We’ve spent the last couple of weeks moving south from the Bay of LA to Loreto. The weather has definitely begun the seasonal change to fall. The temperatures have dropped from the high 90’s to the mid 80’s, and the water temps are also a little lower. We’ve been sailing about every other day, stopping frequently along the way and enjoying the local scenery.
The last day we were in the Bay of LA area, we stopped in the village to get one last round of fresh produce and one last fix of internet access. As we finished anchoring, Dan looked down in the water to check the conditions. For some unknown reason, his glasses chose this moment to prefer the force of gravity over the pull of friction, and they slipped into the water. Just like that – plop! – and they were gone. After a few moments of dumbfounded disbelief we developed an action plan. It took us about ten minutes to find the small anchor, round up a float to mark the spot and find and attach a line of the right size and length. Kathy put on a swimsuit and deployed the swim ladder, while Dan dropped the anchor overboard, hoping that Lungta hadn’t swung too far in the meantime (fortunately conditions were pretty mild). Kathy jumped in, formulating a search pattern in her mind. She easily found the float, directly underneath Lungta’s transom, and dove to the anchor at the other end of the line. As it turned out, it took no time at all to find the glasses – because they were pinned directly underneath the anchor! The image of Bambi’s little deer-legs splayed out in the cult short “Bambi Meets Godzilla” came quickly to mind, but those of the Wicked Witch of the West might be just as apropos. Surprisingly there were no (significant) scratches or bends to the glasses, and Dan’s vision has been restored. We had a disappointing internet experience, with seemingly all of the town’s connections either intermittent or just plain down, so we did a quick run to the “abarrote” (grocery store) and headed back to the boat.
We had a good sail to Puerto Don Juan, where the boats had been careened at the beginning of our visit to the area. This time we had the entire anchorage completely to ourselves. We went for a nice hike the next morning, and found a small slot canyon that a friend had told us about. We startled up a small rattlesnake, who was moving somewhat sluggishly because of a recent meal that caused a big bulge in his profile. The encounter was a good reminder for us to stay vigilent. We ended up at the next cove along the coastline, where we saw a portion of a dolphin’s skeleton.
That afternoon we sailed on to an anchorage in the eastern side of the Bahia de las Animas. As we approached, we saw a white structure on or near shore that we spent a lot of time trying to identify. At times we thought it was a small house on shore, while at other times we thought it might be a panga or other boat in the bay. When we got closer to shore we decided that it must be some sort of debris, perhaps a sign that had been knocked down or a large styrofoam float. Once we arrived, we went for a hike along the shoreline, and found that it was a unbelievably large whale’s skull. It was easily 10 feet long and 6 feet wide. We also saw a coyote foraging around on the shoreline, which scampered away as we got close. The area had beautiful pink and grey rocks with intriguing cliffs and arroyos, and we were longing to spend some time hiking around the next day, but as sunset approached we were inundated by mosquitos and decided to move on.
Rather than hugging the coastline, we headed out to a small chain of islands situated about 30 miles off-shore along a ridge which rises from the deepest portion of the Sea of Cortez. This area is frequented by many of the region’s whales, which explains the whale bones that we’d recently seen. We spotted several different kinds of whales, but aren’t familiar enough with them to be able to identify them for you. 🙂 Some were probably fin whales or pilot whales, because these seem to be fairly common. Another group may have been false killer whales; these were traveling in a small pod like dolphins, but were much larger and had a longer, more intermittent breathing pattern like whales. We also had a close encounter with a whale that surfaced about 30 feet away from our stern. We heard a loud exhale just outside our pilothouse door, and when we looked out we were surprised to see how close he was! He surfaced a second time and then turned away. They are often as curious about us as we are about them!
We’ve had a pattern of very slow travel in the mornings, and then the winds pick up to the expected levels later in the afternoons. We arrived at Isla Partida just before sunset, but not so late that we felt compelled to accelerate the process with our motor. 🙂 Isla Partida is a tiny little island, only about 2 miles long, with a large crescent-shaped bay on the northwest side. The very center of the island looks like it’s been pinched, so that there is a small strip of land in between two tall hills on either end. It was cute to notice on our approach that one of these hills was red rock and the other was covered with greenery – much like the navigation lights of a sailing vessel. We stayed here a few days while we waited for a good wind to take us further south. While here, one day we circumnavigated the island by dinghy, finding some interesting choppy waves and current on the south caused by a collision of wind waves and tidal flow. To Dan’s disappointment, we found only one small white sand beach – but it was a beauty! We swung around another nearby islet which hosts a sea lion rookery and enjoyed watching them for a while. They seemed generally smaller than the ones we had observed two months ago in Puerto Refugio, and we wondered if they were a different species. Another day we snorkeled along a reef coming out from a rocky point. This was a wonderful place to see lots of fish, and we returned later to fish. While snorkeling, though, we saw a little cave entrance which we swam through and discovered that it opened up to the sky in a fully contained “room” about 10 feet in diameter. It’s hard to convey the sense of discovery and magic that we found in this secret spot. There was a quiet little gull patiently sitting on the rocks in there the whole time we were marveling at the place, and it swam out after us when we were done. We realized that when the tide was higher or there were waves coming from the north, this area would form a blowhole and be dangerous to approach as we had.
When we left Isla Partida, we thought that we might stop at one or more of the other islands in this chain, but it didn’t work out that way. Although the winds were in a favorable direction, they weren’t strong enough for us to get to an anchorage in one day, so we pushed on through the night and sailed into Bahia San Francisquito the next day. Ironically, the wind picked up during the night and we had a brisk and delightful sail throughout the night. San Francisquito is a very large bay with a long white sand beach that pulled Dan’s heartstrings. Shortly after dropping anchor we took a quick foray to shore to explore. We found lots of coyote tracks and holes in the sand dappled by the tiny claw-prints of red crabs. We started to wander up into the neighboring countryside, where there were some wonderful curved cliffs carved in golden sandstone, but we were swarmed by mosquitos and turned back quickly. We spent a quiet day catching up on our sleep, and decided to continue on our way. San Francisquito looks like a wonderful place to spend a week or two, and we hope to visit it again next summer, before the rains breed a new generation of mosquitos.
Our next stop was the town of Santa Rosalia. It was another long day’s hop, and we arrived in the wee hours of the morning. We spent a couple of days in Santa Rosalia, visiting with friends, catching up on email, refilling our fridge, and watching a (very small) parade in celebration of Mexico’s Independence Day. The parade consisted entirely of groups of school children and military ranks, some with marching bands. We remarked on the difference between American parades, which tend to be very noisy festive occasions, and Mexican parades, which seem to be more somber business-like affairs. Certainly there were celebrations elsewhere, but not during or immediately after the parade at 8 in the morning! We wanted to take advantage of some nice weather conditions, so we pulled our anchor and got moving. We stopped at the fuel dock on the way out, since there isn’t another one for 200 miles and that one has been reported to be out of fuel much of the summer. As we pulled away from the fuel dock, a contrary wind pushed us back onto the dock’s corner, causing a largish scrape on our hull. It was the kind of scrape that could ruin your day (or week!) if your boat was fiberglass, but our cement hull was unperturbed. Dan was able to fill and paint it in about an hour a few days later, and the patch is virtually invisible, even if you know there’s something to look for! We’re *very* happy with the space-age paint that we chose this time: PSX-700.
Santa Rosalia was about the halfway point in our journey from Bahia de los Angeles to Loreto, so I’ll break the story here, and continue the second half in another posting.