Wednesday, April 29, 2009


This week we are tied up again in Marina de La Paz, readying 'Indigo' and ourselves for a return to the Pacific Northwest. But our return journey won't make a perfect closed loop, but maybe something like the odd spiral imprint made by shells on rocks in the Sea of Cortez.

On Friday, we will sail a few miles north to the port of La Paz and load 'Indigo' onto a large yacht transport ship. We promise to post photos of this interesting loading operation. On Saturday, this crew of two will fly to Vancouver. We hope to then make a short driving trip down to Portland, and return north to Nanaimo, British Columbia, in order to meet meet the transport ship around May 11th. Once reunited with 'Indigo' we hope to spend the summer sailing in the Pacific Northwest before a fall return to Portland for a long spell on land.

Meanwhile, here in La Paz, as in all of Mexic0, schools, museums, and libraries are closed because of the swine flu scare, and many people are wearing protective masks. Baja California is very removed from the rest of Mexico, and there are, as yet, no reported cases of the flu here. Yet the streets are inordinately quiet, and we wonder if we will have difficulty leaving Mexico or entering Canada or the United States. What an odd twist to our return journey, and what a contrast to our oblivious travels of the past few months.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Villages by the Sea

All along the shores of the Sea of Cortez, there are fishermen working out of camps on shore, minimal shelter to clean and pack their catch and give them a place to cook for themselves and sleep. But in the stretch of islands and bays between LaPaz and Loreto, there are a number of year round villages where families live permanently. Many - like the little settlement called Nopolo shown above - can only be reached by boat. I am fascinated by the life style, by their arrangements for getting the basic things they need, but most of all by the way the small concentrations of man built structures cling to the rocks, and are dwarfed by the surrounding mountains.

Maybe the most dramatic of these villages is on Coyote Island, an abrupt rock wedge of less than an acre. Is the unlikeliest place imaginable for a village. It is eight miles from the nearest settlement, and many hours from the nearest paved road, but in the midst of wonderful fishing grounds. A few dozen people live here year round. When we kayaked to Coyote Island a few days ago, men and women were cleaning fish on the beach, and up the hill another woman was cooking the local dish called Machaca from freshly caught Manta Ray.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

We are in the last week of our travels in the Sea of Cortez, heading slowly south. We've now reached Isla San Francisco. Yesterday we ran out of orange juice, and cooked the last of the meat. Today we put the last of the beer in the refrigerator. The weather has been wonderful - hot and clear during the day, with bright stars at night.

We have been watching the Magnificent Frigatebirds circle over our boat since we first entered Mexican waters. They are big birds and they have a greater wingspan (upwards of 7-8 feet) in proportion to their weight than any other bird. But because they fly so high, and because there is a striking angular shape to their wings, they seem like calligraphic marks in the sky. I have been trying to photograph them, to see if I could capture the sense of their slow loops above a bay. Maybe it requires the drama of movement, or maybe I just haven’t gotten the right photo, but I haven’t yet done them justice.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Elefante over Los Gigantes

We woke up yesterday morning to this sunrise view of a cloud bank capping the range of mountains known as Los Gigantes. The Baja Peninsula, although mountainous, is so narrow that occasionally strong winds on the Pacific side seem to spill over into the Sea of Cortez. Occasionally this causes strange cloud formations known as Elefantes, because they look like the trunks of elephants. Although this may not have been a real Elefante, we did have a great west wind for sailing south, and we are now back in beautiful Agua Verde.

Monday, April 13, 2009


The longer we stay on the boat, the more we read. It is now almost six months since we left the U.S. – a long time since we could choose from a large selection of books in English. We’ve had some wonderful books brought to us by friends and family, but we have read through nearly all of those. When we have energy and focus, we still have the heavy reading: Tolstoy, Octavio Paz, some dense histories, and books in Spanish to work through. But for light reading we are now dependent on Book Exchanges.

Informal book exchanges exist at nearly every port where cruising boats congregate. They are located in cafes, laundromats, marina offices, or clubhouses. They consist of impossibly random collections of the books that previous travelers have left behind. Naturally, they are heavy on pulp fiction, the best sellers, which occupy the greater portion of shelf space. But amongst the common, there are the rare gems, which provides the adventurous sailor/reader a chance to dip into an author or a subject which would never be considered in the land of unlimited choice. It is strange to pick up a book that is dusty, even grimy, and totally unknown, take it back to the boat, and discover a wonderful story in the slightly moldy, foxed pages. It is one of the lessons learned from travel - be open to odd serendipity.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Around Loreto

We’ve spent the last week exploring the islands in Loreto Bay. We climbed the volcanic peak on Isla Coronado (the photo above shows the Captain on the lava flow next to one of the odd trees called the Elephant Tree), watched the moon each evening as it passed through the full moon phase, and weathered several nights at anchor when a weird west wind blew up and created uncomfortable swell. Because it is Semana Santa – the week leading up to Easter – it is a holiday for many Mexicans, and there have been lots of boats out, many with big, boisterous family groups. We thoroughly enjoy sharing the beaches, especially when there are kids around.

Aside from the great and varied island anchorages, we like this area now that we have perfected the provisioning stop in Loreto. We have twice had luck on calm mornings anchoring off the small harbor there, and taking the dinghy into the shallow waters and the pier. It’s an easy walk to several shops and the supermarket. In less than two hours we can be back on the boat with fresh produce and everything else we need for another few weeks of cruising. It’s like a raid on Loreto, except that we are perfectly well behaved.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

I am reluctant to confess how much time we spend watching birds, imagining that people will think we have nothing better to do. But it's a great variety show, with pelicans swooping and diving into the water, osprey chittering back and forth at each other, and at us, while the frigate birds glide silently overhead. Sometimes there is even a close encounter...

We are now moving back south down the sea of Cortez, and are currently anchored off the small volcanic island called Isla Coronados. Last evening we went ashore for a stroll along the beach on a isolated spit of land. But the minute we stepped ashore, the gulls began a mad squawking, and they were slow to yield space. Ignoring them, we began exploring the beach and dunes. The gulls increased their racket, and began to fly at our heads. Just then, the Captain discovered one perfect gull egg in a nest. I kept my hat on while I took a quick photo, then we escaped.

The other bird news is that there are hundreds of Eared Grebes around here, and they are currently hanging out in very tightly packed rafts, like a solid brown patch on the water. Both males and females are getting their breeding plumage, which includes a bright tuft of yellow and red feathers on each side of their heads. We wonder if they are getting ready to fly north. I wish a proper bird expert would read this and tell us, but then a proper bird expert would probably have something better to do!