Friday, January 25, 2013

Long-term Visitors

After the holidays, the majority of the family left – but my Mom and step-dad Lloyd stayed – keeping the large power-catamaran they had chartered while everyone was here.  The plan was to spend the next 3 weeks heading north, exploring the Sea of Cortez and hopefully making it up to the Loreto area. Unfortunately the weather decided not to cooperate, so we never made it farther north than Isla San Francisco.  

Nachos during the game...
Immediately after the family left the winds picked up into the 15-20 knot range for the next 7 days.  Since 20 knot winds can create some pretty big waves in this area, we decided it might be better to wait for better conditions before leaving La Paz.   After a couple of days at the marina we all decided to move out to the anchorage in downtown La Paz to have easier access to the city.  While there, we explored the town together, eating many a great meal and we even got to see the Seahawks in their playoff game while eating one of the biggest (and tastiest) plates of nachos I’ve ever seen.

New Years Eve
Good Luck Achieved by Lloyd!
While waiting for better weather we also rang in the New Year with a great dinner at one of the restaurants in the Costa Baha marina.  There was a great band, a great 5 course dinner and some nice wine too!  After dinner we joined some friends we had met (Glenda and Laird on Winterlude) and celebrated like the world was going to end!  We even participated in the local custom of seeing how many grapes you can stuff into your mouth.  Tradition says that if you can fit 12, you will have great luck the coming year.  Sadly, I couldn’t fit more than 5 grapes and Mom could only manage 7.  Lloyd, however, won the day when he fully accomplished all 12 grapes!  Impressive!  Did I mention how HUGE they were????  J

Finally the wind decided to cooperate, so off we went to Caleta Partida.  Actually – we were supposed to go up to Ensenada Grande, but by 4pm the wind has picked up and the swells were coming into the anchorage, so we met up with Costa Baha I (aka Good Fortune – who had arrived much earlier as they travel much faster!) and moved back down to Caleta Partida which is much more protected.  Boy are we glad we did as the only other boat left in Ensenada Grande showed up at about 9:30pm – which meant they were willing to pull anchor, sail 45 minutes south in huge waves and re-anchor in the dark – instead of sticking it out at Ensenada Grande.  Yikes!

At Anchor in Caleta Partida
We had two mildly uncomfortable nights at Caleta Partida before the weather settled enough to return to Ensenada Grande.  During that time I had a great time playing with my new inflatable paddle board (thanks to a Christmas miracle – also known as the Wiebe’s!).  I had tried the one they had rented over Christmas and loved it.  This one was a little harder to balance on, but with a little practice I got the hang of it and really enjoyed the workout and the view as I paddled my way around the anchorage.

The Sea Lions at Los Islotes
After moving we a nice night in Ensenada Grande, but while the winds were low we decided to depart early and make our way up to Los Islotes to try to swim with the sea lions.  Along with the sea lions, the snorkeling there is absolutely amazing.  There are huge schools of fish along with cormorants and pelican’s that will dive into the water right next to where you are snorkeling – so you actually get to watch them chasing after the fish underwater – pretty neat!  After taking turns snorkeling there, we got back on board and headed up to Isla San Francisco – about 2-3 hours north (traveling at 6 knots).  The photos of the area looked amazing – but unfortunately the reality was not nearly as interesting compared to some of the other beautiful anchorages we have been in this area.  

Bacon Wrapped Shrimp!
Too bad since it was so far to get there – especially since we had to return the next day as the weather was predicted to get bad a few days out and we didn’t want to get stuck there.  But we did enjoy a quiet night at anchor, along with a great meal – trying to recreate cheesy bacon wrapped shrimp on the BBQ along with stuffed peppers.  Imagine lots of gooey cheese melting all over the BBQ (and a few overboard to boot) and you’ll get the idea.  Even though it was a bit of a fiasco, we still managed to get some that were perfectly cooked and delicious!  Great job on the BBQ Lloyd – that was quite a challenge! 

After one night at Isla San Francisco it was back to Ensenada Grande where we had a nice couple of days – including doing a great hike over to the east side of the island where there were some incredible views!  The weather was nice, but a little on the cool side – and unfortunately too cold for snorkeling or swimming, so we read a lot and played some great games of dominoes and cards to pass the time.

An Impromptu Gathering
At this point the weather was predicted to get VERY bad, so both boats went back down to Caleta Partida as it is by far the most protected anchorage at the islands.  Some other boats had obviously heard the same weather report, so there ended up being about 5-6 boats at anchor when the winds began to hit.  Prior to that we had invited all the boats over to Good Fortune for happy hour, so it was nice to get to know some of the other people that would be enduring the wind storm with us.  We especially liked Dan & Kimberly on Dazzler and Alex and Naomi on LunaSea (who also have a cat Luke on board). 

Shortly after our happy hour the already lively winds picked up even more and overnight were in the 20 knot range.  Early the next morning, one of the other boats in the anchorage (which bizarrely happened to be the other boat our family had chartered, but with a new group on board) started to drag.  Thankfully Dan (from Dazzler) jumped in his boat and went to wake them up before they hit the rocks.  We had tried hailing them and sounded horns – all to no avail.  Later they ended up leaving as they needed to return the boat the next morning.  No way I would have left as it was blowing close to 30 knots by then in the anchorage and the waves outside looked huge.  Totally nuts if you ask me!

The Calm Before the Storm
Over the next 24 hours the wind continued unabated with gusts up to 40 knots and sustained winds in the mid-30’s.  After two more boats dragged anchor – we decided Bella Vita would run an all-night anchor watch – with one of us checking outside every 20 minutes or so.  One of the boats that dragged was a new sail-cat that had come in and anchored around 6pm.  They were obviously fast asleep when it happened as they also didn’t respond to horns and bright lights shone at them.  As they neared the rocks it was once again Dan to the rescue as he had the only dinghy already in the water.  Thanks to Dan, they also didn’t hit the rocks – but it was pretty close.  They soon anchored right in front of Good Fortune and unfortunately ended up dragging AGAIN around 1am in the morning and hitting Good Fortune – but thankfully lightly and no damage was done.  For some bizarre reason, they then took off and left the anchorage – only to return about 3 hours later to anchor again.  It was a very eventful night!  But thankfully everyone else held for the rest of the storm and after three days the winds finally blew itself out.  That is definitely not what I was hoping for during my parent’s time here – I wouldn’t wish that for anybody!

Finally the winds calmed down enough for us to return to La Paz.  The power cat was due back on Saturday morning and so we thought we’d make the crossing while the crossing was good, not knowing if it would get too windy again.  While Mom and Lloyd are seasoned boaters, I think there were just done with the Sea of Cortez and ready to go home!

So back to La Paz to the Costa Baha Marina, which is where the Moorings charter company is based and we had the treat of having three whole nights at a dock!  Since they had rented a car we decided we MUST go back to a wonderful steak house called Estancia Uruguaya and some of the best steak I’ve ever eaten!  We also returned to one of our personal favorites – a place where the locals eat that have an incredible shrimp dish.  

While the weather was not what we would have hoped for, I can’t tell you how much we enjoyed having three full weeks of time together with these two wonderful people.  When you are far away from home, it’s delightful (no matter what the weather) to have a little piece of home come to you.  Since these are two of my top 10 favorite people in the world, it was great to be able to spend so much time together – especially since I’m not quite sure when we will be able to see them again.  Once again – goodbyes were very hard to say – which is why we just have to say, until we meet again.  But know we miss you already.

We'll miss you guys!!!

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