CHAPTER 8      

 

CHARTER IN THE SEA OF CORTEZ

 

GETTING TO THE BOAT

            Our destination was cruising area "B" as described by Simon and Nancy Scott's "Cruising Guide to the Sea of Cortez". The anticipation was nerve racking because the reliability of Resort Commuter's flight service was questionable. That was the only flight service offered to Loreto, Mexico. We had a choice of connecting with it in San Diego or Los Angeles. Since it was an international connection, we had to have a two-hour layover between the flights. Everyone was using frequent flyer miles for free airfare on the leg from San Jose so we were booking the flight separate from the leg to Loreto. The first set of problems came when the flight schedule changed. It forced people to have to change their first leg flight. This happened 3 times, ending up with the same schedule as we had initially booked. Another problem occurred through no fault of Resort Commuter. Because they are so small, they have to issue their tickets through another airline. They were arbitrarily going through both Eastern and Continental airlines. They happened to go through Eastern Airlines for our flight and a few weeks before the charter, Eastern went bankrupt. The folks at Moorings were very helpful through the experience. I first received a call from them on a Saturday morning. Tickets had to be purchased again and we would have to deal with Eastern Airlines to get refunds for our first set. This involved letter writing and uncertainties for months to come on whether the credit back to our credit cards would remain valid.


Figure 52: Sea of Cortez cruising areas

           Finally the long awaited day of the trip came. Resort Commuter treated us well, serving strong margaritas all the way down the Baja Peninsula. Luckily it was only a two-hour flight. For the first half of the trip, the scenery looked like the hills and valleys in California but then it started to take on a much more intriguing appearance, with geography consisting of red deserts, jagged cliffs and canyons. A Moorings representative met us at the airport in Loreto and taxied us to the El Presidente Hotel. We had time to lounge around the pool in the afternoon before dinner, a grand outdoor buffet on the coast of the Sea of Cortez. There was much activity at the hotel that evening because the El Presidente was hosting the 1989 Miss Baja beauty contest. Pretty girls and their families and friends were congregating from all over the Baja Peninsula. That made for more entertainment after dinner while we lounged around the courtyard until time to call it a night.

            After breakfast, the Moorings had us back on the road heading for Puerto Escondido. Jim and I had been asking around for information on where we could find a bait store. No one seemed to know. The Moorings representative thought there might be something in Puerto Escondido. When we arrived, we could see the facilities were spartan. This trip wasn't going to be like the charter in the Virgin Islands. There were no restaurants, towns, or markets anywhere except Loreto. There were no other marinas and this one was barely what you could call a marina. There was a single dock and a water hose. The Moorings boats were stern tied European style. We unloaded our bags on the dock, spotted the vessel Periwinkle, then walked over to the Moorings facility for coffee and the chart talk. They accepted our cruising resume of experience with no questions. My having skippered the Morgan 46 was enough for them to not require a skipper this time. Their policy was if you get into trouble you shouldn't have based on the experience level in your resume, you are liable for the damage.

            After the chart talk, we went back to the boat to stow our bags and go through part 2 of the orientation, checking out the boat. Mike, our tour guide, was a cruiser from the states working to add to his cruising kitty. He was living on his boat and having fun on an average of $500 per month. Our cook, Pat was already on board stowing the provisions and making deals with Moorings, trading things they had supplied for things she thought were better for the menu. She had her own recipes and had brought her own spices. She recommended we pay extra and get more scallops and various other items. Pat was also one of the local cruisers. She had been living with her husband Bill and daughter Rachel aboard their trimaran, "Stick Witch" for the past 10 years. They had built Stick Witch while living in Alviso, at the south end of San Francisco Bay. Pat claimed to be in her 50's and Bill claimed to be in his early 60's, but we had difficulty believing it. They looked as if they were 10 - 20 years younger than that. Rachel was around 17 and looked vibrant and healthy. Mike saw all the beer we were trying to stow and wanted to know if he could come with us.

           Lewis and Jim have known each other for a number of years so Lewis was always ribbing Jim. On this trip he nicknamed him Sid Fernwelder after the sleazy character in the comic strip Ernie. Jim and I still hadn't found any bait stores, the folks at Moorings just kind of looked at us and shrugged when we asked. We rented 3 heavy duty fishing rod and reel combinations anyway. We drew numbers out of a hat to see who slept in which bunk. Lewis and Barbara drew the V-berth, Jim and Joanne got the convertible dining room table again, and we drew the port aft cabin. There was a smaller starboard aft cabin for Pat. The boat was laid out well, with a good holding plate refrigerator and freezer system. We were to run the engine for an hour in the morning and in the evening until the metal plates with brine water between them frosted over. Everything on the boat seemed new. The only complaint I had is though there was a cassette player, it didn't have speakers in the cockpit.

 

ISLA CORONADOS

            We were getting eager to get underway and opted not to head for the nearby anchorage to acclimate but to head for the Isla Coronados, about 17 nautical miles north. The weather was warm, the water looked inviting against the desert scenery, smooth and free of the chop we were used to in San Francisco Bay. The winds are supposed to be light in this cruising area under normal conditions. We were expecting 10 - 15 knot breezes. Pat told us about the occasionalChubasco that would come through at 30 knots gusting to 50 knots, but they didn’t occur frequently. Periwinkle made between 3 - 4 knots of boat speed in the wind and handled extremely well. This was close to the perfect boat. A sleek yet sturdy performance cruiser. I had brought a 25' floating line with us and because we were going slowly, I tied it to a stern cleat and let it drag behind us. We took turns jumping off the back of the boat and swimming and dragging holding onto the line. The transom had a good swim platform for jumping off and getting back on board easily.

            We arrived and set the anchor before 5:00 PM in time for the cocktail hour and immediately started realizing the value of bringing a cook along. Shortly after setting the anchor, vegetables and peanut dip appetizers and margaritas with frozen salted glasses appeared on the table in the cockpit. There was another boat in the anchorage on the other side of the cove. It was Stick Witch. Bill was following us until he was sure we weren't weirdoes that might hurt his wife. Pat was on the VHF radio talking to him often as well as to other cruisers in the area. Pat had mentioned she had gotten to know Hank and Polly of Shellback through talking on the net. She had gotten tired of listening to Hank's dry humor. This was the first time Pat had done this job for the Moorings. They had contacted her by radio as Stick Witch was leaving Puerto Escondido one afternoon a few days prior. We would be picking up much local knowledge from Pat during the week. After fixing us a wonderful dinner, she borrowed our dinghy to go spend time with her family.

            The next morning, Lewis got involved with trying to fix the no speakers in the cockpit situation. His idea was to run one of the interior speakers up to one of the cowl vents facing aft. He needed 6' of wire to accomplish this. Pat retrieved some wire from her boat and. It worked great. After breakfast, we went ashore to explore the island and do some snorkeling near the beach. It wasn't long before Jim disappeared wandering off to the end of the island. He had spotted some people fishing. When we saw him returning walking along the beach we could see he was carrying something white in his hand. As he got closer, we saw that it was a dead squid about 10" long by 3" in diameter. Now we had bait. Lewis modified Jim's nickname to Squid Fernwelder the Fish Killer. With the sound system rigged, we ate lunch and prepared to set sail to San Juanico Cove.

 

SAN JUANICO COVE

            To verify our navigation on our way north, we experimented using our sextant and the mountains. Their heights were listed on the charts. The formula for determining distance using height of an object is D (distance in ft.) = h (height in ft.) / 6076 times the tangent of the sextant reading, the angle measured from the surface of the water level to the top of the object. Calculating on two objects, you can draw circles of positions around the objects on the chart and get a fix. You will be at one of the two points where the circles intersect. We had only mild confidence in our results but just kept sailing on the proper compass heading.

            Eventually we saw the distant craggily pinnacle rocks that identify the cove. As we were approaching the anchorage, we passed a trawler. A woman hollered over to us that she was glad we ended up with a cook. She was supposed to have been our cook but canceled at the last minute to go cruising with the owner of the trawler. Moorings was on the verge of breaking the news to us when they ran across Pat. There were only a few boats in the anchorage. It was absolutely gorgeous.


Figure 53: Periwinkle’s Baja cruising waters

 


Figure 54: San Juanico Cove

We motored across the cove and anchored between Moon Rock and Prudential Rock. There were several sandy beaches in the large cove. A group of kayakers were camping on one of them. There were hills with trails for climbing on shore and a Fisherman's Shrine nearby.       

            Once the anchor was set, up from the galley popped salt-rimed frozen glasses and scallop ceviche. Ceviche is made with scallops or fish that has soaked in limejuice for a couple of hours. The acid in the limejuice cooks the fish. The fish and limejuice are then mixed with cilantro and salsa. We ate it as a dip for tortilla chips. After we had settled in for a while enjoying afternoon cocktails, a man motored his dinghy over towards us from his large sailing vessel anchored towards the entrance of the cove. His name was Peter from the vessel Phoenix. He offered to teach us how to catch the local fish. Jim took him up on it, grabbed a few beers and hopped in his dinghy. We figured it was the Fish Killer's job to bring back the local fishing knowledge. A while later, they returned with a few Cabrillo, a black fish something like a Mexican rock bass. Lewis filleted them and Pat made sashimi by cutting the fillets into strips. We had powdered wasabi with us just in case, having heard a few good stories about the plentiful fish in these waters. Marty had told us about the 20 pound yellow tail he caught and used as bait to catch a 260 pound grouper. Peter invited us to come visit his boat the next day.



Figure 55: Jim with Peter on a fishing trip

            Again we were marveling over being pampered by having a cook on board while enjoying another delicious meal. During dinner conversation, we discovered the coincidence that Marsha, Barbara, and Joanne are all left handed Sagittarians. The moon was almost full that night so after dinner, Lewis, Marsha, and I practiced using the sextant for celestial navigation. We were able to take sights on the moon though the opening between Moon Rock and shore. Taking a moon shot and reducing it with our basic program required the GHA, Greenwich Hour Angle and the Declination for the day and hour from the Nautical Almanac. We were getting results between 3 - 10 miles from our actual location. This would be a valuable tool for navigating in large bodies of water, but wouldn't be that useful elsewhere. We had fun with it though. The evenings this time of year here were cooler than we had experienced in the Virgin Islands. We could sleep comfortably with just a sheet. Marsha brought the sheet bags she made for Moonshot along. I roll around a lot and we find we're swiping the sheets from each other when we sleep. The problem is compounded on a boat when you usually have a smaller berth than the bed at home. We solved the problem by making sheet bags by sewing the long edges and one end of a sheet together.

            Lewis and Jim took off early the next morning to go fishing for more Cabrillo. They were using artificial lures and trolling at a speed between 1 - 2 knots at the edge of the rocks. The crabs had eaten our squid over night. We had left it in the water in a game bag tied to the boat. The bag had been too close to the bottom. The fish were hitting on the lures though. They came back with enough fish for a good meal. I joined them on the trip ashore to clean the fish. Jim taught Lewis and I how to fillet fish. We threw the carcasses to the buzzards waiting patiently nearby. Further down the beach we noticed several more squids about the size of the one Jim brought home washing up on shore. There seemed to be enough bait around. One of the funny stories of this trip became how Jim and I were going around asking the locals where we could find a bait shop and the puzzled look on their faces. There was no need for a bait store here. Jim grabbed another squid, then we took the fillets back to the boat.

            Pat was content to stay with the boat, so we brought the rest of the ladies back to shore for some touring and hiking. The Fisherman's Shrine was spectacular. It took a long time to consume its details. It started out with an enclosure made of rocks at the base of the only tree on the beach. Added to the enclosure over the years, on the inside and outside, and hanging all over the tree were various kinds of decorations. There were sandstone slabs with ship and crew names and the dates of visiting yachts carved in them. There were driftwood carvings and fish skeletons and many kinds of shells. We spotted a sand stone engraved with Skypilot, Jeff and Jayne Eastman, 1986. Eventually we pressed on following the trail up the hill. Some yachtie that had decided to spend a lot of time in this cove had made the trail making it easy to walk to the hilltop. The scenery looking out at the entire sunny cove with its clear blue water and white beaches, with cactus in the foreground was breath taking. We spent the rest of the morning exploring the hills and sandstone cliffs, eventually making it back down to the water. We waded back to the shrine. While we sat on rocks with our feet in the water drinking beers from the dinghy, we toasted to Tahiti as the next location and to more cruising.

 


Figure 56: Fisherman's Shrine

            After lunch, we took the dinghy over to the 70' Phoenix and were invited aboard. It was a huge sailing vessel. Peter and his wife were making a living by serving as a charter skipper and cook. They would spend a year in some location, notifying several charter brokers where. Peter had a 1978 vintage issue of Cruising World on his coffee table in the main salon. It contained a picture of him in some world class racing event. It also had an advertisement for a Watkins 27. It was a fun tour. We went back to Periwinkle for a lazy afternoon of snorkeling nearby, then Cabrillo fillets for dinner. Snorkeling in this area wasn't quite like the Caribbean in that there were no coral reefs. It was all rock, but there were still the large varieties of colorful fish and marine life to witness.

            The next morning I woke up early and tried fishing from the deck with some of Jim's squid. You could watch the fish come for your bait because the water was so clear. I ended up catching two puffers, which we weren't supposed to eat. People said these were the fish the Japanese served as a delicacy except if prepared wrong they would kill their consumer. Marsha, Jo and I studied their interesting color and appearance for a while before throwing them back. They had bright aqua colored eyes. As the crew began to wake up in force, we began planning another snorkeling expedition, this time to the other side of the cove. In addition to the tropical fish, we saw rays, schools of thousands of sardine like bait fish, and blow fish. We noticed chunks of pineapple had washed up onto the beach. They weren't ours but it reminded us of the trash dumping rules. It's OK to throw food byproducts overboard, the fish will eat it. Moorings had also encouraged us to get rid of our bottles by filling them with water and sinking them in deep water. The edible garbage should also be dumped deep water, though Pat was lax on that rule. Pat's husband wasn't following as close behind by now, though her daughter Rachel made a guest appearance by dinghy. Something about correspondence school papers and permission to go hang out with some other cruiser's teenage son. We collectively chuckled again at the thought of Squid Fernwelder looking for the bait shop.


Figure 57: Stick Witch anchored in San Juanico Cove

PUERTO BALLANDRA

            It was finally time to leave this beautiful anchorage and change course for a southern itinerary. Our plan was to stop in Loreto, then continue on to Puerto Ballandra. We had good wind for the sail all the way to Loreto, and then anchored close to shore. This was only a day anchorage as the holding ground was unreliable and it was not protected. It was good enough to anchor however, for a couple of hours ashore to tour and shop. The road to town was a dusty, one automobile width trail. Pat told us about the supermarket and that her husband would meet us there with their van to haul provisions back. One of the beverage items Moorings didn't supply was Triple Sec. I had been flustered by this, Lewis got a kick out of it thinking, gee our biggest problem in Mexico was where to find Triple Sec. Pat informed us they substituted Controy in their margaritas and it was inexpensive in the market. We were on a search mission. We found the market and the Controy. We also picked up some Takate cerveza for variety, and plenty of limes. It was getting to the point where every beer had to have a lime slice on top of it. A Mexican warm weather tradition. We also purchased a few supplemental provisions and souvenirs.

            Sure enough, Bill met us with his van. He seemed like such an easygoing guy, in his early 40's. Their van was their shore base. They felt it was important to have a good land vehicle as well as a good dinghy to make cruising comfortable. Bill agreed to meet us back at the dinghy dock with our supplies. We walked back touring some of the side roads along the way. Seeing some of the abandoned houses made me think of the investment article I had responded to a few years prior. The word resort didn't come to mind. Back on the Periwinkle, we packed our provisions and got underway. The Fish Killer got inspired to do some trolling as we sailed. It wasn't long before Jim was reeling in a fish. Pat identified it as a mackerel, generally used as a baitfish but not bad food if you cooked it right away. Lewis and I got inspired to join in. We put the other two lines in the water while Barbara took over the helm. The mackerels were almost jumping into the boat and soon we had a bucket full. We got charcoal burning in the grill off the stern rail while still underway. The stern platform was great for doing this while not messing up the cockpit. We served the fish on a plate with hot sauce for dipping. The fish was good, a little oily but fresh and tasty.

            Ballandra was only a couple of hours away so by the time we finished with the mackerel, we were getting ready to approach the anchorage. So far anchoring was going smooth on this trip. The windlass was partially working in that it would bring the chain in but not the anchor. It was a slight improvement over the Morgan last year. I brought along my Truckers leather gloves for that kind of work. Truckers make great boat gloves. I use another pair with the fingertips cut off for sail trim work. We overheard Pat talking on the VHF radio this afternoon. She was telling a friend she was working as a cook on a charter boat for the week, he said "Oh you're doing a moron?". I suppose so. We had to cry stop on the 4 meals a day thing though, we were getting stuffed. The margaritas made for early to bed. Lewis had made such a fuss the night before about reusing the left over steak and potatoes from dinner for breakfast that he ended up helping Pat in the galley the next morning, whipping up some fairly edible steak fries. Some of us had fun swimming and snorkeling around the anchorage while the Fish Killer and Lewis went out in the dinghy to exploit their newfound knowledge. More ceviche for appetizers that evening.

 

AQUA VERDE

            Our destination for the nest day's travel would be Aqua Verde but first we intended to stop in Puerto Escondido. Though we had been instructed to dump our empty bottles overboard in deep water, we chose to save them. Also, the main water tank had a leak and drained our fresh water supply into the bilge, so we were running low. Yes, another charter boat with water problems. The scenery around us was spectacular but there weren't many ports where you could top off your water tanks. It was a quick jib sail back to the marina. We radioed the Moorings to let them know we were coming and as we entered the harbor, they sent a skipper out by dinghy to assist us. The only way to dock a boat there was to drop an anchor off the bow while backing in. It looked straightforward to me but it was their policy not to risk their boats on an aspiring captain's first try at Mediterranean style docking.

            The dockhands seemed to have a pained look on their faces when they saw the bags full of bottles. That just meant they would have to dispose of them somehow, probably by boating out to deep water. Bill and Rachel pulled up to shore in their dinghy to say hello and talk with Pat for a while. I went up to the Moorings office to see if Laura had seen my lost hat. Laura was the manager, she had given us the chart talk a few days prior. She had an interesting elegance about her. She was very professional in her representation of Moorings, but had acquired the slower pace of life of this part of the world, totally smooth with no rough edges, at ease with her place in life with full dignity. She hadn't seen my hat. We topped off our one working tank and got underway. It would have to last for the rest of the trip so the crew was put on water rationing. No waste!

            The harbor was filled with an interesting collection of boats at anchor, mostly cruisers. From the average size of the boats, we could see that Moonshot could pass as one of the smaller but not the smallest cruiser. Before we left, we met another couple on the docks. Rachel had been doing homework with their son. They were dressed better than the rest of us and seemed to be doing quite well. As research, I asked them about the burn rate of their cruising kitty. They said about $1,000 per month, which included restaurants occasionally. It was easy leaving the dock, as easy as leaving an anchorage except you have to pull in the stern lines and watch the dinghy more carefully. Jim had remained faithful to his second occupation as dinghy tender. It was an exciting trip to Aqua Verde. Not long after leaving Puerto Escondido, Jim reverted back to the Fish Killer and got the fishing lines in the water. Soon he was reeling in a two-foot long barracuda. We stowed the fish in the starboard stern locker with the snorkel gear. The Fish Killer's pride was no longer subject to ridicule from Lewis.
            The wind started to build and we finally got the vessel Periwinkle moving at it's hull speed. The winds had been light for the past few days and we had gotten used to not moving very fast. Marsha noticed that Pat had not secured the dishes after washing them. They were in a pile on the counter. She warned Pat that they were about to go flying if the wind picked up any more. Pat assured her that they would be OK. The wind kept building as the boat went to 6 knots, then to 7. The boat was finally leaving a wake. **CRASH** went the dishes as the clinometer reached 25 degrees of heel. Apparently Pat hadn't sailed on a mono hull before. Trimarans don't experience the same amount of heeling.

            The boat was moving now so people wanted to try their hand at the helm, I passed it to Lewis. The winds held momentarily, then calmed down some, but still enough for good sailing. About half way between Puerto Escondido and Aqua Verde we started noticing whale water spouts off in the distance. We steered in their direction to see if we could get a closer look. We did. As we got closer, the whales decided to steer towards us to get a closer look. They turned and a whale family, two adults and one young one came across our bow about 30 yards away. The excitement on board peaked. Marsha had to take over the helm as everyone dove for his or her cameras. The whales were spectacular. Surfacing and diving, they seemed to be moving their bodies in an arch through the water that just kept continuing. One fin would appear and disappear, and then another fin would appear, then finally their tails. The adults were between 50 - 60 feet long, longer than the Periwinkle. Pat was as excited as everyone else. The whale family took its time about watching us before swimming away. Totally engrossing.

            We continued sailing in the mild wind on to Aqua Verde. It was getting warmer, so I decided to drag behind the boat on the floating line for a while. I jumped in with the rope in hand wearing my Truckers gloves. When the rope became taunt, it was all I could do to hang on and my bathing suit fell down to my ankles. Since I was using both hands to prevent the crew from putting into practice all of their man over board drill training, I couldn't put my suit back on. Instead of pulling me in or trying to help, the noble crew went for their cameras and started taking pictures, feeling compelled to document my traumatic experience. Slowly, I was able to command my arm mussels to overcome the force of being dragged through the water, get my suit back on and make my way back to the boat. Three knots of boat speed is plenty for that activity.


Figure 58: Whale sighting

            We still had some time before reaching Aqua Verde, so Jim put the lines back in the water. No activity for a while, but as the Roca Solitaria Pennicle and Punta San Pasquel became clear, he got another strike. This time it was a 5 pound green jack, just small enough to fit in the locker with the barracuda. The Fish Killer came through with food for dinner again. Anchoring was easy. There were only a few other boats and plenty of room to pick our spot. We anchored at the north end of the bay, away from the fishing village, close to a small vacant structure Lewis nicknamed the Aqua Verde yacht club. When the anchor was set, a shore party formed of people eager to explore and set foot on dry land, and dry it was. We dinghied past the fishermen bringing in their nets, boats, and catch for the day. There were a couple of trucks full of ice waiting to be loaded with the fish and several other pick up trucks with women and their babies waiting for their husbands, sons, and brothers to finish for the day.

           We walked up the beach, then inland. The road was dry powered reddish brown dust. We came across two scrawny cows walking along the road that intersected the road we were on. The cows both stopped at the intersection giving right of way to the humans. We ran across chickens and goats and then children running up to us asking for money and treats. We learned it was a good idea to stock candy for the children feeling bad we didn't bring anything for them. The locals watched us curiously as we walked past their homes. Seeing the village made us thirsty so we turned around and went back to our floating apartment. We dinghied around the rest of the bay on the way back. There were more beaches and interesting rock formations. The water was clear green. There would be time for more snorkeling before dinner.

            We were anchored close enough to good snorkeling to leave directly from the boat. Though there was no coral here as in the Caribbean, it was hard to tell the difference with the plant life and rock formations. There were many types of colorful fish and eels. The water still had plankton in it, which was what had attracted the whales. The visibility was only very good, but still fine for much snorkeling entertainment. We came across a break in the rocks and went ashore to tour the beach. Totally desolate. Thirsty again from the hot sun and salty water, we snorkeled our way back to the Periwinkle. On the way back we saw a few rays and a Moray eel with its brown, yellow, and white stripes. Another spectacular sight.

            It had been a long day. We were ready for time to relax with rum drinks and some Jimmy Buffet music, "Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes", while watching the sun set. We were looking forward to a fresh barracuda and jack dinner and a good nights sleep. It was easy to sleep well here until the sun rises, the days warmed up quickly. We had two more nights before returning the boat. We were starting to think we should have had 2 or 3 more days to really be able to see all the highlights of cruising area B. We're sorry we missed dining on Maxwell's goats while in Aqua Verde but with Jim's fish and all, we just had too much food that had to be used.

            The plan for the day was to head back north, stop by Yellowstone beach on Isla Monserrate and then anchor somewhere around Isla Carmen or Isla Danzante. What we would have done if we had more time is cruise along the lee side of Isla Carmen and spend time around Bahia Salinas and cruise the Painted Coast up to Puerto De La Lancha. There is a deserted town on Bahia Salinas. The residents were said to have abandoned the town in a hurry. They say even the dentist's utensils are on his tray next to the chair. It wasn't worth only spending one day in San Juanico Cove though, we just should have taken more time. Before leaving Aqua Verde, we wanted to do a little more touring. I took Marsha by dinghy to see the interesting rock formations on the other side of the bay. Lewis wanted to tour the yacht club facility.

 

ISLA CARMEN

            Soon, we were under way for a smooth sail north to Yellowstone Beach. People were getting very relaxed. This was a sail where the crew had time to lie back and catch up on some reading. The day before had been full of events and had wore down their batteries. Once near the beach, Lewis wanted to practice anchoring under sail. It took longer this way but was fun to experiment with. We pulled in the jib and sailed to about where we wanted to drop the anchor under main only, then steered the boat into the wind until the boat stopped moving. We dropped the anchor letting the wind move us backwards to pay out scope. It wasn't a tricky maneuver here because we were in a wide open sandy area with light winds. The anchor chain alone would have kept us from moving. The beach was long, sandy, and yellow. We spent a couple of hours here enjoying the peace and quiet in the sun, swimming and relaxing and having lunch. A few of us explored the sand dunes and snorkeled around the rocks at the edge of the beach. Pat had brought along her spear gun which we took along but didn't kill anything. We did learn it would take more practice to become proficient than the time we had but it was fun trying.

            We pressed the limits of our time without risking making the next anchorage before dark so once again it was time to move on. This place was not recommended as an overnight anchorage. We raised the mainsail, then the anchor and were sailing. We were hoping to get into Honeymoon Cove but knew there were alternatives. It was unlikely that no one would be there by this late in the day and it only had room for one boat to anchor in the good spot. People were starting to get that glow about them I've only seen after a few days of cruising. Tanned skin and a beaming personality filled with a great feeling. Barbara seemed to be getting hooked on sail right about now beaming as I've only seen the brightest.


Figure 59: Barbara at the helm of Periwinkle

            Sunset was not far off as we passed around Isla Danzante and all possible anchorages were full. We started using motor assist to gain speed as we sailed on to Isla Carmen. Our next chance to anchor was in Bahia Marquer about 5 miles away. The sun was dropping behind the hills as we approached. It looked as full as honeymoon cove. The crew was starting to get a little up tight about our situation when Pat came out and stated she had anchored here many times. She instructed us to go through the rest of the boats up close to the beach. We forged in facing the scornful looks from the other skippers. That look of "Everything was fine until you showed up, you're going to anchor too close to me so I can't get any sleep worrying about your boat swinging into mine, go away!".

            We went close to the beach and dropped the hook, which seemed to be OK. Our judgment might have been biased by the fact it was almost dark. At least the Moorings didn't disable the running lights as CYC had in the Virgin Islands.



Figure 60: Jim and Joanne getting relaxed

We were set for the night, just in time to barbecue dinner on the grill. Every time we made dinner on the grill, the men cooked, relieving Pat for the side dishes. Any more of that Controy left, oh gee, more salt rimmed frozen glasses. We were close to Puerto Escondido, so the rest of our time could be spent at a relaxing pace. The evening was concluded with dinner and playing cards in the cockpit.


Figure 61: Lewis and Barbara getting relaxed

 

HONEYMOON COVE

            Jim, Lewis and I got an early start the next morning trying our luck at fishing for more Cabrillo but didn't have much. When we got back to the Periwinkle, Pat had a surprise for Jim. She had been saving the heads and fins from the fish he had been catching, leaving them out to dry in the sun. While we were gone, she had sewn them into Jim's hat. We took our time this morning with breakfast, more snorkeling and relaxing. We still had plenty of beer and food to consume.

            Around midday we decided to get some sailing and trolling in before trying again to get a space in Honeymoon Cove. We tacked north where we saw the sea lions we had heard about. They like to float on their backs sunning with their flippers sticking up out of the water. We stayed on this tack for a couple of beers then tacked back south heading for the Isle Danzante once more. Jim reeled in another good-looking jack fish on the way back so his reputation held past this morning's failed attempt at Cabrillo. We thought we might have a better chance at Honeymoon Cove if we got in early, but we were too late for the best part at the north end. We did make it into the anchorage on the south end of the cove. With the hook set early in the afternoon, we had more time to relax and have fun, and to enjoy the scenery provided by the rugged hills.



Figure 62: Jim's fish hat

            Dinner was over early that evening so when everything was cleaned up, I pulled out the paperwork I had received on the investment opportunity in resort real estate in the area. Researching this had been an ulterior motive for selecting Loreto as a cruising destination, though the crew had not been informed. Pat broke up into hysterics after reading the newspaper article, talking about how the builders had ripped off the Mexican Government and of other various scandals that had made the so called millions of dollars disappear. That made for interesting discussion for the rest of the evening. Two years later, Loreto was still a dust bowl.


SURRENDERING THE SHIP

            We had to return the boat the next day. We got up early and motored to the best part of the cove that was now empty. That gave us two hours to explore. We tried more spear fishing and fed squeeze a cheese to the fish watching them gobble it in streams. One week was great but not long enough. I was just now getting stronger swimming mussels.


Figure 63: Honeymoon Cove

            We were sorry to be checking in but it was time. While unloading the boat, we were giving Pat and Bill the leftovers except for a bag full of beer and ice we saved for the afternoon before our flight home. There was good food that never got served, ham, olives, etc. Our original beer estimate was good, we had about the same amount left over as we had purchased in Loreto. We gave Bill the last green jack Jim had caught and Pat a tip for her effort. The boat checked out fine, we had no problems.

            Moorings put us up in a hotel on the coast in Loreto for the afternoon before taking us to the airport so we were able to take long showers. We noticed some fishermen beaching their boats on shore near our room. One European fellow was having his picture taken with a fish as big as he was, a 100-pound grouper. Clean and hungry again, we taxied into town for one last tour. We found a restaurant that was making great margaritas and even though not on the menu, they served us great fish tacos. We noticed the music that started right after our arrival, Jimmy Buffet's "Songs you know by Heart", which played in its entirety. That had been the best tape of the cruise. He has to be a cruiser at heart. I wish I had a pencil thin mustache!

            The rest of the trip home was a continuation of Margaritaville. Against Joanne’s protests, Jim wore his fish hat all the way home. Another great cruise under our belts, different from the Virgins, a much better boat. This was the ideal cruising configuration. Three couples and a cook, where everyone could fit in the dinghy. Getting back on Moonshot after this cruise was a different feeling than post BVI. Moonshot had gone through a season of extensive upgrading. This time there was more of a feeling of satisfaction in that in fact we could go cruising on this boat, at least down to Mexico if the circumstances worked out. Not having hot water wouldn't be much of a problem down there. Hauling block ice would become part of life though. We would wait a while before planning the next cruise though. We had a summer full of boating events ahead of us.



Figure 64: Another satisfied customer

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Keys to the Golden Gate, Copyright © 2002 by Steve Sears