Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Ensenada to Cabo Part 1

Well, its hard to know where to start. Its been over 800 miles since I last blogged and so many things have happened and I just don't have time to do the experience justice. Its been 800 miles of rocks, and sand, and dust,and gravel, and cactus and a constantly parading panorama of mountains, beaches, fishing boats, islands and waves. We departed casually from Ensenada in the morning and motored just a few miles to Islas Todos Santos. Some very kind fishermen showed us to one of their mooring buoys to use. We hooked up the dinghy and the motor and made a quick scouting hike around the barren desert landscape as the daylight faded out. We scrambled up to a high point to look for surfable waves. We spotted a few, but later that night after eating our first tuna caught by the handline, the north wind that was continuing to blow urged us to make distance south. We sailed when we could and motored when the wind died, and by that next evening we arrived just at dusk at the enticing Isla San Martin, a volcanic island, almost perfectly circular, with rumored lava tube caves and a trail to the summit of the small mountain. The next morning we made our way ashore and explored around the beaches and lava and cactus encrusted slopes of the mountain. We never made it to the top as it was just too hard to walk through a carpet of cactus and every so often someone would scream out in pain as he bent over to gingerly pull the cactus thorns out of his flimsy footwear. That afternoon we motored south again for just a few hours, surveying the coast with binoculars, looking at any signs of civilization we could spot, and any good surf breaks for Ian to jump into. We tucked around the corner of Cabo San Quintin and anchored in 6 fathoms near a sandy looking beach. It was a nice anchorage, almost completely protected from the prevailing NW swell, although some did wrap all the way around the point and come north a bit. Sand bars prevailed in this area and at various stages of tide when a large set of waves came through, breaking waves would appear on previously flat calm areas, making dinghy trips to the beach a bit more exciting. We hauled Ian's short surfboad and the giant foam Wavestormer longboard to the beach to find some waves. Ian had a long unsuccessful hike around the point looking for big, peeling, barrels. He mostly found miles of kelp, rocks and lots of dead sea lions rotting on the beach, but not much rideable. I pulled on my wetsuit (thanks Hank) and as the sun set we rode small crumbling breakers in the cold shallow beach. After dinner aboard, we paddled to shore again and made a crackling beach fire and felt very alone, it was one of the more desolate places I've been so far. There's not much around except for fishermen in pangas during the day, and animals, boat, and plastic carcasses washed up on the beach. There was a nice west facing beach on the chart so the next day we set out with boards strapped across our backs to hike through the scrub and dunes, across the peninsula to the ocean.

The dunes and the beach were again, beautiful and desolate. A very different scene from our beginnings in Seattle and an exotic and interesting adventure. The day was cloudy and a bit cold, but we still braved the chilly water to get thrashed by the beach break. Ian tore up the huge curling faces, while Dan and I mostly impersonated clothing in a washing machine as the white water exhausted us and made laughable our attemps to stand up on the boat sized Wavestormer. Another beautiful trudge back across the dunes to the boat, and home, and a hot meal, and early evening departure for points south. I think it was the next day we approached land again, still looking for the combination of a good surf spot and good anchorage. They are hard to come by singly, and together even more rare, and we motored past many miles of coastline before deciding to stop a few miles east of Cabo Canoas. The waves again were a disappointment. I scrambled up the strange reddish hill just up from our anchorage and was rewarded with a break in the ever present marine layer of clouds, and one of the most beautiful vistas I've ever seen.

Whereas Ian is constantly scanning the shoreline for a nice curling wave, I'm always looking for a nice high hill very close to the water, for its one of my favorite things to hike up high and gain a vantage out over the ocean and the terrain that lies landward. I hope the pictures can do some justice to the beauty up there. The situation must have helped a bit as well. Its quite a feeling to look around and see nothing human but the small boat that's carried you so slowly and arduously down the coast. The vegetation and terrain is again, so foreign to my native rainforest that it adds greatly to the experience. And I'll admit, its nice to get off the boat, and not be worried about ETA's or weather, or fuel, or cooking or sleeping, or the other miriad things that need to be worried about. When I returned to the boat, the wind had come up, so we were, gone again, hoisting a reefed main to a finally, healthy breeze from the WNW. The speed inched up into the 7.0 kt range , but we mostly averaged around 6 knots. It was great to finally get a breeze that seemed determined to blow for more than a few hours and we made good use of it as we crossed a large bay, almost 100 miles to Isla Cedros. At Cedros the next day, we attempted a hike, but the arroyo we explored into seemed to go on forever and we never gained any altitude. It was southward again, hauling up the anchor and watching the bizarre moutains of multicolored rock slowly pass by. We glassed a small clump of palms on the Cedros shore, rumored to be an ancient spring, where the Spanish galleons would stop to replenish with water on their run up and down the coast from Mexico to the terretories in present day California. Late that night we pulled into Bahia Tortugas, our first real Mexican city since Ensenada and a very good natural harbor, as its anchorage is mostly protected from all directions.

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