We arrived back in La Paz after three months away on the 19th June, took a hire car at the airport and made it back to the boat to find everything in good shape (if a little baked). The next few days were spent commissioning the watermaker, performing oil changes on the Beta and outboard motors, and doing general checks on all the systems. Only one repair was required, and that was self-inflicted … the result of an over-zealous attempt to release the ice bag stuck in the freezer cold=plate necessitating a call to the refrigeration technician, who (welcome to Mexico) showed up within the hour and actually welded a repair to the hole in the aluminum cold-plate. An undoubted cause for replacement of the entire unit in California.
Two, or three trips to the supermarket, and we felt provisioned for a couple of months (although I still have reservations about an impending shortage of wine and gin). A trip out to the Propane station, a couple of miles east of La Paz, we felt ready. All that remained was a brief excursion to the fuel dock, it felt so nice to have the boat moving again, and we could leave Marina Cortez. The time there had been great, but the last few days had felt particularly strange, with very little activity, everyone wearing face masks, and a weird lack of the usual friendly vibe.
6/21/20 – La Paz to Ensenada Grande
23.3 nm distance / 277.9 ending engine hrs
With everything stowed, we left the marina with almost no wind and warm and sunny weather. The obligatory VHF call to the Capitania del Puerto confirmed our departure and our next official ‘puerto’ as Puerto Escondido, certainly some days, or weeks ahead. With constant La Paz Corumel winds from the southwest at night we headed for Enseñada Grande, hoping to be able to tuck into the south end of the wide bay and achieve at least some protection.
The trip was mostly under power with glassy water and sightings of rays jumping, but the last hour gave us the opportunity to shake out the sails and saw Boundless healed oner ‘three sheets to the wind’ loving life. No fish!
Arriving in Enseñada Grande, there was only one other boat, a huge luxury yacht ‘AIR’ with a helicopter on the deck. We were in fine company, and they had indeed left us the smaller hole with better protection. Colin tried out his new SUP, we ate dinner, saw the sunset, and felt the satisfaction and relief of being under way, with no particular agenda.
We spent three nights in Enseñada Grande and enjoyed a hike up the arroyo over huge boulders on the ‘marked’ trail. After taking a trip to the most north of the three beaches, witnessed a tremendous feeding show, with shoals of unimaginable numbers of smaller fish pursued by medium sized, who in turn were stalked by groups of larger predatory fish about two feet in length. All while, the opportunistic pelicans taking what they could.
The snorkeling was nothing short of spectacular, and after getting in the water right from the beach, I counted no less that 13 identifiable different kinds of fish in just a couple of minutes.
In an interesting encounter with a lone SUPer on the Beach, we learned he was from AIR, one of twenty crew who had been sitting out the Covid pandemic on board since March. They have moved around the different bays, gone to La Paz every few weeks for provisions and had no guests or owners on board the whole time. Certainly a nice way to spent the quarantine, but even he looked ready for something else after 10 weeks of quarantine.
6/24/20 – Ensenada Grande to Isla San Francisco
16.3 nm distance / 278.5 ending engine hrs
The sail to Isla San Francisco started light, but filled in nicely to a beam reach at 6-8 knots, but with the boat moving along steadily at 3-4 knots. Having experienced the Corumel winds for the previous three nights we chose to anchor not in the favored ‘Hook’ but on the northeast side. A trip to shore revealed the salt flats and a plan for a hike up the hills the following day.
The hike did not disappoint and the views were stunning and the drop-off at the edge of the path exhilarating, We returned to the boat to an uncomfortable swell from the east, which combined with the south wind made for a barely tolerable 2nd night.
6/26/20 – Isla San Francisco to San Evaristo
10.4 nm distance / 279.8 ending engine hrs
After the uncomfortable rolling night we were keen to leave the anchorage and headed north and around Isla Coyote, a curiously populated piece of rock, and on to San Evaristo. The wind directly behind, and with plenty of time, we sailed under the main alone.
Arriving in San Evaristo is a treat, with the large bay lined with fishing shacks, some houses (one quite glamorous stone beach house), and the backdrop of the Sierra La Giganta mountain range. The Bay is bustling with pangas coming and going, children and dogs playing at the waters edge, and a hive of industry unloading countless large red snapper and other fish into cleaning stations, and then loading into ice filled trucks that head off along the dirt mountain road the sixty miles to La Paz.
We met a couple with a new Dufour 520, Christina and David, and had ‘social distanced’ beers at Lupe’s cantina, served by Lupe’s son Fernando. Some pre-dinner anchor scope adjustment by David (while Christina was on shore) resulted in the new Dufour migrating across the bay in the evening breeze, dragging its anchor, and giving Julian the opportunity of a brief test drive of the 520 whilst re-anchoring.
We took a walk through the settlement of San Evaristo, over to the active salt ponds, saw a cattle ranch (and a couple of cows in the back of a pickup), visited the tienda, saw the school, and had the opportunity to experience this special place over the weekend when the pace changed from the industrious to the familial. Both of us were quite struck with the way of life in this very special place.
6/28/20 – San Evaristo – Punta Salinas – Amortajada – San Evaristo
14nm distance / 282.2 ending engine hrs
A day trip from San Evaristo sent us the 4nm miles over to Punta Salinas to an expansive beach, leading to the ruins of a salt pond operation. A number of buildings remain, the original loading pier is barely visible and the remnants of some trucks and heavy machinery are slowing being reclaimed by the sand.
A further few miles south took us close to Amortajada (close again to Isla San Francisco), where the white sand beach opens to reveal a tract through the mangroves, and a fun dinghy ride ending in a shallow lagoon.
Anchored in this Bay was a large privately owned expedition vessel ‘EXPLORER’. We had met some crew from here at Lupe’s cantina, and they too were riding out Covid quarantine on board. An interesting boat indeed, Explorer looked ready for anything, and the crew told of their plans to meet up with their sister ship (both owned by the founder of ‘Save our Seas’), and head to the Antartic later in the year.
6/29/20 – San Evaristo to El Gato/El Toro
24.8nm distance / 287.6 ending engine hrs
We left San Evaristo in a muggy hazy morning with no wind, but with the water tanks now half empty after 8 days away, we were not unhappy to motor along and run the watermaker. The hazy conditions made for some very strange perspective traveling through the channel, and with no boats in site all day, the mountain range to Port and San Jose Island to Starboard, it was quite the experience. The only sign of people was the lonely, isolated fishing settlement of Nopolo, tucked in behind a dramatic outcrop of rock.
Arriving in El Gato / El Toro, we chose to anchor on the southerly El Toro bay. The scenery is breathtaking with colorful rock formations, sandy beaches and layer upon layer of rugged mountain landscape beyond. On the El Gato side of the bay sits a palapa structure that looks as though it could have been home to a number of campers or perhaps the site of the occasional cruiser party, but certainly not in recent months. After the sunset, it was clear that our anchor light was the only man-made light visible in any direction, and we really felt a long way from anywhere.
6/30/20 – El Toro to Agua Verde
21.4nm distance / 290.7 ending engine hrs
Another Hazy days and light wind, but after getting a pot of beans cooking on the stove, we raised the spinnaker and enjoyed good sailing for a while, including the excitement of a squealing reel and bringing in a nice Bonito (we are still not sure … a skipjack?), As we are taking down the spinnaker, a large whale was spotted off our rear quarter feeding in a flurry of activity both in the water, and with birds above.
Pulling into Agua Verde, we snuck in front of two other sailboats to take prime anchorage position in Pyramid Bight – the smaller south cove, on the other side of Pyramid Rock from the main beach and fishing settlement. The cove is surrounded by rocks, frequented by herds of goats that provide hours of entertainment watching them negotiate seemingly impassable trails, accompanied by constantly bleating and the occasional bell.
We spent three days in Agua Verde, the first of which was spent sewing an ‘over-the-boom’ sun shade. The next day we enjoyed a trip into the settlement, and a visit to the goat dairy (someone’s house with a family eating lunch) where the señora took us to the back of the house and showed us a round of queso fresca out of a refrigerator. We agreed to buy half, and after the various parts of a weigh scale were located and assembled, and the half weighed, the bill equated miraculously to exactly 50 pesos.
In the afternoon we scrambled up the hill adjacent to the anchorage for a longer view over our boat, our neighbor, a Westsail 32 ‘Pablo’ (Steve and Sharon), and what appeared to be an Azimut owners club reunion (an 82’ an 88’ and a 105’) that later turned into a watersports activity competition, and later, a very civilized (white linen mandatory dresscode) sunset beach bonfire for the family from the 105’.
A quick, early, trip to the beach the next morning got us a nice pargo (snapper) from a panga just back from the night’s fishing, and we were ready to move on.
7/3/20 – Agua Verde to Caleta Mano de Dios (Candeleros Chico)
15.7nm distance / 294.1 ending engine hrs
No wind, glassy water and a very pleasant motor up to find the well hidden Caleta Mano de Dios (hand of God), named for the clear, huge ‘handprint on the rock marking the entrance. The small bay was completely empty and we nudged in the anchor in what looked like (and advised by the cruising guide) as ‘swinging room for one medium sized boat’. A totally spectacular location!
Shortly after arriving we were joined by a father/son fishing panga. They made their panga fast on the beach and then headed to shade of the rock overhang, sleeping pads in hand for a siesta. Taking a cold beer (happily accepted) for the father, I learned that they were out fishing for Yellowtail, had caught three, and although they can get 400 or 500 pesos for each, they needed more to make the gas expenditure worthwhile.
Fortunately, I took the early opportunity to fly the drone while Colin explored the bay on his SUP, because we were soon joined by a large motor yacht, towing three tenders, which filled up the rest of the bay, or so we thought … an even larger motor vessel moored right in the entrance to the bay the following morning …. time to leave! This was really a priceless location and absent the company, I think we’d have been tempted to spend a number of days holed up in this tranquil cove.
7/4/2020 – Caleta Mano de Dios to Bahía Los Candeleros
3.78nm distance / 295.02 ending engine hrs
The trip away from Mano de Dios was an easy motor ‘around the corner’, through the Los Candeleros into the wide bay. It was certainly strange to enter the bay and see the Las Palmas resort with Beach bar, tourists on deck chairs, and for the first time since leaving La Paz, receive a cellphone signal. An afternoon spent catching up on email and we went ashore for a drink and to upload a blog post, and take advantage of the resort wifi.
Arriving on the beach in the dinghy we were escorted to the front desk to check in, and then allowed back to the beach for the drink, and we even had dinner in the restaurant.
We spent three nights in the Bay. The second day was spent entirely sewing the side screens to give us more shade (colin had threatened to get out our blue/brown tarp, so there was no other choice but to sew something more permanent, and aesthetically pleasing).
Another day spent enjoying the bay, watching the Las Palmas guests, and doing a few jobs, such as cleaning the dinghy of all the blood after Julian’s foot was sliced by a stingray in Mano de Dios, and we were ready to make the trip into Puerto Escondido.
7/7/2020 – Bahía Los Candeleros to Puerto Escondido
14nm distance / 297.15 ending engine hrs
A straight run north from Los Candeleros took us to the entrance to Puerto Escondido with a marina, a large protected lagoon with over 100 mooring buoys and resources such as a marina store, laundry and a restaurant. It’s easy to see why people end up staying here for a long time, and there were a few long-term residents. Also a great place to leave a boat for a while, we checked on Capricorn Cat for our friends Sue and Kathy who had returned to the US for the summer.
We spent a couple of days working through the jobs list, including installing the external Iridium antenna, which required considerably more work than would be imagined, but it now means the Iridium is mounted by the nav station, and does not need to be brought outside to connect.
We hired a car and went into Loreto. This proved to be useful from a provisioning perspective, but it was sad to see what, pre-pandemic would have been a thriving tourist town, so quiet and with many places closed and street vendors with no one to sell to. We bought a couple of light blankets to cover the salon cushions, and had the opportunity to chat with the store proprietor who gave a sense of a fairly desperate economic impact of the pandemic restrictions. We did enjoy some fish tacos in a restaurant and were impressed to see some fairly strict procedures in place, and we even stopped on the way into town at a police checkpoint and explained good Covid prevention protocols.
It was quite social in Puerto Escondido, and we made good use of the ‘captains lounge’ (Colin for work), the laundry, and the restaurant. We chatted with folks including Betsy and Warren from Cyan, a boat that came down from San Diego on the Baja Haha, also caught up with Bec from Jugaste who we knew from Marina Costa Baja, and also met Kirby from Lodos, a very comfortable looking Celestial 50 we had seen in Balandra Bay on a previous occasion. A week was long enough for us, we had got a lot done, but had our fill of wearing a mask and were ready to move on.