Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Loreto to La Paz

Loreto to La Paz:  November 21 - December 1

The final leg of the Fall season found us gradually making our way farther south from Loreto to La Paz. We picked up enthusiastic and skilled boater pals Ginger and Gary in Loreto, motored on to Puerto Escondido for a couple of nights and then Agua Verde where we waited out our third Norther for three full days and nights. After a first rolly night, we moved our boat a little farther north in the anchorage and off the smaller beach which provided opportunities for shore excursions, even as the wind howled and waves were building in the sea beyond the anchorage.

Gary and Ginger flank The Skipper (that's a radome behind me, not earmuffs!)
During the calmer mornings we took the dinghy ashore to stretch and explore.There is one small house on this beach inhabited by a most cordial, friendly faced man, Jose.

Jose sports the SSAPS Burgee
When we asked for directions to the cave paintings he drew a map in the sand of our destination, about 40 minutes away. We followed the trail to a small, ramshackle cemetery with age-old dates.

Cemetery at Agua Verde
Farther along, we hiked through a dried arroyo full of large old crooked palms that looked as if it had been ravaged by many flash floods, in search of cave paintings.

Hiking in the Palm Arroyo
Somewhere we lost the trail and gave up. Over the course of our three days a couple of camper families shared the beach with Jose. They had to brave a long, steep, narrow rocky road full of deep potholes to get to the beach and watching them from the water confirmed that we would rather travel to this place by boat.
Agua Verde - a good place to wait out a Norther
On the morning of our fourth day in Agua Verde, feeling certain the Norther was well on its way out and with reassurance from the daily weather report we headed out to sea to check it out for ourselves. We were ready to move on. We expected confused seas in the aftermath of the Norther and we sure got them, along with big rollers.

With wind astern, we put up the sails for a very rolly sail 18 nm south to Los Gatos. Consensus of the crew was that the waves topped out about 10', and steep, not to mention confused - the infamous Sea of Cortez "herd of white buffalos"!  We arrived tat Los Gatos o find a group of kayakers camped on the beach, dropped the anchor in gusty wind but found it way too rolly. We pulled the anchor to continue just 3 nm around the point to Timbabiche for the night where the anchorage was much calmer. One lone panga was nearby with two fishermen setting their nets in the fading light of sunset.
Pangueros fishing at Timbabiche
They stopped by to ask if we'd like to buy fish...definitely! We certainly weren't catching any. We gave them our request for one kilo of red snapper and that is what Roberto and Santos brought the next morning at 7 am, filleted and ready to cook later that night for Thanksgiving dinner.
Bringing the red snapper aboard
With fish in the fridge, we left for Isla San Francisco, finding the seas much calmer than the day before. The jib was deployed with the reaching pole (note to self: no shortcuts with the pole!) for a smooth but fast downwind sail, arriving at the anchorage 35 nm south late in the afternoon.

Lazy, fun sailing - pole out, no mainsail, smooth seas, 6+ kts!
The dinghy was launched for a leisurely shore walk in the evening light.

Isla San Francisco in evening light
The shore excursion was followed by a most superb Thanksgiving dinner - fresh from the sea that morning!

A very happy Thanksgiving!
Next day we hiked the high hill and red rocks above the bay for expansive views of the anchorage below. It was Gregg's birthday!
Near the summit of Gregg's birthday hike
He was reminded of it first thing in the morning by a chorus of “Happy Birthday” initiated by Ginger and Gary. He and Ginger added snorkeling to the day's activities, returning with colorful photos of a surprising variety of sea life that is almost unimaginable from above water. Later we cooked the real chicken for the birthday dinner plus a freshly baked apple cake.

After two nights at Isla San Francisco we motored all the way to Isla Los Islotes with the wind on our nose, although the wind died steadily as we proceeded.  It was 17 nm across the sea where there is a sea lion colony. It is a deep anchorage and crowded with boats and snorkelers but was calm enough for Ginger and me to swim with the sea lions while Gregg and Gary stayed aboard circling the anchorage. The big ones are huge and they swim swiftly around snorkelers; the little ones are even cute!

Ginger and Anne snorkeling at Los Islotes
From there we motored on to Ensenada Grande to our anchorage for the night. This is one beautiful cove! Red rock bluffs line the head with two sandy beaches on each side of the bluffs. We took off in the dinghy to the larger beach where Fun Baja was packing up from a day's beach picnic. They had a large gas powered refrigerator on the beach so we naturally checked to see if we might purchase a cerveza fria but they had none. Then my eye spotted a piece of the creamiest looking chocolate cake that one of the guides was eating. A piece for us, too? They had no plates so placed a big slice in my hand for us to share. We hiked a short trail and on returning to the beach were presented with the rest of the cake to take with us! Postre muy fino!

Anne takes possession of the precious chocolate cake!
We spent a leisurely morning soaking in the beauty of Ensenada Grande with its pristine beaches and inviting clear water.
Ensenada Grande
It was only 3 nm miles to our next stop Ensenada del Candelaro, another favorite anchorage because of the colorful reef fish surrounding the large Roco Monumento at the entrance. We anchored, lunched, and took the dinghy over to snorkel around the rock.
Snorkel site on Roca Monumento
There were many kinds of smaller brightly colored reef fish but we also spotted several crown of thorns eating away at the coral. It was alarming to see them there because they can destroy entire brilliant reefs leaving behind dead gray coral. Then the fish disappear.
Sea star eating its way through coral
Later we took the dinghy to shore to check out the two beaches, one with a row of white canvas tents,  the other with a crowd of noisy pelicans. The evening light on the red rocks was brilliant! The rocks were full with gulls, pelicans, and a few blue footed boobies. A band of high rocks separate the two beaches and Gregg and I climbed through an opening to get to the tent beach to see what might be going on over there. A group of Mexican outdoor adventure tour guides from Todo Santos were in training for the coming season and among them, Belinda from REI adventure travel in Seattle. We made easy conversation talking Baja adventures. Meanwhile one of the trainers scooted up to us with a big smile and two Margaritas...in real stem glasses with the blue rim...right out there on the beach! Great karma! Chocolate cake procured from last night's beach stop and Margaritas tonight.

Roca Monument and True North at sunset

This was a last serene night on the water before returning to La Paz the next day, sailing with a super brisk wind and one grand grey whale spy-hopping along the way. In the background the dramatic sailing vessel M5, largest sailing sloop in the world at 246', was clocking 16 kts under full sail. 

Cruising on in to Marina Costabaja in La Paz
We savor the moments that sailing in these beautiful waters brings - the camaraderie, the serenity and spirit of adventure. This time was no different. Until next Spring...adios!

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