Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Summer In The Sea

5/30/12 - Playa Coyote - D-Day for Departure: Up at the crack of dawn, we watched from our cockpit as Endeavor weighed anchor and quietly slipped away in the early morning light. Endeavor is headed back to the States for the summer, and we have decided to spend the season in the Sea of Cortez and the Baja Peninsula. We had said our goodbyes the previous night at dinner on their boat. Now we are alone. Alone! Endeavor wasn't gone but ten minutes and the questions--so many questions began to flow. Are we doing the right thing? How are we going to deal with the heat and the isolation, the lack of cruiser buddies? What if we run into some thugs from the Mexican drug cartel? How hard is it going to be to stay in touch with family and friends at home? Will we drive each other crazy? Is it going to be unbearably hot? What if one of us needs medical attention out in the middle of nowhere? Isn't that teeny tiny air conditioner we bought in Puerto Vallarta just a glorified fan? What if our chartplotter dies and we get lost? Will we be able to buy food we like? Do they have phones and internet in the wilds of Baja? Is it too late to change our minds? Do you think we could get Endeavor on the VHF radio and beg them to come back?  They're supposed to be our friends, right? Whose idea was this 'Summer in the Sea' thing, anyway?

Finally, after a great deal of effort, I got Terry calmed down and assured him that we were perfectly capable of taking care of ourselves. I find that sometimes the Cap'n just needs a calm and steady First Mate to see him through these rough moments. I do what I can.

Alright, so he didn't fall apart on me. Just once though, I'd like to be the hero, the strong and calm one.  But I digress. So ..... we I  took a couple of deep breaths and got down to the business of cruising the Sea of Cortez. And we I got the answers to all those questions and some I hadn't even thought of yet.

We spent most of the month of June moving back and forth between Santa Rosalia and Sweet Pea Cove (which is on Isla San Marcos). The anchorage/marina in Santa Rosalia harbor are located in a run-down industrial part of town. It's not at all scenic and was dirty and very noisy because of a carnival set up on the edge of the harbor. The old Santa Rosalia Marina is a small ramshackle place where the office runs on the honor system. You help yourself to beverages and keep your own tab on a sheet of paper. It's the inmates running the asylum!! Daily temps are usually in the mid 90's, so we are really giving our little air conditioner a workout. We met quite a few other cruisers there and enjoyed several bbq/potlucks at the marina office.  Even with decent  internet and cheap restaurants and stores in Santa Rosalia, it was a really nice break to get away from this noisy little town and head for Sweet Pea Cove only about 12 miles away.
Sweet Pea Cove had its own challenges from hordes of bees looking for fresh water, to dust clouds from the gypsum plant at the other end of the island. Still it was great to swim and snorkel and while away lots of lazy hours. Here are a few pics of our time in this area.

We wanted to attend Geary the weather guy's annual 4th of July cruisers party, so we left Santa Rosalia and pointed south back to Bahia Concepcion and El Burro Cove. We had a such great time at the party and met and got to know Tom and Jeanne on S/V Eagle, Bill and Lisa from S/V Beyond Reason, Zack, Suzie and Ronan of S/V Wendy Ellen, as well as reconnect with S/V Seychelles, Ventured, and several others. We are feeling less and less alone all of a sudden. Here are a few pics from our time in El Burro Cove

Once the festivities were over in Bahia Concepcion we headed back to the north again. Among our stops was Punta Chivato, where we were lucky to swim with some whale sharks, thanks to a local gringo who offered to take us to them in his boat! We have a few pics of the people we met there and the scenic (not) dirt golf course of Punta Chivato.

Bahia San Francisquito proved to be a most blissful next stop. Its gorgeous beach, rock formations and the isolation were the key attributes. We were happy as larks here until a single-handing cruiser guy decided to anchor right next to us, in spite of the huge empty bay all around. So it was time to move on, but we have vowed to return one day.  Although the pics just don't do it justice, have a look anyway!

Miniscule Animus Slot was our next port of call, and were we ever glad to find it. Only large enough for one, maybe two boats, we were able to sit on board and watch the world and the waves of the Sea roar by in front of us while feeling ourselves to be invisible tucked in behind the opening of this quiet spot. The only company we had was a lone coyote who would come down to the beach every morning and forage for food.

Since the end of May, Bahia de Los Angeles has been the major goal of our wanderings up and down the east side of the Baja Peninsula. Isolated in a hostile desert environment with only a few hundred permanent inhabitants, it represented everything that is Baja to us--mysterious, harsh, beautiful and forbidding. This is where we would spend most of our summer in the Sea. Were we up for it? Well, I don't know if we were up for it, but we were definitely early for it. When we dropped our anchor in front of the village on July 23rd, we were the only sailboat there.

The first person we met in Bahia de Los Angeles (BLA) was not a Mexican drug cartel thug, but he did try to extort money from us to land our dinghy on the beach. His name is Herman Hill, a prospector, story teller, cheerful, cranky, funny old man of 90 plus years. He's also the co-author of Baja's Hidden Gold: Treasure Along The Mission Trail, a copy for which I suddenly found myself parting with 200 pesos. I guess I forgot to mention he's a pretty slick salesman too. He convinced me I would love it, and he was right. He's a beloved character in this town, and he graciously showed us all around in his car after I bought his book. Terry later hitched a ride with him to Guerrero Negro. Terry needed propane, Herman needed ice cream. It's a 4-hour trip! Herman knows all about the drug cartel, the early Spanish missionaries, mining, and gambling in Las Vegas, among lots of other things. Lots of the things he knows he's kind of secretive about, being a prospector and all. He's a fascinating person.

I'm happy to say that Herman wasn't the only person we met in BLA. We soon got to know the cruisers of sailboats Gypsy, Timepiece, Firefly, Philiosophy, Ulalena, Veeger, Hotel California, Albion, Nyon, Alegria, Tantori, Interabang, and our friends on Eagle, Beyond Reason, and Jake as well. They all began trickling in to the area a few weeks after we arrived. Soon we were caught up in Full Moon Parties, dinghy raft-ups, Blue Moon Floaty Contests, Space Station Flyover parties--any occasion to eat lots of potluck food and drink copious amounts of Pacifico beer. The heat soared ever higher and our AC tried gamely to keep up. Most days were clothing optional, but we soon learned to keep a cover-up close by in case of visitors coming by to mooch beer. The whale sharks also arrived about the same time as the other cruisers, and we never got tired of watching these docile giants. Afternoon/evening thunder and lightening storms were the norm, and we got used to getting up in the middle of the night to do anchor watches or take down our awnings when the winds piped up to between 20-30 knots.

It wasn't all beer and bbq's either. We, or I should say Terry, did suffer an unfortunate event. On August 1st, he forgot to do the "sand shuffle" in shallow water on La Mona beach, and stepped on a stingray. We treated it promptly but after a couple of weeks of fussing with it, ended up going to the little clinic in town. A young female doctor examined him, gave him a diabetes test, cleaned out the wound and gave him antibiotics--total cost $7. We may have just figured out how to avoid Obamacare! Later on Roger on SV Tantori also took a look at it. He's an anesthesiologist, and went to work cutting out some old flesh. It was a long slog until it healed. During the whole time Terry could not swim or get his feet wet. He was not a happy camper about that.

Other things that are simple to do at home take a lot more effort, especially in Baja. There were no laundry services in BLA, so I did laundry in a 5-gallon bucket. Buying food was a hunt for treasure in this small town.  You usually had to go 2 or 3 places to get the meat, eggs, bread, fruits and veggies you need, then of course, lug them on foot to the dinghy, then to the boat. Equipment is always in need of maintenance or repair. Gas for the dinghy and generator is a mile down the road. There is no phone service of any kind. Heck, BLA has had electricity for less than 10 years! You have to take your propane tanks to Guerrero Negro (4 hour trip) and there are no banks in town. But we did have fairly decent internet if we anchored close to the village!!!!

BUT, we still loved it and would do a summer in the Sea again! There's just something inexplicable about Baja. It's kind of like the sea--it draws you in and won't let go. Here are a few pics.

There's still more to tell about our Summer In The Sea, but I will save the rest for the next post. Terry put together this montage of photos and music as a video. We hope you enjoy it.