Friday, December 10, 2010

Mantanchen Bay

We are currently anchored in Mantanchen Bay near the quaint, historic town of San Blas on the mainland coast of Mexico. The shore nearby is lined with palm trees and thatched roof palapa huts and restaurants. The scene is like that of a tropical travel brochure’s cover.

After leaving the marina at San Jose del Cabo we made a 45 hour crossing of the Sea of Cortez to the tiny island of Isla Isabel, south of Mazatlan. The passage included some great sailing and two very dark, moonless nights on the water. The winds were so favorable that we gave serious thought to having to slow “Blue Rodeo” down so as not to arrive before sunrise on the third morning. The island is surrounded by reefs and rocks and the anchoring there can be challenging, even in the light of day. A number of fishermen camp on the island and work the waters around it with their nets that hang suspended just below the surface, adding to the navigational hazards.

We spent two wonderful days at the island snorkeling in the crystal clear water and marveling at the constant air show being put on by millions of sea birds. Frigates and colorful-footed boobies inhabit the island and are unbothered by the few human visitors that venture there. Our hike ashore was quite a thrill as we were able to approach within just feet of birds as they sat guarding there eggs. The skies overhead were filled with diving, circling and swooping birds. The strange and exotics sounds heard made us feel like we’d come ashore in “Jurasic Park”. While at the Island, we watched the arrival of “Buena Vista” another cruising boat that was previously owned by our good friends Lee and Nancy from Ventura, California. It was great fun getting to know it’s new owners, Don and Debbie who are on their way across the Pacific to New Zealand.

Yesterday’ s 40 mile sail to the mainland was about as good as can be with clear skies, a warm wind a and nearly flat seas. Mark sailed the whole way shirtless in just a pair of board shorts. What a change from the sailing in British Columbia just a few months ago. While underway, our course slowly converged on another boat that seemed headed toward our destination. Even from a distance, Mark recognized the boat to be some exotic, high performance design so our competitive instincts to hold and a “race was on”. Mark spent the next few hours constantly adjusting the shape of our sails trying too eek out another 1/10th of a knot or two of boat speed. It was great fun but, alas, the mystery boat slowly gained ground on us and arrived ahead of us at the anchorage. Anne continued to express her disappointment , although somewhat in jest, at our performance. When we entered the anchorage and got a better look at our competitor, we were somewhat relieved to see that it was a new, cutting-edge design that was 5 to 10 feet longer that “Blue Rodeo”. We felt vindicated that we’d given her a run for her money.

After anchoring in Mantanchen Bay, we spotted “ Buena Vista” once again and invited Don and Debbie over for dinner. The evening concluded with good food and company followed by gentle rocking as we slipped into bed for the night.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Cabo San Lucas to San Jose del Cabo

The short sail from Cabo San Lucas to the marina in San Jose del Cabo turned challenging as winds along the way built to near 30 knots. Fortunately, it was blowing from off the land and, sailing close to shore, we weren’t subject to sea conditions that were too large. When our flotilla of three boats, dubbed “Mother Goose and the Goslings”, were all safely in the marina we set about washing boats and planning for an evening rendezvous at a local “palapa” restaurant for dinner. We were pleased to be joined by two other couples that left San Diego with their boats at about the same time we did, Doug and Lanita aboard “Ka’sala” and Paul and Laura aboard “Chirpee”. As usual, lively conversation and laughter around the dinner table kept us all entertained.

The following day the crews from “Blue Rodeo”, “Thor” and “Cloudy Bay” toured the town of San Jose del Cabo, having lunch, shopping and visiting a beautiful, new cactus arboretum as we walked back to the marina. The late afternoon was spent doing a few boat chores and having “sun downers” and guacamole and chips aboard “Cloudy Bay”. We all agreed that Henry has perfected the gin and tonic and the flavors were enhanced by the beautiful surroundings and great company.

Before leaving Cabo San Lucas, and while getting internet access for the first time in many days, Mark was saddened to learn of his mom being hospitalized with a heart problem. Fortunately, our arrival in San Jose del Cabo put us near an airport with service to California and we were able to book a flight with open seats just one day later. As we conclude this blog entry, we are enroute to Los Angeles to visit her while “Blue Rodeo” sits safely in a marina slip in Puerto los Cabos. Our cruising “family” had all expressed their hopes that Mark’s mom would soon be up and about and one fellow sailor was shown how to come aboard, start our auxiliary motor and run our refrigeration daily until we return.

Bahia Santa Maria to Cabo San Lucas

Thanksgiving day started with a bit of excitement when, after waking and peering out of our cabin’s companionway hatch, Mark noticed Henry’s dinghy some distance from their boat being blown out to sea by a strong wind. He quickly woke Anne and we hurriedly raised our anchor and motored in pursuit. Before reaching the runaway craft, Mark and Lori from "Thor", who left ahead of us had already spotted it and began towing back to it’s owners. We stood by in case our assistance was needed but Mark and Lori made accomplished the rescue without difficulty. We soon raised our sails and, after a downwind run outside the bay from Bahia de Tortugas, we turned the corner into enormous Bahia Magdelena and found ourselves tacking into a 25 knot head wind. “Mag Bay” is famous as a site for whales to feed and have their calves so we scanned the choppy water around us for any signs of the huge creatures. With our destination lying about 8 miles to windward, we zig-zagged back and forth under reduced sail for about 2 hours before starting our motor and entering the anchorage off a small village.

Once anchored, Anne quickly put the word out to the few other boats in the area that we would be hosting a Thanksgiving, pot luck dinner aboard “ Blue Rodeo”. Three other couples happily joined us and, although no turkey was available for the main course, we ate like kings, laughing, telling stories and getting to know each other even better. While the holiday is one normally spent with family, we all felt especially thankful to be in such a beautiful, remote and rugged spot celebrating with new friends that are connected as a family of sailors and adventurers.

The next day, we were again joined by Henry and Janice for more beach combing and fun. Our group walked quite a distance along a beach composed entirely of shells picking up unique ones and bits of colorful sea glass (broken bottle glass polished smooth by the sand and waves).

Our next run of 160 miles to Cabo San Lucas would require another over-night sail so we, along with 4 or 5 other boats, all departed early the next day. As the northwesterly wind began to steadily build, we all enjoyed nearly perfect sailing conditions keeping each other in sight for most of the day. With our spinnaker set, we sailed swiftly along enjoying great speed and even catching and passing Janice and Henry aboard their motor yacht. They are both avid photographers and shot some spectacular video and photos of us as we went by in perfect, late afternoon light. We shared the fun, taking as many photos of them as they “poured on the coal” to repass us briefly for the photo-op.
The favorable winds held until after midnight when we started our engine and motor-sailed the remaining miles around Cabo’s famous arch and rocky point and into it’s anchorage just off the beach.

After naps, Henry and Janice picked us and Mark and Lori up and took us from the beach anchorage through the marina chock-full of fancy sport fishing boats. As we pulled up to the modern dinghy dock, we marveled at the modern, glitzy hotels, restaurants and shopping mall that surrounded the marina. It had been many years since either of us had been to Cabo and it was clear that an enormous amount of money had been spent in it’s development. It seemed like a combination of Las Vegas and Beverly Hills on the water. A worthwhile tip from one of the many, overzealous time-share salesmen that we encountered lead us to a fantastic, and somewhat quaint, patio restaurant that featured hundreds of “Day of the Dead” figurines as decoration. Dia de los Muertos is quite a celebration in Mexico, rivaling that of Christmas and Carnival.

After a night back aboard, catching up on our sleep, we took an early morning dip in the warm ocean water before another trip into town to officially “clear in” with the Port Captain and do a major shopping run to Costco. Yes, Costco!! It was somewhat surreal to enter it’s familiar surroundings with the flat screen TV’s, and all of the regular US products after weeks of sailing along a rugged, desolate coastline. After shuttling our shopping loads back to our boats, we returned to town and treated ourselves to the newly released Harry Potter movie shown in a nearly-new theater complete with reclining leather, lounge seats. It was pretty decedent! Janice and Henry had the group aboard their boat for dinner after the movie and we finally retired to our own boats for what was to be a night of rocking and rolling.

During the night, a swell from the southwest made the anchorage rather uncomfortable. In light winds, our boats’ orientations to the bumpy seas kept us rolling and disturbed by the slapping of water against our transoms. By the net morning, we were all happy to raise our anchors from the crystal-clear water and continue 17 miles down the coast where a couple night’s stay was planned in a new marina. The marina stay would give us all an opportunity to give our boats a fresh water bath and find shelter from forecast, strong northerly winds.

Bahia de Tortugas to Bahia Santa Maria

Bahias de Tortugas (Turtle Bay) turned out to be an interesting stop. While anchored there, we purchased 20 gallons of diesel fuel which Mark had dispensed into plastic jerry cans and then filtered before adding it to “Blue Rodeo’s” tanks. We have heard of no problems with the fuel there but were still being extra careful so as not to contaminate our fuel supply. The first evening, we dingied over to a boat that we recognized from our time in San Diego and and picked up it’s owners, Larry and Melanie. They had spent 10 days in Turtle Bay last year while delivering a boat northbound. They were happy to show us around the small town and introduce us to a few folks they remembered from their previous visit. We all had delicious tacos for dinner at a simple, open-air stand and finished the evening with a rum drink (or two) aboard their boat in the anchorage. The next day, after going ashore to find an Internet connection, Anne was able to trade a few dollars and a baseball cap for a plastic bag filled with freshly caught Yellowfin tuna fillets. That afternoon, we were happy to see that other friends, Janice and Henry aboard their beautiful Nordhaven 55, “Cloudy Bay”, had arrived and were anchored not far from us. We stopped bay for a chat and invited them to come to our boat for happy hour followed by dinner ashore. We were anxious to show them around and take them to the same taco stand where we’d eaten the night before. As we walked with them through the town’s dirt streets, our noses soon lead the way, guided by the delicious smells coming from the stand’s outdoor charcoal grill. While enjoying our dinner, we all remarked that this was exactly the authentic Mexican experience that we’d come for.

In order to arrive at our next destination, Bahia Santa Maria during the daylight hours, we departed Turtle Bay at 2AM the next morning and motor sailed across the brightly moonlit water until sunrise when a gentle breeze was felt blowing from our port, rear quarter. Soon, we were making good speed under sails alone and by late morning, raised our colorful, light-weight spinnaker (parachute-like head sail) to further take advantage of the winds. With our trusty autopilot steering “Blue Rodeo”, we sliced through the seas while sharing watch duties, reading and catching a nap or two. The day passed quickly and, before we knew it, the sun was slipping below the horizon. We watched intently as the last light faded hoping for a glimpse of the elusive “green flash”. Alas, it was soon dark and our first sighting would have to wait for another sunset.

The next day found us entering Bahia Santa Maria and anchoring not far from Henry and Janice and a couple of other familiar boats. After a short nap, we dingied over to see Mark and Lori aboard their Pacific Seacraft 40, “Thor”, who had already spent time ashore hiking and exploring. They gave us some tips as to where to hike and, with Henry and Janice, we dingied to a rocky beach where we scrambled ashore for a hike. With spectacular beauty in every direction, we found it difficult to decide which way to point our cameras.

The next day, we picked up Henry and Janice and dingied across the bay to another beach where smooth sand stretched for miles. There, barefooted, we strolled and watched the sea birds play in the surf and collected a few shells. We had dinner that night aboard their boat and all planned for our next leg around a peninsula to Bahia Magdelena