Saturday, May 30, 2015

A Utah Yankee in King Edwards Court

I have done quite a bit of small boat cruising here in the US and in Mexico.  In fact, an article that  I had once read about a guy that cruised for 250 miles along Baja in a small boat was the inspiration to get me started in sailing in the first place, and I have spent many wonderful  weeks and months sailing my little boats hither and yon.  For years I have participated in a few online small boat cruising forums,  with most of the members residing and sailing in the UK.  Sailing the tidal rivers of Great Britain has always held a special fascination for me.   None of my sailing, even in Mexico, required much thought to the tides, other than pulling my kayak up above the high tide line of driftwood on the beach to ensure I still had a boat nearby in the morning.   When my son moved to London last year with his job, I knew I would soon get the opportunity to sail with the big boys.

As an island nation, England invented sailing, right?   Well, I guess if you don’t count the Kuwaitis.  Or the Phoenicians.  Or the Chinese.  Or the Polynesians.   But we have to admit, the English did pretty well at it.  Building an empire that the sun never set over required a fair bit of sailing expertise.  And the blokes fishing out of wee boats in every sort of wild weather have fed the whole nation for a long time. (The whole fish and chips thing requires a boatload of fish.)   That small boat passion resides to this day in the hearts of the crazies who sail with groups like the Dinghy Cruising Association (DCA) and the Hostellers Sailing Club.   

I booked a 2 week trip to London in late April, 2015, because it was convenient for both me and my son Porter and his wife Erin.   I wasn’t  sure if that was a good time to go sailing  in the UK or not. I knew it didn’t freeze much there, so how bad could it be?   Turns out the DCA had a sailing event planned for the weekend I was there!   Perfect.  The plan was  to sail up the  Tamar River out of Plymouth Harbor (yes, Plymouth, as in the Mayflower and the Pilgrims) and explore some of the creeks, and pubs,  in that area.   That was especially cool for me because I had been watching a 12 episode BBC special  showing how life was on a farm up the Tamar valley during the period of King Edward (late 1800- early 1900 s).  The river with its sailing barges was the main form of transport of goods to and from the cities all over England.  Vegetables and flowers went  down river to the cities,  horse manure from the stables of the cities went back up river to fertilize the fields!   It was a well balanced system for  a thousand  years, but permanently  interrupted by the train and truck.

From what I had been reading, I had this probably over-romanticized idea that dinghy cruising in the UK involved sailing with the rising tide up a river through beautiful wooded and fielded countryside to some secluded little moorage, tie up to the bank,  and let the flat bottomed boat settle down on to the mud as the tide went out. We would walk up a little cow path to a village and spend the evening in a pub, enjoying the warmth of a fire,  drink a pint and eat some bangers and mash, and sing some songs until they kicked us out, then trundle our way back to the boat and sleep on board under a little tent erected over the cockpit.  In the morning the tide would be high again and lift us off the mud as we awoke and brewed up a pot of coffee (no tea for these blokes) , then ride the falling tide back on down the river,  to repeat again up another creek.   Guess what? Turns out it was pretty much just like that!   Oh yeah, and did you know it rains a lot in England?  Who’d a thunk?

I rode a bus 5 hours across England from London to Plymouth, where I was met at the station by DCA members John and Josephine  Perry, who it turns out had been writing many of the sailing stories I had been reading online all these years!  They graciously invited me to stay at their home overnight and the next day we drove to the  Mountbatten slipway to meet up  with the club president Roger Barnes.  Roger had invited me to crew with him on Avel Dro, his  replica of a 100 year old French fishing dinghy. This a really  cool design based on a traditional wooden working boat.  The hull is clinker built (overlapping planks), with an  open cockpit, no decking anywhere.    The mast is a solid wooden log lashed into position with a rope around 2 belaying pins.
The sail is a beautiful deep red tanbark lug rig, with no boom.  In the old days in these boats, the guys were too busing fishing to worry about a boom swinging around and conking them on the head.  Even today that is a nice feature,  as I was to learn. The main sheet is looped onto a cleat (wooden, of course)  on each aft corner, and needs to be moved from one side to another each time you come about, and the movement thereof needs to be timed precisely mid-turn while the sheet is  slack  before the wind fills in on the new tack, or it gets yanked out of your hands and flogs mercilessly.   It took me a while to get the hang of that, especially while gybing, and a boom would have been lethal, although if I had lived through it I am sure I would have learned quicker…..   We sailed across the bay and up into the St Germains  river  with the rising tide. We were meeting other folks up there  in Forder Lake near  John and Jan Lidstone’s  home.  John was the organizer of this club event, and he was prevented from joining for too much sailing,  but he was a fine host for the evening.  As it was still early yet,  Roger and I sailed up the river  a ways further just for fun.  We had a bit of a beat back against the tide, but it was starting to slacken so we made it back OK.    I learned a bit about running aground in mud so soft you couldn’t feel a thing until you notice you aren’t moving at all, and boat wouldn’t come about.   The centerboard was our depth sounder, letting us know when we mudded, and then easily retracted to let us go free.
Really, I was having more fun than this picture might suggest....

Back at John  and Jan’s, where we tied up for the night,  we met up with the Perrys on their self designed and built dinghy, a beautiful craft,  and Alastair Law in his self-built Paradox “Little Jim”.    Up the trail to John’s house we went  ( we weren’t sure which house was his, but the DCA burgee flying on the porch was a clue…)  for tea and toast, then up to the pub for dinner and drinks.   Back at the boats, we crawled under the boom tents where even in the constant drizzle it was cozy warm. 
 Roger had a bit of a drip on his head all night, but I lucked out and was drip free. (Or maybe he had gallantly  offered me, the guest, the non-drip side…) In the night we heard a horrible racket of falling hardware and we thought maybe a mast had fallen down or something, but since it was raining we decided we would wait until morning to investigate. Turns out someone driving by on the road above the bay had tossed out and down over the bluff a child car seat (no child attached) and a child’s bike.  I guess they were done with kids!


After a breakfast of fried bacon sandwiches and coffee, we casually sailed on back down to a bay and across to Mayflower marina where we had a lunch.  There,  amidst all the shiny new GRP and chrome yachts,  was a huge old wooden trawler that immediately caught my attention. She had been recently restored and looked in good working shape. Talking to the restoration-weary but justifiably proud owner, we learned that she had been involved in the evacuation of Dunkirk!  I noticed that she had a tiller for steering, which was refreshing. I have never been a fan of wheels, and am tired of yacht owners that bleat on about how THEIR yacht is so big it couldn’t possibly be steered by a tiller. They need to talk to this guy.  This ship is much bigger than any of those goofuses!

We sailed on the rising tide on up the Tamar river.  There was a nice wind blowing up river which schooled me on the fine art of smartly moving that main sheet across to the opposite cleat  each time we came about.   I was still learning as we entered a crowded mooring field and there was no room for error without expensive consequences, so I handed the helm to Roger.  We worked our way up the tight U turns of the river,  pulling out at Cotehele in a driving rain for a warm-up snack of Cream Tea.  The soft mud shore was ankle deep at that landing, but we were so wet from the rain anyway that a complete immersion rinse to the waist didn’t make us any wetter. Cotehele is a historical restored manor house,  stone quay, lime kiln,  tea shop, and barge landing, with the restored sailing barge Shamrock floating there (although I was told the restoration job was poor, and she is quite incapable of sailing worth a darn...)

On up the river we went, under the beautiful graceful  arches of the old  bridge soaring 120 feet above us, to the quaint little village of Calstock with a floating dock , which we were informed was off limits to the likes of us,  so we tied up to the stone quay wall. 
We wandered the town a bit, walking out on the train bridge (against the sign that said not to…)  spanning the river far below.   It was evening, and there were many finely dressed-up ladies getting on the train, apparently heading into the big city for the evening.  Back at the Tamar Inn by the quay, we were shaken down for 5 quid  by a local hot shot with fancy  hair and black leather jacket  who smugly told us we were not allowed to tie up unless we contributed to the local rowing club.  Hmmm.  So much for the friendly welcoming locals!   Maybe that was back in the olden days when people there worked for a living. Now it seemed like a pretty exclusive crowd of rich folks, sort of like Aspen or Zermatt.  We had dinner and drinks there again. The group assured me that the DCA did not routinely eat out this much, they usually cooked simple one-pot dishes on board, but since the weather was so nasty , (and perhaps to let me sample as many pubs as possible!) we ate out a lot on this trip.   Sort of broke the bank for most of us but it was still great fun.

The dawn brought a thick fog, which my local mates assured me meant that the day would be fair once the fog burned off.  Sure enough, it wasn’t long before we were enjoying a clear sunny morning.  The wind was calm  as we drifted on the ebbing tide downstream,  sculling a bit to make a bit better time.  It was still early, but looking forward with a  navigator’s brain,  we needed to get down and thru the Cremyll Narrows before the tide turned at 1:00 or we would spend another night there, so we had to keep moving.   It is funny, we didn’t consider ourselves “racers” per se, but in a sense we are always racing the change of the tide.  Roger was trying to teach me the fine art of sculling, and  I  was working at it, trying my best to move us faster than the current,  when Alastair drifted by us idly  on the current,  going faster than me waggling the “stick” back and forth!  Hmmm.  Sculling is harder than it looks.  I sat down and bent to the oars, while Roger manned the helm and guided us back through the crowded mooring field.   We were rowing merrily along,  with Alastair sculling nearby.  Actually, he was using a yuloh, (so I guess he was yulohing merrily along…)  a curved shaft bending to a horizontal  blade, of Asian design. 
 He said it made the task almost foolproof,  which would have been perfect for l me….  I never did get the hang of sculling with the flat bladed oar, which required a deft twist of the wrist on each stroke.  A couple of folks in a motorized inflatable came by, asking us if we were OK, and did we need a tow?   As if anyone who was rowing must be in trouble!   We cheekily wanted to ask if, since they were motoring, was there something wrong with their oars?

We made it thru the narrows with a bit of time to spare. I was again at the helm,  being squeezed by a big boat in the channel on one side and the navy yard Exclusion /“no go” zone on the other. We were supposed to keep 100 meters away from the submarine moored there at the quay, but there were no markers that I could see,  and really, who can estimate 100 meters?  Not me, apparently.  I was slowly headed towards the navy side of the equation, watching for the best time to come about.   Suddenly the police boat guarding the nuclear arsenal roared right up on us, and I mean RIGHT up on us, with a man shouting at us to get away. NOW!  Roger hollered back (over the sound of their engines) that we would be happy to but they were in our way and would they please back off and give us sea room so that we could come about. The guy yelled back,  “No, you  back off  NOW! Don’t you have an engine?” After realizing that we did not, and that we did indeed need a wee bit of room in order to fulfil the order, they backed off and we came about and moved harmlessly away without further confrontation.  I guess even navy guys don’t really understand what small un-motorized boats are all about.   (I was later told by a friend who had worked there a while back that there would have been a man with a rifle on shore watching the entire encounter, calculating  whether to “get involved “ or not.   I am glad he calculated that I was just a bumbling fool and not a dangerous terrorist just trying to look like a bumbling fool…)

The wind picked up and we had a rollicking good sail on across the bay,  back to the slipway at Mountbatten. I really loved sailing Avel Dro.  She seems like a boat that can really get it done.  We were tacking through the mooring field up against the tide, and I got a good lesson in “tide adjusted  leeway”,  where the direction you are pointed really  has very little bearing in where you end up!   We arrived at the ramp with the water still too low  to pull out the boats so we tied up to a nearby mooring ball and had lunch sitting in the rain for an hour as the tide came back up.

What a fine adventure this has been for this Utah  yankee  sailing into the court of good King Edward, a fulfillment of a long-time dream, which I hope to repeat repeatedly.  Thanks to John L for coordinating the event. Thanks so much to Roger for letting me sail with him and teaching me the ropes of tidal sailing. Thanks to Alastair for being a great neighbor and showing me how sculling really should be done.  Thanks to John and Josephine for sharing their home with me before and after the cruise, as well as shuttling me back and forth to the bus station. You all are welcome any time to come sail with me in the colonies.



Monday, March 23, 2015

pic of Mulege to Loretto

Drying my sleeping bag on the mast

Cool flowers growing out of a cliff made of shells

Giant whale bone,  head/top jaw of a gray whale,    it is about 8 ft wide, and 20 ft long. It is visible from outer space on google earth.   It was cast up on the beach in an arroyo  about a hundred yards from the water, so a giant storm tossed it up there, there were no other bones anywhere around.

cooking fish

Antonio and Juan taking a break from brush cutting

Bahia San Juanico in the sunset

Kyle the brush master

the crazy German suspersize RV

waves crashing on the shore me here a while longer

the bay in calmer conditions

Antonio and family in the ranchero kitchen

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Road trip home March 2

Road trip home March 2

After leaving Agua Verde we stopped briefly back at rattle snake beach and Puerto Escondito for showers, water and internet. We stopped in Loretto for a bit more food and headed north to the turnoff to San Juanico. I had stopped there in my kayak, and it is so nice I wanted to stay there again. The road in is long and rough, and we took a wrong turn once and ended up at a fish camp way a bit away from the bay we wanted. At juanico all the good camping places on the beach were taken so we had to camp back in the bushes away from the beach. That was okay though. That night it started raining and rained hard all night and all the next day and all the next night. We set up a dining fly to protect us from the rain and it blew down during the night . we met a family camping out in the bushes, James, Mai, and their son Michael and his family. ,they had drove in with a big white school bus camper . i was shocked they got that huge thing in there on that road. they were really cool. They were from mainland Mexico , yankees living in Mexico for the last 16 years and had never been to Baja. they were fun to talk to. the lady, Mai, was a midwife and told us of some really cool births. She told us about 1 that was a water birth attended to by dolphins to actually help the the mother in her labor as she was in the water.

we packed up early the next morning and headed out. The road out seemed easier than coming in.

We had read about some ancient cave paintings in a canyon way off in the mountains North of Mulege. The guidebook we have described a nasty hard road in, but it is almost 25 years old and much has changed all over Baja since then. A local guy said it was now a good gravel road in, with a village of 1000 people in there. If we had known how wrong he was we would not have started in. It turned out to be a very bad track in and out of an arroyo, over and around big boulders, and loose sand, much worse than the road into San Juanico or Agua Verde and longer. 22 miles. It ended at a rancho that was very nice but no one was there. Many dogs greeted us loudly, so we know someone would come along eventually. The guide book says that we need to hire a local guide to go in to the caves, but it also said that there were 2 locked gates that we needed to get keys for after paying a fee, and every gate was just tied with rope, so like I said, everything has changed since 1993. We camped up the way from there and would expect to find someone there in the morning.

In camp as the sun was setting we heard some birds in the bushes singing a really complex call. It was so cool, I have never heard anything like it. It went on and on, changing style and tempo in a pattern that ran for several minutes and then repeated itself. I tried to record it but they fley away when I got up to get my phone. Dang.

Wednesday. This morning we walked up the arroyo following the directions from the book the best we could. It was all pretty vague but we kept seeing what we thought were recognizable landmarks and walked a few miles more along the arroyo, looking for the cave. . It was only supposed to be one mile. We finally gave up and headed back to the truck. We drove back to the ranch house and there was a lady there today. She said she was a guide and would take us there for 200 pesos. Cool!. We made room for her in our car, not an easy feat, since the back was loaded full. We had to pile a stack of gear on her patio to make room to fold down the back seat. She got in and directed us back down the road we had come up yesterday! Today we had been looking in the totally wrong direction. We headed up a different arroyo on a very bad track, worse than yesterday. After a few miles we came to the end. It was funny, we are in the middle of friggin nowhere and there was a modern new bright blue road sign for the "pintura" cave right out there in the arroyo, erected by Mulege city.

We then walked for another mile on a trail that went in and out of the arroyo just like the road did. Finally we came up to the cave, a very large alcove in the cliff, very deep back in, about 50 or 60 feet, with a ceiling about 15 ft high. The ceiling was covered with paintings of very large full size people, in red and black, many with the color split down the middle. Many of the characters had spears or arrows run thru them. There were also pictures of big yellow fish, yellow fin tuna?, a giant frog, a stag with huge antlers, and something that looked for all the world like an upright dinosaur like a T Rex or something. Our guide Senya was not an expert on the figures, she just knew where they were and had a key to the gate. These panels are said to be 7500 years old, the oldest known in north america.

On our drive back to drop Senya off we encountered another truck with a guide bringing a visitor in from Mulege. Senya told us she gets about 200 visitors a year, and her guest registry listed another one that same morning.

On the way out, a burro fell in with us running, right there behind us. He followed us quite a while, only leaving us when we passed a ranchero and he seemed to be chasing a dog. Barb was feeling bad for him, sure he was starving or lonely. A little bit later along Barb had her window down and there was another one again, running right along side us with his face right in the window and he took a snap at her! Dang that was scary. Attacked by a rogue donkey.


The last few days have been exhausting, what with the bad road drive out from Agua verde , then out to San juanico and back, and now this trip out to the cave paintings, all on nasty bad tracks out across wild country. We decided that we have had enough off road 4x4ing for this trip. We will stick to the pavement from now on. Of course that resolve didn't stick long...


We drove out and it was about 4:30 when we finally made it out to the highway. We looked around for a place to camp near there and settled in in an old gravel pit. Nice place but the ground is thick with dried cactus thorns everywhere. They are almost invisible the way they hide in whatever other plant stuff is lying around and are super brutal. I had one go right thru my sandal sole and stab my toe. I had to dig out several from under my tent. I hope I got them all!.

Thursday. OK, no cactus punctures! Hurray!

We drove to Santa Rosalia and went to a bank to exchange $ for pesos, then on to Guerrero negro, about 100 miles along to the north. This town is near one of the big famous grey whale calving lagoons Ojo le Liebre , the eye of the rabbit. Don't ask me, I don't get it either. Anyway, the whales travel here every winter after summering in the far north arctic. They have their calves in the shallow warm protected bay in November and December, and by now the calves are a few month s old and pretty playful.

We camped out in the sand dunes for the night. The wind was pretty strong and kept shifting around, we moved to truck to block the wind from our kitchen, and had to move it again when it shifted.

Friday. We went on out to the lagoon where there is a visitors center and boats that take us out to cavort with the whales. Private boats are not allowed, to prevent people from harassing the whales, and also I am sure to ensure work for the Mexican panga captains. We were on a boat only partially full, there were six of us, including some very fun German folks. When we got out into the middle where the whales hang out there were 2 pangas already there, with a mom and baby playing with them. We were feeling pretty cheated but then the other boats left and we were out there alone with the pair. They would come right up to us and let us pet their noses. The mom is huge, over 70 feet long, and the baby is about 25 feet long, weighing several tons. 2 months old. The baby would bump its nose up against the side of the boat, for no reason we could tell except to get our attention, (as if we could ignore it! ). They both would spout right by us and spray us. I have smelled whale spray before , it usually smells like rotten fish, (even tho they don't eat fish, they sieve krill thru their balleen plates) but this didn't have any smell. I think the mothers don't eat during this period of their life, and the calves are nursing, so no nasty smells. This went on for about 20 to 30 minutes then we left as another panga came in. I was told there are about 1400 mothers with calves in the lagoon, but only this one was getting any attention from the boats we could see. The lagoon is huge, with several tour groups launching pangas from all over, so I maybe the love is spread about.

The whales are black, with mottled patches of gray scattered across them. Small fins and bumps along their backs , huge wide tails. Their mouths are gigantic, to sieve the krill thru, but they never opened their mouths while we were there. The skin was smooth and rubbery feeling, and sort of soft, on the head where we were touching. They had barnacles stuck to their skin, even the baby already. The blow hole on the top of their head was interesting, it consisted of 3 slits side by side, separating out in sort of a fan shape, about 6 inches long. I had thought they had one hole and it was round. Perhaps other species do, but not these.

There are 3 of these types of lagoons in Baja, and they have a tragic history that thankfully is getting better. Back in the big whale hunting days the hunters found these lagoons and slaughtered the trapped whales very quickly. I am glad to hear that one of the boats sank, it was so over loaded!. In the last several years there have been treatys signed limiting whale hunting all over the world and in these lagoons especially. Whales live up to 70 years so there are whales alive today that could remember the horrible old days and survived to tell tqhe babies about it. They are very smart so i am sure they understand what was going on and who was responsible for all the carnage. It is amazing the mothers would allow their babies anywhere near us now. If I was them I would teach the kid to smash us with their tails and keep away. I guess they are more forgiving than I am.

Saturday march 7. We drove up across the Great Central Desert of Baja, the road taking us from the Sea of Cortez over to the pacific ocean. . We saw a sign that said next gasoline 230 kilometers, and we had a quarter of a tank. Yikes! The last pump behind us was a good hour drive back. As we drove along we saw a mechanic shop and thought, surely he has some to spare. As we pulled into the yard we asked a man walking along and he pointed to his truck out across the road. He had 3 big barrels of gas in the back, ready to sell to stupid people like me. We bought about 45 liters for 900 pesos, about 20 per liter. The gas station price is about 14. That is the premium we had to pay for being stupid. Dang.

Out along the road were looking for some cave paintings that were described in the 25 year old book. We looked for some landmarks like "the 2nd dirt track after an arroyo 2 miles after a roadside hotel (that didn't exist anymore...)". We didn't see any of that, but there was a roadside archeological display with a nice parking lot, palapa, outhouses, and trails with interpretive signs , all in Spanish. After a while we decided this wasn't it and were looking around some more but from a higher vantage point I could see that the trail led up a hill to a cave with a sign. Yep. That was it. When in doubt, trust the signs. Even if you can't read them very well.

As we came out of the desert towards the Pacific ocean. The map showed a sea lion colony so we took a dirt track out across some very steep eroded mud hills. We were intrigued by a modern looking power line that followed the road. It looked out of place with such a bad road. Even if the sea colony turned out to be lame, we became interested in what was out there that needed such a big power supply!. Eventually we came out to the sea shore, a big rocky cliff above the water, and perched on the cliff, fed by the power line was a giant old restaurant now turned into an oceanic research facility. An old man came out to collect a dollar from us, and pointed to a trail that led to a giant hole in the ground that dropped down overhanging cliffs to expose an underground cavern with a beach and a bunch of sea lions. An underground passageway let ocean swells directly into the cave and onto the beach. It was so cool. Like a lost world sort of thing. The sea lions were pretty comatose, not moving much or barking. I can imagine another day in another season they would be packed in there and making a racket.

We had lunch on the rocks in front of the building. It must have pretty cool back in its day, with a huge patio now covered with old boats plumbed for pumping water in and out for sea life experiments. There was a swimming pool and hot tub, now dry. The inside of the building was full of giant tanks and plumbing to manage the water flows. There was nobody else there doing the science stuff , We couldnt really tell what they were doing, and the old man was just a watchman and couldn't tell us, but it looked important and fascinating. He did have ice cold Cokes to sell us though.

We drove on north along the coast road, which is not really very close to the coast. We couldn't see the ocean for many miles. We took a dirt road out west and ended up camping at the same dunes that I camped on my first night down here in baja 2 months ago. Life is just a big circle, eh?

Yesterday we drove across the border of Baja Sur (south) and Baja Norte (north) 2 Mexican states . Sur is in the mountain time zone and Norte is Pacific, so we changed our clocks one hour, even though we really aren't moving east to west like you would normally be doing when you go from Mountain to Pacific. The result is that sun is now rising at about 5 AM and going down at about 5 PM. No problem, life is the same, we still get up and go bed with the sun but it seems strange to crawl into the tent in the dark at 5:30. And tomorrow is daylight saving time so we will have to change them back anyway!

As the evening came on I wandered around the dunes and saw a horny toad. That was cool, i havent seen one of those since i was a tiny kid out in south central Oregon. Then there were 2 really beautiful coyotes that slowly eased into the brush as I approached. They didnt sprint off like coyotes usually seem to do, but seemed to be watching me as they oozed away. There were 3 rabbits that sprinted away at the same time and I am sure I spoiled the coyotes supper. Dang. Sorry guys!.

I hadn't seen any cactus out here on the dunes at all, but when I wasn't looking I kicked into one with the back of my heel and I was wearing sandals. I was really lucky, the spines mostly dug into the trim of the heel strap, with only 1 spine getting a good dig into me. That was close to being a nasty one!. After 2 months with no injury, and on the next to my last day in baja, i almost got really badly hurt. Can't let down my guard for even one moment!.

For the last few days I have been missing my old sun hat that I have worn every day for the last six years and have repaired it more times than I can count. Dang, I love that hat and was afraid I had left it at those cave paintings a few days ago. But it showed up today in the truck, jammed down under one of the storage bins. Yahoo! Celebrate the return of the prodigal hat. We had beans and rice tonight to celebrate.

Sunday, we drove out of the dunes. The road was really wet in a few places and I was spinning and sliding. It was flat ground, with no rocks or trees to hit, and cliffs to fall off of, but for a minute it seemed likely that we might get stuck. I could move but no matter which way I turned the wheel, the car would not turn!. We finally got out of there but the truck was covered with mud. There was a car wash right there when we hit pavement so we pulled in. It wasn't a self wash, nor a drive thru. They had a pressure washer and a few buckets and rags, and with their hard work, we were shiny in no time. This is the best that truck has looked in years.

As we approached Ensenada, we turned off down to El Bufadora, the second largest sea geyser in the world. There is a tight crevice in the rock right at sea level and when big swells come in, it shoots water high into the air. It is a big tourist attraction, with paid parking, and a gauntlet of gift shops and eager vendors we had to walk thru to get to The Buf. The swells were pretty small so not much of a show. We need a good cyclone out in Thailand to send us some good 40 foot swells. The most interesting part was that most of the tourists there were Mexican families out for a Sunday drive, not gringos like we have been used to seeing. The people watching was great fun. Kids at that sort of place are the same all over the world, in any language. Begging for sweets, and tossing a tantrum when they don't get it.

I was wondering about the business of the gift shops there, as well as all the others around the world. Guys walking down the beaches in Costa Rica, people on the sides of the road in Africa, 100 stalls packed in cheek by jowl here at La Bufadora, all the stuff looks the same. The hats, the dresses, the toys, the snacks, the shot glasses and fridge magnets. All the same. I am thinking that they all must be owned and managed by some giant consortium of curio trinket big guys who control it all and hire these hawkers for pennies to schlep it to us tourists. I was wondering, too, about which of the stalls get the most business. We ignore the first couple of stalls, start looking at stuff a few stalls later, then try it on a few stalls later, and then finally buy it from a stall on our way back to the car. I am sure these guys know the buying habits of us better than we do, and position themselves to capitalize on it. I wonder if there is some sort of rotation order to keep it fair, or maybe the best salespeople work their way up to get to sit in the best locations. Hmm. The things that keep me awake at night.

Our drive back to the states is via the Mexico highway 3 to Tecate (instead of the 1 to Tijuana). The 3 goes up to the east thru wine country, and is spectacular. It looks just like Napa valley, or some Italian country side. Huge elegant corporate vineyards with huge processing plants and giant mansions like in Europe, are interspersed with small humble farmsteads. We were looking for a place to camp for the night and the big vineyards did not look very amenable to us camping in the yard of the Big House. We found an ejito which was perfect. An ejito is a plot of land, usually very huge, many thousands of acres, that was once owned by some giant colonial land baron, of course stolen hundreds of years ago from the natives who were forced to be virtual slaves on the big ranch. Several years ago, the government made some massive land reforms and took the land from the egalitarians and gave it back to the peasants. The ejito is a cooperative venture with the local people in charge of dividing it up, allocating home sites, deciding what they do with it, etc. Most of the fish camps and tiny villages I have visited have been administered this way. Some of the ejitos have a school, a store, some sort of infrastructure. Others are just a loose collection of small homes. This one is pretty small. We drove in and found a beautiful little spot on a rise looking out over the valley with higher hills all around, and green fields with happy looking cows grazing, stretching on down the canyon. There is an abandoned building here that looks like it could have been a small school once upon a time.

The coyotes are howling as we had supper and cozied into bed.

We could see a bon fire across the village, and as we were falling asleep some local folks were having a sing a long with an accordion. I was very tempted to grab my guitar and join them, but I was afraid of just walking up in the dark as a stranger.

Monday. It was a beautiful cool morning, very dry, not a drop of condensation this last morning in Baja.

We had read about some hot springs somewhere along in here, and tried to follow the directions in this old guidebook. They mentioned a highly developed compound of 20 campsites with private pools with water from the hot spring piped into each one. Something that big would surely be noticed by the locals and have signs directing folks to it, right? Wrong. No signs anywhere and Again, nothing on the maps nor in the book seemed to match what we were seeing. We had 3 maps, none of which agreed. We asked several people, all knew where it was but all giving us contradictory information (at least from the way we understood them. ) One lady was funny, we asked her if she spoke english and she waggled her finger at us and sternly said "no!". We drove up and down one lane several times, and I am sure the man trimming the giant olive hedge along there thought we were nuts. Finally we found a guy, a beautiful ancient looking man, very tall, with a long gray beard and a gnarly cane He pointed us on up the road we were on and said talk to his wife, Josephine. It was only a 20 minute walk he said. We found the lady, and there was a big sign, Valle de San Jose de Guadalupe Agua caliente, hiking, rappelling, and waterfalls. Success! She took our 50 pesos and opened the gate for us to drive on further. At the end of that road, a few miles, we started walking. On up beside a small stream. 30 minutes. Past a giant cliff that would be a giant waterfall when it rained but was dry today. No hot spring. On up the canyon. Almost an hour. Eventually we found a spot where some rocks had been placed in the stream to form a pool and there was hot water tricking into it. Hurray! We had found it and had such as nice soak. One of the nicer back country undeveloped pools I have ever seen. But nothing like the book described. Hmmm.

PS. We later learned that the book was describing another hot spring oasis almost 100 miles away, with the same name as the one we found! Oh, well liked the one we found

La Mordita. On into the town of Tecate, a US border crossing, and home of my favorite beer. We found the brewery and bought some to take home. Then on to find the big central plaza where we would have lunch. But as we approached, we saw that the entire plaza and street was boarded up, closed for remodeling. The traffic was crazy and we were trying to find a place to park when a motorcycle cop pulled us over. He approached the car , i was driving, and Barb didn’t hear what he said at first and she told him " no thanks, we don't need any help". he laughed and “Said no you don't understand, you ran 2 stop signs and almost ran over 2 people and a child“. None of which was true, but it was his word against ours. He was very nice, pleasant, he apologized for his poor English. He said it was a very serious offence, almost running over 2 people and a child, but since we were on vacation. Yes? he didn't want to spoil our good time and we could take care of it then and there, no ticket, no report to the DMV, just pay $70 and he would then escort us to the border. What? That's outrageous!. We dont have that much. Yes he said he understood, yes he would be inclined to let us go but, he pointed to his radio, his boss already knew that he had pulled us over and expect that we paid the fine and these were very serious offences almost running down 2 people and a child,, ànd he asked how much could we pay. I said I have 20, he said, maybe we should go on down to the station. Then he said “how about $50?” I had more than that but I didn't want him to know that, and I was trying to fish in my wallet and my secret hiding spot without him seeing the wad of hundreds. I didn’t have another 10 for the $50, but finally dug out 3 20s as discretely as I could and handed him that. He said oh no, not like that, show me the papers, I said what papers, the registration? He said yeah whatever. I wrapped the bills in the registration, he palmed the bills and handed the registration back. So he had told me 50, I gave him 60, but I wasn't expecting any change back.... He drove off, we followed, he escorted us to the border with a friendly wave. “Ya all come back now, ya hear?”

At the border we got busted again for having 4 potatoes in the car, " please drive over here for an inspection. ". Dang. Not again. But this one was easy. After a brief wait, a guy came out, we handed him the potatoes, he didn't want the onions we tried to hand him, no problem he said, he gave us a list of "enterables" which included almost everything, it seemed , except potatoes .

so we finally made it across , up the road to Barbs house, where we celebrated with Vons market fried chicken and potato wedges washed down with Tecate beer straight from the factory.

Baja. What a wonderful magical place. I’ll be back.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Agua Verde Feb 19 - 28

Agua Verde Feb 19 -27

Yesterday brought a bit of excitement in the Escondito area. A whale was spotted off shore tangled in a fishing net. Some divers went in trying to cut it loose but it kept diving and they couldn't complete it before it got dark. I guess they will keep trying tomorrow but they may never find it again.  It could well die if it isn't removed.

I called porter and my brother yesterday. That was nice. Porter told me all about his trip to India, and Terry told me more about dads funeral. It sounded nice. Sort of a small crowd. That is the problem living a long life. Anyone else who would come to your funeral is already dead!.

I had supper with Lance and Michael, the same Lance that I met up at San Juanico. He had come down here and is camped near me. Small world. He and Michael just got back from a 5 day kayak trip out to Isla Monsarrat. It is about 8 miles offshore, and rarely visited. Michael is from Ontario Canada and is pretty hard core. He carries a cast iron skillet with him even on backpacking trips. He likes to cook over fires and feels the cast iron is the only way to do it right.

I also called my friend Barb in San Diego and asked if she wanted to catch the bus and meet me down here and we could drive back together over the next 2 weeks or so. She was excited to come so the plan is i will paddle to Agua Verde,  she will get off off the bus here in Escondito, get my truck, and drive down to meet me there. We will rendevouz in about 5 days, which leaves me plenty of time to get there, allowing for bad weather.

Friday Feb 20.  I packed up and started towards Agua Verde. The winds were predicted to be from the south, right on my nose,  so I didn't expect to get very far, but they stayed pretty light and I made 7 miles before I beached just south of Candelero Chico.  The coastline is, again, spectacular. I hate to keep using that word so I need to find some synonyms. High jagged cliffs coming right down to the water, with beautiful sand beaches in between.

I caught 2 fish today!. Well, actually I hooked 2, both got away. One felt pretty big and it seemed like he dove and tied up in the rocks and line broke. The other was a croaker, not really anything to eat, and while I was getting the camera to document the glorious event he spit the hook and swam off. But I have hope that I may not starve after all!.

Saturday. Last night it was dead calm when I went to bed but not long after it started to blow hard. I was camped on sand, and had anchored the tent with lines tied to sticks and weighted down with rocks. After a while some of them gave way from the pressure of the wind and I had to go out and find bigger rocks!   It was a really warm night, cloudy overcast skies, and no dew at all. It was the dryest i have ever woken up with down here. The wind sort of died and popped up again all night, calm by morning.

I was in no big hurry, 5 miles to go, and I expected the winds to be light from the south again like yesterday. I caught a light canyon breeze and rode it for a while, and hooked another fish, this time a small but very pretty Sierra. I realized that having a fish thrashing in the boat with twin treble hooks is a quick disaster. The fish hooked me too!.  I had a pair of needle nose pliers in my kit so I dug that out to grip the hook and disgorge it from him, and let him go.

About then a nice wind filled in mostly from the south, coming off the land. . The shore is trending largely to the southeast so I could sail pretty parallel to it. The wind kept building and was getting pretty serious. Even that close to shore, a few hundred yards, I had whitecaps and short steep waves. The boat was doing well but I decided to reef. I am so glad I reworked that part of my system the other day. It was quick and easy,  worked slick, and in a minute I was back sailing fast and comfortable.  The wind and seas kept building but I was handling it well. I reached my destination by about 10:00, 5 miles upwind, not bad. This was the best sailing I have had on this trip.

As I was approaching the protection of a giant rock, I was sailing hard, the rigging was being stressed, and leeboard was flexing in its socket. I had beefed that up last summer and knew it was strong, but I didn't like the way it was flexing. That is a thick heavy bolt holding it on. Shouldn't be flexing. All of a sudden there was a loud pop and the bolt snapped right off and the leeboard dropped into the water. I have some lines attached to it for controlling its position in the water so I didn't lose it, just pulled up and set it in my lap. Luckily I was only a few feet from the protection of that big rock and was able to coast in those last few feet and pull up to rest and figure out what was happening. I was very lucky it broke in a place where i could duck in out of the wind. If it had broken a bit sooner when I was out there I would not have been able to sail, and I am sure the wind was too strong to paddle against it. I may have just had to drift offshore with the wind until it settled down and I could make way with just the paddle.

I waited a while and things actually settled down pretty soon. I was able to get back on the water and paddle around the corner to a little cove called Punta Carrizalito. It is a wilderness beach, but just around the corner from San Cosme, an area reached by car from the road leading down to Agua Verde.

There is a hot spring that bubbles up in the rocks at low tide. People have scooped out the rocks to make a nice pool. I soaked for a while, a very nice relaxation after my crazy morning sailing.

I happened to have the right parts with me to repair the broken leeboard socket. I am glad I brought that stuff!   I also noticed that the glue on the some of the reinforcing patches on the reef points were starting to peel off already, so I sewed them on. That was hard, all I had was an ordinary sewing needle and it kept bending when I tried to push it thru the heavy fabric. I used the pliers to push it thru and pull out the other side and that worked well, but was slow. I thought I had tossed in the speedy sticher awl but I guess not. Need to remember that next time.

When I was walking around today I saw a road runner! Never seen one before. It was pretty brushy so didn't get to see him pour it on, but what little I saw him run was pretty cool. and no "meep meep" either. I wonder if that is all just fake....

Some people walked along the beach from their camp over by the road here to the hot spring and we visited, Cory and Ann from Idaho. Cory was fishing, and he gave me 2 lures that he likes, and some wire leader to reduce the chance of breaking the line. Wow what a nice guy.  In discussing my trip, Ann asked if I had been to San Basilio (Juanico ) and when I said yes she asked if I had met her friends Ryan and Keegan. Yes I camped right by them!. They were the ones who paddled this same trip I am doing  ( more, actually, Mulege to La Paz)  6 times before.  Cory and Ann had done a 10 day paddle around Isla Espiritu Santo down by La Paz. That is supposed to be the very best place, very popular.

I am sleeping under an old palapa, no tent tonight. The bugs don't seem too bad, and the wind is down.

Sunday. Last night it was dead calm when I went to bet in the palapa. Not long after the wind picked up and howled for hours. The dilapidated walls of the palapa did little to blunt the wind, and I had stacked all my gear bags as a wind block but that didn't help much. At least there were stars out, I reasoned, so things won't get too bad. About midnight it was still howling, I hadn't slept at all, but the stars were now blotted out by a cloud cover. Dang. This is not getting better. I tossed my tent and sleeping gear in a bag and headed for a more sheltered spot I saw earlier in the day, tucked up in a tight grove of trees. It was calm in there and I set up the tent and settled in for the rest of a very comfy night.

Today I puttered àbout and fished. Checked out the hot spring again, still only luke warm.  Later I spoke to some folks who were just coming back from it and they said it was scorching hot. Dang. My bad timing.  When i started fishing i promptly lost one of the new lures that Cory had given me. Dang, those are expensive. I think I had a pretty big one on but when they get hooked they head for the rocks to  hunker in and the line gets cut.   I was tempted to stop so as not to lose any more, but then i realized if i didnt use it then i might as well lose it!. I rerigged and trolled a bit around the rocks. I caught anther small sierra that I released, and then  finally caught a fish big enought to keep and  eat. A small sea bass, or cabrilla. I started a fire to fry it over, and tossed it into my regular bean dish. It was small, but still there was about as much meat as from a small can of tuna. Perfect for me.

While I was paddling about I ran into Scott, the guy I first camped near up in Coyote .dang, this is too wierd. I keep seeing the same people. Nice though.

A while later I ran into a group of 6 paddlers from the other beach heading for the hot spring. We sat out in a flotilla in the middle of the bay and visited. They were cool.

I paddled over to the next beach over and it was really cool. A perfect half moon bay, sandy beach, a nice broad meadow with the rugged peaks back behind.  A big outdoor kitchen, a couple of palapas. One was built up on top of a giant rocky hill , with 105 steps carved out of the rock and faced with adobe bricks with pretty little stones and shells set in the mortar. Wow, that was a huge job, but a very nice result. Shame, the whole place looked pretty ignored and abandoned.  Someone later told me it a private place and the owner hated anyone coming ashore.  No signs, but I guess they got blown out from the hurricane. No one there to yell at me anyway.

Monday. Travel day. My last on water this trip. The wind was predicted to be moderate today, and tomorrow would bring on 3 days of hard blow so I wanted to get to Agua Verde today. It is 8 miles of open water, without any type of protected landing along the way, so I got an early start. There was a light breeze out of the north, seemingly not enough to sail in so I was paddling but after 2 hours when I checked the GPS, I had gone 5 miles, so the wind was definitely helping me. I have never paddled that fast before.
The 3rd hour the wind filled in and I pulled into the harbor by 10, a very nice run.

Agua Verde is a good harbor with a nice little town there, seems like about 50 homes. . Mostly a fishing camp. There is a good artesian spring up in the hills that is piped into town and every house   has running water clean to drink. There is a tienda, church, a school. Several homes have gardens because of the generous water. The mountains are rugged all around, and the road in is pretty new I think, within the last 40 years, and rugged. I will find out how rugged in a few days when Barb gets here with my truck and we drive out.

As I pulled into the harbor I came past a really nice yacht anchored, Kaia,  don't know the type, but very traditional looking. Daniel and Michelle loved my boat and invited me aboard for coffee. Their boat was big, at least 37 ft, and tiller steered. I love that. Hate wheels. They also said that even though they have an engine they never used it. They had just come down  from Los Angeles and were on their way north into the Sea of Cortex,  sailing the whole way. That is tough this time of year, most of the wind is from the north so they have been bashing their way along, and then only for 4 or 5 hours a day.  They said that when they got to this harbor a few days ago they were becalmed just outside for a day and a half before they could sail on in. Didn't want to use the engine.  Dang I love these kids.

I also saw Slow Mocean again, people I met up in Santespac. The big cruise ship was also in the harbor. Some of their folks were on a mule ride up in the mountains, a bunch of others were paddling kayaks around  in big groups.

I came ashore and met Ken and Fransica, the only gringos camped in the whole area!. They are from Canada and come here for 6 months every year. Other folks come and stay a short time, but they stay. As I wandered about and spoke to a few local folks I learned that Francisca a was helping to build a restaurant, and she was also the only medico in the area. I don't know if she is a doctor, or nurse, or what. Cool though.

As I wandered on I met a group of ladies that were actually working on building the restaurant. They were putting up concrete pillar's for the roof. I joked "Arriba, tengo hombre" Hurry, I am hungry!. They laughed. There was a cute little white  dog that came up, looked just like Kenzies little Shelby. I was so homesick.

Then I past a group of teenage boys playing futbol. They invited me to play. Funny. These guys were good!.

A man was tending a garden and we started visiting. He is Leonardo, the primary school teacher. His wife is the restaurant lady, good friends with Francisca. They invited me in for coffee. I felt bad, they were not having anything, but offered me some. They speak no English, ( except "okey dokey" we laughed. I have met several people that that was the only  english they knew. I wonder where that comes from. )and my Spanish is poor, but we all tried and had a nice chat for a while. Their house is new, solid, cement block, with a solid cement roof and floor. Simple but clean and solid. They had a light from a battery with a solar panel. There was no internet in the town, but several people have satellite TV.  Leonardo's dad came in and I was in one of the only chairs in the house and I offered him my chair  but he said no problem, he sat on a bucket.

It was quite dark when I headed home, but there was a sliver of a new moon, so I did OK, but I have got remember to grab a flashlite when I go out any time after supper.

 Tuesday Feb 24   first thing this morning I met met Bobby, a Canadian who had hitchhiked in yesterday. He has been traveling all over Baja with a backpack and his thumb. Nice guy. I wandered around the town more, it is built up on both sides of a wide arroyo that splits it all in half. There doesn't seem to be any sort of "our side" vs "the other side". There are many goats here. Hundreds I am told. They sell goat milk and cheese at the tienda but I am not getting any yet.  I am running short of Mexican cash, I had plenty in the truck but forgot to get some for my wallet before I left escondito. I need to ration what I have for any sort of emergency. I have some US cash, that will work in a pinch.

I spent the morning visiting with Ken, the resident Canadian. He is pretty interesting,  has a ham radio set up here, and makes sourdough bread in his camper. He described the local politics, land issues, water allocation, fishing restrictions imposed by the fishermen themselves.

A yacht couple came to shore in their dinghy and went shopping and when it came time to head back to their boat it surf was up and thy were going to have trouble getting launched. Bobby and I got into wet clothes and waded out to steady the boat while he got his motor running. He took off and was doing fine crashing up and over the waves but his engine died right then and he grabbed the oars and pulled on passed the breaker line and got the engine running again.  Later he came over and asked if he could buy my SSB receiver so they could get weather. Since I am heading home I sold it to him for about what it will cost me to replace it.

Some other yachters came along, they were in a big 47 ft yada yada and they asked me "are you kayaker with the weather radio? We are having trouble getting a forecast. " that is a switch! Usually it is the kayaker begging info from the better equipped yachters.

Bobby suggested we go for a hike up the arroyo and maybe scramble up one of the ridges. I was dubious about the feasibility  of off trail rambling because the brush has been so viscious. We walked up and saw a likely looking ridge and worked our way up, along and over to a pass that led us back down into town from the other direction. It actually worked out just fine. I was pretty injured when Bobby got tangled in a thorn bush and was pulling to free himself and I was too close and when it released it wacked me right in the face. I was really lucky it didn't put an eye out, but I had blood running from several wounds.  As we came on into town we met a goat herder checking on his flock. There were goats scrambling all over the steep cliffs as we scrambled along under them. They looked just like mountain goats up there.  We got back into town just as it was getting dark. I had told Bobby I didn't want to be out there after dark and he said no problem, there is a moon, we'll be fine.  Yeah, I have had that experience of planning on the moon and it is late. Well tonight it is cloudy so no moon.

Back in camp bobby and I pooled our kitchen and had a meal together. He is an interesting character. Has a good bit of outdoor travel experience, and has hitchhiked all over the world.

Wednesday. Barb got here about noon. We rambled about a bit, explored a beach around the next point. The wind and surf is still high. Moved camp off the beach and into the bushes out of the wind. My tent was filling up with sand. We will stay here a few days and then move on.

Thursday. We hiked around to another beach, where there was a cave up high on a cliff, and some ancient rock art. The wall had been stained white, and red hand prints were plastered all across it. Also interesting to wonder what, if any , message was intended by rock art. None has ever really been deciphered.

Along the beach we happened upon a sea turtle laying in the sand at the waters edge. He looked very old, barnacles on his fins and face, he could hardly lift his head. I heard they can live for more than 100 years. I am guessing he was not going to live much longer.

In the afternoon we went to take the boat out for a little sail. I noticed that my little pelican box was missing. Dang. I had been robbed! I had left the boat down on the beach and had moved everything that I thought would look valaubel, but forgot about the box.  It had a wind meter inside, sort of valuable.  After we launched and were out beyond the breakers and went to set sail, I noticed that my main sheet (the line that controls the sail) was missing. Double dang. They stole that too!.  Had to paddle back in and go find another line. Oh well, I blame myself, for leaving stuff out there. Ken and Fransisca told us that some trouble kids prowl the beach and steal stuff.  Dang.

We bought some fish from the men down on the beach, red snapper. They were so beautiful. Really red!  Fried it for supper.

After that Ken and Fransisca stopped by to visit, noticed my guitar, and invited us to join them in (with the guitar) walking over to her friend's house to visit. There were several people there, mostly family, and we had a good time. They loved La Bamba and Eres Tu. There was a young teenage boy who remembered me from the soccer game the other night, and one guy is the one we bought fish from.  The boy filmed much of the singing on his phone. The lady, Leanore, is going to make some tortillas for me tomorrow. Sweet.

Friday.  We went to Leanors for the tortillas. I visited with he nephew for a while, he is a fisherman, and i asked if he was not working today. He explained that no, he had exceeded his quoata for the month so he could not catch any more until March (tomorrow) . the quoata system is really interesting, especially being self imposed and voluntary by the fisherman themselves. I was later told that this guy is in school to become a schoolteacher. That's cool.

So this is the end of the sailing voyage. I will be on the road home over the next 2 weeks or so.
We packed up and headed up the road out of Agua Verde. It is a pretty rough road, with many steep sections and washed out in arroyos. We stopped at San Cosme to soak in the tidal hot springs I found on my way down. It was perfect and  hot today!  We camped nearby.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Loretto area, isla Carmen Feb 10

Lorreto area , Isla Carmen. Feb 10

The day before yesterday I had ridden the bus up to Mulege to get my truck. I spent yesterday hanging about playa Santespac and went into town for a few groceries and internet. I call McKenzie and had a nice visit. She had been to my dads funeral and it sounded really nice. I was feeling really deflated and sad, cried a bit on the phone with her. She and Julio are doing so well.

I tried to call Porter in London on skype but there was no answer. I think he is traveling to india this week and i have no idea the time zone difference. It could be as much as 12 hours offset from me.

Back at Santespac I had drinks with Ron and Diane, they had already read my blog post from a few hours earlier and were interested in hearing of my voyage.  After they left I had dinner with a fellow who is riding his bike to the tip of south america. He is a video expert and is making a film of it all.

Tuesday. Today I drove back to Loretto, 70 miles, beautiful country. Some of the road is along the coast and i could see where i had been sailing for the last 3 weeks. Other times the mountains along the coast were too steep and the road bends inland across the desert.

I stopped in town to get a pass for the national park islands. I will sail out there later this week. When I got back to the Puerto Escondito area I was not sure where I  was going to camp. The marina area is not well suited for camping near the water with my truck, there is so much developed concrete shoreline. I drove out into a wild area south a few miles playa Quemado. AKA rattle snake beach. There are a bunch of RVs parked out here but there are many bushes and trees between them all so you cannot see one from the next. I found a really nice spot with shade and protection from any wind that might come up. It was a short walk along the beach to the marina were I got my boat from Greg and Sonya. I was a day later getting back than I thought I would be, and they were a bit worried since they were wanting to leave tomorrow. But all is well. At the marina I filled some water jugs and took a shower with hot water! My first since leaving SanDiego a month ago. It was heavenly.

As I sailed out of the harbor thru the boat anchorage, I heard someone on a boat  say "honey, kyle is sailing out, quick get the camera, I want a picture of his boat under sail" that was fun. Then the wind died and I had to paddle out the rest of the way in ignominious failure.

It didn't take long to sail to my camp, and I fixed a really nice chicken and veggie pasta supper. The bugs were worse here than I have seen. That might suck for the next few days. My ankles are still an itchy mess from the bugs over at Escondito and this is worse.

Wednesday.  Wandered along the beach and met several of the neighbors. Some guys were playing guitars and I joined them for a while. Fun. I hiked up a trail to the top of a hill that overlooks the whole area. Stunning. From above you can see the shape of the concrete marina at Escondito. There is a big circular section called the Elipse, and a bunch of canals dredged out to form islands and bays. They obviously had big plans for a huge development that has never happened. There is the unfinished shell of a long L shaped 2 story  building that is just raw concrete, and now falling apart.

The mountains behind here are rigged steep cliffs with narrow canyons gouging into them. One of them, Tabor canyon,  is nicknamed Steinbeck canyon. When John Steinbeck visited the region years ago he describes going on a hunt for mountains goats up in the hills and legend has it that Tabor was the place. I have read his description and I don't make the connection, but it is a fun hike to an oasis in a spectacular setting.

Down below, on the plains back behind my beach you can tell that part of the road in is an old airstrip. There are mature trees growing up out of it so it hasn't been landed on for a long time, but it makes a dandy road!.

Back in camp I worked on my project to add reefing capability to my sail. I had to glue on big patches of sail fabric to the spots where the reefing attachment points will go. Normally I would place grommets to tie the reefing down but I don't have any so I sewed on some loops of rope. I also needed to make some slider rings so the sail can slide up and down the mast. I had scrounged a short piece of PVC pipe from the marina shop and I used a hacksaw blade to cut it into rings. I got it all assembled by dinner time but tomorrow i still need to tune it all up and address how to manage the additional lines and stuff. I think it is going to turn out slick.

Thursday. Finished the reefing system and took it out for a spin. The wind  was really honking so it was a good test, and it worked great despite the fact that a part broke almost immediately. A while back I had found on the beach a little plastic hook thing   with a rope adjusting clip thingy. It looks like it came from an adjustable bungee cord , and it would have been perfect to clamp the reefing line down quick and snug, but I guess it had laid out in the sun too long because the first time I cranked down on it it snapped. No worries, just do a quick line tie and we were golden. The sailing was fun but since I had no weight in the boat the waves just tossed me all over the place. It would have been much better with my usual 400 pound load of water , food and gear! Something to hold me down and glide thru the waves instead of being tossed up and over.

Back on the beach I tweaked a few things, and added a tie in the middle of the sail to keep the foot from dragging in the water. It should have been an easy sew job but since the sail was still on the mast and the wind was whipping it around it was a lot tougher. I was pretty worried that I was going to stab myself with that big needle and bleed all over my nice white sail!.

Tomorrow i am planning to sail over to Isla Carmen for 4 days, and spent some time this afternoon getting food and gear sorted out.  Some rain is forecasted for the next few days.

I visited with a guy camped near me, he was nice enough, a young ER doc from Colorado, out on a road trip. He had a bunch of really odd tattoos on his chest.  Some sort of mathematical formulas. When I asked him what the significance of them were he went off a tangent about what they meant and how they were the basis of all life  in the universe or some such. I wanted to learn actually what was the significance of them to him personally, that he would tattoo them on his body like that. Hell, I don't even put bumper stickers on my car because nothing really seems all that important. I never did get an answer out of him. Odd fellow. Nice, interesting, but very very odd.

I drove over to Escondito to get water , take a shower, and check emails on their internet. On the way home it was just getting dark and as I passed the Tripui hotel complex I succumbed to the whim of having a nice restaurant dinner. I was the only customer at first, but a few other folks showed up before I left. It was a very nice place. Linen table clothes, soft jazz on the sound system, and no bugs!  I was hoping to try some Mexican wine but they were all out of that so I had to settle for Chilean. I had a combination platter of fish taco, chicken enchilada, and chilli rellano. I ate slow and sat and was mellow for a long time and savored the entire experience.  had coffee and flan for dessert. Truly a decadent treat for me and i loved it.

Friday. I didnt sleep much last night, dang, too much coffee. But i was packed and on the water by 9. I had parked my truck down the way at the camp of Jay and Dianne from Montana.  I paddled across to Isla Danzante and across the next channel to the south end of island Carmen , about 5 miles. It was a beautiful calm sunny day. I could see a whale spouting off in the distance.

I was sitting on shore taking a break when I felt a  breeze starting to build so I jumped in to take advantage of it, and headed north along the east shore of Carmen when of course the wind died. Paddling more. Hot and calm, I jumped in to swim once in a while. I only had 3 miles to reach my destination. À slight breeze did finally pick up and was sailing slowly the last mile.  Off shore not too far i could see 2 small boats sailing quite quickly in the other direction. They were the NOLS boats, rowing!.

As I approached my beach there was a yacht anchored there, it was Dave and Betty on Pegasus. They invited me on for  beer and visiting. Turns out I had met them briefly the other day when I hitched a ride into Loretto to catch the bus, they were the other folks hitching the same ride  going in to the farmers market.  They are from Colorado. Very nice folks, turns out they know Steve and had heard several of his tales that included me! We had a good laugh at how small the world is. They have a really sweet dog, Zephyr, a brown labradoodle, the snuggled right into my lap. Several dolphins kept swimming around us and Zeph really likes watching them.

I paddled over to the beach and set up camp on a nice flat meadow on a bluff above the beach.

I have to admit i am getting a bit tired of having to paddle so much on this voyage. I was expectingng to be able to sail much more than I have. Tomorrow will be a rest day though, and my next camp is only 3 miles along. Then back down and across to my truck.

Somebody asked how I navigate on this trip. Pretty simple, I just follow the coast line. Hard to get lost. I have a guidebook with arial photos of each section with notable features and good camps highlighted with GPS coordinates and notes.  Good camps are usually defined as having a shore landing protected by a land feature from the prevailing northerly winds. If the shore is exposed and the wind is blowing, the waves crashing on the shore make it hard to land and harder to launch when it is time to leave.  I have a little GPS and as i travel south along the coast i just look at the latitude numbers to tell where on the chart I am. Each degree of latitude is 60 miles, each minute is a nautical mile, 1.1 land miles. I can tell distances between points just by subtracting the minutes from each other. It gets a bit tricky when you cross from one degree into the next because there are 60 minutes in each degree so i have to think in "base 60" not base 10 like we  normally do.
Each day I study the chart and make notes on a little tablet I keep handy in the boat with me. I jot down the latitudes of possible camp sites  along my route and pull in when I get there.

Saturday. It started raining early today, not too hard but off and on. I stayed in the tent and napped a lot. Amazing how much I can sleep when the opportunities arise.  The skies were beautiful and dramatic, with the peaks shrouded in low clouds and the sun peaking thru from time to time to make everything sparkle.

 I fiddled on the boat a bit, adjusting how the sprit spar attaches to the mast. I needed to move an attachment point but I needed to drill a hole in the aluminum pole.  lacking a drill, I wandered the beach until I found a board with a nail in it, and used the nail, pounded with a rock, to start the hole and then the screw did its thing to sink it home. I was quite proud of that beach repair.

Today was the day of the hermit crabs. I know they are everywhere along every beach I have been on this trip but have never seen them. Or maybe never noticed them. They are a small land critter, not a water crab, and they crawl inside an empty sea shell to serve as their covering. They are soft shelled, having no hard protective shell of their own, just the borrowed one they move in to and walk around wearing the shell,  and when they feel threatened they pull their legs into the shell and are pretty well hidden and protected.  As they grow they abandon the old shell and move into a new bigger one. I see their tracks in the sand all the time. It is a pretty continuous line of tiny little foot prints, and sort of resembles a skinny bicycle tire track.  Last night I glanced out of the tent and saw one bumping into the tent, i am sure wondering "what the heck has gotten in my way, I walk this same path every night and now I am stuck!"  I thought they are usually a night creature but I started seeing them everywhere all day today. Really odd.  While I was sitting on my pad having lunch one wandered right passed me and when I made a move he froze until I was real still and he opened up and wandered on. I started seeing them crawling everywhere, sort of out of the corner of my eye and the moment i looked at them they would freeze.  Kind of creepy. Like that scary movie where the mannequins would sneak up behind the guy with malicious intent and then freeze whenever he would turn and look at them. "Sure, it it perfectly normal that that mannequin is posed with an axe aimed at my spine. After all, this is the sporting goods department"   Later I found one (a crab, not a mannequin)  that had crawled up my sitting pad. (I wasn't sitting on it at the time...) I got my camera and took  video of them. I will try to get it onto YouTube someday. Or just go google hermit crab, you will see plenty. Down on the beach I started seeing them everywhere also. They were crawling across the gravel and a bunch were chowing down on the carcass of a dead buzzard. I guess they are scavengers,  just like cockroaches and lobsters. Yes, you fancy people, lobster is a just a marine cockroach. Think about that the next time you pay $72 a plate and roll your eyes exaggerating how good it is. Cockroach.

I also saw a bunch of marine crabs. As the tide goes out they crawl around on the rocks. They are pretty quick to scamper to cover whenever I come near, but one dumb one had crawled into a little cave in a rock with nowhere to go and as I moved in close to examine him he took a strong defensive position, waving his claws at me and looking all bug eyed.  I am sure he was thinking,  " dang, this cave seemed like such a good idea at the time.  Now what do I do?". These crabs were mostly drab colored, brown like the rocks. There were a few bigger ones that were brightly colored blue and red. One odd thing, on the rocks where the birds perch and eat I  see only the remains of crabs that are orange, like the ones you get by the bucketful down at Joes. But I never see those kind anywhere, I guess they are underwater, but the ones that look easy for a bird to get are these brown ones I never see remains on the rocks. Hmm. More study is required here.

The tide pools here are different form others I have seen. There is very little life in them, fishes and crabs, but no anenomes, barnacles, or mussels. I wonder if that is because it gets so warm here in the summer. And no coral here either. Not until you get down to about La Paz.

Sunday. Woke up to rain, but it stopped shortly after I woke up. I broke camp and hit the water heading north.  I only had 2 miles to get to Arroyo Blanco . I dallied along, i saw some whales spouting a long ways off. and the sea was full of manta rays . These were small, between 1 to 3 feet across. Many of them were just lazing on the surface with their fins sticking out , and sometimes one would leap out of the water and land with a mighty splash. The experts don't know why they do this. Maybe to avoid a predator, maybe to dislodge some skin cootie, or maybe just for fun to show off to the bros. "Dude, I hucked the most righteous air today".

I was content to sit out there on the water and laze about with them but the storm clouds were building again and I could hear thunder so I hopped on over to the beach. Arroyo Blanco is really  interesting. It is a deep narrow notch set into a huge white limestone cliff, with a perfect white sand beach. It was so white it hurt my eyes. I had just set up my tent when it started to pour. I crawled in and sat, and noticed that the water was pouring off the cliff wall and heading right for me. I reached out and dug a llittle moat in the sand and that did the trick. The water would pause just enough to sink in and not drown me.  After the storm I looked up and noticed that there was a big pile of rocks up on the cliff just waiting for the next rain storm to dislodge one little rock and the whole thing would come down on me. I moved my tent away to a safer dryer spot.

It started raining again about supper time so I moved my kitchen over to a huge alcove in the cliff right at the water line. It would flood at high tide but was fine for a quick meal out of the rain. The stove didn't want to work so I had to dismantle it and clean the jet and all was well. I was keeping an eye on the tide tho! It was coming in. As I cleaned up and moved out there was a brilliant full rainbow perfectly framed by the limestone arch over my head. Spectacular. Sad there was no way to catch something like that with the camera I have.

Monday. Rest day. I puttered about. Got restless, trying to decide if I should move my camp back on down the coast towards "home". The forecast was for moderate winds today and tomorrow, then strong on Wednesday. If I didn't make it back all the way tomorrow I might get stuck somewhere for a few more days. No big deal, just stuff to agitate over. The skies were blue, the rain was over, and i could feel a nice breeze building.  While I was thinking, I saw a whale spout out there a ways. That did it. I would go for a day sail whale watching!.  The surf rolling in was surprisingly big. These were not the usual wind waves but they seemed like swells coming from somewhere far off. As they came into my little bay they seemed to get bigger and compress on each other and some would really pound in on the beach. I launched quick, and paddled out thru them. All was well and it was pretty fun.

Outside the bay, no wind. Just a few puffs from various directions. I could see the whaled spouting way off but didn't feel like paddling that far, and the wind sure wasn't going to take me. There were no manta rays jumping todsy. I didnt see one. Yesterday they were thick.  I bobbed about for a few hours, waiting for love. None. I paddled back in .

The big white cliffs around me are pretty cool. They are composed of hundreds, maybe thousands of feet thick of sea shells, Every size and kind you can imagine, all mashed together and turned to stone. Many of them are in perfect condition and as they weather out of the rock they look exactly like the live ones down on the beach today.  It is hard to imagine the beach situation a million years ago that would have shells collected that thick. I have seen some beaches that are all shells, but certainly not a thousand feet thick. What an amazing world it was then.

To get up on the cliffs and walk out overlooking the sea,  on one side there was an easy little friction scramble and then an easy walk. I have done that one several times just to get up and stroll about overlooking the sea. On the other side it was a lot harder. I could see a way that went, but it had a lot of loose rubble on steep slab, not my idea if fun, so I aborted on that one.

I tried a hermit crab experiment. I had a bag with a bunch of cracker crumbs that I dumped out on the sand right by a rock that seemed to have a bunch of crabs wandering under and out. It was pretty good sized pile of crumbs. By morning it was all gone. Not a trace. And not even any tracks. These little guys clean up the beach and leave it spotless!

Tuesday. Travel day. The winds were predicted to be moderate today, and strong tomorrow, so I wanted to most of the way home today, 10 miles,  maybe even all the way if conditions were good.  I was up and on the water before 7. Paddling. Past my previous camp, past the tip of isla Carmen, into the channel between Carmen and  isla Danzante. The wind picked up, but right on my nose, so I was " motor sailing " (paddling with sails up..) Into the wind.

Today was day of other kayaks. For the entire last month I have not seen other kayakers, other than a few playing around beaches. Today I saw 18. There was a party of 4 boats out in the channel, they were out on a 3 day jaunt. Then at Danzante there were about 10 parked on the beach. They were out for a day tour, accompanied by a power boat that brought along chairs, tables, sun shades, food. All the luxuries for a nice day out.  Then I saw a group of 2 trying to find their group of 3 to hook up with.  Wow!. Overwhelming to say the least.  At least they were all paddlers wanting to get out and enjoy nature in a peaceful way.

On Danzante I wandered about on some rocks right by the water's edge. There were 2 crabs, an orange one, and one of those fancy blue and red ones. When I approached, the orange one went right into the water and escaped. The blue one would not go in the water!. I sorted of chased him one way and then the next, and he would scamper back and forth right on the edge of the water, but almost looked like he didn't want to get his feet wet. Very odd.

Heading on across, paddling, when about a mile out from my beach I caught a little wind and coasted on in under sail. Finally!  That was nice.

The rain storm I had out on the island really hit hard here. They had flooding that took out parts of the road, and big gullies washed out on the beach.

I think I will take a few days here and then launch for a final leg down to Agua Verde. I  have been hearing how nice it is. It is about 20 miles so I should be able to make it in 2-3 days, plus allowing 3 extra for weather. Then noodle slowly for home.