The final leg of our Mexico cruise – and arguably the one I had most looked forward to – was nearing an end. I put away the fishing rods, realizing that if I were to be lucky enough to actually catch a fish, it would mean the pounds of frozen chicken and store-bought tuna in the freezer would not get eaten. So I could dream about the fish I never caught because I didn’t try, rather than regret the ones I never caught in spite of my feeble attempts. Made me feel marginally better. Plus I didn’t have to actually kill anything so really it was a win-win.
After crossing from La Cruz in a relatively stress-free fashion, we arrived in Puerto Los Cabos, reducing our overnights from two to one. Once bitten twice shy – we don’t mind overnights but the trip over to La Cruz had definitely upped the nervousness a notch or ten. The one night was good, although the wind managed to end up being five knots stronger and the seas somewhat more bumpy than we had anticipated. Lawrence admitted later that he did something he never does – forgot to add the five knots of wind to all the weather forecasts…. Ah well. It was a good trip.
Puerto Los Cabos is always a great place to hunker down for a few days. They managed to find a spot for us ( not as easy as that sounds) and we were able to stay several days. My first task, as soon we tied up the boat and greeted the dock security, was to ask for someone who could wash the boat. She was DIRTY! La Cruz dust and grit plus a whole lot of salt – absolutely horrible. The security guy immediately made a call. He handed the phone to me, and we were introduced to José, who promised to come the next morning at 0800. Yay!
After that, and a bit of cleaning, we walked around the harbour to see what, if anything, had changed.
The Container was now called The Hook Up, a lovely double entrendre that made a lot of sense when you saw that most of the boats were American go-fast fish-killing machines. All shiny and looking gorgeous in the hot sun! The only things missing were the owners. This is definitely one of the quieter marinas we go into. No sailboats and powerboats full of families and dogs and South Sea dreamers, this place is all about the fish.
I agreed to cook that night if we could go to the restaurant the next evening, which was acceptable to himself ( he likes going out as much as I do).
The next morning I announced that I wasn’t making breakfast either and perhaps we should go explore the bay and find somewhere to eat. José showed up on time, speaking immaculate English, and loaded with his own gear. We chatted for a while, and I got his backstory ( lived there all his life, worked on boats forever, did boat deliveries for people all over North America, spent a few years as a gardener in the states and actually has visited Vancouver Island!)… then we left to wander. He had advised us where the breakfast spots were, but we had spotted a place on our walk the night before so I decided we could maybe try that. Right across from La Gonzo, as we call it, the big hotel that apparently has taken over the marina restaurants..is a lovely place called the Marina Inn with a nice outdoor café. The wifi was decent, the coffee was great and the food was delicious. Made even better by the fact I didn’t cook it and didn’t have any dishes to do.
We walked back via the road and discovered all the little places José had told us about, now opening up for business. Next time!
When we got back to NRII, José was done, boat was shining, and it was only noon! We puttered around, then did another walk to the beach. There have been some changes, there is a new walking path past what they have always referred to as the Statue Garden, but although you could see into it, there were signs and barbed wire fences indicating we couldn’t visit it. Ah well! A few interesting pieces were on display and there was a small whale skeleton assembled and hanging up beside the path back to the marina.
Not fully grown but plenty big enough!
Anyway – that evening we found a table at Hook Up and enjoyed one of the best meals we have had anywhere and also the sweetest server we have ever met. Also margaritas to die for – and yes, that is plural. Ah well… when in Mexico –
Happy times in a happy place
We opted to stay for another day and catch a cab into town, the plan being to have lunch and walk around for a few hours looking in on places we remembered. However, we were not in the buying mode, so kept our hands firmly in our pockets, although I am always keen to buy shooter glasses when they are different…for the kids, you know.
After oohing and ahhing and spending thousands of dollars in our heads ( lots of fantastic art, some Canadian expat artists, plus amazing Mexican work, which I would be more prone to buy if I were in the market for more art.. which I am not!) we headed back to the marina.
After another delicious but much more restrained meal at The Container … Hook Up…. we retired early in order to get up at the crack of dawn to leave for Muertos.
Our anticipated month or more in the sea of Cortez had dwindled to maybe a few weeks, and when we got the news that the Denman house had an offer in, and Lawrence and his brother accepted it, we found ourselves shaving more time off our remaining days in Mexico. Because we were going to drive the little red truck home, we weren’t stuck with flight tickets that needed to be cancelled and rescheduled and all the financial costs that entails… so we could move up the end of the cruise and plan to start our drive home earlier.
Which made me very sad but as Lawrence pointed out, we have a rather busy and fun summer to look forward to (stay tuned!) so leaving the boat isn’t that much of a hardship. And with any luck we won’t have to wait another twenty months to come back… fingers crossed…touch wood…
We managed to get into Muertos before the sun set, after a rather interesting run that saw us battling pea soup fog- we broke out the fog horn and made our way cautiously, knowing pangas and other fishing vessels seldom use AIS and we really couldn’t see 50 feet around us. An unexpected visitor emerged from the fog – a humpback whale…wonderful to see! The fog eventually cleared in time to get into the anchorage. Vowing to come back when we could stay longer, we left early the next morning at sunrise and made our way up to Isla San Francisco, fog-free this time!
If we thought Muertos was busy! But it wasn’t unexpected, as we have been hearing about how crowded the anchorages were, especially near La Paz. We tucked ourselves in, unable to get as close to shore as we like (facilitates easy swimming and snorkelling) and spent a relatively quiet evening. Surrounding party boats apparently were up all night but our stateroom is down low into the centre of the boat and unless there’s a riot going on we seldom hear much from outside, thankfully.
The next day was perfect for a long haul, so we bypassed some of our favourite anchorages and headed straight for Puerto Escondido. Unfortunately when we e-mailed earlier for a reservation, we were told there were no slips to be had. Hope springs eternal, so we thought maybe when we got there – we could get a spot. It was a great trip up, full of flying manta rays and humpback whales and dolphins…. But the highlight was having a pod of orcas come up to the boat, swim around us for a bit, and dive under the hull. I thought my heart was going to pound out of my chest! Not only was it glorious and exciting but the stabilizers were right there! Hanging down! All I could think of was some whale snapping a stabilizer off…
The other thing was I had all my cameras at hand on the back deck, and the one I grabbed when I ran forward was my still camera. This would have been amazing on the go pro! I was snapping and shaking and screaming and got maybe a few decent shots but whatever- the memories will stay with me forever. The last time we had a pod of orcas go under our boat was 34 years ago in Johnston straight up north. I was pregnant, up on the fly bridge of our little trawler, and Lawrence was down below…. The whales surfaced all around me, and I stomped as hard as I could to alert him that something was happening … To no avail. I think he came back up as the whales glided off into the distance. Unforgettable to me, and I have just one picture of the line of fins splitting the flat calm waters ahead of us.
Anyway.. after our up close and personal experience with the whales, we headed into the bay south of the entrance to Puerto Escondido. Weather seemed amenable to just dropping a hook, rather than trying to snuggle our way into Honeymoon Cove on Danzante. Besides, there were already two sailboats and two very large yachts (REALLY large) anchored out so apparently this was a good anchorage! We talked to Eric on Sprezzatura, and made a date for dinner the next night … we were hoping for a spot on the dock but if need be we could maybe dinghy in- although the torquedo and the little inflatable would make for a long slow trip
A quick email to the marina and lo and behold, we were told there would be a spot on the outer dock for us the next day. hallelujah! In the morning we pulled up the hook and headed in. We had a spot on the far end of the outside dock, behind an absolutely gorgeous huge yacht ( accompanied by its own toy hauler) and next to another pretty impressive vessel. We should have felt insignificant but I refuse to be cowed by huge boats. After all, we are all just there for one thing – to enjoy life on the high seas. Mind you, those boats carry a whole lot of people who are there helping make life easy and fun for the lucky owners… and guests… but hey, who needs the hassle and I think we do a darn good job of taking care of that ourselves!
We checked in with Eric and confirmed our dinner reservations and then went about doing boat stuff. My kayak went into the water and I headed out for a two hour anchorage tour. The weather was glorious and hot and the scenery as usual – fabulous.
That night we met up with Eric for a fantastic dinner (the restaurant has a pizza oven! ) And special Deanna margaritas, named for Deanna off of Bella Luna… I want to stay somewhere long enough that they name a margarita after me! Although that would be quite dangerous… and besides, Lawrence makes the best margaritas on the planet…)(no offense Deanna!)
The next day we sat near the office to try to improve our wifi and to also ask if there was a chance we could stick around another night. Lucky for us someone at the other end of our dock was leaving for a few days so we just slid past the mega yachts and found a spot at the very end…
I also managed to deal with some of the frozen food in our freezer by offering it to Eric – I filled one of his new freezer drawers with meat- he won’t need to shop for a while!
Puerto Escondido has changed somewhat since the first time we anchored off the minimal docks and were shunned by the “circle of knowledge”, a group of the long-time cruisers hanging out in the mooring field and having a daily get together by the small store. It’s grown up a lot, but I still think if I had unlimited funds and was going to invest in a Mexican property I would choose Puerto Escondido. It is one of the more beautiful places we have gone to, between the sea, the islands, and the mountain range looming over it all – stunning and awe-some. In my humble opinion!
Ultimately we were able to score five nights on the dock! Which was great, I was able to do multiple walks and my daily kayak as well as two great meals at the pizza place. Also one of my favourite activities was watching the crew on the large toy-hauler yacht ( a turquoise steel boat made in Holland – very very cool) paint the hull. Once in a while their diligence shamed me into polishing stainless and wiping down the boat – ( after having her washed in Puerto Los Cabos I wanted to keep her looking pretty)… but mostly I just enjoyed chatting to them and giving them thumbs up as they finished yet another section on that rather large bright blue hull. As the one young man said, working on a steel boat gives him job security!
But all good things must end and we wanted to do some anchoring in our favourite spots before we headed to Costa Baja and shut it all down for the season. Our original plan to scoot up to Juanico was shelved as we knew we had to get back in time to drive home, so we headed south again and made it to Agua Verde for our first night back on the hook.
While heading north we had checked in and found a lot of boats anchored there, so had some concerns about our chances of finding room for a few days, but surprise! Almost deserted! we scored a primo spot, the weather was perfect, and although Bruce our shark-shaped pool thermometer indicated the temperature was a chilly 68 degrees I was determined to swim, so jumped in regardless. Yes it was – refreshing…. But felt great. Lawrence decided to follow me but didn’t enjoy the experience and was out again pretty quickly! I’m not sure he actually got wet… he jumped out so fast…
There were several campers parked on the main beach, where there are palapas set up for land-yachts and tenters, and there was a camper on the fishing beach by our anchorage. Also the whole beach has been cleaned up, the old palapa has been torn down and everything is neat and tidy. But the biggest surprise is that the road from town down to the small beach, which was all but impassible for even four by four vehicles, has been repaired, reinforced, and had stonework done and even some cement paving to stabilize what had been a very treacherous road.
We chatted with the couple in the camper and they had talked to the fisherman who lives on the beach and apparently this construction happened recently. I am very impressed! Maybe preparation for Semaine Sante?
Their other news was – unfortunately – not everyone weathered the last few years well. Some strange disease apparently took out the local farmer’s goats and cows, although he still has his mules, which he uses when the small cruise ships arrive and send their clients in for trail rides.
The next day we toured the bay in the little dinghy, and then went to the beach for fish tacos.
We had a fantastic lunch of yellowtail tacos and cold beers at our favourite palapa, chatting up the guys from the sailboat next to us, and enjoying the 30 peso wifi for an hour, then we dinghied back to the boat.
On the advice and guidance of the camper on the beach, we did the hike up one path which takes you past the cemetery and through an “oasis” which is a rather unexpected sight, then “walk along the arroyo towards the road, turn left and go back to the anchorage”… considering the arroyo splits into multiple “paths” we had a jolly time dodging the (always thorny!) trees and cactuses, to finally find our way to the road. Of course it was the hottest part of the day, but it was fun and travelling along the new section of road, looking down at the anchorage and our boat, was a treat.
After two nights, we headed south again for an overnight in San Everisto. One sailboat swung on the hook in front of the fishing village when we arrived, although by the time the sun went down there were several more anchored around us. Again, we noticed the town looked more upbeat and busy, there seemed to me more houses on the beach and lots of activity with pangas and trucks.
We opted out of tacos on the beach this time, although I would have liked to have seen what appeared to be the new improved Taco stand …but… we still had a lot of food to go through!
The next day we bypassed San Francisco although it didn’t look too crowded, and headed straight for Ensanada Grande on Espiritu Santu. There was a chance a Corumel would stir up in the night and that seemed like a good place to go – plus we are fond of the smallest northern lobe of the bay which never seems to be busy. Daily panga parties and kayakers frequent the other larger prettier bays and we wanted to avoid that.
We were the only ones there and had our pick of where to drop the hook. And then – horrors…. A panga with three occupants came roaring up to the beach. The operator jumped out and set up two bright umbrellas and a table of food, and the young couple wandered around. Another panga came in and a larger group got out and clustered around the food table. So much for solitude! But at least it was just the two pangas! And in all honesty, it’s great to see locals making money and the La Paz residents enjoying their beautiful marine park.
The pangas left by four to get their customers home, we had the bay to ourselves, and so we put the dinghy in the water and went ashore for some exploring. This bay has no easy trail to take you to the other side of the island and the beach is very small, so we didn’t get much of a walk but we did take two cold ones and some towels with us. Cold beer on the beach while the sun set …. Doesn’t get much better than that! We also tried to do some garbage collection but I am pleased to report there was very little detritus left by the previous revellers. Nice to see!
That night the wind did indeed blow up, and although we trust the anchor, being in a narrow bay with our stern pointed directly at a rocky cliff and not a sandy beach made for a noisy and sleepless night. We moved the next day to Calle Partida, a much bigger bay in which we have successfully weathered wild winds multiple times. We dropped the hook in the south side of the bay, while all the other boats coming in clustered on the north side, by the shallow sandy beach. They were all sailboats and we began to feel as if there was some sign telling everyone where to anchor… “sailboats over there, powerboats over here… “
We stayed for several nights, enjoying the reprieve from big winds and large party boats. With the dinghy still in the water from the last anchorage we could explore easily, and decided to head to the beach where the fishing huts are located. What we didn’t take into account was the tide… and the increasing size of the sand bar that extends out from the channel between the two islands making up Calle Partida. We had to abandon ship fairly far out and walk…doing the stingray shuffle all the way.
At the fishing camp, I wanted to be respectful and keep our distance but the fisherman who was in residence would have none of that! He invited us in to check out his home, showing us his treasures and smiling and asking us to take our pictures with him. He was delightful! We weren’t sure of protocol and unfortunately don’t carry cash with us when we are exploring, but he was most happy to spend time with us and show us around regardless. Later we could repay his kindness as he came out with a large empty water container and also looking for some sturdy fishing line. We filled his jug and I stripped off a bunch of line from one of my reels. He’d talked to me about pulpo and where he found them, and I had told him I love octopus… I was afraid he would come to us bearing a live octopus for dinner. Luckily that didn’t happen (I do love octopus to eat but I’m moving towards the belief that, although short lived, octopi are sentient beings and I don’t want to eat them.) ( I know…. Weird… I’ll kill fish but not octopus….)
And then it was time to head back to our slip. We hadn’t been there since December, and I know the marina had put the empty space to good use for boats looking for temporary moorage but now it was our turn to tie up there for the summer months. Our decision to maintain a permanent spot at Costa Baja has paid off for us as more and more boaters are looking for space- and space, unfortunately, has become hard to come by.
It was great to get back to our dock – I was most excited about being able to have a few dinners out at our favourite restaurants, but was sadly disappointed when we realized the coffee shop was closed for renovations ( so much for not having to make breakfast!)
The marina shop was stocked with anything I needed so a trip to town wasn’t necessary, and we were able to complete our end-of-cruising-season shut-down in record time. It helps that Lawrence had created a very thorough checklist – many pages worth – to help us get it right.
And then it was time – finally, the little red truck was heading home. Northern Ranger II was cleaned, shut down, and ready for summer, and the truck was loaded with everything we wanted to take off the boat . Our drive would take us up the Baja, from La Paz, to Loreto, Guererro Negro, Ensenada…then the border at Tecate to cross into California. Four days in total, blessedly uneventful and always beautiful. We spent a few days in San Diego, arriving just in time for the Cubar fundraiser dinner, which is always fun! Then as usual we hopped our way through California, Oregon, and Washington, stopping for visits with fellow N50 owners along the way. Very appropriate as these are friends we made on the various Cubar rallies we have been on!
And then we were home, and Mexico-post-covid adventure 2021-2022 was over!
A page from my journal, mapping our journey!