After Tembabiche, we continued to make our way north exploring anchorages on the Baha Peninsula, seeking protection from the sporadic westerly nighttime winds that kept coming. Our next stop was Bahía San Marte, a wonderful unpopulated little anchorage with some beaches and purported hiking to explore.
After ensuring we were well anchored, we put down the dingy and headed for a beach. The guidebook had said there was good hiking in the area so we were all prepared with good footwear, hiking poles and water.
It looked to me like we could make our way up a ridge, although we would have to pick our way. But, we reached the limits of our capabilities – we tried multiple ways on two separate beaches, but the arroyos petered out quickly and there seemed no way to pick our way through prickly cacti wearing shorts on very uneven rocky and loose ground. So we walked the lengths of the beaches and found some cool things to look at.
I was surprised to see this whale vertebra lying on the beach. Totally cool. There were no other whale bones around, and it is obviously well weathered. Wonder how long it’s been there!
View looking up into the surrounding hills where we attempted to hike. This bush with green bark is one of the typical bushes around here – but I don’t know what it’s called yet.
This beach had more interesting shells than we’ve seen so far. At one end there were tide pools. Unfortunately there were no signs of urchins, anemones or other small animals I was hoping to see, except for some hermit crabs. We are starting to get the feeling that while we do see numerous schools of fish and the dolphins chasing them in deeper waters, the seashore itself feels oddly sterile. We’ve both read John Steinbeck’s Log of the Sea of Cortez from his 6 week voyage here with his buddy naturalist in 1940, just 80 years ago, and their vivid descriptions of the shore teeming with life of all kinds, even in Los Cabos and La Paz bay. It seems that there has been a precipitous decline in numbers and variety of sea life in the intervening years. The Mexican government is trying to protect what’s left, creating some 19 National Parks and Biosphere Reserves around the Baja California Peninsula.
The anchorage was tucked up under Punta San Marcial and provided very good protection from the Westerlies… we hardly noticed them until we pulled out the next morning to head around the point to Agua Verde, where we encountered brisk winds and whitecaps.
On our way to Tembabiche from San Evaristo, we passed the tiny remote fishing village of Nopolo. It is perched on the edge of the Sea tucked behind a rocky point so they aren’t even visible from the north at the base of a steep, high mountain peak. Can you imagine living in such a remote hard to reach place?
We reached Tembabiche and saw we would have the anchorage to ourselves for much of the time. Pelicans and other sea birds clearly find lots to eat there, as there were many of them grouped near the estuary side of the anchorage. A few fisherman trailer their pangas to launch from the beach here, and there is a tiny fishing village not far away, hardly visible to us from the water.
After getting anchored up and reveling in our isolation, we dingied to shore to explore. A pelican took off at just the right distance for me to get some great action shots.
In 2017, the lagoon area here, as well as a number of others on this area of the coast, was declared a protected area with no fishing allowed to support the rejuvenation of fish and other wildlife. We walked around the edges and spied a number of birds in the mangroves and perched on cacti. Herons, egrets, ospreys, sand pipers and pelicans enjoyed the lagoon.
While we were walking around the estuary, we saw obvious signs of animal meanderings and heard some cows off in the distance. During happy hour, we again heard the sound of farm animals from the beach, and there they were – a couple of cows, grazing on the beach.
The next day we set off for a different part of the beach and a walk to reach the fabled Casa Grande – the ruins of a grand home built years ago by a fisherman with a windfall that has fallen into disrepair. We found the dusty road that the fisherman use to bring in their pangas and followed that for a while.
Casa Grande itself was surrounded by a few obviously occupied small houses, but we didn’t see any people. We took photos quickly and then walked out to the beach, realizing that the river was dried so we could walk across the arroyo back to our dingy.
We saw a number of carcasses of various animals on the beach. The most disturbing to me was a large turtle shell and a large ray, which was almost entirely intact, but ossified. They were right next to each other, which made me wonder whether they were discarded from fishing by catch. I didn’t even take a picture because it made me sad.
Some other finds were more interesting.
We were taking a nap when a young fisherman in a shorty wetsuit came to the boat and asked if we wanted lobster. Sold us 3 langostas – we had to revive them a bit in sea water to ensure they were good. He had a hard time keeping the outboard engine for the panga running but did a great job maneuvering up to our side just to do the exchange. Larry cooked them up into several fabulous meals.
On our last day I managed to haul myself out of bed before sunrise to try to get some good shots of the sun on the mountains and on Casa Grande. The golden hour is fleeting, and Casa Grande was far away, but these capture a flavor of what it was like.
After a surprisingly windy and choppy night at Isla San Francisco, we headed North and across the San Jose Channel to the protected anchorage of San Evaristo, a fishing village on the West side of the Channel. This was the second time that we were surprised by these Westerly winds that arose in the middle of the night and could reach 25-30 knots. It’s not good to have those conditions anchored up against a “lee shore” meaning that the wind is blowing the boat towards shore. The anchorage at San Evaristo opens to the East, so would not be a lee shore. As we were heading up the channel we encountered some pretty localized westerly winds up to about 25 knots. Because the wind was blowing across the channel there was no fetch for waves to build, so lots of whitecaps, but no big deal. It was still blowing when we turned into the anchorage. We at first sought shelter in the North cove, which was protected from the North and somewhat from the west. The cove had a small shelf with easy anchoring depths in the 20-25 foot range but then sloped down to 50 ft or so further out. We also realized that while the wind was (temporarily) coming from the west, the swell was coming from the South, which was exposed. We were not satisfied with where we were sitting, so we moved over into the northern part of the main cove, with much more swinging room and shallower depths. The beach here was lined with houses and pangas were actively coming and going to unload their catch at a buyer setup in a tent on the beach.
I was wondering about the unexpected westerly winds that we experienced both in Isla San Francisco and again in the morning here at San Evaristo. The guidebooks that we have describe these as Corumuel winds, said to be mostly in the La Paz area and Elephantes, said to be mostly in low lying areas in the Northern Sea. In both cases, nighttime winds from the cool pacific air crosses the penisula into the Sea. Since the weather forecasts cover such large areas, these localized events are not called out, and we didn’t see obvious signs of them from the low resolution wind maps that we have been downloading on our Iridium GO!
So, I downloaded one of the higher resolution wind forecasts from PredictWind and saw that it did, in fact, predict these localized westerly winds. The model showed the wind we experienced in the morning, and predicted an overnight Westerly in San Evaristo that night. And sure enough, we experienced several hours of 25 knot winds overnight. It was noisy, but since we were protected from the west, we had no waves/swell, and therefore, not a problem. Now we know that it is worth downloading these higher resolution wind forecasts, even though they take about an hour to get at the snail’s pace of the Iridium GO!.
More of these westerlies were predicted through the week, so we planned accordingly, looking for anchorages that would have the best protection for the conditions. We decided to leave San Evaristo the next morning and continue North. Honestly, it felt a little weird to be anchored here in what was people’s front yards. We didn’t even go ashore.
We experienced these localized winds three more times heading up to Puerto Escondido, and each time the forecast was pretty accurate on the start and duration and the maximum wind speeds. And, armed with this information, we selected anchorages that seemed to have the best protection from the West.
The other weather pattern that we were already familiar with is the Northwesterly winds that funnel down the Sea of Cortez pretty regularly in the winter months. These occur when there is High pressure in the Great Basin of the US and lower pressure down in the Sea. These are called Northers, and bring 25-30 knot winds that can last several days. We had already experienced a number of these during our month in La Paz.
A quick update – the Norther is here with a vengance. We arrived at Puerto Escondido on a lovely calm afternoon. The slip they had reserved for us was way too small, so they put us on the long breakwater dock… on the outside. When the Norther hit, we realized that was a BIG mistake. We saw 25 knot plus winds all day with gusts exceeding 33 and probably 3 ft wind waves. We have all 13 fenders out, and several of them look like they are about to pop. If the winds drop down at all, we will see if we can get quickly around to the other side of the breakwater dock.
Isla San Francisco has a beautiful large anchorage called “the hook” which features a long sandy beach and good depths and holding. We approached this large bay on a sunny Sunday afternoon with very little wind. When we arrived, there were 4 sailboats in the NW side of the anchorage, and we found plenty of room further East along the beach. The anchorage has good protection from wind and swell, except from the SW… more on this later. On the beach a party of 6 women were set up with a tent and a lavish arrangement, waited on by a male crew member. They had a good time into the evening back on their catamaran. We settled in for the night, listening to voices and music from other boats, and saw lots of bioluminescence and fish activity in the water after sunset.
In the morning we were having coffee during sunrise when we heard exhaling and saw a few dolphins jumping near the boat. We went on deck and realized there was a large pod of them in the anchorage, having a wonderful time cavorting with each other in and around our boats and swimming back and forth to the rocky points at either end of the bay. They came and went during the much of the morning and we were even able to go out in the dingy with them. They swam off our dingy bow, turning sideways sometimes to look at me. They treated us to an impressive aerial show with pairs of dolphins leaping out of the water together just yards from us. It was life-affirming to be so close to them.
The mystery bird from one of my earlier posts reappeared in this anchorage. I caught them on film as they swam around during the dolphin visit. It’s a bit challenging as they don’t stay on the surface for long at all, they pop up and then quickly dive again in rapid succession. I am fairly confident that they are lesser grebes. They look delicate from a distance and curve their bodies and extend their necks as they dive, but they look much more substantial in up close photos.
Now that our dingy engine is healthy, we have more options for shore excursions. If I was a hardy soul like the guy who came in on a catamaran the second day, I would swim to shore, but the 65-degree water is still a little cool for me. Soon though!
This island has several options for walks, so we took the opportunity to stretch our legs every day. We went ashore and hiked up the ridge on the S side of the anchorage where we could look down over the whole scene. We didn’t stay long because the tide was going out and the dingy was gradually being left high and dry. If the water receded completely, we’d wind up having to wait for the rising tide to get back to the boat. This kind of thing happens all the time in the PNW, where the tidal range is quite large. It’s not as big down here, but enough to cause problems. We have routinely used an “anchor buddy” which is an elastic line that attaches to the dingy on one end and a small mushroom anchor on the other end. You throw it over when you get close to shore, plant the bow anchor on the beach, and then let out a bit of line. The anchor buddy pulls the dingy back into the water where it stays afloat in place. Unfortunately, last year we lost the mushroom anchor trying to anchor in a snorkeling spot that had way too much swell. So when we narrowly avoided having to spend hours on the beach, Larry fashioned a makeshift replacement from one of the small volcanic rocks on the beach. The anchor buddy is back in business, but Larry will need to improve the lashings for the rock.
Once we had the anchor buddy back in service, we could go off for longer hikes without concern. At first glance, it feels like the terrain is nothing but dusty brown and red rocks scattered with cacti of various shapes and sizes, all of them prickly. Once we started walking through the salt pond and sand dunes, I saw a whole range of flowers popping up as I slowed down and really looked at what was around me, rather than rushing through on a purposeful march.
The southern part of the bay is rimmed with a steep rocky ridge and a twisty path leads to the top. It extends to the southern edge but is truly scary with steep rocky drop-offs on both sides. A misplaced step from poor balance would not end well, so we skipped that part and explored the views to the northern side of the island and across the Sea.
We checked out the rocky points on either end of the bay which are supposed to be good snorkeling areas. They appear to have shallow depths of less than 12 feet, so we will likely try these out when we return later in the spring when everything has warmed up. Near shore, there was not a lot of activity in the crystal clear water. I found it notable that on one dingy landing, there was a large black boxfish near shore but no other fish, which is why he caught my eye. There aren’t any urchins or anemones, but there are clearly crabs living there, we just haven’t seen then.
Our fellow bay residents turned over, and only a sailboat remained during the day on the northern edge of the bay. We had watched their boat pitch and roll dramatically in the first morning and wondered how they were faring, and during the course of the day watched what we imagined was a drama playing out, with lots of solitary morose looking activity, and even their two dogs looked downcast. They were still there the next morning. New boats came in, including some folks on a Nordhavn 46 whom we met from a distance. It seemed to be a fairly equal mix of American, Canadian and Mexican cruisers, but only a half dozen of us, which is sparse compared to what we have heard this bay often holds.
After a couple of wonderful days, we had a look at the weather forecasts and saw that Westerly winds were expected the following day. We decided that we would move over to the anchorage on the other side of the hook the following morning so we would have protection from the waves. We had the right idea, but we were too late. At about 1:30 am we awoke to the wind and swell suddenly picking up. It went quickly to 20+ knots and stayed there all night. Winds and swell were from the SW – rolling right into the anchorage, and we were pitching like crazy. This was the dreaded situation in which the boat would be on the beach if the anchor didn’t hold. It did hold but made for a sleepless night on anchor watch for Larry, and a restless night for me too. The winds died down in the morning, but the swell remained, so we pulled up anchor right after sunrise and headed to the little fishing village of San Evaristo, which is on the mainland and has good protection from westerly swell.
We are back on the grid after a week and a half cruising from La Paz up to Puerto Escondido. Lots of posts and lots of pictures coming, but first this maintenance update for those who love the smell of diesel in the morning…
Well, the new Racor manifold has not worked as well as hoped. Underway we are seeing some small bubbles on the output side of the manifold which we are not concerned with… the engine has no problems with these and has been running smoothly. However, there are bubbles apparent in the filter bowls themselves, which indicate that air is getting into the filter housings. This air is either coming in from the input line OR it is the result of a leak somewhere within the racor fuel manifold itself.
Why is this a problem? Well, the fuel filter sits in the housing, which is filled with fuel right up to the top of the filter. There is a cover that seals the housing closed, which has a gasket and a t-bolt to tighten it down. When bubbles form in the (bottom) of the filter housing, an air pocket forms at the top. When the air pocket forms, the fuel level goes down (and no longer covers the entire filter). If too much air gets in, the fuel level might get to the bottom of the filter, and air would get into the output line to the engine. If enough air gets in the line the engine shuts down.
The bubbling seems to be minimized by running both filters simultaneously, so that’s what we are doing. I have been monitoring the bubbles as we are underway, and the I measure and top up the fuel level at each stop. We’ve had no problem on runs as long as the 40 mile, 5 hour run from La Paz to Isla San Francisco, but the fuel level has gone down in the housing each time. That’s not a big deal when we are doing short runs, but will become a real problem when we need to make multi-day passages.
Refilling the housing has become part of the departure checklist, and now that we are here in Puerto Escondido, I plan to add a section of clear tube to the fuel line going in to the Racor manifold, just like I had last year. If the fuel going in is clear and without bubbles, I will know (again) that it is the manifold. If there are bubbles in the input line, that means that there is an air leak upstream of the manifold. More to come, I’m sure…
On Saturday January 30th we moved the few miles from Marina CostaBaja to Marina La Paz. The plan was to be here for a week for what we hope is the last set of boat projects with Cross Marine Works before we get underway for some real cruising. The main project is replacing the dry stack muffler, as mentioned in a previous post. The muffler arrived here in La Paz, delivered by a freight forwarder that specializes in bringing parts across the border. The shipping cost was 35% of the overall price, which covers the 16% tax plus another 19% for shipping and handling. There was an optional additional “special shipping charge” that got added on after it arrived in Mexico that we agreed to in order to get it here in a timely fashion. Otherwise we suspect it could still be in limbo.
Another issue to be attended to is a fuel delivery problem on the Tohatsu outboard for the big dinghy/tender. In spite of adding a gasoline stabilizer, it appears that the fuel got gummed up after sitting so long in the heat. Apparently this is a common problem down here. It is likely that there is a problem in the internal filter or the injector pump itself. Not too big a deal, or so we are told. While we are looking at the dinghy, we are hoping to get some canvas repair done on the seats. Apex did a terrible job on the bench seat for this model.. the fabric is not waterproof, the foam gets soaked and the seat stays wet. The edges of the seat covering have now come loose, exposing the foam. What’s worse, the seat back, which screws into a couple of supports that allow it to fold up and down, has some rot at the screws, and they are coming out. I suspect the back is plain plywood, covered by the aforementioned non-waterproof fabric. We will have some canvas guys take a look at repair or replacement.
A last, “while we are here” issue is addressing the one piece of teak on the exterior of the boat- the cockpit cap rail. We have not done anything with it since we’ve owned the boat, and it is in desparate need of refinishing.
Day 1: Very good progress, removing the stainless steel vent grates, removing the old exhaust insulation and removing the stainless steel bolts, all of which came out pretty easily. Late in the afternoon, they cut the access panel in the back of the stack. The muffler is now ready to come out.
Day 2: The muffler is out! They took it out while we were away for a walk, and used the davit crane to lower it to the dock. The rest of the day was devoted to making an access panel out of the piece of fiberglass that was removed from the back of the stack.
We also took the opportunity, while the stack was empty, to install a new VHF antenna on the port stack wing. That was a part I sent down to replace an improperly installed antenna for the back up radio. Apparently the installers twisted the cable resulting in a dead short… that means no transmit or receive on that radio. We knew that it was not working the whole way down to Mexico, but confirmed the short when we in La Cruz last year. It’s good to have the new antenna in place and a working backup radio again.
Day 3: Time to get the new muffler installed. We used the Davit to lift the new muffler up onto the boat deck.
Day 4: We lifted the new muffler into place, put in the new gaskets and re-used the original stainless steel bolts and nuts to secure it in place. Now the focus is on fabricating a flange for the cutout and fitting the fiberglass panel back into place.
Days 5/6: Getting very close! Today they installed the insulated jacket, reinstalled the aluminum housing for the the exhaust fans, and closed everything up. The only item that remains is installing and sealing the access cutout. They got this done on Day 6 (Saturday), and did a good boat wash to clean up.
The problem with the motor was as suspected; gummed up fuel in the high pressure pump. After Rob cleaned out the pump, the motor started right up. Also, we discovered that the steering ram had frozen up… a little shot of grease took care of that. A future project to go on the list will be installing a primary fuel filter before the on-engine filters. The seat came back from Hector the canvas guy, who repaired the seat back and re-glued the fabric covering on the seat bottom. Cost was 500 pesos!
Teak Cap Rail
We had Mauricio from Rob’s team working on the only piece of exterior teak on the boat for the entire week, stripping off the old varnish, sanding it down and gradually building up many coats of fresh varnish. Unfortunately, I neglected to take any “before” pictures, but trust me, it was in bad shape. We never touched it in the four years we’ve owned the boat. It now has 4 coats of varnish, and according to Rob, could use 4 more. We might come back in April to have that done. Oh, and the flagpole is also redone and looks beautiful.
Our thanks to Rob and Kim Cross and the rest of the crew at Cross Marine Works. They did a great job – high quality work with attention to detail. Recommended if you need any work done in La Paz.
Hot Water Valve. We recieved the fittings that we ordered to properly repair the hot water line mentioned here. The rescue-taped jury rig was holding up surprisingly well, with just a little bit of leakage. The new fitting was easy to get on and the whole job was done in less than 10 minutes.
Racor Fuel Filter Manifold Revisited. You may recall that we had some issues with our fuel delivery system last year, as outlined here and we wound up getting a replacement fuel filter manifold from Racor as decribed here. Well, this week I finally removed the old manifold, installed the new one and replumbed the fuel connections to reconnect the fuel transfer filter back to the tansfer pump. Easy job, but very messy. It seems that there is no way to do that without distributing diesel fuel all over myself and the engine room. But, it is finally done.
I left just a little bit of clear tubing in the output from the manifold to the engine so I can see if there is any air in the fuel line. We will test it out when we restart the main after the muffler install, and will have a good chance to watch it while we cruise up into the Sea of Cortez.
Generator Oil and Filter change. So easy it is hardly worth mentioning. The oil change interval on the generator is 200 hours, and it was due this week. With our reverso oil change pump, it is as simple as letting the generator warm up a bit, pumping the old oil into a waste bucket, replacing the filter and refilling. We should be good for most of the season now.
The weather over the next week or so looks outstanding… sunny and warm with light winds. Our goal is to get out of La Paz on Sunday (Feb 7) and start heading North towards Puerto Escondido, where we expect to arrive in late February. We think we won’t be back to La Paz until late April as we think about heading back to the USA.
Clean up after your Perro!
Nothing to do with the project, but we loved this sign at the marina.