Thursday, April 25, 2019

Epilogue, Part I

 Moonshadow has sold

From Tenacatita it is a short hop down to Barra Navidad where the Grand Isla Navidad Resort has a marina offering hotel amenities to their guests aboard yachts.  

We've been here before and liked the place.  
Come on, it has a swim up-bar!!

We needed a place to leave Moonshadow while we flew home for a short visit to celebrate Deb's Dad's 94th birthday. 
But we were back soon, exploring the small town of Barra Navidad. 

We celebrated our 45th wedding anniversary at a delightful restaurant some yachtie friends recommended called Barra Galaria de Arte & Restaurant run by an excellent photographer who displays and sells his photographs in the front gallery.

Back at the hotel we discovered the secret swimming pool on the tenth floor.  The hotel isn't a typical 10 story tower, rather a cluster of several three and four story buildings built on a hillside so finding the secret pool meant finding three elevators and a bridge.

We found the pool nestled between the presidential and gubernatorial suites... 

...but none of the surrounding rooms were occupied 
so we had the place to ourselves.

On the narrow street walking home we passed this restaurant where the kitchen was across the street, so all day and night waiters run back and forth across the street to place and serve orders.  That's Mexico for you!

Back at the marina they have divers who will clean the bottom of your cruising yacht for a decent price.  Since we had just done our bottom up in Tenacatita, we didn't hire a diver.  Good thing too -- we'd hate to have a role in what might happen if a diver met this 3 foot eel we saw in the water.

It seems the more we travel the more we run into friends we've met somewhere else.  Here are John and Gilly Foy, who split their time between LA/Catalina Island on their sailboat, and Punta de Mita where they have a condo.  This time they were cruising with friends of theirs aboard a 65' Offshore trawler from San Diego Yacht Club.  We need more friends like that!

We figured we could take the "taxi aquatico" from the hotel/marina over to the town of Barra for lunch or dinner every day for a month and never eat at the same place twice...

... but like our dock neighbors...

... we had to fly...

... so we soon found ourselves heading south along the coast of Mexico where we were surprised to find this rather large iceberg bobbing along in the tropics.

We had been to Zihuatanejo way back in December of 2013.  December is too early for the regular season and the place was like a ghost town with one other cruising boat anchored in the bay.  This time over 30 cruisers in the anchorage confirmed we were arriving in high season, and just in time for the annual Guitar Fest.

Things seem to change slowly (or not at all) in Mexico.  We have this exact picture from our previous visit.

The waterfront section has several blocks where the streets are closed to all but pedestrian traffic

It's kind of a night time place.  You can walk around in the morning or mid day and have the place to yourselves.  Zihua comes alive for dinner, drinks and music.

The beachside restaurant palapas hadn't changed either.

There's something particularly pleasing about sitting on the beach admiring your home floating out on the water.

March 2019
That hasn't changed since we were here  
before either!

December 2013
Since the town seems to like siesta, we rigged the hammock...


Back in Barra when we had dinner at the Galaria, we told a little fib about our anniversary.  Our actual 45th is on March 9.   It was early March, so here in Zihuatanejo we put on our glad rags and taxied up to El Suspiro for our anniversary dinner.  Overlooking the entire bay, this is a great place to enjoy the sunset.

The bay is pretty magical as it transitions from sunset to night and all the lights come on.

Wow.  45 years...

... another memorable night.  Even if it wasn't exactly our anniversary.

The Guitar Fest is a week of entertainment by fantastic musicians from all over the world.  There are daily performances on the stage on the beach as well as a half dozen dinner concerts at restaurants all around the Zihua/Ixtapa area.

Wearing the tie-dyed guitar shirt made by Tenacatita friends Robert and Virginia Gleser, John was invited on stage.  OK, invited might be a stretch, this was after the opening night performance.

Another musician friend, Geo Ulrich was about to perform his last time for the season up in La Cruz, so we motored back 337 miles in 45 hours, during which we had marvelous sunsets to enjoy.

 Passage sunsets have a unique quality.

Our time in La Cruz was brief.  Just enough time to visit with friends...

... enjoy our anniversary dinner at Masala Bar and Restaurant in La Cruz
on our actual anniversary, March 9 (no lying this time)...

... and see Geo perform.  It's amazing to us that in this small Mexican village you can find and befriend musicians that truly deserve to be on the world stage.  

In La Cruz it is possible to provision for a long voyage, like our trip to the Marquesas in 2016, or this year's tour of the Sea of Cortez.  It's also possible to buy way more than two people can carry.

We looked for a "weather window" for the 377 mile upwind passage to Caleta Partida, just north of La Paz.  For an upwind passage, this is what a desirable weather window looks like:

It was so calm, we could put a glass of water on the table, take a nap, and return to find it still where we left it without a drop spilled.

Not sure what changed, but it seems they can't just call em "full moons" any more. We think this was the "Full Wolf Blood Harvest Worm Gee-Wiz Moon".  What ever it was called,  it was bright enough to read a newspaper.
We got the feeling we being followed by a moonshadow.

And the gifts on this passage just kept coming.  A glance at just the right moment revealed we were making good time.  Anytime we can log 200 miles in 24 hours (and there have been dozens aboard Moonshadow), we're happy.

John even got to update his selfie photo

A trip to the Sea of Cortez inside the Baja Peninsula transports you to a very special world ...

... where the colors outside can invade our living space below deck...

... forcing us on deck for a look around...

... twice each day, sunrise and sunset.  OK, not everybody in Moonshadow's crew makes it up on deck for sunrise, but we try to have some representation.

It turns out there aren't really enough names for places in Baja, so some get recycled.  Here you can find Isla San Diego, Isla Santa Catalina, Isla Santa Cruz, Isla Coronado, and Isla San Francisco, each of which has unique qualities.  We spent some time exploring Isla San Francisco ashore.

Being Springtime, it was fun to see the vibrant new growth on the desert floor.

It doesn't seem to matter where you are, there are surprises everywhere, like this Xray green pelican catching the last available light after sunset.  Actually, the water is so bright and green it's reflected off of this bird's underside belly and wing feathers.

Or, how about some turtles.  Most of them pop up for a brief look around, like this guy, then disappear down into the depths.

Then one morning when the water was absolutely still, this beautiful creature glided past Moonshadow just below the surface, oblivious to the nut with the camera just a few feet overhead.

Then there's the water.  Clear as gin...

... so you can go for a snorkel... 

... while standing on a paddle board...

... and update your selfie shots.

There's always the sunsets, no two the same, and unlike passage sunsets... the Sea, there's always a mountain range getting in the picture.  

And, that's not a bad thing.

We spend the days just soaking in the beauty from aboard Moonshadow...

... or we jump in the dinghy and go for a hike ashore 
to admire the tenacity of these desert plants.

This place is surreal.

 Each day is rewarded with twilight colors.

Birds are prolific in the Sea, from this House Finch taking a rest on Moonshadow's backstay...

... to this Oyster Catcher working the shallow waters at the isthmus between Isla Partida and Isla Espiritu Santo.

On a hike at Isla Coronado, we came upon several Sea Gulls which must have had nests nearby...

... because they sent their security squad out to have a word with us.  

They kept circling and circling saying pretty much the same thing (very loudly) 
over and over.

And, judging by the stink-eye they gave us, they meant it.
It worked.  We beat a hasty retreat.

There's no internet most places, which isn't the worst thing in the world, but it's hard to get lost in a book when every time you look up, there's incredible beauty just there, above the bookmark.

And then, there's the sunsets.

With all the raw natural beauty around us, this seemed a bit of a contrast:  Stephen Spielber's 282' yacht "Seven Seas".  

If the legendary (and rich) film maker wasn't aboard then whoever was also has big bucks.  We've learned the weekly charter rate is 1.3 Million dollars US.  For that, your party of twelve can be waited on by a crew of 26.

I guess for that kind of dough, you should expect a half million dollar 33' 40 knot twin diesel Riva Yacht Tender to emerge from the port side garage door.

That's all fine, Mr. Spielberg, but we're fine with our 10' inflatable.  
Yeah, nah, we're good.

When we took the drone up for a tour, we got what you could call a bird's eye view of good ole Moonshadow in the quiet water of Isla San Francisco.

Of all the places we've visited aboard Moonshadow, there's really just no place like the Sea of Cortez.

There are several salt flats in these parts.  Very hard, very flat and very bright...

...and surrounded by pink volcanic rock and spring foliage.

At San Juanico, we took a hike that gave us a great view of the anchorage.

We circled back and took the road to a nearby ranch for some vegetables.  Along the way, we saw some sea cliffs from a time long ago when the sea and waves were here, eroding the sand stone beneath its crust of volcanic rock, over a mile from the current water's edge.

At the ranch, we met Ernesto, 

who cut our veggies...

... and sold us some goat's milk cheese and fresh eggs

Just look at the rich colors!  Amazing what a fresh water spring can do in the desert.

We had a bit longer leg from San Jaunico up to the mouth of the huge bay called Bahia Conception, so we left early in the morning.  Early enough to enjoy the sunrise over the Sea of Cortez.  

But this was an odd one.  Some weather phenomenon (maybe an inversion?) caused the sun to appear up to an arbitrary horizontal line through which it couldn't penetrate.  So we saw this squashed pancake sun for a while.

We anchored in a bay called Bahia Santo Domingo where the next morning, the wind was measured by a very sophisticated method  (a wet finger held in the air) and found to be exactly zero knots.  

Later we thought we heard some wind in the rigging so went topside to have a look. Things were not too bad but to the north the water on the horizon was so dark it looked black.  This anchorage was exposed to the north so we got ready to move on south in Bahia Concepcion.  By the time we got the anchor up, it was blowing twenty knots.  Five minutes later it was 27.  Eventually the wind peaked at 32-35 knots, and the bay looked like this:

Safely tucked into Playa Santispac in Bahia Concepcion, we found we could once again enjoy a cool drink while admiring our floating home.

Our version of valet parking.

At another anchorage called Playa El Burro, we met a local who gave us directions to Bertha's Restaurant.  She said look for the Tecate sign hanging by one hook.  You can't miss it.

Besides the most delicious margaritas we've had in a loooong time, it was fun to see the decor which featured several old 78 RPM vinyl records hung along the palapa poles. 

Not sure how long it's been since either of us last saw the
 RCA Victrola Dog logo.

One afternoon, we noticed a large dark patch in the water and at first thought we should re-anchor to stay clear.  But it moved.  As it swam by we realized this slow moving spotted dark patch was actually a large whale shark, maybe 22 feet long.

It circled around for an hour but never quite close enough to get a descent photo.  But the next afternoon "Spots" was back, and a little less shy with Moonshadow's dark hull.  From our crow's nest on the lower spreaders, we could capture our friend Spots through the lens of a camera.  Just magnificent!

On our way south from Bahia Concepcion, we stopped at a beautiful place called Honeymoon Cove.   The longer we stayed the better we liked it.

With big boulders just below the surface, this was a great place for paddle board snorkeling

And, like everywhere in the Sea of Cortez...

...the last couple of hours of daylight always delight!

There was a bit of haze in the sky, but the sunset peaked underneath just enough to paint the sky in a beautiful way.

As it turned out, this magic hour lingered a little longer.  The second full moon since leaving La Cruz made itself known in the nook of the hills, through the hazy sky, leaving a pretty moon river in the water.

And as the last light of the day faded away...

..we still had a soothing light show.

As we continued south, now a month in the Sea, the sights continued to amaze.  They sort of speak for themselves:

Friends from San Diego Yacht Club, Neal and Ruthie Schneider, who have just completed an eight year circumnavigation aboard their Contest 48 Rutea were in the area and recommended a spot they'd heard of at the northeast end of Isla San Jose.  We joined them for a night there and weren't disappointed.

The place is peppered with large caves. Besides some big shallow caves like the one Deb and Ruthie are bravely posing beneath.  Good thing gravity didn't decide to put on a show that day!

 There are other caves we discovered that you can enter from one beach and exit on another beach separated by a rugged rocky point.

A short dinghy ride to the north from our anchorage, several similar ocean caves form arches large enough to navigate through in the dinghy.

 We slowly motored in our dinghy through three of these arches.

The aquatic venue we'd discovered quite accidentally was... 

Normally this rugged point at the north end of the island where north winds prevail would be a terrible place to anchor for the night as it is exposed to wind and waves from any of half the points on the compass, but as Rutea beautifully demonstrates in yet another colorful twilight show, this night was settled enough to allow us a rare treat.

Further down the eastern coast of Isla San Jose, we came upon an anchorage briefly described in Shawn and Heather's excellent Sea of Cortez guide, aptly called Punta Colorada

A jaw dropping display of geology here goes on and on with a variety of stratified sandstone, volcanic rock, tilting and eons of erosion reminded us of Utah's Moab and the Grand Canyon.

We considered dropping the hook here but opted not to spoil the moment for the solitary boat that had found one of the most beautiful spots imaginable.  It's on the list for next time though!

Next time?  Ah, there's the rub.  

Back in La Paz, we're preparing Moonshadow for her third "Baja Bash" back to San Diego.  Both of our previous Bashes rank pretty high among the least comfortable passages.  But it's over fast and soon forgotten.  Sort of.

But as for next times, we just don't know.  Our plans for now are to begin a search for a home.  You know, the kind that is permanently aground, doesn't float and never will.  Then, it will be time for another (lucky) family to steer Moonshadow on to her next adventures.  

But don't worry.  
There'll be another boat, and other blogs from 
Mexico and who knows where else.  

How could there not be?