Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Back in the Islands

Just a short note. I left La Paz yesterday morning and am writing this from Bahia San Gabriel on Isla Espiritu Santo. I'll be away for a couple of weeks. There is a carnival in La Paz from Feb 16th to the 21st which I want to be back for - but other than that, I'll be out exploring more of the islands. I'm heading north today. I'm sitting at anchor hoping for a little wind to arrive but it looks like it might be a calm day. I'll update the blog when I get back.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

La Paz, Isla Espiritu Santo, La Paz

Lets see, where was I.  The last time I wrote anything I was planning on leaving La Paz a few days after the post and go visit Isla Espiritu Santo, an island roughly 20 miles north east of La Paz.  I didn't quite make that departure date, but left on Sunday January 8th rather than the Friday.  Close enough for a retired cruiser with no deadlines, schedules or worries.
My slip at Marina Costa Baja.  C-22.
As you can see, Luckness fits nicely into the 50' slip the marina staff have let me have (for the price of a 40' slip!)  The only downside is that the outer harbor of the marina is a little devoid of cruisers, the inner harbor is a little better but there are many more cruisers at Marina Palmira or at anchor.  While I have had reservations about this marina (its a little far from town, not as social as Palmira due to the lack of cruisers) I'm back in the same slip at the moment.

Before leaving I spent some more time in La Paz.  I like the place, it has a nice vibe.  The most obvious feature of the town is the waterfront and the Malecón which is the long walkway which runs along the waterfront.  The images below are from a stroll heading north along the Malecón.

The statues make good reference points, as many of the streets do not have signs.  For example, my favorite restaurant in town is The Shack.  They have awesome burgers and various specials through the week - everything I've had has been excellent.  Their portions are large.  Travis and Rosie own the place and have no staff, they work 16 hours a day (8 to midnight) five days a week.  Visit them if you get there.  To find the place, go to the statue of the mermaid chasing the dolphin, head inland for three or four blocks, The Shack is on the right.

One of the Shack specials: a whole grouper, battered and fried.  Perfect.
I left on the 8th for the islands.  I had spent the previous week cleaning the boat, fixing a few things and provisioning.  When I left there was a light south wind which is a little odd around here as the wind is predominantly from the north.  I was able to sail for a while, then the wind started veering and ended up back where it belonged, from the north to north east.  It then grew in strength to 10, 15 and then up to 22 knots.  The waves started boarding, soaking the boat from the bow right back into the cockpit.  So within a few hours of leaving my slip with my nice shiny clean boat, she was covered bow to stern with salt water again.  Oh well.  My first stop was going to be Bahia San Gabriel.  I sailed all the way there, making long tacks from La Paz to get to my destination.  It was good sailing, the waves were relatively small as the wind had just freshened - it was good to be out of the marina.

I had a few chores left on my list that I couldn't do at the marina.  I wanted to clean the hull and replace the zinc's.  Surprisingly, this was also the first time I would be going into the water...  I'm not sure how I got so far down the coast without going for a swim, but it was time.  I first tested my two temporary boarding ladders and found they both work reasonably well - good enough that I'm not still struggling to get into my boat.  I then realized my wet suit was going to be useful, and put it on!  It took two days to clean the hull, mostly as I would get too cold after being in the water after an hour or so.  The water temp is around 65deg.  65 is super warm compared to the 54 of Puget Sound, but its not exactly tropical.  The next day I got back in and also put on a neoprene hood which helped.  I was able to replace both zinc's and finish off the hull.  The bottom paint I have is working well, there were no creatures on the hull, just a little vegetation.

Bahia San Gabriel is a beautiful bay, with a slowly sloping beach so that you can walk for a long ways out into the water before its too deep.  This means that if you beach your dingy at high tide, go for a long walk and come back to it, you'll have a long ways to carry the dingy back to the water.

I left on the 12th for Ensenada el Gallo, something like four miles north from where I was.  Ensenada el Gallo is the middle of three lobes in this bay.  This time I remembered to get the camera out...

Leaving Bahia San Gabriel, heading north
I left San Gabriel at 8:30am and was at anchor in Ensenada el Gallo by 9:30.  I was the only boat in this anchorage.

At anchor in Ensenada el Gallo
I had no chores to work on!  So I put the dingy in the water and headed off to do a little exploring.  There were two beaches to explore, one at the head of the bay and one to my south east.  I went first to the head of the bay, toward the mangroves.

This place is beautiful.  After walking around and enjoying the place for a while, I got back in the dingy and headed over to the white sand beach, just south east of Luckness.

From the beach I hiked up a little hill to get a different perspective on the area.  Hiking on the island is just a matter of going for a walk.  No need to spend time looking for a trail head, as usually there won't be one.  There were only a few marked trails I hiked on while on the island.  Otherwise you just pick your way up a hill, being careful.  Here's the bay from the hill, and some of the plant life.

After I had spent the morning exploring, I headed over to Ensenada de la Raza in my dingy as I had spied Gia at anchor there when I had pulled in, along with four other boats.  I spent the afternoon talking with Damon and Desiree, catching up with their travels.  We had crossed paths briefly in Avalon however the last time we had a good visit (more than a few minutes) was in Smugglers Cove on Santa Cruz.  It was awesome to see these two again.  After a while the wind picked up and I started getting nervous about being away from the boat and so I headed back.  As I approached I heard my anchor alarm going off.  Luckness was in plenty of water with lots of room around her, but the anchor was in soft sand and was dragging.  I moved the boat to reset the anchor and had better luck this second time.  I was confused by this, as I had set the anchor well when I anchored initially.  I'm starting to realize that one of the benefits (pitfalls?) of having an anchor alarm is that I'm aware of the boat dragging way before you would be able to see it visually.  It would have been difficult to see that the boat had dragged 60' using visual references. But the anchor alarm lets you know...which means I get to be worrying about my anchor when a different boat wouldn't even be aware there might be a problem.  In this case I could have dragged hundreds of feet before it would have been a problem.  The anchor alarm is a good thing, but can be annoying from time to time...

Anyway.  The next day was windy and I stayed onboard, and the following day I left for my next stop which was Caleta Partida.  Isla Espiritu Santo and Isla Partida are two islands joined at a body of water which has a portion so shallow you could walk across it.  Caleta Partida is in a cove where the two islands meet and is one of the most protected anchorages in this area.  It also happens to be just beautiful. I realize that I'm starting to overuse that phrase: "Its beautiful."  Rather than try to explore my vocabulary I'm just going to keep using the phrase over and over.  Its a nice place, you really all should come and see it.

At anchor in Caleta Partida, Jan 14th, 11:30am.
There were a few places to explore here, I picked two.  There is one of the nicest sand beaches I've come across so far here, with shallow beautiful water surrounding it.  I headed over after eating lunch.

While walking around the beach I was watching the pelicans dive into the water, fishing.  Its a pretty good way to spend an afternoon.

The next day I headed over to the south shore where my cruising guide mentions that its possible to climb up to the ridge line and get some good views.  The is no trail at all.  You just pick a line up the side of the hill and start walking.  The hill is in the background of the picture which is two above, the low flying pelican.

Me!  On the ridge line, south of Caleta Partida

Hawks flying above Caleta Partida
Beautiful.  By now I was swimming daily.  The water would continually fool me in how warm it looked.

The following day, the 16th, I left and headed north a few more miles to Ensenada Grande.  Ensenada Grande is another three-lobed bay, and again I chose the middle lobe to anchor in.  I went exploring by dingy again, visiting each of the lobes.  Here are a few images of the rock walls.

A couple days later, Gia pulled into the anchorage.  Yay!  We went for a hike up to the east side of the island from a trail starting in the south lobe.  There was actually a trail, marked by rock cairns.  It was a fun walk, a mixture of bouldering, scrambling and just walking along.

Views along the east coast of Isla Partida
Damon and Desiree of Gia
There was nice light that evening.

The next day, I heard Sockdolager trying to contact Shane on Clover.  They sounded close as the signal was strong.  Sockdolager, Clover and I were at Muertes over Christmas.  I didn't hear a reply, so waited a moment and then hailed Sockdolager.  They were about to start crossing the mouth of Ensenada Grande heading north to the next island.  There was a slight pause, and then they decided to head in to anchor and visit with the three of us.  Sockdolager and Gia met in Avalon, its a small world.

Sockdolager saying hello to Gia
Sockdolager in Ensenada Grande, Jan 20.
After they anchored I headed over to say Hi.  We arranged to go snorkeling later, followed by drinks aboard their boat.  There were seven people on board Sockdolager that evening, they love to fill their boat up with a crowd (of interesting people!)

I headed over to Gia to let them know the plans, and hang around chatting for a while.

The next day I left for the start of my return to La Paz.  I was down to about 4 potatoes, a few onions, a couple of oranges and so on.  I have plenty of food on board, but not very much fresh food.  I planned to head south back to Bahia San Gabriel, my first anchorage this trip.  When I pulled in, I found Clover.  Yay.  I anchored and then headed over to arrange a hike to the other side of the island.  It was a pretty grey day, but warm.  When we got to the other side, we found a (sorry) beautiful beach.  Via a trick of the light, the sea and sky were the same color making the horizon disappear.

A clear day, but look!  No horizon!?
Taken from my dingy, Shane returning to Clover 
Luckness at anchor, Bahia San Gabriel.  Jan 21st.
Looking west, Jan 21st.
On the 22nd I left anchor again and headed over to Puerto Balandra, which is an anchorage on the Baja peninsula toward La Paz.  When I arrived I joined six other sailboats in the anchorage, which was a little disappointing after having been in much more isolated places on the island.  Within a few hours of my arriving, the wind picked up to 15 or so knots.  Within a few hours of that happening, everybody else left, leaving me alone in the anchorage.

On the 23rd I returned to La Paz, Marina Costa Baja, the same slip I had left 16 days earlier.

While I was on the trip I was keeping notes of a few things I wanted to fix or alter.  The spring on the lever controlling the raw water intake on my head broke while I was out.  I've seized it back in place with some monel wire.  I tried to find a replacement spring in town but haven't had any luck, my fix will probably last until Seattle.  One night while getting ready for bed I heard my bilge pump come on.  This isn't something you really want to ever hear, as it means something is leaking.  I tasted the bilge water and it was fresh water, which was a relief.  A fresh water leak can't sink your boat, a salt water leak is more serious.  After some searching, I tracked the leak down to the galley fresh water foot pump, which was original.  Also on the trip, I tracked down what I finally figured out was a source of salt water in the cabinet behind the stove in the galley.  The anti-siphon valve for the macerator water loop had failed and was squirting sink water into that cabinet.  Lastly, the head bowl kept filling up with water after I had pumped it dry.  The joker valve which should stop water from back filling had failed.  These were things I wanted to fix.  The first day in La Paz, I found Lopez Marine and they had a new Whale Gusher Mk III foot pump on the shelf.  Score!  They also had a replacement Forespar vented loop cap.  Yay!  They had Groco parts and I was able to get a new joker valve to save myself from using the one from my rebuild kit.  If you need parts in La Paz, Lopez Marine is worth a visit.

I've also taken off the boats old Bimini.  I had never used it, and when it was deployed it would shade one or both of my solar panels pretty badly.  I found a boat close by which wanted it, and its now sitting on their deck waiting either salvage or installation.  I'll do something about shade in the cockpit when I get back to Seattle.

I pulled the knot meter out of the hull and gave it a good cleaning.  I'll refuel tomorrow.  I went on my first provisioning run today and will do another tomorrow.  I'm going to different stores each time, trying to find some hard to get items.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading!

I hope to leave on Monday for another trip to the islands.  I'll try to head a little further north this time.  There is a Carnival in La Paz Feb 16 to 21 however, so I want to come back for that.  So many things to do and see and so little time!

Peace ya all.  Later eh.