Saturday, June 2, 2012

Summer Nearly Upon Us

After a short sailing (rudder repair and waiting out the 'Northers') season, we returned home for taxes, births, weddings and graduations. It's time for us to return to Mexico and our sailing vessel, Citla.

 We return as proud grandparents (our first!) of a beautiful grandson, Archer. He was born on the vernal equinox, adding to our celebration of the first day of Spring!

We also have expanded our family through the wedding of our youngest daughter. The wedding took place on a beautiful day and portends of good things for the future.

The weekend following the wedding, we were treated to a visit by my wife's cousin and her husband, Michelle and Jim. They were in San Diego to attend the graduation of one of their grand-daughters from San Diego State University. We joined the proud parents, grandparents and friends for a delicious celebratory dinner in Old Town.

Summer is fast approaching, with already two named tropical storms in the eastern Pacific. It's getting warmer as the days pass and it is time for us to return to our boat and prepare it for time on the hard. We plan to leave Memorial Day weekend for La Paz. This should be another short trip, the primary purpose of which is to prepare the boat for summer. Time and opportunity permitting, we also hope to spend some time out at the islands before hauling the boat out of the water. This year, rather than leaving it in Puerto Escondido, we're opting to leave it in La Paz. The facilities at Puerto Escondido are excellent and the staff is friendly and helpful, but the protected location is also a distance from stores and chandleries. Loreto is the closest town for supplies and it's about 28 km to the north. This year we felt it would be more convenient to use the Singlar boat yard in La Paz.

Cruising plans remained as solid as always; we departed San Diego on Tuesday. The delay was a result of a sewing project to customize some inexpensive canvas tarps to serve as a boat cover when we leave our boat on the hard this summer. The old plastic tarps provided the pattern for the various cut-outs (e.g., mast, solar vents, cowls). All cut edges were hemmed with bias tape and 2" nylon webbing was used to reinforce all stress points. Grommets and Velcro were applied to provide attachment points to join the two tarps being used as the cover. A day late we began our drive south to La Paz late Tuesday morning.

As has become our habit, we split the drive three segments. The drive can be done in about 18 hours, if all goes well, but it isn't worth it. We generally try to leave in the morning to cross the border at Tijuana after all the commute traffic has subsided. We stop at Immigration and pick up our tourist permits and have our passports stamped and then head out of town, along the border fence, to Playas de Tijuana and south on the toll road to Ensenada. Given the price of gasoline in San Diego, we filled our tank south of Rosarito Beach for ~$2.85 a gallon. Our first overnight was at Jardines Hotel in the coastal farming community of San Quintin. The hotel has modern clean rooms and is surrounded by luscious gardens, both ornamental and vegetable. It is backed by an orange grove. There are water features in the main hotel garden and the birds seem to come from far and wide to enjoy this oasis.

We departed San Quintin in the morning to begin what is one of our favorite segments of the drive down Baja. We filled our tank in the coastal farming and fishing center of El Rosario before driving east and south into the desert. You leave the community of El Rosario, passing over a bridge that spans the Arroyo de El Rosario, before beginning the climb into the Cardon and Cirio forests to the south. This segment was punctuated with a "stretch" stop in Catavina with its' beautiful rock and boulder formations. We continued south towards the turn off on Mexico 1, to Baja de Los Angeles.

Proximity to Bahia de Los Angeles is first announced by the changing flora. One begins to see yucca trees, along with more Elephant trees. The next stop for us was the border town between the states of Baja California Norte and Baja California Sur (BCS) Guerrero Negro or Black Warrior. Besides being the entry to BCS, it is also famous for the eastern North Pacific population of California Gray whales, who both mate and give birth in the nearby lagoon of Ojo de Liebre or as it was subsequently named after the whaler who first discovered its bounty, Scammon's Lagoon. [As a side note, mid-February until early March are the best times to see these spectacular leviathans in the Lagoon] We made a quick stop for both gasoline and pesos before continuing south towards Loreto.

The continuation of our travels brought us through the date oasis village of San Ignacio. A stop here reveals a beautiful spring fed fresh water lagoon, a now nearly defunct date operation and one of the better restored missions of Baja California, founded by the Jesuits in 1728.

Driving south from San Ignacio brings us across the spine of Baja, down the steep, winding Tres Virgines grade and finally out to the western shore of the Sea of Cortez, just north of the historic mining town of Santa Rosalia the road continues down to the shoreline and then into the town. Rather than stop, we continue south, anxious to make it to the town of Loreto before sunset. The road continues south, mostly out of sight of the coast to the town located on the Mulege River, from which it takes its name. We continue on for several more kilometers south of town before stopping to refuel. A short time later brings us to one of the most spectacular bays along the western shores of the Sea of Cortez. While being developed at a rapid pace, the beauty of Bahia Concepcion still shines through. A little over an hour later finds us at Mike and Julie's Iguana Inn in the historical capital of Baja California Sur, Loreto.

After a great dinner at the Giggling Dolphin, a restful night at the Iguana Inn and a late morning breakfast, we were off for the final push into La Paz. The road leaving Loreto follows the coast on past the cruisers spot of Puerto Escondido (one of the best hurricane holes in the Sea) and then continues south and west up into the rugged Sierra de la Giganta. The rugged moutain scenery is a change from the relatively flat road that follows the Sea from Santa Rosalia to just south of Puerto Escondido. It finally breaks out onto the coastal plane along the Pacific Ocean and heads south through the two farming communities of Constitucion and Villa Insurentes. The ride southward is through coastal desert until it turns east once again to meet the Sea of Cortez just north of the capital city of La Paz. We arrive in the late afternoon with the temperature in the high 90's and the blue skies matched by the azure color of the Sea of Cortez.

At last we're at our home away from home, the sailing vessel Citla. In our absence the boat has collected enough desert dust to qualify it as a floating farm. An hour of scrubbing with the boat brush and water and it looks like our boat again. The challenge now is to locate local talent to drop our old rudder and install the new replacement when it arrives. This will all take place in a couple of weeks when we pull the boat out of the water for hurricane season. In the mean time, we hope to have a couple of good days of sailing before hanging it up for the summer.


Mid-Life Cruising! said...

Congratulations on your first grandson! Archer is adorable! Looks like your daughter made a beautiful bride too!

Hoping you're enjoying Baha, sailing, and your "home away from home"!

Neophyte Cruiser said...

Thanks for the kind comments, Ken and Cheryl. We enjoy reading your blog and following your adventures, too. We can't wait until you begin your sailing adventures!