Santa Rosalia, April 17 to 28
A blinding light through the stateroom window and a loud horn. I wake up at 2 am with a spotlight shining through the window. AHHHH. It’s the ferry entering Santa Rosalia Harbor. We took a slip at the Fonatur Marina for a week hoping to do an engine repair and perhaps find a doctor to look at my eye. Again, no doctors here, only La Paz, but the eye seems stable and Guaymas is only a day a way or so.
The marina is butt ugly. Black walls surround you with mountains of rip rap. The water is brown…no water making here. Down the dock the Mexican navy keeps their patrol boat and a couple of fast marine rescue boats. The Navy guys seem great– wish I spoke more Spanish. One morning we wake up to the sounds of three guys scraping hard marine growth off of the floating docks that keep the fast boats out of the water with smooth bottoms while they are not in use. They swim for exercise most days in the funky water. Probably keeps them more resistant to disease. These guys look tough and athletic.
The town is a true Mexican town. This is a mining town owned by a French company Compagnie du Boleo and the French influence is there. Represented by the colonial architecture of the city hall and the church was designed by Gustav Eiffel and imported from Belgium. A later remodel of the church added more traditional construction to the sides of the metal church. The remodel was respectful and the new eaves have the same scalloped metal trim as the original structure. The town has many mining artifacts left after the French closed their operation in 1946 after copper prices fell. In 2010, a consortium of Canadian and South Korean companies reopened the mine to extract copper and cobalt an important mineral for newer battery chemistries.
Lisa and I cook on the boat a lot and enjoy the process, but towns are a chance to take a break, and we like checking out the different places. In Santa Rosalia, we had delicious ice cream at Splash where a handsome young Mexican man enjoyed practicing his English on us. At Tercos, we enjoyed the rotisserie chicken although the whole meal was a little heavy for us. We ate Chinese food at both of the Chinese restaurants in town. There are quite a few Chinese people here who came to work the mines at the same time they were coming to California for the gold rush to build a railway… gotta love those immigrants. Our favorite was probably Tonka’s Grill, where we enjoyed a steak and great margaritas.
Our raw water pump was leaking, sending a good bit of salt water over the engine block. The water pump went together much easier than expected as we have full rebuild kits aboard but in the process we cracked the raw water connection to the exhaust. In marine engines like ours, fresh water with coolant circulates inside the engine block in the same way as most cars, but instead of a radiator to cool the water, we have a heat exchanger to lower the coolant temperature. The raw water pump provides cool seawater to the heat exchanger and then the seawater is discharged into the exhaust system. This is a pretty slick trick since it cools off the hot exhaust gases both muffling the noise and cooling the exhaust allowing your exhaust to be in a hose instead of requiring a heat proof steel pipe, like an auto. The point at which the cool seawater is injected back into the exhaust is a crazy place as cool salt water is hitting the 500 degree exhaust gases. This makes for a pretty corrosive brew and our cast iron fitting cracked from the pressure of the hose clamp. A leak here is a pretty big problem since you will be dumping the saltwater into your engine room instead of back into the ocean. This part is a Volvo part and would take weeks to get in Mexico. I tried something I have never done before and used an epoxy product called JB Weld. First gluing the pieces of the casting back together, then giving the whole thing a wrap with fiberglass cloth and more JB weld. So far so good.
Our next stop was to be Bahia San Francisquito. We first set off on the 23rd, but as we rounded the first cape, Cabo Virgenes, we had winds gusting to 25 on the nose. With 65 miles to go and our general distrust of weather forecasting, we returned to Santa Rosalia for another 4 days.
Bahia San Francisquito, April 27 – May 2
This time we got around the cape, and motor-sailed to San Francisquito. While we had choppy conditions on the beam, it felt good to be using sails to help us get there. The midriff Islands form a line from San Francisquito to the mainland side of the sea, and their presence accelerates the tides as they pass between the island or the land. As we were approaching San Francisquito, the tide was ebbing and we found ourselves going against two or three knots of swirling current.
More heavy wind, and we spent the first 2 days on the boat. Wow, we have never been so isolated. The scenery is stunning. Groups of Dolphins sweep through the anchorage feeding on the fish. A coyote walks the beach in the evening. We hear them howling in the hills. Ours are the only footprints on the beach. Unfortunately, there are still signs of man. We have not visited a beach that does not have plastic litter. This beach has 4 or 5 black plastic crates, pieces of polypropylene rope from fishing equipment, and the number one item is plastic drink containers.
Typically, we have several other boats anchored with us, but here we are alone and enjoy some peaceful contemplation. After the winds die down, one boat spends the night leaving before sunrise the next morning and one panga ventures out to fish. We can see all the way to Isla Tiburon, which will be our next stop, 65 miles away. We will be crossing to the mainland in preparation for hauling our boat for the summer in Guaymas.
Bahia Cruces – Isla Tiburon May 2 – May 3
We cross the Sea of Cortez on a windless day to the Midriff Islands. The sea is a mirror. Above us hundreds of seabirds fly to visit the various bait balls that appear and disappear. We watch sea birds and dolphins plunging into the water which seems to boil with jumping fish and diving birds.
Early in the afternoon we anchor at Bahia Cruces. The Jejenes are relentless. These little flies don’t bite but they exist to be annoying. They walk around on your body preferring your skin to anything else around. There isn’t enough breeze to drive them away. On the beach, an apparently abandoned structure that looks like it may have been a museum, has several stone Monuments surrounding it. Makes you think it was a visitor center or something except there are no visitors here. No roads, no nothing. The front wall of the building is defaced with large white graffiti. On the beach are a bunch of bags and a large black cooking pot. As the afternoon progresses, three pangas arrive and set up camp on the beach. They shelter under the front overhang of the building preparing their meal. No one spends much time in the building. The fisherman are asleep on the beach as the sun goes down.
Las Cocinas, May 3- May 5
We leave Tiburon at 4 am to ensure a daylight arrival for our next anchorage. Glad to be free of the Jejenes. Leaving at night always feels a little eerie. The instruments glow red in their night setting and the cabin lights are red. The plotter is turned down to preserve night vision. Behind us our twin wake glows with phosphorescence in the water. We have a radar return on our port bow, but see no lights. We turn toward our new course, which brings us closer to the return. Suddenly the lights come on. An unlit fishing boat, or Panga has seen us change course and concerned about a collision turns on a lantern of some sort. Two hours later the sun begins to warm the horizon. Best of all we have wind. We sail on a close reach in 15 knots. The seas are pretty lumpy, but we enjoy the boat speed.
We anchor in the lee of a headland with good protection from the southeast winds. A little swell wraps around the point, but we are liking it. We take a walk on the beach and enjoy some of our best snorkeling. The water is clear and the bottom is scattered with starfish, anemones, Lots of fish school past us.
Bahia San Pedro, May 5 – May 6
We move to the next anchorage sailing downwind under the gennaker. Later, we take the dingy past the spectacular cliffs and caves on the northern side of the bay and enjoy a walk on the beach. The next morning an ugly swell has the boat rocking and rolling, and the weather promises more to come. So we move on.
Bahia Algodones, May 6 – May 8
We are definitely back in civilization. The soggy peso bar is at our end of a beach lined with custom homes and resorts. Just like La Paz, the music pounds into the night with the places shutting down at 4 am.
We are anchored at the north side of the bay expecting a northwest wind and swell. For most of the first day the wind is southwest and the resulting swell leaves us in less than perfect conditions. The swell would make a mono-hull really roll, but we are pretty comfortable; however, the resulting swell makes a beach landing tenuous. We stay on the boat for two days without going ashore. And finally move on to San Carlos where we will get a slip.
The weather has been the biggest difficulty so far. Our weather provider “Predictwind” gives us 4 models that are based on US and European data. One model comes from NOAA, one from a European Agency and two come from Predictwind which processes the US and European raw data separately with its own algorithm. The problem is that there is often no clear winner. Instead, I find myself looking for a consensus. One page of the forecast can give you a print out of the weather just as a data table. I have seen all 4 compass points represented for one hour of the forecast. We don’t actually care what the weather will be as much as we would just like to be able to plan our next move with some reliability. Where you anchor and when you go are pretty much weather based decisions.