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Coromuels, how do we love thee

We have left La Paz and are traveling north to visit new or, return to, favorite anchorages. But, La Paz is still holding sway over us with its notorious Coromuel winds. Coromuels are not (by locals) considered to be terribly strong winds, but they have certainly contributed to our list of natural phenomena gaining our respect. Basically, Coromuels are caused by the land cooling more quickly than the Sea of Cortez.

Coromuels hold to, in contrast to most Baja weather actors, a routine. If they arrive at sundown, they carry on until sun up. When a Coromuel visits an anchorage, it can clock a wind speed of 20 to 30 knots.

Coromuels demand a lot of attention. A boat hit by a Coromuel needs to be securely anchored. The anchor alarm must be set. Sailor brains must be programmed to attend to unexpected actvities. A Coromuel can and will cause ANYTHING we’ve neglected to tie down or put away to become a contributing player in the Coromuel’s multi-media show.

We decide to stay once more in the lovely Balandra anchorage – ten miles north of La Paz – again before heading further north. Balandra, at arrival, is always a turquoise jewel of an anchorage. Mariners and tourists spend time there kayaking, snorkeling, walking the beach and so forth during the day from November to March. But, we are cruising Baja in late spring and that is the beginning of the Coromuel season.

Our blustery friend arrives as the sun hits the horizon, loudly reminding us that we should have secured everything on deck or suffer unpleasant consequences. Inside Cetacean’s V-berth, we are engulfed in a tantrum of clanking, twanging, sloshing, and slapping, conducted by the Coromuel’s land-breeze baton. Somehow, the mainsail ties have slipped to the end of the boom. Half of the main has unfolded onto the deck and we have to wrestle and securely tie it back onto the boom. The rest of the evening is punctuated by continued noise and Cetacean’s dizzying ballet on the water. At least our mighty CQR anchor and its five-to-one scope of chain restrain Cetacean from getting into further trouble.

In retrospect, I enjoyed being out there wrestling with the mainsail amid all the howling and flapping. The wind was loud, but it was SO MUCH cooler, and strangely QUIETER, out there than below decks. The cacophony of outside noise lost the enhancement of being in the V-Berth sound tunnel. Mind you, this reasoning – the V-Berth versus topsides experience – is a very UNscientific analysis. I plan to try an experiment to see if being below somehow amplifies the wind effects or not. I will try sleeping for a few hours in the cockpit to see if there is a sound difference. Certainly, it will be cooler! We’re experiencing high 90s these days!

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Isla San Francisco


IslaSFWe leave Bahia La Paz for Isla San Francisco and the lovely bay we visited there in 2006. The anchorage is, unlike our longtime-ago visit, quite full of other boats. We are visited by another couple aboard a sailboat nearby. They are headed to La Paz for a flight out to visit family for a few weeks.

I think about how, in 2006, I flew out of La Paz to attend a Berkeley, CA gathering in honor of my Uncle Norman’s death. No matter where one’s life takes him or her, family life-cycle events are part of that journey.

Tonight, Mr. Coromuel is notable for his absence. However, we are slammed by a watery fetch caused by mountains cooling on the Baja peninsula causing a land breeze. The land breeze blows over the formerly quiet sea, causing small waves. As the waves form, they pick up more wind and grow. The further the distance from the peninsula, the bigger the waves, and the more Cetacean rolls.

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Punta Salinas, Isla San Jose

Cardón Cactus, Pta Salinas

Cardón Cactus, Pta Salinas

It is our first-time visit to this anchorage. Punta Salinas appears, at first, completely desolate. We go ashore and are amazed to see a forest of tall Cardón cactus inland, just above a rocky and shell littered beach. These cactus can grow up to 70 feet and produce beautiful blooms in the spring.

As usual, I have to control my shell collection addiction. Punto Salinas’ beach is the first I’ve traversed in Baja with undamaged scallop shells. But, storage space aboard Cetacean is in short supply; the shells should stay where they are anyway. Still, I longingly scan the rocky beach.

We read in  Shawn Breeding and Heather Bransmer’s wonderful Sea of Cortez, A Cruiser’s Guidebook that Punta Salinas (also called San Ysidro) once housed a large salt mining operation. The remains of that endeavor – rotting trucks and processing machinery, crumbling buildings and hardened piles of salt – haunt the site.
We return to the boat to wait for things to cool off. It’s funny. A Coromuel visit would almost be welcome.

 

Evening view of Punta Salinas abandoned salt mine.

Evening view of Punta Salinas abandoned salt mine.

Ron takes the dinghy to shore because the special photography light, which complements Baja landscapes so perfectly, will be making its brief appearance before the sun sets. Ron returns with beautiful images of this place that has surprised and pleased us so very much. On his way back from shore, he stops the dinghy and turns around for one more photo, capturing the immensity and mystery of Punta Salinas’ magical cactus forest. It’s that light again, making all the difference in presenting to us this awesome place.

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San Evaristo

Baja is THE place to see extraordinary and abundant sealife. Yesterday afternoon on our way to Punta Salinas, a half dozen dolphins – possibly Bottle Nose due to their size (about 10 feet) – raced at our bow. Ron saw a sea turtle fiddling around in our Isla San Francisco anchorage. We’ve seen several large rays, one we suspect was a Manta.

Back in 2006, we visited tiny San Evaristo, a tiny Baja Peninsula community of about 20 families, and were escorted by literally hundreds of dolphins speeding and leaping through the Canal de San Jose. The scene was overwhelming for us, difficult to comprehend. The water was alive with dolphins, their frantic swimming and leaping creating an enormous rapid across the Canal. Today, a lone grey whale appeared, spouting, and then flaking showing its back and tail as it gracefully dove just 150 feet forward of our port beam.

-Judy