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Monday, June 25, 2018

June 25, 2018-After The Hurricane

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After Hurricane "Bud"

The hurricane was a non-event. There were two days of clouds and puffy winds that culminated, as the eye moved past us, in a few stronger gusts and a couple hours of heavy rains. Then it was over.

The next day we had nothing but dramatic clouds and after that normal clear blue skies and standard Baja weather. Maybe later we’ll hear reports of more hurricane drama from other boats but we haven’t yet.

Anyhow, we’ve moved on.

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Agua Verde

Today finds us at Caleta Lobo, near La Paz, some 100+ miles south of Puerto Escondido. We covered most of that distance under sail and we’ve had some brilliant sailing days and nice overnight stops. Three days ago we sailed up the San Jose Canal, tack on tack in flat water and a nice breeze past endless Baja scenery and that night anchored in Amortajada on Isla San Jose. We’ve never been there before and in southerly conditions it is a very nice place. Yesterday we weighed anchor at Amortajada at 8:00 and spent a fantastic day sailing to Isla Partida, great conditions and fast upwind sailing. We were able to tuck into our favorite little spot in Partida where there is some protection from Coromel winds. Today we sailed from Partida to Caleta Lobo and we had a chance to hook up with another sailing boat that we easily caught and passed. So these were great sailing days; we were outside all day in cool air and bright sunlight, working the boat, exercising our bodies and working together, just Judy and I, as we love to do and, after all these years, do so well.

But if you like sailing it can be frustrating this time of year in the Sea of Cortez. Often there is no wind or what wind there is can be completely contrary, or it comes in fits and starts and just when the wind fills in and it looks great and you put up the sails and it dies, a pattern which can repeat all day long.

When we tried to sail from Candeleros to Agua Verde it was like that. We worked at it all day and pretty much got nowhere for the first four hours. The wind just died every time we put the sails up. I guess most other people would just motor but we are stubborn, or I should say I am, Judy likes sailing too but I doubt if she would beat her head against a wall all day if I wasn’t there pushing it. Finally I gave up and went below, disgusted, to record the events in the log book. While I was below the wind came back up again! This time to 9 knots! When I went down the sea was glassy all around the horizon when I returned to the deck ten minutes later the water was dark blue and white caps were starting to form.

We set sail again.

Finally, that time, the wind held and we had some good sailing. For three hours, until we arrived at Agua Verde, it was magical. We sailed along close-hauled in total silence watching the amazing views of Baja and the Sierra Gigante Mountains unfold as we passed. We had nice steady breeze but no waves; the boat just heeled over and glided along with no other movement and no sounds, just smooth sailing and stunning scenery. This part of Baja is rugged, vast and empty and the awe inspiring scale of these tall mountains thrust up thousands of feet from the sea compared to the tiny scale of a human or a sailboat, makes us feel very insignificant and appreciative that we can be here and experience it.

But other times nature fools you. Sailing to Partida we stayed the right to take advantage of a forecast shift that never came. Just as we banged the right corner hard the wind shifted left 100 degrees and dropped to six knots. That little trick added 8 miles to our day.

Today the forecast and the conditions were the same so we knew what to expect. So this time, when sailing against that other sailboat, we stayed to the left when they went right and when the wind shift came we made a huge gain.

So that is sailing in the Sea of Cortez. We are starting to learn the local conditions here.

Tomorrow we’ll go into La Paz and do some shopping and maybe have dinner out. Here in Caleta Lobo we have Internet and we will in La Paz too so we can do our own weather forecasting and start planning for our crossing back to La Cruz.

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Sailing On

We expect to be back in La Cruz, weather permitting, by July 1

Click here for more images.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Caleta Lobo

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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

June 13, 2018-In Puerto Escondido to Avoid Hurricane "Bud"

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Bar in Puerto Escondido

There is this bar at the marina in Puerto Escondido. It’s upstairs, totally open air, and here, as I sip my huge Pina Colada, I have a good view of Wings floating nearby and an astonishing view of the harbor and surrounding Baja scenery. The breeze is cool. The other patrons at the bar are mostly cruisers, many of whom we know, and are laughing and chatting quietly A couple of friendly bartenders are waiting on me. The fantastic Sierra Grande Mountains behind Puerto Escondido are slowly spreading their shade over us as the afternoon turns to evening.

I think this is paradise.

I could stay here forever except I couldn’t afford it. The reason we are here is because of Hurricane “Bud” which is coming this way. Puerto Escondido is one of the few hurricane holes on the Sea of Cortez. If it wasn’t for “Bud” coming we would be headed south towards La Paz, but the stretch of coastline between here and there is pretty open and none of the harbors offer good protection. It’s not that Hurricane Bud is so very scary, it’s rather a mild hurricane as hurricanes go (or will be as it hits the cooler water this far north), but “Bud” could fool us and turn violent. We’d rather be tucked inside Puerto Escondido than anchored in an unprotected place.

That’s why we’re hanging out here. And, since we’re here, might as well enjoy it. Hence the Pina Colada at the open air bar.

Humm, I wonder what this place will be like when the hurricane hits? My guess is that they will close it up and take everything inside. Drink on, closing time is coming soon.

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Puerto Escondido Marina

We’ve been here before. Twenty years ago, when it was an unfinished development with roads and little else (except clean, sweet, free, mountain water, which is why we came) and again two years ago when Fonatur had built a marina and finished some of the other infrastructure (and the water was still free). And we spent three days here last week. The place is pretty fantastic. There is a new owner and they’ve been on a serious upgrading binge. The facilities ashore are totally refurbished, everything clean, everything works, and there is a very complete and modern store and several shops. (And yes, the water is still sweet, cool, and free). The overall area is landscaped to perfection. It is all beautiful, very beautiful. And then there is the surrounding Baja scenery which is simply stunning. We love this place.

After our visit last week the threat of Hurricane “Bud” has kept us in a holding pattern at anchorages within a few miles radius of here and finally, today, we came back in just to be safe and, since several other boats are headed this way, to get a good mooring spot. Maybe the thought of a few more Pina Coladas had something to do with the decision.

Steinbeck Canyon Hike

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Rock Climbing

Since we first heard about Steinbeck Canyon, named for John Steinbeck who visited the Sea of Cortez in the 40’s, we wanted to hike it. Steinbeck Canyon is in the Sierra Gigante Mountains right behind the marina and the canyon goes straight up into those towering rock cliffs. We thought it would be beautiful to walk up a trail into the mountains so one morning we got an early start and headed west. A taxi took us back across the desert floor to the trail head. But it didn’t look too far, so we sent him back after he dropped us off, saying we’d walk back. Looks can be deceiving. What appeared to be a short distance from the marina to the edge of the mountains was actually a fair distance. Later, after our hike, when we walked back, it took over an hour.
It also turns out that the hike is really a climb. It goes straight up a boulder strewn gully.

After paying off the taxi driver, we started up. There was no easy going. It was climb up a boulder then down the other side, one after another. People who have gone the whole way said it took them 4 hours up and back. That’s two hours each way. Going that far rewarded those hikers with some beautiful pools of cool clear water way back up in the canyon. We didn’t make it that far. An hour into it we ran into a vertical head wall that looked passable but dangerous and besides, we were thinking, what about the abuse we were giving our aging bodies? An hour of vertical rock climbing was a lot for us and going down would be just as tough, so we turned back.

We got down okay and then managed another hour walk back to the marina. All in all a three hour hike in desert conditions was quite enough. Surprisingly we had no injuries or aches and pains. We did stop at the bar that afternoon.

It will take a couple of weeks to get to La Paz, assuming we can leave after Hurricane Bud clears out this weekend, and then we head back across to La Cruz.

Click here for more photos.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Puerto Escondido

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Monday, June 04, 2018

June 4, 2018-South of Coyote

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Fred Driving

I was supposed to be cooking but instead I sat on my haunches in the gathering darkness silently looking at the waves which were rocking us. There was a northerly blowing outside and we should have been protected in the harbor but the waves were refracting around the nearby point into the bay and, not only that, they bounced off the rock wall behind us and right back to where we were sitting, making them doubly big. The motion was not dangerous but uncomfortable. I like my anchorages quiet and flat, like a mill pond. I often say, “I’ll go a hundred miles before I’ll stay in a rolly anchorage,” but here we were. We’d been tolerating the movement all afternoon, waiting for sunset when the wind would slack off and the seas would settle down. But that was an hour ago and no sign yet of a let down. In addition to that, the wind was coming over the hill at the head of the bay and flogging the awning. I hated everything about this.

I looked at the bowl of marinating pork in front of me and my cooking utensils, to say nothing of my glass of scotch. I was all prepared to BBQ. Judy was already doing her bit in the galley below deck.

“Fuck it,” I said loud enough for Judy to hear, “Let’s move to the other corner of the bay. Now.”

We could have done this at 3:00pm, in fact Judy had suggested it, but I said, “No, it’ll calm down at night.” Right.

“What about your cooking?” Judy asked.

“It’s right here in front of me, I haven’t started yet.”

“OK, I’ll turn off the potatoes and be right up.”

“Turn on the running lights and the instruments, please.”

I started the engine and Judy came up and went forward to raise the anchor.

Fifteen minutes later we were anchored in the other side of the bay. It was totally still, motion wise I mean, the wind still came in over the hill and gusted down on us. We struck the awning. Then it was really nice.

“This is heavenly,” said Judy as we finished our cooking and settled at the table for a beautiful, peaceful, meal.

This isn’t the first time on this cruise we’d been surprised by a strong northerly which wasn’t forecast. It happened a week ago in San Juanico. Nor was it the first time we’d decided to move just as night fell. Once in Phuket we already had the steaks on the grill when the wind switched and the waves rolled into our anchorage. We upped anchor and motored a couple of miles and found our way into a protected bay using the chart plotter and our GPS and anchored in the dark wondering what it would look like in the morning. It turned out to be beautiful and the quiet night made the tension of entering an unknown place after dark worth it.

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Point Mercenarios-San Juanico

We’ve been on the move south since we last reported. After we left Coyote Bay we spent a couple of days at Punta San Domingo which was especially beautiful. We then sailed to San Juanico, also gorgeous.

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San Juanico

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Baja Beautiful

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Anchored in San Juanico

We sailed on south to Isla Coronado for a night and the next morning motored over to the town of Loretto for a meal out and grocery shopping. Presently we’re in Balandra on Isla Carmen where we first anchored 20 years ago with Rovia and Far Niente and our friend Carl encountered a mountain lion.

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Dingy Repairs in Balandra

This time we haven’t seen any mountain lions, but there are Big Horn Sheep here. We found some hoof prints ashore and saw one on the beach, but none close enough to photograph, unfortunately.
In a day or two we’ll head to Puerto Escondito for water, fuel, and propane, and continue our trek south.

Other Topics:

Fuel Usage:
The fuel situation is interesting; we’ve kept track of our usage and the tank we’re on should have been dry days ago, but we’re still running on it. I’m going to let it run out just to calibrate my consumption calculation which has not been correct since we changed the propeller over a year ago.

Dingy Repair:
We’ve had to totally re-glue the transom of the dingy. It was a big job over a 3-day period and I have no confidence that it will hold. Still, one of the air tubes is leaking somewhere and I can’t find it. Damn Zodiacs, won’t keep the air in or the water out.

Oh, then there is the heat/electrical situation. Over the past week the temperature outside has gotten gradually warmer, (hotter, some might say) and with the extra heat our refrigerator has been running more often, almost constantly, which uses more power. That and the fact that the sun and wind have not cooperated to keep our solar panels pointed to the sun and out of the shade of our big awning means we’ve been low on power these days. To compensate we’ve been running the engine longer. That’s a drag.

Finally, Bees. There are a lot of bees at Isla Carmen. They cruise around inspecting everything. We keep them out of the cabin with good screens and shoo them away if they do get in, but out in the cockpit they are a constant nuisance. They are always around and landing on everything, including us. They are not angry and not out to sting us, after all these bees assumedly have their own agenda and it doesn’t, also assumedly, include committing suicide and stinging us. They are just looking for something, water maybe. Beer cans are really inviting so be careful if you have an open beer. Otherwise, just remain calm and gently brush them away if they land on you. But I’d rather they go find some clover.

Again, that’s cruising.

We haven’t been doing much, but we’ve got a few nice photos, click here to see them all.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Isla Carmen

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