As we neared the boat yard in Guaymas where Carmanah was hauled out for the summer, we had butterflies in our stomachs and there was nervous chatter at the thought of what we might find. But when we arrived just before sunset, she looked fine—from the outside. Finding a ladder to look inside was a little challenging however when we finally were able to climb aboard and slide the hatch back, none of our fears were realized. Everything was as we left it except that the self inflating man-over-board device had self-deployed in the torrential rains of hurricane Newton.
We spent the next four days preparing the boat for launch. We stayed in a nearby hotel with air conditioning which kept us from passing out from heat stroke, it was hitting over a hundred each day. October 13 is a little on the early side for returning, and “they” say it was an unusually hot October. We ended up setting the alarm for 3:30 AM to get as much work done as possible before the sun rose then knocking off for the day by noon. But we were able to launch a day early and motor up to the marina in San Carlos for the final preparations which took 9 days instead of the 4 that we’d hoped for. But we got to hang out with fun people and the 20 peso (about $1) draft beers at Hammerhead’s made it enjoyable. Still we were pretty pumped when we finally sailed out of the harbor and started heading north.
We decided to sail up the mainland coast to Isla Tiburon, the largest island in all of Mexico. The whole island is a nature preserve and homeland to the Seri Indians so we had to ask Lucy to be on her best behavior and not cause any ecological disasters. In return we agreed to anchor at Dog’s Bay on the first night. Right away we felt the seclusion and rawness that can be found north of Vancouver Island or the west coast of the Queen Charlottes. We (Carmanah and Voila) were the only boats at almost every anchorage we visited. We never even saw another boat out on the water other than local fish boats. The window between summer heat and winter gales(cold winds from the north start in late November) is fairly narrow, you have to enjoy it while you can. Kind of like the BC northcoast. The water cooled from 82 down near San Carlos to 76 at Tiburon and when we crossed over to Isla Partida near the Baja side, we ran through some strong tidal currents that caused even colder water to well up between Tiburon and Isla San Estaban creating fog. Really, fog in the Sea of Cortez. A first for us since rounding to Cabo San Lucas last year. We had to fire up the radar….and it still worked. Yes! The fog only lasted the width of the channel but it was exciting and reminded us of home.
Isla Partida was a convenient midway stop on our crossing to Baja that turned out to be a real gem. Moderately protected but we had very settled weather and we discovered an abundance of fish when we hopped in to go snorkeling. Unfortunately when I pulled back the band on my spear gun for the first time, it broke and I thought I was out of luck for fishing with groupers, sierra, triggers, and bass swimming everywhere and begging to join us for dinner. But I dug out my fishing pole and an unlikely lure and began trolling from the dinghy. Fish-on immediately. And so the fun began. We dinghy fished everywhere after that. In some ways it’s more fun than catching the big fish like yellow fin tuna you can get in the open water and you can keep only what you need for dinner. The wind came up from the wrong direction on our third night at Partida and we had to do a midnight move to the other side of the island. Luckily we had previously set a way-point for anchoring there and our GPS tracks were easy to follow around the rocks in the dark.
But it was time to move on so the next day we sailed on a close reach to the Puerto Don Juan on the Baja. No port there but a completely protected “hurricane hole” that gave us a base to visit Bahia de Los Angeles, the only town in the area. BLA village sits on the water adjacent to a low area in the mountains that separate the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez so winds can come roaring in with a vengeance from the Pacific side, especially at night when “Elephantes” can reach 50 knots as cold air slides down the valleys. We decided on a day trip. Very cool little town but with a lot of drive-down Americans who trailer small boats to go fishing. The town map (as with many coastal communities) shows a section called “La Gringa” where most of the expats have homes.
Our last stop in the area was at remote Bahia San Francisquito where we were able to tuck into a small inner lagoon that required high tide entry but was very sweet. White sand beaches and plentiful cactus and green desert scrub made for a beautiful setting and the marine life was beyond plentiful. Of course we were the only boats. We’re getting spoiled. When the north winds started filling in, we sailed the 80 miles down to Santa Rosalia for our first marina stay in a while.
Santa Rosalia is one of the few coastal towns where there is very little foreign tourism. It was built around the beginning of the 20th century out of wood from the Pacific Northwest by the copper mining company which founded the town. We’re used to cement and stucco in this part of the world so it’s strange to walk down streets lined with 100 year old wooden buildings. And it’s refreshing to be at a place not set up for exploiting tourism. We’re more of an anomaly here. It feels good. We’d like to stay on longer but still have a long way south to go before Thanksgiving. We’ll leave after we watch the election results and find out if we want to go home again and if we’ll be welcome in Mexico. But, we’ll definitely be back in the spring though.