Well somehow a month has passed since our last posting. I guess life continues to be full! We’ve spent most of this time in the San Juanico bay, about 20 miles north of Loreto. This is certainly one of the best places we’ve been so far! It’s a really big bay with a number of small corners where you can anchor. There are beautiful cliffs all around, but each direction has a different topology. There are several groups of rocks coming out of the water, one affectionately called the Rock of Gibralter with a wonderful cactus garden on top – about 50 feet above the water.
We’ve spent much of this time travelling with a new friend Bernard, whose boat is named Simple Pleasures – apropos, isn’t it? He’s been cruising in Mexico for about 7 years, and has gleaned a lot of good information that he’s generous about sharing with us. He showed us his favorite corner of San Juanico, and that’s become our spot too. He has given us a number of tips on fishing, and we’ve gone out trolling together in our dinghy many evenings. We’ve even caught quite a variety of fish, some tastier than others! We’ve enjoyed looking through our various fish identification books to figure out what each one is – between us we have three books, and it’s rare that they agree (they each have a different target audience, and it seems few fish are of interest to everyone)! We’ve also been learning to spearfish. OK, it’s mostly Dan and Bernard who are learning this art, but it’s really generated a lot of enthusiasm, learning how to use the weapon, how to stalk the prey, how to get it back to the boat without it wiggling off the spear and getting away… Twice we’ve accumulated enough fish of several varieties that we decided to pull out the smoker and try smoking them – yum! Not only is it tasty served plain, but it also makes a wonderful salad with chips or in a sandwich. While we’re talking about the bounty of the sea, we should share that we’ve also had another cruiser show the three of us how to find and harvest scallops. They attach themselves to the rocks, but are amazingly well camouflaged, so we haven’t emptied the recipe book of scallop recipes yet. Kathy has spent more time trying to find scallops than the guys, swimming around with a knife strapped to her calf.
One day the three of us went scuba-diving at a site Bernard had been to previously. This was the first time we’ve used all of our scuba gear together. The snorkeling has been so good that we haven’t taken the trouble to pull out the tanks until now. But it was a nice dive, and Dan’s first recreational dive since he was certified a decade ago. Now we need to spend a little time getting the compressor working so we can refill our tanks and do it again! Another day when we were snorkeling, something odd happened to Kathy – something big rammed into her upper arm. It felt like someone jumped onto her in a swimming pool. She never saw what hit her, but it left quite a bruise! We’re speculating that a dorado was chasing a meal and not paying attention to where he was going. Perhaps the little fish jumped over her and he plowed straight on ahead? It’s funny to imagine the headache this fish must have had!
This whole period has been full of unusual “unsettled” weather, mostly as a result of a series of hurricanes or smaller tropical storms that have spun up and traveled just outside of the Baja peninsula. As they fade away, they spread out and dump all of the gathered moisture over a wide expanse, including here on the inside of the peninsula. We’ve been hearing all summer that it hasn’t rained here in three years and things have been drier than usual, but for the last month that has all been turned on its ear. We’ve had rain on the boat perhaps a dozen times, and we’ve seen nearby clouds with rain below almost every day. There are “thunder-bumpers” on the horizon most afternoons, and many nights we’ve had a dramatic light-show on the horizon, sometimes with an accompanying sound-show. Several times we’ve seen a really dramatic refraction phenomenon, where swirls of rainbow colors appear on a thin backdrop of cloud, usually peeking out from behind a big cumulus cloud. Really beautiful!
The result of all this moisture has been a phenomenal burst of life, trying to take advantage of the windfall before it disappears again. The hills are completely covered with vegetation, and the cactus don’t stand out as much as before, because there’s a surprising amount of bushes and other plants that were virtually invisible before. Many of the plants are blooming too! The other “bloom” that we’ve experienced has been in the insect population, from flies to mosquitos to moths to butterflies, the place is crawling. Ugh! The variety of moths has been astonishing, and one variety is so large that when it flitters past at night we sometimes mistake it for a bat, and have taken to calling them vampire moths. The bees that we mentioned previously which are always seeking fresh water on the boats are nowhere to be seen now, which is perhaps not a surprise. The nicest one of course is the butterflies – there have been thousands, or perhaps millions, of small butter-yellow butterflies fluttering around for the last week. Many of them seem to be heading east across the Sea. Sometimes we see clouds of a few dozen, sometimes just a pair. The pale yellow color against the deep blue water is really striking!
We’ve been back and forth between Loreto and San Juanico three or four times, and find ourselves sailing a lot – hooray! We put up all five sails most of the time now, we’ve figured out the order in which everything needs to happen and a few tricks to make each step go smoothly. Most of the time the wind is moderate, 10-15 knots, but it’s not unusual to have a slow period to the day when the winds change direction and go through a nearly flat stage. We often just bob around until they pick up again, because we’re enjoying being able to get from point A to point B without even starting the motor. But we do sometimes have to, especially at the beginning or end of the day, if the winds aren’t doing what we want. We won’t spend a sleepless night on the water just because we don’t want to run the engine for an hour or two. We’ve also had a couple of days where the winds picked up and we were really moving along at a nice clip! One day we arrived at our anchorage just in front of a front :-), and the winds picked up dramatically just as Dan began lowering the anchor. Before he finished he was drenched from heavy rain and blown around by winds over 20 knots. It didn’t last much longer than the period it took to set the anchor, though. Another day when we were in front of Loreto a squall stirred up by hurricane Kristy came through, right over us. The winds broke 30 knots and built up pretty steep waves, and our dinghy took a beating. It was hanging on the davits at the back of the boat, and as Lungta pitched up and down the dinghy got smashed between the waves and the heavy arms of the davits. After just a few cycles of this, the stainless steel wire that was holding it up broke, and the back end of the dinghy fell down. But the front end was still suspended and there were also two small ropes holding the sides of the dinghy up to Lungta’s transom, intended to reduce the normal swinging action while underway. This meant that the dinghy was tilted at a steep angle into fairly rough conditions. Everything inside was getting thrown around and a couple of small items floated away, never to be seen again. Somehow the drainplug got dislodged too, so the dinghy would take on water when lowered. Ugh! We managed to get the two ropes loosened and to lower the dinghy in between wave-sets, Dan hopped in quickly and reseated the drain-plug before taking on too much water, and we let the dinghy back a good ways so that it could ride things out on its own. At one point our outboard got dunked a few times and we were worried that it might have more troubles, but it seems to be working even better than before. We’d had another incident just a week earlier where the fill-valve got bumped and was leaking. The whole dinghy nearly sank before we saw that it was in trouble, and the outboard got seriously dunked. Bernard gave Dan some good advice about how to get it running again and by the next day it was running fairly well. Dan thinks that perhaps we need to make sure it gets a dunking every so often, for optimal performance.
Our SSB radio is finally working reliably: we got some good advice – and a fortunate piece of material – from our friends on Winsome that made all the difference. We updated the grounding path again, this time using a 4 inch wide strip of copper “foil” instead of a heavy-gauge wire. This has made all the difference, and now we’re able to participate in the morning and evening radio “nets” whenever we want. This is huge, because it means that we can get daily weather forecasts even when we’re out of range of the internet. We’ve also got it hooked up to our computer now, so we can send and receive limited email. Ain’t modern technology grand!? The radio email is very slow, so we won’t be giving out that address far-and-wide, but if you’d like to be in email contact with us even when we’re away from internet, let us know and we’ll set you up. The radio nets are an opportunity for cruisers to connect once or twice a day. There’s a “controller” who is like an emcee for the conversation, announcing the various conversation topics in turn and recognizing one speaker at a time. The nets are usually a good way to get the weather and to find out where your friends are located, but they can also be a place for initiating emergency communications or following up with a situation that arose previously. There are numerous nets which meet at different times of the day on different frequencies, but the ones we usually listen to are mostly for people traveling in the Sea of Cortez or on Mexico’s Pacific coast. Earlier this summer, though, there was an emergency situation handled on the morning “Amigo” net with a guy who was single-handedly bringing his boat back from Australia but ran out of fuel, water and food! The controller talked him into changing course for Hawaii, and then contacted the Coast Guard there to escort him in safely. This is a valuable system to be in touch with and we’re glad/relieved to finally have our radio working! After we’d checked-in at a few morning nets, the organizer of one of the nets invited Kathy to try her hand at being a controller. They have a different person for each day of the week, but they often need a substitute and so she agreed to give it a try. She was pretty nervous, because although realistically there may only be a dozen people participating on a given day, it can be a big responsibility. 🙂 She’s only done one day so far, and it went fine, so she will probably do more.
We’re in the middle of our second round of visitors. We’ve had a week with David, Dan’s father, and a week with Evan & Marissa, Dan’s son and his girlfriend. It was wonderful to see all of them! David told us that the Sea of Cortez was a place he’d wanted to visit his whole life – and he wasn’t disappointed! We pumped up an air mattress and they all chose to sleep on deck, at least on the nights when there was no rain. 🙂 Sleeping under the stars is one of the real treats of life aboard! We sat out on deck most evenings, talking and watching for shooting stars. We saw a few satellites go by and learned to identify a few constellations, thanks to Bernard. One night with Evan and Marissa, we saw a critter that Bernard had told us about. It looks like a bright spot of bioluminescence, that spins and throws off lots of tiny bits of fainter bioluminescence. We’re not sure what this actually is, but we saw a few dozen and enjoyed seeing if we could affect their behavior with a flashlight or catch them in a bucket. Turns out they looked like worms about one inch long, hard to see any other features, but we suspect that they were larva of some kind of invertebrate. Marissa was excited to see whales, and we were fortunate to see a few fairly close by as we left Loreto. We weren’t sure what kind they were, except they weren’t humpback. They spouted roughly a dozen times before their trajectory took them a different way from us. Their fins looked like dolphins, except they were a *lot* bigger.
Now we’re on our own for a few weeks until our next guests arrive in mid-October. It sounds like the worst of the summer’s heat is about over, and this period is supposed to typically bring the best that the Sea has to offer. Hooray! Hope you’re all enjoying your early fall as well. Take care and stay in touch.
>> Kathy & Dan