One of the Carnaval statues on the Malecón in Mazatlán.

After our two day crossing from Bahía Falsa to Mazatlán we dropped anchor in the harbor and caught up on sleep. The harbor hadn’t changed much. There were only a couple other cruising boats at anchor, but there were a number of pelican boats on mooring balls, boats that had been taken over by the birds. Club Nautico was still around, but missing its roof, probably blown off when the hurricane came through last fall. Since it was falling apart when we were here a couple of years ago, we weren’t surprised. There were still party lanchas running back and forth, full of Mexican tourists in town for Carnaval. The sea wall around the harbor had been reinforced with new rip rap and new big jack shaped concrete pieces. The entrance light was leaning a little, but it was still there. We watched the loading of one of the ferries we’d seen in Pichelingue, the San Jorge. When it left, the Baja Star arrived the next morning.

One of the things we like about Mazatlán is that from the old harbor, it’s a walking town. Nothing is too far away and you can have a tourist experience or easily get to the market to provision up. We assembled the dinghy and rowed to the dinghy dock to check in with Martín, the caretaker. We walked toward el centro, the main downtown shopping area. We stopped by the quilt shop, but it was closed. We walked around Plazuela Machado, in the historic district and stopped in a gallery space to took at art done by students based on Picasso’s work. There’s an art school and a ballet school next to Teatro Angela Peralta. We found a nice bookstore we hadn’t seen before, and then walked up to Mercado Pina Suarez, the main market, and bought some groceries.

Back at Gypsy, we watched the tour boats going by, some with live bands. The boats were packed. The street leading to Club Nautico was busy with people. Mazatlán claims to have the third largest Carnival celebration in the world, after Rio de Janiero and New Orleans. We talked to one of the ride hawkers and they had a special Saturday night cruise for 1500 pesos each that included live music, an open bar and a view of the fireworks from the water. We didn’t go for it. That night we could see some of the fireworks, and they were massive and spectacular, even with a hill in the way. A good thirty minutes of flashes and bangs and very loud music. At the end, all the boats rushed back into the harbor, and it was crazy. Every boat was blaring different music, people were dancing in their bright orange life vests. The malecón was probably packed with people. At midnight the party was still in full swing.

The next morning we thought we’d walk up El Faro, the lighthouse hill. The line extended for blocks and since they were pacing how many got to go up at once, we figured we had at least an hour’s wait. We climbed the stairs up to La Marea instead and walked down toward the malecón. There were Pacifico booths every 50 meters or so. Platforms for different bands were set up along the malecón.

The next morning we headed to Marina El Cid. We’d reserved a slip, but the boat that was supposed to leave had extended its stay so we had to wait at the fuel dock while they found us a slip. They, like everywhere this year, are full. The Baja Ha-Ha was huge this year, all the Canadians who couldn’t get down during Covid were back, and the boats that hadn’t jumped off to the South Pacific were still around. We got a slip, and waited for Bill’s sisters to arrive.

Isla Carmen to La Paz

Fishermen pulling in their net, Canal de San José. They must have caught something as the pelicans and gulls were waiting patiently.

When we left Punta Colorada on Isla Carmen, the morning wind was light. Our choices for a day trip run would be 22 nautical miles to Agua Verde, about a four hour trip motoring, or we could keep going to Punta San Telmo (also known as Punta Prieta). Our calm weather window was two days before the winds kicked up toward 30 knots again and in that time we could cover the 70 miles to San Evaristo. During the day, the seas were calm, and so was the wind. We saw whales in the distance. We passed the National Geographic Venture, a small cruise ship, anchored at Puerto Los Gatos and we headed for Timbabiche, a small village a few miles south of Los Gatos. We dropped anchor late afternoon after putting about 40 miles or so under our keel. We were met by a fisherman in his panga who asked if we’d like to buy some fish. We bought a pierna from him and he filleted for us on one of the seats of his panga after sharpening his knife on a stone. We cooked up with salt, pepper and lime juice; it was very tasty.

The village of Timbabiche.

The next morning we left as the sun was rising. Chilly, but not too bad. Just before the San Jose Channel we had a dolphin fest off our bow for about 15 minutes. Three, and then four, of them swam off the bow, crossed under it and crossed over and under each other, and finally headed off. They were beautiful and majestic and left us with huge smiles on our faces and a lot of bad, blurry dolphin photos. The best are below.

That was the best part of the trip down toward La Paz. We dropped anchor in San Evaristo early that afternoon to spend the next couple of days boat bound because of wind and waves. Mid afternoon the wind started to blow. Gusts during the night were up to 35 knots. In the morning, there would be a lull of a few seconds and then the wind would build again. We had gusts into the high twenties. At one point, Nina tried to figure out how many days we’ve been boat bound since we left San Carlos in January and came up with 11 days. And with no internet during those days. We’ve read a lot of books so far this year.

We got a break in the wind and headed to Isla Partida. Outside of the San Evaristo, winds were a steady 22 knots. We sailed with a partially reefed genoa and headed south at 6.9 knots. With the wind and waves behind us it was very rolly. Around noon the winds dropped to the low teens but the waves were building all morning. Some of our waves were over 10 feet high. We were on a converging course with a 600 foot tanker at one point, so we turned the engine on to give us a slightly faster, more consistent speed. It passed behind us about a mile and a half away and it still looked huge. Waves on the way down were so rolly that we couldn’t take pictures of the flat horizontal layers of rock banding. South of San Evaristo the mountains flatten out and the layering does too.

Mid afternoon, we dropped anchor in Caleta Partida. Five other boats were anchored and we hailed on of them just to make sure we weren’t dropping our anchor on top of theirs. Later we were hailed by Osprey, a Dream Yacht Charter boat out of La Paz. They asked where we’d come from and if we knew of any locations nearby that would be close but good to visit before the had to get the boat back. Bill suggested the nearby bays and coves on Isla Partida and Isla San Francisco. It’s got to be tough to be chartering when the wind blows like stink, the waves are big and close set. There had been northers blowing much of the time they’d been out. And it’s been cold, so not much of a sailing in paradise scenario. The wind finally calmed down in the afternoon. The sunset was beautiful.

We weighed anchor the next morning to head toward La Paz. One of the other boats was heading into La Paz to provision. We were going to Bahía Falsa, just outside La Paz. We hugged Isla Espiritu Santo as we headed south. The wind had dropped to the low teens, waves were smaller than the day before. Solid cloud cover, slate gray water. The sun finally peaked out by the time anchored among seven other sailboats. Bahía is less of a party beach than Pichelingue but a sousaphone was spotted and heard on the small local beach. The band was pretty good but they didn’t play long.

The next morning we headed into La Paz for some grocery shopping. It took us a couple of hours to get to the Mogote to anchor. We dinghied in and then walked to Mega, reversed the process and made it back to Bahía Falsa by mid afternoon. We had a good trip in and out, hitting the tides just right – incoming in the morning and an ebb in the afternoon. Nina was pleased that she checked out with the port captain completely in Spanish.

We spent a couple more days at Falsa, caught up on boat chores before crossing the Sea of Cortez to Mazatlán.

Weighing anchor at Bahía Falsa to discover we’d snagged another anchor. Not what you want to catch when you’re trying to get underway. We used the rope to catch one of the flukes so that we could untwist it from our chain. We did not keep it as a souvenir.
Sunset at Bahía Falsa.

Isla Carmen

This is what a sunny day looks like this year in Mexico. It’s been cold, windy, and cloudy for much of our time in the Sea of Cortez. But when’s there’s blue up there, we don’t have to wear socks.

We left Isla Coronados for Puerto Ballandra, on Isla Carmen. More northers in the forecast for the next week or so in the 25+ knot range. Time to hunker down again. On the way to Puerto Ballandra, the waves were running at 6-8 feet high, about 5-6 seconds apart and the wind was around 15-20 knots the whole time, light winds for what we’d been having recently. Our boat speed hit 7.2 knots at one point, really fast for us. We were glad it was a short trip from Isla Coronados, only about two and a half hours. Ballandra offers good protection from northers and there is some nice hiking. Anchored in the bay were four other sailboats and later a couple of big motorboats. Ashore we climbed one of the hills and had a spectacular view of the sea and actually picked up a couple of phone bars for the first time in over a week. We met the folks on two of the sailboats, Dakota and Dina Helena, at a happy hour on Dakota. Dakota came down on the Ha-Ha this past November from Victoria, BC and Dina Helena, originally from the Netherlands, has been working on a circumnavigation for about six years.

We spent five nights at Ballandra waiting for the winds to drop below 20 knots and the waves to smooth out. No sense beating ourselves up just to get somewhere. One of the motorboats, a 70′ aluminum boat, reanchored at least once a day because his anchor dragged. He did not seem to get better with practice. The day before we left, a couple of Drascombe luggers came into the bay and headed ashore to camp. They left the next morning, just before we weighed our anchor to head for either Bahía Marquer on Isla Carmen or Honeymoon Cove on Isla Danzante. Marquer won the draw as the two big motorboats that had been at Ballandra were now in Honeymoon.

Dina Helena at anchor, Bahía Marquer.

We had calm seas on the way down. There’s a nice arroyo to walk up at Marquer, and a stone and sand beach. Most of the shells on the beach at Marquer and at Ballandra are pretty weathered. We wondered why there aren’t newer looking shells on the beach. Have they been fished out or did the hurricane that went through last year interrupt their breeding cycle? There are few sea birds here so there probably aren’t many fish, either. We certainly didn’t catch any fish while we were at Isla Carmen.

The weather was looking calm for a couple of days so the next morning we headed into Puerto Escondido. We picked up a mooring ball and got ready to meet our friend David who was arriving the next day to do some buddy boating.

Our mooring ball in Puerto Escondido was slightly dodgy. The loop in the end had worn through so someone had tied a new loop on the end. No wind was predicted so we decided to give it a go as it was one of the closer mooring balls to the marina. It still took us 25 minutes to row in, only to discover that the dinghy dock had moved since last time we were there. More rowing ensued. We checked in and got our old gate cards replaced. Rowed back to Gypsy and noticed that our mooring line was tightly wrapped around the mooring ball and found that poking at it with the boat pole wasn’t going to move it. We ended up untying Gypsy from the mooring ball and then redoing our mooring lines. Meanwhile, our friend David arrived at his boat Jean Butler.

We went to Loreto with David the next morning to do some provisioning and had a really tasty lunch at Dory Luz – peru bean soup with pork. The following morning we set off for Salinas, on the northeast side of Isla Carmen. Had a great sail, lousy fishing, but saw whales close by. We all anchored at Punta Perico South as it has better wind protection than at Salinas, because, yes, it was going to blow again. We celebrated with happy hour and a potluck onboard Gypsy with Jean Butler.

Fan coral on the beach at Punta Perico.

The wind dropped the next morning we headed to Salinas. We walked through what remains of the small village from its salt processing days. There are a couple of newer buildings that are the hunting lodge with some staff housing behind them. Mountain sheep were introduced to the island a number of years ago, partly for hunting but also for restocking the populations on a couple of other islands where there used to be herds. The rest of the buildings are slowly eroding away: a school, the machine shop, the doctor’s office, the production office, and other buildings that didn’t have signs telling what they were, some of them probably houses.

After our walk through Salinas we headed for Punta Colorada for the night. In the morning, Jean Butler would head back to Puerto Escondido and we would head as far south as we could get before the winds started up again.

Brown pelican.

San Carlos to Isla Coronados

Port Upper turnbuckle with the rusty and cracking swedging. One of the shrouds that we replaced.

Back in San Carlos we woke up to sun and a list of boat projects and no food on board so we went out for breakfast. Barracuda Bob’s, a restaurant at the marina is popular with gringos and locals. We were there just after King’s Day so they were giving out King’s cake. If you got the baby, you’d have good luck.

The baby in Bill’s cake. The cake was a little dry, so he just fished out the baby and left it to its fate.

We both made multiple trips up the mast to replace the lower and upper shrouds (the wires that hold up the mast on the side of the boat). The new ones we’d cut and had swedged in Portland fit.

In the afternoons we grocery shopped, bought shrimp from a guy in the supermarket parking lot. Bill checked on the outboard at Luis’s shop and was told it had a blown head gasket. Since we hadn’t left any money with him before we headed north, he hadn’t ordered any replacement parts. He said it would take two weeks for the part to come from Georgia. We didn’t have two weeks to wait for possibly the correct gasket, so we paid him for his time and resigned ourselves to oar power. Luis did give Bill a list of possible replacement numbers for the gasket so maybe we could find one somewhere down the Sea.

Our other big project was realigning the engine to the propeller shaft. Day one was frustratingly unsuccessful, with both of us pretzled in small uncomfortable spaces trying to precisely align the thing by adjusting the engine mounts. The next day we called our boat expert friend Tom and he talked us through how to do it. Half a day later we were done! We finished up our remaining small projects and set sail across the Sea of Cortez for La Ramada, a small cove north of San Juanico on the Baja side.

After two nights at La Ramada, we moved down to San Juanico as the northers were going to kick in. While we were there we got in some beach walks in and Bill caught a nice shortfin seabass (corvina) while Nina rowed.

Sunrise leaving Bahía San Basilio (San Juanico).

Next stop, the south side of Isla Coronados, an extinct volcano. We rowed ashore and had a nice hike halfway up the volcano and along the shore. We were there for a couple of days and before we headed on to Puerto Ballandra on Isla Carmen.

Holiday Break

If you’re ever in Arbuckle, California, give Tacos Jesus Maria a try. Popular with truckers, locals and random travelers, the food is amazing and affordable.

Backing up a little bit, our weather window arrived for crossing the Sea of Cortez from Santa Rosalía to San Carlos, so off we went. Waves were decent sized, but not too uncomfortable, and winds were in the 10 to 15 knot range. We had a pretty good heel on by the time Nina needed to start cooking dinner, something she should have done while we were in hurry up and wait for out passage to start mode. It was getting dark and she was fighting a touch of turista and food was really the last thing she wanted to think about or deal with. Bill did get a hot meal.

Bahía San Pedro had a couple of sailboats anchored in it when we arrived in the early afternoon. By the time we settled in, had some lunch, four more boats arrived. The next morning there were eight boats total. The San Carlos fleet had arrived. Most we knew from the San Carlos radio net. Dan, from Island Time, put together an impromtu San Pedro net, and we would meet up on the beach later in the morning. We put the outboard on the dinghy and got it started. It was working fine as we motored around for a bit and headed to the beach. As we were beaching the dinghy, we noticed that we had a leak. Oily black water was leaking into the dinghy from the engine. It was the first time this year we had been able to get the motor to start and we were worried about it. Later we discovered that it did have serious problems. Luckily we had oars along, and after we did our beach meet up and some trash pick up, Bill rowed us back to Gypsy.

We headed down to Ensenada Algodones in a gentle swell from the south. The wind was changing direction from the north to the south. Cloudy skies. Got some good walks on the beach and headed back to San Carlos where we ran into some old cruising friends. The marina was windy, it was cold. We started working on our project list. We’d also bought some shrimp from a guy in the Santovalle parking lot, so Nina got busy cleaning them. The floor by the sink was wet. Annoying, because she was wearing socks (it was still cold). We had a cracked foot pump, so swapping that out got added to the project list.

The next morning, the cabin temperature was 50 degrees F. We turned the boat furnace on. So much for sunny, warm Mexico. The following morning, the same. We got our projects done and were ready to head north. The composting head was cleaned out; the refrigerator empty; the watermaker pickled. We’d be gone for three weeks and didn’t want to come back to biology projects or bugs. The car was packed and we set out, hoping the roads beyond Tucson would be clear. Reno was experiencing white-out conditions and there was snow in the Sierras. We thought it would be an I-5 drive but we managed to avoid that until around Sacramento. Once in southern California, we headed for Bakersfield and took 99 up the valley and drove in lots of fog, but no snow.

We made it back to Portland. One of our projects was to make new shrouds for the boat. These are the cables that hold up the mast. Getting Gypsy ready after we launched, we discovered that there was more corrosion and the start of cracks on the swedge fittings at the end of the shroud wires than we first thought. This meant we needed to replace them as soon as possible. Nina went up the mast and we took measurements. We called our friends Tom and Jeanne in Portland who ordered all the parts we needed. At Tom’s shop we got them cut to length, took them to the riggers to get the swedged.

New Year’s Day sail. This is an annual tradition at Rose City Yacht Club to start the year off with a boat parade to Portland Harbor. Thank yous to Blue Moon for letting us be passengers.

Returning to Mexico, we traveled light but heavy – two duffle bags with rigging wire and a few clothes. We took them as carryon. We had a connecting flight through LAX to Tucson and those bags got heavier each time we had to pick them up and move them. But we schlepped on and made the bus to Guaymas. Crossing the border at Nogales, the bus stopped and everyone got out of the bus, claimed their luggage and waited while the sniffer dog went by all the luggage. Then we all had to open our bags to be searched by customs. A woman next to us was given a long and stern lecture over a couple of in the box bottles of perfume. When the agent got to us, he felt the wire and asked what it was and Nina said para un velero (for a sailboat). He looked at her, went through Bill’s bag, felt wires, got the same answer for his wire, and moved on. We’re not sure what he thought but he went on to have a long conversation with a young woman with a new pair of headphones in the box. Good thing our wires weren’t in a box. We didn’t see any declaration forms or exchanges of money. Finally they let us all back on the bus and we trundled south in the dark with a dubbed movie blaring away on the screens. We finally arrived at Gypsy at about 4:20 in the morning.

Nina’s tacos from Tacos Jesus Maria. Spicy pork on the left and cabeza on the right. Bill had a different pair of tacos, but in the excitement forgot to photograph them.

Santa Rosalia

Newly resinstalled Santa Rosalia sign. Parts of it had been visible for a couple of days but it finally went up as Christmas decorations were starting to be installed around town.
We went two weeks without internet and this was seen at a taxi stand. There is good wifi in town, but it helps to use Telcel as a hot spot. Marina wifi was better than the last time we were in town, but still iffy.

Santa Rosalía is not your typical Mexican tourist town. It’s a mining town with a few tourists. That being said, the marina was very full when we arrived. We got one of the last available slips. We got all the salt washed off Gypsy and headed toward town. The town shuts down for the afternoon! Except for a few restaurants and mercados, shops were closed until 5:00. What to do? The walk from the marina into town passes by the doors in the hillside labeled with mine names. There are signs explaining how they came to be named and by whom and the doors had always been locked up when we were there before (Covid probably had a lot to do with that). Well, the doors were open and we decided to give it a whirl. For 60 pesos we could have a tour, and Luis gave us an interesting and informative history of the mine and the town. After an unsuccessful ownership by the Germans, the French became involved in 1886 and ran the mine until 1954 when their contract ended. They were here for the copper. Companie de Boleo built Santa Rosalía for the mine. Working conditions for the miners were primitive and extreme, with summer temperatures in the mines often reaching 50 degrees Centigrade. Society was strictly segregated. When the church was built, assembled by Yaqui workers, they weren’t allowed to enter the building to worship, but had to stay outside. Working conditions are better now and the mine is run by a Korean company.

Iglesia Santa Bárbara. Designed by Gustave Eiffel, it was built in 1897 out of steel panels that were shipped to Santa Rosalía. Society at the time was strictly segregated and the Yaqui workers who assembled the church had to worship from outside.

We needed to restock the boat, so we bought tortillas at the tortillería, sweets from the dulcería, fish from the pescadaría, goat cheese from a guy selling it out of a cooler on the street, and groceries from a grocery store. There’s a big Ley grocery store up on the bluff above the old foundry and a couple of decent smaller grocers in the main part of town. If nothing else, all the little stores are a great way to explore town and get some exercise.

Green Heron on the dock.

Crossing the Northern Sea of Cortez

Easy to mistake for floating trash, this coke bottle was actually marking a net. On this leg, we also saw small personal sized water bottles tied up as floats and they were really difficult to see. Farther south in the Sea of Cortez, it’s not unusual to see detergent bottles used as net floats.

Our stop at Bahía San Pedro was just an overnight. The anchorage gave us a slightly rolly night and then we were on to Las Cocinas for a quick day stop before an overnighter to Bahía de los Perros on Isla Tiburón. The wind and waves were picking up and we wanted to get some protection from the building north winds, known as northers. When we’re away from a marina we get our weather via single sideband radio (SSB) as there’s often not cell phone service or internet in the Sea of Cortez. We get the NOAA and Soriana forecasts via SSB email and we can also hear the weather on the morning SSB and ham radio nets. Weather is a major determinant of when and where we go and is one reason sailors try not to commit to meeting someone at a specific date and place.

We had only two fishing fleets to sail through that night, both on Nina’s watches. We arrived at Perros a couple of hours after sunrise and had a nice quiet day catching up on sleep. That night, the wind began to blow well into the 20s but the bay offers great protection from northers. Less wind was predicted for the next day, so we headed over to Bahía de las Cruces on the south side of Isla Tiburón. Saw pop bottle floats on the way.

We were originally planning to do another overnighter to head to Puerto Don Juan, on the Baja side, but we had another weather window so we did a daylight run to Isla Partida. Winds dropped to less than 10 knots and the seas settled down. Slightly rolly night, but the weather stayed calm for our over overnight stop at Isla Partida.

The south side of Isla Partida. The rock face looked like it exploded out from a point on the left at the water line.

The next day we headed to Don Juan. Since leaving San Pedro, we were the only sailboat out. As we were heading toward Don Juan, we did see another sailboat, but they were heading south. The day started with light winds which after a couple hours started to pick up. Heading into the Bahis de los Angeles the wind had picked up to a steady 20-25 knots and the seas built to 6′ swells a couple of seconds apart. A couple were drenchers splashing into the cockpit. Once we got into Don Juan, the waves died down and the wind dropped. Anchor down, we listened to the wind blow. The only other boat we saw was a panga trailing gulls and pelicans as it left the bay.

The next day was calm enough that we got the dinghy together to go to shore. The pull cord on the outboard was frozen so Nina rowed us to shore. It was the first time in about four days that we’d been off the boat. The arroyo looked promising so we followed it to see where it would go. Lots of different flowers in bloom and green shrubs. Not too many birds were audible or visible, but Nina looked up at one point and saw a coyote about 20 feet away. It jogged up a small canyon and she kept going up the arroyo. At the top of a hill we could see the next bay, Ensenada de Quemado. We had a very nice walk and Bill then had a 30 minute row back to Gypsy into gusty wind.

In the morning we heard a dog barking on shore. No other boats were around and we hadn’t seen any indication of houses nearby. Where did it come from? It was a coyote and it was barking away at something farther down the rocks while a small pod of dolphins was feeding nearby. Since there was no wind, we went rowing toward the wreck on shore. We couldn’t figure out what it was the remains of. Down a ways from the wreck were three coyotes trying to move a fish that was about the same size they were. Two of them shied off as we came near, but one kept circling back to the fish, trying to move it. The fish looked pretty fresh. The tide line looked like it had about a six foot range and the fish must have washed up during a high tide. We were going to row over to the ventana part of the bay while Nina fished, but within five minutes of dropping a line, Nina had a fish. It turned out to be a couple of Mexican barracuda, maybe 15” long. Our fish book didn’t say if they were good to eat or not, but when she cleaned them, their flesh was light so we gave them a try, filleting one and steaking the other. Bill had made brownies before we went rowing and all in all it was the start of an excellent day.

The weather was cooperating so we weighed the anchor and headed over to the village in Bahía de los Angeles. It was larger than we thought it would be but surprisingly had no cell phone bars. There was a high school ceremony going on in the street and the end of a 108 km walk through the Baja desert. We bought some groceries and headed back to the boat. It was too early for lunch. The wind started picking up. Our mellow forecast was turning into 20 knots of wind. Back to Don Juan we went, only to be met by bees, lots of them. Around 1600 another sailboat dropped anchor in the bay.

Coming toward the village at Bahía de los Angeles.

We had been hoping for better weather so that we could spend more time in Bahía de los Angeles. It has a number of islands, whales and their calves winter there, and there’s a town if you need provisions. It’s incredibly beautiful. But during the late fall it can also have strong northerly winds. There aren’t a lot of protected anchorages when those winds blow. We were experiencing a windy, windy fall. Time to head south.

Weighing anchor the next morning we saw five coyotes on the beach. A couple of hours later we dropped anchor in Ensenada el Pescador. We rowed over to the beach, a long arc of white sand with a small arroyo on one end and a rocky beach on the other. There were a couple of nice houses on the beach and a few fishing shacks. There were also some open palapa roofed structures set back a bit from the beach, some of them falling down. We walked the length of the beach looking for shells and found a bunch, some of them new to us. The wind picked up again so we headed back to Gypsy and stowed the dinghy on deck. The next day was windy, gusting to over 30 knots in the afternoon, with white caps in the bay. The forecast was strong winds for the next day, and by the time we realized that the light winds we were getting were staying light, it was too late to head to Bahía San Francisquito, a seven hour trip. We left the next day and caught up with the sailboat we’d anchored with in Don Juan.

There wasn’t much beach at San Francisquito but we rowed to it anyway. We’d heard coyotes singing in the morning and saw their footprints on the beach, but we didn’t see them.

Not much to stay for at San Francisquito so we left in the afternoon for another overnighter to Santa Rosalía.

Beach at San Francisquito.

Driving to San Carlos

Bill driving somewhere in Nevada, past a big lake or reservoir.

The day the rain started, we left. There wasn’t as much rain as the last time we headed south, but it lasted longer this time. We were glad to be on our way. Going over Willamette Pass, we saw snow on the ground. Our route was similar to last year’s trip, at least to begin with. I-5 out of Portland to Eugene, pick up Hwy. 58 and then 39/139 to 395.

This was our excitement in Susanville: a deer among the semis parked on the main road. We were walking to stretch our legs and try to find a restaurant.

We stopped in Susanville for the night. Headed to Reno in the morning. Gas was much cheaper in Nevada than California where it was over $6.00 a gallon. Out of Reno we decided to stay on 95 and head to Las Vegas. Another scenic drive with not a lot of traffic until we hit Vegas. Made it to Henderson for the night. We ate dinner at a sports bar a) because you have to try new things out when you’re traveling, and b) that’s what was available. The big event for the night was the Golden Knights game. We asked the waitress who they are and found out they’re the local hockey team. We never did get to see them in action. We left half an hour after the game was supposed to start, as we’d finished our pizza and wanted to get an early start the next day.

The next day, we drove over or by the Hoover Dam. We saw signs for the dam but didn’t stop to see the dam. Our welcome to Arizona was a big change in the landscape, and in the now poor quality of roads. In Phoenix we stopped to say hi to an old friend, Delphi, whose Cascade 36 is in San Carlos, but now owned by someone else. We had a lovely afternoon with her and with Mike and Carol, from RCYC. Driving through Phoenix to get to her house we discovered just how sprawled out the city is – at least two hours to get from one side to the other, and that wasn’t even rush hour. Stopped in Tucson for the night.

Waiting in line for our tourist visas at km. 21. Many of the folks in line were from Canada, a number of them heading to San Carlos.

We crossed the border the next day without actually talking to anyone. We found the place that issues tourist visas and discovered a long, not moving line. We chatted with the guy ahead of us, who is from Nanaimo and heading for Buscerias, near Puerto Vallarta. It took us almost two hours to get through. Inside there was only one clerk processing folks and he was amazingly patient. When we left, the line was even longer.

The drive down Hwy 15 is nice. We took the toll road (15D, we figured the D was for dinero) as opposed to the free road 15L (libre). Three toll booths, the third on the loop road around Hermosillo, which we managed to find this time. The loop road does save about an hour of driving and there wasn’t much traffic on it. The first time we drove down through Hermosillo, Bill was annoyed because we’d paid the toll but ended up experiencing Hermosillo roads and traffic. This time we discovered that the toll for the loop road actually gets collected on the loop road which skirts Hermosillo by quite a distance.

End of the road grill. These were the remains of huge grasshoppers.

We made it to San Carlos by mid afternoon, checked into a hotel for the night and went to check on Gypsy. Bill had requested that she have a meter under the rudder so that we could have room to drop it to install a new propellor shaft. No problem, the marina seca said. When we got there, Bill measured 22 inches of clearance under the rudder. The bow was higher than the stern and there was a definite list to one side. There was a dip in the paving where a heavier boat had been and it was full of water and who knows what kind of chemical muck. Mexico has no environmental work yard regulations other than any precautions you take yourself. The boat yard promised they’d reposition her in the morning. We wandered around and said hi to the folks on Carmanah, and to Cathy on Una Vez Mas, a new friend whom we met last spring in San Carlos. She invited us to the Thursday sailors get-together at the Tortuga restaurant. We like the restaurant and needed supper so we joined the meet up. We met some new folks but we were still road-zoned so we left before the bossa nova band started playing. We watched fireworks from our hotel balcony and called it a day. An interesting feature of the hotel is that the key card has to be slotted into a box for the power in the room to work.

Gypsy was filthy from a summer of dust and the first thing we did was add to the big puddle under the boat. We could keep our feet dry while working on the prop shaft but sanding the bottom would require some wading. We hoped our sea boots were still good. They were. She got repositioned and the work began. We got her cleaned up so we could start sleeping on the boat. Most of what we brought down with us got stowed. By 2100 (9 pm) we were ready to crash. We joked that we should have practiced work days before we came down because the next night we were done in by 1900.

Gypsy’s cockpit in project mode.

We headed into Guaymas to look for a few things we needed. Home Depot came through on blue tape, but that was it. We had to find a ferretería (hardware store) for some threaded rod, nuts, and big fender washers to make a compression tool for the cutlass bearing installation. The cutlass bearing slides into a strut that holds the propeller shaft in place under the boat. You can buy an expensive tool to do this or you can make a tool yourself. As part of the whole process, the rudder was dropped Literally. It tipped over once it was free of the tube, but no damage done. We got the max prop aligned on the end of the shaft, got the shaft inserted through the cutlass bearing and into the engine flange. The next day’s work would be compressing the bellows on the dripless seal, aligning the shaft. The rudder post would get cleaned out and regreased, and the rudder would be reinstalled. 1900 and we’re exhausted. The boat is clean inside and out, hardware has been getting unwrapped or reinstalled, and we have some clean laundry.

The next morning, the lake under us is almost dried out until the power boat that was just moved in got a complete wash. The lake is back and we’re ready to tape and sand the bottom. We have a splash date, and now we have a deadline to get everything finished. Bill bought bunny suits to wear while we sand and paint the bottom. Nina split her’s out almost immediately. We should have bought the pricy ones instead of the 77 peso ones. We got the bottom sanded and Bill painted.

The motorboat pulled out and a sailboat was parked next to us. Nice couple from France who were on their second circumnavigation. Their first took 18 years and they’ve been out sailing for about 30. Down from them is a guy from Vancouver BC and a couple of boats over from us was a couple from Germany. There were folks from all over. We enjoyed listening to the sounds of conversations in other languages that we didn’t understand a word of.

One night, around 0300, the boat started rocking, something that should not happen when you are on jack stands. Didn’t last long, thankfully. We found out the next morning that there had been a 6.1 earthquake off of Bahía Kino, not too far away.

One of our finds on a trip up the mast. This was tucked into the struts for the radar dome. Does this make us empty nesters?

We made multiple trips up the mast while we were in the work yard. No wakes to bob you around. We installed a new radio antenna, pulled off all the foil we’d wrapped blocks in, grabbed a broken messenger line so we could run up one of the halyards. When we bought the clothes line for the messenger line we didn’t realize that the joins were just heat welded. Nina had gone over the line and knotted the joins she could find, but she missed one and it parted just above the spreaders.

We got our projects done with about a day to spare. We splashed and and headed for our slip in the marina. We washed the boat again to get the work yard dust off. We provisioned up, got water delivered, ran out for a test sail, and headed into Guaymas. Met our neighbors on Mana Kai and picked their brains when we found out that they’d spent the last 30 years sailing in the northern Sea of Cortez.

On a nice Sunday morning, we set out. Bahía San Pedro, about twenty miles up the coast was our first stop.

North to San Juanico

Dolphins. Always a welcome sight.

We left Agua Verde just as the sunrise was turning the horizon from red to gold. Another beautiful day to motor north. Just south of Isla Danzante, we saw Vixit, a 177′ motor yacht hard aground on some rocks. From talk on the radio nets, she’d been there a couple of days. There were a couple of smaller boats off her stern, and we guessed they were working on her problem, somehow. We made a quick one night stop on a mooring ball at Puerto Escondido, where easy internet and hot showers beckoned. PE has a major building program going on. They’ve added a couple more rows of docks for the 70′ and longer folks. They look nice, but there’s still not much shoreside touristy things to do there, although a nice coffee shop and an art gallery have been added.

We decided to skip Isla Coronados and make a relatively long travel day to San Juanico. There’s more do to in San Juanico while waiting out weather. It also provides good shelter when the wind blows 20-25 knots out of the north, as it did all the next day.

The wind let up and we headed to shore. There were more campers than boaters in and around the bay and we chatted with one and caught up on the local news. Goats have been moved to another location (overgrazing) so no cheese at the farm. We did get some fresh greens from the farm though. We stowed our haul and pulled up the anchor a little after noon.

Time to cross over to the mainland. The wind was still out of the north but it had dropped and the sea state had settled so waves were only coming from one direction and wouldn’t be too bouncy. Our course was northeast, toward San Carlos. Wind was out of the north, northwest, so we thought we’d get some sailing in. What we hadn’t counted on was how cold the night was. It was probably only in the low 50s (Fahrenheit), but when you are used to the mid 80s, it was freezing. We dropped anchor at San Pedro in the morning. Located about 20 miles north of San Carlos, it was somewhere we hadn’t been. It looked a lot like the stretch from Agua Verde to Loreto – mountains with twisty layers of rock showing, craggy peaks. One difference is the hills are greener. There are more varieties of cacti – Barrel as well as Cardon, and there are palm trees on the hills.

We rowed to shore and walked along the beach. San Pedro has a long half circle arc for a beach. On the north end, the beach is mixed stones with a steep landing. The south end has some sand, lots of rocks. Lots of shells, including at least four middens of small conch shaped shells. By their weathered appearance, they’ve been there awhile. There’s also a lot of plastic debris. Even though most of it is small, the amount overall would probably fill a dumpster.

By afternoon, a couple more boats anchored near us. One, a 25′ Capri, had four guys aboard. We met them when on the beach when they came in to hike the hills. Some of them had sailed and one had never been on a sailboat before. Don’t know how they all fit in it, but they were having a grand time.

Winds picked up in the afternoon. We heard coyotes howling at the moon. In the morning we headed for Bahía Algodones. Here the water was a murky yellow green. Walking along the beach, it looked like another of the big hotels was closed. Next stop, the anchorage in Bahía San Carlos. It was starting blow again, gusting to about 20 knots, so we called to see if a slip was available in the marina. The next day we headed in. Over the next couple of days, while we started to decommission Gypsy for the storage yard, the wind continued to blow, and built until it was gusting in the mid to upper 30 knots. We were glad we weren’t being blown around in an anchorage worrying about us or someone else dragging their anchor.

We spent a little over a week getting the boat ready, most of it in the marina. The oil was changed. The watermaker pickled. The windlass was serviced. We took down and washed all our lines, sheets, and halyards and labeled them so we’d remember what they are in the fall. The exterior stainless got a final polish. All the external blocks got wrapped in foil to keep the dust out. Once we got to the work yard, we dropped the rudder and pulled the propeller shaft to bring home and replace (we had noticed it had a fair amount of wear when we splashed last fall). The galley was cleaned out and emptied. Everything possible was stowed inside the boat. The sunshade was installed. Time to hit the road.

No re-entry issues other than culture shock. Roadsign distances from the US-Mexico border to Tucson are in kilometers. We took Hwy 10 out of Phoenix, veered north at Quartzsite to Parker, back to AZ 95 through Lake Havasu City (no, we didn’t stop to see the London Bridge), on up to Needles. We caught a bit of the old Rte 66, drove more of I-40, hit Barstow and Kramer Junction and then headed north on 395. Stopped in Lone Pine for the night and had dinner at a taco truck. Bought gas in Reno as California prices were crazy – up to $8.00 at one place, but usually over $6.00/gallon. It was making Mexican gas at 22 pesos/liter seem affordable. Costco gas in Reno is self-serve, so if you are waiting patiently for the line to move up, ala Portland, someone will jump the queue and swoop into the empty pump. That was why the gap between cars was so big. Klamath Falls for the night, and then on to Portland. The drive was beautiful and the scenery does look different when driving the same route in the opposited direction. And it wasn’t pouring rain when we arrived. Yet.

Soaring booby. One of the things we’ll miss over the summer.

Agua Verde

The beginning of the goat trail. The road into Agua Verde is behind Nina. This was the best part of the trail.

After an overnight stay at Mangle Solo on Isla San José, a spot we hadn’t tried before, we motored on to Agua Verde. Eight other boats were anchored around the bay, but none of the really big. We spent a couple of days here waiting for the north winds to die down so we can keep heading north, and maybe even get some sailing in.

Anchored off the point in Agua Verde. Gypsy is on the right. It’s a nice protected bay.

We like to anchor down by the point so it’s a hike to get to town. On our first walk in we thought we’d try the goat trail. It looked doable. We got about two thirds of the way around and lost the trail completely. That much of it was loose rock on a steep slope influenced our decision to turn around and head back to the road. We thought it was a fairly rough trail, but we know that someone had been there because there was a pair of dead flip flops just off the path where we turned around.

The second morning there, we woke up to a 174′, mini cruise ship, the Safari Voyager, anchored by the town. We drank our coffee and watched an inflatable dinghy zoom to the beach on the point and set up a row of folding stools. The zoomed back. Horses arrived on the beach, but not by dinghy. Passengers were dinghied to shore where they sat on the stools, changed their shoes, got on the horses and headed out. Later a string of kayaks was deployed and folks headed out for another adventure. We briefly talked to a couple from the boat who were from Portland and they were out enjoying themselves. We guessed there were about fifty passengers on the boat. That evening, after the sun went down, lit like a small circus, the boat headed out. We weren’t sure where they were going, but they would be missing some spectacular scenery by traveling at night. We looked them up online and their itinerary does pack a lot into a seven day cruise but it’s the Sea at a gallop.

Our next day in Agau Verde, we headed toward the palm grove, hiking up the path the horses had gone up the day before (the evidence was pretty fresh). Some parts of the path were steep, rocky, and narrow. Would have been interesting on a horse.

Known as Tacos on the beach, the restaurant Brisa del Mar has internet, and really good fish tacos. When the wind was blowing, sitting in the shade was cold. Puffy coats were needed.
The basketball hoop, which can double as a soccer goal, at the school in town. The green building is the school.
A view of the sea heading toward the palm grove in the distance.