It was December 22 already! We have friends from Anacortes (s/v Radiance) coming to visit for 10 days arriving on Christmas. They also have two other boats of friends here from Alaska (Rochambeau & Chaos) who came south in the Baja Haha along with us. We had met Rochambeau while we were in Alaska this summer and met Chaos at the dock in Seattle, and all are now our cruising friends! We have planned to cruise together for a couple of weeks while Radiance are here. Our plan (why do we bother?) was to start on Dec 26 and go to Honeymoon bay on Danzante Island for hiking and snorkeling, then to Agua Verde to hike to the painted caves and snorkel the rock, next Isla Coronados to climb the volcano, then to Ballandra Bay on the north west side of Isla Carmen for beach time and hiking, then around to the east side of Isla Carmen to check out Bahia Salinas and the old salt ponds, and finally back to Escondido for hikes and to explore Loreto’s old town. Woohoo! First, we needed to get provisions including New Years Eve Champagne.
We had arranged for a rental car to be delivered to the marina on December 22nd but they couldn’t tell us what time it would be available. Loreto is a 30 minute drive from the marina. We were ready to go shopping by 9am with our bags, ice packs, list of items, and list of stores. We have found that in Mexico, in order to get everything on the list requires going to multiple stores. We had asked around and gotten the names and locations of the best stores and the suggested order of attack. Go to the big store first to see what you can get because they have the best prices. Next go to the nice smaller store which tends to have more items but is more expensive. Finally fill in the gaps at the meat store and liquor store. Also we needed to buy engine oil so add that store to the list. Our car arrived a 2pm, great. We would never be able to get everything done before the stores closed at 6. On the positive side, Sacagawea was ready for guests, cleaned and decorated for Christmas. We were able to go to three of the five stores and the car rental man said we could extend the rental another day if needed. We returned the next day to complete our shopping (turns out Champagne is not in great supply in Mexico) and had time to explore the town a bit as well. It was really very charming! Colorful shops, outdoor restaurants, Christmas decorations, and historic statues were scattered about.
Christmas eve, wow! We extended the car rental and had use of the car until 2pm so we drove over to Steinbeck Canyon three miles up the road. We heard there was an interesting trail with a couple of ropes to help climb over some larger rocks but that was all of the information we had about it. The road up to the trailhead was a very rough dirt road and the little sedan barely cleared the rocks and ruts. We were driving toward an aqueduct coming out of the canyon made of walls of caged rock and a floor made of concrete. Apparently it’s a diversion so flash floods won’t wash out the marina. We parked at the end of the road. In front of us was a little trail leading up a dirt mound, below was the canyon to be hiked. Maybe the little trail would lead us around the wall of rock cages? We went carefully through the thorn bushes and cacti following the little trail to nowhere. We turned around, picked our way back to the car, and climbed down into the canyon. There’s the trail! We followed rock cairns through the dry riverbed where small puddles remained in smooth pools carved in the stone. We climbed over, under, and around house sized boulders. We heard an odd sound and stopped listen. It sounded like a bull frog. We came around the corner to a pond sized pool of water containing the tiniest, loudest frogs we had ever seen! Their ribbits were echoing off a wall of rock further amplifying the sound. To continue on required using a sketchy rope tied to a log jammed into the spaces between the gaps to get up and over. Yikes! Coming back down might be interesting. We looked back down the canyon from our perch on top and could see the ocean. We looked ahead and we could see palm trees, interesting! We decided that would be our turn around spot. We continued on over, under, around, and through the huge rocks coming to an even sketchier looking rope climb. We made it to the palm trees and turned around. Coming down we ran into a young group and they asked if we had made it to the Emerald pools. Emerald pools? Yes, just past the first palm trees maybe a few hundred yards. Dang! We would definitely need to come back.
We returned the rental car to the marina and got ready for Christmas Eve dinner. The restaurant at the marina was doing a special lobster dinner and a big group of friends reserved a long table. What a great night! We wined and dined and laughed until well after dark. It was a great party and Sacagawea was at the end of the dock showing off her Christmas flair adding to the festivity. We headed back to the boat tired and happy. Tomorrow for Christmas day a potluck dinner had been arranged and I was bringing fresh made sourdough bread. I would need to get it ready and rising by 6am to have it baked by 4pm…
Merry Christmas! We managed to squeeze in a quick jog-a-hike on the hills by the marina, gorgeous day! The bread was still warm when we went up to the marina for the potluck. What a spread! Pork tenderloin, chicken, ham, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, rice, stuffing, salads, fruit, desserts, and of course homemade warm sourdough bread. It was a little sad to think we would be saying good bye to all of these wonderful people as we head our way and they head their way. Our friends from Anacortes arrived just in time to partake! They arrived by cab with two large duffel bags one of which contained all of the Amazon orders we had shipped to Anacortes over the last couple of months. It really was Christmas! The important items schlepped across the globe by our wonderful and willing friends included two large inflatable pool toys with a cooler in the middle and drink holders on the sides. This is going to be a great trip!
December 26, we were off to start our cruise of the Loreto area! Bright and early at noon we left the marina and headed across the 6 miles to Honeymoon Bay- an approximately one hour trip. When we arrived, Rochambeau and Fundango were already anchored rafted up together and Chaos soon anchored nearby. We ate lunch, went for a snorkel and for a short evening hike. The following morning we planned to hike all of the way to the top of the hill with everyone, but the wind had picked up in the anchorage and Rochambeau and Fundango together were too much for the single anchor set and they had drug. Chaos with kids and grandkids aboard had decided to return to the marina where there was escape room for all. Just the four of us went for the hike and got fabulous views. Coming back down we saw that Fundango and Rochambeau were still joined at the hip and wondered why they didn’t just part and set separate anchors. It turned out that Rochambeau was having a starter issue and couldn’t get the engine going. The guys went over after we got back and spent the whole rest of the day until dark trying to get that starter fixed. It was a lost cause. Rochambeau needed to somehow get back to the marina and get a new starter installed.
In the morning we watched the pelicans diving relentlessly on the fish at the base of the rocky bluffs while we rustled up our own breakfast. While the water was calm, Fundango towed Rochambeau slowly and carefully back to the marina. It took them about 3 hours. As we continued on our way to Agua Verde we heard the “securite” call on the VHF radio warning others that the two boats were entering the channel to the marina under tow. They made it safely and were able to have a mechanic come right out to assist. Well, so much for a group cruise. We were off on our own. Onward to Agua Verde.
We were able to sail some which was fun but I am sure our friends who had way more sailing experience and were also racers must have been going crazy at our acceptance of inefficient sail trim. We had the anchor set by 2:45 and were off to hike to the painted caves. Rochambeau and Fundango had already experienced the hike and had drawn us a map and talked us through the directions. Go to the beach, follow the trail to the cemetery and veer right, continue through the oasis to the other beach, walk a long way left along the beach and watch for the sand dune road on the left, go up and over the dune then find the cairn on the right marking an obvious trail which ends at the caves. Of course we forgot to bring the map but we did find our way and made it to the caves exclaiming along the way, “Oh, yeah, the cemetery, the oasis…” We looked at the ancient paintings on the rock walls. They were all in the same kind of paint and they were all hand prints. We decided that this was evidence that teenagers were just as naughty in caveman times as today. There were still faint echoes of the cave mom yelling, “you kids put that red ocher back right now and clean up those walls!” We returned to the boat in time for sundowners and dinner.
In the morning we loaded up all of the snorkel gear and took the dinghy to the rock that we call Moby Dick which guards the entrance to Agua Verde. Our friends taught us how to anchor the dinghy in rocks so it won’t drag and hurt any coral; basically swim the anchor down and set it by hand. Then we were all off. We circumnavigated the rock and saw some awesome fish and a turtle. We returned to the boat to shower off and planned to have lunch at the right side palapa as Bill and I had already experienced the left side one. We pulled the dinghy up onto the beach, walked the 50 feet to the restaurant and settled on a table in the sun. Lenore came out and we ordered cervezas and asked for la carte por favor (the menu please). Lenore dutifully brought out the menus and stood by smiling while we perused the options. After a couple of minutes Lenore stated in Spanish with a smile “Today we have fish tacos” We all stopped looking at the menu, shifted our attention to Lenore and without missing a beat announced “perfecto” followed by how many we each wanted. While we were eating, a fisherman walked up and started helping in the restaurant serving and cleaning up. We asked if he had caught the fish we were eating and the answer was yes, this morning. Wow! Best fish tacos ever! After lunch we hiked along the beach and through an arch to a hidden beach. The water was warm and the sand was soft, it begged for skinny dipping so of course in we went! There were goats on the rocky hillside bleating their approval, or at least that is how I interpreted it.
The next morning we had the anchor up at 8am and we were headed for Isla Coronados 39 miles north. There was very little wind which was fine with us because sailing up into a north wind in the Sea of Cortez has been crazy rough and we would rather not. By 9:30 we had already seen a pod of dolphin riding our bow wake, a giant Fin whale and her calf, and the ace fisherman from Radiance caught a skipjack tuna that was filleted and ready to sear in sesame oil for lunch. We love it when Mother Nature shows off for friends! We were anchored on the west side of Isla Coronados by 2:30. It would be just enough time to hike to the top of the volcano if we hurried. The trail started off deceivingly flat and well established. Soon we were scrambling up curiously musical rock scree and trudging through loose fine gravel mixed with sand. We made it to the top where there were fabulous views and down again before the sun ducked below the horizon. We earned our sundowners for sure!
Happy New Year’s Eve! We had planned to stay anchored at Isla Coronados for a chill day using our new pool toys and then have a New Year’s Eve party. We woke to big winds that stayed with us all day. Strike the pool toys! We all kept busy while the wind whistled through the rigging. The 85 pound Mantus anchor and heavy 3/8 inch high test chain held us well. Our friends had brought a terabyte of music for us and helped us load it onto one of our new hard drives (also schlepped from Anacortes), connected it to the Fusion stereo, and got it working so we can have music south of the Sea. We will only have access to our Serious XM until Puerto Vallarta then we won’t be able to connect and the only music we could listen to would be downloaded songs, of which we had none. Success! Hurray! We have so much music now! The wind finally died down enough to allow us to dinghy to the beach an hour before sunset. We had a mission to retrieve some special rocks that had been collected during our hike up the volcano and then accidentally left at the beach. The rocks found along the hike made beautiful musical tones when struck together, bell-like really. Our friends, who are also musicians, had collected stones that were of the same key to make a wind chime. Such a rescue operation required New Year’s Eve cocktails. Drinks in hand, we boarded the dinghy and raced in to the beach. The small pile of stones was still there, cheers to another success! We tried digging for clams and got only one (which we returned to the sand), but we still had beverage left in our cups so we decided to go across to the cool looking sand spit for sunset. It felt good to run around a bit after feeling trapped on the boat by weather, and the sunset was really nice. Back at the boat we donned our silliest outfits, a little disappointed not to have Rochambeau and Fundango along, but still having fun. We ate a nice meal, danced to our new music, and popped champagne to ring in the New Year! Happy (all fingers crossed) 2022!
Bright and early just before noon the next morning a pod of dolphin cruised through the anchorage to see us off to Ballandra Bay on Isla Carmen. We had a nice breeze on our beam and we crossed the 12 miles in a record time of two hours. We had the anchor set at 2:15 and got prepared for some big winds. The anchorage was tucked well into a very protected bay, we had our riding sail up to be sure to stay pointed into the wind, and we set out extra scope (chain length) to give a low angle of pull on our big anchor. Our friends on Rochambeau texted us on the InReach satellite to make sure we were all safe. Yes, we were! They were still waiting on their new starter and could not join us. We went for a short hike around the beach and explored along the edge of potential snorkeling spots. We found a few trails that would need to be explored the next day. We dinghied back to the boat for rest and food, still feeling the party from last night. In the morning we hiked the overlook. The trail went just about straight up the hill at the entrance to the anchorage allowing us to see the wind and whitecaps outside the bay. We were all glad to be tucked in here. We climbed back down and trekked inland hoping we could reach the other side of the island where the old salt ponds were or at least climb high enough to see the other side. We walked the dry arroyo for about an hour then chose a hill to climb up. We picked our way up a goat trail, under thorn bushes, and past cacti. At the top we could see more hills but not the other side. Oh well, great hike anyway! The next day we had planned to sail around to Salinas on the other side of Isla Carmen but the wind was too much, so we were stuck in our little paradisical bay. Bill and I worked on some boat chores while our friends went snorkeling and did more beach combing. A boat came into the anchorage and moored quite close to us, too close really. We invited him over, a retired German anesthesiologist, and we were all entertained by the gregarious man. He had not enjoyed fighting his way upwind from Honeymoon Bay and planned to stay put til the wind died down. Tomorrow the winds are forecast to do just that and we planned to make a run for Salinas. We checked and rechecked the forecast, it looked ok.
We left early at 7:30 knowing that wind usually picks up in the afternoon and our best shot to get to Salinas was in the morning. We exited the bay into a fair amount of swell but the wind was moderate. We went to the north end of the island and as we began to make the turn around to the east side things got a little crazy. Big wind, big swell, big waves- it was a no go. We turned around, tails tucked under and as soon as we were back on the west side there was no wind, no swell, no waves. Were we dreaming? We were not returning to find out! We were tied up to the dock at Puerto Escondido by noon. It was great to meet back up with Rochambeau and Fundango!
Over the next few days we shared meals on each boat, hiked around the hills surrounding the marina, finally hiked Steinbeck Canyon all the way to the Emerald Pools, dinghy explored the whole bay, and went to the Mission up in the mountains of Loreto. Our friend’s final day in Mexico was also her birthday, so we started out the day with a fabulous dinghy tour of the lagoon, complete with fancy breakfast and mimosas on the rocky beach looking out over the islands. Then we toured old town Loreto, ending the day with a fabulous dinner complete with a bonfire on top of a piece of cheese cake! What a wonderful trip! Even though we couldn’t do quite everything we wanted to, we have realized that will often be the case and we were really happy to have had the adventures we did. On January 8th we had brunch and Bill dropped me off at the store in Loreto, then dropped our friends off at the airport. He returned to collect me and all the groceries and we prepared to cast off and head north. It would be an overnight passage to Rosalia.