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.