Saturday, November 22, 2014

Santa Rosalia to Puerto Escondido - November 8 - 21

Santa Rosalia to Puerto Escondido – November 8-21

We left Santa Rosalia on November 8th, expecting to meet up with our slip neighbors Kashmira and Apolima a day or two later in an anchorage farther south, either Pulpito or elsewhere in Concepcion, but to date we've seen neither boat and have apparently not been near enough to them to raise on VHF. Where did they go?! We motored to Sweet Pea Cove at San Marcos Island, 11 nm SE of Santa Rosalia to find only Resilience tucked into the north end of Sweet Pea, a sailboat with three guys that had been at Santa Rosalia during the Norther.

Next morning we left for Punta Chivato, ~ 20 nm south. Sweet Pea seemed a little bleak by comparison. Punta Chivato held more interest with its beautiful seashell beach, colorful stucco homes, and small restaurant on the hill.
The dunes at Punta Chivato
Tagging to and fro with Resilience, we sailed and motored with a SE wind, both boats headed to Punta Chivato. We deployed the dinghy quickly to take the long walk to the end of the point for the rest of the afternoon, followed by a welcome cerveza fria at the only restaurant. Some of the locals from one of the very nice houses struck up a conversation to say they have been coming to Punta Chivata for 20 years and echoed what others had told us: it was a much more lively place when the resort was in full-swing.
Restaurant at Punta Chivato golf course/hotel/airstrip
We left Chivato for Playa Coyote, sailing most of the way close hauled with only the jib much of the way, then raised the main for several exhilarating hours under full sail. Ahhhh. Arriving at Playa Coyote in the late afternoon there were no other cruisers, just us and a half dozen RVers on the beach.

Playa Coyote
Playa Coyote is rimmed with graceful palm trees and cozy stucco houses along one section of the beach. There is a NOLS beachfront center with several colorful Drascombe sailboats at the shore. A few NOLS leaders were preparing them for the day's activities. These boats have two masts, one mainsail and a smaller aft sail with an open hull, and a nicely curved sheer.

The NOLS Drascombes
Farther south in a neighboring section of the beach is the area for RVs and other campers. There are permanent palapa shelters for campers spaced along the shore, a few outhouses and garbage cans but no fresh water except for when the weekly caretaker comes by with a 50-gallon barrel of fresh water to dispense to campers.
RV getting into the spirit
Sitting on the deck in the morning with coffee, a kayaker paddled over to visit. Ruben is really a sailor in kayaker disguise! He has sailed the Pacific several times, the first in 27 days, another time in a small 24', lightweight 2000 pound boat solo, and again in a 63' carbon fiber boat in which the crossing took only 6 days. Ruben had come to Playa Coyote from the Bay Area with his wife to camp for a month last Spring before joining a friend to sail to Mazatlan but liked it so well that he bought a lot on this palm-fringed beach among the row of houses and will be building one to live in full time. He told us the place to snorkel here was at Isla Coyote so we took the dinghy there, hopped into the water with our gear but found it unexciting. There were a few Angels, Sargent Majors, schools of small silvery bait-fish and one Ray but the water wasn't as clear as in many other snorkeling sites. While getting out of the water with our snorkeling gear another kayaker, Barry from Santa Barbara, paddled over to talk with us. He and his wife also fell in love with Playa Coyote.

Barry kayaks away from our snorkel site
The small friendly community of people in this bay and in the five or so neighboring bays draw many to a lifestyle they can't quite match at home. Fast friendships are easily made. On our last visit here 10 days ago, a local musician Jeff invited Gregg to jam with his friends the following Monday but we left before then to get to Santa Rosalia before that first Norther. Too bad! We found out from Ruben that the drummer in their little group is Sammy Hagar's drummer, as in Sammy the rock star that joined Van Halen. With that revelation Gregg was almost relieved he couldn't make it. But! You never know who you will find inside those faded T-shirts and cut-offs unless you stop for awhile and soak in the surroundings.

On November 12th, we moved over to Playa el Burro for a change of scenery and for the last night in Bahia Concepcion. The weather forecast for the coming few days indicated little wind but with a change to a Norther blowing through the north sea on Sunday (11/16). We wanted to leave Bahia Concepcion before then or would have to stay several more days for the wind to calm down. It had been fun to meet and talk with the locals in the various bays while in Concepcion and it was a welcome change to be able to take the dinghy to shore to get to a small tienda or one of several small restaurants. However, the clear blue sea was calling. The water in Bahia Concepcion is green and a little murky – not a great snorkeling area though nice enough for swimming and other water sports. We went out to Bertha's for a last night's fine meal and were greeted again by the friendly owners and their always gracious Mexican waiter.
Pangueros gathering bait fish in Bahia Coyote
We left Bahia Concepcion before sunrise the next morning to make the most of a long day ahead, north around Playa Domingo, east around Punta Aruja and then south to Punta Pulpito. We expected no wind as predicted but in the final two hours we were able to put up both sails for a smooth ride, close hauled all the way into Punta Pulpito. Along the way we cruised through the small anchorage of San Sebastian with its small row of colorful homes to check out whether or not to stay. Both sides of this narrow bay are lined with a rocky shoreline and long reefs on each point, leaving space for just one boat, preferably with a stern tie. When we first dropped the anchor it just rolled over the rocks. We were wary of getting the anchor stuck in the rocks. Neither option was appealing with so many others from which to choose so we left without making a further attempt at setting the anchor. Fortunately, the wind picked up for a flying finish under sail, arriving in Punta Pulpito to find just one other sailboat, Tortuga from Portland, OR. The evening brought a colorful display of bright green bio-luminescence under a brilliant starry moonless sky.

There were several schools of tiny fish around the boat plus one “dinner-sized” pescado. Gregg tried to catch it but just as soon as he dropped the line into the water, all sea life disappeared! A little later schools of the larger fish surrounded the boat, dozens of them. I dipped the net into the water a few times and pulled out five raya daias! We threw back the three smaller fish.

The next morning, Saturday, was calm with a perfect 78 degrees when we pulled up the anchor. We planned to go 10 nm south to Caleta San Juanico and find a good location in the anchorage for a few days while the next Norther passed through, Sunday through Tuesday. As soon as we left Pulpito the wind picked up, filling our sails all the way into Caleta San Junico. Three other sailboats were already there. The best space at the north end was open so that is where we dropped the anchor.

True North anchored between the pinnacle rocks (2nd boat out)
Shortly after, Resilience came in. They had also been in Pulpito the night before. This very picturesque anchorage is surrounded by tall, rocky pinnacles jutting from the water. There were a couple of ospreys perched in nests atop two pinnacles closest to where we were anchored, each chirp-whistling cheerily back and forth. Gregg dove the anchor to confirm all was secure, then surveyed the underwater scene along the base of the pinnacles with snorkeling gear. In the evening, Gregg prepared the fish we caught the night before. What little fish we were able to eat was tasty but it was mostly too bony to enjoy. No more little raya daias! We will instead hold out for that large elusive meaty dorado.
Late sunset light
On the second day at anchor in Juanico, we took the dinghy to shore.

Hiking near the anchorage
The catamaran Ascension from Ridgeway, CO had pulled in to the shallow area close to the beach. We stopped to meet Shawn and Paul on the way to shore to find another couple of Sea of Cortez regulars of 17 years! Once ashore, we climbed along one of the smoother sandstone rocks embedded with seashells. From the top, the expansive view of the anchorage below did not fail to thrill. From there, we walked the beach to a small trail leading to a road which led to a lagoon and around one of the pinnacles to another beach. It felt great to walk and stretch. The wind picked up as we dinghied back to True North and even more-so as we stowed the dinghy on deck. This began our second three-day Norther only this time, not being at a marina, we were unable to leave our boat. We were very content with our space in Caleta San Juanico, however. While the wind howled outside, we passed the time with small chores, reading, discussing plans and baking biscuits since the wind brought along cooler temps. Gregg worked his way through the tutorial for developing iPhone apps.

Gregg working on his first iPhone app
We walked the deck now and then to check on things, jumped in the water (attached to a line!) and noted a max wind speed of 36 kts, all from the north.
Anne re-lettering True Dink during a lull in the wind
Each night we swung gently back and forth, lulled to sleep in this big cradle. The Norther was predicted to subside on the third day, which it did in the morning. At noon we took the dinghy to shore to hike a dusty road leading to a ridge trail for stunning views from the south side of the anchorage.
Hiking the sandstone formations
Again, when we returned to the dinghy the wind had picked up to the low 20s. We stowed the dinghy just before another afternoon of increasing winds. Earlier when leaving for the hike we had stopped by our neighbors in the cat Ascension to invite them over for happy hour. We weren't sure they would still be able to make the short distance over to our boat in the wind but they came, bringing a welcome treat of boat smoked (ie, home-made) dorado! Gregg made margaritas, the first time all season with other boaters – there haven't been any/many boaters in the anchorages until now – for a very enjoyable evening together with Paul and Shawn.
One of our San Juanico dinners - enchilads with Hatch green chili sauce
A fourth day of strong winds arrived before we could get to shore to hike the hills. The Norther was supposed to end yesterday! Three more boats entered the anchorage to hunker down in the wind, one with its crew decked out in full yellow foulies. Must have been a cold crossing from San Carlos! Caleta San Juanico is a perfect anchorage in which to wait out a Norther or just spend time. The surrounding landscape is varied and beautiful enough to keep it interesting over several days of exploring and simply scanning, and with great protection from the north and south.

On the morning of our sixth day at Caleta San Juanico, we were to leave to go south but at last it was beautifully calm with cooler temps. We made time to hike the ridge on the south end before leaving, a fine finale to the longest stay we've had in an anchorage.
Anchorage from the ridge trail, Punta Pulpito on the far horizon
In the meantime, a couple more boats had entered the anchorage, now totaling eight, and four kayakers had landed on the beach. They were sacked out on blankets pretty quickly for what looked like a long happy nap in the sun. Ascension's Paul and Shawn dinghied over to say good-bye and the new trimaran Ptarmigan with Bo and Libby dinghied over to say hello...and bye. Nice cruisers we'd like to spend more time with. If we get lucky we will meet up with both of these boats again farther south in the next week. We left under full sails with a light 10 kt wind from the north for Islas Coronados, 20 nm south. On entering the western anchorage six hours later with just one other boat present we were treated to a sea life blitz – first to sea lions, then jumping rays and shortly later a whale, heading north. The one other boat turned out to be Camelot that we had sailed with during the Ha-Ha last year only it now has new owners.

Anne studying Spanish as we sail to Isla Coronados
Next day, the sea just outside of Loreto was calm enough to anchor. Seattle friends Gary and Ginger were in Loreto, ready to hop a bus south to meet us in Puerto Escondido so we made a route change, provisioned in Loreto, and picked up our crew for the coming week. Next stop, Puerto Escondido!  

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