I love the Jacques Cousteau quote on our Evolve Freediving t-shirts, “The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in it’s net of wonder forever”. We’re all hooked forever.
The thought of ending our time living and cruising on Makai has Marie making extreme decisions. She said that when we arrive in Loreto, she’s going to catch the next flight to the Bahamas.
Until then we are enjoying the Sea of Cortez. Whales frequently pass us quietly. Occasionally we see their tail flukes as they disappear out of sight. Manta rays leap out of the water and slap on the surface. I haven’t been lucky enough to capture them in a photo yet. We also see seals and gangs of dolphins.
All of this activity usually gets Topaz riled up, she races around Makai barking. Occasionally, the dolphins pause for a look at the noise maker and then go off and give her a show, leaping and slapping the water.
The trip up to Loreto is just a little to far to make in one day so we stopped at San Marcial Pt. for a little snorkeling. The shoreline and reefs are usually steep and rocky. Way off shore is a reef that is visible by this little rock tip with a gull perched for a rest.
The visibility has been horrible, but today we had a beautiful dive. Still waiting for the water to warm up.
A spearfishing/snorkel trip can be about 2 hours long. The chilly water has been leaving us with numb fingers and toes. This cloud of tiny fish didn’t complain.
The reefs are mostly boulders and walls of rock with occasional sea fan and spongy coral.
Roy was anxious to get a little more practice with his spear gun. In contrast to the groupers in the Bahamas that quietly hide in holes, the leopard groupers in Mexico swim out in the deeper open water and quickly sprint away from our spearfishing boy Roy. This gives Roy plenty of exercise and practice with his deep diving. We learned that 1% of the groupers metamorphose into this golden color.
As we were wrapping up our morning dive we started to notice the red tide moving in. It is interesting the way it swirls around at various depth and water temperatures that it prefers. A once crystal clear anchorage is now mucky and red.
Twenty five miles to Puerto Escondido and Loreto Fest 2015. Along the way we have homework and fishing. Maybe a little more fishing than homework. The Black Skipjack / Mexican Bonito kept jumping on our line, one after another. They are good fighters and like to dive deep, so Makai needs to come to a stop for this 15 minute battle. One battle is ok, but after about 5 fish, Eric suggested we pull in the lines and keep going so we can get into the bay before sunset.
Just in time for Loreto Fest. We raced up here for this weekend event. We were here for Loreto Fest 1998 and again 2000, back then the party was a week long. This year it is two days of pot lucks, music, seminars, meeting new friends.
Dogs are always invited, but they have to stay in the shade.
Mary from AirOps offered a shell drilling seminar. She brought equipment and shells for everyone to make a necklace or earrings. Genny brought a favorite shell to drill and now we have a new hobby. I spend at least one day in each anchorage searching for shells.
A local cooking school was invited to make lunch. They had bbq hamburgers and hot dogs, tamales and tacos in the evening. But the best was the sushi bar. I got this beautiful plate of sushi for 100 pesos which is about $6.50.
Puerto Escondido is now managed by a marina. Personally, I think the marina is an asset to the bay. We used to have nothing more than a dinghy dock, water hose, trash and a shaded meeting place available. Now there is a dry boat storage, mini market, laundry, showers and bathrooms, trash, this cool upstairs pool, occasional internet, the taxis hang out in the parking lot and moorings are easy to pick up.
Next to the upstairs restaurant is an unused bar with power for me to sit at and work on the blog. Don’t get the wrong idea about the internet, it is still a grueling struggle to upload photos. On this day I spent 4 hours uploading the La Paz photos and another 4 hours with the video of us swimming with the seals. After 4 hours with the wifi, I was only 50% on the video upload and took it back to the boat to finish up with Eric’s Mexican Cellphone data plan.
The Hobie is always great fun for bored kids. Even out here on a cruising boat we all have trouble with the kids getting too much “screen time”. Every time I turn around someone is sneaking a game.
The evening entertainment was some amazing volunteers. There were 3 or 4 guitar players playing songs we all know, one young guy playing concert quality classic violin, and of course we have ….
The Mears family singers with their rendition of “Dumb Ways to Die“. This hilarious song comes from a video game and is also a safety advertisement for an Australian public transportation system.
Whew, after all that socializing, off to the islands. Isla Danzante is about 3 miles away. We did some great snorkeling and a few short walks. After a day, we were driven out of there by the bees. Apparently, they send out scouts looking for fresh water and if you don’t kill them, they bring back all their friends and the swarm is scary.
Isla Carmen and Marquer Bay is next. The cactus are so cool, growing wherever they find water and congregating in the lowlands.
Happy Birthday to Eric! We spent the day Hobie Sailing and snorkeling and now Roy, our master cake maker, set out the cake for Eric to make a wish.
We’re racing to finish up school, which mainly consists of math. I have to say, I’m way better at Algebra now than I was in 1980.
We don’t formally do science, geography or history on Makai, because we live it. We’re learning about the missions which started in Loreto in the 17th century, the expedition the Spaniards went on to discover that Baja is a peninsula instead of an island in the 16th century as well as science like how to spot a Mexican Chocolate Clam.
The science lab requires the use of a mask and snorkel. When you see these two uniform holes close together, dig your fingers down a few inches and pull out the clam.
The girls came ashore to die their hair. The dollies are resting in the shade while the girls read books in a cave and let the hair dye set.
Roy, Roy, Roy, can think of only fishing fishing fishing. Line fishing off the back, trolling on Makai and the Hobie, at the beach or on the rocks, spear fishing with a gun or Hawaiian Sling, or even using his hands as well as a hand net or throw net. Catch and release as well as for keepers for the dinner table.
The puffer fish was scooped up with a net for closer observation in the bucket.
Speaking of critters, its time for kibble inventory. We left with five bags of Canidae delivered to the Solomans, MD. Post Office from Amazon.com. Each bag lasting 2 months, we’re down to the last two. Our quality control expert is making her final check before we split and repack the last two bags.
Ballandra Bay is another favorite anchorage. There is a picture of Eric sitting in the water looking out towards Loreto framed and hung at our cabin.
Roy and I took the Hobie for a little ride to explore. We had the bright idea to pull into a little tidal estuary and immediately got stuck in the mud. I was most worried about losing shoes in the thick mud. This worry comes from experience at the muddy beaver ponds and river banks in Colorado.
A closer look at the cactus gives an appreciation for their needles.
A 20 mile trip around the top of the island takes us to Punta Perico. We scrambled around on the rocky beach looking for shells and pretty rocks.
It’s certainly not as soft as the Bahamas beaches, but just as quiet.
The anchorage is surrounded by rocky reefs. On our first trip to this bay the visibility was barely 10 feet, but within a week it improve to double or triple that. Roy as always is bringing home dinner. As compared to the Bahamas, he spends a lot more time searching and stalking big fish and then only brings home one or two instead of a whole bucket of smaller ones.
A few miles away in the dinghy is a 100 foot long tuna boat wreck. Eric heard that it sunk in 1981 and lays in 26 feet of water on its side.
The boat makes an impressive reef loaded with schools of huge fish.
The wreck is covered in plant growth with scallops and crabs living in every nook and cranny.
I’m really impressed with the number of fish we’ve seen so far in Mexico. Every time we go snorkeling the water is swarming with life.
Wrecks are great reefs as long as they aren’t leaking harmful fluids.
Roy’s catch of the day is a Barred Pargo.
Nothing goes to waste. We get two jumbo fillets, the gulls sit off the back squawking at him for the skin and then the rest of the carcass is consumed by the food chain that feeds off the bottom.
The refrigerator is sparse, time for another grocery run. Plus, our pals on Yolo and Terrapin were in Puerto Escondido, so it’s time to go back for another visit. In two days we managed to take care of trash, dinghy fuel, propane, laundry, groceries, dinner out and make plans to go back to the island ASAP.
On the way we had a few sprinkles so I got out and scrubbed the deck. Just as I got everything soaped up the rain stopped. Eric got out the hose, Yahoo, lets waste water maker water!
Happy Marie is enjoying jumbo sized bananas. There are some things you conserve on a boat and other things you don’t. One the banana gets brown spots I have to get creative to get anyone to eat it, so eat them up now!
After our last dinner out at the Tripue, Genny was ready to cook Mexican food. Here is her enchilada creation. I prefer to heat them in a skillet, it’s quicker and doesn’t make a stuck on mess in a casserole dish.
Back at the wreck in Salinas we’re going to explore on SCUBA.
We have a real system now. Everyone is getting used to finding and putting together their own gear. Eric and I supervise a little and check to be sure the air is on and everything works properly.
Then at the dive site, I get in first and collect each kid as they enter. After we swim around a little someone gets cold or bored and switches gear with Eric to finish the dive. A normal dive for us has a total bottom time of about 45 minutes at 25-30 feet deep using about 2000 lbs of air. Just enough to keep everyone happy, interested and in practice. While Roy like SCUBA its against the fishing regulations to kill anything while using compressed air. So, SCUBA only holds his interest for so long. Marie likes to SCUBA but gets cold, so her dives are short. Genny loves SCUBA the most. She is the first one in and the last one out.
Genny likes to look for shells and explore the dark corners of the wreck.
SCUBA lets us get close to the fish and just sit there and watch them live their lives.
Genny found a big snapper hooked on a broken fishing line. She was so proud to find this fish. It was a combination of Roy’s line fishing and spear fishing without all the hunting.
After diving we joined our friends for a walk on land. Check out Terrapin’s Blog for more photos. Salinas was home to salt mining until the early 1980s and now hosts a big horn sheep hunting lodge. Cruisers can go ashore and ask permission to poke around in the ruins and go see the salt pond.
The beach is quite long and very sandy compared to what we’ve seen so far in the Sea of Cortez. Jess found a stick bug, this is a new critter..
While the lodge was modern and beautiful, we were interested in the run down ruins of the salt mine.
The half a dozen or so buildings are nothing more than stone walls and what’s left of the roof.
Some buildings had a sign labeling it as the office, other’s had paper records dated 1980.
A rusted out typewriter overlooks the disintegrated remains of a dock.
The kids found the kitchen with a sparse cupboard. Our friend, Jack, visited these ruins in the early 1990s, just ten years after it shut down. He said there were still bottles in the pharmacy and stuff like that.
We mostly saw rusted mechanical equipment and vehicles.
The salt marsh was cool. It looked like snow from afar. Up close the crystals shined in the sun.
We walked cautiously on the salt because it looks like slippery snow.
Roy found a bit of water inhabited by hundreds of fiddler crabs.
Like all good Mexican towns, the church is at the center. Our Lady of Carmen is a statue of Mary and baby Jesus encased in glass. I think that on this trip I just came to realize all the “Our Lady of xxx” churches means that is the name given to the statue of Jesus and his mother. In Puerto Vallarta we saw Our Lady of Guadalupe and in Buffalo we visited Our Lady of Victory, there must be thousands of “Our Lady” churches around the world.
The beach is full of so many shells, they were used to decorate this outside wall.
On Roy’s birthday, 14 on May 14th, we had a great family evening but saved cupcakes for when our friends arrived. After cupcakes everyone watched a John Wayne movie.
The dewy morning attracted bees in search of fresh water. We’ve found that they are easy to swat and flick off the boat. Once we get rid of them all, no more come until after the shower hose sprays water on the back deck.
Swat Swat Swat, that’s our entertainment for the day.
Don’t forget Topaz. She barks to swim, barks for food, barks when you leave in the dinghy, barks at dolphins, barks at rays, barks at pangas, barks barks barks.
But she is much better off swimming off of Makai than snorkeling.
One last look at the reef. Roy goes out deep looking for the big fish, but I got back in the dinghy. We’re starting to see Portuguese Man o War float by. Many years ago I had a bad experience with these guys and ended up with zig zag blistering welts on my legs, face, neck, arms. It was horrible and I hope we can get through this trip without anyone getting stung.
We’ve spent several evenings playing cards while Roy fishes off the back.
One after another everyone pulls in Chubs, Grunts, Jacks, Yellowtail, and anything else that jumps on the hook. The kids have a blast fighting these little guys and then sending them back to the school.
Making the full loop again we stopped by Danzante for one more snorkel before heading back to Puerto Escondido for another round of chores.
One of Puerto Escondido’s landmarks is the pointy gorilla head in the Sierra Gigante Mountains.
We all piled into Yolo’s car and took off for a day in town. The waterfront statue here is a whale shark.
We had a meal at a bbq chicken restaurant. You can’t beat it, a whole chickens, fabulous crispy french fries, tortillas and chips, and drinks for about $10 per family. Courtney scraped the leftover chicken scraps in a pile for the dog wandering around out front. The dogs roam freely, most of them look like they’ve had several litters and many have some sort of healed over injury or infected looking part. It’s sad, but all the dogs in this town look well fed.
We went for a tour of Our Lady of Loreto. This was the first mission in the Californias and held it’s first mass in 1697.
I took this picture a few days before and was later surprised to notice that the statue of Our Lady of Loreto was not on display in my picture. It is hidden behind the red curtain.
The mission was built more than 100 years after the town was claimed by the Spaniards. Back then they thought Baja was an island but after further exploration and no northern route was found, they charted it as the peninsula of California Baja Sur.
We browsed the adjoining museum and learned about the indigenous people, four different missionary orders, explorers, their lives and challenges on Baja.
Roy spotted a cactus outside and told us about a scene in the “Mask of Zorro” where the bad guys stripped the good guys naked and tied their hands together around a cactus. If one guy pulled the guy on the other side got poked by the cactus. Wow, if I could use this technique when the kids are being bad, I bet moral would improve around here.
Around the mission are several gift shops, restaurants, and a Thrifty Ice Cream.
About a block away we found the tortillaria, marine hardware store, and grocery store.
All this shopping is tiring. The laundry is clean and the boat is prepped, tomorrow we have a guest arriving. We used to live on our boat next to our pal Jack in San Diego. He told us about his sailing stories about cruising in Mexico in the early 1990′s which was one of our influences for our first trips in the late 1990s.
We will spend one last week cruising these islands (and a few new anchorages) with Jack.