Monthly Archives: April 2013

Storage and Strange Bedfellows


Willow is a small boat.  Very capable, but small.  I’ve lived aboard her since I got her in 1997.  After 16 years, I’ve accumulated stuff, and I tried my hardest before I left to rid myself of said stuff, but I had a long way to go.  I cleaned out locker after locker, trying to think of ways I’d use that spare widget, the extra torsion fortenator or rare but oh, so necessary knibbling pin.  I purged clothes, shoes, books and even jewelry in order to make Willow neat, self-contained, light(er), and seaworthy.  I didn’t come close.

When provisioning, I try to practice stocking up for at least a month, except for fresh food.  There are some great finds down here, including highly pastuerized milk that doesn’t need refrigeration until the carton is opened.  There are Sam’s Clubs, City Clubs, Costcos, and large supermarkets that don’t require a membership.  The few hard to find items, for me at least, are good coffee, good paper towels, quality cat food, and cat litter.  I’m trying to cut down on my paper towel use, but it’s so convenient to have.  The fresh foods available are abundant, with chicken, beef, pork, cheeses and fruit and vegetables obtainable everywhere.  As a gringo, I LOVE my really sour sourdough, but that’s just not to be found down here.  Soon, I’ll try making my own starter for this bread and begin experimenting.  Lucky for me, I really love tortillas, and use them just as bread, except for french toast.  They don’t work real well in that recipe…

As you can see, obtaining all of this isn’t really a problem.  The problem is, where to put this stuff?

Jeanne on Eagle is working with a women’s and children’s homeless shelter here in La Paz.  She gladly takes anything offered to this shelter, and they are very happy to receive.  I cleaned out my refer, food lockers and clothes locker, and brought her 5 trash bags full of food and clothing.  How did I get all of this on this boat in the first place?  With the food and clothing lockers cleaned out, I could now clear off my bunk.  The past few months found me sleeping with: gallon jug of olive oil, gallon cans of whole, peeled tomatoes, heads of lettuce, bags of beans, cans of coffee, flour, evaporated milk, paper towel, a ShopVac and two cats.  The cats get to stay, but I found a safe, tidy spot for those foodstuffs.  Under the table in the salon sits my Honda generator and a last bag of cat litter.  All of the paper towels, litter, ShopVac and laundry detergent have been nicely stowed.  I can even get my feet under the table now. Willow’s opened up a bit, looks and feels more comfortable, and I’m without extra stuff I just didn’t need.  The next storage lockers to tackle are my boat spares locker, garage, and lazarette locker in the cockpit.  I know I can find more things to donate away.

I hope you all are enjoying this beautiful, beautiful weather, being safe, doing good things, having fun, and above all, paddling hard!  I miss you!

Isla San Francisco to Puerto Escondido, 20 March – 31 March 2013


East End of the Mangrove at Amortajada

Wednesday morning, I was up early and preparing to head out of the anchorage at my favorite spot, Ensenada Grande.  I was leaving Brian and Elizabeth of Autumn Wind to catch up with their friends aboard Flibbertigibbet II while I headed up to my next favorite spot.  After 20 nm or so and another (!) lost jig, I made the large bay and dropped the hook in about 13′ of water.  It was lovely!  I took a swim to check on my anchor and the hull of Willow.  Oh, the water felt sooo good.  A few of the boats already there invited me ashore for sunset conversation, so I paddled the SUP in.  We had a gorgeous sunset framed by fun stories as we all got to know who and what everyone was doing.  Real fun.

The next morning, I was listening to one of the nets on my SSB, and I heard Mike and Kelly of Maluhia really well.  As it was a HAM net and I’m not certified, I can listen but not transmit.  A little later in the morning, Elaine and Jamie from the beautiful Tardis came over and said Maluhia should arrive in our bay later in the evening.  Yay!  The evening showed us some wind and lump out of the southwest, and the shape of the bay just rebounded the lump throughout.  It was still my favorite spot!

Mike, Mickey (A Crux) and Denny (Sea Raven) went out the next morning to free dive for some dinner, while Kelly, Justine (Sea Raven) and I took a hike ashore.  In the lowlands, it’s obvious either storms or very high tides flood the area with seawater, as the bare ground was covered with a crust of very salty sand.  The other side of the island was beautiful, and we checked out the anchorage there.  Nope, we all were very happy in our much less rolly favorite spots.  We all met aboard the 40-50′ ex-charter cat, Sea Raven, and found it to be the perfect party or gathering platform!  They’ve really done a great job converting her from a passenger carrying cat from San Francisco to their new home, soon to have a baby onboard, too!   We ate some sublimely prepared yellowtail, salad, rice and coleslaw.  The conversation topics ranged from free diving to boat building, to navigation, fishing and sleep.  It’d have been great if we could’ve solved some other more pertinent problems, but we just shared what we could…

We all decided to head up towards San Evaristo, a small fishing village in a nice little bay about 9 nm or so across the San Jose Channel.  I left first, and enjoyed the remnants of the light southerly wind.  Deciding to anchor in the empty portion of the bay, I was enclosed by tall cliffs close around.  Soon, Maluhia joined me, while Tardis and Sea Raven anchored in the middle of the bay.  Jamie (Tardis) had arranged for us all to have dinner ashore in one of the palapas recently built in the village.  One of the local families prepared a great meal of sierra and snapper, with rice, beans, a salad and homemade tortillas.  There is something about homemade tortillas!  We included a really nice guy named John who had been riding his motorcycle all down the Baja for a couple of months.  He’d just stop in small villages and ask for permission to camp out.  He improved his spanish and helped the locals with their english, and said he was having the time of his life!  His wife was to join him shortly for the remainder of the trip to Cabo.

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Abandoned Salt Mine Building                                       Salt Flat at Punta La Salina

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Deteriorating Salt Mine Structure                                 Anyone Need a New (Very Old) Truck?

The following day, we all sailed over to Punta La Salina in a pleasant north breeze.  I had a great time, and Willow performed beautifully.  Once at the Punta, the wind was shooting around it at 18-20 knots or so, but we all anchored snugly.  Punta La Salina used to be the home of a working salt mine.  There were large fields that would be flooded with seawater, and the miners would harvest the salt once the seawater had evaporated.  The various minerals in the land would leech into the saltwater and color it, resulting in pink or red salt.  There were hand-built buildings that had so far withstood the test of time, but all windows, if there were any, were long gone, as were any items inside the buidlings.  We found evidence of a recently killed and skinned goat, a couple of leftover bowls, and skeletons of many different types of animals.  There was the rusted out hulk of a pickup truck, but the reported farm equipment was long gone.


Strange Sea Creature?  Bizarre Land Animal?  Nope, Just a Beautiful Seed Pod on the Beach.

We beachcombed for a few miles looking for sea glass and paper nautilus.  We found the former but not the latter; it’s a rare find.  A paper nautilus is the ‘chrysalis’ an octopus emerges from, a lightweight, almost paper-like curl.  It does resemble a nautilus shell.  After our walking and exploring, we all sailed down 4 nm to Amortajada and its mangrove.  It was something we all wanted to see.  Arriving just before an amazing sunset, I dropped the hook in 9′ of crystal blue water, showered, and went to bed.


Sunset at Amortajada

The following morning, we all (Maluhia, Tardis and Sea Raven) headed to the mangrove on the high tide.  We crossed a pretty shallow sandbar and were in.  I have always wanted to know what the heck a mangrove was, and here I was!  The ibis, egrets, herons and ospreys were magnificent.  We saw hundreds of rays, some needlefish, eels, sea bass, and a fish resembling a bonefish from the South.  The shoreline held thick bushy trees that have the ability to get their nourishment from salt water instead of only fresh.  The bird sounds were awesome, and we just didn’t know which direction to look as there was neat stuff to see high, low, above water and below.  I was riding with Elaine and Jamie from Tardis, and had a blast.

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Mangrove Entrance                                      Thick, Green Mangrove Trees


Dead End!

After our three hour tour, we all headed back to our respective boats, and not wanting to be the main course again for the mosquitos of Amortajada, we sailed straight across the channel back to the Baja and a spot called Cabeza de Mechudo.  This was named after a successful pearl diver who long ago ultimately succumbed during a dive to retrieve an especially large pearl.  Or so the story goes.  I sailed off the anchor, had a light and pleasant sail across the channel and dropped the hook, again under sail.  It was pretty fun.  Unfortunately, I was eaten alive that night and actually chewed my fingernails down to the quick to keep me from ripping the skin off my bones!

The next morning, I left the group who was heading back south toward La Paz and instead, headed north toward Agua Verde.  There wasn’t much wind at all, and that was good, as the motoring allowed me to charge my batteries and run the watermaker to fill my tank, plus a couple of jerry jugs.  The sun was bright, and I trolled the whole trip, but no luck.  The seas were flat, allowing me a quick motor up the 50 nm or so coast.  I know I must sound like a broken record, but the scenery was amazing.  There are such layers to the Sierras de la Giganta, so many different shades of red, sage and brown.  With the clear blue water as a foreground, how can there be a bad picture?  Or vista?  Just amazing…


Beautiful Vistas Along the Coast

I arrived at the anchorage on the back side of Punta San Marcial just after sunset, and anchored among two other boats.  It was just too dark to explore Agua Verde and look for a nice spot to become my next favorite.  After the long day on the water, a nice salad and a shower, I was ready for a good night of sleep.  In the morning, I listened to the weather forecast, and it being pretty benign, I weighed anchor and explored Bahia Agua Verde.  The anchor spots in the southwest portion of the bay were filled with large motor yachts.  I had forgotten.  It was Semana Santa, the week before Easter when a large faithful population head to their favorite vacation spot.  But this was my favorite spot, too!  I can share!  Campers in colorful tents lined the shore, and Agua Verde was no longert the quaint and quiet anchorage I had remembered.  Everyone was having such a good time, swimming, cooking, laughing, singing and playing music; how could I help but join them?

I was doing some work on the deck of Willow when a boy swam over and asked if he could borrow my SUP and paddle.  Of course!  His aunt swam up to Willow and asked me if I wanted to join them around 3 in the afternoon for lunch.  They were camping around the bend on the beach.  I asked what I could bring, and was told absolutely nothing!  I kept on working, and Costa enjoyed the SUP.  Later in the afternoon, I paddled over to the beach and was introduced to two of the nicest families.  Costa’s family was from Los Cabos, and Magdalena and her husband were from Mexico City.  The children aged from young adult on down, and all were so, so pleasant, polite, and kind.  There was mischief throughout, as one kid splashed two others on a kayak, then another upended the one on the SUP.  A beautiful perico was caught earlier in the day and a tasteful ceviche was served with tortillas, a warm pork dish, some condiments, cookies and a nice red wine.  We traded stories, opinions, and a shared fondness of Agua Verde.  I took one of the girls back to Willow since she wanted to see what the inside of a sailboat looked like.  It was such a fun afternoon that melded into evening.  I suddenly saw that I needed to paddle home to make sure I got home!  It was pretty dark out!

The next morning, I went up the mast to re-attach one of the lines on my radar reflector and to run another flag halyard.  I saw a couple of things that needed some not-too-far-in-the-future attention, and made a list.  I cleaned out all of my food lockers, noting what I had in store for the next week.  My fresh fruit and veggies were gone, as were any fish or chicken.  Good thing I love tuna fish sammiches made on tortillas!  I did my engine checks I do once a week (some of that FD stuff stuck) and also checked my batteries.  I was feeling that with the sunshine and evening breezes, the batteries should be topping off.  I told myself I’d keep a closer eye on them.

Saturday dawned a bright and shiny day, and I felt the urge to head out, so I did.  I aimed my bows toward Puerto Escondido, about 25 nm away.  I had a light southerly for about half of the trip, and wound up motoring the rest.  Arriving around 1330, I dropped the hook in 10′ of blue-green water and just sat.  It was quiet, lovely, hot, and the fish were a-jumping.  I paddled the SUP around the large inner harbor and chatted with a couple of people.  Easter Sunday, I paddled in to the office and brought my laptop in case there was internet access.  After registering and paying to anchor, which I wasn’t used to doing for anchoring, I sat and caught up with family.

Monday found me doing laundry and other chores on Willow.  I walked up the main drag toward the highway and found a Modelorama, kinda like a well-stocked 7/11.  I bought some fresh tortillas, a couple of chicken breasts, an onion and some orange juice.  Since laundry was such a big bag, I’d inflated the dinghy and just rowed on in.  Now I could bring a few groceries back to Willow and not worry about them getting wet on the SUP.

Tuesday, I hitched a ride into Loreto with Terry and Dawn from the Manta.  Terry’s an ex-SEAL and a terrific diver.  He invents, adapts, tests and plays with all sorts of dive gear.  He’s quite the photographer, too.  Dawn told me of sailing adventures she’d done on her own boat before she met up with Terry.  We toured the various grocery stores in Loreto, sating our appetite in an amazing taco stand on the main drag.  Now if I could remember the name of this best-in-Baja favorite, I’d tell you, but here in Mexico, something is happening to my memory…

Wednesday, I checked my batteries once again and found them drained.  After running the engine, they still wouldn’t accept a charge.  Instead of futzing with them some more, I decided to head straight for La Paz for replacements.  And to pay my taxes.  I made Willow ready for travel, weighed anchor, and made my way to Manta to thank Dawn and Terry once again for the previous days’ field trip.  The 115 nm trip should take me just about 24 or more hours, so I hit the ocean.


A Beautiful Night With a Bright Moon

My trip back down the coast was pretty uneventful but lovely.  If I could move like that for days on end, I don’t know if I’d ever stop!  A few hours out of Puerto Escondido found me sailing nicely, but once night fell, so did the breeze.  As the night wore on, I made my way through the San Jose Channel, down past Isla San Francisco, and Islas Partida and Espiritu Santo.  I pulled into La Paz around 1100 Thursday morning, registered Willow at Marina Palmira, and went to bed!