Monday, May 23, 2011

San Evaristo

The Honcho sailed from Isla San Francisco on Wednesday, May 11th. We had planned to head directly for the village of San Evaristo on the coast of Baja, but at the last minute decided to detour to Isla Coyote, a tiny island that lies between Isla San Francisco and Isla San Jose, only about 2 miles away.  The wind was blowing out of the northwest about 15-18 knots and the only anchorage at Isla Coyote is an open  roadstead and completely exposed to the prevailing wind and seas.  With unfavorable conditions at Isla Coyote, we bypassed it and proceeded on to Bahia Amortajada, on the southern tip of Isla San Jose, only three or four miles further. Sailing in company with two other boats, Blue Rodeo & Swift Current, we came to anchor on the south side of the sand spit that makes the bay in about 15 feet of water.  We had heard about an interesting lagoon here and quickly jumped into Blue Rodeo’s dinghy and found the entrance to the lagoon, which was only about a foot deep so we lifted the engine and walked the boat through the pass and entered the lagoon.  Once inside the lagoon we motored up the estuary, which was teeming with fish and birds of many varieties.  After an hour or so, we returned to our boats and prepared to cross the Canal de San Jose to the village of San Evaristo.
Looking west from the lagoon on Isla San Jose across the channel toward the mainland of Baja and the Sierra de la Giganta mountains.
Wildlife in the lagoon, Isla San Jose
When we cleared the southern tip of Isla San Jose, the wind piped up to 20-22 knots with steep 4 foot seas. Punching into this, the Honcho could just make about 4 knots, with spray flying.  It was only about 7 miles to San Evaristo so we soldiered on, a bit dampish but enjoying the view of the white flecked sea.   Around 1600 we came to anchor in a snug cove just off the village of San Evaristo, well in the lee of some steep hills.

San Evaristo is typical of many fishing villages that dot the Baja coast, with a small tienda, beer ‘Collectivo’ (where you can buy beer), small water desalinization plant, and a small elementary school. All of which serve the twenty or so families living here as well as the salt farmers and rancheros who live in the surrounding area.  One day we walked over the hill behind the village and came to the salt ponds, a mile or so away. It was a sweaty walk on the dusty road under the blazing sun. On the way we shared the dirt road with wild burros and hardy Mexican cattle. Skittish at first, the burros eventually relaxed enough to pose for a couple of photos. Looking out over the salt pans, I saw a lone worker in the distance raking salt into piles. He looked miserable in the hot sun with his rake and vast piles of salt around him.
Salt ponds at San Evaristo
These burros darted into a thicket when we surprised them coming around a bend in the road. Once we passed by, they came back onto the road, watching us and following about 50 yards behind us.
We saw several of these critters browsing on the steep hillsides near where we anchored.

Cardon Cactus
It seems like cactus grows everywhere in Baja. The Cardon, one of the most noticeable, is a remarkable plant...or tree. It is thought to be the tallest cactus species in the world, reaching more that 60 feet high. Natives of the area use the fruit of the Cardon as a food source. It also is known to contain alkaloids, and is reputed to have psychotropic properties. We didn't try any, as food or drug. These cacti can apparently grow on bare rock because their roots provide a haven for certain bacteria and fungi that can extract nitrogen from the air and chemically break down rock to extract nutrients. Pretty cool stuff.

We spent a couple of days in tranquil San Evaristo, then headed north toward the green waters of a place called Agua Verde (Green Water). We'll see.
A calm day in the Sea of Cortez, northwest of Isla San Jose.

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