Thursday, August 5, 2010

Bay of LA

We spent 8 beautiful days exploring the Bay of LA. We arrived before the fleet of sailors that spend hurricane season there and it felt like we had the place to ourselves- reminiscent of being on SF Bay during a weekday when everyone else is working. With no local knowledge of the area and very little guide book information to go on, we played it safe as with so much land and water, there is no obvious (to us) pattern to the winds. It seems that whatever opening an anchorage has, wind is funneled in creating onshores. We awoke in La Gringa with SE winds and angry looking waves, reminiscent of both wind events during the previous day. So after cleaning dishes from the previous day’s passage, and battening down again, we weighed anchor. Once out of La Gringa, we entered a strong SE “windy lane” and sailed out toward the islands in the bay.

We had hopes of protection in the northern anchorage of Isla La Ventana. After having a few nerve wracking moments when crossing some lighter water (30-ft from over 100) and darker water (over 100-ft apparently some type of red tide) when we got there, winds were howling right into the north cove. We dropped the main and sailed around under jib alone scoping out protection in the little islands to the west. We found the only tenable anchoring spots were on a 30-ft deep point coming off La Fletcha, and a 50-ft spot behind Cerraja. Tacking around in approximately 200-yds of space between La Ventana and these little islands, with no good charts, winds still howling 15-20-knots from the SW, and Shawn being especially gunshy after the previous days near knockdown, we decided to abandon a night at the islands for now and sailed another 5-nm to Puerto Don Juan at the south end of the Bay of LA. It was there in the all weather anchorage that we are truly recovered from our recent adventures; drying everything out, baking bread, making cookie dough and eating popcorn; we relaxed.

We spent three days in Puerto Don Juan while Shawn cooked and caught up on writing for the blog and Chris did lots of little upgrades always making the systems just a little bit smoother. We spent a day hiking to a beautiful high view point from which we could see across to the Midriffs. Rejuvenated and ready to explore some more, we sailed to Isla Ventana on July 10th and tacked up into the tight little anchorage, all to ourselves. A beautiful spot, we enjoyed hiking across the little island to its southern anchorage, through a rocky field where we found scientific data collection equipment, then on to the highest point where there was a huge cement cross. Back on Tao, we had a nice dinner and with solid SE winds all day still blowing, we decided to stay for the night. Unfortunately, at 2200, winds shifted coming from the west directly into the little anchorage. Though it never got very strong, we had decided if westerlies came in at all we would move. So, in pitch black darkness, we fired up Yannie and with a beautifully phosphorescent wake we motored to Don Juan, carefully following our previous GPS track. Having run out of most freshies, the next day we sailed to the metropolis of Bay of LA (BLA) proper to scope out grocery and internet possibilities.

The anchorage off BLA is a roadstead with towering mountains to the west down which the famous summer westerly winds pour off. We headed in and did some recon of the off-the-beaten-path town. We checked each of the several groceries, fresh water, and internet possibilities to plan our attack of the town to reprovision the following day. We decided on the internet cafe at the south end of town directly across the street from the freshest produce we found and Guillermos, the shortest walk from our dinghy and least expensive water (12 pesos for 5 gallons) for our several trip refill. After managing to buy a plane ticket to the east coast for Shawn and Grizzly (no easy feat, thanks for your help Jane!) we fueled up with lunch at Guillermos as the highest tide of the month swept across the kid filled beach volley ball court. Shawn hiked back to the grocery with her pack to get food and Chris did four trips of 10 gallons each to refill our fresh water supply.

Tuesday the 13th we had a nice very light wind sail to La Rada (translated means inlet) at the south end of Isla Coronado. We explored the beautiful lagoon, red mangroves and even saw manta rays swimming in formation! After a fun day in the sun and water, with no westerly protection, we weighed anchor and did a sunset sail across the bay to the safety of Puerto Don Juan. Originally planning to head toward the Midriff islands the next morning, we awoke and decided to organize ourselves first and pushed our departure back another day. This gave us time to meet the crew of the first sailboat we’d seen yet- currently careened and painting their bottom. Once the tide had come back up and they were floating, curious to meet the people and see their boat, we visited with muffins and were happily surprised to meet a fun young cruising couple and their boat Iniki. We were entertained by their stories of singlehanding, shipwrecks, and previous encounters and left revitalized reminded that there are other young adventurous cruisers out there. After stuffing ourselves with an overly generous amount of clams Iniki had collected earlier in the day, we organized Tao for a dawn departure.

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