Sunday, March 31, 2013

North in the SEA

This will be a quick summary as I have made a stop at Hotel Serenidad to post some pics. We are just  of south of the town of Mulege, near the Bahia Concepcion, midway up the east side of the the Baja Peninsula.

Suffice to say, the last 10 days have been a blur of beautiful cruising days and peaceful nights. We have now met up with several boat loads of friends -- they have been bumming around this beach and town for 3 weeks, so they are quickly showing us the best of the hikes, internet hangouts, and little provisioning shops. We have dined in elegance aboard one of their boat for a birthday celebration, and will probably hang together for the next few days.

We have had some fantastic sailing, as well as some long days of flat motoring. We have hiked, kayaked, snorkeled and swam most every day. We've read, cooked with gusto, met more interesting people with great life stories, and thoroughly loved our freedom and open-ended time frame. We have kept moving pretty well -- enjoyed 8 anchorages over the last 10 days.

Wonderful swimming!

I'll get some photos uploading
and try to share the visuals:

Looking into the estuary at Timbibache

Early morning kayak with amazing bird life!

Lanham hiked and photographed the red rock
formations at Los Gatos.

More photos and details to come, at our next available internet...

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Heading North (with papers!)

Dock 3, with the marina condos behind,
here at Marina Palmira
Just a quick update -- since Anna and Ellie were here in La Paz we have given Solar Wind another BIG cleaning (including a paid bottom scrub and hull polish), teak varnish touch ups, stainless and topside polish, and all is again ship shape!

We had dock mates, Mike and Kelly over for dinner and got valuable tales of their experiences sailing among the Hawaiian Islands. Maui Mike lived there for 12 years and has multiple crossing under his belt. They are both super positive about the benefits and beauty of cruising the islands and had some practical advice as well. They loaned us some cruising guides that we are pouring over.

Our walk from the dock to the restrooms here at our La Paz home!
We used the internet here to get our taxes ready to file and to look into renewing Lanham's tourist visa. Melinda's renewed when she took the trip to Seattle, but Lanham's 180 days were set to run out in early April. We got a generous offer from friends Ed and Amy to use 2 of Ed's "buddy passes" from his piloting on US Air and come stay with them at their home in Phoenix. It was a quick trip -- to 3.5 hours to Cabo by bus on Sunday AM, and 1.5 hour flight to Phoenix.
Dinner at the Village Tavern

Two great dinners out, lots of time to relax and chat, two good sleeps in a comfortable non-floating bed, and we were back walking the Malecon on Tuesday afternoon. Thanks Ed and Amy! We are now good to go -- and don't have to worry about either of us being illegal aliens.

Today was a huge provisioning, and pre-flight maneuvers for the engine (oil filter and transmission fluid). Tomorrow we are heading North again. The idea is to scoot pretty quickly up past the first few islands where we have already spent time and then slow down as we hit new scenery and villages. The next for sure stop will be Loreto -- one of the historical towns -- the earliest Spanish mission on the Baja  Peninsula. We will not have cell or internet for the next weeks -- maybe as long as two months! We are really looking forward to the freedom and open plan for the next 7 or 8 weeks -- the Sea of Cortez calls! And, then of course... we could end up staying put most anywhere if we are waiting for weather or fixing things!!

Please remember you can reach us anytime -- on land or sea at our sailmail address.
We usually check it twice daily when we get weather reports, using the single side band, and we get VERY excited when we receive a personal "hey" from any of you. Sorry the pics are few, but wanted to say we are on our way. Thanks for reading --
Happy Solstice wherever you may be toasting to the spring!
Sunset at Marina Palmira

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Anna's & Ellie's Solar Wind Adventures

              THANKS ANNA,  for taking on the writing of a blog entry!

Arrival at Marina Palmira, La Paz

Ellie and I arrived in La Paz on a Saturday afternoon and were immediately introduced to cruiser culture at Marina Palmira with a boat-christening dock party for a family from Victoria, B.C.  

Christening party for Vida Rica's family on Dock 3

We met a few of Mom and Dad’s cruising buddies and wished S/V Vida Rica and its new family many happy adventures.  Modern Mexican food at Corazon CafĂ© and a great jazz combo at a cool gallery/venue and we were ready for bed!

Out to breakfast at Rancho Viejo (pre sun-therapy)
Sunday morning was errands: a boat swap, breakfast, the Mercado where we found a soccer ball and tortilla press, and the grocery store.  We cast off in the afternoon, and had a fast sail to San Gabriel on Isla Espiritu Santo.  Everyone swam and sunned, and Mom and Ellie cooked the first of several INCREDIBLE galley meals.

Trying out the new tortilla press

The next morning we motored and sailed around Espiritu Santo counter-clockwise to Playa Bonanza, a white sand beach perfect for kicking the soccer ball and beachcombing (check out those dead blowfish!).  We climbed the cape at one end of the beach for some aerial shots of Solar Wind.

Tuesday morning brought another great sail up Espiritu Santo’s rugged East side, to an adjoining island to the North, Isla Partida.  

We made a lunch stop at Los Islotes, guano-covered rocks at the northern tip of Isla Partida.  We wet suited-up for some snorkeling with the resident sea lion moms and pups.  Amazing to swim with 200 pound plus, well-toothed wild animals!  

Are... there... sharks...?


After lunch and laundry we motored on.  Mom and Dad had their eyes set on a little cove called El Cordoncito, but expected it to be occupied.  It was empty and was ours for the next two nights! 

After a spectacular sunset we woke to cloud cover on Wednesday, a welcome relief for the pastier among us.  Ellie and Anna did their first Geo-Cacheing, and we all hiked and climbed up to the ridge overlooking the next bay.  

Rock climbing!
Family portrait
Do you guys always eat like this??  Yep, pretty much!

Dinner was boat-caught dorado and snap peas that Mom bought at the farmer’s market.

Sunset in El Cardoncito
Dinghy trip!

Thursday brought a dinghy trip through Caleta Partida, the spit between Isla Partida and the Isla Espiritu Santo, to the famed sea caves.  In the afternoon we motored back across the channel to the mainland, catching a few raindrops on the way.  

We spent the night at Puerto Balandra, a much larger, more populated bay than we’d seen on the islands.  Reading, evening and morning kayaking, more good food, and several games of Bananagrams later we were on our way back to La Paz under sunny skies.

Sunrise kayaking

As I write this, we’ve scrubbed the boat down, Ellie is getting in some final sun on deck, and Dad is napping.  We’ll do a bit more exploring La Paz tonight and be on our way around noon tomorrow.  We had a great – if too short – visit with family in Seattle on our way down and look forward to another on the way home.  We’ve been so fortunate to share this spectacular place and get a glimpse of the cruising life.  As is their way, Mom and Dad appear to have shied away from nothing – it’s been a joy to see their Spanish abilities, confidence as sailors, mechanical and technical knowledge of the boat, and enthusiasm for whatever comes.  We look forward to their landfall in Sequim in July, many thousands of miles from now!  Onward!
Parting shots -- a night out in La Paz:

Last night Margaritas

Stuffing ourselves with pizza at El Rutico
Doing a little gift shopping at the Artiste Collectivo
SO MUCH fun to be together!!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Fishing Village of San Evaristo

The southern Baja Peninsula is dominated by the truly magnificent (and giant) mountain range, Sierra de la Giganta. Running northwest to southeast, these striated peaks come right down to the water, forming a dramatic backdrop to the few anchorages in this area.

Crossing only 9 miles from the islands to the Baja mainland we were excited to visit the first village north of La Paz. By dirt road, San Evaristo is 75 miles from La Paz. About 20 families live there, and in recent years it has become a bit of a cruisers’ hangout, which seems to be benefiting the economy of the village. At the marina in La Paz it was advertised as a place to bring donations of clothes and school supplies. One of our friends gathered kids’ clothing from second hand stores in La Paz and delivered them.

A very well stocked store -- subsidized by the govt we heard.

There is a water desalinization facility at which the villagers and some of the cruisers fill their 5 gallon jugs. Fresh produce is delivered by truck once a week and the tienda also stocks up on extra groceries to sell to cruisers. In the past 2 years, a beachside cantina has opened.  Dinner can be ordered in the afternoon, to be ready that evening, and just this month a satelite payphone was connected which can (sometimes) allow calls to the States or Canada.

Note the scale for weighing our produce. El hombre is tallying our bill.

We spent a couple of windy and coolish days in the anchorage and had a great time. The bay is large and the wind was whipping up waves but we went in to the beach to walk the town and buy groceries. 

The catch is in...

Two cabrillo for the freezer ($8 total). Would we like that filleted?

The Pelican to Human ratio is much more desirable here is the northern climate.
They seem to get what they need without sticking up the bays.

 About 3 in the afternoon the panguaros were on the beach with their day’s catch, so we bought fresh Cabrillo (similar to cod) which they filleted at a bench on the beach. We met up with some VHF radio acquaintances anchored next to us, Canadians from the boat Euphoria, and took a walk, finding the elementary school, the abandoned salt ponds, and the local burros (who found us worth watching).
Walking to the salt ponds and looking out across the Sea of Cortez.

The school  and playground. After elementary school, the kids go to boarding school in La Paz.
Cruisers have contributed a lot to the school funds and are getting ready to help paint it.

Just a little nicho along the road on our walk.

Having gotten soaked with 4 of us in the dinghy on the way back to the boat, we put on our foul weather gear and headed in again for a family style dinner at the palapa, meeting Sipreana, who does the cooking, along with her mom, dad, brother and 4 adorable children. I took gifts to the kids, including 2 Emerald City Football Club jerseys that say DEAL on the back. They were thrilled!

The 3 hermanos that "help" out and play around Sipreana's restaurant.
They loved our gifts and are all learning some English from the cruisers.
They have an 11 year old sister who does help her mom in the kitchen.

The enclosed palapa where dinner can be ordered

Close up of the beautiful palapa roof on Sipreana's  restaurant

Our day often starts with the 7:30 Sonrisa Net, with a weather forecast that is not very accurate in specifics – there is no such thing -  but does give everyone something to talk about and provides a big picture if major weather changes are on the horizon. The talk was for more and stronger winds to continue, and since it was going south we decided to take off with following seas to start our trek back to La Paz. We crossed back to Isla Partida, catching a large skipjack on the way, and getting anchored just before a real windy nightfall.

For the next 36 hours we were holed up in Ensenada Grande – described as a decent north wind anchorage. We didn’t find it so. Our first spot was clearly in a wind tunnel where 35 to 40 kt gusts swept down the gully in the surrounding hills. We were putting out a lot of scope – 175 feet of chain in 25 feet of water. Our anchor continued to drag and reset multiple times, until we were too close for comfort to the rock walls behind us. We pulled anchor and found it embedded in a 4 foot by 4 foot mound of slippery seaweed – no wonder it wasn’t holding in the roaring wind and surf. Sorry, no picture, but try to imagine Melinda lying midway off the bow, banging at the big green ‘Cousin It’ on the end of the anchor chain, Lanham unable to see or hear any progress as he steers and throttles to keep the boat in one place while it wants to be swept in all directions, including toward those rocks over there… Doing this kind of stuff in the dark adds greatly to the dramatic effect. For our second gusty night we moved to a more protected spot. Lanham napped during the day, kept watch at night. With GPS we are able to note down to 6’ intervals how far we have swung from our previous spot. Swinging is OK, drifting not always OK. Twenty feet is OK, one hundred and twenty probably not. We count the GPS, the electronic anchor watch, and the electric windlass (motor to pull up anchor chain) as things we are very thankful for these days.
The National Geographic Tours boat that was holed up in windy seas next to us for a couple days.

The light never ceases to amaze!

The wind has subsided, no more predicted for a couple days, and we will be back in La Paz to meet Anna and Ellie on Saturday! Stay tuned for news of their visit…