Saturday, April 29, 2023

Hiking, Sardines, Underwater Maintenance

Caleta San Juanico, Baja California Sur

Intermezzo anchored in Caleta San Juanico, in solitude

We arrived in Caleta San Jaunico yesterday at 12:24pm after an easy motor from Isla Coronados. I wish I had waited until later in the morning to leave Coronados as a nice southerly wind sprung up just as I arrived in San Juanico and blew most of the afternoon. I could have sailed instead of motored. Lesson learned. 

We anchored in the southern end of the caleta, more than a mile away from the four other boats anchored towards the northern end. When I arrived, I wanted solitude. Later in the afternoon, I felt lonely and wished I had company. I seem to vacillate between these opposing feelings that arise when I'm alone, most of the time balanced in the middle. It doesn't take much to shift me in one direction or the other.

I spent yesterday afternoon cleaning inside the cabin and taking care of "paperwork". The Starlink internet connection is great for allowing me to take care of business while in a remote anchorage with no cell service.

This morning I landed the paddle board on a nearby sandy beach to go hiking. My paddle board skills have improved to the extent that I felt comfortable wearing my daypack while paddling. Conditions were calm, but if I lost my balance, my hiking shoes, towel and lunch would have suffered a dunking. When I was learning to paddle board, I would regularly fall off for seemingly no reason, just lose my balance. I fell off that board in every possible direction, front, back, right, left. Somehow my inner ear and body learned to work together while standing up on the tippy board, though. I and the contents of my pack made it to the beach as dry as a bone.

I hiked about a mile north along a shoreline ridge to another beach close to where the other boats were anchored. I ate a sandwich, drank some water and headed back. It was short but strenuous hike through rocky desert under a hot sun.

On the way back, I looked more closely at a dark patch in the water that I had noticed earlier from the top of the ridge. I had originally thought it was a patch of rocks in shallow water. But upon closer observation, the dark patch was moving. It was a huge school of sardines, I'd estimate over 450 feet long and 150 feet wide. The shape of the patch undulated like a cloud, similar to a murmuration of starlings, but moving more slowly and in two dimensions rather than three. Pelicans were floating above the huge cloud of sardines, occasionally taking flight and diving to eat some. An all-you-can-eat sardine bar for them to enjoy and gorge upon.

When I returned to Intermezzo, I dove in the water to cool off. I put a snorkel and mask on so that I could see if any underwater maintenance was needed. The anodes on the propellers needed replacing and a thin layer of weed was growing on the bottom. I spent the afternoon changing anodes and cleaning the bottom. I started out just wearing my swimsuit, but got chilled quickly in the 70°F water, so I changed into a shorty wetsuit. Much better for warmth in the water, but annoyingly buoyant when trying to work underwater. 

When the underwater maintenance was finished, I warmed up with a shot of Patron añejo tequila and a (very) hot solar-heated shower off the stern of the boat, then enjoyed a cold beer while basking in the sun. A nice way to end a very active day.

Tomorrow we set sail for Punta Chivato, about 55nm north of here, the longest passage since the crossing of the Sea from Mazatlan. I'm going to leave at sunrise and expect to arrive before sunset. Southerly winds are suggested by the models, so I'm hoping that we get to sail at least some of the way.

Paddle board landing zone

Caleta San Juanico, looking north from the ridge trail

Hiking the ridge trail in the desert sun

The huge cloud of sardines, pelicans sitting atop

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Nice, Easy Day

Isla Coronados, Sea of Cortez

We (Intermezzo and I) dropped anchor here at Isla Coronados just past 3pm after a nice, easy 18nm motor from Puerto Escondido. It's a beautiful spot, my first time here. I had just enough time to do a little exploring on land until it was time for dinner.

We got a late start because the metering and payment system at the Marina Puerto Escondido fuel dock wasn't working when we arrived around 9:30am. I asked how long it would take to get it fixed and the response was "20 minutes". The answer seems to always be the same in Mexico when something is broken. Rarely is it fixed in anything remotely close to 20 minutes. Sometimes it will take all day to get something working. I wanted to top off the diesel tanks, but had plenty enough fuel to make it to the next fuel dock at Santa Rosalia, so I could have forgone fueling. However, my rule in Mexico is "if you can buy fuel, buy it." So I decided that I would wait until 11am and, if the system wasn't working by then, I'd leave. Sure enough, right at 11, the fuel dock was back in service. I departed Puerto Escondido 2 1/2 hours later than planned, but with full tanks.

As we left the harbor, we were "waved at" by several mobula rays ("Devil Fish") doing somersaults out of the water. Later we passed within a few feet of the largest mobula I've ever seen, swimming just below the water surface, I'd say over four feet, wingtip to wingtip. I'm very fond of these beautiful creatures and love their hydro-acrobatics.

The weather today was sunny, clear, with light variable winds and calm seas. The air temperature on the boat was 79°F (26°C), but it felt cooler. It was just comfortable wearing shorts and a T-shirt, any cooler and I would have been a bit chilly. It was cold in the northern Sea of Cortez when we sailed there in late April 2017. I hope it doesn't get that cold on this trip, but I would prefer cool weather to sweltering any day.

Isla Coronados is a volcanic cone island. There are a few white sand beaches, but most of the shoreline is composed of red-brown and black volcanic rocks and cliffs, interspersed with desert vegetation. We're anchored in about 20 feet of deep blue water, the color of which changes to green and then turquoise as it shallows rapidly towards shore.

I took the paddle board to the beach (so much easier to launch and land than the dinghy) with my hiking shoes and socks in a dry bag. I jogged along the sandy trail leading to the foot of the volcanic cone and then scrambled up the well-marked rocky trail for about a half an hour, getting about one-third up the cone before turning around. It was good workout and the views from the slope were beautiful.

When I got back to the boat, I jumped in the water for a swim among a giant school of fat sardines, as the pelicans dove all around me eating their dinner.

It was a good day.

Tomorrow is another relatively short sail to Caleta San Juanico. 

View of the Isla Coronados anchorage from the volcano's slope
The trail up the volcano

Isla Coronados from the sea

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Heading to Puerto Peñasco

Puerto Escondido, Baja California Sur

Planned route (schematic) from Puerto Escondido to Puerto Peñasco

We're leaving Puerto Escondido tomorrow morning to begin our journey to Puerto Peñasco where Intermezzo will be hauled out for an extended refit. It will be a singlehanded trip of about 455nm over the next 20 days or so.

I planned the route to avoid overnight passages and give myself time to enjoy stops along the way and/or wait out weather. I don't want to do any more bashing if I can avoid it. The map shows my schematic route with 10 stops between the start at Puerto Escondido and finish at Puerto Peñasco. We've stopped at some of these places in the past, but the stops north of Bahía Los Angeles are all new to me. The stops are:

  1. Isla Coronados (first time)
  2. Caleta San Juanico (2017)
  3. Punta Chivato (2017)
  4. Santa Rosalia (2015, 2017)
  5. Bahía San Francisquito
  6. Isla Partida (first time)
  7. Puerto Don Juan (2017)
  8. Puerto Refugio (first time)
  9. Bahía San Luis Gonzaga or Bahía Willard (first time)
  10. San Felipe (first time)
I'm looking forward to this trip and sailing solo. I still struggle with loneliness at times, but I've grown to enjoy solitude and sailing on my own tests and hones my skills. It seems like pretty easy going this time of year, now that the strong north winter winds are over. The tidal range in the northern Sea of Cortez can be as great as 20 feet, though. I'm curious to observe the tides' effect on currents and sea state. I'll be very careful with where I anchor and how much anchor rode I let out, too.

Intermezzo is in good shape, all cleaned up and organized after the last cruise. We're a bit light on provisions as the taxi fare to and from Loreto to get to a grocery story is over $60 USD, so I bought what I could find in the little store at the marina. I plan on more extensive re-provisioning when I get to Santa Rosalia, which has a supermarket, not great quality, but good enough.

I'll get up early tomorrow, get the boat ready and then head to the fuel dock to top off the diesel tanks. I hope to be underway by 9am, which would make our ETA at Isla Coronados around 1pm, giving me the afternoon to explore the island and do some hiking.

Friday, April 21, 2023

Intermezzo's 2023 Cruise To-Date

Puerto Escondido, Baja California Sur

This post brings the blog up to date on Intermezzo’s 2023 cruise since launching in Puerto Escondido on January 10th.

I had originally planned to launch Intermezzo in November, but there was a mix up and I ended up with no slip for the boat in the marina. I didn’t want to leave Intermezzo on a mooring at the tail end of hurricane season or while I was away for the holidays when strong northerlies often blow in the Sea of Cortez.  So I postponed the launch date to after the New Year.

Ben, a member of my men’s group, joined on as crew, arriving right after I launched Intermezzo. It was his first time sailing and he came aboard enthusiastic and motivated to learn. We spent a few days getting the boat ready and provisioning and then set sail on for La Paz on January 13th.

Our journey began with a brief snafu, our anchor failing one of the floating breakwater’s mooring cables as we left the dock. We had been “med moored”, with the stern of the boat tied to the dock and the bow held out by our anchor. There aren’t many mooring cables, but we found one. The marina sent out a diver and we were soon untangled and on our way.

We had a very pleasant passage with good weather to La Paz, stopping at anchorages in Agua Verde, Los Gatos, Isla San Francisco and Isla Partida along the way. We arrived in La Paz on January 19th and Ben departed the next day to get back to graduate school. Ben did a great job as crew, I think he learned a lot about and enjoyed the sailing life. We got along well, though he nearly ate me out of house and home. He’s an ultra-marathoner and has the metabolism to pack away twice the calories as me.

I spent the rest of January at anchor in La Paz, doing boat chores, getting some consulting work done, eating at my favorite La Paz restaurants, a dinner with my friend Johan. It was sunny but windy and chilly most days.

My new Starlink internet service is a game-changer for living at anchor, off the grid. I ordered the system and had it delivered to the marina in Puerto Escondido and got it up and running easily before we left. The system consists of a satellite antenna, which we call “Dishy”, a WiFi router, a cable to connect the two, and it plugs into the boat’s A/C power circuit. It is the RV version of Starlink, now called “Roam”. The antenna sits on a four-legged metal base that can be positioned anywhere on the boat with a clear view to the sky. While this requires that the antenna be stowed while underway and set up again when at anchor, it has given me the opportunity to try the system out before considering a permanent installation.

Starlink’s performance has been outstanding, routinely and reliably providing download speeds in excess of 100Mbps and upload speeds in the 10Mbps range. It consumes about 6 amps at 12VDC, about the same as the refrigerator, which means I have to monitor power consumption and best to turn it off whenever I’m not using it. The hardware cost less than $400 and the service costs about $75/month. I can make phone calls (over WiFi), download large files, participate in online meetings, do virtually anything that I can do at home on land while bobbing in a remote anchorage. I can now be as connected as I want to while living on the boat. The turning off to save power and the stowing while underway means that it’s not a continuous connection, but I actually like the breaks. It’s similar to a parent limiting a child’s onscreen time, allowing me to disengage from the social thrum and pay more attention to my surroundings and the natural world.

Robin joined me and Intermezzo in La Paz on January 31st and we set sail for Mazatlan on February 3rd after waiting out a norther for a couple of days. We enjoyed mostly downwind sailing all the way to Bahía Tenacatita, arriving there on February 16th with stops in now familiar anchorages of Chacala, La Cruz, Chamela and Paraíso. We stayed in Tenacatita for nine days, enjoying the warmer weather, the beach, paddle boarding, and taking several kayak trips through the mangrove estuary to “The Aquarium” beach, where we snorkeled and enjoyed meals and beers at beach restaurants. It was the first time I’ve seen crocodiles in the estuary, slightly disconcerting when one is sitting in an inflatable kayak, low in the water. The ones we saw were only a few feet long, though. Nippers, not man-eaters.

On February 25th we took a slip in the marina at Barra de Navidad. Robin departed for home on March 1st and I headed back to The Ranch a few days later to work on getting my Sailing Intermezzo book printed and published, with limited success.

I returned to Barra on March 26th, a week later than planned due to a surprise visit to the emergency room due to severe pain in my upper-right torso. All life-threatening causes were ruled out at the ER and the pain was quickly relieved with painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs. The cause of the pain was a mystery until my primary care doctor diagnosed it to be caused by Slipped Rib Syndrome, an inflammation of the connective tissue between the ribs and the vertebrae and/or sternum. I was relieved to know what went wrong and how to treat it. I couldn’t imagine sailing singlehanded with the pain I experienced.

I was pleased to find crew for the passage north back to La Paz via the CrewSeekers website. Philip joined Intermezzo on March 28th in Barra. He’s from the U.K. on a long break from his work in IT and wanted to do some sailing while in Mexico. He owns a share of a boat in the Solent, has an Atlantic crossing under his belt and has chartered boats in the Med. Very competent crew.

We departed Barra on March 31st, retracing the southbound route but skipping stops in Tenacatita, Paraíso and La Cruz. Our journey started off with a pleasant surprise; a downwind sail on a southerly breeze. But it soon turned into the expected bash against strong northerly headwinds and steep seas. The bashing ranged from mild to severe. Conditions were especially bad as we approached and rounded Cabo Corrientes, just south of Puerto Vallarta, even though I had timed our rounding of the cape to occur in the middle of the night when conditions should have been more calm. We motored hard into 20-knot winds and steep over 2-meter waves.

The boat took on quite a bit of water into the starboard hull (“my” side of the boat). The gasket for the hatch above the head (bathroom) has a gap in it, and shipped a fair amount of water as waves washed over the deck. I discovered that my 2020 repair of a leaking hull-to-deck joint has failed, allowing water to get into the food locker, ruining my paper coffee filters and dampening my chocolate and cookies, vital food supplies. The starboard engine room suffered from saltwater spray through a thin crack I discovered in the hull-to-deck joint. The port engine room shipped water from a failed hatch gasket. Nothing like severe bashing to discover where your boat isn’t watertight.

At 4:00am on April 2nd, after rounding Cabo Corrientes and ducking into Banderas Bay, I came closer to shipwrecking than I ever have in over 50 years of sailing. Much, much too close, a near miss of jagged rocks. A story deserving of its own blog post. Luckily, with the help of a nearly full moon, we steered away from the rocks and navigated successfully out of the hazardous waters in which we were accidentally sailing. I was wide awake and breathing hard for hours afterwards. I actually looked up at the moon and thanked it out loud, feeling sincerely grateful and under its protection.

I normally would have waited out the stronger winds and bigger seas in anchorages so that the bashing would be mild to, at worse, moderate. But I had a rendezvous date with Christina, Nate and Maddie in La Paz and didn’t want to inconvenience them by arriving late. As they say, the most dangerous type of sailing is sailing to a schedule.

We crossed the Sea of Cortez from Mazatlan on April 6th, mostly a bash of a crossing, the winds at just enough of an angle for us to motor sail, but the waves not far enough off to avoid the bows rising and slamming down on them. We were treated to a nice reach of a sail for the final six hours before we anchored in Los Frailes, a welcome end to the crossing.

It felt so good to be back in The Sea, along the beautiful arid Baja peninsula and among its islands. I enjoy the mainland coast of Mexico, but it does not compare to how much I love The Sea. It feels like a home to me, somewhere I belong. I love the stark beauty of the land, not softened by vegetation, all the hues and colors of the geology visible, and appreciate the toughness and tenacity of the plants and animals that live on it.  I love the many colors of The Sea, how it can be calm and inviting, rough and foreboding, warm and cold, and the abundance and richness of all the life forms that it supports, in contrast to the land. I love the birds, the turtles, the dolphins, the fish. I love the brilliance of the stars at night, how our neighbor planets stand out shining brightly in the sky, clearly so much closer to us. I love that there aren’t many people cluttering up the place. I could go on, but I think I’ve made it clear how good it felt to be “home”.

The weather was then thankfully fair and mostly calm the rest of the way to La Paz, where we arrived on April 9th, right on schedule for the change of crew.

All the bashing up the coast from Barra caused me to reconsider my longer term plans. I had planned to bring Intermezzo up to San Francisco to take a break from sailing and do a major refit on the boat. The prospect of bashing up the Pacific coast of Baja and then up the California coast, 1,200 miles of mostly bashing, was not something I wanted to do. I wasn’t ready psychologically and Intermezzo, with its multiple leaks, wasn’t ready either. It got me to thinking and I came up with a better plan, one that would avoid bashing, save money, allow me to explore the northern Sea of Cortez and, ultimately, avoid sailing back 1,200 miles when my break and the refit was over. More on that plan in a future post.

Philip left Intermezzo on April 11th. He served as great crew, enduring the bashing and near shipwreck in good humor, was good company during our rest stops and didn’t eat me out of house and home, though we seemed to be always a bit short on beer.

Christina, Nate and Maddie, Renée’s daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter, respectively, my family, joined Intermezzo as Philip left. We stayed in Marina de La Paz for a couple of days, which turned out to be a good decision as Christina and I fell ill from eating something poisonous at a taco condiment bar. We were completely down and out for 24 hours.

Fortunately, we were recovered enough to leave La Paz on April 13th and begin a leisurely trip north here to Puerto Escondido this past week. We enjoyed beautiful weather, no bashing, some nice sailing, and relaxing stops at Isla Partida, Isla San Francisco, and Puerto Los Gatos, all my favorite anchorages. Nate stood several watches and I now rate him as competent crew. I hope to be able to Shanghai him into service in the future. Christina enjoyed a nice break from work, got a lot of reading done. Maddie swam, kayaked, paddle-boarded, snorkeled, played on the beach, went hiking, did schoolwork, put on a five-act play with stuffed animals, talked a lot, and consumed her fair share of the ship’s provisions. It was fun having them on board, a pleasure sailing with them in such nice weather at such a relaxed pace.

We arrived in Puerto Peñasco yesterday, three months and a week and 1,409nm since I left with Ben in January. I’m going to stay here for about a week before I begin heading north to Puerto Peñasco, sailing in waters and visiting places new to me along the way, a trip that I will chronicle in this blog.


Puerto Escondido

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

End of the Silence

 Sea of Cortez, Mexico

I haven’t posted to this blog for almost a year, at the end of our 2022 cruise. The main reason for me not writing posts is so that I could focus on publishing my Sailing Intermezzo book, a chronicle of my sailing voyage from San Francisco to New York, combined with a personal love story. The book will soon be published. I’ll provide more information soon in another post.

I also have held off writing because I didn’t think I had anything novel or very interesting to say. I would just be covering passages in waters already sailed, anchorages already visited, boat repairs, whining about the wind forecasts; the same old, same old.

But I will soon be embarking upon a singlehanded exploration of new waters in the northern Sea of Cortez, as I bring Intermezzo to Puerto Peñasco to be laid up on the hard (on land) for an extended break from sailing and a major refit after over a decade and well over 20,000 miles of sailing.

I intend to write daily posts over the next week or so to bring the blog up-to-date on my sailing adventures, provide a preview and information about my book, share my decision-making regarding Intermezzo’s lay-up, and begin the chronicle of my journey north.

I’m writing this post as Intermezzo sails serenely along downwind towards Los Gatos in the Sea of Cortez, accompanied by my family-member crew of Christina, Nate and 7 year-old Maddie. We left La Paz on April 13 and have been enjoying a leisurely passage north with stops at Isla Partida and Isla San Francisco for rest and recreation.

Since acquiring a Starlink system in January that provides a high speed internet satellite connection, I have not activated my IridiumGo! communication device and its old tracking link is no longer active. You can now track Intermezzo’s progress on my Garmin tracking site at I’ve updated the tracking link on the blog website accordingly.

More posts coming soon….