straight line with one hand and, despite my best effort to correct my course, I ended up on a rocky beach.  Don was probably laughing at me as he picked his way across the rocks to bring me the shoes he had carried in his net bag.
Former Restaurant Site

We climbed up the bluff to the ruins of what must have been intended to be a restaurant with a lovely view of the cove.  Concrete pillars reached for an absent palapa roof.  The building, which had been constructed of concrete block, was riddled with bullet holes and appeared to have been demolished with explosives.  Down on the beach, were the remains of two more buildings flanking a swimming pool.  Buildings and pool were filled with sand, rock, and driftwood, leading me to believe that someone’s vision had been destroyed by a flood or hurricane.  It had been built much too close to sea level.

 Our return to the boat was much more direct in my case.  I was in the lead and I saw a school of trout sized silvery fish and one large square bodied specimen lurking on the bottom.  Light was reflecting on the white sand bottom from the ripples above in dancing, glowing patterns.  We took quick showers in solar heated water and, refreshed, continued along our way to Caleta San Juanico, staying about a mile offshore in a hundred feet or more of water. 

Punta Mercenarios
Punta Mercenarios marks the southern edge of Caleta San Juanico and is composed of fabulous rock formations.  One of them resembled the sphinx, while others looked like people crouched on the reef.  We passed these features and anchored in the northwest corner of the bay, hard by a cactus crowned chunk of rock connected to the shore by a shallow reef.  There were already four boats in the anchorage when we arrived and they just kept coming.    Catamarans seemed to travel in packs in the Sea and soon we were surrounded by them. 

Caleta San Juanico
We had our celebratory beer and a snack and then took the dinghy ashore at 17:00.  We picked our way along the rocky shore to the cruisers’ “shrine” at the north end of the bay.  There, a tree was draped with all kinds of testaments to people’s visits to San Juanico.  Many rocks were carved with boat names and there were hats and bottles, burgees and plaques.  Some people had clearly planned ahead and devoted a lot of effort to their contributions.  Near the “shrine,” a path led to the top of the bluff and we climbed up there for a nice view of, not only Caleta San Juanico, but also La Ramada on the far side of Punta San Basilio.  Once we descended, we walked to the far side of the beach and back before returning to Comet for a dinner of spaghetti and salad.  Miraculously, my computer had held a charge and I was able to write after dinner.  It was a beautiful, warm night and we sat talking in the cockpit and watching the sliver of moon sink in the sky.
Cruiser's  Shrine


May 11, 2016

We took so long to decide what we wanted to do with the day that it was 11:00 before we sat down to a breakfast of goat cheese and bacon omelets.  Rather by default, we decided to remain in San Juanico another night.  The pride of catamarans departed, along with a number of the monohulls, leaving the anchorage a much more peaceful and attractive spot.


Lagoon at San Juanico
After breakfast, we took the dinghy across to the southwest corner of the beach near where we could see a road.  It was our intention to follow the road along the hillsides on the southern edge of the bay.  When we got there, we couldn’t determine where the road neared the beach.  We followed some horse tracks, thinking the rider must have come from the road.  He hadn’t, but the tracks led us to a beautiful lagoon that was hidden from the beach.  The trouble with the lagoon was that it was between us and the road.  We followed the lagoon back up a canyon where it became a stream and then a dry wash, figuring the road had to cross the stream somewhere.  The trail we were following degenerated into a warren of deer paths.  Tiring of cactus whacking, we slogged through the deep sand of the wash.  After close to three miles, we finally heard a car.  We were very hot and sweaty and might have turned back if we hadn’t heard that car.  As it was, we continued on and soon came to the road which led us back around to another wash that led back to the beach where our dinghy waited patiently.
Don Hiking at San Juanico


It was mid afternoon by the time we returned to the boat.  Ice cold beers revived us.  I was covered with salt crystals from our sweaty hike, so I dove in and swam eleven laps around the boat.  The water was alternately heavenly warm and frigid as I circled the boat.  Eleven laps didn’t seem far at all after our quarter mile swim of the day before, although it was slower going without fins.  The afternoon was the warmest we had seen since leaving the mainland.  For the first time, I could shower and sit to air dry without shivering in a cool breeze.  We were well satisfied that we had decided to remain another day in San Juanico.

Our Contribution to the Cruiser's Shrine
After my swim, I inscribed Comet’s logo on a scallop shell I had picked up for that purpose.  Don drilled a hole in it and strung it with a few loops of Goretex thread.  As the sun sank towards the horizon, we hopped in the dinghy and made a quick trip to the shrine tree to hang our offering.  Then we cruised around the rock pinnacles in the anchorage, disturbing large schools of fish and a few small rays.  San Juanico offered fascinating rocks and caves, but we had to be careful of submerged rocks that threatened our outboard.

Needlefish
We got back to the boat just in time for me to make mashed potatoes, salad, and spicy chicken wings for dinner before it got dark.  Another day of strong sunshine had our batteries at full strength and I was able to run my computer off the inverter after dinner.  Later, we sat in the cockpit enjoying Don’s eclectic music collection.  Once again, we shone a bright light into the water and watched the fish it attracted.  That night, we saw lots of neon blue needlefish darting about, feasting on the tiny creatures drawn to the light.





May 12, 2016

Punta Pulpito
I got up at 7:30 and made coffee.  By 8:00, Don was up and by 8:30 we were motoring past the pinnacles of Caleta San Juanico and heading around Punta San Basilio and up the coast to Pulpito where we dropped the anchor in a craterlike cove at the base of the 475 foot tall rock known as “the pulpit.”  We saw rays leaping out of the water and a large pod of dolphins heading south.

video


Don on Top of Pulpito
Our reason for stopping at Pulpito, other than shortening the trip to Bahia Concepcion, was to climb to the top of the pulpit.  It wasn’t very far to the top (1.3 miles), but it was very steep and hot and much of it was deep sand that slid back as we ascended.  There was only a tiny sandy beach for landing the dinghy.  From there, we clambered over a large pile of boulders and driftwood until we reached a steep chute of sand that led up to the ridge.  There was a road that led down to the beach from the ridge, but it ended at the far side of the cove where it was too rocky to land the dinghy.  It would have been a chore to hop from rock to rock all the way around the shore of the anchorage.

From the ridge, we followed a faint trail up onto the headland.  Where that track ended, we could see a pole erected on the summit and we scrambled up the red, volcanic rocks to the top.  It was hot and even the summit was almost windless.  There was an expansive view from San Juanico up to Santa Teresa Point.  We could see the anchorages of Bahia San Nicolas on the far side of the isthmus leading to the pulpit, useful if a southerly were blowing.

Comet in the Pulpito Anchorage
Cold beers were calling us, so we headed back down, descending much more quickly than we had climbed.  We were back at the boat by 14:00 where we had a cold beer, napped, read, and swam.  There were a lot of tiny jellyfish in the water.  I didn’t get stung, but they discouraged me from swimming laps around the boat.  The solar heated shower water was scalding hot.  Don waited until dinnertime to shower and fared much better.

Dinner was pork kebabs with quinoa and salad.  Clouds were gathering on the horizon and we could see rain to the southeast.  The clouds made for a spectacular sunset, but we hoped that we wouldn’t see a thunderstorm during the night.  Beginning in July, thunderstorms originating over the mainland known as “chubascos” would move west and hammer the west side of the Sea in the early morning hours.  In Puerto Escondido, a chubasco report was given every night at 21:00 during the season so that cruisers could prepare for strong winds if expected.

May 13, 2016

Sunrise at Pulpito
We had a long trip ahead of us, so got an early start.  I had been awake until 2:00 the night before and had been awake briefly at 6:30.  I was less than enthusiastic when Don got me up at 7:30.  Still, we were pulling up the hook and on our way by 7:45.  There was very little wind, so we motored around Pulpito and headed straight for Santa Teresa Point.  There was no scenic anchorage inviting us to stop for breakfast, so we had hard boiled eggs and an apple and kept going.  We turned slightly west at Santa Teresa and continued up the peninsula that formed the eastern side of Bahia Concepcion.  It was 37 miles from Pulpito to the anchorage at Santo Domingo.  We rounded Punta Concepcion and then Aguja and Hornitos and tucked into the anchorage by 14:00.

Rounding Punta Aguja
It was very hot when we arrived and soon a warm wind was blowing 16 knots from the east.  We drank a beer and contemplated the change in the weather.  The seemingly endless days in the vast and beautiful sea had lulled me into deep relaxation.  As Comet’s haul out date approached, the realization dawned on me that this period was finite and each day became incredibly precious.  I could hardly bear to think of all the places we would have to skip that year.  Only the knowledge that I could eventually return prevented me from refusing to leave.  The Sea of Cortez had surpassed all my expectations.

Santo Domingo Anchorage
We passed the sultry afternoon reading and swimming.  I did twelve laps around the boat.  The water felt cool and refreshing.  The east wind stopped suddenly as if someone had flipped a switch.  We had barbecued chicken legs and sweet potato home fries with salad for dinner and then I sat in the dark in the cockpit, perfecting the art of just being while the moonlight and mild evening air washed over me.

                                                                                                                                

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