Our shakedown cruise

Our shakedown cruise – after a few days of organizing the boat ( six months away from the boat, there’s always work to be done) our crew members, son Andrew and his girlfriend Adrienne, flew in and made it from Cabo to La Paz on the Baja Ecco bus with no problems. They even had time for a “welcome to Mexico Margarita” at one of the bars outside the airport.

We spent the next day getting ready, and the kids headed to the fancy forbidden pool ( $30 American each for the privilege of sitting there. We generally boycott that place and use the Hotel pool, which is lovely and makes good margaritas, but it was a special event, first day in La Paz! Although they weren’t serving food. Kind of defeated the purpose of going there for a drink and appetizer before dinner)

Next day we cast off and headed out to Isla San Francisco, because we have all been there before and love it. It’s one of those places that make you think you are somewhere in paradise, long sandy beaches and aquamarine water. The weather was great and hallelujah we caught two fish within half an hour of leaving the dock – one smaller male dorado which we decided to let go, and a skip jack which we also released.

fishing underway
Our early good luck made us excited about the prospect of catching something we could keep before we got to San Francisco but it was not to be! We had a lovely day hanging around in the bay, walking, snorkelling, fishing and eating. The newest addition to our crew, a thermometer shaped like a shark which we immediately christened Bruce, told us that the water temp was 25 Celsius, or around 75 Farenheit. That’ll do! I snorkelled over to the reef and found lots of fish, and Andrew and Adrienne took the little dinghy out with the electric Torquedo motor to try to catch some dinner.

fishers head out to catch the big one
Unfortunately they caught something with lots of teeth, but they couldn’t bring it in, lost the fish and the lure, and then the torquedo ran out of battery so they had to row the little rubber dink back against the wind. All that work for no fish!

The next day dawned cloudy and we headed out early for a long trip north to Aqua Verde with the lines in the water the whole way, but unfortunately the fish weren’t interested in what we had to offer.

We did see several pods of dolphins, one which actually came over and gave us a short show, riding the bow waves and jumping our wake. That was a highlight for our mesmerized crew!

Other than that, though – no more wildlife and no fish.

Adrienne conversing with the dolphins
We all agreed that the grey skies were a bummer. Although it’s warm, no brilliant sunshine make it a bit dull. But we were happy to see only a few boats anchored in Aqua Verde, and lots of room for us to find a comfortable spot to drop the hook. First order of business was a swim , and then dinner.

It was a good night, and the morning dawned clear. We got up early to watch the sunrise and make coffee, and then the kids organized breakfast ( benefit of having them on board, they cook)

breakfast in the morning and desserts at night-yummy
Bruce was brought out and we discovered the water was … 25/75… perfect.! So all the toys were thrown in –

come on in, the water’s warm!
the paddle board , the kayak and the dinghy, with the hope that later we could go to the beach

for lunch. I took off in the kayak and went to talk to our neighbour.. by now most of the other

boats had all left, and there was a satellite dish set up on the beach I was interested in. I asked

our neighbour, and it turned out it was his!

baja wifi, what a great idea!
He and his wife have spent a month in the same spot and set up the satellite for themselves and anyone who asks politely. I didn’t ask but he offered, with the proviso that it’s for mail only – no Facebook or movie streaming. So much for posting a blog entry! But that was nice of him, as our satphone decided it was in the shadow of a hill and couldn’t connect with its satellite.

Everyone checked their mail for important news and then that was it.

Lunch time rolled round and it seemed a good idea to try out the cantina on the beach, although it was Sunday and I wasn’t sure she would be there.

Unfortunately when we dropped the big dinghy and Lawrence went to start it up, the engine started pumping gas out into the water. After much deliberation and the discovery that the steering was also frozen, we realized that we wouldn’t be going on any big dinghy adventures this trip. Something else to fix when we got back to the dock! First trips are always a crap-shoot! -although now I am thinking we need to do a systems check on everything before we go… not everyone agrees with my idea though.

So a ride to the beach in the little bitty dinghy – all four of us – didn’t seem possible, so I took off in the kayak.

The closer I got the more I realized fish tacos were not to be. The beach was deserted, probably not unusual for a Sunday. We opted for a walk through town to the tienda, where we picked up avocados, limes, beers, and fresh goat cheese! Agua Verde is known for its goats and we have read lots about the cheese but never had a chance to buy any. The young woman at the store asked if I wanted queso de cabra … at least I think that’s what she said! She took me to the cooler outside and showed me two large blocks of fresh cheese… heaven!

Back at the boat I broke off a corner, amazing stuff. Almost made up for not having fish tacos.

The afternoon was spent in and on the water, and some walking around trying to get the best pictures of the bay from way up high. No drones for us – pity.

who needs a drone??? beautiful day and a beautiful bay
N50 Northern Ranger II – the beauty shot!
The kids opted to take the little dinghy out fishing, after getting the scoop from our neighbour about which lures to use where for what fish. They were only gone for a little while, so we were surprised to see them coming around the reef with the line in the water bent double.

Start the car! Start the Car!!
When they were close Andrew waved at us and yelled “start the car start the car” so I knew something was up. They got to the boat and whatever was on the other end of the line was still fighting. After some hard work we could see what it was

unhooking the catch, a big beautiful rooster fish!
Totally took us by surprise, not something we would keep but it was certainly a memorable catch. We did the trophy fish photo and then released it.

a happy guy, maybe not so happy fish
a gorgeous fish, soon to be released back to the ocean to grow some more
After some gentle persuasion the fish came to its senses and hurried off, a little sore but otherwise fine.

It was big enough that it actually towed the little dinghy around a bit.

An aside anyone who reads this knows I love to fish, and that I spend an inordinate amount of time loafing on the back deck watching lines, and occasionally changing lures. And by now you will realize I am NOT a great fisher imbued with gobs of good luck. I have friends and acquaintances who reel in huge fish one after the other, no matter where they are. I confess, we do say we like to catch just enough to eat for a few days. And I also confess – if I could, I would love to catch lots of fish. However, there is a part of me that hates what comes after. In our marriage, you catch it, you kill it, you clean it.. and in my case you cook it. So I can do without all that killing! and cleaning! But I do love the cooking, and the catching, and the eating, so I continue to do my best. Maybe next year will be my year!

Monday morning we headed back south, with a plan to hit San Everisto and the beach tacos at Lupes… but the weather, as usual, had other ideas. Welcome to winter in the Sea of Cortez. After an hour or two of rock and rolling, we decided to head into Tembabichi, and give the wind a chance to die down. Andrew and Adrienne threw the little dinghy back in and went to fish the rocks… some fierce needlefish took their lure, after giving them a good fight, but nothing was brought back for dinner. I think that was three lures lost oh well.

I took the kayak to the beach for some exploring… was going to paddle all the way but the wind was fierce, so opted to land and walk down to where the pink palace, or Casa Grande, is. The building has an interesting history,built in 1910 and for most of that time, abandoned. Someone inherited it in the 70s but the locals weren’t keen to have a hotel in their town. Mostly the place is where fishermen drive their pangas to the beach and head out for a day of fishing. Even they were hesitant to head out into the north wind: one panga came up to ask us if we knew what the wind was going to do… as usual my Spanish gets tongue tied when I am called upon to use it. “Frio” had me running to the fridge and offering them ice. Doh!!!!! Kids wouldn’t let me forget it the rest of the trip. At least that is one word I will never forget. Never let it be said I don’t learn from my mistakes!

beach at Tembabichi
gulls in the wind look a little bit frazzled!
sunsets are always beautiful in this bay!
Next day we continued the run down to San Everisto, and we arrived in time for a late lunch of tacos at Lupes… I did recognizance with the kayak, checking to make sure it was open… called the mothership and they came over in the little dinghy.

Lunch was superb! Cold beers, crispy fish and prawns, yummy tortillas..finally! And Lupes offering us MORE! and MORE! what a wonderful host!

a table full of good food and cold cervesas – perfect!
We arrived back to the boat in time to watch the other boaters around us climb into their dinghies and head to Lupes for dinner. He was having a good day I think!

boats always look wonderful in the setting sun, and no more so than at Everisto
San Everisto always looks lovely in the morning sun, and you never sleep in because the roosters wake up early and the pangas start heading out right after
Next day we retraced our track to Isla San Francisco… wind was going to blow up but we figured it was the best place to hunker down and not so far we couldn’t get back to La Paz by noon the next day. We did some serious fishing for a few hours with no luck, so headed into the bay which looked mostly empty and very inviting! Bruce was deployed and the water was once again 25C or 75F, so the kids and I headed to the north rocks for some snorkelling. It was pretty amazing, lots of the same fish, but there were more guinea puffers and one big puffer mid change from black to yellowpretty cool. There were also a number of morays- big long green ones. I swam down to get video, but I have to confess those open toothy mouths were a bit frightening! I had never seen such big ones though so I was determined to get down there and have a look. There’s a dream! To get back into scuba, and having the camera equipment to take the kind of pictures I would like to take. If I can’t catch fish, then let me at least immortalize them!

Last night out on the hook, another great meal, Lawrence finally made a pitcher of his famous margaritas… and we all played a rousing game of cards.

back deck relaxing before dinner
last night out
we all got into the game, the margaritas helped!
This trip we haven’t really had wifi and the satellite TV wasn’t working. We could use the DVD player but it only played in the bedroom, so one night we all sat on our bed to watch Galaxy Quest (it’s a tradition on our boat) but that was it, mostly we just read and we played cards. Quite a different holiday for all of us! Refreshing, actually.

Early on in the week I had discovered a deck of cards. Thank heavens for Northern Lights Playing Cards. Thanks Bob Senter!!!! No crib board though. I am going to have to make up a game kit for the next time we come down.

kids practically wore out the cards!
Next morning we left before the sun rose, with our lines back in the water as soon as we cleared the bay.

sunrise fishing
Wind had totally shifted to south, which was odd, but it meant we only had a bit of a swell coming at us, and the sky was a clear hot blue. Beautiful!

And we managed to go right through a school of fish, with a double header, big skip jacks that made for some initial excitement, and a nice dorado that was not quite big enough to keep.

biiig skip jack, took the hook and swallowed it so couldn’t release it
heading into the marina
So we ended on a high note… back to the dock before 12, lots of time to clear up and clean up, and then off to the (free) hotel pool to spend the last afternoon with the kids, enjoying someone else’s margaritas and mojitos. We met up with some of the other yachtistas and had a thoroughly lovely afternoon, didn’t hurt that they had a Portuguese Water Dog who was a sightly larger version of our Kona. And boy did he love the love! Made me pine for the dog days one day or a cat.. sigh..

After that, it was change, clean up, and head to Azul for our last dinner together, courtesy of Andrew and Adrienne.

Azul’s for dinner, last night out
Before we left for dinner we tried the marinaded skipjack, baked with pineapple and wrapped in bacon. The marinade and the pineapple and the bacon were lovely. The fish well there’s a reason people throw them back. Everyone actually enjoyed it thoughbut I wouldn’t go out of my way to catch and prepare them-next time, tuna. or dorado. or anything else.

Kids were picked up at 0930 the next day, after breakfast. There is a new coffee shop at the marina, with fancy coffee, western style pastries, and some very cool branded gear ( shirts, mugs, etc and, we noticed the night before when we did a walk-through, cinnamon buns. ) Adrienne was out the door as soon as she was up, and came back with a couple of the buns.

They were huge! just like the old days, when we used to hunt down the best cinnamon buns in the pacific northwest.

this cinnamon bun is definitely a keeper!
Most anchorages in Desolation and the Broughtons have someone who makes quality baking. That is another tradition- Cinny bun runs first thing in the morning, deposited hot and yummy in our friend’s sailboat cockpit so when they got out of bed their breakfast was waiting for them. Up in Alaska I found the tradition of boating and cinnamon buns was also well represented. Nice to find we have a supply down here!

and that was the week – ten days the kids were down, and one week they were on the water with us. Didn’t get as far north as we would have liked, but that is cruising in the winter in the Sea of Cortez. The northers will have their way with you and there’s nothing we can do about it, except plan for an alternate anchorage. The water was warm, there were a few fish to catch, tacos to eat, and great memories made.

Now it’s all about carrying on with chores: a freezer that needs replacing ( we ordered a new one today and actually managed to get the old one out from behind the settee in the pilot house with no lasting damage to either of us or the boat! )

teamwork got it out!
When we come back down in January, we will be out and about for several months, and need everything to work! Shower pumps, Honda outboards, freezers, water makers and oil changes. And for sure there will be other things that need attending to. I would have loved to have turned around and gone back out to the islands today but in hindsight, much better plan to just

Get ‘er done!!!