Friday, April 5, 2013

On our way to... Santa Rosalita

Passing along the Baja Coast
I’ll try to chronicle the past couple of weeks and highlight our stops up the coast – mostly for our own memory bank, as the blog is turning out to be one of the best ways to look back on where we’ve been and the uniqueness of each spot. As a whole this segment of the trip has been perhaps the most relaxed and we’ve succumbed to a rhythm that feels right.

A little about our routine and rhythm:
Generally our days start about 7, when we wake up with the sun. (OK, Melinda does, Lanham is often awake much earlier.) We haven’t needed an alarm clock for a while – it’s hard to imagine those dark Seattle 5 a.m.ers. We French Press one strong pot of Starbucks (the electric grinder we have on board is one thing that sets us apart from most of the other cruisers we meet), and by 7:30 we are listening to the Sonrisa Net. This is a Ham users’ forum. Because we are not licensed, we don’t join in, but we listen in. Listening is permissible to everyone with a single sideband radio. It took Lanham many months of research, antenna running, consultations and tests to make sure the High Frequency radio was working. The biggest discovery was that they always work poorly in a marina, due to all the interference from metal masts and electrical boat systems surrounding you. As soon as we were on open water, the radio started working great.
Roca Solitara
There are cruisers’ nets all over the world – the Sonrisa Net seems to cover most of Mexico, both Baja and the Mainland – and the reception varies depending on where we are, where the speaker is, and the weather/atmospheric conditions on a given day. Lanham is looking into the possibility of getting certified as it would be fun to find a net to participate in on the upcoming trip to Hawaii, but whether you are licensed or not you are allowed to talk if you have an emergency or need assistance. We learn a lot about local weather from listening to folk around the sea “checking in” and we’ve gotten to recognize boats and “personalities” some we’ve met, others we may yet meet. What they say is so true – there is a “boating community” of friendly, outgoing, and helpful people all over the place. Most absolutely love the lifestyle, and all have various “stories” of how they got there and not so definitive “plans” for keeping it going. In addition, many towns with anchorages nearby organize a morning net on the VHF radio. It has a much shorter range (maybe 20 miles based on line of sight). It is used to report comings and goings, share local knowledge and assistance, publicize social events that cruisers organize for themselves or to raise funds for local charities. A more localized weather and tide report is usually given on this forum as well. At 7:45, there is a formal weather forecast on the Sunrisa Net that covers all the areas we might want to know about for the next 3 days. Lately, the weather has been pretty benign, and the most accurate thing that can be forecast is a big change in weather – so that’s what we listen for.

Lanham's starting to blend in with the cacti
We often have an idea of what’s on the agenda for the morning, so if it still sounds good we proceed with a one of several kinds of days – a moving day (time to pull the anchor and head to a new spot) – a water play day (time to kayak along shore to explore or take the dinghy out to snorkel) – a hiking day (time to pack tennis shoes and socks, sunscreen and water to go walk the beach or the mountains) – a boat or chore day (time to do maintenance, cleaning, or if near a town, shopping). Some days are combo days, and some days get totally hijacked by weather or mood, but generally by 3 or 4 we are back on the boat, or re-anchored in a new destination, jumping in the water for a swim/bath, followed by a freshwater shower and soap up on the transom, a refreshing beverage, and maybe a couple hours of reading or cat-napping. Looking in the fridge usually suggests what the ingredients of the next meal will be – what’s ripe and ready to eat, what could go together for a healthy meal. Each time we provision we add more and now have cabinets well-stocked with condiments, especially mexi-flavors of chiles, moles, salsas, tomatoes, peppers, onions and garlic.

We usually eat in the cock-pit, watching the sun go down about 7:00, and sitting out in the warm air as the moon rises and stars twinkle. Before bed, we check for sail-mail, download the pictorial weather files called Gribs, tidy up the boat outside and in. L often plays guitar, M often reads, and by 9:30 we are packing it in for another day. There are times in life when it is easy to be at peace – this is one of those times. The challenge is to carry that with you and be able to find it in yourself no matter where you are or what demands you encounter.


The tiny fishing town of Nopolo
and surrounding hillsides

We have had some great days of sailing on our moving days. We took only 2 days to get farther north than we had been to date. We stopped at Caleta Partida one night and went on a long spinnaker run to Caleta Nopolo the second day. Nopolo is a small fishing village and we stayed off the southern group of houses, but didn’t get off the boat that evening.

Walking into Timbabich
Casa Grande -- remains of a grand villa
The third day was a short 3 hour hop up to a beach called Timbabiche. It is known for a rustic stucco building that can be seen from the water as you pass offshore. Casa Grande, was once the ostentatious dwelling of a pearl diver who made it big. When the owner died, the family let the property go and it has never been rebuilt. Melinda took the kayak to the beach and walked into the fishing town that surrounds Casa Grande. 

There are a couple of new stucco structures, including a church and possibly a school, but the very few people making a living there are living off the sea.

Manuel -- our personal seafood connection at Timbabiche

Soon after setting our anchor at Timbabiche we met Manuel, who came by in his panga to see if we would like to buy seafood. We ordered 4 lobster and a cabrilla (as we hadn’t had any luck with the fishing lines since leaving La Paz). He returned to the boat at 4 pm as promised with his young son along. 

We paid him for the fish and lobster which all looked quite fresh. He gladly took a couple cold beers, we had a Frisbee for his son, but he really wanted to know if we liked “bueno chocolate.” No, so sorry, we had no chocolate on board to give him. He was very disappointed and then showed us the large, freshly dug chocolate brown clams he was keeping under a blanket out of the sun in the bottom of his boat. 

“MUY bueno chocolate! Un regalo! No dinero!” He insisted we take some of his delicious chocolate clams – A gift! No money! We laughed at ourselves and agreed to trade batteries for 15 clams. They were wonderful on the grill. We ate some that night and made fantastic clam chowder for 2 more meals.

Before leaving Timbabiche the next morning, we got out at 7 am during high tide and kayaked over to an estuary teeming with birds. After a small portage to get inside the mangrove-lined waterway, we spent a couple hours on the mirrored water, paddling slowly alongside white egrets, cormorants, heron and more. A very meditative Sunday morning.

A serene Sunday morning paddle

Kayaking among the birds

Fishermen take care of their investments
Los Gatos:
Another short sail that day brought us to Los Gatos – famed for its red rock formations. Lanham kayaked in and climbed around the amazing cliff-sides. We only stayed one day, but will probably stop back by for some more hiking here when we return south. 

The picturesque Los Gatos

That night we enjoyed dinner on a neighboring boat. An acquaintance from weeks before, Mickey from San Francisco on the catamaran Acrux, stopped by and asked us to come for fish pasta. We brought ceviche and had a fun evening with him and his boat guests, Robert and Trish from Capetown, SA. All three are rock climbers, who are involved in designing climbing gyms, including one in Seattle. Mickey is also a skilled spear fisherman, who hunts way more than he can eat and is uber-generous with his catches. We first met Mickey 6 weeks ago, when he raced by in his dinghy giving away two large chub that we cheerfully put in our fridge.

Agua Verde:

The next stop was up quite a trek up to the large and popular anchorage called Agua Verde. The first thing one notices is the color of the water –truly a beautiful green. The mountains behind are a vibrant yellow and there are several dramatic rocks that make good locations for snorkeling and diving. Agua Verde is a popular stop for Mexican tourist boats and the main anchorage, as well as the sandy beach were quite full, as we were into Easter vacation week. We opted to anchor a little south of the main bay, had it to ourselves one night and were joined by two other quiet sailboats for the next two nights. This spot had lots to explore, both a water play and a hiking day – so we stayed 3 nights. On the second night, Mickey cruised into the anchorage and called on the radio to say – more fresh fish – couldn’t we help them eat it tonight? We said to come to our boat and they dinghied over a few hours later with about 5 pounds of beautifully filleted “pargo” (red snapper), which we grilled and feasted on with quinoa, veggies, and pineapple.
Tonight's selection -- fresh pargo
Lanham made plans to dive (and get a spear fishing lesson) with Mickey in the morning. Lanham’s dive was great fun and full of learning (sorry too wet for photos). They kept at it for hours, with Mickey bagging 3 big fish that he gave to us! Mickey free dives and stays down hiding among the rocks, quietly holding his breath for over 3 minutes. He has a powerful distance spear gun and really knows how to hunt. Lanham got to watch, managed to stay out of range, and did some exploring with scuba tank in addition to practicing his free diving, breath control and Hawaiian sling. He said he got one shot off!

The easy trail

Robert on a tricky part

Melinda took the dinghy to shore with Trish and Robert for a 4-hour hike. The terrain was challenging, and being with two rock climbers definitely upped the challenge. They liked the route less traveled and were nice about coaching me across the steepest drop-off precipices. The views were breathtaking! We both got back to the boat about 3 pm with tales to tell and ready to get a night of deep sleep.

A few pictures from our hike:

The large wonders...
the small miracles...
the feast... 
We ended our hike with a cold Coca-Cola

After being out a week, we made the plan to have some longer travel days in order to get caught up with a group of friends that we had been talking to on the radio daily. They were camped out in a big and beautiful bay that was still about 100 miles north of us. To meet up with them before they pushed on to new destinations meant that we would cruise by some of the stops that we want to make and plan to see them next month when we head south again back to La Paz.

Six AM the sun wakes up and the moon sets...

Solar wind has pulled anchor (and flopper stoppers). The skippers got his morning coffee...

We had two 50 plus mile days of motoring in very flat seas. The navigating was easy, the ride was comfortable. We motor sailed part of the time, but mostly just appreciated our fuel sipping engine – read, cooked, talked – and watched the shore go by. 

What IS that? ... up ahead in the water

            And as we get closer... we see it's just a sleeping seal

In between the two long days we had a fun stop at Punta Pulpito. Once anchored, we took the kayaks around the point and had close up views of the volcanic rock flows, the obsidian vein, and the bird life. Around the point we found a sea cave that is described in our guidebook and we paddled through and out the other side of the archway.
A pod of several hundred dolphins swam right up to surround the kayaks. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately for the sake of keeping dry, the dolphins did not hang out and play, but streamed by us on all sides just under the water surface, determined to make tracks to wherever they were going.

The vein of obsidian at Punta Pupito

Heading to the sea cave by kayak

Through and out the other side!
Santispac, on Bahia Concepcion:
The day before Easter, we motored into giant Bahia Concepcion and found the smaller arm of the bay where Scott Free Eh, Swagman, Winterlude and Aurora were anchored. The beach was packed, not only with tents, campers, and Mexican families on holiday, but also with the lit up rides and vendors of a small town carnival, the tinny mid-way music and oompah band announcing Easter! 

Runaway whale!
 The water was also busy with people on water toys -- pangas pulling blow-up rides of all shape and size, plastic kayaks, and floaties. The afternoon breeze was brisk and offshore so every once in a while a blow-up mermaid or whale would float by, quickly heading out to sea. Our friends who had been there a few days had stories of rescuing toys as well as distressed swimmers and boaters and towing them back to shore with their dinghies.

Rescued by a panguero

Quin, the wonder dog

We arrived just in time for an evening birthday party onboard the 50’ Winterlude, good steak, wine, cake and celebration. The third crew member on Winterlude is Quin, a 2-year old Po-wo-do (Portuguese water dog) who seems happy with his daily romps on the beach. 

Roughing it

Pep-eh is good at finding shade.
Think he'll grow into those paws?

A new puppy was adopted by our friends on Scott Free Eh, so we are all having fun watching the antics of a toddler and they are getting used to their new morning alarm clock. Going from a street dog in Mexico to a boat dog with Canadian parents makes “Pep-eh” quite the lucky little guy, and he seems duly appreciative of his new life.

Dinghing off to take a hike

Early morning swimmers in El Burro Cove

The next morning we were up and out early for a hike. Five of us dinghied over to nearby El Burro Cove and followed a fairly distinct trail up to the ridge top.

At the top of a scramble we came upon a geo-cache that we had not even been looking for and snapped some pictures of the whole Bay of Concepcion.

A happen upon geo-cache
Lanham and Curtis demonstrating the "bell" rocks --
they have so much iron in them that they sound like metal
when you strike them
Looking down on Bahia Concepcion and
Mexico Highway #1

We then hiked down following markers to try the find the petroglyphs that we had read were in the valley. Our first spotting was funny. Lanham was up ahead and called back that what he could see did not look like the kind of rock surface that could be carved or drawn on. 

The boulders around me looked just the opposite. “Hmm, this stuff looks like it could…” As I ran my hand over the rock to my left, the image of a fish appeared clearly... “Hey! There’s one right here!” As we made our way down, many more petroglyphs surfaced on the smooth faces of the boulders all around us. Some were easy to read, others more fleeting or mysterious, and all beautiful. It was Easter morning, and this was the most unique Easter egg hunt we could have imagined.

A typical street in Mulege
A trip to the town of Mulege for a few provisions that day and a stop at Hotel Serenidad to do a little interneting, then dinner at the beach palapa and a walk through the closing down midway made for a memorable Easter Sunday.

The remote fly-in resort at Hotel Serenidad,
where a cerveca and chips will buy you hours of s-l-o-w internet.

Punta Chivato:
Monday morning we (all 4 boats) headed further north with a terrific 15 knots of wind for a close-hauled sail to Punta Chivato. Four hours averaging 6 knots and watching, photographing and talking back and forth on the radio with our buddy boats made for a quick day. The afternoon took us to shore to see the famous “shell beach.”
Race you to the Shell Beach?

No one we know has an explanation for why this particular mile stretch of beach is the depository for piles and piles of shells. It is a shell collector’s paradise – or maybe nightmare. It is actually overwhelming to start picking up “keepers” and makes all our previous finds a little underwhelming. We had fun goofing around with the shells, motored by the extravagant homes and hotel along this shore and had a group dinner of black-eyed peas and cornbread on the Swagman’s boat, before hitting the bunk early for a 6 am departure plan.

Sunrise departure got us going on another sail. It has been great to be using the wind for several days straight and have it sending us the direction we want to go. The solar panels are now charging at full capacity after Lanham’s hardwiring them back in La Paz, the wind generator contributes, all the systems are maintaining, and the crew is happy!

We came into the town of Santa Rosalia about noon, and got a slip in the small 20 boat marina that is part of the Mexican government subsidized marinas found in some of the more remote places up (and more crowded places too).
Nice modern marina, friendly people, minimal amenities, but reasonable price, and plenty of room!
Santa Rosalia:
Santa Rosalia has a colorful history as a copper mining town from the 1800’s. The wood framed two story workers’ housing is quite unusual for Baja and looks more like a US Western frontier town. Lanham and I explored the town on foot and today will try to find internet to post this and more photos.

Welcome to Santa Rosalia, pop. almost 12,000. Still and active mining town.
Mining Co. PR office
The center square in Santa Rosalia is the site of La Ingelsia Santa Barbara, a church designed by Gustav Eiffel, deconstructed and moved here when Santa Rosalia was dominated by a French mining company. There is a mining museum in town that we hope to visit as well and tonight a group of us plans to head to the street vendor for a famous bacon-wrapped, deep-fried hot dog dinner.

Some more scenes from around town:

Gustav Eiffel's church -- constructed of steel panels

The original train station, now govt. offices

Train station watch dog.

Plumbing, Electrical, & Novelties

Old mining equipment is displayed around the town

31 Flavors & Office Max

TelMex phone company crowding out one of the oldest houses.
Each little town has a Red Cross office

Gull crossing Highway 1
We will be pushing off in the next day or two, with plenty of time to go further north. Lots of the acquaintances we have here will be heading across the Sea of Cortez to the towns of San Carlos and Gueymas where they plan to haul their boats out for the summer, as they go back to the states or Canada for hurricane season. They will return in October or November to cruise another season here. We are still waiting to meet anyone who is headed to Hawaii this spring – but imagine we will as the time gets closer. We meet Marcus, our friend and crew in La Paz on the 18 May, will see a few pretty anchorages with him as we head back around the cape and depart from near Cabo around the 23 – 25 of May.

Thanks for the positive response to the blog – many readers say they are enjoying the travels vicariously. We know how that is, and are glad to post when we can.

No comments:

Post a Comment