Monday, February 12, 2018

2018-03 Los Osos Water Boys Fish Baja

Saturday, February 3, 2018:  LAX to La Paz

We started out about 1AM on Saturday morning.  It was a 3-hour ride to LAX from the San Luis Obispo area.  Ken Bruton drove his big diesel truck while Gerard Ages, AJ Jennings and Captain Alex were along for the ride.  Ken and Gerard have crewed on Wild Blue before.  They added AJ and this crew is along only for fish catching, and fish dining.  By 6:30AM the crew had checked wet suits, rods, spear guns, masks, snorkels, reels, and lures and were boarding the Alaska Air jet to Los Cabos Airport.  This early flight is one of the first flights of the day into Cabo, which means the Mexican Customs crowd should be small.

Our La Paz driver Alex meets us at the curb at just after 11 local time and we settle in for the 2+ hour ride to La Paz.  In the old days, before Los Cabos Airport and the Cabo San Lucas explosion, La Paz was the tourist destination and many flights serviced LAP with direct flights from the states.  Now the best way to get there is by walking across the boarder from San Diego CBX to Tijuana Airport.  It's inexpensive, nonstop and fast, but still about a six hour drive from the Central California Coast.

Alex is an Uber driver and speaks both languages fluently, besides holding a degree in marine biology.  So while he works on his masters degree, he drives for a living, talking fish along the way.  The crew mines Alex for the latest fishing techniques, and information.  The fish talk is stimulating and this crew won't nap, even after having been awake for the past 11 hours!

Once at the boat, we drop off the gear, and Alex drops us at the dive shop downtown La Paz.  We say goodbye, he says good luck! Soon we are wandering the city with 40 pounds of dive weights.  The church, albeit pretty and hundreds of years old, does nothing to relieve our hunger.  Finally we select our Taco "Temple" and indulge: a dozen fresh fish tacos, heavily laden with accouterments (cabbage, tomato, onion, cheese, red pepper, halipena, cilantro), and eight frosty cervesas are needed so we can "get some satisfaction"!

With tummies filled, we walk a couple blocks to the local "supermarcado".  This corner market is not necessarily super, but it has fine fruit and vegetables, dairy products, beer, wine, liquor and many of the products we see at home, just labeled in a different language.  After three carts filled, we call Uber for our $3.78 US cab fare back to the boat, about 4 miles away in the Costa Baja Resort.  The fish talk continues into the night.

Even She can't satisfy our hunger today!
Front to back Ken, Gerard and AJ.  K and G have been playing together
in the same Rock and Roll band for decades, and it shows here
as they know just how to pose for an album cover.

Sunday, February 4, 2018:  La Paz to Isla Espiritu, Fish Trolling, then Isla San Francisco

Crew Gerard is a highly social creature.  In fact social media was invented for people just like him! Like most, he uses the new technology to communicate with friends, family, clients, and business associates.  However Gerard's social media use flourishes when the topic is fishing.  Well before he boarded the plane to Baja, Gerard had texted, emailed, and called his numerous fishing friends to find out who had recently fished Baja.  Like a gemologist, he mined their minds for locations, techniques, lures, bait, rods and reels.  As word spread that G was coming to Baja, it was no surprise to the rest of us that he had already arranged a rendezvous with Kevin on the sailing vessel Little Haste, an Asian designed ketch.  The meet will be at Isla Espiritu, a couple hours outside of La Paz. And the topic will be........ fishing.

Kevin has lots of boats, but the majority are commercial tourist vessels which operate out of Morro Bay.  Whale watching slows during the winter months so Kevin and crew get on Little Haste in Baja and cruise the Sea.  He's been out for a couple weeks now and has fishing and diving tips to share.  He texts Gerard his coordinates via Garmin's In-Reach Satellite Communicator, and our media connected crewman directs our course.  Soon we arrive in Ensenada del Candelero Bay and set the hook next to S/V Little Haste and crew.  We invite them aboard for a fishing summit.  They arrive with beer, tequila and chocolate.  We supply Chef Ken's delicious guacamole, chips, more beer and tequila.  The shot glasses and limes appear, and soon the tequila has evaporated, but the fishing stories continue!

Kevin's ketch, aka Little Haste!  He keeps this boat in La Paz,
while his commercial tourist fleet cruises the waters in and around Morro Bay.
Little Haste crew aboard the Wild Blue. Where or where did
that tequila go?
Guacamole ala Chef Ken Bruton
"There is no better guac recipe"

3 large ripe Avocado
3 heaping table spoons of mayonnaise
1/2 of white or red onion finely chopped
1 large ripe tomato chopped
1 handful of cilantro chopped
1 tablespoon of Louisiana hot sauce
1/8 of a jalapeƱo extra finely chopped (omit if you don’t like heat)
1 or 2 fresh garlic cloves pressed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 of a lime or lemon juiced
 Mix and mash until all looks green, let sit in frig for ½ hour and enjoy

After several beer and tequilas, Kevin and the crew of Little Haste, like a spy on truth serum, "spilled their guts" divulging fishing tips, techniques, and locations on the Sea.  They recommended Isla San Francisco and Isla Las Animas.  They loaned us a spare spear gun rubber band, and their remaining fresh foods no longer needed as they return home in the morning.   They were quite helpful and any fishing success can be attributed to getting the location right.  Real estate and fishing have three aspects in common: location, location, location!

After our good byes, we pulled the hook and headed to Isla San Francisco.  Along the way the crew perfected the troll spread using four rods and an extra line.  With five lures on the drag, it a wonder we're not filling the freezer yet.  We arrived in the dark to 15+ boats at anchor in Isla SF's big bay, so instead we anchored near the wall in the indentation just west of the big anchorage. Our LED floods lit up the shore, an woke up the Panguero fishermen previously asleep on shore.

The spread: starboard corner rod (not shown), lower deck rod, upper
deck rod, swim step bungee line, and port corner rod.  Five
lines dragging lures, feathers, plugs, Rapallas, etc. 
AJ wrestles a Dorado, aka Mahi Mahi, aka Dolphinfish
AJ's Dorado gets a cleaning.
This week's route takes us north from La Paz
 to Puerto Escondido and back.

Sunset over the Baja Penninsula

Monday, February 5, 2018:  Fishing Isla San Francisco

We decided to stay the day at Isla SF.  Gerard and AJ snorkeled the wall connecting with a few small fish.  Ken and Alex trolled Isla SF's east side with Rapalleas close to shore.  Soon a good sized Cabrilla ate it up and Ken landed the tasty fish, aka "Chocolate".  This occurred as another gringo watched from a passing dinghy.  Upon landing the Cabrilla, he then called over his congratulations.  Shortly thereafter he lifted a rather LARGE Cabrilla, just to help keep our egos in check.

Solution for Lack of Accurate Charts

In ours and many others experience, accurate charts are a rarity here in Baja.  Our CMAP and Navionics electronic charts look good, but their depth readings are not even close.  Worse, some land masses are up to a mile off from where the electronic chart shows them. Typically the Baja peninsula land mass is close to actual position, but the reefs and islands are not close.  Some well-traveled islands like Espiritu and San Francisco are near accurate, but Las Animas is close to a mile off both on CMAP and Navionic charts.  In fact Navionics has us passing directly through the center of Animas!   CMAP had us anchored on 500 yards on shore at Punta Colorado on Carmen Island.  So, the best Baja chart solution we've found is "Sea of Cortez: A Cruisers Guidebook".  These charts have proved to be accurate.  Electronic versions of these charts are available for use with various apps.  The book lists the waypoints for anchoring, waypoints for safe passages, and waypoints for caution, such as reefs to avoid.  We've included three chart scans from the over 100 in the book to highlight the clarity and accuracy of the charts.  We highly recommend buying this book! Of course no affiliation with the authors or publishers (and we hope they don't sue for displaying this copyrighted material)!

Isla San Francisco has two great snorkeling locations.
One on the wall of the West Anchorage. The other on the
wall of the North Anchorage.

Alex, AJ and Ken trolling in tender.
AJ face down and G face up with kayak tender to snorkeling.
Ken's nice Cabrilla.  Wow this turned into a tasty BBQ treat.
Lunch of more Dorado fish tacos
Nice end to a good day in Baja at Isla SF.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018:  Isla San Francisco to Isla Las Alminas, to San Marte

Yesterday we decided to get an early start and fish Kevin's recommended Isla Las Animas off the east side of Isla San Jose.  We left at 4AM to arrive around 6:30, a prime fishing time of day.  As is typical in the Sea, the boat's electronic CMAP and Navionics charts show Isla Las Animas location about .8 NM further west than reality.  In fact Navionics had us cruising directly across the island!  Luckily it is well lit even if the charted light location doesn't jive with reality, something that wouldn't be tolerated for long in the USA. Oh well, that's Mexico?
Our track around Las Animas shows an island about 1/2 size,
circular as opposed to elongated and approximately .75 nautical
miles north and east of reality per CMAP! One would think is this
time of satellite mapping, charts would accurate and useful.
We circled the Las Animas three times trolling the big spread but the fishing seemed to be nearer to the island as the Pangueros moved their pangas close in.  We followed suit and watched the Pangueros technique then Gerard started conversing in Spanish.  Whatever was said, we both fished the same rock off the north end of Las Animas,the boats just twenty feet apart.  The Pangueros chummed lots, causing the rock fish to leave their holes in a feeding frenzy.  The fishermen then hand-line cast into the chummed water, reeling in fish after fish.  Soon they backed off, inviting us to try our luck.  It was nice of them to standby and watch as we cast lures into the Panguero's fishing hole, however they must have been somewhat comforted by the fact that these Gringos were not taking any fish!

AJ's Las Animas Masked Triggerfish chalked up one fish for the Gringos.
Except for AJ's Triggerfish, after four hours Las Animas was a bust for the gringos.  It was time to move, so we opted for San Marte anchorage near three reefs, good for diving and fishing.  By 10:30 we were watching the spread and hoping for the sound of a "fast clicking reel." Along our route, we passed between Isla San Diego and Isla Santa Cruz, giant rocks in the Sea, arriving in Bahia San Marte at 3:30.

Gerard and AJ suited up for reef snorkeling while Ken and Alex tender trolled the rocky shore.  By late afternoon, Gerard came back with a good sized dogfish grouper.  It turned into a great dinner.

Isla San Diego
Isla Santa Cruz
The accurate chart of San Marte Anchorage and snorkeling reefs.
G's Pargo Perro (dog) Snapperr speared off San Marte reef.
Wednesday, February 7, 2018:  San Marte to Puerto Escondido

By 11AM we had dined on pancakes and eggs and on our way to Puerto Escondido, a 4-hour motor. The seas were flat and the troll continued with little success, other than looking to be in good fishing form!  Instead, we worked on our tans.

With new tans, we gringos fit right in with the deeper tanned ex-pats in Puerto Escondido.  There are lots of 'em here.  After tie up, the marina check-in was simple.  Instead of the legions of marina staff when we visited last in 2014, just one guy operated the efficient office.  He took our Mexico check-in packet and instead of copying to paper, just scanned it saying "we don't have a lot of trees down here in Baja".  Great attitude and instead the regular moorage rate, the power wasn't up yet, so the charge was just 75 cents a foot!  Hurry Venus you can make it before the increase.....

The marina guy was quite pleasant, and a good English speaker, so I asked him if Carlos the diver was still here. In 2014 we had Carlos watch Dick Squire's Seagate for 6 weeks.  Well Carlos was there and I ran into him a few minutes later.  Surprisingly he remembered me and the Seagate.  Obviously I must have overpaid for his services, to remember some old gringo from the past, or he just has excellent interpersonal skills.  It felt good being back in PE.

There's a an outdoor view restaurant upstairs overlooking the marina with a large brick pizza oven. It looks intriguing, but of course with Ken Bruton chef-ing aboard the Wild Blue, why would we dine out?  No worries, Kenny has graciously supplied his recipes for the rest of the world.
Approaching Puerto Escondido from the south.
No this is not Alaska, even though the familiar small passenger cruise ship
Safari Endeavor is here in Puerto Escondido.  Just like the birds, whales,
 and geese, this boat migrates south for the winter.
Alex checks the lines at Puerto Escondido.  Hey... nice tan!
PE's new long dock with 200 amp power can handle some lengthy superyachts.
Even the 280 foot Jobs Family boat "Venus" can park right at the dock!
Finally a self-powered weather station!
Pretty Puerto Escondido is on the rise.  It has been purchased by a
Guadalajara family and improvements and building are happening. 
Yard with 100 ton hoist can handle some big trawlers too.
New home construction is beginning near the marina with 80-foot
docks in your front yard.  Let's see, I'll need one home in PE, one in
Anacortes (check), and one in Sitka.
Our yard tour revealed the Cal Yacht Club boat Pied-A-Mer up on the hard.  This is a beautiful 55 foot Tiara.  Bill, who manages a good-sized LA CPA firm, and crew cruised with our CUBAR group to La Paz.  He slipped near us at Costa Baja and came by to say hi when the poultry farmers were aboard in January.  Of course WillieBird provided Bill some fresh Dorado fillets.

Bill Wolf's Pied-A-Mer a fast Tiara 55 on the hard in Puerto Escondido.
We examined several other boats in the yard.  This particular boat
had rubbed a rock or two, but no structural impact, just a little more
Bondo than usual is needed here.
It's Dog Snapper night with Ken's easy rice on the Wild Blue.
Chef Ken Bruton's Easy Rice

1 cup rice
2 cups water
2 table spoons olive oil
1 teaspoon curry powder
2 tablespoons rojo salsa
Bring to boil, reduce heat to simmer, place lid on.
When water has been absorbed check consistency and serve 

Ken's Chocolate Rum Cake.
Thursday, February 8, 2018:  Puerto Escondido to Punta Colorado, then Bahia Agua Verde

After a couple of AJ's breakfast burritos, we slipped our dock lines, and departed friendly Puerto Escondido.  Our goal today is Punta Colorado anchorage on the southeast side of Isla Carmen.  There's a diving reef and we hope to tender troll as well.

Not far from Puerto Escondido along the north shore we noticed a kayaker on the beach.  It appeared he had lost his swim trunks.... no that's maybe a nude beach?

Nude beach just outside Puerto Escondido?
It's just a 1-person nude beach?  No fun in that.....
View of Baja Peninsula east of Puerto Escondido
This Canadian built trawler yacht has been in Victoria Harbor, Central
and Northern BC for the last 5 years or so.  Previously it was named Polar Bear.
The new owner has re-named it Sea Forever, says the Captain we contacted
for a safe crossing.
Our route took us above Isla Dansante and below Isla Carmen.  After 90 minutes we reached the anchorage just below Punta Colorado on Isla Carmen's SE side. We dropped the anchor and prepped for more fishing. After a couple hours AJ had a fish.  When the fishing slowed, we picked up and headed for Bahia Agua Verde, setting the anchor just after sunset.
AJ's Sierra
AJ's Pargo Barred Snapper
Friday, February 9, 2018:  At Bahia Agua Verde. Evening cruise to Isla San Francisco

Another accurate chart from SEA OF CORTEZ:
A Cruisers Guidebook
Last night's entry into Bahia Agua Verde

Kenny's Peanut Butter Chocolate pancakes got us going this morning.
G is ready to snorkel Roca Solitaria
G spears every body's favorite... yellowtail!  What a pretty fish!
Around 4pm it was time to get going for a nigh time cruise.  We have so much fun in the sun, we're finding it best to do some of our motoring during the dark hours, leaving more time to snorkel and fish during the day.  By leaving late in the day, we'll be trolling with the sun low on the horizon, a good time for fishing.  Along the way, we enjoy fresh barbecue Yellowtail, Ken's rice and a cool green salad. Our LED's light up the ocean in front, but it's all good as we will be anchoring at Isla SF west anchorage, marked clearly on the chart from last Sunday.

Fresh BBQ yellow-tail dinner
in the Pilot House while underway.
Saturday, February 10, 2018:  At Isla San Francisco Yet Again

we woke up this morning at anchor in Isla SF west anchorage.  During the night a moderate South wind with chop was blowing against us towards a lee shore, but the anchor held.  It was not a sound sleep and the waves slapped noisily on the hull.  Alex starts the motor and we move to the North anchorage out of the sloppy conditions,into smooth water.  Three other boats had made the same move.  AJ and Ken are off in the tender while Gerard videos the rocky reef with the GoPro.

Isla Coyote with 25-person fishing hamlet is off Isla SF North side.
Wild Blue is anchored off the north side of Isla SF out of the S winds.
Looking Southwest at sunset from our Isla SF anchorage.
No matter where you are in the Sea of Cortz, there's always a great sunset.
Gerard, in his Jacques Cousteau outfit, is ready to video. 
Tropical fish just off Isla SF.
More tropicals.
Tropicals again.
It's amazing that Gerard (aka Jacques) could hold his breath
for 1:32 minutes to complete the video! After snorkeling, he had a thick, French accent.

Sunday, February 11, 2018:  A Night Cruise into La Paz and Carnival La Paz

The wind switched from south to west late last evening making for a short sleep.  The bouncy night kept Alex on "catnap" anchor watch as the westerly winds made for a lee shore anchorage again.  It's a common occurrence and the guidebooks recommend moving 4 miles west to Cabeza de Mehudo when the mid-night westerlies blow up.  We planned on leaving at 4AM this morning but at 3AM Alex had had enough and stared the engine, waking the crew.  Most all reported for night duty as we raised the anchor and retraced our course around Isla SF in the darkness, eventually pointing towards La Paz.  We hoped to be in by 8AM, but the westerlies again switched south and we had wind and waves on the nose.  Still we cleared the Costa Baja breakwater by 8:30 with time to clean the boat and take in the last day of Carnival La Paz.

10's of thousands come out for Carnival on the Malecon overlooking the Sea.
It's a huge street carival with parade, dancers, food, liquor
and chach-ka vendors spread for a mile along the malecon.
Ken recommends this vendor.
There were five major sound stages with LOUD bands.  Later, we could hear
them playing 4 miles away in Costa Baja.
View from Wild Blue at Costa Baja Resort.
It was great fun again being on the water with three good fisherman.  It will take some time to recover from the little bit of fun we had this week.... Buenos Dias Amigos!