Oh, the Sea of Cortez! We haven’t spent tons of time in the Sea of Cortez. In 2015 we only made it up to San Evaristo, a small bay about 1/4 of the way up the sea on the Baja peninsula. It was just after Thanksgiving, it was BLOWING a “screaming blue norther” and really cold so we went south.
Now that we are here later in the season, we can enjoy some warmer water and breezes. We were extremely eager to get out of Guaymas. Guaymas is great for lots of reasons (nice people, cheap food, easy provisioning, accessible hardware stores for boat repairs), but the dust and general grunginess of the place were wearing on us.
Preparing for departure the next day, we popped our Bonine (motion sickness medicine, girls take 1/2 which they will only eat tucked into a skittle) before going to bed. The next morning we made a hearty breakfast, ran around getting the last provisioning supplies (fruits, veg and tortillas), and we cast off. Oh, it felt so so so good to be motoring out of that harbour!
We recently got a new iPad (of course it was three days before Apple released the new and better model… which was cheaper… seriously?) and downloaded iNavx, which is a navigation app we have been coveting. This app saved our bacon last year when navigating into Barra de Navidad. Some very nice people on another boat saw us having trouble locating the unmarked channel into the lagoon (Thank you s/v Galivant). They raced over to us, passed us their iPad illuminated with a very clear and detailed chart, the location of the iPad/boat pulsing like a shining beacon PROPERLY placed in the chart. I about drooled all over it.
We do carry paper charts but our navigation system is a Raymarine C80 chart plotter mounted on our binnacle. The GPS location of our boat is correct, the GPS location of waypoints we enter into it are correct, but the land is off about a 1/2 mile or more in some locations in Mexico and the detail is lacking. So, we see our route which we enter in as waypoints (from the guidebook listed below), we can avoid hazards which we enter in as skull and cross bone icons (for fun), but half the time, on our chart plotter, it looks like we are anchored on land. Because of this, we were never able to use it for finely detailed navigation into ports or harbours in Mexico. We do really like it for passages. It hooks up with our autopilot which is handy and we can have our autopilot steer the exact course (which is great), or we can have it follow along while our Monitor wind vane steers the boat (saving energy) and will speak up if we head too far off.
We’re pretty happy with our current setup, we have iNavx which has detailed charts of ports and harbors, the chart plotter for passages and we use these in conjunction with the help of Shawn Breeding and Heather Bansmer’s “Sea of Cortez, A Cruise’s Guidebook” (the iNavx charts are actually from Shawn and Heather). But most of all, we use our common sense.
Okay, back to our little adventure
We left Guaymas and headed to Punta Perico, an anchorage on Isla Carmen, a fairly large island off the coast from Loreto. It was almost due south with lovely north-west winds that blew us straight there. The girls fell asleep quickly as we hit the open water (a common reaction to slight seasickness) and we had a quiet and peaceful run south. Through the night I had a few dolphins startle me with splashes as they jumped alongside, it was happily uneventful. Banyan was in very good form, running along at 6 and 7 knots the whole way. “Paradigm”, our Monitor wind vane did all the steering. That clean bottom really helps to keep the speed up!
We have been moving rather fast which is unusual for us. Since we know we have to be back in Guaymas to put the boat back up on the hard by June or July, we have been trying to cover some miles. We had heard great things about Los Gatos, a stunningly beautiful anchorage where geodes are just lying around. It is just north of where we gave up from cold in 2015. While we were there a juvenile whale shark came through the anchorage, I watched it swim right under my paddle board!
From there we headed north to a small village in the protected Agua Verde anchorage. It was Easter weekend and we were hoping we would be able to catch Mass. We anchored in the southern lobe in aqua blue water with classic boulders and cactuses in the background. It was absolutely beautiful. We spent most of Easter looking for the church, taking a few wrong turns, getting barked at by mad dogs and climbing hills looking for cell reception (no luck). Fortunately, we consoled ourselves with delicious fish tacos from the beachside palapa and an Easter egg hunt. After our candy coma wore off, we were delighted to be invited to another boat for dinner.
Without cell reception, we were put in a bit of a bind. We needed to do some banking with tax day looming. We spent a significant amount of time on the16th and 17th paying for the one village phone trying to transfer some money. We got a few things done (thanks, Mom!), but in the end, Bank of the West – our “former” bank as of April 17th, couldn’t transfer money over the phone from one of our accounts to another. We needed to use mobile banking. Seriously!?! So that day we packed up and headed for Puerto Escondido with the promise of cell reception. We didn’t really want to hit Puerto Escondido yet, so as we got in range and our phones started to “ding ding ding” we made that transfer and then took a right turn to a lovely anchorage called Honeymoon Cove on the west side of Isla Danzante.
I feel like this is where we really got back to “cruising”. We slowed down, we played in the water, we spearfished and fished off the boat, we met other people in the anchorage, we had barbeques on the beach and even had a music night with other cruisers. We met up with a boat that we hadn’t seen since we left San Diego, which was fun. It is a very deep anchorage with small ledges of shallower water where you could anchor so you had to anchor fairly close in. Because of this deep to shallow topography, there were a lot of fish. The visibility was so amazing that going for a paddle in the morning I saw more fish than I have ever seen in any other place.
We had to swing through Puerto Escondido on the 21st as some of our friends from the ’15 HaHa were arriving to take their boat to La Paz (Agamere!). I had arranged for them to bring down a satellite phone SIM card and a WiFi router which I needed in order to stay connected to work. (Note: Do things like this BEFORE you leave the states. Shipping into Mexico is unreliable and Sat phone plans in Mexico are much more expensive). It was so fun to catch up with them but the girls were bummed as they had left their trio of lovely kids at home. As soon as we provisioned in Loretto (a very expensive cab ride away), filled up on some diesel, took a shower and relaxed by the pool while sucking down some WiFi, we were outta there.
We had a lovely sail over to the east side of Isla Carmen to Bahia Cobre, where we relaxed, hiked, spearfished and schooled. With some northern winds on the way (we get weather from this great app called WindyTY, GRIB files via Sail Mail and from the SSB nets – Sonrisa and Amigo) we took off from this anchorage which has northern exposure and had a beautiful sail around the top of Carmen. We are now settled into Bahia Ballandra, a lovely little bay on the north-west side of Isla Carmen. We will probably run over for a quick stop in Loretto to find a dumpster for our garbage, reprovision and then head north to more remote anchorages.
We are having a lovely time. I’m feeling my confidence as a sailor like I never did before. I’ve been really diving into homeschool teaching and motherhood. I’ve been reading some great books about both topics and focusing on being a loving, inspirational teacher and mother (one can dream). When I wake up early, I take my morning paddles which are heaven but I don’t wake up early that often:) I’m treasuring this time with our girls in this golden age of childhood before they make the transition to being teens.
Cameron is doing really well. He is sleeping better than he has in… maybe years. He is enjoying the boat life, figuring out all the little mini issues that pop up. Why is the VHF having interference? Why is the SSB not transmitting well but now receiving well, what was that stuff in the toilet? How best to tighten the shaft seal? I think that these little puzzles fill his tank. He seems happier than he has in a long time to me, which makes everyone happy.
The girls have been fishing like crazy. They catch at least two fish a day just casting off the deck of the boat during breaks in schooling. They can now catch and release on their own. Isa takes great pleasure in casually calling down in a bored sort of voice that she has ANOTHER fish on. Adelaide recently got a Hawaiian sling (for spearfishing). She and Cameron come back from hunting completely ecstatic and talk and talk excitedly for an hour straight about all the different fish they saw and the size and the species. Isa rolls her eyes to me and says “seriously, when are they going to be done talking about that”.
In general, we are finding that our days are extremely full. I honestly don’t know what happens to our time. There really is never enough time. Between schooling the girls, getting to new anchorages, staying up to date on emails and work and keeping the boat in good shape, we are never unoccupied. We usually look at the clock at 6 pm and our eyes pop out of our heads and we say “How did that happen!” Life is good when you can say that AND not be super stressed at every turn.
note: Please forgive the low image quality while we are in low cellular connectivity areas!