Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas

We left San Jose del Cabo on Christmas Eve. The morning started off with some nice sailing. By noon, two whales were breaching near us again and we meandered with them for a while. The wind picked up to over 25 knots and we motored through the chop with just the solent sail. About an hour before wee anchored in Los Fraile’s Bay, a whale jumped out of the water about 50’ from our boat!
We spent Christmas on the beach at Los Fraile’s and swimming in the warm clear water. Malcolm made duck for Christmas dinner and then, while Zophia went to bed, we hoisted anchor and left for Ensenada de los Muertos (rumour is that it's recently been renamed to Ensenada de los Suenos to attract tourists). We arrived the next morning, as Zophia was waking.
We spent a lovely Boxing Day lounging about the boat. The wind was a bit too much to take Tubby ashore and there were many locales with RV’s and small power boats along the shore.  During the evening, there were 5 sailboats and 2 power boats anchored in the bay. In the morning, all had left except us and one other sailboat from France.
We weighed anchor late in the morning and motor/sailed the 11 nautical miles to the southern end of Isla Cerralvo. We anchored in the lee of the island, protected from the winds wiping south through the channel between the island and the main part of Baha. We enjoyed watching at least 4 different species of birds swoop and dive for fish and a wonderful sunset.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

San Jose del Cabo

We spent another day in Cabo as Zophia thought she needed a bit more night life. We spent the day at the beach, tried to find a restaurant that did not have mediocre, expensive food, then Zophia decided she, too, had had enough free drinks for ladies and two-for-one tequila and we all went back to the boat.  The next morning, we filled our fuel and water tanks and motored out into the sunshine.
Within an hour of leaving the craziness of Cabo San Lucas we had two whales breaching nearby! They were jumping up and over onto their sides, flapping their large flippers! Luckily we had the camera out and got some photos of the awesome spectacle.






 We docked in the very quiet marina of San Jose del Cabo and walked to the Hotel El Ganzo. What a find! It is a spectacular hotel dedicated to the arts with a Hunter S. Thompson theme. We fell in love with the rooftop infinity pool and infinity hot tub. The art throughout the hotel is wonderful and we were able to peek down the wooden doors in the floor of the downstairs restaurant to where the recording studio is located. Unfortunately/fortunately, Charlie Sheen was not there when we were, but he is a regular.
That night, the hotel drove us, in their deluxe Defender, to their other restaurant, on the other side of the marina, called, The Container. It was a large shipping container turned into a patio restaurant that served fantastic food.

Since we found El Ganzo, we decided to stay another day. In the morning we took the hotel’s pontoon boat across the channel to their private beach. After a light lunch and a mango daquiri, we went back to the rooftop pool and hot tub.




We had been told by the crews of Georgia and Avant, that the local restaurant, El Marinero Borracho, was not to be missed. So we walked over only to find out the restaurant is closed on Mondays. We wandered down the street to the Vaca Loca, and outdoor taco, potatoes and meat restaurant where we had a delicious meal. The potatoes arrachera were to die for. Zophia wanted Dina’s order, but she wouldn’t share, so Zophia ordered some to go and had it for lunch the next day.



Friday, December 20, 2013

Cabo San Lucas

Cabo is like Spring Break all the time, but maybe with tourists who have some money, not just students. Basically, it is full of tourists and two-for-one tequila. We took full advantage!  As it was Nicky’s birthday, we got a recommendation for a nice restaurant (Pollo del Oro) from the person at IGY Marina. Later, we had the recommendation confirmed by an information guide on the street. The food was good, even though it was served under fluorescent lights, on plastic tables covered in plastic red and white checkered table clothes. It wasn’t quite what we were expecting, but we hope it is memorable to Nicky!

After the special birthday dinner, we visited Cabo Wabo, Squid Roe, Baja Jungle (BJ’s), and the Knotty Bar. Manny wow’ed Nicky with his dancing at Cabo Wabo and Nicky taught us line dancing at BJ’s. Zophia kept getting free shots sent over to our table…
Needless to say the next day was quiet. We rested up to go out again! This time we started with dinner at a restaurant that had two-for-one drinks (like every restaurant) and the Canucks game on the TV! The Canucks beat the Black Hawks in a shoot-out. Then off we went to a few more bars!
Sadly, Manny and Nicky left the next day. No more physics or astronomy jokes or debates, or Nicky’s famous breakfasts. We hope they had as much fun as we did and they're both welcome to come back soon!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

First Guests - the Bar is Set High!

Manny and Nicky got settled into the forward cabin and we all toasted to their arrival with spiced rum and root beers. While on shore, we had arranged with the hotel owner to send a panga for us for dinner; we did not want to drag Tubby through the mud again. During dinner, Manny and Nicky made arrangements with the hotel owner, Fito Gonzalez, to have his brother drive their rental car to Cabo San Lucas. Fito had huge hopes to develop San Carlos into a tourist haven. While the villas looked lovely and the food was delicious, the long and tedious, dog-legged, channel entrance to reach San Carlos does not make it inviting. Not to mention the need for a dock… most cruisers anchor just inside Magdalena Bay at Puerto Magdalena and probably won't want to take the extra hour or two to get all the way to San Carlos.

The next morning we left San Carlos and stopped for a picnic on the beach beside the channel.





After the picnic we continued on to Puerto Magdalena where we could anchor for the night. It is a quiet fishing village that boasts a restaurant and a small shack as a grocery store. If you arrive on the right day, the store may have chicken, some eggs, potatoes, tomatoes… So much for provisioning for guests!

The residents of Puerto Magdalena make a living from the sea and when we were there it was octopus season. None of us were interested in cleaning and preparing a fresh octopus, so we just had cold beers at the restaurant.

Nicky is a magician in the galley! With limited provisions she made a fantastic dinner.

The next morning, after a great breakfast made by Nicky, we were off to look for whales and head towards Cabo. Heading south outside the Bay, we had great wind and sailed on a wonderful broad reach with the gennaker flying.  It's about 30-40 hours from Magdalena Bay to Cabo San Lucas, so we're a bit concerned about how the guests will handle such a long passage and night sailing.  We didn’t mention to them that we didn’t have enough fuel to motor all the way and would need wind.  Not to worry, however, the weather cooperated, visibility was great with the full moon and Nicky is an Astro-Physicist! Although she’s been working on the Cassini mission (Saturn) and New Horizons (Pluto), she also knows quite a bit about stars. It made the night sailing way more fun!

We sailed the entire next day with much need to adjust the sails or course. In the late afternoon, we gybed to head inland toward Cabo San Lucas.  The gennaker became tangled and ended up with a small rip – oops! Good thing Carol Hasse from Port Townsend Sails sent us the sail repair kit and recommended the book, Sailmaker’s Apprentice!  We’ll have to fix that sail later.

As we closed in on Cabo, a whale showed up and swam beside us in the moonlight for a while. With the light of the full moon, we anchored off the beach and fell asleep to the sound of the surf. It was nice and warm in the morning, so Malcolm (and Manny) finally got to jump into the water from up on the bimini. 





We also sent Manny up the mast so he could check it out (he does some climbing, but wasn’t too keen on being so high on a moving ship).  Nicky said we should bring him back down so we did. On the way into the marina, we motored past the large Princess cruise ship (with Manny threatening to moon the passengers) and swept along the western side of the bay waving at all the tourists, dodged water taxis, para-sailors and jet skis.


Instead of another meal prepared by Nicky, we ate lunch at a nice restaurant and then went to the airport to pick up Zophia.


Sunday, December 15, 2013

On to Santa Maria and Magdalena Bay


As there was nothing to do in San Ignacio, we continued south to Santa Maria Bay.  It started as a lovely sail as we flew the gennaker for several hours in the afternoon and then continued to sail well into the night with just the main. The wind picked up to 17-22 knots, so around midnight we put in one reef on the main.  We arrived in Santa Maria Bay, on the outside of Magdalena Bay, about 25 hours after our departure from San Ignacio. We were welcomed by the flipper flapping of a whale!
Santa Maria Bay is lovely, with an inviting white sand beach. Several fisherman have fish camps along the shore.  We didn't explore the area because we had to go around the corner to San Carlos in Magdalena Bay to pick up our friend, Manny Souza, and his girlfriend, Nicky Martin, who we had yet to meet.
We left Santa Maria Bay early, but were slowed by the lovely views along the west side of Punta Entrada. Then a couple of whales entranced us in the entrance to Magdalena Bay, then there was some bargaining with fishermen... In exchange for some insulating styrofoam that we no longer needed, we got a lot of very fresh (live!) shrimp.
Fortunately, we arrived in San Carlos about the same time that many and Nicky drove in from La Paz.
The guide book claims that San Carlos is the second largest port , after Ensenada, along the western coast of Baja. Based on this information, we planned to dock, go out to dinner, provision, etc.  What a surprise when we finally arrived to find no public dock, no good access to shore and very few buildings. There is a large industrial pier for large fishing boats and tankers. As we were slowing down to figure out what to do, Manny hailed us on the radio! They were at THE hotel and restaurant in town, Villas Mar y Arena.  We anchored in the strong current in the channel and Dina took Tubby as far into shore (mud flats) as was possible. Fortunately, the water was warm so hauling Tubby up onto shore, and dragging him back out was not too bad.
Meanwhile, Malcolm cleaned the shrimp and marinated them in garlic. He SAYS that he had no problem killing the live ones, and was not squeamish about removing the antenna, eyes, legs, everything, ....
 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Whale Reserve (not!) San Ignacio

We left Tortuga Bay late morning on the 11th and arrived in San Ignacio about 22 hours later around sunrise.  About 25 large dolphins escorted us out into the ocean. Otherwise, it was an uneventful motor/sail.

Dina had high hopes for San Ignacio. After all, it is listed in the book, 1000 Places to Visit Before You Die. Apparently, neither the whales nor the locals had read the book. We saw no whales. The town did not have a pier or any access to shore, other than to try to land your dinghy, upright, through a rather large surf.
Dina was tempted to find the local Mayor and write up a development proposal that included a small fleet of whale watching pangas, training local guides, building a small wharf… The cruisers would flock there and the local economy would blossom.  She was convinced a local mining company working in the region would join in the endeavor along with the Mexican Ministry of Environment, World Wildlife Fund-Mexico, and international whale protection agencies.
Then she remembered that she is retired….

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Windy trip to Turtle Bay, and a Birthday!

We checked the weather forecast (gribs) and anticipated 15-20 knots of wind from the NE for our sail to Turtle Bay. This would have put us on a pretty windy beam reach, but it wouldn't be too much so we hoisted the anchor at about 7 AM and left the San Benitos, sailing with the solent  (smaller headsail) and a reefed main in 16 knots of wind.  By 10am we were motoring as the wind was blocked by Cedros Island. Once we got passed the island, the wind seemed to be funneled between Cedros and the mainland.  It was well over 20 knots and we double reefed the main as the wind picked up to 25 to 30 knots, the waves and swells were choppy, giving us an uncomfortable ride. The good news is that it was sunny and the boat was going a brisk 7-9 knots.  It was a bit of a relief to get into the shelter of Turtle Bay, where we anchored at dusk.

Several days before this, Dina tried to make chocolate muffins.   It's unclear why she went into the galley, but she did.  The muffins turned out more like soft hockey pucks. Now, we are anchored in Turtle Bay and it's Malcolm's birthday.  It's the first birthday we've celebrated since leaving Vancouver.  One would think Dina would NOT attempt to cook again (especially so soon). However, in the morning she “made” cornbread muffins, from a package. They weren’t too bad with butter and jam. At lunchtime, she put a brownie cake into the oven and made a spinach and bacon salad for lunch.

While we were eating, a fellow cruiser rowed over to invite us to join them and another boat on shore for a beer. We  finished the salad, packed up the brownie cake, candles, and a lighter, and took Tubby to the dinghy dock at the end of the pier. We survived the rickety steps up and the rickety pier, to meet Kim and Arnie from Naniamo on Puna, and Jodi and Darrin from Oregon on Gratitouille, at Rogelio’s Beach Bar. Rogelio felt bad that the patio umbrellas had been torn in the wind during a party two nights before, but the sun was shining, the Pacifico was cold, and two Canadian flags and a Bluewater Cruising Association burgee adorned the patio . It was too windy to light the candles on Malcolm’s birthday brownie cake, but everyone seemed to enjoy it and the hard, crusty outer edge made the pieces easy to hold!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Cannot always trust the charts

It seems that the San Benido islands are not where our NEW Garmin charts seem to think they are. Luckily we approached during the daylight.  Contrary to what the chartplotter shows, we actually went BETWEEN the centre island and the eastern one.


Then we found a nice safe place to anchor at a depth of 11.7m, not an altitude of 11.7!


We actually used our Navionics charts on our tablet, as they matched what we were seeing.

Seal Sentries and Squids on Deck

We left Ensenada at 3:30 PM after checking out with the Port Capitan (a much easier process than checking in), grocery shopping and a large lunch. We motor sailed into the sunset. Unfortunately, the wind was light and coming from behind us, so we motor/sailed most of the way to San Martin Island. We arrived at 9 AM and after breakfast we launched Tubby to explore the lagoon on the southeast side of the almost a perfectly round island and hike up to the dormant volcano crater. As we entered the lagoon, some seals followed us in. We looked at the beach and discussed where amongst the boulders to land. We notice a particularly large rock, the size of a small car, up the beach to the left.


Then about 100 of the boulders all looked up and started for the water! It was a bit disconcerting that so many of them were coming out to the dinghy. They seemed to approach in formation with their heads held high like Meer cats. We noticed the seals that had followed us into the lagoon were in a line in the water behind us. It was very difficult to interpret whether their silent approach and stares were friendly curiosity or aggression.

When the boulder the size of a small car starting moving for the water, we decided we would risk offending their friendly curiosity, if that was what it was, and leave the lagoon. About 20 of the seals followed us out of the lagoon, around the corner and left us at the entrance to the bay where Good as Gold was anchored. The hike to the volcano crater didn’t happen.
After lunch we sailed into a fresh breeze and sunshine thinking we would just cross the strait to an anchorage off the mainland. However, it was beautiful out, we were sailing well, so we decided to just keep going. Soon the boat was going 7 knots in the moonlight.


Twelve hours later, in the middle of the night, the wind was over 20 knots and we had too much sail up. We reefed the main and rolled in a bit of the self-furling genoa. The wind was from the NW, which was directly behind our route to the San Benito Islands. We sailed off course and gybed back to our destination in the morning. With the morning light, we found small squid had launched themselves at the boat. One was in the cockpit and about a dozen were scattered, stuck, to the deck. Their attack had been silent and fortunately, no ink had been discharged. 

Dolphins swam with the boat at noon and we anchored shortly afterwards near the small fishing village on Isla Oueste of the Islas San Benitos. The next day was cool and grey, so we stayed put, doing odd jobs on the boat and bingeing on the final season of, Dexter. 


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Arrival in Mexico


We arrived at Baja Naval Marina in Ensenada at 7 AM after an easy overnight sail from San Diego. The Dock Master, Rogelio, recognized us from his presentation at the Long Beach Strictly Sail show. He sorted our papers and sent us off to Immigration, Customs, the Port Capitan, and for fishing licenses.

Once sorted, we hoisted the Mexican courtesy flag and thought we'd explore a bit. We went to the local movie theatre and saw, Capitan Phillips (in English with Spanish subtitles). It is a great film with incredible acting. We also went to Mexico’s oldest bar, Hussong’s. It has a great atmosphere and great margaritas.

With Rob and Debra from Avant, we hired a car and driver and headed for wine country. There are many vineyards outside of Ensenada. We went northeast and our first stop was La Casa de Dona Lupe. Dona Lupe herself was there overseeing the wine tasting, the cheese tasting and the small boutique that sold chocolates and jams.



Then we stopped in at L.A. Cetto, one of the largest wineries in the region. We had not heard of it, but Encuentro Guadalupe looked stunning, so we stopped. It is a winery, restaurant, and it has small rectangular cabins perched high up the mountainside.  We would certainly recommend it for a weekend get-away, either from a boat in Ensenada or from San Diego.




We continued on to Monte Xanic and bought a couple of bottles of sauvignon blanc, one a late harvest. We then began looking for a restaurant called, Corazon de Tierra, which I had heard was good and the staff at Monte Xanic had said was informal, casual and not touristy. After making our driver follow rutted dirt roads according to Google Maps, we arrived at a lovely rural restaurant, with staff dressed in black jackets and white shirts, offering a 6 course lunch menu that required a two hour minimum for $USD75 per person, wine not included. It just was not what we were looking for so we finished our water and left. On another day, in another mood, it would be wonderful to return.
The majority of the vineyards are only open to the public Thursday-Sunday and by appointment only. As it was Wednesday, we missed many that have won international awards. We will look for them as we stock up on wine throughout Mexico.
The guys at Baja Naval did a couple of small welds on our boat where the davits that lift and carry Tubby, our tender, attach to the arch. They did a quick, clean, sturdy and inexpensive job. Other than having to walk through the work yard to reach the showers, it was a quiet and pleasant stay. Rogelio and all the staff were friendly and helpful.