Thursday, March 12, 2015

A Week in San Juanico

Officially awesome spear gun portrait!
What a glorious week it has been in Caleta San Juanico, over a week by the time this blog post gets uploaded in nearby Loreto. Loreto may be only 40 miles south of us, but we feel as if we are in a secluded cruisers haven. Spear fishing within a short swim of our anchored boat, bonfires on a private beach, hikes to a small ranchito, finally meeting up with our friends on Emma Bell, and making my own goat cheese (yes, fresh goat cheese) have all been highlights. There are several boats here in the bay that have been anchored in San Juanico for months… and now I might have a slight inkling why. I do feel like this week has been a true vacation, and, although it looks like it, not all days aboard the boat are easy as pie, but this week has not been in the least bit trying. The boat’s solar power has been charging away, keeping our provisions nice and cold. The rain clouds that we had at the beginning of the week have dissipated. Clif and I have caught some great sized fish with the spear gun and Hawaiian sling, and feasted royally on fish tacos (until our tortillas ran out.) I am really making the most of this time with Clif, before April 15th, when he will be off on a new job, on a new boat leaving from Seattle, and I will only be seeing him every-other Saturday night throughout the summer.

Our sail down to San Juanico from Concepción was a little bumpy, but non-the-less a sail! It rained for the better part of the day, and reached 22 knots of wind, creating a rough quarter-stern swell. My little herb garden flourished in the rain, while I took full advantage of the clean fresh water, brushing my hair outside, attempting to simulate a shower. We sailed down with two new friends: Greg and Diane aboard Alma (who we crossed the sea with), and a single-hander, John (on Rosalita), who is the same age as me, working as a street musician (classical violinist) in San Francisco in the summer. The group of us reached San Juanico in the mid-afternoon, after an early start from the Santo Domingo anchorage, and we toasted our efforts with a big spaghetti family dinner aboard Alma. Greg and Diane, who have children our age in the states, have begun referring to us as “The Kids,” which we are more than happy to be called, since more than once they have cooked us a yummy dinner! We appreciate the love.

Cruiser "meet-and-greet" bonfire in San Juanico.
The anchorage in San Juanico has been busy this week (up to 12 boats at once), and we celebrated the mass of boats accordingly with two “meet-and-greet” bonfires. Baja boating can be so unbelievably social, if you want it to be. Where some might retire to RVs or gated communities, others prefer a watery mobile home, and know many of the boats moving back and forth, up and down the Sea of Cortez. The radio, both VHF and SSB (Single side band), connect many of these boaters to each other throughout the season, and help create a tight-knit community, both far and near. This week, we had the pleasure of meeting Doug and Linda, aboard Que Linda, hailing from Bend, Oregon! Doug and Linda have been incredibly nice to us, even inviting us over to watch a movie on a quiet night. We enjoy their company immensely (and is only enhanced by the fact that we can both LOVE and make fun of Bend, OR together). My sister would love to know that Doug is a huge fan of the Ocean Roll and Sparrow, so I told him, when he returns to bend, go find the barista at the Northwest Crossing Sparrow that looks identical to me!! Doug is also a live-long Outward Bound Employee and enthusiast, and has gotten me to think more about apply for outdoor education positions where more foundations educators are needed. He also promises to take Clif and I to the best dive-bars in Bend next time we pass through (Clairen, you’re invited.)

Fried-fish tacos! Officially cruising.
Our friends, Pam, Eric and his brother, Andy, arrived yesterday morning after overcoming several hassles in the boat yard. We are excited to have our fishing-buddies back with us. Andy’s first day on the Baja with the four of us couldn’t have been better: spear fishing, fish tacos, margaritas and a bon-fire with most of the cruisers in the anchorage attending. Not bad, not bad.

My absolute favorite highlight of the week was meeting José and buying vegetables from his fresh, organic garden, just a kilometer up the road. I was so inspired by my experience with him, that I attempted to write a small magazine story, which is still in its draft state, but hopefully will get sent along with some of my photos to a couple cruiser magazines. I’ll let you know how that goes. It’ll be my first attempt at a short magazine story. Instead of re-writing the entire thing, I’m just going to say a fond farewell and copy-and-paste the story below. Clif and I will be cruising the islands around Loreto before turning north to head back to Guaymas.
Jose and Clif milking the goats.

Eating Local: An Exceptional Find in Baja Provisioning

One of my many joys in sailing the Sea of Cortez, is watching my little boat refrigerator gradually transform into a Mexican icebox. Any bread or beer dwindling from the states quickly converts into stores of Pacifico Clara and flour tortillas. Avocado slices, lime wedges and sprigs of cilantro garnish breakfast, lunch and dinner. My boyfriend and I begin to supplement our protein intake with freshly speared fish and fight off scurvy with heaps of canned salsa. It’s heavenly.

The hipness of “eating local” in the states becomes second nature to any cruiser. It’s a necessity. Often we run out of fresh vegetables in a remote anchorage and it will be me tromping around the Baja desert, looking for some small sign of civilization… a Mini Super, a truck full of juice oranges, wild oregano growing on the side of the dirt road, anything. So one can imagine my excitement this spring, when we pulled into Caleta San Juanico and heard word of a small ranch, just a kilometer up the road, with a brand new garden. I rowed ashore with a backpack, pesos, camera and a couple plastic bags, just in case my provisioning bounty was surprisingly plentiful… and it was.

José, a very kind and curious Mexican rancher (owner of the garden) is just beginning to understand the wealth of his nearby clientele. Cruisers and campers alike in San Juanico have been walking up to his tiny home and jardín (garden) this past winter and spring to buy anything that looks fresh, green, and springs from the ground. José also owns a small herd of goats and chickens that provide income from fresh goat milk and eggs daily. “You’ve got a good thing going, that’s for sure,” I told him in Spanish when I arrived late one hot afternoon. With a little conversational, I found my arms and backpack full of more fresh vegetables than I had seen in weeks, for less pesos than I would spend at any small grocery store. With green onions, bushels of cilantro, beets, brussel sprouts, carrots, lettuce, and garlic along the way, José’s organic garden is a dream for cruisers who love to eat well and appreciate growing things form the ground.

I did have a little secret agenda arriving at José’s that day (besides acquiring vast amounts of veggies). For years I have wanted someone (specifically someone from Mexico,) to teach me how to make fresh cheese. I am not a cheese maker by trade, nor have I ever ventured in cheese making my own, but I adore Mexican queso fresco de chiva, that is: fresh goat cheese. I wrote out an entire paragraph in Spanish expressing my desire (as a cue card of sorts… my Spanish isn’t quite on par these days) asking José if he would be willing teach me to not only milk the goats, but also make the cheese. He was surprised at first, but more than eager to have me arrive the next morning at 7:00am to milk the goats (free milk maid… why not?)!  And that’s exactly what I did. My boyfriend and I showed up at seven and began our first hand ranchero tutorial on milking goats. In a single day, I was successfully milking goats while the sun rose over the Baja hills; I helped strain and clean the fresh, warm milk, and drank coffee with José as the cheese began to curdle. We snapped a couple priceless photos, and spoke enough Spanish to keep conversation flowing. My boyfriend and cruising partner, Clif, generously helped hold the goats, as well as relieving my milking duties when my hands got tired. We rowed back to our boat while the newly pressed cheese sat under bricks and condensed. As a parting gift for my charitable teacher, Clif and I spent the afternoon prepping a roasted beet and goat cheese salad, utilizing many of the vegetables from José’s garden and cheese that I had bought the prior day.

We arrived back to our boat that night, fresh cheese in hand, with the new-cheese texture of firm tofu. By that time, everyone in the anchorage had heard of our humorous, yet joyful, goat-milking endeavors. Rowing boat-to-boat, we offered chunks of our delicious, freshly pressed goat cheese. Those couple days in San Juanico getting to know José, gave me a whole new cruiser approach to the idiom “Eat Local:” building relationships with the growers, passing on knowledge and skills, giving back to the growers and sharing the wealth, (food and knowledge,) with close friends. Next time I’m buying groceries for the boat and tempted to over-provision, I’m going to remember the relationships and adventures to be had when seeking local food during your cruising voyages.

My favorite photo of our cheese-making day with Jose.

To accompany the story--- check out the newly UPDATED Galley Time blog! I posted the Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese Salad recipe and brief story.

Thanks for reading--- would love your comments. Clif and I are going to be headed south to Agua Verde for more goat cheese and fishing grounds.
Getting 2 gallons of fresh goat milk.

Letting the milk set with the starter, and cheese cloth fly-protection.

Straining off the whey from the cheese curds.
Pressing the curds in the cheese cloth.

Revealing the goat cheese after it sat under a brick for the day.



  1. Looks like it might be too tight to cross paths with you two before you guys head back north. (We hope to get Pelagia back up in the Agua Verde area by early April.)

    If not, do drop a line to us if you are near Vancouver/Whistler this Summer or next Winter.

    David and Michelle
    SV Pelagia

  2. Great story Giselle, very well written! I think you'll have no trouble selling that to a cruising magazine (try Cruising World - we sold them one about Isla Isabel and it was finally published in this month's issue). Reading your blog makes Chris and I really miss cruising!