Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Bahia Ballendra: Catching up

It's been over a week since my last blog post. We've had very limited connectivity, followed by some technical problems when we did have internet access. Plus I've been feeling a bit down in the dumps and haven't been motivated to write.

I know it sounds stupid to confide that I've been feeling down, perhaps even ungrateful, given that I'm "living the dream", not having to go to work, sailing in a beautiful area on a nice boat.  But these blessings don't make all of life's struggles and challenges magically go away nor make coping with the difficult ones any easier. I'll offer up that if you think that sailing away on a boat will solve all your problems and put you in a state of constant bliss, think again. But I will admit the scenery is good, there's no traffic to deal with, no job deadlines and a nice good buffer against distressing media jabber. So, I don't mean to sound like I'm whining but did want to share some reality to counter the picture of an idyllic life of constant happiness, fun and adventure that my blog postings might paint.

With these explanations out of the way, I'll use this post to catch up on our travels over the past nine days, more as a chronicle for my memoirs than as interesting news for readers.

April 10

We spent most of the day kayaking in Bahia Amortajada, a bay isolated from the sea by natural narrow rock-sand beaches and mangroves. We entered the bay through a very narrow, shallow passage and paddled in a lagoon along the edges of thick mangroves. The color water of the lagoon ranged from dark blue in where the water is deep to light aquamarine in the shallow, sandy bottomed areas, a very beautiful palette.  At about the midpoint of the lagoon, we turned into a narrow channel leading through the mangroves to the other side the bay. We saw lots of birds and, surprisingly, there were no mosquitos or other pesky swamp insects. When Steinbeck visited this bay, he noted that the mangroves lacked "the foul root smell, and the odor was fresh and sweet, like that of new-cut grass." I observed the same; the swampy, muddy smell right at nose level normally endured when kayaking in mangroves was pleasantly missing here. We enjoyed having this very pretty, pleasant little bay all to ourselves for an afternoon.

The anchorages at Bahia Amortjada do not afford much protection from the wind, which started blowing pretty hard in the afternoon, so we motored on to a more protected anchorage in the cove of the little fishing village of San Evaristo. Yes, the wind and seas were on our nose, again, and we bashed unpleasantly, again, for the couple of hours it took for us to get there.

The anchorage was fairly crowded with other boats taking refuge from the wind, so we had to pick our place to anchor carefully. On our first attempt, our big Rocna anchor failed to hold, a very, very rare occurrence for us. When I hauled it up to re-anchor, I discovered why. An old, wet, smelly beach towel had fouled the anchor. The anchor set easily on the second attempt once the towel was removed. We didn't keep the towel.

April 11-12

We sailed from San Evaristo about 30 nm north to Punta San Telmo. Punta San Telmo is close to Puerto Los Gatos, the spot where we spent Thanksgiving in 2015  (pictures here) and returned for an unplanned visit on December 15 2015. This time, the small Los Gatos anchorage was crowded with at least half a dozen other boats, so we decided to sail the extra mile and a half and explore San Telmo. It was a good move and we spent a couple of peaceful days there. We had the anchorage all to ourselves and the hiking and snorkeling was excellent. It's interesting hiking in the hills above the anchorage because even a hundred feet above sea level, there are lots of old, weatherworn sea shells on the ground from times long past when it was inundated by the sea. We enjoyed snorkeling among mostly healthy coral and lots of fish along the rock reef extending off the point that forms the anchorage. Some local fishermen stopped by in a panga and sold us some delicious scallops that they dove for to harvest from among the rocks. Super-fresh scallops the size of half-dollars and an inch-and-a-half thick for $1 each. Yum.

April 13

We sailed from Punta San Telmo to Bahia Agua Verde, with a lunch stop at Ensenda de la Ballena to explore a sea cave with the kayaks. 

April 14

We spent a full day exploring Bahia Agua Verde. We found a good spot on the beach to practice yoga, then went snorkeling in two locations. The first snorkeling spot was off a pyramid shaped rock close to the boat where we saw a lot of stingrays on the bottom and a huge, almost three foot long blow fish. The second spot was off a lonely tall skinny rock, Roca Solitaria, almost a mile out from the anchorage. It was windy out there and the water was rough and cold, but we enjoyed snorkeling on the lee side of the rock, swimming through little canyons among the rock reef on which we found lots of starfish, sea fans and other attached flora and fauna, plus some large reef fish.  After snorkeling, we took a walk around the little village with features a goat dairy and, thus, quite a few goats. The normally sleepy village was crowded with families and groups of friends celebrating Semana Santa by camping out on the coast.

April 15

We sailed from Agua Verde to Puerto Escondido, a nice smooth trip during which we even sailed for an hour or so, for a change.

April 16-18

We took a mooring in Puerto Escondido's very protected natural harbor and spent a couple of days mostly making arrangements for when our voyage ends in a month.  We made travel arrangements for my son Luther to join Intermezzo in May, sail with us for a week or so and then help get the boat ready for lay up and then all of us flying to New York to celebrate my daughter Hannah's graduation from NYU on May 22. The internet connection at the marina was slow and intermittent, which made for a very time consuming and frustrating experience.

The next month of sailing will be in quite remote areas of the northern Sea of Cortez, so we needed stock up on a lot of food. We rented a car for a few days to travel into Loreto to go shopping and enjoy a couple dinners at good restaurants. Puerto Escondido is about 15 miles south of Loreto and taxis are $34 each way, about the same price as renting a car which provides a lot more flexibility.

The marina manager and I measured the travel lift and haul out channel and determined both are, just, wide enough to accommodate Intermezzo's 19'-10" beam. It will be a very tight squeeze, but we plan on hauling out on May 18 and leaving Intermezzo on the hard until November when hurricane season is over.  What will happen then is completely up in the air at this point, as we end this two year voyage and start new chapters of our lives.

April 19

Today we got a very early start and sailed to Puerto Ballandra, a small well-protected harbor on the west coast of Isla Carmen. Strong northerly winds are forecast to blow until Saturday and this is a good place for us to hole up until they subside sufficiently for us to continue our journey north. Amazingly, the internet connection here, 12 miles off the coast, is far better than at the marina!

Brittle star found under a rock in Bahia Amortajada

Bahia Amortajada lagoon

Bahia Amortajada lagoon

Mangroves, Bahia Amortajada

Channel through mangroves, Bahia Amortajada

Anchored in Punta San Telmo

Sunset at anchor, Punta San Telmo

Rock formations, Punta San Telmo

Beach, Punta San Telmo

Rock formation, Punta San Telmo

Hiking in the desert hills, Punta San Telmo

Desert flower, Punta San Telmo

Intermezzo's new "amphibious" dinghy; the new wheels make hauling up on the beach much easier

Kayaking in Ensenada de la Ballena

Sea cave, Ensenada de la Ballena

Village at Bahia Agua Verde

Goats at Bahia Agua Verde

Semana Santa campers at Bahia Agua Verde

Roca Solitaria at sunset, Bahia Agua Verde