July 22, 2008

Jacaranda Passage Note #23: La Paz, Baja

 

After a few weeks of going north in the Sea of Cortez, we turned around on May 7 at Agua Verde and headed south to return to La Paz  we had planned a special rendezvous with friends and then Linda was flying back to the States.

We departed Agua Verde on a good northerly breeze directly behind us and had a lovely sail south (with two head sails poled out and no main) to Isla San Jose. We anchored behind Punta Salinas and walked along the beach among the building ruins and rusted truck remnants of an old salt pond operation. The next day we moved across the large bay to anchor once again in La Amortajada (The Shroud). There is a very large lagoon with a narrow inlet behind the long sand beach (upon which now lay a decaying whale carcass) and this time we took the dinghy in to explore it  lots of fish and bird life. We had a quiet night but the tiny no-seeums (nearly invisible biting insects Mexicans call jejenes) were out in force at sunset  theyre so small that they go right through our screens!! So at first light we scrambled to get out of there as quickly as possible  they pack a powerful itch that lasts for days!

We moved over to the northern side of neighboring Isla San Francisco to have breakfast and let the strong southerly breeze subside before heading south to the islands off La Paz 25 miles away. The slog down to Espiritu Santo introduced us quickly to going to weather (into the wind) in the Sea of Cortez. Normally ocean swells are hundreds of yards apart as they have been traveling for thousands of miles. But in the Sea of Cortez in 15 knots of breeze the waves are new and hence very close together. So we bashed south with two waves per boat length. Lots of water sluicing the decks and at times slow boat speed but the new engine just kept purring. Hmmmm lesson for going into the wind in the Sea of Cortez: plan for a bumpy ride.

Back in La Paz, we set the hook off of Marina de La Paz and positioned Jacaranda carefully. Because of the strong tidal currents and wind against tide, the boats anchored here do what is known as the La Paz Waltz. Instead of normally facing bow into the wind, all lined up in orderly fashion, boats often lay willy-nilly - beam on or even stern to the wind! Or at times the boats charge to one side like a wild horse being brought up short by the chain and then tear off again in the opposite direction. When there is another boat anchored in close proximity the Waltz can get pretty exciting as the two boats hurtle towards each other.

Cruising friends James and Loisanne flew down from Oregon to see us and go sailing with Jim and Chris on La Ballona who had just made the trip over from Mazatlanwhat a fun reunion for the 6 of us!! Soon afterwards Linda headed back to the states for two weeks to do taxes and visit family in San Diego, Tucson, and Florida. It was a whirlwind trip that left Linda pretty tired. and after flying 7 hours to Cabo San Lucas she still had to take a 4 hour bus ride to La Paz. Like every good cruiser who makes a trip back to the states, she returned with the requisite heavy bag loaded with boat parts..and American food treats in another (most from Trader Joes).

Intense project completion, provisioning and socializing ensued for a few days before we were ready to leave again. The latter category included a lovely dinner on Jacaranda with Laura, a 29-year-old Mexican biology student from Mexico City who Linda met on the bus from Cabo and her two biologist friends, Pancho and Karla. Lots of talk about politics, environmental issues, sustainability, and what the term high maintenance meant in reference to some women in pretty good spanglish for all 5 of us! Another evening Linda and I ate dinner at Banditos - an open air restaurant where they cooked burgers on the engine-cum-grill of a truck parked in the middle of the courtyard - and then we finished it off with corn ice cream from La Fuente, a La Paz landmark.

Finally we were off - let the summer cruising in the Sea of Cortez begin in earnest!! Since it is the beginning of summer, the northerly winds have now stopped and the winds from the south have just begun. So we look forward to good sailing (and minimal motoring) as we work our way northward to the Upper Sea where there will be good protection as the hurricane season (which we are now in) progresses.

We began with a terrific sail 23 miles up to the north side of Isla San Francisco to meet our long-time friends Paul & Susan on Elenoa. They are celebrities in our cruising world and this was going to be a farewell of sorts after a 25+ year circumnavigation they are headed back to San Diego! Could be a record! Well miss spending some mighty fine times with them out here but plan to see them again somewhere soon (how about on their canal boat in the south of France?)

Another terrific sail north to the Agua Verde area brought us to beautiful Nautilus Cove where we met Lance and Jo (and boat dog Rocky) on Milagro. Lance is a fantastic fisherman and he was generous enough to take me under his wing and show me how he does it. In the two hours we fished together he brought in at least 25 fish - one right after another - from the first two minutes we were out there in the dinghy trolling near the reefs. All were released except 2 for dinner that night. Meanwhile I was catching nothing - zero, nada, zilch. It wasnt until he took his own line out of the water, changed my lure and gave me countless tips that I started having success! Just before heading back to Jacaranda I caught a very nice 15 lb. sea bass in addition to a couple of tasty trigger fish. Oh boy, was I stoked! and the next morning I went out and caught 4-5 fish within an hour. Im hopeful I was able to absorb a small amount of Lances expertise and patient training.and will be able to supply us with lots of fresh seafood dinners!!

Next we sailed up to Yellowstone Beach on Isla Monserrate - just 10 miles north from Agua Verde  taking care to avoid the reef in the middle of the bay. This anchorage aptly takes its name from the brilliant ochre colored limestone bluffs that glow brilliant yellow in the light of a sunset. We have been fishing and snorkeling since we arrived - the visibility has been fair (20-30 feet) but we understand that it will improve as the water temperatures (74 degrees now) increase. A pod of about 25 dolphins swam around us while I was in the dinghy and Linda was in the water. They seemed curious about the dinghy but when Linda tried to swim nearer they dove deep below her and she could hear their whistle calls underwater.



A few days ago we arrived at Bahia Candeleros on the Baja mainland, beam reaching in about 15 knots of warm breeze. Doesnt get any better than this! The spectacular Sierra de la Giganta Mountains jut straight up from the water along this coastline of Baja and we feel like we are sailing in the Grand Canyon. The rock formations change as the sun moves across the sky; sunrise is the special time with fantastic colors as the suns hits the exposed rock striations and layering. We are located about 7 miles south of Puerto Escondido now.