Bahia Concepcion

Saturday June 30, 2001. Bahia Concepcion.
N 26 deg. 52′
W 111 deg. 52′
8:30 AM, 85 F/29C air temp., 75% humidity.

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We have entered the oven! It is a convection oven in the afternoon, with hot wind… We arrived yesterday into the Punta Santo Domingo anchorage within Bahia Concepcion and the boats already there dissuaded us from sailing further down in the bay due to excessive temperature. Besides, several friends we had not seen in a long time were there. Bahia Conception is the largest sheltered bay on the eastern coast of Baja, about 5 miles wide and 22 miles long.

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In our last email, we had just arrived at Isla Carmen which is a large island across from Puerto Escondido. We spent a couple of days there and had a fun beach potluck. Then we went to Loreto which is a tiny town of 10,000 people with an airstrip and a travel agent (according to our guide book). We needed to buy plane tickets for our summer visit to the US. So we went to the travel agent, only to find out they could only sell tickets for domestic flights (within Mexico). So we bought a phone card and called a travel agent in La Paz and asked if we could buy tickets through the phone. No, they need the actual imprint off the credit card, but they could reserve seats. I thought the only way to lock in a price was to buy the tickets but she assured me that no, she could make the reservation and we could pay once we got to San Carlos. So after 3 phone calls, she has a price (outrageous) and reservations but she then says that the price may be different when we get to San Carlos and actually pay for it… I was right from the start. So there was no way for us to buy a plane ticket without going back to La Paz! Finally,I called my summer employer and they agreed to arrange the flight (and got us a better price). This process was quite frustrating and we did not enjoy Loreto as much as we should have. It is a lovely town with trees lining neat streets near the town center. A lot of cruisers spend the summer cruising the islands and coming to Loreto on a regular basis for re-provisioning.

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After our visit to Loreto in the morning, we motored to Isla Coronado, another pretty island which is a park. Loreto does not offer a safe overnight anchorage as there is no protection from a strong wind.

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The island bay was created by a sand spit forming a half circle which offered wave protection but allowed the breeze to cool us off. We had beach party to celebrate a birthday that same evening. The next day, we rested and swam and chatted with the many other cruisers enjoying the anchorage.

The day after, we sailed to Caleta San Juanico where we found only one other boat, probably because the anchorage was quite rolly… However, it calmed down overnight and we did some snorkeling in the cozy little north cove. The water was not very clear, and, since we had heard reports of clear water further north, we moved out the next day and sailed to Bahia Concepcion.

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Isla Carmen

Sunday June 24, 2001. Isla Carmen, Mexico.
N 25 deg. 52′
W 111 deg. 13′

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We visited Puerto Escondido for the last few days. This harbor is very scenic thanks to a backdrop of tall mountains, and offers great protection from hurricanes as it is surrounded by land on all side except for a narrow entrance. However, this makes it hot too. There is a trailer park about 1/2 mile from the harbor with a small grocery store, a phone and fax, which I needed to make arrangements for a summer job in the Boston office of my former employer. No business is allowed over ham email since this amateur/volunteer service is legally not allowed to compete with commercial services. We had been following another boat equipped with commercial email and which graciously let us use their email to communicate, but technical difficulties made it quite complicated… Eventually, I did get a job offer and I will be working in Boston from mid-July to mid-October. I am looking forward to a change of pace and interesting work but am dreading having to get up early again! Clark will share his time between me and Boston and his family in New York State. He looks forward to escape the heat here, which seems to be increasing daily. We started at 87F/31C at 8 AM this morning and it will climb close to 100 in the afternoon with a humidity of over 70%. The water temperature is now above 80F/27C which is nice to swim in, but does not cool down the hull very much anymore.

The Mexican government had great plans for Escondido many years ago. It was going to be a nice resort, a base for boat chartering and for fishing boats. The plans were canceled after the pesos devaluation but the layout of a town remains with roads, sidewalks, elegant street lights (without power), a concrete dock and a basin but only one unfinished building standing alone next to an unfinished bridge among the layout of the streets. It is not a ghost town but more like an unborn town, very odd!
Saturday, we left Puerto Escondido and sailed to Isla Carmen, another rocky, uninhabited island where we plan to do some snorkeling.

Isla Danzante

Wednesday June 20, 2001. Isla Danzante, Mexico.
N 25 deg. 47′
W 111 deg. 15′

We met a very nice group of people in Agua Verde and snorkeled in the clear water, had a beach cookout, and walked through the village.
Bill on Shadow taught Clark to catch clams one day and Clark proudly came back with an assortment of clams from the brown “chocolate” to the biggest clam Bill had ever seen, which he caught on his first dive! We decided we would give them a try in a wine and pesto sauce over spaghetti. I scrubbed the clams in the sink to remove the sand and left them there while checking if the wine steaming liquid was boiling. Then, I heard something fall in the sink and as I turned toward it, I saw a white arm sticking out of the big clam, live and searching around. I screamed and retreated to the top of the companionway stairs. Clark came as the clam prudently retreated within his shell. At that point, I did not want to touch them anymore and Clark dropped them all in the steaming wine. After they were cooked, we opened the shells, and looked at each other without enthusiasm. They really don’t look appetizing to untrained diners so we offered them to the neighbors who declared them delicious. We wont be looking for clams anymore! I may try them chopped up in a thick sauce in a restaurant.

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The village of Agua Verde is odd looking. The small concrete, plywood, corrugated steel and asbestos houses are very thinly spread in a dusty valley with dirt roads connecting them. Scrubs and trees are also thinly spread and we saw no garden anywhere, but many goats, pigs and chicken roaming freely. They have wells providing water and solar panels powering TVs. At 4 in the afternoon on a Sunday, it seems all the village gathers at a few houses to watch a popular show. There is one small grocery store with two deliveries a week in the living room of one of the resident. And all the children know one word in English: candy! If gringos pass by the small school building, all the kids are let out to beg for candy.
One of the cruisers arranged diner in town for all the boats in Agua Verde (14 people) at the house of another resident, since there is no restaurant. Unfortunately, several people, including me, got sick afterwards. It was my first case of “Montezuma’s revanche” or traveler’s diarrhea since I entered Mexico. I had a fever just shy of 102F (39C) one night and Clark started me on an antibiotic course the next morning. It is nice to be prepared! Others, without antibiotics on board, got much sicker, up to 104F of fever (several of us eventually contributed antibiotics to them, even though we generally shy away from giving prescription drugs).
The next party was a cookout on the beach with only food prepared by cruisers and nobody got sick (that we know off). The water clouded up again after being crystal clear for several days and we decided to move on. Clark scrubbed the hull, and Monday (6/18) we left Agua Verde for Los Candeleros with two other boats. We were following Juandra in particular because they have a commercial email system which allows them to receive business messages. We can not receive business emails through the ham email system we use, and I was (and still am)trying to arrange a summer job with my former employer.

In Los Candeleros, we visited a new “lodge” built by an enterprising Californian. It had a gorgeous view of the bay. He pays local kids to remove garbage from the beach after giving up keeping trash containers in place. The 55-gal drums he initially placed on the beach were stolen. So the next set he installed had holes punched in them so they could not be reused as containers. But they disappeared too. The third set was chained to anchors but, again, drums, chains and anchor evaporated! He concluded it was cheaper to pay kids to clean up…
One of the boat travelling along with us is a large trawler with big fridge and freezer, called Too Goode. Since they will be leaving the boat soon for a vacation in the US, they organized a very nice cocktail party for the three boats in the bay, so we could help them finish the fine breaded chicken nuggets with American gourmet dipping sauces, imported sharp cheddar cheese, and roasted spiced almonds. We all had a very nice evening! Judy also happen to have a wonderful collection of chick flick (movies typically enjoyed by women, for those who don’t know American slang). So I have been watching one to three movies a day since I met them. It was particularly nice while I was sick. I watched Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, Katherine Hepburn in old classics and enjoyed authors such as Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte. What a treat!

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Tuesday we left Los Candeleros to head to Isla Danzante, just one hour away. Isla Danzante is an ecological reserve and, while hiking through it, we met a Mexican biologist who was doing an inventory of the biological resources of the island. Tomorrow, we may move to Puerto Escondido.

Agua Verde

June 12, 2001, Agua Verde, Mexico.
N 25 29′ Sunny warm 90F water 75F and rising
W110 59′

We are just about to enter Agua Verde as I write this. I will have to deal with some reefs in a bit so I will likely finish this at anchor. Last night we arrived in Los Gatos anchorage and spent the night. First rolly night since arriving in Baja as the protection in that anchorage isn’t the greatest. Still it was ok and broke up the trip north nicely.
Over the last few days we have noticed that the bilge pump has been working overtime. This morning I set to work figuring where the water was coming from. Turns out that our engine raw water pump is failing. This is the pump that brings sea water to the engine to keep it cool. No pump. No engine. Right now the thing is pumping water fine but leaks at a very fast drip rate with the engine off and at a serious stream with the engine running. We will start closing the thru-hull when we aren’t using the engine and depend on the bilge pumps when we are using it (like now). The nearest replacement part is in Texas and getting it down here would be difficult. I hope this one will last ’til we get to San Carlos where we currently plan to leave the boat in a marina and fly to the US for the summmer. In that case we could take the old one with us and send it in for a rebuild. That would be the cheapest and easiest option. Oh the joy of cruising in Mexico!

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Just crossed the worst part of the reef. We just moved on to a new chart and it looks like this one is off like most of the others. We took a conservative approach to entering the harbor and all went well but we had to travel about 2 extra miles. We have anchored. WOW! The water is so clear we can easily see our anchor and chain on the bottom. It didn’t bite the first time we tried to set it so we just motored over it and looked down. It managed to land upside down and just drag that way. I guess this happens sometimes but usually we don’t know why it doesn’t dig in and just reset it. This clear water is amazing. We can clearly see the shadow of the boat on the bottom. Could give you vertigo if you had a problem with heights. I definitely plan on doing some diving here!

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Wind eroded rock.

Isla San JoseĀ 

June 10, 2001. Isla San Jose
N 24 deg. 53′
W 110 deg. 35′

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Friday, we left Ensenada Grande and sailed to Isla San Francisco. This tiny island consists of two large hills tied together by a wide sand spit with salt flats. The anchorage is very pretty, framed by the red hills and the white curved sand beach. We walked through the salt flat to the east side of the island where one is supposed to find agates. But since we did not know what unpolished agate nodules looked like, we did not find any… We did see some salt pans in the middle of the salt flats with dirty salt crusts. The thinner salt sheets in the drains showed interesting crystal patterns. Gold was supposedly mined on this island in the 19th century and pearls were found, but we did not find any.

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The next day, we hiked up one hill to get some pictures of the anchorage from a bird’s view. Then we sailed one hour to the next island: Isla San Jose.

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Isla San Jose is a larger island with a long mangrove channel and a wide lagoon, which we explored by dinghy. The anchorage is calm and uncrowded. We really enjoy these short jumps from one pretty anchorage to the next, which are typical of the sea of Cortez (at least its west coast).