We had a very efficient plan to get everything done in the village and jump on the south winds and try to make Refugio in one day. And of course you know what happens to the best laid plans… First and farthest stop was to get our laundry. Turns out it wasn’t quite ready. Everything foiled. We trudged back and did some other errands. By the time we were pulling up anchor at the village it was already 2:00pm. No way we could possibly make the 40 mile trip to Refugio before dark. So we set our sights on Alcatraz, just 15 miles away and hoped for more south wind the following day to complete the trip.
The weather was honking by the time we were trying to anchor in Alcatraz and it was a wild ride into the bay, but we got settled in there just fine. Luckily, the huge swell was from the south. The winds are shifting to be predominately north this time of year and the weather is getting a bit more cool and comfortable, too. We awoke the next morning to being socked in with fog. What a strange sight! I felt like I was in Moss Landing again, except for I wasn’t wearing multiple layers of clothes (if any). The fog burned off to a distant memory by 7:00am and we were soon heading off into NORTH wind to our Northern destination. We had to make some big long tacks across the channel between the Baja and the huge island of Isla Angel de la Guarda (Puerto Refugio is at the northern tip of this island). It took ALL day to go 25 miles and the captain and crew were at each other’s throats pretty much the entire time. Things quieted down to sheer awe upon nearing Roca Vela (this GIGANTIC sail shaped rock sticking out at the eastern side of Puerto Refugio bay) and seeing the unbelievably beautiful multi-colored mountains up close on the island.
We were glad to be anchored in the West Bay area of Refugio just before dark. Kris and Kirk were over in the Middle Bight, so we did not see them, but they did check in on the radio that evening. It was a fairly rolly and buggy night, so the next morning we told the West Bay “see ya later” (and meant it, it was beautiful and we looked forward to exploring it more!) and headed over to give the East Bight a try. We went through b a very narrow passage and out around the rock islands, past the middle bight. We got a good overview of the giant playground that is Puerto Refugio on the way over. The mind boggling “Fang Rock” looks like some sort of white sculpture – giant pointy rocks going on all directions, painted white with bird guano. I couldn’t wait to dinghy out to it.
The East Bight wasn’t as pretty as the rest of the area seemed. We anchored near to a small reef and rock island. The beach looked like a fun one to explore. It seemed pretty open to the north and we were hoping there wouldn’t be any north winds. We spent two nights here, met with Kris and Kirk on the beach and got to see Azul coming in from the north. I know, they weren’t SUPPOSED to be coming from the north, but they had an even worse trip up then us and ended up heaving to overnight (as they arrived in the night and it’s not good to try to anchor somewhere unfamiliar at night) and drifting past Refugio. They ended up around the far western side of the middle bight. We gave the Middle Bight a try as the winds were shifting to see if it was less rolly than the East. We got to explore the huge beach with brownish red sands and amazing rocks and shells. We also dinghied out to Fang Rock and there we ran into Azul and we all had fun snorkeling around it. I got to swim with a sea turtle!
The reports we’d been hearing all summer about 40 foot underwater visibility in Refugio did not hold true for our late-in-the-season visit. But there was still plenty to see. Jonny speared a fish for dinner and Azul got some yummy eats as well. The wind turned north and we had to get out of the Middle Bight. Azul and Linger Longer got over to the West Bay before us and got the sweet little spot at Isla Mejia. We were a bit farther away but still in decently protected waters. Linger Longer invited us all over for drinks that night and it was fun to catch up with everyone. We explored the amazing rocks, beaches, the little shrine on the hill. We succumbed to our desire to climb up and up…there was no trail and it was hard climbing, and SOMEONE may have complained the entire time (who? me?) but the views were amazing and the climb back down was slightly less terrifying than anticipated. That’s my problem (well, one of many), I generally have no fear climbing up things, but it’s the coming down part where I panic (sometimes). One day, Jonny dropped me off at a small Island that forms part of the West Bay. I started to climb upwards and all of a sudden a huge downpour started! I made by way back to the beach and hid in a bit of a cave until it stopped. The sun came out soon enough and I started climbing again, not looking down until I was pretty far up. I realized I was not able to go back the way I came up…so I kept going up. I got to a nice spot with a great view (and took a panoramic picture that actually came out OK). I managed to find a different way to get down without killing myself.
I have to say, aside from swimming with the whale sharks, Puerto Refugio was one of my favorite parts of summer in the Bahia de los Angeles area. I doubt I could ever have grown tired of the green red, pink, tan and grey mountains dotted with cactus. We spent close to 2 weeks up there, until we were dangerously low on food.
It was just us and Azul and we decided to take off when the winds were light. There was a rainstorm and what little wind there was, was right on our nose. But we’d rather have a slow sail or have to motor a bit than have a hellish ride like we did on the way up. Azul departed shortly after us. We motored and motor-sailed and finally got to sail for a bit all the way down to Alcatraz. Azul arrived just after sunset. We snorkeled around Alcatraz Island the next day. The visibility wasn’t all that and after my ear started hurting on a few dives going after treasures, I just hung out on the beach.
Jonny and Mike were hot to summit the volcano on Isla Coronado, which was only about 8 miles away. We considered heading down there that afternoon, but there were some very dark and awful looking clouds just over the ridge, in the direction we wanted to go. Azul took off and headed out as we were slowly getting ready to go. We finally decided the clouds looked too threatening and we’d wait it out till the next day. Azul ended up turning around and coming back to Alcatraz for the night as well – it was just too unpleasant and the anchorage at Isla Coronado wouldn’t have been very nice, either. The next day Azul challenged us to a race to Coronado – we happily accepted, although we had planned to skip it and head to BLA village instead (the winds had shifted and the anchorage wasn’t going to be any good). So, the race became “to the village”! We are poky at getting ready and left about 30 minutes after Azul did. We figured we’d catch up and probably even pass them, since we are a bit bigger (very unusual for Summer!). We sailed off anchor to insure fairness in not using the motor in the race. It ended up being the SLOWEST race in the history of races. About halfway to the village we kind of caught up to them, but the wind was so light we were barely going 3 knots! We couldn’t for the life of us pass them. To maintain that kind of adrenaline for so long at such a slow pace…well, it was hysterical and exhausting at the same time. We were all going wing on wing for a long stretch, and I hand steered the entire way. At one point Azul had a bedsheet out, trying to capture just a little more of the nonexistent air. We approached the village and were hoping to pass them on the inside then, but nothing doing. We had our whisker pole out, and it’s a bit of a clunky hassle to take it down, and we lost a little ground there. I probably could’ve jumped overboard and swam faster than we were all going as we entered Bahia. We were treated to whale sharks and a huge flock of pelicans, which was exciting. Lunasea was still in Bahia and got to witness the end of our pathetic and hilarious pirate race.
We had our four days all planned out in Bahia. We were going to attempt to place all our online orders at the sketchy wifi store, get all our chores done, FINALLY take Andres and Yolanda out for a sail, and be on our way across the sea. We had a date we had to be in Tucson, something that doesn’t not fit in well with the cruising life. We were giving ourselves ample time to account for weather issues and any other deterrents that would keep us from getting to mainland in time. We had originally thought we had so much time we would be able to stop at Isla Tiburon and Bahia San Pedro before landing in Guaymas.
Miraculously, we got our orders placed (we even managed to secure an old 1950s workhorse sewing machine on eBay!) and our chores completed. I went over to Lunasea for a ‘last party’ (Jonny wasn’t feeling social) –and had a great time with Azul and Angry Seagull as well – we played Cards Against Humanity (I don’t think anything makes me laugh harder than that game!) and had Azul’s delicious soup and Naomi’s famous cheesecake and my brownies. Everyone was making their plans to head south and many had already left BLA area. When I got back to Summer around midnight, we experienced what I think was our first (and only) elephantes (strong west winds that are usually a common summer occurrence in the area). It was lucky the party broke up right when it did and we all got back to our boats just in the nick of time! Jonny and I took down the shade and secured everything as Summer was buffeted around and heeled over as if we were underway instead of on anchor. Very exciting.
We were soon down to our last Sunday, which was the only day Yolanda and Andres could take off from their businesses that they run at their compound. We had arranged to meet them at 10:00 am. Andres had never been out on the water before and he had a strong fear. We’d been prepping him all summer, every time we saw them, trying to plan an outing and our or their timing never quite happening. This was it – and Andres was quite nervous and cringing when we arrived, but he did not back out! We strapped a life jacket on him and we all climbed into Peugeot and headed for Summer. Andres was a good sport, although I did notice he had a death grip on the lines I had told him to hold onto. Once aboard Summer, it was pretty relaxing.
We tried to mostly speak in Spanish, which was great for us, and Yolanda was a big help, given how excellent her English is. After getting settled on the boat, we asked if they wanted to go for a sail. We were fully expecting just to hang out and have snacks, etc. not really thinking Andres would be comfortable with sailing. But to our surprise, he said yes! We sailed off anchor and ended up with some really nice winds – sailing all the way down to the south Bahia. Andres even took the wheel and sailed us all the way back, under a reefed main, heeled over quite a bit. It was one of our more fun and exciting sails! It was great to see someone get excited about sailing and enjoying it and fun to have guests. We hadn’t gone for a strictly pleasure sail since leaving San Diego. When we got back, they invited us to come back to their place, and Yolanda wanted to give us one of her famous chickens (she does the Pollo Asado every Saturday) to take with us. We had planned to leave Bahia that night – say goodbye to the village one final time! We ended up spending quite a while hanging out at Yolanda and Andres’ house. I’m not sure which of their seven dogs I like best – they’re all adorable and well taken care of –Yolanda keeps after them closely – she has a big heart and that’s why she has seven dog and I think it’s 15 cats. Andres made us sandwiches and they gave us a whole chicken which was frozen still – all I had to do was roast it. They tried to give us a huge, frozen container of pork, but unfortunately it was far too big for us to keep in our tiny fridge!
It was pretty late when we got back to Summer, but we decided to make a break for Quemado anyway. It wasn’t that far away and we were able to make it by sunset. The chicken had thawed and I threw it in the oven with potatoes and carrots and we had a super easy, delicious meal. It was a stellar “Last Day”, as last days go, and we were excited to be heading out to new places. As much as I enjoyed our time in BLA, it did have a bit of a ‘trapped’ feel to it – while there were plenty of places to go, we HAD to stay in that area, within a daysail to Puerto Don Juan, in the event of bad weather. The desolation and isolation of the area certainly has its appeal, but I was really ready to have some better communications (cell service!) and feel ‘on the loose’ again. We were bracing ourselves for arrival in the ‘big city’ of Guaymas. Quemado and then Animas Slot were to be our last anchorages all to ourselves – with no sigsn of civilization anywhere in sight, and we appreciated it for as long as we could. Animas Slot is a tiny and beautiful anchorage about 20 miles south of Quemado, which was to be our jumping off point to crossing the sea. We missed it on the way up and I was curious to see it. It was an easy and nice sail – the weather being cooler and the sun not being so deadly was a very nice change of pace. The wind and seas seemed very rough as we approached and we were worried we’d made a bad choice. But inside the anchorage, it was nice and calm. We spent a few nights there and carefully listened to the weather. Jonny did some great spear fishing and I did some snorkeling. The seasons were shifting profoundly on us, I started shivering while rinsing off after a swim. The water was now warmer than the air. But sleeping at night was heavenly!
Given the forecasts and Hurricane Patricia building strength, we decided to just make one long passage to either San Pedro or Bahia Algodones, and be safely at mainland for whatever weather was going to make it up that far. No fun exploring the islands, but at least we got to see them as we passed by.
We ended up having a very nice 24 hour passage to Bahia Algodones, a little rolly through the night, but nothing too horrible. We ended up choosing Algodones because it was right next to Marina Real, and if the storm was really going to affect us, it looked like a great, safe place to hole up if we needed to be at a dock. The winds were perfect for a downwind sail nearly the entire trip – hardly any motoring at all! Neither of us really got any sleep, but we had nothing to do but rest up for the first couple days anchored at Algodones. It was a really beautiful bay, but clearly we were back in civilization. A towering hotel and lots of palapa restaurants ringed part of the beach near where we anchored and the marina and town were down at the far end of the bay and a huge, beautiful white beach separated our end from the ‘busier’ end.
I was of course desperate to get my cell phone working again, and since all my credits had expired, the only way to do it was to physically go to an authorized Telcel store (usually an Oxxo, which is like a 7-Eleven). I was sure there were probably little shops and probably an Oxxo behind the palapa restaurants. But as we finally went ashore, it turns out there was NOTHING behind all that but a lagoon and road and lush desert-like landscape. We heard there was an Oxxo somewhere near the marina. We decided to walk the beach and try to find it. We could have easily dinghied a mile or so across the bay to the marina and gone from there, but given the strong afternoon winds, a trip back home would have been wet and brutal. So, we left Peugeot upwind from Summer and started our long hike. When the beach ended and turned to rocks below vacation homes, I bravely clung to the rock walls and waded over the rocks until I came to a walkway that went up to a street. Jonny eventually followed along and we walked up into what turned out to be a fancy gated community. We got a bit lost in there until a nice guy pointed us in the direction of the security gate, the only way out. Finally we are walking along a highway, sure the Oxxo would appear soon. We finally stopped at another guard house of a soon-to-be gated community (it was just empty lots). The guy there was extremely nice and spoke excellent English. The Oxxo was a bit farther, just down the hill and around a corner. We thanked him for the information and started back on our way. He called out to us and said we should wait and he’s have someone give us a ride – saying he was going to send one of his guys down there to get his daughter a treat anyway. I wasn’t about to turn that down! Sitting in the back of an air conditioned SUV, I realized it had been about 3 months since I’d ridden in a vehicle that wasn’t on water! The guy gave us a ride back as well, and we were SO grateful! It was still a long walk back for us, but the break had been wonderful and aside from charging my phone I got an ice cream sandwich and pineapple juice. I was a happy camper, even if my feet were not!
We made our way back to the beach to walk the final stretch. We decided to stop for lunch as the ‘famous’ Soggy Peso bar/restaurant. A typical kind of palapa restaurant where you sit at a plastic table with your feet in the sand and get charged way too much for way too little. The waiter was obviously used to dealing with tourists and was only speaking English to us and was a little bit obnoxious. For some reason he asked Jonny his name to write on our order slip. He said “Juanito” the waiter said “Clint?” Si! Si! Whatever. We of course ordered the cheapest things we could, so I had a teeny shrimp tostada, which was all of 3 bites. For the price I was hoping I’d get three…but no such luck. Well, that was easy, we can happily eat at home now without wondering what we’re missing on shore! One of the restaurants had a band every night that played cover tunes, a decent mix, but predominantly Creedence Clearwater Revival. I saw a bad moon rising three nights in a row…and yes, I have seen the rain coming down on a sunny day. The last night was the best though, because this one fancier looking place at the tip of the beach was preparing for some kind of event all day long. They had tractors grading the beach and they were erecting some kind of lighting structure. We were placing bets on whether it was going to be a wedding or quinceanerea party. As sunset approached we became increasingly confused – where was everyone? Maybe the party was tomorrow? If you are going to have an elaborate party on the beach in a gorgeous location, wouldn’t you want it to be daylight? Or at the very least have the ceremony at sunset? Nope. Not here. Guests started arriving well after dark. It appeared to be a wedding, but we had long since lost interest and went to bed. It was a very loud party, but earplugs helped. Until the fireworks show started around 11:30pm. We went out to see that and then I passed out again until just after 3:00am. The party was still loud as ever, but abruptly ended before 3:30. What an event that must have been! Had it been earlier, we might have rowed ashore to see if we could mooch some food and drinks.
On our final day we decided to try to find the ruins of the movie set for the 1970 filming of “Catch-22”. We wandered through the desert-y paths and land divvied up for future housing development. We had a rough idea of where it was from our guidebook, but it was very rough. We walked quite a lot, through some sort of sewage treatment swampy ponds (?) which were not stinky, and sort of pretty (lots of wildlife!). We even saw an owl out there! We eventually hit upon the right path and found our ruins. They were kind of “meh” but something to see at any rate. I don’t really remember the movie, since I saw it in high school (30 years ago?!? Yikes) so I guess we need to watch it again. Mosquitos or something was eating me alive, so I couldn’t stop moving and I was ready to be done walking! We made a straight line for the road and ended up at a chainlink fence. I was prepared to climb over, but luckily we found a way around through some trees. Then we tried to cut through a gated community to get back to the beach, but the guard would not let us through. He did his job keeping the riff-raff out! We walked along a drainage ditch until we came to another fence, and once again I lucked out with an opening to crawl through. When you can avoid climbing two fences, I’d say that’s a pretty good day. One final swim and we were pulling up anchor and heading to San Carlos. We weren’t sure which anchorage we were going to, we figured we’d have a look and pick whatever looked best and see what the wind was doing. It was a nice sail and I dozed a little bit (a little sleep deprived from the big wedding!). In the end we anchored up inside of San Carlos Bay – which wasn’t even on our ‘possible spots’ list.
It was really quite beautiful and the next morning we realized that our friends on Resolute there as well! We stopped to have a chat with them and then check out San Carlos a bit. There is a huge marina there and we were in awe of all the boats – it’s been a long time since we’ve seen that many boats!What we saw of the town wasn’t all that, we got a few grocery items and decided it was time to head to Guaymas. We were going back and forth on staying another night or not, but we were both feeling like we wanted to get to Guaymas and take care of all the things we needed to do before leaving Summer alone for a week.
We arrived at the anchorage late in the afternoon after passing through the long bay. There were containerships, tankers, shrimpers (oh my!) and what appeared to be (and later confirmed) a large nuclear power plant. We were DEFINITELY not in BLA anymore! It was however, far prettier than I expected from all accounts. We anchored not far from Sang Vind and spotted Orion at the marina – they later came out and anchored next to us. We went ashore and went to the Fonatur office to be sure they had our reservations (given my Spanish-only phone call from the hot and sticky, plastic phone booth in BLA I wasn’t entirely certain!). Sure enough, “Summer” was written on their calendar for the next day. We found what slip was ours and went back to try to finish eating all the food in our fridge. Luckily Meghan and Jonah stopped by and we visited with them for a while and tried to snack away on things. Our refrigerator issues were not exactly a thing of the past. True, we managed to get through summer without it entirely crapping out on us, but we did have to add more refrigerant every 3 weeks or so, which meant that there was still a leak somewhere we hadn’t found. So we wanted to empty and defrost the entire thing and try to find the leak and leave it off while we were away. We succeeded in finding the leak when it was almost entirely defrosted and fixing it was going to be no picnic. But that was for another time… I also convinced Christina in the office to let me leave a small bag of items in the office mini-fridge – I just couldn’t get rid of EVERYTHING!
Being in the city for the few days before we hopped the bus to Tucson was a bit of a blur. I think we were in culture shock after so much time in isolation, solitude and sleepy village life. Thinking about it now is like remembering a dream. There was a lunch out, learning the bus system, getting bus tickets for the long trip, cleaning out the fridge, packing and meeting some great folks on the docks. Before we knew it we were seated on a bus with movies in Spanish blaring through overhead speakers for nine hours. We made 4 stops, and two of which we had to take all our stuff out from down below and go through scanners (one was a drug checkpoint and one was the US border – which went without incident). Finally we arrived in Tucson where my Mom and Dad met us. They had flown in the night before and were staying in a condo they’d rented. The condo just so happened to be right downstairs from my Aunt and Uncle! We had a week of good eating, walks and hikes, laughing with family, shopping till we dropped (imagine buying most everything you need for a year or so in just a few days. Yeah, not my idea of fun, but so glad we were able to get it all done). I was so grateful that my Dad was able to make this trip and that he is on the road to recovery from his horrible illness. Getting to visit with everyone was a nice bonus on top of the necessity of renewing our visas and collecting material items.
Our bus trip back was faster and easier than the trip down. We never had to remove our considerable amount of luggage until we arrived back in Guaymas. When we stopped at the border, we were the only ones who held things up, as we needed to get off the bus and go buy our new visas. Luckily there was a gringo couple behind us – also cruisers – who said they’d be sure the bus wouldn’t leave without us. Apparently that had happened to them – bus left them at the border and they ended up having to take a cab ride to the next bus station in Hermosillo! When we left the visa office to go pay (you have to pay at a separate station and bring the receipt back to the visa office), we saw the bus was gone. We panicked slightly. When we were done and went to hunt for our bus, Juilet, the woman we’d just met was waiting for us to show us where it had gone to. That was SO nice of her and we were extremely appreciative that she did that for us! The bus arrived back a full two hours or more earlier than we’d expected. We snagged a cab and jammed all our stuff into it and were back on the boat well before dark. I had all our new stuff organized and stowed before dinnertime.
Dinnertime meant we had to go out – since our fridge was off and bare as it could be. We went to a much-raved about place called Doney’s not far from the marina. It’s an old restaurant with long thin tables lined with little stools, not quite wide enough for people to sit facing each other, but they do anyway. We each ordered 3 carne asada tacos but then I noticed a sign that said “Papa Loca”. Crazy potato? I had a vague recollection of Meagan (Resolute) telling me something about how good Papas Locas are, so I had to order one. I think in one bite it became my new favorite thing ever. It a huge tinfoil basket that probably was used to bake the potato, which was then made barely recognizable by being smothered in melted cheese, sour cream, chunks of carne asada, peppers and corn. Oh and potato is in there too, of course. I gave Jonny my last taco so I would have enough room to finish that ginormous mess. Our next door neighbors (who are awesome) showed up and sat with us and it was fun to get to know them a bit better. We were exhausted, well-fed and ready for sleep. Glad to be back home and looking forward to planning the next stage, the next season for us and Summer.
AND LASTLY…. We received TWO very generous donations over the summer!!!! THANK YOU so much to Laura Laura and Amy (again!!!). We are grateful for your support – I can’t even begin to say how much it means to us.