TUESDAY, AUGUST 10, 2010

Jacaranda Passage Note #41: Mazatlan to the Sea of Cortez - Back to Baja

We are back in Baja California - spending our third Summer in the Sea of Cortez for the hurricane season - and it feels great to be back eating fresh fish for dinner every night, snorkeling in a warm sea- aquarium, and watching the night skies for shooting stars. Of course, we are enduring the heat again too - right now sunrise temperatures of about 82 rising to near triple digits during the afternoons. Comes with the territory. After our three months in cosmopolitan Puerto Vallarta, most of our old routine is returning - day-hop sailing to new anchorages (and old favorites too), daily swimming, fishing and beachwalking, listening to the morning and evening radio nets for weather forecasts and connections with cruising friends, blowing the conch horn at sunset to gratefully say adios to another day in a most magical place - the Sea of Cortez - where the sea and the desert meet and the water is filled with all variety of marine life from the biggest whales to the smallest nudibranchs.

 

When we left Puerto Vallarta on June 1, we sailed north, stopping for two days at Isla Isabella, before reaching Mazatlan to haul the boat out of the water to paint the bottom. The Singular boatyard there is fairly new and is one of the most spotless yards we have been in, with really nice amenities (clean bathrooms with hot water, comfortable lounge, strong wifi, friendly staff). Besides, where else can you sit in a second story swimming pool/jacuzzi overlooking the yard and watch the work progress on your boat? We stayed at the Singlar dock rather than go to Marina Mazatlan this time. The haulout went smoothly and once we were lifted, pressure washed, and blocked in our spot, Bob and his crew at Total Yacht Works went right to work sanding the old paint, putting on two new coats, readjusting the propeller, and getting a check-up on the Yanmar engine that we installed through them about two years ago. We were in the yard for 6 days before being returned to our slip at the Singlar dock.

Finally, on June 16, we left Mazatlan and the Mexican mainland and crossed over to Agua Verde on the Baja side of the Sea of Cortez, a trip that took three days. We anchored at Nautilus Cove and were joined in short order by John and Sandy from Masquerade with their 8 year old grandaughter Lizzy who were waiting for us with a few deliveries that we had arranged to be sent down to Mexico and had been handed off through a network of friends. We were also joined by s/v Outrider with Peter and his two sons Liam (age 9) and Kai (age 11). We were the first cruisers they had met in Baja when they arrived last year and it has been great to see how the boys have progressed as sailors, fishermen, snorkelers, and personalities on the radio.

 

We sailed NE to Catalina Island which we had been trying to reach unsuccessfully for the past few years due to uncooperative winds. This time it was perfect weather and we spent a few days exploring anchorages that were not in any guide books. Off the beaten track  we love that!! The snorkeling was good with 40-45 foot visibility and heaps of reef fish. So different from the Catalina Island thats part of the Channel Islands off of LA in California where we did our initial shakedown: no quaint Avalon with a Casino (we did look), no mooring buoys, no other boats, and not a single person around. Just barren desert beauty with unique rattleless rattlesnakes and the hugest barrel cacti in Baja. If its not in the cruising guide we can expect to have it all to ourselves or, at the most, share it with the local itinerant Mexican pangueros.

After that, it was back to familiar territory - a few days on the north side of Carmen (V-Cove and Bahia Oto), snorkeling Isla Cholla, Isla Coronado, and a quick day in brutally hot Loreto to re-provision (and have a great dinner at the Mita Gourmet restaurant). July found us visiting favorite La Ramada and San Juanico, where we hiked, collected apache tears (small shiny volcanic obsidian nuggets), visited the tree that is the Cruiser Shrine (hung with all kinds of objects inscribed with boat names), and ate clam and lobster dinners thanks to some local Mexican pangueros. Then on to Santo Domingo and Sweet Pea Cove on Isla San Marcos. Here we finally caught up with long-time friends Jack and Hermy on IWA who had returned from Ecuador after 4 years. We had been looking forward to being with them in the Sea.

 

Then it was a quick 2 days in Santa Rosalia Marina for reprovisioning again, before leaving on the only overnight trip we have to make - to get to San Francisquito. Boarded by the Navy. We anchored in the cozy small inner harbor for a week waiting for IWA who had been delayed in SR. We were driven out by bees. Joined Masquerade at Isla Animas where we also rendezvoused with Iwa. So coolone of coolest place in Baja.

As we make our way north this year, our third summer in the Sea, we are struck by the relative absence of birds and fish in the southern and central Sea of Cortez compared to the last two summers. And we have only spotted a few fin whales so far, although the dolphins and sea lions are here in generous numbers. It remains to be seen whether more whales will appear and what the whaleshark sightings will be later on in our journey.

 

We are especially concerned about the dorado population which seems to be way down in numbers and size. Dewey, a friend in Loreto who participates in an annual dorado tournament reported that there were few dorado caught this year and the largest one was only 16 pounds. We have become even more alarmed after seeing a video on YouTube called El Oro de Cortez (link) - a documentary about illegal dorado fishing in the Sea of Cortez.

 

From the email we received from friends in La Paz "El Oro de Cortez" is a documentary about illegal fishing in the Sea of Cortez. Through interviews with government officials, scientists and fisherman we expose the huge amounts, thousands of tons, of Dorado that are illegally exported to the United States each year from the port city of Guaymas, Sonora Mexico. Also exposed in this documentary are the tremendous number of marine turtles that are shipped off to the black market each year due to the illegal fishing of Dorado." If the links below don't work, go to youtube and search:

 

Part I:  El Oro de Cortezhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4vN_g2-JU_E

Part 2: El Oro de Cortez http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZXp0U8yXsoY
Part 3: El Oro de Cortez - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0__kyyAXSUU

We are currently in Bahia de Los Angeles where we are happy to report a large number of birds and that usually means a good catch for dinner. Starting north of San Fransquito the bird life started to increase. Large numbers of boobies and pelicans almost always insure a large number of bait fish and that my friends means larger fish are around. This year the yellow tails are much bigger than the past few years. While stopped in Isla Partida Norte the yellowtails were in abundance in the 12-15lb range with larger ones mixed in.  Dinner is usually on the hook within 10-15 minutes of launching the dink.