Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Exploring the Sea of Cortez Part One - March 28 to April 1: Caleta Lobos to San Evaristo

Leaving La Paz and Caleta Lobos

After one last Zumba class, one last almond croissant, and the purchase of a few boat supplies from Lopez Marine, we lifted our anchor at La Paz in the early afternoon of Monday, March 28. 
Joanneke and Doug drinking IPA at Harkin SUP in La Paz

Last night in La Paz-- dancing in the street with Jan and Joanneke
 As it was later in the day we decided to only go as far as the Caleta Lobos anchorage, ten miles north of the city.  We stopped along the way to top up our fuel at Marina Costa Baja and oogled Steve Jobs’ incredible yacht which was moored there.  

Ka'sala at the bow of the late Steve Job's high tech yacht at Marina Costa Baja
Sailing with our friends Jan and Joanneke aboard Witte Raaf, we were expecting to drop anchor in Caleta Lobos on that hot afternoon for a swim and a relaxing evening with an early-to-bed.  Why is it nothing turns out as planned?  Within minutes of dropping the hook we were set upon by a cloud of bobos, the most obnoxious of flies, which look like black flies but don’t bite.  Instead, they flit into your eyes and ears, crawl along your hairline, tickle up your arms, and try to join you for dinner.  Ugh!  We put in ourscreens and cowered below, eating a simple supper.  Then the wind picked up.  Caleta Lobos is a great anchorage, except when winds come from the west.  Guess where they came from?  Straight in from the west.  From my journal I wrote:

Soon as the sun set a south westerly wind began and quickly increased, giving us 20+ knots of wind throughout the night.  The seas built and in a couple hours we were hobby horsing through close set white caps, driven across the Bay of La Paz and into the anchorage.  We had the AIS anchor watch on and we held fast on the lee shore.  It was so bumpy, I moved from my forward berth into one of the settees and rigged the lee cloth.  Both of us slept fitfully.  In the morning I was scared to leave and scared to stay but, in the end, common sense prevailed and we departed about 7am.  It was a bit tricky getting the anchor up, as we leaped up and down, but I got it up and tidied away without falling overboard or getting too wet.  Doug cranked up the engine rpm to motor against the wind and waves out of the bay and - we were free!

Caleta Lobos on a calm day - we were in the upper middle bay (picture from SV True North blog)
Our original plan had been to go from Caleta Lobos to Caleta Partida, an anchorage between Isla Espiritu Santos and Isla Partida to do some hiking.  From there we would continue on to Ensenada Grande and Isla Islotes to swim with the sea lions.  Unfortunately, these anchorages would also be exposed to the south westerly winds predicted to continue at night over the next few days.  Instead, we decided to move out of the Bay of La Paz, where these winds were the strongest, and head for San Evaristo, a small bay and fishing village on the Baja mainland 45 nautical miles north.  After our dramatic start to the day, we found ourselves motor sailing by the early afternoon and arrived in San Evaristo a few hours later. 

Beachfront - village of San Evaristo
Unfortunately, our dream of a calmer anchorage was not to be.   As I wrote in my journal at the time:

We have been getting to know our anchoring gear a lot better these last few nights as we find ourselves in more exposed areas.  At 8pm the wind comes up as if a switch has gone off.  It blows in from the west and accelerates down through the mountains - upwards of 30 knots.  Ka’sala dances back and forth on the chain and the wind generator howls.  Fortunately, in San Evaristo, there is no fetch and we are not on a lee shore.  It is a sobering thought, however, when you look out into the pitch black, star-studded sky and try to imagine dealing with a dragging anchor.  We never want to find out!

Ka'sala downwind on the way to San Evaristo (Joanneke photo)
San Evaristo

We stayed in San Evaristo for three days, waiting for the westerly winds to play themselves out. There was a steady flow of sailboats in and out and it felt like the bay was a transient spot for sailors moving up and down the coast.  The inside of the bay was lined with a white sand shell beach.

The road leading to San Evaristo
Set just behind the berm was a series of fish shacks and we watched with fascination as the pangueros went about their business.  They had several floats in the bay with huge blue barrels filled with what I think was bait.  We watched them transit back and forth between them, the beach and out to sea.  Behind the shacks was a tiny village with an even smaller church.  It’s illuminated cross is a beacon for the returning fishermen.  Behind the village, the steep, striated craigs and cliffs of the Gigante Mountains form a surreal backdrop.  Illuminated in sun and moonlight, their unusual colours and shadows give San Evaristo a moody vibe.  There is no electricity, but the hum of generators could be heard, especially from the desalination plant during the day.

Ka'sala and Witte Raaf in the San Evaristo anchorage looking east to  Islan San Jose
We also went for a hike along a dirt road leading to an area of salt pans and up into the hills beyond.  

Rough hiking through the cactus and prickly bush

Jan and Doug on the way to the salt pans

Looking at the salt pans from the hills
We had kayaked to the beach and, as we were dragging them ashore, we were joined by Bobby, a medium sized brindled dog who proceeded to accompany us for the rest of the day. 

Bobby loved having his ears scratched (Joanneke photo)

We passed a couple of rancheros behind the salt pans and continued back to the village to visit Maggie Mae’s – a little restaurant on the beach.  She made us some of the best fish tacos I have ever had, accompanied by ice cold cervasa.

Ranchero - notice the solar panel (Joanneke photo)
Bobby lay panting beside us.  While waiting for our lunch, Joanneke and Doug painted our boats on enormous chocolata clam shells.  These small works of art would join many others decorating Maggie Mae’s patio.

We're looking forward to seeing this shell in the collection next year
We learned from her that there were about 50 families living in San Evaristo, but not at the same time.  Most of the children go to school in La Paz during the week accompanied by one parent and staying with family.  It takes three hours to get to La Paz on dirt back roads.  Although there is a small, local, primary school, there is no regular teacher.  Instead, student teachers come on a three month cycle to educate the 15 or so students in Grades 1 – 6.  Although most families get their groceries in La Paz, there is a fruit and veggie truck that comes to visit once a week and a buyer comes regularly to purchase the fish from the locals and those who live on the outer islands.  There are three “fancy” houses in town inhabited by “important” people such as the director of the fishermans’ collective.   San Evaristo seems a vibrant place, though I wonder if the children will return, full time, once their education is complete?

Imagine living in this San Evaristo landscape!  (Joanneke photo)

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