Travels from June 29 to July 20, 2000:
For three days the crew remained on Nanjo as she lay at anchor at Santo Domingo. Nancy slept off her heat exhaustion and was motivated to complete the side panels for the cockpit bimini. I spent a day or so catching up on these e-logs for you, my e-crew. Other boats came and departed, some from the south, some from the hotter coves down in Bahia Concepcion, some heading back to Loreto for the Fourth.
The second day Nancy was revitalized and we brought out the sewing machine. The bimini is an awning suspended over the cockpit, usable underway (just below the boom) as well as at anchor. However, the bimini only protected us from overhead sunshine. We needed side panels, skirts, to complete the full enclosure. We had purchased the material for this project in San Diego before we left last October, a screen-like mesh which cuts out a majority of the sun while allowing a certain amount of vision AND the cooling wind to blow through. Two days later, we had the sides completed with snaps to connect them to the bimini and ties to attach each to the lifelines. The cockpit became a daytime retreat. No longer were our feet burnt when we walked barefoot in the cockpit.
The cockpit enclosure was timely because the temperatures felt warmer than ever. Yet, while the gauge showed the same 97 degrees in Nanjo, we were becoming less focused on it. Our evening bathing shower was held off until the sun was setting, because we would begin to sweat almost instantly after the shower when the sun was up. On the third day, I found that the water temperature in the anchorage was warmer than in previous anchorages. No longer did we have to ease ourselves in to soften the shock of the chilled water. We began jumping in the water frequently during the hot parts of the day. Although it wasn't as cold, it was refreshing and did give us a cool-down.
We had heard an announcement on the radio, an invitation to a beach party on the Fourth of July, hosted by a year-round resident on the beach in a cove at Bahia Coyote, in Bahia Concepcion. As we recognized that we had been adjusting to the higher temperatures, we anticipated that the "hotter" temps in Coyote would be less oppressive for us now. Therefore, we made plans to head in for the party. We anticipated the late morning breezes on July 3 and caught a "free ride" with the wind-diesel down the bay.
Navigating Bahia Concepcion is not as easy as one might expect. A bay this large, standing out on a map as prominently as it does, should be simple. WRONG! Over half of the western side of the bay is a shoal (shallow water). Although 4 miles wide, a sailboat needs to almost "hug" the eastern side. We sailed with just the jib out, on the whisker pole, running with a 10-knot breeze. Then Nancy swung Nanjo over to a starboard, beam reach right into the anchorage at a cove known as Playa Burros.
The first thing in the water was Max. The second thing was Cap'n. John. Whoa! The water was 90 degrees. Really! I confirmed it with the temperature sensor on the fish finder. We're talking only 8 degrees cooler than the air. Still refreshing. But it was even better yet, when I dove down below 15' to check the anchor's set and look for clams. Down there, the water temp dropped refreshingly. First for the cooling factor, second for the foraging, I proceeded to collect clams and a few cockles. Soon Kopi, Nancy's counterpart on the neighboring sailboat, Martha Rose, swam over and they chatted while treading water between our two boats. See, you guys visit with your neighbors, standing on the lawn between homes, while we do it in the water between homes.
Ever since leaving Loreto, the conflicting virtues of sunsets and weather have returned to the daily cycle: In order to enjoy an inspiring sunset, we must endure the weather that precedes or follows it. Nine out of ten evenings provide a "Sunset Alert", views so spectacular that boaters announce it on the radio so that others won't miss them. That means that during the night and occasionally during the day, thunderstorms develop over land and edge out to sea. Lightening is impressive to watch, but we boaters don't want that power looking for a place to discharge anywhere close to our masts. While sitting in Santo Domingo, for three out of four days, we witnessed huge cumulous clouds growing over land just beyond where we eventually anchored in Playa Burros, the party site. Fortunately, we were granted a reprieve from any more thunderstorms for the period we anchored there. But we had ho-hum sunsets too.
We were also blessed with breezes which kept the days cooler. However, the nights were even warmer because the water temperature was up to 90. Since the boat sits in water at that temp, it's hard for the air inside to drop lower. So I slept in the cockpit. Nancy followed suit, joining me on the opposite side: A virtual open-air stateroom with two single beds. We had to use beach towels as "sheets" between the bench cushions and us because we still perspired throughout the night [We've slept there ever since.]
Although the party was supposed to begin serving food at noon, the tents and beer hadn't arrived yet. [In Mexico, if you order a few cases of beer, the distributor brings out a tent, tables and chairs. These they set up and let you use free, for a day or so.] Since there was no telling when the food would begin, Nancy and I went over to the palapa restaurant and had some fish tacos. The restaurant also had a book-trading library - the best I've seen since Barra Navidad. I picked up 6 new books and Nancy found a few too.
The tents and beer finally arrived around 3pm. Local residents from all around the Mulege area, about 15 or so, came by car. Campers walked down the beach (this is off-season, so there were only a few). The crew of Nanjo was joined by Martha Rose and Nebula, as the sailboat contingent. We all commingled, grazed on hotdogs and other goodies and swam when we needed to cool off. Our host, Gary, had a beach umbrella permanently set in the sand in 4' of water with a plastic table attached to it. He called this part of the beach "my swimming pool". Some of the people who wanted to cool off without getting too far from their beers congregated under the umbrella. What a life!
That night, Gary gave a 20-minute fireworks display. It was the most impressive "home" fireworks show we've ever seen, complete with two finales. Afterwards, a Local backed up his wagon and cranked up his CD player with oldies-but-goodies. The crowd was dancing and singing as we rowed back to Nanjo . . . as Gary, enjoying his "swimming pool", fended us off as we passed him enjoying his pool furniture.
The next day Kopi, Nancy and I caught a lift from the beer vendor into Mulege, 19 miles to the north. We first visited the museum in the old penitentiary before beginning our shopping. After stopping at 7 different tiendas, we were loaded down with more provisions than we could carry. So we called a cab. Actually, we called the cab at the 4th store and he drove us to the next three, before taking us back to Playa Burros. Mulege is a 300-year old, lush riverside town. While it is not as developed as most of the towns we've visited, tourists are a big part of their economy. The tiendas had many items we have been unable to find in Mexico - many US brands and preferences. While it is a little difficult to get to town, the effort was well worth it.
The next day we moved Nanjo to a different cove in Bahia Coyote, Playa Santa Barbara. We had been entertained enough by the trucks using their "Jake" brakes, as they drove by Burros each night. It had been a long time since we had had that sort of noise in our anchorage. Santa Barbara was a little more protected from the southeasterly waves we had experienced in Burros as well.
The second day at Santa Barbara found us diving for clams again. This time we found Chocolates, a larger clam. I taught Nancy how to "see" clams and how to dig them up while snorkeling. We look for little "holes" in the sand, which close up as you swim over them. Clams have eyes! When they see you they close their shells. Once you recognize the "holes" for what they are, the bottom of the bay appears to be winking at you as you pass by. The smaller variety of clams have a "hole" that looks like a small slit. The Chocolates are found by locating two larger holes, like pencil eraser holes. Later, as we explored the rocks around the edge of the bay, I found a pearl oyster (no pearl, darn).
That evening we invited Martha Rose over for clam chowder (with one pearl oyster). It had taken me two hours to shuck, clean and separate the meat from our catch. We will stick to the Chocolates in the future - more meat with less work.
The 1030 wind came up the next day right on time and Nancy wound Nanjo between the shallows and the islands, back out to the center of Bahia Concepcion. Although we still had to be careful with the shoals on the west side of the bay, we tacked upwind. In 16-20 kts. of wind, Steve steered, Nancy watched the depth gauge and I trimmed the sails. First we had to avoid shallow water, then it was pangas. At the head of the bay, just outside on the Santo Domingo anchorage, a fleet of pongas had set up a gauntlet for us to navigate around. At first we were going to go to the northwest of them but the depths became too shallow. So we had to quickly tack away before we got trapped on that side. After recovering, we had a favorable wind shift and we were able to tack back and pass between two groups and continue out into the open water. Bahia Concepcion is prohibited for commercial fishing. So the pangas are right at the edge of the prohibited area with their nets.
The afternoon provided a relaxing sail around a small island, to the anchorage north of Punta Chivato. We actually had to motor the last hour of our 25-mile trip, as the wind dropped to nothing. While easing into the anchorage area, Dorado chased flying fish across the top of the water. I have read that Dorados are some of the fastest swimming fish. They appear to enjoy being out of the water as much as flying fish do. The entertainment of "the chase" was a unique welcome for us to a very settled anchorage.
The next morning we weighed anchor and headed toward the shallow-water passage between the southern end of Isla San Marcos and Punta Chivato. The depths were consistent with the chart and I could visually see the lighter waters of the dangerous shoals as we passed them. Since the wind was light and we were going to the leeward of the island, I used the motor-transit to make water.
Sooner than we expected, the winds were upon us and we powered toward a protected anchorage on the northwest side, behind the navigational light at "Sweet Pea", an anchorage named after a boat which went aground there during a recent hurricane. The holding ground at this location is small, a virtual shelf of sand. However, the deep water adjacent to the anchorage provided entertainment - a mother and baby whale only a few boat-lengths away, a distraction we didn't need, trying to anchor between two boats in a tight anchorage in high winds.
After a few nights, we decided to move around to the north end of the island, to Los Arcos. We had heard Poet's Place, anchored there, describe the spot as having the best snorkeling and the clearest water they had ever seen. Although Poet's Place departed the next day for San Carlos (Sonora, on mainland Mexico), we visited with them briefly and got pointers.
We spent more than a week there, snorkeled for three days - in caves, under arches, around rocks and over sand. The variety and colors of fish were extensive. The most impressive sight was a 6' moray eel that I saw and who saw me. He was worried and made threatening mouth-opening gestures at me as he approached. He must have relaxed a bit because he finally swam quickly into a large crack between two mounds of rocks. I quickly swam to another place to spear dinner! Looking in the small book we have, he must have been a Green Moray (which can be brown or black, as was my friend). I must have scared him out of other rocks with the sound of my spear clanking on the rocks as I missed fish.
The third day diving was to get dinner. Finally I was successful. I am unsure what the fish was, but the book gave us the opinion it was good to eat. While the meat was white and we envisioned excellent flavor, after being bar-b-qed it was a little tough and didn't have as much flavor as the Dorado we enjoyed. However, the next afternoon we had the remainder as fish tacos and it was excellent.
One day, Nancy sewed a panel for the back of the bimini. Several days were spent on constructing a cover for the dinghy. This is the most advanced project we've undertaken. Nothing is flat. The ends of the pontoons are tapered and there are all sorts of cutouts required by the oarlocks, lifting padeyes, and transom. In addition Nancy is reinforcing areas subject to chaff with a vinyl material. Some days things fell in to place nicely, other days it took us forever to do a task. But it is looking good and should be finished in a few more days.
We had heard that the village on San Marcos had a good tienda, subsidized by the gypsum mining company, which is the sole employment there. We took a morning and motored there - anchored in the north anchorage because a ship was being loaded and dust was blowing over the southern anchorage. Unfortunately, we found that the northern anchorage was basically rock and we didn't get a set on the first try. Nancy maneuvered around and we were successful on the second try. Since we weren't that confident about Max resetting if a wind shift occurred, we made the trip quickly and only stopped briefly to see the church made out of blocks of gypsum, plaster of Paris. We returned to Nanjo loaded down with items for the next couple of months.
After returning to Los Arcos, we made water the next day in anticipation of being in Santa Rosalia's harbor - too dirty to run the water maker. Early Thursday morning we weighed anchor and headed for the harbor. A rumor advised that the Port Captain closed his office at 1pm, even though his hours are until 3pm. We didn't want to get caught being late. We arrived, having given way to the departing Guaymas/Santa Rosalia ferry, at 1000 and were through with the 3-stop check-in (Migracion, API, Capitania) here by 1115.
Before noon we had found the alternative to an Internet Café in Santa Rosalia. Since there is no ISP for Mulege or Santa Rosalia, the cafes went out of business. The only option is over a long distance line to Mexico City, which is very expensive. But this is the last chance we'll have before two months of email-silence, so savor these editions!
Please don't think badly of us when you don't get a response after weeks of waiting. But don't forget us either. Nanjo is beyond Internet, beyond technology, beyond telephones, once we leave Santa Rosalia. By October we are expecting to be in San Carlos, Sonora (mainland Mexico). From there we will post the Nanjo Chronical editions covering our summer in the Sea of Cortez - Waterworld 2000 quite possibly, only in a mono-hull and a skipper with salt and pepper hair instead of K. Cosner, no bad-guys, but much more nudity! Just lots of water fun!
Hasta la vista, amigos . . .
Crew of Nanjo