Friday, May 16, 2014

Bahia de Concepcion to La Paz

Bahia de Concepcion is dotted with rocks like this. 

On our way north, we were headed directly into the wind for nearly all of the distance between San Juanico and Concepcion, so I had hoped that we'd have a fair wind for the southbound passage back to San Juanico. But it was not to be. We rounded Punta Concepcion and headed southeast toward our destination only to find the wind dead on the nose again. I needed to run the watermaker anyway so we motorsailed and over the next few hours refilled our water tanks. By noon the wind had backed around so we could sail and we arrived at Caleta San Juanico around 1700, anchoring just off the beach in the far southeast part of the bay. Earlier in the day we had picked up something on the prop and it vibrated a little when I put the engine in gear. The anchor had barely hit the bottom before Lisa jumped in the water and pulled a clump of seaweed off the prop.

The next day we were up early and cleared the rocks that lie off the southern end of San Juanico at 0900. Naturally the wind was out of the southeast, exactly the direction we were headed. So we motorsailed most of the way to Puerto Escondido, slowing down a bit as we passed the town of Loreto to grab some Internet time. This would be our last chance to download weather until we get to La Paz several days hence.

We arrived in Puerto Escondido in mid-afternoon and anchored in the lagoon. Loreto Fest was in full swing when we arrived so we went ashore to give it a look. It is hosted by the Hidden Port Yacht Club and some local businesses. It's a cruisers' event with a few seminars,  bocce ball tournament and a few other games. There was a silent auction and swap meet, a band and plenty of beer and margaritas. It looked like the event was geared toward the permanent or semi-permanent denizens of the Sea of Cortez. Anyway, it didn't appeal to us and we were out of Puerto Escondido at 0700 the next morning, bound for Puerto Los Gatos.

It's always fun to explore the rocks of Los Gatos

With a 2-3 knot headwind, we motored all the way and were anchored in the north side of the bay around 1300. Los Gatos is a beautiful bay, about a mile long in the northeast-southwest direction and a bit less than half a mile deep. The high bluffs to the north offer good protection from winds from that direction but the bay is wide open to southerly and east winds. There is nothing here except pristine beaches, fantastic rock formations and crystal clear water. There was only one other boat anchored way over in the other side of the bay so we were all set to have a quiet evening aboard. But just about dusk I noticed that the other boat was under way. At first I thought he was heading out of the bay but then he turned toward us. Okay, I thought, he just wants to swing by and say "Hi" before heading out to sea. But no, he came right past us and anchored about halfway between us and the beach, his bow not fifty yards from our stern. I'm not sure why.

Earlier in the afternoon a two fishermen came by in a panga and offered us a couple of live lobsters so we had an excellent grilled lobster dinner. The next morning they brought us three more bugs. We're living like kings out here in the boonies! During the day we hiked the shores of the bay.
The rock formations here are incredible. As far as I can tell, no one has ever lived here, and the land seems to be untouched by humans.

And yet, Nature toys with our imaginations. As the sun moved westward the shadows shifted to reveal a man and woman that have been sunbathing here for ages.

Finisterra in peaceful Los Gatos. The Sierra de la Giganta Mountains are in the background.
We departed Los Gatos early in the morning on May 5th, bound for Isla San Francisco. Our course was southeast so naturally the wind, what little there was of it, was coming straight out of the southeast so we puttered along all day and anchored in the beautiful cove called The Hook, on the southwest side of the island at 1600. The water was crystal clear and 80 degrees. Perfect for a swim. It was also about time to scrub Finisterra's bottom so we got masks, fins, snorkels and cleaning utensils and gave her a good scrubbing. There were quite a few small barnacles that popped off with a plastic putty knife.

Another view of the majestic Sierra de la Giganta Mountains

Isla San Francisco is a popular place and there were half a dozen boats already anchored there when we arrived. Then around sunset the Safari Voyager came into the bay. It's a small cruise ship with a capacity of 64 eco-tourists. We were thinking it was going to be mighty crowded on the beach tomorrow morning but the ship left at dawn and we thought we'd seen the last of them. So we got up early and went hiking, thinking we had the island pretty much to ourselves. But as we set off across the low isthmus that bisects the north and south parts of the island we spotted a line of tourists trekking across our path. The Voyager had simply gone around to the other side of the island, where there was less of a swell for the tourists as they came ashore in a pair of large inflatable boats.

Safari Voyager

Eco-tourists on the march. This is the view we were greeted with when we topped the first rise on the west side of the isthmus.

We spent a couple of days at Isla San Francisco then with a northwest breeze in the forecast we headed south to La Paz where we plan to stay for a couple of weeks. Once outside the bay, I was all set to hoist the mainsail when the wind suddenly turned around and blew out of the south against the prevailing northerly swell which made for a bumpy ride to La Paz. On the way we spotted "Venus", the mega yacht that was built for Steve Jobs anchored just outside the harbor.
Venus is 256' long and the interior styling was done by Philippe Starck, who also did the interior on our last boat, Honcho. Venus is reputed to have cost $100 million Euros.

As we approached the harbor entrance I radioed the harbor master at Marina Palmira that we were a few minutes out. She gave me our slip number and some other info and signed off. So we're coming down the narrow channel at the marina entrance with a fifteen knot tailwind and a dinghy in tow when we noticed a man on the jetty waving to us. Lisa is the sociable one among us so she waved back. Then he started waving harder and she said "I think he's trying to tell us something", but we couldn't make it out, so she went up to the bow to try and get a better understanding of what he was yelling and then suddenly noticed a 15" dredge pipe laying all the way across the channel. So she started waving and yelling at me to "Stop! Back 'er down! Your gonna hit a pipe!". So I slammed the engine into reverse and managed to keep from hitting the pipe, but with fifteen knots up the bum and a dinghy in tow, we were in danger of getting sideways in the channel, which would have been a bad thing since we had rocks on one side and big motor yachts on the other. But I managed to keep the boat lined up in the channel and they moved the dredger enough that we could squeeze by it with three or four feet of clearance on either side.

After we got the boat in the slip, we went up to the office to check in. While we were waiting another boat radioed that they were coming in. I could hear their entire conversation and the nice lady told the skipper what his slip number would be, gave directions on how to get there and signed off without ever mentioning the dredger blocking his way. I told her it would be a good idea to advise the unsuspecting sailor that the channel was blocked. She agreed and made a halfhearted attempted to hail him on the radio, but by then he was most likely in the midst of trying to keep his boat from slamming into the dredge pipe and he didn't answer. You never know when sailing in Mexico is going to become an adventure!

Anyway, we're enjoying la Paz and expect to be here for a couple of weeks. We plan to take in the sights, maybe catch a glimpse of the Mexico 1000 off-road race and tour the East Cape. 

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