Wednesday, 23 May 2012

feelin' groovy in agua verde

Goats, goats, goats...
Agua Verde is where I almost ate lobster for the first time ever. There’s a reason I’ve never eaten lobster before. It dates back to 1980. While on a family road trip on the Atlantic coast of Canada, my siblings and I witnessed some folks cooking lobsters live. We were traumatised and became vegetarian on the spot. Twenty years later, I welcomed seafood and meat back into my diet, but to be honest, I still find it appalling to cook lobster that way. 

I will be tasting my first barbecued lobster tomorrow, (purchased from local fishermen), but by then, we’ll be in Bahia Candeleros.

This is our third night in Agua Verde. We like this laid-back village. The locals are friendly, the goats roam freely. Initially, our activities here involved a lot of swimming, snorkelling, and chilling out. Today we puttered on the boat, and of course, by the time we headed ashore it was gringo hour. (Rick dubbed midday in Mexico as gringo hour, since gringos are the only ones dumb enough to walk around in the hot sun at that time. Mostly we avoid it, but sometimes, we get distracted.)

The streets of Agua Verde

Thank goodness for our silly straw hats
We noticed another pair of sailors going to shore as we were rowing toward the beach, (at least, we weren’t the only ones out and about in the middle of the day). We eventually crossed paths with them in the village, and as we were getting ready to say hello, we realized: Wait, we know these people! It was a happy reunion with SV Exit Strategy’s Tom and Kim from BCA. We wandered with them through the village and parted ways after a while, with a promise to go over to their boat for a visit later that day.

This little tienda is ready for cruisers

Walking around town

A couple boat jobs later, we were swapping stories and books with SV Exit Strategy. Eventually, another pair of sailors joined in – Andrew and Becca, a young couple sailing a very bare-bones boat; it made me feel like we have a fancy boat. Their enthusiasm and willingness to do without was refreshing. 

As we finally rowed back to Nyon, Andrew sent us home with a parrot fish he’d speared earlier that day. (Drew, you’ll be happy to know that after his talks with you, and now Andrew who loves his spear-gun as much as you love yours – Rick will most definitely own one very soon…) For now, he’s practicing filleting fish other people have caught.

Mmm, dinner! Thanks Andrew!

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

a swell night

Before the fun began
We arrived at 1800 hours, and left 13 hours later. Los Gatos is a fair weather anchorage. According to the forecast, we were there in fair weather, or so we thought. Overnight, it became windy elsewhere in the Sea. Wind creates swells. And swells can travel far. Although there was little wind where we were, we ended up broadside to an uncomfortable swell. Imagine getting thrown side to side by a 1 to 2 foot swell, every 2 seconds (this is a guess); it may not sound like much, but it’s abrupt. Needless to say, there were loud grumblings in the v-berth.

I don't know who named them swells. There's nothing swell about them. They should have named them awfuls. Hugo Vihlen
It was too bad. Los Gatos itself was lovely. Surrounded by neat rock formations and beaches, it looked and felt like somewhere we would have liked to hang out for a few days. After waking up at 0300 hours to set a stern anchor, (in our desperate attempt to get some shut-eye), we were less keen on Los Gatos. (We were trying to use the stern anchor to force the boat to point into the swell, as pitching tends to be more comfortable than rolling.)

Early morning
When 0600 came around, Nyon was still bucking like a wild bronco. Sleep deprived and grumpy, I stowed the boat in record time and told Rick we were leaving. Bleary eyed, he didn’t disagree. He pulled the dinghy on deck and after I weighed anchor, I encouraged him to go back to bed and motor-sailed us out of there. I couldn’t leave fast enough. I was going in search of a FLAT anchorage NOW. [I would like to point out that every boat anchored in that bay was gone by morning. Everyone single one of them. It wasn’t just us. There’s rolly and then there’s stupid-rolly.]

Two hours later, we had enough wind to actually sail! This turn of events put a smile on our faces. We drank coffee and ate fruit. The sun was shining. The night before was nearly forgotten. (Okay, not really.) Things, however, were definitely looking up.

A zonked out Ricky
 [Note: Our first night in Agua Verde was quiet and flat. 
We slept like logs, thank you very much.]

Monday, 21 May 2012

a stop in the place where stories come from

When I was young, I often read a comic called Lucky Luke. Stories abounded about this cowboy’s adventures in the Wild West, who could, amazingly, "shoot faster than his shadow". The comic was full of stereotypes and might be considered politically incorrect nowadays, but what I remember are the illustrations of the desert: The scrubby bushes, the cacti, the flat-topped mountains. When we arrived in Bahia San Carlos and wandered up the sandy road to Timbabiche’s Casa Grande, the scenery was exactly like the comic book I once read. 

Nopolo: A different kind of small
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Earlier that morning, we motor-sailed out of San Evaristo. On the way north, we passed the tiny village of Nopolo. Tucked in at the base of the Sierra Gigante mountain range, this little village is only accessible by boat. I wonder what it must be like to live in this kind of isolation with so few neighbours. We would have stopped, but the anchorage was open to the south, (and southerlies were predicted). In the blink of an eye, we had passed the village and continued sailing next to tall desert mountains.

A happy Rick
After we dropped the hook in Bahia San Carlos, we jumped in the water for a refreshing swim following a sweaty passage. We then got ready to go ashore. That’s when we met Manuel – we were still aboard Nyon when he came by in his panga. 

Manuel is a friendly fisherman with whom we shared stories. We eagerly accepted to buy a fish from him, and he kindly fileted our dinner for us with our embarrassingly dull knife. (Note to self: Sharpen your knives if you’re going to ask a panguero to clean your cabrilla for you.)

Casa Grande, still standing tall

We could see a deserted small fishing camp on the beach, but there was no one else in the bay.  As we looked south, Timbabiche and Casa Grande were barely visible. Casa Grande is mentioned in our cruising guide. We were curious about the story behind it. In the 1920’s a boat-less fisherman found a large 5-carat pearl. And while he was cheated of its real worth when he sold it to pearl merchants in La Paz, he did make enough money to build a large house and acquire a fleet of fishing boats. The home is now in ruins. After he died and the money ran out, his heirs did not know what to do with it, so it just sits there uninhabited, stripped of its reusable construction materials. The beginning of this story is reminiscent of Steinbeck’s novella, The Pearl. Whenever I think of that novella, I get a sinking feeling. It was so depressing (and did not end with a casa grande) – Yet, I still wonder if this real-life fisherman’s story might have been the initial inspiration for The Pearl?

Sky-view in the casa
After we rowed to the beach, we wandered through the desert, toward the Casa and the tiny village of Timbabiche. A few small dwellings scattered about, corrals for cattle and horses, and a couple pick-up trucks, that was it. Does that make a village? Apparently, it does. The casa, was in the middle - abandoned, missing its second floor, its roof. It seemed bitter-sweet to stand inside and see the sky above.

We followed a different path back to the beach and cooled our feet in the Sea as we walked back to our dinghy. There is something in the air in Timbabiche. I can’t quite put my finger on it. I wanted to hear stories about the past inhabitants of the Casa Grande and about the villagers who no longer fish for pearls. Yet the place was eerily quiet, and so were we.

Heading back toward the water
A panga at rest

Saturday, 19 May 2012

escape from la pause

Puerto Balandra, late afternoon
We met the strawberry man the day we left La Paz. I suppose we could just as easily have asked the Del Viento crew where to find him, but it felt like our own little discovery to just come across the man, sitting in the shade of a tree with his young son. The back of his pick-up truck was loaded with crates of fresh strawberries. A friendly chat and a bag of strawberries seemed a fitting way to end our stay in La Paz. 

Our last errands done and our goodbyes said; we weighed anchor only to drop the hook 12 nautical miles away. How quickly we were transported to a different world. We tucked in among the other 10 or so boats already in the anchorage. We made quesadillas and watched the sun set. Puerto Balandra is a peaceful little spot, but as the desired southerlies were blowing the next morning, we sailed away.

No more city, just a sunset

Cormorant traffic-jam
The first week consisted of a series of hops north. We were searching for our groove; the anchorage where we would exhale the city’s energy and breathe in a slower rythm. It took us a little while. From Balandra, we headed towards Isla Partida. We stopped in La Cuevitas, a tiny little bay north of Ensenada el Cardonal. Had we been there during the right season, we would have had the company of blue-footed boobies. They eluded us yet again. 

On duty
We still enjoyed our private anchorage – skinny dipping, listening to music, and working on the never-ending list of boat jobs with sweat dripping off our bodies. Rick was a sewing fiend and I battled with leather, tar and brass nails. I was still finding tar on myself three days later. As the day stretched into evening, we headed over to Ensenada Grande, where the Coromuels would have a harder time bouncing us around. While anchoring, we recognized the SV Seychelles crew waving at us. We met this gregarious couple from Alaska in Ensenada Carrizal, just 3 months before. We rowed over, and enjoyed catching up and sharing a few laughs with John and Nikki that evening.

A bright sunny day in
Isla San Francisco
After Ensenada Grande, we spent a day and a half at Isla San Francisco – mostly jumping in the water, drinking iced tea and reading. (B&B, I’m happy to report the water was much, much warmer this time, and no I-phone was dropped in the drink.) 

The next afternoon, at long last, we pointed our bow toward San Evaristo: A tiny little fishing village in a protected bay. There, we screeched to a halt, and breathed deeply.

San Evaristo
Sometime, we will be heading toward Los Gatos. We think. There are many anchorages between here and there. Where we end up ultimately depends on winds and whim. 

Thursday, 10 May 2012

gettin' outta town

We have enjoyed La Paz and its environs long enough. While we have met great new friends and the town has neat spots to explore, we are hungry for new horizons. We are among a small contingent of 30 to 40 boats who choose to spend the summer in the Sea of Cortez. Of course, a summer in the Sea comes with its own particular set of challenges and pleasures, so we're told. We didn't want to miss this cruising gem, even in the intense heat of summer. 

"A ship in harbor is safe, but that's not why ships were built"

On the way to the laundromat
The scary H-word comes up a lot. Hurricanes. Yes, a summer in the Sea means means paying close attention to heavy weather warnings, but isn't that the case always? If there is a threat of a hurricane, your boat and crew need to be where you are best protected. There are what are called "hurricane holes": They are well protected anchorages used by sailors for refuge during heavy weather. The Sea of Cortez has a number of well-known hurricane holes. We have chosen Bahia Los Angeles as our base. Should heavy weather arise, you need a plan - what ground tackle will you use and how will you use it, taking down sails, taking dodgers apart, clearing the deck, etc. So yes, there is a danger, much less so in the north of the sea, but one should ALWAYS be prepared. One of the reasons Bahia LA is good, is that if a hurricane actually makes it that far, it has to go over land quite a distance to reach the bay - and the wind loses it's oomph as a result.

There are some small towns where we will be able to provision, but we have to plan for goods that are hard to acquire up north. It's difficult to figure out what we should stock up on, having not done this particular voyage before. 

I worry a little about the heat. Rick loves heat, I do too,  when there's water nearby. Swimming will become a necessity. We have met boaters who spent the summer in the Sea. They told us they spent an average of 4 hours a day in the water to cool off. That, and fans are a must. We have 3 fans. Will that be enough? Probably not.

Too bad these two aren't going up
into the Sea with us! At least this time,
it's a "See you later!"
Are we crazy? We'll let you know. Some people have enjoyed many summers in the Sea, others spend one summer there, and swear they'll never do it again. We'll see how we feel once we have survived our first summer. 

While we get ready to head out, we split our time between ticking jobs off our list and hanging out with the cool folks of SV Born Free. Now that we have our FM3s (Temporary resident of Mexico cards), it's just a question of getting our act together. We can't wait for the adventure to continue. But first, we have to say a few goodbyes. That's our life now. Hello and goodbye. But sometimes, it's "See you later", that's my favourite.

“A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.” John Steinbeck

Thursday, 3 May 2012

snapshots of a hike

Here, cacti are what coniferous trees are to
 Canada's West Coast

Could have been a statue...

The bleached appearance of Isla Partida in the Mexican sunshine

Two happy hikers

A different perspective

Dr Seuss would have liked this plant


A touch of colour

Cool limestone cliffs as we rowed back to Nyon,
blistered, sweaty, and with big grins plastered on our faces

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

the small world of ensenada grande

Ensenada Grande in the bright light
of mid-afternoon...
We tucked into Ensenada Grande for a just over a week. It was exactly what we needed: There was no internet, no phone, nowhere to spend money. There was wildlife, stark scenery, beaches and turquoise water. Everything is slower, calmer there. (Well, except for the nighttime Coromuels that is...)

A few boat jobs interspersed with refreshing swims, good books, and killer Rummy games later, we hopped our way back to La Paz to prepare for our departure north into the Sea.

Some quiet time after a busy day

I'm putting your straw hat to
good use Dana!

The view from our mini-beach

As the sun sets, the colours become more
saturated, richer

Our view from the cockpit


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