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This and That in Northern Baja California Sur (February 2018)

Plans, Quickly Changed

Beachfront Palapas on Playa El Burro lit by morning sun A starry overnight sail Feb 8th brought us safely back to the Baja side of the Sea of Cortez. Finally, we’d arrived in Bahía Concepción. For various reasons (some happy, some sad) back in 2016 we had not reached this very large bay that is a popular destination for cruisers and RVers. After a challenging autumn and a lot of boatyard work we now looked forward to lounging on the hook with only small hops between the smaller bays within Bahía Concepción. A bundle of books clamored to be read and we anticipated enjoying both the under- and above-water scenery at a leisurely pace, with a smattering of boat projects sprinkled in for good measure.

Colourful Morning Sky in Caleta San JuanicoRemarkably, this plan worked for about a week. At that point we found ourselves stowed for sea and departing this long-awaited destination under a beautifully-painted morning sky. We were heading downwind to Caleta San Juanico, amused at our seeming inability to stay put. Luring us were friends in this more southern bay, with the additional bait of a used spinnaker they were carrying for us. Their presence had been relayed via the SonRisa ham radio net; we left during a convenient weather window without speaking directly to them, hoping they would not be dashing out as we pulled in. No worries, the strong, cool northerly winds that conveniently carried us south were keeping Quick from sailing to their next destination.

Eight days later we continued south to Isla Coronados for a change in scenery and with the suspicion that being near a town (Loreto) with fresh provisions would soon have appeal.

In all these places we hiked, enjoyed the wildlife and the scenery, socialized, read and even completed of those boat projects. Those following our earlier stories might wonder, where are the underwater photos of the sea critters? This part of our plan has been scuppered by cool, murky water and the windy, often cloudy weather that marked this February.

Bird is the Word

Buzzard perched on top of Cardon cactus Pelican in dive, just about to hit the water Pelican in flight There has been no shortage of bird life to enjoy. While anchored off the unpopulated Playa Santa Barbara (good name, eh?), the peace of the bay was regularly punctured with loud plops as pelicans dove for dinner. The sound is what you might expect if you took your Christmas Turkey, held it 50 feet above your bathtub, and dropped it (OK, imagine too that you have no roof. And the bathtub is full of water.) Remarkably, the pelicans can do this in very shallow water. They also work in teams at times; fish don't stand a chance when 6 long beaks pierce the water's surface within seconds of each other.

Pelicans,Herons,Egrets,Gulls on foreshore, and rock pinnacle with Osprey nest in background At Caleta San Juanico we kept an eye (aided by binoculars) on an osprey pair guarding their nest. They too worked as a team - one stayed on the pinnacle while the other was soaring off in search of food or providing defense against marauding seagulls.

Egret in flight Tricolour Heron It is perhaps time to get a bird identification book. In the Sea there are different kinds of gulls and boobies. We recently learned that the smaller herons we'd seen are tricolour herons. Of course we are familiar with great blue herons but apparently there are also great white herons. We suspect we've misidentified the latter as simply big egrets. And yes, egrets also abound; their bright white plumage and distinct silhouettes stand out for long distances.

Orange, black and white bird perched on wind anemometer. While we stopped in El Burro Cove to meet, and thank, the generous ham operator (Geary Ritchie, XE2/WB6PKH) who provides cruisers with daily weather reports, we espied this colourful, but unidentified by us, bird on Geary's wind gauge.

Frigate Bird with fish in mouth flying under the setting moon Elegant frigate birds are beautiful to watch but always make us a little nervous even if it is unfair to lump all of them into the antenna-bonking category. This frigate dangles breakfast from its beak as the early morning light brightens the mountains. Turkey vultures, also surprisingly graceful while soaring, often perch atop the tall cardón cacti and make us a little nervous for different reasons. We like to point out to them that we aren't dead yet, although perhaps we should learn how to say this in Spanish.

We even saw a road runner dashing amongst the boulders and bushes on a hillside, with no sign of Wile E. The road runner was shy, but we'll leave you with this photo of a cloud that resembles one...

Cloud that resembles a roadrunner


Hikes around here tend to involve a lot of up and down, but the views from these peaks are well worth the work.

View of El Burro and surrounding bay from hill to the north

El Burro Cove and surroundings

Bay at south end of Caleta San Juanico

Bay at the south end of Caleta San Juanico

Along the way there are many other sights. We spotted over a dozen petroglyphs scattered in an arroyo northwest of El Burro Cove.

Petroglyph found in El Burro Another Petroglyph found in El Burro
Sandstone carved with s/v Nyon by Rick and Kyra in 2012

This petroglyph is much newer, but exciting for us as it was left by friends Rick and Kyra (s/v Nyon), at the Cruisers' Shrine in San Juanico.

White and rust-coloured Rock with circular eyes

The Baja must be a geologist's dream as there are so many interesting rock formations and types. This beautiful vein can be seen just off one of the beaches in Caleta San Juanico.

Profile of a head seen in headland near Isla Coronados.

Further on, sailing past the north tip of Isla Coronados we were greeted by this face profile - now we know where the term headland comes from.

Up the road in San Juanico, we happened to wander up to a Ranchito just as Marike and Karin (Quick) returned from a long mule ride. Karin noted she now has a deeper understanding of the expression "stubborn as a mule", though they really appreciated the mules' surefootedness while descending the arroyos. While they gingerly dismounted, we enjoyed looking at the other livestock, especially the kids.

Jose Manuel and his guests riding back to the ranchito on their mules Fine leatherwork on saddle made by Jose Manuel

The very detailed leatherwork on the saddles and chaps was all done by Jose-Manuel, the ranchero.

Two mules after the ride

Two of the sturdy mules, after the ride

Close-up of Goat Kid's face

Jose-Manuel's ranchito boasted a big herd of goats; fresh goat cheese and beets we purchased made for a very excellent salad that night.

Once Karin and Marike recovered, they, along with their rescue-dog Enya, joined us on a jaunt to the south end of San Juanico. Just off the beach there was a tidy fish camp and at the end of the beach we were impressed by their effort put into marking the territory.

Tidy fish camp at Rancho Santa Ana Mexican Dog (Enya) bounding towards camera


Rancho Santa Ana sign made from shells embedded in sandstone at beach

You could say the ranch shelled out a lot for this sign.

View beachward through mangrove lagoon

The landscape is varied with beaches, estuaries, and steep hills. In low areas along the esturaries and lagoons one finds mangroves.

Bushes showing green spring growth on Isla Coronados

Because it is much warmer here than in Canada, we sometimes forget it is still the tail end of winter and the spring growth surprises us.

Quality Control

There are many good things to eat here but sometimes quality control is a bit challenged. Oats have a few more husks, our animal crackers sometimes come out in interesting combinations, and we found 2 stones in our bag of peanuts.

Bowl full of peanuts in the shell, with stone

Two animal cracker dogs, one sniffing the other's butt

It's not just the live dogs that sniff each others' butts.

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