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Puerto Escondido to Juanico and South…

We decided to do a run north all the way to Juanico, and spend a few days with Sea Level before they head further up and we turn and make our way South.

The winds have been problematic, and when we arrived in Juanico we chose the southern anchorage to minimize the swell and buffeting we anticipated . It was beautiful, and fun to be close to the magnificent spires we had snorkelled and kayaked around last time. But the wind made snorkelling a questionable activity, so I settled on a good long kayak around for some exploration. I did not see the numbers of fish we had encountered before… curious. But the sun shone and we were almost alone in the anchorage so it was a pleasant few days.

We dinghied over to the beach ( where radio chatter seems to indicate a potential boater’s beach party In the near future? We aren’t sure… too bad we will miss it!) and I led the others to the Apache’s tears, ( obsidian drops) then Lawrence and I went off to collect garbage and find the cruiser’s tree. Oddly, last time we were here no one could find it and we assumed it had been taken down, but this time we found it easily. More of a shrub actually. .. interesting to see some of the things people have put up, and how long ago! I strung a cowry shell and hung it on the tree… next time we come through I will make sure we have something more grand!

The Apache tear hunters were thrilled with their take, and we had a few bags of beach garbage to lug back to the boat, so we were all happy with a good day’s work.

Later, Lawrence tried out the drone while we played on the beach, and again the seagulls decided they were under attack and put an end to the flight. But he did get some nice footage… slowly but surely getting better! now if the birds would leave it alone we would be great!

Evenings and dinners on Sea Level II were enjoyable, and one night we were treated to an amazing moonrise- this place truly is gorgeous.

So May 1… Sea Level moved north bright and early while we still slept, and eventually we raised anchor and headed south. Once again I put two lines in the water and had zero luck. Everyone we talk to complains about the lack of fish. At this point I almost don’t want to fish but it’s a matter of pride.

Our anchorage is Ballandra Bay on Izla Carmen. The bay is circular with a clear large entrance and provides protection from all but the westerlies and southwesters . In the right spot you can see the lights of Loreto sparkling at night, and the bay offers a good view of the sunsets. We didn’t see much in the way of sunsets here, oddly enough…

There were several sailboats tucked in on one side, another sailboat right on the anchor mark indicated on the chart as the prime spot… we found our own perfect spot nearby in 30 feet and made ourselves at home. It is a beautiful bay! We agreed this could be another favourite destination as the water is warm and relatively clear and the hills surrounding us are gorgeous, with multi-hued tuff rock as well as a mangrove “swamp” , and some handsome big cacti dotting the hillside.

I took the kayak out to reconnoiter for snorkelling, but first I paddled into the mangroves along a little “river”, checking out the birds as I went along. There were brightly coloured red and yellow crabs living right along the edge, in the mangrove roots, that were really pretty and very shy.

The bay itself has some nice little rocky reefs just off the beach, and at the mouth of the bay there are some good prospects for underwater exploration.

I headed back to the beach behind our boat, after convincing Lawrence to meet me there ( he swam… water apparently got the seal of approval for appropriate temperature..) and we walked the beach for a while.

Lots of shells, broken bleached coral, numerous little blennies that darted in and out the sand at the edge of the surf.. and a solitary seagull watching over us. Apparently Lawrence had tried once again to fly the drone and the gull called in for reinforcements and they attacked the hapless little airship. Now the gull is hanging out on the beach making sure it doesn’t happen again. Darn!

Anyway, after exploring and collecting garbage, ( not a lot!) we returned to the boat and donned snorkel gear. I wasn’t expecting much but the water was warm and it was still too early to make dinner..

Was I surprised! There weren’t a ton of fish, but what we saw was way more interesting than the usual. Big brown sea cucumbers… a small octopus… what was perhaps a frog fish… rays… all hanging around in the coral .. and we didn’t have to go far to see them!

The wind came up a bit that evening, but nothing to worry about and it was a good night. We were surprised in the morning to see several of the sailboats from the other side of the bay had moved over to our side in cover of darkness! Must have been considerably rougher over there …

so the day progressed, and I did a couple of rounds in the kayak but didn’t get a chance to go snorkelling. I talked to the owners of Indigo Sea, an 86 foot long wooden boat built for the Van Camp family and a first tuna packing boat when the family branched out from baked beans and added canned tuna to their products. Very interesting!

Meanwhile the wind strengthened and changed direction and suddenly the sail boat that had re-anchored right next to us appeared to be getting closer. Are we dragging? Is the chain straightening out and making it look as though we are dragging? Whatever, I was fussing, as I refuse to move when we were the first boat anchored. ( yeah I am stubborn that way) Much consternation and obviously we aren’t going to leave the boat to snorkel . I had found a “shipwreck” in the bay and wanted to check it out. It was very close to the beach and I went back later in the kayak to look at it again. Very cool and I would love to know the story behind it. I am sure there are more than a few underwater wrecks around here, judging by the rocks and the sudden winds that come up!

I also found a few interesting things on the beach – a turtle shell, a desiccated shark head, numerous shells – I took pictures and left them all behind for someone else to enjoy.

proof positive that sharks exist here! Not too keen to see one in the water
We were entertained for a while by a youngish couple fly fishing with a panga guide…

After parking themselves right behind us, the guide threw chum in the water while the fly fishers went after whatever was there… we saw some cornet reef fish caught, and a few other small reef fish… not sure how carefully they were released but nothing was kept. The seagulls and the frigates were the beneficiaries , swooping in to grab up the chum and probably the injured fish as they were thrown out. Throughout this whole episode, not once did the couple look at us, sitting on our back deck, less than 20 feet away from them. I thought it very odd.

But overall this is a beautiful anchorage, and I would love to spend a few more days here. I have explored the little beaches and surrounding reefs and have seen a lot of fish, enough to make me want to spend more time in the water. I think some walking and bird watching would be great too. This island has mountain goats and hunters can pay to come and dare I say shoot the goats, so wandering too far from the shore would be a bad idea.

And now it’s after 5 and time to think about dinner and a glass of wine… where does the time go?

Next morning- everyone was exactly where we left them in the evening – no dragging, no banging, no bumps in the night..

The only major issue was the arrival of very unwanted guests. Maggots under the garbage compactor… HAVE MADE ME VERY ANGRY!

We chased the little buggers down the stairs and under the carpets – they can really move! I rolled the carpets up and spent the better part of the trip from Ballandra to Puerto Escondido squishing ( yes… bleccch) maggots. Bleach, raid, and various other cleaners were brought out. Once we were tied up I pulled the bin out and put it on the dock to sit in the sun, redoubling my efforts inside to get each and every critter.

Who l knows if we have succeeded – but the onslaught has slowed and perhaps stopped. I am not a huge fan of garbage compactors – we have a little feud on the boat about how many times you can compact ( read: how many days the garbage sits there) and in this warm climate, and with flies and such coming off of the mangrove swamps we often find ourselves near… it seems a recipe for an infestation.

But other than that.. we are back at Escondido, the wind is going to blow, and I think it will be a good time to start the reorganizing and cleaning that has to be done before we leave.

And in the back of my mind, of course…. maggot patrol.

May 4- Escondido

Great day, no maggots..yay! A bit breezy but not enough to prevent me from kayaking. Afterwards, we went for a good long walk while I took pictures of birds. All in all, a great afternoon. We got back to the boat and had showers… uneventful for Lawrence.. but me – well, by the time the water was up over my ankles I realized something was wrong.

Pump not working… oh oh… someone (me) has neglected to clean the filter out. Usually I am good about doing it…. long hair and all that… but I have been terribly remiss.

Should have been an easy fix… I pulled the strainer off and dug out the evidence… but there was a large lump that wouldn’t come out. Oh Lawrence……

That was an hour ago. The poor fellow is bashed and bleeding and we are wondering what bright spark put the Pump in the most inaccessible part of the cupboard. Nordhavns are the greatest boat in the world!! But sometimes you find something like this that makes you scratch your head. One inch left or one inch right…it would have been easy. But nooooo…..

So dinner is simmering on the stove, tequila chicken is bubbling in the oven… and Lawrence is still sweating, bleeding, and trying to get my pump to work.

I feel so guilty…. and I promise to never ever again forget to clean the strainer out.

sunrise on the Giganticas… stunning!
5th… we took our leave of Escondido after a few pleasant days of kayaking and walking … and those other less enjoyable jobs that make boating so fun. Our preferred anchorage was Honeymoon Cove on Danzante but it was full! Where are all these boats coming from! No problem, we did the run down to Agua Verde and lo and behold… only a few boats and beautiful weather. Perfect.

On the way down we saw another huge school of dolphins… too far away for any real interactions but it was pretty amazing to see.

Sea Level came down the next day, and the dolphins were way more accommodating , giving them and their crew an amazing bow wave riding display. So many dolphins! This is why we cruise… for moments like that!

We headed to the beach for our fish taco lunch… and wow! Our favourite taco chef had caught an amazing cabrilla the day before, seemed almost as big as her! And that was what our tacos were made of today, delicious! The dogs were delightful, there was another couple of fishermen who had driven their rental car down the long and winding bumpy road…they certainly enjoyed the meal as much as we did, although they weren’t looking forward to the drive back to the highway.

Dinner on Sea Level, ( a combined leftover meal… best kind..) We watched the sunset and enjoyed the cooler evening on the back deck.

sun set in Agua Verde
Next day an early morning .. whaaat? But worth it, to watch the sunrise. Even had me singing Alice Cooper. Sunrise! …. great day for a cruise! Coffee made and delivered to the captain along with his daily biscotti, I set the lines out … Kim is making bouillabaisse tonight and wouldn’t some fresh fish be a nice addition! Feeling positive!

sun rise in Agua Verde!
Not long after, we spotted some dolphins, and one came to play in the bow wave for a few minutes before heading back to the group. Guess he felt sorry for me! Nothing like the spectacular show they gave Sea Level a few days ago but I will take it!

Dolphins gone, I put the lines back out and enjoyed the morning. Oddly enough, out here on the breeze I smell fish … and sure enough… zing… a little skipjack! We let him go, and shortly after we got another. Beautiful little fish but not what I want… easy release and the Mexican Feather went back in the water. I went inside to make another pot of coffee now that breakfast was over (flourless banana oatmeal pancakes,,, the best! )… threw in a load of laundry and headed back outside.. and the line was way gone! All the way to the Dacron and then some! Call to slow down, start reeling, and just like that the fish was gone. Took everything…as they say, hook line and sinker. But I figure the thought of actually having something that big on the line… makes me very happy! Losing the Mexican Feather..not so much.

I have none made up, so wasted the next half hour trying to get two together. Eventually used steel cable as I couldn’t get the line secure enough with the crimps? Crimped? Some kind of lame fisher I am! So now I have steel leaders and big new hooks and two brand New Mexican Feathers out… and nothing. The bite is over, but it was fun while it lasted. I figure maybe this means the fish have started to move up and the bulk of them are still a little south, where we are headed.

And at least I can say I haven’t been skunked!

The only other thing of note was we almost got tee-boned by a large impatient motoring sailing yacht. Operative word motoring.

No question as to the right of way (us) but whomever was at the helm was having none of that. He was going from point a ( Amortahada) to point b ( San Everisto) and nothing or nobody was getting in his way.

Numerous blasts of the horn ( it works and boy does it make us sound biiiiig) and calls on the radio had no effect. If someone was up in the cockpit they were studiously ignoring us. Sea Level tells us that our AIS tracks on his chart plotter indicated an imminent collision. We pulled back and let him go and watched in amazement as he cruised by. Oblivious, stupid, or mean?whichever , the person on the helm needs to learn some rules of the road! I can only imagine meeting him in the dead of night.

And of course he didn’t stay in Everisto, but turned and headed back behind us, obviously making for San Francisco. We waited, let him pass, and anchored on the opposite side close to shore were we had been last time. The puffer fish were thrilled to see us back!

Anchor down and everything settled, I went snorkelling. Lawrence eventually joined me and we headed to the reef behind us. What a spectacular display! We saw fish we have never seen before, and the water was remarkably warm. Of course I didn’t take the camera, so we both had to rely on our memory to identify what we had seen. There wasn’t a breath of air or a cloud in the sky, the water was aquamarine and the sky was bright blue – one of those picture perfect pinch me I am in paradise days.

Sea Level dinghied over after their snorkel adventure on the opposite side of the bay, and we compared notes – seems we all gave it the two thumbs up!

Dinner was on Sea Level, on the back deck as the sun went down and we enjoyed a beautiful and somewhat riotous evening. Stars and phosphorescence led us back to our boat, and sleep wasn’t far behind. Unfortunately it was relatively short lived as the wind decided to come up and our anchor alarm got a bit of a workout. Being the only one who can hear it, after about 4 am I didn’t get much sleep, expecting it to go off at any moment.

So our picture perfect paradise is a bit breezy and rolly today. Where we anchored the waves don’t curl in as much but watching the other boats swaying and hobby horsing really made me thankful we chose well this time. I took great pleasure in watching the dizzying motion on the big sailboat. Serves them right ( what, me , vindictive?)

So after breakfast and the morning paddle and walk, the decision is made to head out and find a spot at Espiritu Santu . Initial reaction is oh oh another rocky ride but an hour in and it is much calmer. Big excitement was watching a 8 foot thresher shark leap completely out of the water right on our bow…and then several times more as we watched in amazement! Another new one for us… I read up about threshers and decided their life cycle is rather unnerving.. viviparous cannibalism. That’s all I am going to say. Basically the meanest nastiest sharks survive. Hate to be the mama. Wow.

Apparently they have also become heavily fished and are being protected. I was pretty glad I didn’t have any lines in the water – that tail of theirs could do some serious damage – pretty sure I saw that happen on an episode of Wicked Tuna!

Anchored in Caleta Partida.. Sea Level and then Varnebank join us for a group dinner- beautiful evening.

bye bye Sea Level!
The next day Sea Level left after we shared a breakfast together, and we got out and about for some kayaking and then some snorkelling at the north reef. Fantastic snorkelling- we see things again that we haven’t seen before and this time I had a camera, and although Lawrence was sure he wouldn’t last long because it was going to be too cold, we probably were in the water almost an hour. Just a beautiful place…

Great form Lawrence!
Tiger Eel maybe? Very pretty!
guineafowl puffer – and lovely purple coral
then we took the dinghy around the bay and explored, and came across a seagull condo complete with nesting gulls and some angry parents who let us know they were not happy with us..volcanic rock formations provided perfect hidden protected nesting sites for gull parents but we weren’t welcome to explore ! ( in typical anti-social seagull fashion one tried to “get us” on a fly-by… missed but not by much!)

one very annoyed mama gull
Dinner on Varnebank again but this time we shared a meal with Tom and Jerry from Heritage, Cubar organizers and San Diego travellers. Great night, hot and airless for the first part but as soon as the sun went down the wind came up – typical!

our fabulous hosts and great friends on Varnebank, Ken and Christy
Varnebank beauty shot!
The next day it calmed right down – right until we decided to put the dinghy up. We are becoming a well-oiled machine though so no Problem! Passed a passel of mobulas leaping at the mouth of the bay, and after that it was an uneventful and very calm ride down to La Paz. No lines in the water, so more time to spend ogling the really big yachts cruising around here. Not that a bigger boat means a better time! Far from it ! The rich certainly are different but I can no more imagine being on one of those yachts ( ho hum, what shall I do today? Call my hairdresser and the manicurist, I need a little primping).. (vs give me the raid and the bleach and a rubber glove, I’m chasing maggots)… than fly to the moon.( wait, did I say that!)

And then we were tied up and preparations begin to leave Northern Ranger II until next cruising season.

We had a few afternoons at the pool and a last dinner with the Sea Level II crew, long time cruising companions and friends Kim and Cam Kemp.

Costa Baja sunset
the gang
They flew home with their crew and we are left with a few extra days to get things in order – one benefit of driving home.

This has been a fantastic almost eight months of on again off again exploring, and the N50 has proven to be everything we hoped for and then some! A perfect home on the sea for the two of us…and hopefully next year we will have more opportunities to share the experience.

The sea-voyage ends and the land-cruise begins… fingers crossed, we have two spare tires and lots of bottled waters. Three days from now we will visit Northern Ranger I in Ensenada for a few days, and check out her new headliners and polished stainless, take her for a spin, and just remind her we still love her.

Hasta Luego!