Sorry for the delayed and very lengthy update but for the last five weeks we’ve had no internet access and very little cell service. We fell victim to the beauty of remote Baja. The vast majority of people rush through this area due to the weather, lack of services and less than ideal anchorages – topped off with the temptation of the tropical water and drinks down South. We did experience the weather, lack of services and less than ideal anchorages but the beauty of the coastal desert and friendly people were worth it all.
One of the coolest things was that for five weeks we didn’t buy anything other than a bit of fresh produce and tortillas. We ate mostly fish (and quite a bit of lobster). The little cantinas served great margaritas (the power to these small towns is hit and miss so the blender wasn’t working, no pina coladas). The margaritas were so delicious we asked for the recipe with the help of our favorite new app, Google Translate.
On the subject of food, possibly my favorite subject – Since a lot of the towns don’t have reliable power, the fish tacos served in the Baja region are breaded, fried and served in fresh corn tortillas. Delicious. Also, since a lot of the towns don’t have reliable power, they don’t have reliable refrigeration – a.k.a gastrointestinal distress for the gringos, apparently it’s a rite of passage. Everyone we know got it and got over it. Some small stores have solar power and battery banks to keep freezers and refrigerators cold but some only have ice chests and the ice delivery is not always reliable. Meat comes from the unreliably refrigerated coolers and fridges. Not all meats can be identified but all are tasty and all need to be cooked very well. Tomatoes, avocados, limes and other shelf stable vegetables are readily available. Eggs are also available and don’t need refrigeration for weeks unless you wash them. Cabbage keeps well unrefrigerated and makes it into every meal somehow. We’ve gotten pretty creative with it. There is very little agriculture on the Baja Peninsula so everything is trucked in and the roads are not well kept.
Back to San Diego -After seeing our friends Steve and Chelsea off in San Diego for the Baja Ha-Ha, a cruisers rally where roughly 160 boats and their crew travel to Cabo San Lucas, we continued with the boat projects then headed for Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico. After checking in, we were free to move about the country, and so we did.
The next day we loaded up with groceries (we were told not to bring any meat or fresh produce into Mexico but nobody checked) and we were off to explore our neighboring country to the South.
We spent the last several weeks going as slow as possible hitting every little village we could. The people have been incredibly friendly and generous. At our first stop a lobster fisherman (pangueros) stopped by our boat and gave us fresh lobster. We had lobster for lunch! That was a first for us. We went into the village, found the fishermen and gave them some coloring books and crayons for their kids. They gave us more lobster.
The primary industry in this region is fishing. Lobster, fish and shrimp further South. The industry seems to be shrinking in some areas and growing in others. The first stop we made after Ensenada was about 250 nautical miles south to a small surfing and fishing village called Punta San Andres. Just a few families and a bunch of ex-pats and surfers. Most of whom have either moved there permanently or have been visiting for decades. We came here to meet a couple of surfer friends we’d met up in the Puget Sound and again in Crescent City, CA. Nick and Lief loaned us some surf boards and gave us our first surf lessons. We were instantly hooked on surfing. We are also headed for some of the best surfing areas on earth.
A storm rolled in after 2 days there and we weren’t in a great anchorage so we said goodbye to Nick and Lief and left for Bahia Tortugas (Turtle Bay) about 90 miles southwest. All started out pretty benign but the storm caught us. By the time we had reached the entrance to Bahia Tortugas we had 30 knots of wind and waves about 6 feet tall on the nose. We could barely motor against it. Several times we were going backwards at full throttle. We got the anchor dropped, added some chafe gear to protect the anchor lines and closed the hatches. The gusts peaked at 45 knots and sustained at 35. We heard some people on the VHF that couldn’t get into the bay that were seeing 65 knots sustained and 80 knot gusts. We were glad we got there when we did. For the next two days we only went outside to check the chafe gear. After two days of hiding in the boat, we saw the wind let up to 25 knots and gradually decrease over the next 12 hours. We’ll never complain about 25 knots again! The good news was we got our anchoring gear thoroughly tested. We didn’t budge an inch. The bad news was that our boat was covered in mud. The storm kicked up dust from the desert and placed it on our boat. We’ll have to rent a slip in Cabo San Lucas to get a hose and a boat bath.
Turtle Bay is primarily a fishing village but in decline. It is a long drive from anywhere to get there, and even longer in a boat. We were in need of fuel and had heard many stories of Enrique the fuel salesman having the magical ability to fit more fuel in your tank than it could possibly hold. The average seemed to be about 30 percent. He delivered fuel in a panga (virtually indestructible fiberglass fishing boats with huge outboard motors that are everywhere here) with a giant milk tank full of diesel. He didn’t have a guage on the tank. He said he could tell how much you took by looking at the tank (while it was sloshing around from the waves). We found out that the next town South had put in a new fuel station that sold diesel and we could let Enrique sell his fuel to someone else. After checking out the town for a few days we headed South for Bahia Asuncion. We read in the guide books to get in touch with Shari Bondy, an ex cruiser from Canada who has a campground and a hotel in the town. The hotel, Hotel La Bufadora, may have the most stunning view on the west coast of North America. We were walking through town and someone in a pickup truck yelled at us “Are you guys on the boat out there?” We said “Yes”. She said “I’m Shari, I’m going to get the best shrimp tacos on earth, you want a ride?” We said “Yes” again. She was right. Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t typically order shrimp if there’s something else on the menu. I had four shrimp tacos after already having four beef tacos an hour earlier. Shari recommended that we stop and get some carnitas (slow roasted pork fried in its own rendered fat, YUM) since they only make them on Sunday. We bought a Kilo and ate them later that day with Dave and Kelly from S/V Arctos who were delivering Sonni’s new wetsuit for our new found sport. We had 18 tacos that day.
Prior to our friends showing up from Ensenada, Shari took us to her hotel and we sat on the porch overlooking the Pacific Ocean, drank some beers, ate some tacos and listened to stories. Shari also runs a whale watching guide business in the winter for the gray whale migration in Gurrero Negro. We plan on catching a bus North this winter and going for a tour. Shari has been studying whales for roughly 40 years. She has a gift with these giant creatures.
While in Baja Asuncion we met more cruisers and Matt and Katie (friends of Dave and Kelly) who drove down from Durango, Colorado on a surf vacation. After a campfire on land and some fried Mahi Mahi tacos (thanks Greg and Melissa for the fish) with new friends, we headed out the next morning. Bahia Asuncion was a full of friendly people and tons of great food but we had to keep heading South. Next stop, Scorpion Bay about 100 miles South. The sailing was great though a little rolly overnight but we arrived at daylight on Thanksgiving day and caught a mackerel to share with more new friends for dinner. Some more fisherman came by with more lobster (this time not free, about $20 USD for three huge lobster). We had a great Thaksgiving dinner with new friends.
After dinner we went outside to get in our dinghy and go back to our boat. It wasn’t there. IT WAS GONE! After panicking, Dave said “I had a friend lose one at an atoll in the South Pacific, he just went downwind and found it”. That gave us enough hope to at least stop panicking for a few minutes. Apparently we were so worried about spilling the fish and lobster we brought for dinner that we didn’t worry enough about properly securing our dinghy. After about 3 hours of motoring downwind with S/V Arctos in the dark I called it off. On our way back I decided to go a little closer to shore and see if I couldn’t pick it up on radar. We found the dinghy over five miles away from our anchorage. In the dark. With our radar. A needle in a haystack… Thanks Dave and Kelly for chasing our dinghy around at midnight on Thanksgiving.
One thing we’ve noticed is that the cruising community is a very helpful bunch. Everyone helps everyone. It’s pretty amazing. Our dinghy has been affectionately named “The Wandering Lady”.
After a few days of borrowing surfboards and playing in the water at one of the worlds primier surf locations, Matt and Katie who we’d met in Bahia Asuncion, had to go home. Conveniently, they offered to sell us thier surf boards before they left. Thanks guys, there wasn’t a surf board for sale within 300 miles.
After a few days learning to surf the weather got fiesty again. We would end up stuck in Scorpion Bay for another week. The good news is that when the sailing is not so good the surfing is pretty good. We have much to learn but the surfing is coming along thanks to everyone but us being life-long surfers and great instructors. We’re having a blast learning.
On December 3 we spotted a weather window and headed for Bahia Santa Maria, about 180 nautical miles North of Cabo San Lucas. We normally fish with two hand lines to double our chances at catching dinner. This time they both got hit at once – by huge yellowfin tuna. We would normally only keep enough fish to eat in a few days but after attempting to release the second one we had injured it so badly that we had to keep it. We shared it with the other cruisers at the next town.
Bahia Santa Maria had a lot to see. Mangroves and estuaries full of wildlife to explore, snorkling, fishing and of course, more surfing. We met more people. Some from Coeur d Alene, Idaho. We didn’t expect that. We invited everyone in the anchorage and seared up some of our fresh tuna. It was the best tuna ever.
We’re now in San Jose del Cabo, just around the corner from Cabo San Lucas. We’ve rested up from the passage and are headed out to explore the first city we’ve seen in over five weeks.
Thanks all for your patience. Being out of cell service brought us to a lot of cool places. We should be able to post updates more frequently in the coming weeks.
A few Stats:
Miles so far – 2247 NM
Location – San Jose del Cabo
Air Temp – 82
Water Temp – 79.2 Degrees Fahrenheit
Fish Caught – Lost count, we also lost two lures to a couple really big marlin. Glad they didn’t make it to the boat, but those were nice lures.
Dinghies lost – 1
Dinghies found – 1
Tacos eaten – 92
Waves surfed – less than 10
Waves attempted – at least 300
Some random pictures: