Thursday, April 18, 2013

Puerto Escondido and the BIG Blow

We are currently tied to a mooring ball in the inner harbor of Puerto Escondido. Weather reports over the last several days were predicting a strong "Norther" to kick in around mid-day on Wednesday, so we headed for Escondido, a so called "Hurricane Hole", to hide out.

As I write this blog entry winds are blowing at a steady 25 knots or so with gusts into the mid 30's. The highest we've seen is 38 knots. It's a strange feeling as the wind howls through the rigging, making the boat shudder under its force as it swings from side to side pulling against the lines. We put two rounds in the line as it passes through the chain on the under side of the ball to reduce chafe. As added precaution we rigged a second line through the loop on the top of the ball. Our only hope is that the line doesn't chafe through and set us afloat. There is another boat tied directly down wind from us that would likely be a target. We have our anchor watch set and go forward every 15 minutes or so to check it, but my guess is that if it goes, there will be no warning. That being the case, we've made ready to fire up the motor in the hopes of minimizing any fall out. Hopefully it won't come to that.

When we checked in at the harbor masters office we were told that the buoy we were tied to was "Buena", but several of the other boaters that arrived at the same time as us were told that their mooring balls were "Mal". Of the 100 or so mooring balls here, only about a third are considered good enough to use and the others, for what ever reason, are considered un-safe. You would think that they would mark the bad ones or something. I guess we lucked out, or so we thought. Apparently most of the balls have a sentinel line with a float with a heavy line attached to secure your boat. Our ball, #101, did not, which is why we took the extra precautions described above. We both agree that next time we are going to drop an anchor, relying on our own ground tackle rather than an unknown mooring ball.

We wanted to go into Loreto for the day, but have decided that it is too risky to leave the boat under these conditions. Besides, we've observed some other boaters in their dinghies and it doesn't look like a pleasant experience. It looks like a wet and wild ride to say the least. So, here we sit working on misc. boat projects and relaxing. Loreto will have to wait until this thing blows it's self out. The weather guy on the morning net says it looks like one more day.

That said, how do we spend the days tied to a mooring ball within a "hurricane hole". The following photo essay will tell the truth, or my version of it. Warning…this is not pretty.

The Sierra de la Giganta range made for a beautiful
back drop off the back of the boat.
Paul making repairs to a small water leak under the galley
Janet filled her time polishing up the port windows.
Look at that shine.
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Los Gatos and Aqua Verde

We pulled anchor mid morning at San Evaristo and headed north to Los Gatos. This stop was more about the furry crew than anything else. We figured with a name like Los Gatos, Tia and Louie would be thrilled to make a stop and check out the action. Sadly there were no cats and we couldn't figure out why they called it Los Gatos. The kitties were totally bummed.

The 18 mile run north was made mostly under sail with a 12 knot wind on our beam the entire way. There was another boat flying his spinnaker, tempting us to get ours out, but since we were already making a good 6.5 knots, we decided to just go with main and jib. The sailing the past few days has been wonderful.

After arriving and setting our anchor, Manuel, a local fisherman, motored over in his panga to hit us up for some gasoline. We agreed to give him a gallon of our precious fuel in trade for a Langosta the following morning. While we thought that there was a good chance that ole Manuel was a scam artist with a practiced line of getting free fuel from yatistas, we figured that he probably needed it more than us and who knows, we just might be eating fresh lobster for dinner tomorrow night.

The following day we put the dinghy in the water and made for the beach for a hike and exploration. Los Gatos is known for its red rock. It reminded us of Sedona. We had a lot of fun walking around and exploring. We took pictures of everything (you'll have to wait for wifi to see em).

Manana came and went and Manuel failed to show, but by mid afternoon we saw Manuel's panga making its way around the point. We met him on the beach with high hopes, only to be told that the langosta catch was poor and that it would be tomorrow before he could make good on his end of the trade. We told him we were pulling anchor at 9 AM and heading north, so he agreed to be here by 8 AM with a lobster. Alas, the following morning Manuel was no where to be seen, so off we went to our next stop, Agua Verde.

Agua Verde is true to its name. As we headed around the point into the bay we encountered emerald green waters and three lovely coves for anchoring. This is a small roadstead community which consists of a two small tiendas, a closed palapa restaurant and lots of goats which some local farmers use for making cheese. We opted for the southern anchorage as most of the swell and winds would be blocked by the land mass. Paul got the kayak out and did some exploration while I stayed on the boat and slept. Our neighbor came by in her kayak later that afternoon and filled us in on the situation in Puerto Escondido. With a forecasted "Norther" approaching, we decided it would be best to depart early morning and try to make our next stop before noon. Further exploration of Aqua Verde will have to wait until we make our trek south in a few weeks.

We departed with a minimal wind of about 9 kts and hoisted the sails expecting a pretty easy morning under sail. Tia was on deck napping, Louis was hanging out in the salon. No sooner was everything trimmed when the wind just started to crank up. It was pushing 22 kts off the beam. We thought that the "Norther" was kicking in a bit early. Tia leapt downstairs and onto the ditch bag, Louie grabbed a spot up against the salon seat cushion and Paul and I reefed down and sailed along comfortably doing 7kts for about an hour. Somewhere a switch was again thrown as all wind stopped. We were dead in the water with flat seas. This happened very suddenly. It turned out that the wind we had was not a "Norther" but the effects of winds tumbling down the face of the Sierra de la Giganta. We fired up the motor, shook out the reef and motored sailed the rest of the way into our hurricane hole.

There were all kinds of cool red rock at Los Gatos.
More red rock.
An arm shot with Talos IV in the background.
Janet amongst the many varied colored rocks on
shore at Los Gatos.
We sailed in close to get a look at this sea cave
just off from Ensenada la Ballena enroute to
Agua Verde.
Paul passed a bunch of goats taking a nap on a walk
 into town at Agua Verde.
The local school house.
The church.
Typical Agua Verde home.  Note the satellite dish and
around back there were solar panels, which most of
the homes had.  Very progressive here in Agua Verde.
Maria's tienda was closed so I had to walk up town to
the other grocery store.
This grocery store was opened, but they did'nt have
what I was looking for.
Pyramid Rock was just off from the boat.
We sailed past Rocca Solitaria on our early morning
departure out of Agua Verde.

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Escape from La Paz

Finally! The weather window opened and we made an early morning departure from La Paz. We had provisioned heavily to see us thru for a couple of weeks in the Sea of Cortez. The morning conditions allowed us to start sailing right away with 15 - 18 kts of wind off our stern quarter. We headed past Isla Espiritu Santo with a planned afternoon arrival at San Evaristo. The winds were favorable most of the way and we made the small bay around 4PM. Distance covered was 51 nm. The anchorage was full of sailboats and one power vessel. We got the thumbs up from a San Juan Islands vessel when we chose to anchor close by. It appeared there were several northwest vessels here tonight.

The wind swell rocked us most of the night. The addition of strong Coromuel winds around bedtime added to the ambiance. We had our anchor alarm set and were confident with the ground tackle. This morning the report from furry crew and Paul indicated that we all slept very well. Most of the boats had departed the anchorage by 10AM this morning.

Mid morning we put dinghy into the water and went to shore. The community consists of maybe 25 small homes, grocery store and small family run restaurant. The store had just received its weekly supplies. I think a lot of the residents were there visiting and getting weekly groceries. There was a side of beef hanging in sections from the porch rafters. You grab the machete and carve what meat you need or want and put it into your box or bag. It then gets weighed and that is how you purchase your meat. There were lots of boxes of really nice looking produce and vegetables plus all the typical small tienda offerings. We refilled our 20 liter water jug from the purification supply. Now we have drinking water to last 3 weeks (we carry a total 60 liters onboard in addition to our 85 gallons of general use water in tanks. San Evaristo is a fishing village hugging the water with a massive amount of granite called the Sierra de la Giganta towering behind it. Pictures cannot adequately show how dramatic this setting is. We walked the beach and saw lots of tuna and other fish being off loaded from the pangas. There was a palapa that had some really cool whale vertebra hung from the rafters. This is probably one of the nicer fishing villages we have visited. This afternoon we are hanging out on the boat. Paul is measuring for the water maker water lines and electrical supplies. Tomorrow we will head further north.

We took a stroll on the beach the following moring after our
arrival at San Evaristo.
One of the local fisherman had a few whale vertibrae
on display at his fishing shack.
Louie always likes to hang out on the bow and keep an
eye on things.
Tia prefers the comfort of the cockpit.
Janet working hard while we were underway to San Evaristo.
Talos IV at anchor in San Evaristo with the
Sierra la Giganta range in the background.

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Saturday, April 6, 2013

La Paz

Hot, Hot, Hot is the only way to describe La Paz.  Temps were fairly mild out at Caleta Partida, our overnight stop before heading into La Paz, but by the time we got here it was in the high 80's, maybe even into the low 90's.  We plan to stay here at Marina Palmira for about 10 days or so.  Two things are taking priority.  First, Janet is flying to Long Beach to visit family and to celebrate her mom's birthday; and second, we need to get an out of water survey completed for the insurance company.

Arrangements were made with Cecil Lange, the surveyor, to complete a survey over the weekend .  Cecil is a former boat builder from Port Townsend who many may know was the builder of the wooden hulled Cape George sail boats.  It was a pleasure working with him and hearing some of his stories. The survey went well, with only some very minor items for us to address over the next year or so.  Cecil also helped with making arrangements for us to dry store the boat at the yard this summer.  Apparently his wife is related to the owner of the yard.  Finding and settling on a place to store the boat was a major accomplishment and we both feel a sense of relief getting that behind us.

Janet is now off to the states, so I am here with the two cats.  My time has been consumed with doing boat projects and getting to know La Paz a bit better.  Janet returns on the 8th and we hope to be off the dock by the morning of the 10th.  We will head up into the Sea of Cortez for about 6 weeks before returning to La Paz to put the boat to bed for the summer.

Cecil boarding Talos IV just prior to the haul out.
You don't get a chance to see your boats bottom very much.
The bottom paint was in good condition, although we will
repaint this fall before re-splashing.
Talos IV high and dry.

Caleta Partida

Our last night out at Caleta Partida before heading to La Paz gave us our first real taste of the famous coromuel winds that La Paz is known for.  Even though the winds were blasting through the cut in the island from the east at almost 20 knots when we dropped our anchor, they shifted a full 180 degrees at about 5 PM.  We had prepared for the change by dropping our hook in the SE corner of the bay, so really had no issues as the wind cranked up to the mid to upper teens for most of the night.  Along with the wind comes a fairly dramatic cooling as well as the cooler Pacific air is pulled over the Baja and into the Sea of Cortez.

Again, no photos.  This was just a quick stop for the night to cut our run into La Paz in half.

Isla San Francisco

Wow!  This is really a beautiful place.

We had dropped our anchor in 20 feet of water, but the water was so clear you could look down from the deck of the boat and follow the chain down to the bottom and then out about a hundred feet or so to the anchor.  Even though the water was a cool 70 degrees, we would have to go for a swim (I know, once again our friends in Seattle would think that the water was almost hot).

We enjoyed an amazing sunset our first night at the island, one of three for each night we were there.  The following morning we were off at the early hour of 7 AM to hike the trail to the top of the ridge overlooking the anchorage.  The plan was to do it early before the temps were too hot.  Day time highs have been in the high 80's and low 90's.  Accompanied by Barbara, Chris and Chris we dinghyed to shore and spent the next four hours hiking and exploring the island.  The photos below tell more than my words, but if this is what cruising in the Sea of Cortez is like, then we are in for a real treat when we head even further north in a few weeks.

On day two, we made a dinghy run around the island.  Again, the photos below will tell the story.

On our final night, we gathered with friends on sv Zoe for movie night.  Even though we had all seen it, "Little Miss Sunshine" was the title choice by popular vote.  It was a wonderful evening sitting out on the open deck in warm, dry and windless conditions enjoying some beers and a good movie.

We headed out the following morning for Caleta Partida for a quick one night stop before heading into La Paz.  It was a day of mostly sailing up wind, until we finally decided that if we wanted to get there we needed to fire up the motor.  So off we went to the little bay nestled between Isla Partida and Isla Epiritu.

We were treated to three days worth of incredible sunsets.
The hike up the ridge was the toughest.  Chris, Chris and
Barbara making their way to the top.
The views from the top were incredible.
The anchorage.  Talos IV is toward the far side in the
middle between several other boats.
Here we are at the top.
Friends Chris and Chris strike a pose for the camera.
I don't know what kind of tree this is, but it was worth
a picture.
Agate Beach on the other side of the island.
I'm not sure why they call it Agate Beach, but it sure
got our attention.  Lot's of looking only
produced a few very small agates.
We found this turtle shell on the beach.  Poor fella.
And yet another sunset.  I don't think I'll ever get tired
of seeing these.
Paul enjoying the view.
There's the chain snaking down from the deck
and out to the anchor.
We found several osprey nests on our dinghy ride.
Chris and Chris made the run around the island with us.
We stopped at a beach on the far side of the island for a break.
There were seagull eggs and all kinds of stuff.
I think what's left of a blow fish.
It was a full moon while we were there.  This
isn't our boat, but if you get the idea of what
Talos IV would look like under a full moon.

Sea of Cortez - West Bound Crossing

We were a flotilla of three boats, sv Talos IV, sv Zoe and sv Scintilla.  The plan was to leave Mazatlan together, but no one had any obligation to stick together other than periodic radio checks.  That said, we managed to stay within sight of sv Scintilla, but lost sv Zoe almost from the start.  It was a two night crossing.

The wind was up initially, so we hoisted the sails and were make a good 5.5 knots with main and head sail.  As the wind dropped off toward mid day, we furled the jib and dug out the asymmetrical.  We haven't flown that sail since the run down the baja earlier in the trip.  A lot of effort for only about an hour of sailing before the wind just simply died.  It was a motor from that point on.

Sea conditions were light the entire trip, which made for a pleasant crossing.  We also had a nearly full moon,  providing good visibility at night.  The only problem we had is that we were going too fast or maybe just poor planning.  We arrived just outside Isla San Francisco at about 3 AM and not wanting to make the entry into the anchorage at night meant we had to just drift with the winds and currents until day light.  It was a beautiful night and the time went by fairly quick.

Once the sun was up we motored in and dropped our hook.  What a lovely place.  We slept most of the day to get caught up on sleep with plans to do some exploring tomorrow.

Sorry, no photos.  There really isn't a lot to take pictures of when your out in the middle of the sea.

Mazatlan Re-visited

We spent 15 days in Mazatlan.  A bit longer than we had wanted, but day 15 is the break point between slip fees and it was simply worth staying a little longer to get the better rate.  Besides, we didn't want to do the crossing to La Paz too early, so hanging in Mazatlan was a nice break.

Having been to Mazatlan previously in December on our way south we found our experience to be quite different.  For one, we really didn't need to explore the city to make new discoveries (we had already done that); two, the weather was much cooler, with highs in the low 70's (I know our friends in Seattle think that 70 at this time of year would be quite warm, but your perspective changes in these latitudes); three, people and boats at the marina were not the same, so we had a chance to meet some new people; and finally, the surge, which is a common thing at Marina El Cid throughout the year, was absolutely raucous.  We had the boat snugged down as tight as we could with bow and stern lines and spring lines running fore and aft, but it still felt like we were out to sea with a good blow.

We made the run into town to visit some of our favorite places and of course made multiple trips into the markets to re-provision for our trip across the Sea of Cortez.  Most of our time, however, was spent doing boat projects.  Paul managed to lay down some fresh varnish on the toe rail and we re-built the toilet.  The varnish of course looks beautiful as always and the toilet can now be flushed without that strange odor and back flushing that we were getting before the re-build.

All that work done, provisions stored and day 15 behind, we made plans with David and Barbara from sv Zoe and Chris and Chris from sv Scintilla to all depart at the same time for the run across the sea.  Our destination was Isla San Francisco, about 45 miles north of La Paz.  We would hang out there for a few days before heading into Marina Palmira in La Paz.

This is the toilet after the re-build.  You really don't
want to see the before or during pictures.
The bright work in progress.  Yes, daily life goes on, even
in paradise.
We cycled through the diesel in our Jerry cans
to keep them fresh.  Besides, it was easier
just taking the water taxing over to the fuel
dock to refill the cans than it was to throw the
dock lines off and motor over, especially with the