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For the month of September we were heading to our summer cruising grounds. Finally! We stopped at a few anchorages on the way O. The sailing was good most of the way up. Blustery and unsettled, but we were scooting along pretty well. We fit in school where we could. It is hard to work at the table when it is rough conditions. First of all, the teacher can't do it because of seasickness, second of all, the books have a hard time staying in one place when we are heeled over and thirdly, even the kids start to feel bad when they are down below doing bookwork unless it is calm. It does depend on the conditions, occasionally we have been able to make some progress on school when we are underway. Mike has been having fun honing his new skill of fish hunter with his spear-gun. We have been eating more and more fish! The kids are loving fish now, what a change from the beginning of the trip. They even like it raw! We were headed for Don Juan, a natural hurricane hole. This is a spot that has 365 degree protection. Of course you still get wind, but no big waves. We just wanted to check it out so that in the event of any big weather we would know the place and be familiar with it. As we pulled into Don Juan, it began to rain and blow. As soon as the anchor was set, we scurried below for a popcorn and movie afternoon. Those are always fun. We explored Don Juan for a couple of days, both on foot with some hikes and by dingy to learn the bottom holding ground. One day we hiked over to the next anchorage, about a four mile round trip hike. On the way back, Mike stopped to look at a cool tree when he heard a strange sound at his feet. He yelled for everyone to stay back, which of course brought the kids running right to him. There was a curled up rattle snake just inches away from his feet. It was not the rattles that alerted him, but the hissing of the snake. Yikes, that was a close call. The snake uncoiled and slithered away, probably just as shocked and frightened as we were. We had talked about keeping our eyes out for snakes earlier in the hike, but even so, they are so well camouflaged that even Mike practically stepped right on one. We had fun with Encanto once again with art days, hikes, beach walks and general good times.
Next, we moved up to the village of Bay of Los Angeles (BLA). This is a small town pretty far off the main highway with a couple of stores . They do not have a great selection of fruits or vegetables (and they are quite expensive), but it was our only provisioning option for the next several weeks. Our main vegetables for the next couple of months were zucchini, onions and green peppers. So, the base of every meal Nancy cooked was sautéed onions, zucchini and green peppers. Occasionally we could even find a head of broccoli, what a treat that turned into. We all love broccoli as it is, but when it is rare, it tastes even better. As for fruits, it was pretty much overripe bananas, apples and limes. After that it is canned food. As far as the protein factor goes, we ate out of the sea quite a bit. We caught plenty of Cabrilla (type of grouper), yellowtail, triggerfish, and a big dog snapper. Also of course there were some meals of clams, lobster and scallops. At one point Nancy made lobster bisque as we had so much leftover lobster from the night before, darn! We are getting good at identifying the different types of clams and scallops and are picky about which ones we collect, as we definitely have some strong preferences. We spent the next several weeks exploring different island anchorages outside of BLA. First we went to Isla Ventana. We had this anchorage all to ourselves (actually it is only big enough for one boat at a time). The whole area is only lightly populated with cruisers this year. And only two other kid boats, all girls, poor Fletcher! Anyway, Isla Ventana was very nice and we did a fun hike across the island to another beach O. Out at these islands one of the problems is bugs. There are three main types that plague the cruisers, the no-see-ums (with painful bites and slow healing sores), the mosquitoes, and the bees. The bees will swarm your boat within seconds of pulling near an island. They are in search of fresh water. At first we would try to shoo them all out, but the scouts would still get away and call in the whole hive. So, eventually, we (like most of the other cruisers), got very proficient with the fly swatters! If you eliminate the scout, the rest of the bees do not come. Fletcher and Nancy suffered the most from the no-see-ums. They definitely hit some folks more than others. The sores will last for a couple of weeks and itch like crazy. On the morning nets up here, that is one of the important pieces of information that is passed along... which anchorages have the worst bug problems and which are clear. Of course this changes daily as the winds or moisture level on an island changes so you kind of have to check it out for yourself. We were chased out of several pretty spots because of bug issues. Each island and anchorage has different features. On some there were good hikes, others great snorkeling. There were also some fun estuaries to explore in the dingy. One went almost all of the way across an island and then we hiked over and snorkeled out to a reef on the other side.
After about a week of being out exploring, it looked like a hurricane was indeed headed our way. We went back to BLA to re-supply fresh foods and even get some meats in case we could not fish for a few days. We scooted back into Don Juan O with all of the other boats in the area and had to jostle for position amidst all of the other boats. It was pretty tense in there, as everyone is laying claim to their area of water, but more and more boats are gathering and have to go someplace. Finally everyone got settled in and started to hunker down. We all were listening religiously to the weather reports on the radio nets in the morning and evening. One day Hurricane Javier was going to pass north of us, the next it was going to pass south of us, then right on top of us. It was a bit nerve wracking to say the least. There was a meeting of everyone in the anchorage on hurricane preparedness and what to expect and do. Everyone complied with the suggestions. Nancy took all of the kids on board for movies and popcorn as the meeting was in session on the beach. Folks moved back to their boats to finish the preparations. Volunteer divers checked everyone's anchors to make sure they were dug in. We moved everything off of our decks, took sails off of their furlings, and took the kayaks in to the beach and tied them up O. Of course taking everything that is stored on deck off of the deck means that it has to go somewhere else. The only spot is down below which is already crammed in with all of ours, the kids and the pets stuff. We had "stuff" piled everywhere, including huge masses of sails. There was barely room to move around or eat at the table O. Every time that you wanted to do one thing, you would have to clear a space to do it and pile stuff somewhere else, which then you would have to move to do the next thing. Dana sacrificed her bunk as a general storage area and she slept on the settee. It was one of those hurry up and wait situations. In the end, Javier passed south of us O. We had one big wind and torrential rain event associated with it, but that was just exciting and fun, nothing scary. Finally, the day came when the all clear sounded. In the end, it was almost anticlimactic. It ended up being a non-event, but good practice for the real thing. It took a couple of days to get the boat put back together. Nancy got to go for a scuba dive with some other boaters, so she was happy O. We got to meet many more of the cruisers in the area than we would have, as they were all gathered in one spot. There was a big pot luck on the beach with great food and lots of music. Many of the cruisers are quite talented and you would be amazed at the musical instruments that some of these boats have on board. We have seen whole drum sets and keyboards! This night was all acoustic, with a banjo, four guitars, a didgeridoo, a large recorder, and some percussion instruments. The next day, most of the boats headed out to continue their summer cruising. We went back to BLA and down to another beautiful anchorage. There was a fun spot called the Jacuzzi where you can hang just as the tide turns from high O. The water rushes out past you over sand and smooth rock bottom. There were a couple of other boaters in there. It was fun to sit and chat and have the cool water flow over you. The water in these parts is still pretty cool compared to the water in places we were earlier in the summer. While we were sitting in the Jacuzzi, one of the other boaters noticed that Hopper did not seem quite right and that she know of a dog from last year who had some tick bourne disease. She gave me the name and emailed her friends to find out what the treatment was.. We knew that he had not been his normal self, but he did not seem that sick, and we thought that maybe it was just the heat. A couple of days later we ran into a vet tech on another boat who offered to check Hopper out. She saw some things and was very concerned. She thought that we better keep our eye on him and consider going over to San Carlos to see the vet. San Carlos is a couple of days sail across the Sea of Cortez on the mainland Mexico side. Hopper still seemed fairly normal, just a bit low energy. The other cruiser got back to us with the name of the medicine and dosage that their friends had used last year. We decided to continue on our planned journey for now and keep an eye on him. Mike and I have been talking about getting a dive compressor and went to look at one that another cruiser was selling. This was not the one for us, but now we are hot on the idea of getting a compressor to fill our own tanks for diving. It is difficult to go diving when you have no way to fill your tanks! Along the way we have picked up used dive equipment for both of us, so now all we need is the compressor. The area we are in has a beautiful long beach, so we have gone on a few great beach walks. Fletcher caught our first yellowtail here. This is the choice fish for sashimi & sushi Very yummy.
We headed out to explore the backside of Isla Angel de la Guarda. Encanto was coming with us, so early one morning we both pulled anchor and headed around the south side of this large island. Up this far in the Sea, the tides and currents are very extreme. You have to take these into careful consideration when planning a sail. Going around this island was one of the places that we had heard could be pretty tough. On the way out we spotted a large pod of Orcas. We did not know that they would be up this high. Even with all of our best planning, it seemed that we were going upwind and up-current the whole way. We finally got around the southern tip of de la Guarda and just beat the tidal change into the first anchorage. When I say "just beat it", that is what I mean. The nose of the boat was in calm water and the tail was in a bubbling brew of tidal change. Our speed over the water was 7 kts but we were only moving 1.5 kts over the bottom. We spent a nice night in this remote spot before rising early the next morning to push on to an anchorage that we heard was great for diving and sea life. We had great sailing in the beginning of this leg, the wind and current were with us, until they weren't, then we slogged it the rest of the way up the coast to Pulpito where we planned to stay for a couple of days. The next morning we saw that Hopper was not doing well and we started to think about heading to San Carlos, the nearest city. We decided to observe him for one more day and see how he was doing. Mike went diving and came back with lobster and scallops for dinner O. Darn! We had a nice dinner with Encanto and Ventana who had just pulled into the anchorage. Ventana is a boat from Santa Barbara that the young couple who worked on the same dive boats that Nancy had, small world.
Please click to enlarge!
When we pulled anchor in San Francisquito, this is what came up
Hiking on Isla Ventana
Don Juan anchorage, the "Hurricane Hole"
Gear stowed below for storm prep
Mike and the kids take the kayaks to shore so they are off the boat for the hurricane
Hurricane Javier approaches
Sia, the super cat, cooling off and feeling secure in the sink
Nancy heading out for a scuba dive with a couple of other boaters
Two fine specimens
A good sized Pacific Dog Snapper that Mike speared
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