Subj: Nanjo Chronicals 2000 - Leaving LA (Bahia LA, that is)
Travels from September 24 to October 19, 2000:
As the shadows from sunrise reduced, we enjoyed the green landscape that unfolded. It had been a long time since we had seen this. As the shadows cleared, so did the haze, allowing us to pilot Nanjo into our first anchorage in the San Carlos Cruising Grounds. We were looking forward to getting the hook down as we were tired from the 130 mile run from BLA with little more than 2 hours of sleep for either of us.
The sail was wonderful and quick. Coming out of BLA around 1030, we made 6kts on a close reach until off Punta Don Juan. There we shifted to a broad reach, the jib on the pole and the main sail on a preventer, Steve (steering vane) doing the steering. The winds were under 15 throughout the AM. In the after noon the winds slowly increased over 15, heading past 30 knots by late afternoon off Isla San Lorenzo. Nanjo averaged 7kts from Don Juan, past Isla Estaban, until the wee-hours of the next morning. The seas built higher all day, reaching 8 - 9 feet by sunset. Naturally some of our speed came from surfing on these swells. In the lee on the downwind side of Estaban we quickly reefed the jib, removing the pole. A few minutes later, past the lee, the wind returned at 30 knots. Since it was a moon-less night, Nancy came forward to illuminate the foredeck with a big flashlight. Steve did fine holding course while we were both out of the cockpit and the sails were unbalanced due to the procedure we were executing.
Since we hadn't lost any wind or speed, I recognized that Nanjo would be arriving at our destination in the dark - we were going too fast! So we ran DDW (dead-down-wind) to the south to eat up some time and slow down a bit. About 3am, the wind shifted and came from the east. Nancy put Nanjo on a beat while I caught some shut-eye. About 0530 the wind died and we motored the last 7 miles.
Our first anchorage was at Las Cadenas, about 3 miles south of Estero Tastiota. It is a small anchorage with north and west protection. The holding is in sand and rock. There was great shelling on the beach. The diving was marred only by the water clarity. There was evidence of lobster in the area. All day long the waters in the anchorage, as well as off shore, were active with jack feeding on baitfish. Clouds of the small guys (fish) were everywhere. I saw many small pargo, snappers and a few grouper, but nothing like at Refugio! The water was much warmer over at this anchorage though.
Before leaving the Bay of LA, we had rested up in Don Juan. The passage down, braving the squall had not created any new projects other than getting a new propane bottle. That was quickly rectified through our cruising friends. First Gemini used their radio to email Downwind Marine in San Diego to confirm that a bottle was in stock. Downwind then used Gemini's credit card to pay for the bottle. A few days later, a gringo, who lives on land in the BLA area and works in San Diego, picked up the bottle and drove "home" with it. The morning after he arrived, he tried getting it filled in the village at BLA before giving the propane bottle to Dream Weaver, who was anchored off the village before returning to Don Juan. While the bottle didn't get filled, we had a replacement for our lost one about a week after the squall. What a network!
As a suggestion to all of you who plan to come to The Sea, leave your credit card info with Downwind. It will give you the opportunity to shop by email. It is standard for them to send purchased items, as well as mail, to boaters in Mexico . . . usually free.
The other extremely important project we accomplished at Don Juan was to replentish our supplies of clams. When we departed we had over 50#! We knew that we would never find such a supply of these sand-dwellers as we had found in the shallows here.
Back on the mainland, the next anchorage we stopped at was past Punta Lesna in a small, well-protected cove called Ensenada Posomoreno. Here we shared the cove with a fish camp and a gringo's ranch. Just after anchoring, the gringo (Jud) called us on VHF welcoming us and giving us info about the hazards in the cove. We visited with him several days and he helped us contact Reason on the Chubasco Net with his Ham equipment.
Jud had us over for several dinners. We kept trying to cook for him, but he liked to be the host. I helped him work on one of his fishing boats for a half of one day.
Our next anchorage was at Rada el Pasito, just south of Ensenada Julio Villa and Punta el Moreno. We had planned to stay at Julio's but a large "shrimper" had taken up the anchorage. Julio's is small and tending on the shallow side. As we maneuvered around the "shrimper", I saw rocks pass under us as Nancy called out our depths, "14 feet"; sand on the inside of the fishing boat as the depth dropped to 9'; darker (deeper) water off their bow as we recorded 17'. However, that spot was too close to the western rocks. Probably 3 cruising boats could get in there if the shrimper wasn't. Jud advised us that the "shrimpers" still like to come in and anchor, even with several cruisers already anchored. The water clarity appeared good there and its white-sand beach was inviting, but we moved around to the next cove.
Pasito is more open and has a nice sand holding ground. Unfortunately, the day we planned to snorkel, a southerly swell came up, stirring up the water. Still this anchorage was more comfortable than if we had been in Julio's. That is one of the convenient aspects of this cruising area - if one anchorage isn't desirable, usually another can be found less than a mile away. We did snorkel.
The coastline is very beautiful. In general it is very similar to what we saw this summer in Baja - tall, colorful peaks raising from the water's edge or within half a mile. Only on this side, the vegetation adorning the hills, bluffs and cliffs reminds us of the Napali coastline on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. The geological variations would entertain Martha Rose (Dean - "Rocky") and the rest of you "closet" geologists. We enjoyed it more because of Dean's knowledge-sharing.
We beat to the next anchorage, past Punta Blanca, to Caleta Venecia. There are two coves at this location - Venecia and Bahia Chica. Chica has vacation homes, while Venecia is bare and the reason we went there. We anchored in about 18'. Entering or departing, be careful of rocks just to the north of these two coves, about 200 yards offshore. At high tide, they are hard to see. The beaches had good shelling and the diving was very good. Divers from pangas worked the two coves every day.
A westerly 15kt wind gave us a free ride to Bahia San Pedro, seven miles down the coast. We passed up several small coves since they were open to the current wind and sea conditions. San Pedro is a large bay and we were concerned that "shrimpers" would be collected there. However, as we rounded Punta San Pedro, we found the bay totally vacant - all ours! Nancy worked us to a location east of the Morro-Rock-like (Morro Bay, Calif.) formation that is Punta San Pedro to place Nanjo out of the refracted swell, while pointing into the westerly wind. We anchored in 20' of sand and pebbles, about 150 yards off the shingle beach.
By this time we had begun to recognize that we needed to make use of another week in San Carlos to do projects and not be rushed or overworked. So we decided to stay at San Pedro just one night. We explored the beach, found piles of conch shells (picked up a dozen to take home as gifts) apparently caught in traps and eaten right on the beach (we found a broken trap and fire pits beside the shells). The mile-long beach varies between shingle and fine, dark sand. We spent more time exploring at the water's edge than we expected and headed back to Nanjo around 1700. Before going back to Nanjo for some fried Don Juan clams, we dinked over to the rock formation of Punta San Pedro. The sun was beginning to set and the colors were becoming Kodak quality. I commented to Nancy that this was the first time I really was sorry that I didn't have a digital camera to take a picture of Nanjo. The slow dink excursion around the inside edge (eastern to southerly) of the rocks was the most beautiful, colorful view we have seen this summer. Purples, reds, yellows, tans, pinks, grays, and blacks - and palm trees growing in ledges, raccoons foraging at the water's edge, caves, you-name-it. This is a "don't miss" for those of you following. The diving must be wonderful too! This was a perfect way to end our summer in the Sea of Cortez.
The next morning we rode a northwesterly down the last 14 miles to San Carlos.
We were able to get Nanjo into a slip at the San Carlos Marina. We immediately began working on projects. It seems that all boats in marinas down here are working on projects. They are rarely just enjoying the luxury. However, the one luxury we did enjoy was finishing off the remainder of our sack of clams.
A few days later we had Nanjo in the boatyard to open the gelcoat blisters, where we had raised our waterline, and let these dry out in dry storage until our planned return in December.
On the 19th of October, we got a lift to the bus station in Guaymas to catch the overnight bus to Tijuana. During this trip, the drug-inspection stops were a non-event. We just slept while a soldier or two came aboard. We never had to get off the bus.
We slept well during the bus ride . . . we were "old hands" at this sort of travel. The bus would stop: I would jump off to buy some food, get back on the bus and get the driver to stop to pick up Nancy, who was still off the bus. The drivers are so service oriented - one time they forgot an entire 3-person family and turned around to return for them, never grumbling, always courteous. But this would be our last bus travel from Mexico. After this trip, we will be too far past Mexico to consider buses to get to California.
The Voyage continues . . .
Crew of Nanjo