Log #22—The Baja Coast

Wednesday December 1st, 1999

Just after noon on December 1st Andanté and her crew slipped her lines at Sunroad Marina, our San Diego home for the past six weeks.  After fueling, we eventually motored out past Point Loma and entered the Pacific Ocean to find no wind and 6-foot swells, which we took on the beam.  It wasn’t long before the United States slipped behind us.  Four miles south of the Mexican border we passed Islas Coronados (Crown Islands) wildlife refuge to port, just as the sun set.  0030 Thursday morning we finally hooked anchor on the east side of Islas Todos Santos (All Saints Islands), located nine miles west of Ensenada.  (Todos Santos position: 31º 47.59' N, 116º 47.313' W)  We completed a total of 72 miles for the day.  The passage down was reasonable--we only had 5-6 foot swells, but they were spaced far enough apart that the passage wasn’t too bouncy.The eastern side of the south island is used for abalone farming, choking the small bay with many floats.  It didn’t give us much room to anchor, but we had to make do.  Even when firmly hooked, our anchorage didn’t afford much protection from the prevailing waves, which sloshed into the stern, under my berth, while the little snapping shrimp clicked their way along the hull.  Noisy, but comforting to be anchored.

Thursday December 2nd, 1999 

We departed Todos Santos at 1020 under power.  The first full day at sea always seems to offer special challenges, and this time I had some satellite e-mail problems to sort through.  After working on it for a few hours, a particularly difficult problem turned out to be solvable with help from resources on the Internet, although I think I may have blown a significant chunk of my monthly communications budget that first day.This afternoon a school of dolphins approached to look us over.  Although we were cruising at six and a half knots, the dolphins enveloped us in an escort cloud on all sides, keeping pace with our momentum through the swells.  The more playful individuals jockeyed for the sweet spot—the compression wave in front of the bow—where they got pushed along for the ride2000 hours.  Under pitch darkness we anchored behind Punta Colnett in 24-feet of water.  (30º 57.140' N, 116º 15.089' W)  What a luxury to anchor in only 24-feet of water.  In Alaska, we considered 60-feet shallow luxury.  The norm was closer to 90-feet.  Tucked behind Punta Colnett we found ourselves in another rolling anchorage—even more so than the previous evening—where three foot swells swept by every few seconds.  In order to stabilize the ride, we set out our bow anchor in the direction of the swells, and our stern anchor 180 degrees the opposite direction.  While this kept us from oscillating from side-to-side, it accentuated a rather pronounced seesaw motion.  We accepted the tradeoff however: the next closest anchorage was six hours south.

Friday December 3rd, 1999 

0942 hours.  We departed Punta Colnett, again under power.  Our wind over the last three days has averaged perhaps two and a half knots, although the swells seem to have been generated by higher winds somewhere else.Our passage south was uneventful, almost to the point of boredom.  Except for Thursday's dolphins, we had seen no marine life, no other boats, and hadn't heard any voice traffic on the VHF radio.  It was so quiet that Debi commented that maybe something has happened somewhere that we didn't know about.  (Any nuclear holocausts that we’re not aware of?)Most of the day large Pacific swells pushed us along quietly.  Some of these waves bordered on ten feet, but the frequency was so low that they mostly swept past, gently lifting Andanté up, and then settling her back down.  An occasional wave hit us harder as we bounced off the crest.  The temperature was cool, and it continued cold at night.  Although, we all thought we felt a hint of warmer weather that promised to chase the cold away.  But it was only a hint.  We all continued to wear our PNW-poly.  (Pacific Northwest polypropylene.) A minor crisis dawned on us this afternoon: We realized that we have no wasabi on-board for fresh out-of-the sea sashimi.  Future visitors, please be prepared to offer assistance.1657 hours.  We anchored in Bahia San Quintin.  A long narrow spit to the west made this the most comfortable anchorage so far.  But before anchoring in 21-feet of water, a Mexican Navy skiff approached with five recruits.  Before approaching us, we watched them board another cruising boat that was anchored further out in the bay.  They were in boarding mode.  After leaving the other sailboat the Navy skiff pulled up to within 20-feet and gave us a quick look-over.  The skipper waved a “no, not this time” wave, and they sped off to the west.  Not the first time that Andanté has warded off formal inspection.  It won’t be long, however, before the Mexican Navy boards.

Saturday December 4th, 1999 

Departed Bahia San Quintin at 1135.  We sailed initially, but had to start the motor again an hour later.  I spent a pleasant afternoon playing guitar for two hours in the cockpit, under a warm sun.  I can't remember when I had time for that, without any deadlines, or guilt, about not doing something else.
Because there are no good anchorages between San Quintin and Isla Cedros, 150 miles south, we had to make an overnight passage Saturday evening.  I had the first watch from 1800-2300.  The first two hours were peaceful.  But when the wind died I furled the sails.  Just as I completed the task, a 15-knot wind blew from port.  So I re-rigged the sails for a broad reach.  After that, the radar picked up a target, requiring that I manually steer around a Mexican fishing boat.  Immediately after that, the wind died again.  So I furled the sails again.  When Dan came up on deck at 2300 for his watch, I advised him not to attempt sailing again during the night.

Sunday December 5th, 1999 

Averaging six knots, we arrived at Isla Cedros in 25-hours, at 1230, and anchored a short distance away from a tiny fishing village (28º 04.95' N 115º 19.90' W).  More accurately, the village was more like a shanty town with a dozen or so one-room houses built out of plywood.  Some of them were painted white or green.  We quickly realized that Andanté had more amenities than the entire village.We spent a pleasant afternoon in a quiet anchorage surrounded by craggy hills strewn with mineral deposits: green magnesium, black 50-foot high cinder cones, sedimentary rock, and remnants of pyroclastic flows.  A fireworks of geology, if there is such a thing.  Isla Cedros translates to Cedar Island, and apparently a large grove of cedar trees once stood there.  Long since logged off, no signs of the cedars remain.Sunset faded from blue to gold, and then finally suffused the sky with brush strokes of bright red on the western horizon.

Monday December 6th, 1999 

Everyone slept soundly in what turned out to be the calmest anchorage of the Baja Coast trip so far.  After a breakfast of cinnamon rolls (the unfortunate end of our Pillsbury supply), Debi was approached by a ponga with two pescaderos.  I was impressed by her Spanish.  She understood that they were both thirsty and wanted some fresh drinking water.  They handed up an empty plastic ½ gallon milk jug, which Dan filled from Andanté’s tanks.  In return, four lobsters appeared on deck.


Bugs on Deck


Fresh Langosta

About half an hour later the same ponga approached.  This time they asked for whiskey.  We had none.  Next they asked for “candy.”  Debi surfaced with two Sees dark chocolate and almond bars, for which we received … four more lobsters.  I like Mexico.  The people seem very friendly here.  Pulling up anchor at 1030, we left Isla Cedros with maybe $50 worth of lobster, and immediately started talking about dinner.  We honored our passage south today with another first—the first day of wearing shorts.1630 hours.  We sailed into Turtle Bay (27º 41.37' N, 114º 53.46' W) and anchored just as the sun set over Mt. Bartolomé to the west.  And then, the highlight of the day: Debi prepared dinner this evening with fresh langosta.  Fresh lobster sautéed in butter with garlic served over pasta.  Lot's and lot's of garlic.  In fact, I think she used an entire bulb.  I savored every bite.  Afterwards, I thought it was appropriate to finish off with even more decadence, so Dan and I each had a double chocolate Hagen Daz ice cream bar.  (Debi, who said that she's working on her bikini figure, saved hers for the next day.)Tuesday December 7th, 1999 
We remained in Turtle Bay on Tuesday for a day of R&R.  Debi baked cranberry walnut muffins for breakfast.  Her dad had his own bakery business, and she honed her baking skills working for him during high school.  She tells great stories about polishing off half a dozen donuts before school. 

Around noon we caught a ride on another cruiser's dinghy to town--a couple from New Zealand with four children.  They're in their second year of a five-year cruising journey. 

Turtle Bay

Turtle Bay is a small town: dirt streets, dilapidated infrastructure, and not much in the way of economic stability.  The police station was built out of unpainted plywood, with open windows where the glass is supposed to be.  A thick coat of dust covered everything.  Most of the grocery stores had only a few items on the shelves.  No eggs.  Virtually no fresh produce.  No milk.  Incredible contrast to the U.S.  But yes, they do celebrate Christmas in Mexico, and apparently just like we do.  Walking around the dusty streets--and I mean dusty--everything that stands still for a minute is coated with dust: cars, bicycles, electrical meters, windowsills.  We saw Christmas trees inside all of the little windows in houses that were so unkempt that you wouldn't think anybody lived there. All the trees were obviously plastic. Some were white with (plastic) snow. Some were the shiny tin foil kind with uniform red ornaments. But almost every house had a tree.We had lunch in a restaurant on a hill overlooking the town and the bay. Inside the restaurant Christmas decorations hung from the ceiling: a snowman with a top hat, a red street lantern with plastic snow on the edges, a large crystalline snow flake. The tables were covered with candy cane table cloths.  And always, the ever-present portrait of Madonna.  One such portrait had three rows of colored Christmas tree lights underneath; each row flashing in a different sequence. All this while we had tacos and enchiladas for lunch. It seemed incongruous, to say the least.In the afternoon Ernesto motored out to our anchorage with his ponga, along with 250 liters (60 gallons) of diesel fuel for us.  He pulled up along side us, and then hand pumped the diesel from a large plastic drum into our tank.  We were concerned that the fuel might contain water or dirt.  Water kills the diesel engine immediately, requiring bleeding the fuel lines.  And even small particles of dirt can clog the fuel injectors.  But Ernesto's translucent diesel tank allowed enough of a discerning view to determine that the fuel was clean.


Wednesday December 8th, 1999 

Sailed most of the day, and anchored in Bahia Asunción (27º 08.28' N, 114º 17.42' W).  Nothing to report today except a very nice sailing day, with more guitar practice on the foredeck. Up Next …

Log #23—The Baja Coast to La Paz

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