Isla Partida - Hike up to the cave at El Cardonal

Next up was a hike to a cave up on the cliffs of the El Cardonal anchorage. The previous day Loose Pointer hiked up here and told us it was well with the climb - and it was quite a climb, both up and down!

From the cave we got a great vantage point for viewing an abandoned oyster farming operation. This bay has several rock structures just below the surface of the water. In the cave, there was some modern pictographs - looks like some kids had fun with paint. Tara and Casey, somehow I could see you two doing that when Adventure was in the Sea of Cortez a few years ago!

In the afternoon we moved on to El Candelero (The Candlestick) anchorage for a final (but unfortunately very rolly) night before heading back to La Paz for Christmas. El Candelero has some really neat rock structures in the shallow bay.

View from the cave

Modern "pictographs" in the cave

Abandoned oyster farm

Another incredible view

Looking up at the cave, it was steeper than it looks

El Candelero


Isla Partida - Hike across the island at El Cardonal

We decided to spend the last few nights back at Isla Partida, before heading back to La Paz for Christmas. Isla Partida remains our favorite place in the Sea of Cortez so far - this time we went to the El Cardonal (Thistle Bay) anchorage.

El Cardonal has a shallow valley all the way across the island, and we all, at various times, hiked it - a bit under a mile each way through mangroves, cactus, a pretty valley, then finally up a rocky hill to the East side of the island. Another incredibly beautiful place!


Isla San Jose

Our next stop was Isla San Jose, where we anchored in La Amortajada (The Shroud). While not as beautiful an anchorage as most of the others, it's unusual and interesting in it's own right, and had good opportunities for beach combing.

There's a large mangrove swamp, which we tried to explore by dingy but the tide was already too low so we couldn't make it inside.

The beach is also unusual, as it's very steep and rocky - it looks exactly like a manmade levy. On the top are hundreds of dead puffer fish, along with sticks and various bits of trash - all of which we guess washed up during storms as it's well above the high-tide line.

The rays were really neat, in the evenings they would skip across the water and slap it, which is quite loud. We didn't get any video of it, but you can watch somebody else's video of the phenomenon here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3b2pxGxCccg.


The Village of San Evaristo

Our next stop was the village of San Evaristo. This tiny village is nestled in between a small bay and some incredibly rugged mountains. The community fishes, has a number of salt evaporation ponds, and runs livestock - cows that we saw, but supposedly goats as well. A number of burros walked the streets, but unfortunately we didn't get any pictures of them, although they were really, really cool to see, especially the babies.

The main reason we stopped in San Evaristo, other than being a nice anchorage, is because it's the closest tienda, or store, to The Islands. When cruisers need to stock up on more food, but aren't quite ready to go back to La Paz, this is where they go.

Here's a picture of the tienda:

You can see why at first we weren't sure if we were at the right place, but a small sign indicated that this was the "Super Mini", so we were at the right place. In fact, this is apparantly quite common for the tienda in small villages - which is just a room off of somebody's house. There is no electricity here, so it's dark inside. That also means there's no refrigeration - though a number of cold goods are kept on ice in an old, upturned refrigerator out on the front porch. Inside, they had a surprisingly good selection of various foods, including fresh vegetables. A truck comes twice a week from La Paz with a fresh load of groceries - and all the cruisers come into the anchorage and pretty well clean out the tienda within a couple of days of restocking.

This is the REAL Baja California, and it's a lot of fun!

The mountains around San Evaristo, as you can see from the pictures below, are just more incredible Baja landscape. There's a great picture of Pelicans inflight, which we happened to take by nothing more than chance. There are a LOT (and we mean a LOT) of pelicans in the Sea of Cortez. Their dawn and dusk fishing rituals are great to watch, though sometimes the loud splash they make when they dive into the water right next to the boat can be startling!


Isla San Francisco

Our next stop was at Isla San Francisco. Again, just another incredible island with it's own unique features. The bay is large, with a big crescent shaped beach of white sand. Another popular anchorage, there were many boats here, in The Hook anchorage, as it's commonly referred to.

We hiked up one of the bluffs (getting some great pictures of Jane'O in the anchorage), and then along the ridge to the East side of the island, where there were lots of agates, shells, and more Sally Lightfoot crabs.

As mentioned before, the geology of the islands in the Sea of Cortez is just absolutely incredible. Each island is unique, but with some commonalities. For example the Eastern shores tend to be steep and rocky, with few beaches and coves. The Western shores tend to slope up out of the sea, with lots of coves and white sand beaches.

We explored the next little bay to the North, Caleta Las Cuevas, by dingy and kayak. It is sometimes used as a camp by conch fisherman. While nobody was there when we visited, there are thousands upon thousands of conch shells littering the bay and beach. This is a spot worthy of exploration, with some incredible volcanic rocks and lots of urchins and starfish.

Next we are heading up to the small village of Evaristo, as there is a small tienda and we need to purchase a few food items before returning to La Paz in a week.


Isla Espirito Santos and Isla Partida

From La Paz, we headed up into what are locally referred to be cruisers as "The Islands" - a grouping of roughly a dozen islands in the Sea of Cortez spread out over 100 miles North of La Paz. The islands are incredible - amazing geology of shapes and rocks, great plants, and lots of wildlife both ashore and in the sea.

Our first island stop was at Islas Espiritu Santo and Partida - two islands attached by a shallow sand spit, which the sea meanders through at high tide. We explored three different coves here, each unique in their own way, and each just fantastic. We buddy boated from here with fellow Haha entrants, and new friends, Loose Pointer and Neener Neener Neener. The Loose Pointer crew are veterans of the Sea of Cortez and we've learned a ton from them, including some anchorages that few people know about, are generally ignored - if mentioned at all - in the cruising guides, and which we'd otherwise have missed.

First stop was at Caleta Partida – one of the most popular coves. There were about 10 Haha boats in total anchored here, resulting in sundowners on the beach one evening, which was a lot of fun - as the dozen or so kids and teenages played on the beach and in the water. The crew of Jane'O generally lazed about here, with some exploration of the bay, shoals, and beaches by kayak and dingy.

We went with Loose Pointer up to Los Islotes to swim with the sea lions, which was really neat, though the crew of Jane'O didn't get too close to them.

Next, we anchored in Caleta Cardoncita. This is a cove generally ignored and skipped. It's narrow and not a very deep cove, but absolutely one of our favorite anchorages. The canyon walls are very steep, with lots of Sally Lightfoot crabs on the rocks along the walls, and decent snorkeling. At the end of the cove is a nice beach, with the canyon continuing up into the mountain of the island. This is not a place to anchor if you aren't comfortable being within 150' of the canyon walls, but holding is good if you can find a good sand patch for the anchor. We really enjoying waking up each morning to the high canyon walls, and were never disturbed by pangas - or anyone else for that matter.

Our last anchorage on this trip through this pair of islands was Ensenada Grande. This is a large set of three coves, and another popular anchorage - though we had our lobe to ourselves and our two buddy boats most of the time. This anchorage had some of the best opportunities for some off-the-boat recreation so far! Lots of neat coves, rocks, and caves to explore by kayak. Four neat beaches to explore and swim. Plenty of great hiking, up the bluffs and arroyos.

We will certainly return to this pair of islands when we head back to La Paz, as well as on future trips further North into the Sea of Cortez.

Here's some various pictures from the three anchorages from this visit. It just doesn't get much better than this!

We are back in La Paz!

We are back in La Paz for a week or so after a fabulous time exploring Isla Espirito Santo, Isla Partida, Isla San Francisco, Isla San Jose, and San Evaristo. Keep an eye out for blog postings over the next week for the backlog of postings from this trip!


Off to cruise the islands in the Sea of Cortez

After two wonderful, and generally relaxing, weeks here in La Paz, today we head off to cruise a few of the islands in the Sea of Cortez - Espiritu Santo, Partida, San Francisco, and San Jose.

La Paz has been great. We've generally had way too much good food, but have shared many great days and evenings with cruising friends we've met along the way. La Paz is the point where boats tend to spread out, as some go North into the sea, and some cross over to the mainland, and others head back around to the Pacific side destined back to the US. It's always tough to say goodbye to friends, whether we've known them for years, or just a few weeks!

We had a fabulous traditional Thanksgiving meal with two other boats - turkey, potatoes, stuffing, pumpkin pie, and all sorts of other good stuff. Lots of fun with great company.

La Paz is a comfortable place to stay, and a hard place to leave - with lots of great food, good shopping, excellent transportation, and friendly people.

We'll be offline for the next couple of weeks or so, but when we return to a place with internet we'll have pictures to share of our trip to the islands. We realized that we haven't really taken any pictures of La Paz, or anything at all, other than when we first got here.


We have arrived in La Paz!

Well here we are in La Paz! It's really crazy here because of the Baja 1000 race, which ended here a couple of days. There were loud parties until 2AM or later that last couple of nights (making it difficult to sleep), and then a parade started up around 8AM lasting well into the afternoon with bands, and music, and all that good stuff. We anchored off the Malecon - the waterfront road, so had a decent view of all the activities. Pretty crazy, and hopefully it will quiet down over the next few days. Though the parade was a lot of fun to watch...

Looks like we are stuck out in the anchorage. The marina in town is full, and one just on the outskirts, while having plenty of slips and end ties, won't accommodate our catamaran (even though we would fit just fine - they just won't let us rent the slips). As with Cabo San Lucas, anchoring in La Paz requires an anchorage fee paid via an API office. Marina La Paz has a nice dingy dock for 15 pesos a day, and then we can drop off our trash (and fill up water jugs if needed). We will keep trying for a slip as we have well over 1000 miles of accumulated salt buildup to wash off the boat! You have to have done some ocean cruising to really understand how much salt buildup you get on everything exposed to weather on the boat - and we do mean everything!

[UPDATE: We are now safely tucked into Marina de La Paz for the the next week or so. This will give us a bit better protection for the northern that supposed to blow in here later this week. Thank you SO MUCH Marina de La Paz for finding room for us.]

Yesterday afternoon we walked to a great supermercado and picked up about the max amount of food three people can carry a mile back to the boat without needing a taxi.

More from La Paz soon! We plan to be here until after Thanksgiving, which we plan to spend with some of the other Haha boats we've met and become good friends with.

Goofy statue

Yet another sky picture, over La Paz

La Paz from the anchorage

Balandra Bay

We spent several days in Balandra Bay before moving on, because we enjoyed it so much. Lots of great swimming and beach combing, Chris added some great shells to her collection from beaches around the area.

Here you can walk out about 1/3 of a mile at low tide in the sand shoals, but watch out for stingrays!

This is a pretty special and unique place, with lots of opportunities for activities...

Mushroom rock
All alone in the anchorage

Balandra Bay

Another beautiful sky picture, we can't get enough of these!

Bahia de los Muertos

Bahia de los Muertos was our next anchorage. This is traditionally called the Bay of the Dead, but in order to make it sound more appealing to developers selling real estate around the new golf course, it has been renamed to Bahia de los Suenos - the Bay of Dreams.

Muertos is a wonderful, beautiful bay, although not nearly as primitive as Frailes. Many houses are being built here (they have electricity), and there is a hotel and a great little cantina where we spent a couple of afternoons that turned into evenings over food and drinks with other Baja Haha'ers we've been cruising in lock-step with.

We left Muertos for Balandra and decided to fish using a lure that Valparaiso gave us, and we went from being skunked after days of fishing to having fish-on within 5 minutes! It was a small Black Skipjack, about five pounds. Weird fish, the meat is black. 

Great cantina overlooking the anchorage

The beach

Anchorage. Houses are being built all on the hill

Jacob's skipjack! A small keeper at around 5 pounds

Bahia Los Frailes

Bahia Los Frailes is one of our favorite places so far in Mexico. It's on the rugged frontier inside Pulmo Reef National Park. Basically a fishing camp, although there are a few beautiful houses (but no electricity). The hotel closed some time ago, and there is otherwise not much here but miles of beautiful beach.

The bay (Friar's Bay) gets it's name from a large rock formation which, with enough imagination, looks like a bunch of Friars climbing up the mountain.

We did lots of swimming here, and had a few nice walks on the beach.

Note that there is now a fee of 50 pesos per-person per-day to use the park, which includes anchoring. Collection of the fees is not clear nor consistent - they went around to many boats to collect, but not all - and they didn't end up charging us the full charge. I guess they've found out how much cruisers like the anchorage and found a way to profit, not sure, but just a note to others planning to anchor here.

A few pictures from Bahia Los Frailes:

The anchorage from atop the sand dunes

Incredible sun rises every morning here

Beach and Friar's rock (all the way on the right)

Landscape across the dunes. Reminds me of Wyoming badlands

Cabo San Lucas

We had a pretty relaxing time in Cabo, even though it's a busy place, as long as we stayed on the boat - despite constantly being buzzed in the anchorage by jet skis, parasailors, party boats, and pangas. Cabo itself is not a very inspiring or interesting city, as they go. It's hot, and way too touristy. You can't walk by anything without attempts to usher you into a restaurant with 2 for 1 drink specials, or asking if you need a taxi, or want to charter a fishing boat, or buy junk. "No Gracias" means NO, guys!

Still, we managed to get what we needed done - we are cleared into the country (except for the boat import which we can't do until La Paz anyway). We had all our laundry done, so we have fresh clothes to wear. We got a few provisions from the supermercado, and Chris and Scott walked 2 miles each way to the Wal-Mart for a few other things.

We were very happy to be leaving Cabo for a few quiet anchorages before our next stop in La Paz.

A word to Cabo San Lucas bound cruisers - the marina is VERY expensive, expect to pay US$125-150 a night. We stayed in the anchorage the whole time, which also is not free. Each anchored boat has to find their way to the port's API office and pay an anchoring fee, which depends on the size of the vessel. The actual policy on anchorage fees is not clear, nor is it easy to find the necessary information on where and how to pay.

Here's a few more pictures from Cabo:

The Cabo anchorage
Hotels... Hotels Everywhere!

The cape - neat rocks!

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