Here we are in the later part of May and we have managed to stretch our week long splurge, of paying moorage at the Marina de LaPaz to relax and celebrate our feeling of having “arrived” in the more calm inner waters of the Sea of Cortez free from the big waters of the Pacific Ocean, into a month long splurge in the name of getting some necessary boat projects accomplished and the fact that the cost of moorage per day is reduced significantly if you commit to staying for a month versus paying the daily rate.
We have decided to go out to the islands that lie just outside of the LaPaz Bay to do some exploring and spend the next three weeks finishing up school and then head back in to LaPaz for the WiFi connection to get the kids’ mandatory state testing done on the 7th of June, and to pick up a new 12 volt freezer that we purchased (that we imagine is going to add ice cream and ice into our already sweltering days and improve our attitudes greatly) that some friends are bringing back with them from a quick trip home to Washington for a few days.
We finished our brightwork boat projects, reloaded the boat with all of our “stuff”, moved a couple of stacks of materials for the next two boat projects to a nice little place that a couple, from the church we have been attending in LaPaz, let us use to store our materials until we get back, went to the grocery store and provisioned up for the next few weeks, and set off for an island adventure.
We started off on the Southeast side of Isla Espitiru Santo at Playa Bonanza for our first night. It was the longest sand beach on the islands but we never went to shore to walk it because the east side of the islands is the weather side for sure and the anchorage was very rough due to wind waves and sea state. The next morning, we decided to head up to the northern tip of the islands to find a more protected anchorage and to explore some “rocks” that are home to a very tame sea lion colony that loves to swim and play with snorkelers.
We watched as snorkelers from some local tour boats swam with the sea lions but the kids decided that they would rather watch other people swim with the sea lions than swim with them themselves, and I do have to say that I secretly agreed with that choice. After watching for a bit we decided to find an anchorage and decide to dinghy out to the rocks if we wanted to visit the next day. So, we headed for Ensenada Grande.
Upon approaching Ensenada Grande we explored all three lobes of the bay and decided to settle in the southern most lobe which was home to a long term scuba tour camp with a row of tents, palapas for common areas and shower stalls made of bamboo like you would see on a survivor reward outing. We had a peaceful night in that bay and the next morning we went for a hike in the very desert like terrain and caught glimpses of the large California hare and listened to an animal symphony echoing back and forth across the canyon that we later discovered was chipmunks communicating with each other probably warning each other that we were coming.
The next day, we went snorkeling and were able to see some great coral reef areas with lots of colorful angel fish, some skinny starfish, trigger fish, sargent majors, blue tangs and wrasse. Darius was moved to go charge all of the underwater cameras and then the next day we snorkeledagain to get some video of the awesome reef areas. We also set a stern anchor to try to fly on the Spinnaker like a swing over the water, but the seas changed and we had to let the stern anchor out on a buoy and didn’t get to fly the sail after all, so we’ll try that again later.
After three days we decided to move over to the center lobe of the bay, to an unoccupied beach area, to have a beach fire and roast some hot dogs and beans.
We had a great beach fire and then another day of snorkeling and then settled in for the night, which came in with wind and heavy seas and set the dinghys to slamming into the side of the boat. Darius untied the hard dinghy and moved it to the side of the boat against the fenders and in the process the inflatable dinghy got caught in the fetch under the post of the windvane and the bolt sliced a hole in it and it immediately deflated and started to take on water so we had to quickly pull it on deck and try to manage to get it secured enough that the wind would not catch it and blow it back off.
We were sharing some choice thoughts and then decided that we truly were blessed when we found the hard dinghy in the ferry lane in the Puget Sound even though it has been more work to tow and stow that boat, it is now the only dinghy we have on board. It won’t support our five horse motor but we can row it very well and it will never pop so we are considering the walker bay inflatable add on pontoons for more stability and then perhaps it will support the motor, or we will shop for another hard bottom inflatable dinghy (and put the rudder back on thewindvane so there is no way for anything to get stuck under it again).
The next anchorage we picked, El Cardoncito, was a tiny little cove that says there is enough roonm for two small boats to swing, but we anchored fairly close to shore in about ten feet of water with a catamaran out a bit farther than us and then we were followed in by a small sailboat who anchored closer to shore than we did and there was plenty of room for a power boat to join us in the deeper water the next morning. It is a long narrow cove that has steep rocky sides and great snorkeling along the walls.
We were all excited for another day of snorkeling except Sarah who was worried about the thought of one of the many puffer fish that we saw at the last snorkeling site possibly getting too close to her and getting scared and puffing into her like a porcupine with it’s poisonous quills and who knows what would happen then? But, the rest of us convinced her that we had left the puffer fish behind at the lastanchorage and she braved through some more snorkeling, well masking because she is convinced she can swim faster without a snorkel and she doesn’t need it to breathe anyway because she can just stick her head out of the water and take a breath….so 10 years old.
Jake and Darius have been on some missions together, taking videos underwater, gathering firewood for beach fires at night and even a midnight fishing adventure when the boat was surrounded by a school of sea bass…small but biting none the less so, catch and Dad will release, because they might poke me with their spines, and a bit of cast netting as well.
As we have been exploring all of the coves and bays along the islands, we have been looking for the blue footed boobie, a small white bird with bright blue feet that uses these rock walls that have been eroded by wind and water to small honeycomb like rookeries. So far, we have seen sea gulls, turkey vultures, and some hawks, but the closest thing to a blue footed boobie we have seen was when a lady with blue fins snorkled by with her swimsuit top half off. We have two more weeks of school to finish and we are headed to anchor in El Mezteno, another small protected cove much like El Cardoncito but hopefully with more authentic blue footed boobies than we have come across so far.
We anchored close in at El Mezteno, snorkled a bit on both sides of the anchorage and spent a couple of nights and then decided to head further south to the northern lobe of the two lobed bay at Ensenada del Candelero. The winds had begun to change and the seas were coming at us from the south, which made for a pretty rough anchorage for a few nights.
The kids swam to the middle of the bay to check the extent of the reef and reported back that there was not much to see. We headed for Ensenada de la Ballena by way of a circular route around Isla Ballena because we had been told that we could get cell service at that point. A couple of hours hunting down and waiting for poor connection and a few facebook video uploads and we got settled into the anchorage.
Jake and I went ashore and found lots of fiddler crab holes and lit a small beach fire and then rowed back to the boat. We stayed here for two more nights and then moved on again to Ensenada La Gallina in search of calmer waters and more wind protection.
We found upon anchoring that we were immediately greeted by bees. Many many bees, so we dug out these cumbersome screen doors that we have been keeping safe for such a time as this and were then able to manage a couple of nights there before heading further on.
Next we headed for Bahia San Gabriel and explored that bay which houses an out of use pearl fishery. We made our way as close to shore as possible, which was still a very long ways out, and began to smell the ripe odor of guano and then noticed about fifty or more birds circling overhead and the flies that come along with the guano that come and fill the boat faster than we can swat them away with someone on flyswatter duty full time. We looked at the situation and decided to sail across the channel and stay in Puerto Balandra, where we have stayed peacefully in the past.
We anchored in Balandra along the northern shore and were able to row to the beach in the mornings to do some yoga and to row into the long head of the bay to get sodas. We swam and played for three nights and then decided to head to the next bay when we were kept awake by increasing seas at odds with the terrible wind.
Captain D. started the motor, Jake and I pulled the anchor and we headed straight into the wind at a whopping .8 knots of progress. We decided to skip the next anchorage because we judged it to be less protected from the seas than the following one and so headed on at our slow but steadily increasing pace.
We made our way into Bahia Falsa as the weather and seas were calming down and dropped our anchor as close to shore as possible because there is a palapa restaurant that had some burgers with our names on them, eventually.
We set, the anchor and checked out our swing and made the decision that we may just be too close to shore for our comfort for overnight, and so, pulled the anchor, moved out a bit further and reset the anchor. All happy now and the wind is gone and now we are hot again, but we haven’t been hot for a week, so hot is good.
The kids had two more days of school to finish up and so we worked toward graduation burgers on Thursday night. We had a rough row to the beach on Thursday, as the current was going pretty strong across the bay, but we made it in, ate our awesome hamburgessa con papas and then Darius muscle rowed us straight out and toward the southern shore and we made it safe and sound albeit a touch damp, exactly to the side of our boat for an excellent deboarding of the dinghy.
Bahia Falsa is the calmest anchorage we have been in for about a week, which isn’t saying much, so we are sticking it out until we run out of something so essential that we cant go on without it. (So far we have been able to use paper towels when we ran out of toilet paper, Darius was able to talk the restaurant into selling us six large bottles of water, and we ate the foods that you would normally give to the mailman for their canned food drive, but we learned that we can make it 23 days on what we normally keep in the cupboards.) Thank God for Ritz crackers because the bread and tortillas have been gone for weeks. We are so looking forward to our new freezer when we get back.
Early Monday morning, as the end of school testing appointment is Tuesday, we will head into La Paz. We are looking forward to buying toilet paper, ice cream, and showering, in that order, a unanimous family decision with no objections. We are set to re-provision the boat, do some laundry, wash down the decks, and play with some kids that have recently let us know on a Facebook post that they have arrived in La Paz as well. We will be busy with some more boat projects, dinghy shopping and some intense summer reading until we set off again and see where the wind takes us next.