Ballandra to San Javier

Isla Carmen is the biggest island just outside of Puerto Escondido. At 13 miles long, it has a number of small bays and coves that you can tuck into depending on the wind. At the north end on the west side of the island is a little cove called Puerta Ballandra. On the way, we had a nice sail but no luck fishing. We buddy boated up with Beethoven and Dharma Girl and invited them over for happy hour once we were all anchored. The local bees also invited themselves and made themselves at home with whatever water they could find. We were surprised to see bees in an environment that is pretty harsh, but they are out and about in places that you wouldn’t expect them and always looking for fresh water. Another resident of Carmen is big horn sheep. The whole island is a reserve with a hunting lodge on the other side by Salinas. We didn’t see any sheep while hiking, but while we were on shore, we saw evidence they were there.

One of our morning rituals is listening to the nets on the SSB radio (short wave). From them you can find out where boats are, what the weather is like in different parts of the Sea of Cortez and sometimes even get some news. Nina began volunteering as a net controller on the Amigo net, with Bill as the weather guy. Bill, because he has a General Ham license, is a net controller on Sonrisa, a Ham net. The net survived our debuts and we now each have a weekly gig. Boats check in from wherever they are, you can hear from old friends, and you get the weather forecast. It’s a lean season this year because of Covid, so check-ins average six to maybe 10 boats, spread out from San Carlos and Tenacatita on the mainland to up and down the inside of Baja. It’s always fun to finally meet someone you’ve talked on the net.

Since the fishing was unsuccessful on the way up to Ballandra, we went out with John in the morning. Still no luck. But we did see three big horns in the hills. John went out later and caught a nice cabrillo. Fish tacos on the beach that evening. Yum. Dolphins swimming around the boat the next morning.

Dolphins frolicking beside us. Always a welcome and happy sight.

Next stop is Isla Coronados, north of Carmen. It’s an extinct volcano and has beaches and trails. Beethoven headed back to Puerto Escondido and Gypsy and Dharma Girl headed for Coronados. We walked on the beach and tried out one of the trails. There was a norther forecast so we headed back to Puerto Escondido, where the mooring field is a safe place to wait out strong winds from the north. On the way back, fishing success! Nina caught a Sierra Mackerel. From it we got a couple of nice fillets.

A nice Sierra Mackerel. A beautiful and tasty fish. The white line in the lower left is Nina’s hand line. It was put together by our friend Carl in Portland. We’d asked him for a list of fishing gear we should get and he gave us a great starter kit instead. It all wraps up around a piece of PVC pipe, so it’s nice and compact when not trailing behind Gypsy.

Back in Puerto Escondido, the northers started to kick in about 4:00 am the next morning, gusting to about 15 knots. Not bad, but if we wanted to head in, it meant a slow, wet ride into the marina. We could stay in the boat and swing around the mooring ball all day or head into Loreto for errands. We opted for Loreto, and we and Chris headed into town. Groceries, FerraMar for lures, and the tortilleria. We all got what we needed and dinghied back in the white caps. Gusts that evening in the 20s.

Cabin bound, Bill made a shelf for the gas cans. Nina then lashed to the Monitor, our wind vane since we were unable to find any kind of U-bolts in Loreto. We got the shelf idea from Tappan Zee and were happy to find a way to get the gas cans out from underfoot in the cockpit.

Next trip in for groceries, we noticed piloncillo on sale. It looked interesting so we thought we’d try some. It’s the rawest form of cane sugar pressed into cone shaped molds. It tastes like brown sugar with molasses and a hint of an orange flavor. Turns out, you have to grate it in order to use it, but it is really good in chocolate cake, and we can’t wait to try in in gingerbread.

Bill attempting to cut up a cone of piloncillo. We learned you need to grate it.

Punta Colorada and the south east side of Isla Carmen was our next stop with our boating buddies. This time, the surf was calm. We all went in for a hike. The adventurous ones went up to the ridge, and a couple of us went about halfway and then stopped on took in the amazing landscape. Back at the beach we found hermit crabs.

Beethoven and Gypsy tried to head up to Salinas, on the upper northeast side of Carmen. Waves and wind got crazy so we headed back to Colorada. Of course when it was crazy, we hooked a fish. Landed about an 18” bonito, but we had no way to keep it until things calmed down, so we released it. The others came back to join us in Colorada. John caught a couple of fish and we traded cake for fish.

Wild ride back to Puerto Escondido. Nina got totally soaked putting in the third reef. And did not catch any fish.

Time for a land trip. On the way to Loreto is the turnoff for San Javier, the site of the second Jesuit mission in Baja. Beethoven mentioned they were interested in heading up there so we made it a group expedition for the next day. But first they taught us how to play pickle ball. Quite fun, even on a windy day.

San Javier is 34 km from the highway, on a twisty, hilly, paved road. It seems like it’s the middle of nowhere, but there is water there, and the landscape, while rocky, can grow crops. There had been a pilgrimage to the church on December 2 that had around 3,000 people come. We passed walkers and bicyclists on the way up, still making their own kinds of pilgrimages. Outside the church was a man selling locally made products: a red wine, cajeta, and some fruit jelly or paste. We went for the cajeta, a thick syrup made of caramelized goat milk. It’s probably sacrilege, but it’s really good on pancakes.

Holiday season in a Loreto restaurant. Santa and skulls. Happy Holidays!

12 thoughts on “Ballandra to San Javier”

  1. Happy Holidays to you two as well! Glad that Carl’s fishing gear is being successfully used. He enjoyed pulling it together for you. We too enjoyed Loreto and San Javier a few years back via land cruise. We enjoyed that area. I’ll bet you two are great at the morning net work that you are doing. I remember the nets being both social and vital. Well done! Take good care. Feliz Navidad……Pam and Carl


  2. Bill and Nina – Pete shares your posts with me. Fun to follow your adventures. Take care and have a good start to the new year.


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