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.

Heading North

The only horse we saw in Barra de Navidad.

Barra de Navidad was as far south as we went this year. On the way back to the Sea of Cortez, we stopped at Bahía Chamela and the small town Perula. The new malecón and panga dock is finished. We did some grocery shopping, made new friends and played some nicely competitive Mexican Train. Meanwhile we waited for a weather window to head back past Cabo Corrientes and into Bahía de Banderas. We got a slip at Marina La Cruz for a couple of days. After a rolly night off Punta Mita,we started our crossing to La Paz. The weather window looked good, so we decided to skip Mazatlan as a stop. Some sixty-three and a half hours later to cover 334 miles and we dropped anchor in Bahia de Los Sueños (also known as Bahia de los Muertos – depends if you want dreams or dead). It’s not quite La Paz but we were tired and it provides a good bay to catch up on some sleep.

We headed up to Pichelingue to wait for good weather to hit La Paz for some major provisioning. Ran into cruising friends and met some of the campers on the shore. Pichelingue has free camping and is a short drive from La Paz and stores. Otherwise, the services offered are trash barrels and some restaurants. There were actually more campers than boats in the bay.

Heading out of La Paz. There’s a tight turn you have to make right where the ship was anchored to head into and out of the narrow channel that goes into La Paz.

After a couple of days, we headed into La Paz to anchor in the Magote. It took us three tries to find a place to anchor. The Magote was full of boats and because of the strong currents, many have extra long rodes out to try to dampen what one cruiser dubbed the La Paz waltz, the swing that happens every time the tide changes. We finally ended up on the far end down by the Naval base and had room to breathe.

In our wanderings, we went to the La Paz Art Museum which had a nice photo exhibit. Mercado Bravo for fresh vegetables. Allende Books and the Spanish language bookstore up the street were both wandered through.

After three days in La Paz, we motored up to Ensenada el Cardonal on Isla Partida. Walked over to the other side of the island and back. It’s a good introduction to the geology and desert landscape of Baja. As we left, we hauled up the anchor to find the biggest clump of grass we’d ever caught.

Isla San Francisco. Only nine other boats at anchor, four of them sailboats. Hiked up the hook and around and this time went to the bay on the north side. Beautiful curved sand beach, amazingly stark beautiful landscapes.

Whales and Birds

The beginning of a good day of whale watching, Bahía de Banderas.

We might have mentioned before that a bad day of whale watching means that you see a couple of whales while out sailing. A good day means multiple whales, doing all kinds of things from just blowing spumes in the distance to skyhopping. On the water, you’re supposed to keep your distance so the human impact on whales is minimized. In reality, not everyone follows the rules. Keeping a distance means that the average humpback appears to be tiny in the photo.

After a couple of weeks in Bahía de Banderas, we headed south and made an overnight passage to Barra de Navidad. We anchored in the lagoon, and the next morning met the new French Baker. El Horno Francés visits the marina and lagoon in his panga filled with yummy French treats. The new guy has added coffee and wine to the delivery menu. In Barra, we caught up with our shopping needs, nursed a couple of colds, and then headed north to Bahía de Los Angeles Locos or what sailors refer to as Tenacatita. The anchorage is in a beautiful sheltered bay with a long stretch of white sand beach. During the week we were there, the number of cruisers anchored there almost hit sixty. Daily activities include an afternoon walk on the beach or a game or two of bocce ball followed by a meet up at the palapa restaurant. A new activity offered on Friday is catching a ride on the restaurant’s panga over to the town of La Manzanilla for market day and provisioning. We enjoy panga rides and it’s a good way to meet new friends.

One morning, we took the dinghy up the estuary to do a little bird watching. It gave Bill a chance to try out his new Olympus camera.

Not a bird – Green Iguana.

Turtle Camp

Cruiser kids at Turtle Camp with newly hatched turtles.

One of the fun things about La Cruz is the constant stream of activities available to cruisers through the marina. Masterminding all of this is the indefatigable Catrina. She runs the La Cruz Kids Club for cruising kids, with activities that are fun for the kids but also are community based, with a focus on Manos de Amor, a local orphanage. She organizes regular trash pick ups around the marina and trash regattas (kids build boats out of the trash they’ve found and then race them). She organizes the movie nights, sets up seminars for cruisers, and has regular speakers come from organizations like Ecobac and Sea Shepherd. Occasionally she puts together field trips. Turtle Camp was one we got to attend. It was so popular with cruisers, she had to hire a bus to take us all.

Bahía de Banderas is known for it’s whale watching opportunities, but its beaches have also been where sea turtles come to lay their eggs. A section of the beach at Boca de Tomates is one of the sites that hasn’t yet been developed and is still open to turtles.

Turtle Camp volunteers scout the beach during egg laying season and the eggs are then carefully relocated to the nursery area where they are kept safe from predators. The size of the nest and when it was found are noted on the tag. Our hatching of Olive Ridley turtles had just started hatching that day at noon. They were ready to release by the time we arrived. We began by learning about Olive Ridleys while we waited for sunset. They are smallest sea turtle and both the species itself and their breeding areas are officially considered endangered.

Turtle Camp sunset, Boca de Tomates, Puerto Vallerta. Somewhere not too far from the shore are a bunch of little turtles swimming away from us.

Christmas in La Cruz

Sunset at sea.

After we left San Evaristo we headed for Ensenada de Cardonal on Isla Partida, the island north of Isla Espiritu Santo. We shared the bay with a large motor boat. It was a quiet bay with glorious sunset. In the morning we set out for Playa la Bonanza on the southeast side of Espiritu Santo to get ready to cross over to Mazatlán. Sometimes you need a Plan B. Waves were out of the south and Bonanza is totally exposed to the south. Rolly anchorage. Yuck. Midway we baled and headed for Puerto Balandra, a bay north of La Paz, where we’d get protection from the waves. It’s a shallow bay with lots of locals on the beach. The famous hongo, a mushroom shaped rock, was back upright and photo worthy again. We took a relaxing walk on the beach. All was lovely until about 5:00 when the wind picked up blowing straight into the bay and we started hobbyhorsing like the next big rodeo bronco. We decided to pull up the anchor and head for Muertos as an overnight instead of a long day. Underway we joked that we’ve now done the Canal de Cerralvo more times in the dark than in daylight. After all the wind and wave action, the wind dropped completely in the middle of the night, so we had to kick on the engine.

A house on the north end of Muertos.

We dropped anchor in Ensenada de los Muertos the next morning and found 8 boats already there, over half of them old friends, also waiting for a weather window to cross to Mazatlán or Banderas Bay. The weather window for a good sail across was still a couple of days out so we had time to meet up for lunch, walk on the beach, stow the dinghy, and make food for the overnight passage to Mazatlán. We left mid-afternoon on Sunday and arrived in Mazatlán Tuesday morning. Underway, Nina saw about 30 shooting stars during her 0300-0600 watch (3:00-6:00 am). The wind was light so we had to motor the first night but we sailed the rest of the time. The morning Amigo SSB (Single Side Band) net was almost all boats in transit.

We anchored at Isla de la Piedra (Stone Island), south of the Mazatlán Old Harbor and settled in for a nap. Refreshed, the crews from Dharma Girl, Gypsy and Sherpa dinghied over to La Caleta, a restaurant in a cove that doesn’t require a surf landing. We walked down the dirt road to take the panga taxi across the harbor to town. It drops you off close to the cruise ship dock. Two huge cruise ships were in port so there were tourists everywhere, lines of taxi drivers hawking their tours, a visible police presence to make everyone feel safe, and volunteers handing out maps and answering questions to make sure no one got lost. We walked up to to the central market and got fresh vegetables and stocked up on Aldamas, one of our favorite Mexican candies that we can’t seem to find anywhere else. We ate lunch upstairs and then wandered back to La Caleta for a bucket of cervezas and back to our respective boats. They’d had a riproaring party at the restaurant the night before that blasted music well into the wee hours. Our waiter told us it was the employee year end party, and yes, he embarassedly admitted when asked, there had been karoake, but he had not participated because he has an ugly voice.

Underway again, we rolled our way overnight to Matanchén with Dharma Girl. The coastline from Mazatlán to Banderas Bay is fairly shallow and exposed to the Pacific Ocean. This creates bigger swells so we rolled our way south. We saw whales. In the middle of the night, we had to dodge several fishing fleets, ironically all on Nina’s watches. Nothing like having a lit up, 80′ surreal steampunky looking dragonfly heading straight for you in the middle of the night. Dharma Girl had their own part of the fleet to evade as well. Finally, we all made it through safely. Next day, we headed to shore and and met up with Chris from Dharma Girl and met Brandon from Mosaic. We all bought some of the banana bread the area is famous for and then walked back to have shrimp empanadas at a palapa restaurant on the beach. The bay is well know for it’s jejenes: evil, tiny, biting bugs that eat you alive, bug spray or no. Nina counted 75 bug bites on her legs alone. Bill was covered in spots as well, but he itched less.

We fled the bugs for Chacala where we practiced our double anchor skills. Chacala is a small bay open to swells. Two anchors lets you take the swells on the bow rather than on the side of the boat. We dropped and set the aft anchor and then motored forward to drop and set the forward anchor. Everything snugged up and we were good for the night.

Our goal was to be in the bay before Christmas. We spent a couple of nights in the La Cruz anchorage before moving into Marina La Cruz for Christmas. We noticed early on the trip down that our fuel system was leaking and letting air get into the fuel line. The leak was somewhere around the fuel pump and secondary fuel filter on the engine. We’d already installed new hoses to the pump and filter, installed new crush washers. But, we still had a leak at the fitting on the outside of the fuel filter. Bill cranked the bolt a little more to stop the leak, and it stripped. We made emergency repairs by using a thinner washer on the fitting which gave us about one thread to hold the bolt. This got us to La Cruz where we could get parts shipped to us, but it meant no more sailing until the new fuel pump arrives which meant no more whale watching for a while because we couldn’t risk using the engine to get in and out of the slip. Luckily Cook Engine in Portland had the parts in stock. But snow was predicted so they weren’t sure if they could get the parts out if they were closed down by the weather. We’d also be shipping in the middle of the Christmas shipping deluge. The pump would make it to San Diego where we had an importer lined up, but he was on break until the week after New Year’s. In the meantime, we dinghy sailed.

There are always things to do in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle. There’s the Sunday Market, where the whole malecón around the marina is filled with arts and crafts and food tables. Spanish classes with Ana (these would be on hiatus for a couple of weeks after we attended the first one) where you can practice your conversational Spanish with an amazing teacher twice a week, two-fer vegan ice cream on Tuesdays. There are free movies at the marina on Thursday nights. There’s nothing quite like seeing the documentary Maiden with fellow sailors. Seminars, activities for kids. The town itself is full of restaurants. Masks indoors were required, but there were tourists aplenty and we were all out and about in the warmth and sunshine.

Sailing Down the Baja

San Juanico, also known as San Basilio, just ahead.

To head south from San Carlos we had two options: head south on the mainland side for four days to reach Topolobompo and another couple days to reach Mazatlán; or cross over to the Baja and arrive at San Juanico the next day, work our way down and then cross over from somewhere near La Paz. We went with option two and had a smooth passage, including bobbing in place for three hours when the wind died. One of the goals this year is to sail more, motor less, even if it means bobbing.

The beach at La Ramada, a small anchorage on the north side of San Juanico.

Rested up, the trek south began. Our goal was to be in Banderas Bay by Christmas. Schedules are the bane of a sailor’s existence, but we thought it was doable if we chugged along. Most stops on the Baja are short day hops. We hit a weather window where we sailed to most of our destinations, but it still felt like we should be changing the words to Route 66. We had San Juanico, Isla Coronados, Puerto Escondido, Agua Verde, San Telmo, San Evaristo, Isla Partido. We’ll go everywhere, man. Ok, it only sort of works, but the stops do have a nice ring to them. Most of the towns are really villages, and they are challenging to get to by road, but by water, they are popular destinations.

Isla Coronados had dolphins swimming by, a couple of fishing boats going by, and a nice walk along the trail up from the beach to the spit. Nice spinnaker run to Puerto Escondido and back to our old friend mooring ball 31.

Agua Verde had no goat cheese again, so we headed on. Of the options for a next stop, we like San Telmo. It’s not as popular as Los Gatos, but we like the solitude and the scenery.

If you charter a sailboat out of La Paz, San Evaristo is about as far north as you will get in your week. We got there just before eight charter boats arrived. We could see them coming from Isla San Francisco, and to their credit, many of them were sailing. We had just dropped anchor in the bay when they all charged in. Charter boats do not believe in slowing down in anchorages, nor really in giving anchored boats space to safely swing if the wind picks up. A practice new to us was driving through the anchorage just using bow thrusters. This same boat anchored with the person on the bow not understanding depth markers and had no idea how much anchor rode was out. The anchor was dropped and everyone went to the bow to look over at where the anchor was. They decided it was good. They did not back down on it to set it. We decided to leave the confusion, and we weren’t the only ones. We headed to the north side and had a nice quiet, safe anchorage to ourselves.

We dinghied back over to the town side in the morning hoping for internet, but it was not to be. The tienda wasn’t open yet. Almost all of the smaller villages on the coast are phone bars deserts and the only way to get any access is to buy it from a tienda or a restaurant.

Underway from San Evaristo to Isla Partido, Nina caught a Mexican Little Tunny (Black Skipjack). It has a fairly mild taste for a dark fleshed fish. It fed us for days.

Back to Mexico

Hwy 58 out of Eugene

It was only fitting that we left Portland for the sunny south on a day of socked in pouring rain. Visibility on I-5 was bad to horrible and the discussion in the car was whether we stayed on I-5 because we know it’s pretty straight and therefore predictable in poor visibility or head off at Eugene on Hwy 58 toward Hwy 395. We opted for 395 and the weather began to clear. Hwy 58 is picturesque. Highway 395 was the correct choice. Ending up in Reno for the night, the option was a casino/resort hotel or a random find.

This was our random find in Reno. How could we resist, even though they did not give us a Kramer discount.
Bill in front of the motel sign with his coffee and donuts from the shop across the street.

Heading south the next day, we cut through the Sierras and discovered that summit gas prices were just over $6.00 per gallon. Ended up in Victorville, CA, on historic Route 66 at another funky little motel and before hitting the road for Tuscon. We took the Twentynine Palms Highway on the north side of Joshua Tree. The stay for the night was in Green Valley, just down the road from the Titan Missile Museum, which we didn’t see. We had to circle back to the motel an hour after leaving to retrieve Bill’s phone from where he’d left it in the loo. Made it over the border without any other problems, except that we overshot the place we needed to stop to get our tourist visas. It looked like a roadside stop selling Mexican insurance, which we already had. Solved that and headed toward San Carlos, in Sonora.

Mexican highways are interesting. The speed limit will change for no apparent reason. The road is straight, no change in elevation and the speed will drop from 110 kmh (about 65mph) down to 90 or 100 kmh. There weren’t really distance signs to upcoming towns on Hwy 15, but every couple of hundred meters there were a variety of other signs. They translated roughly to exhortations to don’t drive tired, seat belts save lives, don’t throw trash. We followed all the directives and arrived safely without any conversations with law enforcement, who were having a busy day conversing with other folks they’d pulled over. Our favorite sign just had a sillouette of a rabbit. 50 meters later there was a second rabbit sign. We never did see any rabbits.

We decided that rather that try to live on the boat in the work yard in the marina seca, we’d try an Airbnb. Bill found what looked like a nice studio apartment with a reasonable price. The view was incredible, the beds were not. We finally bailed a couple days early and slept on the boat in the yard anyway.

Osprey on a neighboring mast.

Thanksgiving, el Día de Acción de Gracias, was feliz, with shrimp and lobster we bought from a guy parked in front of the supermarket. It was a lovely meal while the wind whistled away through the marina.

One of our projects was putting our whisker pole back together with a new rope. We discovered that the line was six inches too short. Reminder to selves: install and then cut to length. Bill jury rigged a new line in place and fastened it with a zeppelin bend. The rope ends were later whipped.

We finished our projects in the slip. We got sails on and went out for day sail to see if we got the watermaker working okay so we could make some drinking water. The weather didn’t cooperate. It poured. The wind, when it blew, kept changing direction. Seas were big enough that we realized our sea legs were a bit wobbly. The watermaker worked beautifully until we put it in flush mode. It created a bit of a flood, but it was thankfully, easily solved and mopped up. We were now ready to head south.

San Carlos

A sign on the road on the hunt for the Catch-22 movie set. We didn’t see any donkeys, alive or upside down.

Bahía Algodones. The movie Catch-22 was filmed in the area. We watched the movie and set out the next day on foot to a vaguely noted location. We didn’t find it. Not surprising since the sources we found that mention it were not very specific as to location. One of them mentioned that the novel was by Kurt Vonnegut (really! Joseph Heller is the author) so we discounted that site’s accuracy. We ended up with a nice walk down the road to La Manga, a fishing village down the road, and back along the beach. There was an abandoned hotel on the way.

The anchorage started to get rolly and the bay started to fill with jetskis so we headed toward Marina San Carlos. We dropped anchor in the small bay outside of Marina San Carlos on the edge of the mooring field. Bill wasn’t comfortable with the anchorage, so we headed into the marina for a slip. We figured that a couple of weeks should give us plenty of time to get the boat prepped for haulout.

The official name of San Carlos is San Carlos Nuevo Guaymas. Up the road from Guaymas, it’s a town spread along the highway, built for gringos from the US and Canada. The marina is busy. There are at least thirty day charters that come and go multiple times a day (three hour tours, anyone?). The comings and goings were fun to watch, and the onboard karaoke was definitely worse on the way back in. But we were there to get Gypsy ready for the marina seca, the dry yard. The storage yard is down the highway maybe a kilometer from the marina and we walked down to take a look at it. There’s a work yard where you can work on your boat, and a huge secure dry yard behind that. Boats get hauled by a tractor down the road and it looked like a good place to store Gypsy while we were north for the summer.

As a gringo town, San Carlos is very car centered. The highway cuts through it and most of the stores are stretched along the highway. There are sidewalks, but it’s a long, hot walk to the supermercado, bank, or farmacia. There is a local bus, but we haven’t been riding buses this year due to Covid.

Gypsy flying her signal flags to welcome the Cuauhtemoc.

One of the highlights of our stay in San Carlos was the arrival of the Mexican navy tall ship the Cuauhtemoc. The Mexican navy is celebrating its 200th anniversary this year and the tall ship Cuauhtemoc was making stops in the Sea of Cortez. It came to San Carlos just after we arrived and we joined the local flotilla to welcome them. It was a beautiful day, about 50 boats milled about while she set sails and got underway. She’s a three masted square rigger, 295 feet long and 39.4 feet wide, with a crew of maybe 200.

Prep time got underway. San Carlos is hot, so the new shade came in handy. We covered the window foil on the big windows for a fancier look, and tried to cool Gypsy down. Most boats on the dock have air conditioners running constantly. The heat is not too bad when there is a wind blowing, but when it’s still, it’s a very buggy place. We started cleaning and washing lines. The box of aluminum foil came out and we wrapped anything with plastic parts or bearings to keep the grit out and the sun from frying it. We got everything done, found a hotel for a couple of days so that we wouldn’t have to camp out in a boat chockablock with gear. Air conditioning, nice showers. All set to haul out, we got a message that the hydraulic lift was broken and we wouldn’t be able to haul on Wednesday. We’d planned a couple of days on the hard to finish up a few jobs better done out of the water. Friday we’d take a bus to Tucson and fly out the following afternoon. Nope. The yard didn’t have a definite date that parts would arrive, they’d contact us (which meant we needed to contact them). First word was we’d be able to haul on Friday. No, parts had to come from the States, so probably the following Weds. Hotel rooms were all booked for the weekend, so we moved back aboard. We have enough space to sleep. We still had some food that we were going to give away, but it was pretty bare bones – a lot of tuna quesadillas. Dinners out. We did discover a restaurant nearby that has live bossa nova on Wednesday and Thursday nights, decent affordable Mediterranean style food. Meanwhile, we’re in limbo, in hurry up and wait mode, in a country that has perfected the art of mañana.

Twelve days after the bad news, we get hauled out. We are the first boat of five, which means there are going to be a lot of boats going down the highway. Sailboats get hauled with a hydraulic lift pulled by a tractor. The whole thing goes down the road a couple of kilometers to the marina seca, or the dry yard. We got parked in the work yard, so that we could have access to the boat to finish up a couple of projects. We got them done that afternoon, spent one last night on Gypsy, and got a ride from friends the next morning into Guaymas to catch the bus to Tucson. Nine hours, 4 dubbed movies, two stops with dog sniffers going through the bus, one military checkpoint, and the US border itself, we finally arrived at the Tufesa bus station in Tucson. The next day we boarded a very full plane for the flight to Portland, via Seattle, and made it home for the summer.

Cerro de Tetakawi, San Carlos’ iconic mountain from the ocean side of the bay.

Santa Rosalía and Bahia Concepcion

On the way to Santa Rosalía we stopped at Santo Domingo, an anchorage at the north end of Bahía Concepción. Santa Rosalía is a nice little town on Highway 1. We’d driven through it on the way down last fall but hadn’t stopped. It’s a mining town with a long section of the highway fronted by huge abandoned mine buildings. At the time, we thought there wasn’t much to stop for. It does have a marina, though. Santa Rosalía has a Fonatur marina. Fonatur was a big effort by the Mexican government in the early 1980s or thereabouts to build marinas and other tourist developments to bring in the gringo dollars. Their marinas are all built to the same plan. Puerto Escondido was originally a Fonatur marina, but it’s now privately owned and has much more of a resort look and feel. Santa Rosalía clearly hasn’t had any additional money invested in it. The docks can handle around 20 boats if they aren’t too big. The washing machines worked. The pool was primarily used by gulls. The showers were on the interesting spectrum. Because we used a lot of marina showers, we developed a loose rating scheme based on general ambiance, lighting, water flow and temperature. At Santa Rosalía, we added insect life to the list. There we saw our first cockroach in the shower (we think 5 centimeters is large). Santa Rosalía is on the ugh end of the list, but you do what you gotta do, and maybe not being able to see without glasses is not necessarily a bad thing.

In spite of the showers, we liked Santa Rosalía. The marina rates are inexpensive (perhaps one reason why the showers are interesting). The town is a short walk from the marina. Provisioning is easy. There are good restaurants. It feels like a safe, well-cared-for town. It’s a mining town rather than a tourist town. We got a big project started and finished there: shade curtains for the cabin and forepeak. We’d been hauling around a 50 foot roll of shade cloth since we drove down last fall. We used the floor by the marina pool to lay it out and cut it to size. Four days later, we did a test fit. There were a few minor adjustments, but the final version did a good job of cutting the heat in the boat. We repurposed the webbing from old jack lines and sail ties to make tiedown loops. We think they will also work well when Gypsy goes into the storage yard where it will get very hot.

The central part of town is a short walk from the marina. One day we walked by what we figured out was a miners’ meeting at the town plaza. They were hoping for a 6 percent increase in wages. We found out later that they didn’t get it. The mine, originally Belgian owned, is now owned by a Korean/Canadian concern. They are trying to get AMLO, the Mexican president, to give them more land so they can stay open. That is probably a gross over-simplification, but the end of decent jobs will have an impact on the town. The library was open and is named after Mahatma Gandhi. It has computers and a small collection of books. We talked to some of the library staff and met the director. We wandered some more and found a nice ice cream shop, a couple of good tortillerias. On our second try, we walked up to the cemetery on top of the hill south of town.

The quickest and most obvious way to get to the cemetery is to follow the path rimmed with white rocks. We’d tried walking up earlier through the neighborhood but didn’t go far enough, probably because it was getting hot and we really didn’t know quite where the road went. The cemetery is huge, and very different from American cemeteries. No lawn, for one thing. The sun, salt air and wind have all taken a toll on gravestones that aren’t that old. There doesn’t seem to be any predictable order to where graves are placed.

Next stop, back to Bahía Concepción, to see what it’s like south of Santo Domingo. We anchored at Posada Concepción for a night. Did some dinghy fishing with good results – a rooster fish that we released, and a nice sierra that we kept.

Playa El Burro was our next destination. On the way back to the dinghy, we bought a kilo of nice shrimp from a guy in the parking lot by the beach. We ran it to the fridge and headed back in for lunch at the sports bar on the beach. Berta’s had a foosball table, a pool table and one or two tables to sit at to eat, and five things on the menu. We had fish tacos. They were good.

Back at Gypsy, the decks started to get hot, so we put up our new shade, put foil covered bubblewrap in the windows and settled in to sweat it out in a slightly cooler cabin. The next day we walked down the highway to try to find a tienda and some wifi. Concepcion is beautiful but is a Telcel desert. At Berthas Pollo we bought some internet time and had some really good fish tacos, better than Berta’s on the beach.

We tried the hike that supposedly had petroglyphs. We didn’t see them but someone had marked a trail of sorts with rock cairns. We made it maybe a quarter of the way before being done in by the heat. More dinghy exploration of the little bays that make up Bahia Concepción. No luck fishing, but it’s a beautiful place.

Anchored the south side of Punta Chivato. The guide book talks about the hotel there. It’s now derelict, and the caretaker passed away last year, so we were able to just wander through it. In its prime it would have been a beautiful place to stay. One story we heard was that it was built or bought by an Italian mafioso who was using it to launder money.

Isla San Marcos is known for its gypsum mining. We stayed upwind from the mine in a nice little cove called Sweet Pea Cove. Lots of net floats in the water nearby. There’s an abandoned fish camp on shore. There are sea caves in the coves nearby. Dolphins swim by. And flies. Thankfully they aren’t the biting kind, but they are an infernal nuisance and we must have swatted dozens of them. We had bees looking for fresh water. Usually we ignore them and they go away. One climbed into the head faucet. Later Nina pumped some water to wash her hands, and out gushed eight bees.

Back to Santa Rosalía to wait for a weather window to cross to San Carlos on the mainland. The marina was full. The ongoing project on the breakwater now involves jackhammering. When we were there earlier, they were using a crane to remove old hurricane damaged pilings, a much quieter project. It was time to leave.

We left in the evening for San Carlos. It’s a 70 mile trip that will take us about 14 hours so it makes sense to arrive in daylight rather than at dark. It will be cooler than doing it in the daytime. Pangas will be harder to see, as they often fish without running lights, but there weren’t any to see. We managed to avoid a freighter by Isla Tortuga. The crossing was smooth until about 0100, just past Tortuga, when the chop kicked in with 3 foot or so waves at about 3 second intervals. It got bumpy. We dropped anchor the next morning in Bahía Algodones near San Carlos and discovered we were in a different time zone, an hour ahead, and really in need of a nap.