As Mazatlan faded away behind us, we were treated to one last fireworks display. Our overnight passage to Isla Isabel was fairly uneventful. We were able to sail most of the way, although it was a bit rough most of the time and neither of us really got any sleep, try as we did. But everything seemed to be going on the right direction so we can’t complain too much.
As we approached Isla Isabel in the early morning, we were taking bets on how many boats we’d find in the anchorage. We passed the Monas – the really amazing looking rock islands off the northeast side of the island and rounded to the southern anchorage to find…NO BOATS! We had the whole joint to ourselves! We anchored in the most ideal spot and made sure to put a floaty line with an empty plastic jug on it in the event our anchor got stuck and we had to disengage (losing our anchor is in our budget!) and hunkered down for a snooze to recover from our mostly wakeful night.
We had the island mostly to ourselves the entire time and we hiked almost every trail on the island (and bushwhacked a few times as well). Isla Isabel is a national park as well as an internationally protected area. It is home to thousands of frigate birds, boobies – blue and brown and other-footed types, and you can barely take a step without almost crushing an iguana. It was probably one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been. Rather than regale you with my oh-so-engaging prose, I will make this mostly a pictorial, saving us all thousands and thousands of words. In the five days we were there, I took 472 pictures (including videos). I will try to keep this to the most representative.
On the 4th night, another boat came in and did a quick trip ashore and took off the next morning. Jonny helped them out by diving on their rudder and taking video of it with the GoPro, so they could see what they were up against for getting out of there (this place really has a reputation!). He also re-tied their float, which had come off and nearly floated away (not everyone is as obsessive about these things as we are).
Another boat came in the next day and we met Ola and Peter on Fukingivr [Say: FOO-kin-giv-r]. We decided we had climbed every mountain and were ready to set off for the 40 mile trip across to San Blas. As we were preparing to leave just after sunrise, another boat pulled in and dropped anchor. I could see they were from New Zealand and we had a nice chat on the radio as I filled them in on some of the best spots to see on the island and how to find them. They told me they were preparing to head back to New Zealand soon – they have spent the last 18 (EIGHTEEN!) years cruising. I so wished we could have spent more time with them. Fukingivr had left about an hour before us and we caught up and passed them as we headed to Mantenchen anchorage by sunset. Lest you get too impressed, their boat is 6 feet shorter than Summer, but we’ll take any win we can get! We were happy to have made it in before dark and were treated to a breathtaking sunset.
We decided to splurge a whole $10 and go into San Blas and get a slip in the cheapest of all Fonaturs for one night, before heading down to Chacala. We spent the day getting provisions (the banana bread is not to be missed) and cleaning up Summer. We had a fun and super cheap taco and ice cream night out with Peter and Ola. Mainland is always quite a bit less expensive than Baja, and San Blas especially. Ola was a landlubber from Canada, just along for the ride for a month (and somehow I still never got the story on that boat name). She thought Isla Isabel was ‘the most disgusting place’ she’d ever seen. Curious to see how their visit ends – hopefully we’ll run into Peter somewhere down the line. We thought we had missed most of the hype of the holidays, but San Blas was still rockin’ the Christmas music and the town square was unparalleled with its monolithic musical and lighted Christmas tree and the nativity scene containing a vast menagerie, which included an elephant and a turkey. That was all the entertainment I needed.
Despite the wonderful and friendly folks at the dock and the jejenes being not SO terrible, we did manage to pull out as planned the next morning and head to Chacala. It was a gorgeous day and we had an absolutely lovely beam reach sail the entire way. We even caught a huge sierra along the way – one of our favorites. I was reminded of the sailing we did in this area last year, which was also almost always quite nice – and it kind of hit me that the Sea of Cortez is not as friendly and calm as its reputation led me to believe. Thinking back to all our sails up there this summer, we had some pretty rough times and very few ‘absolutely perfect’ sailing days. That sea can definitely dole out the harshness!
Chacala was one of our favorite spots last year and it was nice to pull in to the familiar and beloved gorgeous views of colorful buildings and lush tropical greenery. It is known for being quite a rolly anchorage, so we immediately put out our stern anchor as we were getting settled. I managed to poach some internet from one of the hotels on shore, so it was nice to get caught up on a few things (and post the last blog entry). Since Chacala was already very familiar, and I already knew it was much prettier from the boat than on shore, and there was plenty of food on board, I was not feeling the pressure to GO! See! Do! I didn’t leave the boat for 2 days. It’s often hard to remember that sometimes I just need a few ‘days off’ to be a homebody. I’m not sure where it comes from, but there is a lot of pressure to be out exploring, having adventures, running errands. It’s just not a sustainable way to live in the long run. Jonny got to go out surfing several times, getting himself back into the swing of it after not having surfed the entire summer (the longest he’s gone in 30 years!). He was happy to get back to it and a little dismayed at how sore his ribs were.
When we did go ashore, we decide to take the bus to La Penita – the next town down that we had yet to visit. We ended up having to take a bus to Las Varas (which we’ve been to) and then to La Penita. It was nice wandering around somewhere new and getting super cheap Chinese food for lunch (which, in hindsight I can say was very good, since I didn’t get an MSG migraine!). We came upon an el Segundo (thrift store) and Jonny was able to get a new button down shirt for $3.50 (kind of pricey actually!) to replace the one he was wearing which had a huge rip down the back. Since he couldn’t see it, it seemed fine to him…but I insisted he get a new one. I forgot to bring my camera/phone with me, so you’re just going to have to trust me that we actually did this.
We thought we might stay for a long time in Chacala, but Jonny was getting itchy to get south to new territory and to the big surf, which he was suddenly chomping at the bit to get to. We knew we needed to make a stopover in La Cruz for provisions and I was looking forward to catching up with friends there. We had planned to go to Yelapa again (one of my all time favorites) afterwards and then finally round Cabo Corrientes to explore the southlands.
We had another gorgeous sail from Chacala to Punta de Mita. As we were sailing along and I was dozing in the sun, mulling over a number of recent thoughts, ideas and suggestions, I hit upon an idea for something I wanted to work on and am very excited to bring it to fruition. I’ll share it when the time is right – but I have a lot of energy for this new endeavor and look forward to making it happen. We anchored for the night in Punta de Mita and thought we might go out to the Tres Mariettas in the morning, for some sites we missed last time around. In the end we nixed that idea and went ashore instead and had the worst cheap tacos in a smoky stand near the bus stop. Can’t win ‘em all. We went back home and make the quick trip over to La Cruz. Another beautiful sail and we anchored down in the big La Cruz parking lot happily right near Resolute. The next morning I rowed over to say hi to Erik and Meagan (and Nikka – who almost pushed me overboard with her greeting kisses). It was just a quick visit as I was excited to go load up on fruits and veggies at the infamous La Cruz farmer’s market. On the row back, the pin that holds the oar to the boat snapped off. I quickly realized there was no way to row without the oar being attached. I was exactly halfway back, not really yelling distance to any boat and I hadn’t brought a radio. I was getting blown farther and farther away rather quickly. I ended up sticking the oar underneath the handgrip line on the dinghy and up against the oar holder part–it held it enough to get some purchase and row. I made it back to Summer just fine, only a little shaken up. Jonny was impressed with my quick thinking, and added “fix the oar” to his list of projects that day.
The Farmer’s Market did not disappoint, although I find myself less and less able to withstand crowds of people. The market is quite a crowded, happening spot and I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. But somehow as I was hurrying to the veggies tables, I got waylaid by the drum people. A table full of handmade, colorful drums of various types and a happy hippy guy banging away on one was hard for me to resist. I took drum lessons not all that long ago (rock and roll, not hippy) and have recently begun to really miss it. I think a wee-hours air drumming session, while listening to music and trying to keep myself awake on watch sparked it. I was very nearly about to pull myself away, all the drums were just too big to think about taking on board. But then I looked up and saw these much smaller ones hanging above me. I immediately knew I wanted one…badly. I played with it for a while and asked the price (far more reasonable than expected) but put it back and said I’ll see how many pesos I have left after all the food is purchased. I also felt pretty sure Jonny (who had left me immediately) would not allow such an expenditure. We loaded up on fresh, organic greens and fruits, fresh bread and farm cheeses and were ready to head back. I still wanted to drum. Jonny left me again, saying, “I’m not getting involved, I’ll be waiting for you at the dinghy”. That was about as close to a “go for it” as I could possibly get! I negotiated the price down to what I had left and chose the one with the least unattractive design painted on it (the couple who makes them lets their child decorate the drums). I was a happy sailor. So far Jonny hasn’t gotten annoyed at my banging.
I dinghied into shore and cruised the marina looking for friends. I found Lynne on Aldebaran, and Linger Longer. I learned that there was a bug or two going around and most people were sick. It sounds like the norovirus that hit all of us last year was STILL making the rounds.
We spend just over a week in La Cruz. We got our Mega provision run in, loaded up with water and fuel, got our propane tank filled and we got to catch up with friends (unfortunately we’d just missed Sang Vind). La Cruz is one of the few places where cruisers rule the roost. A huge number of cruisers spend vast amounts of time there and it’s not hard to see why. On our last stay in La Cruz we were visiting with out of town guest and spent most of our time on shore. We didn’t really get into the cruisers’ aspect of things or take advantage of the many resources available. The marina VIP lounge offers a large space for many classes and seminars on a variety of topics. Nearby a place called “Cruiser’s Comfort” offers internet, shower and a comfortable place to work. I spent many days on shore using the internet to work on my new idea. We also spent some time honing in on our long-term plans. We went to a seminar about cruising south to Panama. Jonny went to a fishing seminar.
When I was off ‘working’, Jonny got a lot of boat projects accomplished. Our engine hour meter had died on the crossing to Mazatlan, so we had to buy a new one (and keep track of the hours manually prior to installing). Boat engine maintenance and life expectancy is based on the number of hours it runs, so it’s important we keep track of that. He also broke out the sewing machine a few times and made a cover for the dinghy gas tank, a bag to stow lines and hatch covers for our top hatches. He did an excellent job! Looks like I don’t have to learn how to sew afterall. My Mom taught me how to sew when I was young and I made an absolutely horrific skirt and that was pretty much when my sewing career ended.
Speaking of young, La Cruz is just crawling with kid boats – that is, cruisers with children. While the cruising life is absolutely amazing for kids, and boat kids tend to be wonderfully well adjusted and very comfortable interacting with adults in all situations; but they struggle constantly to find other kids to hang out with. It seems that all boat kids are so desperate to meet other kids that once they find them they all instantly bond and adore each other, regardless of age differences. People in La Cruz have all kinds of activities for kids, cookouts, beach camp outs, macaroni and cheese cook-offs… there’s even a morning VHF net just for kids. It was kind of fun to observe the kids roaming around in small groups and simply loving being with each other. Also, it seems nearly impossible to live on a boat and be a spoiled brat – we learn on a daily basis how to deal with not getting our way and how shirking responsibilities can often be a matter of life and death. The ocean coddles no one and does not suffer slackers!
The anchorage was a lot rollier than I remember it being before. Spending most days off the boat made it more bearable, but no really sound sleep was to be had. As we came to the close of things we “must get done” we started paying closer attention to the weather and making our plans to escape. It looked like some big winds were coming and if we went to Yelapa as desired, we might get stuck for many days waiting for a calm time to round Cabo Corrientes (which can be notoriously awful – not unlike Point Conception in California). Yelapa can be extraordinarily rolly and due to the steepness and depth, it’s necessary to rent a mooring while there. We could potentially get stuck there waiting for the weather and paying for a lot more than just a couple nights. Also, Jonny was so overwhelmed with his need to get to surf that the dream of a few days in Yelapa started to seem like a silly idea. We had a short weather window; so getting ourselves down around the corner seemed like the right thing to do. We were also feeling pretty lucky not to have gotten sick yet, so better to quit while ahead.
We hit the Farmer’s Market one last time and loaded on the last provisions and had a final visit with Resolute (not a real goodbye, as we’re hoping to run into them again down south). We had a relaxing morning preparing to take off for our ~22 hour trip to Chamela. I was actually feeling quite relieved not to have to go ashore. Land life is quite exhausting! I was also feeling like I might be possibly getting one of the stomach bugs –as my guts hadn’t been right for a few days. I was hoping it was just due to all the eating out we’d been doing and I was looking forward to enjoying my own cooking again. As we got underway, the fermented pickle kraut and chinese herbs worked their magic and my guts started to feel normal. I hadn’t wanted to think about what could have happened on an overnight passage where I started out feeling awful! Luckily it was the opposite, I actually felt much better and I felt unusually good the entire passage.
We sailed off into the proverbial sunset and were excited about seeing new territory. I played my drum and we ate the last of my La Paz-made pesto and gnocchi for dinner and we were ready for whatever the night was to bring. Unfortunately sleeping was not so much on the agenda. Jonny wanted to be on watch for the first part of the night as we rounded Cabo Corrientes, since any number of things could happen rounding a point like that. It was fairly benign in the scheme of things, but it was incredibly rolly, just past the threshold of being able to sleep. So I tossed from ear to ear for 4 hours and couldn’t take it anymore. It started to calm down just as I got up to send Jonny down and he was snoring in no time. We were sailing downwind, and it was warm and wonderful. I read Steinbeck’s Tortilla Flat and it took me a while to realize the pine and sage smells were coming from land and not my imagination as I read about old time Monterey. The land down here had a different kind of scent and it really did remind me of California. The wind switched on me and I had to jibe (and crawl forward to free the preventer line that got caught around the hatch) but otherwise it was an uneventful watch. I was starting to get painfully tired just when Jonny came up to relieve me. I was able to get a couple hours sleep finally.
Chamela Bay is large and beautiful – the golden sand beach goes on for miles and it’s fringed with palm trees and low homes and palapa restaurants fronted with chairs and umbrellas. It’s much warmer down here; the water is a near perfect 82 degrees and looks clear and inviting. It’s fairly calm but we did have a few rolly hours in the night. The wind event we just skirted in under is starting and we are enjoying the stiff breezes to keep us cool. There are 8 or 9 other boats here – none familiar, and all spread out at healthy distances. We are loaded up with food and I am looking forward to making my own chicken enchiladas, BBQ pulled pork and chocolate coconut macaroons. We are happy to spend a few days soaking in the views, swimming and relaxing before we brave the shore break to make landfall.