Travels from July 31 to September 8, 2000:
We passed up Isla San Lorenzo and Isla las Animas, heading for Isla Salsipuedes. William's guide made Salsipuedes sound interesting. However, the holding ground was rocky and deep. Two of the anchorages there were narrow, requiring stern anchors to eliminate any swing. The other recommended anchorage was still too close to the rocky shore and provided protection only from the north. After three nights of Chubascos from the east, we were not interested in staying and being exposed to the seas coming from that direction. We could understand why the island's name translated is "Leave if you can!" . . . We did.
Ten miles farther to the northwest was Isla Partida. The wind continued its day off and we motored on. We finally rounded the southern tip of Partida and entered the northern anchorage. Only a mother ship for panga fishermen was at anchored in the deep part of the cove, giving us the rest of the large cove. We tucked into the western side in 20'. Although it took us two tries before Max set to our satisfaction, we felt comfortable with the anchorage if storms approached. But none did.
The island is somewhat barren and didn't draw us to go ashore immediately. However, we finally rowed in to inspect the wreckage of a boat strewn over the rock beach. Once ashore, we burned trash, discovered the boat was a panga, found a good fishing lure and hiked to the other side of the island. But the best part was the rock beach itself - a natural Zen beach, with round, water polished stones in all sorts of beautiful colors offset by pure black stones.
Several days later, we decided to head for the southern tip of Isla Angel de la Guarda and the small off-island there, Isla Estanque. This small island has a completely enclosed cove and appeared attractive, although a bit shallow at its entrance. We left Partida in the morning so that we could anchor in the outer bay and use the dink to check the entrance at low tide. We didn't want to get trapped in the cove by low water.
After anchoring off the beach, just north of the reef, we motored the mile between our "temporary" anchorage and the cove's entrance. I had brought my snorkel gear and hung my head in the water as Nancy approached the reef. Everything looked fine until we were beginning to enter the lagoon. The bottom became rocky and was very shallow, maybe 5 or 6 feet. The cove wasn't THAT attractive and clumps of rich, green vegetation supported the reports that no-see-ums were about. So our "temporary" anchorage became permanent.
This end of Guarda is bleak and lifeless. The beach was rock or "shingle", which identifies rocks from pea-gravel to fist-sized cobbles. Only a few birds could be seen on the beach and none in the air. This end of the island is very low, the mountains rising up well northwest of us. The wind built as the afternoon passed into dusk. Our good protection to the south and east kept the waters around us settled as clouds built to the east, lightning already signaling that a storm was approaching. The winds continued through the evening, but we didn't have a full Chubasco.
However, the next morning lightning and rain moved west between our island and the Baja peninsula. We figured we would stay where we were. It wouldn't be very intelligent to venture out with lightning in the area. However, by noon the storms had passed and we decided to catch a free ride on the 15 kt. winds and head over to Puerto Don Juan. Although the distance was a bit more than an afternoon sail, I anticipated making excellent boat speed with only a short distance to tack before being able to sail on a straight line for the end of Guarda before turning west and having a broad reach to Don Juan.
This became a reality as Nancy quickly exited the anchorage and passed Estanque at 8 knots, Nanjo flying on a beam reach. Soon I put Steve in the water and we pinched up into the southeasterly wind and close-hauled on a starboard reach for a half-hour before tacking over to a port close-reach for the next 8 miles. During this leg, I gimbaled the stove and we pressure-cooked a batch of beans while Steve did a fine job maneuvering in the large swells and 20+ knots of wind. Nanjo was enjoying the winds that historically are absent during the summer.
When we turned toward Don Juan, the wind had shifted to easterly. We lost some speed but still maintained a good course. About half way across, Steve was having a little trouble with the following swell, so I took over the steering chores. The coastline where we were headed was hidden behind a haze, so I followed Pinniped's waypoints in Charlie's Charts toward Don Juan. Finally, about 2 miles off land, we were able to verify points on land that identified exactly where we were.
We lowered sails after we rounded Punta Don Juan, just outside the entrance to the cove known as The Best Hurricane Hole in the Sea. We entered, passed behind Also II and anchored near Martha Rose on the west side of Don Juan in about 28 feet. The wind was whistling through from the southeast at about 20 knots. This turned out to be the usual afternoon wind speed. A good hurricane hole doesn't mean that it is windless, merely that the cove is protected from all sides by land.
Puerto Don Juan is clam heaven! The shallow beaches have so many that you can sit in one spot, talking to neighbors while blindly digging with one hand, extracting 4-5 clams at a time. You go out into a little deeper water and the clams get bigger. The smallish, "butter" clams were most prevalent. However, Chocolates and Amarillos were discovered off the eastern beaches. The bigger clams were more accessible at lower tides. From then on Nanjo had an onion sack full of clams hung from the stern. Whenever Nancy needed some for dinner, we would remove 3 or 4 dozen for that meal. Our usual clam dishes are New England style chowder, clams over pasta with red sauce and fried clams. Clams have turned out to have less protein than we expected, allowing me to eat more without effecting my glucose level. Instead of shucking the clams, Nancy steams them open in a few minutes, extracting meat and removing the unwanted portions. This is time consuming, but worth the effort.
After several days visiting and dining with friends, we migrated over to the village at Bay of LA on Wednesday - Produce Day. New provisions of fruits and vegetables arrive the night before. There is one store on the south side of town that has the best fresh provisions. In addition, if you don't like what is out on display, you can go into the back and check their chillers where the "good stuff" is kept. It was a feeding frenzy. The cruisers and the few permanent land-based gringos lined up to pay for their selections.
That Wednesday was also Aug. 9, Nancy's birthday. We had lunch at the palapa restaurant on the beach where the dinghies are beached and visited with the locals and cruisers. Our friends on Departure were anchored just off the beach and had been for several weeks. They gave Nancy a gift (Red Book and Good Housekeeping), as did Martha Rose (a crocheted potholder and personalized card with a limerick for Nancy.) Dream Weaver's present was a big Margarita for the birthday girl. The afternoon was a great, spontaneous birthday party for my Firstmate. Earlier that day, Cap'n John gave his Mate a new anklet made out of shells he had collected on beaches in the last few months. She also pulled out the birthday cards from family from last year and opened a new card that Mary had sent back with us.
Departure had made a quick passage up from La Paz. Their plans were to leave Departure at anchor just north of the village, behind the bar at Punta Arena and travel back to California and Oregon for a month or more. But just a few days after they left, Departure was found to be listing badly because it was in water too shallow for the 11' tidal range. Once the tide came back in, someone moved their anchor out into deeper water. It seems that many people tend to let out an extra 100' of chain if they are going to be away from their boats for a long time, believing that will protect from dragging. It does, however, it also allows the boat to swing in a wider circle, possibly into water too shallow.
Finally, the party had to end. Our plan was to sail with the gentle northeasterly breeze back to the Punta Animas area and wait for Gemini to go by. We had bypassed this bit of coastline when we went from Partida to Estanque and then to Don Juan. First we headed to Ensenada el Quemado, just east of Don Juan. Several days later we headed east toward Cala Puertecito de Enmedio (Enmedio) right on the tip of Punta de las Animas. However, as we were beating windward we recognized that clouds were building to the east of Animas, the wind building over 25 knots and the sea was becoming fairly rough. We decided that taking down sails and anchoring on the exposed point might not be prudent. Therefore, we opted for one of the many optional anchorages close by, ducking south into Bahia de las Animas.
The first cove we came to provided little relief as the high winds shot down a valley in the slope, pounding the cove with gusts approaching 30 knots. So we moved a little further south, a mile or so, to the last cove. Here we had better protection.
However, over the next 3 days we had high winds every day and Chubascos every night. On the second day Max drug. We caught it quickly and had plenty of time to reanchor Max. But anchors don't drag in gentle winds, only blusters. We went through this drill in 25 knots, but with cool heads and calm actions. However, on the fourth day we had had enough of this cove and decided to head for Enmedio.
The sail out of Bahia Animas to Punta Animas was relaxing. The winds were 12-15 downwind of the point but dropped to less than 10 once we got into open water off the point. The anchorage at Enmedio was very close, only requiring a single tack. The anchorage is very picturesque, but small and tight. While there is a nice spot in the east end of the cove, behind the rocks that protect the east part of the anchorage, we tended to feel trapped. The prevailing wind swings you toward the rocks. So we centered in the cove and waited for Gemini to arrive in the afternoon.
The next day the four of us snorkeled around the rocks. Lots of fish! However, the water was much cooler than we had felt for a month or more.
After lunch, we decided to follow Gemini to Don Juan. We had a following, easterly breeze for an easy sail.
The next few weeks saw us enjoying several other anchorages in the Bay of LA: Isla Ventana and Isla Smith (Coronado). Ventana has only one reasonable anchorage at the northwestern end. It is deep though and somewhat narrow. However, we did have as many as 5 boats there for a few nights. There are good diving opportunities nearby.
Isla Smith has numerous anchorages. The most popular is between Isla Mitlan and Smith (William's anchorage #5). This anchorage has currents although it gives the best protection from the typical westerlies. Nanjo anchored just south of Mitlan at #3 and later at #2, near the lagoon. Smith has a lot of sights to explore at each anchorage.
All these anchorages are within a few hours of the village. Therefore, reprovisioning was easily accommodated when changing anchorages.
Yet no matter how relaxing it was enjoying these anchorages, time was getting shorter. Soon we had less than four weeks before our plan called for us to point Nanjo to San Carlos and we wanted to spend a few weeks at Refugio, the popular anchorage at the north end of Angel de la Guarda. Our departure was hastened by the tides, which were ranging close to 11', and the nightly westerlies, which were beginning to wrack our nerves.
After breakfast on Monday, September 4, Nanjo sailed north on a flood tide and a northerly breeze. We appeared to "fly" past the boats anchored by Mitlan, as they called to us via VHF. The sail to the intermediate anchorage at Bahia Alcatraz was just 10 miles north of Isla Smith. We anchored in the middle off the wide, white-sand beach. Sand drifted right up the side of the easterly hills and should have told us then what we were in for.
But the first sight we were treated to was a coyote family on the beach. The pups were playing, wrestling and cavorting around the beach, while Mom watched.
The next 4 days featured strong winds 20 hours each day. Mainly from the west, but also from the south or east occasionally. Wind speed was rarely below 15 knots. The wind generator worked overtime. Nancy and I hiked, dove at a reef off the point and just enjoyed the solitude and privacy. The rest of the fleet, just 10 miles away, was being entertained by Chubascos and lightning.
Friday, we finally decided to complete the journey to Refigio, 25 miles away. Another northerly breeze was building, offering to provide us with some fun. We heard two other boats at Isla Smith radio each other as they departed for the same destination. It was going to be the three of us making for one of the best destinations in the Sea of Cortez.
Crew of Nanjo