May 1, 2008 — Honeymoon Cove, Isla Danzante — N 25 degrees 48′ 24.3″/W 111 degrees 15′ 24.1″

15.3nm for the day; 551.9 nm cruised on the trip overall

Things got pretty wild last night. We’d anchored on the east end of Yellowstone Beach because it offered best protection from the stiff southeasterlies we were getting there. As night fell we still had no swell refracting into our spot. However, shortly after we went below, the boat began pitching badly. I went on deck and saw that the wind had veered about 90 degrees, to the southwest. We were still protected from direct swell, however, the refracting swell could catch us squarely on the beam, with the wind holding us abeam of the incoming seas. I worried that the wind might continue to clock, to the point that we would get hit with direct wind and swell. I didn’t like the prospects of raising anchor in the dark and searching for a spot at the west end of the bay. Visual observation of the bottom is important in hooking well. If you miss the sand and drop on rocks or weeds, it could spell trouble. In the end, I decided to sit tight and do regular anchor checks through the night. If the wind moved into the west, we would move.

I set the spotlight out in the cockpit, just to be ready. Every two hours I got up and checked wind bearing, speed, and boat position by GPS. The wind stayed steady at 15 to 17 knots all night, and stayed in the southwest. I knew I’d dropped anchor in a good patch of sand, set it well, and let out 7:1 in scope. I would have let out more, but for the fact that the lee shore was too close to allow it. The anchor held solidly all night.

It was a long and very dark night. The sliver of a moon didn’t rise until 5 am. I know because I was up to see it. The motion of the boat under these conditions was amazing. I suspect the mast swung an arc of 25 degrees or more at times. We rocked, we bounced, we pitched, we shook. We heard noises below that we’d never heard before. Stuff slid off the table, and one of the drawers refused to stay latched and shut. I had no trouble rousing myself on my 2 hour schedule, but surprisingly, I was able to sleep pretty well in between, despite the chaos all around.

As dawn approached, I explained my plan to Sandy. As soon as it got light enough to see, we would pull anchor, run over to the west corner of the bay, and reanchor as close to shore as we could. I figured that would finally get us out of the swell, and it did. We enjoyed our breakfast in peace, listened to the weather forecast, and prepared for our crossing to Danzante Island, some 12 miles distant. The wind was still in the southwest, but only 10 to 12 knots when we got underway. The swell was still big and whitecaps were still showing. The wind was forecast to die back, but I put a reef in the main to be on the safe side. We sailed on a beam reach with reefed main and full genoa at 4 1/2 knots for the first couple of miles, easily riding the swell. Then, as predicted, the wind slackened and our speed began to fall. I shook out the reef, but we soon dropped down to 2 knots, so we motor sailed the rest of the way across.

We pulled into Honeymoon Cove, at the northwest end of Isla Danzante, intending it to only be a lunch stop, before proceeding the short distance across to Puerto Escondido, where Loreto Fest was kicking off today. However, before we even set our anchor we were enchanted with the place, and decided to spend the day and night here. Loreto Fest could wait until tomorrow.

Honeymoon Cove actually has 3 distinct coves, in close proximity with each other. The water is crystal clear, and owing to the bottom configuration, the water color transitions from deep cobalt blue, to tourquoise, to deep emerald, and finally pale green. The steep hillsides which surround and define each cove are beautifully landscaped with several varieties of cactus, agave, and other distinctive desert species. We quickly at lunch, went ashore, and ascended the trail to a vantage point high above our little cove. The view of the water’s colors, with our boat looking small and insignificant as she floated above emerald green, was enchanting. The perfect cure to a hot, dusty hike is a snorkel in these clear waters. We pulled on our wetsuits, and swam out in the 70 degree water. Unlike other places we’d snorkeled, this place offered both the near shore rocky shallows, but also allowed us to swim along a steep dropoff. We saw a large variety of fish, including several kinds which were new to us. We also saw quite a few large fish, which favored the deeper water. In one spot, we stopped swimming altogether and just hovered, watching an incredible array of fish swimming just a short distance away. It was like being at an aquarium, seeing so many fish.

After an hour or so in the water, we started to chill, so returned to the boat for fresh water solar shower rinses and a nice drink in the cockpit. While sipping our rum and cokes, a big gang of manta rays moved in and put on a spectacular aerial display, at times very close to the boat. We even saw some do complete back flips.

For dinner, Sandy fixed up a barbque chicken pizza, which needed to be baked on our backpack oven. This is a rather tricky operation, which is greatly facilitated by a steady boat. Wouldn’t you know, as soon as I placed the pan on the propane stove, out in the cockpit, a swell kicked up and started kicking us around on the beam. It seems a west wind was coming over the Sierra de la Giganta, creating the swell. However, the wind in our cove was coming in the opposite direction, which created all sorts of unpleasant movement. Somehow, we managed to bake the pizza to perfection, despite the challenge from the elements, and we enjoyed another gourmet meal.

Our wind has now swung into the northwest, at perhaps 10 knots. Not unbearable, but we do prefer those nights when the wind politely dies after sunset. I guess you can’t always have everything. We do have protection from the northwest, so as long as things stay as is, we shouldn’t experience anything close to last night’s ordeal.

May 2, 2008 — Puerto Escondido — N 25 degrees 49′ 14.3″/W 111 degrees 18′ 40.7″

3.6nm for the day; 557.5 nm cruised on the trip overall

We both slept in late this morning, and didn’t rise until the sun was well up. I missed most of the weather on the SSB, but caught enough to make plans for the next two days. This morning we’d make the short crossing over to Puerto Escondido, fill all our fuel tanks, and get water if we could. We will stay the night there ad check out the scene of Loreto Fest, which is in full swing today.

The sea was flat as we motored across toward Escondido. We were nearly to the harbor entrance when a gang of dolphins charged our boat and began playing in the bow wave. Sandy went up to watch and I held the boat on a steady course. I looked back toward the middle of the channel and saw hundreds of dolphins tearing up the water. I circled back in their direction. She took the wheel and I went forward to enjoy the spectacle. We circled along the outside of the dolphins, and were constantly escorted by them, both on the bow and in our wake. Every so often a group would veer off and leap into the air before rejoining the main group. It was the most spectacular encounter we’ve had with these wonderful creatures to date. Finally it was time to head in, and we turned back for Escondido. A small group of dolphins escorted us much of the way.

As we entered Puerto Escondido it was clear that the fleet of cruisers was here in force. The “Waiting Room”, the circular anchorage outside the main harbor, was full of boats, mostly larger ones. We passed the narrow entrance and found the Elipse, where we’d anchored on our way south, also full of boats. The main Singlar mooring field was a sea of masts, with boats moored everywhere except for a stretch opposite the low beach on the far side. This area, called “the window” is known for being quite windy, and boats were avoiding it. We went directly to the fuel dock. This time we had no difficulty in obtaining gas, and I took pains to fill all my tanks and jerry cans, right up to the marked fill lines. This will be our last fuel stop before we return to San Carlos, and I want to be sure I have ample fuel for the trip. I also filled the solar shower from the non potable hose bib at the fuel dock office. I got permission to leave the boat at the fuel dock while I went over to Singlar to check in and pay for a mooring ball. That done, we went out and secured the boat, amongst the fleet. While eating lunch we were visited by the yellow Singlar launch, and they requested that we move to another area. It seems we’d selected a mooring ball reserved for larger boats. Heck, every boat is larger than us. We complied and moved farther out. After lunch we ran in with the dinghy to shower and check in with Ken on the internet. I caught up with e’mail, but it was a struggle. Their connection is so weak that you can’t connect inside the building, where the power outlets are. The only place I got a decent signal was outside, and I had to work off the laptop’s battery.

By mid afternoon, chores were done. We got into the dinghy to return to the boat, drop off the computer and shower stuff, with plans to check out the Loreto Fest scene back on shore. I forgot to open the fuel line on the kicker motor. We got about 100 feet from the dinghy dock before the motor died for lack of fuel. I’ve done this before and restarted with no problems, but not this time. I pulled and pulled, but no start. Glumly, I grabbed the oars, facing the prospect of a 3/4 mile row across the mooring field, against a 5 knot headwind. I figured that all benefits of my shower would be lost by the time I got out to our boat. I’d only rowed a hundred yards or so before a rigid inflatable zoomed up to us and asked if we’d like a tow. Boy, would we. He grabbed our painter, and proceeded at a modest speed, so Sandy wouldn’t get splashed. What a nice guy.

Back on board, I grabbed my dinghy motor tool kit (Sandy’s leatherman) and removed the little outboard’s protective cover. I took the carburator off and found a little grit inside. I wiggled the little brass pivot that rides on the float, and put it all back together. Hopefully I gave it a pull. Nothing. I tried a couple more times, and then opened the choke and pulled again. This time she sputtered and came to life. It appears that the carburator is this little motor’s weak point.

We motored in to the old dinghy dock at the Elipse, which was jammed with dinghies from the fleet. We wormed our way in and tied up, then walked over to the Loreto Fest canopies. A big crowd of cruisers were there, drinks in hand, socializing and having fun. We got beverages and hot dogs. The music was loud, and we failed to recognize any of the cruisers we’d met along our way. We decided to head back to the boat and relax there.

Tomorrow we’ll head over to Isla Carmen, before a final visit to Loreto. We should arrive in Loreto on May 4. If we can again tie up inside the boat basin we may lay over on May 5, which is Cinco de Mayo down here, a big holiday in Mexico. We don’t know what to expect, but it might just be very special.

May 3, 2008 — Puerta Ballandra, Isla Carmen — N 26 degrees 01′ 16.8″/W 111 degrees 09′ 53.3″

House battery at 7 am: 12.35 volts
16.6nm for the day; 574.1 nm cruised on the trip overall

We rose fairly early, and savored a lovely sunrise over Puerto Escondido. Weather for the next couple days sounds good, according to the two nets we monitor. I untied our bow line from the mooring ball around 8:45 and we eased our way through the Loreto Fest fleet. On the way out I radioed Singlar Marina to inform them of our departure.

The cruise today was relatively uneventful, with a crossing over to Isla Carmen, and then 10 miles or so north along its west coast. Sandy took the wheel for much of the way, while I sat below, sorting through digital pictures. We anchored at Puerta Ballandra, a nice anchorage on the northwest end of the island. There were 2 other sailboats there when we arrived, just after noon. Another pair arrived later in the day. In the afternoon we went ashore and walked the beach, around the entire bay. Park signboards inform visitors of the presence of rare and endangered wildlife, and to be careful when ashore. The cruising guide says there are desert bighorn sheep on this island, but we haven’t seen any. We did see tracks that might have been bighorns in the soft mud near a lagoon behind the beach.

The routine nature of the day has gotten us thinking about the conclusion to our trip. We are within 2 or 3 days cruising of Punta Chivato, the jumpoff point for our return crossing to San Carlos. Thoughts are shifting to a need to e’mail the mini storage lot owner, regarding our return. I also need to e’mail my car insurance agent to reinstate insurance on the truck in time for our border crossing back into the US. We will be crossing over to Loreto in the morning, and will take care of e’mail chores while there. If it sounds like there will be a good celebration in town on the next day for Cinco de Mayo, we may stay over to see how they celebrate this holiday in a Mexican town.

We’re buttoned up tight in the cabin tonight. Earlier today we were mobbed by bees in search of water. One even came down to the galley and went down the sink drain to get water from the drain trap. Sandy put a tray of water out for them on deck, and that really brought a gang in. Right now we’re swatting mosquitoes for the first time. A few got in before we closed things up. With mosquities in the air, there must be a fresh water source nearby.

May 4, 2008 — Loreto boat basin — N 26 degrees 00′ 54.1″/W 111 degrees 20′ 19.3″

9.7 nm for the day; 583.8 nm cruised on the trip overall

We rose early, in the hope that we could get underway before the bees revisited us. We learned that bees rise very early around here, and they have a good memory for fresh water sources. Several were searching the spot where we’d set out the water pan yesterday. We had a light easterly breeze, so I made ready to raise sails. Since the anchorage was too tight to comfortably sail off the anchor, I went to start the outboard. After nearly 600 miles of trouble free operation, the trusty Nissan balked. Specifically, when I turned the key, it turned over much slower than usual, and wouldn’t catch. I leaned over and gave the fuel primer bulb a couple of squeezes, and this time she caught. I later checked the ignition battery, and found it to be strong. I suspect a recurrance of a problem we had on the Alaska trip, when the motor occasionally would turn over very slowly. Suspicion is that somewhere in the wiring between battery and motor a wire connection has begun to corrode, causing a voltage loss. If it continues to be a problem, I’ll have to search for the troublesome spot.

We took our time crossing to Loreto, and reached the boat basin around 10:45 am. I was disappointed, but not surprised, to see a sport fishing boat tied to the floating dock where we had moored on our previous visit. With no other dock space available, I looked for an opening among the pangas, where I could set a stern anchor and tie to the rock jetty, Mediterranean style. I selected an open area along the seaward jetty, dropped the stern anchor, and went ashore in the dinghy with a bow line while Sandy stayed at the helm, boat hook in hand, to keep us out of trouble. We secured the boat without incident, had lunch on board, and prepared to walk into town.

I love serendipity, those quirky little paths we sometimes stumble down, which lend so much flavor and magic to life. For us, Loreto seems full of serendipity. If it hadn’t been for a spur of the moment decision, on our previous visit, to pop into a little bookstore and inquire about the location of an internet cafe, tonight could have never happened. The proprietor of the bookstore was chatting with another fellow, who gave us directions to a little place, called Biznaga, which had high speed WIFI, as well as refreshments and gifts for sale. He gave us good directions to the place. It turns out he was the owner, and he didn’t steer us wrong. It was the perfect place to do e’mail, and so, upon returning to Loreto today, the first thing we did was stroll up to Biznaga, laptop stuffed in the backpack. The same nice young woman was behind the counter, and she told me all about the grand opening of the new restaurant starting up in the back courtyard. A helpful young man assisted me as I set up the computer. They were both very enthused about the grand opening of this new restaurant. A man came around whom I recognized. He was the guitar player who had entertained us so well when we dined at Mita Gourmet a few weeks back. It turns out he and his family are starting up this new venture, with the grand opening set for tomorrow night, on Cinco de Mayo.

This presented us with a problem. We’d already set our hearts on a return to Mita Gourmet, which is closed today. Thus, if we attended the grand opening at Biznaga, we’d have to forego our dinner at Mita Gourmet. The problem was solved when we learned that Biznaga would be serving dinner tonight, a sort of pre-grand opening. And, to top it all, our guitar playing friend and owner of the new restaurant would be providing live musical entertainment. This was too good to pass up.

We arrived at 6 pm sharp. We were greeted by a neatly dressed boy, whom we later learned was the 11 year old son of Herzon, our guitar player and restaurant owner. The boy wore a clean white shirt, and his hair was carefully slicked up. In spite of the fact that there was only only other person seated in the open air dining area, he formally asked us if we had a reservation. We respectfully said no, and then he gave us our choice of tables. The company of diners was soon joined by another couple we’d met earlier, and had told about this newly opened restaurant. The five of us were treated to a memorable dining experience.

The mother was back in the kitchen, doing all the cooking. Our formal young waiter approached the table with measured stride, one hand held behind his back, and attended to our every need with style and class, well beyond his years. He gracefully set our margeritas down on the table, and when he poured my beer, not a drop flowed down the side of the mug. He promptly removed finished dishes, and periodicly checked our table to make sure everything was satisfactory. His English was very good, he being a student of the language since kindegarten. He obviously had been well instructed in the skills of waiter by his attentive parents. It was delightful to see such mature manners in this boy of 11. Our table was bussed by his 8 year old sister, a charming girl with bright eyes, full of personality.

The meal was excellent, and beautifully presented. Herzon provided musical entertainment, and it was music to be savored. He’s a remarkably talented musician, a guitarist equally comfortable playing intricate flamenco on acoustical guitar, as well as classic rock, soft jazz, and popular tunes. His technique is remarkable. His left hand is a blur, moving up and down the neck of the guitar, kapoing with finger only, and even occasionally tweeking a tuning screw in the midst of a tune. His right hand picks, plucks and strums with zest. He rarely sings, but he’s so completely focused on his music that his facial expressions are song in itself. I asked him if he knew Stairway to Heaven and he treated us to an enchanting rendition. Another highlight came when he asked his young daughter to join him as vocalist. The vision of the pair of them together will linger for a long time.

We hated to leave, since by that time we were his only audience. We tipped both our youthful waiter and Herzon generously, and wished them much success with their new restaurant. If we hadn’t stopped in that bookstore to ask directions to an internet cafe, tonight would never have happened. It reminds us to try being open to the little joys in life.

May 5, 2008 — Loreto — Layover day

When we moored on the seawall yesterday, among the pangas, my one concern was with the pelicans. They love to perch on the pangas tied up here. Some stand on the gunnels, while others favor the tipped up housings of outboard motors or the lower units. Whereever they perch, however, they quickly coat boats and motors with whitewash. The more fastidious panga owners counter by covering their outboards with an old blanket or piece of carpeting. I didn’t look forward to cleaning up after the pelicans, so I contrived a web of lines over our outboard. We also stowed our backrests and cockpit cushions in the cabin when we went to town.

As it turned out, the pelicans gave us no problems at all. They seemed to prefer their tried and true panga perches. My biggest problem came from the pangas themselves. More specifically, the two pangas moored on either side of us. When we tied up yesterday, we picked a spot with a comfortable amount of room. The breeze was out of the south during the day, and all boats angled parallel to each other. However, last night a westerly land breeze blew across the boat basin. For some reason, the panga on our starboard side swung toward us, while the panga on our port side leaned in the opposite direction, and thus also toward us. They took turns bumping into the sides of our hull. I did my best to adjust our mooring lines and set protective fenders, and even rafted our dinghy between us and the most troublesome panga, but we still got occasionally bumped. Finally, this morning I got in the dinghy and, with the aid of the dinghy’s anchor, managed to reset my stern anchor to a more favorable angle, and this has improved things.

The day was pleasantly warm as we strolled down the seawall and headed south along the malecon. We turned at Salvetierra, and walked up that lovely historic, cobblestone street toward the green shrubs which are trimmed into arches overhead. We shopped for leather goods and ceramics at an interesting old shop on a corner, near the mission church, and then visited another ceramics shop for a piece Sandy had eyed the day before. By then it was lunch time, so we backtracked, to Cafe Ole, which is next to the beautiful Hotel Flores, where we enjoyed a delicious lunch. Thus fortified, we marched west on Hidalgo to pick up beer, pop, rum, and other necessary provisions at the Supermercado de Pescadore. I had brought my West Marine collapsible wheeled dock cart along for the return tote, and I once again received expressions of amazement and approval from the store clerks when I opened it up. We walked slowly back toward the boat, easing the small wheels over the rough spots in street and sidewalk. We dropped in at the ice cream store for cups of our favorite flavors, and enjoyed them in the shade of a welcome tree.

We got back on board, and I did one of my dreaded “dumpster dives”. We store all our extra provisions in lidded plastic tubs, slid way back in the king berth, which is below the cockpit. Sandy has an accurate and detailed inventory of their contents, and every few weeks I have to crawl back there and retrieve items we’ve run out of. I pulled out loads of good things to eat, and then it was Sandy’s turn to transfer the items to our smaller working tubs, which are handily stowed in the locker under the forward settee cushion. After all that work, there was nothing more to do than read and nap in the shade, until the dinner hour approached.

Tonight, our last in Loreto, was dress up night. Sandy wore a colorful tropical dress, and I wore a sport shirt, long pants and tennis shoes for the first time in over a month. We had reservations at Mita Gourmet, and once again enjoyed a leisurely and delightful dining experience at that wonderful restaurant. After dinner we walked back, past Biznaga, where their grand opening was in full swing. As we approached the entrance, we heard Herzon once again playing Stairway to Heaven on his acoustic guitar. We couldn’t help but stop in. The place was crowded, and Herzon’s family was hard at work, attending to their diners. They were kind enough to seat us at a table for a short while where we had coffee and again enjoyed Herzon’s marvelous guitar playing. We visited with the couple from Gig Harbor, who had returned to Biznagas for dinner. We bought Herzon’s third CD and wished them the best of luck with their new restaurant. Sandy took a picture of the mother and her son and daughter. They seemed a little tired, but happy with the success of their grand opening. We then strolled under the stars, back to the boat, filled with happy memories of our two visits to Loreto.

May 6, 2008 — Caleta San Juanico — N 26 degrees 22′ 07.3″/W 111 degrees 25′ 47.8″

24.8nm for the day; 608.6 nm cruised on the trip overall

I awoke at 5:30 this morning to the sounds of pangas leaving the boat basin, a 10 knot westerly breeze pressing against our stern. Shortly after 6 I went ashore and walked up to the charter fishing office and picked up 2 bags of ice. There will be margeritas on the rocks tonight. The sun was just up when I untied from the rock jetty and pulled the stern anchor aboard. We were floating free and saying farewell to Loreto.

As soon as I cleared the boat basin I raised sails and shut the motor down. We sipped our coffee, making about 2.5 knots on the land breeze. We proceeded under sail despite a predictable drop in speed, as the land breeze soon began to fail. I wanted to listen to weather on the SSB radio, and it’s impossible to hear if the motor is running. Light winds were predicted for today, but tomorrow it’s supposed to blow out of the northwest. Our plan was to run up to San Juanico, with its good northwest protection, and lay over there tomorrow if necessary.

We motored for a couple hours, doing around 4 knots as we closed on the multi-colored cliffs of Punta Mangles. I intended on stopping for lunch there, however, as we neared the anchorage, which is open to the south, the southeasterly breeze kicked up, so we decided to have lunch on the fly. I raised sails again, and shut down the motor. We sailed comfortably on a broad reach, averaging between 3.5 and 4 knots most of the way up to San Juanico.

I glassed the San Juanico anchorage, and could see several boats already moored there. Since it is open to the south, I figured that they were open to swell. I headed for a little nook at the south end of the bay, which gives some southerly protection. It has a nice beach, and we felt like doing some beach combing. A refracting swell rolled into the little cove, but I thought the main anchorage would be worse. While we were on the beach we saw several large sailboats parade by from the south, all making for the shelter of San Juanico.

We spent several hours on the beach, picking up shells and marveling at the colorful rocks which have been deposited along the beach. As we walked back to the dinghy, we began to be bothered by bobos, and when we got back on board, Sandy discovered bees swarming inside the cabin. The swell had also increased, and was rolling strongly into the cove, rocking the boat badly. Pulling anchor was an easy call. We motored across the bay, toward the main anchorage which, by this time, held over a dozen boats. I wasn’t concerned about finding a good spot to anchor, since I knew we could move into shallow water, inside most of the fleet. I hadn’t counted on half the boats being fairly shallow draft multihulls though. We did end up in a comfortable spot, smugly hooked a hundred yards in front of a Sun Oddessy 54, looking picture perfect with her shining black hull trimmed in maroon and gold.

The breeze by this time had swung into the north, but it died down as the sun began to set. We went out in the dinghy to enjoy the sunset, but were glad to climb back on board. I don’t think it got above the low 80’s today, and it’s actually chilly outside right now. I expect I’ll find a heavy dew on deck in the morning.

May 7, 2008 — Punta Pulpito — N 26 degrees 30′ 54.8″/ W 111 degrees 26′ 57.0″

10 nm for the day; 618.6 nm for the cruise overall

Ordinarily, by this stage in our Macgregor cruises, we’re getting antsy to close the loop and reunite boat with trailer. The sleeping bag feels less than comfortable, provisions are running short, maybe petty disagreements have robbed cruising of some of its joys. Visions of a bed that stays flat and stable all night, conveniences like a real flush toilet and shower, and musings of what the yard must look like back home start displacing the wonder of exploring new islands and beaches.

Not so this time. Our goal today was to have been San Sebastian, a decent 20 mile journey north from San Juanico. Punta Pulpito, a dramatic volcanic headland which dominates the horizon for 20 miles if heading either north or south, is situated halfway between San Juanico and San Sebastian. We stopped at Pulpito for lunch, liked the feel of the anchorage, and decided to stay the night here instead of continuing on to San Sebastian. Exploring this dramatic area seemed a far better idea than moving 10 miles closer to our truck and boat trailer.

We had lunch, napped, and then dinghied ashore. One notable feature of Punta Pulpito, according to the cruising guide, is its large vein of jet black obsidian. We set out to discover it. We hadn’t gone further than a few paces on the cobble beach before Sandy started seeing bits and chunks of obsidian mixed in with the sand and gravel. As we wandered along, we began finding larger hunks of solid obsidian, some basketball sized. We clambered over boulders, heading out around the base of the cliff until we were just below a broad black band which slashed vertically up the face of the cliff. I climbed up rubble to the start of the black vein and confirmed that it was the source of the countless pieces of obsidian on the beach below.

After filling our pockets with only the finest specimens, we returned to the boat. I mounted the kicker on dinghy, and we motored out around Pulpito, sneaking in and around submerged boulders. We got a great look at a pair of blue footed boobies, which were standing next to some pelicans on boulders at water’s edge. Their feet truly are a bright baby blue.

For most of the day, we were one third of a curious mix of boats in this anchorage. A few hundred yards astern of us a panga swung on its welded rebar grappnel anchor. Three local fishermen were aboard. When we arrived, they were busy tending either gear or their morning’s catch, I couldn’t tell for sure. They were bundled up in hooded sweatshirts to ward of the chill of the 78 degree air, which was clearly cooler than their comfort level. Around 1 pm they all stretched out and slept for the rest of the afternoon. Around dinner time they rose, rolled up their plastic tarp sunshade, and then after eating, laid down for another short nap. A short while ago they raised anchor and started working their way out into deeper water. They pause for a bit to try a spot with their hand lines, then move further out. I expect that they will be fishing all night.

The other boat sharing anchorage with us arrived in mid afternoon. She is a cutter rigged ketch, probably 60 feet in length, lemon yellow hull with green sail covers. She’s named Endless Summer. Around 6 pm she raised anchor and resumed her journey north. Perhaps she’s planning on making an overnight crossing from here to San Carlos. The forecast for the northern crossing is favorable for such a voyage tonight.

We are now the only boat anchored at Punta Pulpito. Wispy clouds overhead are painting the sky in hues of orange and peach. A pelican is circling in search of fish, and a pesky gull moves in to try and steal its catch following the pelican’s plunge. Our fishermen are about 2 miles out on a lightly wind rippled sea, working their hand lines. Not a light is to be seen except a sliver moon hanging above the sunset. The only sounds are the sea lapping at the cobble shore and our flag occasionally flapping in the light breeze. Another day ending on the Sea of Cortez.

May 8, 2008 — Bahia Santo Domingo — N 26 degrees 52′ 00.6″/W 111 degrees 50′ 41.9″

37.2nm for the day; 655.8 nm cruised on the trip overall

It’s about an hour before sunset, and we’re both quite tired. We came further than usual today, due to the fact that we had to come up the east shore of Punta Conception, a very long penninsula which offers no place to tuck in along the way. It was a warm day, with a light breeze from our stern quarter most of the way, which made for a pleasant passage.

I rose at 5:30, just as the first hint of dawn was showing behind Punta Pulpito. When I went forward to haul in the anchor, I could see a bright line of bioluminescence going down in the water, resulting from the rode stimulating things. When I pulled the anchor in, I could see sparkles of light on the wet nylon line which I’d just placed in the anchor locker. As we got underway, the eastern sky steadily reddened, in advance of the rising sun. A large school of mantas caught my attention as I passed Punta Pulpito, leaping into the air and loudly flopping back into the sea. The run itself up to Punta Conception, about 18 miles in length was fairly uneventful. Sea life sightings included a pod of dolphins, which were proceeding in a line opposite our course of travel. We also spotted a single sea lion, more mantas, a large predatory fish which rudely ignored my trolling lure, and the usual collection of sea birds. We motor sailed much of the way, but ran on sails only, wing on wing, for the last 5 miles to the point, averaging about 3 knots.

We rounded Punta Conception around 2 in the afternoon, and headed for the shallow open bay known as Bahia Santo Domingo. We stayed here a night on our way south, and had enjoyed the place then, being the only boat there at the time. We did find one other boat anchored here as we made our approach, however, we were followed by another sloop into the anchorage. In the past couple of hours, 5 other boats have anchored here. We recognize 3 multihulls which were in San Juanico two nights ago.

The afternoon turned quite hot here. As soon as we anchored, we piled into the dinghy with our snorkel gear, intent on exploring the small reef area which borders the anchorage on the north end. Water temperature was a comfortable 72 degrees, thankfully much better than the 64 degrees we had in Punta Pulpito yesterday. At first, visibility was poor, but after we passed through some weedy areas, the water cleared, and we had a great time looking for fish. We saw several new varieties, including a couple large ones which were probably good table fish, if I’d brought my spear. We were just looking though, and we thoroughly enjoyed the swim. After 45 minutes or so in the water we felt chilled, and it was time to get out. By the time we climbed out on the beach, we were surprised to find the sky overcast, and the air much cooler than when we went in. We rowed back to the boat and rinsed off in the solar shower. With a rum and coke under our belts, we barely had enough energy to fix and eat dinner.

It’s looking like we’ll be treated to another stunning sunset, in the direction of Mulege. I am a bit concerned about the breeze, which has shifted to the west. This is the predictable night time land breeze, and we’re completely open in that direction, with about 5 miles of fetch. I’ve got plenty of scope out, and we’re well set in a sand bottom, so dragging shouldn’t be a problem. The question will be how badly the boat bounces. On the other hand, we’re both tired enough that bouncing may not interfere with sleep at all.

May 9, 2008 — Punta Chivato — N 27 degrees 03′ 59.9″/W 111 degrees 57′ 37.7″

16.8nm for the day; 672.6 nm on the cruise overall

This was to be the setup day for our return crossing to San Carlos. Our intended jumpoff point would be Punta Chivato, just across Bahia Santa Inez from Punta Conception. We had a leisurely breakfast, so leisurely in fact that I missed the first half of the Sunrisa Net’s weather. No problem, I caught the second part, which suggested that tomorrow, Saturday, would be a good day to cross, while Sunday didn’t look quite as good. That settled it. We would start our crossing in the early morning hours tomorrow. Then things started going wrong.

To start with, I untied one of my 5 gallon jerry cans, to top off the main fuel tanks. I was startled to find it nearly empty. When I’d last bought fuel, at Escondido, I remembered thinking both 5 gallon jerry cans were full. I hadn’t bothered checking them. In point of fact, they were both nearly empty. That was unsettling, since I had hopes of running the boat at higher speed, thereby reducing the length of time needed in crossing. I still had adequate fuel for the return, but I did like the idea of being able to run at a higher speed. An inconvenience, but not a serious problem.

We got underway around 10:30 am, and proceeded at about 4 knots, to conserve fuel. We were able to motor sail in light air much of the way across to the Punta Chivato area. One reason for stopping there was to look up a neighbor of my dad’s, a guy named Ed who has a beach house a mile or so east of the Punta Chivato hotel. We had directions to his house, however, because of our slow rate of travel, we got there later in the day than I’d have preferred. We anchored out in the shallow bay, an open roadstead, right in front of his house, and dinghied in. By this time the breeze had picked up, so I let out extra scope.

We had a nice visit with Ed, which included use of his computer to check e’mail, showers, and dinner. The only problem with this socializing was time. We had precious little of it, considering the preparations we needed to make before being ready to cross. The sun was quite low over the horizon before we said our goodbyes.

The scene which greeted us on the beach was chaotic, to say the least. While we’d been inside visiting, a brisk breeze had come up, and a nasty swell was sweeping into the shallow bay and breaking on the beach. Several waves had broken over the dinghy’s stern, and dinghy was starting to resemble a bathtub/wave pool combination. I quickly baled her out, and we launched into the teeth of a 2 foot surf. We bounced our way out to the wildly pitching boat, and somehow managed to board ourselves and our stuff without mishap. Sandy started the engine while I tended to the anchor.

The Punta Chivato anchorage was only a mile or 2 distant, however, our direction of travel put us directly in the trough between swells. We had to motor tack our way up the beach, which took considerable time. The sun was beginning to set before we were anchored as far into the corner at Chivato as we could get. Then work commenced in earnest, which was a shame, considering we were unable to enjoy perhaps the finest sunset of the cruise. It was like Baja was trying to tell us to slow down and not force our return crossing.

I ignored the message, and proceeded to prepare the dinghy for stowage on deck. This is a tricky operation under ideal conditions, and we were dealing with less than ideal circumstances. The boat was bouncing around from refracting swell. More critically, it was now dusk, and rapidly getting dark. I attached the mast raising boom to the mast, then climbed into the dinghy and began passing up all the soaked gear (lifejackets, extra lines, pump, sponge, and the like) to Sandy, who piled things onto the cushions. I then removed the middle seat and transom, attached the bridle line, and prepared to hoist away. We got it on board just fine, but it was a lot more difficult in the dark. When I folded her up I discovered a thick layer of marine growth on the dinghy’s hull. I then went below and jammed all the gear into the king berth area. We didn’t finish up until around 10 pm. I set the alarm for 3 am, and went to sleep.

May 10, 2008 — Singlar Marina, Santa Rosalia — N 27 degrees 20′ 15.3″/ W 112 degrees 15′ 46.2″

75 liters of fuel — 28.3 nm on the day; 700.9 nm cruised on the trip overall

I awoke just before the alarm rang, dressed, and went on deck to prepare for departure. I was a little surprised to find the breeze still blowing, and a swell still swinging into the anchorage. It was more settled than when we had gone to bed, and I took that as a good sign. I turned on the running lights, got my headlamp out, and raised anchor. I told Sandy to sleep, if she could. It was an extremely dark night, with the first quarter moon having set long before. I had a great deal of difficulty orienting my way clear of Chivato, with its hazardous rocks and offshore island. By the time I reached open water I found myself in about 3 foot swell, and about 10 knots of wind. I tried running the speed up to 8 knots, but the swell wouldn’t allow it. I throttled back and pointed toward San Carlos, some 70 miles distant. By the time I was 5 miles out, the wind was showing no sign of easing, and the swell, if anything, was increasing. The forecast had been favorable for crossing today, however, the conditions I was experiencing were anything but encouraging. Decision time was at hand. Continue and hope things would improve, or alter course for the marina at Santa Rosalia and hope for a better day in the near future. I elected to take the conservative approach, and swung around to the north.

Altering course didn’t completely bring an end to my problems. About midway through the shallow Craig Channel, the outboard began to miss. It has run perfectly for the entire cruise, and at this stage of things, possible engine trouble was thoroughly disheartening. I eased back on the throttle, and she settled down — for a while — and then started missing again. I throttled back once more, with the same results. It seemed to be a fuel problem, and I began suspecting bad gas. The only problem was that the engine had been running fine on the port side tank. I was only having trouble since switching last night from the starboard tank. I dropped to idle and switched the fuel line back to the starboard tank and — sure enough — she ran fine. I couldn’t believe I only had bad gas on one side. Then it hit me. I’d forgotten to open the air displacement valve on the fill cap. After opening the valve, she ran fine on the port side tank. Would that all problems could be solved so easily.

My predawn cruise was not without its rewards. I saw several brilliant shooting stars. The most spectacular sighting was not in the sky, however, but in the water. While motoring along, something caught my eye, off to the right. It was a wild display of bioluminescence in the water. I thought it to be a big fish, until it swerved and sped right toward our hull at breathtaking speed. It looked like a torpedo, on collision course, its trajectory fully illuminated by millions of brilliant points of light. It was a dolphin, come to play. He swerved toward the bow, then veered back and forth, his every move illuminated by glittering water. After a few minutes of this behaviour, I lost track of him. Just when I thought he’d left, I was startled by a loud smack just behind the boat. I looked back and saw him playing in our wake. He gave another loud tail slap and disappeared.

We entered Santa Rosalia harbor shortly after 9 am, and pulled up to the fuel dock. This time, I made sure all fuel containers were filled. We then tied up in a slip for the balance of the day. We still had several days of credit from our first stay here, so this stop wouldn’t cost us anything extra. We spent the day drying things out, repacking the king berth, and cleaning ourselves, the dinghy, and the boat. We were visited by Arturo, who commented on the lush growth on the dinghy. I told him I’d be cleaning it up. He asked me if Chinook had a similar growth. I said it was in need of cleaning. He offered to dive in and clean the hull, for $30. That sounded like a great deal to me, so after lunch, Arturo came by and did the job.

We are now rested and the boat is in good shape for the crossing. The weather all day has been dead calm here, just like the forecast said. I’m sure we could have crossed today, but nonetheless, I’m happy with the decision I made. The forecast for tonight and tomorrow morning looks good, and there should be very little, if any, residual swell out there. Time will tell. We’ll retire early tonight, try for some sleep, and I’ll rise about 1 am this time. With any luck at all, that should put us into San Carlos around 10 am tomorrow.