Sunday, February 28, 2016

Isla Isabel to Tenacatita February 2016

Isla Isabel
We just finished up dinner and are listening to Radio Havana on the single side band radio.  That’s frequency 5997.0 on the AM band.  There is a swell coming in from the south and it’s tossing us about a little bit so we have to keep an eye out on where we set our plates and glasses down here in the cabin.  The other night we had nine guests aboard with guitars, mandolins, a ukulele and some percussion instruments.  In the middle of a nice little jam we got tossed by a southerly roller and a whole bottle of wine crashed to the floor.  Now we have wine in the bilge. 

Blue Footed Booby
We arrived at Isla Isabel on Sunday Feb 21st after a bouncy 42 hour crossing from Los Frailes on the southeast corner of the Baja peninsula.  We left at 09:30 and motored through calm seas until mid- afternoon when the breeze picked up and we were able to sail with the genoa and full main.  This continued until midnight when I had to turn on the engine, furl the jib, and flake down the mainsail which was flopping around like crazy.  With our new sails we just hate to see them flopping against the rigging --when that happens we pull them down. 

We were sailing along with another boat named Mandolina with Rich, Thomas, and Bradley (AKA Stanley) aboard.  Rich plays Mandolin and guitar. Thomas plays guitar.  Bradley had a very long beard. In fact, all three of Mandolina’s crew sport beards.
Bradley (AKA Stanley)
Rich and Thomas had put ashore a crew member in Lapaz and wanted another.  So they went to the local hostel there in LaPaz and found a young man staying there who was motorcycling down the Baja.  They shanghaied him aboard to fill out the watch schedule.  Now Bradley (AKA Stanley) is hooked on the sailing life and his motorcycle sits lonely waiting in LaPaz.
Bradley's almost brother Thomas

We followed old Mandolina across the Sea of Cortez, rocking and rolling with a 4 foot swell at 3 seconds, very uncomfortable.  Two days and two nights found us approaching Isla Isabel, a small island 40 miles off the Mexico coast, 216 miles from the Baja cape.

We came in just after dawn and found anchorage on the east side next to the two Mona’s, fantastic rock pinnacles jutting up out of the sea.  Big breakfast…. then we crashed, down and down into deep sleep being pretty deprived after 46 hours in bouncy seas.
Lumpy seas don't look so lumpy here but believe me, they are sleep killers

The next day we got a call from Mandolna saying that the big Morgan was pulling up her anchor and there would be room for us in the southern anchorage.  The trouble was, our anchor chain was wrapped around a big rock.  The water was so very clear we could see the chain and the rock so we were able to maneuver Traveler this way and that to free the chain and get the Bruce anchor aboard.  Once over at the southern anchorage Thomas was in the water with his snorkel and fins and he swam us to our anchor spot, finding a little sand patch where the anchor would set.  Valet parking!  Connie dropped the anchor, Thomas checked it, and I backed down on ground tackle, engine in reverse.  Thomas popped back up saying, “She’s dug in!” 
Rich, Scott, Connie with frigate birds

Later that afternoon there was talk on the radio between the various boats about the need to get together to play some music as there happened to be four musicians anchored around the island.  Being the party boat, we invited everyone over.  With the table down we can sit seven or eight people down below.  It was a fun evening.

Isla Isabel is a wonderful and strange place.  It is far enough from the mainland to not get much boat traffic.  Cruisers use it as a halfway stop between Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta.  It’s a protected island and a nesting ground for frigates and boobys.  Frigates normally don’t land. They just soar.  This place is unique in that has a fresh water source for the birds and there are no predators.  So the frigates will land, make nests, and hatch their young.  The short trees on the island are full of nesting birds, often a half dozen per tree.  Up the ridge from the bay the blue footed boobies nest, many of them nesting right on the ground. On the hike around the island you have to watch your step so as to not tread on a sitting boobie.  Iguanas roam the warm rocks and crabs swarm the tidal areas.  It is an amazing place, the Galapagos of the Mexico coast.
Water Ballet

There are two anchorages, both only suitable in moderate weather.  The southern anchorage is a small bay with reefs on both entrance sides.  This is where the dingy landing beach is and also the access for the research pangas from the mainland.  With a swell running it can get quite turbulent as the water surges over the blocky reefs.  We found that three boats can fit in here with 100 feet of rode in 30 feet of water depth.  On the east side of the island the two Monas protect another anchorage where three or four boats can find a sandy patch to set the anchor into.  The east anchorage is more exposed to the north wind but has more room to maneuver and a quick exit route if the weather turns; quick, that is, unless your anchor is fouled.
Booby mom and chick

With walking trails around the island, plenty of close-up wild life viewing, snorkeling, fishing and whale watching, this place is a wonderland.  So if you ever happen to pass this way and the seas are fairly calm, come visit Isla Isabel.  Just watch out for the wine bottle.

After leaving Isla Isabel, we crossed to the mainland 55 miles to the southeast to another beautiful anchorage, Chacala. Being out of fruit, milk, eggs, tortillas, bread, and beer it was time to provision.  There are couple of small tiendas in Chacala for the groceries and a cooperative fisherman’s shop where we bought some fresh barracuda.

Moonrise Isla Isabel
Another day’s run brought us to Punta de Mita on the northwest corner of Bandaras Bay.  Then the next morning we headed south around Cabo Corrientes into rough water again.  We motored then sailed into the night until our speed fell to 2.5 knots.  We motored again and arrived in Tenacatita by noon the following day.  Lots of motoring  lately, 100 hours of it since we left Guaymas 17 days ago.
Ava and Brevin, our dolphin friends

Tenacatita is about as far south as we’ll get this season.  Barra de Navidad is just around the corner, another of our favorite places.  Anyone wanting to come down and visit should contact us via email. You would fly into Manzanillo airport then taxi over to Barra where we'd pick you up in town. No kidding.  It's as simple as that.  Of course, the flight's gonna cost you an arm and a leg.  Oh wait.  Radio Havana is playing a Cumbia.  Connie, let's dance!