The main goal of our stay on Anila is to train our sailing skills. But for us it’s more than that: relaxing and recharging our batteries to tackle the second half of Milagros’ renovation. We get the full Sea of Cortez active holiday programme. Beautiful bays, good food, great people, snorkelling, hiking, fishing, training, motoring and yes, sailing too.
In addition to sailing, our training on Anila includes pre- and post-sailing trip preparation. This includes observing the weather, choosing an anchorage based on available information, planning the passage and pilotage, and preparing the vessel. It also involves safety on board, emergency scenarios, communication, alternative plans, maintenance and resource management.
And sometimes you just have to take what you get. That’s what happened when we lifted the anchor in Mezteño for an afternoon training session out in the bay: Tacks, jibes, reefing and sailing various courses. Contrary to expectations, we had quite good, not forecasted wind conditions. Therefore, we spontaneously decided to take advantage of this wind and sail to our next destination: Isla San Francisco, about 20 nautical miles away.
The decision was worth it
A beautiful bay with clear, turquoise-green water awaited us. And I did my first anchor manoeuvre. This bay was very suitable for this because it offered a lot of space. But that was also its disadvantage. We had a few neighbours, including big motor boats with their generators. But this bay was definitely worth coping with the motorboat noise.
The urge to move
Carmen and I grabbed the paddleboard the next morning to climb a hill on the small island. The view was beautiful. Barren, rocky landscapes with various cacti and desert plants. Plus, the rich turquoise green and blue of the water, the white beach and the schools of fish cavorting outside the anchorage. From a distance we could see dolphins hunting and rays jumping. You could get your own salt from three small salt lakes, which were located at a narrow point between the two bays. Carmen already had some of it on board and we used it for cooking every day.
On the hunt for lunch
Meanwhile, Dave and Iñaki grabbed Anilas little yellow dinghy to catch some fresh fish for lunch. But they came back empty-handed, as they were mainly talking to other boaters in the anchorage. For example, with a French-Swiss we had already met in La Paz, and with a German couple living in San Francisco who had chartered a boat in the Sea of Cortez. We invited the latter for a sundowner on Anila.
Hail to the fishes
All around the boat it was teeming with fish. So, the boys tried their luck fishing right from the boat. The fish were attracted with porridge and the hooks prepared with bacon. In no time we caught four cocineros and dinner was assured. Beer battered fish it was. Carmen and I prepared the fish, made a fish soup from the leftovers and baked a sourdough bread to go with it. Then it was time for the aforementioned sundowner. I won’t go into details about the unsuccessful anchor training attempt that had taken place in between *cough*.
Anchor training ahoy
The cosy get-together with the German couple turned into a joint dinner. They also contributed the remains of the Mahi Mahi they had caught on the way. Without further ado, they also signed up for the intensive anchor training we had planned for the next day. We were not there just for fun, but also to practise our blue water sailing skills with yacht master Iñaki. So, we’ve practised a total of eight successful anchor manoeuvres together. Afterwards it was time for them to continue their trip.
The aquarium for the second
Fascinated by the beauty of the anchorage, we decided to stay another day and enjoyed the spectacular nature. Dave and I snorkelled around the headland and suddenly found ourselves in an aquarium. In the crystal-clear water countless fish of different species and sizes swarmed around us. The variety was terrific! In the evening, a turtle visited our boat and swam to the anchor to scratch its “feet” on it. A moray eel also joined the needle fish, hedgehog fish, cocineros and trigger fish that were swimming around our boat.
Our next destination, the anchorage “El Gato”, was only suitable during light winds due to its topography. Our weather check on the Garmin InReach satellite phone that Dave and I had brought along for testing purposes showed hardly any wind. Off we went! On the way north, we took advantage of the light breeze from behind to sail up the San José Channel with the light wind sail.
On the way, we were hailed by a sailboat that overtook us and asked about our destination. They had taken photos and videos of Anila with the light wind sail and wanted to share them with Carmen and Iñaki. The German couple came towards us a little later too, but the radio connection didn’t work. That’s when we realised that something could be wrong with Anila’s radio. But there was nothing we could do about it for the time being.
The cat or the bull?
Instead of “El Gato”, we anchored in the neighbouring bay to the south, “El Toro”. We had to be careful when entering, because there were huge stones that lay just beneath the surface at high tide. And we didn’t want to run into them under any circumstances. After the anchor was successfully set, we grabbed our snorkelling gear to take a closer look at the stones. We also took the GoPro with us, but unfortunately the visibility and the variety of species was not nearly as nice as in San Francisco. Nevertheless, the snorkelling was a welcome cool down and the rocks were impressive.
An unexpected dinner
Just after our snorkelling journey, some fishermen came by and offered us fresh lobster. We couldn’t refuse. So, for dinner, the menu was the following:
Lobster tails fried in garlic butter
Shortly after sunset, we heard loud clapping noises outside. There were dozens of pelicans fishing, swooping and diving into the water trying to make a catch. A large school of fish must have been cornered in the bay and the pelicans pounced on the feast.
We move on
We were in contact with Cavu through our InReach and planned a meeting in Agua Verde. Yaaaay!! They were very close and we should have been able to hail them or see them on our AIS (Automatic Identification System). But that wasn’t the case. There was definitely something wrong with Anilas radio range. As the wind was just not enough to sail Anila, we were forced to use the engine. Shortly before Agua Verde, we approached a boat, slowly moving forward with flapping sails. Realising it was Cavu, we turned up our music as we passed them. At this short distance, we even managed to establish radio contact with them.
We meet in Agua Verde
As we arrived in the anchorage, we received another radio call. “Maison de Santé”, a sister boat of Anila, was also there. And as soon as we were anchored, we enjoyed our well-deserved anchor beer – again in front of a gigantic backdrop of lush green water. Dr. Cavu Dave of course was on hand to help Iñaki troubleshoot his radio range issues. That’s life on a boat for you: repair work with a beautiful view. Unfortunately, the problem with the radio could not be solved and will have to be fixed later in the boatyard in San Carlos. So, we had to deal with a radio range of 2 miles – that’s about 10 times less than it should be.
From Maison de Santé we were recommended a great hike to a nearby cave with cave paintings. Since one never gets enough exercise on a boat, we just had to follow this tip. The hike took us from the beach over a small mountain. Past it we entered a green valley with a small cemetery. Then we crossed a kind of oasis with big palm trees standing close together. This place was very special. Somehow these palm trees seemed out of place and at the same time there was a pleasant coolness in the air.
Then we followed a water stream to the sea, where countless fiddler crabs in the wildest colours and in all possible sizes fled from us. Along the beach we went to the other end of the bay and then followed a steep, rocky path to the caves. At the entrance to the cave there were paintings in the shape of red hands. There were also a few bats hanging from the ceiling in the cave, but they quickly disappeared when they noticed us. While resting in the coolness of the cave we observed rays jumping in the bay and a school of dolphins hunting fish close to shore.
We couldn’t stay for too long because the sun here is merciless at mid-day. In the evening, we enjoyed a glorious Baja sunset on the beach with Keenan, Nicole and Arielle from SV Maison de Santé, Mike from SV Ikigai and Marla and Dave from SV Cavu. What a life!
Won’t this lifestyle get boring in the long run? Another beautiful anchor bay, another swarm of fish, another hike. Definitely not for me. Although we weren’t in a particular hurry, I would have liked to stay longer in each of the anchorages we discovered. All the more I am now looking forward to the boatyard again, so that we can get Milagros ready as soon as possible and explore the Sea of Cortez on our own floating home.
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