Thursday, June 30, 2016

Loreto and Isla Coronados

Loreto rests at the shore of the Sea of Cortez

We spent 3 sweets weeks sailing between Loreto and the surrounding islands 
which compose Loreto National Park. 

Welcome to Loreto! 

The map shows the town of Loreto, Isla Coronados and Isla Carmen. 
We are currently anchored at El Burro Cove in Bahia Concepcion.

The Catholic church here is 300 years old

The Blue Anchor, our favorite internet place in Loreto

The Sea of Cortez ruins sailors.

There, I said it.

When Chris and I were sailing the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, wave heights of 5-15 feet were pretty much all in a days work. Expected. But here in the Sea of Cortez, it's so protected that a typical swell size is one foot. A scary day might mean swells of 3-5 feet. 

It's that flat calm.

The water surface can be so benign in the Sea of Cortez that we actually motored 6 miles across open ocean between Loreto and Isla Coronados with our sunshades up and WITH OUR DINGHY HANGING ON THE SIDE OF THE BOAT. 

You landlubbers won't get the relevance of this. But in the regular ocean, be it Pacific or Atlantic -- the above motoring scenario, well, it simply isn't done. 

We enjoyed several days at calm and beautiful Isla Coronados

One day I went for a long swim across the bay at Isla Coronados. Halfway through my swim,  mother and child humpback whales surfaced about 30 feet away. 

My first instinct was to panic. 

Yikes! There are two gigantic whales only 30 feet away! 

But after a few deep breaths, I settled down and just tried to exude calm (Generally speaking, flailing and freaking out around wildlife is not a good idea). They surfaced again and then calmly headed towards the open ocean.

Wow. Pretty cool.

Later that night, while relaxing in the cockpit and watching the full moon rise over the mountains, we heard an explosion from the direction of the mainland. 

"What in the hell was that?" we asked each other.

A moment later, we heard another explosion emanating from the direction of the mainland. The sound bounced ominously off of the mountains, across the water and out of the pitch blackness.

We sat silently, listening through the darkness.

We heard the sound again, but this time it was preceded by a large and loud exhaling sound, and then, the gigantic explosion.

The whales! It was humpbacks breaching -- diving deep and then hurtling through the ocean surface and smashing down again. They were so large, and it was so loud, each breach sounded exactly like dynamite exploding in the mountains.

Again and again, we listened to the sound of whale after whale breaching,. There must have been at least 3 of them. 

We were anchored only a couple of hundred feet away.

The ocean between the mainland in the distance and Isla Coronados is where the humpback whales breached over and over again under the cloak of darkness

The next morning, we popped over to Loreto again.

Loreto brick and palm

Loreto has an adorable ficus walkway that goes right through the center of town

Mountain peaks soar behind the city

With the palm trees and the towering mountains, Loreto has almost a South Pacific feel

We watched a game of the NBA finals at gringo sports bar Augie's 
with John and Julie of s/v Myla

After provisioning at the Ley's supermarket in Loreto and downloading all of our favorite podcasts, it was time to head north again -- away from civilization and into the wildness once more.

We actually caught some good wind and enjoyed a refreshing sail.

Chris set the auto pilot and rode Espiritu like a bucking bronco

That's it for now. We're currently anchored in Playa Burro in Bahia Concepcion with several other sailboats awaiting the big annual gringo July 4th fireworks show local expat Geary puts on every year. All is well.

What are your July 4th plans? Let me know!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Around Loreto

Espiritu anchored with friends at Isla Coronados 

The city of Loreto on the southeast coast of Baja Mexico is the center of culture and activity in the area. Fortunately there are several beautiful bays and islands in the immediate vicinity, so we've been checking them out.

Our first stop on this leg of our adventure was Agua Verde, south of Loreto. 

The beautiful bay and anchorage of Agua Verde

Don of Windcharmer and Chris marvel at the beauty

Espiritu, Windcharmer and Trovita went ashore to explore the tiny village.

Cows roam free on the beach

Little pink house

In tiny Mexican villages like this one, families turn one room of their home into a small market (or "tienda"). There were 3 home/tiendas in the village, selling a small selection of groceries and produce  out of their living room.

This bedroom, with children happily playing, opened 
directly into the "market" (AKA their living room)

Lisa and the goats, which roam freely through the village

So, not only are there cows, chickens and goats mooing, clucking and baaaaa-ing their 
way up and down the dusty streets of Agua Verde, there are also pigs and...

Turkeys! They've got the run of the place. 
Now that's what I call "free range."

Little blue church

There's a beautiful reef here, and it will always be known as the 
spot of my first spearfishing kill.
I was by myself when I bagged him (Chris was ashore exploring with the guys). I couldn't bring myself to take a selfie with the 2 pound wavyline grunt.

My first kill -- pupils fixed and dilated

I'm not a killer. I'm a gentle person, I hope. I don't like violence. But I do eat meat. And eating fish is necessary to stay alive in the isolated Sea of Cortez. So I knew I had to step up to the plate. 

Still, I wasn't looking forward to my first spear kill. Yes, I was proud and happy after the spear pierced the target, as I'd been working on my technique for weeks and had experienced dozens of misses.

But it's strange and sobering to see a living thing die painfully in front of you, at your own hand.

And yes, the fresh fish dinner went down good later on that night, bathed in butter and lime.

I suppose the trick is to never take the kill for granted -- to eat every morsel with gratitude and to show respect for the life so suddenly taken.

"Today is a good day to die." -- Chief Crazy Horse 

Next stop: Bahia Candeleros, a few miles north.

We got some internet at the beautiful resort on the beach at Candeleros

Desert views

We walked 2 miles on a dirt road to the village of Ligui.

Even though the village is super-small, there was still a teensy-weensy Catholic church.

church doors

We went inside, where a Jesus statue unlike any I've seen in Latin America greeted us.

Jesus loves bowling?

I know THIS Jesus loves bowling, but the original?

Actually, upon closer inspection I'm assuming that is our beloved Planet Earth that Jesus is holding, not a bowling ball. It's the fact that there are no landmasses and it's completely covered in water that threw me. 

Maybe Jesus is warning us about climate change in the little Ligui statue?

This little rowboat near the beach was named "Rosebud." Maybe it's from 
Charles Foster Kane's little known "Sea of Cortez" period? 

Flowers in the middle of the desert!

After a couple of days at Candoleros, we sailed north again.

We passed gorgeous mountains and rock formations as we sailed north

Next stop: Puerto Escondido.

We gassed up and did some shopping at the small Puerto Escondido tienda

You can anchor or grab a mooring here (both the same price -- $17US), and it's the place to be in a hurricane due to the excellent protection. But except for the tienda, laundry and internet, there's really nothing here. So we moved north.

Next stop: the Loreto waterfront

Since the conditions were calm, we anchored overnight here with several other boats 
and provisioned at the Ley Supermarket.

The town of Loreto is 400 years old 

From Loreto, we sailed only 6 miles north to our next destination: Isla Coronados.

Espiritu and several other boats settled in amidst the volcanic beauty of Isla Coronados

Tricia of Interabang leads us ashore on the 
lovingly maintained trail

Wood path to beach

View from the top. Chris looks down at the fleet, thinking "How did we get here?"


Red kayaks

Dinghy and seagull

We spent a lovely afternoon with our old friends Derek and Tricia aboard Interabang. They're mentoring us regarding the ins 'n' outs of Baja Rummy -- a complicated, multi-deck card game of which mastery is sort of a prerequisite to be welcomed into the Sea of Cortez cruising community. 

What? You don't play Baja Rummy? Yes! Yes, we do!!!!

We're unclear whether it is legal or not to spearfish in these National Park islands around Loreto. We do know the fish counts in general are down -- way down -- so there are limits to commercial fishing for sure. Some say spearfishing here is OK as long as you have a license (which we all do), and other's say it's no longer allowed. Chris and I chose to simply enjoy the beauty and wait until we get farther north to spearfish again.

But some buddy boats here did hit the reefs...

The boys on family boats Cielo Grande and Shonigan speared several fish, 
and brought us a still wiggling grouper as a gift!

Wow.  Well, we of course accepted with gratitude, and we're still 
dining on her (him?) as of this writing. 

Speaking of s/v Shonigan, their  spirited and adorable 13 year old daughter 
Nina showed me her "room" aboard.

Teenager Nina's "room" aboard (AKA the v-berth)

So that's it for now. We're meeting new friends every day as we continue to sail north along southeastern Baja. More later! Hasta luego!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Puerto Los Gatos adventure

Espiritu rests in Puerto Los Gatos anchorage

After exploring a couple of Sea of Cortez islands, we were forced to turn back to La Paz to deal with an electrical navigation issue. 

Chris gets technical help from Paul of s/v Grace and Jeff of s/v Luminescence.

Back at Club Cruceros in La Paz, I perused the bulletin board for the latest cruising news. You might remember a few weeks ago I posted that one of the cruisers had anonymously posted a photo with push pins of a resplendent Donald Trump, having recently become the presumptive Republican nominee for president.

Today, the photo of Trump was gone, but in it's place pinned to the bulletin board was this:

Oh, dear. This is the rap group NWA
 (Niggas With Attitude -- yes, that is their actual name)

Need it be stated that there are no apparent African Americans, rap fans or anyone of African descent  currently in Club Cruceros or in the local cruising community.

Well, I'm not sure what the anonymous disgruntled cruiser with the Pushy Push Pins 
was trying to say, but I could guess. 

Sigh. The Push Pin Bandit may be a man of few words, but I guess his point is crystal clear. :-/

 Well, the good news is, after only a couple of days in La Paz Chris solved our chart plotter problem  and we headed north along the southeastern coast of Baja California.

First stop: San Evaristo, where we had tacos at adorable little Lupe's Restaurant --
note the sail and surfboard signs -- drawing in the cruisers.

View of the anchorage from Lupe's Restaurant

We had 16 cruising adults in various stages of inebriation at the restaurant, and only one cruising kid -- 12 year old Evan, spending a year aboard s/v Coastal Drifter with his grandparents.

I took pity on Evan being the only kid, and challenged him to a game of dominoes.
Not shockingly, Evan reigned victorious. Little did he know what an easy target I was.

Evan celebrates his "dominoes champ" status. I lose. Again. 

We painted a shell with the words "Espiritu 2016," and they hammered it 
to the wall with the hundreds of other shells. Cool. 

After a good night's sleep in the anchorage, we sailed north the next morning to our next destination: Puerto Los Gatos.

The breathtaking Sierra de Las Gargantas mountains gave us the feel 
of sailing up the Colorado River. 

The distinctive rock formations of Puerto Los Gatos

Safely at anchor, we headed for a hike with Don and Lisa of s/v Windcharmer.

The trail beckons to the right

All the way to the top!

Me and Lisa look down on s/v Espiritu, Windcharmer and Trovita

View from Espiritu at anchor 

Shades of Bryce Canyon in Utah


Later that evening, we went ashore for a beach bonfire and jam with our buddy boats plus s/v Coastal Drifter, who had joined the group.

Chris comes ashore 

We jammed, with special guest 12yo Evan (s/v Wind Charmer) on the wood flute

Roasting marshmallows with Lisa and Laurie
 of Windcharmer and Trovita

The next morning we did yoga on the beach with Don and Lisa of Windcharmer.

This is Lisa. She is 61 years old -- and kinda my idol. 

We're currently anchored at Loreto with 7 other sailboats. Our plan is to pull anchor in the next day or two and head ever north to explore more of the islands. 

Could be a couple of weeks until I'm online again. But no worries -- both potential hurricanes in the Eastern Pacific are weakening and turning away from, all is well!

XOXO Chris and Liz, s/v Espiritu