Saturday, January 17, 2009

North to the Coves

We had another short sail, of sorts, a few weeks ago.

On January 2, we headed north to explore several coves on the north shore of the La Paz penninsula (see map below) before the next "norther" blew through.
Departing at a reasonable hour, he cruised out of the marina about 9 AM. Because we had been sitting for almost a month, it took a bit longer to prep for sea. Getting the steering wheel back on is always a good thing (yes, we have started to back out, engine running and -oops! - the steering wheel was still attached to the side of the dodger....that's always embarrassing....) But also remembering to stow things that might go flying on a heel, like the booze bottles, shampoo in the shower and books. Oh, and pulling the life jackets out!

Heading north, it takes about 40 minutes to actually clear the harbor area, passing the Costa Baja marina and the Pemex plant, winding through the channel first north, then west then hook a right back north. Once out in the larger bay, we put the boat into the wind and Bill put the main sail and the jib up, hopeful to catch some wind. Not much wind! We did try and peaked at about 3 knots off and on, trying to tack and catch what little wind there was. So we enjoyed the ride, watched other boats, the Baja Ferry and the shore. Beautiful weather, sunny and a nice breeze. The day's motor sail was about seven hours total.

By the way, we have also determined we are able to predict the winds very well...IF we want to sail and put the sails up, guaranteed the wind will die out! And if we want to anchor in a bay and have a pleasant night, also guaranteed the wind will gust to 30 knots and rock us all night. Go figure.

So motoring with the sails up, we headed for Caleta Lobos for a drive through tour on our way to the night's destination at Balandra Bay. Out from the inlet called Caleta Lobos is a small rock formation called Roka Lobos. Lobos are what the Mexicans call the Sea Lions! Roka Lobos is supposedly full of Sea Lions and we could hear them barking but hard to see them, even with binoculors. We could not get very close due to the reef around their rock. We were able to pass between the rock and the inlet and noticed two boats anchored in the bay. Heading north for a few more miles, we passed shrimp boats and a protected area that was marked off - perhaps shrimp farms.

Around the bend, we arrived into Balandra Bay - and ready to find a protected anchorage. Of course, the bay faces northwest and as soon as we entered the bay, the wind kicked up and made finding a spot and settling the anchor a little trickier. But we only made one circle to get it right. I drive and Bill drops the anchor. We are getting pretty good at it - don't miss too many! Before we shut the motor off, another larger sailing yacht entered the bay, anchored fairly near us, jumped in a towed dinghy and headed to shore. After off-loading a family, the dinghy came by our boat with a young french-accented crewman. He was whining about the guests on board "his" boat, trying to tell him, an experienced captain, how to anchor. We kind of wondered if he was just planning on leaving them ashore. Nah, we went back later and picked them up. Apparently, the guests were friends of the owner.

Balandra is a double-scooped bay with a very pretty beach and rock outcroppings. There is a rock formation there that the Mexican's call "La Fonga" as it is shaped like a mushroom. There is a replica of it in the a Paz town square. There were people on the beach, some swimming (in 77 degree water). Meanwhile, we were watching - and feeling - the wind pick up, the boat rocking and Bill thought the anchor was slipping. So we pulled up the anchor and moved. Pretty soon, the other boat also moved - all the way to the other side of the bay and tucked into a better-protected area near yet another sailboat. We settled in for a rocky-rolly dinner and watched the sunset. Once again, we decided to pull the anchor and move across the bay, too. But still not totally away from the wind and the "rolls", we had a rough night. Afraid the anchor would slip, we were both on edge, up and down, watching landmarks (rocky shore, lit marker and the other boats) . Come sunrise, we were tired and ready to move on. We saw a huge school of 2-3 foot rays jumpinmg near the reef marker. Too far away to get a decent picture but a pretty awesome sight!!! After coffee and oatmeal, we pulled the anchor, backed out away from a reef marker and headed to sea with plenty of wind!

Once out to sea again, Bill decided to set the sails. As soon as he did - voila! - no wind! What is up with that? We rock all night and when we want a little wind, none. Motoring for awhile with sails up (ok, they look cool up!), we continued north and around the tip of the peninsula to take a look at Tecolote Bay, an inhabited beach with restaurants, homes and palapas. Actually, it looks like a fun place to picnic! Making a loop back around, we turned back to head toward Caleta Lobos for another night's anchorage.

Approaching Caleta Lobos from the bay's center way point Bill had placed in the GPS, we headed straught into the bay and settled in a nice big cove all by ourselves. Only one other boat off into ther other side inlet was visible. What a pretty bay, protected from the north winds and calm. Several mangrove areas, shoals and beaches surround the bay. We arrived about 4 PM, so enjoyed just sitting and watching. Another Baja Ferry cruised by out in the Sea.

I did notice a lonesome and empty yet anchored and not moving dinghy or panga in the distance, between the mainland and a small out-cropping of rocks. It seemed odd all by itself. Soon, we noticed that someone was now in the little boat and rowing in our direction. Uh-oh. As he approached closer, I feared the older gentleman was naked. Nope, had trunks on. And a fish bucket. No motor. He pulled along side and introduced himself as Reno from the other anchored boat, Star. He had been spear fishing and offered us a fish! He single-hands his boat, a 35+ footer. We gladly accepted the Dog Snapper , Bill cleaned and boned it and we grilled it, adding it to our dinner fare. It was delish!

After dinner, we again saw Reno rowing toward our boat; he came to invite us for fresh, homemade ceviche he was "marinating" from his recent catch. So we set a time. Bill had taken our dinghy off the davit and placed the motor on. So come dusk and ready to chug over to Star, we climbed in the little Sharktank, along with some leftover rice and chicken to leave with Reno. And several cold beers as he had mentioned not having a refrigerator. Of course, the famous motor is still acting up and took many pulls to get it started, but we made it over for our treat. Climbing aboard Reno's boat was tricky, up over the transom. An older boat with no amenities per se, he seems a happy camper just going from bay to bay, fishing, reading and rock collecting. He mentioned he was heading to town in a few days so as to pick up his wife who was arriving back on the boat from the states. An interesting character, for sure.

We slept well, slight rocking putting us to sleep. Not up early, we had a liesurely breakfast and pulled up anchor about 10 AM and headed back to the marina...about a 6 hour trip, wind dependant. Once again, some wind as we went into the sea and as soon as the sails were up, none to speak of. We tried tacking to catch a little wind and almost ran in front of a larger power boat. I guess we need to check the rearview mirror more often? Seriously, he was a long way off but was a surprise. We enjoyed the slow ride back, the weather and the views. Lots of boats heading north, perhaps to the islands or across the "pond" to Mazatlan, the most common migration for cruisers after the holidays in La Paz.

So back to the slip, the marina grind and more chores!

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