May 10 - June 06 Sea of Cortez Part I Isla Partida to Agua Verde
Jul 5, 2005
|We left La Paz on Mexican Mother's Day, May 10th to start our journey north into the Sea of Cortez. It was a hot sunny day when we departed with little wind. Once again, wind was off our bow and we had to motor sail! Sometimes we wonder why we have a sailboat when all we do is motor! However, this did give us the opportunity to try out the new autopilot. We did the calibrations, set the autopilot on course and sat back to watch! Wow, this is fun! You do not have to stand behind the wheel and steer, the autopilot does all the work! We are going to call him "Arnold" because he is strong, he works hard, he is a little weird looking, but once you get use to him, he is pretty good.
"Arnold" worked all the way to our first anchorage of Caleta Partida. This is the area between the Islands of Espiritu Santo and Partida. The water is clear, turquoise in color and lovely. Though the wind does blow at times, it really is beautiful. We had one afternoon of adventure and learned a lesson. We launched the dinghy on the second day to explore the shores. Coming back to the boat we tied her off and went below for lunch. The first mate started to clean up and looked out to see our wayward dinghy moving down the anchorage on her way to the open sea! The captain raced up on deck, jumped into the water and started to swim. What we did not think about was the fact the dinghy had a head start, had the receding tide in her favor and the captain could not catch up. Fortunately, a small launch from La Paz arrived and lassoed our dinghy and brought it back to the captain who had made it as far as the boat anchored behind us. Great way to meet the neighbors! It was later when we went over the events we realized the captain could have donned flippers and taken a boogie board and would have had no problem catching up with "Miss Wayward Dinghy"! You learn something every day. She now has three (3) lines attached to her bow and we use all three to tie her to the boat!
After five nights at Caleta Partida, we decided to change the scenery. We took a short hop up the coast to Ensenada Grande off Isla Partida. There we found a spectacular anchorage. White sands, various shades of turquoise waters and all to ourselves! We decided this was the place to open that special bottle of champagne that our friend Bernie had given us back in Ventura. He said to find a wonderful anchorage to enjoy and we did. We went swimming, explored the beaches, relaxed and enjoyed champagne! We stayed for three nights. However, by the third night the wind had shifted direction and it was a bit rocky and noisy, so we journey further north to Isla San Francisco. There we had a calm flat anchorage until the sun went down and the wind picked up and blew all night long. On top of the wind, the waves came into the anchorage and it felt like riding a hobby horse! We are learning about the different winds in the Sea and starting to learn when and why they happen.
We left the next afternoon and found the anchorage of San Evaristo back on the Baja Peninsula. Once we moved behind the corner, the anchorage was flat and calm! We stayed in San Evaristo for a week enjoying the anchorage, walking to the very small village, walked over the hill to the salt pans and met a very nice couple Frank and Linda off of the sailboat "Interlude". They taught us a new Domino game called "Chicken feet". What fun! They also shared some "special" tequila they had purchased in Mazatlán. Boy was it good!
For most of our stay in San Evaristo, we did boat chores, laundry, read, relaxed and rested. We learned about another type of wind while in San Evaristo. We have heard it called "El Coromuel" and also called "Westerlies". It is the result of the wind blowing from the west over the peninsula and down the mountains and valleys to the sea. It starts after sun down, comes up very suddenly, it is hot and blew as much as 32 knots! It kept us up the first night it blew, however, by the second and third nights, it was not as strong and we had gotten use to the noise and motion.
Another bit of mother nature that we have learned about are the tides! In the Sea you have to watch the flow of the tides and how deep you anchor. Depending on the phases of the moon you can see a tidal change from a high of 3.4 feet to a low of -1.4 feet. That really makes a difference and you don't want to be caught in the low tide with your boat dragging bottom! We keep the depth sounder on to monitor our depth and have a chart for the tides that we had purchased before we left San Diego.
We have been asked how we handle simple items such as trash and laundry. Well, trash depends on the anchorage. On the islands there is no place to get rid of trash so, we haul it with us in heavy rubber "sport bags". These bags are designed to carry items on a small boat and do not let in water. So, it helps to keep the "smell" in the bag and not on the boat and does not attract flies. Here at San Evaristo they have an area back behind the dunes. They separate glass, plastic and metal. Then you take what is left and burn it. At some anchorages, the locals offer to take care of the trash for a small fee.
As far as laundry goes, there are numerous ways. In some anchorages, the local villagers offer to do laundry for a fee. We tried this in Turtle Bay and the amount of fabric softener used stayed with our clothes for weeks! We have decided it would be better to do it ourselves. So when we are in a city we use the local lavandería, when we are on the boat we use the old "bucket". The first mate has found various ways to scrub and clean clothes using a 2 gallon bucket, ammonia, water and a scrub brush! Good exercise!
The anchorage in San Evaristo got very busy and had up to 14 boats. As a result, we decided that it would be time to leave. Unfortunately, a power boat had anchored over our anchor, so we waited until they left and then took off north. We had spent a total of eight nights in San Evaristo, overall a very nice protected anchorage. However, it was time to go on in our search for the perfect margarita and fish taco. We left Wednesday May 25th and motor sailed north to a beautiful anchorage up the coast. The hills are pink/salmon color, the water turquoise and we found a spot between two reefs that was comfortable for the night. The anchorage was called "Los Gates" which was named after the pumas that had lived in the area many years before. We had the anchorage all to ourselves and it was lovely. We thought be might stay a couple of nights. The waves started to roll in about 11:00 PM making the forward V-berth uncomfortable, so the first mate moved to the settee to sleep. Then about 1:00 AM (why does everything happen at one in the morning?), the thunder started and then the lightening! Oh my! It was an incredible thunderstorm and the lightening was hitting tooooo close for comfort. Being the only boat at anchorage meant we had the only mast sticking up out of the water and we were very concerned about the lightening. We turned off everything electric and just waited for it to end. It was very intense and lasted for at least an hour, then the moon came out of the clouds and we finally went to sleep.
The next morning we decided another anchorage might be in order since more winds were predicted. While underway the captain tried to catch dinner. No luck! Even with all that new fish killing equipment we had purchased, we caught nothing! We did have the company of hundreds of dolphins along the way. They love to come up under the bow of the boat and swim along with the boat, jumping and playing. At times you can even hear them "talk" when they are around. They stayed with us for over an hour, just playing! It is such fun to go out on the bow pulpit and talk to them and watch them swim. They are incredible creatures!
Continuing north we found the beautiful anchorage of Agua Verde. We had read and seen pictures of this anchorage and when we arrived, it was everything we expected and more. We anchored and dropped the dinghy and explored the shoreline. Lots of marine life below the sea, turquoise seas, white sands and lots of room for many boats in the anchorage. We had kids on a panga come up to sell us fresh scallops that they had caught. All they wanted were a couple cokes and candy bars for enough scallops to last us three meals! We immediately ate some, had more for breakfast the next day and froze the remaining for future use. There are also rays in the bay that love to jump and turn somersaults in the air in the late afternoons. In reading local guides, this is typical behavior of adolescent rays. They look like they are "jumping for joy" and having such fun belly-flopping back into the water. We took off to land on shore the next day and found a small tienda open that sold fresh fruits and vegetables along with other canned and package goods. We were so surprised to find such a great selection of fresh items. Agua Verde is a 25 mile rough road trip just to highway 1 and then another hour or so to Loretto. Maria the owner of the tienda takes special orders from cruisers and delivers the great fruits and vegetables. Down the road from the tienda you can purchase fresh made tortillas (flour or corn) by the kilo. The corn tortillas are wonderful and you better buy at least a kilo as you will probably eat half of them on your way back to the boat! The village itself is small, with a church and school and minimal housing. Lots of goats, (they make goat cheese), pigs, cows, chickens, horses and pangas to take the fishermen out in the mornings. The locals appear to be happy and content in this beautiful location.
We had purchased an awning for the boat by a company called "Shadetree". We decided this was the spot to put up our awning to help with the heat and sunlight. Prior to this time we had been using a small cover that the first mate had made in La Paz. The awning assembly turned out to be an OK experience. If you think about putting together a dome tent while on a rocky boat and you get the picture! It can be a bonding experience, but we took it slow and easy and it only took us 1 hour. Directions state you should have it up in 10 minutes, but we think someone is pulling our leg! What a difference that made. We not only have protection from the sun but it is like having another room added on to the boat! Wow! Now we really have someplace to go when we go to the "other room"!
We made radio contact with our friends from Amadeus and they were couple of days behind us. We decided to stay until they caught up to us. Monday, May 30th was Memorial Day back in the states (no celebration in Mexico) and there were about 15 boats in the bay of Agua Verde. So Po-o-ina-roa (Jerry and Kathy) announced a potluck on the beach for 5:00 PM that night. We had heard about potluck gatherings, but this would be our first. Every boat brings some type of dish to share with others. Two of the boats had frozen turkey breasts aboard which they roasted and all the other boats brought delicious items to share! Amadeus arrived about 6:00 PM and were able to dinghy over to join in the fun. It was a great evening and we really enjoyed meeting everyone. You hear names of boats when they check into the radio net in the mornings, but we can now place faces with the boat names! Most folks are in the "grandparent" age such as ourselves, but there are a few "kids" that decided to do this sailing thing while they are young! They are the smart ones and even though they may have to back to work from time to time, they are enjoying life!
The next day we got together with Amadeus (Rich and Carol) along with Nakia (John and Linda) and SolMate (Stan and MaryJo) to take a hike back into the canyon here at Agua Verde. The hike was about 3 miles into the canyon and then back out. It was beautiful but hot. We left about 10:00 AM and returned back to the village about 1:00 PM. By that time a cold cerveza was calling and we found the "restaurant" in the village (front porch of a little shack) where we found cold cerveza for 150 pesos (less than $1.50 US). It was a great day!
The next couple of days were very busy on our social calendar. We had Amadeus over for lunch, sun downer cocktails aboard Sea-taceon, drinks and hors d'oeuvres aboard Amadeus, afternoon brownies and ice tea to celebrate Rich and Carol's 41st wedding anniversary aboard Summer Rain, more drinks and get together, etc. It was a busy time in Agua Verde!
John off of Nakia, is a "tech" guy and came over one morning to help us with the problems we had been having with our SailMail. (E-mail at sea system we had purchased before leaving the US). Thanks to John, the system seems to be working much better and he was a great help! That is what boaters do when they are out cruising, always helping out one another!
More text and photos to follow....