Sierra de las Gigantas

I spent the day climbing the mountain wall behind San Evaristo. A steep bushwack through rocks , cactuses, and thorn trees. I don’t know what the elevation gain was , but it took 3 1/2 hours of steady going to get to the crest , Then another 1/2 hour to the place I stopped. I don’t call it a summit because the land slopes away gently to the west. So it is a real mountain wall , that is very steep down towards the beach. Probably 2500′ or so.

The route had some good elements. I did not know if the route was going to work until well along, because it went through some steep rock bands that were not totally visible with binoculars. There also was a section of clinging vines to trip me up. It all worked out , I got very thirsty, very scratched up on the arms, and had some great views.

I saw a buck deer on top that looked like a white tail. A small ground squirrel sighting explained some of the holes in the earth. A couple of Gila Woodpeckers were firsts for me. Possibly a Stripe-headed Sparrow. Shortly after that I saw a couple of Cold Modelo Cervezas , sitting on the beach. Just right.

Reno on ‘Star’ invited me to a beach fire in a small cove across the bay. He and Cathy , and Steve from ‘Aurora’, grilled some venison over the flames along with some fish : Dorado , Sierra and a couple of others whose names I missed. A feast.

Esta bien.

In The Last Few days

This morning I got up at 5:30. Nothing unusual in that.

I ground some really well roasted Mexican coffee beans and had a big cup while I fiddled with the radio dial. Recently ,while I have had the boat to myself, I listen to Mexican ham radio operators to understand what I can of their spanish conversation. Not much.

Dawn doesn’t happen until 6:30. Sunrise was spectacular , rays coming through cumulus clouds onto the mountain wall just to the west. Sierra de las Gigantas.

The Amigo Net starts at 0700. This is a radio network wherein small boat cruisers from all over the Pacific coast of Mexico ‘check in’ to maintain social contact. A gentleman in California by the name of Don Anderson supplies a weather synopsis for the different areas around the Pacific coast. This takes him hours to prepare every day. Purely to be helpful , and it is. The radio serves mainly as a social tool , useful for weather , and very rarely is useful for safety or rescue purposes. One must not underestimate the importance of social media , like facebook and Ham radio. I was corralled into being the ‘Net Control’ or moderator for one day. It is like being the chair at a committee meeting where there is only a vague agenda, you don’t know who is attending and you can’t see them anyways.

Ok , turn the radio off now. Have a 2nd cup of coffee and breakfast. The wind is north , so the cockpit faces south and into the sun. It is warming up from the 18 degrees C at dawn. The solar panels are tilted south to maximise watts.

I succumbed and sat in the sun reading ‘Canoe Lake’ by Roy McGregor , a novel about the mysterious death of Tom Thomson in Algonquin Park around 1917 or so. Very romantic and Canadian. Finished that.

Examined the mountain wall with binoculars to see if there is an easy way to the top. I had asked on the radio net if anyone knew of a way to get high into those mountains. Jeff on ‘Verdia’ who left Squamish 2 years ago , responded with a general description of how he got up there.

Time to go ashore and explore. After a long walk north and south from the tiny fishing village I found the tienda and got some tortillas , avocados, and bananas. Then I found a gringo , ‘Reno’, pulling his dinghy up on the beach. we went along and had a beer at the palapa. He has been cruising off and on since returning from the Vietnam war in the late 60’s. He was in LaPaz in 1987 when Barb and I first came down the coast. He also sailed across the Pacific. He and his wife lost their 2nd boat on a reef in Tuamotus in a storm in the middle of the night. No injuries. Another in a long list of stories of shipwreck. The 40′ steel boat he had in 1987 was his 3rd boat. He sold that boat a few years ago, he said his wife had had enough cruising. Now he and his wife split their year between their 45 acres in northern Montana and their 35′ sailboat(their 4th sailboat) in the Sea Of Cortez.

By this time it was 4:30 pm and I returned to the boat and studied Spanish verbs for an hour. A meal of tortillas , avocado , and tomato.

Not an unusual day.

Christmas went by. Four days at Isla San Francisco. Sunshine , a sandy beach , a few new friends , good hiking and paddling. Christmas dinner was an impromptu gathering for lobster on the ‘Sarah Jean II’, a Saga 43 from Whiterock BC. Norm and Beth Cooper are taking a couple of years to sail down the coast and across the Pacific. A long held dream ,happening. Also aboard for dinner were Stephen and Heidi , lately from Alert Bay BC on their 33′ boat Narama. They have worked on Antarctic cruise ships as naturalists , among other roles. They also work for the Raincoast Conservancy up at Shearwater. They met as crew on the ‘Maple leaf’.

The Christmas Eve beach potluck had 15 or 20 people. Among them was the Gonzalez Ortega family from Mexico city. They are unusual. In fact they themselves do not know of any other Mexican family that own and sail their own cruising boat. I have never heard of it either. Jorge Gonzalez Ortega , his wife Irma , and kids Leonardo 24 and Natalia 19. Jorge wants to take his Maple Leaf 48 to Australia. Irma is not so sure.

For three days in Isla San Francisco I was anchored in near the beach to be well out of the wind. There was a dense shoal of small (1 -2 “) fish surrounding the boat and darkening the water the whole time. This shoal of fish was under pretty steady predation. Cormorants , pelicans and boobies from the sky. A variety of larger fish from the sea. I didn’t see anything big enough to keep me out of the water.

I have maintained radio and e-mail contact with Jeanne Socrates on the ‘Nereida’. She is rapidly approaching Cape Horn on her solo circumnavigation of the world. She is really ‘sailingaroundtheworld’. Her weather is getting colder and stormier.

Tomorrow I hope to spend in the Sierra do las Gigantas. My running shoes are falling apart from desert rock hiking ,so I shall dig out my hiking boots.

The sky was cloudy today. This is unusual. In fact the cumulus accumulated all day , and it looked like rain. Never happened. Five inches of rain per year. Probably in one or two storms. Not today.

Not a sunrise or sunset goes by unexamined. The moon shines on my face in bed. Every breeze is heard in the rigging. The impact of pelicans diving for fish is a background noise. Esta bien.

Eclipse

If one would like to see an eclipse , of any celestial body, it would be good to be in a place where the skies are endlessly clear and where there is little pollution by light or smoke.

A cove on the west side of Isla Espiritu Santo in the Sea of Cortez qualifies. The problem is that the recent lunar eclipse started at 11:30 pm local time. There was no way my eyelids were going to stay open that long. Even the novel ‘The Big Why’ by Michael Winter couldn’t keep me awake. It is an interesting novel based on the experience of Rockwell Kent when he lived in Brigus,Newfoundland. Winter seems to write in the same style as Kent writes in his own books. I like it. To my taste, it is difficult to write a bad book about Newfoundland.

My internal clock worked well and my eyelids sprang open at midnight , I didn’t have to move , looked straight up through the aft hatch and could see a small bite out of the full moon. I dozed , awoke, and the moon is half-eaten. Another cycle and the fully eclipsed moon had moved from one side of the hatch opening to the other. Very handy. It was probably my half sleeping state or perhaps a lack of imagination that robbed the event of huge wonder.

Next day a couple came by in a kayak. They had been sailing that night up the coast from Cabo San Lucas , and because of south winds they stayed out all night. They were unaware of the eclipse , until Orion’s Belt began to get brighter and brighter. They denied any sensation of impending apocalypse , even though they did not immediately know what was happening. I guess even in the Dark Ages not everyone was a ‘chicken little’.

Yesterday brought a fresh SW wind , so we (the boat and I) made our way 20 miles north to Isla San Francisco. In 2001 Barb and I climbed up to the ridge overlooking the cove , and on the outside we could look down onto two Blue Whales. Really Big. Bigger than a Whale Shark. Also on that visit we hid chocolate eggs in the desert scrub behind the beach for Gavin and Susie to find , at easter. Last evening I climbed up to that same ridge and sat to watch the spectacular sunset over the Sierra de los Gigantas across the channel to the west. Just before dark I walked down to the beach and across the narrow desert neck to the beach on the east side. As I made my way back in the silent dark (it was another hour to moonrise), a lone gull rose up and screamed. Scared me? OMG.

‘On Verra’ with ALicia and Alfredo aboard have just left bound for Mazatlan. They are heading for Pitcairn Island in a month or so, thus it is likely we will be in radio contact at least.

‘Sea Hobo’ with Andy aboard has headed to LaPaz as he is running bout of food. He is on a Columbia 34 which cost him $10,000. He worked for many years as a boatbuilder and joiner in the Victoria area.

Doug and Lyneita on ‘Ka’sala’ stayed at anchor at Isla Espiritu Santo. Two days ago Lyneita was wading in very shallow water and felt a sudden very sharp jab on her ankle. Within 15 minutes she was in SEVERE pain locally. No doubt in our mind that she disturbed a small stingray who whipped its tail around and got her. Vital signs were stable so pain relief seemed to be the best approach. Bad pain for about 1 1/2 hours which fairly quickly resolved. Whether or not the Tylenol and Codeine, Benadryl , and later the self-administered Margarita helped is a topic for debate. Another survival story. And it really, really hurt. I left the anchorage before her foot dropped off.

Christmas approaches , but here in the warm sunny weather with sandy beaches and desert mountains, and no family around it will be easy to let it slide by. Jeff on ‘Verdia’ called on the radio this morning. He is from Squamish and I met him in Tribune Bay a year or so ago. He invited me to San Evaristo to have ‘uno o tres cervezas’. Como no? Jeanne Socrates on ‘Nereida’ e-mailed me from her boat. She is at 45degr south latitude approaching the Horn in stormy cold weather. Thirty-five to 40 knots of wind and big seas. She requested that I hoist a glass or two to wish her good luck and celebrate the season.

Esta todo bien y hasta escribo.

Steve