North from San Diego

Brown pelican against a clear sky. We saw a lot of pelicans, but not a lot of blue skies on our trip north.

We left San Diego bright and early for our next stop, Dana Point. We got into the marina just as the late afternoon wind kicked up. The marina is tight, with short, single slips, but we made it in without too much drama. We walked up the hill to the nearest grocery store and enjoyed the spectacular view as we returned to Gypsy. The town is named after Richard Henry Dana, of Two Years Before the Mast fame.

The next day we headed off for another all day trip up to San Pedro. The entrance to San Pedro is shared with the Port of Los Angeles. The channel coming into the Port is about as wide as the Columbia River in Portland and over 50 feet deep. Thankfully it wasn’t too busy and we didn’t have to dodge anything big. We stayed at the Cabrillo Beach Yacht Club, a reciprocal yacht club, and enjoyed a nice dinner at their restaurant. We bought a couple of baseball hats.

Point Vicente, between Los Angeles and Marina Del Rey. The California coast was lusher and much more built up than the Baja coast.

On our way again the next morning to Marina Del Rey for a stay with Del Rey Yacht Club, another reciprocal. Cabrillo Beach felt very much like Rose City Yacht Club with a mix of sail and motor boats, most under 40 feet. Del Rey is a different league with the small boats starting at 40 feet. They were, however, gracious and welcoming. And they are within walking distance of a couple of good provisioning stores. While there we discovered that one of our food lockers had some serious damp. We’d hit some big waves on one of our days traveling and we didn’t have the plug in the anchor hawse pipe so we’d had to bail out a couple of gallons of water from our very shallow bilge. We didn’t think at the time to check the lockers. They were damp. Got them dried out, with no food loss, thankfully. The plug goes in now when we go out, even if it’s calm.

After a couple of nights at Del Rey, we headed for Ventura Yacht Club. At Ventura, we had an inelegant landing on the dock (the wind was blowing us off the dock) but we safely tied up. We met Braedon, the Youth Sailing director and guest dock person, and he invited us to a potluck that evening. The food and company were both excellent. One of the folks we met there, Jeff, is one of the Chubascos, the ham radio net we tune into every morning, so it was fun to put a face to the voice we’d heard on the radio. We had an extra day in Ventura due to waiting for weather, so we got caught up on laundry, wandered the docks and checked out the Channel Islands National Park Visitors Center. While we were at the yacht club, we got to meet another Chubasco, Tim who had come down to the club to meet with a friend.

We left Ventura in fog and the next morning we arrived in Morro Bay. Here the fog was so thick, we had maybe a quarter mile of visibility. The whole trip was fog bound. The big oil platforms are surreal in the fog, and one of them gifted us with a splattering of little tarry blobs. Really difficult to clean off, even in the cold. We had a bouncy section around Point Conception and Point San Luis, but other than that is was flat calm. Coming into Morro Bay, we saw our first sea otters of the trip coming in, and then picked up a Morro Bay Yacht Club mooring ball.

We checked out the club’s happy hour and saw someone who looked familiar. It was the folks from Rocinante, a couple that we’d met down in the Sea of Cortez who now have their boat in Hawaii. We had a quick catchup and we headed back to Gypsy for a good night’s sleep.

Once the weekend dinghy races were done, we could move to the club dock to wait for our weather window to head north again. After a five day stay in Morro Bay, we had weather we could work with. Another overnighter and we were in Monterey.

Monterey is the home of many California sea lions, many of whom decided the empty dock was their new basking place. We noticed electric strips along the docks, installed since we were here in 2019, but they seemed to have no effect on the sea lions. The next day we found out that our section wasn’t turned on. Once that was rectified, the population dropped pretty quickly except for one enterprising animal who sprawled out parallel to the strips.

We were in Monterey for a couple of days. We had a lovely evening with friends Tad and Norma, got some chilly, cloudy walks on the beach, and a sunny walk down to Cannery Row. Our next stop was Santa Cruz, just across the bay. It was a foggy trip with drizzle, but the sun did come out for a bit once we tied up in the marina. The next morning we headed on to Half Moon Bay for an overnight stop and then on to San Francisco.

Who left their dog tied to the dock? It met us at the dock at Santa Cruz and never twitched a muscle. There was another plastic coyote a couple of slips over. Nina found it more intimidating than a plastic owl, but she doesn’t think she’s really the intended recipient of its ferocity.
Leaving San Francisco Bay. Fog again.

Instead of opting for the free anchorage in Richardson Bay, we tied up at the Marina Yacht Harbor so that we could easily walk into town. We watched the racers sail out of the marina, we walked up to Chinatown, went to the Maritime Museum and the visitor’s center for the historic ships, meandered through Pier 39. and enjoyed some sunny days. Of course, we left in fog. It sort of cleared as we headed into Bodega Bay, with its long, narrow channel. When we left Spud Point Marina the next morning, a great name for a marina if ever there was one, the fog was thick again. We got some big waves and winds gusting to the high 20s as we passed Punta Arena, but that was just the warm up for Cape Mendocino, where the waves were bigger and the gusts were up to 40 knots.

We made it safely to Eureka and Woodley Island Marina. As we were coming in, we passed the Essayons, an Army Corps of Engineers dredge that we’d sailed by years ago at the Columbia River bar. Woodley Island has no good access to the town, but there’s a restaurant, a laundry, and the first pay showers we’d encountered (all the rest had been free). While Nina did laundry, Bill chatted with the meteorologists at NOAA and got the big weather picture. Unsurprisingly, the whole coast was covered in clouds, and would be for days. We left the next morning around sunrise to overcast skies, no fog though, and calm seas. We arrived in Crescent City early evening, had dinner at a Mexican restaurant, and slept. Our next leg was an overnighter to Coos Bay. We started seeing crab pot floats, so we headed out a little deeper, to around 250 feet. When the seas are calm and everything is gray, they are easier to spot, and there are many of them to avoid.

What we weren’t able to avoid once we tied up at the marina in Charleston, was the weather. We’ve been here almost two weeks waiting for decent ocean weather, for waves less than six feet spaced seven seconds apart with less than 15 to 20 knots of wind on our nose. It’s been cold, windy, and mostly cloudy the whole time. Gypsy’s main function has been to provide a wind break for all the folks who crab off the docks. We met the other sailboat, Adventure, that’s been holed up waiting for autopilot parts and a weather to head north. We enjoyed the Charleston Marine Life Center. We hiked out to the Coast Guard tower. For a dollar each, we can ride to bus into North Bend to shop. We’ve done that twice and we recognize fellow passengers. And we wait. Probably another week. We may have to take up crabbing.

Brown pelicans soaring over very calm seas in southern California.

Bashing north to San Diego

The scenery near Bahía Magdalena as we motored north. At one point, the Pacific coast of Baja changes to flat mesas before becoming craggy mountains again.

We left Mazatlán after a couple of days in the anchorage in the harbor. We were thinking of stopping at Cabo San Lucas for fuel but the weather window was good so we just kept going on to Bahía Magdalena. After two and a half days of sailing and a couple more days of motoring, we dropped anchor and slept. The seas crossing the Sea of Cortez felt pretty big, even thought they were only 6 to 8 feet, but we were heading straight into them. Once we rounded Cabo, everything went flat, including the wind.

After a couple of days in Mag Bay waiting for a weather window and catching up on our sleep, we headed for Punta Pequeña in Bahía San Juanico. We were going to stay put for a couple of days to wait out the wind that was forecast for the next couple of days. One of the guys on the Chubasco net mentioned that it gets rough in San Juanico when the wind is blowing from the west because it’s a wide shallow bay. We started listening to the Chubasco ham net while we were crossing from Mazatlan. It’s a volunteer network made up of (mostly) guys who have boating experience in Mexico. The net is set up as relays so everyone can participate and everyone can hear what’s going on. They’re pretty far flung, with members from El Paso, Tucson, Ojai and Irving, CA, Elko, NV to Vancouver, WA. Their focus is Mexico but they’ll help anyone, anywhere. There were a couple of other sailboats checking in when we started listening, one in Mexico and the other on its way to the Marquesas. We’ve been keeping in touch since.

We decided had enough time to head for Abreojos before it got crazy. The highlight for this leg was having a humpback whale skyhop right off the side of Gypsy. We didn’t get any pictures. It was like it just popped up to say hi, and then swam away. We arrived at Abreojos at midnight so we decided to keep going. One of the Chubascos had recommended Bahía San Hipólito as a good place to anchor. We were able to get there by mid day and spent a couple of windy days waiting for the wind to drop to under 20 knots. Meanwhile, the cormorants discovered us. We got birded by flying cows with concrete poop. We cleaned up what we could and headed for Bahía Asunción, where we actually got the dinghy together and rowed ashore. Bill had asked the Chubascos about fuel in Asunción and they mentioned a guy named Larry. We tracked him down and he delivered 200 liters of diesel to Gypsy. We were able to get some fresh vegetables and other basic groceries while in town. While we were walking through town, a red dog adopted Bill and started following him around. He waited for us while we shopped and then followed us to a restaurant, where he left us to our own devices since the restaurant had wifi.

We left just after midnight for Bahía Tortugas and had a calm clear night of motor sailing. We stayed there a day and met the young couple on Island Fox who were on their way south. We left again at midnight for Isla Cedros, arriving mid-morning. That afternoon we attempted to leave for Bahía San Carlos, but the swells and wind were higher and rougher than the forecast, so after going about 2 miles out, we turned around and headed back to Cedros. A couple of fishermen in a panga that had stopped by the day before to give Bill an abalone shell stopped by again, this time to give us a beautiful yellow tail. We gave them a couple of cold beers and everyone was happy. We ended up with three meals of fish and enjoyed them all.

We left Cedros for left for Bahía San Carlos. We dropped anchor and listened to the Chubascos who collectively recommended that we head for Bahía San Quintin because there would be less swell there as the wind and swell picked up. So, an hour later we left for Bahía San Quintin. There it was foggy and cold, so we slept. Our next run was an overnighter for Ensenada, our final Mexican port of call. In the twenty days it took us to travel from Mazatlan to Ensenada we had a lot of cold, cloudy, windy weather. We not only put on socks, but also had our foulies on whenever we were on deck. Other than going ashore at Asunción, we’d spent the whole time onboard.

Ensenada is an interesting town. It’s the official entry/exit port for Mexico. It’s a big tourist town, with cruise ships in port Wednesdays through Sundays. The previous month had 35 ships stop by for a day. We stayed at Marina Naval, just off the cruise ship dock and across from the container ship dock. The marina staff were very helpful getting our papperwork processed. The malecon is set up for locals and for tourists so there are many opportunities for shopping and eating out. We had some of the best fish tacos a couple of blocks off the malecón, and some of the worst at a touristy restaurant. We shoulda known better. We did stop at the Dulceria de Guadalajara and bought some things to try: a tamarind ball (about the size of a tennis ball), a couple of kinds of milk candy, viznaga (cactus), and honeyed figs. The figs were amazing. We ate at a restaurant recommended by one of the Chubascos, Manzanilla, and had a nice dinner of grilled clams, sashimi and a bottle of vino blanco from Valle de Guadalupe, in northern Baja. It was time to head to San Diego.

On arrival, we couldn’t get the Customs app to work, and neither could Customs, so we stopped at the Customs dock at Shelter Island and checked in with the friendliest border agents we’ve ever run across. We got caught up on groceries and laundry. There was sun. The bougainvillas were blooming like crazy. And we headed north.

So, for the curious: Gypsy’s total distance from Mazatlan to San Diego: 1155 nautical miles. San Diego to Astoria, according to Charlie’s Charts of the US Pacific Ocean: 989 nautical miles. We’re more than halfway there.

Jellies floating . The largest was about the size of a golf ball. There were thousands of them.

Mazatlán con familia

A pulmonia, one of Mazatlán’s ubiquitous open taxis. They are a fun way to get around as a tourist.

Weather just doesn’t cooperate when you need it to. This is true whether you’re in a sailboat or not. Bill’s sister Carol was supposed to be flying down just as a major snowstorm was beginning to hit the upper midwest. She was able to switch flights and arrive a day earlier, before the airport was closed and her original flight canceled. Bill’s other sister Sarah and her husband Brad would arrive from Florida a couple of days later without any weather trauma.

Carol was staying at a hotel in the Zona Dorada. We could catch the marina hotel shuttle and then walk down to her hotel to meet up for dinner or exploring. Carol was feeling adventurous in spite of a twisted ankle (Mazatlan sidewalks are very uneven), so the three of us caught a pulmonia to the historic district and took in the art museum and the archeology museum. Both are small but interesting.

The other tourist transport, the auriga. They came in different sizes for carrying six to ten people. With five of us, we rode one to go to the concert at Teatro Angela Peralta.

One of the attractions in Mazatlán is the Teatro Angela Peralta. Named after a famous opera singer who died in Mazatlán of yellow fever the week after she arrived with her company in 1882, it’s been restored and once again hosts concerts and other performances. We all went to see the Cuarteto Ventura there. We enjoyed the concert, Twenty Songs from Around the World, and then went out for ice cream at Helarte Sano, our favorite ice cream shop. We beat the line. That night we grilled marlin on Gypsy for everyone. Someone else had caught it and given us a piece. It was very good.

The post concert line after the concert at Teatro Angela Peralto. According to a number of locals, Helarte Sano has the best ice cream in Mazatlán. We totally agree. The menu changes often and we make a point to try a different flavor every time we go.

After a week, Sarah and Brad went back to Florida. Carol had another week and her ankle was feeling better. One of our Mazatlán quests was to find a new coffee maker. The glass carafe on our French press broke and our cobbled together funnel, gold filter and thermos wasn’t going to work for the long run. Carol was game for the hunt, and we caught a pulmonia into el centro. The driver was chatty and Nina got to practice her Spanish. He stopped and asked at a restaurant supply store if they had one, no, and then drove us to Ley, a grocery store, where he thought they might have one. They didn’t either so we walked down to Liverpool, one of the big department stores, and we found a stovetop espresso maker. It might dent, but it won’t break.

One of the events while we were all in town was the monthly ArtWalk so we gave it a whirl. It’s an open studio/gallery night and there was some fun art to look at in the historic district. Our other excursions included hiking up El Faro, the lighthouse hill down by the harbor. We also caught a pulmonia to take us to the water taxi for Isla de la Piedra (Stone Island). It took us to a different dock than we’d used before, but it was fun to see a new part of the harbor. We enjoyed the beach and caught the water taxi back from the beach dock. We had fun and then it was time for Carol to head back home.

We remained at the marina after everyone left. If you stay a month the rate is much better than if you only stay a couple of weeks. Bus service from the marina into town is frequent and runs 12 to 13 pesos apiece. Other than the couple of times we ended up on the wheel well, we enjoyed our bus rides.

Waiting for the bus at Mercado Pino Suarez. The white fronted buses cost 12 pesos to ride. The green fronted buses are usually nicer, have air conditioning, and cost 13 pesos to ride. Each bus is decorated by the driver which makes it easy to tell if you’d ridden with that driver before. The cathedral is in the background.

We talked with a couple of Mazatlán volunteers one day when we were having an ice cream at Helarte Sano and they recommended a restaurant nearby. When there’s a cruise ship in town, the historic district is full of volunteers to help visitors maximize their time ashore. Our volunteers recommended a restaurant nearby that we hadn’t tried yet called Chon Mariscos. The restaurant has been around for at least forty years and specializes in seafood. We had whole corvina. There was a family at the next table with a couple of small boys and it was fun to watch them dive into their ceviche. One of them stood on his chair so he could get his spoon in the glass it was served in and he was clearly savoring it one bite at a time.

The whole fish at Chon Mariscos. A bit messy to eat, but very good.

Finally our month was up at the marina and it was time to get ready to cross over to Baja again. It was nice to have hot showers and laundry, but the daily bingo and same playlist everyday at the pool was getting old. It took a couple of tries to get out of our tight slip, but our neighbor helped and no crunching noises were heard. We topped up our fuel at the gas dock and headed off to the harbor to wait for good weather to cross to Cabo San Lucas.


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.