Hiva Oa

Joy's Route - Mexico to Hiva Oa 2019-squashed

Joy’s route from Mexico to Hiva Oa, crossing the ITCZ twice in just a few days

Hiva Oa has proved to be a wonderful introduction to the Marqueses Island group, all apart from the rock and rolly anchorage at Atuona of course! The first run ashore we decided to row rather than attempt mounting the outboard. After a very easy check-in at the Gendarmerie, we explored the small town of Atuona and found two very well stocked supermarkets. It was great to get some fresh produce, long green beans, aubergine and pak choi amongst others. We had heard many rumours about the very high cost of provisions on these islands, so were pleasantly surprised to find many items at a reasonable price, we have shopped in the Cayman Islands afterall.

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The beach front at Atuona

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The quirky town Post Office where we managed to find an internet pass, we took their last one – with all the cruisers arriving they had sold out.

The town of Atuona is about a ¾ hour walk from the harbour and was so pretty and well-kept, the residents clearly take pride in their beautiful surroundings, so we decided to put up with the uncomfortable anchorage for an extra day so that we could return. That evening under slightly better conditions we decided to mount the outboard. As usual things worsened as we got ready, it was a very nerve racking moment as Joy pitched in the swell and a local motor boat roared past at a critical point. More by luck than judgement mission was accomplished but when we woke the following morning conditions had got worse, an even bigger swell was rolling in and even affecting the boats that were behind the breakwater.  With conditions bordering untenable we decided on a very quick second visit into the village and found oranges, mango and  tomatoes for sale which made a wonderful addition to our fresh stocks.  A very kind resident took pity on us as we made our way back along the road towards the harbour, and gave us a lift back to the dinghy dock.   It was touch and go getting the dinghy safely up on the davits in the awkward swell, and with both anchors retrieved we made a very quick exit in search of some better protection.

We wanted to explore the anchorages on the north coast of Hiva Oa, and also this would give us a better sailing angle to get south to Fatu Hiva, so after a couple of days chilling, swimming and snorkelling off a pretty sandy beach on the island of Tahuata just a couple of miles south of Hiva Oa, we set off across the windy Canal de Bordelais inbetween the two islands. Our local forecast had given us 13/17 knots gusting 20/25 and a moderate to rough sea.  The channel has a reputation for being a wind acceleration zone and we had a great sail across it to the west coast of Hiva Oa with 30 knots just aft of the beam, made better by a pod of dolphins riding the bow wave. As we rounded the north western tip of Hiva Oa we found the ‘rough’ part of the  forecast.  A meeting point of two swells as they wrap around both sides of the island created pretty uncomfortable conditions and with wind clocking the compass it was impossible to sail.  So we ducked in to a bay called Hana Menu to wait out the conditions.  The bay was open to the north, swell lessened a little as it reached inside the bay but the wind continued to gust from every direction making a joggly anchorage.  We were pleased to find a better sea state the next day and more consistent wind and tacked our way further along the northern coast to Hana Iapa, a small village with a much calmer and prettier anchorage. It was also nice to be away from the crowds of other boaters, with only 3 or 4 other boats on the entire northern coast.

The village sadly no longer has a store or a school now that a paved road, most of it single file, leads to Atuona and most of the residents have cars or trucks.  So now the village is a very quiet narrow road, lined with nice houses with well manicured gardens and a pretty little church on the hillside.  Plenty of fruit trees hang heavy with pampelmousse (a very large and sweet grapefruit), mangos, limes, soursop and something that looks like a giant pear.  All privately owned of course so nothing we could help ourselves to, even though there were plenty of windfall going to waste.

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Entering the anchorage at Hana Iapa with a free flowing waterfall and an odd rock

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Hana Iapa village street

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One of the many copra drying sheds, the residents harvest coconuts and the flesh is spread out to dry before being transported for processing.

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As I was taking a photo of the church an old guy living next door called us over and welcomed us to the village in a mixture of French and Polynesian.  We have found that French is their main language but ‘Taua’ who had lived in Hana Iapa all his life, spoke a mixture of what he called Marquesan and French, although he struggled to understand our version of French.  Despite the language barrier we somehow passed the time of day, and he gave us two huge pampelmousse and offered us ‘un café’. We were rather hot and bothered after our walk and in need of some lunch so we graciously declined but he insisted we return the next day.  Despite not being quite sure why, we returned anyway to take him some Wahoo as a thank you for the fruit. As we arrived at his house , he was sitting on his porch waiting for us and invited us into his home for a coffee.  We discovered that his father was Czechoslovakian and had arrived on Hiva Oa by boat before he was born.  As we said our goodbyes he stuffed four more huge pampelmousse from his garden in to our rucksack.

We were also fortunate enough to meet another couple Jeremy and YenYen and their two lovely children Kai and Lia on another English boat in the anchorage,  and spent a couple of days exploring with them.  After a failed taxi booking due to an apparent landslide, or maybe the realisation it was a public holiday, we were given details of a track that ran around the mountains and led to a white sandy beach in the next bay.  Given the impression it was ‘just over the hill in the next bay’ and maybe an hours walk, we set off on the rough goat track with our packed lunch and what we thought was plenty of water.  Two and three quarter very hot hours later we finally arrived at the beach, and with two or three houses nestling in the coconut trees behind the sand we sought out a couple of residents and got permission to spend time on the beach and pick some fruit. With no roads to these properties they are extremely isolated. They have goats, pigs, chickens and horses and obviously plenty of fruit.  One man decided to demonstrate his mad-man style riding skills and galloped around us on a small pony in a rather intimidating manner as we picked some fresh limes, I was rather glad we had already got permission. I suspect that this is their mode of transport along the goat track to the road at Hana Iapa as there were hoof prints among the goats. We were all pretty worn out when we arrived back at our boats, a cool drink laced with some fresh lime juice and a swim was definitely in order.

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Boats at anchor in Hana Iapa Bay

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Following the goat trail

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Almost there!

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This little piggy is definitely not going to market

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The next day a taxi did appear and we all got a lift to the car rental place near the harbour at Atuona, we had all wanted to visit the ‘tiki’ archaeological site at Pua Mau on the north west coast. So after some shopping in Atuona, finding fresh lettuce, ginger, mangoes and all sorts of other goodies, we headed off on the road to the village of Pua Mau.  After just a few miles the road turned into an unmade track with just a few short random sections concreted.  It was a bumpy but picturesque 2 hour drive to the village, passing numerous cattle and ponies tethered in the shade along the roadside.  After arriving in the village and paying the entrance fee at a small snack shop we followed a narrow road into the valley lined with banana, mango and breadfruit trees and arrived at the small archaeological site. It was all very pretty with five ancient tikis (stone statues) under some modern thatched covers and a large pile of rocks where apparently human sacrifices had been made to the gods, but we did all wonder if we were at the right site! Ten minutes was all that was needed, and another twenty to load the back of the truck with some windfall bananas and freshly picked breadfruit. Despite the very misleading description in the guide book, we enjoyed the trip out there to see more of the island, although I came away with much more than just bananas and breadfruit. The notorious ‘no-no flies’ had munched on my deet-covered arms and legs with the odd mosquito bite thrown in for good luck.  That evening I gave up counting after itchy-bite number 30, Jez thought the reason for my misfortune was on account of not drinking enough tequila the night before, as he hadn’t a single bite.  Hmmm, he may have a point.

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The north coast of Hiva Oa is beautiful

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The tiki site at Pua Mau

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One of the ancient tikis

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From here we will beat our way to the small island of Fatu Hiva, about 50 miles south of Hiva Oa.

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Having a “Swell” Time in the South Pacific

As we started to approach the ‘Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone’ at around 4° N, the asymmetric sail was put away mainly due to the threat of squalls. The wind had increased slightly so we set up our pole attached to the main mast and poled out the jib sail on the starboard side and set the staysail on the port. This is a good down-wind set up but does have a tendency to make the boat roll from side to side. We were pleased we had made the change as that very night the first of many squalls hit.

Generally speaking a squall will bring an extra 15+ knots of wind and torrential rain. The following day with a mean wind of 20 knots and a dark cloud coming our way, we rolled away the poled out jib leaving just the staysail and set the main with 2 reefs. Torrential rain flattened the sea and the wind built to 41 knots, Jez took over the helm from the autopilot to keep us downwind and prevent gybing. We cheered at 8.5 knots of boat speed, and clocked up 10 knots surfing the back of a wave. We were sailing and making progress at last!

Sadly the squall leaves behind a period void of wind, before long we were back to bobbing with sails and booms crashing and banging. The ITCZ lived up to its reputation, windless and calm with miles of motoring required to get through it as soon as we could, interrupted by the occasional squall. In the words of Captain James Clark Ross sailing HMS Erebus through the ITCZ on an expedition to find magnetic south in 1839 “Violent gusts of wind and torrents of rain alternate with calms and light baffling breezes, which, with the suffocating heat of the electrically-charged atmosphere, render this part of the voyage both disagreeable and unhealthy” – I couldn’t have put it better myself!

The highlight of the doldrums was having a chat to Cap’n Morgan from a huge fishing boat who radioed us up one morning as he passed our bow, we thought that he was going to ask us to keep our distance, but instead all he wanted was a chat! We were amazed to discover that he had just netted 60 ton of tuna, with a crew of 29 onboard, saying that this was a medium haul, a good haul was 100 ton. He operated out of Equador, fishing a vast area from 10°South to 10°North and occasionally beyond. The ship has a staggering capacity of 1200 tons of fish, his shortest fishing trip was 60 days and longest 121 days to achieve this! He consequently didn’t seem that impressed with our Wahoo catch!

A couple of days later we finally found some wind from the east and made better progress, crossing the Equator during our 3am shift change on 22nd April we set a direct course for Hiva Oa. The wind filled in to 20-25 from the south east and another yachtie ‘Little Wing’ popped up on AIS 10 miles ahead and to port. From the dimensions shown on AIS we gathered that they were a multihull so assumed that they had overtaken us. Much of the time out of sight at 7-10 miles away, we watched them on AIS as we made slightly better progress and soon started to get ahead. After a particularly long-lasting squall one morning that just never seemed to pass, we discovered that the ITCZ had decided that once was not enough and had dropped hundreds of miles south to grace us with its presence, at 2° South! More squalls and calms, but with Little Wing to port of us they became our extra ‘squall detector’, when we could see them on AIS changing course slightly and speeding up to 7+ knots we knew we had it coming. This gave us plenty of time to gauge its strength, reef if necessary and get ready for the onslaught! As the ITCZ finally let us be, a good healthy trade wind developed on the beam, Joy screamed comfortably towards the goal at 8 knots with 2 reefs in the main and mizzen sails and the jib and staysail working together. It wasn’t long before we had surprisingly left our “squall detector” behind and the remaining 850 miles just melted away. With a high CAPE value still looming we had the odd squall to contend with and some pretty lightening displays, but quite often at night we had clear skies displaying thousands of mesmerising stars in a never ending milky-way galaxy, interrupted by the odd shooting star!

Disappointingly, we haven’t seen so many birds on this leg of the passage, and this must be the first time without a night time visitor resting somewhere on Joy. To make up for the lack of feathered friends however we did have three huge sperm whales pass us by pretty close, one went under the surface and slid past us then shortly after two more came ploughing through at the surface on a mission. It was pretty impressive to watch them, they have such huge blunt heads (the cavity of which, according to my guide book, can accommodate a car!) and their blow hole is through a slit on the left side of their head which we could clearly see. We estimated them to be at least 15m in length.

Our racing speed knocked a little over 24 hours off of our anticipated arrival, at 6am shift change yesterday we sighted land on the hazy horizon and by 8am we were off the north east point of the Marquesan island, Hiva Oa. The last few hours sailing along the south coast went back to bobbing with a drop to 12 knots in wind and the occasional rain shower.

Sailing towards Baie Tahauku where we can check in, our hopes of a calm anchorage for a good nights sleep were dashed when we spotted quite a few boats rolling hideously in the swell. The small harbour was jam packed with anchored sail boats and the overflow were anchored outside the breakwater, and there we joined them. There is no protection at all here, so we took the time to set a stern anchor and keep our bow into the building swell. Good job we had just been at sea for 24 days and had become accustomed to being thrown around!

After a very bumpy nights sleep, but I guess at least we didn’t have to keep watch, we mustered the energy to inflate the dinghy and get our home ship shape again. Our “squall detector” arrived in and anchored next to us this morning, the trimaran Little Wing. We can see a few yellow dusters flying from various yachts here so I guess Monday morning will be busy for the Gendarmes checking us all in, then we can explore and find a calmer anchorage. Wahoo for dinner…again!

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What a Whopper!

First light on Friday morning revealed a tear in the asymmetric sail, the night had been a difficult one with the wind dropping below 8 knots at times causing the sail to flog. As the sun rose the wind filled in and we were sailing comfortably again, so it was rather annoying to have to retire it. The spinnaker cloth is very lightweight and unforgiving especially if snagged on anything sharp. A previously patched area must have caught on something high in the rigging when flogging in the annoying swell and variable breeze. We had no choice but to douse the sail and bring it in, deploying number 2 sail from the light air wardrobe, a high-cut reaching sail which we hoist from the bowsprit on a torsion rope. A heavier cloth than the asymmetric, it’s a little less delicate but is smaller in area and not as powerful, and also as the luff is fixed to the torsion rope it’s not possible to go as deep downwind as with the asymmetric.
On closer inspection the tear was bigger than it looked when hoisted, a rip a couple of feet long in the patch and original cloth with a couple of smaller rips branching off. The ‘sharp’ object had also sliced vertically through the edging tape. After a little hunt through my ever growing stock of sewing bits and bobs, I located a piece of spinnaker fabric left over from a repair I made to a couple of small rope burns in the sail a couple of years ago. It was only just big enough for the job, but beggars cannot be choosers. So with the sewing machine set up on the cabin floor, far too rolly to have the heavy thing on the table, I set about repairing it to the best of my abilities and I also reinforced the edging tape with a remnant of stronger sail cloth I picked up in San Diego. A motto of ours is “I can only do what I can do with what I have got” and coupled with “where there’s a will there’s a way” we got the job done. It was satisfying to get the sail rehoisted and back in action so quickly.

As I was busy sewing, Jez was accepting small gifts from Neptune in the form of a nice chunky tuna and a small Mahi Mahi. With the sail rehoisted and 6 knots of boat speed, we sat in the cockpit gazing at the wind-filled patch-work sail, mooching over what to have with our tuna supper. We discussed the benefits of catching smaller more manageable sized fish. We deliberately target these fish by using small plastic brightly coloured squid with a concealed hook inside, our rod and reel combo is perfect for the size tuna we normally target. Jez had just baked ‘Barbara’s Bread’, a wonderful artisan no-knead recipe passed on to us by our friend Barbara, and as he took it out of the oven the reel screamed at a level we have never heard before.

We both knew that this was not a mid-size fish of any description, as always my imagination ran wild and amongst the OMGs and a few other choice phrases I prayed to god it wasn’t a dolphin (Jez thinks I have an over active imagination, I have to remind him that we once caught a seal in Alaska although he was released unharmed with just a pierced lip!). The rod bent double and the fish ran with many metres of line, this one was going to be our trickiest ever – not at all what we had in mind! After increasing the clutch on the reel, Jez doused the asymmetric sail to slow the boat down before we started the long haul in. With every 5 turns of the reel, the fish took 10 back. It was a long muscle-burning reel in, excitement and anticipation keeping the adrenaline pumping.

As we got him closer to the boat we could see in the clear deep blue ocean a huge wahoo gradually tiring from his ordeal. This fish was far too big for us and our gear, but we had no choice but to bring him on board as he had swallowed most of the squid lure and the hook was deep in his throat, we would never be able to get close enough to remove that and release him alive. As luck would have it I gave a perfect strike with the gaff and struggled to lift him a little out of the water, Jez took over and I managed to get a rope around his tail which we tied to a cleat just in case! He was onboard and we still had all our fishing gear intact.

At 4 feet 5 inches long, this whopper of a Wahoo must have weighed around the 80-90 lb mark, based on Jez’s fishing book – that in Jez’s mind compares with a lamb ready for the butchers! We spent the rest of the day filleting and packaging 43 portions for two of beautiful chunky white fish, and our back-up freezer has been fired up to cope with the unexpected addition to our food stocks.

So it’s been a very productive and enjoyable second week at sea, with 12-18 knots of wind and a few periods down below the 10 mark, the sailing has been great and we finally feel that we are making progress. We have spent hours watching tuna leaping out of the water along side Joy in hot pursuit of flying fish, they seem to be using Joy as cover to creep up and attack the smaller fish (there goes my imagination again!). Also providing entertainment are the numerous sea birds also hunting the flying fish, Boobies are the most common but we have also had Shearwaters, Petrels, Terns and Tropicbirds and today an unknown bird which looks like an immature brown booby with red feet but has a much bigger wing span, and boy is he agile picking off flying fish mid-air.

With 1,100 nautical miles behind us, we have about 1,600 remaining as the booby flies. Today we changed course slightly after deciding to cross the ITCZ further west than originally planned, mainly because it looks as though there is more consistent wind closer to 128W compared with the area from 122W to 126W. In the last day or two we have entered the area of ‘CAPE’ around the ITCZ which stands for Convective Available Potential Energy – basically this means increased moisture and risk of squally showers, thunderstorms and lightening. It’s cloudy, hot and humid and occasionally rainy, we are now on squall alert especially with the asymmetric flying.

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Slow, slow, quick, quick, slow!

After leaving La Paz last week we made our way south out of the Sea of Cortez towards the Cape. The new moon had meant some interesting waltzes with strong currents in the anchorage at La Paz making getting our outboard engine off the dinghy and into the aft lazarette an impossibility with an opposing wind and quite a bit of chop on the water. So we left the dinghy and engine hoisted on the davits and decided to stop in to the beautiful Ensenada de los Muertos anchorage on our way past to get this job done in more settled conditions. We only ever pack the engine away and deflate the dinghy on long passages, it means we can flush it through with fresh water before its sabbatical, and the dinghy is far safer packed away than strapped to the davits especially if things get rough. After dodging dozens of small fishing boats in the dark, we entered the bay late in the evening accompanied by the continuous sound of slapping on the water, and realised that it must be jumping eagle rays, slapping the water hard as they landed. It appeared the next morning that the eagle rays were perhaps in a feeding frenzy, as they continued to jump amongst the fisherman but seemed not to be the target of the local line catchers.

With everything stowed away we set off once more in a light onshore breeze hoping to find more consistent wind further away from land.

As we rounded the Cape and left the Baja peninsular behind us a couple of humpback whales waved goodbye on the horizon with some awesome fin-slapping and a breach. As Joy headed offshore once more we had a fantastic 25 knot north wind fill in on the beam and screamed along at 8-9 knots thinking that this was going to be a fast passage. Sadly that only lasted about 12 hours before we were back to bobbing at 2-3 knots.

Light north east winds set in around the 3 to 8 knot range and coupled with a north west swell for most of the week has meant a flogging asymmetric sail and little progress.

To give you an idea of our measly progress, yesterday we clocked up just 18 miles in 11 hours! That has to be an all time record low for us. It’s entirely possible that Jez will celebrate his 50th birthday on this passage (he’s currently 47). Our light airs downwind sail has spent more time hanging from the rigging like a limp lettuce, just swinging in the swell and occasionally dipping in the water. The pod of dolphins that visited us didn’t think much of it either, I think their squeaking and tail slapping was some form of dolphin fun-poking. The highlight of the day however was when we overtook a large turtle at about 1.8 knots (yes, there is a decimal point in there), the hare and the tortoise sprung to mind. We had initially thought that perhaps he was dead as we bobbed past him, who knows perhaps he thought the same about us, until he finally raised his head for a gasp of air.

So with plenty of time on our hands the sudoku books have seen plenty of action, and I have had time for some meaningful pondering on the state of our planet as we try desperately to travel greenly, patiently encouraging this hare to continue moving forward with every little puff of wind.

And I must wish my precious Mum, Sandie, a very happy birthday along with my niece Jasmine, hoping they both have a super day. Xx

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And We’re Off!

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks getting last minute jobs done and a mammoth reprovision for the next 7 months of cruising the South Pacific Islands.  We spent most of yesterday on the paper trail to clear out of Mexico, with visits to the Port Authority, Health Department, Immigration and then finally the Port Captain.  Of course all the offices are spread out around the town so plenty of exercise in between.  It was an uncomplicated procedure, all the officials were very friendly and I got by with my small amount of Spanish.  The last stop at the Port Captain was painfully slow, as we sat at the “Ventanilla Rapida” desk for an hour and a half waiting for our clearance papers with my stomach grumbling like a caged lion, I wondered if the sign taped to the window was an April fools joke.

We have had some great wildlife encounters this last week, Lofty our resident Osprey eats her breakfast every morning on the TV aerial at the top of the mast, the splatterings of sushi on the deck can be a bit annoying when walking around in bare feet.  The dolphins have been a great source of entertainment too, large pods of them come into the harbour to feed and they do so right around the anchored boats.  We had one do a spy hop a couple of metres from our bow, vertically in the water his whole head came out and had a good look at us before going back down.

So we’re cleared for departure and head off out today hoping to pick up some trade winds once we get offshore.  We are sad to be leaving Mexico, we have so enjoyed our time here and as always don’t feel we have really seen enough, but the South Pacific is calling Joy and we must set sail once more for our next adventure.

Baja Mexico to Hva Oa-squashed

Just a little over 3,000 miles to Hiva Oa, Marquesas

 

 

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Preparing for the Pacific

Now that we are back in the vicinity of La Paz, work has begun on prepping Joy for her next leg of the adventure, crossing the Pacific.  It’s hard to believe that less than ten months ago we were leaving Panama for Alaska via Hawaii, sailing over 8,000 miles in about 9 weeks to Sitka. Since then we have added at least another 3,000 miles making our way down through SE Alaska, British Columbia, West coast US and Baja Mexico. What an adventurous year it’s been for us Joysters and now ‘here we go again’!

We had a wonderful sail down to La Paz from Bahia Concepcion, this time we took full advantage of the northerly winds to actually sail pretty much all the way.  We stopped at a few anchorages on the way back that we missed on our way north, our favourites being Honeymoon Cove on Isla Danzante a couple of miles from Escondido, and a beautiful bay on the mainland Baja called Agua Verde where we bought some goats cheese from the local dairy. At last, some cheese with flavour.

 

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A view of the mainland from inside Honeymoon Cove

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Looking north from Isla Danzante on a day when the northerlies weren’t blowing

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The anchorage at Agua Verde

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Our little Mexican friend tried to follow us on our walk to the village. But not before licking most of the bug spray off our legs, chewing the inflatable kayak and trying to run off with Jez’s shoes (brave)!

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Following the dirt-road into the village

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Approaching the ‘village’ at Agua Verde

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Free range goats on the beach

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A big thanks to Nanny for our tasty cheese

Isla Partida, the small island just north of Espiritu Santo, was our last port of call before heading back to La Paz harbour.  We stayed a couple of days in a large bay called El Cardonal (which is the name for the tall cactus found here), and has a beautiful walk across a valley to the other side of the island on a well-marked, easy-peasy, kind-on-the-knees trail.  We were rather taken with this bay, especially as we passed an osprey sitting on her nest on the cliff face as we entered, although the wind did accelerate through the valley and blast us from one way to the other pretty regularly but it was a small price to pay.

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A random place, inland, to find what we think is a dolphin skull

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The tide had gone out rather a long way when we returned to the kayak

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These bugs scuttled across the rocks in their hundreds, it was difficult not to step on them, a cross between a cockroach and a woodlouse.

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The elaborate abandoned fish trap

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Layers and layers of shells

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Then on night 3 our overnight forecast of a shift in wind from the NE to a 10 knot north-wester turned into a 20+ knot south-west wind, entering directly into the bay pushing along with it a lumpy sea with 20 miles of fetch. Jez can pretty much sleep through anything, I gave up trying at 3am and went on anchor watch until 6am when things finally started to calm down and I dropped off to sleep. With more of the same now showing in the forecast we decided it was time to get back to La Paz and knuckle down to some serious preparations.

Whilst waiting for some parts to arrive from the UK we have been busy adjusting our spray hood fixings to stop water getting in. The spray hood (or dodger) was attached to the coachroof by three sections of track at two different levels. Inevitably, especially when heeled over, water runs in through the gaps in the track and we often have towels at the ready in rough weather as that salt water always attempts to get down the companionway and then runs over the electronics, not a good combination! So Jez has built up the lower section of the coachroof  in teak using his rather handy carpentry skills so that it’s all one level and then we have fitted a one-piece track across the front.  I have been busy with the sewing machine adapting the spray hood and fitting a new bolt-rope. We sure are softy sailors who like our comforts, getting wet especially with sea water isn’t very pleasant and on a long passage getting things dry when covered in salt is not easy, so we are hoping this will improve things further.

Meanwhile our experience with importing parts into Mexico using DHL has been a little stressful, causing me to discover an unexpected taste for tequila. DHL refused at first to process them as a temporary import (as we will be leaving Mexico with said items) and slapped us with an 11,500 peso bill (£450) for customs fees and duty and a persistent reminder that if we didn’t pay by 15th March our package would ‘go into abandonment’, charming!  We had made sure the package had all the correct paperwork for a temporary import before it left the UK,  including stamped customs documents we obtained in La Paz for each item but still DHL refused to recognise them.  I managed to find a copy of the Mexican law on allowing temporary imports for boats such as ourselves, helpfully translated into English under each section, on Marina de La Paz’s website, and I emailed this to DHL and the customs broker.  After 23 emails in over two weeks and just as many frustrating phone calls I finally got some action, I guess slow action is better than none. We got a reduced bill without the duty, but still stupidly expensive at 5,000 pesos – to put this into perspective, here in Mexico that’s 465 cans of beer, or 43 litres of tequila! Daylight robbery.

But now that’s all water under a very dodgy bridge, we took delivery yesterday and have already started fitting things.  We have opted for a B&G wireless wind transducer because it was actually the cable inside the mast that had failed on our old Raymarine system. This cable is secured inside conduit in the mast and will not budge, so we can’t replace it without unstepping the mast and that’s an expensive option!  So our solution is to fit a wireless transducer instead, which relays the data via bluetooth to a base fitted at deck level which is in turn connected to our network.  After a bit of trouble getting the two to pair, we discovered with the help of my trusty friend ‘Señor Google’ that B&G have provided the wrong sequence in their set-up instructions! So that resolved our problem and hey presto, we now have apparent wind speed and angle on our displays once more. Our other part is to replace our Echopilot forward looking depth sonar which won’t be quite so straight forward as there are cables to run, control boxes to mount and we discovered this morning that the video-out cable supplied with it has a different connector to our video-in on the Raymarine display!  Don’t you just love these companies!

So now we need to start the hunt in La Paz for an adapter which I am sure will involve many miles of fruitless walking, something we seem well practised in.  We feel quite at home walking in Mexico and have never felt unsafe walking the streets, although we had a rather strange incident with a little old lady one day as we walked the pavement past her house in downtown La Paz.  I had seen her looking at us as we approached, and when she broke out in Spanish, which sadly we couldn’t understand, I apologised with ‘lo siento, hablo un poco de Espanol’. With that she proceeded to mimic a karate kick on Jez and pretended to hit him with her stick!  We walked away laughing but quite bewildered as she ranted ‘mi casa, mi casa’ and went inside her gate. Was she inviting us in or warning us off? Who knows, there’s nowt so queer as folk!

We hope to be ready to leave Mexico for the Marquesas by the end of March, and the clock is ticking…..But we have still found time to entertain a few unexpected callers at ‘nuestra casa’.

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An Osprey landed on the TV aerial and called its heart out for 20 minutes. Reminding me that despite DHL, life really is fantastic!

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Waiting for the next high water, a reminder to check your surroundings before anchoring in La Paz. This newcomer was the second grounding in the harbour in one day.

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The Waltz in La Paz with a front approaching at sunset

Posted in Mexico | 5 Comments

Beautiful Baja Cruising

It’s been a very interesting and varied few weeks since leaving the beautiful Isla Espiritu Santo, cruising north along the east coast of the Baja peninsular dodging the strong northerly winds every few days.  There are plenty of lovely anchorages along the way,  with varying protection. San Evaristo was beautiful and well protected with a nice walk along the beach, and one of the dirt roads that leads out of the small fishing village took us to some salt evaporation ponds on the other side of the point.

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The stunning Sierra de la Giganta mountain range

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A shrimping boat takes a rest

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Salt evaporation ponds gleaming in the sunlight

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The tiny rural school in the village

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The small fishing community at San Evaristo

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A chance to sail in the San Jose Channel

Our favourite anchorage was on the southern shore of Isla Coronados which is about 5 miles north-east of the small town of Loreto.  Uninhabited and part of the National Park, the island is actually a volcano with a beautiful sandy spit at its base. The volcano provided us with great protection in its lee during a week-long northerly with gusts up to 35 knots,  we sat comfortably with just a small amount of wind chop watching the large waves rolling on by past the island.  Within kayaking reach of a small beach we had the island all to ourselves, the tourists stayed away for days as the boat trip out from Loreto would have been quite horrible.  It’s not all that easy paddling against strong wind in an inflatable kayak, it was a wet experience but gave us a much-needed work out. We took a couple of hours to hike to the top of the volcano for a picnic, it was pretty tough on the ankles and trainers as most of the trek was across acres of rubble-like rocks which were quite wobbly and sharp.  The last part was very steep and slippery on loose gravel but we made it, our lunch stop at the top was pretty wind-blown as the gusts accelerated over the peak. Great views though.

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The volcano in the distance

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Cairns mark the trail across the rubble

 

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Looking across the sand spit to the mainland

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Nice calm water in the lee of the island

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A great view of Isla Carmen 8 miles to the south

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Going down was tricky, that slippery gravel meant I was on my backside quite a bit.  Sadly my Sketchers were no match for the sharp rocks, now we are both in need of some new trainers.  The beach at the base of the volcano on the western shore is pretty stunning, and there is a network of well maintained paths that lead through the sand-dunes giving a much easier and gentle workout for the old knees. After our second trip ashore on one of the windiest days we kayaked back to Joy with the wind behind us, paddling hard so as not to miss her we arrived at the steps doing around 5 knots. The only way to stop was to grab hold of the fenders pretty quickly and hang on for dear life.  We really didn’t fancy missing the goal, being blown out to sea and having to paddle like hell to get back.  We made it, but I strained my dodgy knee getting out of the kayak and back up the steps, that put me out of action for a few days.

 

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Joy anchored in the lee of Isla Coronados

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A well-marked trail through the scrub

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This poor little fella with a broken wind followed us up the beach, we returned the next day with some bait fish and left over tuna for him!

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This one’s aptly named a ‘rambling’ cactus

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The windward beach, not so nice!

Loreto is such a lovely little town full of character and friendly people.  There is no protected anchorage just an open roadstead, but it’s an easy hop from Isla Coronados and when the weather is settled it’s possible to anchor off the small town harbour for a few hours. There are a couple of good supermarkets and plenty of excellent restaurants to choose from.   Mexican supermarkets generally have an abundance of avocados, limes and fresh coriander. Jez makes a fantastic chunky guacamole with avocado, onion, garlic, coriander and lime juice, a wonderful change from popcorn at beer o’clock.

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Approaching the beautiful town of Loreto

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It’s amazing what you can find next to the bacon in the supermarket chiller!

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I’m not telling porkies……

The waters around Loreto are pretty special too, huge pods of dolphin can often be seen feeding as well as hundreds of pelicans and one day we were lucky enough to be startled by a humpback whale leaping from the water, crashing down with a huge loud splash.  Then again she breached but not achieving such a great height as the first time, then again. We watched in total amazement as this whale breached six times in succession before her companion joined in and managed two more!

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Each time she landed on her back with her mouth open!

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Now her friend’s turn

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Our final leg to reach Bahia Concepcion was actually sailable, with some south in the light winds we even managed to get the asymmetric sail out for a few hours as we watched two humpback whales tail slapping. Bahia Concepcion is a large bay with several anchorages within it giving protection from just about every wind angle.  The downside is it’s close to the Mexican highway with noisy lorries during the day, it’s also a popular place for camping and the beaches are full of RV’s and campers.

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This shrimping boat overtook us doing about 10 knots – complete with a flock of frigate birds in his rigging!

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It’s not often the asymmetric sail comes out

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If you look really closely you can see that they are blue footed boobies

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Playa Coyote

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Spot the osprey on her nest

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Isla Requeson is connected to the mainland by a sand spit, also a popular place for campers

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Looking north from Isla Requeson across Bahia Concepcion

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Millions of oyster shells litter the island

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The pretty point at Playa Santispac

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We found this strange little creature blocking up our water strainer for the fridge cooling system (released unharmed!)

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The authors or our excellent cruising guide for the Sea of Cortez, Shawn Breeding and Heather Bansmer, have also produced electronic charts of all the anchorages that they cover in the book. We bought these too as our Navionics charts were rather poor in detail, they have proved to be very useful and pretty accurate for GPS positioning and depth soundings. This is our favourite anchorage in Bahia Concepcion, Playa Santa Barbara, on the left is the Navionics chart compared with the authors chart on the right.

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Now we are heading south on our way back to La Paz to get the boat, and ourselves, ready to cross the Pacific next month.  We’re looking forward to visiting some of the anchorages we missed out on our bash north.

 

Posted in Mexico | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Feeling Spiritual on Isla Espiritu Santo

The wind in the Sea of Cortez at this time of year is pretty much all or nothing.  The predominant wind runs north west to south east along the inside length of the Baja peninsular, so basically cruising the coast northwards is a continuous beat against the wind.  Most boats move about during the lulls, in-between the strong ‘northers’ that accelerate their way down the coast every few days creating very short steep waves. Sailing against this sea is second only to beating from Panama to Puerto Rico, not a pleasant experience.

After leaving the wonderful anchorage at Bahia Los Muertos we made our way up to a small  bay called Bahia Falsa just a few miles from the town of La Paz just in time for another norther. It had great protection from the wind and sea with turtles surfacing around the boat and a resident osprey keeping us entertained as she circled above and landed on her favourite cactus.  Looking out at the huge waves rolling past the entrance to the bay towards La Paz, we were pleased to have such good protection. The harbour in La Paz is often closed in these conditions and not surprisingly so.

When the weather settled we kayaked around the small coves in the bay, landed on the beach and caught a taxi into town for some much needed provisions. I am pleased to say the stores in La Paz are plentiful and well stocked so we filled our boots with fresh fruits and veggies.  It’s also great to be able to afford to treat ourselves to lunch when we are out, the food (and beer) here is excellent and such good value.

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Looking across the bay at Bahia Falsa

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The skeleton of a porcupine/puffer fish

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We had been settled in the bay for a few days, two northers had come and gone, when we discovered our friends Ted and Barbara were also in La Paz so we took the opportunity to go in to the harbour and anchor near them for a night so that we could go out to dinner and catch up. Boats at anchor here are known to do the ‘La Paz Waltz’ as current overtakes wind and boats do all sorts of strange things depending on their keel shape and size so boats keep their distance from one another to avoid collisions. It was great to spend time with Ted and Barbara who we first met in Cuba and haven’t seen since Panama, and of course to sample some great Mexican cuisine together in town.

With a brief break in the weather we made the short hop to a beautiful island about 18 miles north of La Paz, Isla Espiritu Santo which translates to The Island of The Holy Spirit.  It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1995 and is a designated protected area for flora and fauna. Now uninhabited, this ecologically rich island was once home to the Pericu Tribe who were known to be fisherman, hunters with bow and arrow, and seed and root gatherers. They were a nomadic pre-Hispanic race, living in caves all along the desert Baja peninsular and on the numerous islands. It is believed that they populated this region for around 30,000 years, vanishing more than 200 years ago. Analysis of the Pericu skulls has found them to be linked to the aborigines native to South East Asia and the Pacific.

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Approaching Isla Espiritu Santo

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The island has some great anchorages and a few challenging hikes into the interior.  Ensenada de la Raza provided good shelter from yet another northerly for a few days in the lee of a beautiful pink cliff. We kayaked to the small beach surrounded by mangrove and scrambled the hill to get a view of the bay, admiring the many flowering plants thriving in the rocky terrain.

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We found ourselves totally smitten with a small cove called El Mezteno (meaning The Untamed).  It certainly lived up to its name, with a family of three ospreys visiting every day, a dozen or so pelicans diving for fish, the odd blue footed booby, a sea lion hunting around the boat at night and a small seal during the day.  We have watched rays leaping from the water, one ray did 8 leaps consecutively which is the most we have ever witnessed, and a Mahi Mahi chasing a school of fish by the boat occasionally breaking the surface of the crystal clear water with his wing-like dorsal fin.

On our first afternoon in the cove we had attempted the hiking trail which follows the arroyo, the bed of a dried watercourse which runs through a steep sided canyon, actually it’s more of a rock climbing expedition than a hike as the arroyo is full of huge boulders and rocks. After 2 hours of climbing and searching for the cairn markers, little piles of rocks marking the rough course of the trail,  it was clear that we were nowhere near the end as the arroyo continued to twist and turn around the hills.  So we turned back to make sure we would get back to the beach before dark, intending on trying again the next day and making a day of it.  Actually we ached so much the next day that neither of us fancied another rock climb so soon. So after a chill out day watching the diverse nature in the bay (and I varnished the handrail) we made attempt number two this time making an early start (well, 10.30am is early for us..) armed with a packed lunch and two bottles of water. Our second attempt was much quicker as we had more of an idea of the route to take and what we were in for.

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The trail starts at the beach

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It was a wonderful day of discovery, and a few more cacti injuries. It’s incredible how these things pop up in a small crevice of a big boulder, and for some reason your hand is drawn to it like a magnet.

The island is a fascinating mixture of rock types and formations, cacti and wild flowers, all surviving in this harsh landscape. We have seen a variety of lizards, a round-tailed ground squirrel, hummingbirds, song birds, crickets, a miniature frog which I almost stood on, as well as all sorts of buzzing insects and butterflies making the most of the wild flowers.

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I really wanted to spot the Babisuri, a ring-tailed large eared cat known to live here, but all we saw of this illusive creature were its droppings! We also finally spotted the song bird that we have been listening to for a few days, singing his heart out on a boulder just above us.  From the photo I was able to identify it as a Canyon Wren. I found this lovely description in the Audubon field guide, it fits exactly with our findings!

One of the best songsters in the west, the Canyon Wren is usually heard before it is seen. Surprisingly elusive and skulking even in open terrain, this dark rusty wren disappears and reappears as it creeps about the jumbled rocks of an eroded cliff or steep canyon wall. If the observer waits, the bird will eventually jump to the top of an exposed boulder to pour out another song, a rippling and musical cascade of notes, well suited to beautiful wild canyons.

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The tuneful Canyon Wren

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The round-tailed ground squirrel dart across the rocks and into the undergrowth so quickly, it was a real treat to finally creep up on one and observe him as he picked a seed and ate it!

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The ‘trail’ goes on and on and on….

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Being watched by a hawk on the cliff-top

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This tiny frog was about the size of my thumb nail!

After a hot 2.5 hours over some tough terrain and a scramble up the last few metres we were rewarded with spectacular views over Caleta Partida (our next anchorage) in between Espiritu Santo and Isla Partida to the north (named ‘The Island that Parted’ as it was once joined to Espiritu Santo). A tuna and sweetcorn roll never tasted so good.

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There was a slight hindrance to the proceedings when the soles fell off both of Jez’s trainers! He climbed some of the way up and most of the way back in just socks, as you can imagine that’s a recipe for disaster where our prickly little friends are concerned (not to mention the Babisuri and squirrel droppings!).  We arrived back at our kayak waiting patiently on the beach, with a few scrapes, pricks and bruises (thats us, not the kayak),  just as the sun started to make her daily retreat below the cliffs of the mainland in the far distance. What timing, we had really earned our beer o’clock.

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One of the many watering holes en route

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We were so pleased when Ted and Barbara caught us up for a couple of days, and we had company exploring the fascinating sea caves by dinghy on the east coast of Espiritu Santo.

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The layers of rock in these caves are fascinating

The anchorage at Caleta Partida, which we had looked down over from Espiritu Santo on our previous hike, was very pretty and full of life although a little wind-blown.  It’s incredible to think that this anchorage was once the crater of a volcano, over thousands of years the crater eventually eroded below sea level losing its western and eastern edges. The pretty beach here also had cat foot prints, more firm evidence of the Babisuri. While I hadn’t been so mean to laugh at Jez when it was his turn to be attacked by a cactus, I must admit I did have a little giggle when he trod on a porcupine fish skeleton on the beach.  The spines on these things are evil, it took quite a tough pull to get the thing out as he hopped around in pain and was like pulling the cork out of an upturned bottle of claret. Good job he’s a quick healer. It’s very strange that there appear to be so many dead porcupine fish littering the beaches and we have seen a few pelican skeletons too, but maybe that was the Babisuri.

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An osprey clutches her lunch, a long trumpet fish

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Ensenada Grande was our final choice of anchorage on Isla Partida, it is a beautiful bay with three small coves inside and another adventurous but shorter hike – but not before our muscles and my knees had recovered from the last one.

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At first sight the trail seems impossible!

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Our time on these islands has been truly magical and unforgettable, I hope we get a chance to return before we leave the Sea of Cortez. But now we continue to bash north.

Posted in Mexico | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

A Warm Welcome in Mexico

Our sail from San Francisco to San Diego was quite enjoyable, once we had got through the rather rough and bumpy entrance/exit to the bay (wind against tide, yuk) conditions improved and we had enough wind to sail the 450 mile passage until the last few hours approaching land.  In those last few hours we managed to hook three chunky tuna and a Pacific Bonito which kept us busy prepping and vac packing, 33 meals for two in all. Not a bad days fishing! A Pacific storm was following behind and as we approached the harbour a small craft warning was put into effect with gale force winds and high surf expected overnight.

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Plenty of bird life leaving San Francisco

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A few brief glimpses of whales

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Final catch of the day, a little Pacific Bonito – quite possibly the tastiest fish we have ever eaten!

 

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US Navy ship on border patrol

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The storm approaches behind us

I called the San Diego anchorage ‘hot line’ using the Sat phone to get our permit brought forward a day as we had made such good time, but infact discovered that the small craft warning had done us a huge favour, as all three anchorages in San Diego harbour were open without the need for a permit, which meant we could take shelter in the very protected La Playa anchorage normally only open at weekends. This also happens to be close to all the marine stores and services so we managed to get a lot done here.   Apart from a few dilapidated vessels dragging anchor in the strong wind, the storm passed over uneventfully in a couple of days and after the weekend, when the small craft warning was lifted, we were issued a permit to anchor in the ‘A9 Cruisers Anchorage’ after a brief inspection.  This small anchorage is open only to visitors but it is quite a dinghy ride back to the shops.  San Diego is a great place to obtain any marine part, and indeed service of just about any kind.  We got quite a few parts that we needed including the new autopilot controller and rudder feedback which we ran cables for and fitted, and did a few other jobs which we had been planning such as beefing up the helm pod with some stainless steel grab bars.  It has been ‘wobbling’ for some time and as it’s the only thing to grab hold of in the centre of the cockpit it was in desperate need of some stabilisers.  I also managed to get some free offcut sail material from the canvas shop to make up new bolt rope tape for our mizzen sail cover which slides along a track inside the boom, the cover and tape had parted a while ago. Another canvas shop generously gave me an 8 foot length of bolt rope track to replace the fixing where the spray hood meets the coachroof to improve watertightness. A project I will complete in Mexico hopefully. We were taken aback by the generosity and helpfulness of the trades people here.    So San Diego was sadly all work and no play.  The cruisers anchorage is also a little uncomfortable as it’s open to wake from all the boats coming and going and when we returned to La Playa the following weekend hoping for calmer water we had some rather close encounters with some local boats anchoring so close we could have passed them a beer. And not to mention the same boats from the previous weekend dragging yet again. It was bedlam and rather stressful.

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The Christmas boat parade was fun but joggly, hence only one photo!

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Sailing Santa in La Playa

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One of the three aircraft carriers in San Diego Bay, The Midway, is a museum open to the public

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San Diego city is spectacular at night

Once cleared out with US Customs we breathed a sigh of relief as we headed back out to sea with our first port of call being just 70 miles away at Ensenada, Mexico.

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The welcoming party

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An enormous Mexican flag flies proudly over Ensenada

This seemed like the best place to clear in to Mexico as they have a ‘one-stop shop’ set up with Immigration, Customs, Port Authority and boat registry kiosk (to obtain the all important ‘Temporary Import Permit’ for Joy) in one building.  The only down side is that there is no anchoring allowed in the harbour, so it’s a marina berth or nothing.  We chose Cruise Port Marina as it had good reviews and less swell reported.  It was well worth paying for a marina berth here, as quite unexpectedly they dealt with all of our clearance paperwork – infact they actually produced all our clearance papers,  so there was no need to be printing off crew lists and arrival forms in Spanish as we had been advised.  They took our passports and boat papers and within half an hour all our paperwork was ready, this was passed to Enrique who drove us to the CIS office and then took us around the various kiosks telling us what to complete, where to sign and how much to pay.  In all the charges amounted to just under £110 including port fees. We were wanting to leave the following day (one night in this marina is half our monthly food budget!) and as our departure papers wouldn’t be ready until later that afternoon, Enrique would return to collect them and deliver them to our boat!  What a fantastic and efficient service offered by this marina and it’s all included in the marina fee.  That left us the rest of the day and the following morning to explore the pretty town and buy some groceries ready for our next hop down the Baja peninsular. Ensenada is a little bit touristy with cruise ships calling, but it still retains its Mexican charm and it was great to be back into reasonably priced groceries and beer once again!

With an unusually favourable weather forecast, showing wind almost all the way for the next week and Christmas looming, we decided to sail down to the Sea of Cortez in one hop.  At first the winds were light but the swell big, a knock on effect from the hurricane force winds tracking their way far across the Pacific to our north.  On day three and with a forecast of 20-25 knots overnight and 16 foot seas, we reefed the main before dark and Jez started dinner as I sat on watch.  At first a few gusts appeared in the late 20’s, but what was surprising was the speed with which the sea state deteriorated.  Within a few minutes we had large waves behind us building up higher than our davits, occasionally breaking on Joy.  The wind had increased to 30 gusting 35 and we had all of our 16 feet waves and then some.  The white water crashing all around us in the moonlight was mesmerising, I hadn’t seen a sea like it since our passage from Hawaii to Sitka only they were long rolling waves, these were breaking and in quick succession.  It wasn’t easy  ‘sleeping’, which in these conditions consists mainly of shutting eyes and telling yourself it doesn’t matter if you don’t sleep as long as you are resting. By morning things had got  a little more comfortable, wind eased to 25 and the distance between the waves increased so that we could ride with them a little better.  It wasn’t long before light winds had filled in yet again and we were back down to 4-5 knots of boat speed.  By day 8 we had only sailed 770 miles but were now at the southern end of the Baja peninsular, and rounded Cabo San Lucas in the early hours. For the last 24 hours we had two boobies settled on the bow and as the sun came up we discovered we had gained another overnight.  They all stayed with us as we headed in to anchor off the beach at Cabo San Lucas, only flying off when I went forward to get the anchor ready!

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I reeled in a beautiful Mahi Mahi after a small tuna – spot the tuna hanging off the dinghy behind me!

 

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“Joy Riders”

Sailing with Boobies-squashed

Jez creeps up on a pair of brown boobies, to release a furling line caught under the anchor

 

Approaching Cabo-squashed

Land Ahoy at Cabo San Lucas

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And then there were three-squashed

And then there were three

Approaching Cabo with Boobies-squashed

We had decided to stop here for a couple of hours just to reprovision with some fresh fruit and veggies.  That turned out to be a big mistake.  Cabo San Lucas is basically a tourist town, it doesn’t cater for the cruising sailor wishing to pop in and reprovision. We walked miles down all the streets looking for supermercado’s using google maps.  Out of the ones that hadn’t closed down or been knocked down, none had any fresh produce whatsoever. Locals directed us to Walmart which was on the outskirts of town and not walkable and by that point we had had enough.  Then we finally found one small cafe/mart that had a fridge with a sad looking iceberg lettuce, an avocado and what was once an orange in a previous life. We bought all three and got the heck out of there.  It had been tiring being harassed by just about every shopkeeper, restaurant and tour guide mistaking us for ‘tourists’ with ‘looky looky’, ‘free gift for the lady’, ‘tacos and beer for $10’, and just about any boat tour under the sun.  By the time we had returned to Joy in the anchorage with our measly provisions, the beach goers were in full swing with jet bikes, pangas, banana boat rides and parasailors. On the plus side however, the shorts had come out the cupboard and the coconut oil had finally melted. We made a quick exit to go find the real Mexico, and it wasn’t long before we found it.

After a couple of nights at the beautiful Los Frailes anchorage catching up on some sleep and tidying the boat up, we decided to carry on further around the southern tip of the peninsular to find an anchorage with a little less swell.  Los Frailes was affected by some southerly swell that had almost rolled us in the kayak as we reached the beach. A little embarrassing, especially as after our late afternoon walk we decided that a little better timing was required for our relaunch from the gravelly beach, despite our best attempts we were caught once again almost ending in a dunking. Let’s hope we weren’t caught on camera by the others in the anchorage! So on we bashed in some strong winds and short steep waves to a little peace of heaven.  Bahia de los Muertos, which thankfully doesn’t live up to its name ‘Bay of the Dead’, is a spectacular bay lined with a beautiful stretch of almost empty sandy beach,  sand dunes and cactus are the only things to contend with here.  There is also a small restaurant on the beach which serves up cold beer and delicious lunches with a view to die for. Beaching the dinghy here was thankfully less eventful in view of the restaurant. I did, however, have a small incident with a rather aggressive cactus. Climbing a steep rocky hill to get a panoramic view, with my cap on and head down watching where I was treading I walked straight into a cactus, stabbing my arm. The surprise sent me backwards losing my footing, slipping back down the rocky hill I grabbed hold of the first and only thing that came to hand to stop me falling – the same cactus. So now I had tiny needle-like thorns in my hand as well as my arm.  I had got most of them out by the time Jez had stopped laughing.   But still it was a perfect place to spend Christmas.

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A picture perfect anchorage

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A network of dirt roads lead to this remote bay

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Watch out for the vicious cacti!

Posted in California, Mexico | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

The Smokey City

The San Francisco Bay area has been shrouded in a haze of smoke and ash since the devastating Camp Fire started in Butte County two weeks ago. The air quality here has been classified as ‘very unhealthy’ and many people around the city have been wearing masks.  On Wednesday this week the long awaited rain finally arrived and very quickly the air began to clear. By Thursday we could see the sky again and the city revealed itself once more.

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Watching the sun set over the Smokey City from Treasure Island

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The Oakland Bay Bridge disappears into the smoke

The kind folks at the Treasure Island Development Authority gave us a long term anchoring permit so that we could stay in Clipper Cove as we waited for a suitable weather window to head south.  The marina in the cove also allowed us the use of their dinghy dock which meant getting ashore was much easier as we had been dragging the dinghy up the beach, not easy with a 50kg engine mounted on the transom.

Treasure Island has an interesting history, it’s a man-made island of about 400 acres created in 1936 to hold the Golden Gate International Exposition, a world fair held from 1939-40 celebrating the city’s newly built bridges (Oakland Bay Bridge opened in 1936 and Golden Gate in 1937).  After the exposition had ended, the island was intended to be used as the municipal airport for the City but in 1941 it was taken over by the US Navy as America prepared for WWII. It remained in the hands of the Navy as a major training centre until the late 1990’s when it was leased to the City and is now undergoing substantial redevelopment to provide 8,000 residences and leisure facilities. 

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One of the original buildings from the Exposition, built in 1938 to house the administrative centre for the world fair. Now home to the Treasure Island Redevelopment Authority it is still a beautifully grand building.

We have certainly been made to feel very welcome here, the dock master Anthony has not only helped us ordering and collecting a part for our autopilot but also invited us to join the local Yacht Club for Thanksgiving dinner.  We had a wonderful afternoon and a fantastic dinner with a great variety of dishes all contributed by members of the club, everything was absolutely delicious. A very big thank you to the Treasure Island Yacht Club for allowing us to join them and for making us feel so welcome.

So after a couple of days of some pretty heavy rain our weather window is almost here, the wind is turning favourable today and with 15-20 knots forecast from the NW for the next few days we should be able to make headway under sail to San Diego for a brief stopover. 

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Thank you to Joe and Allison, our neighbours in the anchorage, for sending us this wonderful photo. The lights on the bridge reveal the smokey haze.

Posted in California | 5 Comments