Sunday, January 1, 2012

Feliz Año Nuevo

Well, we said goodbye to 2011 with a bottle of wine, Don Julio, and some new friends on Vellela Vellela.  We met Rob and Kai in San Jose del Cabo and met up with them again here in Matanchen Bay.  After an exciting boat ride up the jungle to see the crocodiles we spent the evening drinking on their boat, bringing in the new year with shared stories, laughter, and mac-n-cheese -- a perfect ending to a very busy year.

It was a difficult decision to finally pull away from the dock at San Jose.  We made so many good friends, sharing the Christmas holiday potluck-style with Marionetto, Mwelu, Reunion, Desolina, Auspicious, Dream Catcher, Pacific Pacer and others on the long dock at Puerto Los Cabos.  It's a very comfortable and relaxing environment -- the perfect place to hang out after weeks of long passages down the Pacific coast.  But we were eager to see mainland Mexico and decided to set sail on Tuesday the 27th, a few hours behind Marionetto and Pacific Pacer, for Isla Isabela, a small island off the coast of San Blas, Mexico. 

We were looking at a 2-day passage across the Sea of Cortez on the tail end of a "norther" that had been blowing hard for five days.  I wanted a nice breeze for this leg, which we got, but was hoping for comfortable seas, which we did not get.  That first night out was one of the roughest for us, as we were both seasick for most of it.  The wind wasn't the problem -- we saw anywhere from 15 to 25 knots on a beam to broad reach.  But, the seas were really crossed up, coming from the west and the north in short choppy waves that caused the boat to constantly pitch and roll.  I don't think I've ever been that close to feeding fish off the rail. 

Luckily, it didn't last long.  The next day we saw ideal conditions, as we sailed in sunny skies and flattened seas.  In the morning we got a call on the radio from Marionetto who saw our sails a few miles off their stern.  We made good time on the crossing with boat speeds from 6.5 to 7.5 through the night.  In those conditions I wanted to keep the boat powered up to get through the chop as quickly as possible.

The wind died on Thursday morning and we motored in to the anchorage at Isla Isabela.  The guide books decribed this island as the Galapagos of Mexico, with large flocks of blue-footed boobies and frigate birds.  It's a beautiful place with great hiking and snorkeling.  Unfortunately, the anchorage is small and rock-strewn, making it difficult to set the hook and even more difficult to retrieve it once it snags a rock.  We were looking for a patch of sand just south of the rocks called Las Monas and found an open spot in 25 feet of water that looked promising.  But, after backing down on the hook we could feel it skipping over the rocky bottom.  It was a calm and sunny morning so we decided to spend the day there and keep a close eye on the conditions.  We waved to Marionetto as they sailed past.  They decided to continue on to Banderas Bay, and we look forward to meeting them again down the coast.

After a few hours catching up on sleep and a nice lunch break, the wind began to come up and we could hear the disturbing sound of chain scraping rock.  So we decided to set sail for San Blas and crossed our fingers that the anchor would come up.  I was able to free it without too much difficulty and we were, once again, on the move, looking at an 8 or 9-hour sail to Matanchen Bay, a few miles south of San Blas. 

Matanchen is a wide-open bay with good protection from northerly winds and a relatively easy approach.  This looked like the perfect place to make our first night entry, and although the charts are surprisingly inaccurate in this part of the world we had a working radar and good light to guide us in.  We made and uneventful landfall at midnight (other than being harassed by a deranged frigate bird), dropped the hook near a few other boats, and went down to sleep.  After three months of sailing we'd finally made it to mainland Mexico.

And, what a difference a couple hundred miles make.  The lush tropical jungle and mangrove forests of San Blas are in stark contrast to the dusty deserts of Baja.  Yesterday we walked down the road to the estuary and booked a panga ride through the jungle to the village of La Tovara and the crocodile refuge.  We shared a boat with Rob and Kai from Vellela Vellela and Frank and Sheryl from Serendipity, winding through the mangroves under sunny skies.  We were not disappointed as we motored past several crocs, turtles, falcons, and a boa constrictor.  Colin was less impressed and slept through most of the boat ride.  When I tried to show him the enormous crocs at the refuge he seemed more interested in the fence.  But, he seemed to enjoy himself, smiling and laughing in his usual manner.  After lunch in La Tovara we made our way back and caught a bus into San Blas to run a few errands before going back to the boat.

So, here we are (finally) in mainland Mexico.  It's a beautiful, sunny, 80-something-degree day with a light breeze blowing and Bob Marley on the stereo.  I'm trying to decide whether to have a cold beer or a rum drink.  It's definitely a new year.
Questions or comments? We'd like to hear from you. Click the link below to respond.