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AUGUST 8, 2008

Jacaranda Passage Note #25: It's the Bees Knees!

Caleta Blanca, Isla Animas, Baja California


From Bahia Canderlos Chico where Linda reported on our magical squid experience, we sailed north with a light southerly, stopping off at a beach on Isla Danzante for lunch. We continued on a bit further north, bypassing Puerto Escondido (Escangringo), to Punta Nopolo, 4 miles south of Loreto. Its so great to have so many choices of places to stop: we read that there are over 300 anchorages on the Baja side!


I must include a short blurb about the great sailing here compared to mainland Mexico. We motored much more than we sailed on mainland Mexico due to not having much wind  and we often found either no wind at all or noserlies (wind from the direction we wanted to go). There, with the normal winter wind pattern coming from the north, we usually waited for a weather report of strong wind warnings before going south and looked for a forecast of light breezes when we headed north, often sitting in an anchorage and waiting until the right conditions materialized.

We are enjoying the best sailing we have had in Mexico where we are now on the Baja side of the Sea of Cortez.sailing about 90% of the time!! For the most part, the wind has always been blowing in the direction we have wanted to go. The summer southerlies have been with us for a couple of months - great for heading north! We plan to wait for the northerlies to start in October before heading south again. Since leaving La Paz we have kept the main sail covered and only use the headsail; its so much easier especially since we have our 4 solar panels tied to the top of the furled mainsail. 

Most of the cruisers who were planning on leaving their boats in a safe marina and abandoning the hot hurricane season in Mexico have already departed - gone home, back to work, on a road trip, visiting family, housesitting for friends, or vacationing in other foreign places. The SSB and Ham nets (radio communication networks) are much shorter now and there appears to be less than 25 boats spending the sweltering summer in the Seaa small community whose camaraderie and shared experiences make us a pretty tight knit group, as diverse as we are.

The bee, bobo (small flies), and no-see-um reports we pass along to each other are listened to with interest every morning when we check into the local cruiser nets; sometimes these insects can make a beautiful anchorage unbearable. For those of you who have not cruised the Sea in the summer before, perhaps the bees are the most surprising. Bees usually send out scouts looking for flowering plants but here in the arid Baja these guys are thirsty and are searching for fresh water. They can smell it miles away!! Many times we are buzzed by scouts before we even have the anchor down. They are not aggressive but more of a nuisance; luckily we have never been stung although others have. We have tried several folk remedies to keep them away  hanging sheets of Bounce fabric softener, using citronella crystals, etc - but unfortunately we concur with the experienced Baja cruisers that the most effective way is to kill the scouts before they go back to the hive and alert the troops. There have been a few times when we were ashore and came back to find 40-50 bees swarming around our sun shower or the faucets in the galley.

We stopped at the lovely town of Loreto to stock up on veggies at the excellent Sunday open market and stayed to explore the historical sites and quaint central pedestrian street with its topiary archways. After a few days we left restocked with food and sailed 7 miles eastward to Isla Carmen. Because our first stop, Bahia Ballandra (pronounced Bye-on-dra), was too warm due to a dry HOT wind blowing over the island and the bees were out in force, we moved around to the north side to Puerto La Lancha. La Lancha (Port of the Launch) is the spot where workers from the now defunct salt pond operation at Bahia Salinas on the southern end of the island used to be picked up and dropped off. We enjoyed 3-4 days there with a great cool breeze and found the fishing on the reefs excellent. We never came back empty handed and always had a few tasty trigger fish or grouper in the bag. In fact we even gave a trigger fish to my mentor Lance from Milagro who spent hours tutoring me a month earlier(payback time).

A sudden mechanical problem caused us to backtrack to Loreto. The fridge starting acting up and would not shut off. Looking at the bright side, having it run continuously was a good sort of problem as opposed to the bad kind where it would not turn on at all and we would lose all our frozen food. At least it was still working and could be controlled by a switch. We spoke with Hector the refrigeration man in La Paz via a friends Mexican cell phone and he diagnosed the problem as a faulty thermostat. He shipped a new one to us in Loreto via Baja Pack where it arrived the next morning on the bus. But the replacement didnt solve the problem either - the fridge continued to run non-stop. Luckily we had a 12V timer that we wired in place of the thermostat and that did the trick!!  allowing us to program the on/off cycles as needed. In fact it works so much better than the thermostat we may just leave it installed. (highly recommended for those heading out cruising). Now the majority of the run time is during the day when there is plenty of solar power and only a few hours during the night.

After leaving Loreto this time we went north to Isla Coronado (the southern anchorage) and had another night of squiding! At dusk the squid came in force by the thousands and the bay was alive with splashing, jumping, squirting and color flashing all evening. This time we had a special squid lure that we purchased in Loreto  a three inch elongated barrel of florescent plastic that glows in the dark when activated by flashlight, sitting atop two rings with multiple small sharp hooks. Since our fridge was totally topped up with fresh food from Loreto and there was not a spare inch of room for even one tasty calamari steak, we taped up the hooks with duct tape so as not to land any and satisfied ourselves with just playing with them. Linda had a ball getting the squid to run with the lure and then let it go. She brought the flashing squid to the surface around the boat amidst squirting jets of water while hooting and hollering til all hours of the night.

Further up the track, we sailed through San Juanico, a scenic and popular cruiser anchorage, but opted to stay at La Ramada Cove just to the north. La Ramada is another tiny cove very similar to Candeleros Chico. We shared the anchorage with one other boat and were fascinated by hundreds of young pelicans diving the large schools of sardines all around us.

Soon it was time to move on.   We had a date to keep:  Gary's legendary 4th of July Cruisers Party at El Burro Cove.

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