Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Punching North

Sunset Inn, Alamo Nevada, The "Out of This World" suite

Thursday March 10 we left the La Paz anchorage and headed north 43 NM to Isla San Francisco, a long day motoring then sailing then motoring.  We anchored in the northwest portion of the bay where we'd be sheltered by the wind.  It was a good spot to sit out the next three days of heavy north wind expected.  We looked forward to having a few quiet days at anchor.

Soon after we got settled in, three more boats entered the bay and and set anchor.  One was the 124 foot wooden sailing vessel Mezcal. Another was a modern design at about 80 feet, and the third was a 43 foot catamaran.   All three were escorted by an inflatable.   As soon as they anchored the music started blasting.  For two days, every afternoon and into the late night, loud music blasted from one of the yachts.  We could see the big speakers on the top of the boats and young people could be seen dancing to rave music.  It was so loud that nobody anchored in the bay could sleep until the music was finally shut off in the middle of the night.  It was a tense anchorage with about 20 normal sized cruising boats waiting out the strong northerlies.  We couldn't go anywhere because of the wind but we could not sleep because of the music.  Who are these people who spend all this money to charter these vessels and stay up half the night?  Is it the cartel?  Is it just rich people?  We had lots of words to describe them.

Three days later, we watched them motor away south.  By that time the wind was laying down a bit so we brought up our anchor and headed north to Bahia Agua Verde, mostly motoring the fifty miles.   The next day we ran up to Puerto Escondido, about a 22 mile journey.  We took a mooring ball there in the secure harbor and went ashore for pizza and a good internet connection.  The next afternoon we motored into big waves to Isla Coronados.  Even though the wind was light, the afternoon brought big rollers from the north. We set our anchor and prepared for a long crossing the next day.

For Wednesday the 16th there was light wind predicted all across the Sea of Cortez.  We left
at 6 AM and turned on the In Reach transmitter, thinking that our friends would know our progress through the day.  Later we found out that it was not transmitting our location.  It appears that I've got some things to figure out about that system.  

The day was calm and we cranked up the engine to make better than 6 knots the entire trip.  Seventeen hours later we made our way in the dark to the anchorage in San Carlos.   The noise of the engine drove us crazy, and after hand steering the entire trip, ( no auto pilot), we were pretty tired when we got in. Just offshore of land, the shrimp trawler fleet was going back and forth making it a bit stressful trying to stay out of their way and to see them against the backdrop of the town lights.  The GPS way points and harbor entrance buoys were spot on correct allowing us to creep in in the darkness and find a spot to drop anchor in Bahia San Carlos.  We were so tired that the next day we tried to take it easy and didn't do any boat chores.  Our friends Scott and Karen from Seattle were traveling south on a camping adventure so we had them aboard at the anchorage  then went for a boisterous sail in the outer bay.  Noreen and Myron who had flown in a week earlier from La Paz passed us as they also set out to test their auto pilot.  

With a sigh of relief we arrive safely back to San Carlos

After checking with the marina we found that either we haul out the very next day or we wait five more days for an opening.  The long weekend was a holiday for the locals... something to do with Jesus and partying because soon they'd be fasting.   We chose the earlier haul out schedule.  The next morning we motored into the ways and the big rig hauled her out of the water, ready or not!  


The tide was not quite high enough to get the big trailer under the boat so as the tractor inched further into the water, First Mate Connie pulled her forward with the bow line.  After a lot of pushing and pulling we finally got her out of the water.

The yard was full so they put us in the back part of the yard, sometimes called the boneyard because of the old beat up hulks that have been abandoned.  Right next to us were two commercial boats, both getting fiberglass work done.  The grinders and sanders created a thick fiberglass dust that wafted down wind to our boat, covering us with a toxic grit. The new fiberglass resin smell blew down on us with its sweet choking smell.   

Scott and Karen in their VW camper Olive.

We thought that over the holiday weekend the workers would take time off but we were wrong. I guess this particular work crew were more focused to finishing the job than in joining the party in town.  The entire next four days while we prepped our boat for storage, the grit flew upon us and the fresh resin smell invaded our space.  We moved our quarters to the Scamp out in the parking lot to escape the grit and stink during the evenings but during the day, we had to tough it out.  Scott and Karen stuck around and to their credit, they helped us get through the nasty work, pulling things off the boat and prepping her for storage.  Connie sewed a huge cover to shield the teak decks from the summer sun. 


The rudder has water infiltration issues.

We hired Francisco and Domingo, a father/son team, to remove the rudder.  They will have it at their shop for the summer to open up, dry it out, reinforce and re-glass it .  The re-installation will be  next fall.  Water in the rudder causes corrosion on the stainless steel rudder shaft.  The rudder bearing was also worn and will be replaced.

Didn't Connie do a good job sewing up the sun cover?
Tuesday afternoon, with a sigh of relief, we watched our new old boat being hauled into the storage yard.  Looking back, Nepenthe had been a cantankerous old soul trying to get her ready for the water.  More than three months of labor almost made us throw in the towel a few times.  Our three months of work netted us a fairly nice 21 day run down the Sea of Cortez with nine beautiful anchorages.  That was our reward.  Time spent in La Paz was full of work, with a bit of fun mixed in.  Then the "pedal to the metal" twelve day motor fest north followed by four days in the nasty yard was a bit of life I'd rather just forget. Was it all worth it, you ask?  Would you have done it differently if you could do it again?  Yes to both questions. 

Connie and I turned our efforts to getting the little Scamp trailer ready for a road trip through Sonora Mexico. On Wednesday we said goodbye to San Carlos and drove north, making it through the border crossing without getting busted for illegal liquor aboard.  We did get busted for three potatoes and an apple and got our entire rig x-rayed for illegal aliens.  We camped nearby at the White Rock campground near Pena Blanca Lake where we recorded a chill 25 degrees F the next morning.  

Because Scott and Karen were having some symptoms ( fever, etc..) we could not stay with Connie's sister in Phoenix because there was a chance we'd been exposed to a virus so we had a brief talk, all masked, across their front "lawn" in Phoenix before heading west out a crazy crowded freeway to the AZ / CA border.  Driving that traffic was such a culture shock after spending about six months in Mexico. 

Scenic camping in western Arizona

The Bouse Community Park Campground near the California border gave us a $10 spot for the night and the next day we started the long, dry, journey through Nevada.  We experienced the Sunset View Inn in Alamo NV the next night staying in the "Out of This World" room. Ely then Eureka led to free camping at Hickson Petroglyphs near Austin NV. With it being so early in the season, most of the Federal, state and county campgrounds are closed.  We stayed in the parking lot of the Diamond Mountain Casino in Susanville CA with free internet for a night and found the Josephine County Park near Grant's Pass Oregon for our last night on the road.  

Not quite April, we pulled into our driveway at home, plugged the scamp into power in the shop and popped the cork on a good bottle of wine we'd been carting around for all too long. 

It's been a challenging yet rewarding time as we've taken on way too much, somehow dealt with it all, and have returned home to Olympia.  We now have a second boat that seems to be working quite well, and should be ready for us to return to next October for a little bit of work then a nice long run south down the Golfo de California and hopefully the Pacific coast.  Waiting for us here is a new-to-us, beat up rental property that needs work before we can turn it into a profitable venture.  


Don't mess with Connie's walls.

Somehow, though, the fixing up of the beat up house does not seem as daunting as fixing up the beat up old boat.  When fixing up the boat, we're concerned with doing what's necessary to keep us from sinking, running aground, getting stranded, maybe dying in the process.  The house... well, it's not life or death by any means.  We'll be camping out inside the place while we fix it up.  In the meantime, our Olympia boat, Traveler was hauled out today for a new transmission, and drive train work, plus bottom cleaning and new paint.  

People have already started calling us about spring and summer charters so the calendar is getting entries and we're looking forward to some time on the water in Budd Inlet.  I'm turning 69 in August.  Gosh, do you think we should start thinking about slowing down a little bit? 

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Turn Around Time

The tide comes in, the tide goes out.  The La Paz anchorage is a half mile wide, three mile long, entrance to a much bigger lagoon.  Four feet of tide running in and out creates a two knot current running east or west, depending on if it is ebbing or flooding.   Add to this, a north wind and you've got an interesting anchoring situation where your boat will be facing into the wind but is also all the way forward on the anchor rode.  Wind across current makes an ever present chop.  

It's wise to bring up your anchor and reset every few days as the La Paz Waltz twists the anchor and rode around and around.  The rich oxygenated water helps the green slime build up fast on the rode so it is also beneficial to let out 30 feet for a few days, then bring it back in to let the sandy bottom clean the ground tackle.  It seems like a lot of boats have been here for a while given the shape of their sails, the growth on the hulls, and the white bird poop on the decks.  Sometimes those boats break loose and start to waltz around the anchorage, especially during a good northern blow. It's not the most peaceful anchorage you can imagine.

With our starter battery bank low, we needed to come into Marina de La Paz to get a good shoreside charge, and to top off the water tanks, provision, and get the part for the water pump ordered or machined.  I called into the marina and the front desk staff assured me they had no availability for the next week.  So I pulled the batteries out and took them ashore in the dinghy to get the local electric guy, Victor, to see if they could be resurrected.  After some shopping our friends told us that Neil, the marina manager, was trying to hail me on VHF 16.   I stopped in to see him and, sure enough, he had a slip for me.  

Nepenthe and White Raven, both crews are from Olympia WA

The boat's at anchor with no way to start the engine and no way to raise anchor with the windlass. But now there is a slip in the marina waiting.  What to do?  I went to a friend (who I just met) and asked if I could borrow his batteries... his only batteries.  Soon I was splashing my way out to Nepenthe with two big six volt batteries aboard.  We got them hooked up, started the engine, used the windlass and brought the boat into the dock,  where we removed the batteries, and put them back on my buddy's boat.  Thank you Cliff and Iris.

20 recreational pangas tie up at the marina
We spent four days in the marina and got our alternator and batteries sorted out.  I convinced Klassen Diesel in Vancouver BC to make me a new part for the raw water pump and they sent it off via international FedEx to Deko Importers in San Diego who sent it on to La Paz.  While waiting on shipping, we said goodbye to Noreen and Myron who caught their flight back to San Carlos and we washed the boat, inside and out.  Then we provisioned ( lots of wine ) and went back out to the anchorage and dropped the hook.  

Some of the days were so windy that we had to stay on the boat.  The dinghy ride to the dock would be a wet one. When the wind is up, the port is closed and all the dive, snorkel, and kayak pangas have to stay at the dock.  Occasionally a boat will come into the harbor during a wind event because "any port in a storm" is the rule.  But nobody exits during a closure.  Two sailboats limped into the anchorage after having a rough go of it in the 30 knot winds, 8 foot waves out beyond the harbor.  On had broken steering gear and engine trouble. Another had a broken prop shaft.  You really have to watch out for those strong northers and get into a hidey hole before you get stuck in big seas.

We found some shade fabric in town and started sewing a big awning cover to use in the summer when we put Nepenthe on the hard.  Connie played a little bit of music at the Club CucCruceros patio and also was the first act at Capuchino's open mic night.  

When our engine part was due to arrive,  I again went into the office to see if we could get a slip, and again, I was told by the front desk staff that there was no room.  Later, I talked to Neil and he arranged us a spot.  Funny how things work here sometimes. 

Part in hand, I compared it to the old part and behold.... they were not the same.  The new part was missing a feature that enabled it to straddle a big nut on the pulley wheel.   Dang!  Foiled again.

The service manager at Klassen Diesel suggested I take it to a local machine shop so I took it to Malcolm at Custom Fabrication and Machine and he put his machinist on the job.   

Old Part, New Part.  Note the difference.

Pulley nut sticks out a bit.

After the machine shop's magic.

Today I got the part back from the shop and Connie and I installed it without a hitch.  We tested it and all looks good.  Then we decided to treat ourselves to BBQ ribs in town.  Walking through the Restaurant / Banking / Shopping district we were blown away by how far La Paz had come in the eight years since we've been here.   Music on every corner.  Clean streets and sidewalks.  So many restaurants.  Art everywhere.  The Malecon was full of people roller skating, jogging, walking, biking.  Ice creme shops everywhere.  Clearly La Paz is a very cosmopolitan place these days.  

Tomorrow we have one more day of calm winds then three days of over 20 knot winds, followed by three days of calm wind.  Our plan is to run as far north as we can tomorrow, possibly to Isla San Francisco, lay low for three days, then run north again, hopefully getting into San Carlos by the 16th or 17th.

If it holds, this could be our crossing weather next week.


  And so we say goodbye to La Paz.  We stayed a bit too long but it's a wonderful city to be stuck in.

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Approach to LaPaz

After two days as Isla San Francisco we checked the weather again using the SPOT device and found that soon the wind would drop.  That third morning we were the second boat to leave the anchorage, departing at about 08:30.   Once we got out of the wind shadow of the island the swell hit us from the north and stayed just off our beam quarter for the rest of the trip, making it a joyful and painful ride all the way down to Isla Pardida.  Without wind, we motored.  Later, when Connie took the wheel, we got some wind and so shut off the engine and enjoyed a slower but more pleasant ride.

As we closed with Pardida we were also closing with a big freighter.  Taking bearings to the vessel, those bearings did not change. We were on a collision course.  And yet, we were very close to the island. Surely that big ship would not cut it that close. We were wrong.  Noreen was at the wheel and I could tell by the look on her face that she really wanted to turn away,  so turn we did and ran a parallel course to the ship before getting back on our course by crossing the stern of the ship.  Yes it was a collision course. Yes we were the stand on vessel.  No, the ship was not budging on its intended course.  That’s the first odd thing we encountered as we approached Isla Partida.

Next, we started to close in our on our intended landfall.  I had put in waypoints and read all the pertinent information on a little anchorage named El Cardonicito, but earlier we had talked about going to a different little bay called Las Cuevitas, and that’s what Noreen put into her chart plotter.  As we approached Las Cuevitas, I got confused because of the different location just when Connie started to turn upwind to furl in the jib.  We got the jib in then somehow a white cushion went overboard and suddenly we were in a cushion overboard drill while just a few hundred yards from a tight anchorage I knew nothing about. That’s the second odd thing we encountered as we approached Isla Partida.  

At the wheel, It took me four tries to get close enough to the cushion for us to touch it.  Connie took a brave dive over the lifeline with the net and just then, the lifeline gave away.  She plunged to the deck hitting her knee on the bulwark, dropped the net into the water, and almost fell overboard.   Noreen and Myron were able to coax the cushion aboard and Connie went below to get some ice for her knee.  That’s the third odd thing we encountered as we approached Isla Partida.


I looked at that little anchorage and said, “Well this place is bad luck.  We’re going to El Cardonicito.”  Rounding the corner, we ghosted into the anchorage, having the place all to ourselves.  Towering rock walls on either side, clear blue water, white sandy bottom, and a little sandy beach at the head of the narrow bay.  We fussed the anchor and chain into a good holding, shut off the engine, and took a sigh of relief.

A rough, bouncy crossing, a ship trying to run us over, a cushion overboard drill, and Connie almost head first into the water, was all enough to require us to get out the Captain Morgan rum to give Neptune the first sip and then to share the bottle along with tostados and guacamole in the cockpit.  Oh the sailing life!

Calm, beautiful night at anchor.  Lovely morning.  When I tried to start the engine, the starter batteries were dead.  How can that be?  We’ve got three ways to keep the starter batteries charged.  There is a dedicated solar panel and controller for those batteries.  There is also an alternator which is supposed to charge the batteries while we are motoring.  There is also a thing called an ACR (automatic charge relay) that senses when one bank of batteries is low and then pulls power from the other bank. 

How could all three methods fail, you might ask?  

I found all this out after a few hours of head scratching and cursing. 

1.  There was a bad connection in a crimped wire connection (That I put in myself) to bring power from the solar panel.  Solar charging… nada.

2.  Evidently the alternator was not working at all, and maybe had not been working for a long time.  Later we found out that the regulator was faulty.

3.  A nut on a wire post on the ACR had vibrated loose and that connection was intermittent, causing a little fuse to blow and halting any power sharing between the house bank and the starter bank. 


After hot wiring the big solar array to the starter battery bank, we got enough power to get the engine started and the anchor aboard.  Then around the corner we went for a short anchor and all went ashore to explore the area between Isla Partida and Espirto Santos where the fishermen have their outposts and the sand spit crosses between the two islands.  Big rocks, whale bones, a shrine to a deceased fisherman, shallow blue water.  

Later, after giving the starter batteries a little more time to charge. ….Around the corner we passed Whale Island and dropped the anchor in Ensenada de la Raza.  Later that night, strong winds erupted followed soon by big waves from the west.  We were up much of the night with the boat bucking at anchor and everyone worried that we’d go adrift on a lee shore.  The anchor held and by morning, sleep deprived and irritable, we launched off into the swell and waves and wind, hauling up the main sail with two reefs in place.  Then we rolled out the jib and Connie took the wheel and off we roared to the south, bucking and heaving.  Later as we approached LaPaz the wind and waves eased, we let out more sail, and made our way into the harbor of LaPaz where we dropped the anchor just outside the Malecon (The waterfront walkway).  

Hey, we made it to LaPaz!, twenty one days out of San Carlos.  We were pretty much out of fresh food and beer and the only wine we had left was a few bottles of the “special” stuff we bought in Arizona that Scott is not allowed to drink without Connie getting her share.  Noreen and Myron had already booked their flights out of LaPaz, back to San Carlos so they were busy up there in the vee berth packing up their stuff.  We went ashore and had a celebratory dinner at Rancho Viejo, the same place we had our celebratory dinner back in 2010.   That evening the LaPaz “waltz” began as the swift current pulled all the 50 odd boats first to the west then later to the east with the wind staying constant from the north which results in boats going all which ways and round and round, twisting up anchor chains and occasionally bumping a few boats together in the night. 

Unusually high winds were predicted for the next few days.  How will Nepenthe deal with that?  Will her starter battery bank ever get fully charged?  What about the bad alternator? And how about that jury rigged raw water pump?  Will Myron and Noreen get to their flight ok? And more important, will Scott be able to get ashore to replenish the wine supply?  

Nepenthe in the slip at Marina de La Paz

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Los Gatos to Isla San Francisco

As we headed south, each day was warmer than the next. Not only were we moving through winter and approaching spring but the latitude was decreasing every day.  Oh so nice to take off the socks.  On the morning of the 13th we rounded the corner out of Candelaros Chico and deployed for the first time our lightweight geniker sail, pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to hoist with its nylon sock.  Way to go, Nepenthe, give us something that actually works for once. 

Two hours later we doused the sail and motored toward shore near Isla San Cosme, anchoring in 25 feet on a sandy bottom and considerable swell coming down from the north.  Then all four of us piled into the dinghy and motored to shore to find a hot springs that Connie and I had visited eight years ago. 

How nice to be in bathing suits lying in a warm pool in the sun!

Three hours later we arrived in Agua Verde getting into a little race with another boat as they tried to beat us into the anchorage. Why does this always happen? Nepenthe won and claimed her spot.  Dropping the dinghy into the water, I paddled around and found some fishermen in a panga cutting up a Mahi Mahi.  When I asked if they had any more, one of the men showed me their fish well chock full of fish.  I motioned them to come visit our boat and soon thereafter we had two big slabs of meat aboard and the bony skeleton as well for Connie to make ceviche out of. 

Bahia Agua Verde faces north and gets the full impact of the swell.  We found that out the next day when we took the dinghy into town and had to execute a surf landing.  I tried to find a place where the surf was less challenging but the whole beach seemed like a mass of crashing foam.  Motoring back and forth just out of reach of the breaking waves, we looked behind us watching the size of the swells and finally after one big one, chose to begin the surf towards the beach.  As we got into shallow water, suddenly a big coamer crept up behind us, and slapped the flat stern of the dinghy, drenching the captain.  We rolled the boat ashore on its new dinghy wheels and set off to explore the village.

Two small tiendas in town provided us with fresh vegetables and fruit plus a chicken for the freezer.   Connie and I then braved the surf and ferried our purchases back out to Nepenthe as Myron and Noreen stayed ashore at Brisa Del Mar, a small thatched roof restaurant with WiFi.  Soon they were head down, noses into the cell phone, lost to Mexico and back in the information world, along with the other customers who were all doing the same.  Funny how when you are in cold wet Washington all you dream about is being at a sunny palapa restaurant with a cold beer in your hand, gazing out upon a white sandy beach without a care in the world.  That’s the challenge… letting go.

Coming back to the beach, the landing was straightforward, the food at Brisa Del Mar was good and everyone caught up on their email and WiFi needs.  By mid afternoon large breakers were crashing ashore on the flat beach as we rolled the dinghy into the surf.  Connie and Noreen got in and sat at the bow while Myron and I pushed from behind.  As waves hit the bow, the women were soaked as they both paddled furiously to get us off the shore.  “Get in.  Get in!” Myron jumped aboard, I did the same and put down the electric motor and punched it full throttle.  Just then a monster wave crashed into us, the bow rose up to meet the wave and in a waterfall of liquid we launched over the top and fell into the trough, then powered on out into deeper water where we shivered our way back to Nepenthe to find some dry clothes. 

Our boat was finally looking like a true Mexico cruising vessel.  The lifelines were full of salty, wet clothes and towels.  There was sand on the deck and cockpit and the gunnels smelled of fish.

The next day we sailed most of the way to Puerto Los Gatos then anchored and went ashore for an amazing time hiking around the red rock formations.   


Massive rocks at Los Gatos look like big fish laid out on the beach.

The next morning we prepped the boat and sailed her off the anchor in light winds that became strong westerlies soon thereafter, making it necessary to reduce sail.  To do so, we first turned downwind to blanket the jib with the main and were able to get it rolled up about halfway.  Then, back on a close reach, with the jib driving us to windward, we loosened the main sheet, tightened the topping lift, and let the main flog a bit as we tucked two reefs in the main, all without turning on the engine.  That went well.  Later, we rolled up the jib a little bit more as the winds built to 15 to 18 knots.  This was the most wind we’ve had Nepenthe in and she sailed well with a couple of scraps of sail.  Later, the wind moderated a bit and we were able to put more canvas up, arriving in San Evaristo at three PM after a successful 6 hour sail and 26 nautical miles.

Anchor down, dinghy in the water, electric motor mounted.  Noreen and Myron took the dinghy to shore to visit the tienda and a little restaurant.  By the time they returned it was dark and the wind was howling from the West, coming overland from the Pacific Ocean.  We sailed off the anchor again the next morning and entered the San Jose Canal between Isla San Jose and the Baja.  This area funnels the wind and waves from the north and can kick up quite a mess down around San Evaristo.  Soon we were bouncing up and down with a jib out halfway and no main but still maintaining over four knots speed.  Because of the sea state, we headed toward the sheltered anchorage of Isla San Francisco.  Connie took the wheel and in true Connie form, opted to run out the full genoa and soon we were galloping down the sea, pots and pans crashing below and everything in the cabinets tossing themselves back and forth. 

I left the crew to run the boat and laid down to read, every once in a while having to steady myself to keep from getting tossed onto the floor.  Sooner than we thought, we rounded the corner into the beautiful crescent bay on the south side of Isla San Francisco.   After dropping the hook in the northwest corner, we were shouted at by a loudspeaker on a big white catamaran, “ You are over our anchor.  I’ve got 200 feet of chain out.”   First of all, I thought we were more than 200 feet from that boat.  Second of all, why did he have 200 feet of chain out in 15 feet of water?  Oh well.  We brought the anchor up and moved closer to the beach before resetting.  


With lots of wind but no swell and little wave action, the anchorage was perfect for us to use to shelter in for the next few days as we waited out another period of strong north winds.  I clocked 20 knots of wind that afternoon while reading in the cockpit.  The National Geographic ship “Explorer” was in the bay and we watched her crew ferrying guests to and from the beach all day.  Everyone on our boat got to hike around to our heart’s content and, all in all, it was a very good two days.  

Salt Ponds

Friday, February 25, 2022

The Curse of Danzante Reef / Carnage at Caleta Candeleros Chico



San Juanico, what an amazing anchorage.   Two large monoliths of rock dominate the northern anchorage.  The eastern one is a succession of spires.  The western is a huge square block tilting a bit to the side, its top dotted with tall single cacti.  We call it the birthday cake because it looks like you pulled it out of the oven and one side fell a bit and stuck candles in it anyway...  Between these two monoliths is the sweet spot of the anchorage.  On shore are sandy beaches.  A catamaran can anchor in the shallow head of the bay near the beach.  Then between the monoliths is room for another boat or two in 20 feet of water and further out one or two more in 25 to 30.  Around the other side there is room for a half dozen more. 

The north anchorage at San Juanico is protected from waves and swell when the northerly wind is blowing down the Baja.  When the wind “out there” is blowing at 20 to 25 knots, the wind in the bay can be blowing at 15 to 20 knots as it runs across a low spot in the land.  In this part of the sea there is a hundred miles of fetch for the wind and waves to build as they head south.  Further down the coast, where there are more islands to break up the northerly wind and waves, the sea is calmer and the winds concentrate in the center of the sea and are lighter on the sides of the sea. 

We hope as we travel south and stay close to shore we will find relief from the strong northerlies.  In the meantime, we take care to move about in the morning when the wind is lighter and to make sure we have a solid set on the anchor with plenty of scope on the rode to keep our anchor from pulling free during the night.

Being the last boat to arrive, we were the ones furthest from the beach, anchored in about 25 feet on a sand bottom.  In the late afternoon, when driving the dinghy from the beach to the boat, the wind was up but the waves were tiny building to medium then building to about a foot when we finally reached the boat.  One minute all is calm then as we approach the boat, and turn upwind toward the boarding ladder, the waves start crashing over the bow of the dinghy and we get soaked trying to get aboard.  We quickly get the motor off the dinghy and haul the little boat aboard and the wind howls around us. 

Nepenthe yaws first to the starboard, showing her port side to the wind.  She comes up short on the anchor chain, heels over a bit, then shakes it off and points into the wind again only to fall off to port, showing her port side to the wind to come up short again.  In high winds, this goes on and on until the sun sets and the wind calms down. 

This area of the Sea of Cortez is constantly battered by the north wind in winter.  After looking at various wind models we decided that as soon as the winds moderate, we’d head south.  Meanwhile we were able to get to shore to do a couple of hikes, one north to the next bay and another inland to a little homestead with mules, goats, chickens, peacocks, and a turkey.  The family has some greenhouses out back and sells produce to people camping on the beach and boaters anchored in the Bahia.  



We decided to take the next calm(ish) morning and run south to Isla Coronados, 20 NM.  We were concerned that the engine was not starting easily and thought we had a fuel problem and sure enough, that morning we had to crank the engine for quite a while before it caught and ran.  Motoring out of the bay we soon ran into large swells coming down from the north but not much wind.  The strong winds that blew most of last week left the sea state quite confused.  With the boat tossing about, the headsail would not stay full so we ran under bare poles with the engine pushing us at about five knots.  At the western anchorage of Isla Coronados we saw the sailboat Krishelle at anchor and it seemed she was bucking about in the swell, so we proceeded through the channel around to the south side of the island and anchored a few hundred yards off the shore in about 25 feet of water with 150 feet of chain out.  

As the wind built, we took the dinghy ashore, pulled her up on the sandy beach, and started hiking towards the volcano.  After an hour and a half or so we had attained the ridge of a rocky spine within sight of the summit approach, the wind was howling.  We were leaning into it to keep our balance. Wow, these northers are strong.  I’m glad we anchored in the lee of the island.

Volcano doesn't look very high in this shot but it certainly is a long slog.


The fun factor falling quickly, Connie and I decided to backtrack.  Noreen and Myron pushed forward.  Back at the landing we found other cruisers in their dinghies and had some good conversations, nice to talk to people with much in common.   Later, Noreen showed up and soon after that, Myron arrived.  He’d made it to the top. She’d made it to the final scree slope.  Connie and I had made it to the top many years ago and had been there and done that.  I remember it was a long hot slog on that spring day back in 2013.

The next day the norther blew incessantly all day long so we stayed put. We had a good cell signal from Loreto so we downloaded the manual for the engine and read it thoroughly.  It mentioned that the pre heater (glow plugs) should be used in cool and cold temperatures.  I turned the ignition to the left to activate the heater and counted to five before trying to start it and, vualah! the engine cranked right up.  Back in San Carlos, when I asked Omar about using the preheater he said it was not necessary.  The manual said otherwise.  Could it be that we were not having fuel problems and that we merely needed more heat for the compression to ignite the fuel?


'That next morning was calm so we decided to hightail it south to Puerto Escondido.  With the preheat, the engine fired right up and off we went south down the wide channel between Loreto and Isla Carmen.  We tried flying the jib but again, the sea state would not cooperate and there was absolutely no wind.  The motor pushed us south at 6 knots.  Later the wind came up a little…. Right on the nose of course, from the south.  About four hours later we rounded the corner into Puerto Escondido, a natural harbor with a world class marina and four huge power yachts tied up at the big outer dock.  We found a yellow mooring ball, hooked it, and took the dinghy into the dock to pay the bill.  A dollar a foot for a mooring ball seemed a bit steep but hey, we’d been on the water now for a week without spending any money so why not?

On a mooring ball in Puerto Escondido















We were last here in May of 2014 on Traveler without a working engine.  Back then, Puerto Escondido was a sad and strange place with crumbling infrastructure and not much of a future.  See our blog entry from 8 years ago here….


But now… the upscale marina complex, now privately owned, has a small grocery store where we found fresh veggies and ordered a flat of eggs for the next day.  The rooftop café has good pizza and nice wine so we spent our pesos with the crème of society and felt pretty swell. 


The Tabor Canyon, (Steinbeck), a 3km walk from the marina was a nice diversion; an arroyo with large rocks that become boulders and eventually sheer walls requiring a short rope climb up to where the water would fall during summer monsoons into refreshing blue pools. Still, the shallow puddles remaining provide some water for an occasional dragonfly, and under the rocks you could hear the trickling sound of a once and soon to be again raging river. After walking the donkey tracks along the side of highway 12 back to the marina we had hot showers! Making use of the internet, Noreen and Myron found airline tickets to take them from LaPaz back to San Carlos at the end of the month.  On the morning of the 10th, we called ahead to the fuel dock to see if it was clear for us to come in.  Then we prepped the boat, let loose of the mooring ball, and powered in to take on diesel fuel and fresh potable water.  

The fuel attendant told us about the super yachts tied on the outer dock, the insane amount of fuel they take on, requiring the marina to bring in extra tanker trucks. The crew works for two weeks getting the yachts ready for the owner who may or may not show up soon.  The super yacht dock is specially built with power and fuel lines to service the massive ships.  Moonstone was one of the big yachts and it had a support vessel, Shadow, of almost the same size that was filled with jet skis, and smaller power vessels on deck with a massive crane to move them into the water.   The 20 person crew was working tirelessly getting the two ships ready for departure.  On the way out of the harbor we yelled over to one of the crew, “You should come with us.”  He replied, “I wish I could, “and turned back to his work scrubbing the deck and shining the chrome.

Dead flat water found us heading south again towards Caleta Candeleros Chico, a small cove only 10 NM south of Puerto Escondido. We passed by the larger Bahia Candeleros where back in 2014 we had to sail in after losing our engine navigating through Danzante Reef.  Back then, our rebuilt Perkins 4108 started making clunking noises as we approached the break in the reef;  these things happen at the most inopportune moments it seems.  The crankshaft was coming apart and that was the end of that engine...  That experience has left a scar on my psyche and now I fear this particular area of the Baja, thinking it will bring nothing but bad luck.

As for little Caleta Candeleros Chico,  Connie and I had been there many years ago and remembered it as feeling quite wild and quiet with lots of sea life.  We found our way into the tight entrance and anchored in a sandy bottom, having the place to ourselves.   Right away, the dinghy went into the water.  Right away the paddleboards were inflated.  Soon we were paddling around a rocky islet and seeing striped fish, sea urchins, and sea stars in the rocky shallows.  

I was rowing the dinghy around as Connie and Noreen had the paddle boards out for a spin.  As I came around the rocky corner I looked ahead and saw Noreen lying prone on the paddle board, her hat shading her face, floating in the clear blue water, in the sun.  Behind me, out on the point, Connie was also lying on her board, gently drifting into the cove.  Now, this is what we came here for.

Meanwhile, in the bottom of the refrigerator, the whole chicken we bought a week ago was getting stinky.   I came aboard, rummaged around and pulled her out, cut open the package and smelled the stink.  Overboard the chicken went.   Later, when we were pulling up the dinghy, the gang was peering into the clear water trying to make out what they were seeing lying on the sandy bottom.  It was our chicken, perched on the sandy bottom, waiting for the crabs; chicken of the sea…

Standing on the bow, I could look down into 20 foot of clear water and clearly see the anchor chain looping around the sandy bottom and the anchor itself with one of its flukes dug into the sand.   A group of striped fish lurked in the shadow of Nepenthe and a half dozen puffer fish were nosing the anchor chain.

Later, after dinner in the fading light, some pangas came into the bay and the bright orange and lime green clad fishermen hauled out big manta rays from the boat and tossed them on the beach where they cleaned them with machetes, tossing the center parts and guts into the water and the meaty wings into tubs before zooming off into the darkness. We later learned that these fishermen had caught turtles, manta rays, and hammerhead sharks in their nets and had come by this remote bay to process the catch out of sight of the authorities.  

Manta ray carcasses


The next morning the carcasses were exposed at low tide and the seagulls and turkey buzzards were having a feast.  The frigate birds swooped around stealing food from everyone while the pelicans dived for the little fish that were attracted to all the excitement.  The crew is all in agreement.  Despite the carnage, we like this place. I think we’ll stay here another day.


And we did. And we enjoyed another peaceful day. And the poachers came back at dusk with another 40 murdered manta rays and cut them up on the beach.


The next morning after an orange sunrise, Connie bought a fish off of an old guy and grandson in a panga.  We cleaned it on the beach then prepped the boat for departure. Myron took the wheel and Noreen pulled up the anchor and we headed out into deep water.  Connie popped her head up, “Something does not sound right down here.”

I looked into the engine compartment and saw a bit of water dripping from a raw water hose and below that, I could see the raw water pump on the front of the engine flopping side to side as if it was coming loose from where it is attached to the pulley and crankshaft. “Myron, turn the boat around. We’re going  back in to anchor.”  He turned the boat around and Connie went to the bow to get the anchor ready.  Slowly we crept back in and dropped the hook in 25 feet.  The curse of Danzante Reef had struck again!

All day long Myron and I worked on the raw water pump.  At first we thought the bracket was faulty so we re-engineered it to hold better.  After starting the engine we realized that the pump was still flopping around.  Then we took everything apart again and removed the impeller.  Then we attacked the four rusty bolts that held the coupler to the flywheel pulley and after copious amounts of WD-40 got those off to finally see the problem.  The coupler has a hole with a keyway that accepts the water pump shaft that has its own keyway.  That key was worn down and loose and had wallowed out the coupler keyway so the whole thing was a sloppy fit. We needed a new coupler and key. 

We found a spare key in a toolbox and cut it to size and filed it down to make it fit, reassembled the whole thing and started the engine.  In seconds, the water pump wallowed its way off the coupler.  Again, we disassembled everything. Connie pulled out the accordion, Noreen pulled out a book.  Myron and I set about re-engineering the bracket that holds the pump from rotating, we found a brass threaded plug and screwed it in then using seizing wire, wired the thing together to prevent the water pump from moving forward.  Then we took a clothes hanger, ( yes, a wire clothes hanger ) and secured the other side of the pump so there was no way that water pump could walk its way off that coupler. By that time it was happy hour so we tested our work and called it good for the day. Another night in paradise.

Rounding the corner at Candeleros Chico.  This rock is called "The hand of God".  See the hand?

The next morning we tested everything and decided that we’d just take it a day at a time and head south towards la Paz.  If our bailing wire solution would hold out for a week, then we’d be in la Paz where we could order a new coupler or maybe have one made at a local machine shop.  With trepidation we rounded the corner at Bahia Candeleros Chico and headed south towards Bahia Agua Verde.   Maybe, just maybe, the Curse of Danzante Reef was finally giving us a break.