Which Way is the Wind
August 31, 2016
After stocking up on groceries and fuel for a month, we departed Santa Rosalia for Isla San Marcos. Isla San Marcos is about 10 miles southeast of Santa Rosalia, and we had past it when we came north. However, we wanted to make the stop to check out the island before heading north again.
While in Santa Rosalia we met up with Adios, a Canadian boat, that we previously met in Bahia Agua Verde. Aboard Adios was Dale, his girlfriend Lana, and Lana’s two kids, Richard (18) and Alex (15). Lana and Alex had to fly back to Canada for the start of the school year, but Richard was staying aboard with Dale for the next few months. They were taking a similar path north as us, so we decided to buddy up with them for this part of our trip.
We left Santa Rosalia late afternoon as the sun was heading for the hills. There was no wind, so we had to motor to get there before dark. We always have the trolling lines out, and just as we were approaching the island we hooked a Dorado (Mahi Mahi)! This was the first one we have seen all summer, despite it being the right season to catch them. It was a little one and Mike didn’t feel right about keeping the baby Dorado, so he got to swim on. But, we thought this was a good sign and maybe our fishing luck was going to turn around.
We anchored in a beautiful, rocky anchorage called Sweet Pea Cove. It is protected by some rocky outcroppings to the north. There isn’t a beach to land on shore, but there were lots of interesting rock formations. I took the paddleboard out several mornings along the coast line to check out the shore. There are hidden caves where you can hear the water rushing in and out under the rocks. Along shore there were lots of bones of fish and birds, and I saw one set of bones that must have been a dolphin or whale. The vertebrae were huge!
One of the reasons we wanted to stop at Isla San Marcos was to explore a couple of sea caves that were mentioned in our cruising guide. The first morning here, Mike & I picked up Dale and Richard on Adios with all our snorkel gear and headed about a mile northeast of Sweet Pea Cove to find the sea caves. These were definitely different caves than we discovered at El Refugio. The openings to the two caves we found were not quite big enough to squeeze the dinghy into. So, we anchored the dinghy, put on the snorkel gear and swam through the opening. Inside the caves the ceiling had eroded so that they were open to the sky. The larger of the two caves we went into had a rocky beach that you could walk on. They really were cool to see and definitely worth the trip.
After exploring the caves, we swam out to do a little snorkeling. Unfortunately, we were a bit disappointed with the snorkeling. The water was quite a bit colder here than when we were farther south at Isla Carmen. I don’t know if the water temperature was the cause, but we probably only had about 10 feet of visibility. We saw some cool fish, but not nearly in the numbers or variety that we saw south of here. The water was also thick with some type of jellyfish. These were not what I normally think of jellyfish, as you could not even see them. They were more like strings in the water, no thicker than a strand of hair. But when they wrap around your hands, arms, ankles, face, etc. they sting like crazy. Fortunately, they only sting for a couple of minutes, but it was still pretty annoying and did not make us want to stay in the water for too long.
Having seen the sea caves that we came for, and given the lack of good conditions for snorkeling or diving, we were ready to head to our next destination, Bahia San Francisquito. Bahia San Francisquito is 90 miles north, which means at 5 kts it will take us about 18 hours. So, our plan was to leave late afternoon and do an overnight sail to Bahia San Francisquito. Other than Santa Rosalia, there really are not any good anchorages in between Isla San Marcos and Bahia San Francisquito.
The winds in the Sea of Cortez are generally predictable based on the season. In the winter, there are mostly northerly winds, and in the summer there are mostly southerly winds. But, of course, sometimes nature just isn’t predictable. We started looking at the weather forecast and saw that the winds were predicted to come out of the northwest for the next couple of days. This is exactly in the direction we need to go to Bahia San Francisquito. If you sail, you know what that means! You can’t sail directly upwind. And, we really did not want to motor for 18 hours. So, we made the decision to wait.
We’ve now been here for 4 days and are ready to go. The winds have finally shifted around from the south which will make for a pleasant downwind sail this afternoon and evening. So, what have we been doing for 4 days? Normally I would hope to tell you that we have been doing a lot of swimming and snorkeling, but with the visibility and jellyfish we haven’t been in the water much.
Mike has been out fishing every day and took Richard along a few times for company. And, they had great success. The first day Mike caught a Sierra. We were surprised by this as our fish guide said winter was the season to catch Sierra, not summer. They are beautiful fish. They are long, narrow fish with silvery blue skin with yellow spots on them. When Mike filleted the fish it was almost meat. I had never cooked or eaten Sierra, but it turned out perfect. It was such a light and flaky fish and absolutely delicious!
Then, Mike & Richard came back with two Dorado. They weren’t huge for Dorado, but they were big enough to eat. They are also very beautiful and colorful fish. After cleaning the fish and putting them on ice, we had a happy hour with Mahi Mahi sashimi. We sliced some jalapeno on top and a little ponzu sauce. So fresh and delicious! The rest of the Mahi Mahi was baked for dinner.
Aside from my daily paddle boarding here, I’ve been practicing my ukulele while Mike has been out fishing. I’m still pretty terrible, but getting better! Hopefully I’ll have a few songs in my repertoire before long. It’s fun though.
I’ve also been playing with the Starwalk app on the iPad that I previously mentioned. There is no moon right now in the night sky (I forgot what that is called). It is deliciously dark out at night. The stars are absolutely amazing and the Milky Way streaks across the sky. So, I was out on deck the other night and it was so still and calm with absolutely no wind. But, all around us I could hear the sounds of the sea. There was a pod of dolphins not too far away, but in the dark too far to see. I kept straining my eyes to see if I could catch a glimpse of them, but I could see nothing. All I could hear was their breath as they came up for air, the splashes as they jumped out of the water, and I’m guessing what must have been some sort of feeding frenzy at one point. Very cool.
Last night we had a bit of rain, so this morning before the sun came over the hills and onto the deck of the boat, there was still quite a bit of moisture. Well, that drew out the bees. I’ve mentioned the bees before. They are really annoying. If they smell fresh water, they come swarming. I’m so glad we got the screens done on the boat, because we were basically trapped in the boat all morning with the swarm of bees outside. Again, annoying. But, once the sun was overhead and dried off the decks, the bees disappeared back to wherever they came from.
So, we’re getting ready to head to Bahia San Francisquito this afternoon. I have my fingers crossed that the water will be better up there, because we love being in the water. So, wish us luck!