Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Spring in the Sea of Cortez - 2016

On our wish list this season was to sail further north into the Sea of Cortez. We anchored overnight several times on the way, arriving at Bahia Concepcion, about 200 miles north of La Paz. Bahia Concepcion was our furthest northern point during our first season in Mexico. We anchored at Posada Concepcion to meet up with our friends Rob & Nancy on SV Shindig and Rob's parents Bert and Alice on MV Elegante. 

Posada Concepcion - Elegante, Shindig & Agave Azul

Bahia Concepcion is a very large and narrow bay, about 20 miles long. We've experienced a lot of wind here, but with some good protection from waves. On this trip we experienced one of the largest dolphin pods we've ever seen and watched them jumping for about 30 minutes. 

Dinner on the beach with Shindig & Elegante
Katie, Nancy & Alice at Armando's

After a few days in Bahia Concepcion, we started north into new territory. The first stop was just 20 miles north at Punta Chivato. 

Punta Chivato anchorage

Kathryn enjoys searching for unusual shells and Punta Chivato is a great place to find them. Due to whatever combination of wind and waves, the beach is covered with shells a couple feet deep. Kathryn limited herself to just one bag full of shells. 

Shell collector heaven

After a couple nights at Punta Chivato, we sailed 30 miles north to Santa Rosalia, one of our favorite places to stop when we are driving back and forth to La Paz (where Agave Azul is berthed during hurricane season). The marina is small, with room for about 15 boats and it has the last gas dock as you sail north on the west coast of the Sea. There is also a dock for the ferry that sails between Santa Rosalia and Guaymas, which is on the eastern side of the Sea.

Santa Rosalia marina

The day after we arrived, the wind picked up. The marina has a large breakwater but it was still blowing 30 knots inside the marina. We were glad to be pinned to the dock rather than on the water outside.

Blowing 30 knots inside the marina

Some cruisers told us there was a great taco stand in town and we were glad we found it. We didn't try the tripe, but the shrimp and fish tacos were excellent. The guy who owns the stand makes it fun for all who stop to eat there. 

Our favorite taco stand … shrimp, fish & tripe

Santa Rosalia was developed after copper was discovered and the French Compagnie du Boleo received a long term lease (1884-1954) in exchange for building the town, mine, port and establishing the Guaymas ferry. After the French left, the mine and the town went downhill until a Canadian and Korean joint venture reopened the mine in 2010.

Boleo mine

Compagnie du Boleo locomotive

More Boleo mine relics

Santa Rosalia has a church that was designed and built by Gustave Eiffel for the 1889 Paris Exposition. It was acquired a few years later by Companie du Boleo and rebuilt in Santa Rosalia in 1897.

Gustave Eiffel's steel church

Iglesia de Santa Barbara interior

We hoped to head a couple hundred miles further north from Santa Rosalia, but after waiting out the storm and other previous delays, it was time to head slowly south back to La Paz. The anchorage 50 miles south of Bahia Concepcion is San Juanico. We spent a few days here and enjoyed the beautiful anchorage and hikes in the hills.

San Juanico anchorage

A couple weeks later we met up with cruising friends at Isla San Francisco. This is one of the most picturesque anchorages in the Sea, with water so clear you can see your anchor on the bottom in 30' of water.

Isla San Francisco Hike with Marne & Brett - SV Liahona

Yes, we did a lot of hiking this season. At Isla San Francisco, we bushwhacked over the scree one day and hiked a ridge trail the next.

Kathryn with Lynda & Mike - MV Trinity Rose

Isla San Francisco anchorage

Mike and Lynda provided their boat, and Bret and Marne provided hand-caught lobster for a memorable dinner before we all departed for different destinations.

Mike & Kathryn aboard Trinity Rose

The best Langosta I can remember!

After another stop at Caleta Partida, we headed back to La Paz for 2 weeks of preparing the boat for hurricane season. Here is Kathryn saying good bye to Agave Azul until next season.

Adios Agave Azul … we'll be back in October!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Isla Isabel - "Galapagos of Mexico" - March 2016

For a change of pace, after being in Puerto Vallarta for several weeks, we anchored at Isla Isabel, a remote island about 80 miles northwest of Banderas Bay. Because of its isolation, it is free of predators, so the island is a haven for blue-footed boobies, frigate birds and iguana’s. 

Rock islet off Isla Isabel

There are fishermen on the island, so we had to dodge their long lines as we approached. The rocks that surround the island have a reputation for swallowing anchors, so after motoring to the GPS coordinates provided by our cruising friends on Shindig, our diver crew member, John Graves, dove to find us the perfect spot to drop our anchor in sand. But it was also very close to one of the rock towers on the eastern shore of the island. It is only a good anchorage in calm conditions.

John snorkeling to find a safe anchor spot

Anchor well set in the sand … no rocks!

This is the beach where we landed, near an abandoned research station. The local fishermen use the abandoned buildings as the base for their fishing operation.

Landing zone and fish camp

The island became a National Park in 1981 and a World Heritage Site in 2003.

Isla Isabel National Park

Iguana were everywhere on the island. 

Iguana at the abandoned research station

Frigate birds, with their angled wings and split tails are fun to watch when we are sailing and they are a good indicator of schools of feeding fish. But they also like to hitch a ride atop the instruments on our masthead and try to catch our fishing lures, so they can be a pain at times.

Frigate Bird

Frigates nesting in stubby trees covered the southern end of the island and most of the trees had females taking care of their young. You could get quite close to them before they made any protest.

Frigate baby in nest

We could walk quite close to the frigate birds and their young.

Adolescent frigate

The males made their presence known by puffing up their bright red throat pouches.

Male frigate showing his "gular"

We hiked over to the eastern side of the island, home of the blue-footed boobies.

Steps leading to the other side of the island

Their feet are definitely very blue. Unlike the frigates, the boobies were more skittish of two-legged visitors. The ones who weren’t nesting moved deeper into the bushes as we approached.

Blue Footed Booby

But the nesting birds stayed on their nests when we approached. And the guards stayed nearby.

Guarding the nest


Blue-footed boobies are known for their mating dance. Lift one foot and hold it in the air, then do the other one. Repeat again and again … 

The Booby mating dance

On our way back to the boat, the fishermen were busy getting ready to depart. The fish on the beach were being used as bait for their long lines.

Fishermen ready to depart

We did some snorkeling near the boat. Lots of different types of fish.

Snorkeling next to the boat … school of Surgeon fish

Isla Isabel sunset

The good weather forecast continued so rather than sailing to Mazatlan and staying there for a couple days, we sailed directly from Isla Isabel to La Paz … about 300 miles and two overnights. We had great conditions and minimal ship traffic all the way.

Serious helmsmen starting our 300 mile passage to La Paz