Sunday, December 1, 2013

Baja Sur: Down to Cabo

Baja Sur: A Change in the Weather… and water temperature!

Hello again from the healthy and happy crew of Sound Discovery! We’re getting a little ripe, but managed to take a few dunks in the ocean to clean up along the way. No one has gotten deathly ill from our restaurante adventures in town, although we did invest in a strong anti-diarrheal drug for our first-aid kit. Almost immediately after leaving Bahía Tortugas the weather took a welcoming turn for the better. We’ve had warm sun and following winds every afternoon, with calm mornings. 

You might have noticed that I changed not only the blog image heading, but I also updated the "Schedule" page and the "Galley Time" page. Both of those you can access in the tool bar. If you're interested in reading about our Mexican cooking, check out the galley page after you read the blog.

Our Bahía Tortugas visit ended very comically with a one-armed-man named Pedro. Pedro, we had been told from other yatistas, was a great help, who could always be hailed on VHF 16. Turns out, you don’t need to hail Pedro at all… Pedro hails you. Pedro spends his says on the fuel dock, finding yatistas to “help” ensuring that it is his job to be security for all touristas. Now, Pedro, being a one-armed-man, seems to attract the sympathy of all the aging yachties that come into town, and probably makes out like a bandit in propinas (tips).
Pedro sits up top Enrique's Fuel Dock.
Throughout our day in town, Dad and I had seen Pedro several times, and he seemed to be very attentive to us, also telling us of a big party that was happening that night. Clif, willing to see what Pedro had to offer, allowed him to take us to “the party,” which turned out to be a very empty discoteca (night club) where his friend worked. We thanked him for the advice, and told him we needed to get dinner…. Not drinks. Pedro again said, “Es ok, es ok, I show you…” pointing to his eyes and waving his one arm. He promptly brought us to another friends taco stand, next to the discoteca. Clif and I tried with a little more effort to say “Thank you, but NO thank you,” in Spanish, but the point wasn’t getting across. Pedro insisted that he was our bodyguard for the evening and he would keep up safe and have a good time. And gosh darn it, he better be getting a good tip.

Looking back, I should have told Pedro right off the bat that we didn’t have enough money for a tip… or maybe even that we wouldn’t give him a tip. Upon hearing that, he probably wouldn’t have wasted his time.

But all went well.

Pedro did end up showing us a nice restaurant in a local home, and we did convince him finally that Clif and I did not want to party that night. He walked us back to the dock, received a small tip from me (funny how the word ‘propina’ is one that I remember very clearly form the restaurant business), and we were on our way.

Bahía Tortugas to Bahía Acsunción

What a beautiful, short run we had down to Acsunción! We left around 4am, with a sky full of stars, motoring our way out of the bay. Clif and I watched the stars start to fade as the little bit of sunlight began to hit the glassy calm water that surrounded us. We motored half the day and sailed through the afternoon. Along the way we ran into an abundance of sea life, including leaping sea lions, a whale, some distance off, and an enormous pod of dolphins!! The dolphins were a especially phenomenal. I grabbed the GoPro just in time to catch a great video above and below the water of the dolphins swarming our boat. I can’t wait to put together a little video and post it… maybe in San Jose del Cabo!
Clif and Dad take quick, cold dunk in the ocean!
We also took a little swim for the first time! We “parked” the boat, heaving-to, tossed a lone line off the boat with a buoy attached to the end and put our little swim ladder into the water. After soaping up on deck, we took turns jumping in to rinse off. Because the current was still moving, we had to hold on to the trailing rope, but boy, did it feel good!!

There’s Always Something…

We sailed into Acsunción, just flying into the bay, sailing at 7 knots with an 18-20 knot wind speed. Everything was going smoothly until we started taking the sails down and tried to start up the engine. With a first churn of the key the starter would turn and turn, but the engine wouldn’t start. We kept the main sail up, knowing that this was NOT normal. A second try, still no start-up. A third try… and nothing.

We sailed onto anchor (our very first time of doing do) with great ease. There were several other sailing vessels coming in behind us and must have thought we were total pros. After anchoring up, we tried our best to get the motor running, but she was not a happy camper. It got dark and Clif had exhausted his resources, so we made a wonderful meal of rice, beans, zucchini, and tortillas, washed it down with some box wine and went to bed.

In the morning, we called Jim Betts, a family friend in Juneau who works on Westerbeke Marine diesel engines. He helped out tremendously, giving us a list of steps to walk through to fix the problem. (Thank you, Jim! We will send you some Mexican specialties via snail mail from Cabo). What we mutually decided was that we got bad fuel in Bahía Tortugas. There was some water in the fuel, which ruined our fuel filter. We luckily had a spare one on board, but needed a couple small parts in town. With the help of some local pangeros (fisherman), we found a diesel mechanic in town who could help Clif out—all out of kindness.

Back on the boat, after rowing in and out together from our anchorage (which kind of looks like a clown car with three of us piled in), we finished up the steps and got the motor running!! What a relief to hear the engine turn over and rev up! Oh wonderful little Westerbeke… you brought us this far and have worked so hard… we just need to get to Cabo!

With the engine starting and running smoothly, we enjoyed a round of cervezas on the boat deck. Clif and I rowed back into town to give the mechanics a 6-pack of Tecate beer and pick up a couple more provisions (including ice and some tacos to-go). The surf in the afternoon increased, making our beach landing quite the spectacle in our little dinghy. I jumped off the bow, attempted to jump the surf while pulling in the bowline. Half of me ended up in the water. I laughed, thankful that it was sunny and warm outside, so I would dry out quickly.

A Perfect Day (and Night) of Sailing

I woke up Tuesday morning to an engine running smoothly and happily out of Bahía Acsunsión. We had a good wind right off the bat, allowing us to sail on a beam reach straight in the direction of our destination. It was 110 miles down south to San Juanico, a Baja surfer-stop favorite that we intended to check out. The morning wind grew strong and gusted from 15-25 knots. With one reef in the main sail and a halfway furled jib, we clipped along at a speedy 5.5-7 knots. 7 knots is about as fast as we can sail, no matter what weather, so when we attain that speed, we take advantage of it!

The wind died down around noon, so we took a lunch break (thank you Dad for the yummy quesadillas) and another quick swim in the glassy calm sea, which had been roaring only hours before. I finally washed my hair in the ocean (8 days is pushing it for my long, thick hair), and with a couple washes, I managed to clean up pretty well.

Dad enjoying the high-side during a sail.
At the end of our swim, I was just getting onto the deck, Clif still in the water, when I heard and saw an unusual splash behind the boat’s transom. Clif, also seeing the disturbed water, leaped onto the swim ladder faster than the splash could fade away! Not knowing what the splash was, we declared “swim time” over, cleaned up the cockpit quickly and began to motor on.

The rest of the day and into the partly cloudy evening we sailed downwind. I was glad my Dad got to experience a night out on the open water with a bright Milky Way and the sailing up, no clamoring of the diesel engine to disturb the night air.

Bahía San Juanico

San Juanico is a quiet, “relaxing” little village, as one local told me in a beachside palapa. San Juanico is a coveted surfer destination because of the easy peeling waves that begin almost a half-a-mile offshore and continue over soft sand. We witnessed a handful of SUP (stand-up-paddle) boarders surfing the small waves during our brief stint in town. We rowed ashore onto the sandy, almost empty beach and made our way through the dirt roads of town. We actually managed to find 5 gallons of diesel at a mechanics shop, which was a tad-bit spendy, but worth the pesos in such a small, remote village.

We enjoyed a little Internet access and a couple of shrimp tacos before riding back to the boat in out dinghy. The surf was tempting, but too small for our little fun-board. Yet another reason to invest in an inflatable SUP (on our water toy wish list).

Before we left San Juanico, we did load up on more delicious local tortillas from the grocery store, as well as some new avocados, green peppers, eggs and cheese (pretty standard Mexican groceries).

Through the night, we motored our way 90 miles to Bahía Santa María.

What we are Thankful For…

Since this section of the journey fell over the Thanksgiving holiday, we have had a “thankful” theme in a lot of our conversations. Clif and I are thankful for so many things; the list is endless. Of course, our first and foremost is being thankful for the presence of my Dad as our Baja crewmember. We’ve had some long runs, and he has made our dream of Baja that much more attainable.

Clif snorkeling and spear fishing in Santa Maria Cove.
We spent our Thanksgiving Day at anchor in Bahía Santa María. There were several other sail boats in the anchorage, very similar in size and outfit (we saw lots of monitor wind vanes, dinghies, and surf boards). In fact, we even had a couple from San Clemente come up and wish us a Happy Thanksgiving in their dinghy! Santa María Cove was a real landmark in a warmer, more tropical climate. The land was a bit greener and the water just slightly warmer. The heat of the day made us swim several times around the boat at anchor, and Clif and I even found a spot to go snorkeling for the first time in our journey. It was a perfect, relaxing, day in the water and sun.

In the evening, we made some tequila drinks and talked about what we were most thankful for during this trip. I said that I was thankful for warm, swimmable waters. Clif said he was thankful for not being able to tell what was more beautiful in Mexico: the sunrises or the sunsets. Dad said he was thankful to be with us on the boat.
Other important people we’ve been meaning to thank again and again….

Jim Betts, of Juneau, who has helped us out with our diesel engine both in and out of the U.S. now, via cell conversations. It’s extremely nice to be able to call someone with such experience and work on our own motor.

Ed Page, of the Marine Exchange in Juneau, who gave us our underwater GoPro camera that we are using more and more now that we can dive and swim off the boat!

Fr. Thomas, in Petersberg, who gave us our Walker Bay dinghy and stressed the importance of having a better dinghy for Mexico… you were right! We love it. We were able to snorkel off of it yesterday!

And… especially our friends Dave and Jill, who constantly send us loving text messages via our InReach and make us thankful for our good friends.

The list could go on…

Our Last Leg into Cabo

On our last leg, a long 180-mile stretch of mountainous, non-sheltering Baja coastline, we started asking each other “What will be the first thing you do when we get to Cabo?” My answer: take a shower and wash my hair… at least twice! Do a load of laundry, wash all of our linens and scrub the cockpit clean. After three people bathing/soaping up in the cockpit and then going for a swim, you can only imagine the hair that has accumulated in weird places… mostly my long hair (sorry Clif). Clif’s first thing to do when he gets to Cabo is… absolutely nothing. Probably drink a Tecate, while Dad and I go window shop for inflatable SUP boards.

Our first day out of Santa María we saw a pod of humpback whales hanging out on the surface, fairly close to the boat. One of the humpbacks actually decided to get a better look of our hull, coming up right next to the bow and diving underneath. The water was so clear, we were able to stand up by the mast and watch his massive black body move gracefully under our boat, diving deeper as he passed to the other side.

The reappearance of these humpback whales reminded me of just a short three months ago, sailing through Hobart Bay, two days south of Juneau, swarmed in a sea of humpbacks. At the time, we were thrilled at the prospect of “migrating” with them down the Pacific coast. Now, just two days out of our goal destination, it is a timely gift to see these whales appear once again. We watched several put on a show, not even a quarter of a mile off our port side, slapping their flukes and waving their fins; just as happy as us to be in the warm Baja waters! Seeing the humpbacks again, a whale that will always remind me of home, seems to put this journey in a much larger perspective. Those great, slow mammals make this journey twice every year! We are fortunate enough to get to share it with them, even if just this once.

We took one last dunk in the Baja waters with my Dad, hours before we would arrive in Cabo and he would have to get back on a plane bound for the States. He’s off to Seattle for a larger personal endeavor of another kind. I’m so grateful I got to spend this time with him and that he got to share in our Baja voyage. He made this section of the trip very special to me. 

Checking out the village mapa in San Juanico.

I asked my Dad if he was interested in writing a little blurb for the blog. I’m glad I did!
So here’s another new section of our blog, hopefully one that continues with future visitors…

A Word from the Crew
by Rich Stone
Dad doing the dishes!
What an amazing two weeks aboard the Sound Discovery with Giselle and Clif. I am so fortunate to have been invited onboard for the Baja Run – San Diego to Cabo! I was asked to write a few comments in the blog and am honored to do so. These are a few of my many memories from the adventure along the Baja Pacific.

After I arrived in San Diego the cabbie dropped me about a mile away from the harbor at 10 pm. The driver thought I wanted to go to the Naval Base and the Shore Patrol guarding the entry looked at me with some degree of question. I took this as a good sign for my entry into Mexico thinking I would fit in just fine as an apparent expat. After provisioning the boat and spending a day or so at the Point Loma Marina we set sail out of the San Diego harbor weaving our way around three US Naval destroyers toward the outside waters. It was my first sail offshore and first night at sea (of several) which proved to be one of the highlights of my time aboard the boat.

Orion rising! Starry nights began with colorful deep red and turquoise sunsets resting on dancing sea swells. The constellation Orion and his best friend Sirius divided the night into north and south. The moon was full at the beginning of our voyage and we watched nearly every night as it waned into a thin crescent. Night sails ended in soft colorful sunrises to the east. My watch at the helm left me in awe of the immensity of the ocean and sky. I felt a sense of being very small and very whole at the same time.

Baja coast! As we headed south the coastline was nearly ever present to the east. Thin ribbons of distant arid plateau would drop away from view and then re emerge punctuated by ragged peaks of rust and sage. The bahías and puntas became waypoints and areas of exploration. Sandy beaches provided sanctuary, as well as challenges for accessing small Mexican fishing villages along our way. Unlike Southeast Alaska, the coastline and shallows seemed predictable with safe anchorage. The Walker Bay proved a worthy ships dinghy and provided taxi service back and forth from the fuel dock to anchorage under sail.

Sea and swell! Surprisingly enough I didn’t get seasick! The waters seemed clear and clean for the most part with just enough salt to sting the eyes and straighten the hair. The boat handled very well in waves that at the most were 5 – 6 foot sea swell with 3 – 4 foot chop on top. Our daytime cruises provided opportunity with flapping fluke whales and dancing porpoises, as well as sea lions and other deep sea monsters that visited while swimming during a break along our run in quiet waters. Clif managed to fight off the behemoth, saving his crew before quickly skipping up the boat ladder to the ships gunwale.
Tacos Durados (Fried corn tortilla tacos)
¡Tacos Durados! The cuisine on and off the ship was incredible. After discovering “Dora’s” flour tortillas (the label on the package was a piece of masking tape with her name written in felt marker), we consumed mass quantities of burritos, quesadillas and peanut butter roll ups. We cleaned the eggs with an antibacterial soap solution and had morning scramble hash – with Dora’s tortillas. Tacos Durados was the order of choice at the Mexican village cantinas: And of course Tecate. Tecate silver! Tecate Red! And Tecate TI-Tanium!!! Between one-pot-wonders onboard, and wondering what we were eating on land, we never went hungry. Any challenges to the digestive system were quickly remedied with prescription strength Lomotil. FYI, two tiny pills will be sufficient for pretty much any cure.

Amigos and mates! The people of the villages were very friendly and helpful. Some offered to be tour guides, security guards and escorts to evening social scenes (A tip is always expected). However, the discoteca in Bahía Tortuga started their glitter reeling a little too late for this crew – much to Pedro’s discontent. Even as friendly as the village locals were, the crew of the Sound Discovery twas me best mates. I didn’t realize it in San Diego, but Giselle and Clif had provisioned the boat with ample quantities of trust, respect, competence and, well gosh, I suppose a sailor shouldn’t be saying the word but I’ll say it, love. Tis a great ship, but the crew made it an awesome voyage. Thanks Giselle and Clif, for many amazing memories, most of which, I would need more time and Tecate to pen. I am humbled by your spirit of adventure, your capable hands and curious hearts. I am so grateful for your having me aboard. Safe journeys!
From here... (back to Giselle)

Clif and I will be headed over to the La Paz area very slowly. It's time to relax and know that we don't have to be anywhere anytime soon. What a weird feeling. We've been pushing it for so long, it feels weird to think that we have no agenda; no dates to try and rush towards. We will be flying to Seattle for Christmas, to spend some time with my family, and then will come back down to La Paz and up to Loreto for New Years to see Clif's parents. I updated our schedule page, put a little calendar in there, so you can take a look if you like.
Looking forward to blogging more about swimming, snorkeling, sun-bathing and improving my Spanish!

Dad unties the dinghy for Clif on Enrique's fuel dock in Bahia Tortugas.


  1. Glad you guys had a great passage down the Baja. We are still in San Diego, but plan to race south tomorrow or so. We look forward to meeting you in La Paz! All the best from the Del Viento crew