North Sea Cruising 2020

Escaping Puerto Peñasco

In the 40oC (+100oF) we rapidly moved all the stuff out of our apartment where we had been living for 10 month due to Covid. It took 2 weeks to do this, but with the heat it was the quickest we could manage. We literally through everything into the cabins. Finally the day, we were ready to put Penasco behind us. Unfortunately the Port Captain had a different idea. The 15-20 kn SE closed the port for 2 day. With nothing to do but organise the boat we took the time to relax, that could wait until we were out at anchor.

Finally we motored out of the port and set sail south. The wind was light now, but forward of the beam and we sailed slowly south. Two miles from the Port the temperature was already more bearable. We had made the right decision to break free of the Aircon and enjoy the real worlds. We were both excited and revealed.

It was mostly a great sail down to Refugio, but we could have used a bit more wind, butt we had amazing skies - beautiful sunset, crazy clear Milky Way, then a full moonrise. When the wind died around 2 am we started motoring towards Refugio. The forecast was for light winds for the next 3 days so there was little point waiting for wind.

Puerto Refugio

We arrived in Refugio just after sunrise and were suprised to have the whole area to ourselves. So we explored a little then selected a bay which we thought would be mostly bug free and have some breeze to cool the boat. We didn’t waste any time once we got the anchor down we had to debate whether to get the cover up or go for a swim. After not being able to swim for 5 month we jumped off the boat into the warm turquoise water. It was amazing.

The cover went up next and we spent the rest of the day just relaxing. There would be plenty of time to clean up the boat. Although the temperature was only a few degrees cooler it was suprising how much cooler it felt being out on the water. The breeze in the air and the water around us was a great mental adjustment. We ended up going snorkeling twice that day!

Over the last 11 months on land, we got so many toys to play with.We got 2 full sets of dive gear, we each got freediving fins and hadn’t been able to play with any of it yet! The snorkeling was only average, particularly compared to around Puerto Escondido, but it the exploring that is fun. Searching for new creatures or reefs. It was just so fun to be back in the water again. After a few days of snorkelling we had to take a day off and just rest our bodies! Still no beds to sleep in, but the salon is pretty comfy.

There were some strong notherlies forecasted to come down our way and Refugio isn’t the best in a northerly. We debated about sailing south in them or riding it out in the anchorage. We ended up riding them south, and we still haven’t decided if it was the best call. We thought if we caught the very beginning of the winds, they wouldn’t be too strong and it would just be a nice ride down to BOLA. They were supposed to come in the evening, but during the day the southerlies quieted down and we had no wind for a little bit, then we had the tiniest bit of a northerly and we thought - great, it’s coming early we can head out now and sail south in daylight. We went through the channel in Refugio and were headed for Ballena Canal when the wind changed and we had a 25 knot southerly and very choppy waters - it was like being in the South Bay of SF. So we turned around and went back to our anchorage to wait for the real norther. We kept waiting, and waiting. Finally, we decided it was too late and we might as well just wait for daylight before leaving. We were up before the sun and we had maybe 10 knots of northerly breeze. We made our way out of the channel and by then the wind was around 20, and the waves out in Ballena Canal were BIG. Those first waves leaves the protection of the islands were way bigger than I like and not what I expected. Paul said it was like some of the islands up north in Canada with the large tide swings. Of course they were side on as we needed to stay north of Sail Rock - about 2 miles out. Paul did an excellent job driving. We had the main up before we left of the protection of the islands and as we rounded Sail Rock, we pulled out the genoa and were sailing pretty much DDW (Dead Down Wind). The winds really weren’t too bad - mostly in the low 20s with occasional gusts. It was the waves though - we probably didn’t get out there earlier enough so the seas has already built up. But they were still building - so they were very close together. Again, Paul did a great job driving. The only bad parts were the spots with very strong and weird current. About halfway down Isla La Guardia the waves started separating and the sailing was more enjoyable - but you still had to pay attention. At least Paul got a break from the helm and I could do some driving.

We made record time getting to Don Juan - we decided to skip La Gringa because we didn’t want to deal with the channel next to Smith Island nor the angle of the waves there. It only took us X hours to make the X mile trip to Don Juan!

La Gringa

We only spent a night at Don Juan before heading up to La Gringa - we heard that’s where the whale sharks were, so that’s where we went!

We’d been out for over a week but, still getting back into "cruising shape" and getting the boat back together. It took us nearly a week to find enough time to actually clear off one of the beds to sleep in! It’s hard to leave land after being there so long, and both cabins were stuffed full of stuff. But by the time we got to La Gringa, the dinghy was up and running, paddle boards were on deck, we had shade and a working fridge and freezer compressor controller!

We were still snorkeling at least once a day. We got to swim with whale sharks 4 days in a row! It was amazing! They were juvenile whale sharks - between 20-30 feet and you could tell they loved swimming with us! If you put your hand out they would come up to you! It was magical!

In La Gringa we hooked up with our good friends Migration (another Cincinnati girl!) And had a great time snorkeling and playing together! Our first night in La Gringa we actually had a pizza night with Skyline Chili Dip because there were 4 of us from Ohio, 3 from Cincinnati! There were 14 boats when we got to La Gringa but within a few days, it had mostly cleared out (including the whale sharks) as people headed off in various directions.

Isla Partida

The last 2 weeks have been SO much fun! I think we are still compensating for all the lack of fun we had during lockdown, and it's been a great time :) Since we last left the Village (2 weeks ago when we got groceries and had internet) we've been exploring the islands up here with our friends Bruce and Alene from Migration.

Nothing is too far away here, so we had some very nice say sails between anchorages and spent a lot of time at anchorages that were basically all ours! We left the Village and spent a night in Esta Ton - which is a very tiny bay - hardly big enough for 2 boats. But it's stunning - it's surrounded by steep mountains. Unfortunately, we only stayed that one night because the bees chased us out. It was only 14 miles to get to our next anchorage - Isla Partida, but we spent the better part of the day getting there - it was a fun and beautiful sail! Tide was against as at times, the winds were light and on our nose, and we had to make a brief stop to empty off our fishing lines. Yet again, I caught a stupid bird and the fishing line got tangled up in the wind generator. Paul saved the bird - it was nice to see him fly off, and he took apart the wind gen to detangle the line. Luckily Migration went for fish instead of fowl and caught a nice dorado that they shared with us that night.

Isla Partida was magical. It was mostly just the 3 of us there - but a few boats stopped over one night, and an Aussie boat was there for a couple of days. Covid still makes cruising weird - boats have formed "bubbles" and there's very little interaction outside of your bubble. Every day at Partida we did a different fun activity - we snorkeled everywhere. Did our first dive of the year out on a rock about a mile north of the anchorage. Went spear fishing - we had fish almost every night thanks to Bruce and Alene!! Yellow tail sashimi, cabrilla, dorado... it was a tasty week! We hiked to the top of the island one day - we needed a day to recovery after that! We did movie nights on the deck of Migration - using the big screen and projector. Went for a night snorkel which always seems other-worldly. It was a magical time at Isla Partida :)

Caleta Pulpito

We left there just before the North winds were expected to arrive - it's totally exposed. We decided to head straight for Caleta Pulpito because we had all heard so many good things about it. We bumped into Kavu there - the other Cincinnati Boat - so the girls from Cincinnati were reunited. It was a beautiful anchorage, and we would love to spend more time there, unfortunately the no-see-um mosquitos were brutal and we decided to move on the next day. Paul doesn't seem to get bit, but I have probably 50 bites on each limb at this point. You really couldn't be outside of your boat after 4 pm or before 11 AM without getting slaughtered. But we all went for a snorkel together and saw a TON of rock scallop. The next night Bruce made a delicious feast. Early in the morning before we left, Paul and I walked on the beach - and it was actually quite stunning from what we saw the night before. There's a hill on one side of the beach - which is a nice long white sand beach. And on the other side of the hill was a huge lagoon. It looks like something out of Land Before Times to me - there are mountains further back, with a big valley leading down to the lagoon, then this beautiful white sand beach and cliffs on either side of the beach.

Refugio Again

We all left Caleta Pulpito at the same time for Refugio. We sailed a little but it was not the most fun - the current around La Guardia is just crazy. We had 16 knots of wind and were sailing along beautifully, then it just stopped. Within about 1 minute we were left rocking and rolling like crazy in the large and short swell from the current. We spent more time motoring than we would have liked to. We came in the East side entrance to Refugio (the last side of the bay for us to explore since we'd already explored the rest of the bay in previous trips). We anchored one bay over from Kavu in our little tiny bay - it was a super cool spot. And Migration was just around the corner from us. We of course did more snorkeling, which at first seemed boring, then Paul started finding these really cool nudibranchs - mostly black, with a ruffled body and bright yellow and blue dots. They were super cool. As the north winds came in, we had to move due to the swell and the Royal Venture Role. We hopped over to the Western bay - which was totally flat. We went from 60 degrees of rolling to flat.

Kavu and Sunpiper were there and hosted a beach bon fire party that night. Migration traded fruit juice and $15 with some fisherman for 4 octopus, a snapper and probably a couple pounds of scallops. Not a bad trade! So they made a delicious octopus meal for all of us. Sunpiper had made bread and crepes!! We frequently get asked what we eat - a lot of people assume we eat "camp food". It's almost always quite the opposite!! It was a neat group to hang out with - Sunpiper is young couple from BC - a small island not far from Naniamo where Paul worked. And Kavu is a young couple from Ohio.

As the weather was getting ready to turn, and Kavu and Migration were heading North, they decided to celebrate Bruce's birthday a day early. Migration came over and picked us all up to go diving out near the sea lion island on the north side of Refugio. Migration is a 46 foot trimaran, so they have a TON of deck space which makes it a great dive platform, among other things. We all had half a tank left after our last dive, so it was a very shallow dive - mostly only in 15 feet of water. But we were surrounded by sea lions!! It was so cool!!! We would just sit at the bottom and they would swim all about and come check you out. Everyone but had been diving with sea lions before, and it's definitely intimidating. But they are so curious and so playful. Some would just sit on the bottom in front of you blowing bubbles as they stared at you. Others would swim around with you and as you did barrel rolls or turned directions - so did they! It was a very cool - and a cool way to spend your birthday!

With the rest of the seafood - I made Paella for everyone for dinner - chicken, spicy mexican sausage, octopus, and scallop! Migration hosted the birthday party with champagne and coconut cake! We had such a good time spending the last few weeks with Migration - they left the next morning to head north as we are heading south, but we plan to rendezvous further south around Paul's birthday. They were tough to keep up with! They do fun activities every single day, make amazing meals in the evening, have yoga sessions and never seem to get tired! I think they knew we were coming out of a funk after lockdown, and did a lot for our benefit to help us get back in having fun and enjoying life mode :) it certainly worked, and is much appreciated :)

Bahía Pescador

One of our most favorite anchorages in the North Sea!

Animas Slot

Tiny anchorage, just big enough for 1 or 2 boats. Surrounded by mountains. The most amazing Milky Way viewing. Awesome diving. Big Fish.

Bahía San Francisquito

Cool place

Chuckwalla Island

In search of the great Chuckwalla