Friday, June 27, 2014


The four weeks we spent in the Sea of Cortez were spectacular, but the time came to move on so we began our journey first south to La Paz for fuel and some provisions.  Along the way, we revisited Agua Verde which absolutely glows at dusk.

Next was an overnight trip around the East Cape to Cabo San Lucas with it's iconic Land's End rocks marking the extreme southern end of the Baja Peninsula. 

When you pass this point, it is almost impossible to not take a selfie with these rocks as a backdrop.  Here' ours:

But inside the man-made harbor, it became obvious that things had changed since John's last landing here in 1971.  

Besides the conspicuous tourist attractions, somebody let the word get out that the sport fishing here is fabulous.  Walk these docks and you'll have no trouble finding a skipper willing to take you out for a day of fishing!

But our mission in Cabo was to clear out of Mexico for San Diego which meant a visit to the Port Captain and Immigration which are at opposite ends of town. The immigration office is upstairs where the clerks seemed to be about as concerned for our needs as their architect was for wheel chair bound disabled customers. Getting up this ramp in a wheel chair looks like it would be a bitch but the trip back to the ground floor has got to be quite a rush!

Our other mission in Cabo was to find a good weather window for the notoriously rough Baja Bash back up the coast.  We lucked out and were on our way the next day, which gave us our last look at the arch called El Arco at Land's End.

We couldn't believe our luck.  Cabo Falso, famous for big wind and steep seas, was a mill pond, about a rough as San Diego Bay. Further up the coast, we found we could roll out the big jib and motor sail at 9 knots.  About the time we were sharing high fives for the great weather we noticed smoke in the engine room.

With Cabo San Lucas and diesel mechanics 85 miles behind us and 700 miles of desert coastline between us and San Diego, and after an hour in the engine room, we finally decided to return for repairs. 22 hours after leaving Cabo, we had our third view of Land's End in four days, this time with a beautiful sunrise.

Returning on a Sunday, besides getting more fuel there was nothing to do but rest until mechanics could start on Monday morning. A day and $500 of snooping later, the mechanics couldn't see a reason not to continue on to San Diego, so we left on Thursday morning before dawn.  On this, our fourth pass around Land's End, we were treated to a setting full moon. 

Missing this time were the calm conditions we'd had a few days before.  Though not terrible, we could definately tell by the sounds Moonshadow made falling off of every wave why they call it the "Bash"!

Still, it's possible to find some beauty in the ocean's majesty even when motor-sailing to windward.

We arrived at Turtle Bay, roughly half way to San Diego, at sunset after 406 miles and 63 hours of smashing bad enough to shake the headliners loose.  We slept like royalty in the peace and quiet of a flat anchorage.

Looking around the bay the next morning, we saw Eagle's Wings, the Westsail 32 that rafted next to Moonshadow through the locks in the Panama Canal.  The last we'd seen Steve, who's single handing Eagle's Wings, was in Costa Rica.  We spoke on the radio and learned he's leaving from Turtle Bay for Hawaii.

Our other business in Turtle Bay was getting fuel for the second leg up to San Diego.  Rather than negotiate the rickety float tied to the even ricketier pier, Jesus arrived to offer us clean fuel in Panga jugs, which hold 50 liters each.  We took twelve, and left that night at midnight.

The next hurtle was the notorious Isla Cedros passage.  We chose to follow the advise of Capt. Jim Elfers, who authored the book "Baja Bash".  Contrary to the prevailing belief that the East side of Isla Cedros with it's 20 miles of calm, protected water in the lee of the island is the only way to go north from Turtle Bay, Jim's advice is to pass the island to windward on the western side.  We enjoyed a easy, smooth ride around Isla Cedros and settled in for a long boring motor up to San Diego.  337 miles and 46 hours later we finally tied to a slip at our beloved San Diego Yacht Club.

We are so happy to be in San Diego, our home for the next four months.  

This is where grandkids can come for a swim-filled visit to Moonshadow.

You can actually get exhausted just watching kids this age have fun swimming for hours!

And your cheeks ache from smiling and knowing memories are being built.

"Gramma, is this enough clothes pins?"

Cool sailors always wear turk's head anklets!

With so much family here, we're  enjoying things like "Grandparent's Day" at Steve (my brother) and his wife Wendy's ranch.  

That includes the grandmas helping their granddaughters dress up.  

Casey is a girl too!

A warm day is an opportunity for more swimming... 

and girl talk...

...and snorkeling in the spa.

Meanwhile, the grand dads did guy stuff fixing ole 9130, a sabot with a lot of history, for the summer junior program this year.

So we're changing gears for a bit.  We will take care of those items on Moonshadow's "To Do" list that cannot be easily done south of the border, visit friends and family, and take a mini cruise up to Catalina.  Then it'll be time to get ready for the "Baja Ha-Ha" rally back to Cabo San Lucas in late October.  

Monday, June 9, 2014

Mexico's secret. The Sea of Cortez

One thing we discovered about Baja and the Sea or Cortez is evident in all of the pictures we took:  There are no cell towers, no internet, no FaceBook... nada.  

While that is actually the charm of this place, it is also why we haven't been able to post to our blog since leaving La Cruz.

It is amazing to realize we are seeing the exact scenes viewed by the original Spaniard Explorers...

...  and the native indians before them.  

Where else do you get that?

The lovely town of Loreto sits right on the Sea of Cortez, but doesn't have a safe anchorage where we are comfortable leaving Moonshadow so we took a taxi from Puerto Escondido a few miles to the south.  Construction on the mountainous road meant we had to stop for 35 minutes each way.  

Loreto is a charming town with the first of all the missions built in "upper' and "lower" California.  We visited at a time when there was nobody there.  This part of the world gets really hot even in May so the season for gringo tourism had already ended.  Many of the shops and restaurants weren't open.  This was the only local we really hung out with.

Back aboard Moonshadow we continued to hop from one gorgeous place to another.

 One never tires of the amazing beauty of this place, or Moonshadow's lovely crew.

To give you an idea of just how remote and small the populated areas are, here's the elementary school at Aqua Verde.

While the human settlements may be sparse, the bee population is thriving.  Moonshadow was visited by bees most places we went and they were only interested in one thing: water 

In this desert climate, beehives get so hot the wax begins to melt. That is when the bees begin to frantically seek water.  Finding water, they return to the hive, deposit the water on the wax honeycomb and fan with their wings to cool it down.  

When we washed the salt water off Moonshadow's decks with some fresh water while sailing to an anchorage called Puerto Ballandra, we were unknowingly providing a treasure of fresh water for the bees.  Evidently in the bee community, word spreads fast because six bees turned into dozens then a few hundred.

Fortunately, they were only interested in the water, not us. Unfortunately, the water those bees sought was trapped in the center cockpit drain where we hang out all day, so that's where all the bees were.  After being forced below, we looked through the screens covering the open port-windows and wondered if this would be a repeat of the swarm of bees we had aboard Moonshadow in Curacao.  In the end, we had to raise our anchor and move to a different location.

Bees or not, all the locations in the Sea are amazing.

Sometimes you need a break from all the beauty here.  Good thing we have a hammock!

The wind in the sea is often impacted by the local surroundings.  Below is a cruising yacht anchored at an island cove off the peninsula with it's bow pointed into the wind.   In the distance, smoke is blowing in the exact opposite direction on the peninsula where inland heat is drawing air from the Sea.
Many places you see this type of wind pattern, called NO WIND. This condition makes it hard to know if you are viewing photos right side up.

Sometimes, Moonshadow is the only evidence of mankind for miles so we carve up the water with our wake.  Kind of like skiing in fresh virgin powder.  Probably.  We've never done that.

We are often reminded who really owns this place.  Though hard to photograph, these large rays jump all the time, often doing backflips before belly-flopping into the water.

Then there is the acrobatic porpoise.   

This day, the water was oily smooth and the sun directly overhead, so it was tough to get a shot of the porpoises swimming under Moonshadow's bow through the opaque mirror surface of the Sea.

Then this fella decided to pop up and roll over for a look at us.  

One of those rare times when the camera was ready.

When the sun starts to head down over the Baja peninsula's mountains, the incredible beauty of the desert and sea begins to transform into colors you only see at dusk.

And we're reminded how this apparent barren desert is filled with thriving plant life.

Even this turtle has to come up for a look at sunset

Can't blame the turtle, check out the view!

Deb, up early doing yoga caught this stunning sunrise.

 Next day, same shot, totally different sunrise.

The only thing that tops all this is the Moonshadow swim up bar...

... followed by a desert moonrise.