This is Ballandra. You can actually drive to this beach so it's not exactly desolate, but I don't mind sharing a place this gorgeous. We climbed a sand dune and found a lagoon on the other side with a deep blue hole. What an amazing surprise.
This kind of beach is Ginger's paradise. She ran to the end, jumped in the water for a swim, then ran to the other end, repeat.
We are getting ready for our Baja Bash. It's 950 miles up the wild and desolate Baja peninsula, It almost always blows from the north and the challenge is to find those brief moments when its only blowing lightly from the north. Oh, and avoid hurricanes while you're at it. We have to stage up at Cabo and that makes me nervous, seems like thats ground zero for a lot of gales. I have done the research though, and I don't think a hurricane has ever hit Cabo in early June. Even without bad weather though, it's still uphill and I'm a little nervous.
We're provisioned and will leave in the morning. We have an internet dongle (until it expires) so I will try to add updates to the blog as I can. See you on the other side.
We've been in the La Paz anchorage and it's been a challenge. You need almost twice the normal amount of room in the anchorage, because, instead of everyone swinging the same way with the breeze, the tides push boats towards each other, and around each other. It's like a giant game of bumper boats. The strong tidal currents push us in one direction different directions and then the wind works on the boat from another direction. It makes for a very bumpy, jerky ride. Moving about the boat requires hand holds and careful movements as the boat jerks around in unpredictable ways. Boats often drag their anchors under these uncommon conditions and we all run for our boat hooks and fenders, the game of shuffle board boats begins.
After a week of all this fun, we decided to spend a day in Fonatur Marina. Slips are at a premium here, mostly due to the hi-jinks in the anchorage, but Marina Fonatur is a very reasonably priced marina, although it is located way up into the bay where it gets very shallow. Ashika only needs about 6 feet of water to keep her off the bottom and we needed to fill our fresh water tanks before we could leave the bay. Charts showed plenty of depth for us all the way to the dredged channel leading into the marina.
The dredged channel is quite long, and we did not expect any problems, after all it’s dredged. Although we were at high tide, Ashika’s keel skimmed across the sand just before the end of the channel. OK, that was close, but no harm no foul. But indeed, we discovered Ashika’s depth meter was 1 foot off, and we had narrowly missed going aground on the trip in. Whew!
We believed we could cross in front of the submerged sand pile and avoid having to go all the way around it. I think that’s called arrogance and we were quite wrong. We skimmed to a stop. Dois tried to push Ashika over the shallow spot but much to his chagrin, pushed us further on top of it. He put all rpm's into reverse, but it was too late, we were stuck in the sand. I put out a call to the cruising fleet and Kevin from Andante responded that he could come help with his 20 hp outboard, yeah. Dois threw him a line from the starboard bow and Kevin revved up to a full power tug while I applied full reverse, nothing moved except a whole lot of churned up sand. Dois threw Kevin a line from the port bow chock and tried again. This time, as I revved up Ashika’s 85 horses I thought I felt movement, yes, we were backing off the submerged island and returning to the safety of 15 feet of beautiful water. Thank you Kevin.
There was a mild southerly wind predicted for the afternoon and a larger westerly for the evening so we headed out to Bahia Bonanza on the east side of Isla Partida.
There are wrecked boats littering the bay, most from last seasons Hurrican Odile. I was watching our depth meter, calling out the amount of water under our keel. “10 feet, 11 feet, 9 feet…” when suddenly my callout was “5 feet, 4 Feet!, THREE, TWO!!, ONE POINT FIVE!!!” Dois had thrown the engine into reverse at three, but it takes a couple of seconds for Ashika’s folding prop to reverse and grab enough water to stop forward progress and begin the reversing. We managed to get around the shallow spot, and made the rest of the way into our slip with further mishap. We would find our later that our depth meter was a foot off and our return trip would be a humbling experience.
The marina was deadly calm and after a week of interrupted snoozing, we slept the sleep of the dead. We bought another night. Dois filled all the water tanks and washed the boat, I did 6 loads of laundry and cleaned cushions, while Ginger terrorized birds on the dock. Leaving our slip was tempered by our destination; the desert islands of La Paz.
The San Lorenzo channel is between Isla Partida and the La Paz Penninsula and there are dangerous reefs off the ends of each land mass. We had buoy lights and gps waypoints to guide us but the wind and waves fought the helm trying to push us to one side or the other. In between catching items being flung around the cabin, I tried to calm Ginger, who was shaking in her fur. About an hour later we spit of the channel into a slightly calmer sea and we pushed along our gps track from our last visit here keeping a flashlight focused on the depth meter. It was a harrowing 20 minutes with Dois on the bow trying to make sure we didn't bump into anything while I'm at the helm, blind, trying to hear Dois’ voice on the wind. Each time Dois shouted a direction, Ginger went wild, thinking her Daddy was in trouble (cause he never yells). Finally we reached 15 foot depths and we thought we were as close to shore as we dared go. It was still blowing hard, but we had found a level of acceptable protection and dropped the anchor. What a very long day.
Playa Bonanza is a desolate beach, with so few visitors that seagulls lay their eggs in the sand and large shells are heaped up the sand dunes, left for the wind and sand to polish into jewels. The island is uninhabited except for those critters capable of scraping a living out of this desert Xanadu. There are trails and tracks everywhere, some looking like impossibly large kitty prints.
The southerly was not "mild", it was 20+ knots and was making the trip to the east side a completely nasty ride. We changed tack and headed for the west side of Island, Bahia Grande, and watched the wind roar just outside the bay worrying about those forecast westerlies. The strong easterlies convinced us that the west wind forecast wouldn't be any more accurate, but I think it was really just a lot of wishful thinking. The west winds showed up, fast, furious and on time, 6pm. We faced a narrow channel in the dark, but we had very little choice, we had to go.
I thought this seagull was acting downright suspicious, so when he took off after Ginger, I snuck up see there to see what treasure he was guarding behind that grassy knoll...
Lo and behold, her chicks were hatching. All three had cracked their beautifully camoflaged shells and were working their way out. I would have stayed for the grand reveal, but Ginger was making the parents too nervous.
The sea is 50 shades of turquoise rimmed by miles of white beach that's not really sand but a finely ground shell. From the beach you can see colorful reef fish in the crystal clear waters. Hike up a sand dune and gaze on miles of untouched desert, mountains and cactus gardens. There is also a keen sense of being watched, your unlikely presence most certainly a curiosity.
As difficult as it was, Dois and I agreed we must sail on. Anchor hoisted, we pointed the bow toward the next little slice of Mexican heaven; Isla San Francisco. The natural bay is large and accommodating, thankfully. There are quite a few boats migrating north for the season, marching along, each with a date with a slip or boatyard or safe harbor from the dreaded hurricane. As usual we seem to be going against the grain.
Perhaps next time I should just try to capture a video. This was a baby humpback whale. By the time we got close enough for this shot, we were still about a 1/2 mile away and the next thing we knew, Momma and baby dove under our boat and came up the other side, waving goodbye, they swam off to the horizon. A small one just like this pickle came into the "waiting room", a small bay outside the larger inner bay of Puerto Escondido, and made a real fuss. She was crying and slapping her tail on the water. She must have misplaced her Momma. She left as quickly as she appeared, hopefully hooking up with her meal ticket.
What? The head is about 12 inches long, and the back bone was maybe 4 or 5 feet. Dois thought may a barracuda, anyone else have a guess? Check out those teeth, apparently he grows them in the middle of the roof of his mouth too.
The anchorage is a long hook of land extending off the west side of the island. The hook has a narrow isthmus with a dry salt marsh in the middle. The guide quite clearly stated there are agates waiting to be found on the beach across the isthmus, on the east side of the island. So we packed in a lunch and drinks and Ginger led the way. We crossed the salt marsh, gingerly. It was dried up for the most part, but still required a close eye and care to not break the baked mud crust and squish into a muddy spot. But it was a beautiful morning for a hike.
What the hell? I have no idea what this could have been. It was at least 6 feet long when it was all attached (I'm guessing, this is how I found it and I didn't touch it. Looks like a sea monster to me. Update: Found a website that was all about fish skeletons.. go figure. It was surprisingly fascinating. Most fish have a pretty scary set of pearly whites. Never knew that, anyway, the sea monster is or was probably a Moray Eel. Mystery solved, we can all sleep better now.
If you are interested in fish skeletons, Helter Skeletons was a pretty cool site. If you click on the head of the Moray below, it will open a new window to their site.
For once I am short on photos. We reached the other side, and discovered that we know nothing about finding agates. So we found ourselves on a deserted beach, sitting under a rock for shade, full of ham sandwiches and cold drinks, looking for something to do. Hm, what would you do under similar circumstances? I didn't take anymore pictures.
This lovely creature followed us on our way to Puerto Los Gatos. He seemed to enjoy Ginger's incessant squealing or at least he was very curious what kind of creature could make such screeching noises. That water is still a bit chillier than we expected (and are used to), but with the cold comes clarity. We were anchored in 20 feet of water, but it seemed more like 5 feet. We were living in an aquarium.
I don't think Arizona has anything on Puerto Los Gatos. In fact the whole region is like the Grand Canyon meets the Sea. There is beauty where ever you look. There are miles of desolate undisturbed beach, the majestic (La) Sierra Giganta rises imposingly from the shoreline and there is wildlife everywhere.
Dois and I have decided to sail Ashika to California for the summer, so we are prepping for our voyage to Cabo where we will await a weather window to get around the corner and head north. Thanks to my pal Sam on sv Islena, I discovered the "Where is Ashika" button at the top right of this page wasn't working. I think I have it fixed, but I'm not exactly sure what I did to make it work again. Hopefully you can follow our passage north and check on us if a hurricane tries to beat us up the coast.
Leaving San Juanico we decided to explore the west side of Isla Carmen. Great decision. Carmen is one of the few islands in the Sea of Cortez that are privately owned. Rumor has it that the island is owned by Mexico's ex president from the early nineties who gave Carlos Slim the Telmex cell phone concession, thereby proving it's who you know. Bahia Salinas was once a salt mining operation and exploring what is left of the village you can still find the original payroll safe in the main office building, but the salt ponds were the real prize here.
We miss our fourth crew member Daisy on our first lengthy sail without her. Ginger shows signs of her absence as well. She’s never been left alone on the boat before, always with Daisy. Now when left, she barks until we return. We anchor a significant distance from other cruisers to save them from her anxiety. Hopefully she will get used to being the only four legged on board soon.
San Carlos, Mexico to
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