Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Mar de Cortez part 2

Another last leg of our journey in Mexico aboard the Buena Vida.

The stark beauty of the Sea of Cortez
 has inspired nauralist, photographers, oceanographers, novelists and us to document and share what they found.
We were surprised by our 
reaction to this area, it offered a different 
kind of beauty and peace that we did not expect.  Although, the beauty, at times was interupted by bouts of strong winds.

 New Vocabulary words for the Sea of Cortez:

Yuma Low:                A thermal low, generated by the hot summer temperatures around the 
                                 Yuma, AZ area.  As the hot desert air rises around Yuma, it causes a
                                 flow of air north from the cooler Sea of Cortez. The result is a
                                 welcome south  southeasterly wind that blows up into the Sea durning 
                                 summer.  Thank you Yuma Low, we had great sailing!
Chubasco:               Not the hot sauce, that's Tabasco!   These are strong but short lived 
                               squalls that occur in the summer months in the Sea of Cortez.
                               No Tabasco for us please.

Coromuel:              Winds found around the La Paz area that begin in the evening and 
                             usually blow all night, often up to 30 knots. We really did not need those
                             extra hours of sleep.
Elefante:                A localized westerly wind generally around the mid to northen Baja
                             Peninsula, similar to Coromuel only a bit stronger.  Named for the trunk 
                             like shape of the clouds that often proceed these winds not Jeff's appitite.

The Sea of Cortez is full of narrow channels between islands and high mountains called the Sierra de la Gigantas that create some unusual wind patterns.  This added a fun and exciting element to our time in the Sea.

Our first night in Candeleros I woke up to the boat lurching and swinging wildly.  The wind was so hot and dry that it was hard to open my eyes and my skin literally hurt form the dryness.  
After I was awake for a few hours Jeff got up to take a turn.  It was to hot for our bedroom so I slept in the cockpit with a sheet and pillow.
Around 4 AM Jeff woke me up as a sport fisher was dragging across the bay toward us.  They had all the doors closed and air-conditioning on so I guess they could not hear or feel the wind.  We tried to hail them on the VHF, shined lights in their window to no avail.  About 8:00 am the next morning I heard a "Oh Shit!" from their boat.
Good Morning Sunshine!  

Ahh, the calm befor the night winds begin.

Yes, I was a little bitter as we were up most of the night on anchor watch and worrying that they were going to hit us so, when they spent the first several hours of the beautiful morning trying to get their boat out of the sand I only felt a little bad.

We were hailed by our friends on Nirvana, they were anchored at Agua Verde so off we went to spend a few days with them on our way back to  La Paz.

The Buena Vida anchored near the fishing village in Agua Verde.
Notice the lush date palms ashore.

The Catholic Church in Agua Verde

Agua Verde con pez

Our dink anchored off a great snorkeling spot in Agua Verde

We happily met up again with our friends Bob and Sheri.  Our final dinner party together this season was aboard the Buena Vida so we invented a new cocktail in honor of the occasion.  "The Agua Verde"

We moved to the secluded cove with verde a gua!

Notice the drink in Sheri's hand is the same color of the agua verde above.

The Agua Verde
  • Mix Tropical fruit, if desperate canned will do, with 1 1/2 Cups of Vodka and marinate in the freezer for several hours.  
  • Just before serving mix 1/2 of the fruit and all liquid mixture with a bottle of white wine and 1/2 a bottle of Fresca.
  • To serve, spoon some frozen, marinated fruit into each glass, pour wine mixture over.
  • As you serve, drizzle some Curazao Azul on top and watch your Sangria Blanca turn into an Agua Verde!
  • Oh and please embellish your glass with a lime and tropical umbrella!

Now before you raise an eyebrow over the canned fruit situation remember, if up in the Sea of Cortez for any period of time there is very little access to fresh fruit and veggi’s.  So... One must be prepared to take drastic measures.  
But for heavans sake... Never compromise on the quaility of your Vodka!

We went ashore to the tienda in hopes of anything fresh, tomatoes, fruit whatever.  I inquired if they had tortillas but no.  The clerk said that the women in the store with us makes them though.  I asked if we could get some tortillas and she said yes, it would take about 20 minutes. Great!  She then puchased a couple of scoops of flour from a large bag in the store, a jar of crisco like stuff and prepared to leave.  I asked her if I could go with her and learn how to make tortillas.  (puedo ir contigo porque quiero aprender que hace tortillas?)  The women smiled warmly and said yes, so off we went to her charming and simple home.  One room with a small kitchen, a bed and a dresser.  The outhouse is out back and the sons bed is open air in the front yard.  When we arrived her husband was sitting on the bed practicing guitar.  While Martina and I made tortillas Jeff had a good conversation with her husband.  He is quite ill with heart failure and felt compelled to show Jeff all of his medications.
Tortilla making was a great experience, the husband thought that I should return one more day for practice then I would really have it!  What a nice family.

Tienda in Agua Verde
Rolling out the dough while Marina cooks.

Jeff and Raul.
As we departed Agua Verde we knew our time in the Sea was coming to and end.
We had mixed feelings as one could spend months here and still never visit the same anchorage twice.  Each place is so beautiful.  But, it was time to head home and be with our family and friends in Ventura.  

We stopped at several more anchorages on the way to La Paz with the only stipulation that we get in the water and snorkle each day.

Ashore at Los Gatos

Reef Fish.  



Buena Vida all alone in Punta Prieta.  Swim suits optional!

People often ask us if we are worried about our boat getting boarded, well, it finally happen.

"Polly" The Pelican came right aboard, she was really friendly.

OK little miss... Not the Spanish books!  
(And yes, we are that geeky that we still study Spanish.)

After we got "pooped" we had to defend ourselves from the intruder!
Jeff picked her up, threw her overboard but she would not give up!
We had to take drastic measures to insure our safety.

Our last anchorage was back where we started, Caleta Partida.  It was like the Sea was telling us it was time to go home.  As we arrived the wind was blowing out of the north making the cove a bit sloppy but it was already 6pm and we wanted to drop the hook.  Wind be damned, we dinghed over to a protected area at the side of the cove where the water cleared to a pale blue. I swam around looking at the sandy bottom, watching puffer fish, rays, little fish then all of a sudden...A SEA SNAKE!  OMG! it was white like the bottom with dark brown spots.  Super poisonous and deadly.

I really wanted to look at it but then it turned and looked at me.  Sheeze! 

I turned around and swam for the dinghy as fast as I could.  That really scared me.

That night the Corumuels blew pretty good.  Starting around 9:30 and building.  By 10:30 it was really howling and I could not sleep.  The boat was lurching and swinging with gusts consistantly between 25-30 knots.  Gee this is fun.  
I sat up and read and watched to make sure we were not dragging until 2:00am.  This was the second time the Buena Vida endured 30+ knot winds overnight in the Sea and lucky for us both times she did great, never moved and inch!

It was still howling the next morning and predictions were the same for the next night due to the low pressure system in the Sea - the pressure gradient was creating some exciting wind conditions.   Ugh!

The calm before the Corumuel in Caleta Partida
Dangerous sea snakes, big winds, murky water, this is untenable!  We took it as a sign that it was time to go Home. 

We are now in La Paz decommissioning the the Buena Vida and readying her
for Hurricane Season.  This means cleaning every nook and cranny, storing any jars and canned goods in bags in the lowest coolest part of the boat.  (We have heard stories of canned goods exploding from the heat.) Cleaning and removing all sails, lines, dodger, solar panels, stowing the dink, surfboard whisker pole etc.
The less windage on deck the better outcome in a big blow.  Also, we do not want to risk something flying off some other boat and breaking one of our precious solar panels.  This is hard and hot work but we will sleep better while away knowing we have done all we could to ensure the safety of the Buena Vida.  She has taken great care of us this year and we appreciate her now more then ever.

We should be home early July and we are looking forward to it.  We have been out of our home for 9 months and it will be nice to be with our family and friends in lovely Ventura again.  

Hasta Luego Sea of Cortez

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Mar de Cortez part one  

Almost the last leg of our Mexican journey, this year!

Our last minute decision to head up to the Sea of Cortez proved to be a good choice for us.  The Sea was spectacular and the cruising grounds are unbeatable.
We waited in Mazatlan for about one week in anticipation of favorable winds.  We not only wanted to avoid adverse conditions but we were willing to wait for some South, South East wind to push us along the 200 mile southern crossing.
We tried to fill the week but as you can see, waiting around for weather can be a bummer!

We finally got to spend some time with our friends from Ventura, Bill and Nancy ( s/v Windrose ) while in Mazatlan
Mexico is so full of contradictions

Flaming Coffee, delicious!

We had to leave, Jeff began feeding the iguanas.  Where will this lead? Iguanas aboard the boat?
Our weather window opened up and off we went with our “buddy boat” Nirvana with Bob and Sheri aboard.  

Sunset at the mouth of El Cid Marina, Mazatlan
We were able to sail about 16 of the 30 some hour trip and we were happy about that.  We tend to motor sail at night with conservative sheets up.  This leads to a less eventful night and better sleep for who is off watch.  Night watch was fabulous as there were no other boats in site, we had almost a full moon and really calm conditions.  Yeah!

Caleta Partida Was the perfect spot to begin our Sea of Cortez adventure.  It is a large well protected cove that is really the space between Isla Espiritu Santo and Isla Partida.

"The Sea of Cortez is the second most diverse marine body in the world.  It s home to 31 species of whale and dolphins-one third of the world's total.
The region also serves as a breeding ground for sea lions and marine turtles, and is a migratory corridor for 210 birds species.  Some 500 fish species, 4,848 known species of marine macro-invertebrates and 626 forms of macro algae live in the region."
Sea of Cortez  A cruisers guide  Breeding and Bansmer

Fishing huts on the beach in Caleta Partida

One day as Jeff and I walked along the white sand beach admiring a few fishing huts and collecting shells we met a pangero who lived there.  Jeff inquired about purchasing fish (Tiene usted pescado?)  The pangero indicated that at the second sand spit there was some fish and he could bring it to our boat in about an hour.  (All in Spanish of course.)
That sounded great to us.  We walked on admiring the views then the pangero approached us on his panga and asked if we would like to go with him to his hut.
(Hum... to get fish or be held captive by some homicidal fisherman who was banished here to protect the citizens of La Paz?  Pretty sure to just get some fish so in we went!)

The last picture of Jeff seen alive before being kidnapped and held hostage by this scary fisherman.

What a fun ride through clear blue water to the prettiest little fishing village ever.Our new friend, Alfomro, was quite proud of his hut replete with satellite T.V.
After lots of compliments, pleasantries and the requisite filleting of fish, he returned us to our dingy (still there) on the first beach.   Did I mention that he  gave me a beautiful little sea shell?  I will cherish it always.


He was so proud of his fish

studying his technique
Someone forgot their sunscreen!
We shared our “catch of the day” with our friends on Nirvana and Journey aboard the Buena Vida that night and it made a great dinner and fun story.

Catch of the Day dinner.
Alfomro turned out to be in need and stopped by the Buena Vida a couple of times looking for dish soap, batteries, and a pen.  Before we left I also gave him some oranges, plantains and beer.  How could we not, he was so darn sweet.

Nirvana had to go into La Paz and we needed to make time heading North as we were not sure how long we would be able to stay in the Sea so, we said our good byes, weighed anchor and off we went the 21 miles to Isla San Francisco followed the next day by a trip to the little fishing village of San Evaristo.  

San Evaristo did not have the beautiful white beach and pale blue water of our last two anchorages but it had a special charm all it’s own.  The tiny village was home to some lovely generous people and off to the side was an OK snorkel/kayak area.


We went ashore to investigate the "town" and buy some tomatoes at the tienda.  On our way back down the beach we stopped at a hut where the fisherman were filleting their catch of the day.  Again, Jeff asked if we could buy some fish.  The men looked at the boss who nodded in affirmation so the filleting began in earnest.  
The boss scowled and told the fillet-er to get the bones out and wash it for us too.  When all was done Jeff asked how much and the boss just smiled and said it was a gift.  Wow, we were so touched by that gesture.   Those with so little are willing to give so much.  Jeff gave them some pesos for cervesas and many thanks.  That little encounter just warmed our hearts so much.

Generous fishermen

Soccer field

Water front property available.  Anyone?

Salt Flats in Evaristo.  All manual labor here.

We ate a simple dinner ashore with some other cruisers at a family kind-a- restaurant. 
The women will cook for cruisers and you eat on a plastic table outside the kids bedroom.
Jeff and the guys help them deploy their stubborn panga.

Two cute amigos, "restaurant" in background.

Trish and Steve of s/v Kayuma visiting for breakfast.  So nice to see them after 7 months.

A couple of anchorages later we arrived at Agua Verde.
Agua Verde was one of the high points of the Sea for us.  The bay was big and beautiful and the snorkeling was amazing, I felt like I was in an aquarium.  The middle of the bay had a sandy beach and fishing village.  We anchored here for a few nights to take advantage of the wonderful snorkeling.  We met some local cruisers who live in Loreto who were having a 3 day party ashore.  They were really friendly and invited us to hang out with them on the beach.  One of the couples remembered our Yacht Club friend Rob on s/v Ocean Fever from a few years ago.  What a compliment to Rob!

Agua Verde

Well oh well, we have arrived in paradise!  Candeleros/Bahia Blanca.  A super protected cove from any swell in the Sea with a couple of miles of sand beach and a resort/time share hotel!

Bahia Blanca

Mango Daiquiri please!

This hotel is very new and especially this time of year has few guest so they welcome the cruisers like royalty.  We dinghied ashore and walked up the stairs to the property where we were met by the security guard.  He warmly welcomed us and invited us to use the pool and make ourselves at home.
We dined at the pool side bar that night and felt so regal!  We spent a couple of days hanging out there basking in the luxury of ice cold cocktails, WIFI, trash disposal, public showers and free towels. 
(As you can see, I have a new definition of luxury living that includes trash disposal!)

We interrupted our poolside lounging with a lunch date with some fellow cruisers at the beach side palapa.  The guy who worked there goes out to the bay and dives for clams when you order them!  I have never dived for clams and neither had Mike our new friend on SV Camille so, Mike and Verana, Amy and Ralf of Naner Moon and Jeff and I met there for lunch and a clam diving lesson.

This turned out to be and all day adventure.  We arrived at 1:00 ordered some beers and asked if we could go with him to learn how to dive for clams.  This all in Spanish of coarse.  All seemed good so we also ordered some fish tacos.  About an hour and a half later the fish tacos appeared.  I am not exaggerating,  I had time to borrow Mikes SUP and paddle around for a bit while we waited.
Another round of beers and fish tacos later we determine that our Spanish must not have been good enough for him to “get” the clam thing so we resigned ourselves to just enjoy what we were doing and pretty much give up the clam dive lesson.
Good thing we did not order more beers because out he came mask in hand ready (finally) to go clamming.  Mike and I excitedly got our gear, mine consists of a mask and snorkel, Mike has a mask, snorkel and a knife strapped to his leg.  OMG, I am diving with Johnny  Quest!  He looked so cute.  Jeff having had just about enough of my shenanigans and just sent me off with a smile.

Fun in the sun

Fresh caught Dorado

 Cesar Clam diving

Cesar, our cook/dive master was great.  He would point out the little clam "eyes" to me and after demonstrating once, he let me dig the clams out. Johnny Quest, a man of action, was already off on his own hunting and gathering, knife strapped to his leg.
See the "eyes"?  That is what you see in the sand.

Chocolate Clams

Make it happen my friend.

After a bit we all returned to the palapa for a cooking demonstration then finally the eating part.  Delicious!  We returned to the Buena Vida around 5:00pm parched from the heat.  It was really a hot day I imagine around 100 degrees, we had to head up pool side until dark to recover from our lunch date ashore!  Oh the hardships of cruising life!
Cooked up with oil, garlic and butter

The proud providers, Mike, Cezar y yo.

Oh Yeah, check out that hair.  I worked real hard to get that look.
Ralph, Amy, Mike and Vernana.

Most evenings aboard we spend lounging in the cockpit, listening to music looking at the stars. 
Jeff and I talk all the time about how thankful we are for this opportunity.  The experiences that we have shared have brought us closer together then ever before and the people that we have met have left a lasting impression on our hearts.

Candeleros was the half way point of our Sea of Cortez adventure.  After about 4 nights we were hailed by our long lost friends aboard Nirvana.  They were at Agua Verde so we decided to weigh anchor and head their way.

Spectacular vistas while underway.
The Sea of Cortez is truly a magical and peaceful place that we love.

Next Blog entry on the way in a couple of days.  So much to share!