Baja California Sur and the Sea of Cortez, Spring 2021 Edition

While it is hard to believe, another couple of months (plus some) have passed. Time moves slowly yet somehow the days speed by here in Mexico. Life is pretty simple revolving around dog entertainment, boat projects, cooking and eating, hiking and walking, talking about and researching upcoming adventures, looking at the weather forecast (which, when on anchor, rules our life), and oh yes, doing some actual work that produces income that is immediately diverted back to the boat. We connect with our boat friends and, now and then, reach out from our floating bubble to see what the outside world is up to. It’s a huge departure from our old life.

While we have lived on Red Rover for almost 5 years now, we only left to be full-time cruisers 22 months ago. And it has taken all of those months to change my mind about what a successful day looks and feels like. Success looks like two tired dogs, a smiling husband and a boat that is still floating. A successful day feels peaceful, where we are content to be connected to the gorgeous natural environment here in the Sea of Cortez. It feels like tired muscles from hiking, salty legs from dinghy landings or failed paddleboard attempts, and gritty hands from boat maintenance. But most importantly, a successful day now feels like being truly present with each other, reflecting the trust and confidence in one another in a partnership that is much more than simply a marriage. We run this boat together, afterall!

Love.

So, all of those deep thoughts aside, what have we been up to?

After leaving Agua Verde, we quietly cruised up to Danzante Island and anchored at the mouth of Honeymoon Cove. Ooohlala! It was a quiet night, free from wind and perfect to lazily float about enjoying the view of the gorgeous Sierra Giganta mountains. After a beautiful morning of coffee in the cockpit we decided to head to Balandra, a well-protected bay on Isla Carmen that we had spent many a night at last year. The winds were expected to be flukey – moving from west winds to north winds several times over the coming days. We wanted to be able to tuck into the northern part of the bay behind the large hills that would protect us from fetch associated with west winds, and we were betting that with an early arrival we might get these prime spots in the anchorage. Our planning paid off and we, and our buddy boat, N55 Gitana put our anchors down in just the right locations to ride out the upcoming weather while also enjoying our time in one of our well-loved anchorages.

We spent a good part of the week in Balandra, beachcombing, paddle boarding, cooking, eating and relaxing. Oh, and working on Kevin’s new company website due to the fact that the bay has, yes, cell service!

Sunset cocktails on the bow at Balandra
Two Nordies in the night – Gitana and Red Rover
Ahhh Mexico
Gitana resting pretty at Balandra
The beautiful Sea of Cortez, beyond the entrance to Balandra

Winters in the Sea of Cortez have two main components – “colder” water and air temperatures and Norther wind storms. I talked about this a bit previously, but we like the cooler air (70s during the day, 50s at night). For some time, the Northers this year seemed to be dominating each week, with the number of days between them lengthening as we rolled into spring. That was ok by us – we knew it was going to be the case, and we have enjoyed every day up here, wind or no wind.
While at Balandra, we realized that a trend that had begun at Muertos, and that we tried an intermediate solution for in La Paz, was continuing. And it wasn’t a good trend. The baby generator (6kw) that Kevin installed a couple of years ago includes an auto start feature. And that auto start is how we learned that we had a problem. The first time the generator started in the middle of the night (all by itself – thank you generator) we thought, well, gee, we must have left something on, the fridge must be running like crazy, and so on. But this wasn’t the case in the morning. Head scratcher. And then it happened again. And again. After the generator began coming on three times a night, we knew that not only did we have a problem, but it was getting worse. So, we decided to go into Marina Puerto Escondido and figure out a solution.

Marina Puerto Escondido is just behind that low hill. How beautiful is this?
Another view of the marina area.

We love Marina Puerto Escondido, so heading in there wasn’t a hardship. After some sleuthing around, Kevin determined that our eight 8D house batteries were, well, toast. It was a hard truth because the batteries were all of 1.5 years old. Why did this happen? More on that below.

Moon over the Giganta.

So… we needed new batteries. The good people at Lifeline batteries agreed to sell us new batteries for a reduced cost due to our sad situation with our 1.5 year old batteries. Of course, with COVID, Lifeline didn’t have any of our required batteries in stock and they needed to create more, which, of course, was going to take extra time with (completely understandable) COVID staff impacts. They anticipated that the batteries would become available in the following 4+ weeks. We sat down and made a few decisions. We would stay in Marina Puerto Escondido, wait for the batteries and take short trips out for a night or two, managing the power situation through the auto start on the small generator. That conversation was in late January. Our batteries arrived in early March via the good folks at Deko Marine in San Diego. The batteries shipped from Lifeline to Deko Marine and Deko Marine brought them to us here in Marina Puerto Escondido. Carlos, who owns Deko Marine runs a pretty amazing service. He charges a transportation fee and the duty (which is 16% and obligatory unless you go through a TIP process) and twice a week he brings a tractor trailer full of goodies down the Baja to cruisers in Loreto, La Paz and Los Cabos who are anxiously awaiting their parts, hiking boots and oh, in our case, a Soda Stream?!? Well, the 900+ cans of LaCroix were running out afterall. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Kevin, Mario, Ricardo and Nacho – and our eight batteries! These guys are so wonderful.

So, again, I am sure you are asking, how did you end up needing to spend a bunch of unplanned boat units on batteries? It has to do with a mix of electrical elements. We installed a new inverter/charger this summer, and we didn’t fully understand the charging requirements of the Lifeline batteries, and how critical the specific requirements are to these batteries. The Lifeline batteries need to “live” within very specific and focused charging criteria. At the same time, we also didn’t fully understand the Victron 4-step charging profile and the differences (that would impact our batteries) from our old traditional 3-step. We also simultaneously had added our solar panels, so we also had inputs coming from the settings on the solar MPPT controllers.

As a friend says, we paid for some “higher education.” In the process, Kevin dove deep into the world of charging and really wrapped his head around all of the charging settings, making sure that the solar and the inverter charger were working really well together, and that everything was within the narrow and specific requirements of the Lifeline batteries – in all aspects of our charging environment – at the dock and at anchor.

Speaking of solar, we get a lot of questions about the benefits we are seeing from the solar panels. As the batteries were problematic, it was hard to tell what the impact of the solar panels really was. Now that the batteries are squared away, we can report that the solar is fantastic. At anchor, we find that we can run the generator in the evening only (vs. morning and evening). We have cut our generator time in half. Ah, the peace and quiet! As we move into the summer months, we anticipate seeing even greater results.

Enough about electrical and charging systems. 😊 While we were waiting for the batteries (and after they arrived!) we did go on some lovely couple-of-night trips to anchorages around nearby Isla Carmen and a new favorite spot, Candeleros Chico – a beautiful one boat anchorage surrounded by cliffs, with its own private beach.

Doggos looking at fish – Candeleros Chico.
Incredibly clear water
Dinghy cruising on a warm day.

Caleta Candeleros Chico and Red Rover – a one boat anchorage.

Oh just another view of our girl.
Zoe watching the world go by.
A beautiful anchorage – for one boat.
Red Rover at Candeleros Chico (again – isn’t she pretty?)

Celebrating our 19 year wedding anniversary at anchor.

Punta Colorada on Isla Carmen.
Junior Explorer Max.
Dinghy cocktail cruise beach stop.
Red Rover and N76 Seacret at Punta Colorada.
Sunrise from the cockpit at Punta Colorada, Isla Carmen.
Happiness.
Hilda wakeboarding behind the Seacret large tender.
View from the flybridge at Punta Colorada.
Zoe watching.
Bow view, Sea of Cortez
Hilda and Jeremy making the “English Fry-Up” breakfast on Seacret. YUM!
Oh my. English Fry-Up results. YUMMMM.
Gorgeous.
Seacret and Bella Luna at sunrise.
A little dinner on Red Rover.
Max digs paddle boarding. Best to sit with dog on board.
Happy hour Hilda. 🙂

And, when we weren’t out at anchor, we were enjoying every minute of being home-based at Marina Puerto Escondido. This is the nicest marina we have ever stayed at. And we just love it here. The team will do anything to help us. And they are honestly the most kind, friendly, lovely people. They know us, and the dogs, by name. And as we’ve been here awhile, we are really getting to be friends. From Enrique who finds ways to always entertain us, to Javier who runs a tight ship with an awesome sense of humor, to Wendy and Maritza who can make absolutely anything happen (car, pre-flight COVID test, carpet cleaner, hiking guide…) to the security concierges/dock guys – Mario, Edgar, William, Ricardo, Nacho, Arturo, to the night security guys who check on us each evening…to Lucho Man’s awesome team that washes, waxes, fixes and generally helps with most anything… amazing. So. Much. Love.

A beautiful night at the marina, reflecting off of our friends’ vessel, S/V Journey.
Looking the other way toward the Sierra Giganta over Red Rover’s bow.

Part of the fun of being at Marina Puerto Escondido is that we do have friends here. And, as the weeks wore on, more friends arrived! In fact, there were NINE Nordhavns here at one point. We’ve been delighted to be reunited with Jeremy and Hilda on N76 Seacret, Vince and Linda on N60 Last Arrow and Deanna and Rob on the 55 Selene, Bella Luna. The gang’s all back! Oh and then N60 Rainbow’s End arrived…and N50 Miss Miranda too. But wait…we had new friends to make as well on N40 Aegis, N46 Navigator and N43 Curandera. Of course, N55 Gitana was with us as well! OH WAIT! Make that TEN Nordhavns. I forgot, N55 Tesoro was here too!

Count the Nordhavns at Marina Puerto Escondido!
And… from the other side.

With that many Nordhavns in the house, it was honestly impossible not to have some group fun. The team here at Marina Puerto Escondido (MPE) helped us get rolling. They organized an evening at the marina restaurant to try the new pizza menu; a beach party with an incredible BBQ of yellowtail with fresh tortillas; a hiking trip up the Mesquite Canyon (I couldn’t go on that one as I had a stomach bug); an outing to the completely off-the-grid restaurant, La Picazon with its amazing few of Coronado Island and more! Can you say Nordhavn Summer Camp? In the winter of course. I just cannot say enough about the incredible people at this marina. There aren’t words to express my appreciation.

La Picazon, a totally off the grid awesome restaurant.
Candles burnt down at La Picazon.
The crew at La Picazon.
The wonderful owner in the bar/kitchen. What a cool experience.
Cast & Reel arriving at the beach picnic.
Mmm. Yellowtail.
Taco line-up!
Lounging about – picnic fun!
Our hosts! What a beautiful family.

After many discussions of how incredible these people are, we determined that we needed to do something to show them our appreciation. Hilda from Seacret lead the charge and arranged for an afternoon of carnitas and all the fixings, paid for by a group of us owners (and Selene owners!). Over warm tacos of carnitas, as the pig roasting wound down, we explained to the team that they truly made us feel like we were at home. It was a mutual lovefest.

This pig started cooking at 4 am!
Lunch line.

When the team wasn’t entertaining us, we have also managed to entertain ourselves as well. In fact, it has been really incredible to stay in one place for awhile, get to know the people, the place and the environment. We’ve been busy!
Marina Puerto Escondido has a great network of hiking trails right by the marina. Kevin and I started hiking every morning at dawn with the dogs. We love watching the mountains turn pink as the sun rises, and we are amazed at how much the desert changes each day. It comes to life. Such a different experience than our PNW days. And we love it. Some days we are on our own, and on other days we are joined by some of our friends (and their dogs of course)!

View from the top of the hill hike, early in the morning.
View from one of our hikes.
Trying to get all of the dogs to pose for a photo.
Zoe and her buddy Moose.
Zoe and Max on a morning hike (yes, I do have treats).
I just love this photo.
Roaming cows are blocking the trail.
Zoe went swimming. And then rolling.
Dog whisperer.
Hey! It’s not even 7 am!
What a beautiful view to start the day.
View from the top of the hill hike.
Max meets Bebe, the goat who liked to hike with us for awhile.
Hiking means we go back to bed.
Max is tired from 5 miles of hiking. In his Mexican hoodie.
This is how mid-day now looks after a 2 hour hike every morning. Humans win!

While there have been a bunch of Nordies here, there are of course a lot of other beautiful boats with amazing, interesting people on them. Over the last couple of years, we have found that we often have a lot in common with sailors. Not in terms of our vessels, but definitely in terms of our desire for adventure. We’ve met some very cool sailors here at MPE, including our neighbors Andrew and Gabriella on S/V Journey, Stu, Erin and the awesome kiddos on S/V Skookum, John and Marcella on S/V Beethoven, Kevin and Stacy on S/V Flying Free to name just a few. And of course, there are fun people to meet on other power boats too – we’ve enjoyed dinners, dock drinks and more. We’ve also run into people we met last year! How fun! Somehow, when you meet people when cruising, the connections are so much faster than in “normal” life. Perhaps it is because we already know that we have a big common interest – cruising. Or perhaps it is because cruising tends to engage a certain type of people – those who are curious, open-minded and adventurous. Whatever it is, it is much easier to make friends than at home in Seattle. Much. But it is hard when people move in a different direction and you aren’t sure if you’ll meet again. Recently, John and Marcella left to head out to Hawaii. What a trip! We watched with admiration and excitement as they prepared for their passage, and assured each other we’d meet again, somewhere in the world. We’re thinking of them as they move across the Pacific this month.

Team Skookum Sailing! (at Mi Loreto)

February and March are important months for the gray whales who migrate from Alaska to the warmer waters of the Baja to mate and give birth to their young. This happens on the west coast of the Baja, in the Magdalena Bay area. We’ve been so curious about the whales but each of our visits to Mag Bay has been at the absolute wrong time of year. With a little map consultation, we found that we were only about 1.5 hours from one of the whale watching destinations in Adolfo Lopez Mateos. We had to go! Early one morning we collected breakfast burritos and a charcuterie board from the marina store and headed out in a fleet of vehicles to go see the whales. We had heard that the whales were curious and friendly and that it would not be unusual to have them approach the panga. Which one particularly happy whale did! The large Momma Whale that we named Princess came and let us all touch her, turned her eye to look at us and scratched up against the panga. At one point she even lifted it slightly! I will reiterate, the panga didn’t chase the whale. The whale came to us. It was an incredible day and an incredible experience, shared with our cruising family.

We have arrived!
Cool whale imprints in the plaza concrete.
Pangas waiting for whale watchers.
Come on whales! Nordhavn (and Selene!) friends.
Masked man.
Kevin and Princess the Whale – a close encounter.
Princess visits another panga.
Hello Princess!
Princess says hello.
Arriving back at the dock. Amazing!

Kevin turned 50 in the midst of all of this too! A band was hired, tequila was enjoyed…it was a fun night with friends up at the marina restaurant. I will only share a few photos so as not to embarrass him, but boy did he have a good time. Wahoo!

1, 2, 3, 4, 5 tequila! Note the cool hat (aka the Dancing Hat) that Linda (Last Arrow) made for Kevin’s 50th!
And down the hatch!
It’s my birthday!

Since the guys went fishing in San Jose del Cabo, it only seemed appropriate to have a girl fishing trip here at MPE. To raise the stakes, Enrique (who is one of the owners of MPE) decided to turn our fishing day into a mini-tournament, with our boat vs. his boat. The boat that caught the largest yellowtail would win dinner. Well, wouldn’t you know it, we caught the largest yellowtail! 28 pounds. In fact, it was a team catch by Deanna (M/V Bella Luna) and I. YES! We had a fabulous day on the water, learning to catch live bait, fishing and of course, drinking beer. Las Pescadores (as we named ourselves) caught 6 yellowtail, one good sized grouper, a rockfish and wait for it… three hammerhead sharks! We kept the yellowtail and the grouper, let the small rockfish go, and of course released the creepy looking sharks. Coming back to the marina, the crew of Cast & Reel, our charter vessel, made us fresh Hamachi and served icy glasses of wine. Somehow fishing on Red Rover isn’t as luxurious. Ha! I much prefer this kind of fishing. Upon arriving back at the marina, we weighed our catch, gloated over Enrique perhaps a bit too much and rested up before dinner. Nacho (short for Ignacio) one of my much-loved team members here, brought our grouper up to the restaurant and they prepared it in many forms for us all to enjoy that evening. What. A. Day!

Leaving MPE for our day of fishing.
Ladies who fish.
Local panga bait fishing (we bought a bit from them in addition to what we caught).
Hilda contemplates all of the fish we are going to catch.
Deanna and her fish!
Fishing.
Deanna, the fisherwoman.
These guys are awesome.
Woohoo! (not Wahoo)
Michele and her fish!
Michele – fish on!
Go Hilda!
One of the hammerhead sharks.
OMG. Hamachi.
Las Pescadores!
We won!
Enrique’s adorable kids in the fish photo.
One of the beautiful dishes that the restaurant made with our grouper.
More delightful dinner! Super fresh!
We won!

Last year when we were here, we were really not able to enjoy the area as most things were closed to non-residents in the early days of COVID. This year, we have loved exploring the small and friendly town of Loreto, driving up to San Javier to see the 400+ year old mission, and basically rolling around getting a feel for this part of the world. I’ll let the photos do the talking as this is already a super long post!

Our new favorite taco stop – El Poblano.
Tacos out!
Loreto certainly is a Pueblo Magico.
Scenes from Loreto.
Mid-day the square is quite quiet.
More of the square.
Well I don’t mind if I do.
Love.
Mural – we are in the National Park here.
Beautiful wall.
More wall murals.
Lovely Loreto.
A street of trees.
Loreto has beautiful historic buildings such as this hotel.
Anyone have a quarter?
Oh hay.
The road to San Javier.
Beautiful roadside church on the way to San Javier.
The 400+ year old Mission in San Javier. And a fruit tree!
At the Mission.
Imagine building this mission, 400 years ago, up in the mountains?!?
The mission sits in an oasis.
This olive tree is over 300 years old.
Gnarly. Dude.
San Javier mission.
The pool and aqueduct that brings water to the verdant fields in San Javier.
Leaving San Javier
Cows on the road. A very common Mexican driving experience.
View from the road back to Loreto from San Javier.
Oops one more of the Mission. Mass on Palm Sunday.
Road views

 

One night, amidst all of this fun, Kevin and I sat at the marina restaurant by ourselves, enjoying the live music and talking about what we wanted to do next. I will admit, the awesome restaurant staff fueled this conversation by pouring Don Julio 1942 for us to sip on. If you haven’t had this sipping tequila, go get some. You, too, may make life decisions as a result. We had toyed with the idea of returning to the Pacific Northwest, heading to Alaska and making it to this year’s NAPS (Nordhavns Around Puget Sound) event. But honestly, I just wasn’t feeling it. It is a LOOOONG way. A trip north would require leaving the Sea of Cortez just as it was getting spectacular (weather and water temperature-wise). And I didn’t want to leave Mexico. Really, neither of us did. So with a clink of the tequila glasses, we decided to stay in Mexico, with Marina Puerto Escondido as our home base until we begin our journey south to Panama and the Canal after hurricane season. We’re going to be hot this summer, but we’re excited about the experience.

It is always a good idea to make big decisions while drinking tequila.

Things started to fall into place after that tequila-fueled conversation. An incredibly kind couple, Bill and Tracy, who run a charter company on a fascinating historic vessel, Westward (www.pacificcatalyst.com) gave us the keys to their van to use for the summer/fall. These things don’t happen outside of the boating community. They just don’t. Thank you, Bill and Tracy, if you are reading this! We so appreciate it! We were able to obtain insurance that allows us to stay here (this is a challenging thing – and there isn’t enough ink in the world to describe it). Many thanks to Peter Ricks at Novamar in Seattle for all of his efforts to help us. And, we were able to get a slip here at the marina, which is quite fortunate as it is located in a natural hurricane hole. As such, it is very busy in the summer. We can’t wait to see what it is like!

Raising the Marina Puerto Escondido burgee (thanks Hilda and Jeremy!) We are home.

I should mention that one of the reasons we’ve been a little high-centered is that we have a lot of work (business work) to do, and we have HIGH SPEED, cable-connected internet here. Yes, we are attached to the dock with a cable that brings us internet access like we haven’t had in oh, four years. We joke newly arrived cruisers that this is the Hotel California and that once they hook up to that internet cable, they may never leave. Simply said, it is luxurious. Kevin has had a bunch of things to do for his company in Seattle, and I have been his lovely assistant. Sometimes, work has to be on the front burner instead of the back burner. This is one of those times. I can’t think of a nicer place to be working.

Low tide, tide pools at Isla Carmen.
‘Splorin.

Never fear though, we won’t stay tied to the dock for long, we have big plans for the coming months. We’re busily getting our COVID vaccinations, one person at a time, in Los Angeles. We have guests, the illustrious Jim & Jim, coming in a couple of weeks to experience the Sea. I’ve signed up with Las Pescadores (slightly different team make-up) for the Marina Puerto Escondido Fishing Tournament in May. That should be hilarious! Send us good thoughts! And… after the tournament in mid-May, we’ll head out for a couple of months to explore the northern Sea of Cortez before hurricane season comes to visit.
In the meantime, we’ll be in and out of the marina, enjoying the water AND a bit of the land. More to come this spring!

On a rare cloudy day, the sun always shines through.

12 thoughts on “Baja California Sur and the Sea of Cortez, Spring 2021 Edition

  1. Love reading these, you are such a good writer and with the photos it’s almost like being there. Anxious to read about the summer adventures!

    1. Thank you for the kind comments Michelle! So appreciate it! We too are looking forward to seeing how the summer goes! 🙂

  2. Wonderful stories and pics of BCS. We certainly miss Mexico this year due to COVID. Our stomping grounds is Loreto Bay and Loreto Township. Great location, fantastic people and of course you can’t beat the food. Mi Loreto is truly one of our favourites. If you get a chance and you haven’t been, you should try La Picazon which is right on the water just north of Loreto township. Excellent food, fantastic location and very friendly and hospitable owners.
    Keep the info coming. Looking forward to the next update… 🙂

    1. Thanks for the nice note Marc! We too love Mi Loreto and La Picazon was fabulous. What amazing people there…well really everywhere in Loreto! Just the best. Hope you make it back to LB soon!!

  3. Dear Alison, thank you so much for sharing your awesome journey. You are truly an amazing photojournalist , I also will look forward to your next segment.

  4. Hi Alison & Kevin,
    Loved reading your most recent post and remembering Puerto Escondido. Diane and I are exploring inland from PV now, and loving it, but miss the fabulous access to those amazing trails right from the boat. Plus all the great folks over there of course. We do keep talking about heading back for the summer if we end up on the boat full-time. Dave & Diane, Navigator 46-77

    1. Hi guys!! Glad to hear you are enjoying the PV area! Let us know if you come this way. Would love to see you. We should be in La Cruz in November. So maybe we shall meet up then if not before!

  5. I would love to pick Kevin’s brain on lessons learned from the battery / charging deep dive. I’ve been troubleshooting some of these interesting solar / shore power race conditions and it sounds like he may have some insights.

  6. So enjoying my morning latte today, reading your comeonrover post. Sounds like you are having wonderful times! Expected, of course! You guys are lighthearted, spirited and fun-loving friends. Looking forward to connecting again, perhaps on the east coast! And a big hi to Zoe and Max, I love them!

    1. Zoe and Max send all kinds of love and slobbery dog kisses to Aunt Abby. We hope we will see you soon!! And then we shall resume our wonderful times together. ❤

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