Bahía San Marte

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.

There we are, all by ourselves!

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.

Promising beginnings to a hike.

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.

These were my favorite shells on the beach.

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.

Tembabiche

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.

The road went through some great cacti.

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 are fairly sure this is a ray from the shape of the head.
After consulting some guides I think this is a balloonfish, not a pufferfish.

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.

You can just see the Casa Grande in the right side of the photo.

Isla San Francisco

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. 

The anchorage with the Sierra de la Giganta mountains across the way.

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! 

There are two anchorages, we were in the one on the left with the long white beach.

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.

Larry with the peak of the south ridge in the background.

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. 

For a while it was just us and the small sailboat.

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.

Sunrise against the Sierra de la Giganta Mountain range as we left in the morning.

Los Islotes

On Friday afternoon, after dealing with several issues, we were able to head out for another island weekend, hoping the predicted westerly winds would not materialize. These can make the anchorages uncomfortable as they are all open to the west.

There were 3 catamarans in Ensanada del Candelero (otherwise known as Candlestick Cove) which dictated where we were able to anchor. We are learning that they are often charters and may leave in the evenings to head back to La Paz.

We anchored next to this – Roca Monumento , which sits in the middle of the cove.
This wall was on our other side. Unfortunately we were too close for me to get a photo with the full scale of it.
A little hard to see as it was overcast in the morning, but there are two beaches bisected by a rocky prominence which forms the head of the bay.

We spent a lovely calm evening. As we sat on the back deck in the growing darkness of twilight, we were joined by the Turtles. They were quite active around the back of the boat, swimming around and raising their heads, seeming to gaze right at us. We enjoyed talking to them. Later we thought maybe they were wondering what the heck we were doing there.

We slept well in the total quiet, until being awakened at about 1 am with the feeling of being on a hobby horse rocking back and forth. Larry got up to check our location and whether our anchor had dragged. All was well on the anchor alarm, but we proceeded to be awake for much of the rest of the night in a state of drowsy wakefulness – the result of knowing the anchor is well set, the boat is rocking, and several times an hour we’re jerked awake by the knocking, thumping and crashing of waves on the hull, or the voices from a neighbor boat as they pull anchor and flee.

Over coffee, unable to download the weather forecast (a blog post on this coming soon!) but knowing the previous prediction was for at least 24 hours of westerly wind, we decided to weigh anchor.

Approaching Los Islotes.

Some sightseeing was in order, so we headed along the length of Isla Partida to these small islands about a mile offshore called Los Islotes. They host a California sea lion rookery. Once we got close, we could hear the bellowing, barking and general noisiness of the sea lions.

Most of the islands were covered with groups like this.
One of the striking examples of the pink sandstone of the area.
Face up to the weak sunlight.
We had never seen so many sea lions with this tawny golden color.

I’ve learned that California sea lions live in one of five genetically distinct populations along with west coast of the US, Canada and Mexico. There are two distinct populations on the western side in the Pacific, and 3 that divide up the Sea of Cortez into north, central and southern regions. The western groups migrate north outside of their breeding season, but the Sea of Cortez groups do not.

It is possible to swim or dive with the sea lions here and there were a few panga diving groups onsite. It would be a lot of fun, but anchoring and leaving the boat is not recommended in this area, so we didn’t even discuss it. Not to mention the water temperature is currently is in the mid-60s, so a bit cool even for us!

He posed for quite a while looking off into the distance, then leaned over as if to comment to his mate.
The vultures were right at home here too.

On our way south we stopped at tiny bay called Las Cuevitas which is reported to hold a blue-footed booby rookery. It was clearly unoccupied and had very little guano remaining, so seemed like it hasn’t been populated in some time. I later found that their mating season is in the summer, so perhaps they are only at home part of the year. One of my hopes is to see one of these birds up close and get some good photos while we are here in the Sea!

Caleta Partida

Striking rust brown sandstone hills rise steeply around the north and south sides of this ancient caldera which has subsided back into the sea.  A white sand beach protrudes from Isla Partida to form the eastern part of the circle.  A complementary rocky protrusion from Isla Espiritu Santo housing the park ranger’s cabin pairs with the slip of land from Partida to form a channel between the two islands.  To the west, the bay opens to the Sea of Cortez with a view of the mainland Baha ridges in the distance. 

Looking out toward the entrance of the bay.

I hear the laughing of gulls, and the splashes in the northern part of the bay from pelicans dive bombing into the water.  Jumping fish splash, and a turtle pops its head up from time to time, and I swear I can hear him take a breath before submerging again.  Tens of small black and white diving birds repeatedly dive in unison, sometimes making it appear that a school of rays or jumping fish are coming at us.  Black vultures with small red heads circle high up near the glowing cliffs and also scavenge on the beach. 

Cacti grow right up to the edge.

There is an unoccupied fish camp with a half dozen shacks on one side of the beach. A shrine at one end also supported the channel light.

The camp on one side of the bay.
This shrine perches on the rocks at the far end of the spit looking into the channel between the islands.

This was our setting for our first three day weekend at anchor after arriving back in La Paz.  We could not have asked for a more magical setting that embodies the reason we came to Mexico.

The days were warm and sunny, and after our first evening the winds were quite calm.  We moved in closer to the beach and the southern side of the cove after our first night.  This moved us close enough to hear a faint bleating, which really sounded like a goat to me.  Periodically through the day on Saturday I scanned the hillside with binoculars but never saw a moving life form.  During happy hour, a mewling whiny animal sound started, much more frequently.  It affected me the same way a crying baby does – I just wanted to make it stop!  It was getting dark so I couldn’t see anything, and fortunately we went into the cabin for dinner as it cools considerably after the sun sets.  I was relieved not to hear what sounded like a dying animal through the portholes while I was trying to sleep.  The next day I didn’t hear anything.  Larry didn’t think an animal could be dead on land as we would certainly see a horde of vultures circling.   

The vultures loved hanging out in this area – hard to see the bush loaded with them farther back.
The friendly marine park ranger checking us off after talking with us.

As we were finishing our morning routine, the marine park ranger pulled up in his panga to check whether we had renewed our annual park pass – Pasaporte de La Conservacion –  which helps funds protection of these islands and is required to anchor and go ashore. It sounded to me like they had a registry of boats that previously had passes and they had a record of us from last year, but they didn’t have a record that we had just renewed.   Espiritu Santo and Partida are within the Golfo de California Biosphere Reserve.  The Sea of Cortez holds a number of marine parks. 

I asked the ranger whether there were animals on shore, trying to describe what I had heard in my broken Spanish.  He said there are goats on the islands, non-native pests that need to be removed as they are eating all the vegetation.  Just like in Olympic National Park in the US.   And sure enough, at cocktail hour we saw a family of goats on shore.  And later, we saw and heard the annoying baby goat who had lagged behind as the adults walked down the shore, crying for them to wait for him.  He looked quite healthy, which explained the lack of vultures.   

Goats onshore, they actually seemed to be drinking the sea water as we watched.
The incredibly whiny baby goat, wandering in the wrong direction.

We kayaked around much of the bay, explored the beach and the unoccupied fish camp.  I loved the dramatic rocky landscape, and how I could watch through the clear water to see fish going about their business.  It felt great to get my kayaking muscles working again after so long away.  At times we were the only boat in the bay.  Occasional panga tour boats flew through the channel between the islands, and each night there were one or two catamarans anchored across the bay from us, but no one ever joined us on the beach or out kayaking. 

We didn’t see many fish, but this school of some type of boxfish or puffer fish came right up to shore.
Beachcombing found this porcupine fish dried carcass as well as one of the few items of trash.
These tracks show something about the social life of crabs and birds.
Pelicans coming over to visit during sunset.

Settling in …

We all need some distracting reading away from the news of the day, so here’s an update on stuff we are finding as we reopen the boat.

This used to be a red, green and white Mexico flag – what happens in 9 months of exposure.

We know the temperatures here were around 100 for a few months during the summer time, and the humidity was quite low. Despite the record number of hurricanes this year, none of them hit this area at hurricane strength. The boat was looked after by some local boat watchers, but we still had some interesting findings. All of our canvas and screens were intact and in place, with the exception that the dingy cover had blown off and was hanging by a bungee cord, and the cover on the spotlight looked like it got burnt!

Not sure if this scorched canvas means we got hit by lightning!
Some of our lines were allowed to remain in the water and now have quite the beard of marine growth.

I have been pleased to find that all my galley preparations have meant that we did not return to a bug infestation – one of my big fears. I had tossed anything open, sealed stuff with my vacuum sealer and cleaned out the fridge and freezer – no mold in there either! The weirdest thing I found was that the tips of my rubber gloves were all melted away into a sticky goo.

And I thought I was using all natural products! Or maybe it was the 100+ temp.

Inside, the boat was covered in a thick layer of dust which I have been working through, and along the way we discovered that tools with rechargeable batteries, like our small vacuum, are all dead.

We have been spending much of the day, after having a good breakfast and relaxed wake up with coffee, working on our extensive task list. In the afternoon we are settling into a routine of siesta after late lunch, then walking the marina to get some exercise. The temperature is just lovely at mid-70s during the day, with a good breeze that can get stiff at times. In the evenings we enjoy the sunset, a beverage, and watching the birds.

All of our good tequila is intact!

This will be our typical day for the month of January as we work through a bunch of tasks, get the muffler replaced which is scheduled for late in the month, and watch the weather.

These two had quite the conversation about the fish in the left guy’s mouth.

Back at the Boat!

After a largely sleepless night at an airport hotel near SeaTac, we got up at 4am and headed into the airport for our 7am flight to Los Cabos.

Geared up for COVID safety!

The flight was about 25% full and had more than it’s share of people who, a year into the pandemic, were playing dumb about how to wear a mask. The Alaska flight attendants were diligent and persistent in reminding them how to do it.

We arrived into sunshine and 70 degrees which was a WONDERFUL change from the chilly monsoon and gale we left behind in Washington.

Customs and immigration were no problem this time for us – breezed through and got the green light so no check of our bags!

We then picked up our rental car, and finally removed our safety gear with relief. 25 minutes later we were at Marina Puerto Los Cabos, where we stayed last year, and picked up our mountain of parts that our friends Kevin and Alison so graciously schlepped for us.

We filled the backseat with parts.

Hopefully these are parts that will ensure we never need them.

Two and half hours later after an easy drive up the toll road, passing Todos Santos, many cacti and numerous police cars, we arrived at Marina CostaBaja and Miss Miranda!

Looking beautiful in the late afternoon sun.

Larry unlocked the door and we proceeded to open windows, unload our massive amount of stuff and get our drinking water and heads operational. Now on to some dinner!

The Captain is back in his happy place!

San Juan Islands Exploration – Vendovi Island

While I see patients during the week and Larry teaches people how to drive boats and navigate for Freedom Boat Club, we are focused on getting stuff done.  On the weekends, we have time to explore our region around Anacortes and the San Juan Islands, especially when we have the good fortune to use one of the Freedom Boat Club boats, an employee benefit for Larry – and for me, since it saves me from fighting off “we need to buy another boat!”. 

Over Father’s Day weekend we were able to take a boat out and cruise, or zoom, over to Vendovi Island.  On the little Jenneau NC 895, [Editor’s note: The boat pictured below is actually a Defiance San Juan 220, also from Freedom Boat Club, but from a later weekend when we went back with Miranda]. we flew there at 25 knots and zipped into the little dock as the only other boat when we arrived. On our Nordhavn this would have taken a couple of hours at 8 knots, and we would not have been able to tie up or anchor in the tiny little harbor because of our size.   

The boat we were on for the day is the smaller one at the foot of the ramp.

Vendovi Island is part of the San Juan Preservation Trust, an organization focused on preserving land as nature preserves in the San Juan Islands.  This island was originally used by the Coast Salish peoples for many many years as a summer home.  They harvested camas bulbs from the hillside, which they maintained as fields through strategic use of controlled burns. 

In 1841, Charles Wilkes’ Navy exploring ship passed by and named the island after a captive on their ship whom they apparently had decided they liked – Fijian chief Ro Veidovi Logavatu. In a classic white man error, his name is misspelled in the island name.  You can read a bit more about the original exploration and the chief here.  Over the years in the 1800s and early 1900s the island was used for a fur farm, for sheep farming, as a homestead and even a religious compound for followers of Father Divine.  In the 1960s the Fluke family, of  Fluke Electronics, bought the island for a private retreat and held it until 2010 when they put it up for auction and the Trust bought it.

The path leading up into the woods.

Now the island has several miles of trails crossing the island from the harbor through deep woods to a high bluff overlooking the water and a panoramic view of some of the islands. There is a picnic table near the dock where you can picnic and look out over the water. There is a public restroom, but it is closed now during the pandemic for sanitation reasons.

One of the two types of slugs we saw LOTS of on the walk.
A very cool fungi.

Lots of scenic nature to explore close to home! If you are boating in the San Juans and anchored nearby, this is a great dingy spot for exercise, perhaps a bit of solitude and communing with nature.

The little houses on the pilings are for purple martins, trying to repopulate the region. The dark purple bird on the left is the male and the lighter colored on is the female.
I continue to be amazed by the ferns – huge, deep green and lush.

Hard Decisions

It is Sunday March 22. We are back in La Paz, where we intended to start exploring the Sea of Cortez. But life as we know it has shifted dramatically in the last few weeks because of COVID 19. We have had a lot of difficult discussions here on Miss Miranda as we worked to a mutual decision on what to do.

The bottom line is that we have decided the best course of action for us is to shut up the boat for the season here in La Paz on the Baha Peninsula and return home. This was our original plan, it’s just being put into action earlier than we hoped and planned. We plan to return next season to fully explore the Sea of Cortez.

We made a whirlwind trip to San Diego in the last few days prior to making this decision. Fuel system parts had been shipped to us there to replace the Racor dual filter system, and we had time sensitive bureaucratic details to address. The night we arrived, California was placed under a stay at home order. We were lucky that mail seems to be an essential service, so we were able to take care of our business while trying to stay 6 feet away from other people. We flew back to Cabo San Lucas airport on an Alaskan flight that had one passenger other than us. Flight attendants reported that flights are about half full at the moment with people returning to the US.

One of many sites we plan to return to next year.

You may be saying to yourself – “why would you go back to a hotbed of the virus?”.

Here’s why:

1. Our 20 year old college sophomore daughter is there, currently alone without any family support. I cannot imagine isolating ourselves here in Mexico for potentially months and not be able to reach her. She already went through the mess in France and we had to fly her out on a moment’s notice when Trump declared travel from Europe was closing (which had to be clarified later, after many people, including us, had panicked). Flights do continue to and from Mexico for now, and we understand that Alaska Airlines is unlikely to completely shut down flights. But, we have observed Canadians having a difficult time getting flights home and they’ve told us there are no flights in April from our region to Canada. Who knows what is going to happen.

2. Mexico is a wonderful country, currently with a low number of cases. This will change. No country is exempt from this virus. The healthcare system here will have even more challenges than we are already seeing with the US healthcare system. I am immunosuppressed because of medication I take for rheumatoid arthritis, therefore at higher risk of getting severely ill if I do get sick. I prefer to have access to the system I am familiar with, even though it is far from the best in the world.

3. I am a doctor, currently on a year sabbatical. I can’t stand by and not do anything to help.

We have talked to many boaters here, both from the US and from Canada and heard many second hand reports of more, all of whom have struggled with the same decision. My observation is that the majority are taking the government advice/demand (for Canadians) that they return home. This has been particularly hard for those who planned to take longer voyages, such as to the South Pacific. Many countries are now closed to all foreigners including boaters, and many are also not allowing boats to check out of the country if they are already there. There have been reports here of boaters not being allowed to check out of Mexico on their boat. The situation is very dynamic and difficult to predict where things will be in the coming weeks and months.

Something that makes me happy to think about seeing again.

Some are making the choice to hunker down in this beautiful place with 2-3 months of food and supplies and stay away from people. I trust they are going to have a wonderful solitary time in nature. There is no right or wrong answer, everyone has to do what fits with their situation. Only time will tell how things will turn out for all of us.

I hope you all are staying home and practicing excellent hand hygiene. If you have masks or other personal protective equipment at home, please donate them to your local hospital. I have many colleagues working without adequate masks to protect them and the US is in dire need of these supplies.

Social isolation saketini while in our hotel during whirlwind trip to San Diego to pick up parts.

We look forward to virtual happy hours and phone conversations with many of you when we return home.

Guadalajara

The morning after our spur of the moment decision to book a trip to Guadalajara we loaded a duffle bag and our backpacks and trudged through town to the bus station by the big marlin.  By the time we got there we were sweat soaked, so it was a wonderful surprise to discover the luxury of the ETN bus!  It was a double decker with very comfortable reclining seats, foot rests and personal video screens in case you wanted to watch movies in Spanish.  And it was air conditioned… almost too much.  We were dressed for the hot Barra weather in lightweight shorts and short sleeved shirt, ready for 85 plus degrees… not 68.  I got my hoody sweatshirt out of my duffel at a stop where I tipped the porter to dig it out for me.  Larry didn’t think to prepare for cooler weather, so spent some time actually feeling chilly.  The ride was about six hours over mostly toll roads, with stops in Manzanillo, Colima, and the airport before ending at the Guadalajara bus terminal.  The roads were initially lined with short banana trees with bunches of bananas waiting to ripen and tall palm trees interspersed.   As we continued we had some spectacular views of the 12,000+ foot Colima Volcano and went through an area of deep gorges where the road went across viaducts over the canyons below.  

The Colima volcano. It’s still active and periodically belches smoke.
Banana trees with bunches of bananas protected by blue bags.

Guadalajara is the second largest city in Mexico with about 1.5 million people.  It’s actually made up of three separate cities – Zapopan, Tlaquepaque and Guadalajara proper.    It has recently become a tech hub and also a city for foodies.  Lots of Mexico’s history happened here. 

After arriving we made our way by taxi to Tlaquepaque, which is an artsy district in the old town area where a century ago very wealthy Guadalajarans had country homes.  Kind of like the upper part of Manhattan was in the 1800s.  Our bed and breakfast was a charming small old building with rooms off of a small narrow courtyard.   The key to our room was the largest brass key I have ever seen – we had to leave it at the front desk as it was too big to carry, and probably irreplaceable! 

The path to our room for 3 nights.
One of the main shopping and art gallery streets near our B and B in the early morning.

On our first morning we walked most of the Tlaquepaque neighborhood, scoping out galleries and trying to get into the historical sites.  We visited the Centro Cultural El Refugio, a former free public hospital funded by wealthy citizens in the 1800s until the last century – there are still people in the neighborhood who were born there. In recent past it has gone through cycles of disrepair, but now has been partially restored and turned into a cultural center and museum.  Most of it was closed for refurbishment and repairs from a hail storm a year ago, but when we stayed to look at the small open area, the museum staff decided to give us a personal tour of some of the closed wings. 

Unfortunately, another recommended historical site, the Casa Historia, was closed indefinitely after the collapse of the ceiling.  It is clear that money for the arts and restoration can be a challenge in Mexico.

The courtyard of the old hospital turned museum. Each of the doorways was to a patient room.

In the afternoon we headed to the new Acuario Michin (Aquarium) in the center of the city.  It was very well done. Excellent exhibits with detailed signs in Spanish and English.  They also had a small set of animals in the back – some of the happiest and healthiest looking goats and sheep with lots of babies that I have ever seen, along with crocodiles and otters.  There were quite a good number of people there for a weekday, and they clearly have taken a lesson from American versions – I saw brochures advertising birthday sleepovers in the Aquarium. 

That evening we had the good fortune to meet up with some boating friends from Washington, Jim and Sandy, who happened to be in Guadalajara for a few days as well!  They are long time Mexico aficionados, so we met at a fantastic restaurant of their suggestion and had a wonderful meal and catch up. 

The Templo Expiatorio del Santísimo Sacramento. On the hour the 12 apostles come out of the clock tower and parade around.
The 12 apostles.
Gorgeous stained glass inside.

The following day we took advantage of tour company to get a whirlwind tour and education about the downtown historical sites surrounding the Plaza de la Liberacion  and Plaza de Armas and to visit the neighborhood of Tonala, where much of the furniture and crafts sold in local markets is actually made. 

Our tour guide Ronny picked us up at our hotel in the morning, and gave us the wonderful news that we were fortunate to be the only people on the group tour for the day!  This was fantastic, as he was a font of historical knowledge and we had a terrific time visiting beautiful plazas surrounded by a number of the cathedrals and historical government sites and getting an excellent history lesson on the Mexican war for independence and other skirmishes in Mexican history, many of which played out in Guadalajara.  I wish I had taken some notes as I forgot a lot of it soon after. 

Palacio de Gobierno, finished in 1774, which has played an outsized role in Mexican history. It is still an active government building.
You can see the bullet hole in the clock from fighting in 1858 against Benito Juárez (President at the time) who was holed up inside.

After lots of touring, we returned to our neighborhood for a late afternoon lunch and mariachi concert at El Patio.    Guadalajara is the home of mariachi. An excellent all female mariachi band performs at El Patio most days.  This was simply not done in Mexico until the last 10 or 20 years.  They were excellent.  Ronny said he thinks they are better than any of the male mariachi bands. 

Part of the band. The brass section was huge and spectacular. The singing roles were rotated among the group.

We ended the day with visit to several art galleries and to the Museo Regional de la Cerámica, which had some beautiful ceramic displays in a former mansion that has become quite decrepit. 

We really just touched the surface of Guadalajara.  There is so much art, food, culture and history here.   Definitely a city to return to! 

Manuel Hidalgo in 1810 abolishing slavery.
View across the Plaza. They were busy setting up for another festival.