Gear and Preparation, Nice to Haves, Places

Back in La Paz After Language School in Taxco

I got back to La Paz on August 17 after a little road trip followed by six weeks of language school in lovely Taxco, which I’ll tell you about shortly. But first, an update on Aldabra. While I was away, Sergio Galindo and his team were working on two important modifications to the boat. One is an arch on the stern, which holds additional solar panels, a mast for a wind generator and davits for the dinghy. They also repositioned where the outboard motor mounts when it’s not on the dinghy, created new mounts for antennas and made a new space for the BBQ so it doesn’t set the canvas on fire when in use. In addition, they built a new setup on the bow for my anchor and for the tack of my new asymmetrical spinnaker, which I will pick up in Santa Cruz in the next couple of weeks.

The dinghy davits will enable me to raise and lower the dinghy by myself when necessary. The additional solar panels and wind generator should allow me to charge the batteries while at anchor for long periods of time without running the motor. The bow setup will make it easier to raise and lower the anchor. And the asymmetrical spinnaker can be used without putting up the spinnaker pole. So all of these improvements will make life aboard much easier.

I arrived back in La Paz as the workers were installing the new arch

Looking aft toward the new arch

Since I got back to La Paz, I’ve also done a bit of work myself, even in this extreme heat. I installed an accumulator tank for my fresh water system to take some cycle time off the water pump. I was hoping it might solve a problem I have with a small amount of fresh water leakage, but I’m afraid that’s not the case. I still need to solve that mystery. I replaced the joker valve on one of the heads, which was really a good idea. I should have done it a long time ago. I cleaned part of the exterior of the boat in the aftermath of the arch construction. I serviced 3 of the 5 winches. And I pulled some antenna wire halfway through the boat (extracting it from bundles of wire) so I can rerun it from the arch. All of these were hot, sweaty jobs that took longer than one would imagine they should. In the middle of these jobs I would walk or take taxis to search for parts.

Chava, of La Paz Yacht Service just finished revarnishing my saloon table and my companionway steps. He’s going to do a bit of fiberglass repair for me once the wiring for the new solar panels is finished. Hector is about to get started on dinghy chaps for me. And Luis Cosio and his team will continue to look after the boat.

With all this work under control, I’m renting a car in a few days to drive up to California. I’ll take some things that I don’t want on the boat anymore. And in California, I’ll pick up several items that I can’t get in La Paz. Once I return in about a month, the wiring for the solar and wind generation can be installed. I’m looking forward to the three-day drive to the border (maybe that’s crazy) and to seeing friends and family in San Diego, LA and Santa Cruz.

So now I’ll backtrack a bit. After leaving La Paz at the end of June, I flew to Puerto Vallarta. I stayed in an air-conditioned room in Paradise Village for two nights. It felt like a bit of luxury after working so hard to get the boat secure for hurricane season. With zero responsibilities (temporarily), I joined Jeff and Jules from El Gato (and their dogs Chance and Roxie) for a little road trip. We drove to Guadalajara the first day and spent the night in an nice inn. There was a festival going on that night near the church, so we wandered through after dinner. The next day we drove to Cuernavaca by way of Mexico City. It was somewhat eventful in that we couldn’t get through Mexico City in the rental car because we didn’t have the necessary electronic pass to get us on the road south. After multiple attempts, all ending up in the wrong place, we backtracked and ended up on a scary mountain road at night, arriving rather late to our very nice little inn, as the only guests. The next day Jules and I walked twelve miles through town, not always in the best neighborhoods. And on our second night, the three of us took advantage of the hotel’s game room, with lots of three-way competitions playing things I’ve never played before, such as air hockey and roller ball.

From there it was a fast trip to Taxco, a must-visit colonial city. I think we were all charmed. Taxco is a densely populated hill town surrounded by forest. The cobblestone streets are steep, narrow and windy. It’s mostly known for silver mining and later the design and production of silver jewelry. You may have read about William Spratling from the U.S. who started the silver jewelry industry there in the 1930s. It took on a life of its own after that and enjoyed quite a run, although the silver business is a bit in decline now. There are a zillion vendors of silver jewelry now but some of it is unoriginal and much of it is cheap. It hasn’t helped that Taxco is in the state of Guerrero, which receives a lot of attention for drug violence. You hardly see any gringo visitors on the streets. Most of the tourists are from Mexico. (We never felt a threat to our safety.)

Five of us (two couples from two different cruising boats and me) rented a house in Taxco. The owner (Don Andres) is part of the silver trade. He had a history with Spratling and his shop represents some good designers. But his business isn’t what it once was. In any event, we enjoyed living in his house and were well looked after by a couple (Jaime and Carmen) who lived on the premises. (Toward the end of our stay, we met the daughter of a friend of Spratling. Her father had purchased Spratling’s house in Taxco and his ranch outside of Taxco. The purchase included many of the Spratling jewelry designs so she has kept up the tradition of producing many of his designs and maintaining his legacy. We went with Violente Ulrich to the ranch and enjoyed a tour and many interesting stories about those days gone by.)

Wandering through the grounds of the Spratling rancho outside of Taxco

Silver worker at the Spratling rancho, finishing up a Spratling-designed piece

The house we rented was in a typical residential barrio, about a 15 minute walk from school. We got acquainted with the various people in the barrio and felt quite at home.

The house we stayed in in Taxco

View from the back of the house

Looking up from the house toward the Christo statue

Here’s the Christo statue from up top

School was at the local branch of UNAM (CEPE), Mexico’s national university. The administration, the faculty and the staff were so welcoming and helpful. To give you an idea, when one of our group got sick enough to require hospital care, the faculty members considered it a given that they would reorganize teaching assignments for the morning so that the head of the Spanish program could accompany our sick comrade to the hospital. It didn’t actually come to that, but that is how kind and attentive the faculty is.

Two teachers and two students at our cooking event

Spanish teacher Lydia and dance teacher Olviedo Layo

Our group of 5 students

The school is in an historic complex that once was a monastery. The buildings are beautiful and the grounds include a garden of cactus and herbs use for healing and cooking. Summer is a quiet time, especially because drug violence has scared many North Americans away. So we had very small classes. One of our group, Jeff,  had six weeks of private beginning Spanish lessons with a wonderful instructor, Alecia. Two others, Jules and Rick were the only two students in Itzel’s basic Spanish class. And Cindy and I were joined by two young Canadian students (Dea and Myles) in our intermediate class, instructed by Jorge, the lead of the Spanish program. The four of us also had a literature class instructed by Iztel. The only other student, Renee from Canada, was in an advanced class. Other courses took place while we were there. A family from Washington state had their own private classes. And a group from Cal State Long Beach had some courses as a group. (And a summer camp of young children brightened up the campus for a few weeks.) But our instruction was very targeted and intense. The instructors laughed because they hadn’t before met 5 students of our age (between 50 an 65) who acted like their performance would determine the rest of their lives. Unlike the young Canadian students, we weren’t taking these classes for college credit. But we were all driven and obsessed and the teachers appreciated it. Jorge liked that he could bring up all kinds of topics in conversation (historical, cultural, artistic, political) and Cindy and I could engage with him. We took latin dance classes with Olviedo Layo, who is also the theater director. While we were there he directed a play written by Juan Ruiz de Alarcón, who was born in Taxco in the 16th century.

Other cultural events occurred while we were in Taxco, including international film and guitar festivals. At the school we also participated in a cross-cultural event with young English students from Mexico as well as a cooking event. (We made apple pie.) We were so lucky to have this summer opportunity. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in language or culture.

Looking down on Taxco from the top of a hill

Another view of Taxco

Another view of Taxco

And another

And another

Looking down at the church in the zocalo

On any given evening you might see a celebration in the streets

Marching celebration

When we first stared our 6-week program, Jeff and Jules and I would take weekends for urban hikes around the city, and we covered a lot of ground. But a couple of things happened to curb our wanderings. First, our coursework was really intense, and each of us had enough studying to keep occupied all weekend. Second, our group members started to get sick. I had a couple of weeks of gastro discomfort. Jules got Zika, which made her a quite weak for more than a week. And Rick and Cindy got really sick with bacterial infections that send them to the hospital. Luckily, you can get great medical care in Taxco.

In closing, I have to mention the Volkswagen bugs, as we call them in the U.S.  In Taxco, they are called vochos. I wrote a little blog post about them in Spanish for the UNAM CEPE website. I have very fond childhood memories of Volkswagens: Bugs, buses, squarebacks, rabbits, etc. So I couldn’t believe when I got to Taxco that 90 percent of the cars there are vochos, Volkswagen bugs. I thought maybe all the bugs that had disappeared from U.S. streets had found a home in Taxco. But no, these bugs are originally from Taxco. There is a Volkswagen factory not too far away. Most of the taxis in Taxco are white VWs. And there are many private bugs of various colors, along with a few buses and other models. The vochos have so much gumption up the steep hills and so much personality. You can’t help but be charmed by them. Especially if you remember the first bug your father brought home for a family of 6 in 1966. Yes, we all fit in that little car.

One of many Taxco taxis on a typical street near the center of town

Another white vocho taxi coming up the hill toward the zocalo

The narrow streets require a lot of negotiation between vochos

No problem getting around tight corners with a bit of finesse. The take the front passenger seat out of the taxi for easy entry and exit. An typical ride in town is 25 pesos.

Places

Final Excursion on Aldabra Before Summer Break

Crew Steve, from California, joined me on Aldabra on June 8. He flew into Loreto and took a taxi to Puerto Escondido. We took off almost immediately and sailed fourteen miles north to Loreto. After anchoring right off the town marina, we went to the El Pescador market to provision and then returned to Aldabra to stow the groceries before heading back into town for dinner. On the way into town we stopped by to see John and Julie on Myla, who were anchored nearby.

The next morning, we pulled up the anchor and motored in glassy waters with no wind to Agua Verde, and anchored off the main beach. We took the dinghy over to the east cove for some snorkeling and then had tasty carne asada tacos as the cooperativa restaurant near the east cove. We talked with an old fisherman about how the local fishery is being depleted by outside fishermen who use spear guns to take huge hauls in a very short time. We also talked with two enthusiastic young guys from Austin on a road trip who decided to stay in Agua Verde for s few more days and cancel the rest of their planned itinerary. It was just that nice there.

The next day, the west cove emptied out and we quickly moved Aldabra over there. It was an ideal spot and we used it as a base to go snorkeling around Roca Solitaria and take a walk on land.

Aldabra alone in west anchorage of Agua Verde

The far rock is Roca Solitaria

The beach next to the west anchorage

Steve enjoying the view at Agua Verde

That evening, Rick and Cindy on Cool Change surprised us and anchored in our private cove. They had food already prepared, so they declined our invitation to go ashore for dinner. We had dinner with Will and Grant from Austin, at Maria’s, the other restaurant on the beach. And then went to visit Rick and Cindy. I hadn’t seen them since I left La Paz in April, so it was delightful to catch up with them.

As lovely as Agua Verde was, we needed to push on southward. So the next day we motored to Puerto Los Gatos. The winds were light at first and then on the nose, so we never used the sails. Rick and Cindy had left earlier and we caught up with them right before the entrance to Los Gatos. By that time the seas had picked up a bit so they followed us in. They had planned to go much farther that day but the seas were working against them.

We had most of the day to spend in Puerto Los Gatos. I swam out to snorkel on the point and Steve took the dinghy to shore for his own expedition, which involved scrambling up the hill for an amazing view. That night Rick and Cindy came over to Aldabra for an enchilada dinner and hot chocolate chip cookies for dessert. It was a lovely evening, which provided no hint that it would be a lumpy night with swells coming in from the east that had miles of open sea to build. None of us slept well.

The next morning, neither boat wasted any time in pulling up anchor and heading south. We were headed through the San Jose Channel to Isla San Francisco. I was a bit afraid that we would have challenging conditions, but the seas were rather flat and the wind, although on the nose, was relatively light. Cindy and Rick ended up joining us at Isla San Francisco as well. They spent the remainder of the day getting ready to launch into their passage to Mazatlan. Steve went in the dinghy to explore around the point. And I just tinkered around on the boat. Right before dinner, Steve returned to report that he had been out in the channel with several small groups of minke whales that were feeding. I jumped in the dinghy and we picked up Rick and Cindy for a look. It was magical to turn off the motor and sit in the still waters and watch and listen to the whales as they surfaced and submerged.

That night in the Isla San Francisco anchorage was only slightly better than in Puerto Los Gatos. We didn’t have the big seas but we had a lot of wind. Had it not been for the whales, Steve might have been regretting his decision to join me on the trip. The next day, after Rick and Cindy left on their passage, we took the dinghy to the beach and hiked on the island. We covered a lot more ground than I had before and it was beautiful. That night, the whales were feeding out in the channel. But they also started coming into the anchorage. We figured out why. The anchorage was full of billions of little krill that were lighting the water up like stars. They were being pursued by the whales, as well as weird little worms and small white crabs. The evening provided quite a show, which more than made up for the fact that the winds made another uncomfortable night.

This is my attempt the photograph the kri

The next day was expected to be the only real sailing day we would have. So we sailed from Isla San Francisco to Isla Espiritu Santo, choosing Caleta Partida as our anchorage because I was expecting a strong southwesterly than night. And Caleta Partida could block some of the seas. The strategy worked and we had a pretty comfortable night. The next day, we motored along Espiritu Santo, ducking into anchorages just to explore. We dropped the anchor for lunch at Ensenada Ballena, and then continued south. Expecting another strong southwesterly, and not wanting to return to La Paz just yet, we anchored at Ensenda Balandra on the Baja pennisula, hoping to protect ourselves a bit from the wind and seas. The strategy kind of worked. We were able to explore the bay by dinghy and have a BBQ dinner before the winds kicked up. But they howled all night and well into the next day. The seas weren’t too lumpy. But it was another boisterous night.

Because the winds were still howling, we waited until late morning to pick up anchor and motor into La Paz. The channel was pretty quiet and we had an uneventful docking in Marina de la Paz. We walked into town that evening so Steve could see La Paz. It was dead at first but after we had dinner and started back, the people started coming out along the malecon.

That was the end of Steve’s vacation. The next day, although very hot, he had to help me start getting the boat ready for hurricane season. We took the jib down and folded it. Steve hauled water to the boat and filled up the water tank. And we pickled the watermaker, which would have been easier if a critical valve had worked. As it was, we had to bypass the valve to get the water properly circulating for the pickling, which is necessary when you leave the boat for an extended period of time. We had one final dinner at a nearby restaurant and then Steve headed home the next morning.

That’s when I had to get serious about decommissioning the boat for the summer. I worked solidly for the next six days on a long list of projects. It seems a shame to work so hard for so many years and months to get the boat ready to go, only to undue that work to leave the boat for part of the summer. I had to take most of the solar panels down, which gave me blisters on my hands. I had to soak and coil all the lines, removing the ones that I could. I removed lots of deck hardware that might disappear while the boat is unattended. I emptied most of the jerry jugs of diesel into the tank so the tank would have less of a chance of getting moisture in it. I gave away my gasoline supply so it wouldn’t be on board. I deflated the dinghy, covered it and lashed it to the deck. I lashed the mainsail on the boom so it wouldn’t provide windage in a hurricane. I cleaned out the stern lockers and had a local worker clean the outside of the boat. Then I covered the boat with sun shades, which will be taken down if a hurricane does show up. I also covered lots of antennas and other plastic parts with aluminum foil.

Next I had to tackle the interior. I defrosted the refrigerator and freezer and turned them off. I gave away any food that people would want and threw away the rest. That was heart breaking because I had collected all kinds of food items for cooking, much of it in San Diego, and I won’t be able to replace them. I hadn’t been expecting to do such a purge but more experienced cruiser friends clued me into the possibility of attracting critters. And while I was doing my purge, I did indeed find some critters, so I became convinced that nothing could remain on the boat.

I also cleaned the rest of the boat interior and got all the laundry done. Aldabra should have looked ship shape by then, But my next step was to take everything that I usually store outside or in the lazarettes and put those things inside: the solar panels, the jerry jugs, the bins of parts and supplies. So the boat interior looks like a junk yard.  This was necessary for a possible storm, but also because I’m having work done to the boat while I’m away, and they need access to the lazarettes.

Aldabra put away in Marina de La Paz for summer

My last week in La Paz was not all work. John and Julie from Myla came in a day after I did and were a couple of boats away on the dock. In addition to giving me lots of advice on securing the boat, they invited me for several cocktail hours and dinners. We had great fun as practically the only two inhabited cruising boats in the marina.

So that’s a wrap for Aldabra for a bit. I left her under the care of a boat manager and flew to Puerto Vallarta on June 24. Tomorrow, June 26, I’m joining Jeff and Jules from El Gato for a road trip to Guadalajara, Cuernavaca and then on to Taxco. I’ll be living in a house in Taxco for six weeks with Jeff and Jules and Rick and Cindy, while we all attend Spanish immersion classes at the university.

 

People, Places

Cruising Around the Sea of Cortez

After two weeks in San Diego, celebrating weddings and birthdays and being with family, I arrived back in La Paz on May 17. Dinner that night was with Jane and Jerry of Aeolian who had just put their boat on a ship bound for Victoria, Canada. It was a bittersweet dinner because we had shared a lot of our Mexico cruising experience, and now they were departing. I knew I would miss them.

I spent the next two days cleaning the boat and was ready for my new crew, who arrived on May 19. We went to the market for provisions that day and took off the next. After stopping for fuel at the Costabaja dock, we headed north, back into the heart of the Sea of Cortez.

My goal for this next trip was to get to some places I hadn’t yet seen and connect with other friends for brief visits and subsequent farewells. The first visit was with Kemo Sabe on the first night out. We found them in a beautiful, small, quiet cove on Isla Espiritu Santo. Sometimes finding cruising friends isn’t easy because our cell phones and radios aren’t always in range. But we were lucky to find Jan and Alan in El Mezteño. They came over to Aldabra for happy hour and we caught up on our travels since we’d seen each other several weeks before. This was another sad farewell because they were returning to La Paz and then Jan would fly back while Alan and friends sailed or motored Kemo Sabe back to San Diego. Two more people that were integral to my Mexico cruising experience, and they too were departing.

Coaster and Epic at anchor near Aldabra at Isla San Francisco

While Jan and Alan stayed in El Mezteño for another night, we headed north, stopping first at Isla San Francisco. I wasn’t planning on lingering, even though Isla San Francisco is stunning and offers much in the way of hiking and snorkeling. I’d been here multiple times before and I had more places to see in a short time. So we didn’t put the dinghy in the water, which prevented us from visiting with friends on Epic and Coaster, who were also in the anchorage. I swam over to each boat for brief chats, but we were off again the next day, heading north.

The next stop was lovely. Puerto Los Gatos, on the eastern side of Baja, is a small, beautiful anchorage with its colorful rock formations and a couple of good reefs for snorkeling. I could easily have stayed there for days, but this time it could just be an overnight stop, so again we didn’t put the dinghy in the water to explore on shore. But I did get to snorkel on the reef. And a man named Jimmy brought us lobster and scallops and fish fillets. Dinner was quite a treat that night.

Leaving Puerto Los Gatos, we were headed to another bay on the eastern side of Baja, Agua Verde, which was about 18 miles north. But we learned on the radio net that morning that Liahona and El Gato might both be in Los Candeleros, another 18 miles northwest along the coast. I wanted to see both of them, so we motored past Agua Verde and anchored in Los Candeleros. El Gato hosted both Liahona and Aldabra for happy hour that night. The visit seemed way too short with not enough time to really catch up. But Liahona was able to return my wetsuit to me. And I was able to deliver a package to El Gato that I had brought from San Diego.

Liahona took off the next day, and I thought I might see them as we moved north. But as it turns out, we were on different tracks and I won’t see them again until next year. I have been able to listen to their progress on the morning radio net, and they are already in San Carlos, ready to haul the boat out for the summer.

We stayed in Los Candeleros and Don and Anne on Redwood Coast II sailed down to join us. I was able to deliver a package to them from Don’s sister in Calfornia. And Anne and Jules and I kayaked to shore and went to the small tienda in the nearby village. That night all three boats had diner on Aldabra, with more farewells. El Gato would head out the next morning and it would be the last I would see of them until we meet up in Nuevo Vallarta at the end of June. Don and Anne and I went for a nice hike the next morning in Candeleros, but I then had to say goodbye to them. It has been such a gift to be cruising with these two. We left Santa Cruz about 3 months apart, and we’ve traveled at different paces while in Mexico. But we’ve been able to share many anchorages and have been in touch at all times. They’ve supported me in countless ways. I don’t like to think of them not being here. But they are now headed back to La Paz and then on around to the west coast and back to Santa Cruz.

Don and Anne of Redwood Coast II enjoying the seats at the top of the hill while hiking in Candeleros

Looking down the other site of the point from Candeleros. Very nice hike.

The wind was up that afternoon after the hike, and I wanted to take advantage of the first good sailing opportunity we’d had since leaving La Paz. So we took off and kept sailing past planned anchorages, and ended up in Puerto Ballandra. We stayed two nights and explored the bay, both on land and in the water. I think I saw a big horned sheep high on a mountain ridge.

From there, we headed west nine miles over to Loreto. We anchored in front of the town, put the dinghy in the water, and went ashore for lunch and reprovisioning. After returning from the market, we hauled the anchor back up and motored north six miles to Isla Coronados. This is yet another gorgeous desert island in this vast Mexican sea of varying shades of green and blue waters. Many people stay for several days off this island. It has lots of hiking and walks and good spots for snorkeling and diving. We didn’t take advantage of it as much as we could have. We circumnavigated in the dinghy and saw lots of interesting rock formations and dive spots. But in the end we snorkeled only in one spot near the boat, with lots of rays. And we just took one flat walk on land. Swarms of bees around the boat were a bit of an irritation. And the winds indicated that it was time to move on after a couple of days.

The rocks around Isla Coronados

More of motoring around Isla Coronados

I had been told that San Juanico, 18 miles north on the west coast of Baja, was a favorite spot. And I wanted to check it out. The problem is that we chose the wrong time to visit. As soon as we got there, the winds blew hard from the east, and brought huge seas that traveled over long distances to this bay, which was unprotected from the east. We sat there uncomfortably at anchor all afternoon and into the evening. Then shortly before sunset, we followed the only other boat around the point to the north, to La Ramada, a north-facing cove with flat seas and relatively calm winds. That night we did have strong south-westerlies howling through the anchorage, but at least the seas weren’t huge.

The next day, we hiked over the hill, back to San Juanico to explore by land, but we never had the right conditions to experience this beautiful anchorage as many of our fellow cruisers have. We also took the opportunity to snorkel a bit off the northwest point of La Ramada. And we joined other boats, Jollydogs and Our Affair on another boat called Wet Bar, for happy hour. The wind howled again from the southwest that night. The next day, most of us left La Ramada. Jollydogs and Our Affair headed north. And Aldabra started heading back south. It was the one day when winds were predicted to come from behind us, and I wanted to take advantage of that. So we sailed and bit and mostly motored to Puerto Escondido, which is 14 miles south of Loreto.

Looking down at Caleta San Juanico

Walking over the saddle from San Juanico to La Ramada

Another view of San Juanico

Aldabra and Jollydogs at anchor in La Ramada

When you’re moored in Puerto Escondido you’re dwarfed by the gigantic mountains

We arrived in Puerto Escondido in time for me to check into the marina to pay for the mooring ball I would use for the next few days inside the harbor. My crew left and took a taxi to Loreto. And I began to take advantage of having the boat to myself for a few days. I leisurely cleaned, took advantage of the laundry, showers and Internet services and chatted with other cruisers. And I indulged in some reading. I also took at taxi into Loreto on one evening for the Chocolate Clams Festival and had a great evening with some other cruisers, from boats Myla, Mystic Eyes, Interlude, Milagro, Trovita, Gypsea and Easy.

As I am posting this blog, I’m now waiting for my crew for the final cruising segment of the season. Steve Hardt, a long-time friend of my sister, who shares my interest in sailing, will arrive in Loreto and take a taxi here to Puerto Escondido. We’ll then take the boat back to La Paz, hopefully by way of a few places I haven’t visited. It of course all depends on the wind.

As I contemplate returning south to La Paz, I’m thinking about all the places I didn’t get to this year in the Sea of Cortez. I barely surveyed the middle section and didn’t even get close to the northern section. There is much more to see, as I could tell as I flew over it earlier in May. On one side you have this vast, desolate peninsula with huge mountains running up the center. On the other side you have dozens of desert islands of all sizes and shapes. Travel from place to place can be in short hops. Sometimes the weather is benign. Sometimes the winds and seas seem quite challenging. But this relatively unpopulated expanse is a boater’s paradise, with great swimming, fishing, hiking and people.

Passages, Places

La Paz to Puerto Escondido and Back

Before leaving La Paz, I began rereading the Log Book from the Sea of Cortez, by John Steinbeck and Doc Ricketts. It was my companion reader as we moved about many of the same places they visited to collect specimens. Aldabra left La Paz on April 15 at about 11:00 a.m. and headed north after stopping for fuel at the fuel dock at the Costabaja marina. Crew Matt had joined the boat that morning less than an hour before departure. But we had been getting to know him for a couple of days before that, as he joined us for dinners out with other boats.

We were bound for either Caleta Partida, the anchorage between Isla Partida and Isla Espiritu Santo, or Ensenada Grande, an anchorage on Isla Partida. We caught a small Bonito on the way and released it.  I had been to Caleta Partida before arriving in La Paz, and as we passed by, it didn’t look that attractive for the expected wind conditions. So we continued on to Ensenada Grande. When we arrived, we found Redwood Coast II and Kemo Sabe already anchored there. They were just about to have happy hour together on Redwood Coast II, so we happily accepted an invitation to join them. We hitched a ride over to Redwood Coast II on Kemo Sabe’s dinghy because we weren’t ready to launch our dinghy and put the motor on.

Anchoring Aldabra

The next morning we did launch the dinghy and joined Don and Anne of Redwood Coast II on a small expedition ashore to check out a view of the anchorage achieved by scrambling over boulders up an arroyo behind a small beach. It was a bit steep as we made our own path. But the view was worth the sore knees. Next we took the dinghies over to the larger beach to check out a little private camp used by a company who brings clients over from La Paz for short stays. There was another trail behind the camp leading to the other side of the island. Don and Anne and Matt and I hiked it the next morning. It was a trail for about 5 minutes, and then for the next hour or so it was bouldering. The view on the other side was stunning, but my knees were shot by the time we climbed down and returned to our dinghies.

Looking from the beach in Ensenada Grande

Looking down on the east side of Isla Partida after crawling over boulders from the Ensenada Grande anchorage

Three of the hikers looking down from the top of the cliff on the east side of Isla Partida

Anne exploring on the east side of Isla Partida

We left the next morning for Isla San Francisco, arriving a day after Kemo Sabe. We went over to their boat for dinner. Aeolian and El Gato both arrived in the anchorage that evening. The next day, with Jane and Jerry on Aeolian, we walked the ridge line that overlooks the anchorage.

Looking down on the anchorage on the west side of Isla San Francisco

Jane taking pictures on the top of the ridge on Isla San Francisco

Looking over at the east side of Isla San Francisco

That night all four boats had dinner on El Gato. While we were there, a boat was trying to enter the anchorage after just losing their prop. They were trying to come in under sail with little success, so we took two dinghies out and rafted up to either side of the boat, guiding it in to a spot where it could anchor. The next day another boat towed it across the channel, presumably where it could have access to a new prop. The winds were from the northwest while we were in Isla San Francisco, with some high gusts. Matt enjoyed the free diving off the north point. We were there at the end of the second week of the easter holiday, so there were a lot of power boats with jet skis and water skis, and it was quite obnoxious.

We left with Aeolian on Friday, April 21, at 7:00 a.m., headed for Agua Verde, which was 52 miles north, up through the San Jose Channel. The winds were light, from the north/northwest. We sailed at times but mostly motor sailed. The seas were flat until we reached the top of Isla San Jose. We had larger swells after that. We arrived at Agua Verde in the late afternoon and anchored in the middle anchorage, in front of a wide beach. We stayed there for three nights and two days. The water was warmer than everywhere else. While there, we snorkeled at Solitaire Rock, which will be closed permanently around November of this year. We also hiked over the trail at the northwest anchorage and made our way to the painted cave. It was a long, confusing slog, but we made it. We also walked around the town a bit and had tacos at a new cooperative restaurant on the beach. Al and Jolinda from Chez Nous joined us there when they arrived in the anchorage.

We hiked through this oasis on the way to the painted cave

Jerry crossing the river on the hike to the painted cave

The painted cave

Looking out of the painted cave, back from where we came from

We continued north from Agua Verde on Monday, April 24, along with Aeolian. We motor sailed the whole way to Puerto Escondido. The winds were light from various directions until the last five miles, when the wind picked up to 22 knots south of the point. We took moorings in the inner harbor and went in Aeolian’s dinghy to check into the marina. Afterward we had beer and appetizers at the restaurant there.

The next morning we all four took a taxi into Loreto. We walked around the mission, visited the waterfront and had brunch at a restaurant overlooking the water. We were waiting to see the motorcycles and cars form the offroad race. They were due to arrive at any minute, but we finally gave up and continued walking around town. We visited the Caballo Blanco used book store, the Ferre Mar fishing supply story and the Ley grocery store, before taking the taxi back to the anchorage. That night, we had dinner with Aeolian on shore, and said our goodbyes. Aeolian was to continue north, and it was time for Aldabra to start heading south again.

The mission in Loreto, the first mission in California

One of the old buildings next to the mission

Inside the courtyard of the mission

The government building in the center of Loreto

Children dancing in the town square

Inside the lobby of the Posada de las Flores Hotel in Loreto

We left Puerto Escondido on April 26 at 8:00 a.m. and headed for Timbabiche, arriving at 3:30 p.m. We motor sailed the whole way in benign conditions. A local man by the name of Manuel caught some fish for us the next morning. We gave him money, milk, canned corn and beer.

Timbabiche

We left Timbabiche that morning at 8:30 a.m. and arrived at the east anchorage of Isla San Francisco at nearly 5:00 p.m.  The going had been difficult, getting through the San Jose Channel in big seas and big winds on the nose from the south/southeast. We had the main up, the jib out and the motor going, and played the wind shifts to make the trip as short as possible. We arrived to find Redwood Coast II in the same anchorage. El Gato arrived shortly after we did. We never got together with either boat because it was too windy for any of us to get off our boats.

That night was an uncomfortable, windy, rolly night. El Gato left early to head north and Redwood Coast left later that morning. I stayed on the boat all day as the wind whipped through the anchorage, while Matt did manage some free diving to spear fish. (So we had good fresh fish for dinner.) We were joined in the anchorage by the unusual boat, Westward, which towed in a disabled sailboat. Later, the Sea Shepard research boat, Martin Sheen, arrived in the anchorage for a brief overnight stay. We had another uncomfortable night, but no quite as bad as the previous night.

The Westward

The following morning, the Martin Sheen left early, and Westward left a bit later with the disabled boat in tow. We were alone in the anchorage with a large powerboat. I did a little bit of snorkeling and Matt caught more fish. The wind started coming around from the north, so before dinner, we picked up the anchor and moved around to the west side of the island for a calmer night, leaving early the next morning for the 44-mile trip back to La Paz.

During the trip back to La Paz, we had 15-20 knot winds from behind. We started sailing with just the jib out but big seas kept our speed low. So we added the motor and pretty much flew back to La Paz. Once there, we found our slip and got settled in. After we had our final fish dinner, Rick and Cindy from Cool Change came over for a visit. It was nice to see then after several weeks apart.

We spent the next couple of days cleaning the boat and doing chores, as I prepared to fly back to San Diego for two weeks.

People, Places

La Paz

We arrived in La Paz on Monday, April 10. That night, we had a wonderful reunion with Jules and Jeff on El Gato, Don and Anne on Redwood Coast II and Alan and Jan on Kemo Sabe. It was so nice to see them after at least a couple of months apart. Don and Anne left the next day for Espiritu Santo but we did get to see the others again the next night, along with Aeolian, for a celebration of Kip’s last night. Kemo Sabe then left for the islands as well. I also got to visit with Steve from Pablo. I took a class with Steve and his wife Sherri nearly two years ago in Santa Cruz.

While in La Paz, I took a couple of walks just to see the town, but there is much left to discover. Mainly, I’ve spent the last few days getting the boat cleaned inside and out, defrosting the freezer and refrigerator, changing the oil in the diesel engine, changing the watermaker filters, and doing a few minor repairs.

My new crew, Matt, arrived last night and we had dinner with Aeolian. Today we provisioned with Jules and Jeff. We took a taxi to the City Club, which seems just like a Costco. And we walked over to Soriana, before hauling all of our groceries back to the marina in a taxi.

The boat is now ready to leave for a couple of weeks to explore the anchorages and islands just north of La Paz.

Passages

Mazatlan to Baja

After spending one night in the marina in Mazatlan, we left with Aeolian at first light on Tuesday morning, April 4. We sailed and motor sailed north for nearly 50 miles, hoping to then head southwest and have favorable winds as we headed to Bahia de los Muertos. In the early evening, just before it was time to tack over toward Baja, we caught a fish. Once we tacked, we suddenly had challenging seas, stronger winds and a fish to deal with. I was frustrated because I was having trouble keeping the boat’s momentum up. We should have been able to sail fast in those winds, but the seas just kept slowing us down. As I fiddled with the boat, Kip heroically cleaned the fish and got it into the refrigerator.

Shortly after that, Aeolian called on the radio and suggested we turn our motors on if we didn’t want to see multiple sunsets at sea. So we motor sailed most of the rest of the passage. That night was a long one, with high winds and uncomfortable seas. But nothing broke and Kip had no complaints.

The next day was more of the same, although things always seem less intense during the day. We arrived in Los Muertos in the late afternoon and put the anchor down. After a good night’s sleep, we went with Jane and Jerry in their dinghy to shore and had lunch at the restaurant, mainly to use the Internet. Afterward, we walked along the beach before heading back to our boats. Jane and Jerry joined us for fish dinner that night on the boat.

The next day, we headed to Playa Bonanza, on the east side of Espiritu Santo. It was windy when we got there, but settled down by evening. We had dinner on Aeolian, because they had caught a fish that day. The next morning, I swam to shore and had a nice walk along the beach and over a saddle that revealed a beautiful view of the west side of the island as well as the anchorage we were in. We left around noon to motor sail through the shallow, narrow San Lorenzo Channel to the west side of Espiritu Santo. We anchored in Bahia San Gabriel, without knowing that anchoring was prohibited. We had a quiet day and snorkeled on a small reef there. In the evening, while Jane and Jerry joined us to celebrate Kip’s birthday, a Coromuel wind came up. It was just the beginning of a long night of high winds and huge wind waves. We couldn’t wait to get out of there, so the next morning we hoisted the anchor and sailed north to Caleta Partida, a more protected anchorage. There, we lounged around, swam a bit and then went over to Aeolian for cocktails with Ken and Dotty from Dream Weaver, after getting a tour of Dream Weaver’s onboard motorcycle.

Then next morning, we said a temporary farewell to Aeolian as Aldabra headed south to La Paz. We had light winds so attempts at sailing were futile. But when we entered the La Paz channel, we had lots of wind. So much so that I found it hard to find the entrance to Marina La Paz, and entering seemed risky in those winds. So I anchored right next to Redwood Coast II. Don then took me into the marina in his dinghy, where we discovered another boat in my assigned slip. After talking to the office to ensure that the boat would be moved, we went back out, pulled up anchor and entered the marina and our slip without any issues.

Passages

La Cruz to Mazatlan

Crew Kip joined Aldabra on Thursday, March 30. We set out on Saturday, April 1, anchoring for the night in nearby Punta de Mita. We pulled up anchor about 7:00 the next morning and rounded the point toward Mazatlan. We buddy boated the whole overnight trip with Mark and Stephanie on Wainui. The winds were pretty light and from the north so we sailed a bit, but mostly motor sailed. It was an uneventful but pleasant passage.

We arrived in the Mazatlan area on Monday morning and then slowed ourselves down so we wouldn’t enter the channel too early. We would ideally enter at high tide but that would have been a long wait. Motoring north along the coast that morning was very quiet and scenic. The water was glassy and we could study the coast and a few visiting seabirds. We ended up entering the channel around noon, which wasn’t a problem except for a tiny bit of surfing as we entered. (The channel to the north marinas is very shallow and very narrow.)

Jane and Jerry on Aeolian had arranged for us to have a slip at the El Cid Marina for the night. It was a bit windy as we first came alongside the fuel dock. After fueling up, we let the wind decide how we would back off the dock, turn around and enter our assigned slip. All went well. So we checked in, had a bit of lunch with Jane and Jerry and then took naps.

We had dinner that night with Jane and Jerry and Don and Bobbi on Sea Dancer in the old central part of Mazatlan.

People, Places

La Cruz

We arrived in the La Cruz Marina in the afternoon of March 22 and settled into our slip. I was delighted to find our friends on Wainui in the slip almost right across from us. We had caught a fish, a Sierra Mackerel on the trip up, so Derek cooked it up for dinner, and it was delicious. The next day we did a bunch of boat chores and minor fixes before cocktails on the boat with Catatude and dinner at La Cava with Cool Change, Wainui and Liahona. It was the farewell dinner for Derek and Liahona’s guests.

Derek left early Friday morning and I began taking advantage of the water available at the dock. I cleaned the clothes I hadn’t sent to the laundry, cleaned the outside of the boat and then tackled the inside of the boat, cleaning and reorganizing in preparation for the next leg. I was delighted that my friend Amy Bonetti and her husband Skip and their two friends came to the marina on Friday for lunch. Amy lives in Marin County and I hardly get to see her, so it was quite a treat to see her here in Mexico.

Saturday and Sunday were nice lazy days, punctuated by dinner with friends and the Sunday market, which is quite social and offers very good food. On Monday, I took the bus to Nuevo Vallarta and had a lovely day with my friends Manuel and Ann Carlos. Manuel and Ann usually spend several months a year in their condo in Nuevo Vallarta, but this year they needed to stay back in Corralitos, so I caught them during their only week here. We talked politics a bit, Manuel filled me in on some little-known facts about the historical relationship between the U.S. and Mexico, and both Manuel and Ann gave me an overview of their history with turtle conservation in Banderas Bay over the last 15 years.

Yesterday I finished more boat chores, took a trip up the marine supply store, and had dinner on the boat with Mark and Stephanie of Wainui. And today I spent a couple of hours making arrangements for some boat repair for tomorrow, and took the bus to Walmart for some provisioning.

My new crew, Kip arrives tomorrow afternoon. The boat repair (adding a stainless steel guard on the bow to guide the anchor safely into position) should be done by the time she arrives. We’ll then do some final provisioning on Friday, along with checking out of the marina and with the port captain. And then we’ll be off again, sailing north toward La Paz, probably by way of Mazatlan. Depending on the wind and weather, we’ll probably leave on Saturday or Sunday. It’s about a 30 hour trip from here to Mazatlan and another 40+ hour trip from Mazatlan to La Paz, with possible stops along the way once we get to the islands near the tip of Baja.

I can see why people arrive in Banderas Bay and decide not to go much farther. I feel like I never get to spend enough time here, and I’ve spent several weeks here since arriving in early December. But I am looking forward to getting to the Sea of Cortez.

Events, People, Places

Chamela

Aldabra left Zihuatanejo on February 25, with new crew, Derek, from the Sacramento area. We buddy boated with Rick and Cindy on Cool Change, who had introduced me to Derek via email. The two-night, two-day passage was very calm. We motored most of the way in glassy seas and light air. We saw at least 100 turtles and large pods of dolphins.

We arrived in the Manzanillo area on February 27 and anchored for one night in front of the famous Las Hadas resort. The next day we sailed to Ensenada Carrizal. We were the only two boats in the anchorage and had a wonderful day snorkeling. The next day we motored north to Barra de Navidad, where Aldabra had a three-day spa treatment. She was washed and waxed and polished and her bottom was cleaned. We stayed in Barra just short of a week, enjoying the company of cruiser friends, eating great tacos on the street and taking advantage of the pool at the marina. We also retrieved the outboard motor, which was being repaired while we were in Zihuatanejo.

On March 6, we sailed from Barra de Navidad to Tenacatita. We hung out with friends and made new acquaintances. We also visited the town of La Manzanilla and their crocodile reserved. Five days later, we headed north again, stopping first in the beautiful anchorage of Paraiso, which had nice snorkeling. Again, we were the only two boats in the anchorage.

On March 12 we moved north to Bahia Chamela and Playa Perula. My friends Todd, Laura, Carlos, Debbie, John and Cammy, have a house on the beach there. They flew down from the U.S. for about a week and a half and we were able to hang out with them. Highlights were the St. Patrick’s Day party with all their ex-pat friends, which featured an all-day bean-bag toss tournament, and the parade of little children on the first day of spring.

We were joined in Chamela by Aeolian, Dreamcatcher, Wainui and Liahona, among others. All of these boats, including Cool Change, headed north before we did. We finally set out on March 21, intending to do an overnight passage around Cabo Corrientes and on to La Cruz. The sailing was perfect for the first four hours. After that, we had 15-16 knot winds on the nose a huge seas. We ended up diverting to a cove called Ipala, which is south of Cabo Corrientes. We rested there from midnight to 6:30 a.m. and then followed Dreamcatcher around Cabo Corrientes in calm seas and light winds, arriving in La Cruz in the early afternoon.

Chamela residents on St. Patrick’s Day

The bean-back toss tournament

Chamela residents on St. Patrick’s Day

Winners and Second Place in the Bean-Bag Toss Tournament

Aldabra Crew Derek enjoying St. Patrick’s Day

Parade in Chamela for First Day of Spring

Events, People, Places

Zihuatanejo

During Sailfest, there was a parade of boats from Zihuatanejo to Ixtapa

Aldabra arrived in Zihuatanejo on February 1, after a two-night, one-day passage from Ensenada Carrizal, near Manzanillo. We were very sad to leave good friends, but looking forward to learning more about Sailfest, which provides an opportunity for cruising sailboats to help raise money to build schools for Zihuatanejo students who might not otherwise have an opportunity to finish high school.

The cruising community in Zihuatanejo is very welcoming. Minutes after we anchored, Tim Melville from Northwest Passage motored over in his dinghy to invite us to participate in the local radio net and get involved with Sailfest. Tim, along with his wife Donna, and Ken and Nancy Hunting on Gitane were tireless organizers of this event, which was supposed to last a week but ended up starting early and extending throughout the month. And they weren’t the only ones who were instrumental in the success of the event, which ended up raising 1.6 million pesos this year. Ken and Margie on Peregrina, and Rick on Eyes of the World had huge roles. And then most of the cruising boats were the key to the whole thing, because they volunteered their time, their boats and their fuel to take paying customers out on sunset cruises, a one-day rally and a parade. Several boats hosted more than 5 cruises each. The guests loved their experiences and everyone was thrilled to be having fun for a worthy cause.

Aldabra stayed at anchor during Sailfest. After 3 months on the boat, my crew, Dax, was ready to spend some time on land. So I crewed on other boats who needed an extra pair of hands. And that was really fun for me. I sailed twice on Wainui with Mark Coleman and Stephanie York. And I sailed twice on Chez Nous with Al Garnier. I also got to sail as a guest on Catatude with Tom Wurfi and his wife Helen. And I joined as a guest on Kya, a 68-ft luxury powerboat with Michael and Katie, Stuart and Georgia.

At the Helm on Kya

Several of us made an extra donation to Sailfest in exchange for having a photo taken at the helm of this beautiful boat with its very gracious crew.

In addition to raising money by taking people out on the boats, Sailfest had a chili-cookoff, a silent auction, a rock and roll concert, and a zillion raffles. We also got to go on a tour of one of the schools, which was just built last summer, I think in eleven weeks. In addition to being part of such a worthy cause, I loved getting to know the other cruisers and getting to know the land-based community, some of whom are here year-round working on organizing this charity and the projects it funds. As a final wrap-up, we were also treated to an afternoon on the beach in a beautiful setting south of Zihuatanejo, which ended with the release of hundreds of little turtles into the sea.

Participants in the school tour, learning about how the school was built and who it serves

During our tour of one of the schools built by the funds from Sailfest, we were treated to a performance of traditional dances and a play

During the school tour the students performed traditional dances

These were some of several pairs of students performing traditional dances

These high school students put on a play about life and the drug wars

Students hanging out during the tour

These were some of the contestants for the chili cook-off

Some of the contestants in the chili cook-off

Local Participants in the Chili Cook-Off

Chili Cook-Off Texas Style

Love these two chili cook-off contestants

Nancy and Ken from Gitane and Donna and Tim from Northwest Passage were key drivers of Sailfest

This was the turtle I coaxed into the sea

Thanks to the volunteers, all the baby turtles made it into the ocean, but some of them really struggled. Hopefully things got easier once they made it through the surf.

So things are quieter now. Many of the boats that were here have taken off to either the south or the north. A few of us remain. I have new crew arriving in a few days so I will then look for a weather window to go north. Others will stay here for Guitarfest, which is in early March.

I shouldn’t close this post about Zihuatanejo, without talking about the town. Like most of the coastal enclaves I’ve visited in Mexico, there are many retired Americans and Canadians, along with some Europeans. So often the only culture one senses is an ex-pat culture, not a true Mexican culture. Zihuatanejo is a tourist economy and sometimes I’m overwhelmed by the sea of gringos. But sometimes, like this morning, it feels like a Mexican town. As I walked through the market, I was there with lots of Mexican families, out for Saturday morning shopping and strolls through town. I had this same sense last night at the basketball court, which is the heart of town on weekend evenings, with Mexican families of all types, with kids of all ages, out enjoying what is essentially the town square. No wonder people are charmed when they come to visit and often end up returning each year, or staying permanently. One other thing to mention about Zihuatanejo is that there is an endless supply of good food and good music. I look forward to returning next year for Sailfest, and I expect Aldabra to be one of the boats taking guests out on cruises.