Monday, 16 January 2017

San Blas

The travelling fish band

The area around Isla Isabela is quite shallow with depths of 100 - 200 feet.  This means there are lots of fish, which means there are lots of long lines.  We had some light wind on the morning we left and were able to sail, which was a good thing, the first long line we spotted got hooked on the fishing gear we had trailing behind....after that we were better about spotting them.  The long lines are anchored at one end and have pop bottle floats every 200 feet or so with a flag at the far end about a mile away.  There are many stories of entangled boats and wildlife.  Kialoa with her full keel was able to pass over them but we were glad not to have the engine running as they could have easily been sucked into the propeller.  We picked up a troupe of fish on the way.  I have never seen fish travel with the boat before but this small group was with us for about an hour.  Jay tried interesting them in his fishing lure but they were not intent on their goal and did not bite.
Kialoa doubles as a dryer
 The entrance into San Blas is very shallow and we had a bit of nail biting trip across the bar and up the river to the marina.  San Blas is renowned for its mosquitos and jejenes, and they were there, but with some bug spray and long pants and shirts at the right time of day it is manageable.  Here we had a chance to do laundry and reprovision.  It is a lovely mexican town and was once the main customs port for the spanish on the west coast of mexico.  Due to the shallow river depths and bugs the center of commerce moved further south.  The old spanish fort has been restored and commands an impressive view of the town and surrounding area.
The slow moving rivers and mangrove swamps in this area also provide a perfect breeding ground for crocodiles.  Along with the crew of Airsupply we spent an interesting day touring up river and seeing crocodiles in the wild.  Keep your hands to yourself!
A historic church in San Blas, the canadian flag is providing
shade for one of the local vendors!

heading up river
A crocodile

The curious cat fish
We are not in the desert any more!  

The Galapagos of Mexico

A beautiful sailing day

Jay and I left Los Frailes on Dec 7th making way for Isla Isabela, also known as the Galapagos of Mexico.  This small island is 30 miles off the mainland coast of mexico, some 70 nm south of Mazatlan.  It was a 214 nm journey from Los Frailes.  As I planned for a 4 knot average speed we gave ourselves 48 hours to make the passage.  The first day out we had beautiful winds, as predicted, and far exceeded our 4 knot average planned speed.  As our arrival time was looking to be around 2 am we had to start slowing down, and slowing down some more and in the end drifted for a while near the island waiting for daylight.  The anchorage is tricky, wide open to the south with lots of rocks and reefs, it is important to take good care.  Jay snorkelled around and found us a small sandy spot to drop the anchor.  We had timed our arrival to coincide with a period of very calm weather and were delighted that the predictions held.  It gave us 3 days to explore this very unique spot.  The birds are phenomenal.  Every bush is full of frigate birds, and not just a few, many!  The grassy areas are the home of every variety of boobie.  This is their breeding ground and due to the remoteness of the island the birds are not frightened of people and tend to just watch you walk by.
There is a small fishing camp and an old research station but other than that it is untouched.  We had some fantastic snorkeling trips.   The rock formations underwater were beautiful.  This wild, remote island definately lived up to our expectations.
Kialoa at anchor, Isla Isabela

Rugged cliffside

A small collection of the fishlife

The Igaunas were not very concerned about us.
Trees full of frigate birds
A closer look at a fully ballooned male

Blue footed boobies involved in courtship
Jay and the fish

Next stop San Blas!

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Some people love heights

Some people love heights, I am not one of them!  When Jay and I were putting the sail cover on the main sail shortly after arriving in San Evaristo a small cotter pin fell to the deck.  As everyone knows this is cause for alarm, where did it come from?  I checked every place on deck that I knew would need a cotter pin and there were none missing.  So the only other place to look is up the mast.  And it must be checked, a lost cotter pin can mean a lost mast, so up I went.  Luckily for me it was flat calm in San Evaristo and so my trip to the top was without incident.  I carefully checked every single connection from the top to the bottom.  There was nothing amiss and all cotter pins were where they should be.  So the loose cotter pin remains a mystery, but a good inspection of the rigging is never a bad thing.
Jay and I slowly worked our way towards La Paz, we had some lovely sailing, endured a rain storm (see photo below) and some flat calm motoring.  We checked out the huge mangrove lagoon at Amortajada, had a brief stop at Los Islotes and enjoyed more good snorkeling on the way.

The dodger nearly got wet in the rainstorm!

Just one of the birds that call Amortajada home.

One of the rocks at Los Islotes.  These rocks are home to a large
sea lion colony, many of them are young and curious and approach
people who come to snorkel with them.  It is quite a thrill to be
in such close proximity with these beautiful wild animals.

As much as I love being in the water with the sea lions I do find them a little intimidating and prefer to have someone in the water with me.  Since one of us had to stay on Kialoa as she drifted in proximity, I did not join Jay in the water this time.

We arrived in La Paz in early Dec and spent three days shopping for groceries, doing laundry and picking up some of the things that are easiest found in cities.  As the plan included heading south to the mainland coast, a place Kialoa has not been before I also needed to pick up the appropriate cruising guide.  It is always good to find out about where you are going before you get there!
Jay and I departed La Paz Dec 3, motored north into light but slowly building winds.  As we approached the San Lorenzo channel and our turn east and then south the winds built enough that we ended up having a beautiful downwind overnight sail to Los Frailes, a large bay on the southeast corner of the Baja Peninsula.  This bay has fantastic snorkeling and is just around the corner from Cabo Pulmo Marine park which is a large shallow bay that has extensive coral reefs and is completely protected from fishing and gathering.  It was a hot hike over a dusty road to the beach at Cabo Pulmo but very worth it. The snorkeling was great and the water temperature was becoming much warmer as we got further south.  It was so nice to be snorkeling without a wet suit on!
These funny looking fish are called Mexican lookdowns.

Just one of the sea turtles we spotted while snorkeling.
and one of the beautiful and bright parrot fish.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Puerto Escondido for a hike

Jay and I continued south from Punta Pulpito, with stops at Caleta San Jaunico and Los Gatos, and with a small side trip to tow a fishing panga that had a broken down engine to shore.  We then met up with Searover II at Isla Coronados.  Isla Coronados is a volcanic island with some beautiful white sand beaches and a somewhat challenging hike to the peak.  The beginning of the trail is lovely packed dirt and lined with rocks so there is no chance of getting lost.  As you start to gain altitude it becomes all rock that is somewhat loose and footing can be tricky and the only way to stay on the trail is to follow the not always so obvious rock cairns.  As you come to the steepest part is is loose pea gravel stones that give way under your feet, two feet up one foot back.  However the view from the top is extremely rewarding and makes the effort worthwhile!
Just some of the residents of San Jaunico

A drascombe sailing the bay at San Jaunico, it is part of
a wilderness leadership school that is based out of
Bahia Concepcion.

Jay practicing his freediving

One of the views from the top of Isla Coronados, looking over the anchorage
towards Loreto.
Jay and I made a stop in Loreto to replenish the larder on Kialoa.  At Loreto you must anchor off the small harbour, which is only big enough for Pangas and dinghy in to shore.  While shopping it is always a good idea to keep an eye on the palm trees because if the wind comes up then the waves build fast and its a wet ride with a full dinghy back to the boat.  Luckily this time it stayed calm and we stayed dry.  It was a lovely slow spinnaker ride the rest of the way to Puerto Escondido where we tied up to a mooring ball just as it was getting dark.  The next day after checking in with the Marina, Karina, Gary, Jay and myself shouldered our packs and headed up the road to the Tabor Canyon.  After hiking there last year we had thought that it would be a cool place to camp for a night.  And it truly was!  There are some parts of this "hike" that are quite challenging for me and Karina.  Luckily for us Jay and Gary are both experienced rock climbers and they were able to help us negotiate some of the trickier spots.  The canyon has spectacular rock formations, lovely freshwater swimming holes and beautiful greenery.
Karina making a crossing

The view from one of the more open areas

Jay heading further up

Our camp, there were not so many flat spots and it was
rocky but the mountains are beautiful.

Gary and Karina enjoying one of the beautiful freshwater pools
From Puerto Escondido Searover headed towards La Paz and Jay and I on Kialoa headed to Agua Verde, still one of my favorite places!  
An Osprey enjoying its lunch, Agua Verde

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Across to the Baja

It is a 70nm crossing from the Guaymas area to Santa Rosalia on the Baja side of the Sea of Cortez.  A little too far for Kialoa to make the crossing during the daylight hours that we get.  So we left Bahia San Pedro and Searover II (who had a guest and would be crossing the sea at a later date)  at 4 pm and prepared for Jays first overnight crossing.  One of the preparations was throwing the fishing lure in the water.  I have been throwing that thing in the water for a year ......almost everytime we were underway.  I never caught a fish.  Jay threw it in the water and had a fish within 20 minutes!  Fish for dinner!
The remainder of the crossing was uneventful and we spent quite a bit of it motoring along in lumpy seas, with an early morning arrival at Santa Rosalia.
Jay and his fish, you can still see land behind us....

Santa Rosalia is an interesting town, essentially built by a French mining company in the 1800s, it retains its mining town feel.  The copper close to the town has been extracted but there are still mining operations going on nearby.
Old wooden buildings, some of which are just barely hanging
in there
Inside of a church, designed by Eiffel, displayed at a world
fair in France and then purchased by the Boleo mining company
 shipped to Santa Rosalia and reassembled, so the story goes.
A portion of the old Smelter building, slowly being reclaimed
by the forces of nature.
We spent several days in Santa Rosalia.  Long enough to get the US election results.  We did not hear any cheering on the dock that night.
There were some american boats that had been drowning their dismay and were not feeling their best the next morning. 
From Santa Rosalia we started heading south with a stop at Isla San Marcos, Punta Chivato and then into Bahia Concepcion.  Jay was keen to see whale sharks and we had talked to one boat that had seen them in the last week.
We were not disappointed!  There were two of them in the same bay where I had seen them last spring.  And we nearly hit one as we were entering the bay.  Luckily it was off to the side but it was a near thing.

The view from a fish camp at Isla San Marcos
Beautiful sailing weather from Punta Chivato
to Bahia Concepcion

Whale shark!  This one was feeding in the bay where we anchored
Its not a very big one!
The chart plotter logs 5000 miles

On leaving Bahia Concepcion the chart plotter turned over 5000 nautical miles.  That felt like an occasion!  We managed to keep the boat at 5 knots and steer 5 degrees as well to keep it all symmetrical.
Shortly after that we caught two fish!  An auspicious day.
It was a fairly long and boisterous downwind sail to Punta Pulpito.  Kialoa was moving really well with a reef in the main and only a little foresail.  What a great boat! Jay was having a fun time even though we had to hand steer the whole trip.  The wind vane was not behaving well and waves were a bit overwhelming for the tiller pilot.
We arrived in Punta Pulpito in the late afternoon and had a happy meet up with some friends from last year.  The crew of Second Safari came over for fish tacos.  We needed help eating up the fish as my little cooler had packed it in.  No more cold beer on Kialoa, that was a sad day!  
Punta Pulpito is a fairly spectacular chunk of rock sticking up from the sea and with its steep drops and rocky base it made for some great snorkeling and fun hiking.

A compass rose?  Ancient cairn or newer pile? There are
cleared camp sites at the top of Punta Pulpito that look like they
have not been used for many many years.  

Early morning at Punta Pulpito

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Back in the saddle

Good bye Pacific Northwest rain
Change is the only constant.  And so sadly I am back in Mexico without Scott.  We have remained friends but will not be cruising together any longer.  I hope that it will mean that we are both happier in our lives moving forward.  I am slowly adjusting to the change in the status of our relationship.  For me the reality truly set in as I returned to Kialoa and started recomissioning her after she spent a long hot summer in dry storage.
I left Victoria on a rainy October morning and flew into Hermosillo, Mexico. From there it was a two hour bus ride and a short cab ride to Kialoa.  It was really hot in Guaymas. I was lucky enough to be greeted by cold beer and friendly faces on Searover II and Greybeard.

Kialoa needed some cleaning up

Guaymas had been hit by Hurricane Newton in September and there was extensive damage to the Marina Fonatur docks and sadly five boats sank during the storm. Luckily for me all the boats in the dry storage yard were fine and Kialoa was undamaged but in need of a good scrubbing.  Did I mention it was really hot in Guaymas.  So I got some work done in the morning and then it was 34 degrees inside the boat and hard to move so not as much got done in the afternoons.  However I did have a bit of a deadline as my brother Jay was coming to sail with me for a couple of months and he needed a place to sleep.  I had to get the cabin cleared up.

Jays first day, trying not to get sunburnt

Searover II getting a face lift
Launch day for Kialoa.  She has her fresh coat of bottom paint
on and I am touching up the spots that could not be reached
when she was in the stands.
Jay only had to enjoy boat yard life for one day and then we were in the water.  We spent a few days in Guaymas checking out some of the Day of the dead festivities, provisioning Kialoa and finishing up the recommissioning.  Life in Guaymas is nice and there is fantastic street food but as I think I mentioned it was hot in Guaymas. So when the boat was ready we decided to head for somewhere we could go swimming, which is most definately not the water in Guaymas harbour.

Some of the reasons for not swimming in the water.  In the background is an
old abandoned factory that had a big fire one night and seemed to start up again
every night.  The fire trucks would just come back every morning and put it out
Just one of the large elaborate shrines built for the day of the dead

Mexican rock, who knew.  It was good but very loud.
My tall skinny friend
Underway, blue sky and sunshine  :)
First stop was San Carlos, where I got to see my friends on Dreamcatcher.  We spent a couple of nights anchored in Bahia San Carlos.  The day we arrived there was a definate change in the weather and it cooled off quite a bit, however it was still nice and we had a chance to do some snorkelling.
Next stop was Bahia San Pedro, 15 miles further North to get positioned for crossing the Sea of Cortez to Santa Rosalia on the Baja.

Fish boat or bird rest?

Searover II pulls into Bahia San Pedro looking good!
Gratuitous sunrise picture.