NORTH not SOUTH!

Mirador is currently (Saturday, March 27) anchored at Playa de Burro in Concepcion Bay, 190 miles NW of La Paz rather than in Bara de Navidad, 420 miles SE of La Paz as we planned.   We left La Paz on the outgoing tide, Tuesday morning March 16, took on 97 gallons of diesel and 80 gallons of water at Marina Palmira and then sailed North to Caleta de la Isla on Isla Espiritu Santos.

Our vague plan was to spend several days sailing around Islas Espiritu Santos, Partida, and San Francisco and then head off to the SE on a 500 mile non-stop trip to Bara de Navidad on the Mexican Mainland.  I wanted to stay close to La Paz while we unpickeled and tested the watermaker, tried out the new anchoring arrangement, and flew all the sails to make sure everything still worked. 

When we left La Paz there was not much wind forecast for the next couple of days but this time of year you can count on a 15 to 20 knot norther blowing at least once every six to eight days.  It has been 12 days since we left La Paz and the first consistent north wind is supposed to come up this afternoon.  We have had light and variable winds on a daily basis with fairly consistent SE winds blowing each afternoon.  So - rather than fight the wind SE we just set the drifter and main wing&wing and headed NW along the Baja east coast. 

We spent three days at Caleta de la Isla.  Here is a picture of me in the neat little cove just a 100 yards north of where Mirador was anchored. 

 

 

 

 Caleta is the diminutive of Cala which means "cove" but this cove was 1/10 the size of the one we were anchored in.  I have always wanted to park Mirador in here but it would require stern and bow lines and probably line to each shore.

The smaller cove is only 50 feet wide by 100 yards long with 60 or 80 foot walls.  The water is 10' deep right up to the side walls.

When we heard a forecast for light SE winds we decided to sail NW to "The Hook" anchorage on Isla San Francisco.  That 23 mile trip turned into a motorboat ride since the SE winds never happened.

We spent several days at The Hook during which time we dragged numerous fishing lures through miles of sea water with no success. 

An OK sail took us to Evaristo where we stayed overnight before heading NW to Puerto el Gato.  We got an early start out of Evaristo to take advantage of the forecast SE winds blowing up the San Jose Channel.  Just outside the entrance to Evaristo we found that we had to set a full main and 120% genoa so we could beat into a moderate North wind.  Within an hour we were sailing hard on the wind with a reefed main making seven knots into a 16 to 20 knot wind coming directly from Puerto el Gato.   That wind continued for several hours as we continued to pound NW.  I was hoping that once we cleared the San Jose Channel the wind would shift more west so we could have an easier sail to el Gato.  The reality was that once we were north of the channel the wind died and we motored the last 15 miles.

The east coast of the Baja Peninsula runs NW - SE and the wind blows from either the NW or SE about 70% of the time so Mirador is either beating or running most of the time. The east wind or west wind only blows after dark due to the differential heating and cooling of the land and sea.  That means I sail at night if I want a reach.  The North or NE wind blows for 36 to 48 hours every six to eight days but that wind is usually in the 20 to 30 knot range and makes the seas very uncomfortable. 

We arrived in el Gato just before sunset and dropped anchor in 10' of water about 30 yards east of the beach.  We cooked hamburgers on Mirador's barbeque and were enjoying a quiet dinner in the cockpit when the light evening west winds began blowing off shore.  Dinner was rudely interrupted by a truly foul odor being carried on the west wind. 

The next morning we could see a dead whale on the beach,  just 30 yards from Mirador.  The huge backbone and ribcage were separated from the decomposing body.  The remains of the body were five feet high and about 10 feet long and emanating an odor that was, well, distinct.  Needless to say, we left shortly after an abbreviated breakfast.

Again, the forecast was for SE 5 to 15 knots so we headed off to the NE, hoping to sail outside Isla Carmen and Coronados and continue overnight to Burro Bay, about 145 miles NW from el Gato.  The wind cooperated for long enough to carry us about 10 miles NE into the Sea of Cortez.   At that point the wind slowly dropped to less than three knots.  We kept the drifter up for several more hours but the boat speed never got above 2 knots.  At about 3 PM we headed WNW toward the Agua Verde anchorage with the drifter and genoa set wing and wing.  When the wind dropped  below two knots we started the engine and motored to within four miles of shore at which point the SE wind suddenly came up to 15 knots.  We set just the genoa and reached all the way into the East anchorage of Agua Verde, arriving shortly before dusk. 

Agua Verde was an exiting spot to sit for several days.  Seven or eight beef cattle were hanging out on the beach in the East anchorage.  Several of them were calves who would race up and down the beach, splashing and bawling.  They acted just like kids in the surf.  Every day a cowboy would appear on the beach and sing to the cattle for several hours.  Usually the cows were out of sight in the brush that extends about a half mile from the beach to the foot of the mountains that surround the beach.  When he started singing they would answer him so I guess his singing was just a way to checkup on his cattle.

This picture is looking from the road above the NW Agua Verde anchorage across the bay to the East anchorage which is in the left center of the picture just to the left of the small white triangular rock.

While at Agua Verde I received a clear cut and dramatic answer to one of my big questions about Baja California "Are there really rattlesnakes in the desert?"  As the head of a two foot rattler whistled by my bare ankle I was pretty sure the answer was YES!.

Jim and I were walking along the base of a rock ridge, about 20 yards from the beach.  I was about 10 yards ahead of Jim who was examining a small cave we had found.  I saw a small rattlesnake laying in an S shape, half buried in almost dry mud.  The snake was in the shade of the ridge and did not move nor even open it's eyes as I noisily approached to within five feet.  The darn thing just laid there and looked dead.  When Jim walked up I pointed out the dead snake.

He asked if I really thought it was dead? (at this point it is worth noting that Jim spent 30 years wandering around the California and Mexican deserts)  I took one more step toward it and was getting ready to kick a small rock at it when "whoosh" - it struck with no warning, no rattle, in clear violation of all rattlesnake-human regulations.  It then crawled back under the rocks at the base of the ridge.  So much for dead snakes, and "rattlers always warn you before they strike." Jim then explained to me the facts of life vis-a-via rattlesnakes.

I was never in any danger because I sure wasn't going to get within striking range.  I knew it could only strike less than half it's body length from a curled S position and I knew it was less than three feet long so a distance of four feet was safe.  But - it did startle me!

The problem is that I will now have to be much more careful hiking, climbing, and running because I know now that there are poisonous snakes in the Baja.

Here is Jim on the road above the NW anchorage.

By Wednesday the 24th we knew we had to find a store with some food because we had purchased only enough fresh food and coke in La Paz to last during the six or seven day trip to Bara de Navidad.  We tried to buy beer and CocaCola in the Agua Verde store but they were out of Coke and we were told "the church will not let us sell beer."  Agua Verde is 30 miles by a rough dirt track from the main highway and then another 30 miles from the highway junction to the closest grocery store.  The small tienda (shop) is resupplied by a pickup truck that drives in once a week.  

We could have gone into Puerto Escondido for supplies but that would have required a Port Captain check in.  It is a $70 round trip cab ride from Escondido to Loreto to see the Port Captain and then $32 to check in and out.  That makes the bread, beer, coke, and cigarettes we needed 'kinda pricey.

Or, we could anchor off Loreto, check in, get our groceries and then leave  for an anchorage that is secure in a north wind.   The anchorage off the Loreto breakwater is wide open from the SSW through East, all the way around to WNW and would offer no protection from any of the forecast winds.

The Thursday morning weather forecast was for light to moderate SE winds thru mid-day Friday and then going light and variable.  The forecast for Friday evening through Sunday was for NW to NE winds of 10 to 25 knots. 

We left Agua Verde at 9 AM Thursday while planning to ride the SE winds all 125 miles to Burro Bay.  The plan worked after a fashion.  We did have a nice sail. reaching and running until sunset when the winds died for a while.  They then returned from the NNW at about six to nine knots.  Our course was NNW so we had to beat into the light winds all night.  That was OK because we only wanted to average three knots during the night. 

I did not want to arrive at Punta Concepcion until 6 AM at which time there would be sufficient daylight to safely sail along the SE shore of Bahia Concepcion.  The bay has many shallow spots (less than 12 feet) that extend over half way from the NW shore to the SE.  The safest way to sail into the bay is to stay within 1/2 mile of the SE shore.  Then there are the numerous small islands, rocks, and reefs in the bay, only one of which has a light.   I was positive I did not want to sail into Bahia Concepcion in the dark.  The bay is two to five miles wide and about 25 miles long.

The night time sailing would have been pleasant except for the fog and dampness.  The light fog rolled in from the NW along with the wind.  The temperature never got below 70 but the humidity was over 95% all night.  Everything on deck was soaked and water was running off the main as if it was raining.  The fog was not heavy enough to block the stars, well sometimes it did, but it restricted horizontal visibility to less than a 1/4 mile.  By 4 AM I was very wet and cold. 

Finally around 2 AM the wind died completely so we had to motor the rest of the way to Playa de Burro.  We arrived here at 9 AM after a 145 miles of sailing and motoring.

Jim, my brother, is spending about four or five hours a day working on Mirador's woodwork and stainless.  He is stripping the Cetol from all the on deck wood and is applying a dozen coats of teak oil.  He is also cleaning and polishing all the stainless on deck.  Jim is trying to teach me how to maintain the wood and stainless.  He keeps telling me that with just " a half hour a day" I can keep the boat looking as good as new.  I guess I have to believe him.  When I met him on his boat, Caretta - a Tartan 42, in Puerto Vallarta it looked much better than a new boat.  Every piece of wood, fiberglass, and stainless shined. 

We will stay here in Burro Bay for several days.  We have to go into Mulege, a 17 mile hitch hike ride, to get supplies and do some internet business.  Later next week we'll decide to either head NW to Santa Rosalia, stay here some more, or head back south to some of the anchorages we missed by sailing up here non-stop from Agua Verde.