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Paradise Village Marina - July 3

Jan had another quick trip home to Seattle for a beloved uncle's funeral, and the chance to be together with family to celebrate his life. Being so distant makes us realize just how important family is, and how lucky we both are to have wonderful ones.

Back in Paradise Marina, Dave finally finished the inverter/charger install. He was estatic when it passed the smoke test and works perfectly. This is the last of the major install projects that have kept him busy this first year of cruising.

Dave has been on a sabbatical leave from his company Medtronic/Physio-Control, for the past year, while we determined whether this life could work for us. After 1 year, we have made the decision to carry on, and Dave is formally retiring in July.

With the boat secure here at Paradise, we can leave Mexico for the hottest months of the hurricane season. So we will jet home to Seattle for a round of visiting, then head to South America for some land travel. Dave plans to hike the Inca Trail to Macchu Pichu (Jan will take the train, where, we understand they provide oxygen for the altitude). We will wander a bit in Peru and Chile, and visit Easter Island before returning to Baraka in October to resume our voyages.

So the website will "go dark" for a bit - probably no new updates until we return.

Paradise Village Marina - June 6

It is always nice to be at anchor, after being in a marina, and vice versa. So after our sojourn south to Barra, we are happy to be back in a marina again, with plenty of water, dock electricity, and a handy laundry. Funny how a long shower becomes pure luxury. Paradise Village Marina is very nice. The marina tenants have access to most of the resort amenities, so we can watch the seal show and fireworks, visit the zoo and tennis courts, and swim in the pools. Peacocks wander the grounds, and scream during the fireworks display.

The resort zoo features a Bengal tiger and mountain lion, so we keep Opal, ship's cat, aboard at night. Plus the neighboring boat sharing our finger dock has a pet parrot. Not sure which would be worse, finding feathers in Opal's mouth, or calico in the tiger cage.

Dave is using the dock time to track down and fix boat problems. He is changing the bilge pump system, adding an electronic switch, and lowering the small pump to keep the bilges drier. He tracked a freshwater leak to the ice maker and fixed that. Now he is reading up on the diesel engine, thinking that fuel may be leaking into the oil. I'm glad he is so capable, and wonder how other cruisers, less handy, stay afloat.

We are also enjoying the internet, using it to book appointments with doctors and dentists on an upcoming visit home, and to research and book some land travel to South America. Dave is also researching websites that show the tracks of tropical depressions, so we can watch for threats during the hurricane season, which starts now and runs to November 1. There have already been 2 named storms, neither approaching Banderas Bay.

Weather now is hot and muggy. It is getting hard to sleep, so in the evenings we paddle in the resort lap pool, and run 3 fans all night. During the day awnings and windscoops help keep the boat tolerable. There is an air conditioned mall just outside the resort entrance, complete with McDonalds, Subway, pizza place and grocery store. The store is pricey - about half again the prices in PV, so we take a bus to town occasionally to bring back groceries. Yesterday we took the bus with Niki Wiki to a nearby village. It was market day, so we loaded up with beautiful fresh produce at a fraction of the local store price.

La Cruz - May 15

Loading the dinghy at Colimilla in Barra lagoon.

Dave knelt in the dinghy and scrubbed the sticky mud from our anchor chain in Barra lagoon. Then we motored out, a few hours north back to Tenacatita Bay. We hoped to anchor at the Acuario (aquarium) to snorkel, but the anchorage was a little rolly, so we went into the inner anchorage. We tossed the kayak in the water, and paddled the bay, hiked the beach to the Blue Bay Hotel, and enjoyed a couple quiet nights with dinners in the cockpit in nice breezes. Dave grilled a delicious BBQ of arrachara beef from Maria's Tienda. When we left Barra our freezer was well stocked with meats and pastry.

We pulled anchor again and rolled north in following breezes to the south anchorage at Chamela. There a couple small islands provide good shelter from the south. Ashore, pelicans roost in the scrub trees and on the tips of the cactus. There are no other people here, just us and one other cruising boat, friends on Niki Wiki. We rowed ashore with our gear and snorkeled around the rocky reefs on each side of the sand beach. Saw some fish but visibility was not great. Dave dove on the anchor and confirmed we were well set.

After a quiet night and day, we made a spaghetti dinner, then weighed anchor for an overnight run up to La Cruz anchorage in Banderas Bay. We motored against very light N winds up and around Cabo Corrientes, with the beach nearby enough to read less than 200 feet on the depth sounder. We checked our GPS track often from our trip south to make sure we were not drifting into shoals.

During the night, Dave noticed a frigate trying to land on our masthead, and was able to scare him off with a large spotlight before the big bird bent our windvane.

Coming into La Cruz, we passed hundreds of swimming sting rays, the tips of their wings above water, showing in pairs. Off the starboard stern I noticed a smooth boil in the water, whale exhale! A humpback passed below our stern, and then surfaced blowing, just off our port side!

Last night I pulled a pair of croissants and pain au chocolats from the freezer, and let them proof overnight in the oven on parchment paper, carefully following the instructions from the Barra French Baker. Voila! Success!!

The French Baker comes to La Cruz!

Barra Navidad - May 7

Lunch at Popeye's in Barra.

Barra Navidad has been a fun stop. The little beach town is nice, lots to see. We either dinghy to town, tying up at the Sands Hotel, or hail the water taxi on the VHF radio. In town we eat out at good restaurants, and shop for food. We bought some huge scallops and sauteed them for dinner with bacon and garlic. Yum.

One of many reasons we are reluctant to leave is that we will have to clean the mucky mud off the anchor chain. About 90 feet is out, 70+ lying in clay-like mud. We we weigh anchor, one of us (Dave) will be in the dinghy with a brush, working the mud off, while the other (Jan) will be on deck periodically toeing the switch to raise the chain. We are glad the holding here has been good as the winds pipe up to the mid-twenties each afternoon. So how deep is that anchor by now?

This Thursday is the beginning of a good weather window to start North, back toward Puerto Vallarta. So it will be goodbye to Barra and wi-fi for awhile.

Another reason to resist leaving this place is the French Baker, who delivers his croissants, danishs, pain au chocolats and baguettes most days to the boats at anchor. It is fun talking to him an a mix of Spanish, French and English - he is fluent in all 3 languages.

It is the end of the boating seaon, so these are his last lagoon deliveries until Fall. Today we placed a giant order for his goods, which he will deliver tomorrow, unbaked and frozen in shrink-wrap for our freezer. This will console us all the way back to Puerto Vallarta.

The French Baker visits Baraka.

Colimilla on Barra Lagoon

Although the main town here is Barra Navidad, there is another village on the lagoon. It is worth visiting for its good waterfront restaurants. We enjoyed eating while watching families play on the sand in front of the restaurant. The busy water taxis come and go with their passengers. We decided Colimilla is the Mexican Venice.

The other big attraction in Colimilla is Maria's Tienda. Maria has a huge freezer full of Costco (Guadalahara) meats, plus a lot of other foods and goods Americans miss from home. She delivers to the boat, so we had her drop off a case of beer and 10 big 19-liter bottles of purified water, since we can't run the watermaker here in the silty lagoon.

On windy days we take the 20 peso roundtrip water taxi to town. It docks at the bathing beach.

The water taxi headed toward our boat anchored in Barra Lagoon.

Cobblestone street in nearly Melaque

One day we accompanied new friends from Niki Wiki to Melaque on the bus, walking the beach and enjoying a cantina lunch. On our walk we saw street laying in progress. Many towns have cobblestone streets, a durable and inexpensive material. This street is being repaved. You can see the rows of rocks laid first to provide a guide to make the street level.

Barra Navidad - April 28 - French Baker!

We hung out at Tenacatita for the morning, getting to hear a bit of Annapurna's story of their circumnavigation. Annapurna is a gorgeous Hans Christian 48. Midday we pulled the hook and motor sailed 3 hours SE to the entrance to Barra Navidad's lagoon. Fortunately we had helpful waypoints and headings from boats (go 130 degrees magnetic from last buoy set toward the anchored shrimper) we'd met in the past week, and made it in to the lagoon anchorage without going aground. There are shoals and fishtraps in here, and the entrance is a little tricky the first time in until you get oriented.

This is an interesting place - Mexican vacation town, lots of people swimming off the beach, good eateries and shopping. And laundries! Our clothes are salty and sticky, we can hardly wait to get everything washed. We caught the water taxi ashore, about $2 roundtrip, and then a taxi to the Capitania to clear in, but it is Saturday afternoon and they are closed until Monday. Back in town we walked the Malecon out to the entrance breakwater where we met another cruising couple who shared their town map and gave us the tour of their favorite shops, laundry and restaurants. Had a yum dinner at Felix's (caldo de pollo and burrito de camarone). Wi-fi in the anchorage, yippee, so we can update the website and catch up on email.

This morning Dave woke in time to catch the French Baker on the radio and order pain au chocolats and baguette, delivered to the boat!!!! What a treat. We placed an order for tomorrow. This may be a daily indulgence here. I chilled a small jar of pate for the occasion.

Tenacatita - April 27 - Jungle Cruise

Intrepid explorer enters the jungle river.

After checking the tides (exactly wrong), we loaded the dinghy, and tooted in over the shoal entrance for the Jungle Tour. There is a tidal estuary that coils its way mostly westward maybe 5 miles through mangrove swamp. You can see it on google earth. Saw lots of fish, interesting birds and tree crabs hanging on the roots, but no snakes or crocodiles, reputed to be here. A boat we met in Chamela had to hug the mangroves when a panga roared by, and found a snake tucked in their towel back aboard ship! Having heard this story just a few days ago, we looked at every dangling mangrove root with suspicion.

The mangrove channel is very narrow not much wider than the dinghy, closing to form a canopy/tunnel much of the way. At the far end we pulled the dinghy onto a sandy bank and hiked around the beach, stopping for a muy sabroso lunch of rollo de marisco (seafood roll) which turned out to be a filet of white fish wrapped around shrimp, scallops, lettuce and bacon, baked and covered in a sort of barbeque sauce. Really good. Retracing our way back through the mangroves, I was happy the outboard never fails. That would be one creepy place to spend a night.

White crane

Creepy mangrove roots. Or are some snakes?

The canopy closes in.

After 45 windy minutes, we come to the end. Whew.

Tenacatita - April 26

After eight nights at Chamela we finally shook off the lethargy and pulled up the anchor, to drift 25 miles SE to Tenacatita. We remember Ten Bay from 1989 when we were anchored behind a big powerboat. Someone cut their dinghy painter during the night, scoring a really nice inflatable and big outboard. Dave ran them into the beach so they could report the theft. He rolled our dinghy in the surf landing, so the poor victims had to slosh their way to the Policia in wet clothing.

Ever since, we have been religious about picking up the dinghy at night, suspending it by a halyard off the side of the boat. It would still be easy to steal, but we hope the thieves will elect to take the low hanging fruit, dinghies in the water. It is not a huge problem - thefts are relatively rare, but the difficulty of replacement here makes the loss most inconvenient. Along the way we passed a absolutely gigantic dish on a clifftop, built by an eccentric to welcome the extraterrestrials when they decide to visit earth. Not sure why he thinks they will come to him here. We'd like to find out more about him.

Tenacatita has 2 lobes. We are anchored with a half dozen other cruising boats inside the inner one. We took a wide swing around Roca Centrale, as there are supposedly uncharted rocks inside it. We have electronic charts, 2 chartbooks of maps and 2 cruising guides, and we check all 5. Sometimes hazards are mentioned in one and not the others.

We wanted to take the jungle cruise here - a river runs several miles through a mangrove swamp, with snakes and crocodiles, oh my. You go in your own inflatable, crossing the bar at a favorable tide. But today the wind is out of the south and we are reluctant to leave the boat unattended. Maybe manana...

This morning I made "Julius Huevos" for breakfast. My friend Mary told me how her Dad, Julius, used the cap from spray Pam to cut a hole in a slice of bread. He then buttered the bread and fried it, cooking an egg in the hole. I am out of bread, so I substituted corn tortillas, A dollop of salsa and sour cream on top, and voila, Julius Huevos. Hope Mary reads this and tells her Dad. He has been acting as a prayer warrior for us, ensuring our safe passages.

Weather is warm and humid now. Decks are wet in the mornings. Fortunately there are very few bugs so far, and we don't have to screen the hatches yet, making for more comfortable airflow belowdecks. No wi-fi for several weeks now. We are suffering withdrawal! Dave compensates by creating elaborate spreadsheets to monitor engine hours and maintenance, the radio log, the watermaker log, refrigeration log... He is in his element. There are so many systems to manage on a boat.

Catch and release. But is it tasty???

Dave has been fishing underway lately - catch and release, since we are not recogizing the fish and don't know if they are good eating. We need a more complete fish book.

Kayaking out to visit pelicans

The wind died off enough to drop the kayak over. We paddled around the bay, met a couple on Annapurna, a Hans Christian that just completed a 10 year circumnavigation, and then kayaked out around the point to play in the surge and photograph birds. We paddled ashore to check out the jungle cruise entrance and enjoyed a couple beers at the beach cantina, and walked the pretty beach as far as the hotel. Interesting rock formations along the way, painted by extra terrestrials? Neat place.

Kayak on beach, anchored at Tenacatita

Interesting rock formations, painted by extra terrestrials???

Chamela - April 17-20

Neither of us slept well at Ipala. We both were up during the night to check our position - to make sure we had not drifted into the floats. We had less scope out than we like, because of the tight swing room. Dave shined the big spotlight on the floats and cliff, but we did not budge. We pulled anchor early, happy to move on.

Another easy day of motor-sailing SE in light winds brought us to the bay of Chamela. Met some interesting cruisers, all headed north to the Sea or the States. Anchorages are all but empty - we seem to be heading the opposite direction from everyone else.

The beach landing is in a bit of surf. Local kids seem to have no problem timing the waves, but we gringos in dingies seem to have a wet landing. We paddled ashore in the kayak, in our swimsuits with clothes in a dry bag, not risking the outboard, and had no problems other than a bit of dampness. Good camarone cocktail a the beach cantina. Weather is overcast but no rain so far. Everyday the wind picks up in the afternoon, then drops during the night in the protected anchorage.

We met some interesting cruisers in Chamela anchorage, one couple who had sailed across the Pacific and had great stories to tell. Ashore 4-year-old cutie pie Maria shared her school flashcards with us and helped us learn a few Spanish words. Her mom sold delicious tamales. Lovely place.

Sailor's Run, Debbie and Jeff

Exporing Chamela by kayak

Ipala - April 16

Tight anchorage at Ipala, sandwiched between the pangas and fish traps.

We pulled anchor at Punta Mita and motored south in calm, past the Mariettas and Cabo Corrientes (Currents) to the picturesque little bay inside Punta Ipala. There is little room to anchor here - the harbor is filled with plastic jug floats holding nets or bait pens. Oue first attempt to anchor placed us too close to a string of floats, so we reanchored. Nice to have an electric windlass! It's an easy decision to reanchor if either of us feels uncomfortable. There are several cantinas ashore, but the anchorage doesn't feel great - we will move along in the morning.

We both feel mild annoyance that the locals have ruined what would have been a protected anchorage, but then remember we are the uninvited guests here, adding little to the local economy.

Lots of stingrays rounding Corrientes

Punta Mita - April 14-15

We enjoy a beach palapa meal at Punta Mita.

After a couple days at La Cruz we were ready to push on. Stocked up on fresh produce and a last beer at Ana Banana's, then pulled anchor to motor 10 miles west to Punta Mita. This is a quieter anchorage than La Cruz, more protected from both winds and swells. Another boater came by and advised where to land the dinghy, and also a good beach restaurant. We hiked around town, shopped for more produce, and had a great camarone dinner in the beach cantina. Dave was enamoured by the woman nearby who peeled and sliced mangoes on a stick for the beach goers. Now he wants to try that.

Punta Mita is nice - lots of Mexican families enjoying their Semana Santa (Easter) vacation, though this is also a gringo destination for surfers.

La Cruz - April 11

Nice to be at anchor again after 18 days in Marina Vallarta. Got a lot of projects and repairs done, then stocked up on groceries and fuel. It is cooler out here at anchor, still in Banderas Bay 10 miles NNW of PV, and we can run the watermaker, which we couldn't do in the harbor. We have to get used to the movement again - it is bouncy here in the afternoon breezes.

La Cruz is a little cobblestone Mexican village, quiet and charming. Crews are dredging inside the breakwater for the new marina. We can take the dinghy inside, tying up to the panga wharf. At low tide, it's a challenge to scramble up onto the cement quay. Next time we go in, I will take our little swim ladder.

From here we'll head south, as far as Barra Navidad or maybe Zihuatenejo, then loop back here by June 1. The region just south of here is called Mexico's "Gold Coast" - lots of good anchorages and hopefully some good snorkeling.

Puerto Vallarta - April 1

Dave walked Joel to the airport at 4am today for his flights (5 of them) to Bogata Columbia. We miss him already. It was a delight for both of us to have him with us a whole month.

Dockside in the marina, we are able to work on boat projects. Dave jigsawed plywood to beef up our broken boarding ladder, and did engine, outboard and generator maintenance. Jan got out the sewing machine and made cockpit curtains, windscoops and a boom tent awning - shade for the coming hot weather. It is already in the 90s each day.

Jan sewing shade panels

Islas Mariettas - March 27

Blythe and Joel snorkel in the sea caves

We sailed a few hours west to the Tres Mariettas for a day of exploring and snorkeling. Blythe and Joel snorkeled in the rocks and reeks, sighting eels and a ray. Later we motored into colorful sea caves.

The Mariettas are riddled with interesting rock formations. Vents from ancient volcanos?

Colorful caves

Anchored at the Mariettas

Puerto Vallarta - March 25

Friends on Emily B were able to call Marina Vallarta for a slip assignment. We motored in to the crowded harbor. Free wi-fi, so son Joel and guest Blythe are happy, they can continue working. When we were last here 18 years ago, the marina was just being built and we tied up for free. Now it is huge and packed, moorage $33 a night. Docks are in poor repair and the 110 wiring for dock power looks pretty scary, loose wires everywhere and not much works. It's odd to be in the center of a tourist mecca on these shabby docks.

Dave and I checked out the flea market and malecon, buying a few Huichol pieces and some Guatemalan purses. Along the malecon an enterprising strongman with a tip jar balanced rocks.

Malecon stromgman entertainment

La Cruz - March 21

Sailing into Banderas Bay we made La Cruz anchorage by nightfall. Another boat warned us not to anchor over a wreck that had fouled other boats. After a quiet night we caught the bus to Puerto Vallarta so Joel could meet his friend Blythe, flying in from the states for a new days. We met friends on Emily B for lunch at the PV marina, and enjoyed catching up and also ran into a friend from Oya. We bussed home to La Cruz for a nice evening at anchor.

La Cruz is being developed as a huge new marina. The breakwater is in and they are currently dredging. The town is charming old Mexico, cobbled streets, tiny tiendas, and little tourism. The new marina will change all that, too bad. New friends guided us to the meat market, bakery, and fish market, where we bought 1 1/2 kilos of camerones (shrimp) for dinner.

Joel and Blythe rented surboards for the day. Dave took them around the corner by dinghy where they were able to catch a few Banderas Bay waves.

Home again after surfing

Chacala - March 20

With some reluctance, we weighed anchor and slipped away from lovely Isla Isabella, motoring easily to Chacala where anchored bow and stern to face the swells, then rowed ashore for a fish dinner and margaritas at a beach cantina. A panga fisherman allowed us to raft to his panga to hold our dinghy off the cement quay in the swirly swells. The mainland is so lushly green and tropical after desert Baja.

Chacala anchorage, mainland Mexico

Isla Isabella! - March 18-19

Isla Isabella panorama

We left Marina de la Paz with a ebb current running which made it challenging getting away from the docks. Although we got out of the slip area successfully, Jan was left on the dock. Dave and Joel motored to the empty fuel dock to pick her up, where we awkwardly jockeyed the boat until it was close enough to board safely. With help from a dockhand, we got away with no damage to ourselves or the fuel dock, but it was not our most shining moment. Docking in current is always difficult. Again we motored in light north winds. In the strait of Lorenzo we got shallow enough to snag a fishing lure on the bottom, though we were right on the coordinates.

We motored south in flat calm, through the Cerralvo channel and into the Sea or Cortez. A weather forecast proved correct - we saw very light breezes for the next two days. We each stood 4 hour watches. With Joel aboard that meant 4 on, 8 off, very restful!

Humpbacks slapping their flukes

We saw humpback whales nearby, repeatedly bringing their huge long flukes high in the air and noisily slapping them down. Wikipedia says they may slap their flukes to stun fish.

Dolphins played under our bows, and leapt alongside us. As many times as we've seen this, it is still a thrill.

Dolphins under the bow

Sea turtle racing us to Isla Isabella

On the second day, we ran into a sea of Olive Ridley turtles, each with a small bird hitchhiking atop. At first we thought they were coconuts, until we noticed them awkwardly diving as the boat approached. For the next several hours we had to hand steer to avoid them.

At last Isla Isabella hove into view, with its impressively craggy volcanic shapes and swarms of birds circling overhead. This jewelbox of an island is a protected bird rookery. A team ashore numbers the birds and nests, and keeps a census of eggs laid and hatched each year. There is also a shark fishing camp in the bay.

Shark fishing village

Las Monas anchorage, Isla Isabella

We pulled into the empty southern anchorage where we had stayed 18 years ago, and anchored in 27 feet, watching carefully for the 2 uncharted rocks. Our 2 guidebooks disagreed where these are. Once anchored, we set the hook, but then felt we were too close the the breaking reef astern. The westerly swell rolled in, and the crashing noise was frightening, even in daylight. We would not be able to sleep here.

We pulled the hook up and motored to the alternate anchorage just south of Las Monas (the mannikins). These two spectacular rocks remind us of Cappadocia in Turkey. Although it felt like an open anchorage with little protection except from N-NW, there was very little swell. A couple other boats were anchored here, and advised us to find a patch of sand. Isabella anchorages are notorious for eating anchors, catching them between boulders.

This anchorage proved calm and safe, we could see the sandy bottom, and the fish passing under us. We threw the dinghy over and rowed to the Monas where Dave and Joel snorkled in clear 78 degree waters.

Back aboard we grilled pork chops with Salsa Lizano to celebrate our return to this special place.

Dave and Joel snorkling at Las Monas

In the morning, we dropped the outboard onto the dinghy and motored around the corner to the panga landing at the fishing village. Joel asked permission to leave the dinghy, and we pulled it well above the tideline.

Birds everywhere! The beach was covered with pelicans. Small trees were packed with frigates, mothers and fuzzy babies in their nests, and a few red wattled males. Overhead thousands more soared. A few land iguanas moved slowly out of our way.

Pelican mob

Land iguana

Frigate family

Another iguana

Baby frigate in nest

More frigates

We hiked past the census station and up a steep trail to the top of the ridge where the light tower stands. 18 years ago we hid a penny in the light tower for Joel, but alas, that tower is a handful of rusty shards of metal. The existing tower is much newer. No penny.

No penny here, just enough birds to scare Hitchcock

A blue-footed booby

Booby parents and egg

We walked along the ridge threading our way through booby nests. The blue footed boobies were in one area, and the yellows in another, strictly segregated in booby apartheid, although we did notice a few boobies with greenish feet.

Red billed seagulls hovered nearly, dashing in when a booby stood, exposing its egg. One seagull decided Joel was a threat and repeatly dive-bombed him, streaking close to his head in tight loops. We hiked on, down to a beach, then returned to the village through a field of frigate nests in low trees.

Heated by our hike, we hopped in the dinghy. Back to Baraka for dive gear, then over to the Monas, this time anchoring the dinghy between them. The water is cool to drop into for the first few seconds, then just right. We saw sargeant majors, moorish idols, parrotfish, butterflyfish, neons, pufferfish, pipefish, and a hundred other varieties, including huge schools of tiny and medium sized fish. Joel saw a spotted ray.

We enjoyed another peaceful night at anchor, then reluctantly left this morning for Chacala, 50 miles SE, halfway to Bandaras Bay and Puerto Vallarta. Isla Isabella has got to be our favorite place in the Sea of Cortez, though there is a lot of competition.

Baraka at Las Monas

Las Monas looking like Cappadocia

Ballandra Bay, Isla Carmen - March 9-10

Another few hours of motoring in flat calm brought us to one of our favorite anchorages. Except for one other boat, we had the bay to ourselves. Dave snorkled on the south reef, bringing home a few rock scallops. The next morning Joel found "lobster heaven" but alas, the lobsters had moved on. We kayaked around and outside the lovely bay. The weather is warm now, t-shirt-in-the-evening weather. In 1989 we stayed here often with cruising friends, enjoying the abundant seafood, sailing dinghy races, beach potlucks, and a hilarious "Ballandra Bay cruiser's radio net" hosted by Mad Dog Dan (akak Milton from Mere Image). Lots of fun memories...

There are signs ashore telling us we cannot land without a park permit, which we failed to obtain in Puerto Escondido - another change. The islands in this region have been designated a marine park, with commercial fishing banned.

After 2 quiet nights at anchor it is time to head south, back to La Paz for provisioning.

Dave kayaking off to snorkle

Puerto Escondido - March 9

Escondido fuel dock

And the new travellift

Again we motored 25 miles in calm, through the reefs off Punta Candaleros, up past Isla Danzante to Puerto Escondido. This had been our old stomping grounds in 1989, and we anchored many nights in this sheltered bay, along with a hundred other boats. Dave has a photo of our radar when the anchoage was packed while we waited for a hurricane to blow by. We motored past a boat anchored in the "waiting room" to find out the scoop on moorage. We'd heard it was very expensive. He confirmed the rumor, but we decided to stay one night anyway. This place is full of nostalgia for us.

The inner harbor was empty, only 4-5 boats. Felt like a ghost town compared to its bustle when we knew it well. Fonatur bought the bay, put in mooring balls and a fuel dock, and charges outrageous prices. The mooring ball was 283 pesos for one night - about $25. It is apparent the target customer is one who doesn't care about expenses. The outer bay was full of boats, apparently paying a different price to another business to anchor.

The fuel dock prices are reasonable for fuel, with an extra 258 peso ($25) surchange for using the fuel dock. This fee may be buried in the price we generally pay, since the overall price seemed the same.

We walked up to Tripui trailer park for dinner. A couple years ago a fire burnt the park, so all the buildings there are new. We enjoyed a dinner in a nice but nearly empty restaurant, at stateside prices.

It is sort of sad to see Puerto Escondido so desolate. It is a magnificent setting. Hopefully Fonatur will adjust prices within reason to attract customers. Fonatur/Singlar has built a travelift haulout and dry yard for boat work. There has been a big investment, so maybe the customers will come.

After one night, we were ready to head to Ballandra Bay on Isla Carmen, our favorite and familiar anchorage in the Sea of Cortez.

Agua Verde - March 8

In the calm morning we pulled anchor, then motored all day to Agua Verde where we tucked into another scenic anchorage. Met a charming couple on a tiny catamaran they had built in Port Townsend and sailed all the way here, summering their boat in San Carlos while they went to Alaska to fish and fill the cruising kitty. They had no engine. The next morning they rowed their cat out of the bay to catch a breeze southward.


Pretty Agua Verde ("turquoise")

Quiet Anchorage

Dave and Joel snorkled around the rocky point while Jan followed in the kayak. A cruise ship anchored and disgorged a dozen tourist passengers. They were met on the beach by a local family with donkeys, who took them on a ride to the village.

Isla San Francisco - March 6-7

With our starter motor and refrigeration fixed, we were able to leave La Paz. Dave pumped up the kayak. We settled up at Marina de la Paz, and said goodbye to our Windy City friends. The northers had dropped off. We motored out in calm, up past Islas Espiritu Santo and Partida, to pretty Isla San Francisco. We anchored in the sheltered hook for a quiet night's sleep, with 10 other cruising boats.

Pretty Isla San Francisco Anchorage

San Francisco Hike

Joel kayaked around the bay while his parents hiked to the top of a ridge, then along the opposite shoreline. Gorgeous place, even prettier than we remembered it.

We joined the beach potluck to meet the other cruisers anchored in the bay. Fun evening.

Dave got up early to watch 9 pangas fishing around us. After an hour of little activity, they started pulling in by hand giant yellowtail tuna, some as large as 40 pounds.

Yellowtail Fishing

La Paz - March 5

Whimsical sailorman sculpture along the malecon

We lucked out and had an easy overnight motor sail up from Cabo, including dead calm up Cerralvo channel, which often can blast a gale through that funnel. We arrived in La Paz, guided in to Marina de la Paz by Mike from Windy City, a very nice warm welcome.

Later that afternoon we cabbed to the airport to meet Joel's flight. It is great having him with us.

The next few days were spent in repairs, replacing the defective autopilot monitor with one sent from Seattle by Jan's brother Rolfe, getting the fickle starter motor rebuilt, and getting a refrigeration leak fixed. Jan installed dinghy wheels and a keel skid to the Avon inflatable. Dave also went up the mast to replace a burned out light bulb in the anchor light. We got a lot done, and enjoyed our time at the dock.

La Paz is great - fun cruising community, and a chance to reunite with good friends we met in Newport Oregon. Good eateries, and good shopping for fuel filters and other supplies.

We also got to meet and catch up with Milton and SuSu who cruised with us in the heat of summer in the Sea of Cortez many years ago (18), and now run a really lovely and lively B&B here in La Paz, CasaBuena, website www.vrbo.com/12091. If you book with them, ask the owners to introduce you to Mad Dog Dan. What a blast from the past!

Now it's time to move along and revisit our favorite Baja anchorages in the Puerto Escondido area before heading to the mainland. Again we will "go dark" for a few weeks until we are again in wi-fi land.

Cabo San Lucas - Feb. 22-25

We "enjoyed" a wild sleigh ride down from Mag Bay in 25-30 knots of following winds and seas. Great downwind sailing, but plenty rowdy for the off-watch person to try to rest in lurching seas. Much of the trip was wing-on-wing, with the genoa poled out. We had the company of 2 other boats, and could comiserate by radio.

Entering Cabo San Lucas, we threaded our way through a gauntlet of jet skis, pangas, glass bottom tour boats, whale watching catamarans, sport fishing boats, and kayaks. This is a wild place! We anchored, bow and stern, in the NW corner of the outer bay, protected from the wind but not from all the crazy traffic. Moorage is nearly $200/night here for a boat our size, but the dinghy dock is only $3 a day, in our budget.

We shopped, dropped laundry and did chores. Every passage provides a few additional items for the to-do list. It was fun to walk around the highly developed bay and recall how very different it was 18 years ago when we could med-tie free in the inner bay, and climb to Hotel Finisterre's Whale Watching Bar for happy hour $1 margaritas. Lots of changes, but this is still a fun place to stop.

Last night we invited our new cruising friends aboard to get to know them. Always we meet interesting people - with great stories and varied backgrounds. This is one of the most rewarding parts of the cruising life. At home, everyone is so busy, but adrift, we can take the time for conversations and begin to know and appreciate people.

Cruising friends in Baraka's cockpit, Cabo San Lucas

We'll wait here one more night, while strong Northers blow out, then nose North toward La Paz, 3 days journey, to meet up with son Joel. He will cruise Mexico with us for one month. We can hardly wait to see him.

Man of War Cove, Magdalena Bay - Feb. 18-19

Another easy overnight sail from Bahia Ballenas brought us to the entrance to Magdalena Bay. Just inside the entrance we stopped behind Grace, a catamaran, to watch whales cresting, blowing, spy-hopping and leaping all around us.

Whale Blowing, Magdalena Bay

Pangas on beach, Bahia Santa Maria

Another 10 miles north we were tucked into Man of War cove, anchored off the village with 2 other sailboats and a powerboat. Dave fired up the barbeque for some lamb chops, our reward for the passage. After a quiet night's sleep, we dropped the dinghy in the water and motored to the village beach. We drug the dinghy high out of the water, then hiked northward to Bahia Santa Maria for a day of beachcombing.

Beachcombing, Magdalena Bay

A dolphin skull

We watched a truck launch a panga laden with new lobster traps.

Which explains why the road is littered with rusty truck carcasses. Hard life for vehicles! The axels were removed to have a second life as panga trailers.

Back in Man of War we found the cantina, and joined the two other sailboat couples for conversation. They recommended the shrimp, so we ordered beers and shrimp for 2 people, and got a gigantic platter mounded with several pounds of beautiful shrimp. We stuffed ourselves for several hours and took the rest home in a bag. Fun meeting other cruisers, also heading south, interesting people with great funny stories. We'll look forward to more good times with them.

Back aboard we ate a late dinner, finishing off the shrimp with Opal's help. This morning we pulled anchor early and followed our new friends out of the bay, headed now for Cabo San Lucas. The winds are dead behind and we are sailing wing-on-wing, surfing down the waves. Fun ride! The autopilot is misbehaving, so we are keeping a close eye on our course, as there is a current here that sets toward the beach. But this is glorious sailing.

Bahia Ballenas, February 16-17

Fantastic day with the whales! Click here for our pictures.

Turtle Bay, February 13-14

Rounding the point into Turtle Bay, we were suddenly beam to the strong winds pushing us south, and the boat flew into the bay. Enrico met us in his skiff to offer fuel and a ride to his restaurant, but we told him we just wanted to sleep, and would come to town tomorrow. We anchored off the town and enjoyed a good night's sleep in this quiet bay.

Dave remembers the stink of the fishplant from last time we were here in 1988. It was shut down in 1998, a big hit to the local economy. Another wecome change was a much improved ladder to the wharf. I'd not been looking forward to risking life and limb climbing the rusty, swaying, rickety ladder we used last time. We tied off the dinghy to the bottom of the ladder, and walked the pier to the town.

New, improved ladder at Turtle Bay

Rickety Turtle Bay fuel pier

We walked the dusty streets, noting the shacky homes and nice cars, and wondered what local economy helped the locals afford cars and gas. Except for a bunch of tiny stores, Turtle Bay didn't seem to offer much by way of livelihood. Our friend Don on Windy Thoughts said years ago, if he were a Mexican living in Turtle Bay, he'd polish his thumb and head for the border.

We stopped at the Cantina Palapa for lunch ("Good Eats, Try Us!") and met Carlos and Mercedes, who fed us carne asado tacos and gave us Spanish lessons. They explained that the population dropped from 5000 to 4000 after the cannery shut down.

Back in the bay, we met another cruising couple. There are only 3 other boats here. We are definitely the caboose coming south.

Islas San Benitos, February 12

After a great 2 night passage, we approached the cluster of small islands called the San Benitos. Most cruisers chose to anchor in the lee of Cedros for a rest stop, but we decided to check out the more remote San Benitos. Besides, our guidebook said the locals would be anxious to give us lobster!

Entering the bay between the central and east islands, we found our electronic charts inaccurate by a critical margin. Our track showed us going up and over the point, and anchoring hard aground on the center island! This is a good lesson to us not to trust the navigation software for night landfalls. Click here for Dave's pictures and write-up of our GPS/chart discrepancy.

Chart discrepancy - shows our boat hard aground!

San Benitos Village anchorage

There are two recommended anchorages here. One is just off the beach from a noisy and smelly elephant seal colony, the other (which we took) just off the tiny fishing village. No lobster fishermen showed up. We could see a few people walking in the village, but didn't go ashore. After a quiet night a anchor, we pushed on for Turtle Bay.

Ensenada - Feb. 6

Ensenada Flag

Visible from many miles out is the gigantic Mexican Flag at Ensenada, marking the cruise ship wharf. The flagpole is so large, Jan's Dad could find it on Google Earth.

Having left the states, we now will rarely find a fuel hose that reaches the boat. Often this means jerry-jugging 5 gallon cans through the surf by dinghy. But here at Marina Baja Naval, the fuel came to us, 55 gallon drums on hand carts, with a pump to fill our tanks. Diesel was $2.56 a gallon here, a bargain compared to stateside prices.

Taking on diesel, Baja Naval

Ship's cat, Opal

17 year-old Opal was a crew member on our last voyage in the early 90's, and is along again. She sleeps most of the day, and marauds at night, prowling the dock and occasionally visiting other boats. Though she doesn't like passages, she enjoys seafood. The door flap lets her come and go.

Ensenada - Feb. 5

After clearing in to Mexico and hitting Gigante for produce, bread, eggs and milk, and fuelling up with diesel from barrels at the Baja Naval dock, we were ready to head on South. A good weather window opened up.

But the night before we were to leave, I (Jan) got word from brother Rolfe that our Uncle Carson was in his last days. With the helpful internet, I quickly found a way home by train (Can't fly for 2 more months due to the eye surgery).

I headed North by bus, trolley and train, a 3-day trip, arriving in time for Uncle Carson's final 2 days. Being with family at a time like this reminds me of who I am and how much my family has given to me. I have been lucky in life to have a wonderful and supportive family. It was my Uncle Carson and Aunt Dode who introduced me to sailing. My 5 siblings made it to Seattle, 2 from Hawaii.

Son Joel happened to be arriving from Argentina while I was in Seattle, so we overlapped one day to visit.

Staying behind in Ensenada, Dave tore the boat apart one more time to wire in a new bank of batteries, and replace some mysterious parts of the 12-volt electrical system. The boat looks like it's been capsized - gear everywhere so he could empty lockers to work. Some major re-stowing will be needed before we can cast off again, and part of his project was awaiting parts I brought from Seattle. So we are here a few more days...

Our late start will require us to move quickly (for us) to be south of the hurricane belt, in Northern Costa Rica, by June 1. This is a boat insurance requirement.

If you are interested in a description of an offshore passage, click here.

Ensenada - Jan. 22

This morning at 3 am we cast off from Shelter Cove Marina, San Diego. We were altogether in San Diego for 2 months, a bit longer than the 2 weeks we'd planned. But it was a good stop. Jan's eye surgery was successful, and Dave got a lot of projects completed. The boat is in better shape than at any time since we've owned it.

It was chilly this morning, and the moon was only a tiny sliver. We bundled up in 4 layers, hats and gloves, and motored out. The new radar is amazing, and next to the chart plotter tells us exactly where we are and what is around us. We are really happy with it.

We motored south until noon in light winds, and then got a great roller coaster ride in 20+ knots broad reaching for a few hours. Surfing down the waves we hit 8.5 knots, and made good time into Baja Naval Marina, Ensenada, where 4 men caught our lines and tied us up. We arrived early enough to clear into Mexico, but the marina says manana is soon enough. We walked around town and explored, then had a light dinner.

It is wonderful to be moving again, and we are excited to be returning to Mexico, a country that holds many happy memories for us.

Tomorrow we clear in (customs, immigration, port captain, health, and radio license) and take on fuel. I also need to buy fruits and vegetables, since I couldn't bring them in. Weather permitting, we will stay a second night, then head south to the San Benitos Islands or Turtle Bay.

San Diego - Jan. 20

Holy Toledo! We have been in San Diego for 2 months. The retinal doctor has congratulated himself on a magnificent job, and told us we are free to sail on. I have limited vision in my left eye, improving daily now, and can tell the surgery worked. We feel so lucky to have been in a place with excellent care, including my Aunt Marion who took me in for 2 weeks and cared for me while I had to maintain a continuous face-down position day and night. Everyone should have an Aunt Marion.

Dave used the time to complete dozens of boat projects. A rigger came and tuned the rig, and convinced us we needed to trim some inches from the head of our new genoa. Dave repaired a propane leak, cleaned and painted a rusty engine cooling pipe, rebed the Profurl screws all down the forestay, removed the old radar, finished the watermaker install, worked on the engine-driven refrigeration, added pulleys to the pole track, worked out a way to mount our external chart display, cleaned the bottom and replaced zincs, had the ebirb emergency beacon tested, and checked out a recall on our liferaft.

Every so often we wonder about the wisdom of buying a 17 year-old-boat. We have probably doubled her cost, now that we have replaced so many systems that we initially thought were adequate, but proved not to be, including sails, rigging, autopilot, anchor windlass, batteries, inverter (plus the cruising additions of watermaker, ham/ssb radio, liferaft, epirb, windvane, gps). The upside is that Dave, having installed each of these, knows how to troubleshoot and maintain them. I'm just glad he enjoys projects.

In any case, we are finally at the starting line! Monday we plan to slip away at 3 am, sailing 70 miles to Ensenada, arriving mid-afternoon in time to clear in to Mexico. We plan 2 nights there, to take on fuel and obtain the Mexican ham license, then we will sail a couple days south to Turtle Bay, then work our way along the outside of Baja. SD has been a great stop, but we are ready to go on.

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