Jun 16, 2009

Last Leg for this Cruise

Where did we leave off? Oh, that's right, Puerto Escondido! After kidnapping Finn's friend, Niall, we headed out to Honeymoon Cove - a new anchorage on a tiny island half an hour away. It was a beautiful spot, promising wonderful snorkeling. This picture is typical of the views we had throughout the Sea of Cortez - Arizona desert and mountains meeting California waters with beautiful, natural sand beaches in between. Heaven!

Joe and Stephan took Niall under their wings and taught him to fish with the "big boy" rods and reels. Niall is a natural and spent the next week tagging along with whoever was dropping the lures!

Remember that snorkeling we were looking forward to? By 8 am the next morning, we had to blow out of the anchorage to rid ourselves of the bees. Hundreds of them! Seriously! Finn left an inch of water in his mug and found this in the morning! Though the bees did sting, no one was allergic and the itching was mild.

We headed over to Isla Carmen and met the rest of Niall's family on Totem at Marquer Cove. The rock ledges were covered with crabs. Despite heroic efforts, this one got away!

At Marquer Cove, we found the remnants of a whale. The larger bone was as big as a dinner plate and the discs carried the residual smell of blubber.

The rock walls here were very sedimentary. We found fossilized shells and salt deposits ten feet above us. A short, steep climb yielded a wonderful view and small flowering plants clinging to the sides.

Here are the kids -excited after an afternoon of crab hunting, snorkeling and shell collecting.

We hopped to another anchorage on Isla Carmen, called V-Neck cove. We were delighted to be able to visit here again, as last year the conditions did not allow for overnight anchoring. V-Neck has wonderful caves. The boys and I snorkeled all of them, discovering banded guitarfish in the last one. Though technically a shark, the banded guitarfish is less dangerous than a sting ray. It is a bottom feeder and buries itself in the sand or under rock shelves in the hopes of remaining unnoticed. Niall, Finn and I scared up five of them! Outside of the caves, the snorkeling was amazing - large schools of cornetfish and Mexican goatfish as well as parrotfish, rockfishes and colorful underwater vegetation.

Though V-Neck is technically a single boat anchorage, the benign conditions allowed for a raft up with Totem! Much easier to visit that way!

On shore, we explored the beach and the sand dunes. Arrowheads, fossilized shells, lava rock cliffs and some of the best shell collecting of the trip.

Our next stop was Loreto - a quaint city home to many ex-pats. Most live in homes or trailer parks (with palapa coverings) as anchoring for cruisers is only secure in the most moderate conditions. We visited the oldest mission ever built, the first in the line of missions built north through the Baja Peninsula and California. The sanctuary was lovely and the attached museum was quite interesting. There was a Harley Davidson parked outside the living area!

Joe and the Totem girls at the mission!

The flowering trees and shrubs were beautiful here.

This is a picnic area in one of the trailer parks. Great use for a satellite dish!

Unfortunately, after a week with our friends on Totem, we had to say good-bye. These two will truly miss each other though we have promised to meet again!

Wildflower at anchor off the malecon in Loreto.

Because we were running out of time and could not find an international package delivery service in Loreto, we crossed the Sea of Cortez to Guaymas. The 18 hour passage was comfortable and we were greeted by a great sunset.

We spent a week at the Singlar Marina in downtown Guaymas, cleaning and stowing Wildflower, packing for our trip home and seeing our friends here one more time. Guaymas was very hot and somewhat humid. Finn enjoyed the second floor pool!

Across the Bay, Wildflower was once again hauled out of the water and "put on the hard" in the boat yard. It is always nerve-wracking to see your floating home standing on stilts! We spent one very busy night in the yard, packing the van and closing up Wildflower.

Our 3/4 ton Chevy Express van comfortably carried us, all our gear and the cats fourteen hours back to San Diego. There we reinstalled ourselves on the floating condo, sailing vessel Pharaoh. She was ready for us and we were happy to be at our destination after ten days of wrapping up this year's cruising season. Believe it or not, we have already seen friends and family, attended a wedding and almost unpacked in the short week we have been back! Reentry is an adjustment. June gloom has hit San Diego and we found ourselves looking for sweatshirts and long pants after a month of living in bathing suits. Fast-paced America has been waiting for us - complete with jobs, bills, school and expensive groceries. So much to catch up on! Hopefully, we can keep some of our cruiser life-style a part of our lives here! Thank you for sharing our journey with us. We hope your summer brings some of the adventures and joys we have experienced in the last few months!

May 23, 2009

The Sea of Cortez

Hi all! We are in Puerto Escondido - first place we have had internet since La Paz! I have managed to get a few pictures up but most of this is words - I'll send more when I can. After leaving La Paz, we literally sailed into our friends on Theopolis. They have a beautiful 40 ft. junk-rigged steel boat. We pulled into El Merito Cove for the night and had dinner together. Josh (13) has grown up quite a bit this year and it was good to catch up with Ron and Sherry. After that, we moved on to Partida Cove, an anchorage where Isla Espiritu Santu is seperated from Isla Partida by a narrow channel (at high tide you can dinghy through it!). We beach-combed and snorkeled. Our next stop was 4 nm north at Los Isoletes (shown above). This is a sea lion rookery, covered with hundreds of bulls, females and pups. We swam with the sea lions! Truly incredible - the real Sea World. The bulls demand respect but the pups love to play. Stephan and I swam through this arch in the rock, finding large pargo, groupers and other wonderful sea life. Hopefully, my underwater pictures will turn out and I'll be able to share more of this day.

We moved on to Isla San Fransisco and found our friends on Sugata. Sequoia (11) and Finn picked up where they left off last year. We set up our halyard swing and we all enjoyed acting like Tarzan and Jane for the afternoon. Todd, Susan and Sequoia also shared Finn's very belated, but very delicious, birthday cake (chocolate with fresh strawberries). Joe and Stephan took several fellow boaters out fishing and returned with the above catch. Quite a haul - plenty of fish to share between three boats. My big boys are truly the "experts" so we eat well!

We moved onto Isla San Jose, one of our favorite spots from last year. It has the largest mangrove lagoon in the Sea of Cortez. We dinghied through the river to the lagoon, went clamming, combed the beaches and soaked up the sun. Steph has started collecting bones and skulls to paint, very creative!

Our longest stop was in Agua Verde, where we met many friends. Here is Finn with his twin (not in looks but in likes), Nile, from Totem. Jamie and Behan also have two darling girls who I love to play with. We also met their friends on Eloni, Ethan, Nancy and 4 year old Zeda. Finn's blow-up killer whale was a big hit with the girls. We had many beach parties and the boys spent the majority of their time together. We also found our long lost friend, Mike, in Agua Verde. Two years ago, he lost his boat on a reef. He has bought a 40 ft. wood schooner, named Albatross, has acquired a piece of land in San Juanico and is expecting his wife, Carolyn, to arrive soon with their new 37 ft. RV. He looks well and happy. Stephan worked for 3 days with Mike varnishing his boat and we enjoyed several meals with Mike.

One of the best parts about Agua Verde is the snorkeling. I was in the water every day, combining swimming for exercise and observing the amazing sea life. The rock spit shown here is wonderful, with tide pools for the little ones and snorkeling for the rest. The island shown in the distance (right, middle) is Solitaria; the greatest snorkeling spot two years running. We saw shimmering parrot fish, moray eels, octupuses, colorful starfishes, schools of King Angelfishes, and Giant Hawkfish, to name a few. We spent several hours here, enjoying the bounty of nature. Someday soon, I hope to get a quality digital underwater camera to be able to share the most beautiful part of the Sea of Cortez, what's under the water. Tomorrow we head north, continuing our island hopping until Mulege, where we cross the Sea to Guaymas. From there, we put the boat away for another year and return to the States.

May 9, 2009

We arrived in La Paz!

What a nice week we have had! We left La Paz for Isla Coral, an easy one day motor sail. One the way, the boys fished and fished and fished... with success. Flag Cabrillo and Jack Crevalle seared in butter with rice, covered in Bernaise sauce. There was enough fish to make fresh ceviche the next day! At Isla Coral, we enjoyed a day of rest and some great snorkeling. The water was 82 degrees F!
Steph's 30 lb Jack Crevalle - the one we ate!

Isla Coral from the boat.

Joe's Crevalle - this one was let go!

We left Isla Coral with 400 nm (a solid 80 hour run) to go! With three people on watch, the shift schedule was not too grueling: 4 on, 8 off. The passage turned out to be very comfortable and enjoyable. Finn and I worked on passage; he finished a test and I gouged oboe cane. The first day was an easy motor sail; the wind picked up on the second day, causing us to heal to starboard quite a bit. The third day was one of those magical sailing days where we made 4-5+ knots/hour under sail but felt like we were floating at a dock. We played Peek and challenged each other in many rounds of Backgammon. Our fourth morning found us fishing again (dorado and bonita) and winding our way through the channels into La Paz Bay.

The small dorado Stephan pulled in one night. Very colorful and great eating!

About an hour from La Paz, Joe spotted sailing vessel Sophia through the binoculars, last seen in La Cruz, now anchored in Ballandra, a very popular anchorage outside of the busy port of La Paz. Chris convinced us to put down the hook and enjoy the sparkling water and wonderful view.

After mistakingly cracking a raw egg on his head (he thought it was the last of the hard-boiled eggs popular with the boys for passage food), Finn was happy to jump in the clear, aquamarine water at Ballandra!

This is mushroom rock, probably the most photographed rock formation in the Sea of Cortez.

A new neighbor called Wildflower "beautiful". She is from afar; it is easy to miss the classic rust stains of most steel boats. Another boater told us, "The best thing you can do for Wildflower is to give her beautiful backdrops." We think so too.

On shore at Ballandra, we found this fuzzy creature....the dandelion ant?!?

Dinghies are our cars: to sandy beaches, to our neighbors, to fishing holes, to snorkeling spots.

Currently, we are in La Paz, stocking up the boat one more time before heading up into the Sea of Cortez. Towns from now on will be smaller and farther apart. For the next few weeks, we will bounce between the beautiful islands of the Sea and the equally glorious anchorages on the east side of the Baja. We are looking forward to snorkeling every day, fishing almost every day, meeting our fellow cruising friends and enjoying the isolation and natural beauty of the Sea of Cortez.

May 1, 2009

Last Blog from Bandaras Bay!

Hello all! We thought we'd fill you in on our last few weeks in Bandaras Bay. We spent one day in Puerto Vallarta, taking care of some business but also having fun! The malecon in Puerto Vallarta has many cool statues, including this one!

For the two weeks of Easter here, the artists build huge sand sculptures. This is a re-creation of The Last Supper, all done in sand.

Local fish market in Puerto Vallarta. Boy, can they clean fish fast!

Stephan "climbing to the stars" with the other creatures.

We returned to Nuevo Vallarta for one more night to fill the water tanks, clean up the boat and of course, enjoy the water slides at Paradise Village. This is Joe with our good friend Nora, who keeps her boat here year round.

We also spent an afternoon with our good friends, Duane and Dorothy, on the boat Raven. They spend half the year in a condo in Nuevo Vallarta and the other half in Oakland. Nice retirement, huh? We love talking to them - so many stories!

One last stop in La Cruz to get fuel, collect mail and of course say good-bye to our fabulous friends on the beach. Maria is on the right. Her mother, Guadalupe, and her sister, Lourdes, came to visit from Guadalahara. Thank you all for your wonderful hospitality, rides into PV, gourmet meals and friendship. We will miss you!

Victor and Finn are three weeks apart in age and like twins. They both love Star Wars, Legos, video games and movies. Victor had an overnight on Wildflower; it was hard to say good-bye.

Mariana is turning 7 on Saturday; she is very excited to fill and whack her pinata! Victor, Sr.: so sorry we didn't get a recent picture. Catch a dorado for us this year!

By far, our favorite stop in the last two weeks was Yelapa! Yelapa became a cult destination in the 60's for many free-spirited Americans looking for a simple existence. As of this year, there are no roads into Yelapa but you can get there by flying into Puerto Vallarta and taking a ferry (1 hour) or a mule through the jungle (? hours) to Yelapa. Everyone should go; as they say, "Better a palapa in Yelapa than a condo in Redondo!" Just look at this one perched on the hill. Yelapa is at the base of a mountainous river valley and the architecture ranges from multi-million palapa want-a-be's to quaint, cliff-side, brick shacks with thatched roofs and no windows. Yelapa is famous for Ricilla, a local moon-shine/tequila-like beverage with hallucinagenic properties (if consumed in sufficient quantities). Ask Joe!

Yelapa has two waterfalls - this one is a short, twenty-minute hike from the beach. There was very little water falling this year and they are building two eateries at the top. Here is Stephan and Finn at a gigantic tree with reaching roots.

Yelapa must receive all goods by panga (small boat). Everything within Yelapa is transported by mules, horses or the occasional quad. The horses must walk over uneven, cobblestone trails, many of them near vertical.

The longer hike takes you through the river-side settlements and into the jungle to a magnificent waterfall oasis. It takes a vigorous two hours to hike in but what a treat once you arrive! For the faint of heart, you can rent horses for most of the trail and hike in the last 20 minutes. This is our favorite tree. Somehow, a jungle tree has become host to a large vine and a coconut palm growning from a fork in its branches.

On accident, we managed to herd a group of cows along the trail, carefully avoiding horns and the occasional bovine land mine! A local Mexican women helped Joe reunite a lost calve with the herd. Finally, some local dogs chased "las vacas" off the trail and into the river bed.

Here was our treat! Doesn't it look inviting?

For those of you who wondered when? Yes, jungle boy (complete with self-made loin cloth) has returned to his native land! Good thing it was just us there! If you want to see more, get in touch with Stephan!
We cooled off right under the falls!

We had lunch and watched the boys play and explore. Needless to say, after the long hike back, we were exhausted and ready to feed and sleep!
For all our boater friends, taking a mooring ball for 150 pesos that night made sleeping so much more possible. No aft anchor and no rolly, rolly, rolly! Worth the extra money.

We found this dug-out canoe floating in Yelapa!

Finally, in Punta Mita, Joe found a local welder to fabricate a newer, stronger auxilliary rudder for Wildflower. Joe designed it and the welder put it together exactly right. We are confident that this new steel rudder will serve better than the last (i.e. no more hand-steering for hours on end!). And don't worry, it is now painted white! Many thanks to Rafael and Nicole at Mita's Pizza for wi-fi, contacts and wonderful pizzas.
Tomorrow, we are off to La Paz with a few island stops. It is time to cross back over and head into the Sea of Cortez!