Family Cruise

The Captain and Admiral were joined by the Captain’s Sister, Ellen, and brother in law, Alan, on Thursday for a week.

Ellen and Alan live in Stowe, Vermont, so the sunny skies and warm LaPaz weather were a welcome change from mud season back home.

The first day, the Captain led a walking tour of his favorite sights in La Paz. The Admiral followed up with a provisioning run to a local supermercado, Chedraui. The Chedraui we go to is bigger than a stateside Safeway, but not as big as a Walmart (there is a Walmart in La Paz that we also frequent). We enjoy taking our guests to the supermercado so they can see what grocery shopping is like in Mexico. The main differences are in availability of types of produce and cuts of meat offered. You also need a spanish dictionary handy. The Captain uses the Google Translate App, which translates the text after you take a picture of the label.

On Saturday morning Snug Harbor departed Marina de La Paz for Isla Partida and the Ensenada Grande anchorage. Ellen and Al took the kayaks to beach for beachcombing and exploration. The Admiral and the Captain set out in the dinghy to Las Cuevitas to hunt for the elusive boobie rookery – alas, we had no more luck than than on a similar expedition a week earlier. It blew pretty hard in the anchorage all day and the Captain was concerned that the crew might have a bumpy night at anchor (The crew tends to quickly forget about the idyllic day spent island hopping when their bunk turns into a bucking bronco at night!). Fortunately, the wind died and all slept like babies.

Sunday morning we headed for Isla San Francisco, a 19 mile trip. We pulled out of our calm anchorage into a building northerly. The waves quickly built up to Baha Bash proportions and the crew got a taste of what it is like to motor into short steep waves. Snug Harbor slowed down as she kept poking her nose into waves and taking white water over the deck. The Captain gave the old girl more gas, the crew perserved, we made it to Isla San Francisco, and dropped the hook by 1330. We all went ashore for hiking and beachcombing.

Monday morning we pulled the sails up and headed for Caleta Partida. CP is a large anchorage between Isla Partida and Isla Espiritu Santo. It is deep in the middle so you anchor around the edges. Huge mountains surround you on both sides. If you think this sounds like the old crater of a volcano, then you hit the jackpot. There are also some white sandy beaches with varying shades of turquoise water to top it off.

Ellen and Allan set off again in the kayaks and paddled through the cut to the east side of CP and checked the Sea of Cortez side. The Captain and the Admiral set off in the dinghy for El Cardoncito, a V-shaped bay just around the corner from Caleta Partida. When they got to the head of the bay they saw a large dark area in the water, which the Captain assumed were rocks to be avoided. However, some pelicans were very interested in the dark area so we investigated and saw that the large dark area (say the size of half a football field) was really a huge ball of swarming fish. We drove into it and there were a gazillion fish swimming like crazy, all trying to get to the center of the “ball”, to put distance between them, predator fish and pelicans.

On Tuesday morning, Al announced that he was going to climb the very steep hillside next to Snug Harbor so that he could see the view from the top. We all thought Al a bit nuts, but he said he would be extra carefull and off he went. We watched Al make the climb with binoculars from Snug Harbor – kind of like watching Swiss mountain climbers from the deck of an alpine hotel. Al made the ascent, and descent, witout a misstep. Not bad for 73.

The hill Al climbed

Al’s view from the top. Snug Harbor is the boat closest to Al.

We all returned to El Cardoncito on Tuesday afternoon by kayak and dinghy for some snorkling.

Ellen and Al entering El Cardoncito

Ellen at El Cardoncito

The “bait ball” was still there. We had all planned to go snorkling but after wading out in the water found there was no need for snorkle gear – all you had to do was just stand there and watch the fish swim up to you.

On the trip back to Snug Harbor the dinghy’s outboard acted up and would not go any faster than an idle. The Captain prayed it would get him and the Admiral back to Snug Harbor – otherwise it would have been a long row back. The outboard made it and the Captain will have to put on his outboard mechanic hat when he gets back to port.

Tuesday night the wind picked up from the south west, and gave us typical coromel conditions. The Captain had been told that the Caleta Partida anchorage, even though exposed to the southwest, had the right shap to minimizethe the effects from coromels. That turned out to be true and we had a windy night, but not much in the way of waves.

Wednesday morning we motorsailed in 10 knot southerly breezes back to La Paz. There was not a cloud in the sky and the weather was settled. At noon, we were within two hours of our marina berth, came into cell phone range, and got an updated weather forecast. The new forecast said that the winds would abruptly change from 10 from the south to 20+ from the north at 1400, just the time the Captain expected to arrive! Snug Harbor’s slip is difficult to get into with strong northerly winds so the Captain floored the old girl to try and get to the dock and get tied up before the big blow hit…….

When we got to Marina de La Paz the winds were only up to 10 knots from the north and we docked easily. About 30 minutes later the wind grew to 20-30 knots, a steep chop kicked up, and chaos reigned in the anchorage just outside our marina. Boats started dragging their anchors and one boat went up on the beach. Cruisers jumped to each others aid and dealt with problems as best they could.

Sometimes it just pays to be lucky.

Ellen and Al reported that highlights of their trip included great eating in La Paz, fabulous scenery in all the anchorages we visited, meals prepared by Mitzie on board Snug Harbor, and the kayaking, hiking and beachcombing.

Puerto Los Gatos to La Paz

George and Matthew surveying the anchorage at Puerto Los Gatos:

Puerto Los Gatos Anchorage:

As you can see in the above picture, Puerto Los Gatos is known for it’s surrounding red cliffs. The cliffs are all part of the dramatic mountain vistas that you see as you pull away from the harbor:

We left Puerto Los Gatos first thing Wednesday morning and headed back to San Evaristo. We skipped Isla San Francisco as we thought forecast Southerly breezes could have led to an uncomfortable night at anchor there.

We lazed around on the boat before leaving Thursday morning for Ensenada Grande anchorage on Isla Partida. After anchoring and lunch George, Matthew and the Captain took the dinghy to Las Cuevitas, a cove just around the corner from Ensenada Grande. The Captain’s cruising guide says that Las Cuevitas is a rookery for blue footed boobies.

Unfortunately, the only boobies we found were from the above picture in the cruising guide. We found a boat anchored in Las Cuevitas and asked them if they had seen any boobies. They said they had been anchored there many times over the years, and had never seen any. Where have all the boobies gone? Perhaps they migrated to the US and took up politics??

On the dinghy ride back to Snug Harbor we checked out the cliffs surrounding the anchorage:

What is really interesting about these cliffs is that there are sheets of rock that appear to have grown over the upper edge of the cliff and then hang down over the edge of the cliff. All we could figure was that there must be a stalactite type process that deposits minerals when rains run off the edge of the cliff. Any readers have a better theory?

On Friday the Captain and Matthew decided to give the famous Ensenada Grande hike (er, boulder climb) another try. We got an early start before it got too hot, took lots of water and….we made it!

The hike took us to the tall cliffs that define the eastern side of Isla Partida. The view from there was a sweet reward for the challenging hike:

It was just as tough going down. Tired legs led to mis-steps and eventually the Captain tripped and got friendly with a thorn covered bush. Fortunately, the blood did not attract vicious wild animals.

On Saturday we left Ensenada Grande for La Paz. We had a good breeze and were able to sail most of the way.

On Sunday we hiked around town and one if our stops was the birds and stones park. This is a magical place and deeply affected George, Kim and Matthew:

Once we returned to our senses, George and Matthew eyed the chess board and could not resist. They had a hard fought game, with the advantage switching back and forth a few times, but George eventually won the day.

After a grand week together, George, Kim and Matthew debarked Snug Harbor for their trips back home on Monday morning.

The Captain is now solo in La Paz until Thursday, when the Admiral and the Captain’s sister, Ellen, and brother in law, Al, join Snug Harbor.

Puerto Escondido to Puerto Los Gatos

Snug Harbor dropped her mooring in Puerto Escondido at 0800 Monday and headed for the fuel dock. The old girl took on 60 gal of diesel and topped off her water tanks. George went to the office to return our dock keys and rental car key. While the Captain was waiting for George to return a vocal and obnoxious American (I will call him “Dick”) came up in his fishing boat for fuel and immediately started complaining to the Captain that Snug Harbor was in his way and was big problem. The Captain bit his lip, smiled, and moved Snug Harbor ahead a bit to make room. As the fuel dock attendant was filling Dick’s boat, Dick delivered a steady stream of invective to him on the inconvenience that Snug Harbor’s incompetent captain was subjecting him too. The attendant said nothing, but looked over at the Captain and gave him a big smile. We Americans could learn something from our hosts, the ever gracious Mexicans.

We motored about 20 miles to Bahia Agua Verde. We drove through the biggest pack of dolphins the Captain has ever seen. Usually a half dozen break off to play in Snug Harbor’s bow wave, but this time we had 20-30.

Aqua Verde is a small anchorage and we squeezed in next to the Ocean Echo, a Halberg Rassey 45. After falling back, and seeing how Snug Harbor was laying, we decided we were too close to Ocean Echo. It is bad form too anchor too close to another boat so we pulled the chain and anchor up, moved over a bit, and reanchored. This time it looked good. A bit later, the owner of Ocean Echo, Helmut, rowed over to Snug Harbor to personally thank us for making the effort to reposition away from Ocean Echo. It turned out we had met Helmut in Chula Vista last fall. Helmut was single handing so we asked him over for cocktail hour. We had a nice visit and learned that he was spending a year in Mexico before heading for the South Pacific.

Tues morning we upped anchor and headed for Puerto Los Gatos. Along the way we saw a couple of whales. When we got to Puerto Los Gatos there was only one boat in the anchorage so we settled in without any trouble. A number of boats came after us, even a chinese junk, and by late afternoon the anchorage was packed. The water temperature was up to 74 degrees so George, Matthew and the Captain went for a long swim.

Tomorrow we head for either Isla San Francisco or San Evaristo. The choice will be based on the weather forecast and which anchorage provides the best shelter from night time waves.

Loretto

Snug Harbor is safely moored at Puerto Escondido, a large anchorage, maybe a mile long by a half mile wide, set at the base of the Sierra de la Giganta montains.

On Saturday George rented a car and we all drove into Loretto and walked around the town.

We checked out the Hotel Posada on the main square (a hint to the guys: Bring your love to the Hotel Posada. You will be glad you did).

Lobby of the Hotel Posada:

Then we ate lunch at a restaurant the Captain visited three years ago. At this restaurant the waiter gives you menus and takes your drink orders. When you are ready to order, he calls the chef, Jose, who takes your order personally, to make sure he makes it exactly the way you want it. One of his questions: “How spicy would you like it, on a scale of 1 to 10?”. Jose is a real charmer and we also met his grandson, Able.

Jose told me he had a stroke and his balance was a bit off, but he still works 6 days a week. He closes the restaurant on every Sunday so that he can spend time with his family.

On Saturday, George and the Captain had lunch with Bill and Rebecca at the marina’s roof top restaurant.

We then drove Bill and Rebecca to the airport, made a provisioning run to the supermercado and returned to Snug Harbor for dinner and a Zato Ichi movie.

For unitiated readers Zato Ichi is a blind Samarai swordsman who has been a staple on Snug Harbor for years. Zato Ichi is a lovable old warrior that does good deeds and slays bad guys by the dozens, all without shedding a visible drop of blood.

It is now Sunday morning. George and the Captain have completed their chambermaid duties and will be off soon to pick up George’s wife, Kim, and friend Matthew Cullinane for a weeks cruise back to La Paz.

Puerto Escondido

Here are some pics I couldn’t send until we got internet access:

Snug Harbor at Isla San Francisco:

The Sierra Gigante mountains on mainland Baja are in the background.

Hiking trail up the ridge at Isla San Francisco:

Isla San Jose is in the background.

The Captain and George Bean hiking at Isla San Francisco:

Moonrise at Timbabiche:

Bill Burk hiking at Ensenada Grande:

Trail sign at Ensenada Grande:

The trail signs are attached to rocks every so often. The sign in this case says “go to the right”. So you clamber to the right over the rocks and, if you are lucky, then eventually see another trail sign that says “go left”, “go right” or “go straight ahead”.

Thursday morning we pulled up anchor at Timbabiche, along with a chain full of thin, slimy, stringy, long green grass. George and the Captain tediously picked it out link by link for all 150′ of chain we had out. Yuck!

Our plan was to move about 20 miles north to Bahia Marte, but the chartplotter showed even more reefs to dodge than the cruising guide, so we decided to pass it up. The wind also picked up to the mid teens and kicked up some waves. Rebecca showed early signs of mal de mer so we gave her a sea sick pill and she peacefully fell asleep.

We decided to skip the next achorage and go straight to Puerto Escondido which is a large anchorage well protected from winds in all directions.

A whale followed Snug Harbor long enough for us to see it surface and spout a half dozen times.

We were also treated to a seafull of dolphins that converged on Snug Harbor and swam and porpoised all around us. Here is a video of them playing in Snug Harbors bow wave:

On Friday we plan to rent a car and go sightseeing in Loreto.

Mexican Dogs at Work

Snug Harbor pushed off on Monday morning with friends George Bean, Bill Burk and Bill’s fiance’, ReBecca. Our plan is to cruise ~120 miles north to Puerto Escondido, which allows us to get another 15 miles north to Loretto by land. We spent Monday at Ensenada Grande, anchored in the Captain’s favorite spot. The Captain, Bill and George dinghied ashore for a hike while Rebecca stood watch on Snug Harbor. Hiking on Ensenada Grande is more like rock climbing and the crew clambored over boulders for an hour before giving up and heading back downhill. Tuesday morning we upped anchor at sun rise for the three hour transit to Isla San Francisco. The crew dispatched for another hike, which on Isla SF are a lot easier and yield spectacular views of the island, the anchorage and the Sierra Gigante Mountains off in the distance. We were concerned that southerly breezes would render the anchorage uncomfortable for the night so we upped anchor at 1400 for the 10 mile trip to San Evaristo, which offers good protection from southerly winds.

San Evaristo is small fishing village of about 20 families on a small bay. Bill was checking it out with the binoculars when he saw some fisherman land their panga and begin off loading their fish. They were cleaning the fish on the beach and you can imagine the flocks of bird life attracted by this activity. Actually, it was nothing like you would imagine.

The fisherman had a number of dogs, not the undisciplined sort of ownerless dogs that you often see in Mexico, but some well trained dogs. These dogs were all sitting in positions on the beach around the fish cleaning area. When ever a hungry bird approached to snag a tasty morsel of fish – a dog leapt into action and scared the bird away. Job done, the dog returned to his position on the perimeter, standing watch until the next sortie. The birds were held at bay and the fishermen peacefully cleaned their fish for market.

At 0800 Wednesday morning Snug Harbor upped anchor for Timbabiche, an even smaller fishing village about 25 miles north. We dropped anchor at noon and enjoyed a windless afternoon with the anchorage all to ourselves. George and Bill dinghied into the beach to check out the ruins of Casa Grande, a grand old house from the 1920’s. It truns out a boatless fisherman way back then harvested a five caret pearl and made enough from its sale to buy a whole fleet of fishing boats and a build Casa Grande. Alas, the house lies in ruins and all that is left od Timbabiche is a subsistance level group of fisherman. A couple of them visited us in their pangas on their way out to the fishing grounds. They showed plenty of interest in our dinghy’s 20 hp outboard, so hopefully they will not come back tonight to liberate it. We talked to them as best as we could and sent them off with a cold beer and a smile.

We just finished dinner in the cockpit and Manuel, one of the fisherman we gave a beer to earlier, came back by the boat. He had only caught two fish and offered one of them to us, as thanks for the beer. We told him to keep the fish for himself and asked if he would like “una mas cerveza”. He said “no, dos”. So we gave him two beers.

Sorry no pics – we are out of range of all things electronic and are using Snug Harbor’s SSB radio to update the blog by bouncing it off the earth’s atmospheric layers to a ground station back in the US.