Tag Archives: wildlife

3 weeks of sailing heaven!

A 3 week intermission from refilling the kitty was all it took to feel like I was back in sailing heaven again. I decided to extend my travel nurse contract in San Francisco for one more month under the stipulation that I get 3 weeks off to go back to my family and sail with them down the Sea of Cortez. It was just what we all needed; to be back together in warm weather, warm clear water and good family sailing time.

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Free diving mamma.

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Nina’s triumphant pose as she completes a 40 foot deep fin-less dive.

I met up with the family in San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico. I got there by driving 11 hours in a rental car to Phoenix and then taking an 11 hour Tufesa Bus ride across the border from Phoenix to San Carlos all in a matter of 30 hours. Upon arriving to Mexico, my spirit was lifted. I was so excited to spend this time with my family after 3.5 months of working in San Francisco and only seeing them a handful of days during that time. It was time to get some family lovin’.img_7613

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Free-Diving Daddy

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Ellamae’s touch down at 20 feet.

After a few days in San Carlos, we were stocked up and ready to head out.  The weather window looked great for heading across the Sea of Cortez, so we opted to leave while we could get good wind.  On Sunday, Oct 15th, after our morning in the anchorage and grocery re-load, we sailed off the hook and out of the anchorage. We quickly realized that sailing under jib alone was going to work just fine.  We set our course  on a nice downwind reach toward Isla Carmen, just off of Loreto on the Baja side of the Sea of Cortez. See our short post of pictures and videos here. 2 hours into our sail we hooked 2 Dorado (Mahi Mahi),one male and one female!

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Male Dorado, 2 hours south of San Carlos, Mexico.

The rest of the sail was relatively peaceful, with winds up to 30 kts and a furled jib. The wind maintained strength overnight and had us make landfall by 8 am the next morning. We dropped the anchor under sail at Perico anchorage on the east side of the area known as Bahia Salinas on Isla Carmen. With a few hours of rest after not sleeping so well over the night, we found energy in just having the excitement of being out on a deserted island with no one else around. We had the anchorage to ourselves and we were all together as one family unit!

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A little home-school art.

Screenshot (105)After a few days at Perico, we decided to head a few miles north to an anchorage called Painted Cliffs. Again, we had the anchorage to ourselves. Christian and I started to get in a morning routine of waking up at 4:30 am, drinking our bulletproof coffee and conversed under the stars and into the sunrise. I would then go for a 40-50 minute swim and Christian would go for a 5-10 mile stand-up paddle board excursion. The kids would wake up, start school and by lunch time we were all ready for a free-diving / fishing break.  Painted Cliffs had this amazing ledge to dive on. The visibility  was about 55 feet and the water was 84 F, even at 65 feet deep! After spearing a decent size grouper, we played around with going deep. Nina made it to 59 feet! I was surprised at how much easier it was for me to make it down to the bottom (65 feet) and stay down there for a little bit.  I thought for sure that it would take me a while to re-acclimate to diving since I had been on land for so long. I guess there’s muscle memory for that sport too. Having the water temp so warm and the visibility so clear, made a huge difference as well.

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Isla Carmen

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Nina’s fantastic effort at SUP handstand.

The weather forecast wasn’t looking so good for wind taking us anywhere, so we decided to head for the more southern anchorage on Isla Carmen known as Punta Colorado.  The view from there was stunning.

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Punta Colorado, Isla Carmen. East of Loreto, Baja California, Mexico.

The next day, after our morning routine, we were able to sail off the hook and head toward Isla Monserrate. Another sail onto the hook, and a swim in the water. Unfortunately, one hour after we fell asleep, we woke to our swim step clanking around. Christian went on deck to take a look and noticed the wind had switched onshore and was blowing 15 kts and quickly picking up speed to 20. It was pitch black and we had to get out of there fast. If you’re reading this and wondering what the heck I’m talking about… it’s not safe to be anchored on a lee-shore. Meaning, that you don’t want to be anchored where the wind is blowing toward shore, due to the chance of dragging anchor and having your boat end up crashed on the reef or on shore. There were submerged rocks and reefs on the chart that we had to make sure we stayed clear of.  Instead of sailing off the hook this time, we could not take any chances at being blown toward shore or the reef,  we used our engine to help motor us into the wind while Christian brought up the anchor.   With our RPM well above 2,300, we were able to make a clear path just out enough past the rocks to unfurl the jib and turned the engine off.  We made a quick 7 mile reach to Agua Verde, a familiar anchorage to come in to at O-Dark-30. All of this while the kids slept peacefully. We woke up to the familiar, lovely bay of Agua Verde having the northwestern anchorage to ourselves and our kids asking how we got there.

Agua Verde always holds a special place in our memories. There is just something about it we can’t quite describe. We’ve blogged about it before (here and here again), so I won’t go into it too much more. About mid-day another boat came into anchor by the name of Katie Gat.  Here are a few photos from the one full day that we spent there:

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S/V Shawnigan and S/V Katie Gat in Agua Verde, Baja California.

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Hydration station: Christian packs his Camelback everywhere, so we don’t risk getting dehydrated in the hot desert Baja environment.

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The local tienda (market) in Agua Verde.

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This is how we pack out our groceries in Agua Verde.

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Eating bags of frozen “agua de piña” we bought in Agua Verde for 10 pesos per bag. (That’s about $0.50 for a huge bag of frozen real fruit juice.)

From Agua Verde we had a nice sail off the hook, a down wind sail out of the bay, and the wind so nicely cocked around to keep us on a down wind run heading south to San Everisto.  We ended up staying one and a half days there, swimming, schooling, and stand-up paddle boarding. We were hoping to do a little more fresh produce shopping, but the tienda that was normally open was closed. We were guessing that we were a little early in the season for regular hours.

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Taj loves his magnet toys.

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Pizza making aboard S/V Shawnigan #tinymess

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Taj is mommy’s helper in the kitchen. We made gluten free bagels out of Pamela’s gluten free baking mix.

Next stop, Isla San Jose.  Another lovely, mostly beam reach, sail eastward across the channel to the old salt mine area on Isla San Jose. Again, we sailed onto the hook with the anchorage to ourselves. Shortly after dropping the anchor, we paddle boarded to shore for a walk along the shallow salt ponds and along the beach to the lighthouses and back. The walk ended up being 3 hours long!IMG_1857

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Terra the xterraboard with S/V Shawnigan anchored out of of Isla San Jose salt mine with the Sierra Gigante mountain range in the background.

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Above two groups of photos taken by Nina for her photography elective.

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Holding hands and sportin’ the gear on our salt mine walkabout. Photo by: Nina Lauducci

The next morning we sailed just south and dropped the hook for a short stop at the mangroves. We were apprehensive to stay longer with rumors of the no-see-ums being really bad. Our stop including a dingy tour of the mangrove. What a blast! We all jumped in and got a tow behind the dinghy.

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Isla San Jose Mangrove Dingy Tow

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Dinghy Tow

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Nina and Ellamae @ Isla San Jose Mangrove

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Taj steering the dinghy for a family mangrove tour at Isla San Jose.

Once done with our tour of the mangrove, we sailed around the east side of Isla San Francisco (a first for us) and passed it on by (another first). Alas, our time was starting to become limited, I had to get to La Paz to fly out by October 31st and the weather was predicting a drop off of wind. As many of you know, we like to sail as much as possible and avoid using the engine,  so we used to wind that we had that day, waved to Isla San Francisco and went straight to Ensenada Grande on Isla Partida.

As predicted, the wind was null the next day, so we were excited to take the opportunity to go dive with the Sea Lions at Los Islotes! When we woke, we were double excited, because our friend and fellow kid boat Waponi Woo showed up in the middle of the night and anchored next to us! We had basically been alone for almost 2 whole weeks, except for the one boat in Agua Verde. We were jazzed to see friends and even more jazzed to see a kid boat!

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Waponi Woo at Ensenada Grande

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As soon as everyone was awake, we motored our boats over to Los Islotes. We anchored in 58 feet of water where the Shaun and Heater guide shows to anchor. Waponi Woo anchored just west of us.  There was hardly a breath of wind and the water visibility was about 55 feet! We had the most amazing time swimming with the sea lions.

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Ryan from Waponi Woo
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Christian down at 25 feet.

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After an amazing morning with the Sea Lions we ventured back to Ensenada Grande for the night. Then next day we sailed to Caleta Lobos for one last relaxing anchorage to ourselves before heading into La Paz. We had 13 full days of no cell or wifi service. It was GREAT!!!

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Christian checking in on the Amigo Net.

The kids were happy to arrive to La Paz for a little kid boat action with S/V Secret Water.

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After a few days there, it was time to fly out for Ellamae and I. Ellamae was flying out to spend time with her Papa and I needed to go back to work in San Francisco for the month of November.  We took the Volaris flight from La Paz to Tijuana, then hopped across the border into San Diego. From there we parted ways at the airport. Next time we will all be together will be in the Puerto Vallarta area on December 1st.  Christian is single-handing it, with some help from Nina, until that time. Super dad!

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Looking down on Isla Espiritu Santo and Isla Partida. One the very left you can just barely see Los Islotes (where we swam with the sea lions).

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Navionics working on the plane.

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Isla San Marcos and Santa Rosalia

As always, still delayed on the posts and still trying to catch up.

June 14 – 22nd, 2017

The last leg of our journey north in the Sea of Cortez as a family unit all together. I had to get to Santa Rosalia by the 21st of June in order to fly Ellamae over to spend time with her papa, Jason and to get myself to the states to start my 13 week Travel Nursing assignment in San Francisco. Time crunched are never fun when you are cruising. It never ceases to fail that you find something spectacular right when you have to leave. This proved to be the case with Isla San Marcos.

We left Punta Chivato under sail. All three of us, S/V Kenta Anae, S/V Easy, and S/V Shawnigan, sailed off the hook. What a beautiful sight.

The sail north was peaceful. We actually were experiencing a little northerly winds, which is less common this time of year. Regardless, the sail was comfortable and we made it to our first anchorage on San Marcos 27.236156, -112.105651 with only one cool event to post: Taj spotted a Hammerhead shark about 100 meters off our boat. Taj has proven to be quite the shark spotter.  We weren’t close enough to get an exact identity of the type, but we were excited to see our first hammerhead since we started cruising.

We spent the night there and the whole next day to swim and explore. The water was starting to get warmer and was a lot clearer!  We did some spear fishing and lounged around.  We had 7 days to kill and we finally felt like we could settle in a bit more and relax. While we were anchored there, a catamaran showed up with kids aboard! S/V Father’s Grace had two girls between Nina’s and Ellamae’s ages. Isla San Marcos just got even better!

Below: SV Easy And SV Kenta Anae. SV Kenta Anae boys with Taj.

The wind was forecasted to switch back out of the south again, so all four of us picked up anchor and motored north a mile around the point to Los Arcos (The Arches) on San Marcos 27.249928, -112.099544 . From left to right: Kenta Anae, Shawnigan, Easy, and Father’s Grace. ⛵️📷

We all found our sandy spots to drop the hook in. Thankfully the visibility was good enough to distinguish sand from rocky outcrops. The water was still chilly, but warmer than what we were experiencing the previous week.  The visibility was also so much better. It fluctuated with the tide change, but overall it was at least 20 feet at all times. Los Arcos is by far one of the funnest places we’ve spent as a family cruising. Granted, we finished up the year of boat-schooling, so we had more free time, but I still think we would have enjoyed the area just as much. Everyday we snorkeled, spear-fished, and jumped off the arches. There were under water caves to swim through and partially submerged caves to crawl and swim through that lead from one side to the complete opposite side of the mound. 30-35 foot arches to jump off into 12 feet of water.And beach BBQ & bonfires to be had. This was adventure paradise and we were there with nobody else but the four of our boatholds (my #boatlife word for household) !We were hooked on this place and did not want to leave.   S/V Kenta Anae was running out of water, but with our Sprectra Ventura 150 we had enough water to share. That bought us the first “extra” day there. We probably could have stayed another day past already staying another day, but alas, our last food provision was back  in Mulege and we were starting to run low on fresh produce. We needed to get to Santa Rosalia  to stock up and so that I could prep for heading back to the JOB.SV Father’s Grace heading into Santa Rosalia with Ellamae aboard.

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Santa Rosalia doesn’t offer a safe anchorage, so we went to the Fonatur 27.337100, -112.263242  to tie the boat up for a few days.   From the moment the boat hit the dock, the energy level went up.  We were back in civilization and the temperature went up exponentially. “Who turned on the heater?!” The kids wanted to see the city, eat ice cream, eat out, swim in the pool and hopefully meet new kids. The kids even had time to dye the hair of SV Father’s Grace’s dog!📷

I was under a time crunch to pack for The States. I also wanted to clean the boat and have it organized to make Christian’s single dad and captain experience a little more fluid. Christian was in charge of provisioning this time around since he was continuing on with Nina and Taj aboard to head up to Bahia de los Angeles and then up to Puerto Penasco.

With all of the hubbub and the heat, we still managed to enjoy Santa Rosalia.

The Aguila bus station , to catch the bus to Tijuana, is right next to the marina Fonatur. The cost was about $80 for me and $60 for Ellamae. We left on the evening of June 22nd for an overnight bus ride. I wouldn’t be seeing S/V Shawnigan or the rest of the family for at least a month and it would be longer for Ellamae.<<<<
the next day toward Bahia de Los Angles. Mike, on S/V Easy, buddy boating alongside…

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More pics from this time period:a little home-ec On our last day of boatschool before our summer break, we baked and had recitals. Then a lot more jumping!!! and swimming ….

Mr Horned Grebe below:Me, Josie, chasing the grebe.

Northbound from Loreto: Isla Coronado (June 5th-6th)

Northbound from Loreto: Isla Coronado (June 5th-6th) still catching up on posts.

Isla Coronado is an uninhabited island about 8 miles northeast of Loreto. It’s one of the more commonly visited tourist sites for a quick island snorkel, swim with sea lions, picnic on the beach, or a hike up the 948 foot extinct volcano. We made this stop last year, climbing to the top, swimming and having impromptu cookie potluck on the beach with other cruisers. This year, we were hoping for another swim, this time with sea lions and possibly hiking to the top again.

From Loreto, we waited for the wind to pick up enough to sail off the hook. At about noon, on the 5th, we were able to sail off. Mike on S/V Easy continued to buddy boat with us. A few hour sail in mostly and no more than 20 feet of water, we turned over the engine for just enough power to get us in the protective cove and set our anchor @ 26.108002, -111.284458. When we arrived, we hopped in the water to clean the bottom of our boat and to check that our anchor set well. The water was green and chilly. Visibility was less than 10 feet, if even that. Dinner approached quickly and the day had passed.

On the 6th, our one full day there, was determined by the water quality. To swim with the sea lions or hike to the top of the volcano? We were guessing that swimming with the sea lions was not going to happen with the poor water quality and sure enough, when we woke up, not much had changed.  After visiting our anchorage neighbors on S/V Tigress II and convincing them to hike with us, we heading to shore and set out for our hike. Mike joined us as well.S/v Tigress II

Although not a far hike, the terrain makes it a more difficult one. The path is clear for the first 1/2 mile or so, then it turns into lava fields of small rocks with cairns marking the way. The last 1/4 mile the path takes you up a steep sandy slog up the mountainside. Taj got a free ride on Christian’s shoulders for the rocky part, but he climbed the steep slog to the top by himself. Ellamae managed to keep up with me the whole way, and Nina stayed back with Christian and Taj, but had no problem making it to the top. Looking down at the anchorage from the top of the Volcano.

Mike Jacoby taking in the view.

The whole clan resting, eating and re-hydrating at the top.

Going down the slog made it all worth it! It was like feet skiing, but on sand. The kids loved it. OH, and there are 16 different reptiles on the island, so keep your eyes peeled!

The reward waiting for us when we returned to our dinghies on the beach was a dip in that cold water. Nothing felt more satisfying after that strenuous hike on a hot day over that hot dry rocky terrain.

There were a few other boats in the anchorage, so we decided to organize another potluck on the beach. This time with real food instead of cookies. We had a turn out of 5 different boats for dinner that night. We even lucked out, one of the boats had kids! Roll call: S/V Shawnigan, S/V Easy, S/V Dad’s Dream, S/V Tigress II, S/V ____? (Sorry, I forgot the boat name! If you’re reading this , comment with your boat name 🙂 )

Isla Coronado is one of our many favorite anchorages in Mexico. To visit here from land based travels, click here!

Next northbound stop: 26.277602, -111.394997

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Loreto: an Eco Tourism Mecca

There is so much to see in Loreto ! Where to begin?!

Loreto is a small town with about 15,000 people, 2/3 rds the way down Baja on the Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California) side. As the starting point for the California Mission movement, the town offers a lot of rich history and sightseeing opportunities. In the last 15 years+, Loreto has become a mecca for its Eco-Tourism.  The Sea of Cortez and the desert of Baja can be described as a melting pot of marine life and a rich desert ecosystem.  There are flora and fauna here that can not be found in many other places. The eco-tourism offers ways to see these spectacular sights with minimal to no impact on their ecosystem. As a family living on a sailboat, we are able to have our own eco-tours on the ocean, but finding land based activities are more of a challenge.  Thanks to our friend, Sara, who helps operate Loreto Sea and Land Tours, we were able to explore a snippet of Loreto’s land based ecosystem and other tourist sites.

Loreto was the first Spanish Colonial settlement of “New Spain” on the Baja. The Jesuit missionaries built the first of the California Missions there, Mision de Nuestra Senora de Loreto Concho,  in 1697. Loreto offered a fresh spring as a perfect resource for the missionaries to build and provide food to offer for the local Cochimi tribe and offer Christianity in return. This was a peaceful movement at the time. In 1769, the quest to explore the northern areas and establish missions along the way started.  As time passed the territories of missions fell in control of the Franciscans and then later, the Dominican order and divided into two regions, Baja California and Alta California. Alta California became the California we know today in the United States. I could go on and on about Loreto’s history, but I wont. If you are feeling the need for more of Loreto’s history click here.

June 4th, 2017:

After exploring the town of Loreto, we ventured up into the mountains, named Sierra de la Giganta, to explore the desert and visit San Javier, the second of the California missions. On the way up we stopped to hike to a very old and lonely fig tree growing up a rocky hillside. Of course everybody had the urge to climb it!

Further up the road we pulled over to get a view of the original “El Camino Real”! We had no idea that the “El Camino Real” in California had originated in Loreto. We saw the first road that brought the missionaries from Loreto up to San Javier and eventually up through modern-day California as the path of the California Missions!

Mision San Francisco Javier de Vigge-Biaundo was founded just 2 years later, in 1699, but took many more years to build. It was fully functioning by 1758. Water was more abundant here than in Loreto and the location was better protected from hurricanes. It was for these reasons that San Javier became the primary mission. The Cochimi tribe was drawn to the church and Christianity for the food and kindness they provided. The mission was successful with its community and agriculture for many years. Unfortunately, European diseases from the Spaniards spread among the tribe, eventually leading to the decimation of the Cochimi. Their culture and language became extinct by the 20th Century.

If you find yourself in Loreto either by boat or land and wanting to see sea life, land life, and culture, we highly suggest using Loreto Land and Sea tours. Not just because they are friends of ours, because they offer a plethora of different ways to explore the area and ways for the sailing community to explore inland history and culture: scuba diving, snorkeling with seals, fishing, hikes and many more options for adventures. Finding someone who can share so much local knowledge is a prized opportunity for our family as well as for many other cruisers.  We get to check off History of California Missions from Ellamae’s  4th grade boat-school curriculum, one year in advance!San Javier Mission (Mision San Francisco Javier de Vigge-Biaundo)Mike, aboard S/V Easy joined us along the tour. Taj can’t resist the temptation to climb another tree.

 

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Isla Isabel (Isabela)

Sail to Isla Isabel: left San Blas at 0515. Buddy boating with Mike in SV Easy. Ellamae was in Florida with Papa. We motored 1.5 hours out then sailed with offshore winds until about 1030, we got to fly the kite. Then we drifted for a bit. Around 11:30 the wind switched to NW. The typical close reach toward Isla Isabel. We sailed until 5:30. Then motored 2 hours to the island to get there before sunset. We ended up anchoring at the east anchorage of Isla Isabela. It was flat, beautiful and calm. Anchored in 27 feet on sandy bottom, near Las Monas pinnacles.  Our anchorage position was 21 60.891N , 105 52.715W . 

Sv Easy (Ingrid 38) underway.

We got to snorkel a lot, Taj kayaked, and Christian got to surf 4 times! The south swell was coming up and hitting the south east point just perfect. He had to dodge a few rocks, but had a blast!  

We swam and kayaked to shore to explore the island. As we brought the dinghy to shore the bird conservation group out of Mexico City greeted us and gave us a run down of how to help protect the nesting birds on the island. They were very welcoming. Las Monas pinnacles and Shawnigan and Easy anchored next to them.Rebecca, who is spending her post doctorate helping to conserve the island’s birds, teaching us a few things. Above: the camp of the students that spend 2 weeks stretches on the island helping to protect the birds.

It was awesome to see all the nesting Blue and Yellow Footed Boobies as well as the Frigates. There were so many of them protecting their eggs, as well as juveniles and newborn babies. There were also iguanas roaming around everywhere. All the wildlife here is magical, they let you get so close!  There’s a baby under there!There are eggs under this Booby.

 Yellow Footed Booby guarding a nearby nest. The male and female take turns with this role.

There is no wonder why Isla Isabel(a) has been quoted as “Mexico’s Galapagos”! The island was declared as a national park in 1980 and has been preserved as such ever since, protecting its flora and fauna. 

I would have to say that Isla Isabela is one of our top places we’ve sailed to so far. This was actually our fourth time there, but our first time exploring on the island this time of year. I’m so happy we got to experience the nesting birds In the dry season. Baby Frigatebird in its nest.

Albino FrigatebirdI love this picture; Albino Frigate in the foreground, the fishing village and Las Monas in the the background. Mike From SV Easy photo bombing the Blue Footed Booby picture .  Mike on SV Easy sailing off the hook toward Mazatlan.